Tumblelog by Soup.io
Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

May 23 2013

16:33

The newsonomics of value exchange and Google Surveys

whittier-daily-news-google-survey-paywall

What happens when a reader hits the paywall?

Only a small percentage slap their foreheads, say “Why didn’t I subscribe earlier?” and pay up. Most go away; some will come back next month when the meter resets. A few will then subscribe; others just go elsewhere.

So what if there were a way to capture some value from those non-subscribing paywall hitters — people who plainly have some affinity for a certain news site but aren’t willing to pay?

Welcome to the emerging world of value exchange. It’s not a new idea; value exchange has been used in the gaming world for a long time. As the Zyngas have figured out, only a small percentage of people will pay to play games. So they’ve long used interactive ads, quizzes, surveys, and more as ways to wring some revenue out of those non-payers.

It’s a variation on the an old saw that says much of life boils down to two things: money and time. It also brings to mind the classic Jack Benny radio routine, “Your Money or Your Life.” If people won’t pay for media with currency, many are willing to trade their time.

Now the idea is arriving at publishers’ doorsteps. It is being tested mainly, but not exclusively, as a paywall alternative. Yet, as we’ll see it, there may be many other innovative uses of time-based payment.

In part, this is part of the digital generational shift we might call “beyond the banner.” Static, smaller-display advertising is increasingly out of favor, with both prices and clickthrough rates moving deeper into the bargain basement. But marketers want to market, readers want to read, and viewers want to watch, so new methods that combine the marketing of brands and offers and the go-button on media consumption are au courant.

That’s where value exchange fits. Publishers are seeing double-digit, $10-$19 CPM rates from value exchange, and that’s more than many average for their online advertising. Annual revenues in the significant six figures are now flowing in to the companies that have gotten in early on the business.

The big player in publisher-oriented value exchange is Google Consumer Surveys (GCS), a year-old brainchild born out of the Google’s 20-percent-free-time-for-employees program (and first written about here at Nieman Lab). GCS now claims more than 200 publisher partners, including the L.A. Times, Bloomberg, and McClatchy properties. It says it has so far exposed some 500 million survey “prompts” to readers.

GCS will soon have more company in the value exchange game. Companies like Berlin-based SponsorPay, which offers interactive ad experiences in exchange for access mainly to games, is beginning to pursue publisher possibilities, both in Europe and the U.S, where half of its current clients are based. SponsorPay emphasizes mobile and social in its business.

L.A.-based SocialVibe, newly headed by hard-charging CEO Joe Marchese, is an ad tech company. It’s mainly oriented to non-newspaper media, especially TV companies.

How does this value exchange exactly work? Typical is the implementation at one smaller paper, the Whittier Daily News in the L.A. area., one of some 35 Digital First Media papers (both MediaNews and Journal Register brands) that have deployed GCS almost since its inception. Upon reading their 10th, and last, free metered article of the month, readers get a choice: buy a sub for 99 cents for the first month — or take a survey. “Do you own a cat?” for instance.

Publishers get a nickel for each completed response. Response rates tend to fall between 10 and 20 percent. “Completion rates” improve by targeting specific questions to specific audiences. The nickels add up.

For publishers, then, we have a new acronym: PAM, Paywall Alternative Monetization.

Consider the innovation a by-product of the paywall revolution. If you haven’t created a barrier to free access, you have less leverage to force wannabe readers to choose the lesser of two choices to proceed with their reading. Now, publishers can say, pay me for access with money — or with time. The time is short — measured in seconds or maybe minutes, depending on a video’s length or a survey’s questions.

What does the consumer get for answering a question? It varies. Respondents can get as little as a single “free” article, or an hour, or a day of access.

These programs can offer side-by-side offers. For instance, someone like a Press+ (which now powers some 380 newspaper sites) may power a subscription offer in one box, and Google Surveys or a SocialVibe can offer up an alternative in a neighboring one.

Digital First Media, long a public skeptic of paywalls, is using value exchange as an adjunct to its paywalls, many of which were deployed before DFM took over management of the MediaNews papers. While it is using it successfully as a paywall alternative, says Digital First Ventures managing director Arturo Duran, it’s also finding a couple of other ways to wring money out of surveys.

At many of its digital properties, including The Denver Post, its photo- and video-heavy Media Center hub offers Google surveys as speed bumps for continued access. Readers perceive value; enough of them are willing to pay with a few seconds of time to keep getting access to visuals. Similarly, Boston.com’s The Big Picture “news stories in photographs” uses GCS.

This approach, putting up a speed bump — in the form of a survey — instead of paywall explores the nuances of differing consumer valuation of differing parts of news sites. The Texas Tribune has offered a similar approach, having used Google surveys on its extensive data section. How often a survey is deployed can be adjusted by the publisher, working with Google, to maximize both revenue and reduce traffic lost. The search here is for the magic sweet spots.

The Christian Science Monitor is also an earlier surveys adopter. “We don’t have a paywall,” says online director David Clark Scott. “So we tried an experimental speed bump.” Those bumps were installed first on a single section, and now have grown, popping up on much of the site. One CSM twist: If you come to the site directly, you won’t see the surveys. If you come via some search, social, or other referrals, you will.

Digital First is also testing survey deployment for a group notoriously hard for the news industry to monetize: international readers. “We can’t sell [ads] in Kenya, Japan, and India,” says Duran. Instead of fetching bottom-of-the-ad-network prices, as low as 25 cents, surveys can return money in the whole dollars. One lesson so far: “It’s a much better experience than an ad,” for many readers, says Duran.

Publishers are also finding other ways to get readers to “pay.” At the Newton (Iowa) Daily News, the paywall also provides these two alternatives: answer a survey question or a share an article (via Twitter, Facebook, or Google+) in exchange for continued passage.

“It wasn’t about market research at all — it was about trading time for content,” says Paul McDonald, head of Google Consumer Surveys. McDonald, who developed the product along with engineer Brett Slatkin, says they tested out what people would most likely be willing to do, in exchange for some good. They tested a million impressions at The Huffington Post and found that question-answering was the most likable activity. Hence, Google Consumer Surveys.

“Most research is stuck in old ways — paper, email, and phone. It’s a stagnant industry, ” McDonald says. The industry, of course, has responded, offering its own critique of GCS’ rapid-fire — surveys can be commissioned and deployed within a day, with complete results, broken down by customized demographics (at an extra cost to survey buyers) within 48 hours — disruption of the market survey space. Still, industry reaction is more than mixed, with the positives of Google’s new technique winning adherents among bigger brands and smaller businesses. It’s a self-service buying technique, borrowing from Google’s flagship AdWords model.

Interestingly, Google itself is using Surveys to obtain consumer insight. Yes, the company that derives more data from our clicks than anyone still finds asking a human being a question can yield unexpected learning — which, of course, can be combined with clickstream analytics. YouTube is among the many GCS deployers.

It’s a new frontier, and one that I think offers a number of curious potentials.

