Category Archives: Conferences & Seminars

Pressing ‘Reset’

In 1993, after two decades working for newspapers’ print editions and for two of the world’s major international news services, I switched the focus of my career to working full-time on journalism’s transition from print and terrestrial or cable and satellite broadcasting to online. As would be for anybody working in a relatively new field, my portfolio was relatively wide, ranging from how online changes the consumption and hence business models of the news media and changes the nature and contents of journalism itself. I became a frequent contributor to the news media’s internal discussion lists and discussion forums about these changes; a frequent speaker at media industry conferences, and became a consultant helping news industry companies begin making those changes.

By 1998, however, I had become vocally dissident compared to most of the people working in that growing field. I realized — and had the data showing — that online distribution wasn’t going to be a lucrative venue for traditional publishers or broadcasters. By traditional, I mean companies that produce packages of Mass Media contents. Online couldn’t lucratively be used as merely an electronic’ or ‘paperless’ means of distributing such Industrial Era products. Online was different and much more than that. These predictions, which with every subsequent year have become more obviously valid, didn’t endear me to most people working in those traditional news companies. ‘I apologize, but I can’t have you speak at this year’s conference because what you said there last year depresses everyone,’ one conference organizer told me. Most people in the industry not only thought I was wrong but pointed to the record profits that Mass Media companies were making during the first few years of this century as evidence that I must be wrong.

If record profits were a true indicator of a company’s or industry’s future viability, then horse livery stables, the Penn Central Railroad, Enron, and Blockbuster Video, to name just a few industries or companies that went bankrupt only a few years after earning record profits, would be doing business today. Not only during 1998 to 2006, when Mass Media companies were posting record profits, but ever since the mid 1980’s, Mass Media’s audiences (as measured by readership or listenership or viewership if respectively print, radio, or television or cinema, and as measured daily if a daily publication or broadcast, measured weekly if a weekly publications or broadcast, etc.) have been declining per capita in the United States and other developed countries. Those declines started years before the Internet was opened to the public in 1992 via the first commercial Internet Service Provider to consumers. And Internet access to consumer exacerbated those declines in the U.S., particularly after 2004 when approximately half of consumers obtained ‘always-on’ broadband access to it, access which changed how they consume news, entertainment, and other information. The change in how they consume is the key.

Since the late-1990s, when companies such as Nielsen (formerly AC Nielsen) and ComScore began recording how and how often consumers online consume news, entertainment, and other information, it’s been obvious that consumers do so in far different ways than they had (or still do) consumer printed publications and over-the-air, cable, or satellite broadcasts. Although consumers spend increasingly more time online each month, they notably consume the websites of publishers of printed periodicals and those of traditional broadcasters far less frequently and far less deeply than they had used those same publishers’ printed editions or same broadcasters’ traditionally broadcast programming. Indeed, it’s become obvious that consumers use all Mass Media companies’ contents far less frequently and far less deeply that way.

The radically different ways in which consumers online consume news, entertainment, and other information, than they did those same contents in print editions or traditional broadcasts has had devastating effects on the industries and companies of Mass Media. The more of their consumers who switch from consuming printed editions or traditional broadcasts and instead consume online, the worse the situation of those industries and companies get. Although Mass Media companies expected their online consumers to pay either the same (or even a significant fraction of the) subscription or newsstand rates that those same consumers had paid before going online, most of those consumers did not and have not. Moreover, Mass Media companies have not generated sufficient revenues from online advertising to compensate those revenues lost from subscriptions or newsstand sales as their consumers went online. Nearly all Mass Media companies earn far less revenue from online than those companies had from printed editions or traditional broadcast. For example, although U.S. newspapers’ annual revenues from online grew from $900 million in 2004 to $3 billion in 2016, those newspapers’ revenues from print edition shrank from $42 billion to $19 billion, a net annual loss of nearly $21 billion or almost 50 percent.

My family in 1877 began publishing a daily newspaper in Connecticut. By 2004, I had convinced most of my family members who managed that newspaper to sell the company. However, one family member disagreed (we ultimately sold it last year for markedly less than it was worth in 2004). By 2006, I’d grown tired of consulting to an industry that I’d literally been raised in but that had become suicidally adverse to change, and the following year I joined both the faculty and the staff of Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. There I formulated and for the past ten years have been teaching a postgraduate course entitled “New Media Business’, a required course for New Media Management master’s degree students. It focuses on how the Individuated Media, products of the dawning Informational Era, have already begun replacing the Mass Media, products of the waning Industrial Era, as the predominant ways in which most consumers in developed countries now obtain news, entertainment, and other information.

It goes back to my 1998 paper (updated in 2006) entitled What is ‘New Media’? That paper stated that the ‘New Media’ isn’t simply any new device through which information can be conveyed. Nor is the ‘New Media’ printed or broadcast information placed (‘shoveled’) online. Instead, the ‘New Media’ is a more profound, potent, and pregnant concept than the Mass Media, which it already is superseding.

Mass production was an innovation of the Industrial Era: the mass production of books and later newspapers and magazines, and then over-the-air broadcasts of sound and video. The analog printing press (c. 1440) and the analog broadcast transmitter (c. 1896) respectively permitted the mass consumption in homes of printed information and the mass consumption of audio and later video. However, Industrial Era mass production technologies have a hallmark flaw: each produces at once one product for all its consumers.

For example, a daily newspaper produces the same daily edition for its readers on that day. (At a very large-circulation newspaper there might be some minor variations among that day’s editions, such as the New England edition of The New York Times including a different selection of stories than that day’s West Coast edition. However, most of the stories selected for inclusion in any of those editions will be in each that day.) Similarly, all viewers of a TV channel simultaneously see the same program at a given time. Mass production increases the reach (i.e., number of recipients) of a media product, but all recipients receive virtually that same product at that given time. Yet there is no way in which Industrial Era technologies can create a unique edition (or mix of broadcast programs in a schedule) for each recipient, a unique product containing a mix of stories or programs matching that individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes. However, the Informational Era’s computer technologies can create a unique mix of stories or programs that match an individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, simultaneously for mass numbers of consumers.

Consider the Industrial Era media product known as a newspaper. A daily newspaper’s newsroom receives hundreds, if not thousands, of stories each day from its reporters, news wire services, and news syndicates. However, the Industrial Era production technologies used to print a newspaper, namely an analog press, which presses paper onto inked type, cannot from among those hundreds or thousands of stories produce a unique edition for each individual reader’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, the mix that makes that individual reader individual. It’s a technological limitation. Instead, those Industrial Era production technologies forces that newspaper’s editors to choose a limited number of stories which they think might best satisfy the greatest aggregate number of readers. That same selection of stories, which might range between 20 and 100 depending upon the circulation of that newspaper, goes to all readers. However, online technologies have no such technological limitation. Programmed with appropriate algorithms, a website can be made to identify each individual reader and match its mix of contents to match that individual consumer’s expressed needs, interests, and tastes. The ‘New Media’ are media products that, as with Mass Media, have mass distribution but, unlike Mass Media, customize the content each recipient sees for that recipient.

