Friday, July 29, 2011

Spreading the Wealth - Networks & Studios expand access

When the TV and movie industries made the decision to jump into digital content distribution, the initial focus was on exclusivity.  Deals were made with emerging online video providers to market their content.  Downloads were often restricted to the network's (or studio's) own website, and perhaps one of the major digital content stores (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) On the streaming side, NBC, ABC and Fox signed deals with Hulu, while CBS made content available on 
There are benefits to exclusivity, at least to the online outlets and the content owners.  Content owners get better deals and higher per-unit returns from outlets and can, perhaps, also keep tighter control of content and distribution. Outlets drive potential consumers to their sites while minimizing competition, which gives them some ability to keep prices high, and capture all (or most) of the demand.  The downside of exclusivity is that it limits access and use - that impact is initially felt by potential users/consumers, who may pay higher prices or any entry costs to get into the "Walled Garden" that exclusivity constructs.  In the long term, though, the cost of reduced demand for product may outweigh the benefit of higher pricing when it comes to total revenues.  The history of media content sales in other formats strongly supports the idea that greater access will trump higher prices in terms of generating revenues and profits.

The last few months have seen a number of deals where content owners are working to expand the digital markets for their content.  Over the last few weeks, CBS and NBCUniversal both announced distribution deals with Amazon  Earlier, Netflix had announced a deal with NBCUniversal that expanded the movies and programs it could stream.  CBS & ABC are working on iPad apps for some of their TV shows. The content and offerings will mirror what they currently offer on their network websites, but will be.customized for the Apple tablet. BBC Worldwide has an iPad app that can provide global access to much of its current, and past, programming (For now the service is available in 12 European countries, but the BBC hopes to extend access to other countries as rights can be negotiated).   In addition, another major player has entered the online movie/video marketplace, as Walmart has repackaged online movie service Vudu (which it bought in February).
And then there's "TV Everywhere" - another expansion of accessibility from multichannel video providers.  At this point, there's some debate over rights and access - particularly whether content owners will benefit from offerings.  Those issues should get resolved fairly soon, providing additional ways for consumers to access content..

Sources: "Amazon Inks Deal with NBCUniversal To Stream 1,000 Movies & TV Shows",
"WSJ: CBS, ABC prepping free TV shows for Apple iPad users (with video)", Mac Daily News
"WalMart adds Streaming Video Rentals", DailyFinance
"BBC Worldwide Unveils Global iPad App",

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hulu vs. Netflix - Different Markets?

Nielsen released a research report showing that when you move from basic measures of usage and aggregated totals, and start looking at more specific audience behaviors, some interesting differences emerge.  As indicated in the table below, people using Hulu to access streamed media were much more likely to focus on watching traditional TV programming on their computers.  In contrast, Netflix users indicated their viewing preference was for movies, which they were more likely to view on their TV sets.
The question is whether the differences are based on the two streaming services, what viewing devices are available, differences in the amount of available content in the two services, or some combination of factors?

Watch on computer
Primarily watch TV episodes
Primarily watch movies

 Source: "Hulu Primarily TV Destination, Netflix Draws Movie Lovers", Online Media Daily

Sarah Hoyt on Authors, Agents, and Publishing

Award-winning fiction author Sarah Hoyt recently wrote a post on some of the changes she's seeing in the publishing business.  It's interesting from several perspectives, not the least of which is offering an author's perspective.  And well worth a read in full, including the comments (where she gives added thoughts and advice on getting published).
The post is motivated by her decision to drop her agent, and go without one, at the end of her current contract.  Praising her current agent, her decision is based on changes she's seeing on the agency and publisher side of the book business. First, she noticed that the responses by publishers to work submitted by her agent were "slow and often rude, not just to me but to my agent." As she continues,
"Now publishers don’t seem to care. Mostly they’re publishing bestsellers. It’s the only way they think they can survive the next two or three years."
While bestsellers are good, the foundation for both publishers and agencies are the "midlisters" - established authors with steady sales (often in genre fiction).  They aren't always the most profitable, but their sales tend to be steady, there are a lot more of them, and in aggregate, they generate most of the income for most publishers and agencies.  Letting that segment slip away, whether intentionally or through shifting shrinking resources to other areas, isn't likely to be a good long-term strategy.  Given their perception that the big publishers aren't interested in midlist authors' work, several agencies (including the one she currently works for) are responding by developing their own digital publishing arm.
Its a logical move in digital publishing, Hoyt suggests; agents and agencies already act as first-stage gatekeepers, sifting through submissions from their authors and from those seeking an agent.  They also handle initial editing and much of the promotion for writers and books.  And in digital publishing they can bypass the other major services that traditional print book publishers provide (printing and distribution) as well as avoiding a major risk factor (predicting demand).  Having agents linked to specific publishers, regardless of whether it's in-house or exclusive deals with an external publisher, does have one drawback - without competition, they may not be able to get the best deals for authors.
The problem Hoyt has is that her agency isn't making a straightforward transition to digital publisher - they want to remain agents as well, which will allow them to get two cuts of the revenue stream, first as agent, then as publisher.  In addition, Hoyt argues that her agency is pushing up-front costs.  In her case, it doesn't make a lot of sense.  Especially since the current digital book sales models out there allow authors to make more money self-publishing or through using a micro-press than for going through a traditional publisher. For digital versions anyway, and for those best-selling authors and midlist writers who have built a following and don't really need a lot of marketing.
Until on-demand printing system costs fall to competitive levels, there will be a role for traditional publishers. However, as has happened previously in magazines and television, the dominance of big, general interest, publishers is likely to be replaced by more narrowly targeted and focused imprints that can build a brand and a loyal community of readers.  And if they're smart, those focused imprints will offer established authors digital publishing terms close to those they can get themselves, and save the upfront charges for marketing et al. for the less-established writers that still need to build their brands and fan base.

Sources: "The (Publishing) Times They Are Achanging", madgeniusclub blog
"The (Publishing) Times They Are Achanging", Pajamas Media  (a shorter version cutting details of her dealings with agents).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mobile Entertainment - Music still dominates

UK firm Companies & Markets projects the global mobile entertainment market to grow to $54 billion by 2014, with music driving market growth.  They indicate that mobile video will grow faster, but that it will take a while to pass music-related revenues.  Currently, the largest market for mobile entertainment is in the Asia-Pacific region, where mobile devices outstrip computers for net access, and offer cheap and easy access to content.  In 2009, the Asia-Pacific region generated 57% of global mobile entertainment revenues, followed by Western Europe contributing 21%, and North America 13%.
Given the recent explosion in mobile devices suited for entertainment, expect rapid growth in the size of the North American market.  Growth in Western Europe is likely to be slowed by media licensing terms that are more limited and restricted that in Asia or America.

