Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Jul 01

Sweet Mother of FSM, Google+ Is Smart!

Posted: under Design, Digital Migration, google.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In less than five minutes, I responded to an invitation (that is probably still in pretty high demand) and signed up for Google+.

Being able to add people to the circles is an absolutely frickin’ brilliant move! The little animations are absolutely killer. I have been wanting this and talking about this and boring the living shit out of my tech-dw33b friends about how the one big problem STILL with social media is that it’s damn near and all-or-nothing game.

No longer. Someone at Google “got it,” and this is a killer feature that Facebook DOES NOT HAVE.

Also: Google+ aggregates my information from all manner of sources, so I don’t have to go through that goddam tiresome “OK, let’s fill in all the blanks on this profile page yet again … wait, what? … it timed out? (long cursing session)”

Check out the screen cap below – this is after only a few minutes of cursory work:

dave lafontaine profile on google plus
All this got added to my profile automatically. It borders on the creepy … except for the fact that I wrote and posted all this info about myself in the first place, and I approve of it and can tell instantly where it came from. Also note on the right-hand side: all the various places where I have established a social profile, all aggregated in the same place.

I kinda disagree with this post on AllFacebook, where they focus in on how Google has made it “compulsory” to be part of Google+, and that the key to all this is “time on site.”

While tech pundits are widely praising Google’s new Plus product, I’ve found the one feature that could take away from Facebook where it’s most dominant: Time on the site.

Facebook users are known for staying on the site for over half an hour a day, something no other site could compete with… until now.

To be honest, my gut reaction after using Google Plus was initially, “Why on earth would anybody switch to this from Facebook?”

However, when I loaded up Google Finance as I do every morning, I suddenly realized that I was asking the wrong question. The reality is that users won’t have the option of not using Google Plus.

However, later on, they kinda stumble into something interesting, that’s also come up recently in the kerfuffle over the “Open Letters to RIM” — that is, that tech companies are starting to realize that what will really make them successful, is making it easy for developers & propellorhead-types like, well, us … to come and play in their sandbox.

Add to that this very insightful dissection of what was at the core of MySpace imploding – the same thing at work, i.e. pissing on indie developers — and you start to see something fascinating emerging in corporate thinking … for those intelligent enough to read the tea leaves (or Cheeto crumbs, if you will).

 

Comments (0)



Nov 30

This Week in Paid Content: Thanksgiving Week

Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

In the spirit of the season, I hereby give thanks that there is such an open and vivid discussion about the core issue of monetizing online content.  If we’d had this kind of focus on actually taking the utopian dreams of “all content, everywhere, all the time” and making it work back when I was in my Web 1.0/dot-bomb startup days, we might not have cratered so spectacularly.

So this week, we’ve got a rising level of chatter about Murdoch’s media properties banning Google links in favor of getting paid by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, the BBC throws a wrench into paid content in England (and perhaps everywhere else), the idea of sprinkling porn onto newspaper websites to see what happens is floated, and what orcs and dwarves can teach newspapers.

Murdoch’s bluffing about Google to try to extract money from Microsoft’s deep pockets

This somewhat NSFW (lots of cussing) take on Murdoch is by someone familiar with the way that Murdoch papers like The Sun always seem to pick the winner of an electoral campaign.  Not because they’re so influential that the person they anoint goes on to win – but because Murdoch is canny at figuring out who the top dog in any fight is, and busies himself sucking up to them as soon as possible to maximize his profits. http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/11/28/rupert-murdoch-google-nsfw/

By convincing Bing that there’s a chance he might drop Google – for the right price – Murdoch suddenly has a new partner falling over itself to give him prominence in their search results, on his terms. Sure enough, Microsoft has just agreed to help fund the next-generation search crawling protocol, ACAP, which gives content owners like News Corp more control over how their news is indexed.

(snip) And that’s where we see Murdoch’s real genius: he has managed to use his illusion of influence to get all of these benefits without having to commit himself to anything, or expose himself in any way. There is no way in hell that News Corp content will vanish from Google and yet with every headline asking whether Google should be worried or suggesting that other companies might follow Murdoch’s lead, his image as a kingmaker is strengthened.

McClatchy starts sending out notices, but still claims paywalls are not imminent

Talk about mixed signals. The terms of services for its websites are all being changed, but that change doesn’t actually mean anything is changing. Except, of course, if it does. If they eventually decided to charge for content, they will clearly notify the readers, but in the meantime, please make coming to the site a habit and would it kill ya to click on the ads now & again? http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1004041770

A Perpetual Recession for Newspapers

Rick Edmonds, who writes The Biz Blog for Poynter, says that news organizations have lost $1.6 billion that was used to cover news, and that even when the economy recovers, newspapers won’t: http://www.forbes.com/2009/11/18/newspapers-advertising-rick-edmonds-poynter-business-media-edmonds.html So maybe we should all just learn from the porn industry – or maybe even start putting porn on our sites, to see if maybe that will get people to pay for our content.

