One of the most audacious New Media projects I’ve been involved with as a viability consultant is Outernet, my friend Syed Karim‘s project to bring free Internet access to more than four billion people. He plans to do this by piggybacking a fleet of mini-satellites onto commercial satellite launches. These mini-satellites, known as cubesats (each a 10 cm cube weighing no more than 1.33 kg), will provide Internet access (albeit mainly text access) to the majority of the world’s people, who don’t live in regions where Internet access is affordable or even receivable, which is a surprisingly large portion of the planet’s inhabited landmasses. Hundreds of cubesats have been launched for other non-profit purposes during the past 11 even years. Karim and his Outernet team have already raised the US$10 million necessary to build and launched their network of cubesats. CNN recently featured a story about him. Prior to his heading the Outernet project, I’ve known him as Director of Innovation at the Media Investment Loan Fund, a position he still holds. I’ve been an adviser to MDIF for the past seven years.
Spain recently passed a law that would require online news abstractors and aggregaters, such as Google News, to pay royalties to Spain’s periodical publishers. It’s a bone-headed law, but not surprising that at least one developed country would pass such a law, pressured by the publishers’ lobbying. Those publishers haven’t adjusted to individuation of their contents – the fact that each person online wants to be able to search (or otherwise find or be delivered) only for the stories that match that person’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, and to be able to receive such stories from all vendors and publications without having to purchase all those publications. The news law is a desperation move at the behest of those publishers. Google announced that Google News will shutdown in Spain on Tuesday. Similar machinations have been underway in Germany. Subsequent stories about the Spanish law – as well as my own talks with Spanish friends (disclosure: my wife is a Spaniard) – indicate that the new law is immediately unpopular among Spain’s online consumers. Rumors have begun that AEDE (the Spanish daily newspaper publishers association) may be having second thoughts about the law. However, I should note that Google’s policies about recording its users actions have often, and probably still do, violate the European Union’s 1995 Consumer Data Privacy regulations, something that few American commentators deign to mention. I only regret that this particular case occurred three weeks too late for me to feature it in the the week’s class on Internet Law that I teach in my postgraduate New Media Business course at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’ll be part of the syllabus there next year.
Let’s be frank about the media industries. Most of its executives don’t care a hoot about exactly what is causing the tumultuous changes in their business environment. What they want, almost regardless of the problems, are solutions that can propel their careers and businesses into profits. They’re like recreational surfers: they just want someone to tell them where the good waves are rather than them spending time learning ocean hydrodynamics. Indeed, if the majority of media executives care at all about what’s causing the gargantuan changes in their business environment, they’ll look at the proximate, not the ultimate, causes of those changes.
Yet champion surfers know to look beyond the proximate and understand the ultimate causes of waves. Although they know that finding great waves is the most practical and proximate of their needs, they can reliably find those waves only if they understand the ultimate causation. I’ll thus detail some webpages from here the proximate and practical causes of the gargantuan change underway in the media environment, but first let’s examine what ultimately are causing all of it to happen.
When differentiating between the proximate and ultimate, I ask my graduate students what caused the destruction during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami or the 2010 Japanese tsunami. Most answer a great wave of water. That indeed is the proximate causation of the destruction. However, the ultimate causation was the undersea earthquake that causes the great wave.
At various times in human history, scientific or technological breakthroughs have caused seismic changes in civilizations and humans’ lives. Discovery of how to make fire was the first. Discovery of agriculture was the second. A third discovery, metallurgy, immeasurably increased the power of humanity’s tools and weapons. The invention of writing allowed knowledge to be recorded beyond what could be passed down through oral history. The invention of the telescope 400 years ago led to knowledge that humanity isn’t the center of the universe, a discovery which had huge repercussions on religion, philosophy, and polity. In 1776, mechanical engineer James Watt’s invention of the motor fomented the Industrial Revolution, transforming civilization in ways still occurring. Most people today know that an invention several decades ago is now reshaping people’s lives, livelihoods, societies, politics, knowledge, and all else that preceded it. During the late 1950s, electrical engineers Jack Kilby and Philip Noyce invented the integrated circuit (commonly known now as the ‘semiconductor’ or ‘microchip’) upon which technology all of today’s computers and microelectronics is based.
Hardly anyone who works in media today doesn’t know that offices, homes, vehicles, phones, and myriad other devices and even appliances are being revolutionized or ‘disrupted’ by computerization. Many have notice or heard that these changes are accelerating. Some hope it will stop. Yet few truly understand that whatever they might have so far seen will pale by comparison to what are going to occur or just how quickly.
This chapter is a primer about that, aimed at people who work in the media industries. The chapter outlines the three dynamics whose combined effects are ‘disrupting’, revolutionizing, and transforming the media environment in ways that are only starting to show. It looks at each of those three ultimate causes of the changes underway and briefly examines the three causes’ combined effects.
The ultimate formulation is simple: the ever-accelerating interactions of Moore’s Law, Cooper’s Law, and Butters’ Law ultimately cause the gargantuan changes underway in the media environment. Moreover, changes in the media environment are merely side effects of those principles’ more comprehensive effects on the world.
Despite their nomenclature, Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws aren’t llegislations but principles based upon empirical observations about advanced technologies. Moore’s Law concerns the advancements and expense of computer processing power; Cooper’s Law describes the advancements and capabilities of wireless communications; and Butter’s Law focuses on photonics, the communication of information through optical fiber cables. These three principles are similar (indeed, the latter two were prompted by the first). The laws’ rippling interactions are transfiguring most of the world’s other industries, and even governments, societies, and civilization itself.
My reputation as a New Media consultant to the news industry, including my appointment since 2007 to teach postgraduate New Media Business at Syracuse’s Newhouse School, largely result from work I did long ago.
