Taking Off Through Labor Day

Trying to take some time with the family, and will get back to posting next week. Thanks, all.

Heaton: Yahoo Not Going Where the Audience Is

Terry Heaton writes that while the new Yahoo! Consortium gives it a better deal than the newspapers contributing content to it in hopes of getting clickthrough to their sites, Yahoo ultimately is a loser for its "come to us" model. "Yahoo! is all about bringing the network to them; Google is all about bringing itself to the network. Which company has been having problems with business and investors?" he writes.

Reminds me of a comment by Herb Scannell at an EconSM panel from April. Herb used to be a big TV exec, but now sees the old line media as "them" as he works on Next New Networks, which is about a lot of niche TV sites are brought together under one aggregated roof: "This whole idea of destination is what they're all about. We're about going to where the audience is."

In other words, do you want everyone to have to come to you and do what you want in a sort of dictated way, or will you forgo your impulse to dictate the navigation and let them have what they want where when and how they want it? And also let them use and meld and mold and manipulate it.


I don't know if he coined the term, but the first time I heard it was from Michael Chin, who heads up marketing at social networking company KickApps. "Syndication is not new [in media] but with widgets it's hyper-syndication," he told me over a plate of eggs at one of the great old diners that thankfully still exist in midtown Manhattan where you can eat a good meal for under $5.

I love the concept. You not only get your stuff out there, but you get it out there in a way that encourages exponential, rapidfire (aka viral) growth, until you lose control. But you gain incredible reach, and perhaps frequency and targeting.

Lemonade on my Network Router...

... destroyed my internet connection for a good part of the day. (And I forgive the person who knocked the glass over in one of the most bizarre scenes I've witnessed.) All's fixed now and I'll post tomorrow.

Ad Skipping, Ad Choosing

Well, yes, DVR owners skip ads, BUT multiple folks I've interviewed say that ads are not skipped evenly and the type of ad is crucial. TV promotion execs insist, for example, that users tend to watch ads for TV shows in greater proportion than other ads -- largely because, they believe, people watching TV are interested in other shows. Also, they say, they watch movie previews.

As for another point in the piece linked above, that DVD sales are in trouble due to people preferring to record on their DVRs, sure: You've got the combination of price and convenience. DVDs are threatened either way, because we're starting to approach the true on-demand model. When folks can, in coming years, get the movie they want from a full list, at a moment's notice, what reason will there be for shipping discs or going to the store. A few will still want to own a disc, but that will become more of a niche.

New Ways to Show Ads

A few things stood out to me today in The Wall Street Journal story about YouTube trying out ads on videos, and they spell really good and really scary news for advertisers. The video advertisements are the ones that sit, superimposed, as a "lower third" – lower fifth, really – on the video, and the ad only shows if the viewer clicks. According to the article.

- A whopping 75% of viewers who clicked on the ad (the FT makes that clear) watched the entire ad. So once viewers are engaged, they're engaged

- The ads have 5-10 times greater clickthrough than regular display ads. That's also huge.

But terrifying for the current way ads are shown is that 70% of viewers abandoned videos with pre-roll ads. That's a LOT of lost eyeballs and means advertisers will have to be creative in how they offer ads. It's really becoming a partnership, an offer, rather than the kind of interruptive (watch this ad to see this content) model we've had in a linear world.

It also caught my attention – and made me want the answer – that YouTube wouldn't say what percentage of its videos come from content partners.

RSS for a Single Blog Post

I'm missing the CrunchGear 1st Birthday Party at Red Sky tonight (went to the Web 2.0 Meetup, and that was enough for this non-party boy), but I admire the way their posts allow an RSS feed for one post, so you can track comments as they're added to the post -- "you can follow comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed" ( one sample). The best of journalism, community and finely honed or tuned interest. And it's got to drive ad inventory, both volume in aggregate, and targeted in reach. The kind of editorial and commercial win-win that's perfect.

