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January 23 2012

14:00

Pew Report: Tablet Ownership Doubles. What's Left for Print?

The shift from print to mobile reading went into overdrive this holiday season, with ownership of e-readers like the Kindle and tablets like the iPad doubling in a single month.

A new survey-based study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that the percentage of adults owning tablet computers went from 10% to 19% between mid-December and early January, with the same growth rate seen among black-and-white e-readers like the Kindle.

tabletdoubling.jpg

Source: The Dec. 2011 and Jan. 2012 Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

So how should content providers and publishers react to this news? As the founder of e-book publishing startup BookBrewer, I live and die by these kinds of numbers, and they're obviously good for us. But they should serve as a wake-up call for traditional publishers -- especially newspapers, magazines and book publishers that still manage their businesses around shrinking print audiences.

LOOKING AT THE NUMBERS

The Pew study said tablet and e-reader adoption sped up due to holiday gifting, but it was amped by two new value-priced color tablets: Amazon's $199 Kindle Fire and Barnes & Noble's new $249 Nook Tablet, both of which are far below the iPad's $499-$829 price point. Amazon doesn't release exact figures on the Kindle Fire, but investment research firm Morgan Keenan recently estimated that Amazon sold 4-5 million Fires over the holidays at the expense of 1-2 million iPads that Apple would have sold absent the Fire.

Also noteworthy in the study is that the sex divide has disappeared -- at least for tablets. In November of 2010, 60% of tablet owners were male. Today? It's at a healthy 50-50 male to female ratio. Curiously, black-and-white e-readers went in the opposite direction, with women now making up 57% of of e-reader owners. (My theory on that based on e-book sales data I'm privy to as the owner of BookBrewer is that romance e-books play a role, but I digress.)

In both cases, people with more education and higher incomes were more likely to own a tablet or e-reader, although the difference was slightly less for e-readers.

GOODBYE PRINT?

So what's left for the print market? This is a valid question because the contrast in trends for tablets and traditional print couldn't be more stark. Think about it. In just one month the number of people with a sexy new device that can display books, websites and streaming video doubled. When's the last time you saw those kinds of figures for mass-market newspapers or magazines?

What's more, these tablets are generating significant sales from content after very little time on the market. An RBC Capital analyst projects that the brand-new Kindle Fire will make Amazon $100 over the lifetime of the device. The revenue comes directly from sales of e-books, apps and streaming content from Amazon.

Compare that to Pew's figures on yearly newspaper revenue, which has been going in the opposite direction for some time.

Having been completely out of the newspaper industry for over two years, I see the glass as more than half full, but I keenly remember how it felt to work for a newspaper and feel tied to a tanking business model. That's partly why I've been urging journalists and news organizations to repackage and publish their content as e-books. E-book sales were surging even before the numbers looked this rosy, and they represent a new way to monetize content without advertising.

And here's the great news there. I now have multiple, solid examples that readers buy e-books about news.

Our first news partner, The Huffington Post, has published several e-books through BookBrewer that quickly moved into the No. 1 spots of their categories -- including this latest about the Occupy Wall Street movement. And we're seeing a similar effect with The Denver Post's first e-book about Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos. Based on these successes, we're openly looking for more news organizations that are ready to jump into the e-book world with both feet, so let me know if that means you or your organization.

WHERE PRINT STILL SHINES
To those of you who mourn the loss of the feel of a printed product in your hand, don't fret. Print is not completely dead. If you think of the digital revolution as a play, print is going through a wardrobe change.

Here's just one example. On January 8, we started pre-order sales for the Post's Tebow book as a Print on Demand paperback through our partner Consolidated Graphics. Even though readers have a choice between e-book and print, we've been amazed to see the print orders outpace the e-book orders by a 3-to-1 ratio. The book's print pre-order sales reached $23,000 in just 10 days, and they show no signs of slowing down.

I heard something similar from the folks at O'Reilly Publishing at a session I ran at their recent NewsFoo camp in Phoenix. Founder Tim O'Reilly told participants that his company sells twice as many e-books from the O'Reilly website than it does directly through Amazon. Those e-book sales are high, but print sales still make up at least half of their business. More and more of those print books are printed on demand from online orders, too.

GIVE INFORMATION CONSUMERS WHAT THEY WANT

Here's what I see as the broader trend. It's not the printed book itself that's dying, but rather the way that books are mass-marketed, shipped to physical book stores, retailed, sold at a loss, and ultimately shipped back to publishers for a refund. (And what does that tell you about my view on daily newspaper delivery? It should be obvious. Stop the insanity! Newspapers should be personalized and on demand, too.)

On the same note, the growth in tablets and e-readers says more about peoples' desire for convenience and choice than it does about gadget lust.

Information consumers now expect to get whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever form they choose. Tablets, e-readers and smartphones speak directly to that need, but so does an impulse buy of a printed book that shows up at your doorstep five days later. In fact, more and more of those purchases initiate from smartphones. The need for on-demand, multi-platform publishing -- perhaps including an app or two -- has never been more important.