For ten years beginning in 1993, I helped guide the strategies of major news organizations’ websites and their other online services. But by the turn of the century I realized that those strategies (known as ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’, etc.) would ultimately fail and those news organizations’ websites, as well as their traditional products, would unavoidably become irrelevant and unsustainable in the near future. I then spent seven years sounding probably like the prophet of doom to the traditional media industries in post-industrial countries. The doom I predicted has since become apparent.
Since 2007, I haven’t done any innovative work—except that which is done in a room filled with some of the best postgraduate students and doctoral candidates from America, Europe, and Asia, who study the media business. They’ve an advantage over the middle-aged white executives who run most traditional media companies; they’ve grown up online, know New Media as natives, and so aren’t mired in media theories, doctrines, and practices that might have been valid in the 1960’s or 1980’s or even early 1990’s, ideas and concepts that are already obsolete.
Good teaching is a continuous experiment. Bad teachers teach the same way every semester; like bad actors, they perform by rote. By contrast, good teachers use their classrooms not only to teach established concepts, but to teach themselves when and how established concepts have changed and are no longer relevant or true. In other words, the classroom is where good teachers refine their own understandings of what to teach. If a teacher’s own understanding of what he teaches doesn’t withstand the questionings and skepticism of hundred postgraduate students and doctoral candidates, then his understanding is merely an illusion.
I’ve been luckier than that. The academic freedom to teach what I think is true, no matter how unwanted those truths may be among hidebound executives or how heretical the truths are to traditional media academics, has been a godsend to my thinking. The easiest environment in which to shuck the encrusted dogma of 20th Century media thinking is to be surrounded at any time by dozens of smart young scholars who owe nothing to such dogma except that after their graduations they as media executives will inter it once and for all.
Ten years ago, after realizing that traditional media industries’ strategies of ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’ will ineluctably fail and will never generate enough revenues to compensate for the revenue declines from the evaporation of those industries’ traditional products (printed periodicals, over-the-air and cable broadcasts, etc.), I turned my attention and that of my students to solving the problem of why. Why won’t ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’ ever generate enough revenues to compensate for the revenue declines from the evaporation of media industries’ traditional products? Why are indeed those industries’ traditional products evaporating? The solution necessarily involves both questions.
My purpose in asking isn’t to save those industries’ traditional products or websites, but to establish what those industries should have done instead and what the successful new media of the 21st Century will do or are doing now. It’s now too late for most of those industries in the post-industrial countries, but there may still be time for media companies in developing or industrial countries to learn and adapt.
It starts by examining the misguided beliefs by most media executives and most media academicians today that the greatest change underway in the media environment is simply that consumers have changed their consumption habits from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ or have mere become ‘wired’ or ‘hooked up’ to electronic devices; that websites or streaming media are electronic multimedia (‘converged’) versions of printed periodicals or broadcasts; and that the future of Mass Media domination will be in online and mobile platforms.
It then describes what is obvious about the changes actually underway in the media environment, which are far different than what the executives and academicians who are trained in the theories, doctrines, and practices of Industrial Era media, namely Mass Media, hope. It categorically states how and why Mass Media are artifacts of that waning era and already are no longer the predominant ways in which most the world’s people now obtain news and information and soon entertainment. It is about Individuated Media, the new media engendered by the Informational Era, which we can see across the panorama of the media environment once we remove the blinders of Mass Media theory.
I had planned to publish this work online early in 2015, after my classes this semester end. When seven years ago I’d conceived the core of this work and established its syllabus, I had hoped that what it states would now be obvious. It’s indeed obvious now not only to my students but to those of other media schools who I’ve queried. Nevertheless, dust and debris from the collapse of traditional Mass Media still obscures the sight of far too many media company executives and academicians who, trained in Mass Media, attempt to sustain those Industrial Era forms of media. So, even though I’m still writing the final sections of this work from drafts, I’m going to begin publishing it online now, in hope of guide some of their ways.
I call it The Rise of Individuated Media. Thirty short (three to eight typewritten pages) chapters of this work are now online (starting with a version of this posting). A further 40 are in final draft stages and will go online at a pace of one chapter every two or three days (an easy pace for me to post.) I welcome comments or corrections to this work. Because an aggregate of its many chapters is hard to read solely online, an electronic book version of the whole will in follow sometime in January.
Those chapters already online deal with:
Identifying what is the greatest change underway. The answer isn’t consumers switching their media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’. Or ‘multimedia’ or media industry ‘convergence’. Or ‘smartphones’, tablet computers, or even the Internet.
Focusing on what are the ultimate, not proximate, causes of all the changes underway. Knowing what ultimately causes the changes allows a person to identify and rather accurately predict what and how fast future changes will be, an invaluable skill for anyone formulating media company strategies or designing media products and services.
Seeing the complete spectrum of changes underway and not being blinded by just those glaringly obvious. There is an ideal ‘prism’ through which to view the entire spectrum. And in this work I divide the spectrum of change into three ‘color’ categories, each of which has its own hues:
The ‘greens’ which affect how people gravitate towards and around media contents.
The ‘reds’ which affect how media contents are transacted (and even when no monies are exchanged).
The ‘blues’ which affect how the very definitions of media contents, as well as production and delivery of those contents, have changed.
Why and when traditional Mass Media companies failed to foresee the real changes underway. And what the few traditional media companies that do survive will need to do to adapt, which also means what ‘pure-play’ media start-up companies in the 21st Century should already be doing.
Media academies that have excelled at Mass Media have been flummoxed by the changes underway, few of which conform to their theories and doctrines. These academies have reacted in either or both of two ways. They’ve created institutes or centers of ‘innovation’ in which Mass Media practices are simply continued in whatever is the latest devices. Or else they’ve created ‘entrepreneurial’ programs that involve students learning how to operate without corporate support or to start-up their own corporations.
