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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 ABCNews.com. 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 mediabistro.com, 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 Benkoil.com or his blog - MediaFlect.com.

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

February 22, 2006

Bismarck's newspaper vs. Brightcove's online video. It's no contest

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Posted by Ben Compaine

It comes every day. Relentlessly. News with no indication that the trends set in motion by silicon is slowing. Indeed, they are picking up speed.

“It,” is the creation of new media outlets, forms and channels. It is good news for anyone who is concerned that the old media limited access to content. It is bad news for those whose livelihood depends on the older media structure.

Here are just two data points, both brought to our attention by The Wall Street Journal (read it online for $50 annually or in print for $200 annually, your choice).

On Feb 8 the Journal featured on its front paper “Unlike Big Dailies, A Paper Prospers In Bismarck, N.D.” Focusing on the Bismarck, ND Tribune, the Journal’s storyline is that “The paper is among a tier of papers with circulations of 50,000 or less that is proving relatively resilient in the face of a prolonged slump among larger papers.

On Feb 21, the Journal lead with another media story: “Online Video Goes Mainstream, Sparking an Industry Land Grab.” The gist of this story is that there are companies that now make it “easy for any producer -- from home-movie buffs to television networks -- to distribute their videos to multitudes of Web sites.” And that is not just technologically possible, but with a revenue model.

Now, what is the link between these two media stories?  The Journal celebrates newspapers whose circulation “is holding steady” while big city circulation is plummeting. It mentions that Bismark’s population grew 11% between 1990 and 2000. Despite that, circulation was lower in 2005 than in 1996. For The Bismarck Tribune’s parent company, Lee Enterprises, advertising revenue was up 4.7%-- but that does not mean linage was up. Even Knight-Ridder, top heavy with the more rapidly declining big city papers, could claim 2.8% ad revenue growth in 2005.

More telling in the Journal’s “glass half full” story was the signal in the last paragraph. Scheel’s, a local sporting goods chain, and major local advertiser with 3000 employees,  reported that a survey it conducted of its employees found that almost none of the under 40 years old subscribed to a daily newspaper. It concluded with: “At the same time, the response rate to the company's newspaper ads is half of what it was 10 years ago, he says. So increasingly, Mr. Scheel is skipping newspaper ads and reaching out to customers directly through email.”

Meanwhile, according to Parks Associates, someone in more than 10 million U.S. households watches an online video at least monthly. Even more download videos. The market for using the Internet to access video thus stands in direct counterpoint to the newspaper trends. Brightcove is one of the start-ups positioning itself to facilitate a wealth on online video. (Time Warner’s AOL and IAC/InterActiveCorp are among the investors). The model is simple. Anyone with video content—The New York Times and Reuters are two, but so also is tiny Bollywood & Beyond, Inc. in discussions  or any amateur film maker-- can sign on. Any Web site that wants to link to the available content fills out on online form and, voila, can offer syndictaed video appropriate for its site. Brightcove sells advertising that runs prior to the video. The revenue is sliced among the video provider, the Web site and Brightcove.

Of course, there is nothing new and insightful here about the long term declining fortunes of the traditional newspaper industry and the prospects of all things digital. Big yawn. No, the message today is two-fold.  First is the rate at which the changeover is happening.  There are Brightcove-type initiatives being uncovered virtually every day. Just another that I came across recently was the movie “Waterborne,” which was reportedly the first full length feature with an original release on Google Video. It reportedly had 25,000 downloads in its first two weeks, at $.99 to $3.99 a pop, followed by an advance purchase of 15,000 DVDs. The independent producers had previously rejected at six figure advance from a distributor to maintain full ownership rights.

Unlike the dot-com era, these ventures come grounded in realistic business models based on reliable trends such as the growth in broadband. (Though, as an aside, successful attempts to legislate the benign sounding network neutrality policy could set back some of the high bandwidth –need plans).