January 18 2012

15:59

Daily Must Reads, Jan. 18, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung


1. Google joins anti-SOPA campaign (AdAge)

2. Inside Jerry Yang's departure from Yahoo (All Things D)

3. AP tweaks social media rules on incorrect tweets (Poynter)

4. Social media ROI metrics remain 'chaotic' (Online Media Daily)

5. New York Post launches Kindle Fire app (FishbowlNY)

6. Fox News puts Twitter hashtags to work during GOP debate (Lost Remote)

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January 05 2012

22:22
22:22

December 28 2011

15:20

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011: Arab Spring; R.I.P. Steve Jobs; Phone Hacking

Yes, 2011 was another year of massive change in the American media landscape, with newspapers struggling, radio and TV trying to sharpen digital strategies, and magazines prettying themselves for tablets. But more often than expected, we turned our eyes overseas, to the role of social media in organizing protests and revolutions in the Arab world. To the spread of Facebook and freer speech in places like Egypt and Libya. And to the shocking phone-hacking scandal that brought the News Corp. empire to its knees, shuttering its most popular tabloid, the News of the World (published since 1843).

2011 year small.jpg

As smartphones and tablets proliferated, the reality of mobile news (and advertising) finally came into focus after years of failed promises. News orgs big and small tried to cash in on mobile editions, with mixed success. While Apple and its dominant iPad platform demanded a 30% cut of digital subscriptions -- and the customer data -- publishers fought back with "web apps" that went around the App Store and its restrictions. As more Android tablets, including the popular Kindle Fire, got into the hands of consumers, the chance that more people would ditch print editions for digital grew.

So here's our annual list of the Top 10 media stories that mattered most in 2011, and some predictions of where those stories are headed in 2012.

Top 10 Media Stories of 2011

1. The Arab Spring and the "Facebook revolutions."

What started as protests in December 2010 in Tunisia, after a college graduate set himself on fire, turned into a Middle East-wide revolution of people rising up against totalitarian regimes. In Tunisia and Egypt, the ruling governments fell, and in Libya a long civil war led to a rebel victory (aided by NATO). What many of these revolutions had in common was organizing done with social networks, especially Facebook, and news spreading virally over Twitter and YouTube. And that formula was repeated in protest movements outside of the Middle East, including in the Occupy Wall Street protests here in the U.S.

While social media played a crucial role in organizing protests and spreading the word to people in the outside world, the revolutions were not dependent upon them. When the Egyptian authorities shut down Internet access, that didn't stop people from human networking and organizing person-to-person to keep protests alive. As Miller-McCune's Philip Howard wrote:

Overemphasizing the role of information technology diminishes the personal risks that individual protesters took in heading out onto the streets to face tear gas and rubber bullets. While it is true that the dynamics of collective action are different in a digital world, we need to move beyond punditry about digital media, simple claims that technology is good or bad for democracy, and a few favored examples of how this can be so.

Prediction: Social media will continue to be vital cogs in any protest movement around the world, even as the targets of those protests learn to become more savvy in using social media in response to them. The days of closing off society to the outside world are numbered as more people use online platforms to communicate with the rest of the world.

jobs day of dead.jpg

2. Steve Jobs dies, and the tech world mourns.

Love him or hate him, Apple co-founder and visionary Steve Jobs did make a dent in the universe. He was there at the birth of so many innovations, from the personal computer, desktop publishing, the iPod, iPhone and iPad (the holy trinity of gadgets). But one thing he couldn't conquer was cancer, and he finally succumbed and died in October at the age of 56. Not long after that, an in-depth biography of Jobs was published, written by Walter Isaacson, detailing his many triumphs as well as his hard-driving, caustic personality.

While Jobs made a huge contribution to helping salvage the music business with iTunes (while taking his cut), he has had mixed success in helping the news business with mobile subscriptions. And his take on revolutionizing the TV business had yet to be realized at his death. One quote that stands out from Jobs is this one from his Stanford commencement address in 2005:

"Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart."

Prediction: The legend of Steve Jobs and what he accomplished will only grow bigger over the coming years, as his legacy as a media visionary is cemented and the rougher parts of his personality are downplayed.

3. The phone-hacking scandal shutters the News of the World.

Tabloid journalists have always gone to great lengths to get scoops, but nothing compares to the breathtaking deceit at the U.K.'s News of the World, which hacked into the voice-mail messages of celebrities, politicians and even a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler. What was originally deemed to be a few bad apples turned out to be widespread misdeeds that led to numerous arrests, resignations and firings at News International, the parent company of the tabloid. Even more surprising was the decision by News Corp. honcho Rupert Murdoch to close down the News of the World after 168 years of publication.

The "hackgate" scandal has led to resignations in the British government, at Scotland Yard and at various News Corp. publications (including Dow Jones publisher Les Hinton). Here's how MediaShift correspondent Tristan Stewart-Robertson summed it up:

Ultimately, we have a clash of what my retired philosophy professor father refers to as the "social duty to provide as much information as possible," and the duty of "non-injury to others." So which trumps which? ... The conflicting appetites for information and privacy are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Prediction: The scandal will continue to unearth more villains as government inquiries and lawsuits continue into the new year. More people will use stronger passwords for their voice-mail, and tabloid journalists will need to ratchet back their "black ops" to get scoops.