[I’m a stickler for accurate terminology because marketers often conflate or blur the real meanings of too many words and phrases. For instance, enter the work turbo in Amazon.com’s search box and among the results will be Turbotax, Turbo Tide laundry detergent, Gillette Mach 3 Turbo razors, etc., none of which actually have anything to do with turbines or turbochargers. Marketers misuse the real meaning of turbo. Likewise, too many misuse words and phrases such as digital, interactive, personalization, and New Media. For example, an unsolicited, commercial marketing postal letter mass mailed to tens thousands of individuals including me might begin with ‘Dear Vin’ but that personalized greeting doesn’t mean the letter is customized in any way to me and my needs, interests, or tastes. No more than a personalized golf ball on which my name appears is fundamentally any different than any other golf ball. Personalization isn’t customization. Customization of content is customization. And complete or perfect customization is call individualization, the latter word based upon the psychological term for that which makes a person a unique from others.]

Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent QQ Flipboard, Vkontake, etc., are all examples of New Media companies. Their contents are individually customized for each one of their many users. Is Facebook a Mass Media company? No. Although Facebook reaches more than 2 billion consumers, the greatest mass reaches of any media company in history, each of those consumers simultaneously sees different contents than any other consumer. The mix each sees is customized to that consumer’s explicit ‘Like’s of contents and mix of friends on Facebook. Mass reach with true customization (beyond personalization although perhaps not yet individualization) are the hallmark of true New Media and of truly New Media companies.

If you were given the choice of either consuming a mix of contents based not upon your unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, but upon the aggregate demographics people who live near you, which of those mixes would you prefer to consume? Most consumers will gravitate towards a mix that matches their own individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. This is natural. That is why hundreds of millions of consumers, indeed billions of consumers, have been gravitating to customized media services such as those produced by Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent, Flipboard, Vkontake, etc. Within just a little more than a dozen years, those companies’ Individuated Media products have superseded traditional Mass Media companies’ products as the predominant ways in which most people in developed countries obtain news, entertainment, and other information.

All media industries and all media companies need to understand and adapt to this epochal change in the media environment: the era of Mass Media is waning and the era of Individuated Media is dawning. If traditional media companies and traditional media industries are to survive, they must adapt their products, their production and distribution practices, and their business models, to fit this new era. What has made Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent QQ Flipboard, Vkontake, etc., successful isn’t necessarily their managers or investors but that those companies, born of the Informational Era, happened to design their products and service toward individuation. Indeed, search engines such as Google, Baidu, and Bing, likewise are Individuated Media because each of their users uses them to find contents that match their individual needs, interests, and tastes, rather than those users simply relying on the generic or demographically aggregate mixes of contents that comes in the printed periodicals or broadcasts that they already receive. Individuated Media superseding Mass Media.

Today, I reset my career and hang my new sign as one of the world’s leading consultants about Individuated Media.  Although I continue to teach my postgraduate course at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, it’s time for me to consult about what is blossoming rather than what is shrinking or withering. Embrace and develop the future rather than manage the fading past. Want to know about the true epochal change underway in the media environment? Then give me a phone call or email.

Digital Deliverance on 27 October 2014

Today is Digital Deliverance Managing Partner Vin Crosbie‘s 59th birthday, which means the start of his 60th year (which he will complete a year from today).

What happens when applied Social Media conflicts with existing laws? This month, the New York State attorney general claimed that most Airbnb listings in the city violate zoning and other laws. Earlier this year, officials in California and Pennsylvania claimed that car services like Uber and Lyft might be unlawful. The New York Times took a look. We will be looking at those three examples when next month we teach a class about where the Internet and laws conflict, in Syracuse University’s New Media Business post-graduate course.

 We’re sorry to hear a seminar being taught in St. Petersburg, Russia, by my friend Randy Covington, the director of the World Association of Newspapers-IFRA’s Newsplex Training Centre at the University of South Carolina , by Joe Bergantino, the executive director of the New England Center for Center for Investigative Reporting, was disrupted by Russian government agents earlier this month. Bergantino and Covington had recently presented the same seminar in Moscow and had, in Bergantino’s taught similar seminars “in China, Serbia, Vietnam, and other countries without interruption by government agents.” Covington and Bergantino were taken to government offices for several hours; presented to a judge; and found guilty, despite their not having had a chance to present a defense, of violating Russian immigration laws; and were the subjects of a Russian television news story. Covington and Bergantino were then released. We know from a variety of our clients that the Russian government, whose President Vladimir Putin only a few years ago was the keynote speaker when the World Association of Newspapers held its annual conference in Moscow, during the past two years has been clamping down on all foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), notably those who teach or fund independent journalism.

Every forget which wing of the cavernous shopping mall you are in? South Korea’s Electronics and Telecommunciations Research Institute has announced development of an indoor equivalent of a Global Positioning’ System accurate to within five meters (16 feet). Or make that within one clothing rack.

 Jaldeep Katwala at Media Helping Media has some excellent advice for journalists conducting interviews.

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Personalize Media 2011 Keynote Speech

[34-minute PowerPoint video of keynote speech opening the fifth annual Personalize MEdia Conference (formerly Individuated Media conferences), Boulder, Colorado. June 20, 2011. How traditional media companies have gone astray by misperceiving consumers’ switch from analog to digital formats to be the greatest trend underway; why the abundance of content instead makes personalization (i.e., individuation) the greatest trend of 21st Century media; and what the media industries need do about it.  All images public domain. If otherwise, please contact vin@digitaldeliverance.com.]

••• ••• ••• •••

Welcome. My name is Crosbie.  Vin, as in Vincent, Crosbie. Welcome to Boulder! And Welcome to Personalize Media 2011! Welcome to the Chautauqua Center.

I’m glad the conference organizers decided to hold this meeting here at Chautuaqua. It’s is a wonderfully symbolic location for this conference. Behind the projection screen, on the wall of this hall, is a photo showing the first Chautauqua meetings ever held here. The year was in 1898. Everyone here was living in tents. Canvas tents. Back then, it wasn’t the high-tech Boulder you see outside the windows today, but a pioneering group, meeting to discuss what would become.

We’re figuratively those pioneers today. Thanks for asking me to keynote the conference. I’m going to start this conference with a very bold statement. A bold statement I’ll then justify. Personalization (individuation) is the major media trend of the 21st Century.

Some executives think these are dark times for media. Well, in case there are any historians in the audience: that’s like saying the Enlightenment was a dark time for the Feudal system.

