Sometimes It's Just Thinking Intelligently

ROI ROI ROI. (Which if you're French-speaking is king king king, but in the media/ad world is "return on investment.") A surprisingly vague term which basically means somehow getting more money from the stuff you advertise or spend on than the money you put in. Notoriously hard to figure out. But an obsession in today's digital media/measurability world.

Over on Congoo, where I've probably posted for the last time this year, I wrote of the steps MediaEdge took for a large retailer to get customers to take action based on where they were in the buying process for a large consumer item. Really, what the folks at MediaEdge did was simply think it through: If someone's searching a generic term like "washing machine" they're earlier in the process than if they search a specific brand name. So, for the former you give more information, and a way to get them interested, and for the latter you hit them with more of a "buy now" kind of message, perhaps discounting or other types of actionable
information, like where and how to find a store and buy the machine, call an 800 number and so on. It's smart, and really comes down to adding intelligence -- as in human thinking -- to the machine bits and bytes process.

That's the kind of high-end work people are supposed to do. And sometimes, it's really simple if you just think a bit.

As We Were Saying About Apple's Rise ...

Here's a picture from the Apple Store on Fifth Ave from Christmas day, from SAI, reinforcing both their point and ours about how the stores are a stroke of genius and Apple will come on stronger next year.

There's also intelligent commenting on the post below about why Apple WON'T become the big enterprise solution any time soon. Granted, as the second commenter says, that Microsoft is a software company. But he(?) also points out that that Apple should make gains in the college market. And as I pointed out, there's more growth in small than large businesses. Overall, I see a trend toward Apple. A hardware company, yes, but so intertwined with software as to be a software marketer, as well. With a huge brand. "Nobody ever got fired for choosing Microsoft," perhaps. But at a certain point, could Apples become as safe a choice, if Microsoft machines become perceived as too cumbersome, too virus-laden, too difficult to refit , too expensive to frequently upgrade and reconfigure?

Apple Gaining Ground

I agree with Henry Blodget that the Apple is gaining ground in computers. The reasons go beyond the ones he states -- that the "network effect" of Microsoft is waning due to the increasing number of applications like mail and Google docs based on the Web. (I noted in comments on his site, Silicon Alley Insider, that a number of apps, even Web based ones like the Netflix movie viewer, some sports event media viewing over the Internet and a bunch of business software still require Windows and/or Windows Media to run. (Fortunately for the new Apples, they can run Windows, though I've found the process of loading it a bit cumbersome -- and expensive, potentially.)

Some more reasons I see Apple gaining ground, largely from my own experience running a small business, but also working in a lot of larger corporate environments:

- The machines, as their marketing says, just plain work. I've got friends and acquaintances and professional relationships with PC technicians, and so by now I'm pretty familiar with the ins and outs of getting around a Windows-based machine to make it work, anything from defragging to dumping programs that are hogging memory, to adding more memory and other things -- but I find that even my tech friends are often stumped as to what is making a PC belch or hiccup. (One of my Windows laptops is being wiped clean and reloaded with the basic software as I type this because it's too onerous to figure out what the heck is wrong. Spyware? System glitch?) I've paid tech support at both Best Buy and Circuit City, but they're not as responsive and don't give the thorough answers and elbow grease effort of guys at the Mac store, where I've bought Apple Care and OnetoOne lessons. If you have a tech dept that you can hand your computer over too for a couple hours every day of the week whenever something's wrong, PCs might be better. But for ...
- An increasing number of people who are on their own in one way or another and can't afford to spend so much of our time hassling with tech issues. The small business economy is growing (job growth in small outpaces large) and don't have big tech depts. We need things that just work.
- The Apples and the software we put on them just work in many instances because things are tested and approved and can generally just plug in and make something run. There are fewer options with Apple -- they only sell, maybe, a half-dozen laptop models, for example -- but that control has the "up" side of consistency. They Apple folks basically know what to look for with whatever malfunction there might be, can figure out how to make programs work across machines and operating systems, and can give clear rather than ambiguous answers. Yes, you CAN run that monitor off that computer, or NO, we don't support three monitors on one machine. It might not have as much ability to manipulate in multiple ways, but for someone like me simplicity helps.
- Software, too tends to work generally the same way no matter the application. Similar commands, a lot of the same utility.
- Plus, a lot of software comes loaded on the Mac. Sure, Apple might cost $1000 compared to a PC that costs $300 or $400, but when you add up the software you get -- legitimately -- Apple comes through very strong. Movie editing, sound editing, picture grabbing, and so on. And their version of Office, iWorks, comes with perfectly good programs that in some cases make things very easy, for example converting a text document to a PDF. And it's cheaper than Microsoft Office.
- The new Apple stores are a great support system. For $99 per year, I can go in there every week and throw questions at a dedicated person for an hour, then spend 20 minutes with a "genius" to ask more pointed tech questions. They try really hard to solve the issues I've had (everything from Entourage -- the Microsoft version of Outlook for the Mac -- not synching properly to issues with slowness booting up. It's not perfect, and there have been glitches, but compared to what I could get from Windows lapstops I bought at Circuit City and Best Buy, there's no comparison. CC, in fact, gave me the runaround when they Acer they sold me died (twice) and always kept trying to charge me more to do things like defrag my disk, back up the hard drive and so on.
- The commercials are funny partly becuase there's truth to them. Now, I don't have a half-beard, and I think my persona is more a Bill Gates than a Steve Jobs (look at my nerdy pants and shirts, and pocket protector), but I want something that works easily and well.
- The Apple Stores are a stroke of genius. There's a consistency to them, if not perfection, which is unlike anywhere else for retail computer service. Even if buy computer and all software from the one store -- which virtually impossible -- with Windows, I could never get so many people to attack a problem knowledgeably. Where could I, in one spot, get someone to both teach me how to network my computer, do complex word processing, help me synch my email, get a workaround the frustrating DRM restrictions on a video iPod, AND build a Web site -- all in one place. Many of the courses are even free.

