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.
In a sign the universes of marketing and journalism are converging, Hilary Schneider, EVP of Yahoo's Local Markets and Commerce Division and the Yahoo publisher network gave a list of attributes (she wasn't completely clear but I think she meant) that journalistic content has to follow. She was speaking at the Online News Association Conference. And, surprising, the New York Times' International Herald Tribune's Michael Oreskes, giving the second-day keynote, stole her slides and showed them again. With some paraphrasing:
1. Obligation to the truth
2. Loyalty to citizens
3. Disclosure and verification
4. Maintaining independence (her slide actually said "an independence" but I'll trust that was a typo
5. Independent monitor of power
6. Forum for public criticism and compromise
7. Make the significant interesting and relevant
8. Keep news competitive and proportional
9. Exercise personal conscience
It as a bit surrealistic. Schneider spent some time talking about brands and marketing, and Oreskes was all about democracy and free speech.
You've probably heard that for its album "In Rainbows" released today, British band Radiohead is taking what industry watchers are calling a revolutionary step: letting fans determine the price they'll pay for it. But it isn't so revolutionary, if you've been watching media and business trends. It's not just that other, less famous bands have tried the same thing before or the half-failed attempt by Prince in 1998, when fans complained they didn't get his disc for months after ordering it direct from the artist.
What's happening to the industry is monopolistic advantages created either by regulation or severe limits on distribution are being shaken up by the new distribution platforms. If someone charges too much, a lot of the audience will get the music or programming for free – laws be damned. Marc Cuban quipped at a conference that he doesn't bother paying to put copy protection on DVDs of movies he funds that any six year old can crack. TiVo, YouTube, BitTorrent, Kazaa – the names are legion, and will be endless. iTunes was perceived as offering a fair price and great model, until NBC said recently they wanted flexible pricing for differentiation.
We're often taught that competition is great, but in fact capitalism can't function with perfect competition. If every piece of content, every ad spot, every song, every product is up for auction, and the disruptive technology of the Web flattens all profits, margins will be cut razor-thin, ad space become commoditized, and the ad industry loses -- except for those few breakout creative pieces that people will really be willing to pay for to show appreciation, or because that creative distinction is a differentiator that allows charging of a higher price. So much today is up for a "pay-what-you-want" or auction model. Auctions on eBay and competitors, keywords on Google and others, brokers who sell ad remnant inventory and the like.
What Radiohead, a highly acclaimed if not superstar band, is doing is not only using the technology to reach out to their core, not only using the new technologies to end-run the recording industry, but also working on new models for making music and making money. It's been pointed out that we're in a new music industry model, one in which, rather than making money off CDs, artists make money through add-ons and concerts. Concerts can take in hundreds of millions of dollars at $100 per ticket. Radiohead's site, through a very simple interface, says "It's up to you" what to pay, and later get a download code. They're offering the music for free, but offering upsells for more: a package with the CDs in a special box, another disc of songs, two vinyl records, lyrics, artwork and so on costs 40 pounds (about $80) that will be available in December. The latest Prince concert, gave away CDs, and took considerable flak for giving yet more away as a newspaper insert.
Radiohead's site crashed last week after they couldn't handle the demand. Their initiative is seen primarily as promotion. Within 36 hours after the announcement, Radiohead had reached #3 on Billboard's "Buzz 100" list of most blogged bands. But it's more: The band gets names and contact info of people who subscribe, all of which have a lifetime value. And they get marketing information: How much will fans actually pay for an album? And releasing the album this way doesn't preclude negotiating a conventional record deal later; that deal could be more lucrative once they've proven the music's popularity beforehand. (CDs still account for about 80 percent of music sales.)
How long, too, before sites like Radiohead's are seen as place to show ads? And there we begin to create yet another long tail disruption. If everyone who can aggregate an audience, especially an audience with a specific bent or demographic profile, begins to serve ads, begins to offer itself to advertisers, we'll start to see all these niche sites (perhaps in Radiohead's case it should be called a "mass niche") that get ad dollars in addition to all the other revenue streams. We'll also see if marketing budgets can sustain so much mainstream media that appeals to less targeted mass audiences.
Andy Serwer, the managing editor of Fortune, wrote in his blog on Monday that “Twenty years from now, the media biz will look completely different.” Yeah. But his reasoning for this went beyond the usual digital transformation.
Serwer foresees “two other equally important seismic events”: the passing of the old guard at the family controlled media companies and the “dismantling of media giants.”
Both these factors could as easily fit into a discussion at my Who Owns the Media? blog. But they also are appropriate for this venue because they address the shape of the future media landscape.
While both of Serwer’s “events” are right on, neither is “seismic” nor events, in the sense that they are ongoing process, not a product of a single incident.
Sumner Redstone's Viacom and Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation are as likely to continue under the next generation of ownership much as Newhouse has gone on after the death of its patriarch, S. I. Newhouse or Time Inc. (now Time Warner) after the age of Henry Luce. Sure, there may be differences. But they are not likely to be “seismic.” On the other hand, a new cadre of moguls may in the making,: Can you say Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jerry Yang, David Filo, Mark Zuckerberg?
Similarly, the disaggregation of “media giants” has been an ongoing phenomenon for many years, for reasons ranging from financial needs to the latest trends in strategy. As one example, there is the recent split between Viacom and CBS. Adam Thierer has kept a “diary” of other media company divestitures.
Nearly 30 years ago, in the first edition of my book Who Owns the Media?, I compiled a table of the dominant media companies, based on the breadth of their media holdings. At the time, the company with the largest holdings across the media industry was Times Mirror Co, best know as publisher of The Los Angeles Times. Since then it sold off its magazines (e.g., Popular Science, Outdoor Life) and its book publishing (e.g., Mathew Bender, New American Library) and eventually sold what remained to the Tribune Co., which itself is in the process of selling itself to a private investor and an employee investment fund.
Another on the other short list of companies that had major positions in more than one medium was the old CBS, which back in the early 1980s, besides its television stations and networks, owned a stable of magazines that included Woman’s Day and Road & Track, and book publisher imprints including Holt Rinehart & Winston. All of that was sold off in pieces before CBS, as part of a revised strategy to focus on its “core” television business, undid the “media conglomerate” strategy that was in vogue in the 1970s and sold itself to Viacom.
On the other hand, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer said Tuesday that he expects 25% of the company’s revenue within 10 years to be generated by advertising-supported products and services. Sounds very media-ish.
So, yes, the media industry will look different in 20 years, just as it has evolved over the past 20 or 30 years. But the key world is “evolve.” This is not seismic. The digital revolution may be an appropriate use of “revolution” in the context of the centuries dominated by print. But we’ve seen digital coming for at least 25 years. The mass market Internet goes back 13 years. And newspapers and broadcast stations are still profitable. There has been and still is time to adjust.
Lots of long term rumbling, but no earthquakes, Andy.
Jeff Jarvis is asking for newspapers' "iPod moment" without fully describing what it is. Here's my response:
The iPod moment for newspapers will be when truly functional ePaper hits... color, touchscreen, wireless Internet built in, agnostic to standard, plays video, can work and read when not connected. A cross of the functionality of the iPhone, today's browsers and the TimesReader. It will be even more of a moment if that ePaper can also allow data entry for tagging and blogging, VOIP and so on. I dunno how many years.
Remember, people from MIT Media Lab and elsewhere imagined such a paper for the movie Minority Report. It was shown as USA Today in one scene on the train.
I agree with others, though, that it's coming incrementally. I can, today, do many of these things on my smartphone, and certainly on a laptop I carry most places.