Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Global Digital Radio on a Chip

The radio industry has been pushing Congress to require receivers be included in all mobile devices.  But for a global industry and market, the problem is dealing with all of the various broadcasting standards and systems in use.  Thankfully, digital offers a solution - in this case the announcement by Silicon Labs that they have developed a single chip that can receive all current global digital  radio standards - a global radio receiver on a chip, if you will.
  I remember when the first digital global TV on a chip came out in 1994, and basically transformed the multistandard consumer electronics market - and made translating programs from one standard to another simple and easy.
  I don't know if this chip will do the same for digital radio, which has had a slower-than expected growth rate, in large part due to the relatively high cost of digital radio receivers.   A cheap chip that can be integrated into a wide range of consumer electronics can help speed up diffusion and adoption around the world.

Source -  Silicon Labs Announces Single IC Supporting Global Digital Radio Standards,  Radio TechCheck

Did You Know? - Email Privacy

In the U.S., the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) currently allows law enforcement agencies can subpeona two broad classes of emails without having to show probable cause or obtain a warrant - any email that's been opened by its recipient, and any email that's at least 180 days old.
  Now this might not have made waves when the ECPA was initially passed in 1986, but some recent high-profile email snooping has brought the practice to light.
While ECPA was designed to balance people's privacy rights with the needs of law enforcement agencies investigating crimes, privacy rights groups have accused the Department of Justice of taking an overly broad interpretation to ECPA, based on the agency's reading that old emails aren't subject to protection under the Stored Communication Act.
After the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers the western United States -- including California -- ruled that the Stored Communications Act did apply to emails, the Justice Department advised investigators that when accessing emails more than 180 days old without using a warrant, they should do so outside the court's jurisdiction. 
When the US Justice department starts advising law enforcement to ignore the law (as long as they don't get caught in the Ninth Circuit), that's ringing the privacy alarm bells and asking for added legislative and judicial oversight.

One reaction is the Leahy-Lee ECPA Amendments Act, which was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last week.  The bill would require law enforcement to obtain warrants in order to access stored online communications and content (including documents, pictures, and other information stored in the cloud).
"I have long believed that our government should obtain a search warrant -- issued by a court -- before gaining access to private communications," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said...
I'm hopeful for speedy passage through Congress, and a Presidential signature.  But Congress has had trouble getting online and privacy laws right, and one has to wonder whether this President would be willing to reign in his own Dept. of Justice.  Given this administration's track record of ignoring laws and court rulings it doesn't like, I'm not so positive about the eventual outcome.

Source -  Email Without A Warrant? Senators Not SoldInformation Week

Conflicting Second Screen Reports

  A recent Adobe Systems' Digital Index Report suggests that social and mobile media use is fueling an increase in video consumption.  Enough so that Adobe's launching their own "TV Everywhere" platform.
  Meanwhile, a report from Accenture suggests that using social and mobile media while watching TV was a distraction and hurt TV viewing.  Meanwhile, a study for the Interactive Advertising Bureau suggests that using social media is fairly common - at least if you're watching TV via online streaming. Add to that a study by NPD group finding that almost half of TV viewers with mobile devices have engaged in second-screen activities related to the program they were watching.

  At first glance all these seem contradictory, or at least problematic.  Some of the confusion goes away when you go beyond the headlines to what each of the reports actually looked at.

Adobe's 2012 Digital Index Report is based on a look at Internet analytics of online video starts (excluding User Generated Video), online ads, and Facebook posts, comments, shares, and likes.  Thus it's looking at actual online video use; not media user attitudes, behaviors, or intentions.  What it found was a  rapid growth  in the number of videos accessed, 30 % increase from 2011 to 2012, and 50% from the end of 2010 to the end of 2012.  The increased viewing in the last part of 2012 was driven largely by an expansion in available sports content.  The study also found that viewing on mobile devices tripled in the last year (300% for smartphones, 360% for tablets).  The study also found that the videos watched on smartphones was primarily "content snacking" - short news, weather, and sports clips - and mostly watched outside the home.  In contrast, tablet viewing was for longer periods, and occurred primarily at home.  Video use was heaviest on days with big sporting events. Video social engagement jumped from 42% to 70% over the last year, and by the end of 2012, 77% of viral content were videos.
  In other words, there were a lot more videos available online, people were watching online video more often, and they were including more video (directly or indirectly) in their social media activities.  They were also tailoring their use - linking their viewing behaviors to the relative advantages of particular devices, and to the situational context.  Adobe's conclusions -
  • For adver­tis­ers, tar­geted ad con­tent will become more of a real­ity with large TV pro­gram­mers begin­ning to latch onto the mul­ti­ple dig­i­tal video dis­tri­b­u­tion meth­ods. With mobile devices con­tin­u­ing to shape the way con­sumers respond to media con­tent, the data shows that mul­ti­ple forms of dig­i­tal video access are here to stay and mobile con­tin­ues to be a viable medium for TV and sports related video content.
  • For broad­cast­ers, new plat­forms are pro­vid­ing incre­men­tal value and tar­get­ing capa­bil­i­ties. Early adopters of dig­i­tal video are afflu­ent, engaged, multi-device con­sumer which should spur adver­tis­ers to pay extra to gain access to this crowd. With strictly online media com­pa­nies pro­duc­ing unique con­tent, it may only be a mat­ter of time before all TV pub­lish­ers are want­ing to make more con­tent read­ily avail­able because it is the most ben­e­fi­cial for them and the consumer.
  • For con­sumers, dig­i­tal video leads us to an entirely dif­fer­ent way to con­sume con­tent, where we pay one time for dig­i­tal access to con­tent and are then able to gain access on a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent tech­nol­ogy plat­forms. Chal­lenges still remain before TV Every­where is really every­where, with the major­ity of con­sumers decid­ing to remain with stan­dard TV for broad­cast con­tent. How­ever, the future is bright for tech­nol­ogy already adopted by many large TV and sports broad­cast­ers as a valu­able way to reach a grow­ing mobile con­sumer base with valu­able video content.
 The Accenture Video-Over-Internet Consumer Survey 2012 was based on an global online survey of Internet users, which asked them about their online video use on different display devices.  Based on their survey responses, the report suggests that video over Internet, and particularly video over Broadband, is becoming mainstream - a regular component of people's TV viewing.  In the countries the sample was drawn from, 92% of respondents report watching online video, a huge increase from last year's 77%.  In addition, the study found, as in the Adobe study, that viewing habits are forming in the sense that people are tailoring their viewing to specific devices.
Consumers were more than twice as likely to watch full-length content such as movies and TV series on a connected TV, than they are on their PC. That trend is reversed when it comes to short clips and user-generated content
However, all is not rosy; more than half of respondents found in-program advertising and long load times frustrating.  Almost as many (45%) were concerned about the poor video quality (in terms of resolution) of much online video.  Those concerns are highest among younger users; suggesting that those are things the online video industry needs to address for long-term success.  A good sign for the industry is that 43% of the sample are already paying for at least some online video access. and 69% said they would be willing to pay for high-quality video-on-demand content.  At least if the cost isn't too high - only 10% said they might be willing to pay $10 a month or more for an online video subscription.
  One focus of the study was the exploration of multitasking, particularly while watching TV.  A majority of respondents indicated that they engage in some other media use regularly.  When they do so, it's predominantly online: 62% report using a desktop PC or laptop while watching TV, 41% report using a phone or smartphone, and 11% report using tablets to multitask - while 28% will read a newspaper or book, and 9% will play videogames.  One of the more interesting questions the survey asked was what people were looking for when watching online video.  The most frequently cited purpose was for time-shifting (31%), followed by looking for good programs when there aren't any on regular TV (28%), the ability to build your own viewing schedule (23%), and accessing premium content (18%). 
(W)hen it comes to those who access video over Internet on their TV sets ... the flexibility from video on demand, and in particular catch-up access to a catalogue of recent content, and PVR capabilities (were) important attributes. The appeal of these functions as available over the Internet suggests growing consumer sophistication.
Accessing program-specific apps and social media were not widely cited as motivations.  It's the poor showing of apps and social that have some questioning the prevalence and value of "second-screen" behaviors, as those often focus on using the second screen to expand the "first screen" viewing experience.  In fact, only 14% of respondents indicated that the second screen was used for purposes related to the particular TV program.
  There's another interesting contrast in most preferred features for watching online video on TV sets (connected TVs), and using tablets for watching videos.  Preferred features for connected TVs were being able to access video-on-demand content, accessing recently aired TV programs, PVR functionality, and Web surfing.  Preferred features for tablets were accessing channels not available locally, accessing video-on-demand, the ability to download videos, and accessing regular TV channels.  Backing this up was the finding that, for every country surveyed, there is more use of international online video services than local or national online video services.
  In conclusion the report suggests that
Demand for (online video) services looks set to grow strongly as consumers have already embraced new services with enthusiasm.  The consumer is also prepared to pay. But that willingness is likely to be conditional on having access to specific services on each distinct device that will contribute to their overall video experience. Consumers will not, however, compromise on quality.
  The focus on integrating online video into viewing experience, and quality content and production is supported by a recent report from Gfk for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, which suggests that ads delivered by some types of online video yields virtually the same consumer receptivity rates that are delivered by prime-time TV.  The study focused on consumption of Original Professional Online Video (OPOV), online TV prrogramming, as well as user-generated content (UGC).  The OPOV delivered the highest receptivity for accompanying video ads.
  Users overwhelmingly prefer to watch online video at home (OPOV 89%;UGC 88%; and online TV 93%), and use a range of devices to do so.  Viewers of both types were more likely to use social media while watching TV (OPOV - 41%; UGC 51%) than watching TV programming online (35%).    The finding that almost all online TV viewing is done at home suggests that its becoming part of the fundamental viewing experience - a mechanism for extending time-shifting and catching up with missed episodes and series.