  • At scale, if there is scale to the business, it’s about significant new sources of revenue.
  • As a paywall alternative, it may be a detour that leads back to the road to subscription. If a reader is engaged enough with a news brand over time — kept engaged in part through value exchange — maybe he or she will eventually subscribe. Does a value exchange-using customer have a higher likelihood of subscribing in the future? It’s too early to know, but we may have soon have sufficient data to see.
  • Value exchange could expand the ability to gain customer data. Each time someone trades some time for reading, she or he could be asked for an additional piece of profiling information. Essentially “registered,” that new customer becomes more targetable for subscription offers or advertising.
  • We can start to widen the idea of trading time for access. Remember the idea of the “reverse paywall,” espoused by then-Washington Post managing editor Raju Narisetti and Jeff Jarvis? Spend enough time with a news product, and get rewarded, they proposed. Value exchange begins to structure that kind of relationship, providing value both to readers and publishers. Rough equalization of value would be a painful process, but it may be doable through much experimentation.
  • Let’s combine two things: the rise of mobile traffic and value exchange. Mobile may not be ad-friendly, but customers might be far more willing to watch a video or touch through a quick questionnaire on a cell phone — and that can ring a different key on the digital cash register. “Mobile is already more diversified,” says SponsorPay CEO Andreas Bodczek, explaining that it is moving beyond gaming companies for value exchange and will soon include publishers.
  • GCS is an easily deployable tool for small- and medium-sized businesses. As such, it could be an interesting add-on for publishers’ emerging marketing services businesses (“The newsonomics of selling Main Street”). That’s a line Google could allow newspaper companies to resell, just as many resell Google paid search.

May 09 2013

14:54

The newsonomics of influentials, from D.C. to Singapore to Raleigh

singapore-skyline-cc

It’s a season of new product launches, but you have to roam around the country and the world to find them. You have to look for the niches they’re trying to serve. These launches tell us a lot about the emerging digital news economy and the new building blocks that form its foundation.

Our journey takes us from Washington, D.C. to Singapore to Raleigh and back again to D.C. Publishers — and broadcasters — are basing these new businesses on a set of surprisingly similar features.

In D.C., Atlantic Media — in the beehive of activity that is its headquarters in the Watergate Building, overlooking the Potomac — is putting the finishing touches on its latest launch: Defense One. The new digital-just-about-only product will debut this summer, Atlantic Media president Justin Smith told me last week.

Defense One aims to disrupt a set of incumbent defense-oriented publications: Jane’s, Gannett-owned Defense News, and Breaking Defense, among them. Atlantic Media believes it’s found an opening — a wide one — to exploit.

“We saw a gap,” says Tim Hartman, president of the Government Executive Media Group, the Atlantic Media brand under which Defense One will take flight. The company believes It may offer a market as much as three to seven times greater than Government Executive itself, a 40-year-old title that has largely made the transition to digital.

Hartman says the understanding of the opportunity popped out of strategic planning that began two and a half years ago. Quartz, the business site launched last fall (“The Newsonomics of Quartz’ business launch”) was the first new product to come out of the work. Defense One is the second. A third one will likely launch within the next two years, says Hartman.

If analytics derived from Government Executive’s audience and usage provided the notion, in-depth interviews with 40 defense sector players filled in a roadmap. The company conducted initial hours-long interviews with them, and then returned to a number of them for second or third talks as plans solidified.

Over time, Hartman says Defense One’s staff size will be similar to that of Quartz — about 18-20 in content creation and production. While the company is looking for a top editor, Hartman says its editorial mandate is clear: “an orientation for the future.” That’s what industry leaders want, a sense of what is more likely than not to happen tomorrow, and why.

Much of Atlantic Media’s sales, marketing, analytics and financial functions can be leveraged to support the new product, minimizing what would be similar expense for a one-off start-up. Also like Quartz, it is going free, looking to marketers to make it profitable. It isn’t just an ad play. Rather, it looks to an emerging model of higher-end sponsorship and content marketing — with the important adjunct of events marketing — to propel it forward.

Its offer to marketers will follow the playbook of what Atlantic Media’s half-dozen other publications (The Atlantic, The Atlantic Wire, The Atlantic Cities, Quartz, National Journal, Government Executive) now offers. It’s on-site sponsorship/share-of-voice placement, content marketing, and marketing services aid and placements and sponsorship of physical events.

That events business rides right alongside inclusion on its websites, providing marketers with a brand association that fluidly moves from online to off and back. It’s a strategy now well-employed in D.C. — also exploited by Politico and The Washington Post — and among events leaders like The Texas Tribune. Atlantic Media has turned events into a potent, higher-margin revenue source, now accounting for around 16 percent of revenues.

Even before Defense One’s product launch, it is well along in lining up speakers for its first event in November.

Atlantic Media targets influentials. It is a term you hear often in conversation with the company’s president, Justin Smith. Quartz targets business influentials. Government Executive and National Journal target government influentials. Now Defense One targets national security influentials. It’s a spin on the Meredith marketing positioning I noted a couple of weeks ago, as that company morphed from a women’s magazine company to a company expert at marketing to women.

“It’s really a B2B model,” says Smith, explaining in a few words much of Atlantic Media owner and chairman David Bradley’s plan to double company revenues and profits within five years. The best B2B companies deeply know their audiences and then plan numerous touchpoints to yield revenue. If they are number one in their field, they reap the benefits.

There are a lot of influentials in this world. The trick is in picking the right targets.

Seeking influentials across Asia

That’s who HT Media, publisher of a leading national Indian daily (the Hindustan Times) is targeting in Singapore. Mint is HT Media’s business newspaper, now six years old and published in eight Indian cities. The paper was cofounded by Raju Narisetti, who has since done stints at The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal and was recently named senior vice president and deputy head of strategy for the emerging, separate News Corp.

For Mint and its digital Livemint, a highly readable, authoritative business news source, finding growth included finding influentials abroad and expanding upon its mission to be “a fair and clear-minded chronicler of the Indian dream.”

One month ago, it launched MintAsia in Singapore. Its targets: the large Indian expat business community. There are 4,500 Indian-owned companies in Singapore, which is fast becoming the multinational business center for its region. MintAsia is also aimed at those multinationals, for whom better knowledge of India, its economy, and its policies are central to their own growth plans.

The new MintAsia is both a weekly newspaper published on Fridays and a website. About a quarter of the weekly content is originated for the Singapore market — largely produced by Mint’s India-based staff of 140, with stories like “Top 10 Indian Health Startups” targeted for the strong health care business sector of Singapore. The rest of MintAsia’s content is chosen from Mint’s stream of web-first and daily print content. HT is sending a former head of ad sales to head up the MintAsia operation, and has employed a handful of Singapore locals to deal with circulation and logistics.

“The whole idea is to leverage our strength,” Sukumar Ranganathan, Mint’s editor, told me in Delhi. “For Singapore, it’s marginal costing.”

So, its costs are small, and its potential gain — in revenue, in branding, and in influence — is large.

Its business model is au courant. MintAsia is an all-access, print + digital product. It’s printing 3,000 copies to start, with a goal of reaching 10,000 within a few years. By branching out of its home market, it is not only testing a pay strategy; it’s a pay strategy that greatly exceeds what it can charge in its home market. India is just about the only major nation not suffering from the worldwide newspaper turndown. Advertising is growing robustly, and circulation is holding as well. That’s what adding millions of literate, better educated, striving-into-the-middle-class citizens a year will do for you.

