Archive for September, 2010

AOL to acquire TechCrunch network

September 28th, 2010

While no financial terms have been disclosed, AOL has confirmed it will acquire the TechCrunch network of sites.

According to a press release issued by AOL: “TechCrunch and its associated properties and conferences will join the AOL Technology Network while retaining their editorial independence, further bolstering AOL’s position as one of the world’s leading providers of high-quality, tech-oriented content.

The announcement was made at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco, CA, and includes TechCrunch’s main site, MobileCrunch, CrunchGear, TechCrunchIT, GreenTech, TechCrunchTV and CrunchBase.

“Michael [Arrington] and his colleagues have made the TechCrunch network a byword for breaking tech news and insight into the innovative world of start-ups, and their reputation for top-class journalism precisely matches AOL’s commitment to delivering the expert content critical to this audience,” Tim Armstrong, Chairman and CEO of AOL said in the release. “TechCrunch and its team will be an outstanding addition to the high-quality content on the AOL Technology Network, which is now a must-buy for advertisers seeking to associate their brands with leading technology content and its audience.”

In addition to running a network of websites, TechCrunch also hosts a speaker series called Disrupt, The Crunchies Awards and other meet-ups around the world.

“Tim Armstrong and his team have an exciting vision for the future of AOL as a global leader in creating and delivering world-class content to consumers, be it through original content creation, partnerships or acquisitions,” said TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington in a news release. “I look forward to working with everyone at AOL as we build on our reputation for independent tech journalism and continue to set the agenda for insight, reviews and collaborative discussion about the future of the technology industry.”

TechCrunch’s network of sites will be folded into AOL’s Technology Network that consists of blogs like Engadget, Switched, TUAW and DownloadSquad. Citing comScore numbers, AOL says its network ranks in the top five for tech news and leads the top five in average time spent and average visits per user.

“TechCrunch and AOL share a motivating passion for quality technology news and information, and we’re delighted about becoming part of the AOL family,” said Heather Harde, CEO of TechCrunch, in a news release. “This represents a compelling opportunity to extend the TechCrunch brand while complementing the great work of sites like Engadget and Switched. Our contributors, and our audiences, can look to the future with excitement about what we can build when we have the significant resources of AOL behind us.”

AOL says its acquisition of TechCrunch furthers its goal of becoming a leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high-quality, trusted, original content to consumers.

TechCrunch’s headquarters will remain in San Francisco, CA, as a wholly owned AOL unit.

More Americans consuming news, political ideology a factor

September 13th, 2010

According to a new study, Americans are consuming more news; technology is complementing traditional media; breaking news and entertainment are leading news categories; and political bias in media is increasingly noted by news consumers.

According to a new Pew Research Center study, Americans are spending more time consuming the news today than much of the last decade. The study credits digital platforms as playing a larger role in news consumption.

When it comes to preference on where one consumes news, 34 percent of those surveyed said they went online for news, which is on-par with the number of people who follow news on the radio and slightly more than those who consume news via a daily newspaper.

In the world of mobile, 44 percent of Americans say they consumed news through a mobile digital source. Out of 3,006 adults surveyed, 9 percent said they consumed news via a Web- or mobile-based platform without going to a traditional source of news such as TV, radio or print.

The number of Americans who go to traditional media platforms such as TV, radio and print for news remains stable or is declining slightly over the last few years, Pew says.

“There has been no overall decline in the percentage saying they watched news on television, and even with the continued erosion of print newspaper and radio audiences, three-quarters of Americans got news yesterday from one or more of these three traditional platforms,” the study indicates.

Pew says technology is complementing traditional platforms, and more than one-third (36 percent) of Americans said they consumed news from both digital and traditional sources. That number is slightly lower than those who consumed news via traditional sources only (39 percent).

“The net impact of digital platforms supplementing traditional sources is that Americans are spending more time with the news than was the case a decade ago,” Pew reports. “As was the case in 2000, people now say they spend 57 minutes on average getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers on a given day. But today, they also spend an additional 13 minutes getting news online, increasing the total time spent with the news to 70 minutes. This is one of the highest totals on this measure since the mid-1990s and it does not take into account time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices.”

