Category Archives: Conferences & Seminars

Conference on New Media and the Press Freedom Dimension

Earlier this year, I’d advocated that news websites promote World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd. Printed newspapers have been promoting it for years. It’s time for online editions to take that responsibility.

Last week in Paris, UNESCO, The World Association of Newspapers/World Editors Forum, and The World Press Freedom Committee held a ‘Conference on New Media and the Press Freedom Dimension.’ Its speeches and background papers are available online.

Digital Norway

dagbladet.gif

My hearty thanks to the staff of the Dagbladet in Oslo, Norway, for having me as the featured speaker at their seminar Thursday for online advertisers.

Dagbladet also invited me to their corporation’s winter holiday party – where I was easily identifiable as the sole person among the 300 there who didn’t speak Norwegian! I particularly want to commend the hospitality of, among others, my new friends Dagbladet MediaLab Editor and CEO Rune Røsten, Dagbladet.no Editor Esten Sæter, and Svein-Erik Klemetsen who chose and invited me.

Every country seems to think that someone else is ahead of it in practical application of online media. I’m often asked which country is the best. The answer since the late nineties has clearly been the four Scandinavian counties, though South Korea and Estonia have joined them in the top rank during the past four years. The Finns, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, South Koreans, and Estonians have pulled well ahead of the Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, Dutch, Germans, and Singaporeans in online media usage and application.

Before putting Norwegian online usage into perspective, allow me to first tell you about Norwegian printed media usage. Until Japan surpassed it last year, Norway for years had the world’s strongest readership of daily newspapers – 0.626 copies sold daily per adult, compared to 0.33 in the US). At the beginning of 2006, the national tabloids Dagbladet and Verdens Gang Verdens Gang and Dagbladet were selling 343,703 and 252,716 copies per day respectively in a nation of only 4,610,000 people. Imagine the equivalent daily circulations in America, which adjusted for population would be 22,366,789 and 16,445,726, far above the actual circulations of 2,269,509 for USA Today or 1,086,798 for The New York Times. DB and VG are very successful printed newspapers.

Despite that strong readership, print circulation is rapidly declining in Norway. The state agency Medianorway reports that VG‘s circulation dropped 6.2 percent and DB‘s 13 percent during 2005. Several DB staffers told me that the as yet unreported 2006 circulation changes were be similar. [Update: Audit Bureaux of Circulation figures released Febuary 12th showed that VG‘s daily circulaiton during 2006 had dropped by 28,000 copies to 315,500. I don’t yet have the ABC figure for Dagbladet.]

As in most other countries, many print edition executives are blaming their companies’ free online editions for cannibalizing printed edition circulation sales. These print edition executives want either (a) access to the online editions to be sold for a subscription fee equivalent to print or else (b) that the online editions not provide full news and instead encourage online readers to get that by purchasing a printed copy.

That first option is philistine and regressive In a world where the only growing sector of daily newspaper circulation is free papers – up more than 137 percent during the past five years, from 12 million to 28 million copies worldwide. The second option is like insisting that each automobile one hundred years ago have a horse in front of it, a really dumb idea.

Almost all Norwegian adults and teenagers are online, far higher percentages than in America, Canada, or the UK. The average bandwidth into Norwegian homes and offices is 1.5 megabytes per second. And the strong newspaper readership and advanced online infrastructure shouldn’t lead to any mystery that Norway produces what may be the world’s best online editions (so too do several of the dailies in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland).

VG.no receives 950 000 unique users per day and Dagbladet.no 750,000. The weekly unique user numbers are 2,240,000 and 1,820,000 respectively, almost entirely domestic traffic. The equivalent number in the US would be 61,822,124 and 48,806,940 unique users daily, or 145,770,060 and 118,438,174 per week. Compare those numbers to to NYTimes.com’s 13,372,00 unique users per month. Online editions are pervasive in Norway.

Dagbladet.no’s EBITA earnings climbed from 8.5 million to 22 million Kroner (1.3 million to 3.3 million US dollars) between 2004 and 2005. The 2006 increase was at least 40 percent more and forecast to be the same during 2007. The Economist magazine last year reported that VG‘s publisher Shibsted earned nearly 40 percent of its revenues from new-media. Dagbladet AS reportedly earned about a third of its that way. New-media will probably contribute more than 40 percent of each companies earnings this year.

Whenever I asked Dagbladet staffers whether they or VG had the best online edition, they answered with typical Scandinavian humility that VG did. Their answer was like the student who scores 98/100 saying the student who scored 99/100 is better. A tiny difference.

My role last week was to explain to approximately 90 dagabladet.no’s advertisers what the future of digital media will be. No one, including me, truly knows the answer to that. I chose not to tell them the trends — indicators that have too often been wrong during the past 15 years of public access to the Internet. I instead explained the underlying dynamics that are driving change and, in particularly, what this will mean to not only dagbladet.no but the company’s social networking site, blink.no. (I plan to put my Dagbladet presentation online later this season.) More than 350,000 Norwegians – including 42 percent of norwegians between ages 16 and 18 and 75 percent of those younger than 26 years– belong to it.

I was surprised to discover that the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, which has long been involved in online media, produces a good website, but its online, mobile, and interactive/digital TV developments and strategies seem behind the British Broadcasting Corporation and other Western broadcasters, and well behind the South Korean broadcasters. Is the problem lack commercial competition that could make NRK change more quickly? I don’t know.

While in Oslo, I talk to several people about the idea of holding an online news publishing conference in Scandinavia. But the World Association of Newspapers beat me to the idea, announcing yesterday that one will be held there on March 8-9. Relatively short notice. (Plus, WAN’s website unfortunately was down today.)

