February 17, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Twitter has produced an instructional video for advertisers to help them chart its waters and, presumably, lead them to spend more money on the social network. The news and a link to the 40 minute video were shared by Peter Kafka in his MediaMemo at All Things Digital.
I won’t be watching the video. But Kafka reports that at the end Twitter producers warn advertisers they may be subject to negative feedback from users objecting to the commercialization. Don’t panic, they reportedly say: this segment of the population is “an extremely marginal percentage of the total.”
Undoubtedly true. But don’t be fooled, because it is probably comparable to the extremely marginal percentage of total Twitter users that they estimate will be engaged with the advertising, which is only one to three percent, according to Kafka’s story.
Thus, Twitter’s teaching video explains everything, successfully describing the state of advertising play online. It is isolated on the fringes – an extremely marginal group of advertising performance metrics making the case against an extremely marginal group of antagonists, by shooting over the heads of a vast, commercially unengaged population of users.
To embrace the comfort offered by Twitter is to accept the fact that the marginal groups just don’t make much of a difference.
February 16, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It seems like so long ago that Rupert Murdoch was out there stumping for paywalls and attracting the derision of the New Media proletariat. Then came iPad, which deflected the conversation away from the issue of content and towards the issue of apps. Now, today, the buzz is about Apple’s 30% cut on publisher subscription prices within its app and Google’s new One Pass paid content system.
February 3, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Bloomberg reported that Google received 75,000 job applications from around the world during the last week of January, a new record for the company that gives it a significant head start on its plans to hire 6,000 new employees this year.
Many of them may have been attracted by the chance to work on a car that will drive by itself. According to the Bloomberg piece, Google’s Senior Vice President of Engineering and Research, Alan Eustace, blogged:
“We’ll hire as many smart, creative people as we can to tackle some of the toughest challenges in computer science: like building a Web-based operating system from scratch, instantly searching an index of more than 100 million gigabytes and even developing cars that drive themselves.”
A Google car? It is at least the sort of remark that should not be allowed to slip through the cracks. Google may insist that it is a technology company, but it makes most of its money selling ads, on the web, based on search results. In which case, which of these things is not like the other?
1. Web-based operating system
2. Searchable index of more than 100 million gigabytes
3. Cars that drive by themselves
If you said web-based operating system, don’t be boring. It is simply interesting that Google would anticipate a business development trajectory that would lead it into the self-driven automotive category. Meaning, an end game for Google Maps.
I have a friend who is a nut about smart roads and cars that drive themselves at one hundred miles an hour, inches from each other, with no traffic jams and no wrong turns. And now, instead of tolls, infrastructure will support itself with advertising. In-Car advertising to compete with the radio.
By then, hopefully, it will be time to retire.
January 31, 2011 § Leave a Comment
There is an interesting bit in Ad Age about the diminishing impact of price promotion on sales among packaged goods companies the past year. It says:
“SymphonyIRI Group reports that even though the percentage of packaged goods sold on price promotion increased markedly for the second consecutive year, the average volume lift per promotion fell.”
There could be a couple of reasons for the decline, which the Ad Age story mentions. One is the recession. Another is the “drumbeat” of offers online, which will soon include Google Offers. Overall, in response to a super abundance of deals there is simply “a level of promotion fatigue,” according to Susan Viamari, the author of the SymphonyIRI report.
It is a reminder that price promotion is short-term. Long-term, Ad Age quotes Utpal Dholakia of Rice University saying, “it has very little effect.”
January 28, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Startling images of an Internet gone cold in Egypt, this one courtesy of a report by Declan McCullagh at CNET.
“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.”
Egyptians have much more at stake than internet connectivity. But a free and open internet will be one thing – perhaps even the main thing – to say when they’ve got it, when it comes to pass.
January 25, 2011 § Leave a Comment
“The fact is, it’s almost impossible to find a single ‘content’ company on the web that maintains a horseshit:quality ratio better than 10:1,” notes TechCrunch columnist, Paul Carr, in a post (“NSFW: On the Internet Nobody Knows You’re a Journalist”) that Paid Content was alert enough to notice and link to in its Around the Web section.
