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April 24 2012

14:00

Collaborating for Dollars: How to Raise Revenue With Others

At the recent Collab/Space 2012 event, more hands shot up when Journalism Accelerator's Emily Harris asked who was interested in generating revenue than for any other question. Clearly, there's big interest in collaborating to earn money.

Here, then, are some pointers on collaborating to earn revenue and otherwise improve business performance.

Share The Pie to Make It Bigger

The common model in the media business used to be that one party would pay another a flat fee for a specified service or product. A publisher, for example, paid a vendor for printing or distribution. A freelancer got a check for a specified amount, agreed upon in advance.

PieThese days, however, it's increasingly common for two parties in a media deal to share revenue as it grows, rather than for one to fork over a single lump sum -- an approach that aligns interests and keeps both sides working toward the same goal.

Content creators for platforms like YouTube, BlogTV and Yahoo Voices can earn more revenue as what they produce gets more traffic. Vendors like AdSense and ad networks collect a share of revenue as it's earned, rather than simply charging a fee upfront for their technology.

Sure, if you're a content creator, it can be hard to let go of the impulse to keep all the money your efforts earn -- after all, the more participants there are, the more revenue has to be generated to support them. But your chances of earning more revenue grow if more people are collaborating to help make a project a success.

Help Promotion and Distribution

The more people or organizations there are collaborating on a media effort, the more promotional and distribution outlets become available, from websites to social networks, broadcast outlets, emails, mobile platforms, word of mouth, and so on. 

A New York Times executive recently told me that the paper's collaboration with WNYC on SchoolBook generates a lot more awareness of the education website because of the radio station's reach. (Read our previous coverage of SchoolBook.)

Lowell Bergman

Such active linking and sharing can, in turn, increase a product's search engine visibility, thus generating more traffic over time. And every additional pageview that carries revenue opportunities such as ads equals more money over time.

For non-profits, increased traffic can lead to increased funding.

"Collaborations could lead to ... more recognition, more distribution and more impact for stories," MediaShift's Mark Glaser, who co-hosted Collab/Space with UC Berkeley's Investigative Reporting Program (Berkeley IRP), wrote on a discussion thread started by Harris on the Journalism Accelerator website. "That could lead to more donations, memberships and foundation interest for funding."

At Collab/Space, co-host Lowell Bergman of Berkeley IRP pointed out that a Frontline collaboration with another news organization generated twice the viewership of a typical episode of the investigative documentary series.

Increase Efficiencies and Decrease Costs

In today's resource-starved news business, with reporters being laid off and fact-checking and copy desks eviscerated, it's increasingly difficult for any individual news organization to have the person-hours needed to carefully report a story and get it right.

"Collaboration has become something that is not just optional," Glaser said at the event. "It's become something that's really required and necessary."

Collaborating creates efficiencies by enabling partners to report and produce different parts of the same story. Rather than having multiple partners send a reporter or camera operator to a news conference, the partnership can send one coverage team, and other staff can focus on complementary work. People who are good at writing can write; those who specialize in video production can focus on that; and so forth. Organizations can share resources on the business side, too.

"Do we all want to be islands, or do we want to collaborate, share things like back-office operations?" asked Evelyn Larrubia of the Investigative News Network collaborative, which helps its dozens of members share "back-end" resources such as billing and accounting. "The problem we're solving is not a content problem. It's a resource problem and a depth problem."

Change the Mentality and Learn "Coopetition"

arm wrestling

Journalists needed to learn, as technologists in Silicon Valley have, that sometimes, cooperation with competitors is the best thing for your business, Glaser said. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Foursquare and many other media and technology companies share some level of information and code with competitors, knowing they'll be stronger for having done so.

As The Huffington Post, Business Insider, and Gawker have shown, others will share your material and build a business on it with or without your active participation; in that case, it's better to form proactive partnerships for mutual benefit.

Many news organizations and some journalists still tend to be proprietary about their efforts. But in a linked economy, why invest resources in "matching" a story that's just a click away?

"We have to have this kind of cultural shift," Glaser said. "There's a kind of ownership of the story that ... becomes about us. 'I want this scoop, I want the award.' What we have lost along the way is it's not about us, it's about serving people -- uncovering things that are important."