While digital platforms are leading to an increase in news consumption among those who follow the news, Pew says there is “…little indication they are expanding the proportion of Americans who get news on a given day.” In total, the survey showed 83 percent of Americans get news in one form or another each day.

Despite the fact younger generations are often more connected with technology, the study indicates there is no indication they use technology to get news at higher rates than older Americans. People in their 30s are the only group in which the majority (57 percent) get news on one or more digital platforms. Among older groups, 49 percent of people in their 40s and 44 percent of those between 50 and 64 got news through one or more digital platforms. Those numbers are comparable to the 18 to 29 demographic (48 percent).

Consuming traditional media

When it comes to the consumption of traditional media, about one quarter (26 percent) report reading a newspaper in printed format. That is down from 30 percent from two years ago and 38 percent in 2006. Among adults younger than 30 years old, that figure drops to only 8 percent.

Newspaper readership online continues to grow, up 13 percent from 2008.

For cable news, Pew says 39 percent of those surveyed indicated they get regular news from a cable channel. However, the study notes, “Proportions saying they regularly watch CNN, MSNBC and CNBC have slipped substantially from two years ago.”

When it comes to specific media outlets, Pew says Fox News is the only cable news outlet to maintain its audience size. That is attributed to the increasing number of Republicans who get news from the cable channel, Pew says.

Types of news and political ideology

According to the study, news audiences are drawn to different sources for different reasons and breaking news and entertainment are top categories for news. Furthermore, cable TV draws both liberal and conservative audiences who say they want opinion segments and interesting views.

The study notes political ideology is still a determining factor in Americans’ choices of news sources.

Overall, the number of Americans who say following the news is important has dropped from 52 percent in 2008 to 45 percent today.

“The decline is linked to partisanship and ideology,” Pew reports, “In 2008 67 percent of liberal Democrats said they enjoyed the news a lot, compared with just 45 percent today. By contrast, about as many conservative Republicans say they enjoy keeping up with the news today as did so two years ago (57 percent now, 56 percent then). This has resulted in a switch in news enjoyment. Today, conservative Republicans enjoy keeping up with the news more than any other ideological and partisan group; just two years ago it was the liberal Democrats who held that distinction.”

In total, 82 percent of respondents also say they see at least some bias in news coverage; by a 43 percent to 23 percent margin, more say it is a liberal than a conservative bias.

Furthermore, Republicans say they are more skeptical of major news sources than Democrats, with one exception: Fox News, which 41 percent of Republicans believe all or most of, where as Democrats believe 21 percent.

Emerging trends: The Pew study notes the following emerging trends when it comes to news consumption:

  • More men (50 percent) than women (39 percent) get news on digital platforms, such as the internet and mobile technology.
  • Men are more likely to get news by cell phone, email, RSS feeds or podcasts than are women. But men and women are equally likely to get news through Twitter or social networking sites.
  • Search engines are playing a substantially larger role in people’s news gathering habits, as 33 percent regularly use search engines to get news on topics of interest, up from 19 percent in 2008.
  • Despite increased news consumption, Pew says the public struggled with a four-question current events quiz (only 14 percent answered all four correctly). That said, 51 percent of regular Wall Street Journal readers and 42 percent of regular New York Times readers aced the quiz.

The survey was conducted June 8 to 28 on cellphones and landlines. It can be read online in full here.

‘Future of Media’ event examines impact of social media, mobile

September 10th, 2010
From left to right: DigitalJournal.com Managing Editor, David Silverberg; Anjali Kapoor, Managing Editor, Globe and Mail, Digital; and David Skok, Senior Producer of Online Content for Global News; Elmer Sotto, head of growth for Facebook Canada; social media expert Mark Evans; and Polar Mobile CEO, Kunal Gupta.

From left to right: DigitalJournal.com Managing Editor, David Silverberg; Anjali Kapoor, Managing Editor, Globe and Mail, Digital; and David Skok, Senior Producer of Online Content for Global News; Elmer Sotto, head of growth for Facebook Canada; social media expert Mark Evans; and Polar Mobile CEO, Kunal Gupta.