Elaborating, Carr writes:
“Just look at the homepages of Yahoo! and MSN, boasting the respective top stories: “Why Clooney Won’t Marry” and “Five Things You Shouldn’t Do When You Propose”. For all its lofty ideals, even The Huffington Post has succumbed to the temptation of bolstering costly and time consuming think-pieces with an avalanche of linkbait crap and blatant cut-and-paste jobs from other blogs.”
“Tina Brown’s Huffpo-rival, The Daily Beast, is at it too. Sure, today’s top stories include a piece on a possible Egyptian revolution, but what’s that right underneath? A slideshow of “Ashton Kutcher’s 10 Best Shirtless Moments”. Hell, even Salon – whose journalism I praised the other week – isn’t immune to the page-view boosting lure of the slideshow: today their front page boasts a pictorial guide to “Hotels with a dark past” (including the Bates Motel, which doesn’t even exist) while on Friday they bravely addressed the issue of the child sexualisation with a gallery of “shocking” but “sexy” child images.
Paul Carr’s column could be a companion piece to the article by Nicholas Spangler in the Columbia Journalism Review about the 40 hours he spent as a Demand Media writer. As I described in this space back in November, Spangler is a journalist that worked for years for The Miami Herald, and wrote with open resignation, about the end of his journalistic world and the rise of the new one typified by Demand. It is a world of “commercial content,” driven by algorithms “without”, Spangler wrote (perhaps quoting Clay Shirky), “regard to civic value or subjective judgments about quality or any of the other sentimental trappings of the Murrow century.”
Paul Carr is more inclined to describe the absence of civic value and sentimental trappings in online content today as, simply, “horseshit.” But he is a realist: horseshit is what the people want and horseshit is what the people get.
“AOL’s (and HuffPo’s and Yahoo’s) front pages are packed with celebrity-obsessed crap because that’s what people are searching for, and that’s what they click on. It’s a problem at TechCrunch too: in the past seven days, almost three times as many people clicked on our headline about famous people using Twitter as cared about Mike’s interview with Google’s three most senior executives.”
Last week I took note of the precipitous drop in American Idol’s TV ratings so far this season and, despite the fact it remained the highest rated show in its time slot, allowed myself to wonder if our long, (inter)national nightmare with reality TV was coming to an end. No more Real Housewives of Anywhere; The end of real horseshit.
Fat chance, because when media aspires to sustain bigger and bigger audiences in order to attract more and more advertising it winds-up looking half-naked, with a grease-painted stomach hanging over its belt, fist pumping in the air and yelling “More beeeer!” Big media slimes you.
This is true online and offline. But it is also true, online and off, that where media is not trying to be all things to all people it doesn’t need washing off. Case in point, the New Yorker, which Paul Carr turns to and hugs like an old friend in his TechCrunch piece:
“The joy I felt today flicking through the New Yorker – stumbling across Tad Friend’s wonderful piece about Lenny Bruce tribute actor, Steve Cuiffo and a short story by Woody Allen (Woody Allen!) before reaching the Armstrong profile – was easily the highlight of my day.”
(How ironic if new media sends us back into the waiting arms of old media, now leaner and more fit and more in touch with its true self.)
Every brand steward in the marketing business should give careful regard to Paul’s happy encounter with the New Yorker if they give any regard (or disregard) to the rub-off affect of media on their brand images. I know when I’ve been naughty or nice consuming media. I know when I’ve been slimed. And the truth is that the unquenchable desire for viewers, listeners, readers and users will slime you, every time.
Which was why it was such a good thing that the Internet came along to free audiences from the growing indignity and abuse of modern mass media, providing them with a nearly endless resource of content that seemed so incorruptible. It lacked production value, maybe was not always beautiful, but it was genuine, timely, real, likeable, in an across-the-fence-to-your neighbor kind of way. Now, even the inherent niche quality of the internet is being subjected to manipulation thanks to so-called content mills – not because they possess a vision for an agrarian new media economy with gardens in every yard, but because they, along with much of mainstream media, remain industrialists – old media wannabes – factory farmers spreading fertilizer from the sky.
