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December 31 2011

14:39

Predicting the future of social media

The Nieman Journalism Lab asked me to contribute to its series looking ahead to what 2012 will bring for journalism.

For my contribution, I suggested that the excitement and hype over social media may start dying down in the coming year, and this is something to be welcomed.

My argument draws from Roy Amara‘s First Law of Technology:

With every change in technology that affects consumer behaviour, We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

In my post, I suggest:

Technologies reach their full potential when we forgot about the novelty. Instead they become boring and blend into the background. How often do we think about the technology behind the telephone, or the television set in our living room?

With any luck, this is what will happen with social media. Social media tools and services will be so ingrained within our everyday experiences that we forget that they are such recent developments.

Essentially, the technology will become invisible as we shape it to meet our political, social, and cultural needs.

Read the full post at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

December 29 2011

15:20

How Did My Predictions for 2011 Turn Out?

It's not too hard to make predictions. What's harder is to honestly evaluate how you did. In that spirit, I'd like to ask your help.

Early this year, I predicted how 2011 would go in digital media. I'd love it if you gave me a letter grade with a Tweet to @dbenk (#gradeDBenk), message to Dorian Benkoil on Google+, or a comment below.

2011 year small.jpg

Meanwhile, I'm assigning myself as judge, jury, executioner and palanquin bearer. I'll try to be as tough as I am for the business school graduate students I teach in media and entertainment technology management.

The Battle of Open Vs. Closed: B+

For 2011, I foresaw a battle of "Open vs. Closed" orientations from media companies in the digital sphere, positing that all the year's trends could be squeezed into this one.

I think I got the basic issue right. Yet, rather than a "battle," it looked more like a scramble. Media production and distribution companies tried to both charge for content and give it away.

The New York Times, Hulu and others tried to finesse both open and closed models, sometimes adjusting as they went.

The New York Times instituted a pay fence and kept trying to thread the needle between keeping traffic up by giving its work away, while making its most avid fans pay.

The Financial Times eschewed Apple's restrictive iPad policies and put its efforts instead into an HTML5 app that lives on the web but lets only subscribers get the full content offering. Walmart launched a web-based video service, Vudu.

Amazon, too, went the web app route with its Cloud Reader that, unlike its iPad app, lets consumers order directly from Amazon, something Apple doesn't allow through apps it approves for the App Store.

Hulu solidified premium offerings, saying you could get its content on the iPad or iPhone only if you paid for the app, and integrated its paid service into other devices such as the Roku box. Fox delayed its offerings on the free Hulu service by eight days. Hulu claims to be closing in on 1 million paid subscribers for the year.

VerizonVsFCC.jpg

Amazon's new Kindle Fire tablet is on the open-source Android platform but has "branched" the operating system to make it friendly with the device and the Amazon store and app market. That's both open and closed.

I had also predicted continued "open" vs. "closed" battles in Washington. Sure enough, prosecutors are finally making their case against the soldier who allegedly sent protected information to WikiLeaks.

On the policy front, the Federal Communications Commission instituted rules that protect the concept of Net neutrality, saying Internet service providers can't block or slow traffic. The FCC is now facing lawsuits from Verizon and others, as well as attempts in the Senate to block the regulations.

I didn't predict legal wrangling over copyright. To combat those who are illicitly providing content for which its producers want to charge, law makers (and nearly all media companies) are pushing SOPA, the Stop Online Privacy Act.

Opponents said SOPA would choke much of the creativity and sharing that has made the Internet so rich, and industry lobbyists fanned the flames on both sides.

Boycotts were called for SOPA supporters like GoDaddy and 3M, and opponents are discussing a counter bill, which The Atlantic has nicknamed OPEN. We'll see more of these battles next year.

The Battle Over Privacy: A-

There were, as predicted, intense discussions in Congress and federal agencies over whether to tamp down on the current open Internet practices in the name of protecting people's private information.

Industry groups, the Interactive Advertising Bureau a leader among them, fought a rear-guard action that appears to have held up the most draconian measures, such as ones that would have required advertising on the web to always ask a user's permission to institute even basic measurement. (Disclosure: My company has done work for the IAB.)

IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg said industry efforts at self-regulation, under which publishers and advertisers agree to uphold best practices and disclose what information they are collecting and sharing, means the effort at strict regulation "seems to be on the wane."

Still, if Congress ever gets over its gridlock on bigger matters, it may come back to the privacy issue especially after the November elections.

Google vs. Apple: A

Anyone who's paid attention can probably agree that these two Goliaths are fighting tooth, nail, finger, leg, foot and gun.

Google's Android operating system has overtaken Apple's iOS in phones, and is making inroads in tablets, with a big leg up from Amazon's Fire.

But Apple says core features of Android, such as certain finger gestures and internal coding, were stolen by its rival up the road in Silicon Valley.

