The parable of the yachts

There once was a newspaper publisher who loved to cruise in his yacht. One day, the yacht, which had served him faithfully for many decades, began to sputter.
As he sat becalmed and bemused, wondering what he was going to do, a little speedboat pulled up alongside his yacht. “I see you’ve broken down,” said the captain of the speedboat. “I’d be pleased to give you a lift while you’re trying to figure out what’s wrong with your yacht.”
The newspaper publisher looked down at the tiny vessel. He recognized the speedboat as belonging to his neighbors Larry and Sergey, who had a yacht of their own, somewhere over the horizon. Theirs was larger and newer than his own, but it was a little Spartan for his taste.
The speedboat was sturdy and fast, but not nearly as luxurious the publisher’s mighty yacht. He wasn’t sure he wanted to leave its comfort for the exposed and potentially dangerous speedboat — especially since he knew that Larry and Sergey were probably living it up on their yacht at that very moment. But the yacht seemed to be riding a bit lower in the water, and maybe listing a bit to the starboard. He also realized that he hadn’t invested in his yacht in many years and it could take him a long time to get it fixed.
“How much?” asked the newspaper publisher.
“Why nothing. I’d do it for free,” said the speedboat captain, a little startled and kind of hurt.
“No, how much will you pay me?” replied the newspaper publisher.
The newspaper business is not a charitable enterprise. The newspaper industry’s problems are not Google’s fault. Get in the boat.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Knight Foundation gets it right

What’s cool about the newly announced Knight Foundation grant winners is what’s missing from the list. There are none of the Utopian and academic community projects that we’ve seen previous rounds of grant-making.
By deciding to fund interesting startups and open-source projects from commercial organizations, the foundation has taken a huge leap. The truth is that most of ideas we’ve seen from academics (and from monopoly incumbents) just seem irrelevant from the get-go.
Instead of a another round of well-meaning but soulless local sites, there are a number of projects whose results I can’t wait to see. I’m especially excited to see tool-makers like Adrian Holovaty and Richard Anderson each get about a million dollars to fund their projects. Better online journalism tools will benefit an untold number of communities in very real ways.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Exploitation for fun and profit

CBS is buying WallStrip for $5 million.
I never particularly liked the show itself, and it’s hard for me to imagine anyone becoming a committed viewer. But, the producers understood how to exploit the emerging layer of intermediaries:

Along the way Howard, Adam, Jeff, Lindsay, and a few other brave souls they hired figured out a bunch of stuff that is key to a successful web video show. Like how to get the show on every video service quickly and easily. How to tag and promote the show on each and every service so it actually gets seen. How to measure and track all the views. How to reconcile all the different measurements you get. How to get subscribers in iTunes, FeedBurner, and YouTube. How to make a web site that communicates what the show is quickly and easily. How to do advertising in a way that doesn’t get in the way of the viewer. How to get the show indexed by ticker in the major finance portals. And most of all, how to keep it short, fun, and funny.

That’s what Howard did best with Wallstrip. And that’s why CBS wants Wallstrip on it’s team.

Intermediation is particularly important in Web video, but it will more important in all forms of Web content in the future. Most publishers have not only forgotten the importance of marketing, they’ve forgotten how to do it. Now is the time to re-learn those skills or to bring them in house.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.


Here’s an interesting example of why it’s futile to resist the intermediation of media.

This morning, while scanning the news in Google Reader, I was able to view — inside the RSS feeds of both Huffington Post’s Eat the Press and BuzzMachine — a YouTube video of a CNN interview with Christopher Hitchens discussing the legacy of Jerry Falwell:

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ETP BuzzMachine
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Google Reader

Some additional notes:

  • That’s right, I was able to watch this video delivered via RSS and embedded inside Google Reader.
  • I can’t find the video on CNN’s web site.
  • In case you missed it, there are two Google properties in this chain.

The first decade of the Web was marked with publishers’ desperate struggles not to be aggregated. There are still publishers (and reporters) who see Google as stealing their content. That battle is over, and its now just a matter of shooting the wounded.

Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Can media get community right?