If your business today dates from the Industrial Era – in other words, if your business is Mass Media—media based upon the practices that arose from the technological limitations of the analog press or analog transmitter—media in which all readers receives the same edition at once or all listeners or viewers see the same broadcast at once – then these are dark times indeed. The era of Mass Media’s feudal primacy is over. Something new and enlightened has replaced it.

Most media executives, schooled in Mass Media, don’t really understand what has happened

I’ll start explaining what’s happened by telling you about my own industry: the daily newspaper industry. The daily newspaper industry is among the oldest and most hallowed of media industries.

I’m here to tell you how lack of personalization, the lack of individuation, is destroying that industry in every one of the world’s post-industrial countries. In every country where people’s access and choice of media is no longer relatively scarce, but abundant.

Here in the U.S., the daily newspaper industry earned revenues of nearly $49 billion in Year 2000…. Ten years later, last year, that same industry earned only $25.2 billion. The U.S. daily newspaper industry has lost almost 50 percent of its revenues during the past ten years.

Some newspaper executives like to blame the 2007 recession for the loss. However, the facts are that less than half of that loss occurred during the recession. Most of that loss happened during the non-recession years, the years before and after the recession. An industry over 200 years old in this country has lost approximately half of its revenues during the past ten years.  Why?

I’ll tell you why: The reason is that newspapers and other media industries got caught in a conceptual trap—a conceptual trap into which most media executives fell as they tried to understand the greatest change in media history.

Most major languages have an adage about the conceptual trap into which most media executives have fallen: L’arbre qui cache la forêt. Los árboles no dejan ver el bosque. Er sieht den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht. ИЗ-ЗА ДЕРЕВЬЕВ ЛЕСА НЕ ВИДНО. Μπορεί να δει το δέντρο και όχι το δάσος. 见树不见林. 木を見て森を見ず. Because I speak English, the version I use is, they don’t see the forest for the trees.

Most media executives today mistakenly believe that the greatest change underway is that people are simply switching media consumption from analog to digital formats. These executive misperceive a trait or characteristic as the change itself.

They see the trees, but not the larger perspective. And their myopia has led of them to formulate the wrong strategies for adapting to the gargantuan changes underway in media.

Because most media executives misperceive the change underway to be that consumers are simply switching from analog to digital, these executives believe that what their companies must do to adapt is simply do in digital what they’ve always done in analog.

The executives believe that all their companies need to to is use the same business models, the same production practices, the same packaging, the same products, and the same content in digital as they’ve always used in analog — albeit with the addition of some hyperlinks, audio, video, and animation, and publicized via Social Media.

That’s the root of their not seeing the forest for the trees problem. (It’s about as apt a strategy as putting the Olsen Twins in the deep woods.)

Unfortunately, any strategy based upon a misperception will not only fail to yield successful results but will fail to explain why successful results aren’t yielded.

So, it’s not surprising that these media executives are mystified why the digital versions of their traditional newspaper and magazine editions and traditional broadcast programs aren’t earning anywhere near as much revenue online than those traditional products did in print—even in the cases when the digital products have more monthly users.

Moreover, these executives can’t explain why the average user of the digital version uses it much less frequently and less thoroughly than the average user of the analog version does.

Such are the captains of most media companies today: mis-navigating their companies through stormy times; captains of business who, misperceiving the great change in the media environment to be that consumers are simply switching consumption from analog to digital, hold true to the wrong course. They are myopic navigators leading media industries into financial ruin, layoffs, and catastrophe.

While they’re fishing for answers, wondering why their business as usual doesn’t work in digital – or New Media at all – we’re here. We know the answers. That’s why we are attending the fifth annual international Personalize MEdia Conference because we understand what’s really happening. We can see the forest for the trees.

We understand the greatest change in the history of media. We know that it’s not merely a change from analog to digital. We know that the greatest change is really that within only a generation people’s access and choice of news, entertainment, and information has changed from relative scarcity to surplus, even to surfeit or overload.

Look at how things were 40, 30, 20, or even ten years ago in post-industrial countries. News, entertainment, and information used to be relatively scarce. For examples, billions of people worldwide who wanted access to daily changing information had perhaps just one or two or three locally-distributed printed newspapers, plus one, two, or three television channels and a dozen or two radio stations within antenna range.

But all that has changed. Today, we’ve certainly a surplus of news, entertainment, and information. In fact, the main problem nowadays is overload. We’ve got a vast buffet or cornucopia. The problem is picking the exact items we want. And that’s the beauty of it. The exact items we want.

Yes, it’s true that people are switching consumption from analog to digital formats. But that’s not for format’s sake. They’re switching because digital technologies provide them with more choices and access to the news, entertainment, and information that specifically fits their individual mix of needs & interests. It isn’t the format they’re after, but its greater access and enormous choice of specific content.

The fact is that each of us is different. Each of us is an individual. Sure, we might share a few common interests: the weather, for instance. But that’s about it for common general-interests. Each of us, each of you, have dozens, hundreds, of specific interests. Each of us is a unique mix of those interests. And each of us gravitates to whatever content satisfies our own unique mix of individual interests.

Let me put it this way to you: Imagine that during most of your life you had no choice of what you ate. It varied daily, but it was exactly the same meal that everyone else in town ate that day.  What would you do if that situation changed and you instead had your choice of specific items from a gargantuan buffet? Would you continue to eat the communal, general-interest meal each day? No! You’d use the gargantuan buffet and satisfy your individual interests.

Indeed, that’s exactly why billions of people now use search engines daily. Nowadays, billions of people are manually personalizing, customizing, or individuating. They are finding the stories, videos, or other items of content that specifically match their own individual interests. They’re hunting and gathering all that themselves.

As Peter Horrocks, director of World Services for the British Broadcasting Corporation, recently said: “The consequence of this change in users’ consumption has only dimly been understood by the majority of journalists. Most of the major news organizations had the assumption that their news product provided the complete set of news requirements for their users. But in an internet world, users see the total information set available on the web as their ‘news universe’. I might like BBC for video news, the Telegraph or Daily Mail for sports results and The New York Times for international news…”.

People no longer consume generic packages. For example, take a look at these data from Nielsen about U.S. newspaper websites. The first assignment I give my graduate students is to tell me what remarkable about it. Students trained in traditional media, in Mass Media, tell me the answer is the huge number of people who use these websites.

However, the smart students point to the other data. For example, did you know that the average user of the The New York Times’ website visits it only 4.05 times per month; sees less than 27 webpages (which probably means less than 20 stories, because that site stretches most stories over more than one webpage); and spend an aggregate total of less than 20 minutes on the site all month. That‘s a visit only about once per week!

Unpersonalized, uncustomized, unindividuated content is used far less frequently and far less thoroughly online. People use New Media radically differently than they used traditional media.

