“Creepy” Advertising, Video and (D’uh) Making Money

Live from the offices of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the
trade association for interactive marketing in the United States, Dorian Benkoil of Teeming Media sits down for live video discussions with IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg, Magnify.net CEO Steve Rosenbaum and Blip.TV co-founder and COO Dina Kaplan.


We’re excited to do our first show from the IAB offices as part of our new partnership with the organization. We’ll first sit down with IAB president and CEO Randall Rothenberg to get his take on why “advertising is creepy,” as the IAB says in its new campaign to fend off privacy legislation, and talk about other industry trends and news. Then we’re joined by the founder and head of video platform Magnify.net, Steve Rosenbaum, and Dina Kaplan, co-founder of Blip.TV. We’ll talk about what is and isn’t working in video, about trends in curation and aggregation, details of sponsorship and revenue, and, of course your questions.

Plus, as always, Dorian’s “Shallow Thoughts” on the media, and recent coverage and interviews from industry trade shows.

And, of course: your questions. Send some now and sign in to get an email reminder before the show is live, December 9, 11:30 a.m. ET.

Register now to ask questions and get in on the discussion right away.

Bing and Google Go After Each Other With Ads

Trying to woo News Corp. isn't the only way Bing is taking it to Google. They're also placing ads on the Google site. Looking recently for a restaurant to have a business lunch at in New York, I noticed when I searched on Google Maps that Bing had placed an ad there.

And when I went to Bing, guess what? Google was doing the same.

(By the way, my search was a little too "natural language" for both sites. But that's a different story.)


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Women and Social Marketing

"We're seeing a divide right now of where the women are leaping ahead of the brand and the brands are struggling to find how best to interact with them."

From Social Network Branding Fails to Sway Female Purchasing

Testing CUNY's New Business Models with Adjusted Assumptions

My poking and probing shows that when the assumptions are changed to less optimistic but still reasonable scenarios, the models can swing to much lower profit levels or even losses.

My latest Poynter e-Media Tidbits column

Being Social With Architects

I was invited to be on a panel for the architecture group AIA last night, and found that not only is the Haworth Showroom a very nice venue, but also that architects, like many, are grappling with how to use social media, what one can do to raise one's image, get new clients, follow the "rules" and otherwise figure out how to works.

Some of the main points I raised were that it's important to experiment, cultivate and get better over time ("iterate" is one way of putting it). One audience member asked how to use social media like Twitter, which is quick and short bursts persistently, in the course of managing long-term architectural projects. "In the course of managing the project, don't you find yourself considering a lot of things, checking in often as you make decisions?" I replied, "Wouldn't it be nice if you could, for example, Tweet that you were considering a certain wood for a certain type of situation, say a damp environment, and get feedback from others in the community about woods they'd used that were particularly effective for your situation? Or cement. Or doorknobs." He made the point that you will not only gain interested followers who want to learn about your projects, and potentially pick up new clients that way, but also get "inbound marketing" intelligence that may be useful to your business.

Adam Lutz, facilities manager of Google, talked about how a niche brewery instilled passion among avid fans by being very participatory in social media. Mike Plotnick, Media Relations Manager, at the architecture firm HOK talked about how they'd started HOKLife and let 30 staff members talk about what they were doing around the world -- and that sometimes it was a risk (they said things in ways that weren't quite "on message") but ultimately the brand was carried by them,a nd spread more. Jessica Sheridan, Editor-in-Chief of eOculus, talked about how she'd found sources, stories and more on Twitter and other social media.

You can see more coverage by looking on Twitter at the hashtag #aianysocialmedia.

Ad Spend Down, IAB Says. Is it Right, Though?

Over at PaidContent, David Kaplan writes of the new IAB report saying ad spend is down more than 5 percent. Online.

But I ask (becuase PaidContent belched my comment): "Are other things that are now marketing but not ads in the traditional sense included in this?

"Virtual goods, Facebook fan pages, content widgets, dedicated blogs, YouTube videos, sms text messages, outdoor ads on digital signage, etc, etc.

Cuz if we count those, bet we'd see more money moving to digital than ever."

Meanwhile, Over at Tumblr

I've been doing a lot of posting of things I find interesting, and excerpts of my own writing and projects, on my Tumblog. In fact, I may move this blog to Tumblr.

Women and Social Marketing

"We're seeing a divide right now of where the women are leaping ahead of the brand and the brands are struggling to find how best to interact with them."

From Social Network Branding Fails to Sway Female Purchasing

Jason Calacanis' Rant Against Apple

UPDATE: Managed to get Jason to talk to me for a few minutes at the conference. He explained his position in some more detail on why Apple needs to open up -- and developers need to insist they do so -- talked about his Blackberry vs. his iPhone, and also about the "cognitive dissonance" of presenting a bunch of iPhone apps, then slamming Apple in the same breath.

Digiday's conference organizer said they'll have the video of his keynote presentation up tonight I'm hoping there'll be video, but for now, here's the notes I quickly took on a rant by Jason Calacanis against Apple at the DigiDay: Apps conference in New York. (Twitter tag is #digiday.)

In a nutshell, if you don't want to have to plow through all the below: He says Steve Jobs wants to control the network, devices and the desktop, that he is working against the four decades of work spent to build the open Web, and that application developers should say "stop, enough" stop building apps for iPhones that Apple can reject without reason or explanation. Stop them and demand openness. You should, he says, be able to get any app or platform you want on your iPhone, a device you paid for and for which you pay handsomely for andata access. (Some pointed out the inherent contradition in how Calacanis prefaced his remarks by talking first about how Mahalo, his current company, is developing an iPhone app, and recommended about 10 other such apps, from geo-location to find the nearest Starbucks without a line, to getting fake calls from celebrities to impress your friends.)

Now, his words, in rough notes typing as he talked:

Apple folks are "dictators, taste makers and control what we do ... We shouldn’t allow that... if the poeple in this room, and others, say ‘enough, the platform shoudl be open. lf people want to load an application, they shoudl be able to go to starbucks.com, they should be able to go to the website and load it'... but because steve jobs builds beautful, oh, devices, they get away with it .... i’m a capitalist ... people in china are geting paid nothing to make those phones, and all the profits are here. ... however it’s now getting to the point where it’s anti-competitive, and it's going to hurt the industry. AT&T is screwing you by not letting you do what you want with your data mix. However, we’re all schmucks becuase ... if i told you when you bought your car you could only drive it a certain way at certain times on certain roads... you have google voice but you were not allowed to use, cannot attach to phone to laptop ... on computer can put any browser you want. but on iPhone can’t.... iphone is “the greatest device ever made”... (kisses his iphone) ... i love it, but just cuz i love it doesn’t mean that i am going to extend the evil empire from here onto my tablet (which apple is building -- makes case software on tablet will be iphone, not open comptuer OS). and he’s only going to stop when he gets to your desktop. .....steve jobs is jesus, mohamed in our industry. however, we’re letting him get away frith murder. take all the progress in tech industry over 4 decades and reverse it. o’wise, ev’y time.. if you can order your lunch thru any web page, then why can’t you order throuh the browser on here (holds up iphone -- because, he says, they have a patent on an ordering technology)? apple, steve jobs in collusion to shut down all 3 layers at 1ce. network shoudl be open and free, appl’n, device. ... they're slowing down the industry (by kicking people out of apps store)... "

Answers to questions:
"Microsoft has gotten their ass kicked by the internet, so they've taken some steps to be more open. does that mean x-box? no. but otherwise more open source becuase they have to ... google uses all open source tech'y ... allow exporting of ev'g they do ... they scary from standoint of how good they are ... Google has no lockin (you can use Bing or Yahoo) with exception of privacy. hold our data for 18 months. we should have the right to remove it. apple and google behave better in Europe... in australia pick iphone, pick provider. ... it's heartbreaking to watch all the work and sweat of makign the internet open taken away by steve jobs) ... closed is never as good as open. .. facebook, which is partly closed, and apple, will make us realize that.