However, true innovation isn’t the usage of new devices or new technologies, but how theories and doctrines change due to new technologies and new devices; it is the difference between carpentry and architecture. Moreover, planting entrepreneurial seeds in hopes that some might bloom is hardly a sound practice of agriculture. As the innovative genius Nikolai Tesla said about his fellow inventor Thomas Edison, “I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.” I herein offer a bit of theory about the New Media.
In 2004, the offices the Malaysian investigative news website Malaysiakini rented in the Kuala Lumpur suburb of Bangsar Utama were raided by police. That spooked the building’s landlord, who evicted the 14 year-old Malaysiakini. The site’s journalists briefly worked from a nearby fast-food restaurant that had a WiFi connection.
Malaysiakini has finally found a permanent home, purchasing an industrial building that will serve as its new office beginning next year.
Malaysiakini aims to make a sizable portion of @Kini open to the public.
“To grow, Malaysiakini needs a stronger foundation. Like a tree, this new building will help Malaysiakini plant deeper roots so it can be more stable as we seek to reach greater heights,” according to Malaysiakini CEO Premesh Chandran.
The building – to be known as @Kini – will provide room for Malaysiakinito expand in the coming years, with ample workspace, meetings areas, training rooms and video studios.
“It will offer better facilities forMalaysiakini‘s hard-working team – the true heroes who help deliver the news and views that matter,” said editor-in-chief Steven Gan.
“We envision regular forums, dialogues and movie screening to encourage public participation on burning issues. By opening our doors, we believe we can build something great – together,” said Premesh.
The building (right) will also have the country’s first live webcasting centre, where public forums and discussions can be held with audience participation, both at the venue and over the Internet.
KiniTV, the Internet TV arm of Malaysiakini, will be constructing a multi-purpose studio that uses the same broadcasting system of the “American Idol” shows. It will be implementing the “Open Studio” concept by welcoming civil society groups and people’s organisations to broadcast their programmes, as well as providing new media training.
@Kini was purchased at the price of RM6.1 million. Inclusive of renovations, duties and fees, the total cost is estimated to be around RM7 million (USD2.2 million). Malaysiakini plans to pay RM1 million in cash upfront and seek RM3 million in bank financing.
To alleviate the burden, Malaysiakini is looking to its supporters to raise RM3 million in the next two months through its “Buy a brick” campaign.
Contributions of any amount are welcome but every supporter who contributes RM1,000 (USD313) will get RM1,000 worth of subscription and advertising on Malaysiakini, as well as a brick with his or her name etched on it.
These bricks will be used to build an “appreciation” wall that will become a permanent feature in Malaysiakini‘s new building.
Malaysiakini targets to get 1,000 people for the RM1,000 bricks. It is also looking for corporate sponsors of either RM25,000 or RM50,000. They too will get prominent recognition in the building as well as an equal amount of advertising space onMalaysiakini in return.
“It’s a great way for individuals and corporations to show their support for independent media,” said Premesh.
The “Buy a brick” campaign kicked off with RM42,000 (USD13,130) already raised among Malaysiakini staff and their friends.
The world’s longest-published newspaper will become a non-printed, totally online service nine weeks from now. On 20 December, Lloyd’s List, which has been continuously published since 1734, will no longer be available in print. It’s online edition for the Web have has been published for more than ten years and its edition for mobile phones has been published for several years.
Lloyd’s List, published by the is considered by many experts to be one of the earliest English-language newspaper. Although it is primarily a shipping industry daily trade journal, that’s what the earliest English-language newspapers were: editions that not only published news of which ships were leaving or arriving port but what events were occurring in distant or foreign ports that might affect commerce. It was published weekly by by Edward Lloyd, the proprietor of Lloyd’s Coffee House in the City of London, who founded the insurance brokerage market named for him.
Now, 279 years later, the staff of Lloyd’s List has found that only two percent of the newspaper’s readers read the edition in print.
“The decision follows many years of customer research and preparation and is – first and foremost – designed to ensure that the service continues to evolve with customer demand. This is move supported by the overwhelming majority of our customers. Less than 2% of our readers currently use print-only and no other means to access Lloyd’s List. We have already undertaken years of investment in our digital and mobile platforms, but the move away from print will allow us more time and resource to build on that with innovative approaches to data and a more bespoke service that offers content tailored to individual customer needs,” said Editor Richard Meade.
We think the significance of Lloyd’s List ceasing print is that the world’s longest-published newspaper is among the world’s first successfully to no longer need to print.
For the past four years, I’ve been teaching a New Media Business for media course at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It was originally open just to postgraduate students, but a few years ago we opened it to select upperclassmen, too.
Some 250 students have taken the course. Approximately half were from the Newhouse School’s Media Management masters degree program, in which taking the course is a requirement. However the rest of the students have been from the school’s Arts Journalism, Broadcast Journalism, Communications, Graphic Design, Magazine, Newspaper, Photography, Public Diplomacy, Public Relations, and Television/Radio/Film departments. Students and staff from the university’s Whitman School of Business, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, School of Information Studies, University College, and the College of Law also have taken the course. In any semester, between a quarter and a third of the students who take the course are foreign, mainly from China, India, the Middle East, or European Union.
Because New Media technologies, business models, and practices are continually changing, I have to update the course syllabus every semester. Here is the current version, minus university boilerplate:
New Media Business syllabus
ICC625-M001 (55764) & ICC300-M001 (60544)
Course Goals: Learn the dynamics, economics, and technologies that are reshaping the media industries worldwide during the 21st Century. Learn how these differ from those of 20th Century media. Learn how to adapt to these changing times.
Disclosures: There aren’t sufficient hours in this single course to provide in-depth assessments of all New Media technologies which are constantly evolving.
