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.
The radical changes the newspaper industry needs to implement arise from a more true understanding by that industry of why newspaper readership began declining well before the Internet was opened to the public; about why one billion people worldwide have gone onto the Internet after it was opened to the public (they didn't do it to read traditional media on computer screens), and about why all that plus the misnamed and illusionary 'fracturing' of media audiences requires semantic solutions.
At the root of that problem is a misunderstanding about what the New Medium actually is; a misunderstanding by almost all companies that broadcast programs or that publish newspapers or magazines.
I've long been reluctant to explain this misunderstanding only because I'll need a long post to explain it. This is that post, a new version of my 1998 essay What is New Media? (which is currently being taught in the journalism, film, technology, and game design courses at several universities in North America and Europe). It's 3,200-words long, but I consider it the most important thing I have ever written except for the original essay. I need to have this new version online because I plan to refer to it in future postings, specifically those about what radical changes that media companies need to implement.]
Misunderstanding 'New Media'
A newspaper isn't a medium, nor are newspapers media. Magazines aren't media nor is a magazine a medium. Television isn't a medium nor is radio nor are radio or television stations media. A website isn't a medium nor is the Internet media.
Companies that broadcast programs or that publish newspapers or magazines are having problems understanding and adapting to why and how one billion consumers are now using Internet-based technologies to receive news, information, and entertainment.
Those companies have the problems simply because they misunderstand the meaning of media or medium. It is that starkly simple. Their misunderstanding of these terms-- not the new technologies that consumers use -- is the root of the companies' problems.
Ask their executives if they work in the 'Mass Media' (the Mass Medium) and they will be correct if they reply yes. But almost all will take that a step further a misstep and say that their broadcast, newspaper, or magazine is a medium.
Rhetoricians and cognitive linguists refer to that extra step as metonymy: the use of a well-understood or easy-to-perceive characteristic of something to stand for either a much more complex whole or for some aspect or part of it. (Another example of metonymy is use of the name Hollywood to describe the entire film industry worldwide)
Broadcast and publishing executives mistake Mass Media as a catchall phrase for all possible media, as if no other medium can exist except as a Mass Medium. Moreover, they extend this mistaken meaning of medium to cover their own broadcasts or publications.
So entrenched has the contemporary misunderstanding of the terms media and medium become that the mistake limits the abilities of most publishing or broadcasting executives to comprehend what exactly is a medium or the media in which they work.
Here are two short videos (QuckTime ) of Rebuilding Media contributor Robert Cauthorn's speech Tuesday at the Publish Asia 2006 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cauthorn challenged traditionalist beliefs in order to encourage a new period of innovation and growth within the newspaper industry. He told Asian newspapers that they might not be declining in circulation but that does not mean they are being spared from the world's newspaper crisis, because circulation in Asian countries is not growing in pace with the growth in the middle economic class. He also asked newspaper executives to think about their business in a different way:
"If the car industry realizes that they are not selling enough cars, they create new models, change their products... Newspapers publishers are not selling as many newspapers as before, but continue doing the same kind of newspapers. Therefore, you are taking wrong decisions and in a continuous way."
Cauthorn's was the first regular speech at the conference. He followed the Honorable Y.A.B. Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister od Defense of Malaysia, who opened the conference and also encourage publishers to fulfill new audiences requirements:
"There are many publications trying to inform in real time with sms alers, 24/7 websites... because if you don't move with the times and give audiences whay they want, you won't only be left behing but also force to leave the game. Change is not anymore a possibility but a real necessity."
Here is a question for the daily newspaper industry:
When does the bovine brain realize it's entered the abattoir?
Does it finally realize that something is amiss as it trots up the slaughterhouse ramp? Does it realize only as it receives the fatal blow? Does it ever realize at all? When should the steer have stopped following the herd instinct?
I ask because I don't think that the American daily newspaper industry realizes that its slaughter has already begun. Slaughter may sound overly dramatic, but I think the evidence makes it an accurate description of the situation at hand. A hand with a cleaver.
I think the industry has started to realize that it's being bloodied, but it doesn't yet realizes that its gutting is the reason. Perhaps in a bovine way, the newspaper industry thinks it is the master of its own destiny. The reality, however, is the newspaper industry stopped growing beefy long ago and has been milked beyond the 'mature business' phase, so its owners have begun to lead it by the nose to the butcher.