Twitter as News. Seriously

I met an ad exec at a dinner I attended last week (thrown by Pepsi as a "thank you" for a I and others had worked on for Internet Week) who told me he followed the Tour de France via the racers' Twitter feeds and that by the time he got traditional news reports, they seemed stale, old and less immediate. Why, he said, would he need regular news reports distilling the riders' feelings and thoughts when they'd already shared them in Tweets.

Likewise, he followed an astronaut who had Twittered from space, and, he said, learned a lot he'd never known -- such as the fact that the astronaut was not allowed to drive for three days after coming back to earth -- by reading traditional news reports.

Something to think about if you're in the news business. If your sources don't need you as an intermediary to reach the people who are interested in what you have to say, what does that do to the news biz?

Twitter as News. Seriously

Entrepreneurial Journalism Tips

From RJI Collaboratory, where I'm contributing: Ads are not so good for cashflow (a finance term that basically means real money you receive and spend) because of a few factors: You get paid AFTER you’ve spent money to deliver the service, the money can be hard to collect and campaigns are easy to cancel. In sum, ad revenue comes in late and can be unreliable. You’ll want to explore other ways of bringing in income.

Direct selling such as subscriptions and e-commerce can help, beyond being an additional bit of money. Selling directly, subscriptions, products, and so on, can be a more reliable source of income over time. You often control more of the process, and have broader leverage in determining what to charge. Your products and services can be rare or unique -- something someone can get only through you. From a financial perspective, people pay upfront, before you deliver the good or service, so you have the cash to finance your operations.

Bullet points are in the piece linked above.

NPR's Demographic Split?

Rafat Ali, on PaidContent, points out that the new iPhone app to listen to public radio could be a game changer, transforming the model of local public radio listening to a more national, a la carte one. There's also some back and forth about whether the app -- which will eventually allow contributions from the phone, and may be available on other phones, too -- will hurt radio stations by removing local loyalties, or help by encouraging more contributions.

I see another issue: will the new app cause a split in the public radio audience, between the have-mores and have-lesses? As I wrote in a comment:

Those who use smartphones will tend to be of a higher socioeconomic status, and probably be younger, than those who listen only over the air. Phone listeners will get a richer, more diverse set of programming, and at some point may be more highly valued than those who listen only over the air. It’s analogous to cable vs. broadcast, and how the broadcast-only audience is less valued, commercially, per viewer.

Public radio may find some dissonance between its mission to serve all and its desire to target higher revenues. The public radio listener demo tends to be a higher educated and desirable economic group than radio listeners overall, but what happens if that public radio group gets split into the have mores and the have-lesses?

Ads in Blogger

After publishing previous post got this ad. Something new, it seems.

Thoughts on the Call for WashPost and Times to Charge

Here's a roundup of David Simon's essay in the Columbia Journalism Review, calling for the New York Times and Washington Post to put up a pay wall on Sept 1, in context, and what it means for someone trying to be an entrepreneurial journalist.

For the Business Assessment Area of the Reynolds Journalism Institute's "Collaboratory" project.

Hulu's Blocking is Not a Strategy

Just posted on Bob Garfield's TheChaosScenario.net:

By Dorian Benkoil

It’s odd that Hulu doesn’t let Boxee easily put up its material. Boxee, if you’re not one of the swelling ranks of digerati, is a venture capital-backed open-source software project formed by an Israeli former military computer coder and his friends to let folks listen to, watch and tell each other online about all the videos, music, and photos they’re consuming. Boxee, which is in its early “alpha” testing stage and already claims 500,000 members, wants to create a “lean-back” experience for those who want to use a remote to easily click on whatever they want -- Netflix on Demand, iTunes music, YouTube, family photos from the laptop -- in a seamless interface that looks nice and avoids tons of mouse clicks and typing. And to do it on a TV, if they want, by hooking up the computer to the TV. Boxee, which by Fall plans to emerge in “Beta”, has been working on deals with various TV-connected device makers (like Roku and AppleTV) to bring their software to even more of the masses.

Hulu, of course, is the joint venture of three major TV networks to put their programming online, and, in the process, serve lots of high-priced ads in a format that can’t be skipped or TiVO’d or otherwise avoided. (Word is, that at least some Hulu ads, on a per-viewer basis, as of last month started costing more than similar ones on TV.) But for some reason, Hulu doesn’t want Boxee to make Hulu programming (everything from movies to popular shows like The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives and The Daily Show) available on Boxee. Apparently, the masters of Hulu don’t want to make the site readily available on Boxee because not only do they lose some control, but also because people might then be more inclined to watch TV programming via Hulu rather than over their cable, on-air or satellite boxes, for which the TV network folks spend tons of time and money negotiating rights, deals and so on. Boxee does have a workaround -- you can put Hulu’s RSS feed in your Boxee profile and get at least some of the programs that way. It’s more cumbersome than the Boxee grid that shows little expandable squares amalgamated on a screen.

But there’s another really easy way to watch Hulu on your TV: plug the laptop into your TV without worrying about Boxee. I bought a $24 connector (Boxee CEO Avner Ronen quipped that I’d “overpaid”), and my children and I have watched tons of programs through the computer on our large-screen TV over our wireless home Internet network. I set up a mouse and speakers and everything, and many’s the time my children lie on the couch watching their favorite shows without going through our digital cable box. It took me a little time to rig up, but it was worth it to give them the access they wanted (which, by the way, is often commercial-free), whether over Hulu, Netflix-on-Demand, YouTube or whatever.

So, while I do understand the possible business rationales for Hulu telling Boxee to not put them in their easy-to-use grid -- they want to control the user interface, they want to be compensated, they don’t want cable TV providers like Time Warner and Comcast to think of them as facilitating an “end-run” -- it’s a short-term protective game for which there’s an easy workaround. It’s more a blocking maneuver to preserve an existing model than a real, long-term strategy that could succeed over time to get loyal Hulu viewers.

Ronen, who’s very plain spoken and always willing to say things that will cause heartburn to traditional media execs, talked about some of this on my show Naked Media last week, appearing with former HuffingtonPost CEO Betsy Morgan. He said he’s talking to everyone he can at whatever network but gets tied up in a lot of wrangles over rights and such. His ultimate goal, he said, is to be the software that drives any and all connected video devices, whether the Roku box or a set-top cable box. And, he says, Hulu should be glad to be in the Boxee system, because his users will send them more traffic, and get more viewers for their programming and ads. He’s agnostic as to the model of the provider -- if someone can only access programming via subscription, he’s happy to provide it that way. He says that by early next year Boxee hopes to even have a payment system in place. The episode of Naked Media will be available on demand soon, and in iTunes.

My Visit With Walter Cronkite

I was sitting with my dad in Walter Cronkite’s basement office, with a slat of a window above Walter’s head that seemed to show the feet of passersby on the sidewalk of, I think, west 57th Street in Manhattan. We were chatting about this and that -- I don’t remember what, really, except that it was a quieter version of the Cronkite voice we knew from TV. But his posture was slumped back in his desk chair, relaxed and very far from the lean forward erect posture of the newsman who’d anchored the news. (Someone once pointed out to me, as have many publicly, that there’s more than a little performer in anchormen, and the trick is to make it look natural.) It was, perhaps, the early 1980s. I don’t think Cronkite was still anchoring, but he still had a position at CBS. I don’t know how my dad befriended Cronkite -- probably when dad was working for CBS radio in the 1960s, producing stories about space launches at Cape Canaveral.

It was a sunny, warm day in New York, and suddenly, Cronkite looked at his watch, startled, grabbed a metal briefcase, stood quickly, and told us us to follow him onto the street. At the nearby intersection, 10th Avenue, I believe, he opened the briefcase, pulled out what looked like film negative strips -- they were in fact light filters -- handed some to my dad and me, and proceeded to hold his own up and look at the sun. There was that day a partial solar eclipse, which one could look at through the filters safely, and that no one but an enthusiast would have known about let alone bothered to see. As people passed us on the street, a couple seemed to realize it was Cronkite and do a double-take. But it is New York, and people often leave the famous alone here. He was eager and excited, almost boyishly so, to see the sun with a slither blocked by the moon. When it was over -- just a minute or two -- he took back the filters, put them in his case, and walked briskly back to the CBS studios building.