But Indian dailies are among the cheapest in the world. Mint daily costs four rupees per copy — seven cents American! An annual subscription will set you back 500 rupees, or about $9.26.

In Singapore, Mint Asia costs six Singapore dollars, or US$4.87. Buy a year of print with access to the LiveMintAsia, and the price is 180 Singapore dollars or US$146. (Its paywall is now a hard one, but will go metered, powered by Press+, next month).

So we see minimal costs, good ramping all-access circulation money, and two other familiar streams of revenue: advertising targeting the financial and other needs of Singapore-based Indian influentials and events. MintAsia’s formal launch comes on May 28, when it hosts a conference in Singapore that includes the head of the Indian equivalent of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. That event already has two paying sponsors; more sponsored events are in the works.

As with Atlantic Media, the niche strategy is more than a one-off. Hong Kong may be the next logical market, with other Asian markets farther down the list. If Mint moves into those markets, it will likely proceed much as it has in Singapore — checking its data for critical masses of likely readers and then following up with in-person visits to new cities, talking to to the influentials about influential publication potential.

Seeking influentials in North Carolina

Back in Raleigh, North Carolina, the WRAL’s TechWire product isn’t new, but its paywall is. It is certainly one of the first paywalls put up by a broadcaster, though in this case, Research Triangle (Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill) digital market leader WRAL isn’t putting one up on its main site — it erected its paywall on its technology vertical about a month ago. It follows the paywall paradigm, with a couple of twists.

TechWire charges $24.99 for an Insider annual membership, which includes numerous industry events and other discounts. Until May 16, the annual price is discounted by half. It also offers monthly passes for $2.49 and day passes for 99 cents.

So far, WRAL general manager John Conway says he happy with the early results. Most subscribers are opting for the annual plan; unique visitor and pageview loss has been minimal for the site that’s recently averaged 125,000 unique visitors a month, the majority of whom are local. His goal: get 5-10 percent of those uniques paying for something.

The paywall is powered by Amsterdam-based Cleeng, a paywall provider whose clients include Epicurious, DailyMotion, and now, TEDMED, and which offers an architecture that works well with video content access control.

TechWire offers a hard paywall, with first paragraph offering for free on staff-written stories. (AP, Bloomberg and other non-local content makes up 50-60 percent of the site, and that remains accessible.)

Seeking influentials in D.C. politics

Up the road and back in D.C., Politico continues to build on its impressive Pro line of products (“Politico Pro grows into 1,000 organizations, moves into print”) — following the influential methodology. Roy Schwartz, the company’s chief revenue officer, now counts seven Pro products. Three of these — finance, tax and, interestingly, defense — debuted last September. They followed energy, health care, and technology, all launched in February, 2011, and transportation, which followed a year later.

These Pro products, too, borrow from the same marketplace understandings that drive Atlantic Media and Mint. In Politico’s case, it’s working richer veins of revenue. Politico Pro now claims more than 7,000 users, across more than 1,000 organizations.

Politico sells institutional subscriptions, on a largely per-seat basis, to groups within each niche that want an insider’s time and knowledgable view. Politico takes in mid-four digits a year for each subscriber, with pricing variable by niche and what the market will bear. It also sells sponsorships into the Pro products, the same kinds of marketing that funds its free Politico site. Then those sponsors’ reach is further extended — at an additional price, of course — into events. Last year, Politico hosted 90 events. On its roadmap, it makes sure that each of the Pro verticals will host an event a quarter. It’s sponsorship-fueled, value-added-to-membership relationship marketing.

Schwartz says the events are free to attendees and strive to match the allure of the Pro coverage. “It’s about convening thought leadership. What we find interesting, our audience finds interesting.”

So what do you do when you’ve bound together targetable groups of influentials? You put together an Influencer Upfront. On Wednesday, Politico hosted its first Influencer Upfront.

The upfront was a day of presentations, editorial and advertising, to significant advertisers. Politico is borrowing a page from the long-standing TV network upfronts, events held to showcase shows and sell fall ad campaigns in the spring. Digital upfronts are becoming all the rage, as this spring saw several in New York City’s, including one sponsored by Digiday.

Lessons learned

It’s no accident that each of these four newer products all touch business audiences and markets. The truism hold: It’s easiest to make money where money is changing hands. Make yourself an effective intermediary, and you can grab a little of it as it moves. It’s easiest to see these opportunities, clearly, in and around business. It’s an in-the-know kind of market, and it’s one — because of scale — that national publishers are now tending to exploit first.

Can it work regionally? Can regional newspapers find big enough niches to replicate this model? If I were a regional publisher, I’d be doing a whiteboard exercise bouncing off these emerging influentials models.

Among these four newer products, we can see the emerging new rules of publishing creation. Among them:

  • Critical mass enables growth. Niche product creation that builds on existing company infrastructure, knowledge and marketplace learnings is the cost-effective way to go. Each of these companies adapted what they learned to these new launches. Politico’s seven Pro products illustrate this most clearly; Atlantic Media’s cousin-by-cousin launches put a parallel spin on the notion. (Intriguing side note: Politico owner Robert Allbritton put his once-core TV station holdings on the market last week, saying he wanted to further invest in and around Politico. The “around” could include replicating the Politico business model in a new coverage niche.) This is a new power of incumbency. It’s not the ownership of a printing press, as it was for newspaper publishers in the old days.
  • Analytics leads the way; in-person follow-up seal the deal. You may have an intuition about a new market, but checking it out — doubly — is essential.
  • Help your audience deal with future and present shock. Covering a sector is one thing; covering in a way that embraces — and tries bring a bit of order to — the multiple change issues of any audience is another. That’s an aspirational and competitive editorial positioning, but we can see ongoing examples of it in the work that Mint, Quartz, and Politico already produce.
  • Events are emerging as both a vital new revenue source and an almost counterintuitive high-touch part of the mostly digital business mix. HuffPost Live, Google Hangouts, and assorted other ways to assemble online community are great experiments and promising tools, but old-fashioned in-person events are gaining strength as we all go more digital. That’s an important learning about the value of relationship, and how to reinforce it, even in the age of MOOCs.
  • It’s not print or digital. It’s digital and print, suited to audience reading habits — which of course are a moving target. Influentials, like all of us, toggle between the two.

Photo of Singapore skyline by Thibault Houspic used under a Creative Commons license.

August 22 2012

20:13

Coming in the side door: The value of homepages is shifting from traffic-driver to brand

Moving on from newspapers, journalism industry soothsayers are now predicting the decline of something much younger: the homepage.

As with newspapers — which haven’t so much disappeared as been pushed off center stage — few are saying that homepages will disappear completely. But as more people enter news sites sideways — via search engines, links they see in emails, or via Facebook and Twitter — newsrooms are finding their homepages aren’t the starting points they once were. And the propulsive growth of mobile devices has accustomed news sites to presenting more than one face to the digital audience, through some mix of mobile-optimized sites, native apps, and responsive design. (You now have news outlets talking about their desktop sites almost as an afterthought to mobile-first development.)

(I’m willing to bet that you got to this very article through some non-homepage channel; less than 7 percent of visits to Nieman Lab start on our homepage.)