Second, no matter what spin even The Wall Street Journal tries, the forces and trends at play cannot be buried. The only way the Lees, McClathchys, Gannetts and Knight-Ridders of the publishing world will stay profitable is by raising rates, at the risk of accelerating loss of advertisers and buyer, and by cutting costs. They have been doing both. In the short term it can produce favorable returns for investors.

As I noted here before and will say again, newspaper publishers, as well as other traditional publishers and radio and television broadcasters, are going to have to reinvent themselves while they still have strong cash flow and resources.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media Competition | Newspapers

February 20, 2006

February 16, 2006

February 9, 2006

Newspapers discover they are at "a strategic inflection point": 2006 or 1996?

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Posted by Ben Compaine

Today is the final day of a symposium in Washington to brainstorm the future of the newspaper.  The symposium is part of the “Newspaper Next: The Transformation Project” of the American Press Institute. API, a creation of the newspaper publishers, has as its mission providing “training and professional development for the news industry and journalism educators.” “Newspaper Next” is a $2 million year-long project that seeks to “conceive and test new business models to help newspapers thrive in the next decade” It has hired some high priced Harvard Business School professors as consultants to collaborate with the “25 industry innovators and thought-leaders” who will produce the report later this year.

The members of the task force include mostly individuals who are associated with traditional newspapers as well as a handful of leading edge digital pioneers, such as Steve Yelvington. Creating a task force to try address the future of the newspaper industry would be ho-hum. The unique innovation of this effort is that the model will be tested at an operating daily newspaper, probably starting early next year.

This is all well and good, if not unconventional or even a bit weird. With 1457 daily newspapers in the U.S. alone—not to mentioned the thousands of others globally—one would expect that there is plenty of opportunity for experimentation in real time. And in fact that is happening. Some newspapers, like the Lawrence (KS) Journal-World, have been trying out new approaches to both their print product and their online sites. Editorial techniques such as encouraging citizen journalists, running photographs uploaded by readers, focusing on neighborhood-level articles and more are being tried somewhere at any given time. Business models that include reducing (New York Post) or even eliminating the price of the papers (Metro) are in play.

Among the pushing-the-envelop goals of “Newspaper Next" are

  • Assess the threat to newspapers in the next decade, including emerging competition
  • Determine opportunities for newspapers, including implementation of available new technology
  • Suggest executable new business initiatives – products, services and strategies – with detailed rationales

This is what $2 million antied up in 2006 gets? Seems to this observer that any newspaper-owning company that has not had its own task force and consultants analyze the external environment by now is incompetent and should sell out and get into the slide rule business. Any publisher who has not taken advantage of dozens of studies, scores of blogs from some very savvy current and former newspaper people among others, and the accumulated insights from 10 years (mid-1980s-mid-1990s) of being warned that big change was coming and 10 years of living with these changes should be stripped of his or her titles and forced to use a typewriter forever. And any publishing enterprise that does not have a thick book of possible initiatives now in progress or worth considering should be prohibited from ever buying another ton of newsprint. Where have these folks been for 20 years?

I’d be curious to see how many “models” the API group promotes. Or do they expect the same model that may be appropriate for a 26,000 circulation daily in a homogeneous North Dakota town can be applied to an 800,000 circulation paper in a metropolis? One size isn’t going to fit all.

The players in the newspaper industry carry the burden of being the incumbents. As such they have been afraid  to innovate if it might cannibalize their traditional product or stray into a competitive area they wished to avoid. It should have been one of the major dailies that initiated a feature such as Yahoo’s Kevin Sites in the Hot Zone. Any of the major chains could have teamed up with a Lycos or Overture five years ago to create a service that Goggle pre-empted with Google News. The New York Times Co. bought About.com in 2005 for $410 million. Why wasn’t About part of a portfolio of $5 and $10 million start-up venture investments?

To be sure, there were some pockets of foresight. The Tribune Co. did have a venture portfolio dating back to the 1990s that included early investments in AOL and Excite. The Raleigh News & Observer started its Nando Times online site in 1994 (though it was shuttered in 2003 in favor of local newspaper-branded sites by McClatchy.) Knight-Ridder pioneered an early videotext service with AT&T in the early 1980s. However, it often seemed that many of the investments were of the CYA nature, rather than as part of a strategic plan to reinvent themselves for a changing environment.