My apologies to my Norwegian old friends Gard Jenssen, of Startspin.com and Iignitas.com, and Bent Nordbø, formerly of Aftenposten, both of whom I had hoped to contact while I was Oslo. I hadn’t time in lieu of Dagbladet. (Bent: I’ve lost track of you. Please let me know your current contact info?)

Jim Chishold to Speak at 'Beyond the Printed Word'

chisholm-100.gif There are two people who have more knowledge than anyone else about how to revive the newspaper industry, and one of them is iMedia Joint Principal Jim Chisholm.

As co-chairman and co-moderator of the 14th annual Beyond the Printed Word conference next month in Vienna, I’m pleased to hear that Jim has kindly agreed to speak there on the topic of newspapers’ use of video

Chisholm is the joint principal of iMedia, a joint consulting venture with Ifra. He has spent nearly a quarter decade in the newspaper industry; was the commercial director of the Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail, and was formerly the strategy advisor to the World Association of Newspapers and director of its Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project.

The addition of him to the 14th annual Beyond the Printed Word conference on November 9-10 finalizes its schedule:

Thursday, 9th November
10.15-11.00 hrs., Keynote address, The new web 2.0 players: MySpace, YouTube, Flickr — What can we learn? by Robert S. Cauthorn, CEO, CityTools, USA.
11.30-12.15 hrs., Launching a community site: www.stomp.com.sg, by Jennifer Lewis, Editor, STOMP, The Straits Times, Singapore Press Holdings, Singapore.
12.15-13.00 hrs., Buying a community site: www.familjeliv.se, by Gunnar Springfeldt, Development Director, Stampen Group, Sweden.
14.30-15.00 hrs., Traditional media and the blogosphere, by Colin Daniels, Acting-Director, New Media Lab, Rhodes University, South Africa.
15.00-15.30 hrs., Decentralised content- will there ever be a business model? by Simon Waldman, Digital Director, The Guardian, UK.
16.00-16.45 hrs., Local Search- Sesam, by Mikal Rohde, CEO, Sesam, Norway.
16.45-17.30 hrs., Search Marketing, by Julie Rutherford, Marketing Director, Washingtonpost.com, USA.

Friday, 10th November
9.15-10.15 hrs., Keynote address: Innovative uses of digital media, by Rob Curley, VP New Product Development, Washingtonpost. Newsweek Interactive, USA.
10.15-11.00 hrs., Web TV & Video, by Jim Chisholm, iMedia, France.
11.30-12.15 hrs. Young Persons Panel: What news formats do they like & why?, featuring students from the International School in Vienna.
12.15-13.00 hrs., Digital Success down under, by Mike van Niekerk, Managing Editor, Fairfax Digital, Australia.
14.30-15.15 hrs., New revenue ideas, by Kyoo Kim, VP Sales, msnbc.com, USA.
15.15-16.00 hrs., Online classifieds – Speurders.nl, by Quintin Schevernels, Managing Director, Telegraaf Classified Media, The Netherlands.

Annelies van den Belt, the new media director of the Telegraph Group Ltd., UK, is my fellow co-chairman and co-moderator of the conference.

This roster is nearly my dream team for new media. Only the lack of a third conference day prevents it from being perfect. I’d probably add Steve Yelvington of Morris Digital Works, former El Mundo graphics wizard Alberto Cairo, and — did I earlier say that the there was another person besides Chisholm who has more knowledge than anyone else about how to revive the newspaper industry? International Newspaper Marketing Association Executive Director Earl Wilkinson.

Business Models for Newspaper Publishers conference

I criticized the American Press Institute‘s Newspaper Next project last month for wasting more than US$2 million and a year producing a “blueprint” to “transform the industry” that in reality turned out to be little more than advice that publishers should think of newspapers as things that readers ‘hire’ to perform various ‘jobs” such as telling them what’s occuring in their communities or what to do tonight.

That project was just a rehash of Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen‘s book The Innovator’s Dilemma, which shouldn’t be surprising because the API hired Christensen’s consulting firm to develop the project. Newspaper Next is a good deal for Christensen’s firm and API, which can now run seminars and workshops about their ‘solution’ to the problem of newspaper companies’ mismanaging themselves into suicide, but it isn’t really a solution.

Contrast API’s Newspaper Next project with the much more cogent Business Models for Newspaper Publishers conference that Ifra held this week in Frankfurt, Germany.

Rather than telling newspaper executives that their product is ‘hired’ by readers to perform various ‘jobs,’ the Ifra conference focused on ways newspaper publishers can estimate future changes in their industry, where the future sources of company revenue will be, and how to re-align their business strategies and corporate structures accordingly. Practical advice.

Keynoted by Prof. Peter Zellman, of the Austrian Institute for research on leisure and tourism, there were presentations about consumers’ future behavior with media, structural changes underway in the newspaper industry, utilizing online communities, expanding business beyond just reporting the news, preconditions necessary for innovation, and usages of multimedia. Though I couldn’t attend this conference due to scheduling conflicts, I followed its live moblog.

Some of those topics are touched in North American newspaper conferences, but not to the degree of frankness and detail that European conferences do. Perhaps this is because the North American newspaper industry is an oligarchy of just a handful of companies competing in just two large countries; not hundreds of companies that, most of which, don’t compete against each other in the dozens of languages and nearly 30 countries of Europe.

Newspaper Online Usage Math

Conferences by the Online News Association, the Association of Online Publishers in the U.K., and the New England New Media Association were held last week in respectively in Washington (D.C.), London, and north of Boston. I couldn’t be in all three locations at once, so I choose the New England New Media Association conference.

Why pick a regional newspaper new media conference over the annual conference of American online journalists or U.K. online publishers? Because that conference is more representative of what’s actually going on: the challenges that most newspapers and local TV stations face adapting to new-media.