Moreover, the syllabus you’re reading is subject to change. Each semester a different mix of students from Newhouse departments attends this course. For example, last semester’s course was taken by 18 Media Management, two Broadcast Journalism, one Public Relations, one Advertising, one Newspaper student, and a Whitman staffer. In contrast, this semester’s course currently has five Advertising, one Broadcast Journalism, and one Newspaper student enrolled. So, after the first week of classes each semester, the instructor revises this syllabus to focus on the specific needs of the students in that semester. Dates, Hours, and Location: Twenty-nine (29) eighty-minute classes will be held between 11:00 a.m. and 12:20 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays from January 17 to May 1, 2012, in the Larry Kramer War Room (#252 in Newhouse 3, geo-coordinates on request).
Agenda & Topics: The following agenda of class topics is tentative. The actual agenda may vary due to availability of speakers or additional topics added during the semester either by the instructor or the requests of students.
The first four weeks of the course surveys the current state of the world’s media; how that situation cannot be explained by classical Mass Media theory, and examines the new theories which fit that situation.
January 17 – Ritual Reading of the Syllabus. Plus, discussion of class goals and policies. Handout: Student questionnaire.
January 19 – Embracing Change. The elasticity of time. The Confederate widow and the World War One Flying Ace anachronisms. How long do you plan to live? People you’ll meet who will in the the 22nd Century. How to adapt to change, and why knowing how to embrace change and adapt to is the paramount skill for 21st Century media people to have.
January 31 and February 2 – Apocalypse. What challenges do the advertising, newspaper, magazine, radio, television, cinema, public relations, photography industries now face? How the ancient Greek word apokálypsis actually means ‘lifting of the veil’, ‘revelation’, and ‘disclosing something hidden in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception’ and not (contrary to popular belief) ‘chaos’ or ‘end of the world’.
February 2 – Creative Disruption. How an Austrian economist strove to become the greatest economist in the world, the best horseman in his nation, and the greatest lover in all of Vienna. How his work in one of those endeavors helps us understand the situation the media industries face.
February 7 – What Ultimately Are Causing the Media Change? Meet Gordon Moore, Martin Cooper, and Gerald Butters. The interactions of what they observed. Will change stop in your lifetime? The clockwork towards technological singularity.
February 9 – What Has Been the Greatest Change in Media History? Are New Media merely traditional forms of media put online or manifestations of something much larger underway? What has been the greatest change in media to occur in human history?
February 14 – Across the Spectrum of Change. How the greatest change in media history affects the practices and businesses models of journalism, entertainment, and information, and even the content of those fields. Why Social Media are manifestations of this change and the ‘tidal shift’ resulting.
February 16 – The Economics of Content and the Contents of Surplus. Why traditional media business models are failing. How supply & demand specifically affects value and attention and value. Why fewer and fewer people will pay for traditional content, and use it less frequently and less thoroughly—no matter if the content is delivered via traditional forms or online. How content must change. How, where, and when to charge for what content?
The next five weeks provide practical information about how to prosper and adapt to changes in various fields and formats of media during the 21st Century.
February 21 – Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and the Internet Timeline. How you only have to remember two things about the geologic timescale of New Media. How a host of people, almost all of them in their twenties, had the courage of their ideas and have changed the world.
February 23 – How Does Digital Work? What Does Interactive Actually Mean? Do TurboTax® or the Intel Turbo Boost® really use turbochargers? Do the words digital and interactive actually have real meanings? Why knowing these meanings can lead media to success.
February 28 –Alphabet Soup: HTTP, CSS, SEO, SEM, XML, and ROI. How the Worldwide Web works. How to measure and improve your use of the Web and other interactive technologies. And why the refrigerator you buy five years after your graduation will know some good recipe for what it contains.
March 1 – What are Individuated Media? Should You Be Permissive or Intrusive? Will Mass Media continue to be the primary way people obtain news, entertainment, and information or will something else replace it?
March 6 & 8 – The Practices and Effectiveness of Online Advertising. Why something with such relatively small response rates is becoming the world’s primary form of advertising. Practices and problems.
March 14 & 16 – Spring Break Week.
March 20 – How New Media Differs Legally from Traditional Media. Technology outrunning the law and governments. COPA, CAN-SPAM, Safe Harbors, Personal Jurisdiction, SOPA, and Net Neutrality
March 22 – The Blogosphere. Does anyone actually earn money blogging? Should you or your company blog? What if everyone else is doing it? The revenge of ‘the people formerly known as the audience.’
March 27 – Going Mobile. Will mobile really change the media industries? What are the ‘G’s, Geolocation, Augmented Reality, and Goggling?
March 29 – Tweets, Check-Ins, Virtual Realities, and Loquacious Devices. The incipient deaths of keyboarding and handwriting. Meet the new intermediaries: Dragons, Siris, and HALs.
The final month of course examines the futures of various industries and provides practical information about how to prosper and adapt to changes in various fields and formats of media during the 21st Century.
April 3 – The Revenge of Paper. How tablet devices are just one of many primordial steps to something that replaces paper. A dress of OLED. Everything becomes a display. What will the book in the future do?
April 5 – The Revenge of Radio. How a medium once thought to be dying has become one of the most popular mobile app. Have you seen the radio station’s video? Individuation in radio. How Pandora teach Individuation, not Mass Media.
April 10 – The Future of Television. Brought to you by Ethernet television and a host of pretenders. The coming implosion of the U.S. television affiliate model. Can your local station survive? No borders except language and culture. Rights, Royalties, and Revanchism.
April 12 – The Future of Cinema. Digital projection to the home big screen versus the bigger screen with strangers at the mall? Had 3D gone flat? A holographic shell game: which of the ‘Peas’ is really there?
April 17 – A Tale of Two Parochial Countries. Who are the largest groups of nationals online? Why you should go abroad virtually before seeing all of the 50 United States. How a country that once led the world in interactive is now ranked in the teens. What you can learn from other nation’s New Media.