Sources - Mobile, Social Drive Highest Video ConsumptionOnline Media Daily
Adobe launches 'Primetime' TV Everywhere service, points out we're watching a ton more videoVentureBeat.
Tablets Up Rates of TV Multitasking,  OnlineMediaDaily 
Second Screens: Not Always Focused On First-Screen Shows,  TVWatch 
Online Video Rivals TV For Viewers,  OnlineMediaDaily

Baseball goes live - in Europe

The U.S.'s MLB (Major League Baseball) is now streaming two games a day to Europe and other markets.  Just not to the games biggest fan markets (US, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan).
  The games are available through MLB's YouTube channel, which will also have highlight clips from in-season games two days after they're played and a large archive of "Baseball's Best Moments."  MLB's been streaming games live for a while now, but only as part of MLB TV's premium package (available in US for around $130/yr) - the move is part of their effort to expand the sport's fan base into new markets.

Source - MLB starts to stream games live on YouTube... outside of the US and Canada,  GigaOm

Monday, April 29, 2013

Taking Higher Education Online through Audio & Video

Open Culture is an aggregator of free cultural and educational media online resources.  It's got some good resources, like their News and Information Podcast collection, list of 700 free online courses from top universities (only 2 in journalism/media: Journalistic Ethics and Game Design, plus one introduction to copyright that'd be helpful).
  While I'm at it, I'll plug our Tennessee Journalism series of low-cost books and ebooks, with their focus on Journalism education, history, and (as soon as I can get them finished) media business and markets.

Netflix Optimistic about Internet TV

In a recent letter to shareholders, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was optimistic about the future for online video.  His "Top 10" list of reasons Internet TV will continue to boom -
Ten Reasons Internet TV Will Grow from Reed Hastings
1. The Internet will get faster, more reliable and more available
2. Smart TV sales will increase and eventually every TV will have Wifi and apps
3. Smart TV adapters (Roku, AppleTV, etc.) will get less expensive and better
4. Tablet and smartphone viewing will increase
5. Tablets and smartphones will be used as touch interfaces for Internet TV
6. Internet TV apps will rapidly improve through competition and frequent updates
7. Streaming 4k video will happen long before linear TV supports 4k video
8. Internet video advertising will be personalized and relevant
9. TV Everywhere will provide a smooth economic transition for existing networks
10. New entrants like Netflix are innovating rapidly.
Source -  10 Reasons Internet TV Will Grow,  AppNewser

Downgrading 2013 Ad Outlook

Two of the top industry analysts have had to issue revised forecasts for 2013 as revenues, based on the year's slow start.  Publicis' ZenithOptimedia dropped its forecast for global ad revenue growth to 3.9% (down 5%), and US ad growth to 3.4% (down 3%).  Pivotal Research Group wasn't as optimistic, lowering its US ad growth rate to 1.2% this year.

The Zenith Optimedia report projected that global online ad revenues will continue its hot pace, growing 14% annually through 2015.
“Some broadcasters are starting to trade packages that include both online video and television spots,” (Publicis' Jonathan Barnard said), adding: “Advertisers are now recognizing the value of social media for brand building and purchase consideration purposes.”
Pivotal Research Group also forecast that digital will continue to grow faster than analog. Analyst Brian Wieser noted that growth is being driven by new brands seeking to differentiate themselves from competitors:
"(Those) advertisers can and will allocate significant shares of their budgets to digital advertising, as this has become the dominant ‘engagement’ medium for most advertisers, effectively replacing the role that print-based advertising served for so many years.”
Still, TV advertising dominates, although experiencing some shifts among subsectors -
“Cable will probably gain share of national TV budgets at a slightly faster pace in 2013 than occurred last year,” (Wieser) writes, adding: “On this basis, we forecast cable advertising growing by 5%, with broadcast networks down by 2% for all of 2013.”

Source -   Forecasters Downgrade 2013 Ad Outlook: Remain Bullish On Future, Especially For Digital, TV,  MediaDailyNews

Newspaper Reporter - 2013's Worst Job?

The annual Jobs Ratedreport from Career Cast is out.
The best job - actuary.  The top twenty are notable as all requiring math, engineering, biomedical/health, or advanced degrees.
The worst job - Newspaper Reporter.  And it's the only one in the bottom 10 that expects a college and/or graduate degree.  It's a career with a negative job growth rate (-6%), and where half of full-time reporters earn $36,000/yr or less.
Ever-shrinking newsrooms, dwindling budgets and competition from Internet businesses have created very difficult conditions for newspaper reporters.
Consumers can access online news outlets almost anywhere thanks to technological advancements, which are threatening the existence of traditional print newspapers. As a result, the number of reporter jobs is projected to fall 6% by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), while average pay is expected to continue its decline.
And its not only the decline in available jobs and the low pay.  Much of the industry's job losses have been in the bigger papers - severely limiting opportunities for career advancement.  In addition, it's also a high-stress career, with tight deadlines and the need to work in all conditions.
"I covered crime, so when breaking news happened, I had to be there. And when editors called at night with questions, I had to take the calls," says Rochelle Gilken (who traded her job as reporter for a position in media relations for a local utility).
Lest you think that Career Cast's rating is a fluke, Kiplinger listed three news-related jobs among its "Ten Worst Jobs for the Future": Printing Press Operator (10-year job growth -16%); Desktop Publisher (Job growth -15%); Journalism Reporter (Job Growth -7%).  For reporters, they recommend possible alternative careers in public relations (more demand, higher salaries, better hours) or broadcast news analyst (better pay and projected 10-year job growth is +10%).
  The Jobs Rated report does have other media related jobs among the 200 they related.
  • Web Developer comes in at #24.
  • Technical Writer, #60
  • Film/Video Editor, #138
  • Author (fiction or non-fiction). #156
  • Publication Editor, #168
  • Photographer, #172
  • Broadcaster, #184
  • Photojournalist, #188

Slate's Will Oremus puts an interesting spin on the situation:
The only thing I can say in defense of my beleaguered profession is that, for a certain sort of person—a cynical yet stubbornly idealistic person who holds facts dear and simply can’t abide bullshit—all the trade-offs can be worth it, at least until the bills pile up so high that it’s no longer tenable.

