Former newspaper analyst turned professor Lauren Rich Fine attended the Florida Press Association meeting where the Tribune Company announced its new 50-50 ratio between advertising and editorial copy. She writes
there is a relatively new sense of urgency among participants to find and discuss solutions to the current economic woes of the industry; the historic cultural reticence is quickly being eroded.
Among other things fine says:
In my conversations with both newspaper executives in Florida and beyond, I sensed some agreement with my premise that newspapers needed to reengage with their community. Give reporters, not just columnists, opportunities to connect and gain some visibility.
That would be a huge change. I discuss the “cultural reticence” of the news industry in an essay titled, The Pyramid and the Cloud. Those attitudes could not change quickly enough.
My friend Tim Bishop points me to some reality checks today, suggesting that the Washington Post’s much-touted experiment in hyperlocal web publishing has lost its leader and perhaps its way. Rob Curley is one of the newspaper industry’s new media and I have lauded in this blog about 10 months ago. Now the Wall Street Journal reports that Curley has taken five associates with him to Las Vegas where he and his condotierri will build a working hyperlocal site — not like the large and costly flop they are leaving behind in suburban Virginia. WSJ writer Russell Adams concludes his article by saying:
As he decamps with five colleagues to take on an Internet venture for the Las Vegas Sun, Mr. Curley acknowledges he didn’t get out into the community enough. “I was the one who was supposed to know we should be talking to Rotary Club meetings every day,” Mr. Curley said. “I dropped the ball. I won’t drop it in Vegas, dude.
Wow, that’s great work when you can get it!
Meanwhile, iconolanistic blogger Scott Karp writes that the Washington Post’s front web page proves of no use in helping him decide whether or not thunderstorms in suburban Virginia would snarl traffic or cause office closures. But, as Karp blogs, he must use a search engine to find the map, posted by the local power company, of downed trees and other obstructions. People want news they can use. But newspapers give them all the news that editors think is fit to print.
Oh, well, this won’t happen in Las Vegas now that Rob Curley’s crew has arrived. For one thing thunderstorms are rare in the Las Vegas desert and other than the occasional decorative palm, there are no trees.
Industry e-zine Paid Content celebrates its sixth birthday this week by biting the hand that feeds it. Deals and the rumors of deals are its stock in trade so kudos to the Content-meisters for touting the New Yorker’s skeptical assessment of CBS’s acquisition of CNet. Financial columnist James Surowiecki uses this media deal as a case in point to remind readers that:
corporate marriages only rarely end in bliss—many studies have found that most mergers and acquisitions do little for the acquiring company’s bottom line. A KPMG study of seven hundred mergers found that only seventeen per cent created real value, and that more than half destroyed it. And a McKinsey study of mergers that took place in the nineteen-nineties found that less than a quarter generated excess returns on investment.
Why then does the Wall Street Journal introduce many mergers with details leaked by people close to the deal who violate their legal duties of confidentiality? And when the Journal gets a so-called scoop of this sort does it thank the leaker by soft-pedaling criticism? Or is there some other explanation for fawning coverage of deals that so often go bust?
In a variation on Surowieki’s theme, I once wrote about how publicity helped create a frenzy for initial public offerings (IPOs). I quoted Yale University economist Richard Shiller, who dedicated a chapter of his book, “Irrational Exuberance,” to how the press invented financial euphorias. The article quotes him as saying:
I don’t think there were any bubbles until there were newspapers,” said Shiller, whose research went back to the Dutch tulip bulb craze of the 1630s.
Imagine that. Extra, extra, read all about it! Newspapers invent hype! Hollywood lives for hype. Economists understand that “the (film) distributor earns most of its revenue over the first two or three weeks of the movie’s screen life.” The publicity blitz in advance of a new movie is intended to get viewers into this three-week window. Of course Hollywood thanks the media with generous advertising.
Surowiecki is known for his observation that public — or rather niches within the public — often have greater collective expertise than the so-called experts, which concept is captured in the book title, “Wisdom of the Crowds.” The crowds will need all the wisdom they can muster because mass media often seems intent on selling its audience a bill of goods.
The Magazine Publishers of America (MPA) reported an 11.9 percent rise in unique visitors to magazine websites in Q1 2008. The research summary continued on to say that:
This gain reflects more than three times the rate of growth for the overall U.S. Internet audience, which rose 3.7% in the first quarter.
What is going right? MPA chief executive Nina Link says:
Magazine brands online are getting ‘stickier’ with web audiences . . . Publishers are increasingly employing the latest digital innovations to broaden their reach and appeal to an audience that has a clear hunger for magazine online content and communities.
