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Vin Crosbie Vin Crosbie
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Dorian Benkoil Dorian Benkoil
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Bob Cauthorn Bob Cauthorn
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Ben Compaine Ben Compaine
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Dorian Benkoil senior consultant at Teeming Media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he was a foreign correspondent for AP and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for At ABC News he moved to the business side, handling sales integration and business development, before joining Fairchild Publications as General Manager for their Internet division, becoming editorial director for, then a consultant for Teeming Media in New York. He graduates this year with an MBA from Baruch's Zicklin school of business. Learn more about him at or his blog -

Robert Cauthorn is a journalist, former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was the third recipient of the Newspaper Association of America's prestigious Digital Pioneer Award. He launched one of the first five newspapers web sites in the world and is generally considered to have delivered the first profitable newspaper web site in 1995. Cauthorn has been in the middle of the transition from old media to new and is recognized as frank-talking critic when he believes newspapers stray for their mission. In mid-2004 he became the president of CityTools, LLC a new media startup based in San Francisco.

Ben Compaine has divided his career between the academic world and private business. He was a journalist when manual typewriters were considered state of the art, but also led the conversion of his college newspaper to cold type. He has started and managed weekly newspapers. His dissertation at Temple University in 1977 was about the changing technologies that were going to unsettle the landscape of the staid and low profit newspaper industry. Since then he has focused his research and consulting on examining the forces and trends at work in the information industries. Among his most well-known works (and the name of his blog) is "Who Owns the Media?".

Vin Crosbie has been called "the Practical Futurist" by Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry. Editor & Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry, devoted the Overview chapter of executive research report Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers to his work. His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005. He has keynoted the Seybold Publishing Strategies conference in 2000; co-chaired and co-moderated last year's annual Beyond the Printed Word the digital publishing conference in Vienna; and regularly speaks at most major online news media conferences. He is currently in residence as adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant on executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and meanwhile is managing partner of the media consulting firm of Digital Deliverance LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
About this blog
Two forces have shattered the news media. Technology is the first. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, for more than ten years now the news industry has mistaken new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or analog products. Estrangement is the second. The news media has lost touch with people's needs and interests during the past 30 years, as demonstrated by rapidly declining readerships of newspapers and audiences of broadcast news. How we rebuild news media appropriate to the 21st Century from the growing rubble of this industry is the subject of this group weblog.

Rebuilding Media

Monthly Archives

December 20, 2005

Is content king? v2.0

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Posted by Ben Compaine

Time to revisit an old question: Is content king in the new media world?

In a series of articles last week, The Wall Street Journal highlighted a phenomenon they called Do-it Yourself  Media. (sub needed—and well worth the fee for anyone who is reading this blog).

After a decade of the Internet revolutionizing the way people communicate and spend their leisure time, a growing number of consumers are going further -- creating entertainment and other media "content" on their own. Cable networks, radio stations -- even advertisers -- are embracing such "user-generated content" and serving it up, hoping to appeal to new and younger audiences that are impatient with standard media fare.

Cable network Current TV is using viewer-supplied videos to fill large slots of its 24/7 hour schedule. All one needs to make a video Web log, or vlog, is a digital camera (many capture moving images) and a broadband connection. Videos produced by individuals as well as mom and pop production operations also are finding their way to on-demand services offered by cable companies., lists 2,580 vloggers who have created a total of over 100,000 videos.

In the heady days of Web 1.0, the debate over “is content king” raged in many venues. None other than The Bill addressed the very question in a column 10 years ago. He said right up front: “Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet.” In typical Gates fashion, he put his—Microsoft’s—money to support this strategy, losing a bundle (at least by normal media business standards) in content-rich among other investments.

Was Gates wrong? Is format king? Are transactions king? Is process king? All the above? None of the above?

As much as most journalists and producers would like to believe that it is all about content, they would be right only some of the time—and maybe not even the majority of instances.

For example, that Web site that gets so many pixels of copy here and elsewhere, Google, is primarily about process: it’s real value added is the algorithm that helps users find the content of others. Yes, it’s the content we are seeking and get, but Google has not created any of it other than a display page.

Yahoo rose to prominence as an indexer of the content of others. Today it is among other services, a portal, pulling bits and pieces of the content provided by third parties. With its "Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone” site it is dipping its pinky in the real content waters, but the experiment is still young and the results unknown (at least to us).

One of the most successful Web ventures has been eBay, which is all about transactions. The only content eBay owns is the code to its application system and the copy it writes for its front page.

Many of the most successful online ventures have been those where the users are also the content creators. The biggest media acquisition of the year I believe was News Corporation's purchase of This is a site where the content is created by users, who then look for other users by the content they created. Consider the likes of Friendster, and Flickr. Think of the biggest information services and you will find that the content was user created: like the telephone, now cell phones, SMS: we create our own content.