April 19 –Business Formation, Partners, and Practices. A primer about how to form a business legally and to deal with partners, investors, co-workers, or employees. How new technologies affect ownership.
April 24 & 26 – A Week of Best Practices from Worldwide. Who said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal”?
May 1 – Course Summary & Evaluations.
Textbooks: There are no required textbooks for this course. No printed textbook is able to keep current with the changes radical underway in the media industry. Besides, this is a New Media course, so the instructor will assign online readings. The instructor can recommend specific books about New Media which students in those specific majors should read.
We’re generally not a company that emphasizes a continuing role for paper (as opposed to epaper) in the future, but we are enthusiastic about some of the Augmented Reality mobile phone applications being developed by the Dutch company Layar for use with newspapers, magazines, signboards.
For example, take at look at this video about using the application with magazines:
Or this more general use of the application:
These apps led one acquaintance myself of ours to declare that the Cuecat scanners, a product released in 1999, was ahead of its time. Maybe so, but that’s like saying the steam-powered automobiles of the 1880-1890s or Leonardo da Vinci‘s drawing of a rudimentary helicopter in the 1480s were ahead of their time. Those might have been ahead of their times, but were inept implementations. Cuecat spanners were dedicated, single-purpose devices that plugged into people’s personal computers. They could be used to gather more information from printed publications only when wired to personal computers and only by reading bar codes printed in those publications. By contrast, Layar’s Vision applications can be used on any multi-purpose ‘smartphone’ (iPhone, Android, etc.), a device which hundreds of millions of people now carry; doesn’t require wiring to a personal computer; and doesn’t require the publication (or anyone else) to print barcodes or QR codes. It’s an idea and an implementation at it’s time.
As a surfing friend once told me, ‘You can’t surf ahead of the wave’s time.’ Which is why Cuecat went nowhere.
[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 firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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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.
Nobody in the world knows more about newspaper operations than Jim Chisholm. That is a declarative sentence.
The former senior strategy advisor to the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and former director of its Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project, as well as the former managing director of daily newspaper, Chisholm nowadays is a principal of iMedia, WAN-Ifra’s joint venture advisory service.
I declare his expertise and mention his credentials because no less than he has now declared daily newspapers’ attempts to begin for access to their websites. For example, The Times of London now charges online for access. Chisholm says that doing this simply “can’t work because the amount of money they will lose through lost advertising is far greater than the amount made up for with their paywall…If the Times are going to charge and the Guardian and Telegraph aren’t, readers are just going to move somewhere else because they [UK online consumers] are reading on average four newspapers a day online.”
So don’t take it from me, a graduate school professor of news industry New Media and newspaper consultant, that newspapers’ charging for online access is self-destructive. Accept the words of Chisholm.
For instance, they say that because newspaper content is expensive to produce it shouldn’t be given away for free. Or that people have paid for that content in print, so that they should be willing to pay for it online. Or that people who’ve grown used to free access to newspaper websites simply must be ‘educated’ to pay. Or that the why fewer and fewer people are paying for printed newspaper is because those people can instead get access to those newspapers’ content for free.
That’s unfortunate for them because Chisholm (and I also), people who say it won’t work, base our knowledge on not upon specious or superficial logic or wishes, but upon the newspaper industry’s own data and case studies from newspaper’s attempts to charge for online access during the past 19 years since the Internet opened to public use.
For example, download and look at the data in Chisholm’s PowerPoint slides from his speech Monday at the UK Society of Editors Conference. His slides prove why newspapers that charge for online access to their websites’ are shooting themselves in their guts. Read Chisholm’s 12 slides (two of which are simply title slides). The folly of charging isn’t hard to understand.
Moreover, Chisholm addresses the real problem which newspaper people who advocate charging intentionally ignore:
“There’s no statistical evidence that the internet has damaged circulation any more than a whole range of other factors. I’ve not been able to find any evidence of this anywhere, and I’ve studied this in a dozen different [international] markets.”
Publishing a newspaper’s content online for free isn’t really why newspaper printed circulation is declining. Likewise, publishing a newspaper’s content online — whether for free access or paid access — won’t stop those declines.
Whenever anyone from the traditional media industries writes, blogs, or tweets about Social Media, they miss the point. I find this so exasperating that I want to stab them with the point. Here is my thrust:
When newspaper, magazine, radio, and television folks write or speak about Social Media, they consider Social Media as sideshows or separate from traditional media. They liken Social Media to bulletin boards, chat rooms, or online forums purely for social interactions (hence the name they’ve given it). This misconception is prevalent even in academia. The media school where I teach has created a new position, professor of Social Media, as if Social Media are separate from traditional media.
What they all don’t understand is that Social Media are not separate from Traditional Media. Social Media are the successors to Traditional Media.
The difference between Traditional and Social Media is that the tide has turned. People will no longer go to media sites to find what interests them; they now want what interests them to be delivered to their site. A person’s Social Media page is the edition he will read, the channel he will watch. He will no longer consume traditional media editions or traditional media channels.
For centuries, if a person wanted news, information, or entertainment, the person had to go to the sites of traditional media and hunt & gather there for what might interest him.
Beginning in the 1600s, if he wanted news, he had to go read a newspaper posted on or near the public notices board of his town square or buy a copy of that newspaper or, at best, go pay to have that entire newspaper delivered to him. Only a handful of the many stories published in that newspaper edition might truly interest him, but he would nevertheless have to go through the entire edition just to find the few stories which might truly interest him. And starting in the 1700s, he could add magazines to that chore.
Starting in the early 20th century, he could receive radio and later television, both of which were automatically delivered to him if he had receivers. Nevertheless, he would wait during the entire programming schedule for the few programs that might truly interest him.