January 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The New York Times had a story this week, which MediaBisto picked-up in its Morning Media Newsfeed, that the experience so far with pay walls among newspapers - certain kinds of newspapers and certain kinds of pay walls, at least - suggests publishers may not have too much to fear from charging for a certain amount of content. The key is how much content. As the Times reported “…the initial findings showed that newspapers found success with a pay model by setting a conservative limit for the number of articles visitors could read free each month, and by making clear that most readers would not be affected.”
Conservative seems to mean don’t swing for the pay wall fences; keep as much content as possible available for free. In which case, according to Steven Brill, co-founder of Journalism Online, which is the source of the data, pay walls are a “nonevent for 85, 90, 95 percent of the people who come” to the site.
We need to think about those numbers.
The newspapers in the study are reportedly local newspapers such as The Commercial Dispatch in Mississippi and The York Daily Record in Pennsylvania. Large newspapers, with the exception of the Wall Street Journal, have yet to implement their pay wall strategies. The New York Times is scheduled to do so sometime this year. Otherwise, the players in the Journalism Online program are local papers.
Well, yes, but local means 85, 90, 95 percent of all newspapers because there are only three non-local, ersatz large newspapers in the country today: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today. All other papers are local. Therefore, Journalism Online’s findings probably apply to 85, 90, 95 percent of all online newspaper readers, which says that you can’t make enough money from loyal, regular readers by charging them for content because they account for only 5, 10, 15 percent of the people who come to a newspaper web site.
Thus, it still comes down to the advertising, which appears to be the principal point of relief and discovery in the New York Times story:
“Steven Brill’s Journalism Online experiment, which developed a system that allows newspapers to charge their most regular online visitors, has analyzed its preliminary data and found on average that advertising revenue and overall traffic did not decline significantly despite predictions otherwise.”
The predictions must have assumed that the majority of online newspaper readers were also “most regular” readers. Now we know, not so. They may be regular newspaper readers, but chances are they high-top it from one newspaper to another, which is one of the gloriously liberating things about online. If you are an avid newspaper reader you don’t have to rely on just one anymore.
So why bother charging the 5, 10, 15 percent of people that frequent a newspaper site who are, without argument, its best customers? That is a very good question. It appears not to make a dent in the business model. It may make a dent in the fears of an anxious newspaper world by offering some validation of their core competency, which is content. And provided papers are supplying extra value to them in the form of news and information, regular readers may appreciate the clubby atmosphere. But in 85, 90, 95 percent of the cases the results say not much has changed. So far, newspaper pay walls are a nonevent.
January 7, 2011 § Leave a Comment
It is an interesting lament by Gavin Dunaway at ADOTAS regarding changes to the fertile internet landscape that are becoming terribly obvious in places, notably Google. Indeed, with the arrival of content mills the industry has effectively turned to clear-cutting the search environment to make room for fabricated developments, adding to the impact of commercial new media land holders that have been paying for and burning search results as fuel for nearly ten years. No surprise, by now there are unfortunate signs of erosion and blight, and growing concerns for the atmosphere.
Gavin appears to have been pushed to this despair by Professor Vivek Wadhwa, who wrote a piece in Tech Crunch titled, Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google. In it, Professor Wadhwa writes,
“Google has become a jungle: a tropical paradise for spammers and marketers. Almost every search takes you to websites that want you to click on links that make them money, or to sponsored sites that make Google money. There’s no way to do a meaningful chronological search.”
Yup. That’s pretty much true. Fortunately, the internet is a renewable resource and new shoots are starting to sprout, such as Blekko, which Gavin and Professor Wadhwa mention. A little balance in the eco-system going forward with attention to sustainable media practices would be a good idea now, for which a reliance on organic content is always the key component.