Sips from the Firehose


Sep 24

Print Schadenfreude: TV Up Next to the Chopping Block


Posted: under advertising, New Marketing, Online Video, television.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

A collective snicker/groan radiated out through the interwebs today with the publication of this AdAge piece on how video is like the news business was in 1998, as legions of print journalists who have seen the number and budgets of the news outlets for which they once worked steadily dwindle.

Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where the content is video. It’s
entertainment not news. And the stakes (at least the monetary ones) are
much higher.

While everyone in online video is challenged by the reality that digital
presents to any media — measurement, targeting, accountability —
traditional “editors” are also being squeezed by the very same process
that beset news in the late 90’s.

The article goes on to (correctly) identify the growth of highspeed broadband as the catalyst for the coming collapse of the traditional broadcast video model. I’d add to that the increasing popularity of DVRs, which are teaching the audience that we don’t necessarily all have to gather at 9 o’clock Eastern, 8 o’clock central, to begin our nightly turn-off-the-Alpha-waves sessions. Instead, the time-shifting that in the 80s had David Letterman jokingly producing a “morning Late Night show” because so many of his fans were using VCRs to watch him while scarfing their ham&eggs — that has become commonplace.

From econtent:

This has led to a new
rating system, called either “C3” or “live-plus-three”; instead of only
counting viewers who watch shows live, Nielsen counts anyone who records
and plays back the program up to 3 days later. This captures more of
the time-shifted viewing audience. By the end of 2010, McDonough says,
Nielsen’s ratings will combine both DVR’d and online streaming content.

Kate
Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for
Starcom MediaVest Group, sees the DVR, particularly the TiVo, as
fundamentally changing the way Americans view television. “We have three
in our house,” Sirkin says. “My 5-year-old doesn’t understand live TV;
she’s always had a DVR.”

The other effect of DVRs, of course, is the commercial-skipping. Used to be that you had to hack your TiVo to be able to skip 30 seconds at a time. Now that comes programmed directly into the remote on the DirecTV HD controller (but I still prefer the TiVo, since it skipped you automatically 30 seconds forward in time, rather than making you watch blurred fast-forwarded action).

But the biggest eye-opener for me is that articles predicting that broadcast TV, the cash cow for so long for the advertising industry, is about to head into the abyss … well, that’s news. Because what took down newspapers was not that nobody was reading them anymore – in fact, the stats show that more people are reading newspaper content than ever before.

What has laid print newspapers low is that the revenue streams from traditional print advertising have dried up & blown away.

Most, if not all, of the major media buyers that I’ve run into over the last three years at various ad industry events, have all admitted that they know that advertising on TV really doesn’t work the way that it used to. The profusion of channels on cable and satellite, the DVRs, the growth of internet, all mean that they are getting less reach than they used to. Meanwhile, they’re getting charged through the nose for that same 30-second spot.

This relationship is inherently abusive, much like the relationship was between newspapers and their advertisers. When a viable alternative comes along, and you’ve managed to piss off your customers, guess what they do?

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Aug 28

This week in the paid content debate: Aug. 24-28


Posted: under Digital Migration, new media, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This week’s debate is not as acrimonious as in the past (although there are exceptions to that, of course), and in the wake of the biz models released by the Aspen conference, some people are taking building new revenue streams seriously.  At least, they say they are.  It turns out that a lot of what has been reported in this paid content debate is a little like Microsoft software releases: trial balloon “vaporware.”

Page design at Rue89.com looks a little like what splatters on the side of the carny Tilt-a-Whirl after you load it up with a buncha 10-years olds who've spent the day eating cotton candy and mystery meat hotdogs.

Page design at Rue89.com looks a little like what splatters on the side of the carny Tilt-a-Whirl after you load it up with a buncha 10-years olds who've spent the day eating cotton candy and mystery meat hotdogs. I think the boxes up & down the sides are supposed to be clickable ads, but they were inert when I tried them... (click for larger)

The illustration here is of a new French news site that is apparently taking off at Rue89; I can’t decide whether the chaotic design is totally off-putting, or intriguing because it basically violates every rule of page design.  Also, I can’t hear the word “Rue” in a title without flashing to “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Or some B-movie villain twirling a moustache and chortling, “You’ll rue the day, Rex Manly!”

