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February 10 2012

14:00

Mediatwits #37: Merger Mania: CIR-Bay Citizen; GigaOM-PaidContent; Twitter Censorship

robert rosenthal headshot.JPG

Welcome to the 37th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Jillian York, who is filling in for Rafat Ali. It's been a crazy week in media + tech, with important mergers abounding! First up is the Center for Investigative Reporting announcing that it will try to merge with another non-profit, the Bay Citizen, making a powerhouse investigative team to cover local, state and national issues. We get all the key players in that deal as guests on the show: CIR chairman Phil Bronstein, CIR executive director Robert Rosenthal and Bay Citizen interim CEO Brian Kelley.

Next up, there's a merger of key tech sites, both started by Indian-born bloggers who turned them into startup businesses. GigaOM announced it was buying PaidContent from the Guardian for an undisclosed sum. The Guardian will get stock in GigaOM's parent company and get a seat on the board. Special guests OM Malik, founder of GigaOM and Staci Kramer, SVP at ContentNext (and sometimes co-host of Mediatwits), talked about the deal and how the "synergy" in this case didn't mean layoffs. And finally, we discussed the recent move by Twitter to censor some tweets in countries that had more stringent free speech controls. Was Twitter right to implement these rules?

Check it out!

mediatwits37.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

PhilBronstein.jpg

Intro

1:00: Jillian York explains her work at the EFF

2:20: Blogs, online forums, social media only places for free expression in many countries

3:35: Rundown of topics for the podcast

CIR and Bay Citizen

4:30: Special guests Phil Bronstein, Robert Rosenthal, Brian Kelley

8:00: Rosenthal: Want to create engaged audience in Bay Area and globally

11:10: Kelley: Should be excellent synergy between organizations

12:45: Kelley: Striking about timing of executive departures, but not connected

17:20: Bronstein: Sustainability is something we talk about every day

GigaOM buys PaidContent

20:00: Special guests Om Malik and Staci Kramer

22:30: Malik: We can now cover a broader spectrum of topics

22:40: Kramer: In this case, synergy won't mean layoffs, cost-cutting

26:30: Kramer: We're not new media, we're media

28:50: How is Om any different than Michael Arrington as VC?

Twitter censoring tweets

32:30: Micro-blog service will comply with rules in other countries

33:45: Is the #TwitterBlackout a good idea?

35:50: York: The laws in the countries are the problem, not the companies' policies

38:10: York: I don't think these companies should be in China

More Reading

Bay Citizen, Center for Investigative Reporting Plan to Merge. Now What? at MediaShift

Bay Citizen in Merger Talks With Another Nonprofit at Wall Street Journal

The Bay Citizen's short, strange saga in nonprofit news could be coming to an end at SF Business Times

Bay Citizen, Center for Investigative Reporting Announce Intent to Merge at Bay Citizen

GigaOM + PaidContent = Perfect Sense at MediaShift

Is GigaOM Buying paidContent? at AllThingsD

Why We Are Buying PaidContent at GigaOM

GigaOM And paidContent Join Forces at PaidContent

Twitter Censorship Move Sparks Backlash: Is It Justified? at Wired

Twitter's censorship is a gray box of shame, but not for Twitter at Reuters

Twitter Censorship: Outkast's Big Boi Involved In Beyonce Tweet Takedown at Huffington Post

South Korean Indicted Over Twitter Posts From North at NY Times

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about Twitter censoring tweets:


What do you think about Twitter censoring tweets?

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+

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February 09 2012

22:10

GigaOM + PaidContent = Perfect Sense

When the U.K.-based Guardian Media Group bought PaidContent in 2008, it was portrayed as an attempt to expand into the U.S. market. The Guardian newspaper was a forerunner in its use of the web, and already got a large portion of its traffic from North America.

But I had trouble seeing why a general interest news organization, even a forward-looking one, would buy what was a essentially network of niche sites geared toward media and technology executives.

Now, a company that's steeped in the businesses of Silicon Valley, GigaOM, has a acquired "the best chronicler of the media industry," founder Om Malik wrote on his blog yesterday. "The ethos of PaidContent and our company are in sync."

The founder of ContentNext Media (PaidContent's parent company), Rafat Ali, who is co-host of this site's Mediatwits podcast, seemed equally pleased.