Source: "Songfest: Mobile Entertainment To Hit $54B By 2014", MediaDailyNews

Netflix, Apple show the way

Financial reports for the second quarter of 2011 are coming out, and I wanted to take note of two particular media firms: Apple, and Netflix.  Not only were the reports quite positive, but a large part of the gains are resulting from shifts from their initial product focus that reflect shifting trends in media and journalism.
Netflix reported that it's profits in the last quarter were more than 50% higher than the previous quarter, earning $68.2 million in profits from $789 million in revenue.  They also increased the number of subscribers to 25.6 million, securing its position as the video service provider with the largest number of subscribers.  Netflix began as a traditional DVD rental business (albeit distributing by mail rather than local stores), but reports that it's streaming business is outgrowing the DVD operation.  Netflix recently announced increases in subscription rates for the DVD side, but not its streaming operations; and while it expects some losses among DVD subscribers, they expect continued growth on the streaming side will more than cover any loss.
Apple's numbers were also up, significantly exceeding Wall Street's projected numbers.  Apple reported a net profit of $7.31 billion in the last quarter on revenues of $28.57 billion, numbers about double of last year's.  But looking below the aggregates, the gains represent the huge gains in sales of mobile devices (20 million iPhones and 9.25 million iPads in the last three months), and lower-than-expected sales of Macs (3.9 million).  Apple also reported continued growth in content sales.  In a shift from its early focus on computers, the new numbers reflect a growing dominance from the mobile side.  More than half of Apple's revenues derive from iPhones and related products and services, and profits and revenues from iPads were higher than what was earned from Apple's computer lines.
One other potential implication being discussed is Apple's reported interest in purchasing Hulu, the video streaming service begun by a combination of TV networks and movie companies.  Adding Hulu to the video content already available through the iTunes store, and a closer integration of Hulu with its mobile operating systems could make iTunes competitive with Netflix and Amazon as video distributors, particularly to mobile.
All these suggest the shift to mobile and content services as dominant trend.  And it's not just Apple; worldwide, sales of net-accessible mobile devices and tablets outstrip traditional desktop computers, and digital content sales is making significant inroads against other media distribution forms.

Sources: "Netflix Screens Good Results," MediaDailyNews
"Apple's Q3 Earnings Report: Digging Through the Details", The Mac Observer

Goin' Mobile: Boom for Digital, Out-of-Home Video?

Advertisers are rapidly embracing mobile video as a means of reaching consumers who are increasingly away from traditional media channels, according to a study from eMarketer.  They report that 75% of media planners (the people who determine where ads are placed) reported that they will include digital out-of home video in their marketing plans this year.  That's up from 65% in 2010.  The media buyers surveyed reported that the new money for mobile video is primarily coming from other out-of-the-home media, with another chunk coming from TV, and some shift from other online advertising categories.  However, the amounts are given in terms of percentages of media buyers indicating they are shifting funds (54% reporting shifting from outdoor, 44% indicating shifting from TV buys, and 22% from online media), rather than the amounts of money being shifted to mobile video.
The report did provide some aggregate numbers: Outdoor media buys should reach a total of $6.4 billion this year, with mobile video accounting for $2.4 billion (38%) of that total.  Further, ad spending on mobile video is growing three times faster than the the general Outdoor category.  To put that in perspective, local TV ad revenues are projected to be about $18 billion this hear, with national and spot buys adding another $32 billion in ad revenues.
The report suggests continued growth of advertiser interest, and willingness to buy into, mobile video, and the potential for continuing growth in revenue potential for the DO video industry.

Source: "DO Gets TV Dollars, 44% Shift Spending From TV Budgets", MediaDailyNews

Monday, July 25, 2011

FCC looks at media ownership policy changes

The FCC recently released a number of studies as part of their mandated regular review of media ownership rules.  A number support changing long-standing cross-ownership rules, in particular the newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership ban.  Three of the studies suggest there is little evidence that newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership has a negative impact on the amount of news produced in local markets, and "statistically significant." evidence that cross-ownership has a positive "correlation" on local news.  One study goes so far as the call for repeal of the ban.  Now, these aren't necessarily very strong indications of either negative or positive impacts, but should at least put consideration of lifting the ban on the table.
From my own perspective, the ban originated when newspapers were the dominant media, and local broadcasters carried very little news.  The argument for the ban was to limit a newspaper from dominating local media and precluding competition by buying and subsidizing local stations.  Today, you're much more likely to see a lifting of the ban allowing local broadcasters to buy and subsidize newspapers.  My approach would be to lift the ban, as long as neither the broadcast stations nor newspapers are the only ones in the market.
Another aspect of the ownership rules being studied is allowing companies to own multiple stations in the same market.  Initially, the FCC allowed broadcasters to own only one station per service (AM, FM, and TV were considered as separate services).  The 1996 Telecomm Act authorized broadcasters to own multiple stations in a market - the actual numbers varying by market size.  A major underlying rationale was the collapse of AM radio markets and the likelihood that many would go under and cease broadcasting - the FCC argued that allowing multiple ownership would let broadcasters use FM service profits to cross-subsidize failing AM outlets.  Critics were concerned that multiple-ownership would have the effect of reducing carriage of news and local public affairs programming.  The current studies, however, show that owning multiple stations in a market does not reduce public affairs programming, and actually seems to have a positive impact on the mix of local and national news provided.  That's in line with an old study of mine.
The FCC is waiting for final versions of three other studies, for a total of 10, before opening the period for public comment on the policy and any proposed changes.

Source: "FCC Releases Three More Ownership Studies," Broadcasting &  Cable
The FCC has posted a number of studies affiliated with the review at this link..

Online Video Use Broadens

A new study by Frank N. Magid Associates shows continued expansion of online video viewing.
Their survey showed that about a quarter of internet users watch online video daily, up from 13% in 2010.  Overall, about 57% of Internet users watched online videos at least weekly - an increase from the roughly half of respondents reporting that level of use last year.  More than 158 million Americans will download or stream online video at least monthly.  About 30% of them will watch content on their mobile phones, tablets, or Internet-connected TV sets.
As for what is being watched, two-thirds report regularly viewing premium short-form content (music videos, movie trailers and clips, sports highlights, etc - content excerpted from traditional media).  The proportion of U.S. internet users regularly watching user-generated videos grew from 33% last year to 46% this year.  Viewing of full-length TV programs (from 25% to 30%) and full-length movies (from 10% to 22%) also grew.  The demographic watching online videos the most was young men (ages 18-34), who watched online videos an average of 7.8 hours a week (the average for all respondents was 5.6 hours a week).
The study shows the continued expansion of online video viewing, reaching ever-larger audiences and markets, across an expanding range of access and display option, and overall increased consumption in terms of time spent watching online video.  While that’s good basic news for the industry and markets, the better news is that research is also showing the viability of advertising support.  Magid reported that 35% of online video viewers could recall seeing a static banner ad associated with online videos, and 47% could remember the brand or product featured in ad embedded into online video offerings – numbers that are competitive with the level of effectiveness found in more traditional advertising media.  This suggests that the potential for advertising support, as one revenue stream, for online video providers.

Source: "Study: 30% Watch Videos On Emerging Devices," Online Media Daily

YouTube to stream Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits

Last week, YouTube announced that it will stream two upcoming big music festivals, with sponsorship by Dell and AMD.  YouTube will stream the first day of the sold-out Lollapalooza (early August in Chicago) on its front page.  In September, YouTube will stream the Austin City Limits festival in Austin.
YouTube will feature a "Lollapalooza" week in connection with the festival, and has indicated that there will be a primary live stream of performances, and a secondary stream with interviews and coverage of backstage areas, enabling YouTube to showcase multiple artists each day. Videos from the festival will remain on the YouTube site for four weeks after the festivals.  YouTube plans to integrate the streams with Facebook and Twitter feeds to promote interactivity.