And that radical difference is personalization, customization, individuation.

Another example, at the National Association of Broadcasters conference this April, Edison Research and Arbitron released a survey of American adults who use online radio. Fifty-three percent of those people knew of Pandora radio, which broadcasts personalized music. A quarter of all online radio listeners had used Pandora. One sixth had used it that month. One in ten people had listened to Pandora that week.

There are more than 6,000 radio stations webcasting in the United States, but one sixth of all online radio listeners listen to Pandora. I dare you to show me a traditional broadcaster or traditional print media site that one in ten of all people online use monthly. The most spectacular success in online broadcasting is personalized, customized, individuated. Pandora also is one of the most successful apps on smartphones and tablets.  And personalized, customized, individuated broadcasts such as Pandora and Last.fm are now having a radical effect on the radio industry.

This year, Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,000 radio stations in the United States, more than any other company, announced that it will launched personalized, customized, individuated versions of its stations online.

Movies watched at home provide another example. Netflix is now the world’s largest distributor of videos. Is that because it has no stores? Is it because Netflix lets you rent a video for as much time as you want? No! It’s because of choice and personalization. Netflix gives each of its customer choice and access to tens of thousands of movies, enough to satisfy anybody’s unique mix of individual interests and tastes. Netflix wouldn’t be the world’s leader if it offered only the number of videos titles you could fit into a storefront.

Neither would Amazon be the leading bookseller.

In traditional media, Mass Media — in other words, Industrial Era media – every users sees exactly the same things at the same time as every other users. So, Is Facebook a Mass Medium? With more than 560 million users, it certainly has mass scale. Yet every user of Facebook sees something different than every other user of Facebook. What they see depends upon the user’s own individual mix of friends and interests. It’s not Mass Media, it is Individuated Media.

And that’s the point of my keynote today. We are right. People want Individuated media. Not Mass Media. Mass Media, and the practices and business models associated with it, were based upon scarcity, not surplus or abundance. Nothing wrong with that during its era. But that era ended at the end of the past century. What we’re clearly seeing nowadays, in the 21st Century, is the rise of Individuated Media (what we’re at this conference calling Personalized Media)

We know that the ramifications of billions of people having virtually instant access to all the world’s information are gargantuan, far greater than Gutenberg’s invention of moveable printing type or Marconi ’s and Tesla’s invention of broadcasting, and will affect not only the media industries, but every other realm of commerce, culture, politics, society, and civilization. But the fact that billions of people want a personalized, customized, individualized selection of content has gargantuan ramifications for the media industries.

First, hunting & gathering are primitive ways to acquire things–be those things food and shelter or news, entertainment, and information. There are huge business opportunities for media companies here. Facebook knows that, which is why it allows its users to automate feeds of news, entertainment, and information into users’ Facebook experiences.

The media industries need to adopt production practices and technologies that deliver to each individual the personalized, customized, individuated news, entertainment, and other information (including advertising and other product & service information) that that the person wants.

All sectors of all media industries need to work together, something unprecedented. People don’t consume just newspapers or just magazines or just broadcasts or just pure-play Internet content. They consume the mix, and won’t deal with different business models per media industry. Walls between traditional media must fall.

Nor will people consume just their own nation’s media. The world’s media industries need to globalize. There are no borders online except language.

All this will require huge changes in the practices and business models of media. Likewise, huge changes in the production and delivery technologies. Yet all of the technologies necessary exist today. These technologies and their successors are necessary for media companies to survive during the 21st Century. We are the pioneers of these discoveries.

During the next two days, we’ll examine personalized books, personalized magazines, personalized newspapers, personalized advertising, personalized greeting cards, personalized home printing, and other related subjects.

We’ll look at the technologies, the products, and the business models.

Like the early automobiles, early aircraft, and early computers, some of these might be embryonic or have gaps in their production or business models. But they are the future.

We are the future. The future of media is here with you now.

Thank You!

Regarding Academic Research and Fatuous Reporting About Trouble Media Industries

Many of the media industries for which journalism and media professors prepare students are, if not yet dying, seriously ill, stumbling if not yet in collapse due to titanic changes underway.

Ten days ago, I published here a call for American journalism and media professors to conduct more practical research because too much of their research is too esoteric to help those industries. Rather than write this call all by myself, I heavily quoted Earl Wilkinson, the executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association (now the International News Marketing Association). I timed it for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication‘s (AEJMC) annual conference, the largest convention of American and Canadian journalism and media professors, held last week in Denver. Wilkinson had attended AEJMC in 2002 and spoken at the AEJMC 2003 conference.

My call provoked a dozen remarkable comments, from professors and from industry change analysts, about if they should be solving the industry’s problems, if those problems are caused by business people or the people who create the industries’ content, and if whatever problems exists just in US academia. On the AEJMC Newspaper Division’s blog, it prompted blogmaster Bob Stepno,  a journalism and media professor of Radford University, to retrieve Wilkinson’s correspondence with AEJMC and  the AEJMC’s own qualitative and quantitative surveys about the focuses of its research. All worth reading if you’re a media academic, student, or someone who’s looking for answers for the media industry’s problems.

According to their tweets, many professor at AEJMC10 were disappointed that the venue (the Denver Sheraton) didn’t always have a WiFi field available in the conference hall. Some of the professors are now tweeting that a working WiFi field should be requirement for the AEJMC11 venue.

Fine idea. However, the problem says more about the professors than the venue. Most of those professors should be teaching their students how to get online when WiFi isn’t available—such as when filing a news story from the scene to their newsroom. You’d think they’d know how to do that themselves. Never rely on there being WiFi. Real world practitioners don’t. When I don’t find WiFi where I am, I plug an inexpensive USB cell modem stick into my computer. It’s gotten me online in Malaysian jungles, atop alps, and in hotels that don’t have WiFi.

Southern Methodist University Professor Jake Batsell rightly told me that there wasn’t a solid cell signal deep inside the Denver Sheraton, so this method probably wouldn’t have worked there anyway. I was just surprised how dependent professors are on free WiFi, upon which the journalists they train shouldn’t be.

Did I say that many of the media industries  are, if not yet dying, seriously ill, stumbling if not yet in collapse due to titanic changes underway? I’m sure that some professors and some media industry executives (what’s Gavin O’Reilly up to these days? He’s being uncharacteristically quiet) will still disagree with me about that, despite all the data evidence.

Speaking of which, I had to chuckle at former Guardian editor Peter Preston‘s column in The Observer on Sunday in London. Triumphantly entitled Newspapers beat the doomsayers’ final deadline, it states:

Not long ago, the experts predicted 10 US papers would be gone in 18 months. They were wrong. And prospects for print are looking better, not worse, than they did in the depths of the crunch…. In America, where the direst predictions flourished,Time ran a March 2009 article on the nation’s “10 most endangered newspapers” and forecast that ‘eight would cease publication in the next 18 months’. Well, that was 17 months ago, and all 10, from the Miami Herald to the San Francisco Chronicle, are still publishing.