Reminds me of the feeds Marketwatch had (or do they still have them them? their RSS page doesn't show it) for individual topics that the user could set via search terms.

'No Such Thing as a Print Journalist'

I used to get cross-eyed looks when I told people, before we even had Mozilla, that I always wanted to try to find the right medium for the message, and not the other way around. Sometimes, a story is best told in linear writing, sometimes in stills, sometimes in video, audio -- and in today's environment, perhaps a mix, with links, graphics, etc. (And that doesn't even get into community, participation, social aspects, database mashups, and so on.) Last week Jeff Jarvis, riffing on a journalism education study he finds discouraging , wrote: "There is no such thing as a print journalist anymore. There are journalists who now can work in any medium for any media company."

Here here. And note that he said "any media company" not "any news organization."

The Federated Media Problem

John Battelle's Federated Media, by many accounts, does a fine job of helping aggregate and sell ads for leaders in various spaces. If you've got significant traffic, something of a leadership position, in a space, but don't have your own ad sales force, they'll take you on and sell ads for you. But the difficulty in their business model is that they help folks grow and get bigger, to the point where those folks will either get their own sales force, or go with someone even bigger. Witness Digg, which decided to go with Microsoft. The good news for Federated in this news, though, is that Digg will keep them on for custom deals, which can be higher margin than the pure ad serving with scale offered by the Redmond, WA, giant.

How to Raise Startup $$$ in NY

It was no Always On summit, but a gathering of startups, VCs, angel investors and others interested in it all gathered for a New York version of PowerPoint-meets-VC on Wednesday. About 60 people crammed into a large boardroom for an "Innovator Evening" hosted by event entrepreneur Alan Brody of iBreakfast. Brody says these events have already gotten some $40 million in funding for new ventures.

Read the rest of my post on CNET's Webware blog here.

Ads as Content

True, people don't want to watch video ads on the Internet. But that's if they see what they're watching as ads, rather than entertainment or information. Companies are increasingly moving to the production of entertainment and information, and letting the branding message remain understated.

Off the Media: Business Sense

I've complained in the past that NPR's "On the Media" doesn’t cover business enough and gets too wrapped up in a few foreign regions that don't warrant that much attention. Last week, the show answered both issues with a strong showing on Murdoch-WSJ, the Redstones' feud, Google's play to make cellphone bandwidth more freely usable (says NYU's Siva Vaidhynathan, deftly: "Google’s action in this auction has made Americans all over the place realize that we have a ridiculous and anti-competitive system, and that we could have a much more efficient, effective and creative market place.") and the socio-economics of Facebook (college-educated biz people) vs. MySpace (anti-societal dropouts).

From the show, I leaned in the Murdoch story that The New York Post used to be "one of the most liberal newspapers in America ." Imagine that! And a piece on
the NFL restricting the amount of material media outlets can use from press conferences and what-not seems to put the NFL's desire for control – trying to drive people to its properties – ahead of the benefits it would get from sharing. A very Web 1.0 strategy. Not to mention that football is something of a public trust, not just any business. Certainly, a further effect of businesses doing their own media, going "direct to consumer," rather than having the media mediate.

Interestingly, it was a week without co-host Bob Garfield, who's steeped in the business of media at his day job as an Ad Age columnist and would be great to give the show more on this business as it goes through one of the greatest distruptions in business history.

This week, Garfield's fellow host Brooke Gladstone got all William Safire on us, with a lead story exploring the phrase "off the table." (C'mon , guys, in a week with reports from Veronis Suhler, eMarketer and others about the state of media, is that really the best we can do in observing what's new in American media?) They managed to get the New York Times' perfume write back, quite a feat that, to talk about a possible Anderson Cooper' scent. (Did they have to, though, talk about a possible Wolf Blitzer cologne, a "soothing peppermint distillation?" And Bill O'Reilly. Something with "a cream from the anal gland from a species of bat." Eesh..