Sources -  Newspaper Reporter Beats Out Lumberjack, Soldier as "Worst Job of 2013",  Slate
Jobs Rated 2013: Raaking 200 Jobs From Best to Worst, Career Cast
10 of the Worst Jobs for the Future, Kiplinger

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

AP Twitter Feed Hacked

You've probably heard about this already, but yesterday the AP's Twitter feed was hacked, and used to send out a bulletin that the White House had been bombed and President Obama injured.  Despite AP's quick reaction and suspension of its account, the hacker's message was retweeted thousands of times within the next few minutes to significant effect.  There was panicked selling in stock markets, in one highly visible impact.  Coming on the heels of last weekend's hacking of multiple CBS News Twitter accounts, it's renewed calls for better login security at Twitter.
  The same group is claiming credit for both hacks, although the AP hack message mirrored AP style, while the CBS hack posts were more clearly political.  A later AP story indicated that the intrusion was more the result of a phishing expedition aimed at AP corporate accounts.  Phishing emails often use real graphics and look-alike account names to trick recipients to going to a faked login page and re-enter login names and passwords.  Hackers then use the real account info to gain entry into the service.
  Computer security experts are suggesting that Twitter add what's called two-factor authentication, where there is a second step when logins are attempted from a new device.  In addition, they're suggesting that Twitter add a function that would allow for corrections to be attached to the original tweet - for now the only option for a hacked account is to suspend the account and create a new password, and hope that word of the false tweet gets the same exposure.  While Twitter policy is to not comment on specific accounts or actions, Forbes reports that a scan of recent Twitter job listings suggests they're looking for people with the necessary skills to improve security.

Source -  AP Hack Highlights Two Crucial Features Twitter NeedsForbes

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Digital Now 25% of Ad Revenues

The advertising marketplace continues to evolve, according to a new study that examined actual expenditures from some of the world's largest advertising holding companies.   The new measures, from Standard Media Index, is claimed to be the most accurate view of actual media spending.
“Television spend continues to slow -- at a rate of -2% during the first quarter of 2013 -- driven by March’s year-over-year decline of 5%,”explains SMI analyst Kristina Luland.
TV, despite the weak performance, remains the largest target of ad dollars, accounting for 60.3% of all ad expenditures.  Within that sector, ad revenues fell 6.2% for broadcast networks, while ad revenues for cable networks rose 1%, making cable networks the largest contributor to total TV revenues at 25.6%.
  In contrast, ad expenditures for digital media were up 15% over the last year and now accounts for 24.6% of the advertising marketplace.  In fact, every segment of the digital ad market saw double-digit growth in ad revenues, led by mobile (up 92%) and exchange-based ad buys (up 46%).

Source -  Digital Now 25 Cents Of Every Ad Dollar: Display, Search Still DominateOnlineMediaDaily

Hyperlocalism & Mobile

A UK study sponsored by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) found that demand for hyperlocal content in being driven by the growing penetration of mobile devices.
"Both the reach and the consumption of hyperlocal content has been accelerated by smartphones," Jon Kingsbury, Nesta's programme director for creative economy. "And of course smart phones know where you are, so we think that offers a huge potential to hyperlocal publishers to make opportunities out of the fact that GPS-enabled devices might be a way of helping people find their content."
The study is part of an effort to support the growth of hyperlocal content and media, particularly in the areas of news and public information.
Hyperlocal Media are Used.  The survey found that two-thirds of adults in the UK expressed an interest in news and information about "the immediate area in which they currently live."  More than half (53%) of Internet users report having accessed hyperlocal media at some point.  Among those who indicated that they had used some or all of the hyperlocal media sites listed, roughly one-third indicated daily use, and another third reported weekly use.  Interestingly, 8% reported using hyperlocal media to get information about areas where they used to live.

Mobile Devices and Hyperlocal Interest.  Interest in, and use of, hyperlocal media was highest among owners of connected mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets).  People who own smartphones and tablets are the most likely to indicate using hyperlocal on a daily basis.  More than half (55%) of those reporting using hyperlocal media more often now than they did two years ago indicate that their increased use was driven by getting a smartphone and/or tablet.  More than a quarter (28%) of hyperlocal media users reported that they have used apps to access hyperlocal content.
Sources for Hyperlocal Content.  More than half of hyperlocal media users report using search engines to find and access hyperlocal content.  About a quarter cite using websites or apps of local media (in the UK that means newspapers and magazines), and 30% go to websites created by local governments and agencies.  The study found that, at least for now, there was little use of specialized stand-alone providers.  Only 17% report using social media for hyperlocal content, and they use it primarily for timely information - weather, sports scores, etc..
Hyperlocal Content Drivers.  Hyperlocal media use seems to be predominantly driven by functional needs for localized information.  Half of users report getting local weather information, 41% are seeking local breaking news, almost a third (32%) are seeking local entertainment information or info on local bars, restaurants, and clubs (29%), and more than a quarter  (27%) use it for information on community events.  Convenience (59%) and free cost (45%) are also important factors - and a third indicate that they think hyperlocal media are more up-to-date, accurate, reliable, and comprehensive than other media outlets.  Respondents also indicated that while hyperlocal media kept them informed about their neighborhood, it was much less likely to motivate involvement (doesn't increase their influence or help develop new friendships).
Demographics.  There are age and income differences in hyperlocal media users.  Those in the 35-54 age group are the most likely to be hyperlocal users.  There are also significant differences among age groups, and between rural and urban residents, in terms of the types of hyperlocal information sought.
"The other thing that really came out in the research is that people expect traditional media brands to provide very very local content. When we asked them where they would look for very very local content they were much more likely to look to existing or traditional brands, like broadcasters and traditional local newspapers, than they were to hyperlocal blogs."

Sources -  Study: Hyperlocal demand driven by mobile devices,  Journalism.co.uk
UK Demand for Hyperlocal Media Research Report, Nesta research report

edit: added labels

Monday, April 22, 2013

CBS Twitter feeds Hacked

CBS has acknowledged that the Twitter feeds for 60 Minutes, 48 Hours, CBS Denver, and its main account were hacked over the weekend.  As a result, the accounts were suspended on Saturday night.
Earlier in the day tweets coming from the 60 Minutes account seemed farfetched, including one that claimed the US government was "hiding the real culprit of the Boston bombing."
Other Tweets contained links to virus-laden sites, and rants about government conspiracies and treatment of Syria.  The Syrian Electronic Army claimed credit; previously they have claimed credit for the hacking of Twitter accounts at the BBC, NPR, Reuters, several radio & TV stations, and the NGO Human Rights Watch.

Sources -  CBS Twitter Feeds Are Compromised,  TVNewsCheck
Syrian Electronic Army claims credit for CBS Twitter accounts hack,  SlashGear.com

Announcing the iBeetle

I'm not sure how to think about this - whether its a neat device (cool toy), and example of extreme convergence, or just great branding.