I’m told I met Cronkite a number of times, as a little boy at one of the space launches, and elsewhere. I think he might have come to our apartment in Greenwich Village once. But watching the eclipse is the one I really remember, and one I thought I’d share because it’s a small view into the man distinct from the other obit coverage we’ve been reading, and a story that I don’t think others, besides my dad, could tell.

Coming Soon to The Chaos Scenario

Starting soon, I’ll be contributing to Ad Age columnist, On the Media host and industry gadfly commentator Bob Garfield’s new “Chaos Scenario” Web project, TheChaosScenario.net. More than an attempt to sell his book of the same title (which it is), it’s an attempt to do something important, at the very least chronicle the severe disruption that’s wracking media across disciplines. There are no safe corners I can think of. Even once-protected pockets like paid cable TV are trying new models, such as TV Everywhere (a significant part of the discussion yesterday with Avner Ronen, CEO of Boxee and Betsy Morgan ex- of HuffPost, on Naked Media -- on demand version will be live soon).

The creative work is harder and more crucial than ever, the barriers to entry lower, the opportunities to block competition or claim exclusive turf more challenged than ever. Anyone can come along and, with hard work, smarts and energy, launch a blog or VLOG or Facebook page or YouTube channel that picks off a choice portion of your audience. True, they may not have the brand or the distribution or the heft -- yet. And major media companies are acquisition engines as much as anything, these days. Just type in the name of any major player and variants on the word “acquire” to see how much news pops up. But the protected environments that let TV and newspaper and magazine salespeople demand high fees and continued business from marketers, as well as pricey subscriptions and per-use fees from consumers, are eroding fast.

Check out Bob’s video, from his site, for more.

Did Times Sell WQXR for Money or Strategic Reasons

Obviously, getting $45 million for its radio station WQXR can't help but help the New York Times' debt-laden bottom line. That seems to be the way the company is couching it if you believe PaidContenet's reporting, though a reporter from WNYC (which purchased WQXR, a classical music station) said Times CEO Janet Robinson told
him that interpreting the sale as being because the Times is in financial trouble “is the wrong way to interpret this news”. The Times he quoted Robinson as saying, wants to focus on its core missions of news and digital information. (It's at about 1:55 in the audio on this piece.)

The staff memo sent from Robinson and publisher Arthur Sulzberger explains the deal as "another step in the realignment of our portfolio of properties and our initiative to reduce our debt"

So, I guess it's both.

Next Naked Media: Betsy Morgan, Boxee CEO Avner Ronen

Naked Media: Avner Ronen, Betsy Morgan

Avner Ronen, CEO of fast-growing media aggregation and social networking startup Boxee, doesn’t shy from speaking his mind — even when it gets him in trouble with major TV networks. Betsy Morgan knows TV networks from the inside — she led CBS News digital — and how to bring a startup to the next level, as the CEO of Huffington Post.

We’ll ask Avner and Betsy your questions as well as things on our minds, such as: Can Boxee negotiate the TV network demands and ongoing disputes with Hulu? What’s up with their recently-announced redesign and new features? Can Comcast’s attempts to challenge Hulu possibly succeed? Why did Betsy leave (was she really booted?) the HuffPost and what’s next for her? Whither HuffPost now that a venture capital executive is in charge? And money money money: who’s making it, how to make it, and much much more.

Plus as, always, the innovative ideas and “aha” moments you can use, fun with Dorian’s “Shallow Thoughts,” and other recent coverage.

Register now to ask questions and get in on the discussion right away. You will also receive a reminder email to tune in for the live show the day before.

The Need to Generate One's Own Traffic

Today’s NYTimes story by former colleague Brian Stelter on the dismissal of WashPost columnist Dan Froomkin over, at least in part, the decline in traffic to his Web column got me thinking: Are we now in an era when newspaper columnists and maybe even regular journalists will be subjected to the same need to self-promote as book authors have labored under for years?

Book authors have long lamented that the only way to get a publisher to promote a book was if their name was already big enough that the promotion was a sure thing. It’s like the old joke about bank loans: The only way to get one is to prove you don’t need it. In effect, authors are forced to use their slim advances and boundless energy to try to push a book over the top, see if they can jack up sales, get enough interest and notice to get that second deal on better terms, and whatever other benefits the book may reap (speaking and consulting gigs, sales of T-shirts and coffee mugs...). The new tools authors have to promote -- free or cheap social media feeds, email blasts, Web tools and more -- gives them the ability to do it better than ever.

But newspaper columnists have not been used to the need for such self-promotion. Would Froomkin’s fate have been different, for example, had he garnered a bigger Twitter and Facebook followings (4,621 and 1,880 as of this moment), so that he could have driven more traffic to his WashPost columns online?

This logic is even trickling up to Hollywood stars. By pushing hard to break the million-follower level on Twitter, Ashton Kutcher surely has given himself some buffer against the whims of a Hollywood executive who might be able to let him go on allegations of a lack of fan base or similar excuse. In a system when the stars, not the studios and not even their agents, can “own” their public, they’re empowered -- but they also have to do the work to cultivate that following.

Shallow Thoughts: Comcast's Challenge to Hulu

From Naked Media: Comcast's confusing deal to try to challenge Hulu with a new paid service:

Walls or No

Wore this T-Shirt for "Shallow Thoughts" on Naked Media today. Relevant to the discussion on magazines. (Click the shirt for the whole Tweet on the T-shirt.)

The Media Consumer's Bill of Rights

I told my guests today on Naked Media, designer Roger Black and Complex Media CEO Rich Antoniello, that I had started to draft a (half-joking) “media consumer’s bill of rights.” They asked me to share it with them. I have. And here I’m sharing it with you:


  • TO NEVER FEEL GOUGED FOR THE MEDIA I PAY FOR ($20 for a CD? $50 for a DVD? When you’ve already made a big profit and it costs you maybe a couple bucks to manufacture, distribute and promote? C'mon.)
I’m sure I’ll think of more -- next time I’m trying to hook up a Windows laptop to an Apple computer and play something back on a set-top box with some sort of S-video to-coax cable work-around, while cussing and twitching.
But I’d love to hear yours.

PS The media professional's bill of rights, I guess, would be the right to break any and all of the above any time the professional can find a business model to justify it; alienated consumers notwithstanding.

Privacy Bill In the Works to Require Opt-In for Cookies

Members of congress are preparing legislation that could severely impact how advertisers and others gather information and present material on the Web and through other digital means. The legislation would restrict the ability to place third party cookies* on the computers of those visiting Web sites, according to industry veteran Dave Morgan, speaking at the Advertising Research Foundation's Audience Measurement 4.0 conference today.

"Congress’ position is that consumers are not appropriately aware of what is being done on their machines, and the use of cookies delivered by a third party is something consumers have not been appropriately informed of," said Morgan, who oversees privacy initiatives for the Internet Advertising Bureau and is CEO of the startup Simulmedia. He was in Washington last week talking to FTC officials and congressional staff, he said. "Congress’ default position is that that will require an opt-in," to serve a third-party cookie. Rep Rick Boucher, who is working on the bill said he could get it through the House, that it would be passed, and that he was willing to work with the industry and consider self-policing measures, Morgan said.

But, Morgan said, the industry has to move fast, and legislators are skeptical of the industry's ability to police itself. There have, he was told, been many abuses. He said he'd had a conversation with a senator from the state of Washington who had worked in the industry who understood that cookies are relatively innocuous but "her constituents don't believe that." Washington senator Maria Cantwell worked at RealNetworks for a time after losing a congressional seat in 1994 and prior to joining the Senate.

Morgan said the tactic the industry could best use at this point was to approach legislators and inform them of the jobs created by the industry, $300 billion worth, according to a Harvard study he cited. Morgan previously led advertising company 24/7 Real Media and behavioral ad targeting firm Tacoda, sold to AOL for some $250 million. The technologies of the companies relied heavily on cookies. Morgan has often been called upon to answer concerns about user privacy.