YouTube's initial move into streaming music festivals was local favorite Bonnaroo in June, 2010.  Since then, it's had sponsored music festival streams for two other, smaller festivals in California.  Other sites have been streaming music festivals this year - Vevo streamed acts from this year's Bonnaroo festival, and NPR plans on webcasting this year's Norfolk Folk Festival and Norfolk Jazz festival.

Sources: "YouTube Starts to Look Like a TV Network,"  AdWeek
"Lollapalooza YouTube Stream: Site Will Also Offer Coverage of Austin City Limits," Huffington Post

Goin' Mobile - 2011 Trends Report

A report on mobile usage by Allot had some interesting teasers on the site (I'm having some difficulty downloading the full report at the moment - check back later for possibly more results - I'll toss in some 2010 numbers as I was able to get that report).

Mobile usage continues to expand globally - mobile traffic almost doubled in 2010, and with tablets and mobile sales overtaking desktops so far this year, 2011 looks to be another high-growth year.  Video streaming remains the applications leader in terms of generated bandwidth usage (37% in 2010), followed by file sharing (30% in 2010) and web browsing (26%).  Using mobile for shared communication (VoIP & IMs) accounted for only 4% of bandwidth usage with mobile devices in 2010.  Looking at trends, though, it's video streaming and VoIP/IM that are increasing their shares, while file-sharing and web browsing find their shares of mobile usage falling.

Other tidbits:
  • YouTube continues its reign as top internet site for mobile users - so far in 2011, it's accounting for 22% of all mobile data usage and 52% of all video streaming.  In 2010, it accounted for 17% of all mobile bandwidth usage and 45% of all mobile video streaming.
  • Skype continues as VoIP leader, accounting for 82% of mobile VoIP usage in 2011, slightly down from 87% in 2010.
  • Facebook and Twitter continue to dominate social media usage.  Facebook usage in 2011 was just under triple its 2010 numbers, while Twitter growth slowed somewhat from 2010's explosive growth.  Twitter usage in the first half of 2011 was up 166% from 2010; but 2010 had seen Twitter usage grow at an annual rate of 1800%.
Source: "Mobile Trends Report, H1, 2011,"  Allot Communications
2011 and 2010 reports should be downloadable from this site.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"New Ethics of Local Journalism" report

The J-Lab at American University's School of Journalism has released a lengthy report looking into the "New Ethics of Local Journalism."  While old media have existing ethical codes and standards, some formal, most informal, and frequently challenged, emerging local journalism efforts emerging from an increasingly narrowly defined focus and the development of new media forms and outlets are finding themselves confronting new situations and challenges that often pose ethical questions.  This report starts collecting some of these issues and challenges journalists, editors, and managers face in the still-evolving frontier of local journalism and new media. These are presented and examined from ethical perspectives, before presenting sets of "key takeaways" that more-or-less serve as ethical guides.
The report's available online through the J-Lab website (at, as a downloadable PDF file, or you can buy a printed version.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Spotify comes to America

Europe's top on-demand music service, has cleared the various rights hurdles and is now available in the U.S.  Plans are to offer three versions of the service: a Free service with access to 15 million songs, served up with occasional ads and a limit of 20 hours of use a month; Spotify Unlimited, where for $4.99 a month you can ditch the ads and time limits; and a Premium service that offers a higher bit rate (higher quality sound), access through mobile devices, and other features for $9.99 a month.  The various plans include many of the social media features that have contributed to its popularity in Europe.
The "Free" service is currently only available in beta in the U.S., and not at all in Europe.  The firm hopes the free option will create interest in the service, and drive users to it's pay options.  There were already an estimated 2.5 million subscribers to pay music services in the U.S., compared to Spotify's current million subscribers in Europe, so they're strongly optimistic about entering the U.S. market. 
And following along from the previous post, promoting further shift in use by music listeners from physical copies to being able to access across time and space.

Sources: "Spotify, with its streaming gigabytes of music, arrives in U.S." Connected Planet
Spotify U.S. announcement

UltraViolet - Movies may show the way

The movie industry has generally come to grips with media and market changes, after a while.  The typical pattern is initial resistance to innovations and new media, but fairly rapid adaptation once they found that the new media forms offered even higher revenue potential than the basic film/theater business model.  First with television, cable movie channels, videotapes and DVDs (both rentals and sales), and videogaming, the movie industry first tried to keep its content off the new media, but then found that the new media also opened up new, expanded, markets for its content.  Markets that in some cases overshadowed the revenue potential of the tradition theatrical release market.
The pattern repeated somewhat with the rise of digital networked media - initially, reactions focused on using copyright to try to keep their content off those networks.  Over the last few years, the movie & TV industries have started to embrace digital online distribution and the notion of making content available across a range of display devices.  Starting with licensing their content to online streaming services like Hulu and Netflix, providing some content in multiple formats (combining DVD, Blu-Ray (HD), and digital copy (playable on computers & digital devices) versions in a single package), and allowing online stores to sell digital copies of content.  But the adaptation that may be the most significant may be coming this Fall.

Sometime this fall, a group of studios will launch the UltraViolet project.  Purchasing a Blu-ray or DVD disc of a film with the UltraViolet feature will provide users not only with the physical disc, but allow them to stream or download the film forever from digital archives.  The UltraViolet project is based on the digital rights management approach called "media lockers," where rights focus on allowing licensed users to access content held online, the basis for the recent spate of media Cloud announcements for music (Amazon, iTunes, and Google).  In operation, UltraViolet is closest to what Apple plans for its iTunes-based cloud service - with users indicating what content they have rights to, and the media locker or cloud allowing users to access content directly from their archives through a variety of devices.

Perhaps most importantly for the long term, UltraViolet poses, finally, a good workable solution to the inherent conflict between intellectual property rights (copyright in particular) and digital networks and devices.  Rather than placing the focus on limiting the making of copies, UltraViolent focuses on licensing and rights to access content, recognizing that in most every digital device, multiple copies of content are made.  After all, the demand for the content is based on access and the ability to watch and/or listen, not on how many transient digital copies exist in a device.  And increasing accessibility will tend to increase value.

Source: "Buy Once, View Anywhere: UltraViolet Ready for Launch." VidBlog (MediaPost)
UltraViolet website

Borders to close all stores

The Borders Group, owners of the second largest bookstore chain, will call it quits - closing its remaining stores and laying off some 11,000 workers.  The action comes after the group was unable to find a buyer willing to keep the company in operation.  Borders had filed for bankruptcy last February, citing competition from Barnes & Noble (the largest bookstore chain in the U.S.), and Amazon - both of which offered online sales of both printed and digital books.
I remember Borders when it was a single store in Ann Arbor, Michigan, thriving from the University of Michigan's trade.  I'll admit I was surprised to hear of it's rapid expansion trying to become a destination media outlet, offering books, magazines, CDs, and videos, along the lines of Virgin's megastores.  But they were both too small (compared to Amazon's offerings) and too big in terms of inventory (compared to other bookstores), and in too many places (for a while there were many more stores than could be supported in smaller markets) to remain competitive, particularly as book sales moved increasingly online.  (Their online store was a late entry into the field - and initial reports didn't specify whether Borders will continue as an online bookstore).
It's sad to see Borders go - but it's a reminder that being late to adapt to changing market conditions can be deadly.