In short (and I'm sorry for going on so long), Apple is building its own "network effect," people like me to evangelize, the stores that are much more than sales and therefore a stroke of genius for marketing and keeping people like me in the fold. They've put free apps on the computer like iChat that make it easy to talk to others with Apple, and make it easy for Apples to share calendars and files and other things over a .Mac account that costs $69/year.

Now, some dangers and downsides.
- The cultishness can be a downside. People at the Apple store seemed trained (or brainwashed?) to never say anything that would acknowledge any inferiority of an Apple product. If you point out something better than a PC they'll pile on. If you point out something you wish the Apple could do (like access certain Web sites noted above), they might just pretend you never said it. I have heard from more than one tech person or bizdev exec about Apple people's arrogance vs. Microsoft peole's eagerness to fix things.

For example, Leopard's got some problems. (One important reason I paid, I think, $69 for a yearly subscription to a .Mac internet access account was for the "Back to My Mac" function, mimicking the "Go to My PC" software that's supposed to let me access a computer from anywhere over the Internet. Only, it doesn't work. Leopard's also turned some peoples' computers into blue-screened bricks, and taken hours and hours of peoples' time.) If Apple works at lightning speed to ackonwoledge the issues and fix them, then it will keep picking up speed and market share.

- Lack of openness on the software side. The locked nature of the iPhone kept me and many other people from buying one. I like GSM networks because you can unlock a phone and use it on another GSM network. Only not iPhone -- not without voiding the warranty, anyway. Apple should open up, and also allow more developers to work on Apple.

- Money, cost, etc. While they're not as rapacious as the service desk at Circuit City -- asking me to give $60 to push a few buttons I could push myself -- they do seem to fairly frequently suggest I spend another $60, or $70 or $129 dollars, and sometimes that amount is for a yearly subscription of some sort, so they'll get a lot more out of me than the one purchase. OK, what do I expect, to get great service and product for free? And it is a STORE, right? But, still, I think there has to be a little softer on the "sell" for someone like me who's recently forked over thousands of dollars and a little harder on the "service."

Still, I wouldn't short Apple stock, and I wouldn't even be surprised, if they can find good fixes to Leopard and make sure it has all the networking and other capabilities it's supposed to have, if Apple starts to make inroads in the traditionally Microsoft-beholden corporate suites.

Entrepreneurial Journalism is No Oxymoron (II)

Mark Glaser calls the entrepreneurial acumen of journalists into question, but most start-ups fail, in any industry. He and others in comments give examples of those who’ve succeeded. This on the heels of Jeff Jarvis’ entrepreneurial journalism contest, which, if it works, will help seed a new generation of journalists not encumbered by the need to have a “job”. I’ve taken a fairly traditional route, myself, getting an MBA before becoming truly entrepreneurial. But then, I’m 1 or 2 generations away from most of the folks proposing projects to Jarvis’ contest.

There are a few advantages they have over some of the older folks like Dan Gilmor or Bill Scoble that Glaser sites as having failed, chiefly that they are not as wedded to older ideas of what a journalist is or can be, and don’t necessarily think of “entrepreneurial journalism” as an oxymoron. Some may say that true journalism can’t be entrepreneurial, because a journalist should not have commercial concerns. (If you worry about whether to put an ad on your site, or where, that will affect how you display the content, for example.) And the anxiety of being laid off can be debilitating, while the sense of charting one’s own destiny and earning money from folks who are actually consuming the product, rather than an in-between entity, can be liberating.

There is something else that can be a challenge for many journalists: I’ve found successful entrepreneurs to be relentless optimists, skilled socially (at least when necessary), willing to make hard choices even when it’s not fair, and not being stopped by unfairness directed at them. Journalists, but contrast, are often a bit negatively oriented, and gripe about things that haven’t gone well -- newsrooms are full of, if not malcontents, certainly half-contents. Then, again, so are many workplaces. There is a such thing as a postive-minded journalist, and I hope entrepreneurial journalism isn’t an oxymoron.

DRM Neuros-is

Neuros, which brought us the OSD machine that's supposed to make it easy to record any digital media, then play it on any device, has released their new "Unlocked" standard they hope will catch fire.

Customers disagree about how good the OSD is, and how easy to use (which probably means it's a techie device that techies like), but the concept can't help but take hold, eventually. People want control of their music, movies, TV shows, etc. Why should you (or I?) be prevented from watching whatever, however and wherever I want? This is why I have PocketMac -- to more easily get stuff from my Mac to my Windows Mobile handheld -- why I put things on DVD, why I connect my computers and share files, and why I get pissed off every time I try to plug my daughter's video iPod into a machine other than the one it was originally synced to. (Apple tells me I'll have to wipe it clean to sync it up, when all I really want to do is drag one or two things I legitimately have on or off to or from another machine.) These kinds of restrictions piss off a lot of people, and while I understand the need and desire to protect, I also think openness over time will be a huge pull.