NOTE: I videotaped Morgan after the panel and will run it during the next Naked Media (noon ET, June 30). along with Morgan defending and Nielsen Online's CEO calling him to task for saying Twitter can be used a measurement tool that could compete with Nielsen. The video will later be available on demand at NakedMedia.org.

= = = =
*Cookies, pieces of code, are key to understanding Web users' behavior through everything from ad serving to the number of pages seen and paths taken through a Web site. Third-party cookies are those placed on a users' machine by someone other than the Web site the user is visiting, for example via an advertiser or partner. Currently, such cookies are served automatically and data collected that way as well, unless the user chooses settings in a Web browser that block them, or chooses to actively delete them.

iPhone Sells (Despite Reports it Didn't)

So, the analysts said the iPhone 3GS didn't sell. Then Apple released data that said it did. I was at the Apple store on 14th St in Manhattan on Saturday morning before it opened at 9a. Here's the pic.

Google Not Enemy, Not Friend

Jeff Jarvis says Google is not the enemy but for many it’s also clearly not a friend. Panelists yesterday at Digital Hollywood’s Advertising 2.0 conference cited $Goog for creating an environment in which consumers expect that information and entertainment will be free, and for confusing the idea of capturing and engaging consumers, getting them involved in a marketing message, brand and the like. “Google is the culprit, they’re not interested in engagement,” said Jonathan Klein, CEO of Getty Images. “You come in, and then go out.”

This, just a couple days after The Wall Street Journal’s article on the Justice Department taking a closer look at Google’s deal with publishers to put books online, in the context of a broader push toward antitrust investigations in the technology industry. Clearly, a portion of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s job is going to be focused on battling Washington, and wooing the advertising and publishing industries. And, of course fending off competition from a host of companies and products like Microsoft’s Bing that are, in the words of Warren Lee, Venture Partner at VC firm Canaan Partners, trying to “out-Google Google.”

For most though, though, Google is simply an “is.” It has to be dealt with and understood. Its analytics are useful for those who want at least an entry-level solution for Web analytics. Its search, and sometimes its ads, and office tools can be used to good effect -- again, especially for those who don’t need large enterprise solutions, or don’t have large staffs to build them. It has a valuable, if not highly diversified, business model, and a model that is not the panacea for media, but rather a component of some media businesses.

Video View from IAC at Digital Hollywood's Advertising 2.0

Sometimes the view is worth sharing, as much as the content. From the 9th floor room where sessions were being held at the IAC building on New York's far west side.

Lack, Wolff, Go at It

Bloomberg LP's Andrew Lack holds up Michael Wolff's 1999 book "Burn Rate," which he would read from later, in part to chide Wolff, at the Digital Hollywood Advertising 2.0 summit in New York. Hashtag #dhadv on Twitter has some running commentary on their vigorous back and forth.

Wolff's take, largely, is that old media (Bloomberg included) is on the outs, and won't survive. Lack says that quality -- Bloomberg, NY Times, etc. -- will and must survive and that those businesses Wolff is writing off still exist, strongly. Lack of course is the former president of NBC News. Bloomberg hired him to oversee Bloomberg News' radio, television and interactive divisions, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Journalist, Editor, Ad (Wo)Man

Yes, journalism and marketing are converging, sharing the same terms and concepts. Editorial icon Tina Brown, journalist-turned-entrepreneur John Harris of the Politico and Tina Sharkey of BabyCenter were very comfortable at Digital Hollywood’s Advertising 2.0 conference today talking up the value to advertisers of their sites, and their willingness to go well beyond the banner ad to try to integrate advertising in more creative and interesting ways (though Brown and Harris were careful point out that advertising initiatives were labeled as such). “The muscles you use on the editorial side,” help with advertising, Harris said, in helping a message “break through” to the audience. “We see the journalistic and advertising sides as two forces galloping together.”

“There was a time when advertising staff was not allowed to step into the newsroom,” observed moderator Sarah Ellison of The Wall Street Journal. “Obviously we’ve come a very long way from that point.” Brown noted that in the magazine world, as editor of such leading publications as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, she was always comfortable working with the publisher to “create an environment where advertisers want to be.”

But she seemed to take umbrage at the idea of marketers trying to do their own journalism (such as this recent Pepsi-led project for Internet week, for which I was editor in chief). To them, “I would say good luck,” Brown said, defending journalism and saying it takes real skill to practice it, and to edit it. (Assuming, it seemed that those who practice it on behalf of Pepsi are not journalists.) I had asked her how she would convince an advertiser to put ads on her site, if they could go to their target audience directly without her Daily Beast as an interlocutor. Sharkey, who is not and has not been a journalist, acknowledged that it was all a mishmash, very confusing with “marketers as publishers, publishers are marketers, brfands are agencies, agencies are brands ... it’s like ‘Who’s on First.’ “

News and Advertising Converge

It's fascinating how the language of news and advertising are converging. Both sides now are talking of the need to "engage" their audiences, stop preaching from on high and include others in "the discussion" or "the conversation." Straddling the two worlds, as I do, I see them coming closing together than ever, rather than being diametrically opposed universes, as they used to be.

Does Huffington's Argument Hold Oil?

Arianna Huffington was very provocative yesterday at the Mirror Awards, where she gave a keynote address and accepted the Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award (for which Nora Ephron, introducing her, joked that Arianna she wasn't old enough). The Huffington Post founder not only answered critics in saying she has not been killing newspapers and that she pays journalists -- issues you can read about elsewhere -- but she also likened those who would charge for news to those who are putting up protective walls in other industries. If I heard correctly (I'm trying to get a transcript -- silly me for Twittering while she spoke, instead of taking notes or running a recorder), she talked of oil companies that try to tamp down on gas mileage advances.

But how are those who wish to charge for news are hurting the industry? For, if they're wrong, the market will prove them so. There's not, to my knowledge, a push for government regulation to force sites to pay for news, or make consumers pay for something they don't want. Sure, there are those who want to get paid for the content they produce -- that gets into issues of fair use, and fairness, in general.

Still, if if someone wants to try to charge for news they produce, why stop them from doing so? It's just another business model. There's probably room for that way and Huffington's

Tweets From the Mirror Awards

... for which I was one of the judges. These are my tweets from there.

Huff: news and opinion must be shared, supp'd by advertisg. Likens pay wall to protectionist tactics in other industrries. #mirrors

Huff: as long as there r people our generation there will be newspapers. #mirrors

Huffington: Arthur Sclessinger and Nora Ephron were my first bloggers. Both said 'i don't get it". Now over 3000 bloggers. #mirrors

Ephron: 1200 channels and not 1 to watch. 1 reason obama won was Huff's enthusiasm. She dragged many into the future w/ her. #mirrors

Nora Ephron cracking up audience w/ jokes about Arianna. Sleeping w/ Al Frankin, dating the same man, "daffy", amazing 2 c a funny Republican ...

To me, the real recognition of the honorees is how much their work is blogged, twittered, friend-feeded, forwarded, linked etc #mirrors (This was my, Dorian's, opinion)

Bill Moyers can't present Arianna Huffington her award because of a medical procedure #mirrors

Obama for America accepts award, says election was first time bottom-up. Really? They taught us that's democracy #mirrors

David Carr: media story used to seem silly, but now it's a story about the crucial #mirrors @carr2n

Meanwhile, Over at Internet Week

I'll be doing a lot of work on Internet Week in New York, this week, at the Pepsico sponsored site covering the events -- I'm editor in chief for the project.

Here's a post I wrote from the Conversational Marketing Summit hosted by Federated Media about how the wall's are coming down between advertising and editorial.

Is 'Free' The Right Price for News?

Tad Smith, the CEO of Reed Business, home to dozens of publications including Variety, Broadcast and Cable, and Multichannel News last week on CNBC questioned the idea that “free” is the best price for media. “Price communicates a lot of value, and when it’s free, it really says it’s not worth anything,” he said, also noting that we’re conditioned to believe, “you get what you pay for.”

In another part of the show, not in this linked video, he said that Reed is considering charging for its publications that are currently free online.

What do you think? Can ads, alone, support a news operation? What are the other means to doing so -- subscription, e-commerce, events, and so on. Should you charge -- especially if your site is for a limited audience defined either by geography or subject? How can you figure it out before taking the first steps?