At the same time, traffic patterns seem quite divided between those who dive deep into social media and those who still head for news orgs’ front doors. Just 9 percent of Americans reported getting news through Facebook or Twitter “very often,” according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism’s 2012 State of the News Media Report.

Earlier this summer, we reached out to a number of news organizations to see what they’ve been seeing in recent months. Take The New York Times, for instance. In early 2011, the Times was typically seeing 50 to 60 percent of its visits come from people starting at the homepage of nytimes.com. More recently, that number had dropped a bit, with 48.6 percent of site visits starting there in March. Search engines drove 17.1 percent of traffic to the newspaper, and social is still just a blip: 3.1 percent of New York Times traffic came from Facebook, and 1 percent from Twitter.

But for brands that don’t have the history of the Times, the side door can be more important. At Buzzfeed, a whopping 37 percent of traffic comes from social networks and 17 percent from search, a spokeswoman told me. Of course, Buzzfeed makes virality a key tenet of news production — even if it means hooking readers with tacky celebrity photos and tags like “interspecies cuddling” — so it makes sense that social would be a significant part of how Buzzfeed distributes content. On the more muted side of the news, ProPublica tells me it gets “a lot more” traffic through search, social, and email than from direct-to-homepage visits.

Google’s Richard Gingras has argued that shifts in audience flow mean that we ought to be reconsidering “the very definition of a website,” and the possibility that it’s time to put “dramatically more focus on the story page” rather than the homepage. In a piece for Folio, Atlantic Digital editor Bob Cohn wrote that the homepage serves an important purpose as the “ultimate brand statement,” but isn’t nearly as important as a place to drive traffic.

In fact, a remarkable 88 percent of traffic to The Atlantic comes in sideways, meaning just 12 percent of site visits begin on the homepage. When I spoke with Cohn, he echoed Gingras on the importance of story pages, and said the homepage is a place to glean “the sensibility and the content areas of the site.”

“The trick is not to worry about where they’re coming from — the trick is what are they doing after they come.”

“The article page is now the principal way that people arrive at The Atlantic,” Cohn said. “The old mantra that every page needs to be a homepage has never been more true. People come for the article, and the goal is to give them a clean and interesting reading experience for the article — elegant, not too crowded, some art, a pull quote if the piece is long enough — and beyond that to make sure that we are giving the reader a sense of what else is on our site.”

Revisiting a series of questions Josh posed back in March 2011, I asked about a dozen news organizations for data detailing the following over the course of a recent 30-day period:

1. What percentage of your traffic comes from search engines?
2. What percentage of your traffic comes from facebook.com?
3. What percentage of your traffic comes from twitter.com?
4. What percentage of your site’s visits begin on your front page?

Only a handful gave me exact figures. But others were willing to speak generally about how traffic habits are changing, and what their organizations are (and should be) doing about it.

Raju Narisetti, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, says the shift away from the homepage is clear but that subscribers and non-subscribers frequent the homepage at different rates. (Narisetti broadly discussed traffic numbers in an interview, but The Wall Street Journal declined to provide specific percentages.)

“Sixty percent of our audience is not coming through the homepage, so already the majority is not experiencing the homepage,” Narisetti told me. “I’m more focused on the behavior of our subs versus our non-subs. Our subs come to the homepage in big numbers because they pay for it — they bookmark it. The non-subs tend to find out about our stories through other ways, so they come in sideways.”

He says social media traffic to the site accounts for anywhere from 6 to 10 percent. On the day after President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage, for example, social traffic was on the high end. (Narisetti attributes that spike in part to a Wall Street Journal Storify detailing Twitter reaction to the news.) But even as social grows, and people find their way to Journal stories without ever laying eyes on the homepage, Narisetti says it remains a critical area for editors to convey their news judgement.

“Ultimately, the curated aspect of the homepage brings people to big brands, right?” he said. “The trick is not to worry about where they’re coming from — the trick is what are they doing after they come. If they come sideways, can I get them to actually go to the homepage? That won’t happen if I diminish the value of homepage internally. I still need to make sure the homepage is engaging — just not get too hung up on people coming there first…It’s more of an engagement play than a front-door-audience play these days.”

“Anything we can do besides just words is something I’m thinking a lot about, and I think matters. We’re probably not doing it as fast as we should.”

Narisetti says the Wall Street Journal’s numbers are comparable with other big papers like The New York Times. His previous employer, The Washington Post, declined to share their traffic percentages. Its Beltway rival Politico would only provide wide ranges of traffic percentages. It said between 35 percent and 50 percent of its traffic begins at the homepage, for example. The Los Angeles Times was similarly cagey.

At a smaller outfit, ProPublica news apps editor Scott Klein, says publishing frequency affects readers’ traffic habits.

“ProPublica’s kind of the Galápagos Islands of news organizations,” he said. “We have very different species here. For most news websites, the homepage — because it changes so often throughout the news day and because so much of what they do is about what’s happening at this very moment — their homepages are where users tend to start. At ProPublica, we get a lot more traffic from social, search, links, and our email than we do through the homepage. But the homepage provides a crucial function, which is that it expresses the editor’s vision of the organization. And for somebody who doesn’t know who we are, it explains who we are, what we do, and how we do it.”

Klein said he wasn’t able to determine how many ProPublica readers start at the homepage, but that about 24 percent of traffic comes through search engines, 9 percent through Facebook and Twitter, and 8 percent via links in ProPublica’s email newsletters.

Everyone I interviewed agreed: The homepage can and should stay. But what needs to be done about story pages now that more and more readers are starting there? The Atlantic’s Cohn says one key is to bring in more photos and images.

“Less text and more visuals are going to help on most of our pages,” he said. “We’re not the text-heaviest site out there, but larger photos, better photos, more energetic ways of teasing other content. Headline fonts that convey the sensibility and the energy of the site. Anything we can do besides just words is something I’m thinking a lot about and I think matters. We’re probably not doing it as fast as we should.”

So when’s the redesign? “Calling it a redesign is too formal, too print-like,” Cohn said. “We’re constantly tweaking.”

Note: Data is from a variety of periods, varying by news site, in the first half of 2012. ProPublica couldn’t provide traffic data related to visits that begin on the homepage.

We’d love to know about traffic patterns to your site. If you’re willing to share, please leave answers to our four questions in the comments section. For some more guidance, check out this earlier post.

July 25 2012

16:01

With its new pop-out markets widget, The Wall Street Journal is after super-niche readers

The Wall Street Journal quietly launched a new function last month, a pop-out Markets Data window that puts a real-time markets ticker in the corner of your screen. It’s part of the newspaper’s ongoing “WSJ Everywhere” mantra, and an attempt to keep readers connected with the Journal in an ever-fracturing and narrowing media world.

The soft rollout was also a way for Raju Narisetti, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal’s digital network, to test a hypothesis. “Our belief is there is a group of people whose prism to the world is through markets and market data,” Narisetti told me. “Let’s test that kind of theory and put this out there.”

He says the results have been promising. In the first three weeks, the widget got 200,000 pageviews from 25,000 people. Not only were people taking advantage of an opportunity to pop out niche content, but they were staying with it, and coming back to it. Users can toggle between U.S., European, Asian, and foreign exchange markets. There are also tabs for rates, futures, and a customized “My Markets” view.