4. Bubbly IPOs return for a few startups.

groupon-ceo.jpg

No one would mistake 2011 for 1999, the last year of the dot-com bubble, when IPOs were popping like champagne corks. The initial public offering was the most conspicuous way that investors and startup employees with stock options could cash in on their around-the-clock hard work. But still, some echoes of the late '90s seeped in this year, with successful IPOs for startups such as LinkedIn, Groupon and Zynga. In May, LinkedIn was priced at $45 per share, and jumped 109% to close at $94.25. As a Reuters story explained, the IPO was "evoking memories of the investor love affair with Internet stocks during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s."

The hottest startups of 2011 fell into the SoLoMo category: social, local and mobile. And Groupon was right at the sweet spot of SoLoMo, as the biggest player in the hot "daily deals" market. Despite the fact that Groupon was not profitable and its growth was slowing down, the company's IPO raised $700 million, the biggest public offering since Google. While social gaming startup Zynga raised even more money, $1 billion, its IPO actually ended its first day of trading below its initial price of $10 per share. While a few Internet companies did well going public, most are still waiting in the wings. As USA Today put it, overall IPOs have had a dismal 2011.

Prediction: With so much stock market instability, it will be tough for many companies to go public in the coming months. More likely, the exit for startups will be to get acquired, except for the big fish like Facebook and Twitter, which could have huge IPOs next year.

5. New York Times finds success with metered pay wall; others try their luck.

Why won't people pay a fair price for news content online? So many news orgs simply put up their content for free online that this is what most people expect to pay: nothing. But some exceptions like WSJ.com (leaky wall) and FT.com (metered wall) found success with a mix of free and paid content. Then came the biggest experiment of them all, the metered pay wall at NYTimes.com, where you get 20 free articles per month (or via Google search or social media) and then you have to pay anywhere from $15 per month to $35 per month for full access on the web and with mobile apps. The price seemed steep and the Times was targeting the people who use its content the most. And yet there were exceptions: Car maker Lincoln subsidized free access for many users, and a recent "special offer" gave full digital access for just 99 cents for 8 weeks.

The metered wall has been a smashing success so far for NYTimes.com, garnering 324,000 paying subscribers by the end of the third quarter, just six months after the start of the wall. Plus, the Times has 1.2 million users with full digital access. (Many have print subscriptions that give them digital access.) But where does that leave the other, smaller papers that are trying out pay walls? Gannett newspapers, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Boston Globe all have begun testing pay strategies and it's unclear if they will be as successful as the Times. But as PaidContent's Staci Kramer wrote in a year-end review, "2011 is the hands-down winner when it comes to people paying for digital content. The numbers aren't all in yet and some of it will be hard to quantify given the lack of complete transparency but it's clear that more people are willing to pay for digital access to music, news, movies, TV, games, books and magazines."

Prediction: More online newspapers will try to charge for their content with mixed success. Not everyone has the strong brand (and followers) of the New York Times, and many folks are happy to try out other free sites for news if they are forced to pay too much.

6. The battle over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in Congress.

No one likes piracy, but the two bills in Congress to fight online piracy, SOPA and PIPA, are seen as flawed and overreaching by various tech companies and online pundits. The two bills are supported by most big media companies, music publishers and Hollywood, and are opposed by big tech and online companies and organizations.

While Congress expected to pass some version of these two bills into law with little friction, online organizers have wreaked havoc with political protests that haven't been seen at this depth before. Tumblr created a slick "Call Congress" tool that popped up on its home page, and 6,000 websites participated in an online protest against what they considered to be possible censorship under the new law, with 1 million emails sent to members of Congress. As Congress adjourns for its holiday recess, the fight continues, with so many people pulling their domains from Go Daddy (a supporter of SOPA), that the domain company changed course and withdrew support for the bill.

Prediction: The bills will still likely make it through Congress in some form, but if the online protests continue apace, there might well be amendments to make the bills less overreaching when it comes to piracy enforcement.

7. Kindle Fire tablet is an affordable alternative to iPad.

Here come the low-cost Android tablets. While Apple has done such a good job with its iPad tablet in dominating the market, there was still an opening for a lower-cost, smaller tablet to steal away market share. And this Christmas season, Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet ($199) and to a lesser extent the Nook Tablet ($250) have stolen Apple's thunder with cheaper alternatives. Some leaked data to Cult of Android showed that the Fire was racking up 50,000 pre-orders per day, which could mean 2.5 million sales before it even went on sale Nov. 15!

Those are impressive numbers for Amazon, which has created quite the backlash for its bullying in the book industry, becoming a book publisher on its own and sending people as spies into bookstores to compare prices. And yet, Apple will still continue to dominate tablet sales this holiday season, according to researchers at IDC, with the Kindle and Nook tablet sales coming at the expense of higher-priced Android tablets. "I fully expect Apple to have its best-ever quarter in 4Q11," IDC's Tom Mainelli told the Washington Post, "and in 2012 I think we'll see Apple's product begin to gain more traction outside of the consumer market, specifically with enterprise and education markets."

