The New York Times data blog, The Upshot has a data-dump piece illustrating the impact of the recession on various sectors of the economy. You can see the full hairball image at the top of the post but what I’ve highlighted is how the digital transformation of publishing has impacted the media business.
Up top you see that jobs associated with the printed word (as in, on paper) have suffered while those jobs involved with digital production have spiked upward. More specific details in the image below.
I had coffee with someone today and we got to talking about the economy in Japan. From what I was reading, the recent consumption tax hikes were hitting the Japanese economy hard but what this person told me was more nuanced. While old manufacturing jobs, the traditional backbone of the economy that Western journalists look to for an indication of health, were suffering (think Sony, Hitachi, Panasonic), newer businesses around design, software development and mobile advertising were booming.
Broad brushstrokes always gloss over the finer details.
GigaOM posted the audio to a fascinating session at last month’s paidContent Live conference. In it, there’s a great insight/throw down by Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB, Advanced Media. Right around the 15-minute mark Bob calls those that read metered sites such as nytimes.com without subscribing, rooting around their 25 articles/month limit are, “professional freeloaders” of no interest to advertisers. He goes on to state that mlb.com gets 4X the CPMs for ads served to their paid subscribers than the CPMs served to free, logged out users.
Bob’s argument is that media sites that have a paid audience are more valuable to advertisers. While the audience of subscribers may be smaller than the audience of drive-by readers via the social web & Google – it is the subscribers, the true fans, that are more valuable to a media company. While CPMs on non-paywalled sites are driven downwards by the infinite number of impressions on the public web, subscription audiences get better CPMs because advertisers know that subscribers have a relationship with the site on which they are running their ads. There is an opportunity to further increase CPMs by taking an editorial interest in making sure the advertising compliments, not competes, with the editorial, making the advertisements even more relevant.
The challenge for a subscription site is how to gain new subscribers. You will always have churn so you need new subscribers to come in and replace those that are lost. Free sites do not have this challenge. Paid sites always have a bar that new readers will have to clear to read their content and the broader question is how much do you show before you require a potential reader to pay? Give too much and they don’t realize the value. Give too little and they never scratch around enough to try.
One innovative method a desirable subscription site such at the wsj.com can try to bring more potential subscribers in the door is to have the occasional open house where paywalls are dropped and the public invited in to poke around. According to the presentation from where the slide above was pulled, advertisers have been pleased with the campaign delivering 126% of the impressions anticipated. While the profile of those that see those impressions may not be as well-defined as the logged in subscriber, they are still an attractive segment of aspirational readers and therefore suitable proxy for the core audience. I have not heard of other publications using this same tactic and how effective it is in gaining new subscribers. A paidContent piece written about the Open House concept suggested that the benefits may be primarily for advertisers but I’d be interested to hear how effective they are in gaining new subs as well.
I watched Mad Men last night and as I DVR’d through the latest three episodes it struck me that the regular spots of Lincoln and Johnnie Walker featuring Roger Sterling and Joan Holloway blurred the lines between content and advertising. The brands are as much a part of the identity of the series as the characters. The two compliment each other perfectly so it makes perfect sense to have them underwrite each episode in just the same way it fits that Jaguar would invite me to enjoy 24 hours with The Wall Street Journal.
It’s gone now but someone that I follow on twitter pointed out that it’s been six years since Adrian Holovaty posted, A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change In this post, Holovaty, the man behind the micro-news site everyblock.com, and, as far as I’m concerned, the original data-journalist, speaks to the new landscape in which newspapers sit and how they need to change to serve their new readership that is used to links that let them dig thru to the original source of information.
He also speaks of an ancillary value to taking data out of the content blob which is a newspaper article and storing it as meta-data alongside a story.
Then there’s the serendipity advantage. When I worked for LJWorld.com, we worked with the local weathermen to create a weather site that displayed the weathermen’s forecast for the next few days. I made them a Web interface that let them enter the predicted high temperature, low temperature and sky conditions — all in separate database fields. There really wasn’t any reason to use separate fields for these values other than the fact that the site’s design called for presenting the temperatures in a different color than the conditions, and we didn’t want the weathermen to have to remember to insert the HTML coloring codes in the right place. But it wasn’t until several months later that we reaped some real benefits of databasing the information, when we were putting together Game, an exhaustive database of local little-league teams and games. (Yes, you read that right.) We created a page for every little-league team and every little-league game, and when it came time to create the game pages, one of us said, “You know, these games tend to rain out a lot. It’d be really cool if we could somehow display the weather forecast for each game.” And, boom! One of us realized that we already had weather forecast data, in nice, sliceable-and-diceable format, thanks to our database populated by the weathermen. Ten minutes later, our little-league pages displayed weather forecasts. Serendipity.
This is the fundamental lesson so-called old media is still learning. There is hidden value in saving your content into a form that machines can read. SEO is more than just a “black art” to help goose traffic coming from Google, it’s also an important part of your editorial workflow that will pay off dividends in the future when you respond to new opportunities.
Remember those subscriber cards you found tucked into magazines that asked questions about your income, education, sports you liked, where you traveled or what newspapers you read? The editors and advertisers of that magazine were trying to find out more about their readers. Except for the folks that took the time to write in, an editor of a print magazine knew very little about the people who read their magazine.