Apple and Volkswagen are collaborating on the creation of the iBeetle, a new model line that will debut at the Shanghai Auto Show this week.  Offered in both classic coupe and convertible models, the car will use a iOS-based interface and incorporate an iPhone docking station on the dashboard.

Once the iPhone is attached, drivers can access a special iBeetle application that bundles a number of specialized apps.  Among those announced are Spotify, Reader (text-to-voice for social media), Expert (taps into the car's diagnostics), Trainer (tracks driving times, distances, and gas mileage) and Postcard (sends location to selected contacts).
  The iBeetle will also use iPhone color schemes.  It's scheduled to go on sale in 2014.

This isn't Apple's first foray into auto operating systems.  Last year GM licensed Apple's Siri voice assistant system for the Chevrolet MyLink in-car information system.

Source - Apple, Volkswagen team on iOS-integrated iBeetle,  FierceMobileContent

More Music News

The latest NPD Group Annual Music Study is revealing big gains for Amazon's online music unit, with its share of the market up about 50% in the last year, to 22% of the market.  Apple's iTunes store still dominates the market with 63% of sales, but is finding it's share falling in the face of increased competition.  Analysts attribute much of Amazon's gain to the introduction of its Fire tablets (which offers an easy interface for users), and its aggressive pricing strategy (with special limited-time free, or heavily discounted, bargains).  I'd add Amazon's DRM-free approach (which Apple's had to adopt), it's Cloud streaming apps, and it's recent offer of free digital versions of CDs that had been bought through Amazon.  They've been making some smart moves at Amazon.

In other news, Spotify recently announced plans to expand into Asia, Latin America, and Northern Europe - a move that will advance the current global shift to digital music (and licensing for streaming services as a major revenue source for music labels).  Spotify currently operates in 28 countries, and claims 24 million "active" users (those using it in the last 30 days) and 6 million paying subscribers for its upgraded services.
"We're taking our first steps in Latin America with Mexico, and Asia with Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore," the company said on its blog page on Tuesday. "Plus we're thrilled to make new friends in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland."
Spotify is currently trailing Pandora in reach and use.  Pandora currently claims around 70 million users.  Both are taking advantage of the booming smartphone market, and research that indicates that half of smartphone users listen to music on their devices.

Sources -  Amazon gains against Apple's iTunes in music downloads,  CEN-Web
Music streamer Spotify to expand into Asia, Latam, North Europe,  CEN-Web

Twitter Adds Music

Last week, Twitter announced a new stand-alone music streaming app, called #music.  The iPhone app will recommend and stream songs based on who users follow, as well as artists' recommendations.
 In a blog post, Twitter's engineers said the new service "uses Twitter activity, including Tweets and engagement, to detect and surface the most popular tracks and emerging artists... It also brings artists' music-related Twitter activity front and center: go to their profiles to see which music artists they follow and listen to songs by those artists."
The actual songs will come from subscription streamers Rdio and Spotify, as well as Apple's iTunes store.   The service is currently available in the U.S., Canada, the U.K, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.  No release date was provided for a native Android version of the app.

#music comes online four months after the launch of Twitter's video-sharing app, Vine, and is seen as part of Twitter's goal of becoming a multimedia hub for younger users.

Source -  Twitter launches music app to deepen multimedia offering, TheUSDaily

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Movies Drop Film for Distribution; Farewell, Drive-Ins

You knew it was coming eventually. Media content is increasingly created and distributed digitally, and the economics of distributing and displaying movies on film are extremely expensive.  It was only a matter of waiting for projection and display technology to get to the point where it could replace standard 35mm film in terms of display quality and cost.
  Making a copy of a movie for theatrical display is very expensive.  A single print copy costs around $2000, and transport to and from the theater can add hundreds more.  If the film is successful, prints often need replacing every few weeks as they can be damaged in the projector (scratches, breaks, burns, etc.)  Wide release of major movies can easily rack up millions of dollars in distribution costs.  In contrast, digital copies are perfect and not damaged by display, and online digital distribution costs can be miniscule - even distribution by physical media would likely run well under $100 per copy.
  The focus on digital image has also led to cinema sound upping its game, and there has been a shake-up in this sector in the last year. Immersive or 3D sound is now a reality, with competition between companies and technologies fuelling an exciting sea change in cinema sound systems after two decades of relative stability
  We're at the point now where digital projectors can match or exceed 35 millimeter film projector quality, and at a cost similar to a new commercial 35-millimeter projector ($50-75 thousand).  A typical full digital conversion (digital projected and digital audio conversion for the improved surround sound standards) costs about $65-75 thousand.  At that price, major chains and theater groups have been adding digital projection systems to their projection booths over the last few years, and phasing out the old film projectors as movie distributors started offering digital distribution options.  By the end of 2012, about three-quarters of all movie screens around the world were equipped for digital display.  And about half of those can also display 3-D digital films.  In January, 2012, more movies were distributed and displayed digitally than were done via 35 millimeter filmstock.

  So now it's official - the major U.S. studios have announced that they will go all-digital for distribution by the end of the year.  Distribution on film won't even be offered as an expensive option.
"It’s hard to put so many decades of change in perspective,” said Kurt Wanamaker, a local theater historian. “It is like the transition of audio from tape to CDs to digital. People want better sound and better picture. It’s forced evolution.
"In my lifetime, theaters have moved from showing three or four movies in one showing, to elaborate digital sound from every corner,” Wanamaker said. “Everything is constantly changing and evolving and consumers are demanding the latest technology.”

  Which leaves those small theaters who have yet to convert in a tough position.  Many, including the lion's share of older rural town theaters and drive-in movie theaters, are locally owned and don't generate the revenues needed to finance converting to digital.  A story in the L.A. Times estimated that 90% of the remaining 368 drive-ins haven't converted; mostly because they couldn't afford to.  That's led some communities and aficionados to launch fundraising drives to help local theaters and drive-ins make the transition.  Some have been successful, but many haven't been.

  But perhaps the biggest question in the shift to digital cinema is this:
Can we still call them films?

Sources -  Coming Soon: The Summer When You're Expected to Save Drive-in Movie TheatersTime
Requiem for a Medium,  CityPulse
The King is dead, long live the King! The digital revolution brings exciting opportunities, Film Journal

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dish Makes Bid for Sprint

Dish Network has put forward a bid to acquire Sprint Nextel for $25.5 billion, providing them entry into telecommunications markets - and mobile broadband in particular.  It also provides the potential to offer the combination of multichannel TV, broadband data, and mobile services that competitors AT&T and Verizon provides. 
  Dish, and fellow DBS operator DirecTV, have largely been limited to providing TV service in an increasingly converged digital marketplace.  They've made deals with other telecomm operators to offer bundled service packages in competition with cable and cable telco operators, but these efforts have become problematic as partners have increasingly turned into competitors.  Analysts suggest that the acquisition of Sprint would provide Dish with their own telecomm service, significantly grow their ability to provide digital bandwidth in package deals, and provide new business opportunities to create systems that could give consumers access to media, content, and communication services across a number of devices.  And placing them in a better competitive position with rivals AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.

Consumers would be happy with the Sprint purchase, says Dish. "Someone who gives you more than 2 [gigabytes] for the same money, that's attractive," said Thomas Cullen, Dish executive vp of corporate development of Dish. "Nobody is going to have a bigger pipe than Dish-Sprint." The proposed deal could give customers 50 gigabytes.
The deal would also provide Dish with additional leverage over TV content providers, and position it for future growth.
Specifically Dish would gain in the one area many media executives -- traditional, digital, and otherwise -- know is coming: an aggressive rise of all media on mobile platforms.
In addition, rumors are starting to spread about a possible deal between Dish, with its Hopper service, and broadcast redistributor Aereo (as if the traditional TV networks and content producers weren't already fretting about those technologies and services).  It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out.

