Does NY Mag Understand Newsweek's Business?

In New York Magazine's "numerical summary" of our economic times, they list the decline in the number of cars and light trucks sold, the proposed rise in the price of a transit farecard ... And the decline in guaranteed circulation for Newsweek magazine from 3.1 million in 2007 to a proposed 1.6 million in 2009.

But there's something the writers miss. Not only do they for some reason neglect 2008 (reported base of 2.6 million), but they also leave out a reasonable argument for the newsweekly to be cutting its circ: cutting costs, and the ability to raise ad rates for a more choice audience. As Ad Age reports:
Newsweek will likely take the opportunity to simultaneously steer toward a more a elite readership -- by eliminating the least-valuable, most-discounted subscriptions on its books.
Times are tough for print pubs, and magazines in recent months have started suffering some of the same steep declines newspapers have gotten used to. But it's also no secret that to get subscriptions, general interest weeklies and monthlies have practically given away the "book" for subscription prices that don't pay for the editions and thrown in premiums (such as umbrellas or tote bags) that can cost a good chunk of the subscription price.

So, while one could look at the move by Newsweek as an act of desperation brought on by declining economic times, we should also note that the company's rate base cut -- something Time did a couple years ago -- has been rumored since well before the current economic decline . It can get a smaller more valuable audience in print, leaving the less valuable but higher numerical audience, a lower-priced commodity for advertisers, to its digital side.

It's safe to say, too, that Newsweek isn't the only magazine thinking along these lines.

Five Things to Change Your (Digital) Life

Today (Tuesday). Noon, ET. Ask questions about Geospatial Webb, Visual Search, Semantic Web and more.

Guest: Amy Webb.

Off the Media: Media Arrrgh!

Infrequent and horribly irregular musings about WNYC radio's "On the Media."

This week, the show explores whether photographers are within their ethical rights to shoot subjects, especially for magazine covers, in a way that serves to influence the perceptions of the audience seeing them. Making Ann Coulter look longer and leggier with use of a wide-angle lens shot from below, shooting someone with certain kinds of lighting or camera filters to make them look darker or more evil, and so on.

One of the reasons photos get so much notice is because the manipulations are so much easier to see, and even feel at a visceral level than in other media. Any distortions or filters can even be quantified (this kind of fisheye lens, that gradient of filter...), while the filters through which we record and write are less obvious if just as important.

My Fulbright project in Japan in the early '90s was about Japanese vs. American coverage of specific news events. Neither side saw its coverage as biased, and the journalists for top-notch organizations on both sides worked very hard to be objective and fair. But they also were coming at the stories -- whether about weighty business and policy issues or more frothy sports matter -- from their own points of view, often culture-bound and even politically influenced. Many seemed to not realize they were coming at a story from a specific angle that was not the only possible angle, did not see that their points of view colored the ways they wrote and talked, that they were strongly steered by sources, and by the editors they filed to who came with their own preconceptions. The classic example of distortion on TV is the protests in Iran after hostages were taken during the Carter administration. The cameraman used a tight shot to make it look as if Tehran was in full protest mode; in fact, a group of about 300 people were dwarfed in a largely empty plaza.

So, while it's reasonable to ask whether photojournalists have an obligation to be more fair. But the question is equally valid for all forms of journalism. There is really no such thing as objectivity. Every time a choice is made about how to portray something -- point a camera, frame a subject, take a quote, ask a question -- the person committing the act of journalism is injecting themselves into the process.

Oh, and why the "arrgh" in the headline? OTM brings on one of their faves, Jeff Jarvis, to talk about whether media "is" or "are" -- Jarvis appears to be talking about platforms, and how there's no longer a distinction between the different forms of media, since anyone can now contribute in multiple ways (photos, text, audio, video). Show hosts Garfield and Gladstone, though, are talking about a multiplicity of voices, and agree, as Garfield says, that it's "are," which sounds when he says it like a pirate exclaiming.
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Some Things I’m Thankful For:

  • My daughters’ smiles and laughs. The laughter of all children.
  • Love from my family.
  • Having a wonderful, intelligent life partner I find very attractive.
  • Having gotten through the year whole, and intact, suffering only a few slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, but also the kindness of honest business people willing to deal in a straightforward, upright way.
  • The business opportunities that came my way when I least expected. The other opportunities I was able to create from whole cloth. The help of others in creating them.
  • Being in a wonderfully exciting industry at a fabulously rich time, and an industry at one of the fundamental aspects of what makes us human -- communication -- while serving to change that very thing.

Other-Worldly at the New York Stock Exchange

The WF360 event at the New York Stock Exchange was other-worldly for reasons described in the video: steak and wine and luxurious desert amid the unseen carnage of two days of stock market evisceration.

At the event, we -- thinkers, leaders and others in such discussed such "What If"questions posed by host Susan Bird as What if the food chain, whose customers are overwhelmingly women, were controlled by women -- from agriculture to packaging to retail? What if our health care system provided real choice? What if Americans started living within their means (what would that mean for your business)? Award honoree Helen Alexander, former CEO of The Economist Group talked of leadership's three "i's": intelligence, internationalism and integrity.

And NYSE EVP Larry Leibowitz bemoaned the financial illiteracy of so many Americans.

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Naked Media: Be Less Social, Don't Measure

You should use digital media to find out what your consumers want and give it to them. Right? Maybe not. Every dollar spent on ads today should be measurable and trackable. True? Well, no.

Join us Wednesday at noon, ET, for our next episode of Naked Media when Brian Reich and Kendall Allen help host Dorian Benkoil shake up the conventional wisdom about the media.

Details here.

Informing Ourselves (not to Death)

Call me a pollyanna, but I’m hopeful. Hopeful that the Web may actually have been a force that’s raising the level of political discourse in America, making us smarter and better at understanding what’s going on. I’m hopeful because before the election I heard people talking, sometimes in Red states (the “real” America, not my beloved Manhattan’s Upper West Side) picking through divisive and unintelligent arguments being made by politicians and the political campaigns.

I do think the American public ultimately gets it right, but that often it’s frighteningly slow to do so (think how long it took for a majority to decide the Iraq war is horribly mismanaged). But I heard an intelligent skepticism from voters this time, examining arguments, asking whether the things being said in political ads were right, wondering whether one candidate’s policies are better for the economy. I also saw a lot of discussion and uptake throughout the Web shooting down personal attacks (William Ayers, Muslim terrorism, etc.). I note that the attempts to Swift Boat the now president elect didn't take hold.

It was a real, intelligent level of discourse that makes me happy to hear. Sure, the economy is in crisis, and the mainstream media is telling us what’s wrong in Iraq and elsewhere. But the more intricate unweaving is going on online, not only in blog discourse but in the ability, for example, of many people who wouldn’t have seen Palin or Biden or McCain or Obama speeches and interviews to see them, rewind, look at them at their leisure, to observe charts and graphs comparing policies and opinions, expert and not, to watch The Daily Show and Colbert Report at our leisure and decide what to or not to laugh about or examine further. To, crucially, watch the Katie Couric, Sarah Palin interview segments and compare them with the Tina Fey impressions. We didn’t have to rely on reports of what Palin said, but instead after hearing about it (perhaps in the mainstream) could go see it and decide for ourselves as never before.

From the Business Week story linked above:

The Daily Show is also tapping into a more fundamental shift in how people follow news. Thanks to the power of the Internet, people are no longer merely consuming news in a passive way (as in, "tell me a story"), but going out and looking for it proactively ("answer my question"), explains Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

According to a Pew Research Center survey released in mid-June, about 40% of Americans have gone online to get political news, up from 31% in 2004, and 16% in 2000. They're reading more news and blogs and watching more videos, too. About 35% of Americans have watched political videos, compared with 13% in 2004. But they're not simply swallowing pundits' take on events. They're actively doing their own fact-checking and searching out the direct sources of information. About 39% have gone online to read or watch unfiltered campaign material, such as debates, speeches, and position papers.

