At the Future of Business Media Conf

Was deeply ensconced as editorial programmer at the Future of Business Media conference today. Lots of good coverage, so little more to say here.

Check it out.

Microsoft Exec: We Got Just What We Want from Facebook

What to make of the Microsoft investment in Facebook? I met an investment exec for Microsoft exec last night at the WF360-degree event hosted at the NYSE who argued against critics, saying the 1.5 percent Microsoft got for their $250 million is just what they wanted … a piece of the action, a way to influence decisions, and a way to learn learn learn about social networking, distributed media, etc. As he wrote on his blog:

Do I get more strategic value or influence with $1.5B than with $240M?" My guess is that you get the same amount of influence, access to decisions and people, with $240M as you do with $1.5B. So, why not reduce your cash outlay and risk by only investing $240M?

He hypothesized that Google might have lost the bid because they would likely have demanded something like 15 percent of the company and a seat on the board. Not to mention that now Google and Yahoo are frozen out – at least that's what's been said.

(PS Sorry I've been quiet – simply swamped with, um, paid work.)

Microsoft Exec: We Got Just What We Want From Facebook.

What to make of the Microsoft investment in Facebook? I met an investment exec for Microsoft exec last night at the WF360-degree event hosted at the NYSE who argued against critics, saying the 1.5 percent Microsoft got for their $250 million is just what they wanted … a piece of the action, a way to influence decisions, and a way to learn learn learn about social networking, distributed media, etc. As he wrote on his blog:

Do I get more strategic value or influence with $1.5B than with $240M?" My guess is that you get the same amount of influence, access to decisions and people, with $240M as you do with $1.5B. So, why not reduce your cash outlay and risk by only investing $240M?

He hypothesized that Google might have lost the bid because they would likely have demanded something like 15 percent of the company and a seat on the board. Not to mention that now Google and Yahoo are frozen out – at least that's what's been said.


(PS Sorry I've been quiet – simply swamped with, um, paid work.)

Newspaper Success (!) in Scandinavia

While newspaper publishers in the US are moribund and seem threatened by the idea of digital -- fighting the battle between trying to be forward-thinking about digital that's only 5-8% of revenues, a Norwegian paper now gets more than 50 percent of its revenues from digital. My friend and Rebuilding Media editor Vin Crosbie pointed me to the World Association of Newspapers conference site where Birger Magnus, Executive Vice President, Schibsted, Norway, spoke about "operating profits from online activities hover around 50 percent for Norway-based Schibsted -- and rose to 53 percent in the first quarter of this year."

He talks about why:

"I think probably the most important part of explaining why we’ve been able to do this is we’ve been able to diversify," says Mr Magnus. "We foster a culture of risk taking. We have made many mistakes. But we’ve learned from our mistakes and moved on."

That's an entrepreneurial attitude, and one that perhaps could serve the US market well. 'Course, many more questions are raised: Is that 50% of a shrinking pie, what's the split among the forms of revenue, and so on. But it seems that digital does not have to be relegated to a lowly status.

Truly Portable TV

Apple TV hasn't taken hold and one of the downsides of the video iPod is the difficulty of moving video from the device to anything other than its dedicated computer. Now SanDisk has come up with a device and player that lets you not only get programs you want, but move them among TVs and computer. (via PaidContent). I'd been waiting for something that would give me the functionality of a video cassette(!).

The Attributes of a Journalist or Marketer

In a sign the universes of marketing and journalism are converging, Hilary Schneider, EVP of Yahoo's Local Markets and Commerce Division and the Yahoo publisher network gave a list of attributes (she wasn't completely clear but I think she meant) that journalistic content has to follow. She was speaking at the Online News Association Conference. And, surprising, the New York Times' International Herald Tribune's Michael Oreskes, giving the second-day keynote, stole her slides and showed them again. With some paraphrasing:

1. Obligation to the truth
2. Loyalty to citizens
3. Disclosure and verification
4. Maintaining independence (her slide actually said "an independence" but I'll trust that was a typo
5. Independent monitor of power
6. Forum for public criticism and compromise
7. Make the significant interesting and relevant
8. Keep news competitive and proportional
9. Exercise personal conscience

It as a bit surrealistic. Schneider spent some time talking about brands and marketing, and Oreskes was all about democracy and free speech.

