Archives for category: Media

The Microsoft/Yahoo mashup is a bad deal for consumers and advertisers, because it’s ultimately about eliminating a competitor. But the big winner isn’t Microsoft, it’s Google.
Online audience growth in the US has been flattening for some time, and it’s only going to get flatter. Couple that with a surprising lack of curiosity about new sites among online users, and you have a world where nearly everyone will have to acquire to order to grow.
But the twist is that Google has not had to grow through acquisitions. Their acquisitions have involved technology, not audiences. No matter how many pointlessly geeky lab projects come out of Google, they’re also delivering great, successful products to their users. Even the unpolished Google apps have the sharp, bracing scent of morning about them.
Meanwhile, this deal smells a little desperate.
Does anyone believe that the combination of Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s online grab-bags will be bigger than the sum of its parts? Microsoft may be able to justify this deal if the combined position is significantly larger than their current position, even after the inevitable user and advertiser flight. But there’s no way Google won’t win customers from MicroYahoo.
If this deal happens, look for a period of stagnation, not progress, as Microsoft tries to rationalize and corporatize and synergize the resulting hodgepodge of assets–and liabilities. And look to Google for continued innovation in online services and advertising.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Remember the eighties, the decade when pop killed off punk, and when Jerry Bruckheimer got rich making loud and lame movies? OK, so some things never change.
Another loud and lame idea from the eighties has come back to haunt us. The Federal Communications Commission has loosened the rules preventing companies from owning television stations and newspapers in the same market.
What problem is the FCC trying to solve?
Allowing companies to get merge in order to increase the level of competition in a market always ends in oligopoly.
Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, one company (Comcast) owns all the cable systems and another (Media News) owns all the newspapers, with the exception of the increasingly Finlandized San Francisco Chronicle.
You don’t need to be Marshall McLuhan to know that television, radio, and newspapers are such different media that there are no meaningful synergies among them. I’ve said it here before: The pursuit of false synergies has destroyed more shareholder value in the media business than any other boardroom fad of the last twenty years.
And you don’t need to be Dean Singleton to know that there is only one way to make more money by merging two companies in a mature business.
You can either decrease costs, which means laying off staff, including in the newsroom.
Or you can increase revenue, by raising your advertising rates.
The FCC is serving the demands of its licensees here, and not the needs of the communities where they operate.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

The other day I keynoted at a meeting of PR professionals. I threw around a lot of big ideas about how the Web is turning the media inside out in profound ways. But I received the most pushback on my suggestion that PR folks treat bloggers with the same respect they treat journalists. The objections were of two types:

  • Bloggers don’t deserve respect because they’re, well, bloggers.
  • “What makes you think we treat journalists with respect?”

Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

“Leading news organizations” are looking at updating the robots.txt file format so they can place new limits on what the search engines can index and how long they can keep the information. Good idea: robots.txt is a pretty blunt instrument.
However, there is no question that search engine referrals are more of an opportunity than a threat for “leading news organizations”. I’m working on a report right now that will demonstrate how big that opportunity is and how badly it has been missed so far.
Take a deep breath. Now perform a thorough exploration of that bath water for hidden babies before you toss it out.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

For years, the newspaper industry has excused falling circulation numbers, saying that it is getting rid of junk circulation. That was long overdue. It took a scandal that sent some newspaper executives to jail before the industry got serious about quality circulation, but it looked like they were ready to go cold turkey.
In the words of Homer Simpson, going cold turkey isn’t as delicious as it sounds.
The Audit Bureau of Circulations (which is owned by the publishers it audits) has decided to dumb down the definition of paid circulation from 25% of cover price to “a flexible pricing model where newspapers will be considered “paid” by ABC regardless of the price for which a copy is sold.”
Whatever.
It is now officially time for the newspaper industry and its enablers to stop whinging about having to give away their valuable product on the Internet.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

It’s not yet clear who will dominate the social media sphere in the local market, but local broadcasters seem like a long shot.
In my home town you can’t get TV without cable. Comcast, meanwhile, provides an unbelievably poor signal for many local TV stations. Finally fed up with the mind-addling humming in the background of The Office every week, I decided that the most expedient solution would be to ring up my friends at the local NBC affiliate and have them bust Comcast’s chops.
I’m not sure what I expected, but I didn’t expect this.
Their “Contact us” page provides a phone number with an answer-bot. The only option for theoretically speaking to a live person is ad sales. Otherwise, you’d better know the name of the person you want to talk to.
Or you can use an email form (ick) to send a message to Newstips, Programming, Weather, or Web staff. I tried it, but apparently they forgot to hire an intern to actually read their mail.
Anyway, I’ve now sent an email to ad sales. They’re the only ones with published names or email addresses, and they might even be opening their mail.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Facebook’s announcement that you will be able to separate your personal and professional networks is a major threat to LinkedIn.
Facebook’s strategic advantages are formidable.


  • More people you know are likely to be on Facebook, which has ten times the unique visitors of LinkedIn. In August, they added as many users as visited Linked In that month, according to Compete.com

  • Facebook is optimized for communication, increasing users’ interaction with the service, time online, and likelihood of discovering one another.

  • Facebook’s opening up to developers has been a huge hit with developers and users.

  • Facebook’s popularity with college students means that likely networkers entering the workforce already have the networks there.

