This week: I attend the Digital Family Summit (pictures of which have already appeared on this blog) La Patria expands reader benefits packages, Clay Shirky hopes for a “thousand flowers” to bloom, Seth Godin indulges in some “brandjacking” and the Economist’s story on the global effects of the mobile revolution is absolutely not to be missed.
I was at the Digital Family Summit here in Los Angeles on Wednesday, where entrepreneur Jason Calacanis taped an edition of his “This week in startups” online video show. Check it out – he runs down the basic differences in what’s going on with tech startups – basically, that companies previously got funding 1) during Dot-com 1.0 by just trying to get a big audience, before crashing & burning in the dot-bomb crash; 2) building up interesting features and exiting by selling out to Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.; and now 3) everyone has to prove in their business plans that they are going to start generating revenue RIGHT AWAY http://thisweekinstartups.com/2009/09/twist-episode-18-with-mike-jones-and-peter-hirschberg/#more-419 Bonus: about halfway through, Jason takes my question that I submitted through Twitter; and if you don’t think it’s hard typing with one hand on an iPhone while juggling a camera and cocktail, well, *you* try it.
The Colombian newspaper La Patria, located in the town of Manizales in the volcanic mountain range west of Bogota, has an interesting “Club de Suscriptores” benefit package: http://lapatria.securesites.net/club_suscriptores/Beneficios_Seguro.htm One of the chief benefits listed here is a form of insurance to protect you against accidents (as long as you’re younger than 64). They also sell pre-paid “Classified Advertising Gift Cards” that allow the cardholder to buy 200 words for a 50% discount. The subscription also comes with the by-now-standard local merchant discount card – for a laugh, click through to the page of the fast-food restaurant “McGuau” (pronounced “McWow”), to see their special on “Perro Gaseosa” or “Gassy Dog.” Truth in advertising, that. They also promise to start holding concerts and exclusive cultural events that will be open only to subscribers. (Full disclosure: I did multimedia and revenue-stream consulting work at La Patria.)
At the Online Journalism Review, a whole bunch of innovatin’s going on http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/davidwestphal/200909/1779/ David Westphal is looking at whether doing specialized research projects could turn into a reliable alternative revenue stream for news. He cites as examples The Texas Watchdog (doing citizen-journalism training), NewWest (running conferences) and the New York Times doing seminars with their big names. A startup called GlobalPost, is charging $104 a year for special content, weekly conference calls and the ability to make story suggestions. The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, is also doing targeted research work, although they say they won’t do “oppo research” for politicians, or take on divorce cases.
For those still paying attention to advertising revenues, Group M predicts that internet ad spending will constitute 15% of the total global market next year, with mobile spending rising 19% (to about $3.3 billion worldwide). http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=113920 Display ads are going to be down, while search advertising is going to be up, from 38% to 43% of the total spend. Good news for Google, bad news for everyone else.
Deep thinker Clay Shirky is pessimistic about the future of news, but still calls for “a thousand flowers” to replace newspapers, rather than trying to implement paywalls http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/09/clay-shirky-let-a-thousand-flowers-bloom-to-replace-newspapers-dont-build-a-paywall-around-a-public-good/ Good quote: “The institutions harrying newspapers — Monster and Match and Craigslist — all have the logic that if you want to list a job or sell a bike, you don’t go to the place that’s printing news from Antananarivo and the crossword puzzle. You go to the place that’s good for listing jobs and selling bikes. And so if you had a good idea for a business, you wouldn’t launch it in order to give the profits to the newsroom. You’d launch it in order to give the profits to the shareholders.”
This isn’t a newspaper, but it’s certainly a bold new method for generating cash from your online content – Seth Godin, generally thought of as one of the “Good Guys of Online Content” apparently fell under some Sith Lord mind-control spell, because he’s engaging in what the digerati call “Brandjacking” http://outspokenmedia.com/reputation-management/seth-godin-brandjacking/ His new Brands in Public effort ( http://www.squidoo.com/brandsinpublic/hq ) has drawn intense criticism around the web: “Brand in Public was designed to show the world just how much Seth cares about your brand. Yep, he loves you so much that he has sent his team of goblins out to register your Brands in Public company page for you, fill it with scraped content (blog posts, tweets, Google News, Trends, etc) and then lock it down so that you have absolutely no way to touch or control it. Unless you pay him.” Basically, he takes your brand hostage; it’s like an old-school mob protection scheme. I’m guessing massive backtracking on this initiative in 4 … 3…
Another paid content/New Media revenue stream under examination is exemplified by CommonCraft – http://www.commoncraft.com/ Proceeding from the insight that one of the core functions of journalism is to explain the world to us in words/pictures/sounds that we can understand, CommonCraft seeks to sell those services to companies that want someone to explain what they do/want/give better than they can themselves. “If your product or service needs a video explanation, our Explainer Network of video producers can help. Common Craft has a history of making custom videos. But now we are more focused on videos we can offer on this website.”
Current online darling Facebook is starting to face some tough questions about how it’s actually going to convert all the time spent on its site into actual, you know, money http://www.pcworld.com/article/172088/five_possibilities_for_the_future_of_facebook.html PC World breaks it down into 5 possible paths: 1) More games, 2) More Aggressive ads, 3) Branded merch (like a Facebook phone or Facebook OS), 4) Becoming a content aggregator like Google, 5) Nothing – it’s not possible to make money off this audience.
Two from Paid Content UK: the first says that maybe bundling print and online subscriptions together will help sell subscriptions, because “people continue to believe that touchable products command tangible economic value but, divorced from physicality and its associated costs, that digital content should manifest itself cheaper.” http://paidcontent.co.uk/article/419-pcukharris-poll-online-could-be-used-as-incentive-for-print-subs/ The next poll they conducted is a gutpunch to Murdoch’s hopes to start charging for all his online content – only 5% of the audience would pay, and 75% would just go find some free source.Their take: “We think the question for news publishers is this: is five percent of your readership (that’s the number who tell us they would pay) enough to offset the decline in advertising revenue that would come with putting your site behind a pay wall?”
In San Francisco, The Bay Area News Project is launching to cover civic and community news, funded by a local businessman http://www.thewrap.com/article/latest-local-non-profit-news-site-launch-san-francisco_7739 They are using the PBS/non-profit business model, which seems to be a growing meme in local journalism.
In the mobile space, too much is happening to even attempt to keep up with. Microsoft leaked some photos of Courier, their new e-book reader, which is absolutely gorgeous and would make me toss my Kindle – if it turns out to be more than “vaporware” this could be a serious competitor to Apple’s long-rumored tablet computer. http://gizmodo.com/5365299/courier-first-details-of-microsofts-secret-tablet Meanwhile, the IREX digital reader has been anointed “the best yet” http://dvice.com/archives/2009/09/hands-on-irex-m.php because of the way you can load/unload/manage/share content on it.
And last, I highly recommend clicking over to the Economist’s cover story on mobile. The examples they give of how mobile technology is revolutionizing the lives of the “other 2 billion” on this planet is inspiring in a deep way http://www.economist.com/printedition/displayStory.cfm?Story_ID=14505519