"Just married the woman of my dreams & the company I founded got the best owner possible. Both after false starts," he tweeted from New Delhi.

When news of the acquisition spread this week, it wasn't a particular surprise to anyone who'd been watching either company over the last several years. It made perfect sense -- and actually, a lot more than the Guardian purchase in 2008.

So, the news signals two things: 1) the formation of a tech media super-group and 2) a shift in strategy for the Guardian.

The Players

Rafat_Ali.jpg

New York-based PaidContent has since its founding in 2002 been one of the leading properties covering the business of media, especially digital. It expanded into coverage of mobile with MocoNews, Indian tech media with ContentSutra, and launched PaidContent:U.K. The sites in January received more than 700,000 unique visitors, according to reports.

The GigaOM network, founded by Malik in 2006, is based in Silicon Valley and covers tech industry verticals such as clean tech, broadband and Apple. It says it receives 4.5 million unique visitors monthly.

Both networks were founded by Indian-born journalists who'd worked in the heady 1990s of New York's Silicon Alley, Ali for Silicon Alley Reporter, Malik for Red Herring and Forbes. Malik moved to Silicon Valley in 2000 to work for Business 2.0.

Ali and Malik are also good friends, and Ali is on GigaOm's board of advisers.

Malik has talked of wanting to try his hand in business after covering it for so long. He worked tirelessly to build his company from a blog covering technology to a network, a research subscription service, and an events company.

Standing with Ali and Malik in the fall of 2007, I heard Ali quietly caution his friend to take care of his health. "Blogging can kill you," I remember him saying. Eerily, a couple months later, Malik suffered a heart attack. He has recovered but is said to be more careful about his work habits today.

Ali, whom I have worked for and with and who is also a friend, has told me of running the business off his laptop both in London and from his apartment in Santa Monica, Calif., where he lived before coming to New York a few years ago.

He, too, worked tirelessly and because of that, PaidContent developed a reputation for never missing a beat. He formed the company almost by accident, having launched it as a way to get a job after Silicon Alley Reporter, and was able to sustain himself with speaking engagements and a few sponsorships.

He hired noted journalist Staci Kramer, who helped him build the site and the staff and became senior vice president at the parent company ContentNext.

staci_d._kramer-s.jpg

"This is a great outcome of an intense process," Kramer wrote me last night in an email. "Guardian News & Media gave us a great vote of confidence with the initial acquisition and again now by making sure we were matched with the right company, then staying as minority shareholders."

GigaOm Gets Quality Staffers

Malik wrote that the "first and perhaps most important reason" for the deal was "people. I have been an admirer of PaidContent's editorial team from the very beginning of its journey. Rafat Ali and Staci Kramer were two of my favorite writers in the early days of professional blogging."

He also cited others on the team, including Ernie Sander (whom I worked with at the AP), who he said would become "executive editor of our sprawling online editorial operations."

ernie_sander-o.jpg

Together, Ali, Kramer and others built an event business and launched ContentNext Dex, a financial index of media-related sites and a research arm, neither of which seemed to take hold. Ali told an M.B.A. class of mine he visited last year that ContentNext, which he left in 2010, made a significant share of its revenue from events.

After 2008, New York media types sometimes marveled how Ali & Co., and Mediabistro.com founder Laurel Touby, my former boss, both sold just before the "nuclear winter," as a friend from Mediabistro called the subsequent economic collapse.

Mediabistro was paid $23 million by what's now WebMediaBrands, $3 million of that in longer-term "payout" bonuses should the company hit certain performance markers. The Guardian paid 4 million pounds (about $6.3 million at today's exchange rate) for PaidContent in 2008, the Guardian reported yesterday.

The guardian as PaidContent's guardian

It's not surprising that in the recent environment and focused on other areas, the Guardian couldn't quite make its new venture thrive.

One of the smaller of leading U.K. media organizations, and solely owned by a trust to keep it independent, the Guardian Media Group has struggled financially in recent years, reporting a before-tax profit for 2011 of 9 million pounds (about $14.24 million) after losses of 96.7 million and 171 million pounds, respectively, in the previous two years.

It has, meanwhile, pushed to get more of its operations into digital, an area where it could be innovative and expand its footprint to new markets.

