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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

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October 18, 2006

Do online publishers really need protection from Google? The outlook for ACAP

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Posted by Ben Compaine

Publishers are organizing to stake a larger claim to the revenue now being garnered by the search engines, particularly Google. Two weeks ago a consortium of primarily EU-based publishing associations lead by the World Association of Newspapers announced a venture called Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), through which the providers of content published on the world wide web would be capable of communicating permissions information (relating to access and use of their content) in a form that can be readily recognized and interpreted by a search engine “crawler”, so that the search engine operator is enabled systematically to comply with such a policy or license. The full ACAP briefing paper is here.

A recent article by the Society for Computer and Law reviews the legal status of Google’s tools that provide web users with links to online content. For the most part courts have ruled that Google (and therefore other search engines) are not violating copyright by providing links to the pages of publishers. Last month, however, a Belgian court did rule that Google News (as opposed to Google’s basic search) was acting as an information portal (that is, like a publisher) rather than a mere search engine. The SCL article summarized the publisher arguments that court considered:

It causes the newspaper publishers to lose control of their Web sites and their content. While Google News links to an article on the newspaper publishers’ servers, once the publishers removes the article it still remains accessible on Google News via the link to the Google cache.

The appearance of automatically generated headlines on Google News means that users may avoid or by-pass the newspaper sites, resulting in a reduction of traffic and therefore loss of advertising revenue to the publishers.

Google News ‘short-circuits’ other protections for the publisher such as copyright notices and terms of use.

Access to the newspaper articles and other material via Google’s cache results in other missed opportunities for the newspaper, including reader registration and re-distribution rights.

Someone please help me understand, Where’s the beef? How does the publisher lose control of its Web site? For example, at 11:04 am EDT on Oct. 18 Google News’ top link was:
The axis of anxiety
Belfast Telegraph - 1 hour ago
North Korea is the newest and least predictable member of the most dangerous club in the world. By David Usborne and Raymond Whitaker.

Has the Belfast Telegraph been robbed of possible traffic because thousands of users saw that? And how many of those who clicked through to the article would otherwise have the Belfast Telegraph as their usual source of online  news? On the other hand, how many of those who clicked were exposed to the ad promoting “Online Monopoly”, an ad I for one have never seen elsewhere and was intrigued enough to click on.

Less than an hour latter, the lead had become:

Rice seeks to temper fears of Asian arms race
Swissinfo - 2 hours ago
By Sue Pleming and Chisa Fujioka. TOKYO (Reuters) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice reassured Japan on Wednesday that Washington would stand by a commitment to protect its Asian ally, trying to temper ...

Was the Belfast News, or any other pubisher in that listing, being taken advantage of by being in the Google spotlight for 30 or 40 minutes?

And then its on and on about Google’s “cache” (sounds like “cash”, which, of course, is what this is all about). An article at Google News this morning headlined “Reuters offloads Factiva stake for $160m.” It was freely available if I chose the Times Online (London), but when I clicked on The Wall Street Journal’s link, I found only the first 50 words or so of the story and was told I needed to be a subscriber to see the whole thing.

Where’s the beef?

When I searched Google’s archive for articles mentioning HP CEO Mark Hurd and the recent controversy about investigating the HP Board, I received dozens of hits. But when I tried to view “Dunn Departs HP Board,” from Pensions & Investments Online Sept. 22, I was confronted with a screen that said I needed to register and sign-in before getting access.

So where’s the beef?

ACAP: Will it Work?

In the ACAP project, the publishers have gone out of their way not to paint their effort as a way to get back at the search engines. They are, indeed, trying to make this out to be a “win-win” proposition, describing their plan as “a new and exciting scheme that aims to improve the relationship between publishers and search engines….” They continue, “Via ACAP, we look forward to fostering mutually beneficial relationships between publishers of original content and the search engine operators, in which the interests of both parties can be properly balanced.” The search engines folks should embrace ACAP because “More content will be searchable: ACAP will give content owners the confidence to allow search engines to index their content under clear terms of use.”