Steve Jobs told biographer Walter Isaacson he'd "spend my last dying breath if I need to" and all of Apple's $40 billion in cash "to destroy Android," which Jobs said was "stolen" from the company he founded. "I'm willing to go to thermonuclear war on this," he said.

Apple won parts of a lawsuit against HTC this month over infringement of iPhone-related patents, though not at the deep coding level, and suits are continuing against other makers of Android phones such as Samsung. (Apple can't easily go after Google because it doesn't actually make the devices and it provides Android openly, for free.)

Google's Chrome browser installs have overtaken both Apple's Safari and the open-source Firefox, according to StatCounter. That gives Google a leg up in desktop browsing, and offerings such as its web apps, which compete with iOS apps.

Google's Chromebook computer, meanwhile, failed to make a dent even as Apple reached a 15-year high, with 5.2 percent of the world PC market.

Social Media Will Not See a Dip: A

It's hard now to believe that some were predicting a slowdown in social media this year.

Comscore found that social networking by this fall took up one of every five minutes spent online globally and reached 82 percent of Internet users over age 15 at home and work, according to eWeek.

Facebook reaches more than 55 percent of the world's user base, Comscore said. Founder Mark Zuckerberg told public TV interviewer Charlie Rose a few weeks ago that the company could reach 1 billion users in the near future.

Twitter, running second, well behind Facebook, also continues to grow, and LinkedIn has seen an increased presence as a professional network and a traffic referrer to media websites.

While some greeted the advent of Google+ with a beleaguered sigh, the site is said to be gaining on LinkedIn's 94 million visits with 66 million last month, according to Comscore.

Meanwhile, platforms and applications with heavy social elements, such as Tumblr, Foursquare, Instagram, News.me and Flipboard, picked up users and interest; Facebook acquired Gowalla; and it's rare to see a consumer-facing web product without a strong social element.

Social is still the rage, and a big buzz machine. Columbia University Journalism School's Social Media Weekend, in which I'm participating, has dozens of signups days after opening up seats at $200 each.

Social media are still being integrated into ads, measurement platforms, apps and more.

= = = = =

So, I think I did well enough to pass. If I weight my average so the top is worth more, and you believe my ratings, I'm somewhere around an A-.

I'd love to know your thoughts, and it helps if you #gradeDBenk. I'll give more of my thoughts, looking ahead to 2012, in my next column.

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+.

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January 18 2011

19:21

6 Predictions For the Music Industry in 2011

The music industry had a wild ride in 2010. Companies came and went, layoffs hit every sector, rapid growth delivered opportunity, and Spotify still didn't launch in the U.S. This year, 2011, should be no different.

Here are some predictions and thoughts about what 2011 may hold for the music industry.

1. A Major Label Shakeup

Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 10.33.20 AM.pngDespite all the talk about the major label system collapsing at any moment, it doesn't seem likely. However, 2011 may finally see a restructuring of assets and brands. EMI has no shortage of financial issues, and the current discussion points to Terra Firma handing them over to Citigroup in the near future. The big assumption is that EMI will be broken up and sold in pieces to the other three majors (Universal, Sony and Warner Bros). Of particular value is EMI's publishing division, and if the piecemeal sale does happen, there may be a fight for this asset. Of course, the other three majors aren't having the smoothest time with cash-flow either, so it remains unclear exactly who can buy what. At minimum, EMI will not look the same at the end of 2011 as it does now.

2. Indie Label Opportunity Grows

All music companies will be focused on streamlining their efforts in 2011. This involves smarter processes, innovative policies, and keeping overhead low. Independent labels typically have had to function with these elements in place from day one; their ability to stay nimble will allow for continued growth opportunity. As business partnerships continue to solidify between content owners and brands, smaller labels will be able to adapt quickly and profit at lower revenue thresholds. This creates a strategic advantage that, if managed properly, will see upward trends on indie label balance sheets.

3. Streaming Services Reach Critical Mass

spotifylogo.pngIn 2011, someone will become the Apple of streaming -- perhaps Apple itself. Consumers are getting closer and closer to accepting renting over owning content. Companies such as MOG, Rdio, Spotify, and Rhapsody are poised to capitalize on this. With good timing, savvy marketing, and clear messaging that succinctly communicates the benefits, a streaming music provider can easily take the leading role in this race. The safe money seems to be on Apple (in part thanks to the Lala acquisition), but the other contenders are quite serious and finding the level of funding necessary to compete. This sector is also making major moves into mobile and car audio; these additional distribution avenues only strengthen the push toward widespread adoption.

4. Free Continues Moving Upwards

"Free" has been a highly debated concept. One side states that the awareness and data capture free provides can be converted to sales over time. The opposition feels that free devalues content and sets the wrong precedent. The truth may lie somewhere in the middle, but it is clear that with the volume of free content (legal and otherwise) one has to be giving something away simply to stay competitive. This line of thinking is nothing new, but it has finally permeated the companies and artists at the top. The majors and superstars have relaxed their policies on free (especially when paired with data capture) and that trend will continue. This will happen in parallel with efforts to find techniques to convert free to paying -- a critical element to make this model work.