What a splendid example of fatuous retorting of fatuous reporting!

First and foremost, what “experts predicted 10 US papers would be gone in 18 months”? Not any newspaper industry analysts I’ve ever heard or read, and my profession has been as a newspaper analyst for the past 17 years. No, the “experts” Preston cite is Time magazine itself, that fading and ever-more People magazine shadow of what had been a decent news magazine 30 years ago.

And what “experts” did Time itself quote in the 10 most endangered newspapers story that Preston quotes? A website in New Rochelle, New York, called 24/7 Wall St. whose six-person news staff writes stories and opinionson the subject of:

For several decades most business journalism was dominated by Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, and The Wall Street Journal. While all of them have online editions, new web operations from Marketwatch, TheStreet.com, Bloomberg.com, Reuters.com, The Fool, and a dozen blogs and commentary sites have begun to take the place of print. Revenue is also flowing out of print to the web allowing financial websites to spend more on writers and content.

In other words, Time based its 10 most endangered newspapers story on a single source which has a vested business interest in seeing printed editions fail and being replaced by companies like that single source. In fact, if you’re planning a conference and a speaker on that subject, the 24/7 Wall St. website says they’re the speakers you want about how companies like theirs are replacing printed news publications. Moreover, 24/7 Wall St. is hardly an expert about the newspaper business. Ask people, either pro or con the future of newspapers, within the newspaper industry or any academic who follows that industry. There are plenty of experts about the newspaper industry, but 24/7 Wall St. isn’t one. Go to its site, particularly its About page, and judge for yourself.

Indeed, no real or credible “experts” about the newspaper industry has ever said that eight out of the ten newspapers on the list that Time got from 24/7 Wall St. will fail in 18 months. Or even 36 or 72 months. But Time‘s fatuous reporting provide a London columnist and former newspaper editor a chance to say the talk about newspapers being in jeopardy or dying was much ado about almost nothing.

OECDnewspapers
2007-2009 declines, by percent

Here’s that almost nothing, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In the US, combined print and online newspaper ad revenues dropped 27.2 percent just in 2009. That’s a plunge from $37.8 billion to $27.5 billion. US newspapers’ online revenues, which were already less than a tenth of those newspapers’ revenues, dropped 11.8 percent.

Most real experts about newspapers have talked about the real possibility that half of the 1,408 daily newspapers in the US could fail during this coming decade. Just because 8 of a fatuously cited endangered 10 didn’t fail within 18 months doesn’t mean their danger is over.

Hundreds of thousands of people in the UK might have read Preston’s column in print Sunday, but people wanting to read the Montreal Gazette could do so only online that day and future Sundays. After 22 years, the Gazette ceased print publication on Sundays, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Alan Allnut announced.

At the end of this month, Jornal do Brasil, one of the oldest newspapers in South America’s largest  country, will stop publishing its print edition and will be only available online. in 1995, Jornal do Brasil was one of the first South American dailies to launch a website.

An ‘Unnatural’ Conference About Online Media Business Models

The natural way in which media conferences about online business models have been organized is either to invite company chief executives and online media pundits to speak or else to collect workers from a rank (such as journalist) of the media industries to compare notes. The hope in either case is that the speakers or workers will collectively discover why traditional media business models are failing and what the new media business models are.

Unfortunately, the latent flaw in these conference organizational methods is that these speakers and workers should long ago have discovered why the traditional media business models are failing and what the new media business models are. In other words, the organizers are asking the very same people who led the media industries into the predicament to identify the problem those same people caused and to lead the industries out of it. As Einstein reputedly said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

It is highly unlikely that media company chief executives are going to say that the business models they’ve implemented at their companies during the past many years, the business models upon which they’ve based their careers, are now impractical, obsolete, or wrong. Moreover, it is very highly unlikely that any chief executive of a publicly-held media company will do that. If they already knew and had implemented the answers, it would be fine. But the fact is that they don’t, and their companies’ their readership, listenership, viewership, and gross revenues (compared with their pre-recession revenues) aren’t increasing. Many of these executives don’t even have a clue. They are invited to speak simply because they are chief executives of media companies.

As for the online business models conferences that involve just a single rank within the media industries, little more than this needs to be said: any newspaper, magazines, radio or television program, channel, or network, or even pure-play New Media website are organizations that involve multiple ranks. Without the other ranks, no single rank can formulate the solution.

Media conferences in which company chief executives and online media pundits speak or workers from a single rank of media companies collectively meet almost always tend to reinforce traditional orthodoxies. Groupthink and peer pressure discourages critical examination of the new media business model problem. This dynamic is one of the reasons there has been a conference held somewhere about this problem approximately once a month for the past several years.

Thus, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications and I have organized a new media business models conference in an ‘unnatural’ way. We’re inviting only speakers who we think have the answer—regardless where they are from or what they’re rank. We believe these are the people who together have all the facets of the solution. Moreover, they’ll be working in coordination with each other at the conference.

We call this event the M.O.B. Conference, for Monetizing Online Business [I tip my hat to Tom Showalter for coining the acronym]. The day and one-half conference will be held at the HBO Theatre overlooking Manhattan’s Bryant Park on Thursday, June 24 and Friday, June 25. Admission to it, including Thursday lunch and afternoon cocktails, is $250 (registration). Approximately 50 seats are left.

Here is the program:

Continue reading An ‘Unnatural’ Conference About Online Media Business Models

Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers

[My opening keynote speech at the Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers, Denver, Colorado, June 26, 2008]

Some of you here know me. Since 1993 when I began working full-time in newspaper new media, I’ve given approximately 100 speeches at conferences. I’ve given speeches at E&P, WAN, Ifra, INMA, and Seybold. But this is the speech I’ve been waiting for all those years. I may not have known it then, but I know it now.

In it, I’m going to say some heretical things. But please remember that I’m a fifth-generation newspaperman. I literally grew up in a letterpress-era newsroom, can read teletype, work a linotype, cut press plates, and run a press. I’ve sold ads. I’ve driven delivery trucks. I’ve reported, edited, and general managed a daily. I’m a professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. If I speak what sounds like heresy or I criticize this industry, know that it is because I love the newspaper business. It’s my family and my life.

The reason why this is the speech that I’ve been working up to all my life, is it distills all I know about this business and its future. The culmination of all I know as a newsman, newspaper, and professor. We’ve a bold agenda today.

Continue reading Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers

EPublishing Innovations Forum 2008

My opening keynote speech at the 2008 EPublishing Innovations Forum, London, May 7th

Thanks, David! Two linguistic notes before I begin.