Prediction: Apple will have to work harder at keeping its dominant lead in tablets, and will need to consider selling a cheaper, smaller tablet to compete on the low end. While the Kindle Fire will be popular as a cheap alternative, it will need to offer more than a closed Amazon environment to satisfy gadget geeks.

8. Netflix stumbles with huge price hike, poor Qwikster idea.

2011 was another strong year for people cutting the cord to cable and satellite TV. The cable industry finally acknowledged there was a slight drop-off in subscriptions, and for the first time U.S. households with TV sets declined. But one reason people were willing to cut the cord was the proliferation of "over the top" streaming TV services such as Netflix and Hulu. But after years of growth and profits, Netflix stumbled badly in 2011. The company announced it was unbundling its DVD-by-mail service and charging higher rates for DVDs and for streaming, with a spin-off company for DVDs called Qwikster.

Those moves were largely panned by pundits, and Netflix started bleeding customers, with 800,000 of them leaving the service by the end of the third quarter. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had to apologize to customers in a blog post and in a video address:

Prediction: Netflix will need a two-pronged strategy to gain back customers: aggressive pricing and promotions; better selection of streaming content. It might be tough to pull it off, but without doing anything, Netflix will find a very difficult road ahead.

9. Publishers rebel against Apple with HTML5 web apps.

Apple could only push publishers so far. While the tech giant came hat in hand to media companies promising to prop up the news business with digital subscriptions for the iPad, its terms were onerous: a 30% cut of all revenues; Apple keeps the data on customers; no links to subscriptions outside of Apple's App Store from within apps. Some publishers decided that enough was enough, and created "web apps" that worked on the iPad without going through Apple and its App Store. The most prominent web app came from FT.com, which decided to create its own HTML5 app to go around Apple's control.

When I spoke to FT.com's managing director, Rob Grimshaw, he shared these figures about their success:

> 20% of all page views for FT.com come from mobile devices
> 30% of all page views seen by paid subscribers to FT.com are on mobile devices

> More than 1 million downloads for the FT apps for iPhone and iPad

> More than 500,000 visits to the web app over the past 3 months

> 15% to 20% of new paid subscribers come from mobile devices

Apple eventually blinked and set better terms for publishers, allowing them to sell subscriptions at discounted prices. However, Apple still gets a huge 30% cut and keeps the customer data.

Prediction: More publishers will watch FT.com and others' web apps very closely, and will consider ways to get around Apple's walled garden.

10. Rise of Google+ as an alternative to Facebook, Twitter.

After several false starts (including Google Buzz, Orkut, Wave), Google finally got social networking right with its Google+ network launch in 2011. While the service quickly brought on millions of new users and was integrated tightly into Google search results and Gmail, some folks were unimpressed and felt like it was a ghost town because their friends remained entrenched on Facebook.

So what was the big deal with Google+? The service let people set up "Circles" so that status updates could be sent to discrete groups, and the "Hangouts" let you do group video chat like never before. One enterprising TV station in Columbia, Mo., even started putting Google+ Hangouts on the air. My experience was typical for the more plugged-in tech media crowd: Within a couple months on Google+, I had more people following me there than on Twitter, where I'd been active since 2008.

Prediction: Google+ will continue to be an attractive option for interactivity and higher level conversations among the more tech-insider crowd, but most people will continue their presence on Twitter and Facebook.

Honorable Mentions

Here are some other stories that didn't quite make the cut but are worth mentioning:

> Digital First takes over newspapers at the Journal Register Co. and Media News, and launches an investment company for digital news innovation.

> AOL buys Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington is eventually pushed out after trying to run both TechCrunch and a new VC fund.

> #OccupyWallStreet organizes hundreds of protests around the U.S. and world to demand that money is removed from politics.

> News aggregators proliferate, with the rise of Flipboard, Zite (bought by CNN), Trove, Livestand, News.me and many more.

What do you think? What media stories were the biggest ones this year? Did we miss any key ones? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

December 21 2011

16:45

Daily Must Reads, Dec. 21, 2011

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Nathan Gibbs


1. Russell Merryman: Journalism schools are failing at technology (The Kernel)

2. The Curse of Cow Clicker: How a cheeky satire became a videogame hit (Wired)

3. Firefox add-on bypasses SOPA DNS blocking (TorrentFreak)

4. Local news outlets among Google's most-searched terms (Poynter)

5. Kindle Fire's ad impressions are growing faster than the iPad's (TechCrunch)

6. Study: Social networks do little to influence taste and interests (TechCrunch)




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05:13

New Poynter eye-tracking study focuses on tablet design and user experience

Tablets have been around for a while, it's time we finally learn how people use them.

Well, SND STL was amazing and is finally in the books. After a little recovery and catch-up-on-reading time, I’ve found my next side project: The Poynter Institute’s new eye-tracking study, focused on tablet design and user experiences.