It is easy to look back and groan over what should have been. Reality is, there were plenty of signs a decade or two ago of where the information industry was headed and a gaggle of analysts interpreting them for the industry. Many listened, fewer heard and only a handful acted in a committed way. The inflection point was then. There’s nothing wrong with API’s $2 million experiment. Better late than never.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

February 8, 2006

CNN, Losing on the Air, Winning Online

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

The New York Observer compares online usage data about the U.S. news networks' websites and notes that CNN, though losing television audience to FoxNews, is trouncing FoxNews online. That's particularly important, according to CNN.com senior vice president and general manager David Payne:

"The data is pretty clear. The broadcast-news ratings chart just drops and drops and drops. For cable, it's probably less dramatic, but it's still true. There's just no doubt in my mind that online usage is going to dominate in the future. Whether that's 20 years from now or five years from now, I don't know. But it's going to win in the end."

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February 6, 2006

A WAN Attempt to Turn Back Time

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

In 1994, I was doing some consulting to The New York Times Information Services Group (NYTISG), which had put that newspaper’s content onto America Online’s proprietary online service. It had recently launched a website containing New York Times Syndicate stories, which were taken from the front sections of the newspaper, and NYTISG was deliberating whether to launch a website for the newspaper itself.

But first it wanted to promote the NYT Syndicate stories’ website. Its staff had noticed from usage logs that one person in particular was accessing the syndicate site many times each day. So, they asked me track down that person and ask him if he’d be willing to be part of a promotional ad for the website.

Running that person's IP address through a WHOIS engine, I it resolved to filo.stanford.edu. I phoned Stanford University’s IT Department and I learned that filo.stanford.edu wasn’t one person, but a computer server operating a Web indexing spider under the direction of two doctoral candidates, Jerry Yang and David Filo.

I reported this the vice president in charge of NYTISG. I explained what a Web indexing spider was; how the basics of that technology were in the public domain; and suggested that The New York Times Company should operate one. That way, I said, the Times’ site would offer online users not only ‘All the News that’s Fit to Print’ but also a searchable index of everything that is online.

The vice president (who now publishes a newspaper in the state of Washington) looked at me as if I was daft and he replied, “No, we’re a newspaper, not some sort of online encyclopedia or phone book.“

Of all the consulting advice that I’ve given clients during the past dozen years, it was the one bit that I wish had been followed.

The New York Times Company and most every other newspaper in the world nowadays wishes it had the online traffic, gross revenues, and market capitalization of Yahoo! -- the Web indexing company that Jerry Yang and David Filo built from that spider.

I mention this because last week the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the trade organization representing 18,000 of the world’s newspapers, announced that it had joined other traditional publishers organizations in efforts to determine if can they legally charge the search engines that index their news.

The other publishers organizations involved are the International Publishers Association (IPA), International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP), European Federation of Magazine Publishers (ENPA), European Publishers Council (EPC), European Magazine Publishers Association (FAEP), French association for magazine publishers (SPMI), association of French national newspapers (SPP), and the French regional daily newspaper association (SPQR), plus the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). Some online groups that are dominated by subsidiaries of print publishers, such as the Online Publishers Association of the UK, have given the endeavor a “cautious welcome.

Don’t be fooled by this initiative. Rather than catch up by doing what they should have done long ago, these publishers are searching for legal ways to tax the railroad because the gravy train has left them behind.

The publishers organizations acknowledge that search engines “provide a valuable service to publishers in terms of traffic generation” but claim that the search engines “have built their business models in large part on taking content for free.”

Let’s consider that phrase “taking content for free,” but first look at this:

Did I now just take WAN’s content? Was that citation comprehensible? From it, would you know what WAN and those publishers are doing?

I ask because I’ve just cited WAN’s online content exactly the same way, word for word, that Google News’ automatically did. Neither that eight-word abstract headline nor its 25-word abstract text even explains what WAN and the other publishers’ organizations are doing.