As a bonus, this week I’ve broadened the focus a bit to include some big-picture thinking from some of the unusual suspects; Doc Searls has a post wherein it is posited that what we think of right now as the internet is just a finger pointing in the direction of what this thing is actually going to grow into.  Which should fuel a couple of late-night dorm-room debates, if nothing else…

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Jun 04

Newspaper Suicide Pact


Posted: under Uncategorized.
Tags: , , ,

We’ve reached the “Aw to hell with them, let it all burn” stage

Just a quick late-night hit while I prepare to shoot an interview tomorrow at KCET.

I’ve spent much of the last couple years of my life trying to come up with case studies, strategies, training programs, tools and mash-ups of all the aforementioned, all aimed at illuminating a clear pathway for the newspaper industry to follow to save itself from “The Crisis.”  My last big project was the Audience Planbook for the NAA, which was supposed to lay out a step-by-step process to building new businesses that take advantage of the technological innovations that have changed the way we get news.

I’m not so delusional and narcissistic as to think that I have some revealed, holy wisdom that can turn around the momentum of a massive, multi-billion dollar industry by myself.  But I had hoped that maybe my voice, along with the voices of those who I recruited (shanghaied? hoodwinked?) into writing chapters in the Planbook for me, would spur some kind of change.  This hope has grown harder to sustain in the last couple of months.

And then there’s a straight brass-knuckles shot to the chops like this, on the Xark! blog:

What will these media executives do when that reality hits them?
When these debt-burdened chains, stripped of journalistic talent by a
decade of profiteering, their web traffic reduced by 60 percent by
their paid-content follies, their pockets emptied by the cost of the
proprietary paywall systems offered by Journalism Online LLC and other
opportunistic vendors, what will they do?

Will they buck up and
go back out into the fray with fresh ideas and leadership? Or will they
fold, casting bitter eulogies to their own imagined glories as they
exit the stage?

The chances of them adapting well to another
failure are dubious. Remember, these are the same people who have acted
as if there were no other options, even when those options were
practically gift-wrapped for them. As if Newspaper Next never happened. As if commerce hubs and C3 and all the interesting, exciting ideas that are practically everywhere today do not exist.

They don’t get it. They don’t want to get it. And in many cases, they’re literally paid not to get it.

America’s
journalism infrastructure – from corporate giants to non-profit
foundations like the American Press Institute and the Newspaper
Association of America – is funded by dying companies. So when you hear
about efforts to save newspapers (and, by extension, journalism),
understand that answers that don’t return the possibility of double-digit profits and perpetual top-down control aren’t even considered answers. They’re not even considered.

They’ll do anything to survive… so long as it doesn’t involve change.

Click on over and read the rest of the piece. And then go to the comments section – because the action is always in the comments – and check out the long, impassioned note from someone trapped in a sinking newsroom. mapping-la1

Do not count me – yet – amongst those who hope that, well, now that it’s (allegedly) become clear that newspapers are fated to die, then let’s just get this over with.  I still think that they can turn things around – the recent LA Times excellent Mapping LA project is a great step towards building the kind of hyperlocal database and information exchange network that could take off and fulfill all those dreams about the possibilities of digital local coverage.

While I am all for the development of the new content & biz models touted in Xark!, I don’t think they are ready – yet – to step into the line of fire and take over in collecting and distributing the information that we need to be able to function effectively as a society. Hell, as a civilization.

The anger in the screen on Xark! is palpable, and I will cop to feeling it on more than one occasion.  But I am not yet ready to give in to it. to throw in the towel and just lean back and toast marshmallows over the flames.

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Mar 26

“Newspapers deserve to die” – Jason Calacanis keynote at OMMA 2009


Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Video.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression

Curmudgeons skip directly to 7:50 or so, for the juicy bits. If you are in a crowded place, please allow at least 10 feet of safety space in all directions for when your head explodes.

This is the first part of the rather incendiary keynote speech by Jason Calacanis, founder of Mahalo.com, at the OMMA Hollywood 2009 conference. The keynote’s title is “Advertising, Riots, Twitter, Facebook and the Depression,” and in it, Calacanis cheers the death of newspapers and “Old Media,” and lauds paid search as the “most powerful advertising medium ever created.”

Not coincidentally, Mahalo is a paid search company.

Along the way, Calacanis also trashes social media advertising, showing screenshots of drunken parties to “prove” that all advertising on this platform is unwelcome, intrusive and doomed to die.

Highlights:

“Gosh, newspapers didn’t see this coming, did they? I mean, the newspapers were reporting on their own demise for a decade. And they still couldn’t change it.