Source -  Dish Looks To Give More To Consumers - And Perhaps Rankle TV Nets, TooTVWatch

The Coming TV Revolution: Can Over-the-Air Free Broadcasting survive?

A number of trends are coming to a head - and may quickly and radically transform the TV (and other video media) landscape

  Broadcast TV has remained the primary force and driver throughout myriad technological advances - coax birthing cable; VCRs facilitating time-shifting and opening new choices for viewing; satellites transforming signal distribution and leading to an explosion of networks; computer gaming providing an alternative use for TV sets; digital networks & the Web opening the market (especially at broadband speeds); mobile and the "TV Everywhere" potential; social media prompting new levels of engagement; among others.  All these have opened the market to competition, and the explosion of choice has led to shrinking audiences and falling revenues - even with TV ad spot prices increasing.
  Still, the big networks remained the top draws in programming, grabbed the lion's share of national ad revenues, and remained, through its public broadcast outlets, more or less universally accessible.

  That's starting to change.  The audience share for the Big 4 broadcast networks has been falling for almost a half century.  This winter saw one of the Big 4 networks' entire schedule outperformed by Spanish-language broadcaster Univision in the key 18-49 demographic.  In the Winter sweeps, a cable show (A&E's Walking Dead) outperformed every broadcast network regular scripted series program.  If you exclude big sporting events and reality programs, most of the Big 4's current prime time schedule was outperformed by cable TV reality programs (Duck Dynasty, Swamp People) and WWE Pro Wrestling.  That's not a position of strength in the market.

  And then there's the impacts of DVRs and other viewing alternatives. This last ratings year is seeing most scripted programs experiencing significant time-shifting - from 15% to as high as 50% of a shows audience coming from time-shifting - whether through DVR replay, access through Video on Demand offerings, or streamed from network online sites. The shift isn't stopping with broadcasting either; recent studies show that more people are watching Nickelodeon's programming via NetFlix streaming than are watching the network itself.  TV viewing habits seem to be changing.
  Alternative viewing creates problems for an industry dependent on advertising - particularly when a sizable portion of value comes from being able to target times and specific audiences.  One problem is counting those who delay viewing.  That problem's been around since VCRs, although it's really grown significant only recently.  Nielsen's tried to keep pace by developing multiple ratings measures - the original live viewing ratings while introducing new ratings measures that also include delayed viewing within various time-frames.  However, the industry hasn't settled on how to best capture online streamed viewing, so much of that remains unmeasured.  Even with better measures of delayed viewing, much of it occurs through devices that allow users to fast forward through ads or skip them entirely; and VOD and streaming services don't necessarily include the same ads as aired in the original broadcast.  As such, the expanded ratings may capture the additional program viewing, but aren't really helpful in measuring advertising's reach, or adding value to the live ad spots.
  Then there's cord-cutting and the zero-TV homes.  Those terms address different impacts of the rise of online video streaming.  "Cord-cutting" refers to the growing phenomenon of people dropping some or all of their multichannel feeds and relying on a combination of over-the-air broadcasting and online streaming to provide their TV content.  Research suggests around 1 in 10 multichannel subscribers have dropped some or all of their multichannel service (the vast majority dropped pay or more costly advanced tiers while keeping basic service), with another 5-10% considering the move.  While cord-cutting may become a significant problem for those services that are dropped, you would think that it would help broadcasters as the primary source of live TV.  "Zero-TV" homes take things a step further; the term doesn't refer to those without a TV set and who never watch - rather it refers to those who get their TV and video content entirely from non-traditional TV channels.  Primarily from online streaming, online downloads, and recorded home videos (movies and TV programs).  While initially only a small portion of the U.S. TV audience, Nielsen recently announced that it will start including those households in their sampling, and will eventually integrate their viewing into its TV ratings system.  Initial studies suggest as many as 5 million USTV homes fall into the "Zero-TV" category.
  Declining audiences are also evident in drop-offs in advertising revenues.  TV's aggregate share (broadcast and cable) of national ad dollars has fallen below those for online advertising.  Advertising revenues for cable networks surpassed those for broadcast networks a couple of years ago.  At best, TV ad revenues have diminished long term potential.  TV ad revenues, like all advertising media, took a hit in the recent recession, and growth rates have slowed behind other advertising outlets, resulting in a shrinking share of volatile advertising dollars.  TV businesses, like newspapers and cable firms before them, are seeking new revenue streams.
  One potential new revenue source is licensing.  The jump in retransmission fees in the latest round of negotiations, the success of cable and DBS in getting consumers to pay for TV, and the more recent success of online streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, have amply demonstrated the potential value of licensing as a revenue source.  TV and video firms are starting to look in that direction for revenues to replace advertising losses.  In fact, broadcast networks are already scrambling to grab a share of retransmission fees from local broadcasters, creating problems for many local stations.

All of this helps set the stage for the major networks knee-jerk reaction to two innovations fostering the "TV Everywhere" concept: Dish's Hopper with Slingbox, and Aereo.

  Dish's Hopper started as a DVR-type service with two particular twists: it would automatically record every network prime-time program, instead of only those selected by the viewer; and it included technology that allowed viewers to skip all commercials during replay.  To handle the volume of the entire prime-time schedule, much of the program storage would be in Dish's cloud rather than in the subscriber's set-top box.  These factors were enough to get most of the major broadcast firms to challenge Dish in court, trying to prevent its implementation.  Then came another innovation when Dish announced the integration of Slingbox technology, which allows viewers to stream content received at home to Internet-connected devices anywhere.
  With the first announcement of the Hopper service, major networks sought to challenge the legality of the service and technology, largely on copyright and intellectual property grounds, and seeking an injunction that would prevent Dish from implementing and offering the service.  In particular, CBS, and its CEO Les Moonves, not only reacted negatively, but badly.  After the Dish Hopper with Slingbox was voted "Best of Show" at the last CES (Consumer Electronics Show) by C/Net (owned by CBS) editors, Moonves' office ordered them to remove the device from consideration, and to not report any more news or information about the technology or service.  (This was after promising C/Net complete editorial autonomy).  Moonves also threatened to pull CBS off the Dish DBS system if they didn't stop promoting the commercial skip function.  (Revealing also his ignorance of DBS operations and rules: first, Dish doesn't carry the network, they carry local broadcast stations which are CBS affiliates and FCC rules prohibit network interference with local station operations; second, unlike cable, local station carriage rules state that if a satellite service carries any local station, it must carry all local stations in that market.)

  Aereo's technology allows users to access local broadcast signals through the Internet.  It's primarily a place-shifting technology (like Slingbox), rather than a time-shifting technology (DVR, Hopper).  As such, it's impact is to expand the potential audience for local broadcasters, so it's less clear why broadcast networks and station groups would be in opposition to a technology that would only expand their reach and their audiences for advertisers.  Still, a number have joined forces to file a lawsuit aimed at prohibiting the service, again mostly on copyright grounds. (I've speculated it's just because they want to grab a share of Aereo's subscription fees).  A number of the broadcast networks, Fox publicly, have threatened to pull their programming from over-the-air distribution if Aereo and similar "TV Everywhere" technologies are allowed to continue.