Oakland Local's Susan Mernit talked at Collab/Space about a for-profit news organization that "doesn't link out" and refused to help fund her organization's efforts to contribute to their site for fear her not-for-profit group would eventually overtake them. Both, actually, could have benefited and earned more revenue from the content.

Build Smart Networks to Build Value

Collaboration can take advantage of the network effect, the concept that the more nodes there are in a network, the more value there is to the network and to each of those nodes -- even when the nodes are competitors.

One apt illustration is "private label" ad networks that allow similar, sometimes competitive websites to aggregate their page views and communities through platforms such as Addiply, BSA Private Label and AdKiwi and increase each site's ability to appeal to advertisers they'd have more trouble reaching on their own.

In one example, a group of local websites that reach different neighborhoods around Chicago are banding together and increasing their ability to sell throughout the region with one sales staff.

Large media companies such as NBC Universal and Cox media have formed their own private label networks to group sites by subject, such as health, sports and food. Collaborating in this way can lead to more revenue for all.

Limit Liability

Imagine if CBS News had collaborated with computer experts to vet documents allegedly showing George W. Bush shirked his duties in the National Guard, or if Jason Blair had collaborators on his false stories published in Times. In each case, the news organization could have saved huge embarrassment and cost, and even kept the focus on the issues in the stories rather than the mistakes.

Also, the more contributors and organizations there are behind a story, the less easy it is for someone offended by it to take legal action. As Bergman noted, "If you can spread the liability on a story," you can make those who might sue think a little more before they do.

By its nature, business is a collaborative venture. All sides must derive value for a deal to succeed, and that's never been truer than in today's media business. Journalists who've grown up in a lone wolf, competitive culture would do well to emulate the lessons of their brethren in other domains.

Related Stories

> Collab/Space 2012: Building Trust, Tools and Relationships for Collaborating by Meghan Walsh

> Live Coverage of the Collab/Space 2012 Event by Ashwin Seshagiri

> Collab/Space 2012 Detailed Agenda

Keep up with all the new content on Collaboration Central by following our Twitter feed @CollabCentral or subscribing to our RSS feed or email newsletter:







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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+.

Pie photo courtesy of Flickr user Mackenzie Mollo; arm wrestling photo courtesy of Flickr user Fabio Venni.

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December 08 2009

19:05

5 Tools to Help Automate Local Advertising

Promises of whiter teeth, IQ quizzes, and digital dancing people clutter online ads these days. At the same time, experts at future-of-journalism conferences are declaring that news will never again be solely supported by advertising. Neither one tells the full story of the present and future of online advertising for hyper-local and other news websites.

Experiments with new advertising technology are popping up everywhere. Websites are trying to reach smaller, local advertisers that have been underserved for years by legacy media. This local and hyper-local ad market will be a significant part the future of journalism, says Jeff Jarvis, author of "What Would Google Do?" and associate professor and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York.

Even Twitter is dropping hints about its advertising plans. Founder Biz Stone said the company is not considering text and display ads for Twitter's home page, but he told Reuters on November 25 that the company plans to make money with "non-traditional" advertising. Stone didn't define what non-traditional ads will look like, but here are five examples of new tools that websites can use to make money from advertising.

5 Tools for Automating Local Ads

1. PlaceLocal: A new, hosted solution that allows publishers to automate local ad creation and sales. It's operated by PaperG, a startup led by Victor Wong, who is taking time off from Yale to develop his business. PlaceLocal automatically builds customized ads for any local business using just its name and address. The tool can even create a landing page for a small advertiser, Wong said in an interview during which he demonstrated the tool.

VictorWongmug.gif

The technology builds an ad using algorithms, and by searching databases and the web for reviews, photos, or entertainment listings. It also filters out any content that has a negative tone. The tool allows advertising representatives or publishers to easily build ads on spec and use them as a sales tool, Wong said.

"Some of our partners are using it to crawl their own databases," he said. The tool can be deployed on a publisher's ad servers or run separately, and payment to PaperG is based on a revenue-share basis, he said. "If customers aren't buying ads, we won't make money," he said. "If they are, we will make money." Several media properties are testing the software, Wong said, and a public launch is planned this month. PaperG raised $1.1 million in its second round, from people like the former Boston.com publisher Steve Taylor and Mark Potts, CEO of GrowthSpur, according to paidContent.