5. The Essential Toolkit Solidifies

Screen shot 2011-01-17 at 10.35.31 AM.pngDigital marketers have an almost endless supply of new technology and techniques to try. However, over the past 18 months, many have faded away or a best-of-breed front-runner has emerged. In 2011 we will see this continue as it becomes more clear which technologies and techniques provide real value. In 2010, it became easy (and essential) to track true performance metrics; marketers now have multiple tools to evaluate effectiveness based on conversion, data capture, sentiment, and engagement. This analysis is helping define where to focus efforts -- and that is helping digital music marketing become a more precise practice.

Companies with momentum in the digital marketing toolkit space include Topspin, Bandcamp, Nimbit, Rockdex, NextBigSound, Rootmusic, SoundCloud, Buzzdeck, Artistdata, Mozes, and the ever-essential Google Analytics. Let's also not forget the mainstays -- Twitter, Facebook, and email-marketing platforms such as ExactTarget, Mailchimp and Constant Contact.

6. The Net Neutrality Debate Continues

The positions and arguments haven't changed much, but the Net neutrality discussion (particularly at the government level) has accelerated. In late December, the FCC approved rules that enable mobile carriers to regulate application use. Many members of Congress have already stated they will fight this by creating a new law. This debate is still far from over; expect heated discussion all year long.

In many ways 2011 won't look much different than 2010. The music industry is still suffering from steep declines and is still building strategies and systems to counteract this. The key words moving forward are innovation and experimentation; most people have accepted the fact that we cannot force consumers to behave as they did in the past. Instead, we must seek to better understand our audience, foster stronger communication, and be willing to take leaps of faith on a regular basis.

*****

What predictions do you have for the music industry in 2011? Please share them in the comments.

Jason Feinberg is vice president, direct to consumer marketing for Concord Music Group. He is responsible for digital and physical direct-to-fan solutions for CMG's frontline and catalog including the Rounder, Fantasy and Stax labels. Recent campaigns include Paul Simon, Allison Krauss, Paul McCartney, Elvis Costello, Carole King/James Taylor, and Crowded House. Follow Jason on Twitter @otmg

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December 22 2010

19:00

Vox populi: What Lab readers think journalism can expect in 2011

In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been writing a lot about what a variety of smart people think 2011 will bring to the world of journalism. Will paywall go up everywhere or come tumbling down? Will hyperlocal thrive? Will nonprofits run out of donors?

But beyond the predictions of the noted and notable, we wanted to ask you, the Lab reader, what you thought was coming. We did so in the form of a 25-question survey, and here are the results.

Important note: This survey is wildly unscientific. Fifty people completed it, and not everyone answered every question. Talk with your physician before using any of these isolated data points to wager any money or make decisions of even the slightest import. The intention here was to get a broad idea of what our readers are thinking, and maybe to be entertaining. Capice?

Here are the questions and what the survey said, Richard Dawson-style:

What online-only news organization do you consider the most financially promising? In other words, if you were to invest money into an online-only news organization, seeking only to maximize your financial return, who would you invest in?

Two of the biggest online-only brands stood above the crowd: The Huffington Post (27 percent) and Gawker Media (15 percent). The Daily Beast, Mashable, and Patch also got more than one vote. Among those getting single mentions: Flipboard, Inside Higher Ed, StockTwits, and The Batavian.

What online-only news organization do you consider the most journalistically promising? In other words, which online-only outlet do you think will produce the most remarkable and valuable journalism, given its ambitions and scale?

As might be expected, ProPublica led the way with 24 percent of votes. Talking Points Memo, Politico, The Texas Tribune, Slate, The Daily Beast, and Patch also got multiple votes. (Politico’s nature as online-dominant in audience, print-dominant in revenue makes it a tough news org to squeeze in the online-only category.)

Getting single mentions, among others, were Left Coast nonprofits Bay Citizen, Voice of San Diego, and California Watch, plus for-profits GlobalPost, TBD, and GigaOM.

Who do you think is the smartest thinker about the future of news outside the working world of journalism? In other words, someone whose main job is not as an journalist at a news organization. Candidates might include academics, pundits, theorists, economists, or bloggers.

One wag suggested “Clay Rosen,” squeezing the two top vote-getters into one: Clay Shirky (20 percent of votes) and Jay Rosen (11 percent). Jon Stewart, Ken Doctor, and Mark Cuban got multiple votes each. Getting single mentions: Julian Assange, Steve Jobs, Tim Wu, Tim O’Reilly, and Jonathan Zittrain, among others.

Who do you think is the smartest thinker about the future of news inside the working world of journalism? Candidates could include editors, publishers, or other executives at news organizations.