These were some of the discussion topics at the Future of Media 2010 panel discussion held in Toronto’s Drake Hotel, where a standing room-only crowd crammed into the Underground space to hear what panelists had to say about journalism’s prospects. The Future of Media event is hosted by DigitalJournal.com. It’s a regular event intended to bring a variety of experts together to discuss changes in the news industry, emerging trends and their impact on the media business.

The panel was made up of executives from a variety of companies: Elmer Sotto, head of growth at Facebook Canada; David Skok, Senior Producer of Online Content for Global News; digital marketing and social media strategist Mark Evans; Kunal Gupta, CEO of Polar Mobile; and The Globe and Mail’s Managing Editor, Digital, Anjali Kapoor.

The standing-room only event began with a discussion on the challenges facing mainstream media today. Despite the struggle to retain print readership, the digital era is ushering in a new variety of media consumer, the panelists agreed.

While the conversation focused primarily on social media and its influence on news, Evans stated strongly that content is still king, and many panelists agreed. “Content will still be king, not all the bells and whistles that comes with it”, said Kapoor, with Skok nodding in agreement. “Journalists should be great storytellers, no matter what,” Skok noted.

But where content is read is changing and will continue to evolve. Gupta from Polar Mobile says reading news on your smartphone should be the norm, if only media outlets invested more in implementing apps. “The growth in mobile users has blind-sided media companies. [Polar Mobile] has gone from one million to six million users,” he said.

Gupta also cited an intriguing statistic regarding content consumption, saying mobile users consume 100 pages of content per month on Time.com’s smartphone application compared to only 14 pages on Time.com’s website.

Evans countered Gupta’s statement, saying mobile isn’t yet catering to advertisers so its success as a news platform is still up in the air. Gupta responded by saying the mobile ad market is immature in Canada, so all we get now is that tiny banner ad across the screen. “The infrastructure needs to improve,” Gupta said.

Gupta also discussed how payment systems need to be simpler in the future in order for any kind of micropayment process to work effectively. He’s unsure when this will occur, but Gupta said he is certain news outlets would benefit from a more mature smartphone market.

The discussion then turned to what Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently said to the Atlantic Monthly: Newspapers will survive the digital revolution but expect news to be delivered on anything but paper.

Kapoor from the Globe & Mail responded by saying she sees print newspapers still appealing to news junkies; compelling content will continue to attract readers, it’s just a matter of complementing print stories with online add-ons, she said. Evans agreed, saying the growth of free dailies should demonstrate there is still demand for print.

When the talk turned to Facebook’s role in the media industry, Facebook Canada’s Sotto and Evans argued about the issue of the social network being a “walled garden.” Evans felt Facebook doesn’t offer a variety of ideas since people tend to read within an echo chamber. Sotto replied by saying you never know what you’ll find in your Facebook News Feed. He recalled clicking on links from a friend about country news in his feed, even though he never liked the music, “but I felt compelled to learn more about it.”

Kapoor noted the Globe & Mail enjoyed partnering with Facebook recently to bolster the Globe’s viewership. Sotto said the Globe saw an 81 percent increase in Facebook referral traffic when it implemented the Facebook “Like” button on the site.

Kapoor also said media outlets should get away from the idea of “we need to build everything ourselves.” She added, “The challenge is that news organizations shouldn’t be developing everything, they should be partnering. The online environment is a very different environment, and those skills aren’t always translated to traditional newsrooms.”

The panel also touched upon the issue of moderating comments. They wondered if online comments should be moderated in-house or outsourced. Evans believed this service should be outsourced because of cost, but some of the other panelists disagreed.

The panel was then asked about Twitter’s potential as a breaking-news source. Look at how the hostage crisis at the Discovery Channel building heaped praise on the micro-blogging service with headlines such as “Twitter breaks hostage story.” What happened to news outlets getting those scoops?

“Twitter is not a content creator,” Evans said. “It allows people to have conversations, to say what they want, but it’s not a news outlet. We have to remember that.”

Evans went on to say the difference between journalists and the public tweeting news they come across is storytelling. Laying out the facts and uncovering verifiable sources are skills media organizations still covet.