And beginning in 1991 (actually 1996 with traditional media), he could go to the web sites of those newspapers, magazines, and radio and television stations or networks, where among all the packages of printed stories and broadcast program schedules he might find the few stories or programs that truly interested him.
Thus for centuries people had to go to and through traditional media’s editions and program schedules, and hunt and gather among all the stories and programs for the specific stories and programs matched the person’s individual’s interests. That era is ending.
The rise of Social Media demarcates an epochal reversal in the flow between people and news, entertainment, and information.
The people now want whatever news, entertainment, and information individually interests them to come to their own personal site (i.e., their microsite on Facebook, MySpace, Tencent, Twitter, Qzone, etc.) Less and less will people visit traditional media sites where they must hunt and gather for the stories or programs that interest them. They instead want those individually categorized things delivered automatically to them into their Social Media pages or future equivalents (their Daily Me‘s?)
Rather than hunt and gather, people want to cultivate. They no longer want to go and find at media sites. They now expect the media to come deliver at their sites. It’s an historic change in how they acquire news, information, and entertainment. Indeed, an epochal tidal change: No longer will the people flow to media sites, they now want individually relevant parts of those media sites to flow to them.
When the supply of something changes from scarcity to surplus, the buyers gain more power than the sellers. For centuries (no, millennia!), people had scarce access to news, entertainment, and information, so publishers and later broadcasters had the power to compel the people to visit media companies’ sites. Rather than supply each person individually, according to that individual unique interests, publishers and broadcasters were able to insist that the people be a mass and consume aggregated packages, even if not everything in an aggregated edition or channel or program schedule would satisfy each person.
Yet now that people have surplus supply and access to news, entertainment, and information, the people have the power and no longer have to consume aggregated editions, channels, or program schedules. They no longer have to consume as a mass. Each person can compel publishers and broadcasters to deliver only the stories and programs that interest them, regardless of what else might have been in the traditional editions, channels, program schedules, or web sites.
Media sites will still exist, though primarily as repositories of content, and some people will still visit those sites. Yet the vast majority of people will expect the elements they want from those repositories to go to them
Media companies need to learn that the stories in their traditional editions or the programs in their own traditional program schedules are now more valuable separately than as produced as editions or program schedules. Stop concentrating on the producing and selling the editions or the programming lineup schedules. Concentrate instead on producing, syndicating, and selling each individual stories and individual program. Go with the flow. The tide has changed.
As Dr. Ghazi writes, Citizen Journalism is hugely missing from the Arabic speaking world! He notes Al Jazzera’s efforts to introduce it, using online and cable television broadcasts (the latter similar to CNN’s i-Report project), but that Arabic printed media lags far behind, even in Arabic countries where government regulation of media isn’t that big a problem. He writes:
“We believe that citizen journalism may have added a new dimension to the news process, allowing the average citizen a sense of the journalist and the curiosity and motivation to become a participant and an architect and not just the quest for truth only; but that citizen journalism in the world still faces some criticism in relation to the accuracy of news put forward through it.”
Arabic is the first language of nearly a quarter billion people and the official language of 22 countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Perhaps one reason for the low adoption of citizen journalism there is that Internet penetration is still relatively low, estimated at 29% (3.3% of the world’s Internet users). However, those percentages should rise this decade, and I hope that citizen journalism will become a staple of many Arabic countries’ media.
News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch apparent announcement that his company will launch a new U.S. national newspaper to be distributed digitally (not printed) and exclusively as paid content for mobile phones tablet computers such as Apple Inc.’s iPad is not only a classic case of the Convergence Placebo but of how the iPad is making that placebo much easier to swallow for misguided executives of media companies.
The initiative, which would directly compete with The New York Times, USA Today and other national publications, is the latest attempt by a major media organization to harness sexy new devices to reach readers who increasingly consume their news on the go. The development underscores how the iPad is transforming the reading habits of consumers much like the iPod changed how people listen to music.
“We’ll have young people reading newspapers,” the 79-year-old Murdoch said during the company’s Aug. 4 earnings call. “It’s a real game changer in the presentation of news.”
Two intertwined threads of thinking underlie the thinking of Murdoch and others who mistakenly believe that devices such as the Apple iPad will reverse the declines of daily newspapers in post-industrial countries:
The belief that the reason why the circulations and readerships of daily newspapers in post-industrial countries have been declining for nearly 30 years and begun plunging during the past 5 is because people, particularly young people, want to read newspapers online rather that in print.
The second thread is the belief that placing newspapers on tablet devices and on mobile phones will increase the numbers of people who read newspapers, simply because more people use mobile phones and might use tablet devices than now read printed newspapers.
That first thread is the thickest—by which I mean it is most favored by the thick-headed media executives who don’t understand why the circulations and readerships of daily newspapers in post-industrial countries have been declining for nearly 30 years. Readerships and circulations did not decline during the 1980s and 1990s because people were waiting to read daily newspapers on tablets devices or mobile phones. Circulations and readerships declined because those newspapers’ contents increasingly didn’t satisfy people.
‘It’s The Content, Stupid!’
To paraphrase political consultant James Carville‘s Democratic Party slogan during the 1992 U.S. presidential campaign, it’s the content, stupid! The reason why newspapers have declined is the content, not the device that content is on.
The newspapers’ contents increasingly didn’t satisfy people because people gained access to other media that could more articulately satisfy each newspaper reader’s individual needs and interests better than any traditionally produced daily newspaper could.
The fact is that the traditional daily newspaper is a common edition that is delivered to each of its readers; each reader gets the same edition that day. The editor selects which stories all readers get, and because there space for only a limited number of stories in each day’s edition, the editor chooses those stories according to two broad criteria: the stories about which he thinks all readers should be informed and the stories that might have the greatest common interest to all readers.