I’m sorry, but what The New York Times, London Daily Telegraph, or other huge newspapers are doing – or can do – isn’t truly representative of the problems at hand. For example, there are some 1,470 daily newspapers in America but 1,230 each have less than 50,000 printed circulation daily Only 40 of the 1,470 newspapers (less than 3 precent) each have more than 250,00 circulation. New England, where the average size newspaper is about 20,000 daily, is a more representative group.

How are these New England newspapers doing online? So far, OK for companies that can each devote probably one full-time employee to new-media. What I noticed from attending their conference this year is that its attendance quadrupled from two years ago and doubled from last year. Thirty one New England newspapers sent a total of more 100 people. Most were newspaper new-media staff. However, there were also 8 publishers and 6 executive editors or editors of the print editions &#151 people who generally didn’t attend such meetings during the past many years. They’ve become serious about their online readership and its revenue potentials. A good sign.

The keynote address in New England was by Rob Curley, former chief of new-media at the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal and Naples (Florida) Daily News and now vice president of product development of PostNewsweek Interactive, the new-media arm of the parent company of The Washington Post and Newsweek magazine.

Rob showed what daily newspapers must be doing five years from now in order to survive. What’s that? Well, sorry to teast you, but I’ll leave the answer for a little later this month because I’m awaiting the video of his presentation to be processed and released by NENMA, so I can point you to it. Also, I have Rob speaking at my Beyond the Printed Word conference in Vienna next month.



I’m still catching up about the other conferences, reading the coverage. Of great help is Jemima Kiss Flickr.com postings of photos of various speakers’ interesting slides from the AOPUK conference. For example.



This just in! According to the latest figures from the Newspaper Association of America Newspaper Audience Database project, more Americans visit newspaper websites than purchase printed editions. That is, more do sometime during a month. The NAA announced that more than 55.5 million Americans now visit newspaper websites at least once per month and this total grew by more than 31 percent during the past year. Sounds like a good PR bullet for newspapers.

But monthly is the big caveat there. Slightly more than 54 million Americans purchase a printed edition daily, but 55.5 million visit a newspaper website at least once per month. Conflating daily print and monthly online figures makes it appear that the American newspaper industry isn’t so much losing daily print readers as gaining equally frequent new readers online. That isn’t true.

But look closely at the NAA’s NAD data, which is downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet. How often does the average user visit a newspaper site each month? There’s are no numbers about that in the NAD spreadsheet, but we can calculate an indication. Though the spreadsheet is password-protected against any changes or added calculations, you can simply add a new worksheet into it by using Excel’s ‘Insert > Worksheet’ command and link it to the NAD data to make these calculations.

Take as an example the first newspaper listed in NAA’s NAD data, The New York Times. Divide its number of monthly users into its number of monthly page views to calculate how many pages the average user saw that month. The answer is 24.8, less than a webpage per day during any month. Make the same calculation about the Boston Globe (line 244) and the answer is 21.3 or only about two webpages every three days. Try the Miami Herald (line 1389) and get 5.6 webpages per month or less than one webpage every five days. Etcetera.

The the NAA figures are conflating the numbers of people who read at least one printed page daily with people who might read perhaps two onlne per week. The numbers aren’t really equivalent.

Moreover, I’m puzzled by another NAA datasheet (PDF) available online, this one from Nielsen/Netratings data. It shows almost the same number of site users per month as the NADs data, but an average of nearly 47 webpages seen monthly per user. That’s a discrepency of more than 100 percent from the NAA’s NAD data! I wonder what the explanation is this huge discrepency?



A clearer picture might be seen in a report the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released this summer, Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership:

But the growth of the online news audience has slowed considerably since 2000, particularly among the very young, who are now somewhat less likely to go online for news than are people in their 40s. For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting.

Broadcast news outlets continue to struggle over the last two years alone, the audiences for nightly network, local TV news and radio news have all slipped. Even so, the recent trends in news consumption are relatively stable when compared to the 1990s when TV news in particular was suffering losses of far greater magnitude.

Similarly, the latest Pew news consumption survey finds that newspapers, which also have seen their audience decline significantly, are now stemming further losses with the help of their online editions. However, the discrete online-only newspaper audience is quite modest in size.

Four-in-ten Americans say they read a newspaper yesterday, with 6% reading a newspaper online 4% read both a print and online newspaper, while 2% read it only online. In addition, 3% say they read something on a local or national newspaper website yesterday. As a result, even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership 43% for both print and online readers is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50%).

The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 3,204 adults from April 27 to May 22, finds that the audience for online news is fairly broad, but not particularly deep. People who say they logged on for news yesterday spent 32 minutes, on average, getting the news online. That is significantly less than the average number of minutes that newspaper readers, radio news listeners, and TV news viewers spend with those sources. And while nearly half of all Americans (48%) spend at least 30 minutes getting news on television, just 9% spend that long getting news online.

The web serves mostly as a supplement to other sources rather than a primary source of news. Those who use the web for news still spend more time getting news from other sources than they do getting news online. In addition, web news consumers emphasize speed and convenience over detail. Of the 23% who got news on the internet yesterday, only a minority visited newspaper websites. Instead, websites that include quick updates of major headlines, such as MSNBC, Yahoo, and CNN, dominate the web-news landscape.

The rise of the internet has also not increased the overall news consumption of the American public. The percentage of Americans who skip the news entirely on a typical day has not declined since the 1990s. Nor are Americans spending any more time with the news than they did a decade ago when their news choices were much more limited. In 1996, people on average spent slightly more than an hour (66 minutes) getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers. Currently, they spend virtually the same amount of time (67 minutes) getting the news from all major news sources, the internet included.

