Bring Down the Wall says Gilmor

Dan Gillmor argues for the newspapers to unlock their archives from behind the pay wall and provide them to the reading (and blogging) public as a community resource, collective history, and public record. With advances in contextual advertising such as Google’s Adsense (now available as an API by the way), there must be a way for newspapers to make more money off their archives than they currently do from the occasional $2.95 they get from individual readers and the collective royalties they get from the commercial databases such as Lexis-Nexis and Factiva.

If I was a publisher with a pay-per-view archive, here’s what I’d do:

1) Re-publish every article in the archives with a unique URL,
outside the pay-wall. It would be helpful if the articles published
since the newspaper went online could have the same URLs, but don’t
worry if that’s too expensive; if the stories are important enough,
they’ll be found and pointed to. It’ll just take a little longer.

2) Leave every new article on the Web at the URL it had upon publication. That’s easier.

3) Encourage the readers to use the archives, with house
advertisements, website notices e-mail to local librarians and other
ways to get out the word.

4) Let local bloggers know that you welcome their links, and that you’ve made the change in part because they need it, too.

5) If a local blogger points to your article, use Trackback or other such technology to point back.

I think most of the pay-per-view media sites are all looking at each other to see who will make the first move. Large sites such as the New York Times have the most to gain from such a move because of the attraction of their brand will generate the most traffic. But if a mid-tier player makes the first move (especially someone in a wired part of the world such as the San Jose Mercury News), they could gain first mover advantage and keep momentum up from the subsequent blogger pile-on effect that would use this source as their default research and linking resource.

If no one jumps, the pending citizen journalism efforts will take their place so someone will make the move sooner or later.

Craigslist vs. Newspaper Classifieds

More clouds on the horizon for papers that don’t change their ways. Steve Outing writes in Editor & Publisher that the traditional newspaper classified is under attack with free, online alternatives such as Craigslist (which I’m using extensively as I settle into my new home in the Bay Area) and eBay.

Of course, the merchandise/other category — which at its core includes private-party sales, garage sales and the like — accounts for only 17% of the total U.S. classifieds pie of $15.8 billion (2003 figures). Says Newspaper Association of America vice president for advertising Mort Goldstrom, the segment may be small compared to the traditional classified cash cows of jobs, real estate and autos, but it’s important because it’s a “readership thing.”

17% seems too much to write off in a world of declining subscriptions and ad revenue. The suggestion is that newspapers add value to their printed classifieds by bundling in a newsprint purchase with an online entry. I would take that a step further and offer photos, maps (to yard sales), and other online tools to make commerce easier for the one-time seller. If there is one thing that newspapers have that the online sites don’t is a foot in both the online and print world.

When I was selling subscriptions to in Japan, I had a funny exchange with a private investor who was quite enamored at being able to print out closing stock quotes that he looked up online. He then went on to enquire if had a page that would allow him to print out the closing prices of all the stocks on the NASDAQ, he liked to have this so he could scan through them in one go. I had to think about it a bit but the answer came to me as I looked over to the fellow next to me who was selling subscriptions to The Asian Wall Street Journal. Not only did Dow Jones have just the service he was looking for, we could get this printout to him delivered on his doorstep each morning using the most advanced offset printing technology!

In much the same way, a newspaper’s classified is a wonderfully efficient way to browse through and see how many people in your neighborhood have an old, beat up car for sale that you might use for commuting. Once you narrow the list down, a weblink for each entry that allowed you to look at details like the Carfax report or a picture would help close the deal. This initial scan is something that the online listings are struggling to replicate.

Using Web 2.0 for an instant storefront

Richard Soderberg writes on a quick and easy way to tie together a number of web services to build an e-commerce site.

  1. Using Blogger, get a blog (and configure it to use your FTP server, if so desired).
  2. Using Picasa, create a new Hello account and configure it for the blog.
  3. Using PayPal, get a merchant account.
  4. Using Picasa and Hello, send a merchandise photo with a short description to BloggerBot.
  5. Using PayPal’s merchant tools, generate an “add to cart” button for the item.
  6. Using Blogger, edit the new post to include a title, a description, and “add to cart” and “view cart” buttons.

Guarantee that this will be an a-ha moment for many. Let one thousand business models bloom!


Click Fraud

Write up in CNet on a dark secret known amongst the interactive advertising industry. There are a number of sites out there which artificially generate banner clicks from automated bots and use that to scam Google, Overture, and other ad syndication networks which serve up advertising and pay out commissions for clickthroughs.

This pay-for-performance gaming of the system has a counterpart in the music industry. In London, I heard cases where a record company would hire students to hit the record stores around town and buy up copies of an artist they would want to promote. The volume in sales would push that artist up on the charts and generate a hit. In the US this practice was applied to radio stations where a radio syndicate would be paid to play a hit song more regularly than other songs. This practice was called, "payola"

Another slant on this story on tainted metrics is the Mozilla plug-in Bug-Me-Not which "liberates" sites that require registration by providing a collective pool of user accounts that can be shared among its members. I always wondered why had customers in Afghanistan until I realized that this country was the first (and thus default) country on our registration drop down. Users listed from this country were probably just too lazy to pick their own.

With Bug-Me-Not shared IDs, it’s even easier to share such skewed profiles. I wonder how many Accountants from Afghanistan are part of the demographic?