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.
Back in the early days of consumer online services one of the hot topics for prognosticators was the expectation of “disintermediation.” In brief, this referred to cutting out middlemen in the supply chain, such as stockbrokers between buyers and sellers of securities. Online services, then the Internet, they predicted, would make transactions more efficient by cutting out unneeded intermediaries.
Although talk about disintermediation has subsided and the predictions of some self proclaimed visionaries have not been fulfilled, the reality is that this phenomenon has in fact been operating and is picking up steam.
It is most clear in many financial transactions. Pre Internet I recall paying about $150 on average to buy or sell a stock. I’d have to call a broker, who would call me back later with the results of the order. And he or she got a hefty commission. Today, services such as eTrade, Fidelity and many others facilitate electronic orders that pass through them to the exchanges. Commissions have fallen to as low as $5 a trade.
eBay is a disintermediation vehicle for many types of transaction. About eight years ago, cleaning out the basement of the house where I was raised, I came across a stash of Playboy magazines dating from the early 1960s and Life magazines from the same era. My first reaction was to check on their value with some used magazine and book stores around. They, of course, would have bought them below the market rate so they could retail them for a profit. But I stumbled across this new eBay thing, listed them and sold them myself at “retail,” bypassing the intermediary. Moreover, I was able to reach a national (at the time) audience, while the local retailer had to base its price on a smaller, local market.
With its original direct to consumer business model, Dell disintermediated computer retailers. Paradoxically, HP has helped rejuvenate that channel and Dell has just this week acknowledged that it will sell through retailers. As I keep reminding my marketing students, the word “some” is a big word. Some people may like going direct, but some people still like to call a broker, go to Blockbuster, buy from Wal-Mart. For now, disintermediation is not an absolute—it’s an alternative.
The process continues. Netflix started the disintermediation of video rental stores—and will itself be bypassed by downloaded videos unless it is successful in becoming “one of them.” Much software is downloaded, not packaged, hence stores like Egghead and CompUSA have died or had to retrench.
Which bring us to the media world. The first high profile threat was Napster, which was the ultimate in disintermediation by allowing individuals to trade music with each other. After some fumbling, the recorded music industry has reached a degree of accommodation with the technology through iTunes and its competitors. Bye-bye Virgin Music Superstores, Tower Records and a host of others.
Newspapers have seen a portion of their high margin classified ads disintermediated by Craigslist and Monster.com. Why pay those high per word rates when you can reach more people, in a searchable format, than in the shrinking newspaper. Advertisers have learned about disintermediation as well. While banner ads have a third party middleman, Google’s AdSense or AdWords is far more efficient: pay only when used.
The legacy television networks are scrambling to prevent disintermediation. Postings of network shows on YouTube and the like were a threat to the networks and their local affiliates and had to be stopped. To one degree or another ABC, Fox NBC and CBS have elected to disintermediate their own local affiliates by allowing viewers to access many network shows online directly from their own Web site. Meanwhile, NBC has engaged in deals to distrubute its programming via numerous Web sites, as has CBS.
Disintermediation is not necessarily a losing proposition for the media industry. It’s just a matter of learning how to use it to its advantage. For example, last week the season finale of the popular TV series Grey’s Anatomy featured a soundtrack
by singer Ingrid Michaelson. Never heard of her? Not surprising, as she does not have a recording contract. She was found on MySpace by a firm that specializes in locating undiscovered talent (of which there is much) and using their works on TV shows and commercials for far less than it cost to license the music of established artists from a record label.
Because she does not have a record company contract, when one of her songs gets downloaded from iTunes, she pockets $.63 of the $.99 charge, compared to the 10 to 15 cents a major label artist gets sent. That amounts to $37,800 from the 60,000 times her songs have been downloaded. Ms. Michaelson has a gig she would likely have never had before MySpace, income in excess of what she would likely have earned from her music before iTunes. And ABC bolsters its profitability by a few dollars.
That’s the kind of creativity the newspaper industry needs as well. Disintermediation will ebb and flow. But the net will be more flow than ebb.
"In the online video syndication space, the largest video owners will not be the broadcasters. It's going to be the newspapers." That prediction from Critical Mention CEO Sean Morgan at this morning's NYMIEG breakfast (full disclosure: I'll be moderating a breakfast June 20 on career change in media for NYMIEG). Morgan mentioned how a local TV station in San Jose produces, maybe, five or six videos a day, but the San Jose Mercury newspaper produces 60.