As internet news has gone more mainstream, its audience has aged. Since 2000, nearly all of the growth among regular internet news users has occurred among those ages 25-64. By contrast, virtually the same percentage of 18-24 year-olds say they get news online at least three days a week as did so six years ago (30% now, 29% then). Currently, about as many people ages 50 to 64 regularly get news on the internet as do those in their late teens and early 20s.

If newspaper new-media is to succeed printed editions, then it still has a long way to go and not much more than maybe ten years before declining print circulation will otherwise drop below the level where newspapers become uneconomic to publish and therefore insolvent, as others have calculated.

Beyond the Printed Word (Nov. 9-10) preview

speakers.gif

Although was on sabbatical much of the Northern Hemisphere summer, I was inregular contact with Ifra, the world’s leading association for newspaper and media publishing, helping to organize their annual Beyond the Printed Word conference about new-media. Last year’s conference in Madrid sold out attendence and this year’s in Vienna on November 9-10 is well towards that.

I’m particularly proud of the speakers we’ve enlisted.

The keynote address about ‘Empowering the Community’ will be delivered by Robert. S. Cauthorn (top left above), the founder and CEO, CityTools.net, former vice president of digital publishing at the San Francisco Chronicle, and an early winner of the Newspaper Association of America’s New Media Pioneer award.

Julie Rutherford (top row, 2nd from left) of The Washington Post will speak about marketihng websites through search engines. The topic of Simon Waldman (top row, 2nd from right), group director of digital strategy for The Guardian Media Group in London, will be ‘Decentralized content business models.’ The British consultant Suw Charman (top right), will speak about whether news publications are using social software correctly.

Jennifer Lewis (middle row left), the editor of Singapore Press Holding’s STOMP community site, will speak about how to launch a community site. Gunnar Springfeldt (middle row, 2nd from left), the development director of the Stampen Group in Sweden, will talk about how to buy such sites. And Michiel van der Meer (middle row, right), the managing director of Speurders.nl, will talk about online classifieds.

On the second day of the conference, Rob Curley (middle row, 2nd from right), the director of new media and convergence at the Naples Daily News in Florida but who on October 1st will take the new post of vice president of product development at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, will give a keynote address about Innovative uses of digital media.

Kyoo Kim (bottom right) MSNBC’s Vice President of Sales and formerly of Belo Interactive, will talk about new revenue ideas. The progress of new-media in Australia (which Bob Cauthorn today told was quite advanced) will be covered by Mike van Niekerk (bottom row, 2nd from right), the The managing editor of that continent’s Fairfax Digital. And Mikal Rohde (of whom I don’t have a photo), the CEO of Norway’s Sesam, will talk about home-grown search solutions for publications.

Annelies van den Belt (bottom left), the new media director of the Telegraph Group in London and I (bottom row, 2nd from left) co-chair and will co-moderate the conference, which will be held at the Vienna Hilton.

When Trade Associations Do Dumb Things

night_safari.jpg

Night Safari, Singapore, July 2006  – © Vin Crosbie

When the newspaper industry is already limping, why do some of its major trade association further shoot it in the feet?

That’s what the World Association of Newspapers, the Federation of International Periodical Press, and Ifra have done. I won’t directly tell you which of these associations is to blame, but you’ll probably be able to deduce which from this posting.

For years, WAN, Ifra (whose name I’ll explain beneath this posting), and FIPP have together organized Beyond the Printed Word, an annual conference about publishing on more than paper. It’s held in the autumn in a European city (Prague in 2004 and Madrid last year). Attendence at last year’s was sold out. This year’s Beyond the Printed Word will be held November 9-10 in Vienna.

Ifra, which has been the general organizer of the conference, recruited me in April to be this year’s co-chair/co-moderator (the other is Annelies van den Belt, the new media director of the Telegraph Group Limited of the UK). This year’s conference venue was set; the conference program outlined; and invitations were sent to proposed speakers (almost all of whom accepted).

But WAN and FIPP then decided to split from Ifra, hold their own new media conference — the World Digital Publishing Conferenc and Expo — and scheduled it in another European city two weeks before Beyond the Printed Word.

I don’t know about you, but I see no reason for the newspaper industry to hold two similar conferences at approximately the same time in two different cities. It’s counter-productive and will dilute or muddy either conference or probably both. It’s a lame idea for this limping industry.

Because I’m a co-chairman of this year’s Beyond the Printed Word, you might think that I know a lot about why the split occured. But in fact I don’t. I found out about the split weeks after it had occured, and only then because I’d read WAN’s announcement of its World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo and asked WAN why they and FIPP were announcing their own digital publishing conference a fortnight before the conference that I had thought I was co-chairing in Vienna for their organizations plus Ifra.

One reason why most trade conferences are so expensive to attend is that the associations use them as a revenue generators. Attendee registration fees can rage anywhere from $500 and $3,000. Attending Beyond the Printed Word will cost you between €850 and €1,290 or the World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo €980 and €1,450.

I suspect that WAN and FIPP (which generally goes along with WAN) didn’t like the revenue split they’d been getting from the Beyond the Printed World conferences. Deciding to hold their own conference, they intentionally scheduled it right before Beyond the Printed Word to preëmpt as much of the latter attendence as possible.

Too bad. If WAN wanted to pull out of Beyond the Printed Word and run its own digital publishing conference, it should have scheduled its conference at an antipodal date — such as in the spring — rather than attempt to preëmpt the annual Beyond the Printed Word conference it, FIPP, and Ifra had spent years promoting and developing. That would have better served the newspaper industry than holding two similar conferences at approximately the same time.