John Paton’s efforts to turn around the moribund Journal Register Co. have gotten noticed: he led the way with 14 percent of votes, far outpacing The Guardian’s Alan Rusbridger and CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis. (Personally, I would have put Jeff in the Clay/Jay outsider category, but he wears enough hats that he could probably fit anywhere.) Others getting mentions: WaPo/TBD-ex Jim Brady, New York’s Adam Moss, Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall, Gawker’s Nick Denton, and Rupert Murdoch.

Make one prediction — positive or negative — of something that will happen in the world of journalism in 2011.

These ran the gamut. Among the most interesting:

— A major U.S. city will lose its one remaining major metro daily.
— Newspapers will be caught with their pants down for mobile usage in 2011, with website usage dropping and moving to mobile competitors.
— The beginning of more widespread paywalls, which will work for some but fail for most.
— Mobile traffic — especially tablets — rises by 30 percent.
— Partisans will attack mainstream media outlets for percieved bias. Websites will be hit. Bastions of populism will be humbled.
— Revenue from e-content (online, iPad, Kindle, smartphones, etc.) will exceed revenue from traditional sources.
— Stories will tend to focus on continued congressional bickering, while ignoring the stagnating economy and reputation of the U.S. in times of dramatic shifts in global power structures for the budding generations of tech natives.
— The Awl will be acquired.
— Twitter will launch a branded international news aggregation service, similar to the AP, but focused on real-time online content. It will be staffed with former newspaper journalists.

Predict one significant print journalism outlet that will close or become online-only in 2011. (If you don’t think any will close, say none.)

Optimism (of a sort) abides: The top answer was “none,” with 32 percent of responses. None of the answers got much momentum, though Newsweek, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, The Detroit News, and Forbes each got two or more mentions.

The New York Times’ “metered” paywall — set to debut in January — will still be operational at the end of 2011 and will generally be considered a financial success.

Voting was close: 47 percent think the paywall will be judged a success; 53 percent think it’ll fall short of expectations. Whatever those are.

Of the 10 largest American newspapers, how many will have paywalls of some sort in place by the end of 2011?

The most popular answer was three newspapers. Given that The Wall Street Journal is already bepaywalled, and the Times is set to join that number in a few weeks, the popularity of three suggests most surveyed don’t think the paywall momentum will spread too far beyond that. (Here’s the current list of the countries biggest papers.)

Name a prominent print journalist who, by the end of 2011, will be working primarily for an online operation, Howard Kurtz-style.

A really scattershot response to a pretty scattershot question. Maureen Dowd got three votes, Ezra Klein and David Carr two each. Among the more unexpection mentions: Malcolm Gladwell, Ira Glass, and Dexter Filkins. (Maybe someone thinks The New Yorker is primarily an online operation.)

How many local sites will Patch have in operation by the end of 2011? (It had 475 on 12/6/2010.)

Most folks believe Patch will still be under 1,000 by next year’s end. (I’m not so sure.)

Who will have more traffic: The New York Times or The Huffington Post?

Old media wins — barely: 57 percent say the NYT, 43 percent HuffPo.

Who will have more traffic: CNN, MSNBC, or Fox News?

These numbers don’t shake out like the primetime ratings do: 41 percent say CNN, 37 percent say Fox, and 22 percent say MSNBC.

Who will have more traffic: The Washington Post or The Los Angeles Times?

The Washington Post wins out, 80 percent to 20 percent.

Who will have more traffic: The Daily Beast or Newsweek?

Perhaps a trick question, depending on how NewsBeast finally decides to handle its URLs. But 83 percent think the Beast half will win out.

Who will have more traffic: Google or Facebook?

Another close call: 56 percent say Google, 44 percent Facebook.

Rupert Murdoch’s iPad publication The Daily will still be in operations at the end of 2011 and will generally be considered a success.

Our survey takers weren’t Rupert optimists: 36 percent say it’ll be a success, with 64 percent saying no.

Name two media companies you expect to merge in 2011, a la Newsweek and The Daily Beast.

The answers were a random spray: no two predictions matched up. Some of the more intriguing: AOL and Yahoo, Tribune and Yahoo, US Weekly and The Huffington Post, Slate and The Atlantic, TBD and the Washington City Paper, Clear Channel and Pandora, Politico and Roll Call, and Gannett and Groupon. (Although if Groupon can turn down Google’s money, I can’t imagine them hitching themselves to a newspaper wagon.)

What traditional news organization — and let’s define that as one that existed before the year 2000 — do you think has the brightest future?

Messrs. Sulzberger, Keller, and Slim (among others) should be happy with the results: The New York Times was the runaway winner, garnering 44 percent of all votes cast. Tying for a distant second (at 9 percent) were The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal. Others getting votes: ESPN, NPR, and Reuters.