I remember when the previous eyetracking studies were released it was kind of like this kid on Christmas morning. I’ve regularly referred to them and re-read them throughout my career and now to be involved in the project now is amazingly humbling and exciting. The group involved in this round of research is like my fantasy journalism design team: Sara Quinn, Dr. Mario Garcia, Jeremy Gilbert, David Stanton, Rick Edmonds, Regina McCombs, Roger Black, Rusty Coats, Andrew DeVigal, Jeff Sonderman, Jennifer George-Palilonis, Michael Holmes, Damon Kiesow, Miranda Mulligan, Tor Bøe-Lillegraven, Nora Paul, Robin Sloan, and Matt Thompson.

Our focus this time around, tablets, are an interesting beast because they seem to marry dynamic and interactive content of the web with the portability and “lean back” nature of print or even TV experiences. Often lumped in with mobile devices, tablets are similar, but very unique in many ways. Mobile is always with you and very utility, speed-driven; tablets tend to be portable within the house and workplace, and early research shows that people tend to consume more content and for longer periods on them than either mobile or the web.

We’re going to look at design challenges such as which view do people people prefer to consume content in most frequently – portrait or landscape.  Even in those two options, I suspect the behaviors from users on an 10-inch, letter-box shaped device like the iPad may differ greatly from those on a 7″ tablet, like the Kindle Fire. Or the type of content they’re consuming will likely also change the results, from my personal anecdotal experience (and what I’ve observed in others), I tend to read text more frequently in portrait mode and video in landscape no matter what device. But that’s just anecdotal.

There’s lots to learn and this research will offer ‘more than a hunch’ solutions to help us all improve our products. Specifically, we’ll focus on some of these issues and questions, which Sara spelled out in her original announcement post:

  • Tools and tasks: How intuitive can tablet navigation be and how long does it take to successfully complete a task?
  • Satisfaction: How happy are users with an overall experience and how does that impact their perception of the credibility of the source?
  • Comprehension and retention: Which forms help people to understand and remember what they have seen or read?
  • Business and revenue: What strategies might work for news organizations? For advertisers? For consumers? How might editors set up a newsroom to create content for a tablet product?

How you can help right now

  • Your questions - Share your thoughts, comments and suggestions on the Poynter Eye-Tracking research page on Facebook and follow along there to learn more about what we’re learning.
  • Funding – The Knight Foundation and CCI Europe is helping kick in money, but the more funding, the more extensive research we can do. Please contact Sara about this at: squinn [at] poynter.org.

 

December 07 2011

21:11

Amazon Kindle Fire coming to UK in January 2012

Know Your Mobile :: Amazon will be bringing the Kindle Fire to the UK, a source close to the launch has informed us. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has been the talk of the town since it first launched in the US on November 15. It’s also the one of the only tablets to date that analysts agree could give Apple’s iPad some trouble.

Continue to read richard Goodwin | Ben Griffin, www.knowyourmobile.com

21:11

Amazon Kindle Fire coming to UK in January 2012

Know Your Mobile :: Amazon will be bringing the Kindle Fire to the UK, a source close to the launch has informed us. Amazon’s Kindle Fire has been the talk of the town since it first launched in the US on November 15. It’s also the one of the only tablets to date that analysts agree could give Apple’s iPad some trouble.

Continue to read richard Goodwin | Ben Griffin, www.knowyourmobile.com

November 14 2011

17:19

November 12 2011

19:59

Amazon launches its "Kindle Fire Newsstand" - what to expect

A short summary of what we can expect from the Kindle Fire Newsstand, by Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent.

paidContent :: Amazon is launching the “Kindle Fire Newsstand.” In case you weren’t clear on that, it is like the Nook Newsstand, but for the Kindle Fire. The Kindle Fire Newsstand contains over 400 newspapers and magazines optimized for reading on the Kindle Fire. While the Kindle Store launched with books, newspapers and some magazines, the launch of the Kindle Fire gives Amazon the chance to expand its glossy and color offerings considerably.

Continue to read Laura Hazard Owen, paidcontent.org

October 07 2011

19:46

What happens to books when the Kindle is free?

GigaOM :: Amazon’s recent announcement of the Kindle Fire — its color tablet that may or may not become a competitor to the Apple iPad — was what got the most attention last week, but the online retailer also made some other announcements at the same time, including a drop in price for the original Kindle to $79. Based on the consistent and gradual declines in Kindle prices, some have speculated that Amazon could soon offer them for free, sponsored by advertising or other similar deals. Which raises an interesting question.

Mathew Ingram: What would free e-book readers do to the book industry?

Continue to read Mathew Ingram, gigaom.com

14:30

This Week in Review: Remembering Steve Jobs, and a new-old media partnership

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

A man who thought different: The tech, media, and business worlds lost one of their brightest minds this week: Steve Jobs, the visionary who co-founded Apple and helped transform virtually every industry this site touches on, died Wednesday at age 56. Thousands of people have been pouring out their thanks and remembrances online over the past couple of days; I’ll try to highlight some of the most insightful reflections here.