I personally regret the split because I like the staffs of both WAN and Ifra. But because I now find myself to be co-chairman of a conference organized only by Ifra and WAN wants to compete with it, I’ve got a duty to make sure that Ifra’s Beyond the Printed Word is a better conference than WAN & FIPP’s World Digital Publishing Conference and Expo. I regret that my friends at WAN have put me involuntarily into that position. I wish it wasn’t so.

[By the way, Ifra was originally named the INCA-FIEJ Research Association. INCA meant International Newspaper Colour Association and FIEJ meant Fédération Internationale des Editeurs de Journaux.]

Media Giraffe at UMass This Week

If any of you are in New England this week, I’ll be in Amherst at the University of Massachusetts, attending the four-day Media Giraffe (as in ‘get your neck above the clutter and see what’s going on’) conference about the future of journalism. On Wednesday evening, I’ll be moderating a New England ‘town hall-style’ discussion about “Will journalism continue to be relevant? How? In what form?” and the following evening about “Can Ownership Make a A Difference?”

I’m looking forward this conference because it has perhaps the widest range of attendees and participants of any media conference I’ve ever seen; people from print, broadcast, new-media, blogging, and academia, plus an agenda not encumbered by any one of those sectors.

Beyond the Printed Word 2006

I thank the International Federation of the Periodical Press and Ifra for naming Annelies van den Belt, the New Media Director of London’s the Telegraph Group Limited, and me as the two chairpeople for those trade organization’s annual Beyond the Printed Word digital publishing conference. The conference will be held November 9-10 in Vienna.

Attendence at the 2005 Beyond the Printed Word sold out. We hope to do the same this year. We’ll be focusing on four themes: Empowering the community, ‘Search-mania,’ Online advertising, and New news formats.

Among the confirmed speakers are Naples Daily News Director New Media & Convergence Rob Curley, MSNBC Vice President of Sales Kyoo Kim, Speurders Managing Director Michiel van der Meer, Fairfax Digital Managing Editor Mike van Niekerk, Sesam Managing DirectorMikal Rohde, and Guardian Unlimited Digital Director Simon Waldman.

What's Wrong with Media

Thje presentation I gave during the What’s Wrong with Media panel during Editor & Publisher and MEDIAWEEK magazines Interactive Media conference in Las Vegas last month was largely extemporaneous, read from a few notes written on my PDA. It went like this:

    What’s wrong with media? Don’t get me wrong, we [in the new-media side of the business] have done some great things during the past dozen years. However, it’s my role on this panel to talk about the Emperor’s New Clothes or the Elephants in the Room. Such as:

  • After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, fewer people use our websites — and less thoroughly and less often — than currently read or view our companies’ declining, legacy products (printed newspapers, magazines, or TV or radio programs). Sure, there are exceptions such as NYTimes.com or Guardian.co.uk. But when you analyze server logs and discard questionable traffic such as from web spiders, you find that the average newspaper, magazine, or broadcast site is used by no more than one quarter as many people as still read the printed editions or as view or listen to the analog broadcasts.
  • After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, our sites earn one-twentieth to one-hundredth the revenue per user as do our companies’ legacy products. The average newspaper website earns between USD 5 and USD 14 annually per user, comparied to USD 250 to USD 900 annually per printed edition subscriber or daily single-copy purchaser. The comparisons for broadcast sites are even worse.
  • After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, most of our media companies earn less than 5 percent of their revenues from new-media. Sure, there are exceptions; McClatchy and Knight Ridder were each earning about 7 percent from new-media. But at most media companies, the percentages are much lower. Even if online advertising continues to grow at a 35 percent compound annual rate, which isn’t realistic, our companies will implode from their legacy products’ constantly declining circulations, readerships, and revenues before our new-media efforts can sustain them.
  • Which points to another problem. Our efforts are still totally dependent upon our companies’ legacy products for content and, to a huge degree, financial subsidies. We often talk about how our new-media efforts have been like the rise of radio in the 1920 or TV in the 1950s, but radio and TV were totally independent and self-sustaining within about five years of launch. After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, we’re still totally dependent. Moreover, 75 percent of American newspaper websites’ gross revenues are generated from the three traditional printed newspaper classified advertising categories of automotive, properties, and jobs. And half of that revenue comes from ‘upsells’ to us by the print folks.
  • After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, we consider ourselves to be the online kings of our local markets because we have about a 43 percent market share of online advertising there. However, Google and Yahoo! within the past five years now have a 28 percent share of local online advertising, a percentage that growing ten times as fast as our own.
  • After 12 years of our efforts at publishing on the Web, Wall Street, which owns most of our companies, is not impressed. Ask the folks here from Knight Ridder.

Later during the panel, I gave a few solutions for these problems. However, our 45 minute panel didn’t have time to give many more or to get into details:

Continue reading What's Wrong with Media

Culture Shock within Online Publishing


I’m still in shock after the two conferences I attended earlier this month. How times have changed!

During 1998, I flew from a new-media conference in Zürich to one in Las Vegas. I was in a different kind of shock then. Zürich and Las Vegas are remarkably different cities, but culture shock wasn’t a problem. Jet lag was. My circadian clock was nine hours askew. Fortunately, Las Vegas is the city where being wide-awake at wee hours is perfectly acceptable.

This year, I flew from a new-media conference in New York City to one in Las Vegas. Jet lag wasn’t a problem; there are only three time zones between those cities. However, a week later, I’m still in shock. Culture shock. But not because of the difference in cities.

I’m suffering culture shock because I’d too quickly gone from a conference of digerati to one of analogati. I’d almost say, to one of Ludderati.

Worse, the two conferences were all digerati back in 1998, but the times since have left one of those conferences behind.