Of course there are many venues where content is both critical and potentially profitable. Can you say HBO? And certainly the television networks in their heyday. Even today, the difference in a rating point – that is, more popular content than a competitor – is worth hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue in a year. King Kong pulled in a “disappointing” $50 million its opening weekend of Dec 16-18, but the second place movie that opened that weekend sold only $13 million in tickets.

Yes, content does matter. Sometimes critically. But so can process. So can format. For the big, traditional media companies having content is not sufficient nor is it even necessary to be successful in the digital environment.

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December 19, 2005

December 14, 2005

December 11, 2005

And now for their share of the splintering advertising budget--the video game publishers

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Posted by Ben Compaine

I've previously written about how the long term trend of media advertising expenditures does not bode well for the profitable sustainability of all players in the legacy and even newer media. With ad expenditure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product growing only at about the same rate as the economy, the ad pie is being split into ever more smaller pieces. Radio took share from newspapers. Television took share from radio and more from newspapers. Cable television is vacuuming dollars from broadcasters. The Internet is sucking share from everyone else.

So it cannot be good news for many in the media biz to learn that there is yet another player having some success at grabbing for  another few billion dollars from the ad budget. This is the video game industry.

Now, there might be some hesitancy to include the $10+ billion video game business as part of the media industry. But that is too short sighted -- director Peter Jackson has invested a reported $30 million to develop a "King Kong" video game as an ancillary to his movie. And it would be beside the point. Folks who use the media for advertising, such as Reebok and Castrol, are already spending $70 million this year to get their name or products into video games. And a recent study catalogs the reasons why this is likely to expand eight fold in the next four years. (Note that the study comes from Nielsen Entertainment and video game publisher Activision, not exactly disinterested parties).

Video game demographics are highly skewed right now with 18-34 year old males. According to the study this group spends more time playing video games than watching prime time television. So while television producers are trying their hand at adding product placement to their largely passive entertainment, video game publishers can offer consumer goods providers a large (20 million) targeted audience of players who are interacting with and deeply involved with what is on he screen. For example, in the "Law & Order: Justice is Served" game a murder victim was about to sign a contract with fashion designer Lacoste. In a forthcoming Atari game called Tycoon City, high end watch maker TAG Heurer and audio purveyor Bang & Olufsun will showcase their stores. Daimler Chrysler's Jeep brand is paying to be part of Activision's "American Wasteland" game.

The Nielsen study claims that in experiments with control groups people who saw certain ads while playing a video game were significantly more likely to rate it favorably than those who saw the same game without the ad. Similar control group experiments with conventional television show product placements did not find any difference between groups in how the advertiser was rated.

How much and how fast advertisers start allocating their ad budgets to video games is less important than the fact that here is another example of how the media universe is changing as a result of the pervasive adoption of digital technologies. In another context, the Kinks (in Lola) sang "It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world." Just when you think you might have figured it out, another alligator jumps out of the swamp. There are no safe corners in the media jungle.


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December 7, 2005

Pulitzer Prizes Jury Now Accepts Online Content Submissions

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced today that newspapers can now submit Breaking News Reporting and Breaking News Photography award category submissions that consist entirely of content published online. Newspapers also may submit online material as well as print content in all the other 12 journalism award categories, starting with the 2006 competition.

Since 1999, the board has allow online content only as supplementary content to Public Service award category submissions.

"The Board believes it has taken a significant step in recognition of the widening role of online journalism at newspapers," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. "The Board will continue to watch the evolution of this medium."

In any category, the new Pulitzer Prize rules state, online material must be published on the newspaper's Web site and, when submitted for competition, "must depict its original publication on the Web, not its subsequent update or alteration."

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Professor of New Media Leads The Society of Professional Journalists

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Posted by Vin Crosbie


Having travelled too much and blogged too little during October and November, I'm remiss in not noting the election on October 18th of David Carlson (pictured), the Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of new media journalism at the University of Florida, to president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The 98-year old SPJ electing a veteran practicioner of the new medium as president is a milestone in American journalism, another signal of how important the new medium is to the future of journalism.

In 1990, Carlson launched The Electronic Trib at the Albuquerque Tribune. The E-Trib was one of two first newspaper-operated online news systems in the world and is believed to be the world's first interactive newspaper in the world operated from, and housed in, a personal computer (running an Intel 286-12 processor!).

Carlson today works with University of Florida journalism students on prototypes of newspapers of the future. He and his students launched the first journalism site anywhere on the World Wide Web in October, 1993. Many readers of this blog might also know him as a long-time contributor to the Poynter Institute's E-Media Tidbits group weblog. The 6'3" (190 cm) tall Carlson drives a 2004 MINI Cooper S with a Florida license plate META TAG.

