Category Archives: Conferences & Seminars

Dave Winer's Userland Deal with NYT Digital

Userland Software Founder Dave Winer explains his company’s deal with New York Times Digital, in which people who use Userland’s blogging software will have free-access to The New York Times’ paid-access online archives. We’re previously questioned the Times’ business model for this deal. Later, at the ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies Conference last week in Boston (where Winer and we were speakers), we’d heard behind-the-scenes talk that the Times’ had offered Userland (and only Userland) the deal for two reasons: (1) to quiet the outrage of Winer — one of the world’s most prominent bloggers — after the Times’ put all its old stories’ hyperlinks behind the paid-access firewall earlier this Spring and (2) to gain Userland’s expertise in creating and maintaining a Rich Site Summary (RSS) daily feed of New York Times news stories.

A Million Dollar Question for the Albuquerque Journal

At the World Association of Newspaper Annual Congress in Dublin this week, the Albuquerque Journal was presented as an example of a successful paid-access newspaper Web site. Its editor Donn Friedman said that during the past two years the site has grown to 3,800 paid subscribers and its subscriber retention rate ranges between 56% and 65%. Because the site charges $8 per month, I calculate that it’s grossing about $364,800 per year, $204,288 to $237,120 of which is stable year-to-year. Does that sound good?

Not to me. Borrell Associates‘ April 2003 report, What Newspaper Web Sites Earn, found that, among newspapers with 100,000 to 200,000 daily print circulation, the average free-access newspaper site annually generated $12.76 in revenues per print circulation. Because the Albuquerque Journal‘s daily print circulation is around 110,000, this mean it should earn around $1.4 million annually if it were a free-access site. That’s a million dollar improvement. Even if the Albuquerque Journal could earned half that much as a free-access site, it would be doing better than it is now as a paid-access site.

[Update, 6 November 2003: According to an article written by Donn Friedman in Online Journalism Review, the paid subscribership figure is “almost 2,000” and the subscription revenues are “more than $100,000 annually”. See our new commentary about this article.]

Can Media Companies Use Blogs?

Two of the contentious topics throughout the two-day Jupiter Weblog Business Strategies Conference in Boston yesterday and today have been ‘Are bloggers journalists?’ and ‘Are blogs threats or opportunities for media companies?’

Rafat Ali of PaidContent.org calls this event the “Most Live-Blogged Conference on Earth”. The audience and presenters have Wi-Fi access and laptop PCs, which they are using it to blog live what was said by whom and to comment on the presentations.

If you’re interested in the conference’s presentations or discussions, Heath Row‘s MediaDiet is providing a virtual live “transcript coverage”.

"A Martian in the Baseball Dugout"

Two quotes by Christopher Lydon, formerly of WGBH and American Public Radio, now at Harvard University, speaking at the ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies Conference to Boston:

“weblogging is the digital equivalent of playing hockey. ‘Oh, sorry, what I just posted about you knocked out you teeth.'”

“As a tradition journalist attending this conference, I feel like a Martian whose sitting in a baseball dugout and trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Are Blogs Useful for Media Companies?

On Monday and Tuesday, we’ll be at the ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies 2003 Conference & Expo in Boston, where on Tuesday morning we’ll be sitting on a panel entitled Weblogs: New Syndication Models Or Uncontrolled Platforms? Here is its description in the conference program:

“No business is likely to be more affected by Weblogs than the media business. Do Weblogs threaten mainstream media by fragmenting their audiences and offering separate, uncontrolled platforms to individual employees? Or do they offer opportunities to develop targeted services and new syndication models? Bloggers, media executives and media commentators explore the impact of Weblogs on traditional media businesses.”

David Shnaider, former president ZDNet and a founder of Prodigy, will moderate the panel. My fellow panelists will be PaidContent.org Editor & Publisher Rafat Ali, Advance.net President & Creative Director Jeff Jarvis, and Gawker.com Editor Elizabeth Spiers.

ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies Conference

David Winer (Berkman Fellow at Harvard University and Former CEO of Userland Software), David Weinberger (co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto), Doc Searls (of Linux Journal and another co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto), Jason Shellen (of Blogger), Tony Perkins (Creator and Editor In Chief of AlwaysOn), Dan Bricklin (of Interland and inventor of the electronic spreadsheet), Anil Dash (of Six Apart), Jimmy Guterman (of The Vineyard Group), Rafat Ali (of PaidContent.org), Jeff Jarvis (president & creative director of Advance.net), Elizabeth Spiers (editor of Gawker.com), Christopher Lydon (of Public Radio International), myself, and a few others will be giving presentations about the business models behind business-to-business blogs and media blogs. The venue is JupiterMedia’s ClickZ Weblog Business Strategies Conference & Expo in Boston next Monday and Tuesday.

A Determined but Adrift Industry

Is the newspaper industry determined to convince itself that charging for access to its online content is a good idea? To reach that conclusion, it seems determined to overlook all facts, data, and logic about the subject.

For example, here is the schedule for the panels on the paid content subject at the World Association of Newspapersannual forum, which will be held next week in Dublin:

Fifth Session: Content and Business Development on the Internet
Chairman: Andrew Nachison, Director, The Media Center, American Press Institute, USA
Charging for online news, selling news on mobile devices, making the most out of both static and dynamic content — these are some of the issues that will be discussed, through case studies, in this forward looking session
The Jerusalem Post: going for online subscriptions without going for broke
Alan Abbey, Vice President of Electronic Publishing, Jerusalem Post, Israel
FT.com: drawing the line between free content and subscription
Tracy Corrigan, Editor, FT.com, United Kingdom
It’s all about value
Donn Friedman, Assistant Managing Editor, Albuquerque Journal, USA

See anyone on that panel from a newspaper that hasn’t switched to paid access and whose career doesn’t have a vested interest in saying that charging for online content is a good idea? Shouldn’t a panel on this subject be objective or have at least one panelists who is against the issue?

Last thatI knew, the Jerusalem Post had only 1,000 paying subscribers. Published reports say that the Albuquerque Journal has less than 1,600 after years of charging online. JPost charges $9.95 per month and Albuquerque $5 per month for access. Thus those site are making a whopping $120K to $96K annually, which certainly doesn’t cover the costs of running those sites. As for FT.com, most of its reportedly 44,000 paying subscribers aren’t paying for the newspaper site’s general-interest news pages, which are free, but for access to company information (i.e., the FT, like the WSJ, isn’t a general-interest newspaper but a daily business journal).

Borrell Associates‘ research has detailed how none of the 15 U.S. dailies that have been charging for content have been able to generate online paid subscriber numbers equal to more than 2.6% of their print circulation or convert more than 1% of their sites’ unique users into paying subscribers. My own research involve El Pais, El Mundo, South China Morning Post, FT, Le Monde, and Ireland.com shows that none of those major newspaper sites have been able to convert more than 1% of their unique users.

In no case has a general-interest newspaper Web site’s conversion to paid access ever resulted in that revenue paying for the operation of the site.

If WSJ.com Founder Neil Budde were a panelist, he’d tell you that paid subscriptions account for only 60% of WSJ.com revenues and that WSJ.com has never been profitable, even with all its sources of revenue. In March, Neil told the JupiterMedia’s Content conference that it was a bad idea for a general-interest newspaper to switch from free to paid access. Paul Maidment, founding editor of FT.com and now executive editor of Forbes magazine and editor of Forbes.com, told that same conference that he was glad to leave FT.com before its “dumb’ switch to paid.