Neil Postman might have thought we were prone to nothing but amusing ourselves to death with our media, but maybe the kind of media we have now (and that the new White House might help us employ) is helping us to think about whether we want change and what that change really means.

Social Networking, Data Mining, Media and Privacy

Had the pleasure Wednesday of seeing Michael Chin of Kickapps do a (kickass) presentation in my Digital Marketing class at Baruch's biz school. He demonstrated not only how social media centered around a brand or organization can cultivate enthusiasm (and generally give an indicator of sentiment), but also how much mineable data there is about each participant in the network. That data goes beyond the typical demographic info -- zip code, age, gender and so on -- into deeper direct or inferential matter about everything from the person’s preferences, lifestyle,“friends,” and even to clues about what enthuses, delights and annoys them. One avid basketball fan Chin showed, for example, had put a wealth of info about herself in reams of discussion posts, videos, comments, still photos on a team’s fan site. That’s a gold mine for that team if it chooses to access it.

Chin, at the Social Times conference  (which my company helped produce the media for) a few weeks earlier had told me that CRM (Customer Relationship Management) can become a lot more than the grid-driven database systems we have today. True, powerful tools like allow collaborative workers to share information and better serve (and sell and upsell) clients and potential customers. Just call a rep at your cellphone provider to see, in action, how a good customer database system can tell the person on the other end of the line all kinds of things about you that might get you to either stay happy with them or pay for more service.

But those systems pale in comparison to the kinds of data we’re giving about ourselves on personalized media like social networks and Twitter. Imagine if through some sort of Semantic Web application a company could glean information not only on what info you offered, and tags you’d left, but also the things you were passionate about, what you’d been writing and saying, asking for and complaining about. Imagine if the company could handle the complaint or fuel the delight of that passionate, highly involved (ok, “engaged”) fan -- how much might she crow about you, then, an not only increase her loyalty but also help spur others into the fold?

True, it’s a lot of work. And some of the work is subtle and requires a very human touch. We don’t today have an algorithm that can mine such soft and random data in this way (though a recent Open Calais demonstration did wow me to the possibilities), and it takes a human touch to understand the not-so-fine line between delighting someone and making them feel you’ve gone over the creepy edge into invading their privacy. 

And what about the cost? Chin half-jokingly bristled when I asked if he could map social media back to a return on the investment. It would take a lot of data and crunching to even try to get at whether the dollars spent mining the social info is more cost-effective than the more blunt-force forms of marketing and communication more prevalent today. Certainly, none of it lives in a vacuum, and it goes along with other messaging, so it's next to impossible to separate out the effect. And there is, of course, more than a hint of self-serving in Chin’s remarks (use social media, and delight your customers!). But that doesn't make his point invalid.

We can assume, be nearly sure, that the data mining, perhaps driven by Semantic Web-type applications (even a quick run through “” can show you the terms someone is using most, let alone the Calais system of auto-sifting) will improve and that the point at which the parsing needs to get handed over to a human will be pushed further down the line, weighted more to technology and less to the humans. It makes sense for the people at media companies -- who can help mine and sell their data -- social networks and marketers to think along these lines.

Too Much Content: John Byrne of Business Week

We've added John Byrne of to the roster for tomorrow morning's "Wealth of Content" seminar at the Magazine Publishers of America, in New York.

Why Online Ads Won't Tank as Badly This Time

Henry Blodget at Silicon Alley Insider writes that we'll see a decline in online advertising (especially display) in '09, but it won't be as bad as the decline in the early part of the decade. He gives a few reasons.

Another reason Web advertising won't tank as bad as the last time is because this time marketers understand they need to be online, and their target audiences are there.

Good Timing: Alan Schanzer Interview

I am lucky enough to have the first in-depth interview with leading digital ad industry analyst Alan Schanzer in his new role, next Teusday. Schanzer, who’s leaving MEC Interaction as managing partner to become chief strategy officer at Undertone Networks will be appearing with Chris Cunningham, the CEO of Appsavvy, which just received $3.1 million in financing. Noon, Tuesday, Oct. 21.

They'll talk about where the smart ad dollars go. Even as the economy contracts, digital media is expected to grow. But there are so many choices — so much “fragmentation” — that it can be daunting to know where to spend ad dollars to reach the right audience. Display ads on major media sites? So-called “vertical” networks? Search engines like Google? Or will everyone retrench to the “quality” brands of known media in TV, radio and print? Our guests will talk about where the smart money is headed, how to understand the ad market, when and where to spend, and take your questions.

More details here.

The Media Pinball Effect

Finally, a term for what happens in the real MediaVerse: The Pinball Effect. That’s what Nielsen CMO John Burbank used to talk about the way online and TV interrelate to spur consumption of the other. His example: The Katie Couric-Sarah Palin intterview gets six million viewers. That’s cut into clips, each of which is viewed three million times. Viewership of Saturday Night Live (with their parody of the interview) spikes to 9.5 million viewers and 25 million people watch the skits on the Web and THEN a record 70 million people on 11 TV networks watch the vice presidential debate. That, Burbank said at the Media and Money Conference that concluded today in New York is how audiences build over time due to the effect, on “word of mouth.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean anyone’s making money on it, a point Burbank also raised.

Oddly, though, he said there has been “little impact” of citizen journalism, no breakout viral video clips from a cellphone, despite the many opportunities of Joe Biden speaking many places every day. (I might counter that there’s a lot of influential blog and Twitter discussion, and that any Swift Boating might occur online, especially via email. Video is not the only place to look for influence. Not to mention Obama’s in-game ads.)

More coverage here, with other links.

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Myers: Newsps, Mags, TV and Radio Down

Jack Myers, for whom I've done some work, writes today in a run-up to his annual ad spending forecast that most of what some call legacy media are going to face a decline (this on the same day that newspapers' Web revenue is reported declining in growth):

Newspapers, magazines and local television and radio will experience double-digit declines in 2009 and additional declines in 2010, coming off a flat to down year in 2008.

Even more importantly, he predicts that we won't see the media industry re-emerge with a 21st-century model for another 3-4 years:

It will be 2012 before the industry of the future - the 21st Century model of the media and advertising industry - will begin to prosper. We can witness new foundations emerging without even looking that hard. Those who profit from the preservation of the old institutions misguidedly turn first to Wall Street and economic solutions rather than building new business models that focus on their customers and consumers.

Don't look to Wall Street. That's probably not a hard sell right now. It's been common wisdom of a sort that while newspapers were in trouble, other parts of the media wouldn't decline so precipitously. Maybe newspapers were simply the canary in the coal mine.

How to Manage Too Much Content

There might not be a lot of literal wealth around these days, but there's still a lot of content that media companies are managing in their digital properties. The challenge is to balance the competing needs (commercial and editorial, breaking news vs. standing features, archival material) while making it all findable and, not least, preserving the "brand" -- the look and feel of the media product. Some of the leading magazines have grappled with the issue, and next week, on Oct. 23, I'll will be moderating a seminar on the topic. Here are more details from the MPA site, with a link to registration:

Every publisher struggles with what to put on a website's homepage, and on every internal page as well. It's a struggle to maintain the brand identity while you also:

  • Balance important news and information with the big traffic drivers
  • Encourage user participation and content
  • Satisfy competing interests of not only editorial staff, but also marketing, sales, circulation, community, etc.
  • Keep the page optimized -- for search, the important Web browsers and operating systems, etc.
  • Include audio and video
  • Encourage clickthrough
  • Architect the site for maximum ease and effectiveness
  • Nail the navigation -- don't include too little, or too much

  • and much much more. As Goldilocks might ask, How can you get it just right?

    With leading digital executives of some of the top magazine and media companies -- including recent award-winners who have burgeoning audience -- we'll explore in detail the ins and outs of what they've done, and how.

    Don't miss this session, another in our digital best practices series, that will give you the tools you need to achieve success in the digital sphere.

    Panelists include: Mark Remy, digital chief of Runners World, winner of the ASME for General Excellence this year and Jim Meigs, Editor-in-Chief, Popular Mechanics . Moderated by Dorian Benkoil, SVP, Editorial Director, Teeming Media.