First, the obituaries: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal memorialized Jobs in their formal, definitive style, while Wired’s Steven Levy took a more interpretive angle on Jobs’ life and work. The Times offered a fantastic interactive guide to Jobs’ 317 patents, and All Things Digital remembered Jobs with a collection of his own words. One of his most well-known public statements is a 2005 commencement speech that included some profound thoughts about death, including the statement, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

The New York Times and the Lab’s Megan Garber have good summaries of the ways people remembered and honored Jobs on Wednesday. Several pieces on Jobs’ legacy, by the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, and Reuters’ Kevin Kelleher, centered on a similar point: Jobs’ expertise wasn’t in technical advancements so much as it was in his uncanny ability to recognize what made technologies frustrating for people to use and then to develop brilliant solution after brilliant solution. As the AP’s Ted Anthony put it, “He realized what we wanted before we understood it ourselves.”

Others remembered Jobs for what tech blogger Dave Winer called “the integrity of his vision.” For the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, that vision meant a distinctive devotion to work for pure self-fulfillment, and that devotion led to, as Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb pointed out, a corporate culture uniquely predicated on accountability and direct responsibility. Berkman Center fellow Doc Searls brought up some old insights about Jobs’ dedication to innovation, and at the Guardian, Dan Gillmor wrote on the juxtaposition between his awe of Jobs’ genius and his concern about Apple’s growing control. Horace Dediu gave the contrarian’s remembrance, challenging the idea of Jobs as an otherworldly visionary and coming up with some poetic insight in the process.

A few people looked specifically at Steve Jobs’ impact on the media industry — GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram looked at the ways Apple has continued to disrupt media, especially with the iPhone, which definitively turned the phone into a media consumption device. Jeff Sonderman of Poynter republished a piece on Jobs’ relationship with the news industry, and the New York Times’ David Carr said Jobs made business journalism cool for the first time.

Then there were the personal stories: Fast Company collected bunches of accounts of tech execs, writers, and students’ first meetings with Jobs, and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg shared several Jobs stories of his own. Tech blogger John Gruber wrote on the grass-stained sneakers Jobs wore to his keynote address at a conference in June — “the product of limited time, well spent.” And former Gizmodo writer Brian Lam, who had a notorious run-in with Apple last year over a lost iPhone prototype, reflected on Jobs’ kindness and forgiveness amid that incident.

My favorite takeaway came from journalism professor Jeremy Littau’s summary of his lecture on Jobs to his students: “Go create stuff. Lots of stuff. Don’t wait for me to tell you to do it and —  for the love of God — don’t wait for it to be assigned in a class or be for credit on the student newspaper. The great ones are never off the clock. They create stuff because it matters, not because they’re told to.”

Two media giants jump in together: ABC News and Yahoo announced a major partnership for online news, agreeing to share web content, count traffic together, and produce web video series. It’s not a full-fledged merger: The two organizations will remain independent, but they’ll share news bureaus and sell ads together as ABC produces web series for Yahoo and Yahoo maintains the web operations of shows like Good Morning America.

These two companies have done something like this before — as Poynter noted, their announcement this week was strikingly similar to an announcement between the two orgs back in 2000. Still, The New York Times said it’s the deepest partnership of its kind since NBC and Microsoft in the mid-’90s. The basic reasons for the move seem to make sense: As the Times and TV Newser pointed out, ABC News has plenty of corporate muscle behind it via Disney, but has lagged behind its competitors in web traffic. Yahoo, on the other hand, is swimming in traffic but has had some serious difficulty figuring where to go from there.

Still, the deal got a lukewarm reception from many online media analysts. One of them told Ad Age that for ABC News, Yahoo was “the last life vest on the Titanic.” Wired’s Tim Carmody said ABC and Yahoo could have some quite interesting opportunities for cooperation, but instead, they’re “both left chasing The Huffington Post — a fast-growing, web-native and increasingly multimedia-savvy and professional-journalism-driven site.” Mathew Ingram of GigaOM described the move as a doomed, retrograde portal strategy: What these organizations need, he said, is not more eyeballs, but more targeted audiences and well-produced niche content.

But here at the Lab, media professor Josh Braun said that while the partnership is far from a slam dunk, it’s still an ambitious move with the potential to give ABC News a foothold into round-the-clock content and some demographic niches highly coveted by advertisers. On Yahoo’s side, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici wondered whether they’re moving away from producing original content.

Apple drops the next iPhone: The news of Steve Jobs’ death dwarfed what had been a significant development for Apple-philes: the unveiling, earlier this week, of the next iteration of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S. As the New York Times explained, the new iPhone doesn’t look much different from the current one, but most of its improvements are below the surface, most notably the addition of a voice-activated personal assistant named Siri.

This was not what everyone was expecting; for weeks, the tech press had wrongly predicted an iPhone 5, only to see upgrades that were smaller and more incremental than they expected. The result was disappointment for many, summed up well by Henry Blodget of Business Insider and Farhad Manjoo of Slate. Others, like tech writer Dan Frommer and The New York Times’ Nick Bilton, said there was plenty to like about the iPhone 4S, including faster download speeds and a more powerful camera.