Lost Love for AOL

Thanks to SAI for heads up on the video and password (aollover) from the AOL France office, after the AOL layoffs:

L'amour a la francaise from pyc on Vimeo.

Presenting On Web Analytics

Why I didn't post today: Was presenting at ONA on Web analytics with Hosam Elkhodary. And getting more Yahoo doo-dads -- reporters notebook and a USB-driven light to go with my other notebook, pens, radio, and thumb drive.

The Disintermediation Of the Ad Industry and Other Wisdom

Went to a breakfast today for the NYMIEG group of media and entertainment executives. Michael Kelley, one of the very smart people watching media at PriceWaterhouse Coopers, talked about how more and more companies are finding themselves in direct contact with their consumers – 300,000 or 1.2 million "hits" per day on their Websites. "Many many companies have access to their consumers like never before," he said. He talked about how the industry is moving from "impressions" to engagement and to transaction. Yet another person I've seen observing that companies are going "direct-to-consumer" with their media, and obviating the need for a traditional ad buy.

Of course, they can still use media professionals to help them do what they need to do :) . I wonder, though, as they bring more media operations in house what other typical media issues they'll find themselves confronting: Everything from managing audience flow, to deciding whether to take ads from others (imagine the disruption there – if, say, the Coca Cola site found it had a great audience for some non-competing product, and was able to get ads from that product on its site, perhaps taking those dollars away from traditional media … and by traditional media I mean any media, from the evening news to blogs … that's media for media's sake), to managing privacy issues, an archive of content and more. Sure, they've had to do some aspect of all of these things already. Companies do have their own intellectual property they have to carefully manage. But as a company that's not in the media business becomes a media business, it will need a different mindset, perhaps a different way of measuring success. If Coke sells ads to, I dunno, GM, will Coke then need an inside ad sales department to handle GM's ads? You may protest that Coke will say it's not in that business and won't sell ads. But if some company starts to see significant revenue from selling ads, or producing content, or having an archive, it could happen.

Kelley also posited that the level of audience the company Web sites are attracting will give them leverage to launch whole new brands. Fascinating idea. Other intriguing factoids he gave:

- Mobile device users will grow from 2.2 billion to 3.3 billion in the next three years. He pointed out that Rim, Apple and Google are all pushing forward, that AT&T had bought a company that gave them access to air bandwidth over which to send video, and that anyone who says a screen is too small to watch video doesn't know that audiences will tolerate any size screen. Think of the iPod Nano, he said.
- During the Depression, one of the few industries that grew was entertainment, at 7 percent per year.
- 50% of audiences will skip a video with a pre-roll ad, and they won't tolerate interstitials or popups, either.

Times Select For Free and Revenues

A Poynter Institute discussion group I'm on pointed me to ValleyWag's assertion that the NY Times' decision drop the pay wall from TimesSelect has been a boon, due to increased audience. But the question, from a business perspective, is whether the increase in traffic, in ad inventory served (be it inbound, on outbound on widgets or whatever) can ultimately overcome for the loss in subscription

Subscription revenues were basically flat, and not growing. The Times worked
to optimize their site, so it comes up much higher in search, and has
launched a bunch of blogs (which are naturally optimized). So their strategy
is clearly to attract traffic. That said, the opinion pages are not a
high-price sell ... Ads placed there cannot typically get a premium. (Which,
publisher Sulzberger told me, is one reason they were put behind the wall
originally -- make money off subs, since they couldn't really make money off
selling high-priced ads, as is possible for the tech and business sections.)
But with big increases in traffic, more relational ad targeting (that can
get a high-value user even on a lower-value page), better optimization, and
more chances to "monetize" traffic through outbound means, the Times seems
to think the equation has changed. There may be other ways to make money,
too, through lead generation, subscriptions to print, conferences,
e-commerce and so on, all of which should increase with more traffic.