“The interesting thing was that people on average were spending close to some 15 minutes on that,” Narisetti said. “If you look at that across the site, it’s probably close to more than double the average because so much sideways traffic comes in. I don’t want to falsely assume that somebody who has popped it out has spent all that time looking at it but the fact that people are popping it out on a consistent basis and coming back to it suggests that there is a class of people for whom this makes sense.”

The feature also makes sense from an advertising perspective. For a company like TD Ameritrade, which is currently sponsoring the widget, the pop-out ad space represents real estate in a stickier, more specialized hub of a media company with an already well-defined, desirable audience. (It’s worth noting that the dimensions of the pop-out are set: Try to make the window small enough to hide the ad and it snaps back into place.)

“For an advertiser, the opportunity to always be with their most engaged customers — it’s a unique feature,” Narisetti said. “Somebody has actively popped this out. They care about it enough that they want it on their desktop. As we increasingly think about the portability of our audiences, and that they want to engage with our content and our brand in multiple ways, this is how we’re visualizing our website.”

This perspective isn’t about occupying new corners of desktop space as much as it is about providing narrow sluices of content tailored to specific yet persistent interests. The Wall Street Journal has been experimenting heavily with topic-specific content streams in recent months. That includes ongoing coverage areas like the Markets Pulse stream it launched in April. But the paper is also streaming coverage of stories and events that aren’t as open-ended, like Facebook’s May 18 IPO offering. The Journal closed that stream on June 5.

Other streams that are still open include coverage of the Europe’s debt crisis, and the Olympic Games. (Last week, it opted to stream coverage of the theater shooting in Colorado. As of this writing, reporters are still updating that stream regularly.)

“The underlying principle is the same,” Narisetti said. “For a variety of audiences, some of whom might have a very definite prism through which they want to view the day’s events, don’t feel obliged to come back to the full product.”

We’ve written about the streamification of news before, and how it’s an aesthetic call back to the reverse-chronological blogs of the 1990s. But news streams are also structured like something more modern: Twitter. Narisetti is active on the site, and he’s told me before he sees its role in the future of journalism as “significant.”

Just this morning, he tweeted a link to an article that suggested the onset of news streams like The Wall Street Journal’s may portend the death of the article as we know it.

Is the “article” dead and on the onset of story “streams”MT @journalismnews journalism.co.uk/a549951 @wsj @bbc @ITVnews @CoverItLive

— Raju Narisetti (@rajunarisetti) July 25, 2012

Still, it seems unlikely we’ll see the Journal abandon the traditional article structure any time soon. Ultimately, the “WSJ Everywhere” credo comes down to giving readers a choice.

Read stories in the physical newspaper, online or via a smartphone app. (A responsive design site is still in the works, Narisetti said.) If you’d rather watch video news, they’ve got tons of it.

Want to watch something that has nothing to do with the news? That’s fine, too. Some of the Journal’s most popular YouTube content has had to do with Spiderman’s workout regimen and Emma Stone’s makeup.

It appears The Wall Street Journal doesn’t just want to be everywhere. It wants to be everything, too.

April 23 2012

15:37

Wall Street Journal dives into live, continuous coverage with its new Markets Pulse stream

The Wall Street Journal on Monday unveiled Markets Pulse, a platform for a continuous flow of news — including blog posts, articles, videos, tweets, photos, and other elements — that readers can dip into throughout the day from their computers or from a mobile device. The idea is to provide more choices to readers who are increasingly seeking news on-the-go.

Think of it as a daily liveblog of the markets: At this writing, Markets Pulse been updated 12 times in the past hour. Some of those are simply embeds of WSJ stories, which can be read in full without leaving the stream; others are updates of barely tweet length. (“Dow Down 150: All indexes are down more than 1.2%.”)

“This is just another way for them to access our content,” Raju Narisetti, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal’s Digital Network, told me. “Obviously, a lot of our readers are paid subscribers, so they should be able to get WSJ everywhere, wherever they want it.”

This isn’t the first time the newspaper has experimented with this kind of approach. It created a four-day stream for its Oscar coverage this February, and more recently it streamified its coverage of the presidential election in France. But Markets Pulse is built around an area of coverage rather than a finite event, which means it has the potential to be…neverending.

Creating an open-ended stream for markets coverage makes sense for a few reasons. It’s an area that a lot of Journal readers are already tracking, and one that lends itself to constant updates. “Markets is kind of an ongoing story all day, especially when the U.S. markets are open, and there’s an audience that follows it fairly religiously all the time,” Narisetti. “Rather than having to go to an article or a video in different, discrete places, this allows them to kind of have one place.” (It’s not for nothing that Bloomberg describes its terminals as a “massive data stream” — it’s a metaphor that works for the flow of a market day. Markets Stream would seem to be a decent candidate to be a second-screen companion to a Bloomberg terminal.)

Markets Pulse also includes an embed of the Journal’s video player right next to the content whenever a live show is on. With the newspaper’s big push in video, particularly live video, having a page that readers can treat as they’d treat CNBC — that is, always on — could help increase the return on that investment.

It also gives reporters a place to put all kinds of information — short updates, tweets, and other elements that don’t always fit in a traditional article. But the news stream approach is about more than creating a centralized hub of information. Streams are also about tailoring the experience to readers’ habits. When British network ITV unveiled its stream-based online redesign last month, ITV digital director Julian March described about the importance of recognizing the “skimming and digging” that people like to do online.

Here’s how he put it:

We think that roughly 80 percent of visits to websites are based on skimming behavior: You go to the news site asking, “Tell me what the news is today.”…Digging is where you come to the site and you’ve got a very specific kind of requirement: “I want to know what is going on in the Eurozone crisis,” or “I’ve just heard that Fabrice Muamba the footballer has collapsed, how is he doing?”

The format may also help drive traffic to Wall Street Journal content by fostering a habit of checking for frequent bite-sized updates the same way that people routinely check their email inboxes and Twitter feeds.

News streams also seem to have the advantage of stickiness — meaning readers spend time on streams longer than they do on traditional news sites. (Think of how sticky social streams like Facebook’s newsfeed or Twitter are, especially compared with traditional news sites.)

Narisetti, who started his job at the Journal in February after leaving The Washington Post, says there are more experiments like this one to come: “We’re going to experiment in multiple ways, and this just felt like one of the more interesting and fun ways to do it,” he said. The approach seems consistent with his mentality he described to us back in January: “I’m a big believer in newsrooms being in a permanent beta stage.”

April 21 2012

19:31

WSJ Raju Narisetti on the need to create great news experiences

The last keynote at ISOJ was Raju Narisetti, managing editor, Wall Street Journal Digital Network

Narisetti said the big challenge faces journalism is turning great content into great experiences

He noted that great content is now available in a wide variety of places. So just having smart content is not enough. Instead, he said, we have to create experiences to engage the user.

We are terrible at turning the multimedia parts of stories into a great experience, said Narisetti. There are words, images, perhaps video. But collectively, they do not make for a great experience

For him, a great experience comes at the intersection of technology and content.

Narisetti said that great experiences will not just come from developers or programmers. Instead we should think about embedding the developers in the newsroom.