    Thoughts on Google's Ad Sense for Games

    I was asked by a reporter from CNET (where I've contributed) what I thought about Google's announcement that they're launching advertising for games.  A lot's not clear about what Google's doing, but that they're getting into gaming is certainly an endorsement of the platform as a place for ads, and means others will pay attention. It's never prudent to denigrate a Google effort any more than it is for Microsoft. (Remember how many poo-poo'd the idea of Internet Explorer being able to become a dominant browser?). 

    Here's some of my quotes from the piece:
    To Dorian Benkoil, the founder of Teeming Media, an online business consultancy, Google's success at placing in-game ads, like that of its competitors, will come down to how well it is able to integrate those messages in games.

    "What I've seen," said Benkoil," is that the community of gamers tend to be very vocal and emotional about anything that they find that isn't well integrated into a game. So if Google is doing an AdSense initiative, I would hope that they would do it in a seamless way that isn't interruptive of the gaming experience. Because if not, they would face some backlash."

    Benkoil said that his research has also indicated that in-game ads may not be as effective as those in other media. That's because, he suggested, gamers spend a lot of time on the sites and in the games where they play, but they are deeply engaged in what they're doing and are not very interested in looking at things, like ads, that may be a distraction.
    Minor niggle: I didn't really say "my research" but rather just conversations with media buyers and planners. I also mentioned that I teach an MBA-level digital marketing course, where we happen to have done games as a platform last lesson.

    Ways Around Text Messaging Fees

    A significant portion of the recent Naked Media show was on fees for mobile (cellphone) use, and how people are going directly to the Web to get video and other material rather than subscribing and paying a new fee for a subscription, on top of their data plans.

    Occurred to me today that the mobile Twitter app (interestingly, link is a Blogspot blog) is a way to avoid text messaging fees. You can post to the mobile Twitter site, and hit people directly (if they follow you), and also blast the wider group. Less of a sure thing than text messages -- which you can be pretty sure are consumed by those you're sending to -- but it's a way for people to go "off-deck" for text messages, too, from their handhelds, and end-run another money maker for mobile carriers.

    Broadcast TV Down: Is That Bad News?

    One way to make money from TV other than ads in the program.

    Today’s Wall St. Journal story on the decline in TV ratings snapped me back to an alternate universe, a week after listening to ABC’s digital programming EVP Albert Cheng talk about revenue “per episode" at the Streaming Media West show. If broadcast TV executives are counting their pennies the way the “blast-from-the-past” story described it, they are in trouble:

    Many viewers haven't rushed back to their television sets to watch this year's highly promoted season premieres, preferring to catch the shows on digital video recording devices and online -- or not catch them at all.

    An average of 9 million people tuned in to prime-time programs on the top five English-language broadcast networks the night they aired last week, a 4.3% decline from the first week of the 2007 TV season, according to Nielsen Media Research.

    OK, the “not catch them at all” part would be distressing. But why would watching in some fashion other than linear broadcast be considered a negative? Advertisers and Nielsen are already allowing for the “+3” formulation that accounts for viewers who watch a show up to three days after initial airing. TiVO has good measures of how many ads are viewed in a DVR’d program, making the case that even when forwarded through, some ads stick. Ads that are actually watched on a DVR are probably more impactful than on broadcast. And, what about the bathroom or snack or pick-up-a-coffee-table-magazine breaks during commercials?

    Perhaps NBC’s Jeff Zucker was right when he said that NBC now has to manage not for ratings, but rather for profitability. What’s a show worth if you add up the revenues not just from broadcast TV ads (and reruns and overseas...) but also DVD and iTunes sales, and Web and mobile and anything else from which you can make a penny? Perhaps broadcast’s worth can even be counted as a marketing opportunity for sales in the other platforms.

    It’s not like any TV executive should, at this point, be surprised by any of this, except perhaps the pace, accelerated by the apparent lasting effect of the writer’s strike. It’s not like DVRs or the Web are a surprise at this point. Sure, the days when a TV ad sales exec could just wait for the phone to ring and take the order are long gone. A show that’s a hit has so much more than broadcast TV to rely on. That people are watching in other ways than over the air should be seen as a triumph of the programming, not a downside. Even for ads, there are innovative ways to go about it. There's no reason, for example, that commercials have to be exactly 30 seconds and fit neatly into a format that's decades old (and easy to skip and avoid). Now, it’s the executives’ jobs to turn that popularity into money. That takes work, sure. But that’s all it is.

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    Naked Media Goes Mobile

    In a wide-ranging yet very specific discussion with Jerry Rocha of Nielsen and Bob Walczak of mobile ad company RingLeader Digital we explored everything from the fate of mobile advertising (there may be one), to how minorities are using mobile devices in the U.S. more than the mainstream, to ways in which the iPhone (gasp!) doesn't quite work.

    See Episode 5 on the Naked Media site. And check out the blog for some "man on the street" interviews where we show that all the whizbang we discuss in the studio (and at trade shows, industry magazines and the like) is far ahead of the crowd.

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    'Please Leave Your Ad Blocking Software On'

    A frame grab from

    Albert Cheng: Closed is Open, but Money Matters

    Summarizing two posts I wrote on CNET's Webware and the Naked Media blog, from Disney-ABC EVP for digital media Albert Cheng:

    1. ABC, though requiring people to watch Web video in the ABC player is open because it's working so hard to give people video when, where and how they want -- everywhere from the ABC site to Facebook, AOL and Veoh.
    2. You have to think of the digital media business not purely in terms of revenue per viewer or per ad, but rather *per episode,* where, he said, ABC's digital properties were not that far off TV, sort of like the comparison of a teenager to an adult, not pennies to the dollar.

    AP Signs up 500 Papers for Online Sharing

    I've written about AP's difficulties as papers eschew the service in favor of trading among themselves, or challenge its two-year cancellation policy.

    Today, comes word (via PaidContent) that they've signed up 500 papers to trade stories, photos and graphics via its AP Member Marketplace.

    Verizon Provides Sneak Peak of FiOS

    Was at the Verizon FiOS demo last night, where we went to the CIO's apartment and looked at all the nifty things you can do. We're getting there: one place for a consumer to access and view everything from room-to-room at a price point that's almost becoming reasonable. FiOS is going to have Verizon competing with a host of new folks -- from the cable TV companies (MSOs) to Apple TV and even SlingBox. Take a look at the coverage and photos, here.

    David Rose Tells me What He Taught Me

    David left the below in the comments, but I'm bringing it out front, because it's a great clarification and enhancement to what I had written:

    1) The Most Important Person on the Startup Team
    In a blog post that I wrote on the subject after it came up in a conversation on the nextNY mailing list, I posit that it's not "the techie", nor "the UI person" nor even "the biz guy"...but rather The Entrepreneur... someone with a special set of skils and characteristics that may—or may not—be co-resident with the other functional skills mentioned above.

    2) The Ten Crucial Attributes of an Entrepreneur
    Although I haven't yet taken the time to blog about this one yet, it has been a staple of my business school lectures (and was captured by the New York Times during my Ignite presentation last month). In a nutshell, I have found that most investors look for the following ten 'must-haves' (pretty much in this order) in their search for the Perfect Entrepreneur: Integrity, Passion, Startup Experience, Domain Expertise, Functional Skills, Leadership, Commitment, Vision, Realism and 'Coachability'.

    3) The Entrepreneur/Investor Disconnect on Returns
    My point here was that even if you could get a typical entrepreneur and a typical investor to agree on the same target investment return for the investor (say, 25% IRR, as a reasonably high return for investing in a really risky startup), there is a gaping chasm between the two, because the entrepreneur looks at the question in light of his or her own venture, whereas the investor looks at it in light of his or her entire portfolio. The result is that the entrepreneur has heart attack when, having come to such an agreement, the investor says, "great, now that, of course, means that I need to get thirty times my money back from YOUR company! I've gone through the math in detail on my blog, but a crib note version is available over on Center Networks from a presentation I gave last Spring.