The thought-leader issue is also important to the Times, from
both a journalistic and brand perspective.

Fox Business Channel: More Explanation

Lots of coverage today of the new Fox Business Network cable channel. The News Hour had guest Andrew Leckey (mp3) who said FBN, and perhaps CNBC, were doing a better job today of explaining arcane business terms like "ADR" (American depositary receipt -- the way a foreign company with another currency can list on a US exchange).

Slugging it Out at Buzzmachine

Two guys whose work I admire, and who've been kind enough to talk to me 1-on-1 have slugged it out at BuzzMachine, disagreeing about what was said at the Networked Journalism conference. On the Media co-host Bob Garfield ran a report on the conference, in which he quotes Jay Rosen speaking on his pro-am journalism experiment. I will try not to characterize their remarks, for fear I'll mischaracterize some nuance. You can read their comments for yourself.

I can say that I found NewAssignment a worthwhile experiment, but one I ultimately didn't have the time or energy to participate in as much as I would have liked. First off, the topic -- crowdsourced journalism -- felt a little like an inward spiral, something reporting on itself. Also, Jay said, at the conference, many of the participants were driven by their desire to get into Wired magazine, which picked up some of what NewAssignment produced for a piece it had on crowd sourcing. What motivated me was the chance to be part of the new experiment, not some secondary or tertiary mention or byline. I also had hoped to learn more about how it all works, and maybe be better informed so I could inform others. But I found that I was spending my time doing a lot of handling what felt like very junior journalism, even hand-holding, and I had no way to motivate people who weren't already motivated to do more or better. Folks basically sent in what they had, and left. No follow up, and no way to ask "the community" to fill or backfill. Jay has acknowledged that there were fits and starts, and his colleague David Cohn, who also helped but together the Networked Journalism conference, has also said that they may have made a mistake in doing a kind of conventional model for this kind journalism -- assigning stories in a traditional fashion.

I've written a column on another site with a different model,, which also has problems but may be more viable over time. (It should come out later this week on As Jay said to me, though, just because something isn't a complete success (or even fails) doesn't mean you shouldn't try it. That's what experimentation is all about.

T-Mobile Can Live: A Good Way to Handle Customers

Bob Garfield's "Comcast Must Die" got me thinking about his assertion – repeated to me today at the Networked Journalism summit – that if someone decided to go high-end with telecom service, be the "Nordstrom," they'd have a wide-open field.

I recently added a couple of lines to my T-Mobile cellphone service, got two more handsets, and replaced my old HP Ipaq with their high-end T-Mobile Wing device. I even signed onto a new contract – something I dread, having once lost $170 to cancel another service -- at a higher price than my previous contract-less service. There are various reasons I stay with T-Mobile (international quad-band phones, ability to include Hot Spots, contract length, etc), but one I find persuasive is I end up not hating the company every month. This is unlike other services I've had over the years, from about all the major carriers.

The pleasantness happened not only when I was calling to sign up, but even after they've gotten me locked into a yearlong contract (and it is a year long, not two!). Whenever I've called, T-Mobile people have stayed on the line with me through multiple reboots and software installations, called back as they promised, even offered an automated call-back service (that works!) when hold time is more than two minutes. When I have trouble with the Wing, they get an expert, escalate to a bigger expert if need-be, talk me through installs and uninstalls, tell me what T-Mobile dealer to go to near me. When I suggested someone stay on the line with me so I wouldn't get bounced among departments, he agreed and did so. When I told one helpful woman she was spending a long time and asked whether it wouldn't look bad on her record for spending so long – maybe 45 minutes – with one customer, she said it averaged out at the end of the day. Someone else found a way to give me the same data service I had ordered for $10 less per month. That paid for about half the Wing.

Sure, sometimes the people don't know as much as I think they should, and I suppose I'm more of a power user than they're used to, because I ask a lot of questions that send them to checking documentation. Regardless of how nice they are, it's infuriating that I've had to spend hours just to learn how to use a device I've paid beaucoup bucks for. But the people on the line are invariably pleasant and seem to want to help, no matter how long it takes. That's worth a lot to me, and has kept me with them, when I could have easily switched.