Sources: "Borders Says It Will Shut Down All of Its Stores for Good," CNBC

RTNDA TV & Radio News Staffing & Profitability Survey

Some good news for a change.  The most recent RTNDA/Hofstra annual survey of local broadcast TV news directors reported that employment and profitability has rebounded somewhat from the levels of the last couple of years.  They also indicated that their stations are airing more local news than ever.
The report indicates that stations added 750 new jobs (net aggregate), just under half the jobs lost in 2009/2010 (1600 net aggregate).  The RTNDA also reports that the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) reported a net gain in newspaper employment of only 100 in 2010.  While increases are good, the total newspaper employment numbers in the U.S. are still down 13,500 jobs from 2007 levels.
The RTNDA also reports that more stations are reporting that their local TV news is profitable (57.4% of stations in 2011 - the highest level since 2004).  Only 7% of station news directors reported that their local news lost money, although more than a quarter of news directors didn't know whether their news operation was profitable or not.  The report indicated that local news accounts for roughly half of station revenues (although the percentage was significantly lower for both the largest (38.6% of revs) and smallest markets (markets 151+, with news accounting for 43% of revenues).
The report indicates that the amount of local news being produced by TV station continues to grow.  On average, local TV stations affiliated with one of the four major networks produced an average of 5.6 hours of local news per day.  Non-affiliated stations produced much less, averaging two and a half hours a day.  And it looks like the amount of local news programming will continue to grow, with about 37% of stations indicating that they will increase the amount of local news coverage next year, and only 1% indicating a planned decrease in hours.

Source:  "Staffing and Profitability" RTNDA Research blog

NBCU debuts online Archive

NBCU has opened an online archive of clips and content, at  The site contains content from a number of studios and channels, some going back more than 70 years.  The site, while providing free previews, is set up to serve primarily as a licensing mechanism.  This follows on the Discovery Networks earlier announcement (see this post) that they were making much of their stock footage available through an e-commerce site.
Both are good examples of two of the major business strategies for media producers - find additional ways to monetize your content, and focus on licensing as a mechanism for future revenue streams.

Source: "NBCU puts Archives Content Online" Media Daily News

Monday, July 18, 2011

CNN, HLN Goes Live Online (TV Everywhere)

Time Warner has announced that it is making its CNN and Headline News channels available online to Comcast, Dish Network, and Verizon subscribers.  Part of their "TV Everywhere" efforts, the two news channels will be simulcast, along with full ad loads.  Initially, the live feeds will be available through the CNN website, and on several Apple mobile devices (iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch).  Time Warner indicated that apps for other mobile devices will be added in coming months.

The TV Everywhere initiative, which has a goal of allowing multichannel subscribers to access programming on many devices and places, has been slowed by arguments over program rights and licensing issues.  As news channels, CNN and HLN own the rights to almost all of its programming, and thus is free to make deals to expand program access choices.

Source: "Time Warner simulcasts CNN, HLN news channels on Web," Fierce Cable

Tactics for Digital Business Strategy

As media continues its transition into the digital world, traditional media  business models aren't coping well with emerging competition.  Part of the issue is dealing with new markets and the speed of change on both the supply and demand side.  Andy Roy's come up with "10 Tactics For A Digital Business Strategy."  It's focused more broadly than just media, but offers some useful ideas.
  1. Know what your customers want next (to keep abreast of rapid change)
  2. Learn how they are using your products (particularly how users will adapt to mobile)
  3. Dazzle your customers with great customer service
  4. Proactively service your customers using rules and alerts (that is, be ready to push content to customers rather than wait for them to come to you - but also make sure that it's their choice to get that service)
  5. Dialog with your customers through multiple touchpoints (basically, have a number of ways for audiences to give feedback, pay attention to that feedback, and respond)
  6. Nurture multiple communities of interests across multiple stakeholder groups (users will find ways to cluster with others and share concerns.  Offer and monitor such online "hangouts")
  7. Keep a close eye on your competition 
  8. Collaborate with suppliers to test and fine-tune new offerings (both content and services)
  9. Make it easier for customers to buy your products (help with searches, provide multiple delivery options)
  10. Make it possible to give away your products [sometimes] (Free makes it easy to sample, helps users see that your product or service is worthwhile, and helps build brand.  Offer the highly competitive stuff for free, and charge for the specialized.)
Source: "10 Tactics For A Digital Business Strategy," Online Media Daily

FCC's Mobile Broadband Test

Want to really check which Mobile Network is the fastest where you are?  The FCC's made available a free mobile app that tests upload and download speeds.  In my office, on AT&T's 3G net, I get 1.04 Mbs download and 1.07 Mbs upload.  Check your app store for the "FCC Mobile Broadband Test" if you want to give it a spin.
To check on wired broadband speeds, try some of the sites listed to the right under Net Resources.

Source: "14 Cool Mobile Apps From Uncle Sam," Information Week Government

Latest Video Streaming Numbers

The latest numbers from Nielsen on video streaming shows continued expansion of viewing.  Nielsen reports that slightly more than 145 million unique viewers watched a total of 15 billion video streams during May, 2011.  Both numbers were up more than 2% from the previous month. And that's only for online video viewing in the U.S.

What were they watching?  The Nielsen press release lists the top sources for streamed video in terms of the number of unique viewers, and in terms of the number of streams.  YouTube remains the preeminent source. with 111+ million unique viewers and almost 9 billion videos served. VEVO was a distant second in terms of unique viewers with 36 million, followed by Facebook (29 million) and Yahoo! (26 million). In terms of the number of streams, Hulu was listed second, with 852 million streams viewed (less than 10% of YouTube). VEVO came in third, with half the number of videos streamed as Hulu (415 million). 
If you're wondering where Netflix was, Nielsen did not include Netflix in this report as Netflix changed the format of its streaming addresses, which apparently messed up Nielsen's data collection for a while.

Source: "May, 2011: Top U.S. Online Destinations for Video," NielsenWire

Thursday, July 14, 2011

eReader & Tablet owners also heavy magazine & newspaper readers

A leading magazine audience research group (GfK MRI) has released some results (from their large-scale survey on media use by US adults) that suggests that people who own eReaders or tablets are also heavy readers of print media and are more likely to be heavy Internet users.  Individuals who own eReaders are 23% more likely to be heavy readers of magazines, and 63% more likely to be heavy users of newspapers, than the average adult in the U.S.  They are slightly less likely (4%) to be heavy radio listeners, but significantly less likely (35%) to be classified as a heavy TV viewer.  The numbers are similar for the smaller proportion of American adults who own a tablet device - 66% more likely to be heavy magazine readers, 54% more likely to be heavy newspaper readers, slightly less likely to be radio users (8%) and 37% less likely to be heavy TV users.
As one might suspect, those who own eReaders primarily use them to read books, although some have also used their device to read digital versions of magazines (15%) and newspapers (14%) within the last 6 months.  Tablet owners also used their devices for reading books (57% used their tablet to read a book in the last 6 months) - however tablet owners were much more likely to also use their device to read magazines (39%) and newspapers (41%).

My interpretation is that the newspaper and magazine industry should not fear the rapid adoption of eReaders and Tablets - they seem to be encouraging a growth in reading that is likely to carry through to print media.  There also appears to be a much stronger market for Tablet-oriented digital versions of newspapers and magazines than for versions designed for eReaders.  The real bad news in these results is for the TV industry, and the idea that those with eReaders or Tablets are significantly less likely to be heavy TV users.  While these statistics don't directly show a decline in viewing, I think that these digital devices offer convenient alternatives for the entertainment or escape gratifications that TV has come to dominate.  In addition, Tablets allow delivery of video content on demand, and in that sense can directly compete with traditional TV for viewers.