Mobile devices — smartphones, tablets, and the like — will generate more than 10 percent of all web traffic by the end of 2011.

82 percent of survey-takers said yes, mobile would make up a tenth of total web traffic in 2011. Current estimates vary, but these suggest the current number’s around four percent.

How many followers will the most-followed person on Twitter have at the end of 2011? (As of 12/6/10, Lady Gaga has the most with 7,280,922 followers.)

Average answer: 11.8 million. Median answer: 10 million. Mode: also 10 million. One pessimist suggested 4 million, portending great doom for the Twitter platform; the biggest twoptimist (ugh) guessed 25 million.

Predict one significant online journalism outlet that will close in 2011. (If you don’t think any will close, say none.)

Again, optimism reigns: 40 percent of respondents said no significant outlets will close in 2011. Salon and Slate led the way among those who thing one will.

Facebook will have more than 1 billion active users by the end of 2011.

They passed 500 million this year. 56 percent of survey takers say they’ll hit a billion in 2011.

Of the top 10 free iPhone apps in the News category, how many will be published by news organizations (as opposed to aggregators or other entities) at the end of 2011?

The aggregators will continue to take slots away from news orgs, survey says: 74 percent of respondents said they expected news orgs to publish less than half of the top 10 apps.

How many users will Foursquare have by the end of 2011? (As of October 2010, it had 4 million.)

The most common prediction (48 percent) was for continued but unspectacular growth in 2011, to somewhere between 4 and 6 million. An optimistic 17 percent said Foursquare will surpass 10 million active users; a pessimistic 7 percent said it’ll drop below its current user base.

Android devices will generate more web traffic than iOS (iPhone/iPad) devices by the end of 2011.

57 percent of survey-takers predict Android beating out Apple’s mobile products. This is another area with lots of warring numbers, but these numbers suggest Android still has some catching up to do — especially if the iPhone heads to Verizon in the U.S. in 2011.

18:00

Martin Langeveld: Predicting more digital convergence and an AP clearinghouse, coming in 2011

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2010 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

As we draw to a close, it’s time for this year’s predictions from Martin Langeveld, which are the closest thing we have to a tradition around here. We just posted a look back at Martin’s predictions for 2010, a year ago. Here’s what he foresees for 2011; check back next year to see how he did.

Digital convergence: News, mobile, tablets, social couponing, location-based services, RFID tags, gaming. My geezer head spins just thinking about all this, but look: All these things will not stay in separate silos. Why do you think AOL invested $50 million or more launching Patch in 500 markets, without a business model that makes sense to anyone? What’s coming down the pike is new intersections between all of these digital developments, and somehow, news is always in the picture because it’s at the top of people’s lists of content needs, right after email and search. There are business opportunities in tying all of these things together, so there are opportunities for news enterprises to be part of the action. Some attempts to find synergies will work, and some won’t.

But imagine for a moment: personalized news delivered to me on my tablet or smartphone, tailored to my demographics, preferences, and location; coupon offers and input from my social network, delivered on the same basis; the ability to interact with RFID tags on merchandise (and on just about anything else); more and more ability not only to view ads but to do transactions on tablets and phones — all of these delivered in a entertaining interfaces with gaming features (if I like games) or not (if I don’t). In other words: news delivered to me as part of a total environment aware of my location, my friends, my interests and preferences, essentially in a completely new online medium — not a web composed of sites I can browse at my leisure, but a medium delivered via a device or devices that understand me and understand what I want to know, including the news, information and commercial offers that are right for me. All of this is way too much to expect in 2011, but as a prediction, I think we’ll start to see some of the elements begin to come together, especially on the iPad.

The Associated Press clearinghouse for news. Lots of questions here: Will be it nonprofit or for-profit? Who will put up the money? Who will be in charge of it? What will it actually do? It will probably take all year to get the operation organized and launched, but I’m going to stick with the listing of opportunities I outlined when news of the clearinghouse broke. I continue to believe that the clearinghouse concept has the potential to transform the way that news content is generated, distributed and consumed. (Disclosure: I’m working on a project with the University of Missouri to explore potential business models enabled by news clearinghouses.)

Embracing real digital strategies. Among newspaper companies, Journal Register will continue to point the way: CEO John Paton ardently evangelizes for digital-first thinking — read his presentation to the recent (Nieman-cosponsored) INMA Transformation of News Summit, if you haven’t seen it. Is there another newspaper company CEO who agrees with Paton’s mantra, “Be Digital First and Print Last”? I doubt it, because what it means, in Patton’s words, is that you “put the digital people in charge, and stop listening to the newspaper people.” Most newspaper groups pay lip service to “digital first,” but in reality they’re focused on the daily print edition. And that’s why audience attention will continue to go to new media unencumbered by print, like Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Patch, Gawker Media, and hosts of others. So for a prediction: Journal Register will outsource most of its printing, sell most of its real estate, bring the audience into its newsrooms with more news cafes like their first one in Torrington, Conn. It will announce by year end that 25 percent of its revenue is from digital sources. It will also launch online-only startups in cities and towns near its existing markets, perhaps with niche print spinoffs. And finally, toward the end of 2011, we’ll see some reluctant and tentative emulation of Paton’s strategies among a few other newspaper groups.