    Things I Learned from David Rose

    Angel investor and pitch expert David Rose was in fine form at the Shake Shack gathering this evening, holding court and telling us the key traits he tells his biz school students make an entrepreneur. They are, as I remember:
    • Integrity. The most important trait. Rose won’t give money to you if a whiff of dishonesty crosses his sensors. He’s giving you his money for your idea, and he wants to make sure it’s in the right place.
    • Passion
    • Great idea
    • Domain experience (helps if someone’s done something related before, and, perhaps, had successful business)
    • Leadership

    You also need a team: sales, tech, BizDev, ... and an entrepreneur, who can be one of the folks doing other function(s) on the team, someone to marshall the others -- a team can’t really be bought, Rose says, and who lives, eats and breathes the stuff. Someone who is by nature that person, an entrepreneur. Someone who, if this one fails, is going to make it on the next one, or the next, or one of the ones after that and so is worth the investment because s/he’ll eventually pay off. You need 30X potential return, because only 1 of ten ventures will make it, and it has to pay for all the rest, at a rate that’s better than if you, say, put your $$ in a hedge fund.

    Twitter of Online News Association

    Twitter feed of ONA Conference in DC in right column. More posts here, later.

    Journalists and Business

    Was talking with Jeff Jarvis, Anthony Moor, and another professional this evening at the Online News Association conference about journalists studying business issues. While Jarvis, who teaches an entrepreneurial journalism course, (rightly) said journalists don't need MBA-level business training, he and I agreed business acumen is needed. The question, though, came up of how to convince journalists they should learn anything about the business side. (I don't see the divider like I once did.) Here's one answer:

    Only a fool doesn't care about the value of his work. And one of the best ways to understand the value being placed on what you do is to understand the ways business people think about it. That way, you have a much better chance of making sure you continue to have work to do, that it's sustained.

    Openness Comes to Money

    Having been around VCs and private equity (sometimes because my company helped construct strategy for a private equity events company), I'd sometimes thought that this often clubby, personally connected (and largely white and majority male) group of money purveyors was ripe to have their proprietary and costly databases chipped away at if not blown apart by someone who would make the data more open. Now "A VC" Fred Wilson points out that Angelsoft is showing industry data and that his firm would be glad to contribute to make it better.

    He also notes that his Union Square Ventures doesn't subscribe to the expensive industry databases because they already have a good read of the market.

    Silicon Alley Insider is doing something conceptually similar, analyzing SEC statements and industry trends, and making the information available for free, rather than keeping it paid and proprietary as Wall St. firms' research departments do.

    Look Over There ---->

    If you're reading this on the blog page, look in the right column -------> 

    A lot of days, my Tweets tell as much as I would in any blog post.

    Refreshing Laughter at NY Tech Meetup

    Was good to hear laughs at last night's Tech Meetup in New York (some coverage here, from NY Convergence, which I'm helping), not only for the roaming dentist-in-a-van, Mobile Tek Labs, but also the iPhone app from iRetroPhone that mirrors a rotary phone (one of a few of what Gavi Narra from the company called "goofy apps") and his joke that the next app would be allowing SMS text messages via morse code through an "iTelegraph" application.

    True, as NY Convergence notes, "only" 17% of those trying on Angelsoft get a meeting with potential angel investors, but COO Ryan Jonnsen also noted that with "only" 9,000 or so applications since the company's founding, and some 400 angel groups on five continents, the investment ratio is "through the roof." Jonnsen said details on the angel groups were not available, but he is advocating more openness.

    And NYC Seed's Owen Davis got big applause from the audience of perhaps 600 at the IAC building when he said their investments, up to $200,000, were focussed on companies that have a true presence in New York, not just a P.O. Box. And, he noted -- showing pictures of babies from Google images (above) -- they're looking for early stage companies, and ones with creativity. (A photo in this stream  shows the "psychadelic" imagery he used to illustrate "creative".)

    On Newspapers Canceling AP

    Earlier, I saw the AP having trouble if a group of Ohio papers didn't use it. Now, Jay Rosen points us to to a Wired pickup that links to this story from the MinnPost about Minneapolis Star Tribune sending the AP the requisite two-year notice that it intends to cancel. This after five other papers did so. Now, this doesn't mean that the Strib will necessarily drop AP. Sending notice ahead of a deadline is a common tactic. In fact, some lawyers routinely send out cancellation notices as a matter of course, to they can cancel in the event they do actually wish to cancel. And, Rosen also notes, The Spokesman Review is challenging the two-year cancellation notice requirement.

    Nevertheless, it has for decades been a "given" that a U.S. newspaper would take the AP as a core component or important supplement of its news coverage. The MinnPost writer, David Brauer, talks of the damage to the area's news gathering if the AP loses the Star Tribune's participation (and fees). But he also notes that papers could use that money to pay for more of their own reporting:

    If AP gets less cash and copy from the Strib and cuts its local presence, Minnesota’s news ecosystem could take a big hit. The wire service’s copy fleshes out local papers big and small; a diminished AP weakens a key line of defense for cash-strapped newsrooms.

    Then again, non-metro editors around the nation were among the first to give AP notice; most said they’d rather save the coin for their own staffers (even as their publishers were thinking cash flow)

    A Newsweek editor once quipped in an editorial meeting that "if we have two examples, it's a trend, three, a cover story." Well, now we have at least a half-dozen.

    Digital (Not 'Internet') Marketing

    I’m teaching a course in Digital Marketing this Fall at Baruch (my biz school alma mater), although the course is formally titled “Internet Marketing.” The department chair asked me to justify the name change to the school’s administration, so I wrote the following. It’s hard for me to conceive of a course for a marketer (as opposed to a technologist) that would consider the Web or Internet in isolation, and separately teach “digital” marketing.

    Internet Marketing is a phrase that in 2008 sounds almost quaint. Marketing strategists today need to engage consumers where they are, and that is increasingly on a diverse array of digital devices that can serve as highly personal touchpoints. The marketer might use Twitter, a mobile text messaging and Web-based application through which Dell by February had sold a reported $500,000 worth of equipment. He or she might integrate the Web and mobile devices, as in the recent Adidas campaign, which sent text links to mobile phone browsers that lead to a website also available via computers through which users could register for callbacks to phones from NBA stars. Or perhaps create viral YouTube videos watched on an Apple TV or Netflix device hooked to a television, a laptop computer linked through the Internet or an iPhone on a 3G cellphone network. A consumer product branding campaign might employ traditional banner ads on Web-based portals or search engines.

    Rather than focus on the platform, today’s marketer needs to concentrate on where to cost effectively engage the market. And any marketing executive hoping to work as a cutting edge strategist must understand the importance of integrating all available digital tools. To consider the Internet in a vacuum and disregard the deep interrelation of various digital channels would ignore current realities, do a disservice to students and deny them the chance to study the latest research and industry wisdom.

    And sorry I haven’t posted for awhile ... Allowed myself a respite during vacation.

    User-Generated Outlandishness

    From the IBM report "The end of advertising as we know it," discussing why advertising agencies and marketers in general will have to get more used to the idea of users creating advertising.

    If the rise of user-generated advertising seems "outlandish," consider how far-fetched the idea of a consumer generated encyclopedia was only a few years ago.

    As always, it behooves content creators (journalists, others) to look at what the agencies are doing, or being told to do, what the trends are. Use of technologies to create and engage. Visited by More Californians than New Yorkers

    ... or at least, according to Google Trends. Like I've said, sometimes when you're poking around for other work, you find curious stats. Like, today, if you search "" in Google Trends, it shows that more visits come from California than New York.

    HP: 9 Terrbytes of Video Per Month

    If anyone doubts that corporate video can get an audience: Hewlett Packard monthly serves nine terrabytes, equal to millions and millions of views, according to Daniel Webster of The Feedroom, which serves the video. "You have to have lots of content and refresh it constantly," he notes. And, for HP, it's a marketing cost, covered in part by the money they save using the Internet to distribute video that used to cost many millions more to send around by satellite. Much of this is internal video. He was speaking at the Web 2.0 conference.