"When we see these newspapers turn the corner by adopting new technologies that allow them to put a braodcast voice on their text news, the market is going to erupt."
Takes the "get ready for a video ad explosion led by the the NY Times" idea a big step further. And quite a prediction from a guy whose bread and butter today is from the broadcast affiliates -- putting their conent up behind a paid wall that others pay to access, search (via closed captioning), tag, organize, import, etc. (It's basically a video clip and syndication service much like the older one that employs people watching hours of video and transcribing it, then shipping it around the country).
Morgan also took the wraps off a free version of Critical Mention called Clip Syndicate that he said will offer clips for free that the stations (and others?) want to distribute without the wall in front if it. It won't, he said, eat Critical Mention's lunch. He made an analogy to Google vs. LexisNexis. Nexis, he noted after the event, has more sophisticated search and manipulation and organization tools.
I sometimes feel like an unpopular proselyte in arguing that today's digital journalists – at least at a senior editorial level – need to understand the business imperatives while also understanding the usual journalistic ones (double sourcing, verifiable accuracy, fairness, disclosure, etc).
WSJ.com managing editor Bill Grueskin seems to feel the same way, and has kindly sent me a list of things that today's editors in digital media must keep in their head, along with all the usual editorial duties.
In no particular order here they are. My additions in parens:
- Differentials in online/print ad rates
- Paid vs. free models (ie, subscription or micropayment vs. ad-supported)
- Role of search engines in driving traffic and revenue (SEO /SEM)
- (Corollary of above:) Tailoring content to appeal to search and other third party sites
- Tailoring content to maximize page views and thus ad impressions
Sree Sreenivasan of Columbia U frequently points out that journalists at The New York Times compete to get on the Most Read/Most Emailed/Most Blogged page, which also shows the most common search terms on the NYTimes.com site.
I say the NYTimes.com (and any) editors should also be aware of what the most-searched terms are on Google and Yahoo, and what those searches show on those sites, and what pages people land on after doing those searches and clicking through on the results.
From there they can get into funnel- and path-analysis, and more deep metrics. It becomes an organizational issue of who delves how much, into what; the bigger shops, like the journal, have the luxury of having someone(s) who does nothing but Web analytics – often a marketing team function, sometimes part of the technology department.
But today's top editor needs to know at least the basic, global issues Bill, Sree and I have stated just as much as a newspaper managing editor had better know the details of the print run.
I thought I'd coined the term "every company is a media company," meaning that the accessibility of the tools and the imperative to touch customers directly makes every company -- whether Wal-Mart or HP or Sun Microsystems or GM or Caldwell Banker or the local New York ice cream shop with a website – a company that produces media for its customers, or "constituents," if you prefer.
Then I found out at Streaming Media East that The FeedRoom CEO Bart Feder has been going around saying the same thing. And he tells me Streaming Media honcho Dan Rayburn's been saying it, too. FeedRoom handles video in one form or another for all the companies mentioned above, and a bevy of others. FeedRoom's revenues from Enterprise clients has gone up 80% this year, compared to last, while their business from media clients is essentially flat, Feder said. And those companies are embracing many of the practices that some traditional media companies have been slow to adopt: encouraging consumer-generated content, trying viral video, reaching out directly to people over the heads of any mediators, creating communities of excited brand-loyal consumers, and using customers' input as marketing intelligence.
Feder also, in an interview, talked about "direct to constituent" video, meaning that companies reach out to their dealer networks, managers, consumers, the press, and so on, and target each of them separately, having either open or closed networks, with various levels of control. When someone at a panel Feder was on said companies were having trouble creating enough content, Feder suggested that every company should give its 250 smartest and most loyal employees video cameras, and get them each to produce one video. Voila, enough content to run one video a day for a year of business days. Cheap, too. (And, of course, more for The FeedRoom to run through its system, and charge for.)
Jeff Jarvis, who moderated a panel today, likes that there's no arguing at this conference about whether the way things are is right or wrong, that the way media is now is treated as a given. So doesSteve Safran of LostRemote. (I was a fly on the wall -- well, a guy standing in the aisle - -when Safran was speaking to Jarvis.) Jarvis argued earlier that media companies should encourage consumers to distribute their media, stop worrying about how to control it and instead start worrying how to get it into consumers' eyes and ears.