“The physical architecture of the newsroom matters a lot,” he said. Titles matter now, he added, as a title will affect how journalists in the newsroom perceive and react to a developer.

In his view, a title like frontend developer or backend developer makes it hard for journalists to relate to the work of developers.

Moreover, Narisetti said the credits matter. He recalled how at the Washington Post, a major project credited the journalists but not the developers.

Looking ahead, Narisetti said we need to consider how projects will live on in the future. Is there a shelf-life? Do we post a note to readers, telling them this database is no longer updated?

We have to maintain the experience, he said, or think of the shelf-life of an experience.

In other words, newsrooms must plan for impermanence.

Talking about journalism education, Narisetti asked how students were being taught about engagement, about metrics, about enhancing loyalty to the brand.

One of the things they are doing the WSJ is thinking about the news as a stream of content. He showed an example of the WSJ live coverage of the Oscars.

The WSJ is doing the same thing with market coverage, to have a stream of news and information.

For Narisetti, it is about finding ways of having readers come back to your journalism and your brand.

 

April 17 2012

13:32

Pay Walls and Social Media Could Shift the Public Agenda

If conversations around digital journalism have been dominated by anything in the first quarter of 2012, it's probably been about subscriptions, also known as pay walls. Walls are going up at the L.A. Times and Gannett papers, and getting higher at The New York Times. And the editor of The Guardian asked his readers, "What would you give the Guardian? Money, time or data?"

wall.jpg

At the end of last year, Raju Narisetti proposed a pay wall alternative he dubbed the "'Why don't we pay you?' pay wall" ... and then left the unwalled Washington Post for the walled Wall Street Journal.

The conversation all this time has been focused on whether the shift toward digital subscriptions will save the news business. But the more interesting and important question is whether and how it will change the news content and public discourse.

There's never been a question that people will pay for digital content. Give people information they need to profit professionally or enjoy personally, and they will pay for it. But what about all the boring and bad stuff? What about the kind of iron-butt reporting that has journalists cover legislative subcommittee meetings just so powerful people know the public is watching? And the quarter million-dollar investigations that find the hidden winners and losers?

That news doesn't entertain; it doesn't give me a competitive edge; and it doesn't save my family money in the short run. Those kind of stories make big waves every now and again, but no matter how high the pay wall, once the story is out, it spreads via broadcast news, social media and word of mouth. Even those who don't pay for it get to benefit from its impact.

social media's role

The role that social media plays in the subscription pay model isn't fully understood -- by me at least. I'd like to find the time to ask about whether paying subscribers share more or different stories than non-subscribers.

In any case, with a pay wall in place, subscribers will -- as always -- set the agenda more than non-subscribers. Some subscribers will be more influential than others, either because they have more followers or because they provide a better filter. In either case, the future of public discourse lies with subscribers. We need to know more about who they are and how their desired public agenda differs from non-subscribers.

It's easy to suspect that only the elite would pay for news -- only people whose personal social and economic decisions are determined by taxpayer money and public markets -- and that the topics that interest those folks may not be particularly populist.

But then I stumbled across a January 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center that seems to indicate that the willingness to pay for news may not be as elitist as I originally thought: African Americans and Hispanics are significantly more likely than whites to say that they would pay a monthly subscription fee if that was the only way to get full access to their local newspaper online. But there's no significant difference among any age groups under 65, nor is there a difference between men and women. On the other hand, college grads and people who make more than $75,000 a year are more likely to say they would pay for online local news than people who make less and have less education.

So does the public discourse look different if the people who subsidize original reporting -- and then share it -- are rich, educated, racial and ethnic minorities? After paying to see the news, what would they share? And who would they share it with?

the social distribution of news

The democratization of publishing means that alternative points of view would always be waiting in the on-deck circle anytime the paid-stream media misses a story its audience cares about. So it's also important to predict what kind of effect the audience's sharing patterns would have on journalists who want to make sure their pay walled reports remain valuable enough to make ends meet.

The social distribution of news has two benefits for news organizations -- they sell advertising against each unique visitor, and they have an opportunity to convert the social media samplers into paying subscribers. But if the role of advertising at news organizations becomes a significantly lower share of revenue, then eyeballs alone won't matter as much. News organizations might be less interested in running "water cooler" stories that are cute and fun alone. And they might be more inclined to run stories that target an audience that wants more than 140-character summaries.

Research collaborations between academics and industry could help us make better guesses -- and making good guesses on this topic will be important for any news organization that understands it doesn't sell ads or subscriptions, but trust and influence.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Aunty P.

January 23 2012

19:00

A Post-mortem with Raju Narisetti: “I would have actually tried to move faster”

Raju Narisetti

Raju Narisetti does not seem like the kind of guy who settles. “I’m a big believer in newsrooms being in a permanent beta stage,” he told me recently. His Twitter bio hits inspirational notes (“Everything seems impossible until it is done”), but until a few days ago, it also included a sentence inspired by the French Revolution: “So follow me if I advance, kill me if I retreat, avenge me if I die advancing.”

Others can parse whether his most recent move — from managing editor of The Washington Post to managing editor of the WSJ Digital Network — counts as an advance, a retreat, or something else entirely. Narisetti, 45, is a Wall Street Journal alum and will help fill a void created with Kevin Delaney’s departure to The Atlantic.

Narisetti arrived at the Post three years ago to integrate its digital and print teams, which were literally separated by the Potomac River. “It was fairly traumatic, not in a bad way, but we changed our entire publishing system for print and online, we redesigned the website, we redesigned the newspaper, we physically emptied the newsroom and redid it and put everybody back in,” Narisetti told me. “We changed the overall structure of the newsroom. In all this we ended up reducing our workforce by close to 200+ people.”

He was hired three years ago to integrate the digital and print teams, which were literally separated by the Potomac River.

“So yeah, we put the Washington Post through a lot of change. And to be where we are now, where we had a record for the year in digital, an all-time record, entering a presidential election year, makes me feel good that it has gone well.”

Narisetti has said his singular goal was to bring Post journalism to as many readers as possible. With that came a “culture of measurement,” he says, gauging success by pageviews and time on site. Maybe not something a lot of print journalists want to hear — and probably one of the reasons Narisetti found some naysayers inside the Post and many outside (his words). The paper’s ombudsman went so far as to suggest Narisetti’s digital team was “innovating too fast.” And a disgruntled Post staffer came out of the woodwork — anonymously — to complain to Jim Romenesko:

He may have had great ideas, but you have to judge him by the end results: a desktop web site that loads too damn slow, has video that doesn’t work on an iPad and can’t present a mobile version of a story to a mobile device; a mobile site that lacks an article-search function and won’t display story comments; a series of mobile apps that function like packaged versions of the mobile site; the Godawful mess that is [content-management system] Methode that caused some of these issues.

Narsietti also wants to be judged by the end results, he said: “A single newsroom serving audiences across multiple platforms and breaking all-time records in page views, unique visitors, visits to the site and time spent on site is what the Washington Post newsroom is today—all measurable, all audience-focused data points not just some anecdotal talking points is what the Post is today.”

In 2011, the Post’s website saw a record number of pageviews, 26 percent more monthly unique visitors year-over-year, more video plays, more stickiness, more repeat visits, and, with the launch of iPhone and Android apps, 70 percent more mobile visits over 2010, according to internal Omniture data. He acknowledged, however, that the Post missed some goals, including growing its local audience, by a considerable margin.