  The central question in the two lawsuits is whether the services fall under the guidelines established in the 1984 Betamax case.  In that landmark case, the Court ruled that technologies that technically could be used for copyright violations were legal if they also had substantial non-infringing uses (primarily under "fair use" exemptions).  Among the specific qualifying "fair" uses were time-shifting and/or place-shifting legally acquired content for private use - key features of the challenged services.  Initial rulings in the two cases with respect to seeking preliminary injunctions to ban the services while the case was in progress went against the network/broadcaster groups.  Both judges found that the services had viable "fair use" arguments that would need to be addressed more fully in court, and thus denied the petition for a preliminary injunction.  A Fox spokesman went a bit overboard reacting to one of the rulings:
"the court has ruled that it is OK to steal copyrighted material and retransmit it without compensation."

  This has resulted in an interesting dynamic - Hopper's commercial skipping currently only applies to the the broadcast networks' prime time recordings, and Aereo only redistributes over-the-air broadcast signals.  In other words, those technologies pose issues only for broadcasters. Thus, the renewed interest in "going cable."  It's not a totally new idea for the networks - as early as the 1990s networks looked at cable network licensing fees and thought about grabbing a share of that revenue stream.
  However, it would only work if they abandoned over-the-air broadcasting fully, which would have serious impacts on their own advertising revenues (resulting from the reduced reach and audiences) and the profits from their owned-and-operated local stations (which typically cover losses from network operations). Multichannel coverage has expanded to around 90%, which can qualify as "national" coverage, but there's also the question of whether multichannel operators, and viewers, would be interested in paying for programming that has been proudly touted as free throughout its history (particularly at the price the broadcast networks think they're worth (which is in the range of $10-25 dollars per subscriber per month). 
  Frankly, if they can't draw significant audiences for "free" content, it's not clear why viewers would be willing to pay heavily for it.  Even if the broadcast networks settle for an additional $50 per month per subscriber (for the Big 4 broadcast networks), that would be a huge jump in cost for multichannel subscribers.  It seems likely that a lot more people will drop those channels or services (if possible) with such a price hike.  Multichannel distributors are already moving sports channels into separate tiers (with much smaller reach) in response to concerns over $5-10 monthly subscription increases driven by skyrocketing sports licensing fees.  These jumps are also fueling talk about implementing "a la carte" pricing models (where subscribers pay only for pre-selected channels).  Big price increases would clearly drive demand down (shrinking potential audience), and economic research on "a la carte" also suggests "a la carte" pricing results in huge declines in demand, and thus audiences. And further significant drops in audience would clearly result in sizable drops in advertising value and revenues.
  The move would also significantly impact local broadcasting, removing a large amount of a station's most popular programming, which would also have to be replaced.  Studies suggest that losing a network affiliation can cost a broadcast station as much as 75% of its value, and could result in half to two-thirds of local TV broadcasters running significant losses and most likely ceasing operations.  Including those owned and operated by the networks parent companies.  Are those companies willing to write off some of their most profitable assets in the hope that they can pull big bucks as a cable network? 
  Then consider the PR nightmare of viewers facing price jumps of $50 or higher a month, just to access what they've always been told is "free TV".  And then consider how Congress and the FCC would react to something that would significantly damage (and possibly kill off) free over-the-air broadcasting). 
  The reaction really seems overblown, particularly when considering that the actual economic impact of these new technologies and services is likely to be minimal.  Sure, commercial-skipping may reduces the value of ad spots, but those aren't being counted now anyway.  In addition, keeping programming accessible longer, and available over more devices in more places actually increases the potential for viewing. The net impact of these technologies on the financial bottom line is likely to be minimal.

Source -  Tech upstarts threaten TV broadcast modelIT Business Net

Edits - had to clean up some language and missing phrases. Added a la carte issue

Monday, April 15, 2013

Paywalls - Private Boom, Public Bust

A large-scale global survey of "high-end decision makers" suggests the end of the open Web will come quickly.  The survey, from pricing consultant Simon-Kucher & Partners, found that the content executives expected that 90% of online content was likely to be behind a paywall within three years.  Two-thirds of media companies indicated that they expected to introduce fees for most of their online content within the next few years.  A quarter of media companies indicated that the move would significantly increase their profit margins at the expense of the public.

Paywalls, by imposing costs, deflate demand.  Even if we're talking online about commercially produced content, restricting access will have a meaningful detrimental impact on access to, and use of, content.  That not only impacts the media companies that create and/or distribute content, but impacts individuals, society, and the public sphere as well.  In an increasingly information-driven economy and society, restricting access to information (or even information about information) is not in the public interest.  And the impact of paywalls would be significantly more problematic when thinking about journalism, science, educational and cultural content.  And if the fees are high enough, that will encourage individuals to shift their focus to the 10% that will likely remain free - the propaganda and unchecked and unfiltered content that critics already rail against.  Shifting almost all content behind paywalls will also create a new digital divide - this one expressly between the rich and the poor.  It also won't make advertisers in paywalled media happy.
   If the Web had grown up behind paywalls, users may be more accepting of fees - but we've had generations used to free content, and they're likely to resist being asked to pay for things they're used to getting for free.  The 'free for all" culture has already contributed to the rise of political movements in some European countries.  Pushing a new digital divide for higher profits isn't likely to be widely welcomed.

Source -  90% of online content to be held behind paywalls in three years media company survey suggestsThe Drum

Ad "Upfronts" for Online News

TV in the U.S. has had "upfronts" - where networks host previews of upcoming seasons for big advertisers, agencies, and news media, and start advance selling of premium ad spots - for decades.
The Interactive Advertising Bureau now hosts Digital Content Newfronts - an upfront event showcasing online content and advertising opportunities.
  The initial reaction was skeptical - after all there's no scarcity in the display ads market.  However, the last year or so has seen the growth of high-quality video ads, sponsorship opportunities for high-profile sites and content.  More importantly, audience research is showing that online video ads and exclusive sponsorships can have significant impacts - in fact, they may just be more valuable than many traditional media opportunities.  Add to that the fact that the TV and cable networks keep hiking rates even as viewing falls, and we're starting to see advertisers thinking about other outlets.
"The only way to reverse that trend is think about video in a different way and move dollars across screens," said Universal McCann Chief Media Officer David Cohen. "Is this the year we see a billion moving into the (online ad) market? Could be."
With premium online opportunities limited, the Newfronts are getting interest and involvement from top content producers and advertisers and agencies - and opening the events to a range of online advertising formats.  The events are also producing deals - deals totally in the hundreds of millions (US dollars) were reportedly made at this year's Newfronts - a sizable share of an online advertising market expected to exceed $1 billion.
YouTube sales chief Suzie Reider said it's important to present an organized, united front to the buying community. "This is about "We've grown up,'" she said. "We're not a ragtag group of digital sites."

Source -  Digital Newfronts Poised to Rake in $1 Billion in Ad DealsAdvertising Age

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mobile Ad Spending Doubles in UK

Analysts predicted that mobile-directed advertising expenditures would increase as penetration of smartphones and tablets continued, and 4G cellular service - with its high-speed broadband data connections - was implemented.  What they didn't expect was the pace of the increase.  A new report by PwC for the UK Internet Advertising Bureau indicates that mobile ad revenues increased 148% in 2012.
  The report indicates that online advertising by UK firms increased 12.5% last year, to £5.42bn.  Mobile ads were first separated out in 2009, and accounted for about 1% of online advertising at that time.  In 2012, mobile ad revenues accounted for nearly 10% of all online ad expenditures.
"In the last 6 months, 20 more of the UK's top 100 advertisers have produced mobile-optimised websites; 4G mobile ultra-broadband is enabling a new era of richer content consumption with tablets predicted to outsell PCs in 2013," (Internet Advertising Bureau Research & Strategy director Tim) Elkington said.
In 2012, mobile video ads brought in £13 million, and mobile display contributed £150 million.  Overall, however, the display ad share of digital advertising revenues fell to 24% - and analysts suggest display's share will continue to fall as advertisers start taking advantage of rich media, interactivity, and targeting:
PwC Senior Manager Anna Bartz said the advertising market is shifting toward story telling and integrated campaigns which give greater prominence to video and display formats with a higher degree of interactivity with the target audience.  "Over the past two years, the digital advertising revenue model has also changed from an emphasis on direct response to being more about branding and awareness."
   It's good to see the advertising industry starting to take advantage of the new opportunities that the Internet, social media, and mobile systems provide.