Source: "Owners of eReaders and Tablets Are Heavy Readers of Printed Versions of Magazines and Newspapers,"  press release, GfK MRI
The research firm has provided a short video explaining these results.  It's available here.

Monday, July 11, 2011

DVRs in half of homes by 2016

Analysis from MagnaGlobal predicts the percentage of US TV homes that also have DVRs will reach 50% in 2016 (up from roughly 33% in 2011).  Even more homes will have access to Video-on-Demand, at 58% of TV homes in 2016 (up from 46% last quarter).  Finally, they predict that in 2016, the percentage of homes totally reliant on the Internet for media consumption will reach 15%.
These all reflect a transition to a different model of TV use and consumption that seems to be emerging - a movement from a purely passive audience to one that is increasingly in control of their media consumption.

Source: "Report: DVR Households to Hit 51.3% In 2016", Broadcasting & Cable.

Apps - "Free" generates more revenue than "Paid" - Updated

Recently, Apple announced that more than 15 billion apps have been downloaded, generating more than $2.5 billion in revenues for app developers.  Until recently, about 60% of the revenues have come from "paid" apps, especially games.  The other 40% came from "free" apps - or at least apps that didn't charge for initial download.  Most of that other 40% was a result of a revenue model termed "freemium" apps - and a quiet validation of Chris Anderson's Free model.  In a "freemium" app, users can download the basic app for free, and the developer gets revenues from a smaller proportion of users who might pay for higher-level access or make in-app purchases.
A new study by Flurry shows that in the last six months, revenue from free-to-play game apps has overtaken the revenues generated by paid game apps.  Last month, the split was 65% of revenues from "free" game apps, and 35% from paid game apps.  Considering that over 90% of free game users don't contribute anything towards revenues, that's pretty impressive.And a reminder that when thinking about the millions of potential users online, it may make more sense to seek to exploit a small segment willing and able to pay for additional value, than to seek revenues from simple access from the general public by putting a price on content or basic subscriptions.

Source: "'Free' Apps Drive More Revenue Than Paid", Online Media Daily

Another article suggests there's even more value in games. Analysts at Gartner predict online gaming revenues to rise to more than $28 billion in 2015 (from an estimated $12 billion this year). including a significant increase in revenues from in-game ads and sponsored content.  Total consumer spending on hardware, software, and videogame play is expected to reach $75 billion this year.
Source: "In-Game Advertising On Rise, Consumer Spend to Hit $75B", Online Media Daily

Net Neutrality meets DMCA "pirates"

The "Network Neutrality" meme has been applied to many specific positions, but perhaps the least problematic is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) shouldn't treat users or content differently.  It's a variation of the long-standing "common carrier" policy in telecommunication networks, and is being championed by the current FCC commissioners and the White House..
The White House is also championing another policy effort set up to protect the fights of copyright owners, called "Copyright Alerts."  Copyright Alerts is a partnership of the larger ISPs and movie and music industry groups to "fight online illegal downloading of copyrighted works."  The new enforcement system enlists the ISPs to help monitor subscribers' Internet use, sending notifications of suspected illegal downloading, and administering penalties that include slowing down or even denying user access to the Internet through their ISP.
So in this case, the White House is asking ISPs to not be "network neutral," but to discriminate against certain users based on the presumption that they seek certain types of content.  And since this action can also be looked at as a "conspiracy in restraint of trade" - collaboration and collusion among competing firms - it's likely that the plan has been vetted by both the Dept of Justice and the FCC, groups who are supposed to be concerned about anti-trust behavior like this.
And while I'm not a lawyer and am basing this on several news counts, it seems that this is also a considerable expansion of copyright law by private fiat.  Current copyright law puts the onus of enforcement on the copyright owner, who must work through the courts to seek redress.  In this case, it looks like the copyright industry is enlisting the aid of the ISPs to not only monitor for illegal activity, but for the whole enforcement process - the ISP becomes the investigator, the plaintiff, the judge, the jury, and the enforcer of "alleged" copyright abuse, all without the courts or any degree of due process.
The next time the FCC or the White House talks about Network Neutrality, remember the asterisk that now goes with that support.  Network Neutrality means no discrimination*, *except when it benefits your cronies and supporters.

Sources: "Top ISPs become copyright cops", cnet News
"Exclusive: Top ISPs poised to adopt graduated response to piracy", cnet News

AP to reporters - Keep opinions off social media

In an effort to keep perceptions of media credibility from falling further (see earlier post), the AP is reminding its staffers to keep their opinions about breaking news stories and current events off of social media (even if private).  Drawing on examples of postings on two recent stories (NY State Senate vote on gay marriage, and Casey Anthony trial verdict), and the AP's own standards (outlined in their "News Values and Principles"), AP deputy managing editor for standards and production Tom Kent argued that expressing opinions "undermine the credibility of our colleagues, who have been working so hard to ensure balanced and unbiased coverage of these issues.  While recognizing the importance of social media as a tool for distributing and raising awareness of their stories, apparently speaking plainly about your views and opinions through other channels "can lead to disciplinary action."
What makes this more interesting than just another old media reaction to new media, and the loss of the ability to control information flows, is that this is the AP talking.  The AP who announced several years ago that they were moving from balanced to "accountability" journalism in their reporting of politics and current events.  According to the AP's memos, that includes "scrapping the stone-faced approach to journalism that accepts politicians' statements at face value and offers equal treatment to all sides of an argument ... reporters ... should call it as they see it."
So let's see - reporters offering their opinions and framing their reporting from their individual perspective is expected in their AP stories, but offering their opinions through other media is forbidden - all because showing your opinion might affect AP's credibility.  If revealing an opinion harms credibility, it seems like that's already gone down the tubes with the shift to "accountability journalism."

Source: "No Comment: AP Warns Journalists on Social Media Use," Media Daily News

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Broadband in the US - Coming, slowly

A new study from the Columbia Institute on Tele-Information updates 2009's FCC report.  The study looks at both current levels of broadband deployment, and the plans and goals of broadband providers. Among the key findings:
  • AT&T and Verizon indicated they hope to bring high-speed wireline broadband (10Mbs or higher) to a combined 50 million US homes within two years.
  • Verizon plans to offer LTE wireless service (download speeds of 5-12 Mbs) to all of its coverage areas by 2014
  • In 2010, an estimated 70% of US homes had some form of wireline broadband (39% cable, 31% telco)
  • AT&T's U-Verse and Verizon's FiOS (combined multichannel video, broadband data, and telephone) each are available to about 35% of US homes, with another 5% to be covered by each under current deployment plans
We're getting there, slowly.

Sources: "Report: U.S. providers' broadband ambitions still unfulfilled," Connected Planet Online

Social TV Ratings proposed

A new proposal for measuring how viewers "respond to" television is coming out of the MIT Media Lab.  Marketed through Bluefin Laps, the proposal builds on the notion of mapping the "TV genome" to come up with new metrics focusing on how viewers respond to television programs through comments on social media networks.  The system seems to track and count social media comments for programs, and then compares those counts with other programs in the same initial daypart to come up with "Response Level" and "Response Share" metrics similar to traditional ratings and shares measures.
Interesting, but I'm not sure how useful counting comments, rather than eyeballs, will be - the proposed metric still faces the problems of delayed viewing and multiple airings for programs, and while perhaps helpful for programmers, doesn't seem to be of much value to advertisers, who are the ones really driving the measurement of audiences.