Narisetti wrote in an email:

I am happy to take ownership of both success and problems, both of which we have plenty and always will. [...] Like many traditional media companies, the Post is also finally recognizing that the future will play out at the intersection of Post journalism and technology, in creating great “experiences” for readers. And its journey of not treating technology as a service function but as a strategic partner to news, something I have flagged for a while, has just begun and will succeed. Finally, I would have actually tried to move faster than we have. Big established newsroom cultures can get into trouble when we focus on the rear-view mirror and only talk of how far we have come.

“He was not afraid of hurting people’s feelings and that’s a good thing,” publisher Katharine Weymouth told a Post reporter. “He’s a change agent.”

In January 2009, Post Editor Marcus Brauchli created a system of dual managing editors: Narisetti ran the editing staff, producers, photo desk, social media people, and graphics and design teams, while his counterpart Liz Spayd ran the reporters. The dividing line between their jobs was job function, not medium.

Narisetti assigned “innovation editors” to the desks — sports, opinion, politics, the investigative team — for day-to-day and medium-term projects. Over the last few months, Narisetti has assembled a small, centralized team of digital project managers who focus on bigger-picture, sitewide projects. That team’s first product was the @MentionMachine, which gulps data from the Twitter fire hose and the Post’s own Trove APIs to track which candidates are talked about most in a week. The goal, he said, is for replicable innovation, code that can be re-used for other stories, not one-off projects.

The most aggressively digital-focused people might criticize a structure that includes distinctive digital editors instead of integrating digital into all jobs in the newsroom. Narisetti acknowledged that, but called it a transition. “At the beginning of our evolution to become a single newsroom, we did specifically need innovation catalysts in each of the groups because the groups that are print-focused are probably not digitally focused. So they needed somebody who understood what digital can do for their piece of content.”

Narisetti said he is leaving the Post amicably and sees the Wall Street Journal gig as a new challenge. There he’ll be responsible for WSJ.com, SmartMoney.com, MarketWatch, and foreign-language editions of WSJ.com.

“To talk about print and online integration now feels a little bit like Web 1.0, I think, been there, done that in some ways. It has become a baseline rather than actually the goal,” he said. “To me the biggest challenge going forward this year and beyond is, How do you integrate technology and content? Because I think that’s going to be the defining characteristic of successful media companies. Can you create engaging news experiences that create loyalty and engagement?”

January 13 2012

16:30

December 01 2011

15:00

The newsonomics of tomorrow

Feeling a little stressed about tomorrow? Given the stress of company budgeting, the stress of wider economies turned upside down, the stress of stress itself (Time helpfully chirped in this week with an “Anxiety: Why It’s Good for You” cover this week), many media tomorrows have turned out to be less fun than the days preceding them. Tomorrow just seems to offer a tougher challenge than today. If reality seems a little hard to take, let’s take a little tour of “augmented reality,” a terrain in which those who practice the business of news will soon operate.

Let me cite just a few samples of tomorrow that have filtered recently into my mid-20th-century-minted brain:

  • Soon, information will be delivered to us via contact lenses or glasses. Courtesy of Michio Kaku’s latest book, Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100, and his NPR rounds, we’re hearing a lot about new ways to deliver information. One that makes the tablet seem like very old news very quickly is the contact lens. The idea: Take the tiny chips already in creation and put them in interesting places, like our eyeballs. Why waste time with a middleman device, when you can implant the web onto our eyeball. Sounds bizarre and sci-fi, but apparently it’s been done in the labs — and, of course, our military is playing with it to wargame out future conflict. “Everything will be annotated. Everything will be footnoted, and we’ll love it,” Kaku told Fresh Air’s Terry Gross this week. At one point in their adventurous conversation, where Kaku sounds a bit like a brilliant, mad scientist seeing all upside, Terry puts down the stirrups on the galloping-into-the-future horse, with a “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up a minute.”
  • Our world ends not in fire or ice, but apparently mice. Our close cousins (with 95-percent-plus of our DNA) are making news with two different tomorrows. First, the end of aging (wouldn’t that be good news for newspaper publishers and PBS NewsHour!), with mice-tweaking scientists able to reverse aging. Second, the implant of memory into mice, or should we say discrete memories into mice. “The researchers, having recorded the appropriate signal from CA1 [tissue], simply replayed it, like a melody on a player piano — and the animals remembered,” reported The New York Times. “The implant acted as if it were CA1, at least for this one task. ‘Turn the switch on, the animal has the memory; turn it off and they don’t: that’s exactly how it worked.’” (And you thought Claire Danes’ Carrie Anderson was a significant upgrade on Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer; think again.)
  • We are learning machines, and we are now learning at warp speed. Duke professor Cathy Davidson, author of Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, talked recently with BioTech Nation’s Moira Gunn. One conclusion of her work: Those who multitask learn better and get more done, contrary to some recent reactionary folk wisdom. It’s how we organize our time, our workspaces and our learning environments, she says.
  • Intel is now planning our 2019 content experience. West of Portland, Intel futurist Brian David Johnson is now finishing his spec — his user requirements — for Intel’s 2019 chips. 2019? While he’s a futurist, drilled in engineering, robotics and artificial intelligence, he’s in the hardware business, and it takes a long time to work through the manufacturing process. We both spoke at a recent European conference, and I was able to spend some time talking through his work, and start thinking about its impact on the news world. Johnson is an engineer, but possesses a sociologist’s curiosity. His team of 100, including an interesting mix of anthropologists, ethnographers, and engineers, tries to figure out how consumers will be consuming digital info and communicating by the end of the decade. “It’s not about prediction. It’s developing an actionable vision for the future that we can build.” A lot of what Johnson has been focusing on is captured in his recent book, Screen Futures: The Future of Entertainment, Computing and the Devices We Love, which projects scenarios into 2015 and came out in paperback this summer. It builds on the iPad/iPhone phenomenon, laying out a connected world of TVs, phones, cars, and computers. Screens, both commercial and informational, are the main way we’ll move through our lives, say Johnson. His — and Intel’s — business goal: “To create a landscape that allows people to connect.” His Tomorrow Project offers next-step ruminations, some sci-fi-inflected, on our common future.

So, what does this begin to tell us about the news, and newsonomics of tomorrow?

First, it should remind us that tomorrow won’t be just an extension of today. We are taking, almost literally, quantum leaps in our ability to corral knowledge, distribute it, and consume it, in ways almost unthinkable five years ago.

Second, technology is the main driver of what’s going to be possible in the news and media businesses. That’s been true, to an extent, in the build-up to today. Tomorrow, though, poses consumers amped up at first on ubiquity — all those screens — and able sooner than later to consume more, know more, and interact more, with electronics extensions added on to them. By chance, this week, I had a talk with Raju Narisetti, Washington Post managing editor and one of the savviest editors in the business. I was checking in on the Post’s once-controversial re-integration, now about two years old.