    Money From Web Video: Costs Low, Marketing Smarts

    UPDATE: 51% of TubeMogul users are making videos to make money from ad revenue shares. (Though, as Silicon Alley Insider notes (in linked story) the data is suspect.)

    = = = = = =
    Keys to making money in Web video:

    1. keeping your production costs low
    2. marketing marketing and marketing -- and thinking of marketing in a very traditional test, rinse, repeat kind of way
    3. having something else to sell besides the video. IE, your services as a live performer

    These from Jennie Bourne, author, Taking Your Video to the Web, at the Web 2.0 conference at Pace University. She gave a few examples. She talked about the success of the Coke/Mentos video (currently at more than 7 million views on YouTube, and more on other platforms). “What’s behind that is some very careful thinking about marketing, and the audience they were trying to reach. They studied everything that’s successful on the Web to come up with and create a successful viral video .They looked at what the content was, whether it had physical action. Whether it was elaborately produced. Whether it had more than one camera. And step by step they put it together ... They did it hundreds of times to get it right.”

    To make money from it they put it on Revver, which shares revenues with producers, and also used it as a way to promote their live act, which ultimately is paying them more than the video ever did, she says. Added moderator Dave Burstein of DSL Prime: “They went from semi-employed circus performers to more work than they could handle, at Vegas and elsewhere.”

    A counter example Bourne gave is from the producers of “The All for Nots.” They had a show called “The Burg,” which got sponsorship. They then raised their production values, increasing the cost of the show, but when they lost sponsorship were unable to continue it, because it cost them too much. The current site site is begging for more viewers to try to get sponsorship.

    The Week: Aggregator or Analyzer?

    The Week’s Steven Kotok today spent a lot of time on Naked Media insisting that the magazine is not just an aggregator but is really about opinion and intelligence. That they’re more pickers and choosers than smart analyzers is a common perception. From today’s WSJ:

    The Week condenses commentary on the world's news into small, easily digestible bites.

    Fellow show guest and media critic Michael Wolff also called the publication a “picker” of content -- in a similar way to his own Other Wolff revelations: plans absolutely no original content, ever. It will be profitable next year, if all goes as now. They’ll pass 1 million monthly uniques soon.

    I pressed a lot on whether something like Newser can really get traction and hold on. Wolff insists there’s a great mass of people who will always be there, and want a branded news site that puts together a wide swathe of news. I lean more towards the belief that fragmentation is leading to niches of “vertical” coverage, and that those who want news of various types or on various subjects will assemble their own aggregations in a feed reader or similar. They can then look at their favorite sports, local news, international news, and so on.

    The episode of Naked Media will be available on demand soon.

    Paris Hilton: "Hot" and Smart

    Love it. Parody. Even if it's 1 million places on the Web already:

    And who cares if someone else wrote it for her (which may be the case)? She had the smarts to do it.

    (It's a video of Paris in her revealing bathing suit talking about John McCain, energy policy -- making a very sensible proposal of having BOTH offshore drilling a la McCain AND conservation policy, a la Obama -- and where to get a tan. Oh, and thinking Rianna for her vice president, and maybe painting the White House pink.

    Naked Media: Michael Wolff and The Week's Steven Kotok

    My next guests on Naked Media, Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 10 a.m. ET, will be idea man and co-founder, and Vanity Fair media columnist Michael Wolff, and Steven Kotok, general manager of The Week, Felix Dennis' foray into news aggregation. Any questions? Leave 'em here.

    We'll ask them all about entrepreneurship, why the world needs more news aggregation online and in print, where and how you can charge for content and, of course, some of the more controversial statements Wolff has made. Due to the Texas storms and a family health issue, Patrick Spain, previously scheduled, won't be able to make it.

    The Irony of Aggregation: Fair Use, Clickthroughs and $$$

    Speaking to media writer and once-again entrepreneur Michael Wolff today about his venture (he’ll be a guest on the next Naked Media, with funder and co-founder Patrick Spain, August 7, 10a ET), it occurred to me there’s a sort of irony to news aggregation platforms, and those from whom they get their material.

    Of course, isn’t literally an aggregator. They may live off the news that others gather and produce, but they also synthesize it and summarize it in their own language. That would, at least for the time being, seem to protect them from the sort of DrudgeRetort vs. AP brouhaha that occurred when the Web site picked up the wire service’s material without enough re-crunching to distance itself from the original.

    It wouldn’t be surprising if at some point those producing original material try to argue that even taking that material and rewording or repacking it, synthesizing it with others’ , is plagiarism at best, even a violation of copyright and fair use. Royalties are expected, after all, when someone samples a piece of a song to make another piece of music. I could see the same argument being made for the written word.

    But here’s the irony: If the repackager is small and has minimal traffic and refuses to listen to automated or relatively low-level entreaties, it may not be worth the lawyer time and hassle of pursuing them. But if someone gets big enough to matter, it’s unwise from a business perspective to pursue them because the links they put up and the traffic they send you -- not to mention the branding and awareness -- will be worth enough that it also is likely to outweigh the benefit of shutting them down (assuming they’re not lifting entire stories, images, etc, willy nilly, and also assuming they link back).

    Blogger is for Liberals?

    It can be intriguing to poke around in a measurement system and get some surprises. One, today, from Quantcast, is that people visiting Blogger dipped in late Spring, then shot up in June through now.
    And another, if Quantcast is to be believed, is that people who visit also have an affiinity for such Left-leaning matter as Daily Kos and The Atlantic. Hmmm. Never thought of blogging as anything but equal-opportunity. I'll have to poke around and see if Typepad or something else is a more "conservative" platform.

    Of Hulu, Ads and User Experience (and its New Widgets)

    Watching TV on the Internet is great because it’s a true on-demand experience. It really is what, when, where I want, and how, with multiple benefits. Set up a laptop on the counter, and watch/listen while doing dishes, brushing teeth, watering plants ... no need to pre-set the device before a show to tell it what I want, plus the ability to pause, and jump back and forth and carry the laptop elsewhere to any room (or anywhere). No need for a subscription to any on-demand service. Ability to use the laptop to look up something while I’m watching, or have the video full-screen and sit back and relax. Send a link to friends, or embed. Use headphones. Shoot my own video response. Watch with a friend or my wife or kids....

    Add to that the relative infrequency and shortness of commercial interruption. Hulu CTO Eric Feng points out in an interview for NewTeeVee that a 22-minute network show with eight minutes of ads on broadcast or cable has two minutes of commercials on Hulu. (He also says the average Hulu user watches for more than an hour, and that there were 90 million streams -- per month, if I understood). So, watch a show on Hulu and you get more TV for less. With only two minutes of ads, it would hardly be worth forwarding through.

    Yet, I can’t help but wonder how long it will be before the economic pressure will cause Hulu and other services to increase the number and frequency of ads. TV used to have relatively fewer ads. Terrestrial radio has, many would say, been ruined by the ad-to-programming ratio. The pressure to increase revenues is relentless and hard to resist. As Feng acknowledges in the video -- there’s another of him on TechCrunch today, and both videos are due to Hulu’s newly launched widgets -- the ads at this point are somewhat repetitive. That’s surely because of a relatively low number of advertisers, the need to serve the promised number of impressions, and the lack of ability to interrupt every single type of clip, either because of its length or the nature of its content. But as users/viewers increase, and more advertisers move to Hulu-like platforms, and more platforms spring up, we’ll see more pressure to create more ad inventory, and downward pressure on CPMs. (I was intrigued to hear from a Quantcast exec in a recent panel I moderated for the Magazine Publishers of America say that CPMs will rise short-term because measurability is increasing and is not yet where media buyers want it to be.)