Speaking of skills, what talents should the next generation of journalists perfect in order to be attractive to news outlets? Kapoor said the Globe looks for journalists who can tell a good story and report effectively. She also said today’s journalists should also know more about SEO, analytics and knowing who the audience is, as well as social media and multimedia journalism.

“Be bold, experiment, that’s what we want to see,” Kapoor said.

Skok echoed her statement but stressed he would still like to see journalists hone the age-old skills of producing quality content. That said, Skok also supports using technology to tell stories in new ways. For example, Skok said his company gave every Global National reporter across Canada a new iPhone 4 with which to shoot video reports in addition to standard coverage.

When it comes to working at Facebook, Sotto likes to see risk-takers try new things. Some of their best ideas, such as photo tagging, came from all-night programming sessions when staff wanted to play around with brainstormed ideas, he said. Sotto also praised the University of Waterloo, where he said Facebook has discovered some of the best interns who went on to become employees.

After the panel discussion, the event moved to a Q&A where panelists took questions from the audience. One self-professed techie asked the panel what it thought about the future of radio and podcasts. Evans admitted he doesn’t listen to radio much, saying “podcasts are like the ugly orphan in the corner.”

Skok, on the other hand, thinks audio reports could be part of media’s future; during the G20 protests in Toronto, a Global reporter complemented her editorial with a voicemail add-on to a liveblog during a car fire. “She was terrified and you could hear it in her voice. It was the most compelling thing I have heard in years,” he said.

On Twitter, Digital Journal got a question via @annejoyce, who asked about social media’s popularity creating positions such as community managers at news outlets. Will these types of job openings continue to flourish or is it a passing fad?

Kapoor said the Globe isn’t consistent in how it handles this newly created position, considering how hazy the ROI has become in implementing a social media manager. It can also be difficult in measuring the success of someone involved in social media. “Do you base the qualification on traffic or Twitter mentions or something else?” she asked.

Evans answered Anne’s question bluntly. “Today, would you rather be a social media manager or a journalist? I’d go with social media, without a doubt.”

The Future of Media event was hosted by DigitalJournal.com and was sponsored by Suite 66, Queensway Audi and CNW Group. Prize sponsors included Rogers Wireless, Palm, Flip Video and Dell.

Exclusive: Facebook Canada head Jordan Banks on future of media

September 7th, 2010

Jordan Banks, Managing Director of Facebook Canada, sits down with DigitalJournal.com to discuss the future of media, how social media plays a role and where Facebook fits in the news industry.

It’s easy to talk about Facebook and news media in one breath. The world’s fastest rising social network is upending journalism, mobile technology and digital media. Mainstream media are flocking to Facebook to have two-way interactions with audiences, journalists are gradually recognizing the importance of online networking and news readers are taking advantage of the connected communities Facebook encourages.

Recent stats speak to Facebook’s mind-boggling popularity: More than 500 million people around the world are on Facebook, and they spend a total of 700 billion minutes on the site a month. Also, half of all Facebook members log onto the site at least once a day.

Facebook is reportedly set to pull in $1 billion in revenue in 2010, as the social network has lasting power and advertisers and major brands want to be part of the action. But so do news outlets. You may have seen your local paper’s Page on Facebook, or maybe Digital Journal‘s.

Furthermore, you may have come across journalists promoting their articles on the social network, or asking for sources for their news stories. Name a news organization and they are likely on Facebook, especially if they want to interact to their readership in new ways.

To learn more about Facebook’s influence on news consumption, I spoke to Jordan Banks, Managing Director of Facebook Canada, in an exclusive video interview. Banks is responsible for leading and managing all commercial operations at the Facebook Canada office based in Toronto, Ontario.

Prior to joining Faceboook Banks was with Thunder Road Capital, JumpTV and he helped launch eBay Canada. We wanted to know where Facebook fits in our overwhelming news media market.

How is accessing Facebook on cellphones changing how we consume news? How can media outlets use Facebook to drive revenue? What does the future of media look like, according to Facebook?

This Q&A comes one day before DigitalJournal.com’s Future of Media panel discussion taking place in Toronto at the Drake Hotel, where media experts will speak on news media’s evolving landscape.