The digerati were at the Syndicate conference last Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan. This conference was about how the Internet is changing the way that news and information is distributed. Among its 125 attendees and speakers were AOL Weblogs Inc. Founder Jason Calacanis, Rocketboom host and co-owner Amanda Congdon, Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson, Richard Edelman of Edelman PR (who has his own blog), Brightcove VP of Content and Online Services Eric Elia, ZDNet International Contributing Editor Steve Gillmor, Blogger Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com, Eric Norlin, Doc Searls, Technorati Founder and CEO David Sifry, Reuters Consumer Media Senior VP & General Manager Steven Schwartz, Halley Suitt, and David Weinberger. Most of them have invented somne new-media technologies, innovatively adapted those technologies, or successfully started companies based upon those technologies and innovations.

Due to a scheduling conflict, I could attend only the first few hours of the Syndicate conference (I blogged just the opening sessiont of this conference). Most of the speakers and attendees whose names are hyperlinked above can better report about this conference than I can. Nevertheless, I was there long nenough to experience how new ideas were flying throughout, aided by speakers who broke the Fourth Wall of the stage and let the audience participate and by wireless Internet access throughout the conference hall, which let attendees and speakers check facts, check on each other, and all participate even more. It was exhilerating, and I came away with many new ideas.

A few days later, I flew to Editor & Publisher and MEDIAWEEK magazines’ Interactive Media conference in Las Vegas. It would be quite unfair of me to call its attendees ludderati or Luddites. The Luddites were a social movement in the early 1800s that objected to technological change and tried to smash new technologies. By contrast, the 300 or so attendees of the Interactive Media conference were executives who owe their positions to technological change and are trying to embrace it. They’ve spent most of the past eight to twelve years putting their printed publications online. For examples, you can now read The Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, or Newsweek online, hours before those periodicals appear in print. The online versions sometimes even contain hyperlinks to source materials, though most don’t.

In 1998, the attendees at these two conferences had been on roughly the same level of sophistication about technology and new-media theory. However, the Interactive Media attendees are still at that 1998 level, while the Syndicate attendees are now eight years’ more sophisticaled. The difference was so striking it shocked me.

One of the few Interactive Media attendees who is as sophisticated as any of the Syndicate attendees is Forbes magazine Executive Editor and Forbes.com Editor Paul Maidment. Read his story about how out-of-date the conference’s attendees were, if you don’t believe me. He leads it with something he heard:

“I don’t know what to do, but I am ready to do it.” That was the quote that raised the biggest chuckle at the recently concluded Interactive Media Conference, Editor & Publisher’s annual gathering at which the U.S. regional newspaper industry’s panjandrums stare transfixed into the onrushing headlights of online publishing. Trouble is, it was a self-knowingly nervous giggle.

I remember that quote. It was one of three incidents I particularly remember from the Interactive Media conference. Here are the other two:

The first was when two college students were interviewed on stage in front of the attendees. They were asked what websites they had browsed that day from their personal computers and also what books they’d recently read. The students said they had browsed no websites from personal computers, but instead did their browsing that day from their mobile phones. They also said they hadn’t lately read any printed books except college textbooks, except they had recently bought and downloaded several ebooks onto their PDAs.

That they used their phones rather than PCs to browse surprised the attendees, almost all of whom design their websites for PCs. Similarly, the attendees were flummoxed that someone who read ebooks (“The convenience and portability of having all those books at hand,” one student replied. “I can read them whenever and wherever I am”).

When the conference later held a panel about publishing to mobile devices, it mentioned that most mobile phones in the U.S. can be used to browse the Internet, and asked the attendees for questions. The opening question came from an executive who announced, “Maybe I’m a dinosaur, but I had heard that it’s possible to browse the Web from a mobile phone and I had someone show me how. I could figure out how to type the ‘www’ but couldn’t figure out how to type the ‘.’ in Web addresses. So, isn’t all this concern about mobile phones way too early?”

Only in the minds of her and most of the 300 other attendees, despite the evidence before them, I thought.

The second incident was orchestrated by speaker and Innosight consulting company Managing Director Scott Anthony. He presented a 30-second video and asked the attendees to count in it the number of times a basketball is passed among a trio of people wearing white who were weaving among a trio of people wearing black. Most of the 300 attendees counted anywhere between 12 and 16 passes. But Scott then asked how many had seen a person wearing a gorilla suit walk across the screen and wave at the attendees. Only about a dozen of the 300 attendees raised their hands.

So, here was a conference about a changing environment, but most of its attendees weren’t able to perceive an obvious incongruity — a real change — in a 30-second video. That was Scott’s point.

gorilla.jpg
Outside research indicates that only about 10 percent of average people see the gorilla in that video (an ape easily seen in this still image). That means that at least 30, not only a dozen, of the 300 attendees should have seen the gorilla. Moreover, this conference’s attendees are people paid by their companies to perceive, understand, and deal with change. Shouldn’t more than a dozen or 30 of the 300 Interactive Media attendees have seen the gorilla in their midst? I think that most of the attendees of the Syndicate conference would have.

You won’t find much blogged about the Interactive Media conference because its organizers decided not to provide its attendees with wireless Internet access (reportedly because using the Internet might distract attendees from hearing the speakers — a remarkablly Industrial Era policy in an Information Era where people routinely multitask. Moreover, why should a concert about interactive be interactive? Go figure.).

With the exception of not providing wireless, the fault in Las Vegas wasn’t Editor & Publisher or MEDIAWEEK magazines’. It was the attendees. They’re so driven to do what made sense to them in 1998 that they don’t question whether that makes sense now or how things are changing.