Next week -- well, tomorrow, really -- here's hoping OTM explores the Picasso comic book controversy , where a store owner's in hot water for letting a boy have a comic book that showed Picasso as he sometimes used to paint: in the nude.

Microsoft's Ad Overhaul?

Microsoft's purchase of ad company aQuantive is official and PaidContent (whose parent, ContentNext, I'm helping with a conference on business media) looks into their organizational chart and possible moves. As I noted here, for Jack Myers Media Business Report, these moves are in the larger context of all the big portals trying to solidify their reach and targeting capabilities and stay in competition with each other.

You Can't Buy Google Video Anymore

Google sent the following note today. Think I'd bought some Charlie Rose videos, maybe 1 or 2 other things. I don't have the computer the Rose video's on, but if I can't watch the ones I bought and downloaded anymore, hope I can watch them for free somehow. Battelle sees it as a retrenchment from launching new products. But it's also a focus on the mass audience to garner eyeballs for ads.
As a valued Google user, we're contacting you with some important
information about the videos you've purchased or rented from Google Video.
In an effort to improve all Google services, we will no longer offer the
ability to buy or rent videos for download from Google Video, ending the
DTO/DTR (download-to-own/rent) program. This change will be effective
August 15, 2007.

To fully account for the video purchases you made before July 18, 2007, we
are providing you with a Google Checkout bonus for $2.00. Your bonus
expires in 60 days, and you can use it at the stores listed here:
http://www.google.com/checkout/signupwelcome.html. The minimum purchase
amount must be equal to or greater than your bonus amount, before shipping
and tax.

After August 15, 2007, you will no longer be able to view your purchased
or rented videos.

If you have further questions or requests, please do not hesitate to
contact us. Thank you for your continued support.


The Google Video Team

Pogue on How He Does Video

New York Times tech writer/videographer/blogger and general wise guy man David Pogue has created an avid following for his tech videos on NYTimes.com. It's not uncommon to hear someone at a conference or gathering ask if you've seen the latest one – whether a goofy review of the iPhone, some rant done around his town at his Connecticut home, or other ways of amusingly imparting his judgments about what's good and not so about the latest devices, doo-dads, and services. And, as he notes in the interview below, he's landed a show on the Discovery Channel.

His videos, by Internet standards, are pretty high quality – crisply shot, nicely edited, easy and clear to view and understand. And that has little to do with technology. He uses a Mac and an "old" Sony camera and just recently got an intern to help. He also puts in many hours, creatively conceives and crafts his pieces, and lets his personality show.

And therein lies a lesson. A lot of people (me included sometimes) spend time fretting about what technology to use and how to assemble the bits and pieces and get creative to garner an audience. Of course, being on NYTimes.com doesn't hurt. But what makes the videos work is the effort Pogue puts in. While the technology enables that, makes it so one guy can do it all, it isn't what made the videos successful. Pogue just does it. Here's the interview, done via e-mail, with minor editing.

How did you go from being a print guy to a video guy? Did you always want such an outlet?

Nope. I always thought I'd be a Broadway composer. From the time I was a teenager, I was playing piano and writing songs. I went to Yale, was a music major, wrote a musical per year. Then I went to

New York and worked on Broadway for about ten years as an arranger/conductor!

The transition to tech was slow and sneaky. I bought a Mac in 1985 to run sheet-music software on. For years, I wrote about software and gave personal computer lessons while doing Broadway at night.... Finally, the balance sort of tipped, and I found my teaching skills in more demand than my musical ones!

Of course, the Pogue-trackers have noticed that my musical career has lately been sneaking back into my tech career (see my iPhone "musical" on YouTube,for example)...

How did you arrive at the persona? What made you feel you had the freedom to> let it out like that? (NYTimes is generally thought of as a "serious" place?)

The persona!? That's no persona-- that's the way I am!