Log on and share your thoughts here. The Reynolds Journalism Institute's Business Assessment group is coming up with pointers.

The Business of News - Can You Help?

Over at the Collaboratory, a project of the Reynolds Journalism Institute, I'm putting together pointers on what makes journalism a business today -- how can someone, for example, evaluate whether a project is viable: is there enough ad revenue, other revenue streams, what are the costs of staffing, technology and so on.

Here's the link. Love to have your input, thoughts, and experience.

Naked Media Measurement Jingle (and Show)

And the show, with Jon Gibs of Nielsen, and Todd Juenger of TiVo, talking about the ins and outs of media measurement.

The Value of a User

Check out this chart, on what makes a user more valuable, plus a presentation, explaining  the"Virtuous Cycle": How to create value in digital media." It's on Teeming Media, here.

To Build a Better Trade Show

I was recently asked by the good folks at The Hired Guns for "blue sky" thoughts on what might make a trade show or conference work better, in the future. It seems that people attending these days aren't getting enough to justify the couple thou it can cost to attend, and the sponsors and exhibitors and speakers are generating the interest they would like. Maybe the typical "panel speaks, then some networking happens in little segments" format is a bit tired.

I asked "how blue sky do you want? Star ship Enterprise holodeck? MIT Media Lab? Something else?" And was told to go with the Media Lab and maybe some more pragmatics. So here, with a little editing, is what I submitted, for all to share. Love to have your thoughts, as well, through this, Twitter (@dorianbenkoil) or, if you can access it, directly into my biochip implant.

What would, both in technology and other ways of conceiving, make conferences, events, trade shows that much more effective?

Conference/Trade show, Blue Sky thoughts:
  • Equip conference goers with a smart phone app that allows them to interact with each other at the conf across sessions, monitor the session they want, tap into Twitter feeds, etc. Later, aggregate those communications, and combine with Twitter hashtags and other parsing and sorting mechanism, to create an intelligent cloud of info that will inform coverage of the conf. Hook the app up to a private social network for cross-platform aggregation.
  • Enable GPS monitoring of above for a geographic overlay.
  • Equip conference goers with “ear-cams” small mounted cameras (and mics, perhaps) that record everything each of them see. Aggregate that video in a rich chat platform that allows someone to select an individual’s video. Allow those who pay to attend the conference special abilities to slice, dice, parse and access the videos both in real time and later. (This could also offer sponsors a further opportunity of a more packaged video product, honing in on their specific interests and target group.
  • Cameras in the hands of all, aggregated in a video chat displayed on site, and integrated with outside video, for a flexible, video chat conference that those in the panel can also interact in real time. Similar to above, but minus the "ear cam".
  • Audience cams. Point a handful of cameras at the audience, remote-controlled. Use these later, more packaged, as a service to sponsors, speakers, etc., to gauge the reactions to specific speakers, presentations, etc.
  • Allow remote attendees to select at will from an array of cameras, audio, etc. Aggregate it with Twitter and any other feeds, coverage, etc.
  • Have goers volunteer to be part of an attendee panel (panel in the media-measurement, not conference sense). Monitor their media consumption and communication before and after the show to see how the show influences it.
  • Rather than separate SF and NY and LA and Boston and ... conferences, have one, but conduct them with virtual rooms, so they interact with each other in real time. Today, teleconferencing and Second Life. Tomorrow, virtual chambers, holo-deck like, as the one that’s being developed at Media Lab. This is not a stunt, but rather a real-time interaction and a way to get the geographically influenced ideas cross-pollinating.
  • Discussion turned inside-out, where the participants are mic’d and the panelists circulate among them.
  • Panel interaction with Twitter (and any other real-time chat mechanism). Those on stage are ENCOURAGED to tweet, photograph, video, etc., for a multilayered portrayal of the event, and interaction with people in a more multi-dimensional way than panel speaks, question’s asked, panelists respond. So, for example, someone watching could see not just a camera pointing at the panel with that audio, but also click to see a camera of what a panelist sees, read his/her tweets, and so on.
  • Those at the event are tasked with specific brainstorming, and in breakout groups devise solutions, virtually, on site and virtual shared environments. EG, the question of the day can be “how do we come up with financial models for journalism — in 2 hours come up with a spreadsheet and mockups. Go group.” Or “Here’s the product. Spread it virally. Prove the concept. Go.”
  • My friend Luke Haseloff has suggested that events, rather than allowing people to rush the stage to talk to speakers, put the speakers quickly at round tables where they can lead a sort of after-panel discussion.
What else? What other ideas for panel/conference/discussion that will inspire and bring this all to the next level, with or without technology?

More Ways Nielsen May be Missing It on Twitter

Not only do Nielsen stats saying Twitter has a hard time retaining users miss all those who use third party applications to Tweet, as Steve Safran notes, they also miss the mobile portion. Twitter, let's not forget, was initially devised as a mobile app whose founders discovered its power during an earthquake. Part of Twitter's beauty is its ability to let us communicate seamlessly across apps, platforms, handhelds, networks, etc. It's in my browser one moment, a mobile phone, next, a favorite app after that. Conceiving of the impact of a digital property as traffic to a Website under a specific URL is not very 2009. Web traffic, alone, misses a significant portion of the impact. Just ask Tweetdeck, Tweetie, or anyone who gets alerts and tweet via their mobile phone using the short code 40404.

Nielsen, in trying to get at Twitter's impact, compares its Web traffic to that of MySpace and Facebook, and retention of users at a similar stage in each company on their websites. But, today, making someone go to a specific site can in itself be considered a weakness -- a lesson Facebook appears to be learning with Facebook Connect and more open architecture that allows people to interact, at least some, "off-deck."

Each of these social networks is different, impactful in different ways. I discover musicians on MySpace, friends and colleagues on Facebook, colleagues and business leads on LinkedIn and news on Twitter. Each feels different, and attracts different crowds and different uses. As Twitter is unique in its use case,  stats that count only its website's traffic don't just miss the boat quantitatively, but there's also a qualitative disconnect.

I hope to explore this topic with Jon Gibs of Nielsen, when he's on Naked Media next month, along with Todd Juenger of TiVo.

An aside: It's incredibly frustrating that I have to go to a Facebook, or LinkedIn or any other page to communicate w/ my network(s), rather than being able to easily have it all in one place. (I am aware of one venture trying to let folks do it all through one interface -- I hope they get funding and come out of the box strong. And I hope their architecture is open.)

Larry Kramer: Another Financial News Venture

Larry Kramer, who founded Marketwatch and sold it to Dow Jones for $500 million, hints that he'll be getting back into the news business, maybe even financial and business news, in this segment of Naked Media.

To Be A Successful Entrepreneur

At the Entrepreneur's Week panel Translating Your Idea Into Reality at NYU's Tisch auditorium, heard some tips for entrepreneurs, some were typical, but with new nuance.

- Guard your cash. "Spend imagination,"where you can, instead of spending. Barter. Give options. (Steve Brotman, Managing Director at Greenhill SAVP talked of offering a landlord 50,000 options to save $2,000 - $3,000 a month on rent. "They don't know how much of the company that is," but they get excited for the chance to be involved.)
- Good advisers
- Get a “rock star” sales person. They’re very rare. Find one, pay him/her what they’re work.
- Don't keep the idea to yourself. Get it out there.
- Don't worry about lawsuits and be overly legalistic. When you're starting, and don't have $1/2 million or $1 million in assets, you won't likely be sued. A plain language agreement is often fine. Brotman said he knew he was going out of bounds to say this.
- Don't be greedy with your equity. Don't be stupid, but to get the right people give enough away to get them invested (and vested) in the project. This also Brotman, who said you could say to a top sales person, as an example, not necessarily literal: "If the company makes $5 million in revenue this year, I'll give you 10 percent."

(Here are some more I've written before, based on Naked Media.)