  • How many social networks do you want to belong to? In 2008, everybody’s going to be introducing social networking features in their sites. Users will limit the number of networks they cultivate.


LinkedIn is not without resources. The site is clearly optimized for exploiting professional networks and for making contact with friends of friends and searching for contacts by employer. Its large and loyal customer base will be reluctant to switch. Facebook’s collegiate roots still show, and many of their applications are so silly and trivial that it sometimes seems like a MySpace for anal retentives. Many people I know aren’t ready to move their professional networks to MySpace.
Inertia gives LinkedIn a small window in which to respond to Facebook’s strategic threat. I hope they use it wisely.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Everyone is asking about the impact on the Wall Street Journal of the New York Times decision to release all its news and most of its archives from the bondage of paid access.
For those of you who may not have seen a copy, The New York Times is a newspaper that is popular with the elites in a couple of cities on the east coast of the United States. It is published by the same company that publishes NYTimes.com, one of the best and most-read news websites in the world.
The Journal’s decision is more complex. It has printing plants all over the world, so that it can deliver its print product first thing in the morning. Most of its readers are not buying the paper with their own money, so it’s not clear how elastic their demand really is. Or whether they’re actually reading it, I suppose.
The Journal is able to get absolutely premium rates for its print advertising because it has an absolutely premium audience who can buy and sell the kind of nerds who read the New York Times. Especially the Times’s Sunday readers — losers who like crossword puzzles, long magazine articles, and the latest news about Richard Wagner. The dynamic money-makers who read the Journal don’t have time for that nonsense. On Sunday mornings, they’re reading their Blackberries, shopping for summer homes, and waiting for markets to open somewhere.
Does the Journal really want to reach the kind of riff-raff who want to read the news for free? Those people don’t even aspire to owning a fine Swiss timekeeping instrument, let alone have half a dozen sitting in an automatic winder in their walk-in closet waiting for an appropriate occasion.
The answer, of course, is that the print edition of the Journal will fade away soon enough. Newsprint is getting more expensive. Printing plants are very expensive. And by the time you get it, the news in the paper is already beginning to rot on the page. And if Rupert Murdoch moves the paper to shorter, punchier stories, he’ll have created a made-for-online product.
If the Journal doesn’t come up with plan for a gentle transition to a free online service, that day may not come gently and it will be hastened by the likes of Bloomberg, Reuters, Conde Nast, a few hundred bloggers, and (yes!) The New York Times.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

The New York Times has finally put Times Select out of our misery. But wait, there’s more!
The Times is also releasing its archives from bondage. At least, all stories after 1987 or before 1923. Stories published between 1923 and 1986 are still for sale.
This is tremendously good news for everyone:
Times Digital stands to benefit the most. I’ve been convinced for a long time that the only role for Time Select was to protect the printed newspaper from cannibalization. The Web is now free to compete with print to be the main platform for the Times’s news.
Maureen Dowd, Tom Friedman, Paul Krugman, and plenty of other columnists whose work should be some of the most-linked-to material on the Web will find a new and enthusiastic audience. As well as millions of people who don’t like their stuff, but can’t bear not to link to it.
Bloggers will be able to freely and permanent link to important news stories and columns, as well as past stories that place today’s news into meaningful context.
Web users will be more likely to read Times’s archives from links in blogs than from the paper’s database interface. The Times will become the most authoritative source for background information on a wide variety of topics. Not only will take some of that traffic from Wikipedia, it will certainly become an important source for Wikipedia. This is definitely not a zero-sum game.
And all these links will create a rich context of metadata that will add value to the the Times’s content.
Other news organizations — from community weeklies to national dailies — should take this as a signal that it is now officially insane to keep past stories off the grid. It’s not just selfish, it’s bad business.
I’m excited about the role of intermediaries in the news business. In my research, I have found that the Times is missing out on a great deal of traffic from intermediaries ranging from Google News to the Drudge Report. Not only will the Times be able to make up for lost time, they have positioned themselves to take advantage of one of the most important strategic trends in online media.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Netscape.com was always the biggest wasted opportunity on the Internet. Somewhere in its history, it was a site for small an medium-sized businesses. At some point after AOL merged with Time Warner, its reason for being was to shill Time Warner media properties.
Still, according to Compete.com, five million people visit Netscape.com every month.
Last year, AOL launched a relatively bold experiment by turning Netscape into what some have called a “Digg clone” but always felt like somebody spilled a test tube full of Digg’s DNA and never really cleaned it up properly.
Netscape.com is now a place where right-wingers and left-wingers taunt one another by voting up partisan diatribes: “Candidate Thompson Praised for Global Warming Views” or “Bush’s Bogus Bailout” or “Upcoming Changes at Netscape”. Actually, that last one was designed to taunt everyone who invested their time and energy at Netscape.com.
Meanwhile, news.aol.com (to continue the genetic engineering metaphor) is another weird hybrid. It doesn’t really have an editorial voice, so it reads like an AP wire feed with comments enabled. Though I’ve grown to appreciate the core concept of a newsfeed that is optimized for interaction — every story has a quiz, poll, in-page gallery, or wacky picture — it’s impossible to take seriously as a news source. No one is going to feel taunted or challenged by any story there.
In a world where intermediaries are becoming dominant sources of news and information, one of the world’s biggest media companies still has no strategy for two of the best-known portals on the net.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.