Look at Google News or Yahoo! News and see for yourself how the search engines briefly abstract news organizations’ headlines and texts. Whether or not a gist of a news story, nonetheless its content, as cited by the search engines is comprehensible depends entirely upon if that news organization’s headline writer and text author were pithy and cogent enough. Does the publishers’ content really consist of a (often incomplete) headline of less than ten words and an incomplete text of less than two dozen words?

No. I think the publishers’ claim that the search engines are taking their content is absurd. The search engines are merely pointing people to the content on the news organizations’ own sites. Indeed, the search engines’ citations towards the publishers’ news is even less than academic abstracts or business abstracts. Ask a librarian or professor.

However, WAN President (and Group COO of newspaper publishing company Independent News & Media PLC) Gavin O’Reilly told the Financial Times "That’s often enough” for readers browsing the top stories and “the fact here is that we’re dealing with basic theft."

If you accept Mr. O’Reilly’s logic, then don’t be surprised if the restaurant industry sues the newspaper industry for providing capsule listings and reviews that point potential diners to restaurants. The newspaper industry could defend itself by claiming that it doesn’t actually provide the food content to restaurant's potential patrons (at best, the reviews might provide a bit of the restaurants’ flavors) and that the reviews are simply pointing potential patrons to those restaurants and thereby increasing those restaurants' traffic. However, the restaurant owners might claim ‘That’s often enough’ to prevent people from coming onsite and browsing.

Is "theft" what the search engines are doing? Is theft pointing to something that is being given away for free? The news organizations aren't charging anyone for accessing their news online.

If the newspaper industry wants to claim that citing its headlines online is "theft", then it might first pursue the other daily newspapers that are doing it (such as this or this regular example) Publishers should pursue their direct competitors who are doing it, before claiming that the search engines are competitors.

Mr. '’Reilly also said, “The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense."

That statement is both patently and historically false. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! existed for many years before indexing the news organizations’ websites. During that time the search engines, without pointing to those organizations’ news, grew to dwarf those organization in terms of online traffic, asset value, and market capitalization. News has never accounted for a significant fraction of these search engines traffic or revenues.

The only basis for theft that Mr. O'Reilly might legitimately claim is that the search engines have 'stolen' advertisers and consumers from using those publishers' websites more often or more fully. Google and Yahoo! now have more online advertisers than those publishers because these search engines attract more consumers than any of those publishers' sites do. And the search engines attract more consumers than the publishers' sites do because the search engines provide a service that those publishers long ago failed to provide but could have.

Indeed, the organizations announced their legal initiative eight days after Google announced that it was removing the ‘Beta’ from Google News. I don’t think that timing was random.

In the WAN announcement, Mr. O’Reilly referred to the’ Napsterisation’ of content, hoping to lend credence to his industry’s claim that search engines are stealing its content.

However, what the search engines are actually doing has nothing to do with ‘napsterizing content or stealing content. What the search engines provide to consumers is a package of pointers to where information — including now news — from all sources is located online. As I’d mentioned from my New York Times experience, the newspaper industry could have done that a dozen years ago. Or five years ago. Or now.

The newspaper industry didn't and doesn’t. Five years ago, did attempt to create what it called Internet ‘portals’, but those website contained only the content from that newspaper company and its affiliates. A portal just to them.

I don’t wish this WAN endeavor well. I think it’s a waste of time and money that the newspaper industry could better be spending on providing the types of services that it should have done long ago or those that it needs to now. Perhaps it is too late for The New York Times or other newspaper companies to become Googles or Yahoos (or Ebays or MySpaces), yet there are still plenty of new services to be developed online.

Don't try to tax a gravy train that you've missed. Start another one.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

February 4, 2006

Western Union sings its last telegram: The lessons for the media industry

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Posted by Ben Compaine

On January 27, 2006, Western Union sent its final telegram, 150 years after it sent its first. There’s a bit of a message for the media industry in this historical footnote.