The building of micropayment systems, like the one being developed by Steve Brill, is a hotly debated issue. Wouldn’t it be helpful for this kind of system to be established first with Web content that really drives users–say, pornography?

Sure, but that’s not an option for newspapers. There have been experiments with these kinds of systems in Denmark, where several companies tried it at the same time. The problem was that they couldn’t answer peoples’ security concerns. The experiments turned out to be a dud.

“Knock yourselves out,” Google yawns.

The head of newspaper industry bête noir Google News says in an interview that publishers are free to do whatever they want with their content.  Google is apparently willing to work with publishers to do whatever the publishers demand with their content – list it, ignore it, work with it to implement a paywall, whatever. http://searchengineland.com/josh-cohen-of-google-news-on-paywalls-partnerships-working-with-publishers-29881 The easy confidence that is displayed here is the result of Google’s near-monopoly position in the market

Removing News Would Have Negligible Effect on Google

This study by German research company TRG shows that even if all news was taken off Google, that would still leave about 95% of Google traffic intact for them to monetize. http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-research-removing-news-would-have-negligible-effect-on-google/

Financially, then, Google doesn’t depend on the publishers’ content. “In comparison, if you detracted Wikipedia from the results, 13 percent of the number-one results would be gone,” said Christoph Burseg, the CEO of TRG, the research company that ran the survey.

BBC: We won’t charge for online news

Now this has got to be raising Mr. Murdoch’s blood pressure a bit. Online news paywalls only work when the competition plays along too (see the case study I did on the disastrous experiment of El Tiempo in Spain, & how they lost their market share to a formerly laughable upstart).

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/24/bbc-wont-charge-online-news A more interesting discussion is brewing, about what to do about content that is not just re-purposed BBC news, but that is specifically produced for the online editions. Viz:

However, Lyons also questioned the future of content created for online that is not directly related to specific BBC programmes, asking, “where should the boundary be drawn” between this and “the online expression or extension of BBC programming”?

Wall St. Journal’s price to go Bing-only: $15 million

There’s been an increasing amout of space devoted to what Murdoch is going to do to start moving all his content behind paywalls, and away from the hated Google “parasites.” Business Insider backwards-engineers the numbers that de-listing from Google would cost the WSJ, and comes up with $10-15 mill. http://www.businessinsider.com/microsoft-should-pay-up-for-exclusive-access-to-the-journal-2009-11

If Microsoft really wanted to induce Murdoch to ditch Google, it would therefore only cost $10 – $15 million. Maybe more if Murdoch wanted a premium. Considering Steve Ballmer said he’d spend $5.5 billion to $11 billion over the next five years on Bing, this is nothing.

More on the Murdoch-Google fight – seems the Denver Post and Dallas Morning News may follow in his footsteps

Interesting that Dean Singleton has come out and said that readers in Pennsylvania and California will get hit with paywalls starting next year, and the DMN is upgrading itself to a “definitely maybe” status. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601109&sid=aRVlZEzbmNu0 A further article from the Independent about what publishers in the UK are thinking on this issue http://www.independent.co.uk/news/media/press/british-press-split-in-two-by-wappingrsquos-great-gamble-1825806.html and http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-has-the-times-got-it-right-with-its-online-charging-plan/

And finally, a meditation on whether Murdoch’s plan for paywalls will run afoul of anti-trust laws http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/05/murdoch-pay-wall-anti-trust

“Not a cat’s chance in hell” of successfully charging for online content

The CEO of the Future Publishing Group said that there is no hope for paywalls for general news because of the ubiquity of free models, particularly in the UK market. http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/nov/26/charging-mainstream-news-future-chief However, Future are experimenting with specialized and niche content to see what the market will bear.

The group has taken a bullish approach to pricing its print magazine titles, with an average cover price of £5, up from £4.70 this time last year.

She cited a promotion of the new album from former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Slash, which is being exclusively attached to a special edition of Classic Rock magazine for £14.99.

Americans less willing to pay for online news

The New York Times finds that less than half the people in the U.S. are willing to pay for online news, and even at that, they will only shell out $3. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/16/business/media/16paywall.html?_r=2&ref=media Apparently, there’s some kind of fundamental disconnect going on at the NY Times, between top management hell-bent on charging for content, and the weary soldiers in the trenches, protesting that this will not work, has not worked, will never work, and producing article after article that seemingly is not read by their own bosses.