How to Choose a Content Management System

Yes, this is a commercial post, touting a paper I've helped create on

"Choosing the Right Content Management System for Your Web Site(s), Plus: When and How to Build Your Own".

It's a great instructional manual for the business or editorial manager at a digital property looking for checklists, straight talk and a list of 14 of the most popular CMS systems and more than 50 of their attributes. It's a must-have tool if you're trying to decide what CMS to buy, or lead a team that will be doing it together. Lead writer Amy Webb has a wealth of information about content management systems; she's forgotten more about them than most of us will ever know.

You can get a rather full excerpt and buy the paper at

How to Choose a Content Management System

Yes, this is a commercial post, touting a paper I've helped created on

"Choosing the Right Content Management System for Your Web Site(s), Plus: When and How to Build Your Own".

It's a great instructional manual for the business or editorial manager at a digital property looking for checklists, straight talk and a list of 14 of the most popular CMS systems and more than 50 of their attributes. It's a must-have tool if you're trying to decide what CMS to buy, or lead a team that will be doing it together. Lead writer Amy Webb has a wealth of information about content management systems; she's forgotten more about them than most of us will ever know.

You can get an excerpt and buy the paper at

'If Media VPs Had Any Sense ...'

"But," says the small business owner after media magnate Larry Tisch shows some admiration, "How can you be impressed with what I'm doing, working for myself with this small business? I've got two employees. You've got 10,000 people and a floor full of vice presidents.

"If any of these vice presidents were worth anything, they'd be in business for themselves instead of working for me," Tisch said, according to the business owner, who recounted the exchange to me today.

How Could a Newspaper Compete with This?

Just now, minutes after the WSJ sent out an alert about the George Mitchell baseball drug report, someone put up a list of the players names on Wikipedia. I saw it on public Twitter while randomly visiting the public page there.

Wow. How can a newspaper hope to compete with that? And why wouldn't a newspaper, to save effort, simply -- assuming the list is accurate -- link to it? Journalistically, I can see the rationale of wanting to control the accuracy and therefore keep it on the newspaper's site. There will be tons of lists in tons of publications (hats off to any that add value). ... But, the speed of the list by what seemed to be a private individual, and on Wikipedia to allow other fervent folks to correct it - that's something that proves the power of community and individuals. (And one more caveat: I'll bet you that some Web editors -- you know who you are! -- will copy and paste that list without saying they did so.)

CNET Shuts Down Its Reader

Could this be a sign that there's not enough room in the market for all the feed readers? (I know I'm not alone in wondering why we need so many different ones, and when the shakeout would come.) has, they say in an email, decided to turn off Newsburst, their attempt at a feed reader page.

Here's the text of the email.

Dear Newsburst user,

We're writing to let you know that as of December, 31 2007, we
will be shutting down Newsburst, CNET's Web-based feed reader.

We will provide a link to export your feed sources so that
you can import your feeds into another Web-based or desktop RSS
feed reader.

Just log in to Newsburst and look for the 'Download OPML' link at
the top of the page.

Why Locking and DRM Ultimately Won’t Work

Lots of comments on the NYTimes’ Bits blog answering Saul Hansell’s question from a few days ago about whether people would pay extra for a DVD-like version of a movie to be put on an iPod. The consensus in the comments seems to be “no”. While I think the convenience might be worth it, I can understand why. I sometimes use a VCR rather than DVR, for example, because of the ease with which I can tape something in one room and watch in the next (without going through a lot of sturm und drung about how to set up system transfers, networked TV, etc. Not to mention the cost.) That’s a similar reason I watch some TV shows, like 30 Rock or Everybody Hates Chris on the computer rather than the TV: I can watch them on the laptop when exercising or in bed, or watch on my bigger iMac desktop, if I want a bigger screen or to enjoy it with more people. To me, DVDs are the best for this reason, as well, including for many TV shows. After all, what good is digital technology if it’s locked up, or you can only watch on one device.

And that’s kind of the point that many of the commenters on the Bits blog make. This one, for example, makes the point that anyone “under 30” (or, I’d say, over 40 ;) who can use Version Tracker) can find software to rip a DVD and watch on any device that can handle whatever standard it is. That way you’re not locked into one device. (Information, even if it’s a movie, wants to be free, in spirit if not in fact.)

Another point on the Bits post: Over here, on Congoo, I posted about whether Amazon is taking it to Apple, not only in selling music, but also because the Kindle is a device, and that starts to get into iPhone territory. Now, I see in the Bits post another posit about Amazon vs. Apple. Amazon, Hansell writes, may be a force in getting more movie studios into iTunes. “Remember,” he writes, “that Amazon’s entry into the MP3 business put pressure on Apple to lower the price of its unprotected downloads.”

Entrepreneurial Journalism is No Oxymoron

When I first saw on Jeff Jarvis’ Facebook page that he was assembling the jury for his “entrepreneurial journalism” contest, I quipped that what used to be an oxymoron is now worthy of a prize. Wonderful, isn’t it, that students in J-school now can ask for a few thousand bucks to start their own publishing businesses. Jarvis points to a post by NYTimes’ Saul Hansell, one of the judges, who says that no one starting out in journalism should ask advice of anyone who’s been in the business more than five years.

Fair enough. The ideas Hansell mentions -- a hyper-local site for Brooklyn's perennially troubled Bed-Sty neighborhood, a magazine for Muslim women, etc. -- are great niche ideas. I do find myself wondering where the business model for supporting deep, investigative journalism comes from. Perhaps, from the same place it comes from now: Other "verticals" like business, tech -- and perhaps a bunch of ad-supported hyper-local blogs and community apps -- that make enough profit to pay the expensive journalistic productions.