    As Jupiter Research analyst Bobby Tulsiani noted last week, “user experience is king” online. A key part of that experience is not only ease of use, clarity of clicking, architecture and so on, but also the experience of not having to see too many ads, especially ones that may be irrelevant or annoying. If ads didn’t hurt the user experience, folks wouldn’t forward through them when they could. And how long until users on the Web start clicking away from programs due to ads, even as they did on cable and broadcast long before the advent of TiVO? How much will a user put up with even if he has proactively gone to a program to watch it on demand? How long before there’s a TiVO for Web content? TV has finally started to change. World News Tonight recently had a sole sponsor and fewer minutes of interruption than the typical version of the evening news show. And, I’m hoping that after the video ad deluge on the Web, we’ll see that a change in online user behavior, will force similar consideration of balance between editorial and commercial imperatives.

    Mom Humor: The iTit

    My mom sent me this in an email:

    Apple announced today that it has developed a breast implant that can store and play music. The iTit will cost from $499 to $699, depending on cup and speaker size.

    This is considered a major social breakthrough, because women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.

    Jarvis Likes His Bottoms on Top

    I wrote teasingly about a year ago about an ad for clean bottoms on Buzzmachine. Now, author Jeff Jarvis says he likes the current underwear ad on his site that a few have called him to task for. Nothing heavy here, just jawboning on a Friday

    In Whose Economic Interest?

    Just read  the Atlantic Monthly piece on Google making us dumber. A choice quote:

    Most of the proprietors of the commercial Internet have a financial stake in collecting the crumbs of data we leave behind as we flit from link to link&lsqauo;the more crumbs, the better. The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It's in their economic interest to drive us to distraction

    Really? Aren't there models that support thought, depth, breadth, attention spans? I think so. And this sounds like the whingeing (thanks for reminding me of that word, Jeff Jarvis) of someone who would complain about how stupid TV makes us all, ignoring that it's not the box but how you use it. After all, I read the piece on my Blackberry. Really. Might never have gotten to it otherwise.

    Surveyed in An Alternate Newspaper Universe

    Just as the news broke that the New York Post and Daily News might cooperate in production to save costs for their print editions, I was called at home, randomly I suppose, to participate in a phone survey about my newspaper reading habits. I normally would hang up on something like this -- their callback number and company affiliation was masked from my caller ID, which I on principle find wrong. But I participated out of curiosity, and thinking I might get something  out of it. The survey made me feel like I was answering questions from more than a decade ago. If this is the kind of research newspaper companies are commissioning, I fear they’re in even more trouble than we all think. The ways I was being asked just didn’t seem relevant to someone in the modern flow of media and information.

    A representative from a company called American Opinion Research Group, subcontracting for Discovery Research, asked me about my newspaper preferences, and what I thought of the Post (whom I suspect was commissioning the survey),  the Daily News and sometimes The New York Times, as if picking up the print editions were still the way I read the papers. (The lady on the line seemed positively flummoxed when she asked how I got my print copy of the Post, and I said when I read it in print it was almost always because I'd been handed it for free; it was as if there were no check box in her survey form for that -- as opposed to “at work,” “newsstand,” or “subscription at home”.) There was also an implicit strain in the questions that I read the papers the way people used to: pick it up, flip from one page to another, go through it systematically, or at least jump to the section I like and flip through -- rather than the way I’m just as likely to now: find something through an RSS feed, or a blog or Twitter link, or randomly in a search, then perhaps poke around the site(s) as I look for more in a sort of serendipitous flow limited only by my attention span or time.

    A lot of the survey taker’s questions centered on what I think about the Post and/or the Daily News, including, which:
    • is more “fun and lively”
    • is most compelling
    • has better sports
    • has better columnists
    • know sthe boroughs and in touch with New York
    • has the better
    International News (I couldn’t say “neither”)
    • Front Page
    • has stories that made me most interested in sharing with family or friends.

    She also asked if I considered the Post “conservative” or “liberal”. (Guess which I picked?)

    Other questions concerned my buying or reading habits (which are really two different things, though the survey seemed to conclude that “read” meant “buy” -- which as we all know isn’t the case). Nary a question about blogs, online preferences, RSS readers, whether I looked at the papers on a mobile device, click on any ads, prefer to read in print or online, would like the edition emailed to me ... etc, etc. It was as if the online universe didn’t exist.

    The woman kind of had a hitch in her voice when I answered that the Post was less reliable but more enjoyable than the News. For many of us New Yorkers there's an enjoyment and amusement factor in reading the Post, as much as there is an information consumption one. Even if we suspect something isn’t all true, we enjoy the vivaciousness of the prose and the speculation that what’s written has an element of veracity. And I know from discussions with folks far and wide -- not just in the media biz -- that I’m not alone in this way of reading the paper.

    I’m still waiting, too, for the email component to the phone survey I participated in, but it hasn’t come -- or the spam filter ate it.

    This is a WSJ News Alert Why, Exactly?

    Sure, Alex Rodriguez is a star, and it's a big deal in advertising and entertainment circles that he's signed with a given talent agency. But why exactly is this worth interrupting us on Monday evening (I'm signed up for general WSJ alerts, not every last smidgeon of entertainment or sports news). Editors to DORIAN
    show details 7:40 PM (1 hour ago)


    from The Wall Street Journal

    July 21, 2008

    New York Yankees star Alex Rodriguez has signed on with the William Morris Agency. William Morris, the Beverly Hills, Calif.-based talent representation company, has a client list that includes some of the biggest names in entertainment, sports and the corporate world. For Mr. Rodriguez, the move marks the latest turn in his relationship with Scott Boras, one of baseball's most successful and controversial agents. Mr. Boras, who has represented Mr. Rodriguez throughout his career, said he will continue to represent Mr. Rodriguez in any baseball-related negotiations.

    Si Newhouse Has Been Through This Before

    Yeterday's long and detailed NYTimes profile of Si Newshouse and his Conde Nast empire posits that the company may have to crimp on its luxury brand lifestyle:

    Some people inside Condé’s stylish Times Square headquarters, as well as experts outside, wonder whether the company, by choice or necessity, will tighten its belt in the years to come — and risk losing some of its cachet along the way. Analysts point to the economic vise the Internet has already put on newspapers, and question whether the luxury goods market — the cash cow for Condé magazines — will continue to defy gravity.

    But execs there have pointed out to me that Newhouse, in building the empire, not only made some unfashionable purchases (as the NYTimes points out, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker took many years to become profitable) but also managed the company, first under his father then on his own during the 70s and early 80s, economic times that many say look like today.

    Shelly Palmer: It's the Programming, Stupid (But it's not Ben Silverman)

    Shelly, for whom I contribute, and is a colleague and friend also contributing the JackMyers Media Business Report, portends the end of broadcast TV, as it goes into a downward spiral of managing for margins, rather than programming for audiences. Shelly may be right, and he's certainly smart to hold up radio as an unfortunate example -- terrestrial radio is now unlistenable, packed as it is with undistinguished programming and interruptive ads. If broadcast TV sings the money tune to the exclusion of creating good programming, it, too, will find itself an emptied shell. Certainly a visible future, as more and more creativity goes to other forms of video distribution -- cable, premium cable, the Internet and so on.

    Shelly calls NBC exec Ben Silverman courageous for being willing to admit managing for margins. Silverman, though, is simply repeating what his boss Jeff Zucker said a couple months ago before the big TV "Upfront" sales presentations:

    We’re managing for margin, not for ratings. So it’s the expense of our shows, the consistency of our shows being on the schedule. It’s not determined by the size of the ratings.

    Zucker raised eyebrows at the time for honestly addressing speaking the financial side ahead of a big sales show.

    Shelly Palmer: It's the Programming, Stupid (But it's not Ben Silverman)

    Shelly, for whom I contribute, and is a colleague and friend also contributing the JackMyers Media Business Report, portends the end of broadcast TV, as it goes into a downward spiral of managing for margins, rather than programming for audiences. Shelly may be right, and he's certainly smart to hold up radio as an unfortunate example -- terrestrial radio is now unlistenable, packed as it is with undistinguished programming and interruptive ads. If broadcast TV sings the money tune to the exclusion of creating good programming, it, too, will find itself an emptied shell. Certainly a visible future, as more and more creativity goes to other forms of video distribution -- cable, premium cable, the Internet and so on.