First, please forgive my Yank accent. My great-grandfather Crosbie, who was born in London, would wince at it.

Second, doe anyone here speak Chinese? I ask because, after people who read English, the second largest linguistic group online today is people who read Chinese. To make sure they benefit from my speech, I took the title that the conference organizers suggested – Thriving in the digital age: threats and opportunities for digital publishers – and put that into Google’s English-to-Chinese translation engine. Then, just to make sure that I got the Chinese version right, I took that result and put it into Yahoo’s Chinese-to-English translation engine. The resulting title is Watts that you say? Screw Gutenberg, the Change Underway is Even Larger. So that’s what I’m going to talk about.

Gutenberg. The Screw. Watt. And why the changes today underway are even larger than during Gutenberg. (Don’t worry, I’ll explain the screw.)

Here is a slide of Gutenberg in Strasbourg. His statue in bronze and a target today for pigeons. He’s also a target for quotes about the Internet. My guess is that you’ve all heard most the quotes before:

‘The Internet is the biggest things since Gutenberg.’
‘The change underway will be the biggest since Gutenberg.’
‘The Internet will change things as much as Gutenberg did.’

Well, don’t get me wrong: Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press probably sparked the Renaissance. Yet it’s time we understand something: The change today underway is even larger!

The change now underway is bigger than mass production was for the medieval calligraphers and scribes who Gutenberg’s invention put out of work. Moreover, it’s not just a change from production of single calligraphic editions to mass production of millions of books. What is underway is an intellectual jump. It’s a quantum jump in how information is distributed to people and how they find information.

I’ve lately become an academic, and in academia we have a technical term for the magnitude of the change today underway. It is an academic term that combines Norman French and Anglo-Saxon. We call it a Mindf*ck.

It’s like a jump from two to three dimensions. And from this new dimension arises phenomenal new opportunities for publishers. Opportunities we’ll talk about.

Unfortunately, most publishers today still think only in the old two dimensions – and therein lay the only threat to their livelihoods. Their failure to understand the new dimension underway in publishing is the threat. Understand me: The only threat is not to understand the change underway.

Let’s go back in time for a moment. The U.K. Statistics Office says there are more than 10,000 Britons who are more than 100 years old. In 1908, the streets outside this hotel, and all the streets of London, were full of horse carriages and horse carts. Though the 20th Century was new then, people nevertheless knew that the 21st Century would be a mechanized age despite the abundance of horses.

The early automobiles showed promise. Telephones were beginning to become common in offices and homes. Tesla and Marconi were each experimenting with something that would eventually be called radio. Yet nobody knew how quickly all those things would affect London’s seven million people, one million horses, 25 daily newspapers. Also, more esoteric and far-reaching things were also being developed in 1908. Things like quantum mechanics, which would later give us devices such as television, the transistor, the computer, the laser, and the CD, DVD, etc.

Today in 2008, people still get information distributed on paper pulp or from analog broadcast transmitters that fundamentally have changed little since Marconi’s time. Nevertheless, we know that our new century will be an all- digital age. An age of pervasive information. If the personal computer and mobile phone were our equivalents of the newfangled telephones and automobiles for people 100 years ago, so too can we now foresee things that are only recently being and invented, things we’re starting to have a clue that will shape the 21st century.

The one million horses were gone from London’s streets by 1920, only a dozen years’ after 1908. Likewise, the changes between now and 2020 will be phenomenal. If you think that you’ve seen change during the past dozen years, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

I’ve a bold agenda this morning. My job is to tell you how much things will change and explain the general themes and opportunities in those changes for publishers in the 21st century.

  • I will explain why 1.3 billion people have gravitate online despite their already having access to mass media in much more convenient formats than online.
  • I will explain why the fragmentation of audiences is an illusion.
  • I will explain why traditional newspapers’ and news magazines’ circulations, and news broadcasts’ viewerships, must ineluctably evaporate. And the reason is not because people don’t want news.
  • I will explain why most newspapers’ and news magazines’ and news broadcasters’ Web sites won’t save their companies. (In other words, why what you here in British publishing circles are calling the Rusbridger Cross won’t occur.)
  • And I’ll explain why people will be even better served by New Media than by Mass Media. In other words, why the change today is even greater than that during Gutenberg’s era.

That’s an ambitious agenda, so let’s begin.

Continue reading EPublishing Innovations Forum 2008

How Oslo's Dagbladet Newspaper Integrates Videos Into Its Website

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Ole Werring, TV manager of Dabladet of Oslo, Norway, described to Ifra‘s annual Beyond the Printed Word online publishing conference how his newspaper has integrated video into its traditionally text news site.

Dagbladet initially began offering video on its site in 1999 but found its unpopular because not many Norwegians had broadband connections then, but it relaunched its about video efforts in 2006. Dagbladet employs four peole full-time to produce about 60 videos per week for Dagbladet. That number includes videos they create plus editing videos received from Reuters and the Associated Press. Each video is integrated into the text news page about that story. Each video includes a commercial that rolls before the video plays.

Each video is also offered to Dagbladet’s mobile phone service users.

Promotional trailers for cinema features are also offered (Werring was formerly with the Norwegian Film Institute).

Dagbladet has begun using user-generated videos to illustrate secondary stories. Werring mentioned that it’s often impossible to illustrate these with video except by using videos shot by users on the scene.

Dagbladet has also launched a YouTube-type site on which users can upload their own videos. He said the newspaper realizes that they will still upload videos onto YouTube.com, but believes that Dagbladet.no has enough usership and obviously enough Norwegian focus to attract users’ videos. Dagbladet.no and its associated websites currently receive about 3.9 million unique users per month, which isn’t too bad in a country of only 4 million people. (Nonetheless, Dagbladet has two even larger competitors.)

Dagbladet’s abilities to create video news reports has allowed it to begin working with Norwegian television organizations to produce news stories about crime, politics, recipes, and other topics.

Ian Davies on the Importance of Geocoding Newspaper Stories

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“People live locally,” Ian Davies, director fo business development of the British regional newspaper publishing company Archant Ltd., this afternoon reminded attendees of Ifra‘s annual Beyond the Printed Word online pubishing conference. He said a recent survey by the (UK) Newspaper Society indicated that the average distance of local interest is 8 miles, and that is not necessarily ‘local’ as newspaper publishers understand that term.

Davis emphasized that people online are interested in both topical and local communities, and that any newspapers must provide its readers with information about their street, town, region, nation, and the world. He said this shouldn’t be new to publishers, but the need to geocode stories is.

He gave examples of good use by Lawrence.com, Bakersfield.com, Sacramento Bee, Budstikka, ChicagoCrime.org, Los Angeles Times, Reuters, the Sydney Morning Herald, and SkyNews.