For summaries of publicly announced new media experiments by magazines visit the Magazine Digital Initiative.
I looked at magazine pages for Q1 08 versus the same period in 07. Overall pages were down 6.4 percent but there were big winners, like Wired, the trendy tech book, which printed 13.4 percent more pages during this year’s study period compared to its 2007 showing.
My thoughts: Perhaps the web audience has simply moved toward what a magazine web site offers — a niche subject in which the visitor has a recurring interest. The web gives the magazine that which it had lacked — a way to stay in touch with the audience in between monthly (or occasionally weekly) print editions. Not clear from any of these figures are how this shift in attention, from print pages to web pages, affects magazine finances.
Blogging may be a mild form of self-therapy in which we make ourselves happier or at least blow off steam in a way that improves our mental heath. That was my takeaway from a summary, written by the Poynter Institute’s Barb Iverson, of an article in Scientific American (behind a registration wall). In her summary piece Iverson lifts the following from the SciAm article by Jennifer Wapner:
Scientists (and writers) have long known about the therapeutic benefits of writing about personal experiences, thoughts and feelings. But besides serving as a stress-coping mechanism, expressive writing produces many physiological benefits. Research shows that it improves memory and sleep, boosts immune cell activity and reduces viral load in AIDS patients, and even speeds healing after surgery.
I certainly feel better after I blog. For me it is a form of mental exercise, like situps or pushups.
But if blogging is how I exhale my mental CO2, so to speak, how does this affect the other party to this action, the blog reader? Do they carry the weight that the blog writer has unloaded? Is the reader the co-dependent of the self-delusional writer?
Whatever psychological mischief is afoot passiveness is the wrong response to this or any blog. Make a comment. It lets out a little of that bad mojo you may have acquired. Otherwise negative vibes may fill your head until one wrong thought causes the spark that blows your mind!
Poynter commentator Barb Iverson has excerpted an
Pricewaterhousecoopers recently analyzed Internet advertising in 2007 which rose 26 percent to $21.2 billion in a year-over-comparison to 2006. A summary of its findings reveal that:
Search revenue accounted for 41 percent of 2007 full year revenues, up from the 40 percent for the full year 2006. Display advertising, Classifieds, and Lead Generation accounted for 34 percent, 16 percent, and 7 percent of 2007 full year revenues respectively.
Thus far the communications industry has been mesmerized by the rise of search which correlates with the rise of Google. But search — and perhaps Google — will crest as ad magnets. Big things don’t grow fast and the novelty of search ads is wearing thin. One mainstream web and magazine publisher who will remain nameless recently told me that the share of search revenue to the chain’s flagship web site had crashed from $20,000 a month circa 2004 to under $1,000 a month recently! Why hasn’t Google crashed? Because the web must be bringing new sites and eyeballs to its search system faster than interest is eroding at the places where it is already. But it would be interesting to see, in the search context, what the retail guys call year-over-year, same-store sales. Is income from search at top websites growing or shrinking over time?
But content creators don’t really care about search revenues except insofar as they are a tax on attention that Google is currently able to levy because people are still creating their habit patterns in the new medium. Search, for content creators, is chump change.
So where should content look for advertising support? Big Web content can chase display ads but that competition demands huge traffic and when you get those campaigns, you must rely on exotic methods to prove that you are hitting ephemeral targets like making people love your brand.
So how do small websites grow revenues?
Go after lead generation. It gets to the heart of business. Companies sell products and/or services. Follow the audience. Elicit feedback. If your audience clicks or calls,prospective advertisers will sign and pay.
I like to take long hops on the beach and . . .
Paid Content points to a USA Today article about Zinio, a company that publishes web editions of magazine content. The article says:
“digital editions let readers click on links embedded in articles and ads to peruse video, audio and related stories.”
Subscribers pay for this richer experience. Why? Playboy is among the 750 magazines in Zinio’s stable. USA Today reporter Jon Swartz says since Zinio launched e-Playboy in 2005:
“it has sold some 1.7 million digital issues. They cost $19.97 for a dozen issues, and $4.99 for a single issue. (Playboy‘s average annual magazine circulation is 2.6 million.) Main selling points of the digital magazine version include the ability to zoom in and out on photos, view video and photo outtakes and listen to music clips.”
The article notes that “paid circulation of consumer magazines fell 1.7%, to $277 million” in the second half of 2007, continuing a seven year slide since paid circulation peaked in 2000. We are told that “70% of newsstand copies go unsold” making e-displays a green technology — as in saving trees and money. “Playboy, for example, has saved $1.2 million from lower manufacturing, distribution, paper and postal costs.”