News in Any Format from Sdysvenska Daglbadet

Covering the IFRA Online Trend conference earlier this month in Amsterdam, our friend Rafat Ali notes the interesting ‘Instant News’ project by Sweden’s Sdysvenska Daglbadet newspaper. It involves instant delivery of news through whatever electronic media the user wants at any pre-designated time:

“A user decides, when I’m online, send me breaking news through IM. Between 4 pm and 10 pm (after office and before I go to sleep), send me news on my mobile through SMS, and after that till I am online again in the morning, send the news through e-mail. The service is subscription based, and easy to integrate with payment systems and with the universal ID/logon system, if you have one for your site….”

SMS Increasingly Popular with Broadcasters

Covering the TV meets the Web conference in Amsterdam, theFeature notes how:

“The overwhelming success of mobile voting and alert campaigns around popular television programming prove mobile is a natural extension of TV. The numbers speak volumes – literally.

In Spain Operacion Triunfo, a TV talent show, made history as the country’s most ‘interactive event ever,’ reporting 2 million text interactions.

In Ireland, a country with a population of 3 million, 1.3 million viewers interacted via mobile with the program, You’re a Star.

In the UK, the reality show Big Brother 3 reported 10.7 million text interactions, and BBC’s Fame Academy posted 6.9 million.

The big surprise: the U.S. The rousing success of American Idol 2 talent show, which reported 2.5 million text interactions, makes this latecomer potentially the most exciting market worldwide.”

'Really Bad PowerPoint'

After all the PowerPoint presentations I’ve lately seen at conferences, I feel compelled to hawk Seth Godin’s US$1.99 masterpiece Really Bad PowerPoint. It’s an electronic pamphlet (PDF) about what not to do with PowerPoint. It would be worth all the conference registration fees we’ve ever spent, if only presenters would read it.

Among its common sense wisdoms:

<No more than six words on a slide. EVER.

Delivery & Registration

Today’s Newspaper Sites Move to Registration Model story at Editor & Publisher magazine’s Web site. Focusing on newspaper sites that are requiring registration prior to access, it states, “these site are already seeing new revenue as a result of registration.”

I think the story has that cause-and-effect backwards. Of the three examples (Belo Interactive, NYT, Chicago Tribune) the story gives of sites that have increased revenues, all the executives quoted say those increased revenues arise from e-mailing content, not from forcing registrations.

Those increased revenues are primarily due to advertisers being willing to to pay for guaranteed daily delivery of their ads, not due to consumer registration. That’s why the the newspapers mentioned that are forcing registration but not delivery content by e-mail aren’t getting those increased revenues.

Why do paid subscription newspapers in the U.S. that deliver editions directly to homes & offices generate far greater advertising revenues than either free newspapers or newspapers that are available only by purchase at the newspapers’ offices? The answer is that advertisers are more willing to pay for ads placed in something that readers have requested to receive daily, even paid to receive daily.

That might be obvious to newspaper publishers, but their New Media staffs have failed to see it during the past seven years of shoveling their newspapers’ content online. Instead, they’ve made their newspaper’s content available online to consumers only via retrieval at the newspaper’s own site.

The results have been they’ve had trouble knowing how many consumers really see their content and how frequently. With those unknowns, advertisers haven’t been particularly attracted or motivated to pay large amounts or high advertisings CPMs. And because the only way for consumers to read that content regularly has been to visit the newspaper’s site — which few consumers daily remember and take time to do — those sites have received woefully infrequent use; although their content changes daily, the sites’ average user visit only 2 to 5 times per month!

Those newspaper sites that invoice their advertisers for the number of banner ads exposed thus have exposed ads to their average user only on about 2 to 5 days, not 30 days, per month, thus generating only 1/15th or 1/6th the ad revenues they could. Those newspaper sites that invoice advertisers for monthly sponsorships of Web pages, rather than the number of banner ad exposures, likewise have found that Web pages seen only about 2 to 5 per month by the average user are proportionately less attractive to advertisers than pages seen daily.

Indeed, I’ve read recent stories in which Belo executives say that the availability of e-mailed content has been the major driver of registrations at their sites (anybody from Belo please correct me if I’m wrong about that). E-mail delivery of content is the best way to drive registrations and increased revenues, not the other way around.

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