There are many executives in the newspaper and magazine industry who are as sophisticated about technology and new-media theory as the Syndicate attendees, but most of them no longer attend the annual Interactive Media conferences. I can understand why (perhaps they correctly don’t think they will learn anything), but the people who do attend and the industry as a whole lose by those people’s absences.

All this tends to confirm the quote Paul Maidement reported. The attendees might know that their businesses need to change, but they don’t know how and probably won’t be able to perceive the answer if they saw it. This drives deep to the heart of why newspapers and magazines have failed to adapt to the Internet beyond about 1998.

I’m still in shock. My thanks to the conference’s organizers for letting me speak on the panel entitled What’s Wrong with Media. I’ll probably attend next year’s Interactive Media conference, but I’ve more than enough reasons to question why.

Syndicate: The Need for Meta-Data

jarvis-syndicate.gif
(Jeff Jarvis Descends the Podium)

I’m in New York City at the Syndicate conference. Syndication long ago (mid-Twentieth Century) meant large newspapers, magazines, and broadcasters broadly distributing their content beyond their own printing presses and transmitters. Thanks to Moore’s Law and how it’s reduced the costs of publishing and broadcasting, syndication today means anyone broadly or narrowly distributing their content beyond their own personal computer.

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com opened started the day with a keynote that unlocked the fourth wall of the conference. Rather than giving a speech to the conference, he characteristically descended from the podium and asked the attendees what they wanted to discuss. They voted to discuss syndication & revenue.

Jarvis seeded this discussion with a list of what information advertisers want in exchange for buying ads on syndicated content (there wasn’t any discussion of paid content). Among the factors mentioned were measurements of the numbers of users and the users demographic. (Since most of the attendees were from publishing or broadcasting sites,no one mentioned product or service sales resulting from syndication. The focus instead was on advertising.)

When the fourth wall is removed, a conference session generally proceeds through three phases: (1) a central topic is chosen by popular acclaim; (2) attendees provide anecdotal examples of thier concerns about the topic, often complaints and counter-complaints; and (3) then everyone realizes that they’ve really been circling and talking about another topic.

Complaints and counter-complaints flew in amusing fashion. For example, Paul Mooney, who writes about technology complained about Technorati’s content tagging system, only to have Technorati CEO David Sifry, who was among the attendees, counter and explain his tags. Ditto complaints about Feedburner. It’s a dynamic that happens attendees are technosavvy pioneers and founders of new-media companies.

But the discussion did spiral towards the topic of the tagging content, and hence meta-data. Technorati tags. Delicious tags. NewsXL tags. Flickr tags. People complained that these are all different and often incompatible schemes for tags.Moreover, everyone agreed that hardly anyone, main stream media companies or bloggers, even uses tags. I portrayed the problem as a Tower of Babel populated mostly by mutes. The attendees agreed that online content just isn’t being sliced and diced articulately enough to be really useful.

I believe this is the major problem today for content online. The problem isn’t how to generate revenues packages of content, but how to deliver the right parts in that package, parts that are individually packages to be relevant to each individual user’s needs and interests. It’ll most often mean different parts in each user’s package, which is quite different from the same package that publishers and broadcasters today send to all of their individual users.

I believe that most individuals would be willing to pay for the service of providing a package of content that truly matches that individual’s unique mix of needs & interests, rather than receiving the same packaged product of content that everyone else receives. Most of the common products today aren’t very relevant to each of their users’ lives, so those packages have to rely upon advertising revenues or sponsorships.

Jeff Jarvis and I have often exchanged comments (the verbal and the posted kind) about whether or not the Web already provides people with the ability to get content that matches each of their individual needs and interests. I agree with Jeff that the elements of that mix of content exist today on the Web. Where I disagree with him is that I don’t think most people want to hunt for each of the elements and assemble their mix themselves. That’s what content published only via a Web does. A website doesn’t automatically delivery anything to users; its contents instead await retrieval by them.

Some pundits says that an RSS feed from a website eliminates that problem. However, the attendees of this conference agreed that no RSS feed is articulate enough for that to be true. Jeff gave the example of a well known blogger who writes about new-media but also likes to rant about shock radio personality Howard Stern. The blogger’s RSS feed contains both topics. People who are interested in new-media but not interested in Stern don’t like the feed because it’s larded with of the later content, and so they don’t find the RSS feed useful.

Until online content is tagged down to the story, or even story element level, it won’t be very useful for most people. It’s more than just a matter of semantics — but more about that later. I’m off to Las Vegas the rest of this week for the Editor & Publisher/MEDIAWEEK magazines’ interactive publishing conference.

Cauthorn and Defense Minister Challenge Asian Publishers

cauthornasia.jpg

People sometimes mistake me as a radical within the newspaper industry. I’m fortunate that my Rebuilding Media compatriot Robert Cauthorn exists as a contrast to dispel that notion.

While we’re on the topic of him, Cauthorn addressed the the Publish Asia 2006 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, yesterday. Here are two short videos (QuckTime ) of his speech. Cauthorn challenged traditionalist beliefs in order to encourage a new period of innovation and growth within the newspaper industry. He told Asian newspapers that they might not be declining in circulation but that does not mean they are being spared from the world’s newspaper crisis, because circulation in Asian countries is not growing in pace with the growth in the middle economic class. He also asked newspaper executives to think about their business in a different way:

    “If the car industry realizes that they are not selling enough cars, they create new models, change their products… Newspapers publishers are not selling as many newspapers as before, but continue doing the same kind of newspapers. Therefore, you are taking wrong decisions and in a continuous way.”