“Consumer willingness and intent to pay is related to the availability of a rich amount of free content,” said John Rose, a senior partner and head of the group’s global media practice. “There is more, better, richer free in the United States than anywhere else.”

If readers are willing to pay – they prefer micropayments and only pennies

The analysts at Continental Research found that 63% will not pay for news, leaving only 37% who will – and at that, only willing to pay about 10 cents per article. http://www.continentalresearch.com/media_centre/press_releases/?ID=149 More about this at http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-research-readers-favour-news-micropayments-but-theyll-only-pay-pennies/

James Myring, Head of Media at Continental Research says “The amounts may sound small, but it is better to get a lot of people making small one off payments, than virtually no-one paying a higher subscription. For a comparison, think of the mobile industry, profiting from lots of small payments for text messages.

London Times Editor says online paywalls are “fight of our lives”

There’s the by-now predictable bashing of Google and the other supposed “parasites,” but the one actual realization is buried at the end of the article. http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=44649&c=1

Harding said the Times wanted to improve its relationship with its loyal customers through home delivery and through its recently launched Times+ membership programme.

He said: “Historically, newspapers have treated their best customers worst and their worst customers best.

“We give the paper away to people who could not care less and we pay little or no attention to people who love it and read it every day.”

What newspapers can learn from orcs and dwarves

This is actually something that I’ve felt for the last year or so – if we’re going to try to get young people to try & buy, then we’re going to have to emulate the things that they are already comfortable doing so with. http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-the-wow-paywall-what-newspapers-can-learn-from-orcs-and-dwarves/#comment_63034 Basically, the World of Warcraft guys are minting about a billion a year from online content – and there are a bunch of key points to their service that newspapers should study, if they actually want to make money, as opposed to just slamming down paywalls and pretending that the rest of the world will care (or even notice).

News as gaming: Could newspapers similarly harness the human need for interaction and stimulation and sell not just boring text news but access to a shared experience? Sure, there’s MySun, MyTelegraph and “tell us what you think in the comments below”, but that’s a marketing ploy to drive page impressions and encourage more content consumption. The lesson from gaming is that people won’t pay for content they can’t help shape themselves—or project their own personal narrative onto.

Comments (0)



Feb 04

Facebook & Pajamas Media: the “Site Traffic” Monetization Myth

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration, google, journalism, New Marketing, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This is going to have to be quick – I haven’t had any spare time to blog, since I’ve been finishing up on editing the Great Big Scary Project, and I have to churn out my intros to said project, along with sprucing up my multimedia examples for my trip to Kiev.

But – two items this week converged (yeah, there’s that word) to illustrate one of the powerful, emerging lessons about New Media.  It’s one that I learned years ago, when I first rode a couple of dot-bombs all the way down into the crater.

Big site traffic numbers do not necessarily mean big money.
Read More

Comments (2)



Sep 11

Yahoo’s Blueprint, PointRoll Dances on the iPhone, and Millennial Media Targets Everyone

Posted: under advertising, Design, Digital Migration, google, new media, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Online Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Packing up for the trip back down to LA, but couldn’t let these little tidbits from the CTIA pass without at least acknowledging them.

1.  Yahoo is trying to drum up some support for its Blueprint mobile platform.  They claim that it’s going to allow users to achieve the Holy Grail of mobile/web content – tying together all our virtual identities with its oneConnect application. It’s been said, over and over (AND OVER) again that the first company to figure out how to provide the one-stop platform for social media interactivity over cellphones, is going to be the next Google (if Google itself doesn’t snarf up that space as well).  The dream is that oneConnect (or whatever) becomes the way to keep up with what your friends on Facebook, Flickr, Bebo, MySpace, YouTube, etc. etc. are doing, and a way to post constant updates on where/what/why/with whom/teh awesum!1!/go away now/overload to all the places where you share your life’s experiences with the world.

Leaving aside for the moment the sneaking suspicion that aggregating all our identities through one company’s pipe may not turn out to be such a bright idea, the software is apparently generating the skepticism already.

Yahoo has been trying to hype this app since, oh, Barcelone in February, and to my knowledge, they really haven’t gotten that much traction with it, despite the best efforts of their developers.

I’d like to see Yahoo manage to pull this off; like many others, I’m starting to get more & more uneasy about Google’s unchallenged dominance, and I’d just as soon they not have complete control over what I do, see, say & hear, as well as knowing who I’m doing said communicating with/near/for/against.

Moving on.