Matt Haughey is an innovator in a couple of trends that I have been writing about lately: user generated content (although he hates the term) and media aggregation.
His tips for community-builders are essential reading for any media organization considering (as they should) adding user gener community to their sites.
Matt is dead-on in his emphasis on the human side of community-building. Getting it right demands that you treat the process as the interaction of real people. Let the participants know that someone is in charge, that they’re watching and accessible, and that they can be flexible. There’s more, but you really need to read it for yourself.
The biggest mistake that some media innovators have made is to forget there is a middle ground between the strict editorial processes of the newsroom and post-apocalyptic anarchy
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Redefining "network"

CBS is outgrowing its need to distribute its own content on the Web. You’d think the networks would have figured this out sooner. The networks never were destinations. That role belonged to the affiliates, a bunch of used-car salesmen with FCC licenses.
The Journal is reporting that CBS has learned it can’t go it alone on the Web and is now syndicating promiscuously: with YouTube, Facebook, Joost, and …uh… Slide. Good for them. This is the beginning of something big. And now the real fight is about who gets to sell the ads and count the money.
Jeff Jarvis is right to say this is the way all media executives should be thinking. We’re seeing a return the separation of content creation and distribution on the web. Nineteenth century economics made distributors feel they needed vertically integrate with content creators. After all, isn’t that how Rockefeller (and Sarnoff) did it? But distribution and content creation are really different businesses and when you combine the two, neither gets the respect it deserves. More on that later.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

USA Today's consumer-created success

USA Today’s redesign, which emphasized its new consumer-created content features, was widely reviled by its users.
But the new features have been a spectacular success with users. In one month, USA Today’s pages per visit have doubled after a year of resolute flatness, according to Meanwhile, Neilsen//NetRatings says that site registrations are up 380%. Topix saw similar — but less spectacular — results with its bulletin boards. More on Topix in my upcoming report on Consumer Created Content.
It’s clear that now is the time to begin planning for adding comments to your site if you haven’t done so already. Now is a good time for clients to call us to talk about consumer created content for media sites.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

MySpace Diggs the news

Yesterday’s announcement that MySpace is becoming a news aggregator is a leading indicator of a brand-new era for the news business — and the content business in general.
The last big change was the emergence of the Web itself and the rush by media companies to move to the web. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen the media slowly adapt to this new environment as they shift their content online. The next shift could be just as profound as the last one.
A little over a year ago, in The Future of News, I advised publishers to deconstruct their sites in order to get the best audiences for their individual news items. Since then, Digg has moved from startup to one of the 100 most popular sites on the web. In 2007, publishers are trying hard to get readers to “Digg” their stories.
Now, MySpace is entering into that market with a whole new audience — one that is younger than the typical news audience and already strongly interconnected.
But this is a lot bigger than MySpace trying to swipe a bit of Digg’s mojo. This is the beginning of an era in which a whole new set of intermediaries are about to emerge in the media business. This could threaten the current Web business model of a lot of publishers, just as Web itself threatended their old business models.
I’m going to be talking and writing more about this in the coming months. It’s a scary new trend, and it’s not one that can be controlled. We need to find a way for media companies to thrive in this new environment.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

There's no shortage of consumers creating content

“Only two-tenths of one percent of visits to Flickr… are to upload new photos”, according to a Reuters story that says user participation on most “Web 2.0” sites isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
That’s funny, I didn’t realize that Flickr was having a problem getting people to upload photos.
Consumer created content is now the big leagues, but we still don’t understand it all that well. It’s a reasonable (and old school) rule of thumb that only one percent of any site’s readers will post content on it — but that’s plenty. That’s consistent with the Flickr number from Hitwise, if the posters are uploading once every five visits.
But just because the participation rate on any given site is low, that doesn’t mean that posting by Web users is limited to a small number of people. In a recent survey, we found that nearly a third of online consumers have posted content to a social network, blog or media site. My report on consumer created content, which goes a lot deeper into who these people are and what they think, will be out shortly.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.

Topix's redesign plays to its strengths

Topix is evolving. They’ve increased their focus on geographical communities and bought the domain “”. But, most importantly, they’ve done a great deal in their new launch to empower the people who are posting to their sites.
Topix’s software does a pretty good job of surfacing locally relevant news. And their message boards are active, but they do contain a lot of aggressive and dumb comments. However, their mass-market, laissez-faire approach has resulted in steady growth in audience and intensity of use in the last year.
Now, by empowering locals to become editors for their community pages, Topix should be able to increase the relevance and interest of the stories on their community sites and create an atmosphere where people want to participate.
Rather than cherry-picking markets as Backfence did, Topix is throwing their creation on the mercies of Web. This is a bottom-up approach to widescale citizen journalism. The result is likely to be spotty. There will be great sites where Topix is adopted by the locals, and probably some places where the crazies will take over. Topix has already seen some great adoptions in some communities, just as individuals in other places have adopted Yahoo and Google groups for local communication.
Topix is evolving into a good community journalism platform for people who don’t have the skills to install WordPress or Expression Engine, and don’t want to pay a fee to TypePad, and aren’t prepared to deal with the limitations of Blogger.
Originally published on my blog at JupiterResearch.