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman looked at several aspects of the new iPhone of interest to journalists, focusing specifically on Apple’s new Newsstand section for newspaper and magazine apps. He expressed some concern that the Newsstand locks publishers into Apple’s 30-percent-cut pay system while duplicating the old print news-buying experience, rather than creating something new.

Reading roundup: This week was a busy one outside of the big stories, too. Here’s what else people were talking about:

— Some conversation that continues to trickle out about Facebook’s overhaul: GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram argued that Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” is where the web is headed next, the Lab’s Ken Doctor and Gina Chen looked at what’s in this for news orgs, and at The Atlantic, Ben Zimmer looked at what Facebook has done to the way we use language.

— Commentary about last week’s Kindle announcement also continued this week, with Frederic Filloux explaining why he’s excited about the Kindle Fire’s potential for news media and magazine publishers, saying the Fire could help spark some big revenue in tablets. Meanwhile, Nate Hoffelder noted that there’s a lot that you can’t do with the Kindle and its apps, and Mathew Ingram wondered what will happen to the book industry when Kindle prices drop to zero.

— Jonathan Stray’s thoughtful post a couple of weeks ago about journalism for makers has led to a slow-burning discussion: Grad student Blair Hickman proposed a model for solution-based journalism, while journalism professor C.W. Anderson questioned whether journalists have the authority for such an approach. Meanwhile, Josh Stearns of Free Press mused on applying “systems thinking” to journalism.

— This month’s Carnival of Journalism produced a solid set of posts that examined a variety of aspects of online video, from technique to philosophy to business. Here’s the roundup.

— Two useful pieces of advice from Poynter: a guide for news sites to partnering with local blogs, and for journalists to get started with data journalism.

— Former New York Times editor Bill Keller offered a (surprisingly) bullish take on the potential for a sustainable business model in online news, and the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Robert Rosenthal gave a thorough, up-close look at what that means for a single news org in his four-part report on making CIR and California Watch sustainable. Here’s part one and the bullet-point version.

October 06 2011

16:00

The Newsonomics of f8

Editor’s Note: Each week, Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of news for the Lab.

Is it declaration of war, or of peace, or is Mark Zuckerberg saying he just really Likes us all very, very much?

“No activity is too big or too small to share,” the 27-year-old proclaimed at the recent f8 announcement. “All your stories, all your life…. This is going to make it easy to share orders of magnitude more things than before.” (f8 sounds, oddly, like FATE, but I think my paranoia is kicking in.)

“Excuse me, have we met?” is one response.

Another response to Facebook’s Ticket, Timeline, and News Feed initiatives is to go dating. Some quite influential publishers are road-testing the new features, while others ponder a light commitment.

In 2011, U.S. dailies’ digital ad take will be about $3 billion and Facebook’s $2 billion.

They should be aware that Facebook is bent on world domination — having targeted businesses now run by Amazon, Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Wikipedia, Flipboard, Pulse, Pandora, Last.fm, and Flickr, as well as legacy news and information providers — in the latest move. (Forget debating Google’s “do no evil” mantra; Google’s sin may have been that it thought too small.) That’s audience, though not business, domination, as Facebook’s EMEA platform partnerships director, Christian Hernandez, told PaidContent. “[f8] is not a commercial decision.” Got it. And Google just wants to help us better organize our info.

Facebook’s f8 signals a next round of digital disruption. Remember Microsoft’s decade-old bid to become the hub of our entertainment lives, as evidenced by its futuristic Consumer Electronics Show displays? Facebook has taken that metaphor — and updated and socialized it.

This unabashed push to remake the digital world in its own image would seem like laughable megalomania coming from many other sources in the world. But it’s not megalomania if others act like you’re not crazy. In fact, our story takes strange turns as this megalomania, so far, seems quite magnanimous to publishers, as Facebook looks to some like the best available date, compared to the other ascendant audience resellers (Apple, Amazon, and Google).

As leading-edge publishers move away from destination-only strategies, they seek to colonize other habitable web environments; Facebook now looks like the friendliest clime, allowing publishers to keep all the revenue from ads they are selling within their Facebook apps. In addition, Facebook is providing aggregated data on user engagement — active users, likes, comments, post views, and post feedback.

Buy-in from such brands as the Washington Post, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Yahoo helps to place Facebook’s push into the “normal” scale of corporate behavior.

Why are news players playing along? What do they think is in it for them?

Let’s look at the newsonomics of f8 and of the new social whirl.

“Rather than incorporate Facebook features into our site, we’ve looked at incorporating our content into Facebook.”

Let’s start with the stark, Willie Sutton reason: you work with Facebook because that’s where the audience is. In the U.S., Facebook claims more as much as seven hours of average monthly usage; globally, that number is four hours plus. It’s where would-be readers hang out.

Worldwide, it claims an audience of 800 million.

If Facebook is the hang-out mall, newspaper and magazine sites are grocery stores. People go there when they need something — to find out what’s new — and then leave. The comparative average monthly usage of news sites runs five to 20 minutes per month.