Newspaper advertising revenue. An extrapolation of the 2010 trend (see my 2010 scorecard) would mean 2011 quarters of, say gains of 2 percent, 4 percent, 6 percent and 8 percent. But for that to happen, marketers would have to decide, during Q4 of 2011, to direct 8 percent more money into advertising in a medium that continues to report “strategic” cuts in press runs and paid print circulation, that is not finding fresh eyeballs online, that has an audience profile getting older every year, and that has done little R&D or innovation to discover a digital future for itself. With sexy new opportunities to advertise on tablets and smartphones coming along daily, why would any brand, retailer, or advertising agency be looking to spend more in print? My prediction is for a very flat year, with the quarterly totals (for print plus online revenue) coming in at Q1: +1.5%, Q2: +2.0%, Q3: no change and Q4: -3%. That final quarter will revert to negative territory primarily because of major shifts in retail budgets to tablet and smartphone platforms and to digital competitors like Groupon.

Newspaper online ad revenue. This has been a bright spot in 2010, with gains of 4.9 percent, 13.9 percent, and 10.7 percent so far. Assume another gain in Q4. But there are several problems. First, at most newspapers a big fraction of so-called online revenue is hitched to print programs with online components, upsells, added values, or bonuses. So there’s no way to tell whether the reported numbers are real, representing actual gains purely in ads purchased on web sites, whether there’s a lot of creative accounting going on to make the online category look better than it actually is, or whether it would even exist without the print component. Secondly, there’s a lot of new competition at the local level for dollars that retailers earmark for web marketing. Groupon, alone, will do close to $1 billion in revenue this year, compared with about $3 billion total online revenue for all newspapers combined. Add the “Groupon clones” like LivingSocial, and the social couponing business is probably already at about 50 percent of newspaper online revenue, and could well pass it in 2011, very much at newspapers’ expense. That’s why I predict newspaper online revenue will be: Q1: +5.0 percent, Q2: +3.0 percent, Q3: no change and Q4: no change.

Newspaper circulation. The trendline here has been down, down, down, every six-month reporting period ending March 31 and September 30. Complicating the picture: newspapers have been selling combo packages, ABC-qualified, where a single subscriber counts for two because they are buying (sometimes on a forced basis) both a 7-day print subscription and a facsimile digital edition. Lots of inflated and un-real circulation will show up in the 2011 numbers. But if we look at print circulation alone, which ABC will continue to break out, demographics alone dictate a continuation of the negative trend. My prediction: down 5 percent in each of the spring and fall six-month ABC reporting periods. That will mean that by year’s end, print newspaper penetration will fall to about one in three households (a long way down from its postwar peak of 134 newspapers sold per 100 households in 1946).

Online news readership. There are a couple of ways to look at this. For newspaper websites, NAA recently switched from Nielsen to Comscore because they liked Comscore’s numbers better. As a base measure, Comscore is showing about 105 million monthly unique visitors and 4 billion pageviews to newspaper sites, with the average visitor spending 3.5 minutes per visit. Prediction: all three of those metrics will stay flat (plus or minus 10 percent) during 2011. The other way to look at it is: Where are Americans getting their news? The Pew Research Center looks at this on an annual basis, and in 2010 showed online, radio, and newspapers more or less tied as news sources for Americans. Is there any doubt where this is going? In 2011, Pew might add mobile as a distinct source, but it will show online clearly ahead of newspapers and radio, with mobile ascendant.

Newspaper chains. Nobody can afford to buy anybody else, and no non-newspaper companies want to buy newspapers. There might be some mergers, but really, there are no strategic opportunities for consolidation in this industry, because there are no major efficiencies or revenue opportunities to be gained. Everybody will just muddle along in 2011, with the exception of Journal Register, which as noted above will move into adjacent markets with digital products and generally show the way the rest should follow.

Stocks. The major indices will be up 15 to 20 percent by September, but they’ll drop back to a break-even position by the end of 2011. Newspaper stocks will not beat the market. Others: AOL and Google will beat the market; Yahoo and Microsoft will not.

December 20 2010

17:00

Maybe not much will change at all: 2011 journalism predictions from Malik, Gillmor, Golis, Grimm, more

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2010 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Below are predictions from Andrew Golis, Dan Gillmor, Joe Grimm, Om Malik, Jim Brady, Seth Lewis, David Cohn, Jeff Israely, Barry Sussman, Evan Smith, and Joe Bergantino. Plus, to round things off, a few not-so-serious predictions from Dan Kennedy and Bob Garfield.