Monthly Circulation of 100,000 Without Printing or Website

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At Ifra‘s Beyond the Printed Word conference this afternoon, Rowan Barnett described how his monthly newspaper has a circulation of 100,000 without publishing a website or in print.

He is editor-in-chief of The Avastar, a virtual newspaper that circulates in the virtual world Second Life. Its owned and operated by Bild.T-Online AG, a joint venture between Deutsche Telecom and the publishing company Bild (Bild, Stern, Spiegel Online).

Second Life has 10.5 million registered users, although only some 560,000 are active. It is an avatar world, in which users create a graphical version of themselves and navigate through a three-dimensional graphic world, much like in a video game.

Barnett said that 95-percent of the site’s content is generated by its users. He emphasized that major advertisers such as Toyota, Mercedes, Reebok, Lacoste, and Armani has setup virtual stores in Second Life and that news organizations such as CNN, Reuters, and SkyNews has setup virtual news bureaus in it. Celebrities such as Bruce Willis, JZ, and 50 Cent have created their own avatar inhabitants there and given interviews.

The Avastar began publishing in English during December 2006, now also publishes a German-language edition, and generates up to 136,000 downloads per month. It currently downloads a PDF edition but plans to switch to a HTML site in the near future. Downloads are available a virtual kiosks and vendors in Second Life.

This virtual newspaper has a full-time staff of seven, supplemented by user-generated content from users, whose work is edited by the staff.

Barnett explained Second Life’s low usage rate as due mainly to technical problems involving its graphics. He said that 23 percent of users’ sessions end in browser crashes and another 8 percent end in server crashes.

(Though Barnett termed Second Life part of Web 3.0, I think that definition could create quite a dispute among those who favor Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s ‘semantic web’ definition.)

Danny Dagan's Presentation at Ifra's Beyond the Printed Word conference

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How what are the challenges in a popular tabloid creating user-generated content? Danny Dagan described some this morning at Ifra’s Beyond the Printed Word conference in Dublin.

Dagan is head of online communities at News Group Digital, which puts online London’s The Sun and News of the World, the two largest selling (3.2 million daily in the case of The Sun) tabloids in the English-language. Those newspapers’ websites attract 10.6 million unique users each month. The average user looks at 23 pages during the time.

The sites have begun to offer the beginnings of customized content. The sites provide each user with a widget that travels with them through each page of the site. The widget currently factors only the user’s gender and favorite football team, but really only football team. It colors itself in that team’s color, displays the team’s logo, and hyperlinks to the discussion area about the team. If the user is female, it just colors itself pink.

The challenges a popular tabloid faces when using user-generated content are:

  • How to balance freedom of speech versus England’s strong laws against libel and contempt?
  • How to protect children against offensive content?
  • How to deal with an online public that is nowadays less amenable to editorization by the host newspaper and also to waiting for content to be pubished>
  • How to achieve high quality content?
  • How to remove objectable content quickly and effectively?

News Group Digital employees seven people full-time as user-generated site moderators. They don’t directly explain to a user why his objectional comment was removed, because such conversations tend to be endless, but the site does have a section entitled ‘Why Your Posting Was Removed.’

Matthew Buckland's speech to Ifra's Beyond the Printed Word conference

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At Ifra‘s Beyond the Printed Word conference in Dublin, Matthew Buckland, general manager of the Mail & Guardian Online of South Africa, has given a presentation about ‘Integrating Web 2.0 tools into news sites.’ He previously in his own blog described his presentation and offered the presentation itself available for download.

Since you can download and see his slide presentation, I’ll mention a few points from how he narrated it:

‘Web 2.0’ tools have let the Mail & Guardian Online build user-generated content sites quickly and in collaboration with consumers. The tools harness the newspaper professional content and user-generated content. And have allowed the newspaper to get closer to its community.

The Mail & Guardian has chosen a ‘multi-brand’ approach. It has created Amatomu.com, an aggregator of regional South African blogs.; Thoughtleader.co.za; a site that combines the newspaper own content and the best content from South African bloggers; Newsinphotos.com, a title that describe the site; and also applications that consumers can use on Facebook.com. All of these were created using WordPress software (in case you were wondering which ‘Web 2.0’ tools). Buckland mentioned that consumers tend to write better if they know someone will be editing their work.

In three months time, these sites have generated 700,000 words from 100 contributors and also 3,000 reader comments, content that costs the Mail & Guardian nothing to generate.

Dr. Jo Grobel's Opening Keynote at Ifra's Beyond the Printed Word Conference

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I am at the first day of Ifra‘s 15th annual Beyond the Printed Word online publishing conference, being held today and tomorrow in Dublin. Four hundred twenty-seven people from 43 countries are attending. Ifra’s staff and some official volunteers are blogging the event in two ways (staff blog and group blog), but I am, too.

Professor Dr. Jo Groebel, (pictured above with conference co-chairman Elan Lohmann) director of the Deutsches Digital Institut (German Digital Institute), has given a keynote speech about how we are changing “from a world of consumers to a world of ‘prosumers'”.

He tried to comfort and caution the audience that things are changing at a remarkably quick pace, but one that this isn’t unusual: The number of printed books in Europe within a few years of Gutenberg’s invention of the moveable-type printing press was actually higher than the number of people who used the Internet within a few years of its public release during the 1990s.

The consumer is going from ‘unimedia to polymedia, Dr. Groebel said.’

He listed six characteristics he thinks 21st Century media will have:

  • Integrated (Convergence is real in 2007)
  • Immediate (people expect direct results)
  • International (it will be global)
  • Independet of time & space (on-demand, anywhere)
  • In Motion (new trend: everything is mobile)
  • Inner Circle & Bottom Up

Dr. Groebel pointed to what he calls the ”Big Three’ Trends

  • Capacity: broadband & digital platforms
  • Mobility: mobile communications
  • Community: User-generated content

He said that surveys of users in Germany show these are the purposesfor whcih people use the Internet are:

  • to get an the emotional kick of finding what they want.
  • to get information.
  • to communicate with each other.
  • to make transactions.
  • to be part of a community.
  • to exercise democracy in some form.

Dr. Groebel mentioned a study of 18 year-olds in the U.S. durng 1980 and during 2000 that indicated verbal intelligence significantly declined and visual intelligence had significantly increased. Will visual replace text, he rhetorically asked? No, each is used for specific functions, he said.

He mentioned several signals that consumers are becoming ‘prosumers.’ These were their development of online communities, development of group dynamic online, development of wikis (what he called the ‘enlightenment paradox’), and their development of group filtering to replace professional communications.

Dr. Groebel said the last development was particularly important. Surveys show that consumers’ trust in professional communications (journalism, political statements, public relations, marketing, etc.) has been lost. These surveys indicate that most people, regardless of their country’s political system, now distrust what journalists and other professional communications say. People are more likely to trust what other people say.