Money for "Networked" Journalism

At the CUNY J-School's Networked Journalism summit (what some others call "citizen journalism"), constructed by Jeff Jarvis.

A lot of talk about ads as the way for individuals to make money from their blogging or contributions.

But why just ads? There are many other revenue streams, eveythign from e-commerce like selling T-shirts (think to conferences (DailyKos) to lead generation (IDG's tech blogs) to selling one's book, to getting registrants that have a lifetime value (TopButton), classes (mediabistro) and myriad other revenue streams limited only by imagination. Yes, these things require infrastructure and support, and for the individual blogger they're more complicated than just placing a little Google Ads or Blog Ads on your page. Blogs, especially niche blogs with a honed audience, can do all these things, especially if they can get some bizdev or sales support.

Jay Rosen of NYU pointed out another model: the "reputation" points someone gains from the blog that can let the get other revenue. Presumably he means things like consulting or paid speaking.


When Everyone's an Advertiser Where Does the Money Go?

You've probably heard that for its album "In Rainbows" released today, British band Radiohead is taking what industry watchers are calling a revolutionary step: letting fans determine the price they'll pay for it. But it isn't so revolutionary, if you've been watching media and business trends. It's not just that other, less famous bands have tried the same thing before or the half-failed attempt by Prince in 1998, when fans complained they didn't get his disc for months after ordering it direct from the artist.

What's happening to the industry is monopolistic advantages created either by regulation or severe limits on distribution are being shaken up by the new distribution platforms. If someone charges too much, a lot of the audience will get the music or programming for free – laws be damned. Marc Cuban quipped at a conference that he doesn't bother paying to put copy protection on DVDs of movies he funds that any six year old can crack. TiVo, YouTube, BitTorrent, Kazaa – the names are legion, and will be endless. iTunes was perceived as offering a fair price and great model, until NBC said recently they wanted flexible pricing for differentiation.

We're often taught that competition is great, but in fact capitalism can't function with perfect capitalism. If every piece of content, every ad spot, every song, every product is up for auction, and the disruptive technology of the Web flattens all profits, margins will be cut razor-thin, ad space become commoditized, and the ad industry loses -- except for those few breakout creative pieces that people will really be willing to pay for to show appreciation, or because that creative distinction is a differentiator that allows charging of a higher price. So much today is up for a "pay-what-you-want" or auction model. Auctions on eBay and competitors, keywords on Google and others, brokers who sell ad remnant inventory and the like.

What Radiohead, a highly acclaimed if not superstar band, is doing is not only using the technology to reach out to their core, not only using the new technologies to end-run the recording industry, but also working on new models for making music and making money. It's been pointed out that we're in a new music industry model, one in which, rather than making money off CDs, artists make money through add-ons and concerts. Concerts can take in hundreds of millions of dollars at $100 per ticket. Radiohead's site, through a very simple interface, says "It's up to you" what to pay, and later get a download code. They're offering the music for free, but offering upsells for more: a package with the CDs in a special box, another disc of songs, two vinyl records, lyrics, artwork and so on costs 40 pounds (about $80) that will be available in December. The latest Prince concert, gave away CDs, and took considerable flak for giving yet more away as a newspaper insert.

Radiohead's site crashed last week after they couldn't handle the demand. Their initiative is seen primarily as promotion. Within 36 hours after the announcement, Radiohead had reached #3 on Billboard's "Buzz 100" list of most blogged bands. But it's more: The band gets names and contact info of people who subscribe, all of which have a lifetime value. And they get marketing information: How much will fans actually pay for an album? And releasing the album this way doesn't preclude negotiating a conventional record deal later; that deal could be more lucrative once they've proven the music's popularity beforehand. (CDs still account for about 80 percent of music sales.)

How long, too, before sites like Radiohead's are seen as place to show ads? And there we begin to create yet another long tail disruption. If everyone who can aggregate an audience, especially an audience with a specific bent or demographic profile, begins to serve ads, begins to offer itself to advertisers, we'll start to see all these niche sites (perhaps in Radiohead's case it should be called a "mass niche") that get ad dollars in addition to all the other revenue streams. We'll also see if marketing budgets can sustain so much mainstream media that appeals to less targeted mass audiences.