Source -  UK mobile ad spending more than doubles in 2012: report, CBR


Google Targets Austin; AT&T too

With plenty of fanfare, Google announced that Austin, TX will be the next test market for its Gigabit data/video network.  Google indicated that it hoped that it will be providing its Gigabit network to consumers starting in 2014.  Google's already built a Gigabit network in Kansas City, offering data speeds three times faster than its nearest major competitor (Verizon) offers in a few markets, and thirteen times faster than AT&T's current fastest standard offering.
   AT&T, who currently provides its U-Verse data/video service in Austin, responded by committing to upgrading their network to Gigabit speeds, as part of their Project VIP broadband expansion efforts - if it can get the same terms and conditions from local authorities that they will offer Google. 
"AT&T is making the point that they could make a lot more investments in many of their communities, absent the regulatory burdens which every community puts on providers," said Raymond James analyst Frank Louthan.
City officials indicated that Google wasn't getting the kinds of special deals in Austin that they had negotiated in Kansas City.  The only Austin "deals" that have been made public call for Google to connect some 100 public facilities to the Gigabit network, as well as offer free low bandwidth (5 Mbs) Internet service (for at least seven years) to anyone paying a one-time construction/connection fee (the amount for Austin residents was yet to be determined, but was $300 in Kansas City).
  There are two other Gigabit speed networks currently providing residential service in the US - one in Chattanooga, TN, the other in the San Francisco Bay area - but those are significantly more expensive (around $250-300 a month, without digital video) than Google's KC rates ($120 a month).  And if AT&T and Verizon start building competitive Gigabit networks, the competition should help keep prices low.

Source -  Google, AT&T target Austin for high-speed internet,  TelecommEngine.com

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Power of Pictures

I've just run across a post - 20 Photos That Change The Holocaust Narrative - that reminded me of the power of good photojournalism.

 The post collects some photos from the late 1930s through the 1980s to illustrate that the story of the Holocaust is more than just the horror of the camps.
(T)here are other images. Images that show a more subtle, more true, story. A story that shows our inner power, our inner turmoil in dealing with a situation we cannot comprehend, our attempts to gain justice, and our final steps into moving above and beyond our past and into a new future.
There are pictures of opposition, of survival and liberation, and the building of new lives.  It's definitely worth a look.

(Shabbat service after the liberation of Buchenwald)

I do have one quibble, with the header.  I don't think that it changes the narrative as much as it expands it - into the contrast of the horror of the Nazi oppression and the strength, spirit, will, and ultimately triumph of those oppressed.

This picture captures the actions of a woman Holocaust survivor, attacking a neo-Nazi skinhead during a 1985 skinhead demonstration march in Sweden.
  Moments later, thousands of other townfolk joined her, chasing the skinheads into the train station toilets (where they were rescued by police)

Source -  20 Photos That Change The Holocaust Narrative,  PopChassID

edit- fixed some spacing issues

The State of US Newspapers, Part 2

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has released its annual report, which provides some details on the state of the US newspaper industry beyond what appeared in the Pew overview report on news media that served as the basis for the previous post.

  The NAA report is a bit more dismal - once correcting for inflation, it notes that newspaper print advertising revenues were lower than any point since the NAA started collecting data in 1950.  As for the more recent trend, print ad revenues in constant dollars fell by nearly 50% in the last four years, and 66% in the last decade.  Even when adding in online ad revenues, earnings from advertising were at the lowest level since 1953.  In terms of total newspaper revenues, digital advertising's share went from 10% in 2011 to 11% in 2012, and circulation revenues' share increased from 26% in 2011 to 27% in 2012.

The NAA report noted that newspapers are starting to exploit a number of supplemental revenue streams:
  • Digital agency and marketing - helping local businesses with digital (including social and mobile) marketing efforts
  • E-commerce and transactions (for themselves, and/or through using their platforms to let local advertisers connect directly with customers)
  • Event marketing - producing events tied to coverage areas as another way of getting information to audiences
  • Commercial delivery of non-newspaper products (fliers, phone books, etc.)
  • Commercial printing revenue - using presses when idle for other print jobs.
 The list is by no means comprehensive - newspapers are continuing to experiment with a number of other potential business activities.  In particular, the current efforts at establishing copyright protections, and copyright enforcement, may signal efforts to increase licensing and royalty revenues.

  NAA data on readership notes that total weekly audience (read a paper or accessed online news at least once a week) fell 2% in 2012.  The NAA has also released a more comprehensive readership study using a non-random sample (which limits generalizability).  Their study confirmed that older, more educated, and wealthier individuals are more likely to be newspaper readers.  It also found that the only areas where readership experienced gains in recent years was among social media and mobile users.  Mobile users in particular might help readership numbers - the study found that 17% of mobile users reported that they only accessed newspaper content through mobile devices - accounting for 4% of "weekly readers."

  The report notes, though, that social media and mobile are delivery mechanisms, and for the most part are not direct news content creators - and as such, the continued diffusion of social and mobile media, and growth in usage, is likely to expand newspaper content readership over time (particularly among younger audiences).
54% of adults 18-24 consume newspaper content in print or on conventional computers, according to the Scarborough data. When combined with the audience for that same group who uses smartphones or tablets exclusively to connect with newspaper content in an average month, the 18-to-24 audience rises to almost 6 in 10 (59%).
In essence, the report notes that while print is in decline, digital media of all sorts is extending the reach of newspapers and other legacy media, particularly among younger audiences - the demographic that has bottomed out at around 20% regular readership of printed newspapers.

Sources -  Free-fall: Adjusted for inflation, print newspaper advertising revenue in 2012 was lower than in 1950,  AEI-Ideas.org
The American Newspaper Media Industry Revenue Profile 2012, NAA report
Accros Platforms, 7 in 10 Adults Access Content from Newspaper Media Each Week, NAA report.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The State of (US) Newspapers