In the late 19th century and into the 1930s, Western Union was the pinnacle of the communications business. Indeed, believing that telegraph was the be all and end all of communications technology, Western Union turned down the offer to buy Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone patents in 1876 for $100,000. (They soon realized their mistake and actually hired Thomas Edison to develop a telephone device, which he did. But Bell’s fledgling company won a patent infringement suit against the giant Western Union which then withdrew from voice telephony).

But Western Union thrived for a time, even as the Bell System overtook it in size. In 1900 Western Union sent 63 million telegrams. In its peak year, 1929, it handled  200 million telegrams. Telegram service was slowly eroded by the increased availability and decreasing price of long distance voice. But it also lost market share as teletypewriters were introduced, a newer technology that did not require skilled Morse code operators. Much later, facsimile spelled the end to what was left of the telegram’s commercial market.  In the past year 20,000 telegrams were sent, mostly as novelties or as formal notifications.

What does this say to and about the media industry? Western Union, at one time the monopoly national communications company, was co-opted by new technologies. Though profitable for many years after its heyday, it’s decline brought it to bankruptcy and rebirth as a money transfer service—a very different business. Even then, it was blindsided by an upstart, PayPal, as the first mover in the Internet money transfer business. Its belated response, Bidpay.com, closed shop the end of 2005.

So the lessons, once again, are, first, that bigness guarantees nothing when it comes to the future, even when at one point a near monopoly. (The same could be said for AT&T, which survives in name only because Southwestern Bell, the company that bought the remains of the old Ma Bell in 2005, assumed the AT&T name.)  In the past I wrote about how none of the 10 largest retailers in the U.S. in 1962 were around 30 years later.

Second, just because newer technologies and players don’t ruin a business or an industry overnight that doesn’t mean that a long decline, with occasional ups amidst the many downs, is in progress.

Finally, even when a player does make a strategic move into a concentric market (as W.U. did from electronic text to electronic money), the game is not necessarily won. For the moment, Western Union still has a decent business transferring money internationally. But newer players, such as PayPal, are nipping at its heals.

The media industry was much like banking for the first seven decades of the 20th century, staid and predictable. Newspaper publishers knew exactly who their competitors were—other newspapers. Broadcasters knew that once they got their sinecure from the FCC they were set. Book publishers came and went with easy entry and exit, but with the “security” of knowing that “the book” as a format was forever. Hollywood studios understood that the bottleneck of distribution and marketing would keep the number of major competitors manageable.

But all that is out the window (or, perhaps, Widows), much as is the old telegram. Newspaper circulation continues its decades long slide. Knight Ridder reports lower earnings each quarter. Television networks are making their hit shows available for download the day after broadcast. Some Hollywood movies are released on DVD and cable the same time as in the theater. Podcasts and vodcasts come from regular folks and media heavyweights alike. Radio emanates from satellite and the Internet. Video on demand fills  42” high definition screens—and 3” cell phone screens.

Where will you be the day your hometown daily newspaper ends its print run or the TV listings start to show only the names of new programs available each day, not the time they are on?

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media Competition

February 2, 2006

Freedom/Registration, Control/Controlled: Identity 2.0 Eliminates Polarity

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

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The sole Emmy award nominee for acting on the original Star Trek television series (1966-69) wasn’t a regular cast member, but a guest star. Frank Gorshin earned it in an episode entitled Let That Be Your Last Battlefield in which the late actor/comedian played one of two characters: Lokai, a political refugee from the planet Cheron, and Bele, a Cheronian police officer pursuing Lokai.

Their striking feature of Lokai and Bele is that they're half black and half white, the colors split perfectly down the centers of their bodies. Yet Lokai’s left half is white while Bele’s is black. When these two superhuman aliens begin battling each other over that polar difference in appearance, the crew of the Starship Enterprise barely escapes alive.

Lokai and Bele aren't fictional. I've met them online. Although I've not actually seen them, I know them because they maintain absolutely polar differences in opinions about online issues. They permit no gray areas. Bele and Lokai aren't trolls, phishers, pharmers, or any other previously known species of online denizens. They're cheronians, whose polar differences in both opinon and thinking prevent progress online.