    Shelly calls NBC exec Ben Silverman courageous for being willing to admit managing for margins. Silverman, though, is simply repeating what his boss Jeff Zucker said a couple months ago before the big TV "Upfront" sales presentations:

    We’re managing for margin, not for ratings. So it’s the expense of our shows, the consistency of our shows being on the schedule. It’s not determined by the size of the ratings.

    Zucker raised eyebrows at the time for honestly addressing speaking the financial side ahead of a big sales show.

    PaidContent, mediabistro and Math

    Mediabistro blog FishbowlNY’s swipe at the valuation of Rafat Ali’s ContentNext, sold for a reported $30 million (including an earn-out over time based on performance) to the Guardian Media Group, smells at least a little bit of tit-for-tat over something Rafat wrote after mediabistro’s sale to Jupiter Media. Fishbowl says Content Next revenues in 2007 were $3 million, which it calls a “10+” valuation (I think they mean 10x), and ignores a few factors. Just as people during the mediabistro sale for $20 million plus a $3 million earn-out over two years quoted its revenues of a year earlier and ignored the 30-40 percent yearly growth as well as the inherent value of some of mediabistro’s assets (such as its list of more than 700,000 registered users, more than 10,000 of whom were paying members).

    But even if CN’s valuation is lower than FishbowlNY is saying (they should, I think, subtract the earn-out to get a base value for the deal, which may be much lower than the reported $30 million) there are many reasons for it be high. One, as HighBeam and CEO Patrick Spain noted to me on the phone yesterday, is the value of the core ContentNext audience -- media executives, decision makers with budgetary control. It also has a budding and growing group of conferences for which attendees pay hundreds of dollars admission to see even higher-profile execs speak (Murdoch, Cavuto...), a strong list of email recipients, high-profile business and financial advertisers it has cultivated and maintained for years, successful media properties in the U.S., U.K. and India (India!), a growing research component, and ContentNext Dex, a listing of media-tech stocks it has created and which serves as a technological bit of value. The participation of high-profile investor Alan Patricof, former GM Nathan Richardson as CEO, and, of course, editorial co-chief Staci Kramer, as well as a cadre of strong, international journalists who’ve stuck with the company for years, and a growing and successful sales team all adds up to value as well. The Guardian group, I’d say, bought the management as much as the company’s book assets, and I’d wager that the earn-out is larger than mb’s. Add, too, the U.K.-based Guardian group’s professed desire to go more international, the synergies with its other properties, the fact that it is a trust able to think and act more long-term than a typical public company, and there’s a lot of value to be wrung from its purchase of ContentNext beyond a typical times-revenue or even more cumbersome financial calculations, such as WACC. (I doubt there’s much if any debt on the CN’s books, and also doubt that capital structure played much of a role in the decision to buy it.)

    I love mediabistro, where I’m proud to have serves as editorial director before the sale, and ContentNext, where I’ve helped in a couple different ways, and for the record my analysis here of both properties is from publicly available reports and discloses no private details. Mediabistro’s audience of media professionals is and was, like CN’s, worth a lot more than an average consumer audience. Rafat duly noted in his interview with Kara Swisher after his company’s sale that it does cost quite a penny to produce their brand of journalism: “We’re a news media business on the Internet, but we’re not a consumer Internet company. We will never be.”

    While it’s impressive that he got $30 million for the company so soon after Patricof invested, and in the midst of looking for a second round of funding, one eyebrow raiser from the Swisher interview is the speed with which the deal took place: “It all came to be in three weeks,” Rafat says, something he repeats on, which is, full disclosure, a partner in Naked Media.

    Random News From Everywhere and Nowhere

    For the POSTPONED episode of Naked Media, with Patrick Spain and Michael Wolff, co-founders of, we went out on the streetand asked about a dozen people of all ilks where they get their news. Once again (as with our segment on Twitter), I’m reminded that we in the biz need to remind ourselves that “normal” people don’t focus on a lot of the things that obsess us. A number of folks who looked to be in their twenties and thirties said they didn’t bother with the Internet, and instead go for free newspapers or TV. Or perhaps check and nothing else. Most didn’t know, whether they were looking at the Web or TV, what “brand” of news they were consuming, though some did refer to a specific TV channel by number (‘I watch channel 5”) or just “my email” or “The Internet” or, perhaps, “AOL.” No one in our non-car culture here in New York mentioned radio.

    No one talked about the “experience” and only one guy (a ringer from Scribe Media who was happening by) talked about RSS feeds or doing any personalized aggregation, or using any new technologies. None seemed terribly able to say why they watched one channel or Web site over another. It all seemed rather random and haphazard, that folks just happened upon a channel, whether TV or Web, and stuck with whatever they were fed. Few expressed a strong preference for any news or information brand.

    We’ll soon rebook and touch on these topics with Spain and Wolff -- how can you hope to build a news aggregation brand in today’s world of aggregations of aggregators? We’ll also ask about anything from paid content, such as on Hoovers and HighBeam, to Wolff’s back-and-forth with Rush Limbaugh. Wolff, of course, is also a media and cultural critic for Vanity Fair and Spain is the founder and CEO of HighBeam Research as well as a co-founder of Hoovers, Inc. If you’ve got any questions for ‘em, email me, put it in comments, or log to watch live at The show is Tuesday at 4p, ET, then will be available on demand.

    PaidContent: Quick and Deserved

    In selling to the Guardian Media Group, Rafat Ali's ContentNext has in six years gone from nothing to a reported $30 million (including an earn out based on future performance). The timeline probably doesn't seem so short to Rafat, but it's an admirable creation: A suite of media products and services built on the quality of its editorial, not software or apps or any hard-to-understand Web 2.0 or other promises. The promise of this media company is clear. I can remember early on in its life, when one top executive at marveled at how PaidContent, the company's original blog, never missed a thing in the industry. That, basically, meant Rafat never did.

    Rafat deserves the mentions, as does editor and "employee number one" Staci Kramer. I have done some work for them. My admiration is thus both as an observer, and on occasion from the inside. I consider myself fortunate to have gotten to work with them and others in the organization.

    Vanity Fair's Shameless Promotion

    Become their Facebook fan to save an intern's job. Or fast forward through the first minute of "jokes" in the Graydon Carter video to see what's in the August issue -- or just look at the table of contents.

    The Newspaper Industry Has a Year: Roger Black

    The famed designer, whom I consider a friend, writes:

    Newspapers have about a year to get rid of all the people who can’t pull their own weight and to redeploy all the smart energetic journalists who can find the great stories and push them out to print, web and video. Some papers still have lots of talent, but they must push it to the front so readers can find it and find that they like it. Papers which continue to bury the smart people (or have already driven them away) will not make the cut. With the current recession, if newspapers don't move quickly, the market will crush them.

    A year.

    BusinessWeek as 'Curator'

    At least twice (between 3:30 and about 4:40) BizWeek chief Keith Fox talks about BusinessWeek curating "the conversation."

    Says the summer double issue is around user collaboration -- users and thought leaders, with editors, coming up with ideas. "Engaging everyone in a larger conversation, and really having BusinessWeek curate that conversation."

    LinkedIn, Fox says, is a "great strategic partner." Fox says, Them: great networking; BW: great content.

    Naked Media, Episode 3, Part II

    In which Erin Byrne talks about how being open has gotten her in trouble, and we ask a lot of user questions.

    We've also created a little confusion about what Naked Media is. The answer: a show about media we're producing in partnership with Scribe Media.

    The New Ambiguity: You Can't Have it Both Ways

    In spite of all the new ability to measure. digital media also present new challenges in figuring out what works. This thought gelled for me during the Naked Media discussion with Erin Byrne and Ben Ezrick, both leading digital strategists, he for Ogilvy, she for Burson-Marsteller. We watched the Bronze Lion-winning but fake JC Penney ad that has finally been removed from YouTube after getting hundreds of thousands of views. The commercial was since withdrawn from the awards, apparently.