When speaking of newspapers, the focus generally is on major metro dailies - and they've been in trouble recently.  Advertising revenues have fallen dramatically, readership is on the decline, and more than a few have folded or ceased print operations and gone online.  So the recent Pew Research Center State of the News Media 2013 report tried finding some good news.  
  • There are some buyers for newspaper companies and/or their stock. 
    The big newspaper buyer was Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway, which acquired a sizable number of small- and mid-market newspapers.  But the big urban dailies up for sale aren't finding much buyer interest, and their newspaper operations are dragging down their corporate stock prices.
  • Circulation revenues are holding steady, and for some increasing slightly.
    Total circulation revenues are steady in the face of increased subscription prices, and with the supplement of daily sales and digital (paywall) subscriptions.
  • The economy is maybe looking up, with the hope of more ad revenues to follow.
    There's been a rise in auto ad revenues, but real estate and recruitment (ads for jobs) ad revenues continue to plummet.
  • Newspapers' online efforts are starting to generate revenues.
    Newspapers continue to experiment with a range of online efforts - and seeing gains in local online revenues, and in paywall subscriptions.  Total online advertising revenues now exceeds those of newspapers, but the newspapers' share is small and has been decreasing in recent years.
  • Mobile and Tablets are building new news consumption habits and audiences.
    Adoption is growing, and studies of mobile use suggest that strong news consumers are using their devices to keep in touch, and even consuming more news of interest.
On the other hand, there's a number of bad news indicators as well.
  • As mentioned, print advertising revenues are still falling - down 7.3% in 2012.
    More critically, newspapers have largely lost whole segments - classifieds are down more than 90%, real estate down 75%, automotive down 80% (even with slight recovery).  National ads are falling most rapidly, with indications that the big national firms are shifting their ad campaigns to other media.
  • Digital advertising accounts for only 15% of total ad revenues, and while growing, isn't replacing print losses.  In 2012, newspapers lost, on average, $16 in print ads for every $1 in digital advertising.  And its starting to look like display ads won't be a major revenue source in mobile.
  • While most newspapers remain profitable, margins are down, and many will continue to struggle with debt and pension obligations.  For an industry that had become used to 20-30% profit margins, large chains saw margins well below 10% (Scripps, Gannett, A.H. Belo).  Major dailies New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times  and News Corp. all experienced significant losses in newspaper operations.
  • Newspapers continue to trim print news staff, and many are trading the once-grand downtown headquarters for smaller and more spartan offices.  Some are experimenting with publishing print editions only 3-4 times a week.
That's all on the business side - What about the news content?  The Pew report didn't look directly at newspaper content in this report - but noted that newsroom staffing continues to fall, and that is impacting the quality of news being produced.  (They were particularly critical of political news, which too often acted as megaphones rather than investigators - too frequently just repeating favored talking points, even if they were demonstrably false).
For news organizations, distinguishing between high-quality information of public value and agenda-driven news has become an increasingly complicated task, made no easier in an era of economic churn.
The report also notes that news consumers are beginning to notice the decline in the quality and quantity of news coverage.  While the report doesn't break this information by medium, a recent Pew survey found that 31% of news consumers reported that they had "stopped turning to a particular news outlet because ... (news outlets) were no longer providing them with the news and information (they) were accustomed to getting."  In addition, those with the most awareness of the news industry's financial problems were the most likely to drop a particular outlet (43%).  Of those leaving an outlet, two-thirds did so because they felt that coverage was incomplete - and nearly a quarter noted there was less coverage overall (there is some overlap in the two responses). 
Furthermore, the decline in coverage is more widely noticed - and that the quality and thoroughness of coverage was the bigger problem.  In the wider sample of those who had at least some awareness of media's financial problems, two-thirds noted a decline in the completeness of stories, and two-fifths noted a decline in the number of stories.  The study notes that the impression that thoroughness was the bigger problem carried across all demographic groups.
It is clear from these data that much of the country recognizes little if anything about the economic challenges the industry is grappling with—and that much of the knowledge and concern about the economics and the future of the news business may be largely confined to the industry itself. But the news consumers who are more aware of the problems and their impact on news are more likely to act on those concerns by abandoning a news organization. And, based on demographics, they also are likely to be more ardent news consumers who are willing to invest in a product they value. They appear to be making informed choices. The job of news organizations is to come to terms with the fact that, as they search for economic stability, their financial future may well hinge on their ability to provide high quality reporting.
  These perceptions aren't helping with newspapers' long-term problem with declining readership.  The generational drop in readership remains, and even within generations, readership is falling.  And that's even with changes in how readership is measured that was designed to include online and occasional reader (i.e., counts those who read a newspaper of visits a newspaper online site at least once a week).

 For our students, here's the bad news.  The number of newspapers continue to decline, as does the number of editorial staff on the print side.  Total editorial staff employment is at the lowest level since 1978.  There is some growth in employment for newspapers' digital operations, but as with ad revenues, the gains from digital remain far from replacing print losses.

Source -  State of the News Media 2013, Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism report.

FCC takes another stab at Indecency

Last year the U.S. Supreme Court overturned two cases where FCC imposed fines for indecency - but stopped short of ruling that the FCC actions were unconstitutional.  One case should have been pretty obvious, where the FCC suddenly found indecency in a case where it had already ruled was not a violation (after some astroturfed outrage).  But the biggest problem for the Court was the vagueness of the rules and definition of "indecency," and its possible conflict with First Amendment free speech rights.  That conflict is more likely to occur in the case of unintentional expletives or fleeting partial nudity,
  While the cases were under review, the FCC put a hold on handling any new allegations of indecency.  Considering that a Supreme Court ruling could have forced a reconsideration of any applied standard, the FCC's decision to delay review was reasonable.  But with the rulings in, and new guidance from the FCC's Enforcement Bureau, the FCC's been working on the backlog of 1.4 million complaints.  (After the FCC instituted a streamlined process for filing complaints online, groups could organize complaint filings, and for many incidents there are thousands of identical complaints - often from people who couldn't have personally heard or seen the "indecent" act.)  The FCC's Enforcement staff started by culling out complaints older than the statute of limitations, or beyond the FCC's authority.  (The FCC's authority over "indecency" only applies to radio and television stations - not cable or satellite networks or the Internet.)  As of last week, the FCC had resolved more than 70% of complaints.
  Still, there is concern that the "vague" standards might lead to further challenges, so the FCC is considering applying the indecency rules only to more "egregious" cases - taking the step of putting out a request for public comment on the proposed new rules.  Specifically, it's seeking public comment on how to treat the use of "expletives and brief non-sexual displays of nudity."  It can be a long process of proposed rulemakings and public comments, so don't look for a resolution until well after the President replaces the two departing FCC commissioners (including the Chairman, Julius Genachowski).

Source -  FCC mulls relaxing policy for TV indecency, The Hill

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Online Radio, Mobile, Streaming, Social - All Booming

A new Arbitron/Edison Research study shows unexpectedly high growth rates in the number of Americans with mobile devices, listening to streamed audio (radio) or video, and using social media.  The amount of those uses are also growing faster than expected.
  Unlike a lot of other new/social media use reports, these numbers come from a large random sample of Americans, aged 12+.  Thus, they are generalizable to the general US population.  Here's some reported numbers:
  • 45% of Internet users report listening to online radio in the last month.  The average time listening is almost 12 hours a week.
  • Awareness of online radio and music streaming services is growing substantially - 69% of US Internet users were "aware" of Pandora, 45% knew about iHeartRadio, and 22% had heard of Spotify.  (In 2012, the awareness numbers were 59% for Pandora and 31% for iHeartRadio (Spotify was not included in that survey)).
  • A third of at-work radio listening is done through a computer or mobile device.
  • Despite this, AM/FM radio remains the predominant choice (78%) for those seeking to hear (discover) new music.
  • 53% of Americans own a smartphone (it was 44% in 2012).  Tablet ownership jumped from 17% in 2012 to 29% now.  Smartphone ownership among 18-34-year-olds is at 75%.
  • 56% of smartphone owners watch video on their devices.  63% access social media.  44% listen to online radio.  As for daily use - 46% hit social media sites daily, 20% watch online videos daily, and 18% listen to online radio daily (32% listen to downloaded music daily).
  • 43% of Americans watch online video at least weekly, with the added viewing not coming from YouTube (the percentage watching YouTube weekly was the same as last year).
  • More than a quarter of Americans report checking their social networks several times each day.  62% have at least one social media profile.  More than 80% of the 18-34 age group have social media profiles.
  • 44% of Americans report reading or hearing about Tweets at least daily.  Only 7% indicated that they had never heard of Tweets or Twitter.
  • 45% report having a DVR
“We are now seeing the highest levels of weekly online radio listening with the increasing strength of AM/FM streams and other online radio brands and the near ubiquity of devices in which consumers can listen,” said Bill Rose, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Arbitron.
Sources -  Online Radio, Mobile Device Ownership Surge,  Online Media Daily
The Infinite Dial 2013: Navigating Digital Platforms,  Arbitron/Edison Research report