Imagine if Henry Luce had access to a tool which could give him an insight to the readers of Time Magazine? What if he knew not only who was reading his magazine but also which particular articles were hitting a chord? Not only that, what if he knew what else they were reading in other magazines? Which articles did his most faithful readers found elsewhere that his reporters did not cover? This type of data would have been pure gold to the late Mr. Luce.
MyBlogLog had some of this data but it was site-specific and the service has been since scuttled by Yahoo. The team has re-grouped and pulled another rabbit out of their hat launching Live Fan Analytics (aka: Fan-alytics) as a new approach to site metrics. MyBlogLog required site owners to install a widget on their site to reveal users that have opted in to showing up on the MyBlogLog sidebar. OneTrueFan spins that approach around and asks the readers to add an extension to their browser in order to send back their browsing behavior on any site for aggregation and show a bit of extra love for the sites they frequent.
What’s in it for the Fans? Browse the web and have at your disposal an instant view of the last 10 fans who visited the site and articles on that site that have been shared by those readers. Also look at the top fans who visit the site the most often and see what they have shared on the site. As you browse, your history (minus any sites you choose to exclude), is fed into the OneTrueFan “panel” that helps site owners and other OTF users find interesting content. It’s like being a Nielsen family for the modern age. But there’s a bit of fun too as you’ll find yourself on the leaderboard for your favorite sites vying for the title of the OneTrueFan of that site.
What’s in it for the site owners? Real-time reading behavior. If you install the widget, (as I do on this site) the activity of your readers is aggregated from not only browsers hitting your site but also sharing activity on social sites such as twitter and facebook. You get a more complete view of how your content is shared beyond your site and a sample of what your most avid readers like to read, in real-time.
If your site is publishing multiple stories a day and, as editor you are always looking for the next trending story to cover, the OneTrueFan analytics dashboard is an invaluable tool to help drive your daily editorial calendar. Most blog packages allow you to “pin” a story to the top, above the fold. The dashboard will quickly tell you which ones to push to the top and which ones to let slide down on the scroll.
As social sites begin to drive a greater portion of traffic to your site, it is vital to understand which topics resonate with your readers enough to drive them to share via these networks. OneTrueFan gives you not only quantitative stats but also the qualitative insights that you can only get from browsing the names, faces, and twitter & facebook profiles of your most avid readers. Author Kevin Kelly has a theory that any business is sustainable provided it knows how to take care of it’s most avid fans. He calls it the “1,000 True Fans” rule. OneTrueFan is a tool that will help you cultivate your true fans.
The New York Times R & D group (nytlabs) has a sexy demo video up on their site showing off a new tool they are using to visualize how their content is amplifed and shared via the Social Web. In their words:
This first-of-its-kind tool links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space. While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.
Hit the mini-site for Cascade and check out the video. It would be great to learn more about the nuts and bolts of how Cascade works. The video only mentions twitter and bit.ly but I’m sure there’s more.
The global nervous system that is Twitter caught wind that something was up at 1AM in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Within minutes, the world triangulated sources and concluded that what Sohaib Athar was hearing was a raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound. This is how news breaks today. Twitter is having it’s CNN moment.
A quick glance at the wordle tag cloud analysis and it looks like wordle favored the lengthy Sarah Lacy piece on Facebook/Netscape. A longer piece means more words which would explain why Facebook, IPO, and Netscape are so big in word cloud.
Is such a view useful? Is there some way to improve this?
All eyes are on SB Nation who will play host to a new gadget site powered by eight staffers hired away from Engadget over at AOL. Former Engadget editor, Joshua Topolsky, describes being attracted to SB Nation’s vision which is equal part passionate writing (no one ever reads an “objective” sports column) and sophisticated real-time technology.
Our platform is a modern media stack focused on empowering rapid publishing, effective distribution and quality community in equal parts. – SB Nation describing their Media platform
The way SB Nation has evolved from a focus on fan-specific blog communities (which only engage on the colloquial level) aggregated up to the national level so that fans get the right mix between news about their favorite teams up to news about their favorite sports, on up to news important to sports fans everywhere describes, in general, the problems national media sites are facing today as they try and find that perfect balance between local, national, and international news.
It sounds like SB Nation has something akin to a “media carburetor” that can be tuned to find the perfect mix between local and global to provide the explosive engagement needed to drive growth today.
Topolsky is betting that the same secret sauce that powers finding the perfect mix for sports fans may also work for Gadget News. If he’s right, perhaps this same formula can be applied to other verticals as well – fashion, celebrity news, music, gamer news, financial news, on down the line. Any vertical who’s community can generate a strong enough signal at the “local” level should be able to feed into the model.
Who would have thought thirty years ago that the Internet would go mainstream and the World Wide Web would transform content business models (and many other business models come to that) so radically?
Who would have thought twenty years ago that the average Joe would carry handheld devices as powerful as the Apple and Android devices?
Who would have thought ten years ago that consumers of media content could also, just as easily, be producers of media content?
Who would have thought five years ago that each and everyone of us could, with a stroke of a touch screen, design their own content channel and publish it.
I am fascinated with the history of media and content, its present and its future, and being a communicator I wanted to share my awe in a way that would prompt others to share it with their friends and family.