He pointed out in a conversation at the conference today that perhaps the reason corporate America is so happy to use media in all its flexible ways is that for them, it's a cost. Or, as I would put it, it's not what they make – it's just what they do, that they're happy to give away, or take a short-term "loss" on producing the media to get people to pay for whatever it is that they really do. And the better the cost-effectiveness, the better for them. They're certainly not worried about making people pay for subscriptions, or making ad revenue on whatever media they produce. And in that they have a luxury that the traditional media companies don't.
Am blogging more on the show over at MediaFlect.com. My personal media blog.
Yesterday on the Online News Association's discussion list, the editor of a 37,000-circulation daily newspaper asked to hear:
" from folks who have tried something in between free and paid regarding your online content, such as holding back some print content from online; charging for 'premium' online content; giving access to some online content only to print subscribers. If you've done anything like this has it produced revenue or slowed print circulation erosion?"
Though I've not run a newspaper website in more than a decade, I today replied because I've spent more than a dozen years studying online paid content strategy and cases and had for several years been a columnists about the subject.
Sasa Vucinic and Patrice Schneider of MDLF, Prague. March 2007
In 30 years working in news media, I've never encountered a more beneficial cause than the Media Loan Development Fund. So, I've been volunteering some of my consulrting time to it.
The idea behind the MDLF arose during the late 1980s when Yugoslavian broadcaster Sasa Vucinic watched freedom of the press almost evaporate in his country. He worked for B92, which was the independent radio station in Serbia and a thorn in the side of dictator Slobodan Milošević's regime. Unable to find a legal pretext to silence B92, the regime began threatening the radio station's advertisers. B92 began running out of money and Vucinic was unable to find any bank, inside or outside of Serbia, that was willing to loan B92 money to keep operating.
Vucinic never forgot that experience (he gave an videotaped talk about it at the 2005 TED conference). In 1995, he approached billionaire George Soros, who himself grew up under a Communist regime in Hungary, about the idea of creating a foundation to loan money to independent media in countries that have repressive regimes. Soros agreed to setup the Media Development Loan Fund, which is based in Prague.
Vucinic's first MDLF project was a newspaper that during the late 1990s was being forced by the Slovakian government to travel 400 kilometres to print the paper. The newspaper wanted to purchase a printing press, so MDLF loaned it the money. MDLF has since financed 135 projects for 58 independent media companies in 18 countries. When MDLF began, Soros didn't think the foundation would ever see its loans repaid, but 97 percent of the 58 projects have repaid their loans on time.
In 1998, MDLF established the Center for Advanced Media-Prague (CAMP) in 1998 to introduce new-media concepts and solutions to independent media in the post-communist and developing countries. Earlier this year, Patrice Schneider, MDLF's director of development and formerly the Managing Director of Netscape Europe and Deputy Managing Director of Hachette Filipacchi Media, asked several other international new media experts and I to advise MDLF and CAMP about coming changes in new media and new media technologies..
If you have a chance to help MDLF's worthwhile cause, please do so.
Google's got a looming issue over privacy, because of all the data it collects on people -- from Gmail to Blogger to Google Ads and Analytics -- and it had better be out front on this issue, or it could pay a high price in the long run.
I wrote about this for Jack Myers Media Business Report and it now is on Jack's Media Village Web site.
The search engine will, if you let it, track not only all your Google searches, but if you download a toolbar, ALL your Internet surfing activity, and spit it back to you. I've allowed it to see only my Google searchess, and it's an intriguing peak at what I've used Google for in recent days (wow, do I use it a lot!). It's also a little creepy to think that someone could, some day, take a look and see everything I looked at -- be it business or personal, prurient or pure. I can imagine the picture someone could draw about me, or anyone, and am not sure it's a picture we'd like others to have access to.
If you're an advertiser, though, Google History, is the best thing since, well, there is no "since" because never before has an advertiser been able to potentially know all someone's media activity and target ads based on it.
Imagine the power of being able to target someone based on exactly what sites they've visited -- even to weight the ads after gauging their level of interest, based on the sites they visited, how much they surfed each one, even which pages they went to within those sites -- perhaps even how many links they clicked or what they did.
Here's a little look at my Google History for one short period of time.
I looked up some software plugins, a New York media group, and Niagara Falls (my wife wants to visit the region this summer). Already, you know a lot more about me than you did, and if you wanted to target me with an ad you'd have some darn good ideas of what might work.
There were other snapshots I could have put above but didn't -- they were too personal. I wouldn't want people to see what I'd looked for or at -- and that's only the Google searches.