The Perfectly Targeted Ad

In meat space, I was subjected quite by accident to the perfectly targeted ad, for a Staples' grand opening in walking distance just when I needed printer cartridges. For me, at that one moment, that was effective advertising, on the front of a giveaway newspaper. But what was the chance of others happening by that newspaper with the same need as I? Isn't online more effective, and a better gauge and likely predictor?

Kindle, Some Final Words

Went to an party in midtown Manhattan this evening, and found the execs refreshingly open to the idea that the Kindle could be improved. (More details of that here.) Looking at the Newsweek cover story, again, I see that CEO Jeff Bezos, too, was open -- for example, he said he would be willing to consider letting the book-reading device take in e-books borrowed from a library.

The story also pointed out a cool potential feature I hadn’t considered: When there’s a mistake in a book, someone could “reach inside” and automatically update the versions that are on the Kindles without having to print a new edition. (Of course, that also raises the scary specter of having someone update a book to remove undesirable or censored info.)

Challenging Times for (Some) Business Magazines

(Finally) Getting around to posting some info I compiled on tough times for business magazines. Late last month, for a panel on magazines at the Future of Business Media conference, I prepared some figures and charts about business magazines, based on the Publishers Information Bureau (PIB) data for the first three quarters of this year compared to the same period in '06. Looking at the visuals, they show some trends. (Click on the pictures to see them more clearly.)

For one thing, in dollar terms, most of the "majors" are down in ad dollars, save Forbes, which went up in ad dollars. (See below for a note on PIB's methodology that casts some doubt on these figures.) Forbes, interestingly, has for years had the "free Web" philosophy, and now puts material dating back years up for free, and makes the (disputed) claim that it's the number one destination for business news.

It's also worth noting for business mags that while dollars in aggregate are down 2.7 percent, ad pages were down 6.8 percent, which means page rates were increased. For how long can ad rates continue to go up in the category as competition for ad dollars increases. Also, while Inc. and Fast Company are up, that's against years of previous losses. So it's a relative thing.

Conde Nast Portfolio isn't on the chart I prepared because it's new, and therefore the $13 million-plus it's gotten this year is compared to zero for last. Nevertheless, that’s quite a feat that, if annualized, would put Portfolio in the top four. But while those dollars would seem to be coming from the other business magazines – taking a significant slice of a shrinking pie – executives at the mag point out that it has also gotten a lot of its revenue from luxury brands very familiar to the Conde sales force but not so used to many of the other business magazines. So, they're reaching into a different pie for a significant chunk of their wealth.

Finally, I came across some figures that showed that business magazines, until a few years ago the unparalleled leaders in ad pages and for a while in ad dollars, too, have declined heavily next to celebrity mags.

Business magazines faced similar issues before. In the 1980s, when certain kinds of business-to-business advertising declined, business mags rejuvenated themselves by pitching to new classes of advertising, such as cars and liquor. This time, they may want to do the same thing, but it's harder to think of a major ad category that’s both underserved and appropriate. Pharmaceuticals? Everyone's going after those dollars; and would they be the right fit? Tech? That territory's well-trodden and going aggressively to the Web. Speaking of the Web, that didn't exist in the '80s, nor were there cable business channels competing for the dollars. Not to mention financial portals like Yahoo and Google finance and CNNMoney, which is relaunching with more video this winter.

A few caveats: PIB figures are based on rate cards, which are notoriously inaccurate and always subject to discounts of 20 percent or more, especially for the best clients. Over here is a spreadsheet with business magazines sifted from the PIB figures, on which the above two charts were based, along with an aggregated chart of all the biz mags.

Kindle, Days Later

I've been carrying the Amazon Kindle around with me for a couple of days. I really want to love it – I really do.

It's a great start that I hope is quickly improved on. I admire what's been achieved. The attempt to make a device that's as pleasurable as the book and also allows reading of newspapers and magazines is a great idea and effort. I commend Jeff Bezos and his team for getting phenomenal press, and – according to Bezos – selling out in the first five hours it was available on I hope the launch of the Kindle – after hints and alleged delays -- will spur others to get going on even better devices, and finally create that holy grail, the placemat size and strength machine that is touch screen, foldable, has all the wireless connectivity, a screen that's completely flexible to include a keyboard, or a writing template or a flat reading surface … even can be a TV-screen size video viewer.

Right now, the Kindle is light years away from any of that. Bezos, the Amazon founder and CEO and other exalted titles, told Charlie Rose and those of us attending his news conference that the purpose of the Kindle is to be a great way to read books. It's a bit better than most PCs, but it's still not quite there. For one, the screen size is a little to small and fits a bit less text at a legible text size than the normal book. It's not backlit, to save power, but this also means you need a fair amount of light to view it – so reading in bed with a sleeping partner next to you requires a book light. The "next" and "previous page" tabs on the sides drive me nuts, as it's impossible to hold the device and not accidentally hit those buttons, accidentally going a page forward or back on occasion. The back screen that comes off to insert an SD card is difficult to remove and replace. The non-standard keyboard is hard to use and understand, and there's a delay upon entering letters.

I know it's held back by e-ink technology that's not very advanced, yet. I understand that, as do many who know a little of the technology. But most people, simple users, probably don't care why something doesn't work just right. They just want it to work better.