His 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor of printed and online newspapers and as professor of new media have given him a broad perspective about how U.S. journalism must change in the future. Here are some excerpts from his inaugural speech:

"We need to talk about how Wall Street and its never-ending quest for profit is changing journalism. We need to talk about plagiarism and ethical lapses that have given us a black eye. We need to talk about the erosion of freedoms that are making it harder for the public to learn about the public’s business. We need to talk about our fellow reporters going to jail to protect their sources.

Journalism, to me, is about helping people. It’s about telling stories that get laws changed. It’s about telling stories that save lives. It’s about telling stories that point fingers at what needs to be pointed out. It’s about sending criminals to jail and setting the innocent free. Journalism is about seeking truth and reporting it.

But our industry has strayed somewhat from these principles. Too often and in too many places journalism has become about profits and ratings. Too often and in too many places it has become about political agendas and axe grinding, about entertainment disguised as news, about 'spin' and saber-rattling. Too often and in too many places journalism has involved another 'ism,' plagiarism.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve allowed our ethics to decay. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to hype a story to make it sound better than it is. We’ve come to think that it’s all right for the TV networks to treat promos for their prime-time entertainment shows as news. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to tell local listeners that 'Bubonic plague breaks out! Details at 11,' when the story is about a cat that died 500 miles away."

Congratulations on your new post, David! And thanks for reminding SPJ just how much journalists need to talk among themselves, and with their consumers, about their own problems.

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December 6, 2005

December 5, 2005

E&P Laments the 'Meltdown to the Core'

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

An editorial entitled Meltdown to the Core in the current issue of Editor & Publisher magazines, the trade journal of the newspaper industry, laments how that declining industry's cost-cutting is gutting attempts to serve growing niches of readership and is instead focusing on just the "core" brand name daily newspapers:

Whole segments of the once-universal newspaper market, including immigrants and youth, clearly shun the metro daily "core product" these days. Newspapers can either offer them something else, or abandon them to their many new and eager competitors. Not all of these experiments will prove successful, but they must be attempted.

Too many newspapers cling to the idea that their "brand" will save them in the end -- that by relying on a high-margin, albeit shrinking 'core product,' they alone will remain a mass medium in a splintered environment. They ignore the fact that to many in their most elusive audiences, the mainstream brand itself is a marketing impediment.

They would do well to remember all the great newspaper brands that failed in an era long before Google and Craigslist: the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Washington Star, The Mirror in Los Angeles, the Chicago Daily News, the New York Journal-American, and on and on.

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December 2, 2005

PDF or Die

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Posted by Dorian Benkoil

I was at the Digital Magazine Forum yesterday, which is basically for print magazine publishers trying to figure out how to make a go of it – or a better go of it – in the digital world. A lot of the discussion was about how to put the print version of a magazine online – or whether that's the best model.

The magazine publishers are very worried about any declines in audited circulation, and prefer to have digital readers counted, so they can keep up their advertising rate base. The auditing firms allow circulation to be counted if you provide a PDF or other replica of the print publication – similar layout, similar content – and only allow access under similar terms as for the print version. For example, if the magazine is paid circulation, you don't give the publication away online, but rather put it behind a subscription wall (or at least the PDF version behind the wall). For controlled circ, you have to make sure that people have to register for a controlled circ version in a similar way as for print.

Some, like panelist Bob Carrigan, president of tech publishing powerhouse IDG (PC World, MacWorld among others), are arguing that shoveling a magazine online may really be doing advertisers and users a disservice, though IDG does provide PDFs for those who want it. He notes that his readers for PC World, for example, are very engaged with the Web site, which is not a replication of the print publication, and that as much as 10%-20% of traffic comes from community pages, like forums, which is readers engaging each other rather than anything magazine editors provide.

Carrigan gets it, I think, he's figured out how to make online users worth more than print, through not only high-CPM ad serving, and expensive lead generation for marketers, but also RSS and other technologies that let him reach his rarified audience. Of course, he does have that luxury of having a rarified tech magazine audience that cash-heavy advertisers want to reach.

Still, if magazine publishers think of the Web in terms of purely selling print subscriptions, and are overly worried about protecting print rather than getting as much from digital media as possible, they’re ultimately protecting a flank when their frontline troops are facing a juggernaut.

Newspapers have seen their classified ad revenue decline some $2 billion since jobs and cars and other classified sites came along, and Web sites are now getting traction in the kinds of mainstream consumer ads the magazines survive on. Eventually those products’ marketers, too, will start to demand the kinds of performance and metrics and reach and frequency and leads the Web can provide, rather than relying on ad exec promises of GRP. Those who have the right audience in the digital sphere, and can get the message of marketers out to them, will be in a better position to survive.

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