Consider the American daily newspaper industry's view up the slaughterhouse ramp:
The industry lost 2,500 local newsroom jobs last year, numbers that have been increasing annually despite the industry mooing that its news coverage must get better and that local news is its core purpose.
Its circulation and readership has been steadily declining for generations, despite the U.S. population and the number of college-educated Americans steadily growing; yet the industry continues to chew its traditional cud about how it is an absolute necessity for all Americans.
The industry still claims to be a potent force in America, yet its major stockholders see that as just bull and have devalued the industry's equity by more than 40 percent during the past five years.
Knight Ridder, America's second largest chain of newspapers and a pioneer in the industry's new-media efforts, provided a rich milk of more than 20 percent profit margins to its stockholders, but they led it to be sold this year.
Even the largest public shareholders of The New York Times Company have been clamoring for changes in control at that company, despite acknowledging that it publishes the best newspaper in the English-speaking world. Large public shareholders at Tribune Company are similarly upset about that company's decline value.
But why believe me that this is the situation? For years, I've been warning that the end is near for the American daily newspaper industry unless it makes radical changes, but I'm an independent consultant who works for a tiny firm that isn't associated with any media industry think tank; any university; or any big brand name, multi-industry consulting company. So, I'm easy to ignore by an industry that's largely in a state of bovine denial. It's also easys to ignore my warnings that the industry's new-media efforts won't save it unless those make the radical changes, too.
In Austin on April 7 during his keynote speech at the 7th International Symposium on Online Journalism at the University of Texas, Picard (pictured above) gave a dire presentation forecasting the end of the newspaper industry and asserting that:
"the current strategies of publishing companies to gain economies of scale and scope, to move into cross-platform content provision, and to maximize return across a portfolio of content products will be effective only for the short-and mid-term."
Let me rephrase that in words that perhaps a cow could understand:
Recently I wrote about the “arrival” of video on the Internet. I thought that I’d get a few weeks at least until there were some other significant developments. But, no, the announcements keep coming. Last Monday Disney went public with its plan for free access to programming, the day after broadcast. Hard on its heels Fox released its plan to make its first run shows such as “24” also available the day after broadcast.
These are breakthrough developments for three reasons:
First, both these broadcasters are extending the model they know best: free programming, supported by advertising. Disney’s plan is to embed traditional spots that cannot be skipped or fast forwarded through, although the programming itself will have the pause, rewind and fast forward features we use on our personal video recorders. Fox did not provide that level of detail, so it may or may not have the same expectation for advertising.
Second, Fox has explicitly said it will split the advertising revenue from its Internet operation with its local affiliates. This notion of the networks generating revenue from its programming, possibly at the expense of lower viewership at the local affiliates during the initial broadcast, has been a sore point with the affiliates. Fox has addressed them head on—and presumably to the satisfaction of the affiliates.
Third, together with CBS’ offering of free online access to the NCAA tournament while charging for ad-less replays of hit shows like “Survivor,” says that the old time networks are adapting to a new game: multiple business models. Anne Sweeney, president of the Disney-ABC Television Group was right on target when she told a cable executive audience, "None of us live in the world of one business model.” They are seeing these options as an opportunity and responding accordingly. Previously much of their motivation was largely defensive, to hedge on the threat the Intrenet posed.
One of the benefits of the Internet is that it expands the options available to everyone—both users and content providers. In the past, resources were scarce enough that there was limited room for experimentation and segmentation on television. Broadcast spectrum was allocated in such as way that it almost mandated that it be used to reach the largest possible audience, hence the mass audience programming of the old networks. Cable expanded choices, allowing Time Warner and others, for example, to offer user-funded channels, such as HBO, with a different programming model than on its ad supported WB broadcast network.
But the Internet, helped along with broadband, is a marketer’s Nirvana and a viewers Utopia (well, at least compared to the first 50 years). We have free first run TV, paid first run, ad supported free next day access with ads or paid commercial-less next day access. There are opportunities for downloading to small, portable players and larger, fixed displays. Advertisers can efficiently target smaller audiences than ever, converting video into the equivalent of the print world’s magazine rack.