Carrying the Kindle does beat carrying around a big, heavy, text book or any large hardcover, and can hold a couple hundred of those. So, I'm going to keep trying, throwing it in my bag, seeing how well it can sync (so far, not so well), etc. I'll let you know.

More coverage and links below, that will send you to yet more coverage.

Kindle Strengths and Challenges

(Above: Jeff Bezos shows off the technology of the print book.)

I've followed up on the Kindle over here at Congoo.

Simply put: It's a nice start, but I have some questions about whether this version of the device, which has a walled-garden approach, can be an explosive success.

Kindle Me Some Coverage

Like PaidContent, I was under NDA for business reasons in talking about the new Kindle reader and a little surprised to see a Newsweek cover story on it. And like them, I'm heading to the news conference at 9:30. And while Silicon Alley Insider has one detail wrong -- it is possible to get e-books from the library -- they have a readable critique of why it won't light up publishing the way the iPod did for music. Remember: the iPod was very far from the first digital music device. It just executed brilliantly in usability across the board -- easy downloads, portability, readabilty, intuitive look and feel, usable through Apple or Windows and no need for an Internet connection to download stuff. Whether the Kindle has all that -- well, maybe we'll see at 9:30.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

The Changing Media Landscape

Maybe I'm not looking in the right places, but for a room full of journalists ("new media" students scribbling on pads, in many instances --- interesting image there), I don't see much coverage of the "Changing Media Landscape" that took place last night at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism.

I've posted on Rebuilding Media, asking about if there are government bloggers, and on Congoo on New York Times "futurist" Michael Rogers saying there will be dozens of NY Times Web sites in the future and trying to find business models. "There's no such thing as a mass audience anymore, but there is a general consumer audience," was one of his quotes I liked. "There's a lot of people who just want information aggregated for them." Not everyone wants their own feed reader they've customized and personalized.

Iranian blogger 'Hoder' talked about needing help with a lawsuit the Iranian government is bringing against him. Josh Cohen, who does bizdev for Google News, peeled back the curtain a little, telling us that Google News is a closed index, that they have specific criteria for inclusion, and implying that those criteria would (or at least should) be more revealed soon. He later talked about Google not getting into the editorial production game because of its need to remain agnostic in information choices.

Andrew Lih, formerly of Columbia J-school's new media program and then of Hong Kong University and now author of a book about Wikipedia, talked about how the Web fills "the knowledge gap" – information that's too new to be in the history books, but too old to be in the daily newspapers. And Rogers peeled back his curtain to tell us there were a dozen engineers and techies on his futurist team, about half of whom do daily work, but half of whom are looking to build what'll be in use – and to figure what business models there'll be, up to five years in the future. He noted, too that venture capitalists are now talking about "the second billion," meaning that a billion people on earth now have computers and Internet access, and there's a new market waiting to be tapped.

Video Ad Disruptions

Just posted over at Congoo about being invited yesterday morning by the Magazine Publishers of America to moderate a discussion about "monetizing video" on the Web. The advertising solutions companies talked a lot about performance and about helping companies go direct to consumer. Both spell disruption for TV in similar ways to what we've seen in print.

When To Moderate Comments

Jim Brady, executive editor of the, today made an excellent case for not moderating comments before they go live on your site. Speaking at the Media & Money Conference, which I'm attending for Jack Myers Media Business Report, he said it's both a legal and business issue, that letting the comments go up first decreases your liability and increases your users' engagement.

More details here, on

Leopard's Spots

While Mossberg seems to love Leopard, and Apple today is saying in marketing email how easy it is to install, here's a cautionary blow-by-blow account from Shelly Palmer and another from Matthew Marshall, a featured blogger on his site (I'm one, too) who got the blue screen of death.

(And why did I have to write this post twice? Eh, Blogger? Eh, Verizon?)

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.)

Why Facebook Needs $$$

Om Malik weighs in on why, he thinks, Facebook needs money -- essentially to ramp up to come up with technology (and legal counters?) to a bunch of challenges it faces.

Google Still Worth $100 Billion

Google watcher Steve Arnold is hawking a $640 book about how Google is poised to bring in $100 billion yearly (more than five times its current revenue). He's said that before, almost two years ago, but what's new this time is that he's saying it's based on the fact that the company is loaded with mathematics experts, not just engineers. The Googlers can build algorithms to come on strong in any number of realms, much more than search, he says.

Unlike its competitors, Google does math first, then builds solutions. The
word predator describes the approach taken by Google's management team to 'watch and wait' for business opportunities. This approach is different from the
aggressive marketing and in-your-face sales practices used by many companies

NOTE: This post has been updated to correct "worth" to "revenue".

Journalism vs. Entrerpreneurialism

Was asked today, in applying for the City U of NY daylong fiesta on networked journalism what mistakes I"ve made in the past. Had a chance to think about it:

Too many to mention. Most of the mistakes I find most important are in either a) declaring something I thought I "knew" when the reality was different or turned out to be so (perhaps a corollary of the fact that journalistic skepticism is not always useful, especially for an entrepreneurial mindset) and b) leading staff in a way that didn't achieve needed results. I now understand much better how to strategize, lead a team, etc. Also something journalists are not necessarily trained to do.

Journalism and Marketing

At an Advertising Week event sponsored by Yahoo! today at the Time/Life building in midtown Manhattan, Yahoo execs talked about a new breed of "Passionistas" who seize on a topic and want to be the first with information, and the first to share information. That mindset reminded me of the way the classic breaking news journalist is: get the info first, report it, share it, beat others to it, constantly, obsessively, scour any and all sources for scraps. Never want to be second with something.