2. Dynamic ads: Offered by TheDigitel in Charleston, S.C., this tool allows advertisers to change ad content dynamically via a text message, Facebook or blog update, or using a Twitter or Flickr photo feed. "If you can feed it, our thing can eat it," claims TheDigitel's website. Advertisers fill out a form to create the ad and designate which parts are static, and which are dynamic.

3. Flyerboard: A virtual bulletin board that enables small, local advertisers to create flyers that are then distributed to hyper-local websites. This is another offering from PaperG. The tool, which lets readers share the flyers on Facebook and Twitter, is deployed at sites like the New Haven Independent, Boston.com's Newton, and some of Hearst's local sites, like The Woodlands in the Houston suburbs. Flyerboard is a permanent widget installed on local sites, and revenue is shared between the site and PaperG. Wong said Flyerboard has generated 1% clickthrough rates for ads on some hyper-local sites, outperforming traditional advertising.

minnpost realtime.jpg

4. Real time ads: These are delivered at MinnPost.com, a non-profit site covering Minnesota. Joel Kramer, CEO and editor of the site, showed off the concept during a panel at the Online News Association conference in early October. MinnPost champions the ads as a simple way to avoid creating specific messages just for one website. Rather, small advertisers can harness an RSS feed from an existing blog or business tweet stream. The text is displayed on a widget at MinnPost.com, with a link to a pop-up page displaying the text with images and links to originating websites.

5. Self-serve ads: Multiple examples of self-service ad vendors exist for print and the web, such as the Instiads offered through Neighborlogs, a placeblogging platform based in Seattle, and PageGage. Also, AdReady is used by The New York Times. A partnership for a self-service ad network was announced in September between the Tribune Company and MediaSpectrum.

Most of these services offer hosting and billing assistance in exchange for a percentage of revenue. Other companies, such as Trafficspaces, offer advertising software-as-a-service with monthly fees. Trafficspaces has also launched a free version with sponsored ads. Another ad management company, isocket, is in private beta with TechCrunch, and recently received $2 million in seed funding. Mobile self-serve ad tools have sprouted up as well, such as Zeep Media, which sets ad prices via auction, and Mojiva.

Sharing Space

Beyond the new technology offerings and platforms, traditional media organizations have begun sharing ad space with smaller publishers, borrowing the ad network concept from digital natives like the Blogher network of independent blogs for women. The Miami Herald, a McClatchy newspaper, has launched a Community News Network and is partnering with local websites for content on the Herald's site and sharing ad positions on those pages.

Andria Krewson is a freelance journalist and consultant from Charlotte, N.C. She has worked at newspapers for 27 years, focusing on design and editing of community niche publications. She blogs for her neighborhood at Under Oak, writes occasionally as a Tar Heel mom at The Daily Tar Heel and covers changing culture at Crossroads Charlotte. Twitter: underoak.

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December 03 2009

23:14

LiveRail Manages Multiple Video Ad Sources for PBS & Other Publishers

LiveRail is helping publishers manage an increasing variety source of video advertising. Last month, we spoke the company's Chief Operating Officer Michael Molesky about the company's work with publishers and networks.

The company released a new version of its platform in November, he said.

The San Francisco-based video ad technology firm has developed a unified set of tools for publishers to manage their in-house and third-party ad serving from one place, Molesky explained.

The tools also integrate with existing platform providers, such as Brightcove. "We see ourselves as a great partner with the key people in the ecosystem," he said. "

LiveRail caters to publishers, advertisers, and networks, with a suite of tools for each of those constituents. Clients usually want a combination of direct sales to sell their own ads or partnerships with ad networks, and LiveRail can handle both.

Customers include PBS, which uses LiveRail to manage sponsorship rights across its affiliate stations. "We make sure the correct messaging is linked to the correct content and any of the revenue rights associated with that are properly accounted for," Molesky said.

Ad networks, including three in the top 20, also use LiveRail to mange their campaigns across publishers.

Daisy Whitney, Senior Producer

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