I don't know -- I've always just been sort of a goofy guy who likes to be the class clown. I don't think the Times ever had a problem with it. They've never, EVER suggested that I tone it down. The humor is part of why the Times hired me to begin with --and that's also why I love the Times!

The Times reporters aren't a very funny bunch when it comes to news reporting. But you can find some really funny writers in opinion columns and reviews!

How do you get such high production values? Do you have a videographer, producer, editor? Who does all the work we don't see (lighting, shooting,> editing, etc.?)

HAH!! You call those high production values!? You're kiddin' me, right?

There are NO production values!

I just shoot with an old Sony camcorder, and dump it into iMovie for editing. (I'm trying to learn Final Cut Pro.) When I need to film myself, I stick the camcorder on a tripod. I also have a video light for use when I'm shooting at night.

This summer, I have a 17-year-old intern who operates the camcorder, which makes the whole thing go a lot faster. Ordinarily, though, I just do the whole thing myself.

How long does it take to produce each video? What's the process you go through?

It usually takes 5 to 10 hours. Maybe 45 minutes to film (if I've done the preparation, like plotting out the shots) and the rest to edit and compile.

The Times has a wonderful stock-music library they've made available to me, and that's where I get the background music.

I really wish the videos didn't take so long. I'm actually trying to make them a little simpler these days...

How has appearing on video changed your professional life?

Well, I've been very surprised. To me, they're not really a big deal—nobody even noticed them the first couple of years--but now they've won awards, they occasionally rise to the top 10 on YouTube, and they have a HUGE following of fans (plus the vindictive hatred of a few humorless bloggers!).

They also led to my Discovery TV series, "It's All Geek to Me," which just finished airing, as well as to some other TV opportunities that are coming up.

And, finally: Do you spend most of your time at home? Your videos look suspiciously suburban so much of the time.

Correctamundo! The videos are almost entirely shot at home, or around town here in

Connecticut. :)

Thanks for your interest!

WSJ, Free or Paid: A Final Word

BusinessWeek's Catherine Holahan does a nice job rounding up the various arguments about whether WSJ.com should go free (quotes me, too. I think she called because I had put some specific numbers down, in addition to discussing strategy, as others did). Only other thing I remember saying (on a cellphone between appointments) was that I think the Journal will always have some paid component. For example, when Holahan in the discussion said that thestreet.com is free, I pointed out that not all of it is. Is there any written daily business outlet that is completely free, with no "upsells"?

Building Sites Getting Easier

The Web will really explode as it gets easier to assemble sites and do mashups with no technical expertise ... When it's as easy as taking a picture and sending it, or writing an email, or playing a game. (And as generations change.) I make no judgment on this announcement, but it's one of what I expect will be many to come. From a Freewebs press release:

There was a time when being on the Internet was a privilege reserved only for HTML coding gurus. Then, there was the Geocities and Tri-Pod movement, which allowed for a somewhat less sophisticated group to create web pages. Now, ordinarily tech shy people are doing extraordinary things using Freewebs (www.freewebs.com), which has become the clear choice for anyone who wants to build a comprehensive personal or small business website: more than 17 million Freewebs sites have been created to date. This Wednesday, August 15, building and managing personal websites gets exponentially easier with the streamlined relaunch of Freewebs and its dead simple to use, what-you-see-is-what-you-get Page Builder.

For anyone familiar with prominent Web 2.0 products like MySpace and Google Page Creator, you will easily see what Freewebs has done with its Page Builder is nothing short of revolutionary. As easy-to-use as MS Word, Freewebs Page Builder allows for total customization and integration. Users start with one of 300+ template motifs, then add multiple content boxes and move them around. Not only can they fill these boxes with text, wrap and split paragraphs, users can also add web widgets, photos, sounds and videos from Freewebs or through seamless integration with leading UGC companies including YouTube, Brightcove, Digg, Photobucket and others. And there’s no more shifting between editing and public views to see how your site will look to visitors: novices and experienced users alike can build and edit on the same screen and watch their sites come to life—in real time.