A difference, though, is the passion the people have for their topic. What wire service journalist, for example, is going to devote himself to a niche area of health in the same way that someone desperately interested in it will? For health, the number of Passionistas is 1.8 million, Yahoo's folks said. And marketers want to go to them, directly, because of the passion they have and inspire in their readers.

Now, I know, they may not be professional journalists. But on a blog, they'll be called out by the community for inaccuracy. If they're not objective that's usually, over time, pretty obvious. Many countries' –first-world countries – journalists practice journalism on their front pages with a bias (France's Liberation is unabashedly left, Le Figaro right). So, it's not like passion or a particular bent disqualify someone from purveying legitimate information or even journalistic probity. (And there's no such thing as objectivity. Fairness, yes. Objectivity? We can try.)

I know what I'm writing here is heretical to a lot of people who consider themselves journalists. But those in the managerial ranks had better acknowledge the threat to not just their classified ads from Craigslist, their display and brand advertising from Google and YouTube, but also to their marketing dollars from people with a journalistic ethos and an incredible passion for a topic that may jibe well with a marketer's interests. Which is a commercial rationale – and perhaps a journalistic one – to do something Jeff Jarvis and others have suggested: bringing those bloggers into the fold, letting them tap into their communities through the portal provided by the mainstream news organization.

"Dirty, Sexy, Money"

If the TV show really wants the biggest audience possible, shouldn't they title it:



Google's Smart Privacy Move

Google today is calling for global privacy rules (Reuters via CNET).

Google, unhappy with what it calls a patchwork of conflicting privacy rules in some countries and a complete lack in many others, is pressing for action amid criticism about the enormous access to personal information on the Web.
Google has, as the article notes, had its own privacy issues. A cynic could say the company's call for uniform rules over the next five years is just a way to get five years of breathing room. But it also could be a smart way to get out in front of the issue.

Twitter Isn't/Is All That

Simon Dumenco is right that Twitter is a silly waste of time and inanity (linking to a pickup since AdAge is walled) for the individual. But he's wrong in thinking it has no use, and can serve no useful purpose. While I'm not particularly interested in who's having what pizza where, doing what at what game, or telling people that I'm on my way to the supermarket or a haircut, the amalgam of all these smidgens of information can create a cloud that over time will give us a view of trends, movements, even consumer shifts. The right sifting, sorting and parsing technology could bring an understanding, perhaps mash it up with Google Maps and other similar locators of anything from geography to taste, and give us a sort of real time Megatrends/Faith Popcorn look at what we're doing and where we're headed.

Imagine knowing how many people are doing any given activity at a certain time, with what brands or people or instruments ... that's powerful, and potentially commercially valuable information. Add the information overlay of Semantic Web (or Web 3.0), and you could have an even more powerful cloud.

The Future of (Virtual) Work

While the media industry zigged to Media Week events today, I zagged -- attending a seminar put on by my friends at the Future Work Institute , a high level consultancy to leading ( "Fortune 1000") companies on diversity issues. A tremendous amount of the conference focus was on virtual worlds. FWI has an island on Second Life where they conduct seminars on diversity, do various educational games, help people role play to understand what it's like to be treated as from a certain race or culture, and so on . They've gotten some big corporate clients, including Cisco, IBM and others to sign on, use the virtual space to do training.

I became more convinced than ever that companies are going direct to their constituents, using media techniques, and that the more media savvy consumer and worker will be more empowered this century. FWI founder Margaret Regan, and old and dear friend, raised some fascinating questions about media consumption according to generation, culture and nationality, and how to handle information gaps. But that'll have to wait -- I'm tired and it's late. Stay tuned.

Football Rights, And Wrongs

A column I wrote comes out tomorrow on about sports rights, and how complex the situation is in the digital age for people trying to manage it all. Just for fun, over the weekend, I logged on to my team's sports portal,, to see what was up with my alma-mater's football game and was very surprised to learn that there was NO TV coverage, at all. This for a Pac-10 (that's a major conference for you non-football geeks) rivalry, where the other team, Oregon, is highly ranked (#13 according to one poll). So, you've got a team with great demographics and an avid alumni body against a team that's top 15 and it's not to be found on any TV platform. Very odd.

Turns out that Fox has the rights to Pac 10 games, and instead of -- as is common practice -- letting the rights revert to the school or conference if the network chooses not to pick up the game for its TV network, they hold them regardless. Seems short-sited of Stanford/Pac-10 to have let that happen, and of Fox to demand that (though I can't fault them in a hard-nosed business sense for doing so. "If they wanna watch football, they should watch something on Fox.")

UGC Isn't So Scary, If ....

User generated content terrifies advertisers, because while people aggregate there and are highly engaged, the advertiser can never be sure what they're engaged with -- or if the content is what might be called kosher.

At the OMMA conference today e-Marketer CEO Geoff Ramsey made a good point: user-generated content is scary, unless ads can be targeted really well. So, you can avoid anything you want to avoid, and hit users you really want to hit.

He also noted that to get in on the social networking boom you'll have to let go a bit of the anal-retentive need to control everything if you really want to get a discussion going that lifts your brand, creates content. "There is going to be some negative stuff and you ahve to be wi9lling to deal with that," he said. People in a discussion just might slam a product you allow them to comment on. (He didn't say it but I'll note that consistent comments about a product flaw -- a la the complaints about Comcast -- can be excellent market survey grist.) Transparency = Trust, Ramsey wrote on one presentation slide, and said that a typical marketer who allows ALL content to blossom saw orders go up 40%. "People trust other consumers more than marketers."