Narisetti says that that integration, largely done, isn’t what worries him. What worries him, he said, is the coming-together of the content produced by the newsroom (of 650) and of technology. “We must offer a great experience and we need technology to do it,” he said. In a world where many publishers cover similar topics, “technology is a differentiator.” He wasn’t thinking chip implants or web contacts, but today’s technology (developed, maybe 5-10 years ago) that aid the process of storytelling, whether by blog, by video, by audio, by map, or something else. For the Post, he says, one next big challenge is mastering the technology curve, largely within the resources (although maybe purposed differently) that it has today.

In part, that may include just great, problem-solving software, as the Lab’s Andrew Phelps highlighted in his well-tweeted “truth goggles” post last week.

Third, it means stretching some news company vision, Intel-like, well beyond next year’s Excel and Powerpoint. If indeed consumers quickly adopt multi-screen access and are willing to find news in non-traditional places — don’t you love the stat offered by the Guardian yesterday that “Over half (56.7%) of [Guardian Facebook app] users are 24 and under, and 16.7% are 17 and under” — how do news companies themselves have to rapidly change? News companies don’t quite have to forsake the web browser for the genome browser — but their own 2015 product planning might lead them to different investments of time and treasure in 2012.

Fourth, pay some journalists to learn about this new developing world, this odd nexus of technology, learning and humanity, which, not to put too fine a point on it, is changing what it means to be human. I have little doubt that 50 years from now, our descendants will think of us as somewhere-up-from-Neanderthals, but in the shorter term, there is good and necessary journalism to be done about these profound changes before us. This isn’t the next generation of Red Bull we’re talking about; it’s about addition of electronics to the human body, making us different, if not better, people. Imagine, for a moment, the profound ethical, social, political and legal questions those raise. A smart journalism should be in the middle of framing those questions.

June 11 2011

20:07

Raju Narisetti, Washington Post: news brands, get more creative, engaging and useful

Forbes :: There has never been a better time to be a journalist for The Post, writes Raju Narisetti, Managing Editor, The Washington Post. In 2010, 29.3 million readers read some 270 million pages of Post journalism each month, a record for The Washington Post. Of that, 28.1 million did so online and, while The Post brought in 4.2 million new readers on average each month compared to the previous year, they also lost some 35,000 print subscribers in 2010 alone.

[Raju Narisetti:] Revenues from online advertising too haven't really caught up. Cost cutting and trying to make online readers pay, may not be the answer. The news brands need to get creative and make their content easier, more engaging and useful.

So, what's the big deal you might ask?

 

Continue to read Raju Narisetti, www.forbes.com

March 31 2011

18:10

June 09 2010

16:00

Making connections: How major news organizations talk about links

Links can add a lot of value to stories, but the journalism profession as a whole has been surprisingly slow to take them seriously. That’s my conclusion from several months of talking to organizations and reporters about their linking practices, and from counting the number and type of links from hundreds of stories.

Wikipedia has a 5,000 word linking style guide. That might be excessive, but at least it’s thorough. I wondered what professional newsrooms thought of linking, so I contacted a number of them and asked how they were directing their reporters to use links. I got answers — but sometimes vague answers.

In this post I’ll report those answers, and in the next post I’ll discuss the results of my look into how links are actually being used in the published work of a dozen news outlets.

The BBC made its linking intentions public in a March 19 post by website editor Steve Herrmann.

Related links matter: They are part of the value you add to your story — take them seriously and do them well; always provide the link to the source of your story when you can; if you mention or quote other publications, newspapers, websites — link to them; you can, where appropriate, deep-link; that is, link to the specific, relevant page of a website.

I asked Herrmann for details and reported his responses previously. Then I sent this paragraph to other news organizations and asked about their linking policies. A spokesperson for The New York Times wrote:

Yes, the guidance we offer to our journalists is very similar to that of the BBC, in that we encourage them to provide links, where appropriate, to sources and other relevant information.

Washington Post managing editor Raju Narisetti made similar remarks, but emphasized that the Post encourages “deep linking.”

While we don’t have a formal policy yet on linking, we are actively encouraging our reporters, especially our bloggers, to link to relevant and reliable online sources outside washingtonpost.com and in doing so, to be contextual, as in to link to specific content [rather] than to a generic site so that our readers get where they need to get quickly.

Why would anyone not link to the exact page of interest? In the news publishing world, the issue of deep linking has a history of controversy, starting with the Shetland Times vs. Shetland News case in 1996.

The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires wouldn’t discuss their linking policy, as a spokesperson wrote to me:

As you can see from the site, we do link to many outside news organizations and sources. But unfortunately, we don’t publicly discuss our policies, so we won’t have anyone to elaborate on this.

From observation, I did confirm that Dow Jones Newswires don’t reliably link to source documents even when publicly available online. I found a simple story about a corporate disclosure, tracked down the disclosure document on the stock exchange web site, then called the Dow Jones reporter and confirmed that this was the source of the story. But it’s unfair to single out Dow Jones, because wire services don’t do linking generally.

The Associated Press does not include inline links in stories, though they sometimes append links in an “On the Net” section at the bottom of stories. A spokesperson explained why there is no inline linking:

In short, a technical constraint. We experimented with inline linking a year or so ago but had difficulties given the huge variety of downstream systems, at AP and subscriber locations, that handle our copy. The AP serves 1,500 member U.S. papers, as well as thousands of commercial Web sites and ones operated by the papers, radio and TV stations, and so on.

Reuters links in various ways from stories viewed within its professional desktop products, including links to source documents and previous Reuters stories, though these links are not always standard URLs. Their newswire product does not include links. A spokesperson asked not to be quoted directly, but explained that, like the Associated Press, many of their customers could not handle inline links — and no copy editor wants to be forced to manually remove embedded HTML. She also said that Reuters sees itself as providing an authoritative news source that can be used without further verification. I get her point, but I don’t see it as a reason to not point to public sources.

The wire services are in a tricky position. Not only are many of their customers unable to handle HTML, but it’s often not possible for the wires to link to their previous stories — either because they aren’t posted online or they’re posted on many subscriber websites. This illuminates an unsolved problem with syndication and linking generally: if every user of syndicated material posts copy independently on their own site, there is no canonical URL that can be used by the content creator to refer to a particular story. (The AP’s been thinking about this.)

These sorts of technical issues are definitely a barrier, and staff from several newsrooms told me that their print-era content management systems don’t handle links well. There’s also no standard format for filing a story with hyperlinks — copy might be drafted in Microsoft Word, but links are unlikely to survive being repeatedly emailed, cut and pasted, and squeeze through any number of different systems.

But technical obstacles don’t much matter if reporters don’t value links enough to write them into their stories. In conversations with staff members from various newsrooms, I’ve frequently heard that cultural issues are a barrier. When paper is seen as the primary product, adding good links feels like extra work for the reporter, rather than an essential part of the storytelling form. Some publishers are also suspicious that links to other sites will “send readers away” — a view that would seem to contradict the suspicion of inbound links from aggregators.

Reading between the lines, it seems that most newsrooms have yet to make a strong commitment to linking. This would explain the mushiness of some of the answers I received, where news organizations “encourage” their reporters or offer “guidance” on linking. If, as I believe, links are an essential part of online journalism, then the profession has a way to go to exploit the digital medium. In my next post, I’ll break down some numbers on how different news organizations are using links today.

Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!

Schweinderl