For examples, they maintain polar differences about online anonymity and identity, issues about which I've recently written.

Lokai insists that free speech online is possible only when people can post their opinions in complete anonymity. He won't register on any site nor provide any identifying information. He abhors being tracked by cookies or spyware, particularly when he doesn't know by whom and hasn't given anyone explicit permission to tracked him. He regularly uses bugmenot.com and anonymous remailers to evade registration. He's affronted that publishers want to know his household income before they'll allow him to read the news, and he points to the fact that most news or e-commerce sites each use their own different registration systems as proof that requiring registration is an impediment to usage, to the free flow of information, and to e-commerce. Lokai moreover has some very legitimate privacy concerns about whether or not any site on which he would register will sell or distribute any information about his identity to other sites or affiliates without his knowledge or permission.

By contrast, Bele insists that anyone who wants to post their opinions online must be completely identified and thoroughly inspectable. He requires registeration on any site that he operates and insists that all registrants provide thorough information about their demographics and financial situations. His sites routinely use tracking cookies or spyware, and share any gleened information with his affiliates, advertising networks, and other sites. He has very legitimate concerns for insisting that all these methods are necessary for the subsidization and free flow of information and e-commerce. Bele also is fond of quoting his fellow left-black cheronian, Sun Microsystems Chairman & CEO Scott McNeely, "You have no privacy. Get over it."

Lokai and Bele each believe that any compromise is impossible because it involves … well … compromise. So, they insist that because no compromise is possible, then no solution to their differences is possible. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cheronians out there. Their intrinsic mistake is in thinking that a solution must involves compromising their values. They are stuck in Web 1.0.

Web 1.0 is a world that very much still exists. It consists of walled gardens and 'identity silos'. It's a publisher-centric world where the user must explicitly provide the publishers' or marketers' choices of demographic information about himself before being allowed to use the site. Moreover, the user's identigraphic or demographic data isn't portable; he must provide such idata again and again because each site, though it might share tracking information with other sites, uses its own different registration system (an identity silo).

People like Bele have built this world of Identity 1.0, but people like Lokai have fled it or are too fearful to use it. The Lokais are given few means to authenticate their identities without losing their privacies to the Beles, yet the Bele complain that the world can't function without Lokais giving that up. Like on the planet Cheron, this Identity 1.0 absolutism dooms Web 1.0's inhabitants because its inhabitants think no solution is possible without compromise.

Fortunately, most Canadians aren't cheronians. (Most, eh?) Dick Hardt, the founder & CEO of Sxip Identity in Vancouver, abhors the trap of absolutism and knows that all cheronians' concerns can be satisfied technologically and without palpable compromise. It's time for Identity 2.0.

I urge anyone who is concerned about online anonymity, pseudonymity, registration, and tracking — or anyone who is building or operating Internet services that involve those issues or mechanisms — to view Hardt's Identity 2.0 presentation from OSCON (the O'Reilly Open Source Convention) last year. He can explain the problems and the probable solution much better than I can. (Indeed, his is one of the best presentations I've ever seen. I thought that I'd known all about these issues until I saw Hardt's swift, cogent presentation.)

Let's escape this cheronian madness alive. Media companies such as The New York Times, Guardian, Newhouse, Ireland.com, Tribune, and others that are using their own registration schemes should join the Identity 2.0 effort and switch to an Open Source method. It will increase their business while solving many of their potential consumers' concerns. Likewise, media companies that are thinking of implementing registration or tracking should get involved in it now; as should the World Association of Newspapers, Newspaper Association of American, (U.S.) National Association of Broadcasters, and other media organization that are attempting to help their member companies thrive online.

(Disclaimer: I have no connection with Sxip, hadn't known of Identity 2.0 until seeing the online video of Hardt's OSCON presentation, and had been keeping my recommendation of it private to my consulting clients, but I think it should get wider discussion and recommendation within the media industry).

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