It’d be as if you’re the Titanic and you haven’t even left port yet.  And they’re like, “By the way, there’s a lot of icebergs to the north.” And you’re like “OK, thanks.” A day later, it’s “Icebergs are still there.”

They’re like, “Full speed ahead! To the icebergs, as quick as possible!”

They did nothing. They deserve to die. Don’t cry for newspapers, it’s great that they go out of business, because new things can take their place that are better. Much better.

(snip)

Don’t cry for journalism.  Rejoice, because a new journalism is being built, today, as we speak. And it’s going to be better than the last one.

(snip)

“They deserve to go away. Goodby, good riddance.”

The keynote was obviously designed to provoke a reaction (more than one conference attendee muttered “linkbait” after listening), and it certainly did that, as every other session after this opened with the panel trying to refute Calacanis’ claims. I’ll post John Battelle‘s rather more measured keynote tomorrow.

I have a few reactions to this, and I’ll post some more with the other three videos in this series.  But to start with, the notion that newspapers did nothing at all about the internet is absolutely false.  The industry has tried to engage with online since before there was an internet (you’ve probably all seen those videos from San Francisco, showing the early paper over video screen tech of the 80s). The problem is, that the battlefield on which newspaper have been trying to engage has shifted radically.  First, it was the fight between portals – Prodigy vs. CompuServe vs. AOL.  Then it was Netscape vs. Internet Explorer. Yahoo vs. Google. Facebook vs. MySpace.

Newspapers are a $50 billion a year industry, with tremendously expensive production and distribution infrastructure, grown up over centuries.  If the Tribune chain had just splashed kerosene over the presses back in ’92, and declared in the flickering light that they were shifting every penny over into becoming a competitor to AOL … well, they probably still woulda wound up about where they are.  But along the way, there would have been tremendous dislocation – millions of readers not getting information.  Millions of readers turning to competitive print products that would have made billions.

So the newspaper industry has tried incremental solutions. Right up to this point, where, as we see in Seattle & Denver (despite what Jason sneers at, there are plenty of people who want to read what he dismisses as “boring” stories about local government, taxation, schools and crime) the papers are being forced to migrate to the web under conditions that are nothing short of brutal.

It’s all very well and good to talk about the exciting news products that are “being built today, as we speak.”  But I know many of the people that work at these small, struggling web news outfits. They are up against the wall, just trying to keep the broadband bill paid.  They are not going to be able to devote thousands of man-hours to digging through documents and making connections, and going out and doing original research (i.e. interviewing people to get things that are not archived on the magical, all-seeing web). Maybe this will be solved someday – but it ain’t the case today, and that’s when we need it.  We need this kind of enterprise reporting, or this country is going to implode, because society is angry at the economic collapse, and nobody’s really been able to dig deep enough to explain it. At least, not in a way that holds up & makes sense for more than a month or so…

If I sound like a bit of a curmudgeon here, well, it’s hard to watch this and not get a bit grouchy. I agree with Jason on the broad points – that Big Media has sinned, and is paying the price; that ad dollars are shifting to where the consumer eyeballs are, and that this trend is only accelerating.

But dude? Less of a gleeful grin.

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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.
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Nov 13

New vs. Old Media Flamewar – We Really Don’t Have Time for This, Guys…


Posted: under Digital Migration, new media, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Let’s set the stage.

First, Ron Rosenbaum unloads on Jeff Jarvis for being “increasingly heartless” about newsroom cutbacks, layoffs & the general death spiral.

A sampling:

Not all reporters had the prescience to become new-media consultants. A lot of good, dedicated people who have done actual writing and reporting, as opposed to writing about writing and reporting, have been caught up in this great upheaval, and many of them may have been too deeply involved in, you know, content—”subjects,” writing about real peoples’ lives—to figure out that reporting just isn’t where it’s at, that the smart thing to do is get a consulting gig.

But Jarvis believes the failure of the old-media business models is the result of having too many of those pesky reporters. In his report on his recent new-media summit at CUNY, he noted with approval one workshop’s conclusion that you’d need only 35 reporters to cover the entire city of Philadelphia. Less is more. Meta triumphs over matter.

It makes you wonder whether Jarvis has actually done any, you know, reporting.

Oh, that’s nasty. Shorter Rosenbaum: “Jarvis is an substanceless, fluffy airhead, taking advantage of gullible publishers, peddling his New Media snakeoil & banking fat stacks while real reporters who actually work for a living are being thrown to the wolves.” Read More

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