What’s more, sites and blogs living on other platforms can be simply imported (though you will lose comments, sorry). But that’s a small hurdle especially when you compare what you can’t do on with current site or blog software. Where some portals and social networks see the Internet as a series of walled gardens, Freewebs sees an ever-expanding universe of opportunities for people to freely express themselves using the best available tools.

Google's Seach Indexing: Change or Not?

Search Insider's David Berkowitz of MediaPost finds fault with my column for Jack Myers Media Business report, quoting a Bear Stearns study and one of the study's authors, about how Google will change what I called the "requirements" for search optimization. I may have been wrong, but I found the report's analysis convincing, and think that Google -- which is trying to get away from search engine optimization scammers, and trying to increase indexing of non-HTML apps and pages, is likely to take some action, and the study says the action will be intake of .xml feeds.

That Google filed patents is, as Berkowitz says, no guarantee they'll use what's in the patents, but the expert, Steve Arnold, pointed out that they have started to sneak the technology onto the site, and there are examples of it already. (His site is here, and the report, a PDF, is here.) Steve has promised to get back to me with a further response.

Headline Within a Headline

"Stuff Magazine to Fold Into Maxim." Here.

Always found it hard to tell them apart, anyway

More Thinking on the Wall Street Journal Going Free

I've written more thoughts and clarifications of the Journal going free over at Rebuilding Media. To sum up : It's a reasonable strategic move, and one Murdoch could make successfully. But any business will have a tough time making such a move and foregoing a pretty good subscription revenue stream. There's also some more noodling about financial matters.

David Pogue Can't Help Himself

Sitting behind a desk to seem more sedate than usual, the NYTimes technology reviewer not only goes through a few gizmos, but also excerpts and mimics CNET and Mossberg of WSJ in a roundup of sorts of other V-casts of the tech world. But he's not as sedate as he claims he's going to be -- especially toward the end when he starts whacking his computer with a foam mallet to make the monkeys appear.

Here's the video.

Addendum: Behavioral Content

Thinking further on below about the possibility of using behavioral targeting for content, not just ads: Part of the power of a targeter like Tacoda, for ads, is their network, not just their technology. So, for someone to reach the levels of scale that would make targeted content more valuable, they'd have to open up and allow content from multiple services, in multiple ways, not a completely controlled inbound environment.

Startup Fever at Always On

Starup business plans in Silicon Valley are like scripts in southern California: Everyone's got one, filled with hopes and dreams. And even though most won't make, the latest hit just might arise. CNET's Webware editor Rafe Needleman was at Stanford's "Always On" summit and covers some of what he calls the most interesting among the 68 startups there. It's too early to say if any will be disruptive to media, but many of them -- predictably for a world in which info-tech and media are blending -- touch on the space.

One, Cleverset, is pitched as behavioral modeling for e-commerce, but I could also see it being used as behavioral targeting for editorial content. See that someone likes something? Give him/her more of it (and then serve targeted ads, of course). Maybe match that up with Michael Wolff and Patrick Spain's new newser.com. Use their aggregation of selected sources, selected news, a little human help mashed up with users' own usage patterns and you've got a powerful editorial and business model. Rafe, who has edited me on many occasions, separately covers chat + broadcast company PalTalk (how is it a startup?) and Retrevo, which is reviews combined with social networking.

In New York, Alan Brody on Aug. 15 will be running an Innovators Dinner as well. I bet it has a a very different feel from what you can watch on YouTube of Always On.

IBM's 'Second Life' Guidelines

IBM has issued guidelines for its employees who are on Second Life. Keep up the corporate image, don't do nasty or bad stuff -- pretty much what you'd expect to protect the "brand."

And touches in a 21st-century way on issues raised by the book Speechless: The Erosion of Free Expression in the American Workplace, by Bruce Barry. I'll be interviewing Barry on Aug. 24 in New York for Bill Sobel of NYMIEG, with whom I'm partnering on a few other things.

I'll ask Bruce about all the difficulties of managing "real" vs. worklife, for both employees and employers, and how to manage the issues in a virtual as well as real world. Believe me, you wouldn't believe some of the things people are fired or reprimanded for and how little protection of speech there is. You also wouldn't believe how difficult it'll get to manage the situation as an employer if Bruce's book and campaign manage to move the needle.

Corrections to Wall Street Journal Math

I made a few corrections to my math about whether WSJ can go completely ad supported over at Rebuilding Media, thanks to a commenter, and my own rethinkng after reading his comments. Basic logic still holds.

Will Wall Street Journal Go Free?

UPDATE/NOTE: A corrected version of the math in this post is at Rebuilding Media.

In the last paragraph of one of the many stories in today's Wall Street Journal about the purchase of parent Dow Jones, Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying if the paper went completely free it would be a "wash" financially. It would certainly be a huge step to go free (and one I'd be perfectly happy with, paying as I now do.) Let's explore whether Murdoch's assertion is really likely to be true.

First a few assumptions:

- The soon-to-be 1 million paid subscribers referred to in another piece in WSJ are paying full price, $79.
- There are seven million unique visitors and 90 million monthly pageviews, as WSJ claims. (That's almost 13 pageviews per unique.)
- The two display ads per page (large rectangle, narrow skyscraper) run at an average CPMs of $35 and $20 (reasonably possible rates for a targeted, subscription audience in a financial/business publication). The performance based ads at the bottom are together worth an effective CPM of $12. (I know that may be high, but there are a lot of them, and it's the Journal.)
- 80% sellout on average in all ad spots (some spots will be without paid ads in some instances, there has to be some room for ad serving and so on).
- Each pageview is equally valuable.

So, we've got, yearly:

- 1 million subscribers * $79 = $79 million from subscription

- 90,000,000/1000*.8 * (35 + 20 + 12) = $4.8 million monthly in advertising * 12 = $58 million in ads

Grand total: $137 million revenue from subscription and ads.

Murdoch predicts in the piece that a free site would have 10 times as many visitors and five times as much advertising. But the number of pageviews per unique would drop significantly, because a lot of the traffic – especially new traffic – would be inbound single hits or quick dips from blogs, search engines and so on. The ad rates would also drop because advertisers could not be convinced they were buying as exclusive a subscription audience. Let's take Murdoch's assertions as true and assume:

- Pageviews per unique will drop to a more normal news industry standard of 4 per unique. (We'll also assume that by "visitors" Murdoch means "uniques".)
- Ad rates will drop to 60% of their previous levels
- A lower level of sellout on pages (as Murdoch acknowledges in saying ads won't go up as much as visitors will).

So we have:

- 70 million unique visitors at 4 pageviews per = 280 million pageviews per month.
- Five times as many ads, an ad rate we'll cut in half, and 60 percent sellout.

Which in my estimation comes out to a total of about $40.5 million.

At 80 percent sellout it's $54 million. Even at the same number of ads per page, that's still only $108 million.

Now, maybe to Murdoch the difference between $137 million and $108 million is so small as to be pocket change and therefore "a wash." Or maybe my assumptions or math are way off (if you want a spreadsheet with my calculations, just ask and I'll send it.) But that's still a lot of newsroom jobs for that extra $25 million, or more than $90 million under the poorer ad scenario

Plus, subscriptions are pre-revenue, cash collected up front that can then be spent over time. They're great for cashflow and provide a "float." Ads on the other hand are typically paid months after they're billed, and can be a real problem for cashflow. Subscriptions also tend to be more stable in down times than advertising, which can be canceled with little notice. Subscriptions are a more stable business and take less overhead to maintain.

I don't see that making a successful subscription product like the Journal free makes economic sense. Tell me what's wrong with my thinking.