So exposure to audience is the no-brainer, here. The question is: to what end?

Step back from the flurry of news company announcements, or from the behind-the-scenes 2012 strategies-in-the-making, and publishers cite three top goals:

  • Lower-cost development of audience, especially audience that may become core customers.
  • Digital advertising revenue growth.
  • Establishing a robust, growing stream of digital reader revenue.

So how might f8 innovations help those?

Let’s start with brand awareness. It’s a digital din out there, a survival-of-the-feistiest time. Consumers will come to rely on a handful or two of news brands, goes the theory. So best to be high in their consciousness, and Facebook omnipresence in people’s lives offers that possibility.

Adam Freeman, executive director of Commercial for Guardian News and Media, explains Guardian’s digital-first strategy here this way:

Our digital audience has grown to a phenomenal 50m+, but, with the best will in the world, chances are we are never going to outpace and outstrip Facebook’s audience size. So we see an opportunity in that — rather than incorporate Facebook features into our site, we’ve looked at incorporating our content into Facebook. There is an untapped audience within Facebook who may not be regularly encountering Guardian and Observer content, and we think our app increases the the visibility of our content in that space.

Of course that brand consciousness needs to be acted on, which leads us to…

Lower-cost traffic acquisition. Online, publishers have invested in search engine optimization and search engine marketing. SEO makes them more findable in organic search; SEM pays for high-level brand placement. In addition, they’ve done deals with portals over the years; the current Yahoo deals of swapping news stories for links is a major one for many.

Against, though, Facebook is simply social media optimization (“The newsonomics of social media optimization”).

It’s another route to pouring newer customers into the top end of news publishers’ audience funnel, hoping a few tumble out the bottom as paying, regular readers. And any readers can be monetized with advertising.

SMO’s relative economics are better than SEO or SEM. Not only is SMO cheaper than SEM, some publishers say it “performs” better. That performance is best measured by conversions (registrations, more pages read, digital sub buying), while for others the jury is still out. And, at best, audience development multiplies off these new relationships.

“These new Facebook users aren’t necessarily finding the brand in traditional ways, nor do they necessarily hold longstanding brand affinity,” says Jed Williams, analyst at BIA/Kelsey.

Their social graphs, curators/editors, recommendations, etc. are doing the pointing for them. So they do arrive at the very top of the proverbial funnel. And, as they interact with the publisher, with them in turn comes their social network. Potentially, the exponential network effects take off, and new audience continues to breed even more new audience. Original audience targets emerge, and the funnel continually expands. At least in the best case scenario, it does.

Sale of paid products: If you are now selling digital subscriptions, you’re doubly interested in customer acquisition. Now publishers can discover the percentage of new audience they can convert to paying customers, though that’s not an easy proposition to figure out. That percentage will be tiny, but it may be meaningful.

Out of the chute, digital circulation efforts have focused strongly on longstanding customers. Publishers have wanted to keep their print customers paying. They want to reduce print churn by taking away customers’ ability to get the news they get in the paper for free online. They want to change the psychology of long-term readers, giving them a new understanding: You pay for news, in print or digitally.

Facebook looks like it may become a top media-selling marketplace, along with Amazon and Apple.

That’s round one, 2011-2012, of the digital circulation wars. Round two necessitates bringing in new customers, especially younger ones who don’t have print habits and may not have much news brand loyalty.

That’s a key place Facebook fits in. It’s a potential hothouse of new, younger customers.

“It isn’t obvious that we can be successful with premium content on social,” notes Alisa Bowen, general manager of WSJ Digital Network. The Journal, while not participating in the f8 launch, already has a significant trial in place. The same holds true of the spate of other recent WSJ innovations, like WSJ Live and its iPad apps. “WSJ Everywhere,” Bowen says, “tests what we’re doing for people who never come to the website.”

As publishers create more one-off tablet and smartphone products (“The newsonomics of Kindle Singles”), Facebook looks like it may become a top media-selling marketplace, along with Amazon and Apple.

Advertising revenue: Facebook is still so bent on building audience that it is providing publishers their best ad deals. Publishers can sell ads for display within their Facebook apps — and keep all the revenue. No revenue share, thank you. (At least for now.)

Data: “In addition to serving adverts from our own partners in the app, we have highly detailed but anonymized data from Facebook covering demographics and usage,” says Freeman. “We also have our own analytics embedded in the pages on the app, which will help us understand how our content is used and shared within the Facebook Open Graph.”

Learning about social curation. Social filtering will be a standard feature of all news (unless we opt out) by 2015. It’s not hard to see why. It’s old village world-of-mouth, jet-propelled by technology. How social curation will work is a huge question; how can it best co-exist with editorial curation, for instance? That kind of learning is one other benefit f8 partners tell me they hope to gain.

The Facebook dance is a cautious one. News publishers’ experiences with web wunderkinds have not, in general, been great ones. Witness the ongoing battles over revenue share percentages, customer relationships, and customer data access that have characterized the soap-opera-like Apple/publisher public spats. Amazon’s new Kindle tablet re-lights the question of publisher/Amazon rev share and data sharing.

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