Cauthorn was the first newspaper industry speaker at the conference. He followed the Honorable Y.A.B. Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister od Defense of Malaysia, who opened the conference and also encourage publishers to fulfill new audiences requirements:

    “There are many publications trying to inform in real time with sms alers, 24/7 websites… because if you don’t move with the times and give audiences whay they want, you won’t only be left behing but also force to leave the game. Change is not anymore a possibility but a real necessity.”

A Date with the Butcher


picard.jpg

Here is a question for the daily newspaper industry:

    When does the bovine brain realize it’s entered the abattoir?

Does it finally realize that something is amiss as it trots up the slaughterhouse ramp? Does it realize only as it receives the fatal blow? Does it ever realize at all? When should the steer have stopped following the herd instinct?

I ask because I don’t think that the American daily newspaper industry realizes that its slaughter has already begun. Slaughter may sound overly dramatic, but I think the evidence makes it an accurate description of the situation at hand. A hand with a cleaver.

I think the industry has started to realize that it’s being bloodied, but it doesn’t yet realizes that its gutting is the reason. Perhaps in a bovine way, the newspaper industry thinks it is the master of its own destiny. The reality, however, is the newspaper industry stopped growing beefy long ago and has been milked beyond the ‘mature business’ phase, so its owners have begun to lead it by the nose to the butcher.

Consider the American daily newspaper industry’s view up the slaughterhouse ramp:

• The industry lost 2,500 local newsroom jobs last year, numbers that have been increasing annually despite the industry mooing that its news coverage must get better and that local news is its core purpose.
• Its circulation and readership has been steadily declining for generations, despite the U.S. population and the number of college-educated Americans steadily growing; yet the industry continues to chew its traditional cud about how it is an absolute necessity for all Americans.
• The industry still claims to be a potent force in America, yet its major stockholders see that as just bull and have devalued the industry’s equity by more than 40 percent during the past five years.
• Knight Ridder, America’s second largest chain of newspapers and a pioneer in the industry’s new-media efforts, provided a rich milk of more than 20 percent profit margins to its stockholders, but they led it to be sold this year.

• Even the largest public shareholders of The New York Times Company have been clamoring for changes in control at that company, despite acknowledging that it publishes the best newspaper in the English-speaking world. Large public shareholders at Tribune Company are similarly upset about that company’s decline value.

But why believe me that this is the situation? For years, I’ve been warning that the end is near for the American daily newspaper industry unless it makes radical changes, but I’m an independent consultant who works for a tiny firm that isn’t associated with any media industry think tank; any university; or any big brand name, multi-industry consulting company. So, I’m easy to ignore by an industry that’s largely in a state of bovine denial. It’s also easys to ignore my warnings that the industry’s new-media efforts won’t save it unless those make the radical changes, too.

So, who will be believed?

I hope Professor Robert G. Picard, perhaps the world’s leading expert on media economics. He is Hamrin Professor of Media Economics and Director of the Media Management and Transformation Centre at J�nk�ping University in Sweden and currently a resident fellow at Harvard University’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Picard clearly has better credentials than mine.

In Austin on April 7 during his keynote speech at the 7th International Symposium on Online Journalism at the University of Texas, Picard (pictured above) gave a dire presentation forecasting the end of the newspaper industry and asserting that:

    “the current strategies of publishing companies to gain economies of scale and scope, to move into cross-platform content provision, and to maximize return across a portfolio of content products will be effective only for the short-and mid-term.”

Let me rephrase that in words that perhaps a cow could understand:

Nor is following the herd instinct. (What’s convergence, really? See this this definition for a truthful pointer about it).

But let’s not digress from Picard’s speech.…

Continue reading A Date with the Butcher

Six New-Media Events in May

New-media conferences pop up like flowers next month in the Northern Hemisphere. Here are six that are noteworthy:

  • May 3Tomorrow’s Web: PPA/i/AOP Interactive Seminar at Magazines 2005, Grosvenor House Hotel, London. The Periodical Publishers Association Interactive and the Association of Online Publishers examine which new-media technologies and trends are having the greatest impact on their business. Speakers include BBC News Interactive chief Pete Clifton, Times Online Editorial Director Peter Bale, and Emap Performance Interactive head of online Will Currie, among others.
  • May 9Ifra Digital Trend Day – Focus on Mobile, Radison SAS Hottel Amsterdam Airport. If keys, wallet, and a mobile phone are the three essential items any person on-the-go will be carrying today, how should news organizations take advantage of that? Among the speakers are Bettina Schifko of Styria Media AG from Austria, Christophe Rasch of Edipresse Publications SA from Switzerland, Takashi Ishioka of Asahi Shimbun from Japan,
    and Ifra News Business Director Stig Nordqvist.

  • May 16 & 17Syndicate, Roosevelt Hotel, New York City. This converence will examine new syndication strategies and technologies for media, public relations and marketing communications. Its speakers include Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine.com, Robert Scoble of Microsoft Research, Richard Edelman of Edelman Public Relations, Amanda Congdon of Rocketboom, Doc Searls of Linux Journal, and Steve Gillmor of ZDNet International.
  • May 19 & 19Editor & Publisher and MEDIAWEEK magazines’ Interactive Media Conference & Tradeshow, The Green Valley Ranch & Resort, Las Vegas. Though this annual gig has been in decline during recent years,

    E&P and MEDIAWEEK are attempting to revive it by offering a better than average roster of speakers (disclaimer: I think that’s true, although I’m one of them). Those folks include Albert Cheng of Disney TV, Charles Tillinghast of MSNBC, Jim Brady of the Washington Post, Kinsey Wilson of USAtoday, and Scott Anthony of Innosight.

  • May 19 – Newspaper Design, St. Bride Library, London. Former associate design editor of the Sunday Times and art editor of Design magazinePeter Baistow; Freelance designer Paul Barnes; former Guardian and Neue Z