It has launched blogs headed by aggressive reporters, had "hack days" that invited developers to figure out new ways to cover and present news, developed multiple feeds that allowed seamless intake and display of news and information, even given rather open access to its wider database via APIs (application programmer interfaces) that let others build applications on its proprietary data.

In the annual report, the company said its re-version-ed iPhone app had 322,000 downloads in less than its first three months. It last month ended a three-month free trial of its iPad app, opting to charge 9.99 pounds (about $16) after a week.

Guardian News & Media, the division that bought ContentNext, announced last November that "following a strategic review" it was looking for a buyer for ContentNext while it turned its U.S. focus to "building the Guardian." Guardian Media Group's 2011 annual report said the company was "looking ahead to further digital launches ... most importantly a major expansion in the U.S. with a new digital-only operation based in New York."

It recently launched the U.S.-focused GuardianNews.com.

Under terms of the deal, Guardian News & Media gets a minority stake in GigaOM alongside venture investors such as Reed Elsevier, Alloy Ventures and True Ventures. It also gets an observer seat on GigaOM's board, Malik said.

'A Fraction' of the Original Price

Neither Malik, the Guardian nor ContentNext named a price. Ad Age reported it was a "fraction" of the original deal. Guardian representatives pointed me to their statement online.

By taking a seat on GigaOM's board, the Guardian perhaps hopes to learn more about how the digital world works at the cutting edge. In turn, GigaOM gets more knowledge of media and the international sphere.

GigaOM, in acquiring ContentNext, gets a presence in covering the New York-centric media world, a crowded arena in which it has made forays but never solidified its hold.

They will turn the New York offices of ContentNext into GigaOM East, just blocks from where Ali and Malik used to work.

A GigaOM representative told Ad Age the company would keep PaidContent at its current web address and hadn't decided whether to fold it into GigaOM.com.

"By blending [PaidContent's] coverage with ours, we hope to watch this fast-changing industry ever more closely," Malik wrote.

The GigaOM purchase is hardly an "OMG" -- it just makes good sense.

An award-winning former managing editor at ABCNews.com and an MBA (with honors), Dorian Benkoil handles marketing and sales strategies for MediaShift, and is the business columnist for the site. He is SVP at Teeming Media, a strategic media consultancy focused on attracting, engaging, and activating communities through digital media. He tweets at @dbenk and you can Circle him on Google+.

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

November 27 2011

19:25

Om Malik: my 10 years of blogging: reflections, lessons & more

And blogging still makes sense ...

GigaOM :: Ten years is a long time. Sometimes it is so long that one forgets a lot more than one remembers — like the fact that it I have been blogging for a decade. I would have totally forgotten about the amount of time that has passed, had it not been for (what else) a blog post from Fred Wilson, one of the more engaging and rigorous bloggers on the web. It just so happens he is a venture capitalist, but he would be a great blogger without the VC tag as well.

His post made me ask myself: how long has it been since I have been blogging? Not an easy answer.

Looking back - continue to read Om Malik, gigaom.com

May 27 2011

15:18

Mediatwits #9: Twitter Buys Tweetdeck; Facebook's Role in Breaking News

jen reeves rji.jpg

Welcome to the ninth episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at the recent purchase of Tweetdeck by Twitter, and the questions it raises about companies starting businesses on the platform of other companies. If you run an app for Twitter but aren't bought by Twitter, where does that leave you?

This week's special guest is Jen Lee Reeves, who teaches at the Missouri School of Journalism and is the interactive director for KOMU-TV. She has been covering the recent tornadoes and bad weather in Missouri and using her TV station's Facebook page to connect with its community. Finally, the talk turns to conflicts of interest for entrepreneurial journalists and tech bloggers such as Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher and Om Malik. Should they be able to invest in companies they cover, be venture capitalists themselves? How do they maintain credibility?

Check it out!

mediatwits9.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Rafat taking one more trip

1:08: Getting to Uzbekistan

2:20: No media fact-finding

2:45: Rundown of the show's topics

Twitter buys Tweetdeck

04:30: What will Twitter do with it?

07:05: Dick Costolo remains Twitter CEO (for today)

08:40: Inhibiting innovation?