Competing Media Indices

It's one of those obvious things that makes you wonder why someone else hasn't done it.

Paid Content (whom I'm helping put together put a conference and have contributed to) today launched a Media Index of public companies in the media industry. Much different and with fewer companies than the Dow Jones Media Index often cited in The New York Time. Times' considers "media" in the much more global sense -- everything from TV and Radio to newspaper distribution and even some e-commerce. 9I see the index on the Times' page, but there's no chart on Marketwatch when I click through.) Paid Content's parent, ContentNext, has a much more honed list of digital media companies and those that serve them, such as Adobe (makers of Flash and other nifty software and applications).

Indices are useful as an indicator, but I discovered in biz school that it can actually be difficult as an individual investor to buy according to an industry index, because a fund with an appropriately weighted average of shares in each company may not have been created and made available.

Viacom's Lawyer Would Rather Not Sue

At the Convergence 2.0 conference Monday, Viacom general counsel Michael Fricklas talked hopefully of a "consensus starting to build" about what are the right practices for using content on the Internet, and how content owners are starting to work with the big portals like YouTube (which Viacom is suing for using content without permission) who are starting to put in filtering technology to automatically catch copyrighted material.

"We have a big interest in seeing a system of rules develop," he said, adding that Viacom is "not a company that would like to see every kind of right locked up tight," instead needing a "robust media culture." Viacom, he said, doesn't go after people who have made a "transformative use" (a phrase from fair use law) of their content, but rather folks who simply, say, put a TV episode or movie up online. He made the point that YouTube and others had moved quickly to keep porn off their servers, so they could, he said, do the same for copyrighted content.

But in implying he really would rather have cooperation than sue, isn't he kind of like a guy pointing a gun who says he'd rather not have to use it?

Investor: Private Equity Beat Media to Deals

Could the frenzy of private equity-fueled media deals be over for now? That's what some analysts and participants seem to feel.

With capital cheap and money chasing deals, "private equity was consistently beating companies that had synergies" in purchasing media and entertainment companies that were for sale, according to Steven Price of private equity investment firm Centerbridge Partners, Monday's Convergence 2.0 conference from The Deal.

But with the credit crunch well in swing, buyouts are getting harder. "Sellers are unlikely to put their assets on the blocks, even if there are synergies. They want private equity to drive up the price," he continued. If the seller does put together a deal, the financing for private equity that's available is at a pretty unattractive price, he said.

He also said the market was more "bifurcated" than he's seen in the 20 years since he started doing this kind of work. Corporate America thinks things are going fine, but banks are in trouble, and credit is very tight. "It's not clear if the liquidity problems are going to turn into operating problems." Maybe it's just a matter of time.

NYT, While Quality, Isn't Exclusive or Niche

Here's the NY Times' explanation for getting rid of the TimesSelect wall (with my thoughts, in a sec.), emailed to print subscribers:

"Since we launched TimesSelect, the Web has evolved into an increasingly open environment. Readers find more news in a greater number of places and interact with it in more meaningful ways. This decision enhances the free flow of New York Times reporting and analysis around the world. It will enable everyone, everywhere to read our news and opinion - as well as to share it, link to it and comment on it."

This means, obviously, that ad dollars seem a better revenue stream over time than subscription. TimesSelect was, after all, a commercial, not editorial initiative. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger confirmed to me about a year ago that the opinion pieces had gone behind the wall because they couldn't attract enough quality advertising on their own -- unlike, say, the business or tech sections. (What top marketer wants its ad next to commentary that could alienate a good part of its consumer base?)

It probably also means the Times is buying into the idea of distributed content, that the best way to get exponential growth in audience is to let content out. Subscription growth is very limited. Not so ad growth in digital media. And one of the best ways to get that growth today is through not only inbound links from blogs, but also outbound content posting through widgets and Flash video and so on.. Don't be surprised if we eventually start to see some ad-supported Times widgets and the like, letting its journalism appear, branded, in other venues.

The Times' choice to get rid of subscription for its archives seems to show they believe the economics of the long tail. No individual piece gets tons of traffic, but over time, in aggregate, it's a business, even if ad-supported. "Our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of, told the newspaper. Maybe the Times will move to the model others suggested earlier this week at Convergence 2.0 of providing everything anyone would want to know about whatever topic the Times has covered. Of course, no matter how much that is, Google will have more available just a click away.

The move also means folks who've paid a pretty penny for Times archives, such as Factiva and Lexis-Nexis, are increasingly having to move their model to added value for commodified news products. Can they sell their subscribers on the idea that there's more search, more relational databases, more tools and tricks and so on? That's the sell, essentially, of the financial information firm Edgar, its chief told me, because the info is by and large available for free from the SEC.

It also, of course, comes in the context of The Wall Street Journal's impending decision of whether to go completely free online – something new owner to-be Rupert Murdoch is hinting will happen. (It may mean a short-term loss, but over time a bigger gain if, as expected, the ad market continues ballooning.) It's also intriguing that Rupe said he'd use the WSJ on his new Fox business channel primarily for mainstream, not business, news like international and political. While the Journal's unique users, according recent rating service figures, are much lower than the Times, that may not matter because 1. It's achieved those numbers with much of its site walled off and 2. advertisers and others believe the Journal's audience is higher income than the Times', whose forte is regular old news – albeit of some of the highest journalistic quality anywhere -- not the burgeoning and high-revenue niche of business news.