2. Pointroll is wowing the attendees at the CTIA, offering easy(ier?) ways of taking rich media ads and porting them over to the mobile platform.  Their demo of interactive ads on the iPhone, done through and with USA Today, has publishers and advertisers pondering if the time has actually come to start migrating the TV ad spending over to the phones that the 14-24s are actually using, paying attention to, and carrying with them everywhere.

The bad news for Yahoo is that PointRoll is hyping that using their platform will allow ads to run across the entire Google content network. Viz:

The Google content network encompasses hundreds of thousands of
websites, including premium publishers and long-tail niche sites.
Google and PointRoll worked together to ensure that the ads served to
the Google content network meet Google’s policies and specifications.
After completing Google’s certification process, PointRoll’s
sophisticated targeting technologies can now optimize the breadth of
Google’s sites and categories, matching advertisers’ messages to the
users who find them most relevant.

Again, nice hype.  But in light of the struggles that Google has had with Android, I remain skeptical that they have managed to so quickly solve all the problems with serving mobile ads in anything like a timely manner.  I just think that there’s still too much market fragmentation to be able to claim that this One Size Fits All app will reach a mass audience.

To backup my point, allow me to quote a piece in the paper today: one of the problems many sites are running into is that about 25% of web users are still limping along with Internet Explorer 6.0.

(Pause to allow veteran web developers to spit, vomit, scream, make the two-fingered “sign of the devil’s horns” to ward off evil.)

IE 6.0 is widely recognized as the shittiest web browser ever inflicted on the public. It was launched in 2001.  Since then, Microsoft has bugged users to upgrade, remove, kill, quash, forget, shred, this browser.  The fact that a quarter of users in the U.S. still view the web through its Funhouse Mirror interface shows that 1) A large proportion of the public continues to employ legacy technology no matter how Christawful it is, 2) these folks ignore new technology, no matter how much better it is, for fear that upgrading will somehow cause them a problem, and 3) any tech solution based on the assumption that people will be running the latest&greatest hardware and software is doomed to die like like a possum wandering onto the Indy 500 speedway.

3.  Millennial Media is competing with PointRoll to serve multimedia ads to the mobile market.  And we’re going to have to stop here, because it’s time to load up the Conestoga wagon and head back to LA.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Comments (2)



Sep 10

Quick Hits: Old Media Loses Trust in France, OC Register May Go Tabloid and Google Only Spys On You For Nine Months Now

Posted: under Blogging, Digital Migration, google, journalism, Lemmings, new media, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Still up in lovely Point Reyes, decompessing and re-imagining our web presence, so the output here has been seriously cramped.  However, these three little items just beg for notice.

1. We’ve all seen the “MSM sucks, don’t believe what it says” meme gain strength the last few years, flourishing in the fertile soil of talk hate radio hosts, and migrating over to the Kos/Firedoglake end of the spectrum.  Meanwhile, in the developing world countries that I’ve worked in the last few years, the people react with puzzled frowns to the thought that anyone ever would have any sort of uncritical trust in Big Media.  Well, according to the Highway Africa media conference, the 3rd world on the way up countries are starting to really dig the idea of citizen journalists.  Which makes sense, because they have the sad history of governments/revolutionaries, as their first act, seizing the TV/radio stations and firebombing the presses.

(snip)

the power of citizen journalism, in its objective and independent approach, is not to be underestimated.

“We
need occasions where the actor in society gives us a very good insight
on what is going in communities, where journalists cannot be found. 

2.  Responding to “catastrophic” circulation and ad revenue projections, the OC Register, long known as the dysfunctional family of California journalism (i.e. everyone knows Weird Old Uncle Floyd is not to be trusted around children, but nobody talks about it), is reportedly studying the idea, with intentions of perhaps forming a blue-ribbon committee that will issue non-binding recommendations, of maybe perhaps justalittle changing their format from broadsheet to tabloid.

Will wonders never cease?

Other cost-cutting measure being
considered from the team reviews are Monday and Tuesday papers with
fewer pages and self-service advertising options. Horne also says the
paper may cut back on the number of distribution centers it operates,
noting that it recently reduced the outlets from seven to six.



“Studying it and doing it may be two different
things,” Horne stressed about the tabloid change and other moves.
“Every newspaper needs to study driving down costs

3.  And last, for everyone out there who is concerned over those searches that were done … late at night … after a few beers … y’know, just for a hoot … that could be traced back to their IP address … 

…well, you only have to worry for nine months rather than 18.  As part of their “Pay no attention to the all-seeing man behind the curtain” campaign, Google is reducing the latency of their caches of your searches.  They are also supposedly working to “anonymize” the userinfo, although how that’s supposed to help when all Google search&response data goes thru the big computers at the NSA anyway is beyond me.