Crovitz, Brill in New Pay Journalism Project

Steve Outing today pointed me to Journalism Online, a new attempt to charge for journalistic content. The press release makes it seem they’ll be offering readers a way to pay one price and pick from among paid content they want, and publishers a chance to make their efforts available at a price point they choose. Users will be able to pick stories a la carte, or via subscription. The release frequently mentions newspapers, but also says there are talks with magazines.

The release says ads, alone, can’t and never have paid for quality journalism. Maybe not. And we’ll find out if J.O. is right that Americans will pay for journalism because they understand it needs to be supported. I’m not so sure. They will pay for convenience, ease of use, utility and access they wouldn’t otherwise have.

What will make this work, I think, is from the reader side:
  • if they can get what they want with ease
  • if the price point is low enough that convenience outweighs the desire to go hunting for the info elsewhere (think iTunes)
  • If there are enough publications available
  • if the content is not commoditized or the kinds of stuff available so many other places that it’s easy to find. (I doubt breaking news or big stories available all over the place will make much money.)

... and for publishers:
  • the ability to make additional incremental revenue from content they couldn’t get on their own.
  • strong Incentives to cooperate in the project rather than go it alone, as they’re so used to doing
    ease of installation and use
  • flexible pricing -- Journalism Online is promising to let publishers charge their own prices and adjust them.
  • data, which J.O. is also promising, to allow quick changes in pricing, story mix, etc. (“Journalism Online will provide reports to member publishers on which strategies and tactics are achieving the best results in building circulation revenue while maintaining the traffic necessary to support advertising revenue.”)
  • assurance their content won’t be pilfered, will be in an environment they can trust in every sense
  • enough revenue and revenue share that they’ll feel it’s a fair shake, that J.O. isn’t taking too much of a cut.

I can imagine some arduous negotiations with publishers, many of whom will take the position that their content is invaluable, deserves a higher percentage, and so on. J.O. will have to hold the line and figure out incentives, as well as, perhaps, cut some special deals for must-have publications. I also can’t help but wonder what scale Journalism Online needs to break even. It would seem to be a perfect model from their standpoint -- they are a platform, with relatively low cost, paying nothing to create content, and can scale at little incremental cost. If the application they provide goes on the publisher site, even easier for J.O. The only stipulation for publishers is that they charge for at least some of their content, meaning they can still make much of it free, and, presumably, get the benefits of linking, SEO and the like.

It will be a delicate and difficult balance among all the participants, and finding terms they all can live with. There will have to be adjustments over time. Other experiments along these lines -- including Congoo, in which I was a minor participant -- have not been overwhelming successes. Still, with Gordon Crovitz participating, it could work. He’s the former Wall Street Journal publisher who’s been lionized for helping build the WSJ.com brand to, maybe $100 million per year in subscriptions, a figure Larry Kramer mentioned on Naked Media yesterday (we’re promised the on demand version will be ready this week; check NakedMedia.org).

What media consumer isn’t enticed by the idea of paying one reasonable price and then getting whatever you want from, say, a swathe of subscription newspapers and magazines? This was an attraction of AOL in earlier days (they offered Time Inc. magazines through the service), and got them some added subscriptions. What if we could also add publications from Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst and others? What if it were also the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal? (But can J.O. really herd all these cats together?) J.O. will have to be significantly less expensive than existing aggregators like Factiva, as well. And, Crovitz had the WSJ to work with -- that’s was a preeminent must-have brand for a well-heeled, info-hungry mobile audience.

The other founders are Court TV and American Lawyer founder Stephen Brill, and former cable exec Leo Hindery.

Ask Larry Kramer - April 14 on Naked Media

I'll be hosting Larry Kramer, founder of Marketwatch, of CBS' digital media division and really smart media and money guy on the next Naked Media, Tuesday, April 14, from 12:00 - 1:00pm EST.

I'm really excited to have him as a guest. Got a question for him? Send it along in the comments, or email, Tweet, Link In, or mentally beam me through my dental filings with what you'd like to ask. And please watch. You can logon here, now for a reminder and to ask questions or chart directly on the Naked Media show.

It should be a great show. Larry's not only really smart, is not afraid to speak his mind.

Help Price 'Finance for Media Professionals'

It's surprising to me how difficult it can be not to produce a great seminar but rather to figure out how to price it. Pricing, of course, is a science in itself with people getting Phd's to figure out its ins and outs and teach it at prestigious business schools. My partner at Scribe Media, Peter Cervieri (a graduate of one of those schools), has written a very open post on the Scribe site talking about some discussions he and I have been having about how to price our 'Finance for Media Professionals' video course.

I'd be grateful for your feedback. The post is here. You can comment there or below.

We have to cover our costs, and also want to make the video as widely available as possible. We want to make at least some profit. Price it low, and we might sell more copies. Price it higher, and we may sell fewer but make more money. Those who attended the shoot told us they thought we could charge $149-$179.

Forum: How To Choose The Right Web Publishing Tool

In my partnership with BGV Media, I'll be helping out with a seminar at the Magazine Publishers of America next Tuesday in New York, being presented by Amy Webb of Webbmedia Group and lead author on our paper on Content Management Systems. She's great. Those attending the seminar also get half-off the paper.

Here's details, on the MPA site, where you can also register and pay.

A New Journalism Model - News in a ‘Search Economy’

Arianna Huffington, along with NYU professor Jay Rosen and others, are causing a buzz today with their announcement of a new HuffFund to support investigative journalism with $1.75 million in contributions from The Huffington Post (HuffPo) and multi-billion-wielding The Atlantic Philanthropies. “This nonprofit Fund will produce a wide-range of investigative journalism created by both staff reporters and freelance writers,” HuffPo chief Arianna Huffington writes. She writes, further, that this is an attempt to preserve investigative journalism and the crucial role it plays in democracy “during this transitional period for the media.”

It’s good she puts it that way - that the support is during a transitional period. It’s easy to fear that going hand-out to foundations becomes the way those working in the field come to think of as the natural way of things. Others have laid out some of the dangers: Foundations want control; they have specific missions that may be in conflict with the purity of purpose required of investigative journalism; they can be quasi-governmental, slow-moving and bureaucratic. Yet, one could raise equally challenging views of investigative journalism that’s sponsored by commercial interests. It’s hard to find any really good investigative pieces about real estate in any newspaper, reliant as they are on real estate advertising. It’s easy to find reporters and editors who will tell of pieces being tempered for reasons they believe have to do with the need to not offend a sponsor (a.k.a. funder). The ability to continue great journalistic work has relied largely on the strength of character of those doing that work, and their bosses -- anyone from executives of TV networks to the families that run great newspapers. Today, perhaps, that will include the Arianna Huffingtons, Atlantic Philanthropies and Knight Foundations of the world. (An aside: I haven’t seen much discussion of the Medicis and other benefactors who have facilitated creation of some of the great art of our civilizations. Perhaps there’s an analogy there.)

Within the foundation-supported model, the most powerful news organizations will be one(s) that move toward self-sustainability. Mixed revenue models-- without the need to call on the generosity of benefactors -- are surely the best for a number of reasons I won’t get into deeply here, but include everything from creating offsetting revenue streams that bring in different types of cash flows (advertising, subscription, products, events, etc.) to not relying on any one benefactor, so that even if one or the other revenue stream dries up or drops out the core project(s) can continue. Jeff Jarvis writes that what can make this work is the one-percent rule that works in a “gift economy”: If one percent of consumers will support a project, the project can be sustained, as for NPR and Wikipedia. If the one-percent can, ultimately, sustain the journalism without foundation input or control, great. But it doesn’t have to be a gift economy. I’d argue that the one-percent rule is analogous to marketing -- one percent or fewer of people who see a marketing message will take action that justifies the marketing spend. And in this instance the product, itself, is its own marketing message. There is not a need for a separate marketing budget or PR spend (see Fred Wilson's recent Tweet on Twitter and Etsy getting on CBS TV without PR agencies).

And just as the need for short-term profit should not drive a company to destroy its core businesses, the need for ad revenue should not allow a journalistic enterprise to gut its ventures. The effects of that kind of thinking and acting is evident today. We’ve seen weather and sports and tech news blown out while simple coverage of community school boards and local politicians languishes.