10:25: TechCrunch Disrupt startups not tied to Twitter, Facebook

Interview with KOMU's Jen Lee Reeves

11:10: Background on Reeves

13:35: Heavy Facebook use in mid-Missouri

15:30: How Facebook use is different from Twitter

18:45: People coming to KOMU page rather than just reading news feed on Facebook

21:40: KOMU website changes to "river of news"

Conflicts for tech journalists

om and arrington.jpg

23:45: Background on conflicts for Michael Arrington, Kara Swisher, Om Malik

25:55: Rafat on how PaidContent dealt with conflicts

28:10: Mark notes the problem might be what people don't cover too

30:10: Om Malik was a respected journalist before becoming venture funder

More Reading

Twitter Buys TweetDeck at WSJ Digits

What the Tweetdeck Acquisition Means for Marketers at AdAge

Newsroom, Community Use Facebook as Key Hub After Joplin Tornado at MediaShift

Images and Video from Joplin Tornado at KOMU

KOMU on Facebook

Kara Swisher, Michael Arrington, and me: New conflicts, and new opportunities, for the tech press at Nieman Lab

Godspeed on That Investing Thing, Yertle-But I Still Have Some Questions for Your Boss, Arianna at AllThingsD

Arrington Says The Real Conflict Of Interest In Tech Reporting Has Nothing To Do With Money at Business Insider

It's Hilarious That Mike Arrington Gets Beat Up For Investing In Startups When Om Malik Is A Partner At A VC Firm at Business Insider

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how journalists can deal with conflicts:




What's the best way for journalists to deal with conflicts of interest?Market Research

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.

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

May 25 2010

19:30

Engaging with journos: At GigaOM, there’s an app for that

Have you ever tried to get in touch with an online journalist, only to wander her employer’s labyrinthine maze of non-linked bylines and PR department messages and institutional contact forms? Have you ever, desperate but not optimistic, actually written a message into one of those contact forms, only to have it languish, unanswered, in what you can only assume is the cyber-equivalent of the Lost island’s Orchid station? Have you ever found yourself thinking, “This is not how things should be done”?

If so, you will probably love GigaOM’s new iPhone app. The app — a free one — has the comprehensiveness of the most effective media apps: As GigaOm founder Om Malik put it in announcing its App Store availability, the platform features “a unified experience of all our various properties — from our blogs to our paid subscription service to our events to our real-time Twitter feed.” One key difference, though: The app also offers a direct communications channel to GigaOM’s writers. Swipe to the final screen of the app, and you’ll be greeted with a list of those writers; tap on a name, and you’ll be led to the author’s iPhone-abbreviated bio — complete with a photo and an “Ask the Author” button.

Tap the button, and you’ll be sent to an email interface pre-populated with the author’s (direct! non-institutionally-mediated! hallelujah!) email address.

The direct-communication-with-authors approach is standard at GigaOM: “There should be no friction when it comes to our readers getting in touch with us,” Malik told me. “That was the premise of starting my company, and that’s the premise I hold true today. We are who we are because of our readers, and they should have the ability to get in touch with us whenever they want.”

The new app facilitates that ability. The communications interface is built into the user experience even more explicitly and directly than it is on the website proper: swipe, click, email, done.

But, then: Don’t the writers get overwhelmed by messages? Well, “some days it gets to be too much,” Malik acknowledges. “But people understand that you won’t respond right away.” Besides: While, overall, “yes, it’s going to take time — and, yes, it takes you away from your writing or reporting or whatever you’re doing,” Malik says, “customer service is a part of any business. And journalism is no different.” Communicating with users, both in taking direct feedback and giving it back, “is just good business practice.”

While the direct-email approach isn’t immediately feasible for bigger outlets with broader editorial interests (imagine if the New York Times’s app offered a direct communications channel to Maureen Dowd!), the overall, connection-is-key attitude is ripe for emulation. As much as we love to talk about “engagement” and “connection” and all the rest, the talking-to-journalists aspect of our press’s new approach to its old public mandate hasn’t, for the most part, caught up with all the 2.0 rhetoric. Easy, direct communications with reporters suggests the engagement side of news’s new frontier. And while, sure, GigaOM isn’t the New York Times, in size or attitude or mission, its emphasis on connection suggests the way we’re all heading: Toward a more direct, and open, dialogue between journalists and the people they serve.

And that dialogue doesn’t just benefit readers; the value, as in any true conversation, goes both ways. “I have learned so much…by being able to communicate with people on a one-on-one basis,” Malik points out. “That, really, is what’s behind this whole thing.”

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