Michael Nathanson, media analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, tells it straight: “A lot of companies are trying experiments like these, not just Disney. But no one knows what the business model is and whether it will pay off." Very true. And the same could be said in the early days of radio, when there were experiments with different subscription and advertiser models.
The difference today is that we are likely to find that multiple models will profitably co-exist with one another, which should please both stockholders and entrepreneurs. And consumers will soon find – to borrow from another industry—they can “have it their way” when it comes to video.
I call for each newspaper website worldwide to create and display a banner ad on May 3rd forb World Press Freedom Day.
During the past seven years, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has freely provided printed newspapers with photos, graphics, and texts about jailed or killed journalists, including essays by world notables denouncing the jailings or killings of journalists, that newspapers can publish on May 3rd.
Why shouldn't newspapers' online editions also campaign for world press freedom?
Online editions get their news from the same journalists. Plus, if online editions are to succeed print and become the dominant source of news during this century, they must begin raising banners for world press freedom. Let's start now!
WAN has no World Press Freedom Day campaign materials specifically for online editions, which this year is a forgivable oversight. Moreover, my guess is that organization's might not have staff time or budget to create such materials between now and May 3rd.
Yet, online newspaper staffs are creative. I propose that online newspapers editions adapt the World Press Freedom Day infographics, photos, and texts that WAN offers online for printed editions. Shrink the printed banners to banner ad size, etc.
If you run a newspaper website, should you really give this campaign one banner ad space on your home page?
It's only for one day. If you don't want to give it that advertising space, then just add another banner on your home page for this campaign. (Or perhaps create a separate webpage about World Press Freedom Day.) Can't your online edition do that as a public service in support of the thousands of journalists who risk their lives each day, some of whose work you might be publishing? Or for the more than 500 journalists who have been arrested and imprisoned this year? Or for the more than 50 who have been murdered this year?
What should news sites not operated by newspapers do in support of World Press Freedom Day?
WAN offers its campaign materials specifically to newspapers for use on May 3rd. So, I believe that prohibits use of those materials by other types of media organizations. Nevertheless, this shouldn't mean that other types of media organizations can't craft their own campaign materials from other sources, notably from news stories about imprisoned or killed journalists. Do so!
Many newspaper publishers this year have declared that online is no longer subsidiary but core to their news efforts. Let's make World Press Freedom Day core online, too!
The webcast (QuickTime) of my Rebuilding Media colleague Bob Cauthorn's lecture last month at the University of California at Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism is online. Although Bob could tell you its contents better than I can, he addresses topics such as why today's local newspapers aren't really local; why newspapers shouldn't blog but should work with outside bloggers; how newspapers could better use their readers' input to focus their news instincts; the value of free newspaper archives online; why newspapers should be open tagging their online content; why Yahoo!'s hiring of reporters is merely a Geraldo Rivera-like stunts and not really journalism; and much more. His speech was part of the New Media Lecture Series sponsored by the Western Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Vin Crosbie
I’m about half way through The Beatles, the new massive biography by Bob Spitz. Having come of age with the Beatles—I was a freshman in college when their first U.S. album swept over America – it all seemed very sudden. One day it was Elvis and the Ronetts. Next day it was all Beatles, all the time. But in reading Spitz’s book, I got a very different perspective on the phenomenon. From the time John Lennon was introduced to Paul McCartney in 1955, it was seven years of free gigs, grueling road trips and seven day a week performances in Hamburg before they even got their first recording audition. And another year until they broke out into the big time. As is often the case, a “sudden” phenomenon had been a long time in the making.
What in the world does this have to do with Rebuilding Media? Internet video is breaking out big time. After years of Internet video being a postage-stamp sized novelty, it is “suddenly” mainstream. I vividly recall showing a streaming video with RealPlayer (there was no Windows Media Player then) to my inaugural cybermedia class at Temple University in 1996. One student’s hand shot up with a question: “That’s cool. But no one is going to watch videos that are so jerky [it was a dial-up line] and so small.” “Absolutely true,” I responded. “But the importance of this is not where it is today but where we can expect it to be in 10 years."
So here we are 10 years later. Most households that are online use broadband connections. Wireless networks are in place with broadband capability. And cell phones that include the capability to receive video are common. This year may be the year that online video is recognized as a real business, as the established media companies throw their figurative hats in the ring to join the start-ups and innovators.