Seth C. Lewis, assistant professor of new media journalism, U. of Minnesota

So, the question is: how much will journalism and media change in 2011? My answer: not much, actually. I know that’s a contrarian view, at a time when so much seems to be in flux, so let me try to explain.

I think we tend to overestimate the volume of change that actually occurs in a given year, and at the same time underestimate the obduracy of individual and societal habits, routines, values, and bureaucratic systems. This doesn’t mean change doesn’t occur — of course it does! — but rather that it tends to be more incremental, more subtle, and even more glacial than we sometimes like to imagine. And I’m not trying to be a kill-joy here, for I love tracking the exciting future of journalism as much as anyone and have no particular fondness for the past. Rather, I’m coming at this question as a former journalist and present academic who studies the extent to which (professional) journalism’s core identity — its ethics, worldview, fundamental practices, etc. — is evolving in the digital age. The research out there suggests that change does come, yes, but not without considerable resistance and reluctance on the part of professions and institutions.

So, what does this mean for 2011? Well, that we’re more likely to see change occurring by degree rather than by kind. There will be more iPad news apps; more journalism crafted to take advantage of the social, viral, and “spreadable” nature of networked media; and more newsrooms experimenting with Big Data, both of the WikiLeaks and less sensational variety. There may even be some business-model breakthroughs as newspapers figure out a Groupon-like strategy for local advertising. But to see truly significant changes in kind — changes to the very DNA of journalism and how it gets accomplished — we may have to look beyond 2011, toward something like a five-year or even a ten-year time horizon. Just as we can see rather significant changes in news work as we look back over the past decade, it may be a long while yet before we appreciate what’s really happening under our feet, and its impact (or lack thereof), in any particular year.

When I sit down and think about the future of media, I see two core problems with the media business at large. Most media entities tend to define themselves by features — magazines, newspapers, television and radio — while the audience aka the customers see media entities as “information” resources.

I think we are going to see the continuous destruction of value in the media industry because folks refuse to look beyond what is obvious and comfortable. That is precisely why we are going to see media industry lose a shirt on ill-conceived mobile applications, mostly because publishers want to replicate what they know best — an ambiguous, non-measurable advertising paradigm — on digital devices.

Similarly, the media entities will all come to a realization that chasing pageviews is a zero-sum game, and they are playing with a losing hand against zero-cost pageview-generation megafarms like Facebook, especially at a time when the modes of content consumption and discovery are changing. Content farms like Demand Media and Associated Content are commoditizing the value of banner ads and pageviews.

In 2011, I expect following to happen:

Bloomberg will continue its march and become one of the most powerful media entities in the U.S. It has television assets to go along with web, print offerings (Bloomberg BusinessWeek), and data terminals — making it a company in the business of selling information.

— We will see continued implosion of large-scale media barring a handful of national/transnational brands such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. 2011 is going to be particularly hard for companies that have cut back on their core competency — journalism.

— MSNBC make a serious bid to acquire The Huffington Post.

— The Discovery Group will become one of the major media groups. The company has done a good job of merging its cable television and web businesses with a thriving e-commerce business, making it less reliant on pure advertising revenues. In 2011, Oprah joins the Discover family. What’s good for Oprah is good for Om!

Andrew Golis, blogging czar, Yahoo News

2011 will be the year online journalistic innovation reaches scale.

For the first time, a critical mass of journalists — not just a handful of early-adopters — have moved beyond learning the core skill set or figuring out the inherent incentives of the web. They’ve mastered the craft and the medium and are primed to push boundaries and innovate.

At the same time, those who have been experimenting — be it startup, nonprofit, amateur, or otherwise — are coming away from their projects with lessons learned. Now their ambitions and ideas are less abstract, more tangible and ready to be implemented.

And add to that the fact that major news organizations have stopped playing defense and are pivoting to invest in things that will excite their fickle, fragmenting audiences.

2011, then, will be the year millions of Americans see the kind of experimentation and innovation Nieman Lab readers have been following.

The “woe is us” crowd, which dominated the conversation for the past several years, will be largely supplanted by the “wow, let’s try new things” multitudes who are experimenting with a huge variety of journalism and business models. We’ll also stop looking for magic solutions to the “problem” of replacing monopoly and oligopoly profits, recognizing that the emerging media ecosystem will be diverse and, in the end, more robust. The outlines of tomorrow’s ecosystem will begin to emerge as a small percentage of the experiments show signs of financial sustainability.

As we are flooded with more and more information, much of which is garbage, we’ll see a strong move toward trusted sources. This will take many forms. One will be a classic retreat to quality, as the best news providers retain or earn positions of trust. Another will be progress toward increasingly sophisticated combinations of human and machine intelligence, where aggregation and curation are melded so that people and communities can sort out what they need and want based on quality, popularity and reputation. But we’re also in the early days of this shift, so it won’t happen in a mere 12 months.