The resulting selection of 30 to 100 stories per day (depending upon the circulation size of that newspaper) is therefore a limited choice that might satisfy a few of each reader’s individual interests but is highly unlikely to satisfy all of all readers’ interests. Surveys of newspaper readers half a century ago show that the average reader reads 6 to 8 of the 30 to 100 stories per day. Surveys of newspaper readers during the decades since show that the numbers of stories read have declined to approximately half that number.
During the 1980s and 1990s, as people gained access to cable television and satellite television, and offset lithography made publication of topical magazines economical, people began satisfying their individual interests by watching those new forms of television and reading those topical magazine more and more and reading daily newspapers less and less. Once people began to gain Internet access during the 1990s, and particularly when they got it on broadband during this past decade, they gained immediate access to a quarter billion websites, blogs, and social media networks that could satisfy their individual needs and interests incredibly better than any daily newspaper could. (Indeed, daily newspaper circulations in post-industrial countries began to plummet around 2004, approximately when the majority of the households in those countries acquired broadband Internet access.)
The Los Angeles Times story about Murdoch’s announcement notes, “The development underscores how the iPad is transforming the reading habits of consumers much like the iPod changed how people listen to music.” Yet if fails to note that the iPod changed music by letting people purchase the specific songs that fit a person’s specific interests rather than having to get an entire package (album) of other songs that might not.
So, if the reason why daily newspapers’ circulation and readership have plummeted is the newspaper’s generic package of content, why would putting that package of content on iPads, tablet devices, and mobile phones reverse those declines? It doesn’t makes sense.
Yet that generic package content of newspapers is that industry’s sacred cow. Despite lip service about change, there is huge denial that newspapers’ journalism, generic story selection practices, and delivery of a common edition to all is the problem. An industry whose idea of a major change is whether or not to permit an advertisement on page one, is unfit and unwilling to deal with fundamental changes.
‘It’s My Baby!
The newspaper industry instead desperately wants to find some way to continue its practices unchanged but online, or as they call it in ‘digital edition’ format. Flaws and all, the traditional newspaper is their baby and if they can find a way to parade it in the newest fashions, they feel hope that it will survive.
Behold their iPad edition! It looks like a newspaper, it contains the traditional newspaper’s content, but it’s digital and its from famously innovative Apple Inc. The 79 year-old Murdoch calls it a “game changer” that will “have young people reading newspapers.”
Which leads to the second thread upon which swallowers of the Convergence Placebo are hanging themselves: placing newspapers on tablet devices and on mobile phones will increase the numbers of people who read newspapers.
It will. It actually will. Some people who don’t read a newspaper edition on the Web might prefer reading one in the iPad format, in which a traditional newspaper looks like a traditional newspaper and not a webpage. It will because some people who prefer to read only when mobile (or only perhaps to kill time when stuck in transit) might do so on a mobile phone or tablet device.
However, the number of new readers who newspapers gain from iPad or mobile phone editions is very unlikely to compensate for the number of readers newspapers are losing in print. Nor would the revenues gained compensate for the much large revenues lost in print.
Like gellcap pills, iPad editions make the placebo of convergence easier to swallow, increasing an ill industry’s hope that it will survive, yet not bringing it the treatment it really needs for recovery.
For some time, I’ve been meaning to promote Bernard Poulet‘s excellent La Fin des Journaux et l’avenir de l’information (The End of Newspapers and the Future of Information) to my francophone friends. It’s available from Amazon.fr in Europe and in North America from Amazon.ca, but not yet in an English-language version.
Poulet is editor in chief of the French business magazine l’Expansion, and his 217-page book caused a bit of a sensation even before it was published by Gallimard last year, when parts of it were excerpted in the magazine Le Debat.
France has seen the number of daily newspapers sold each day halve from 3.8 million in 1977 to 1.9 million in 2007 and national dailies such as Le Monde and Liberation totter on the verge of bankruptcy (despite French government subsidies to daily newspapers, ranging up to 15 percent of their gross revenues.) As in most other post-industrial countries, young people don’t regularly read newspapers anymore.
‘Maybe it’s time to panic’, is the title of Poulet’s first chapter. He sees multiple erosions of the traditional business model for publishing (and broadcasting) news:
The business has been based upon advertising being wrapped around the news, but now via the Internet advertisers have a more direct way to reach consumers.
Likewise, the consumers themselves are directly able via the Internet to consume the specific news they want more directly than purchasing entire packages of information (such as an entire newspaper or news magazine edition).
Plus, the ‘quality’ journalism model has lost touch with consumers and become so didactic that consumers reject and resent it.
Poulet says that journalists and publishers in France and other countries are in a psychological state of denial about these profound changes. Moreover, consumers are fleeing traditional journalists who are trying to exercise a moral authority over them and instead are seeking the ‘egalitarian ideology’ of the Internet, which gives them the ability to talk back to journalists, to talk to each other, and even to contribute their own stories via ‘citizen journalism’ and blogs.
He foresees the disappearance of daily newspapers in France in 20 to 30 years and the emergence of a two-tiered information system. There will be a wealth of deep and detailed information for the rich who can pay for it and there will be a superficial information for those who cannot pay or who don’t want to keep be kept informed.
If you can read French, I highly recommend this book. I hope an English-language version will be published. —Vin Crosbie
[Disclaimer: Poulet also is chairman of the Media Development Loan Fund, which helps finance and develop independent news outlets in countries with a history of media oppression. I’ve done unpaid, pro bono consulting to MDLF. I also am quoted in Poulet’s book.]
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project just released an interesting report about, among other things,
The report, Home Broadband 2010, is nominally about how broadband adoption in the U.S. has slowed dramatically and if Americans think that affordable broadband should be a major U.S. government priority.
However, the survey results from the 21 percent of Americans who don’t use is the Internet is illuminating:
Approximately half of them don’t find online content relevant to their lives, so they do not go online.