(Note to all NSA, FBI, ATF & IRS functionaries now tracking me: Just joking. Heh. Really.  I have nothing to hide.  I’m happy that the government is vigilant against evildoers of all stripes, foreign and domestic. Go Team America!)

Nicole Wong, Google’s deputy general counsel, told a meeting of
computer industry privacy experts at Microsoft Corp’s Silicon Valley
offices that her company planned to “anonymize” the computer addresses
of its users more quickly.

“We’re significantly shortening our previous 18-month retention
policy to address regulatory concerns and to take another step to
improve privacy for our users,” Google officials said in a blog post
released Monday night.

(snip)

….until a year-and-a-half ago, Google had kept personally identifiable
information about its Web users on company computers for an indefinite
amount of time.


Comments (0)



Jul 07

NBC Throws Audience Measurement Methodologies at Olympics to See What Sticks

Posted: under adsense clickfraud, advertising, Digital Migration, google, journalism, new media, Newspapers, Online Video, television.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Meanwhile, Google whistles nervously, hoping nobody thinks to raise the issue of AdSense clickfraud again…

There’s a yawning gulf in New Media. It stretches from the pittance that most media creators get for their ad space to the other side, where the results of those ads sit, filing their nails. In between are the bleached bones of media tracking companies that have tried to draw a connection between the two.

From the LA Times story:

NBC has created TAMI — the Total Audience Measurement Index — to better understand how viewers are consuming Olympic content. The system, which Wurtzel has spent the last year assembling, will use technology and old-fashioned focus groups to closely monitor this.

For example, Wurtzel will be able to tell with greater certainty whether viewers are surfing the Web in search of Olympic content. He will be able to determine whether live alerts delivered via cellphones drive fans to television sets or computer screens to catch a record-breaking performance. And he will see how fans use online and VOD replays.

The system also will attempt for the first time to track Olympic watching outside the home via mobile devices created by San Mateo, Calif.-based Integrated Media Measurement Inc. A limited number of people will have the cellphone-like devices designed to monitor every bit of media consumed — whether in a bar, a movie theater or someone else’s house.

NBC Universal also is assembling focus groups to find out how consumers are interacting with what Wurtzel described as “the first 360-degrees Olympics.”

This is refreshing. I’d like to see more major media outlets doing this. Why? Because it’s pretty much the only way to break Google’s stranglehold on ad dollars. See, the problem is that everybody has fallen in love with search advertising, because it seems to offer such great results. Someone clicks on the link, they come to your site, and then it’s up to you to get them to convert to sales, right?

But see, that kinda ignores one little point: howinhell did the user know what to search for in the first place? Clairvoyance? Come on.

I think if NBC can start connecting the two sides of the results gulf, they can start showing that ads on TV (and display ads in newspapers, and morning drive-time shout-athons) have a lot bigger effect than what Google has claimed. And that will mean that advertisers will start realizing that buying search ads is not the end-all, be-all of advertising.

Which could be a very, very good thing for all the Old Media giants who are stuck in midair over that yawning gulf, their feet doing the Wile E. Coyote mid-air invisible bicycle pedal…

Comments (0)



Jun 12

“Moral Imperative” for Google to Help Newspapers to Survive

Posted: under journalism, newspaper crisis.
Tags: , , , , ,

…some might say the train has already left the station on that one…

Not sure what it is that’s behind this announcement. Perhaps someone at Google belatedly came to the realization that without newspapers, there’s no real fresh content on the web, and thus nothing for Google to sell its ads against? Schmidt was short on specifics as to how it is that Google plans to “help,” but this graf has got to make business managers cringe:

Still, he acknowledged the boost probably won’t be enough to restore the hefty profit margins that newspaper publishers historically have enjoyed from print advertising.

Interestingly, later in the story, Schmidt continues to bang the drum for its mobile advertising platform, Android. Now, I’ve been looking into online advertising pretty thoroughly for the last three months, and I gotta say, predicting that Google is going to make more money from mobile than from the web within five years … well, I want some of what he’s been smoking.

Then again, not too many people have made fortunes lately by betting against Google. And yeah, I realize that what he’s doing is banging the drum for a very expensive product that Google has poured resources into, in the hopes that the market will catch the hype virus, and start migrating their ads to mobile. If anyone thinks that Google is going to have an easy time recovering their investment from Android, well, check out the ROI numbers (if you can find them) for YouTube. Have they really managed to monetize all the vids there yet? Magic 8-ball says “Answer Cloudy – Ask Again Later.”

Comments (0)