The structure of newspapers has not been born of editorial need or service to the communities that consume them but rather commercial convenience. While separate sections for Local, National, International and Opinion may be driven by news decision and interest, one could equally imagine a newspaper where clearly delineated opinion about any given topic appears next to the relevant news story (much as is done with links and feeds digitally) or in which car news and financial news appears on the same page, rather than in separate ‘auto” and “personal finance” sections that serve advertisers of those types of content. Sections have been created and blossomed in those way to support advertisers in each of those verticals. In re-imagining the news business, let’s also free our thinking, as Rosen has done, from the need to have news be created solely by “professionals,” and also from the need to structure news sections and pages according to preconceived notions of what a reader is interested in.

In a “search economy,” people will find and assemble what they want on their Facebook and DailyMe and Netvibes and Instapaper and whatever other pages according to their interests. Those interests create a powerful profile, and “opt-ins” that give clues as to what those folks might be willing to support through contributions, purchases, ad viewing and more. That can then support the journalism they want and need, and, for those willing to tap it while serving them, make the news self-sustaining.

Tweets R Me

I haven't been blogging a lot. I have been twittering (and doing stuff over at NakedMedia - NakedMedia.org.)

The tweets are on here, over in the right column.

Changes More Fundamental Than News

In Clay Shirky’s essay on what will sustain the news business, he writes this:

I don’t know. Nobody knows. We’re collectively living through 1500, when it’s easier to see what’s broken than what will replace it. The internet turns 40 this fall. Access by the general public is less than half that age. Web use, as a normal part of life for a majority of the developed world, is less than half that age. We just got here. Even the revolutionaries can’t predict what will happen.

Shirky goes on to frame today’s “experiments” -- Wikipedia, Craigslist -- as equivalent to experiments in the age of the Gutenberg bible that led to the reordering of civilization. (Widespread literacy ultimately led to the protestant reformation and doubts cast upon writings of the ancients, Shirky writes, quoting other scholars.)
Today’s experiments are many. We don’t often talk about the ones that have failed, though there are many more of those than the Googles, MySpaces, Craigslists or Wikipedias (assuming you’re willing to confirm them as successes, nascent though they may be). Even experiments that may prove to be economic failures -- there’s no guarantee that either Facebook or Twitter will become self-sustaining -- have been so disruptive as to rend the fabric of the previous media orders. They are bringing about new forms of communication, technology and interaction that are fundamentally changing human behavior. Those able to harness these forces are finding themselves armed with great power to sway people, and earn a few bucks. Just ask President Obama. LINK
We don’t know what experiments will bear fruit today. The foundation model, citizen-funded journalism, micro-payments to solo operators, advertisers, subscriptions for high-end information. We do know, as Bill Battino acknowledged as I held up the report his research team at IBM had produced that will be available Monday for free, that information may not want to be free but it is (genuflection toward Chris Anderson) moving in that direction.

I put this disruption of news against the backdrop of the severe disruption of a financial system whose reward system has for decades been based on scarcity, control of and limits to information (why do you think traders will pay $1,200 - $1,600 for a Thomson Reuters or Bloomberg terminal on their desks?). We see in the anger over the relatively paltry revelation of the AIG bonuses how clouded and guarded information is, how hard it is even for analysts poring over disclosure statements filed with the SEC to figure out exactly what’s going on. (A significant amount of my MBA coursework was spent on ferreting out the hidden morsels in annual and quarterly reports that corporate officers are legally bound to report but are trying through obfuscation to hide.)

Not only do I think the information disruption will be much farther and wider than to the news business, but I also think this pressure is going to lead to changes in the way we handle finance, perhaps business in general. Imagine if there were transparency in the investment banking, private equity and venture capital worlds. How much less of a margin would the people in those worlds make? How would it change behaviors if the arbitrage was open and visible to all?

When News Follows Advertising

Tune in tomorrow for live video of the media summit, with live interviews from Naked Media.

= = = = =

It was striking at the Media Summit in New York today how definitive the people on the future of advertising panel seemed compared to the more unsettled tone of the one on the future of news. The news people, from Vanity Fair writer and Newser.com co-founder Michael Wolff (“We just don’t know how to fashion our product” for the new market of news consumers) to Michael Oreskes of AP and ex- of The New York Times (he said there’s a debate about whether there’s even such a thing as journalism) to Dick Meyer of NPR ex of CBS News (who quoted Clay Shirky’s recent essay on disruption of the newspaper business and said we "don’t have a clue" what’s next), were all candid about their grasp for a business model, let alone an editorial process and structure that works to produce news and satisfy an audience today. (Related thoughts on the disruption being much further than for news, here.)

Meanwhile, the advertising and marketing panelists sounded like they knew the solution -- engage consumers in a conversation, be part of a discussion, don’t just bombard them with ad messages -- and were convinced they simply have to lead others in the industry (product managers, marketers, media buyers) to think on their scale and not be locked into old methodologies. Bob Jeffrey of JWT said it doesn’t matter how much is spent on a campaign, what matters is how much it can engage an audience. Carl Fremont of Digitas called for more “active listening," then a “proactive, reactive strategy" of messaging back to consumers by joining in conversations they are having (presumably in places like social networks). He said old models of pushing ads at people weren’t going to work, and that there would be more development of social applications that provide real value and get consumers to opt in. The panelists all agreed on convergence, and also seemed to think TV would make a comeback as it became more addressable through digital technologies.

A later conversation I had with IBM researcher Bill Battino, who moderated the ad panel, said that the clients -- the companies buying the advertising -- were often leading the charge, had combined what were formally separate and segmented advertising and marketing budgets into a more unified whole from which they could then address the challenge of reaching audience through a holistic rather than silo’d media view (display ads, here, direct marketing over there...).

Whatever the state of play between clients and agencies, there was general agreement on the need for entering the “conversation” with consumers, rather than hitting them with messages, to get people to engage, to use technologies to know more about audiences, and to be genuine in messages, seemed to get general nods of agreement. One would think the same might hold for news ; after all, what better way to get at what a news consumers want than to ask them and have them contribute? I’m loathe, hesitant to say the advertising people are farther along in understanding the ways out of the current morass more than those producing news. But I can say I’ve seen it happen before, where the advertisers adapt and adopt a technology (behavioral targeting comes to mind) well before it’s talked about as a way of delivering content.

Media Summit, New York

Check out the live stream of Digital Hollywood's Media Summit from McGraw Hill building in NY. We will be grabbing on-camera interviews as can, as well, for Naked Media, most with host Dorian Benkoil.

Check out stream and catch the interviews, here.

To Save Newspapers, Don't Restrict Others

Nathan Richardson, CEO of ContentNext, writes that newspapers, with old thinking, could learn something from Silicon Valley, and their attitude of sharing both ideas and information. Well written, and a little inside peak at when he was at the Wall Street Journal. But one part of it gave me pause:


Finally had a chance to read and consider this piece. Nicely written and reasoned, and even has some smiles. One portion gives me pause:

“Portals should agree to show search results only for the original sources of news content, as opposed to outlets that have repurposed that content.”

That kind of restrictive thinking seems fair at first glance -- after all, shouldn’t the one creating the content be the one who reaps the benefit? -- but it goes against the grain of the way it’s been done not just for the past 10 years of Web journalism, but for the past 40-50 years, with broadcasters and others picking up information, and, if fairly, attributing it to the original source.

Today’s model calls more for incentive than restriction. Perhaps we could allow for some kind of prioritization in the search algorithm for the originator of the content. And some sort of additional revenue to the creator, where there is a shared revenue scheme.

But by highlighting only the creator (which will often mean the large player), Google and the other search engines would be alienating a significant chunk of their constituency, favoring one business over another, and potentially violating tenets of free speech. For example, commentary on a piece of journalism or even pickup of a small portion of it might be fair use, and thus deserve to the be linked to from the search -- and something the searcher would want to see. If the algorithm excludes those results, because they weren’t from the originator of the content, it might be a disservice all around. (Not to mention that the original’s SEO ranking would suffer because of fewer links and accesses to it.)

A final thought: Where would PaidContent be had the system of excluding repurposed content been in place?