Most aren’t interested in going online. Only one in ten say would like to start using the internet in the future.
Most aren’t comfortable using computers or the internet. Six in ten say they would need assistance getting. Only one in five know enough to start using the internet on their own.
Non-users of the Internet are actually less likely to use it if the government placed a high priority on the spread of broadband connections.
I won’t go into too many details here because you should go the Pew website and download the report (PDF).
Overall, broadband adoption has slowed dramatically in the U.S., except for growth among African-Americans, which was especially high last year.
On July 31st here, I wrote about the need for Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication to produce more practical research to help media industries faced with radical changes and two days ago I reported about commentary my call produced. For reasons I mentioned on the 31st, I didn’t attend the AEJMC annual conference this year, instead following it last week via Twitter (unfortunately, AEJMC doesn’t webcast).
From what I understand from the tweets, the AEJMC conference didn’t produce any fruitful focus on research that might help the industries survive. Some academics respond that research about how to train journalists to write well and report objectively certainly helps those industries. That’s true, but I worry about if there will viable media industries and jobs for those well trained journalists unless those industries can reverse their declines. It’s fine to produce a fine tool, but it’s worthless unless anybody use it.
Nevertheless, from the tweets I saw, there was indeed a sea change at AEJMC this year–the growing primacy of New Media as people’s way to access news and information. My Newhouse School colleague, Associate Dean Hub Browndescribed it well.
I’m glad academia is noticing a change that’s been underway for at least half a decade, when the majority of homes in post-industrial countries began using broadband Internet. A world way from AEJMC, Sky News and others in Australia are reporting that the board of directors at Fairfax Media, has ordered a strategic review of the company’s structure and management and a much more aggressive approach to the Internet side of its business because investors have criticized Fairfax’s Internet strategy. There is now talk of building website paywalls, combining print and online managements, and even ceasing to print and going fully digital. Fairfax publishes The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Australian Financial Review, and other newspaper in Australia and in New Zealand it publishes The Dominion Post, The Press, The Sunday Star-Times, and other newspapers.
Last week, Dave Morgan, CEO of Simulmedia, founder of TACODA and Real Media, and the former general counsel and director of New Media ventures at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association warned that
I know the last thing that local media companies need is another Web-driven disruption in their markets, particularly one that could take a big chunk out of their revenues in the next few years. If local newspaper, yellow pages, radio or local TV companies thought that Google, Yahoo, eBay and craigslist were disruptive, they are now going to face down a competitor that will have an even bigger impact on their businesses than any one of those companies did.
I believe that location-based Web services will take 20% to 25% of the annual revenue out of local media’s current advertising base within four years. Yes, 20% to-25% of their revenue base will be lost by 2014. That spend will be displaced by promotion and marketing fees paid to these new location-based services or applications that run on top of them. To the incumbent companies, these new services will be like craigslist on steroids.
I think he’s right. Read the rest of his warning at MediaPost.
Another savvy article that cuts right through the fog is Robert Niles recent article, The only metric that matters, published in Online Journalism Review:
In the nearly 15 years that I’ve been working online, I’ve watched the most popular metric among Web publishers change from “hits,” to “page views,” to “unique visitors” to “time on site.”
But none of those metrics really matter. I’ve seen sites post phenomenal numbers for each of those categories, and fail. There’s one metric, and only one, that truly matters in determining your websites’s commercial success.
Your visitors can spend hours per month on your website, but a huge “time on site” value by itself won’t entitle you to a dime (see Twitter). I suspect that one reason why various Web metrics fall into and out of favor over the years is that managers talk up or down those metrics based on their website’s individual performance. Someone notices that people are spending more time, on average, on the website, then he or she gets on a panel at a news industry conference and – boom – “time on site” becomes the metric everyone needs to consider.
Like Robert, I’ve seen publishers chase ‘hits’, ‘page views’, ‘unique users’, ‘time on site’, and now ‘engagement’ as false metrics of success. None of those mean a damn unless the content is generating enough revenue to sustain the operation.
There is a lot of talk about how newspaper companies are slow to embrace change, that we are laggards when it comes to adopting to new business opportunities and suffer as a result.
But new research from the Australian School of Business takes it one step further, claiming that organisations will often embrace failure and rationalise it into success as a coping mechanism that justifies their behaviour.
Is this what newspapers have been doing?
Ms. Davis has been looking at a study by her university’s Gavin M. Schwarz entitled, the Logic of Deliberate Structural Inertia or, as its the online summary titles it, “Organisational Failure: How Lousy Results Become Optimal Outcomes”. She says that “some businesses suffer from ‘deliberate structural inertia’ where organisations prefer not to change their tried-and-true methods.”
Newspaper companies are full of enthusiastic proponents of new technology — staff who are hungry to embrace the new digital world and work on strategies to bring the dollars in and delight our readers and advertisers and who can see it’s potential. But the word from the top is to “wait”.
The research says “people are limited in their capacity to process information. Consequently they adopt spontaneous strategies to simplify complex problems and this allows failure to be rationally defended.”
Too many newspaper companies have done this over the past 10 years, claiming that the changes in mobile phone and online readers were niches that would never take off enough to justify us altering what and how we deliver content. They’ve preferred to wait until nimbler competitors proved that there really was a market there — and by the time we’ve tried to enter, the horse has bolted.
Savvy stuff for anyone trying to understand the failure to adapt by post-industrial countries’ daily newspaper industries. Whenever I hear a newspaper editor says, ‘Because other media can provide news to people more immediately than we can in print, newspapers’ future will be as a provider of analysis about the news rather than the news itself,’ I see someone who is redefining failure as success. There is no reason why newspapers online cannot provide news as immediately to people as other media can. But not if the editor is going to resist changing his traditional practices.
Ms. Davis article is freely available at the International News Marketing Association’s website.
The Experts about Individuated Media
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