What’s some of the evidence?
First the new-guy players:
-- YouTube, one of the latest “new kids, rocketed from 3 million video streams per day to 25 million from Jan. 1 to Feb 28.
-- Apple’s iTunes is reporting downloads at the rate of about 3 million per month. Some are free, some are paid for.
-- NarrowStep, a company in the U.K. that provides technology and support for specialized Webcasts, says it is adding two to three new channels per week. Unlike the mostly amateur clips uploaded to YouTube and similar, NarrowStep is being used to create “slivercast” channels that are intended to be businesses. One client, Sail.tv, says it attracted 70,000 viewers in its first month. (payment required for access)
-- The Roo Group hosts or consults for 100 Internetcast TV sites which show 40 million videos a month. One client is YuksTV, which claims as many as many as 200,000 visitors in a month.
-- One of the “old-timers” among the new players is Atomfilms, a home for budding film-makers.
-- Then there is Google, big and wealthy but still a new player in video. Google provides access to everything from archived NBAAll-Star games for $3.95 to “Twilight Zone” classics for $1.99 to many free – and often worth as much— classic clips such as the 49 second "Benito scooping up after his dog.”
The traditional media companies have gotten the message:
-- The uber-Establishment Time-Warner’s CNN has been flogging Pipeline, a service that combines real time CNN feed with access to its video archive. It has the confidence to seek $25 annually—less than a subscription to Time.
-- CBS offered the NCAA’s March Madness basketball games on an advertiser-supported basis and had 5 million takers. Much of the pay-for material on Google Video is both current (e.g., “Survivor”) and historical (e.g., “Brady Bunch”) from CBS.
-- The prospects of a new revenue stream have driven Disney, which owns ABC, to agree with NBC Universal to provide “Scrubs”, which the former produces and the latter broadcasts, for sale on Apples iTunes. The significance of this is that it is the first time rival broadcasters have “joined together in a digital download deal.”
To be sure, these are just the tip of the iceberg (sometimes a cliché says it best). And naturally there are skeptics, though often one can see where their bread is buttered to understand:“‘I've never been a believer that we should create channels for all these niches like beach volleyball,’ said John Skipper, a senior vice president of ESPN. ‘They just don't pencil out. Because if you have 12,000 people, you can't afford to do it. And if you can't afford to do it, you can't make any money on it.’" But that’s like the publisher of People claiming that you can’t afford to publish a newsletter for 12,000 subscribers. No, not if you use the underlying economics of People.
The folks at Rocketboom.com, which claims “more daily subscribers for original syndicated multimedia content than nearly any other site, including Podcasts,” state it succinctly:
We differ from a regular TV program in many important ways. Instead of costing millions of dollars to produce, Rocketboom is created with a consumer-level video camera, a laptop, two lights and a map with no additional overhead or costs. Also, Rocketboom is distributed online, all around the world and on demand, and thus has a much larger potential audience than any TV broadcast. However, we spend $0 on promotion, relying entirely on word-of-mouth, and close to $0 on distribution because bandwidth costs and space are so inexpensive.
(Hmm, is this last phrase an argument for the carriers in the so-called “net neutrality” debate?)
The role and the business models of these and the many other players are all over the place. None of the new guys bulleted above actually create any content, while all of the old timers do. But the new players, including Google, YouTube and iTunes are providing the facility for all sorts of amateurs, professionals and amateurs-hoping -to-be- recognized- as-professionals to reach an audience.
“Slivercasting” is any way of describing the “long tail” concept introduced in a Wired article by that name in 2004: It refers to the large number of specialized offerings each of which appeals to a small number of people, but aggregate to a large market on the Internet. If each content provider was plotted on a graph along with best sellers, these specialized products trail off like a long tail that never reaches zero, as in the accompanying figure.
Of course, not all these ventures will survive economically, although as we have seen with the blogging phenomenon, in the long tail there inevitably will be some high quality content provided by individuals or entities motivated by other than direct revenue. Still, the implications for the effect of all this on our cumulative time available to spend on individual media programs, products and sites, as well the impact on the slicing of the advertising pie and consumer media budgets is likely to continue roiling and destabilizing the traditional media landscape.
There may be sudden phenomena in nature. But rarely in business. You just need to pay attention.