Some links:
Radiohead Says: Pay What You Want (Time mag)
Radiohead letting fans set the price for new album (Canpress)
A record price for a Radiohead album: $0 (LA Times)

Why Publishers Use PDFs

Jeff Jarvis, writes that the new iPod (which has same functionality as the iPhone -- save the phone part) should have been released first in the US as it was in the US, because then people would have seen the device for the wonder it is -- a portable reader and manipulator of media more functional than other such devices. I see his point.

He also asks why traditional publishers have used PDFs so often for their pages. Here's my read on it: It's because: 1. It's easily published from an existing print page -- same layout, easy export to the software, comes with the same defined edges and look. 2. it's perhaps the easiest distributed format to protect, using digital rights management. they can be forced to not allow certain types of copying or marking or resending. Publishers want control and in many cases haven't bought into the whole idea of net-plus from sharing media. 3. It's been around a long time, and therefore has a comfort level for them. It doesn't requiring new learning or investment. 4. They print easily on 8 1/2 x 11" sheets.

Now, as anyone who's ever struggled with a protected PDF can tell you: they're difficult and often choke email, and aren't very graceful on a lot of screens, and are a lot less attractive than a good page made with good links and Web safe colors. They're not really made for viewing on a screen or manipulating or putting in a widget, etc, etc. A lot of publishers have taken DRM off their PDFs to avoid causing their legitimate subscribers grief.

The Problem With (Lack of) Standards

Brad Stone at the NYTimes Bits blog talks about how developers are stretched thin by not having similar APIs or ways to code across platforms. He's talking about social networking, but it's also true for virtual worlds and the related world of multiplayer games, maps applications and all kinds of other platforms. In this most forefront of media environments we have the equivalent of old media thinking: everyone has their proprietary environment, doesn't open up, doesn't allow users or developers to move across and around platforms seamlessly. Sure there's the Open ID movement. We could probably also use the open developer movement, the open avatar movement, the open social network movement.

This probably goes against classical business reasoning of trying to gain unduplicable business advantage. But the multiplicative effect for those who participate might give them more of a business advantage than the walls do, ultimately.

Web Analytics - Marking and Measuring

While many zigged over to the Tech Meetup tonight I zagged over to the Web Analytics meetup (largely because I'm moderating a session on it at the Online News Association conference in Toronto, and want to sound less stupid in the questions I ask). Learned a few interesting things: Google Analytics' "Urchin Tracker" can not only track clicks off the site, but also actions within Ajax, such as mouseovers, cursor moves, clicks within the application, even timelines in Flash to, say, track how long someone has watched a video for.

If this is all G(r)eek to you, don't worry. But it's nifty that a free Web analytics package can do this, now.

Google at $2,000 per Share

I previously mentioned technology pushing Google to $100 billion in revenue, according to IT analyst Steve Arnold. Now, here's Henry Blodget saying $2,000 per share, or free cash flow of $30 billion, or $750 billion market cap, based on financials.

Newspapers' iPod Moment

Jeff Jarvis is asking for newspapers' "iPod moment" without fully describing what it is. Here's my response:

The iPod moment for newspapers will be when truly functional ePaper hits... color, touchscreen, wireless Internet built in, agnostic to standard, plays video, can work and read when not connected. A cross of the functionality of the iPhone, today's browsers and the TimesReader. It will be even more of a moment if that ePaper can also allow data entry for tagging and blogging, VOIP and so on. I dunno how many years.

Remember, people from MIT Media Lab and elsewhere imagined such a paper for the movie Minority Report. It was shown as USA Today in one scene on the train.

I agree with others, though, that it's coming incrementally. I can, today, do many of these things on my smartphone, and certainly on a laptop I carry most places.

Why This Times Reader Abhors the TimesReader

While we're on the topic of readers: I wanted to like the TimesReader. I really did. I want a nifty screen experience that goes farther than a browser can, expands, contracts, shows ads seamlessly, can be read even when I'm not online, has great visuals. I've been playing with it for a few weeks now, since they relaunched it for free for print subs.