In practical terms, ACAP is a solution in search of a problem. I’m certain the overwhelming number of publishers today get far more benefit from being crawled and displayed by the search engines than any minor harm. They get hits from audiences far greater than they would get sans search engines. (I wish I knew of some solid research that would confirm this, but it’s so evident on its face that I’m willing to make this assertion.). More hits can only lead to great value for advertisers, more registered users, and, in a few cases, and even subscription revenue. Content providers already have the option of-opt out from Google, they can already control access to the bulk of their content through registration and subscription requirements.

The outlook for the successful widespread implementation of an ACAP-like system primarily depends on whether Google really sees anything of value in it. If Google, MSN and others choose not to modify their crawlers and spiders, whatever, to interpret the code that ACAP will provide publishers, the latter will be left with the choice of either opting out altogether or using current tools. There are only a handful of publishers worldwide that might even entertain the fiction that they would be better off without the search engines even as now functioning.

There are precious few example—I can think of none—where top-down implementation has succeeded on the Internet. The Internet itself-- though initially developed with US government funding-- grew very much organically, as did the World Wide Web. eBay was not a creation of Christy’s or Sotheby’s auction houses. Despite years of talk about micro payment systems, it was not the major financial institutions that created PayPal, the most successful new system for online payments. Downloaded music was not a creation of music publishers or record companies, but grew from the success of Napster and the initiatives of Apple. Online video has received most of its attention thanks to the success of YouTube rather than a big-bucks push from the legacy video industry. And Google itself was a garage-shop end-around the top-down effort of Digital Equipment Corp (later Compaq’s) Alta Vista search engine.

Not only is ACAP a long shot to succeed as a model, but I don’t even see how the content industry will be better off if it does.

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

October 17, 2006

What Future Roles for Newsstands, Archives, and Newsrooms?

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

On this day when eMarketer estimates that Google is well on the way to capturing 25 percent of all U.S. online advertisement spending and almost twice the amount of Yahoo!'s revenues, with which Google's revenues only 18 months ago were on par, here are some other issues that my business partner and I are examining:

° What will be the future role of news agents and newsstands? Although they don't play a sizeable role in distribution of American, Canadian, German, and Japanese newspaper (only about seven percent of circulation in those countries), local newsstands and news agent play a most significant role in most other major countries' newspaper ecology. Plus they play significant roles in magazine distribution in every country.

In most of the world's countries, newspapers and their hired wholesalers distributed daily copies to the news agents and newsstands, who then distribute them to you. when you subscribe to home delivery of a daily newspaper, you make your subscription with your neighborhood newsstand or news agent (not directly with the newspaper as is the situation here in the U.S.) The news agents or newsstand has the relationships with the subscribers; the newspapers themselves don't know who subscribes, just that the wholesalers reports how many copies were sold to the retail newsstand and news agents.

Some digerati simply expect newsstands and news agents to go out of business if newspapers and magazines someday switch entirely to online publication. But that would create a major disruption in countries such as the United Kingdom, where 47 percent of the daily newspapers' gross revenues came from newsstands and news agents. Must the newspapers forge direct subscription relationships with consumers? Will physical newsstands and kiosks cease to exist? (Do remember that browsing a physical newsstands if much easily than one online.) Or will they be replaced by physical versions of some sort of electronic kiosk?

° More immediately on that topic, we've today been helping a U.S. investment client ascertain what the U.K. Office of Fair Trade's provisional decision-making about news agent competition means for major newspaper and magazine distribution wholesalers such as W.H.Smith, Menzies, or Dawson News.

In the U.K. wholesalers grant news agents and newsstands exclusive rights to distribute certain titles in specific geographical areas (a rural town, a one block radius in London, etc.). Since 2004, the OFT has been investigating whether such exclusivity is anti-competitive and disserves consumers. It last year issued a provisional finding that these exclusivities weren't anti-competitive with newspapers but were with magazines. Several months ago, it however changed its findings to say the exclusivities are anti-competitive for newspapers, too. It's still investigating, and will issue new findings in the spring.

° Would the regional press be better served using virtual newsrooms? We know several reporters at various regional newspapers who've gotten into trouble by not being at their newsroom desks five days and 40-hours per week. They've defended themselves by pointing out that news doesn't occur in newsrooms. That's all too true. The successful newsroom was an empty one 25 years ago because all its reporters who expending shoe leather, but too many corporations now consider an emply desk or cubicle in a newsroom to mean that the reporter isn't doing her job.