I think that Dr. Groebel, a psychologist by training, provided a overview of the superficial trends that form this year’s Beyond the Printed Word conference’s theme — the thing to do in a opening keynote, but I hope that the speakers who follow him will explain what underlies these trends.

Congratulations to Elan Lohmann of South Africa

Congratulations to Elan Lohmann, publisher of News24.com in South Africa, and Meredith Artley, Executive Editor of LATimes.com, who will co-chair Ifra’s 15th World Digital Publishing Conference, 8 – 9 November in Dublin. Annelies Van Den Belt and I co-chaired last year’s conference, which was held in Vienna. That’s where I met Elan and learned about the work he’s done advancing new-media in Africa..

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Bob Cauthorn, Vin Crosbie, Sal Kurdi-Serafi, Rob Curley, and Elan Lohmann at the Gastwirtschaft zu den 3 Hacken, Vienna, November 11, 2006. (photo by Colin Daniels)

We’re amid the ‘dog days’ of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer. Traffic to newspaper web sites has slowed.

And on the topic of declining use, but this time for print, a story in Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry, reports that more than 80 percent of people who visit the Web sites of major monthly U.S. magazines say they don’t subscribe or purchase the print edition, according to a survey by Nielsen//NetRatings. The survey, which looked at 23 high-circulation monthly magazines and the traffic to their Web sites, found also that male visitors (90 percent) were slightly more likely than women (83 percent) to read a magazine’s content only online. Among the individual titles studied, the amount of web-only users ranged between 65 and 83 percent. I know that the percentage of daily newspaper site users who don’t read printed editions is only about half those percentages.

Further on the topic of declining use: research by the media investment firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson, reported in Mediapost.com, indicates that American consumers last year used media less than in previous years. The firm says it’s the first first time in recent memory that the amount of time consumers spend with media has declined. The average American consumer spent 3,530 hours with media in 2006–down 0.5% from 2005. The drop follows a period of decelerating growth that the VSS report attributes to the increased efficiency of utilizing digital media.

I’m always amazed by the number of publishers and broadcasters—all busy shoveling their content online—who not only believe that consumers will spend as much time using new-media as they did old media but believe that consumers will also pay them as much for it. If new-media is more efficient than old media, consumers will logically spend less time and money using it.

The lead story in The New York Times‘ business section (free registration required) today is about the National Broadcasting Corporation’s attempt to use iVillage.com as a mass medium after NBC last year purchased the site for USD600 million. Among the missteps were efforts to increase traffic by ‘synergyzing’ it with a syndicated television program, iVillage Live, which instead resulted in reduced traffic and low TV ratings for the program. The story focuses on “the snags that can arise when trying to bolt a new media operation onto an old one.” I think the problem instead was simply what happens when a company mistakenly tries to use a new medium as a mass medium.

Brain Dumps Float All Boats

A few years ago at a symposium about blogging, Jeff Jarvis was moderating a discussion about commercial uses of blogs. To answer an audience member’s question about whether or not having a blog on your commercial website can increase business, he turned to me, someone in the audience who Jeff knew uses this blog on this commercial site, and asked me if my blog had increased my business.

When writing a blog, you can ponder your words before writing them, but that isn’t always an option when a moderator suddenly picks you out of the audience and ask you impromptu to answer a question he’s been asked. I made a snap decision to be politic, so I told everyone that adding this blog to this site had tripled the site’s traffic.

What I said was true; this blog has tripled this site’s traffic. But what I didn’t say was that none of that increased traffic had resulted in new business. It still hasn’t. It’s resulted in traffic, not business. I can’t think of anyone who has hired me as a consultant because of something I’ve written here. Nor have I ever had a new client tell me that they’ve read this blog. I’ve instead been hired because of referals from other clients, speeches I’ve given at conferences, and articles I’ve written in trade journals; never because of this blog.

Indeed, blogging here has interfered with my business, as most pro bono efforts tend to do. Note that I say interfered with my business; I didn’t say it hurt my business. But also note that I didn’t say it helped my business. Blogging can help a new consultant’s business because it can make prospective clients appreciate that he knows what he’s writing about. But an established consultant who blogs can too easily give away advice or knowledge for which he could be charging clients. Furthermore, his blogging takes time away from more potentially lucrative marketing efforts.

So why am I blogging? Because the more knowledge that an industry has, the better for that industry, the better its prospects for the future, and (theoretically) the better for a consultant’s business. Put another way: Brain dumps float all boats.

Nevertheless, my concern that blogging givies away my store and steals time from more lucrative work is one of two reasons why I’ve not blog much this year.

The other reason—since I’m addressing how blogging removes time for more important work— is that during the past 18 months, I’ve radically changed my opinion about the future of daily newspapers in North America. In what little free time I’ve hadthis year, I’ve been drafting what I intended to be an article about that, a 2007 follow-up to my 2004 essay in Online Journalism Review, What Newspapers And Their Web Sites Must Do To Survive.

However, my draft article has turned into an approximately 20,000-word treatise because I want to be self-contained and to establish that American daily newspapers are dying; why; what they did wrong when faced with cable & satellite television, topical magazines, and the Internet; what American daily newspapers should have done; what will replace them; and what some daily newspapers can still do to survive. I’d been hoping to publish this work in April, but haven’t had enough free time yet to finish it. I hope to during August.

Blogging here takes time away from that. Moreover, any blogging I do now will be from the perspective of my changed thinking, a perspective that haven’t yet explained. I think it’s better that I publish the larger perspective before doing any day-to-day blogging.

However, some of my friends say, “‘We understand that. But we’re interesting in what you think about things that are happening now.”

Fair enough, I’ll try. Between consulting assignments and writing that treatise, I’ll try to find time each day to blog about a few things, even if it’s only pointers to what trade news I’m reading. I’ll post my longer essays and ‘think pieces’ on Corante’s Rebuilding Media, but try to blog here more often. Starting today.

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By the way, new-media still accounts for only about five per cent of the average American daily newspapers’ revenues. I’m tired of their publishers asking me to tell them the easiest and quickest way that their newspapers can double that percentage during the coming year. They should beware what they ask, because the logical answer to their question is simple but not something I recommend:

A newspaper merely has to lose half of its print revenues during the coming year in order to double the percentage of revenues it earns online. And I know of a few newspapers that are inadvertently doing just that.

Well, maybe not losing half their gross revenues or turnover just yet. But quite a few major newspaper companies in the U.S. have seen their income drop by around 50 percent during the past fiscal quarter. The Tribune Company’s Q2 income fell 58.7 percent. The New York Times Company’s fell 59 percent. The Journal Register’s 44 percent.