Source: "Bluefin Labs rolls out social TV ratings system,"

Adding value through integration: Skype from Facebook

One of the general themes of this blog and course is that in a hyper-competitive market, one path to success is to find ways to add value to your product or service.  Facebook's been fairly good at that - first enabling its use as an alternative to email, then as a platform for sharing and streaming video (see earlier post).  Their latest added-value service is to allow users use Skype for video chats with their Facebook friends directly from Facebook, without having to have the regular Skype software.  This is an extension of recent Facebook - Skype collaborations (Skype users have been able to message Facebook friends directly from the Skype software platform).
The integration of these related services adds value for Facebook and its users, by integrating video or audio chat functionality, and benefits Skype and its users by tapping the more than 750 million active Facebook users (being able to access more people more easily).  The move can also be seen as a competitive response to Google's newly launched social network service, Google+, which includes a video calling component.

Source: "Facebook and Skype announce video sharing partnership"

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Future of Small-Scale Radio

A new research report has been issued on the achievements and potential of small-scale (community) radio;  The study finds that such services tend to be highly valued by their listeners, offering a local identity, quirky entertainment, and hyperlocal information.  While the study focuses on small-scale radio in the U.K., the lessons are appropriate for any hyperlocal/"small scale" media project.
The full study report can be found at

Bad Policy Ideas: The Protect IP Act (Updated)

The Senate Judiciary Committee recently cleared "The Protect IP Act" (S.968), an early step in the enactment process.  Like many other proposed policies designed to "combat piracy", it's a really bad bill that can have serious consequences for many users not engaged in copyright piracy, while really doing little to effectively limit or reduce unauthorized copying of protected content.
This bill's language aims to make it easier for people claiming copyright infringement to close down and penalize allegedly infringing websites.  Specifically, it allows the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), based on a claim of alleged infringement on a website, to:
  • force Internet Service Providers to deny access to a site's URLs
  • force search engines to stop returning results from those sites
  • require credit-card companies and advertisers to stop doing business with those sites
As a letter from a number of leading Intellectual Property scholars and lawyers argues
"Giving this enormous new power not just to the government but to any copyright and trademark owner would not only disrupt the operations of the allegedly infringing Web site without a final judgment of wrongdoing, but would make it extraordinarily difficult for advertisers and credit-card companies to do business on the Internet."
While these actions might harm the allegedly infringing website, the actions required are not undertaken by the site directly, but rather by others (ISPs, search engines, credit-card companies and advertisers).  The bill would create a significant burden for them, a burden that is likely to passed on to their customers - the public.

Considering the abject failure of a similar effort to restrict Net access to allegedly infringing sites (based on a law that sets supposedly higher standards of proof for obtaining a Court order), and the recent Court finding that a major effort to enforce online copyright violations (Righthaven) was based on fraudulent claims of ownership, it's not surprising that the proposed legislation is opposed by just about everyone other than the MPAA (film industry trade group) and the large number of former MPAA lawyers that President Obama has appointed to jobs in the DOJ.

For those interested in the earlier efforts at closing sites, I've posted on this earlier.  To give you a quick idea how badly this effort failed, it included seizing the URLs (and effectively closing down the sites for several days before the error was admitted) of 84,000 innocent sites, because the government gave the wrong list of sites to the court (both the govt. and the court later accused the other of insufficient oversight); further, an independent group found that almost all of the 92 sites trumpeted as cases of successfully combating copyright piracy or trademark infringement (selling counterfeit goods) were back up and continuing operations within a day of being "shut down for good."  So even the "successes" did little to stop the alleged piracy and sale of counterfeit goods.

As for Righthaven, they were a firm of lawyers who claimed to have acquired copyright ownership of content published in newspapers and online news sites owned by Stephens Media.  In a year, Righthaven filed more than 200 lawsuits for copyright violation, and threatened to sue hundreds, if not thousands, more - with the goal of getting cash payments to "settle" copyright infringement claims.  In several cases that actually went to court, it was discovered that Righthaven didn't actually own the copyrights, and therefore did not have the legal standing to file the lawsuits or seek damages.  The firm now faces sanctions, with one federal judge calling its litigation efforts "disingenuous, if not outright deceitful."

Perhaps the most serious problem from a legal and moral perspective is that the bill would allow anyone claiming copyright or trademark ownership to seek to close down sites with a simple allegation of infringement.  No protection of due process, no right to respond to or challenge the allegation, and apparently no consideration of whether or not the unauthorized use was permissible under fair use or other exemptions.

Update - The letter from IP lawyers and professors in fact makes a strong argument that the proposed bill would be unconstitutional on several grounds.  First, the bill would suppress speech without prior notice, and the Supreme Court has ruled that the government may not suppress speech without giving the speaker the opportunity to argue his case - such as the use fell under fair use protection.  Second, by blocking entire domains, the action would suppress all speech on the domain, including protected speech and speech and content that is not part of the alleged infringement.  There is a long history of Supreme Court cases overturning legislation that would suppress protected speech along with problematic content.

  Considering the problems with "insufficient oversight," and the recent Righthaven debacle, the potential for abuse seems overwhelming.  The actions that the bill authorizes is overbroad, with a significant potential for suppressing vast amounts of content that are not alleged to violate IP, including types of speech and content that is clearly protected.  As troubling as that is, the burden and cost of compliance of these actions are not placed on the infringing site, or born by the plaintiff; rather, they are imposed on and undertaken by others - the ISPs, search engines, payment services and advertisers - who have had no part in the alleged infringement. In fact, the fear of potential costs, critics conclude, would likely discourage the companies running and creating value on the Internet from expanding services, particularly to innovate websites and services where IP precedents are few.  This is likely to have the practical effect of threatening "to kill innovation by technology companies in the media space."  As for content producers and distributors, making the bar for authorization so low, and the penalties so high, is likely to stifle creativity and work to effectively eliminate Fair Use in the digital realm.    It's a really bad idea that needs to be challenged.  It's not only bad, but ineffectual and stupid - and the people pushing it should be publicly shamed.

Sources: "Anti-Piracy Bill Could Hurt Online Advertising,Online Media Daily
"Nevada Judge Threatens Sanctions for Copyright Troll,"

Updated 7 July 2011 to add arguments that Protect IP Act would be unconstitutional, and to add and rephrase some arguments in the final paragraph.
Source: "Dozens of law professors: PROTECT IP Act is unconstitutional," ars
The letter can be found here
The legislative language of the PROTECT IP Act can be found here

Pottermore - one future for publishing

A couple of weeks ago, J. K. Rowling announced the Fall debut of Pottermore, a free website based on the further development, and exploitation, of the Harry Potter books.  For now, fans are limited to registering their interest, but come fall, the site will be the sole source for the ebook releases of the book series.  Controlling her own ebook publication will allow Rowling to avoid the fees collected by other online book sellers, and controlling how the ebooks are used.  Rowling's indicated that she'll release the e-book versions in multiple formats, and DRM-Free.  (DRM, or Digital Rights Management, is a system that lets copyright owners place limits on use of content).  Instead, ebook copies will use a digital watermarking system that will identify both authorship and ownership of copies.  This could be the start of an important shift in digital publishing.  Much like how Amazon's shift to DRM-Free digital copies of music has prompted other digital music sellers to follow suit, the success in offering such a potentially valuable franchise without DRM could encourage other publishers to follow suit.  (In Amazon's negotiations with major publishers for it's Kindle bookstore, the publishers insisted on integration of a DRM system, with publisher control over limiting use). 
There's promise of the site also making available background information, and shorter stories and tales set in the Potter Universe. The goal is to create an immersive and potentially interactive experience.  Rowling indicated that one motivation for the site was the idea that: "We can guarantee that people everywhere are getting the same experience at the same time."  Rowling indicated that each chapter in the e-book versions will contain interactive "moments" that integrate new illustrations with elements of game play.
There are hints of social media aspects as well, with the potential of Pottermore serving as a central site for the hundreds of fan groups and thousands of fan-generated content set in the virtual world of Harry Potter.