Today's technologies allow reporters to work from anywhere. So, why should they be physically anchored to their newsroom for most of the work day? Newsrooms are a great place for reporters and editors to have story conferences, but with instant messaging, SMS, person-to-person webcasting and voicecasting, mobile devices, etc., the reporter should be able to work from his car, home, local coffee shop, or the news scene. Why chain them to an Atex or SII mainframe six or eight hours each day?

Many journalism schools teach how to report using multimedia and new technologies, but none teach editors how to use those technologies to replace the newsroom itself. It's time that was done.

° Open archives. How much are newspapers really making by charging for online access to stories that might be more than a week old? Do they earn more that way than the online advertising revenues from opening up their entire archives to consumers and search engines? Are publishers being foolishly doctrinaire by charging for archives?

° American business publications in print took a revenue bath last month. The Society of American Business Editors and Writers' Talking Biz News reports Magazine Publishers Association data showing large drops in advertising pages and revenues.

Though Barron's, The Economist and Inc magazines showed increases in ad revenue,
Forbes 4.2 percent, Smart Money 5.4 percent, Money 6.6 percent, em>Business 2.0 fell 7.4, BusinessWeek 8.9 percent, Kiplinger 19 percent, and Fortune 28.1 percent (after that magazine had already declined 12 percent in August). It's odd that business magazines would have less advertising once the summer vacation season ended.

° The Financial Times and the weekly New York Sun published 'think' articles about the future of the American newspaper industry, and both make the same point about profit margin versus product development.

The FT story contrasts the Los Angeles Times and the St. Petersburg Times. The former is owned by the publicly-traded Tribune Company and the latter owned by a not-for-profit trust. The FT's reporter suggests that Wall Street demanding too much profit ("trying to push profit margins beyond 20 per cent") comes at the expense of keeping newspapers viable.

The Sun's story looks at The Los Angeles Times and the now defunct Knight Ridder Inc., and is a bit more blunt:

It seems its [Knight Ridder] 32 daily newspapers had been able to record "only" a 20% return on investment in recent years.

Cut back on the quality of a newspaper in order to show an impressive short-term return for the market's sake, and the slide toward disaster has begun. Readers will notice and begin drifting away, and advertisers will soon follow. It won't be long before the vultures are circling.

° Last but not least, the online news pioneer Milverton Wallace, who'd organized the European NetMedia conference during the new-media industry's first decade, looks at the long-term changes underway, in an essay he's written for the Club of Amsterdam.

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

October 9, 2006

Do More People Read Newspapers Online Than in Print?

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

Pardon me for writing again about newspapers, but they're often the starting point in the feeding chains of broadcasters and bloggers. And this story is just in about newspapers themselves:

According to the latest figures from the Newspaper Association of America Newspaper Audience Database project, more Americans visit newspaper websites than purchase printed editions. That is, more do sometime during a month. The NAA announced that more than 55.5 million Americans now visit newspaper websites at least once per month and this total grew by more than 31 percent during the past year.

When many of us started publishing news online during the late 1980s (via Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL, and other proprietary online services) or in the mid-1990s on the World Wide Web, the time when newspapers would have more online users than print readers seemed a distant dream.

It's a milestone, an accomplishment that deserve praise.

Yet this dream isn't a wet dream. Nor is it real. The big caveat in the NAA announcement is those numbers are monthly, not daily.

Slightly more than 54 million Americans purchase a printed edition daily while 55.5 million visited a newspaper website at least once per month. Conflating daily print and monthly online figures makes it appear that the American newspaper industry isn't so much losing daily print readers as gaining equally frequent new readers online. That's good PR for the newspaper industry, and more power to the NAA for touting it. But the claim isn't really true.

Daily reach isn't monthly reach and vice versa. There may be 55.5 million users of newspaper websites, but they use those site far less frequently and less thoroughly than daily.

Look closely at NAA's NAD data (which is downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet). How often does the average user visit a newspaper site during a month? There's are no data about that in the NAD data, but we can calculate an indication from the data. Though the NAD spreadsheet is password-protected against any changes or added calculations, you can simply add a new worksheet into it by using Excel's 'Insert > Worksheet' command and link it to the NAD data to make indicative calculations.