But the TimesReader is less functional and useful than no good search of decades of material, no sub-divisions of its sections (like Media and Advertising within Business section), no video section, and on and on. Plus, it's clunky, and hogs memory and slows other applications, and when I try to disconnect asks me if I really want to, and doesn't show me "today's paper" if I want to peak at the Times the way my mother-in-law might have read it, and it doesn't always show me the photos with the piece, unless I happen to click on the link to "show photos" or blow up the page to the correct size for that. I get it free because I subscribe to the weekends in print. But why would I pay $14.95 per month rather than just read it on the Web? I'm no tech genius, but I do know how to grab pages I want and read them offline. Plus my browsers and screens are pretty legible, and set the way I like.

I'm sure there are folks at the Times who are excited about the possibilities to show and track ads of adjustable sizes and have a proprietary platform. But what about the user?

Sony's New Reader, Old Mindset

So, Sony's got a nicer version of its book reading gadget. That's nice. But unless it's an iPhones level "wow" it's not going to work. And even then, it's still not going to work, for similar reasons to why the iPhones didn't: Closed device, limited network, proprietary mindset.

A friend and very smart person about all kinds of stuff in this realm, Peter Meirs, Director of Alternative Media Technologies at Time Inc., told me yesterday about an ad he saw at his local commuter station for the Sony Reader, touting the fact that you could carry "30 books" on the plane with you. That's nice, but who wants to carry 30 books? For a long enough flight, I want a book or two, a couple magazines, some audio, chance to do my email, attack a spreadsheet, write up a couple of blog entries… all of which I can do on a laptop, or these days even for the most part on my smartphone. Heck (as I showed Peter), I can carry a book or two on the SD card that fits on my handheld, which is a two-year-old HP iPaq with Windows Mobile. Not only that, but I can get the books in a number of different formats, even sometimes, copy-protected ones. I can certainly get them on my laptop, which isn't that much more cumbersome to carry than the readers.

So, sorry Sony Reader (and by extension Amazon and anyone else). Unless you come up with a device that does a lot more than read your books (or magazine or whatever) in a proprietary format, even if it connects to the Internet to let me do it, I'm not that interested. Show me some flexible e-paper the size of a placemat, that I can fold and put in my pocket, with the functionality of a low-end laptop with browsers, that's open to many formats, that I can really customize, that allows me, also, to use VOIP, WiFi, and so on … then we're getting somewhere. Even then, not if you're going to not only make me pay $300 for the device that does less than my smartphone for the same price and also charge me almost as much for a digital book as a print one.

I'm all in favor of digital books, mind you: I would have killed for some of my cinderblock sized biz school texts to have been given to me electronically – occasionally I even ripped out chapters rather than carry the book on a plane or train. I would have loved to have been able to mark the thing up electronically, search and sort more easily, maybe grab an appropriately "fair use" amount to share with a friend or ask a classmate a question.

Maybe Sony figures they're learning and will over time adjust their model and end up with an advantage because they've played with the technology and therefore know more than others. A PR person there years ago insisted to me the Betamax wasn't a bust because of all they'd learned and been able to put into successful professional machines using offshoots of the high-quality standard. But to date it looks more like a mindset than technology problem. Someone with the right mindset has every capability of leapfrogging, if they can come up with the open, nifty, easy-to-use, multi-functional device.

Google Tops Ad Survey, Shunned by Radio

It's not surprising that the NAB has greeted Google's radio plans with skepticism, or perhaps confusion. The Google workup I saw gives advertisers the ability to buy spots via an algorithm, target inventory and audiences, and largely cut out media buying agencies. That's what Google does, right: Cut out the middle man. And so it's not surprising the folks on the traditional side would point out all the flaws in what Google's doing.

And, yet, a survey by Jack Myers (for whom I write) find that Goog knows better than any other Web site how to handle clients. So, apparently, they know how to be a middle man, too. (And the gobs of hiring they've been doing is apparently not for naught.)