Pottermore also seems set to exploit the potential for multiple revenue streams.  The site already has a corporate sponsor in Sony, and major revenue potential in selling the digital versions of the seven Harry Potter books.  But publishing revenue need not be limited to the existing volumes.  Even if the various stories and tales are offered free on the website, Rowling can always repackage them as new volumes for sale, potentially in both digital and print versions.  Pottermore will help in establishing and maintaining the Potter brand, and the Sony sponsorship is only the tip of the potential advertising iceberg.  Then consider the potential for merchandizing the brand, both directly by creating new products, and indirectly by recommendation links to outside stores and products.
Admittedly, Rowling is starting with one of the most valuable publishing brands.  Still, it's an interesting model, and one that could well set some precedents for the future of digital publishing.

Sources: "Is Pottermore The Future of Publishing?" Online Spin
"What Publishers Should Learn from J.K. Rowling's Pottermore," Forbes

For details and speculation about Pottermore, check:
"JK Rowling's 'Pottermore' details revealed: Harry Potter e-books and more,"
"Pottermore: What's in Store for Harry Potter Fans?" Wired

BBC joins sports, businesses in Twitter limits.

The BBC is one of the latest groups seeking to ban or limit Twitter use by talent & staff.  Their argument is similar to what a number of sports groups have used - they don't want early leaks to reveal sensitive information that might spoil their marketing plans or reveal information that may reduce the value of their products.  The proposed policy would focus on limiting premature release of information such as storyline spoilers, casting news, or breaking news - information they want to control releasing, in order to maximize its impact or value to the BBC.

A classic hometown example of this rationale was the Southeastern Conference's plan, in 2009,  to ban social media use by fans in stadiums - they feared that revealing scores or highlights might reduce the value of their football television contract.  After two days of ridicule by press and fans, they reversed themselves, only "discouraging" fans from posting video clips during the game.

Still, concerns about controlling information flow are driving many groups and companies to develop policies to limit in-house use of Twitter and other social media.  A recent survey of businesses in Britain showed that almost half have limited social media use while on the job; the most commonly cited concern (45%) being fears about business reputation.  Similar concerns have driven may sports teams to develop social media use policies for players and other personnel; while not outright bans, the goal is to restrict certain types of information from being leaked. It's even gotten to the point where politicians try to ban social media from events (a recent example being Britain's Royal Wedding).  A more extreme example is the efforts of several nations (Egypt, China, Syria) to ban social media, particularly during times of social unrest, and the bizarre case of France telling broadcasters not to use the words "Twitter" or "Facebook" on the air.

One of the benefits, or curses, of the modern digital media world, is that it makes controlling information more difficult - not impossible, but difficult and costly.  Losing control over the message is a limit on power, and it's understandable that those in power seek to maintain and enhance it.  But what limits power to one group can also be rephrased as a shift in power to others, to their benefit.  Today, and going forward, the ability to bypass gatekeepers and those who seek to control information flows is ubiquitous - the genie's out, and those who used to be able to compel message control will need to turn to persuasion and gaining the cooperation of participants.  Which, I think, is a good thing.

Sources: "BBC acts to stop Twitter leaks by stars and writers," The Guardian
"Companies ban Twitter from workplace," The Telegraph
An old academic paper of mine that addresses control in information systems - "The Macrosocial Impact of Communication Systems: Access, Bias, Control"

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Apple remains dominant on mobile web

About 60% of all US mobile web traffic goes through an Apple operating system.  With iPad sales exceeding 25 million, the iPad generates 25.5% of mobile web browsing, with the iPhone adding another 35.2%.  Their combined 60% almost doubles the 31.6% driven by the Android operating system; Blackberry come in at 6.9%, Symbian at 0.03%, and Windows Mobile at ).02%. (As a former Windows Mobile user, I'm not surprised at their abysmal performance).
On the bigger stage, iPad generates about 1% of all Internet traffic worldwide, and 2.1% of all US web browsing.  Mobile and tablet systems combine for 5% of global web traffic (8.2% of US traffic).

Source: "Apple's iPad now generates 25% of U.S. mobile web traffic," Fierce Mobile Content

Gannett closes Hyper-Local Online News efforts in NJ

Major newspaper group owner Gannett has been one of the leaders among exploring the use of highly-focused and hyper-local online news sites operated in conjunction with traditional print newspapers.  Layoffs within the local Gannett papers were given as the primary reason for closing the sites, all of which operated under the larger site.  While the site's still up, no new material will be posted. was launched in 2009, with hyper-local sites opened in more than a dozen towns by the end of 2010.  The hope was that the hyper-local sites would generate local interest and local contributions, with a goal of 50% of content coming from user contributions, the rest from 6 full-time reporters assigned to  However, user-generated content rarely exceeded 10%, and the hyperlocal sites failed to generate the audience numbers needed for the sites to be supported through online display advertising. 
Ted Mann, who started InJersey for Gannett, perhaps gave a hint of the problem when he commented:
"From what I've seen on our sites, and several others, I don't see how display advertising is going to be enough to support a hyperlocal ... but I do think there are a lot of other revenue streams that hyperlocals can build - running events, sponsoring things, selling merchandise."
It seems that Gannett's approach to hyperlocals, in this case, was an extension of the currently troubled print model: looking to professionals for content, and for a combination of local, regional, and national display ad sales for revenue.  Mann mentioned the ways that hyperlocal news sites could gain revenues, yet it seems that Gannett relied on its own newspaper sales force to sell only display ads - with little incentive to spend the time in smaller communities, or with local businesses, to build up local ad sales.  And little interest in thinking how else a hyperlocal site could generate revenues.
While Mann hoped for significant local contributions, it also seemed that there was an sense of wanting to maintain a professional news focus - both in quality and in the types of content they were looking for. Potential community contributors were asked to register and attend training sessions or workshops before they could submit "news stories" without having to go through an editor.  Even then, editors "would give feedback and cultivate story ideas."  This suggests that the focus was on controlling the flow of content and topics, keeping the focus on appropriate "news", rather than letting content emerge organically from the community.  One staffer commented that people in the community she covered posted photos, notes, and short stories on community Facebook and Twitter sites, instead of their hyperlocal site.  Her thought was that the hyperlocal site should exploit social media, missing the point that posting on social media is easy, open, unfiltered - and often not "newsworthy" in a traditional sense, much less fully fleshed a "story".
A report of the closings on the Poynter site concluded that "in hindsight, it's not terribly surprising that couldn't sustain itself."  But based on the factors contributing to their demise, and the lessons learned by many of the more successful hyper-local sites, they offer some lessons for hyperlocals:
  • Recognize the time commitment this kind of effort takes, and commit to it
  • Recruit staffers who live in the community
  • Know the value of your site for local advertisers, and exploit it
  • Figure out what motivates your community to contribute
Hyper-local sites can be an important and successful part of the community - but the main lesson is that it needs to be part of the community, its interests and its needs.  Not merely an adjunct to, or an extension of, some outside news organization or media..

