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.
That question, raised indirectly last night at the Hearst-funded new media discussion at Columbia J-school, sent a chill down my spine. Iranian born blogger and iconoclast Hossein "Hoder" Derakhshan, talked a lot in ways that took shots at conventional wisdom. He talked about "the tyranny of the popular," how in a world of Digg and Delicious and other "most e-mailed" and other popularity features, we find ourselves under constant pressure to get on those lists to get our stuff viewed. (Wikipedia book Author Andrew Lih countered that he sometimes searches Digg in a way that helps him find the least popular to get emerging or unheralded info about the online crowd-sourced encyclopedia). He talked about corporate censorship in journalism, how someone reporting for a mainstream news org can have a perfectly valid journalistic idea kyboshed for reasons having nothing to do with the validity of the idea, but rather because it may not conform to pre-conceived notions or myriad other issue.
An audience member, at the microphone, asked if there were government bloggers. I think he meant to ask if there were government bloggers in Iran. But he could equally have been asking about the U.S. Are there government bloggers? What's to say there aren't? We've seen reports of government employees staging press conferences, pretending to be things they weren't, putting out video news releases as if they were news reports. So who's to say there aren't bloggers claiming to be independent who are in fact working for the government? Some would say that government bloggers could be a good thing, if they're open about it. Why not? If government people blog in ways that shows their viewpoints, and those viewpoints can be picked up – or picked apart – by others, that only adds to the conversation. It's just a more modern equivalent of the press release or press conference or other attempts to influence news coverage or the conversation. Inevitably, something delicious would find its way to a government blog.
At a time when companies are increasingly going direct to consumers with their media, circumventing traditional media and the need for conventional coverage or conventional ad buys, it seems only logical the government will do so as well. (If there is some sort of Justice or Defense or State department blogger or bloggers I'm not aware of, by all means, chime in.) Companies that have tried to do Web media without disclosing that they were from a company have been burned. Government should heed the same lesson.
News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch has made news with several talks this week.
Yesterday he declared that "the sky's-the-limit profits from traditional broadcast TV are over….Free-to-air television faces a lot of challenges, just from the sheer fragmentation of the audience.” Overall he characterized broadcast television as a "highly challenged industry in America."
This may actually be on the minds of some of the striking Writers Guild of America members. The Wall Street Journal reported than some of the writers who work for the soap operas are resigning from the union and going back to work. The audiences for the soapshave been sinking for years. “Writers and producers in the genre fear that by the time the strike finishes, their audiences won't return.”
On Monday Murdoch publicly admitted that he expected the online version of The Wall Street Journal will soon be free. News Corp. will likely close the deal to acquire Dow Jones next month. "We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having one million [subscribers], having at least 10 million to 15 million in every corner of the earth, keeping up-to-date minute by minute with all business and economic news from around the world," he told an audience in Australia.
Such comments give some insights in News Corporation's strategy and business model. Clearly, advertising will play a larger role in the business model for online content. On the other hand, he is hedging his bets on advertising from broadcasting. First, he advocates making television productions very high quality, so they can be sold to the global market “and then be brought back to America--or to anywhere in the world, for that matter --and be sold as DVDs.”
So, television becomes more consumer financed, while online becomes the prime advertiser-supported medium. At least in Murdoch’s view. How will this be affected, if at all, should DVD’s be supplanted by online delivery, such as by Netflix or Amazon’s Unbox or iTunes video service? Actually, News Corp has a bet there, with Hulu.com, its ad-supported online video venture with NBC Universal.
News Corp. has developed a “portfolio strategy”: When the crystal ball is cloudy, invest in a range of possibilities. Not all need to be a success. Two or three big ones will do.
Reuters reported that News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch said on Tuesday he was planning to boost the numbers of subscribers to the Wall Street Journal's Web site more than tenfold by making access free.
"We are studying it and we expect to make that free, and instead of having 1 million (subscribers) having at least 10-15 million in every corner of the earth."
What Google is apparently working on is not the hardware per se, but an open operating system and applications that play to its strengths in search, mapping, YouTube and, of course, targeted advertising. Various accounts has it speaking with Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S., possibly others globally.
The first question anyone following this thread would ask is why would any of these players consider opening up their tightly controlled phones? Right now, for example, Verizon customers who want GPS directions pay $10/month or $3.00 daily for data that cost Verizon almost nothing to provide. Other mobile phone data services bring in anywhere from $5 to $45 month. Why would Verizon agree to an open system that would blow open this cash cow?
The answer lies in the same metrics that lead The New York Times to forgo $49 from 220,000 subscribers to its Times Select service. And it is the same calculus that my colleague here Dorian Benkoil (and various commenters) put together for scenarios that might make it more profitable for The Wall Street Journal to give away its online product and forego the $60 million, plus or minus, in subscription revenue. That is, the potential for advertising revenue is greater than the current and projected revenue from the walled cell phone garden.
What are the stakes? In 2006, an estimated $301 million was spent on ads for mobile phone in the U.S. One research firm guesses that should increase to $2.12 billion in 2011. (How can they predict to two decimal places four years from now? Someday I will examine a bunch of these past forecasts and see how they line up with what really happened). But this projection likely assumes that the current cell phone industry model prevails. If a more open network evolved, with advertising dollars available to replace lost subscription revenue, that $2.1 billion would be higher. How much? Ah, there’s the rub.
What I am suggesting here is some credibility to the notion that the carriers, like much of the media industry, might do better from an advertising model than from user revenue for their data services. The most likely carriers to be amenable to a deal with Google would be number three Sprint-Nextel and number four T-Mobile. Word is that the latter may be closest to a deal. But Verizon could want to get in on the act as well to counter AT&T’s excluive with Apple. In any event, Google would likely need to split revenue more generously with the carriers than it does in the media world because the carriers are in a much stronger bargaining position.
If Google does get its foot (or whatever) in the mobile phone world, the impact could be every bit as great as has been its impact in the Web universe. It might force Apple to open up the iPhone even more than it has planned to, as much to accommodate its current partner, AT&T, than out of true belief.
I’m not ready to buy Google stock at $700—but then, I thought it was rich when its IPO priced it at about $85, so don’t take advise on this from me. Still, if they pull this off, $700 may look cheap by 2011.