    The video shows two teenagers "Speed Dressing," timing themselves as they put on their clothes after undressing to "get away with it" in the girl's basement -- a message a Penney marketing manager has said the company would never condone. But the company has also gotten a lot of notice for the ad, which, as The Wall Street Journal points out , may curry favor with more urban teens, especially on the coasts. So, for a mass brand like Penney, they condemn the ad. But they, perhaps, reap the benefits of the branding in a measurable way -- hundreds of thousand saw the video before it was pulled, and it's now available on other sites. Ezrick, in the Naked Media segment, points out that neither Penney nor its ad agency, Saatchi and Saatchi, have yet completely explained how the ad got to be entered in the Cannes awards contest, nor exactly how people affiliated with them were involved in producing the video.

    Both Ezrick and Byrne point out that Penney can't have it both ways: If they genuinely don't condone the video, they need to investigate and reveal how it came to be to the best of their knowledge. If they had something to do with it, they must say so, and, if need be, apologize honestly for any discomfort or harm they may have caused. But what they can't do is reap the benefits of the video going viral and also be upset while they gain brand awareness. You also can't, in a digital age, segment audiences as you could in a previous era, showing one ad to the coasts, say, and another to "Middle America." Perhaps digital media means everything is outed, eventually. And that means we have to be more honest, or at least more consistent.

    Naked Media, Episode 3: What's an Ad?

    In which digital strategists Erin Byrne and Ben Ezrick from Marsteller and Ogilvy, respectively, talk about what's an ad, and I talk about teeny-tiny information technology.

    What's Twitter, Anyway? Don't Ask Russell Simmons

    Twitter might be, as Nate Westheimer writes, a billion dollar business (because they can become a P2P payment system, he says) , but that doesn't mean that most people know what it is.

    For the Naked Media show, we took our mic and camera out to a park in financial district today, and of about a dozen people we asked -- including Russell Simmons, who happened to be sitting with a woman in the park -- only one (not Simmons) had even the vaguest idea of what Twitter is. The one who knew said she doesn't use it, doesn't blog either. "I read, not write" -- important for us all to remember, sometimes, that not everyone is a content creator.

    Twitter might become as ubiquitous as eBay or Google or Yahoo. It ain't there, yet. And another way it could be a billion dollar biz (he says, hyphothesizingly) would be if it became part of something else, so people would be using Twitter technology without knowing it. In the same way that RSS is used in myriad applications, such as NetVibes or MyYahoo, with only a small fraction of the millions using them knowing what RSS is.

    You'll be able to watch the episode, which was webcast live at noon ET, on demand soon, at, or through

    Ask Two Digital Strategists

    Next guests on Naked Media: Chief Digital Strategist for Marsteller, Erin Byrne, and Ogilvy digital strategist Ben Ezrick. We'll ask 'em about viral video, crisis management, and just what a digital strategist is, anyway.

    UPDATE: Great, fun show. Watch to catch it on demand.

    Upcoming Media-Tech Plays

    Jordan Rohan, of Clearmeadow Partners, on what he "likes" as upcoming media/tech plays, after saying the companies that are going to change the landscape in next 5-10 years don't exist today. At the Digital Publishing and Advertising Conference in NY.


    * Widget-ized contextual content and advertising ("two-in-a-box"). “Advertising and content need to go hand in hand.” Not syndicate content into somone else’s page. Don’t have to people bring back to your homepage to serve them content or sell an ad. Eliminates the problem some of the portals are going through now. “If NYT could figure out a way to sell ads against [their widget] they’ve got me looking at their ads for ever and ever.” (Later, NYT product manager Mike Foley directly contradicts this, saying "we’re in distributingg content in any way possible and GETTING THEM BACK TO THE SITE and getting them engaged.")

    * Super local lead-generation platforms.

    * Innovative iPhone apps. The $200 iPhone “will be selling on eBay for $300.” iPhone at $199 is “going to change everything.” The graduation gift of ’09, or Xmas gift of ’08.

    * High-margin e-commerce companies with buying power. Company sells $6M of hammocks, with 50% margins. .. have buying power, because aggregate so much demand. ...

    * Successful resellers of carbon emission credits for consumers.

    * Commercial applications for Twitter: I am a business looking for something. ... it’s going to change some sector of the economy... some company is going to figure it out.

    Twitter: Death by Success

    Social Networking Apps for Mobile

    It has to come to this: social networking through the mobile device.
    (Story about a company called Frengo that lets folks use their mobile devices, cellphone and so on, to network through Facebook. One is a dating app.)

    YouTube's Easy Fix

    There's so much talk about whether YouTube can contribute serious revenue to Google's bottom line because they don't right now have the right to put ads on content they haven't licensed. That seems easy enough to fix: Make the right to show ads part of the uploading agreement for the average user.  Offer a rev-share to sweeten the deal for anyone getting over a certain number of views.

    No? What' the flaw in this argument.

    George Carlin, My Hero

    George Carlin is one of my heroes. Not for the routine that made him most famous -- the seven (later 10) dirty words you can’t say on TV -- but for so much of his work that, while making us laugh, also made us look at ourselves and was really social criticism: his poem about his hair and its length (“wear it to there or to there or to there if you dare!”) and the goofy news guy (“In Baltimore it’s 6:43, now for the 11 o’clock report!) making fun of the supercilious seriousness with which so many newscasters intoned to us, decades before The Daily Show.

    Comedy is one of the few ways (along with music) in the U.S. to do social criticism and gain mass appeal, fame and fortune, and sneak it under the radar. Early on, and a little bit still, I did comedy, and may do more of it. I can well appreciate the courage Carlin had, the the strength of will and energy. It's bad enough to be standing in front of a hostile audience that doesn't give a damn and is ignoring you through a drunken haze at 2 a.m., or working to fill the pockets of a sleazy club owner who pays you $15 and a drink, if that. But to stand up by yourself on stage in those conditions night after night for years, and build up an audience, and then continue to take risks, not play it safe, get arrested as Carlin was but be unrepentant. Carlin finally got the attention of the establishment, including Congress, for his list of dirty words. I have to think he knew what he was doing, that he knew he wouldn't be sneaking under the radar with those. I noticed in the NPR obit quoting Carlin today that when asked his regrets, he mentions his and his wife's drug use, not because of any edict or strictures, but because of how he felt it harmed his daughter.

    My wife gave me a box set of Carlin CDs as a present a few years back, and while I seldom listen, I do cherish them. I'm not a big collector of DVDs or books or spoken CDs -- who has all that shelf space, and how many would you really want to read or watch or listen to more than once or twice? But Carlin's work is an oeuvre that to me goes far beyond comedic laughs. I saw Carlin live, once, at a circle theater in the New York area, and marveled at his mastery, his timing, physical prowess, voice control, microphone technique. A video of a 2003 HBO special under the writer credit says: George Carlin. Not only was he a master performer with impeccable skills, but he also wrote his own stuff. I don't know if others ever wrote for Carlin, but I do know that a great number of top comedians, especially later on in a career, will have others contribute a lot.

    Words. Carlin believed in them, in their power, forever playing around with meaning and hidden meaning, while slipping in the social critique. (One of his chosen oxymorons: Military Intelligence.) Today, I admire Carlin's seven dirty words routine more than I did when it first gained fame. I see it for the boundary pushing bit it was, following in the footsteps of Lenny Bruce before him. And society in some ways has caught up to the man who was visionary in his own goofy ways: there are plenty of farts on TV now (watch the routine posted on Silicon Alley Insider, to see what I mean), and Jon Stewart says a barely bleeped "shit" on his show about every 5 minutes. (Granted, it's cable, but that means it's in, what, 85 percent of American homes?)

    I was told today by a well-known comedian and satirist that Carlin last year at a show seemed old and tired, not on his game. I've seen a news report that he was performing to get out of tax debt. Both may be true. But neither can remove the wealth of humor and wisdom he left us.