Take as an example the first newspaper listed in the data: The New York Times. Divide its number of monthly users into its number of monthly page views to calculate how many pages the average user saw that month. The answer is 24.8, or less than a webpage per day during any month. That indicates that the most frequent possibility would be the average user of that site visits almost daily (i.e., 24.8 times in a 30-day month) but sees only one webpage per visit and that the least frequent would be one visit per month during which he sees more than 24 webpages. (My guess within that range would be about six visits per month and some four webpages seen per visit.)

Make the same calculation about the Boston Globe (line 244 in the NAD spreadsheet) and the answer is 21.3 or only about two webpages every three days. Try the Miami Herald (line 1389) and get 5.6 webpages per month or less than one webpage every five days. Etcetera.

The NAA is conflating the numbers of people who read at least one printed page daily with people who might read perhaps only two webpages per week. Those numbers aren't really equivalent.

Moreover, I'm puzzled by another NAA datasheet (PDF) available online, this one from Nielsen/Netratings data. It shows almost the same number of site users per month as the NAD data, but an average of nearly 47 webpages seen monthly per user. That's a discrepency of more than 100 percent from the NAD data! I wonder what the explanation is such a huge discrepency in data covering the same period and through NAA.

Maybe a clearer picture can be seen in a report the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released this summer, Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership:

But the growth of the online news audience has slowed considerably since 2000, particularly among the very young, who are now somewhat less likely to go online for news than are people in their 40s. For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting.

Broadcast news outlets continue to struggle over the last two years alone, the audiences for nightly network, local TV news and radio news have all slipped. Even so, the recent trends in news consumption are relatively stable when compared to the 1990s when TV news in particular was suffering losses of far greater magnitude.

Similarly, the latest Pew news consumption survey finds that newspapers, which also have seen their audience decline significantly, are now stemming further losses with the help of their online editions. However, the discrete online-only newspaper audience is quite modest in size.

Four-in-ten Americans say they read a newspaper yesterday, with 6% reading a newspaper online 4% read both a print and online newspaper, while 2% read it only online. In addition, 3% say they read something on a local or national newspaper website yesterday. As a result, even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership 43% for both print and online readers is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50%).

The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 3,204 adults from April 27 to May 22, finds that the audience for online news is fairly broad, but not particularly deep. People who say they logged on for news yesterday spent 32 minutes, on average, getting the news online. That is significantly less than the average number of minutes that newspaper readers, radio news listeners, and TV news viewers spend with those sources. And while nearly half of all Americans (48%) spend at least 30 minutes getting news on television, just 9% spend that long getting news online.

The web serves mostly as a supplement to other sources rather than a primary source of news. Those who use the web for news still spend more time getting news from other sources than they do getting news online. In addition, web news consumers emphasize speed and convenience over detail. Of the 23% who got news on the internet yesterday, only a minority visited newspaper websites. Instead, websites that include quick updates of major headlines, such as MSNBC, Yahoo, and CNN, dominate the web-news landscape.

The rise of the internet has also not increased the overall news consumption of the American public. The percentage of Americans who skip the news entirely on a typical day has not declined since the 1990s. Nor are Americans spending any more time with the news than they did a decade ago when their news choices were much more limited. In 1996, people on average spent slightly more than an hour (66 minutes) getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers. Currently, they spend virtually the same amount of time (67 minutes) getting the news from all major news sources, the internet included.

As internet news has gone more mainstream, its audience has aged. Since 2000, nearly all of the growth among regular internet news users has occurred among those ages 25-64. By contrast, virtually the same percentage of 18-24 year-olds say they get news online at least three days a week as did so six years ago (30% now, 29% then). Currently, about as many people ages 50 to 64 regularly get news on the internet as do those in their late teens and early 20s.

If newspaper new-media is to succeed printed editions, then it still has a long way to go. And it will need to go that far within not much more than perhaps ten years before declines in print circulation will drop below he level where newspapers become uneconomic to publish and therefore insolvent, as others have calculated.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers