Archive for the ‘local news’ category

Future of Media recap: Start-ups, gamification and ‘pay-what-you-can walls’

April 11th, 2011

Future of Media panel on stage at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. From left to right: David Silverberg, Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

by David Silverberg and Chris Hogg

The future for media organizations is not all doom and gloom, and there is more opportunity and experimentation happening today than ever before. That was the overall discussion at Digital Journal‘s Future of Media panel discussion last night in Toronto.

In a meaty conversation that sunk its teeth deep into topics of start-up culture, gamification and paywalls, editors and experts discussed why we should be optimistic for legacy media and start-ups experimenting with innovative news projects.

Jamie Angus, acting head of news at BBC World News, talks with other panelists at a Future of Media event April 6, 2011 in Toronto. - Photo by Janusz ÜberallThe insightful debate included a wide array of media experts: Jamie Angus, acting head of news at BBC World News; Jon Taylor, senior director of content for Bell Media Digital; Chris Boutet, senior producer for digital media at the National Post; Mathew Ingram, a senior writer at GigaOM; and Kathy Vey, editor-in-chief of OpenFile. The discussion was moderated by David Silverberg, managing editor of DigitalJournal.com.

The theme of the night could be summed up by Ingram’s poignant one-liner: “When you’re on Death Row, it’s easy to find religion.” He referred to the important wake-up call many newspapers faced with plummeting ad revenue and an upturned business model.

Boutet of the National Post agreed and said his outlet has adopted a digital-first strategy to allow readers to easily consume online news, while making sure the print product still had strong long-form content. “It needs to start with digital and end in print,” he said.

The conversation often veered into the benefits and dangers of using on-the-ground reporting from citizens in global hot spots. Angus said the BBC had previously ignored social media but now the organization is increasingly incorporating tweets into its reportage. “That could never happen two or three years ago,” he admitted.

Ingram replied, “When Twitter came out, I don’t think anyone would have predicted newspapers would have entire staff devoted to their Twitter account.”

OpenFile editor Kathy Vey laughs as journalist Mathew Ingram tweets from the stage at a Future of Media event in Toronto. From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Vey, who runs the collaborative news start-up OpenFile, said she’s optimistic about journalism’s future, considering how many important news start-ups have made an impact in the U.S. She just wishes Canada could better nurture start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The conversation around start-ups took up a better part of the night, with each panelist discussing how a news organization could benefit by having an entrepreneurial approach to media production. Panelists agreed the lean approach without expensive overhead and the willingness to try new things is an important part of determining media’s future.

That said, Boutet, Vey and Ingram agreed entrepreneurial skills are not something journalism students learn in school, and students don’t enter j-school with the goal of graduating, starting their own company and trying to compete with a big newspaper.

Digital Journal Managing Editor, David Silverberg, moderating the panel discussion at a Future of Media event in Toronto. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Boutet said newsrooms need to create an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and an entrepreneurial mindset helps. He noted how the National Post has designers, programmers, digital media producers and journalists within the same area to facilitate collaboration.

Ingram agreed, saying a news experiment today can happen in an afternoon with $1,500 and a programmer who fires out some code. But that often doesn’t happen because the small numbers and quick turn-around time are not how media executives typically think. “They think in terms of months, not days,” Ingram said.

Some mainstream media outlets are stepping up their online news initiatives and experiments. At the National Post, for instance, the newspaper partnered with GeoPollster to allow people to check-in to venues with Foursquare with their political party affiliation, so a certain restaurant can be Conservative if enough Conservatives check-in to that spot en masse. “We wanted it to be fun,” Boutet said, and many panelists agreed entertaining media projects and “gamification” could benefit news outlets.

Taylor, from the newly minted Bell Media, said the growth of mobile and tablet platforms have also dramatically shifted focus and opened up many new opportunities for media outlets, especially broadcasters. “My job has 100 per cent changed because of those platforms,” he said. “We’re learning with everybody else. It’s constantly evolving.” Taylor said he’s hopeful the rules of the TV game will evolve into a more futuristic model, where it’s not just watching TV on your tablet PC, say, but also being able to swipe something from your tablet onto your TV somehow.

He also spoke about new revenue possibilities for broadcasters, saying there’s “no magic bullet” but that old ideas are becoming new again. “I think the answer is going to be a multitude of things, which include digital sponsorship, we have sponsors we have advertisers,” he said. “In the TV world you can only get so innovative, in the digital space it’s nearly unlimited.”

Taylor said the “This show is brought to you by…” line is something we’ll likely hear more often, but that media organizations have to be careful how they balance sponsorship and production. He said sponsors need to be happy with the presence, but broadcasters have to make sure content is not overly swamped with advertising messages.

From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor and Chris Boutet. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Angus agreed that mobile is an integral part of the future of media, noting that rapid adoption of mobile phones in some places such as Africa have replaced more traditional platforms such as radio. Angus said the BBC, and media organizations that reach massive audiences in very rural places, have new challenges because they must think about the medium or platform through which the message is being delivered. In some areas, media is consumed through more than just a newspaper or Internet connection. Angus said organizations who want to reach wide audiences now have to think about how much the end-user will have to pay to consume content via mobile versus other platforms when they decide where to invest and how they want to target new audiences.

On the topic of cost, the panel  discussed paywalls and how they fit in the media’s future. The BBC’s Angus and Ingram were at odds on this issue. Angus suggested the paywall experiment by the Times of London and New York Times could be the harbinger of things to come. ”What if they’re right, doesn’t that change things?” he asked. Ingram shook his head and said “But the Times of London lost a lot of pageviews…and now they’re just an expensive newsletter.”

From left to right: Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey and Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

After some debate among panelists, Angus went back to the idea and admitted that while it may not be popular among readers it may be necessary for media outlets. He said if it becomes the norm, it may give media organizations enough of a revenue stream to encourage them to invest in the digital media space.

Boutet didn”t like the idea of a paywall because it’s an ultimatum that does not allow the reader to suggest how much they think content is worth. Telling a reader to pay $10 per month or go away, Boutet believes, is the wrong approach because it’s an all-or-nothing attitude. “What about a pay-what-you-can wall?” he suggested, saying some readers may not want to pay $10 per month but would be willing to pay $5. Having the option to let people price a product themselves provides a news organization with the opportunity to market-test various pricing options and determines what people will pay.

The panelists generally agreed a paywall or pay fence would work with specialty content, such as Wall Street Journal‘s financial news or ESPN.com‘s in-depth sports coverage. Ingram was unsure what metric would be used to measure success, though. “Does it look like 200,000 people paying to read your content, or does it look like millions?”

So what’s in store for the future of media? The panelists all seemed to agree experimentation is important and that the news industry as a whole is in better shape today than it has been over the last few years. That said, there are still a number of questions that need to be answered as far as concrete business models that will take shape.

Panelists present door prizes to attendees of the Future of Media event in Toronto. From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram and David Silverberg. - Photo by Janusz Überall

New technologies such as augmented reality provide some really interesting opportunities to media companies, and mobile phones, apps and tablets are a game-changer for how, when and where people consume content.

The overall tone of the night was optimistic, with panelists agreeing wholeheartedly the future looks much brighter than the past. Media organizations now need to focus on experimentation, and partnering with start-ups is a cost-effective way to innovate new ideas.

The panel also agreed newsrooms need to shed old attitudes and get people to talk to their audience in a two-way conversation via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, while at the same time remember that every word they say is essentially speaking on behalf of their respective media outlets. What you say, when you say it, and how you say it, are guidelines that media organizations need to quickly decide.

Video from the Future of Media event will be available shortly. Check back next week to see full coverage.

 

Report: Local digital ad revenue expected to nearly double by 2015 in U.S.

March 21st, 2011

Photo courtesy DigitalJournal.com

According to a press release issued today, BIA/Kelsey is forecasting a significant bump in local digital ad revenue over the next four years. The research and consulting firm says local advertisers are going to steadily migrate to digital media properties and revenues are expected to climb to $42.5 billion in the U.S. by 2015. That is almost double the $21.7 billion generated last year.

“This growth coincides with anticipated improvement in the U.S. economy and a continued rise in overall local advertising, which the firm expects will reach $153.5 billion in 2015, up from $136.3 billion in 2010, representing a 2.1 percent [compound annual growth rate],” the release states.

Some consider local advertising to be the Holy Grail of digital revenue, but it’s an area that has yet to fully maximize its potential. Small companies who have money to spend often find online advertising complicated or confusing to measure. Many also lack the resources or technical know-how to manage online advertising, so they simply don’t do it.

A growing exception to the rule are daily deal companies like GroupOn that have provided a very simple way to spend and measure return on digital investments. Google is also pushing its Google Places product for small business to get listed online.

BIA/Kelsey predicts digital media — including mobile, Web or other electronic means — will represent 23.6 percent of all local ad spending by 2015.

“As the business climate improves and advertisers step back into the market, they are gravitating to digital options that perhaps were not as mature before the recession began,” Tom Buono, CEO of BIA/Kelsey, said in a press release. “Our analysis indicates that as advertisers move to online, mobile and, particularly, the variants of social media, we are fast approaching a tipping point where digital media will soon become a dominant segment of the local advertising marketplace.”

Among the key drivers for increased digital spending are the growing number of smartphones and tablets; declines in newspaper revenue and the rise of paywalls; and interactive and online sectors are advancing rapidly with new options and formats.

Finally, BIA/Kelsey believes the social part of digital media is increasingly becoming a core channel for revenue. The company says the daily deal space alone will grow to $3.9 billion by 2015 and both Twitter and Facebook will be part of this expanding market.

[Cross-posted to Future of Media]

Personal news service ‘Ongo’ blends aggregation with paywalls

January 25th, 2011

Ongo is a news aggregator that charges users for access to content

By Chris Hogg

It calls itself a “personal news service.” Others ask if it’s the craziest startup idea ever. The business is Ongo and it’s a news site attempting to blend aggregated content with paywalls.

“Premiering with more than a dozen top-tier titles in a single interface designed for readability, Ongo delivers full articles and convenient customization features, along with editorial curation that uncovers vital and interesting stories beyond the day’s top headlines,” a company press release reads.

Ongo says it offers an “immersive” reading experience where users can easily search, save and share stories — something it says other news aggregators fail at doing. “Many of today’s online news aggregation services are disjointed, distracting experiences — providing only snippets of articles surrounded by links and ads that require readers to jump from site to site,” the company says.

With its debut, Ongo will be carrying content from The Washington Post, The Associated Press, The Guardian, Slate, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, USA Today, and selected content from the Financial Times and the New York Times.

Ongo promises to carry content from these sources, strip out ads, improve the interface and charge $7 per month for a base subscription (for select Financial Times stories, as well as content from the Washington Post, USA Today, select New York Times content and AP stories). It costs an additional $0.99 to add content from other sources (Slate, Boston Globe or other regional newspapers).

“Yes, Ongo is going to charge for news that’s generally free on the web,” Jay Yarow from Business Insider notes. “Crazy, right? We think so, but Ongo CEO Alex Kazim doesn’t seem rattled.”

Yarow compares Ongo to basic cable, where you pay a flat fee for content and you get more for a little extra cash each month.

According to Business Insider, Ongo execs estimate the service could generate $6.99 per user, so 1 million users would make it a $100-million business. With 100,000 users, it would be worth $10 million.

Kazim previously worked at Skype, PayPal and eBay and Ongo investors include USA Today, New York Times and Gannet who put $12 million into the company in September 2010.

The company launches today with mobile apps and a traditional website. More info on product features can be found via the company’s press release. A demo of the service is available via a company YouTube video:


[Cross-posted to Future of Media]

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.

Gannett and Yahoo announce local ad partnership

July 16th, 2010

Media giant Gannett today announced a local advertising partnership with Yahoo. The partnership aims to combine Gannett’s local media brands, sales capabilities and audience with Yahoo’s advertising experience and technology.

As part of the agreement, Gannett’s 81 local publishing organizations and seven of its Broadcasting Division sites will sell Yahoo ads as part of their inventory solution.

The partnership aims to give local advertisers better reach and targeting capabilities based on geography, demographics and interests. Gannet will tap into Yahoo’s targeting and ad ordering capabilities.

According to a press release issued by the two organizations, Gannett’s local media reach will cover as much as 80 percent of the digital audience in each market.

“This partnership builds on the strength of Gannett’s growing digital business and powerful local brands,” Gracia Martore said in a press release. Martore is the president, chief operating officer and chief financial officer at Gannett. “Working with Yahoo will allow us to offer targeted advertising messages with unmatched local audience reach.”

The agreement also positions Yahoo to get select local content from Gannett.

“Local advertising continues to be an important area of focus for us, and Yahoo! is committed to helping local businesses reach high quality target audiences,” said Hilary Schneider, executive vice president, Yahoo! Americas. “This partnership significantly expands our local offering and gives advertisers the technology and scale they need to reach online consumers.”

A phased rollout will begin this quarter and will continue into 2011.