Like Minded Joking, Jarvis, and Ford

(From http://conversationagency.files.wordpress.com/2008/03/800px-the_homer_by_carlos_bisquertt.jpg )

When the Ford exec stood up and started talking all about social media at the Digiday Social conference, I tweeted a challenge to him: Sure, you’re tweeting with customers, and training your top execs who are learning all about social platforms, and relating personally with customers. But what about doing what Jeff Jarvis recommends in his new book, “What Would Google Do?”, namely, make cars a sort of blank canvas which every car buyer could customize?

Then he cracked the very joke I cracked on Naked Media’s “Shallow Thoughts” segment (which will be live on-demand soon), to poke a little fun at Jeff: The Homer Simpson vehicle, a really really expensive car with a jillion cupholders, would be the ultimate outcome. He sent me a link to a rendering of Homer’s dream-mobile. (My outline script is below.)

@DorianBenkoil We do listen to customers re car design, but we don't let them do design, or else: http://tinyurl.com/bpch8j

Of course, if Ford were truly Googly, maybe you couldn’t have to pay for the car at all, but every time you drove to a mall, you’d get a windshield full of ads the car’s brain though was relevant. Drop your wife at the lingerie shop? Here’s ads for pantyhose! Bring your husband to the gun store? Want some cheap bullets? Just click HERE for directions -- or better yet, let our Googly-mobile drive you there.

But though I admire the conversational tone the exec, Scott Monty, has in his Twitter feed, and believe the story he told that he’d swayed a mom whose son had been killed in an accident in a Ford vehicle, not to love the company but to feel better by Scott’s openness, I also wonder how much effect he can really have, at least today. His Twitter feed on the he spoke had 800-some followers, and while he wanted to reach people wherever they are -- from Twitter, to Flickr to YouTube to Tripit -- and said the right things about respecting the community (“It’s not going to be authentic if I drop into a knitting forum” where someone has happened to mention the need for a car), I also though the way he was framing it all was a bit conventional: Ford would spread its message, open up opportunities for people to create impressions and blog about the vehicles, get more of Ford’s message.

Still, the company was number twelve on the Virtrue list of most-social companies, and it is a start. I hope I get the chance to ask Monty about Ford as a social media company -- perhaps on Naked Media.

The Script, which is really more a loose outline I try to follow (and there's some fun cuts in the video, if you get to watch):

'What Would Google Do'"?

The book's been making the rounds, and is on the top ten of a few lists, and Jeff's been flogging it mercilessly.

His basic idea: everyone, every company -- restaurants, schools, banks -- should be (FINGER QUOTES) "googly" -- should let customers decide what they want, be in perpetual Beta testing m ode, constantly be improving their algorithm. Every company, Jeff says, should behave like what's now the world's largest advertising company.

One of Jeff's big examples is car companies. They should ask us what we want and let us build the cars we want. So what would happen if GM was all "Googly" and made cars the way Jeff says?
Well, sometimes, maybe, the cars -- which are in Beta, after all -- would just turn left for no reason, or stop dead in the middle of the freeway. But don't worry, it would start up again soon.
Sometimes, after driving your spouse to a store in the mall, little ads would pop up on the side of your windshield for whatever it was that your wife or husband was looking for.
Everyone would have their car customized, and we'd get a whole bunch of Homer Simpson, $84,000 vehicles with dozens of cup-holders. NO, wait. The cars would be FREE, and supported by ADvertising!
Of course, Jeff, I'm teasing. And I'm helping you promote your book. And, heck, if GM does what you say, and it works, then, HEY, they'll be saved, and we won't have to bail them out!!!

Aside (I just happen to have written about Jarvis a lot recently. I am not a stalker and will try to ween myself from it.)

Change, Yes, and Fundamental. But Messy, and Slower

Jeff Jarvis writes of an economy that is completely restructuring -- from banks to government to education and more. I think he's right, but I also think he's painting things a bit too black and white. Here's what I wrote:

Jeff, I agree with your main assertions - -that this is a transformative moment, and things are being remade. But I think your vision seems more than a bit utopian and also makes it seem like this will all happen faster than is likely. The pendulum has surely swung, but it will swing back to a cash-and-grab economy, and those interested in profits will milk the system, whatever it happens to be.

I do believe, and this relates to your point about education, that the technologies and networking capabilities will ultimately break up the abilities of the schools that hoard knowledge to charge tens of thousands to let students obtain it. Many of the equations MBAs learn can be put in a widget (or an API, if you prefer) and spread virally, for example. Private equity’s margins, based on hidden knowledge and guarded relationships, will shrink. So, fundamentally, I agree with you I hope that what you’re writing is true (and that along with my intellectual excitement I’ll be able to feed my family well during the upheaval) — but I believe it will be a bit messy.

And even if youre predictions are true, there are still large swaths of humanity that will be outside the systems you’re writing about.

From a Knowledge- to a Relationship Economy

At the Digiday Social conference today, Alan Brody of iBreakfast conjectured that we’re moving into a “relationship economy” that’s replacing the current “knowledge economy.” (Made me think of Howard Lindzon’s Social Leverage -- his thesis, in a nutshell, that using relationships and “leveraging” their power is now beating the concept of “financial leverage.”) Brody talked of how relationships -- built up over years, with special people who can hire, do favors, etc. -- cannot be outsourced to faceless people overseas, while knowledge work can. He said there are MBAs and college-educated people walking around India and Zimbabwe with every bit of useful knowledge of the people with multiple degrees in the U.S. who used to be able to use that knowledge they’d acquired to make sure they’d “never have to dig a ditch.”

Still, even in a relationship economy, the technology speeds things up, adds leverage, power. Companies like Social Vibe, whose CEO Joe Marchese was also at the conference, have shortened the timeline for creating relationships from years to months. Its passionate users select ads to place on their social network pages (such as on Facebook and MySpace) and then designate charities to receive any funds they earn. Those users are passionate, and feel a tremendous connection -- a relationship, if you will -- with SocialVibe.

Still, unlike a purely transactional commercial relationship, this one, because it runs deeper is more easy for Social Vibe to violate. The company will have to treat their passionate users with extreme care and nurturing. The company, venture-funded, seeking profit, and having arrived at their current model more by accident than by grand plan, must trust its backers to not push for fast cash above all. Marchese assured me in a previous discussion (for the We Media conference), that the backers -- including VCs JAFCO and Redpoint -- won’t subjugate the need to develop and care for users to the need to turn a profit. At We Media conference there seemed something of a consensus that, in fact, by doing social good many now believe profits will be stronger over time.

Union Square Ventures as a Media Company

Reply to Fred Wilson of Union Square ventures:

Fred, Love how open you are about all this, let us see how you and USV are working w/ it all. One thing about the way you work w/ your projects is not just experimenting and using the stuff yourself, but also building an interlinking ecosystem. Not just using Twitter or Bit.ly or Tumblr but also looking for ways to have them interlinking and feeding each other and using that traffic and use to learn from each other. That can be a force multiplier you're helping create. (I could argue that USV, with its various projects, is becoming its own nascent media network -- especially if we can throw your blogs, Etsy, Boxee and other content you're helping create or manage in there.) You're using the capabilities of the technologies to help create your network, and get the eventual geometric leaps in traffic, usage, learning, etc.

Originally posted as a comment by DorianBenkoil on A VC using Disqus.

Amazon's Kindle Move Away from Kindle Device

David Pogue on Amazon's returning to its core software strength, by making Kindle books available on the iPhone -- obviating the need to own a Kindle to read Kindle books:

The true brilliance of Amazon's move is that you no longer need a Kindle anymore to read current bestsellers in e-book form. Amazon, like thousands of businesses before it (see also: iTunes store, console games), has shifted into selling the razor blades, not the razors.

Those $10 downloadable books—800K software files, with no physical material costs, shipping costs or warehousing costs—are surely where the profit is. In other words, Amazon, having ignited new interest in the whole e-book concept with its $360 Kindle reader, is already steering itself from hardware back to software, to e-books as a service, to the skills where it already excels.

Jon Stewart on Twitter

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