Sources:  "Gannett Shutters Hyper-Local NJ Sites," MediaDailyNews
"Gannett layoffs accelerated demise of InJersey hyperlocal news sites,"

Making Music Pay: Social Theater on Facebook


A number of bands have been at the forefront of exploring ways to make music pay (outside of the traditional record industry model).  Last month, a new revenue source opened with the first Social Theater concert on the Facebook platform.  Third-party app provider Milyoni teamed with Austin City Limits to stream two days of music headlined by Widespread Panic. 

The 2300 viewers from 19 countries all purchased tickets to watch the concert on Facebook.  Tickets for the streamed concert were $5 per night, and included the opportunity to participate in a pre-concert Q&A with band member John Bell.  The system allowed the option of watching the live stream, or an on-demand playback, with the stream offered in full-screen HD.  Those watching the live performance had the ability to also interact with fans on the band's Facebook page or on the Austin City Limits page.

While the event didn't raise all that much money from the Social Theater event itself, it was also good marketing, with the band gaining another 20,000 Fan followers on Facebook (up 9%), and the Fan base for Austin City Limits grew by 40%

Sources: "Facebook Proves to Google Live Streaming Concerts Pay"  Online Media Daily
Infographic on concert (from Milyoni)

Friday, July 1, 2011

How to be a Journalist in 2011

One aspiring journalist's perspective (Lauren Rae Orsini).  It's a worthwhile read, and follow through on some of the links to some of her other work..
"How to  be a Journalist in 2011"

Reporters Committee launches Digital Journalist's Legal Guide

Earlier this month, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press posted a guide on press law issues that digital journalists might face.
Their Digital Journalist's Legal Guide is "designed to assist anyone who is disseminating news online, from an independent blogger to a reporter for a major media outlet."  The Digital Journalist guide follows on, and is integrated with, the Committee's other Guides: The First Amendment Handbook, The Reporters Privilege Compendium, Federal Open Government Guide and State Open Government Guide.

Source" Press release from the Reporters Committee

Going Mobile: Mobile Apps and Video

Recently, I did a post on how one local TV station is taking advantage of the mobile and app markets. A new research report by Futuresource provides some additional background on the apps market and the value of incorporating video in news apps.
Mobile is growing - currently 33% of US cell users have smartphones (25% in the U.K.), with market penetration of smartphones/tablets forecast to reach 75% in three years.  In 2010, there were 10 billion app downloads, generating $4 billion in revenues.  There's money in the mobile app market, a market that's likely to see continued rapid growth. For now, gaming and social networking apps dominate the market.  Still, 64% of iPhone users report watching video on their devices, although use of video drops to 32% for people with other types of smartphones.  About half of smartphone users report using their devices to get news.. The problem in the past has been getting people interested in paying for that news.
One way of increasing demand is to increase the value of the good or service.  Some of the Futuresource results suggests including video as part of a multimedia offering may help.  More ithan half of respondents (57%) said they like watching a video when it is next to an article. People were also be more to watch video as part of a multimedia packages, than as standalone videos - 24% said they would watch affiliated videos to get more information (vs. only 12% would watch a standalone video).  Further, they were more likely to evaluate as "professional" a video as part of a package (61%), than as a separate standalone video.
Another strategy may be to really target "paid" content.  If there's a general unwillingness to pay for basic news, then reserve the use of paid apps for the news that some people value highly enough to pay for.  Like coverage of major events, or big stories. 

Source: "iPhone Owners: Big Video Watchers, Mobile App Users", Media Daily News

Update:  Here's a direct link to the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism's report on mobile news and paying for news content online.

Streaming Makes Inroads into Prime Time

A Yahoo!/Interpret study of 4100 online video viewers is revealing a shift in online viewing habits.  A 2009 study, online video viewing dropped significantly in the 6-9 pm daypart, arguably as they switched to more traditional TV channels.  Now, 45% report watching some Web video during prime time "yesterday."  (the study asked about use of online video in the last 24 hours)
 The growth of Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services certainly contributed to the shift - the number reporting watching streamed content from Netflix doubled, and those streaming from Hulu increased 67%. While the absolute numbers of online videos streamed increased, there were also a notable shift in the kinds of content streamed.  In 2009, 84% of online videos watched were short clips, while 11% were full-length TV shows, and 5% movies.  In 2011, the proportion of short clips dropped to 74% of all online videos watched, while the proportions for full-length TV shows increased to 18%, and full-length movies accounted for 8%. 
For now, the impact on traditional television viewing (broadcast, cable & DBS) is minimal, and the focus of the study was not on whether this viewing was reducing traditional viewing, so you shouldn't necessarily infer that viewers are abandoning traditional TV media for online.  At least not yet.  But the study supports the idea that audience media use habits are starting to shift and that many viewers find value in terms of being able to watch TV programs and movies when they want, rather than when stations and channels program them.

Source: "Prime Time is Web Video Time?", VidBlog
"Online video shifts to primetime viewing," Gigacom
Press release from Yahoo! Insights

Network Evening News Ratings Gain

Recently released ratings showed that all three major network evening news broadcasts showed increased viewing in the second quarter of 2011, the first collective year-to-year increase in the last decade.
  • ABC World News had its biggest audience since 2008, averaging 7.6 million viewers (up 9%)
  • CBS Evening News was up 8% from the same period last year, averaging 5.6 million viewers
  • NBC Nightly News had its best ratings in five years, averaging 8.5 million viewers (up 11%).
Analysts attributed much of the gain to a "particularly newsy second quarter with the Royal Wedding, the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan, and the killing of bin Laden."  The anchor change at CBS from Katie Couric to Scott Pelley also helped; In his first three weeks as anchor, CBS Evening News added a quarter of a million new viewers.

Before network news fans get too giddy, these are still anemic levels - the 21 million combined viewers for broadcast network evening news is roughly 7% of all Americans.

Further, while still significantly higher than ratings for cable news channels and programs, that gap continues to shrink.  Average primetime ratings for the second quarter showed Fox News leading (averaging 1.8 million viewers), with MSNBC (averaging 780,000), CNN (averaging 680,000), and CNN Headline (averaging 540,000) trailing far behind.  If you look at each cable news network's top program, the comparison with the broadcast network evening news programs get a bit better, although still acheiving nowhere near the same audience levels.
  • Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor averaged over 2.8 million viewers (half that of the lowest rated broadcast evening news program).  The show's repeat for the west coast attracted 1.25 million viewers.  Fox News had the top 12 cable news programs.
  • MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show averaged slightly more than 1 million viewers
  • CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 averaged 841,000 viewers

Sources: "First Time in 10 Years: Three Evening Newscasts Up in Ratings," Hollywood Reporter
"Cable Program and Network Rankers: Q2 2011," TV Newser