Future of Business Media Conference

A little bit of a promotional post, here, to say that I've added speaker names to the schedule for the Future of Business Media conference, which I'm helping program. Big-wigs like Gordon Crovitz, publisher of The Wall Street Journal and Keith Fox, president of BusinessWeek will be on hand to talk about whither business media -- an especially pithy subject with Rupert Murdoch's purchase of WSJ parent Dow Jones about to go through, and Rupe about to launch the Fox Business Channel in head-to-head competition with CNBC. The conf's Oct. 30 in NY at the Waldorf.

A Switch on the Long Tail

This, obviously, is a picture of Chris Anderson's book, The Long Tail (sitting atop the box for my new business card scanner). What's less obvious is that this book was custom-printed for me, very long-tail fashion, at the public library near me. I stopped by to see the massive machine chugging out custom-printed books for people, and the nice woman running the gizmo -- about the size of five large copy machines, and taller than a short basketball player -- told me Chris had awarded them the right to print 100 copies of his book, because the idea of printing books on demand fits his long-tail concept. (Most of the books were classics that are no longer under copyright.)

I've been thinking about the Long Tail today because of a breakfast I went to hosted by Jack Myers, for whom I do some work, called "Monetizing the Video Long Tail." I came away convinced that it will be possible to make money off of user-generated content and all the other niche-y stuff that's going online in video today. I wrote a more in-depth explanation for Jack in a column that goes up tomorrow on

We usually think of the long tail as being on the Internet. I guess the book proves it that technology can enable it to function in meat space (or meet space) as well.

The Power of "Yes"

"If you go to sleep a Yankee fan, chances are you wake up one." That was the way keynote speaker Leo Hindery today helped explain why the Yes network is more profitable than any regional sports network every constructed. Except for four nights this baseball season, Yes was the highest rated network in 8 million homes with a 3.5-4 rating night after night, he said. ("And we were playing some crap teams!")

Speaking at the Convergence 2.0 conference put on by The Deal, Hindery, managing partner at InterMedia Partners, talked about the power of enthusiast media, how hunters and fisherman pore over their magazines and all other media, how they defined "engagement" – a "dedicated, committed audience." That kind of audience, he said, is key when looking for media investments. Look for a dedicated audience – Yankee fans, Christians, Hispanics (noting that all Hispanics are not alike), outdoorsmen – some group that will avidly consume what you give them, if you give it to them in their sweet spot.

The other thing you need, he said, to really have a lasting investment over time is barriers to competition, lamenting the way cable TV had screwed up its customer service, for example niggling people over $20 worth of charges when their lifetime value was, perhaps, $2,000. "There was no reason for the satellite industry to get going except for our ineptitude in cable," he said.

Thoughts on an 'Octopus' Strategy for Newspapers

It's not news that "if you take out classified ad profits from newspapers, you take out the profit." Those were the words today of Michael Price, Senior Managing Director at private equity firm Evercore Partners, at the Convergence 2.0 conference in New York put on by deal-watching publication The Deal. But he didn't leave it there, and instead talked about what to do – at least for one anomalous newspaper with an audience most publishers would kill for.

Price went on to talk about what his firm would do if they'd bought the Wall Street Journal: "go deep on the Internet" for their passionate, C-level (meaning top executive) audience, giving everything they could want about any of various subjects they're interested in, be it credit markets, insurance, or whatever. He called it an "octopus" strategy. Unfortunately, Price said, newspapers haven't figured out how to "monetize" their good content. Leo Hindery of InterMedia Partners in a keynote Q&A said the New York Times should follow a similar strategy, out-Googling Google by, for example, giving someone searching for news on Alan Greenspan everything they could possibly imagine. Instead, he said, they're putting their newspaper content online, but in a much more fragile ad banner market.

Jeffrey Sine of UBS Securities said that while the Journal is held up as a huge success for subscriptions on the Internet, it "really is not that successful in the larger sense," which I take to mean $70 million (1 million people paying $70 per year) isn't tons of money in this realm. He added on Price's remarks saying the Journal needed to "upsell" folks on their "tiered" interest levels by selling them more on the value chain. Sine said his firm had sold Marketwatch to Dow Jones a few years back (for nearly $500 million, if you remember), which I guess gave him Street cred.

Later, Price said that that Dow Jones and Reuters have been "crushed" by Bloomberg. Another panelist – Dennis Miller of Spark Capital -- pointed out how CNN ended its 27-year relationship with Reuters, probably because Reuters was directly competing by running its material directly, with its own ads. Hindery said the folks at Bloomberg "are not unapprehensive" about the lack of a print partner.

Even for Money Guys, It's About the Operations

It can be easy to the think of the money guys as doing deals and paying attention to the income, but not the operations. At today's Convergence 2.0 conference, run by The Deal, Josh Steiner, managing principal of private equity firm Quadrangle, disabused the audience of that notion when talking about how they handled Maxim after buying Dennis Publishing. Quadrangle brought in Kent Brownridge, a former top honcho at Wenner media who helped run Rolling Stone, and Dan Rosensweig, who had been COO of Yahoo! for the digital side to help bring "new skills and perspective" for an audience that moves freely between print and online, Steiner said. Brownridge helped renegotiate printing contracts. Anyone in the biz knows that those contracts can mean the difference between operating profit or loss.

"With all due respect to former management, they had a great run of it, and they were no longer doing the basic things with respect to blocking and tackling perspective," Steiner said, referring – for those of you who may not know American football – to the basics of playing the game.