Overhanging all this will be who controls the ecosystem. Will it be us, the users, or will it be powerful interests that clamp down on what we can do? I fear that 2011 will be more of the latter, as media and communications incumbents, aided by a government that increasingly wants to control what we can see and do online, erect more and more barriers to innovation. The people who favor a diverse and robust media ecosystem will realize they need to become more political — and as they do they’ll help the public understand what’s at stake.

Jim Brady, former general manager, TBD

Local will be the next hot thing. The continued rise of mobile and location-based services will be major factors in that emergence, and will help drive major innovations in local journalism. I predict a steady rise in locally based startups.

You’ll see more longtime digital types abandoning their legacy roots and either going to web-only companies or starting their own things.

Social media will establish itself firmly as something that every media company will need to have a strategy and staff for. This isn’t a fad.

Partnerships will be a strong theme. Companies that once would never have considered even talking to each other will begin forming partnerships in order to allow each to focus on its strengths. As a result, news sites will continue to become more niche.

The number of niche news startups employing fewer than 20 people will begin to increase, and begin to cause grief for larger, more general-interest news sites.

The paywall debate will drone on for another year, and at the end of it, there will still be equally dug-in camps on both extremes of the issue. (That’s the prediction I feel most comfortable about).

Joe Grimm, Poynter blogger and recruiter, Patch.com

In 2011, I expect to see some shakeout of traditional and innovative newsrooms. Some of the new ones will have hit the wall that tells them they don’t have the right model to go forward. Legacy newsrooms seem to gaining traction with digital advertising and are feeling some traditional advertisers come back, but they have been substantially weakened and devalued. With the amount of cash that is sitting idle, I expect we will see some acquisitions among traditional media companies. The prize in those deals will be the content parts of the operations, of course.

I would not surprised if some traditional newsrooms are absorbed by digital companies looking to build credibly news-oriented footprints fast. Watch Yahoo! and Facebook in 2011 to see how they try to grow their reputations as news sources.

Mobile and tablets will continue to boom, with some shakeout among devices and a real gold rush to build apps, backed up by original news and news aggregation. Individualized services or services curated by friends will grow.

The WikiLeaks phenomenon will continue. As Julian Assange has recently said, he’ll move out of military leaks and into Wall Street. Instead of being unpatriotic, there will be new legal claims blasted at them (copyright, IP, privacy). The ongoing drama of Julian Assange will come to a head in some way shape or form (arrested, killed, stepping down), but WikiLeaks or another organization with the same ethos will remain. Somehow it must move beyond Julian Assange and just be WikiLeaks, or another leak-esque organization that doesn’t have a cult of personality.

The New York Times pay ramp will launch. It will neither be a huge success or a huge failure. The nature of the pay ramp means that the vast majority of people will still get free content from the Times. They’ll only be able to ask people who come to the site regularly to pony up some money. And that amount of money will have to be high enough to compensate for the loss in advertising dollars (when X percent of readers leave) and low enough that the X percent is as low as possible.

As a result, it’ll work. It might even make them some money. But the margin of error is so small here — if they charge too early or too much — that it won’t really solve the problem of print dollars to digital dimes.

Next year will mark the end of the pay vs. free debate as we’ve known it. In 2011, those on either side of the question who speak about it in ideological/philosophical/historical terms will begin to sound, like, so 2000s. We can all now agree that information neither “wants to be free” nor is a consumer good like any other. The confluence of more and cheaper tablets on the market, the Times’ metered-model rollout and Murdoch’s continued (and intentional) overplaying of his hand with thick paywalls will combine to help close the black-or-white era of this debate.

This doesn’t mean that next to the barrel-chested Murdoch, The New York Times will not look a bit, er, wimpy in its halting moves to charge for some of its content. But even if it has trouble finding the sweet spot on the meter (or communicating its intentions), it will become clear rather quickly in 2011 that for a quality/global news gathering organization like The New York Times, there is no turning back to the days of all free access. This is also does not mean that the Guardian or Des Moines Register or Twitter for that matter can’t have another approach. But from now on, they’ll always have to explain their choice in strategic terms.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange has shown that there are still plenty of religious battle lines to be drawn around the Internet and information, without having to debate whether it is right or wrong to charge people (who can afford it) for news and let those who would rather spend their money elsewhere find the free stuff.

Stories by nonprofit, online news organizations already have a foothold in elite national newspapers — but nothing like the prominence they’ll have in 2011. They will produce strong watchdog reporting and, as a result, they’ll draw sharply increased funding from individual large donors.

Evan Smith, editor-in-chief and CEO, Texas Tribune

More meaningful collaborations between nonprofits and for-profits!

Public TV and public radio will take a much more proactive role in helping fill the investigative reporting void that’s resulted from cutbacks at commercial media outlets.

Many more newspapers will attempt to monetize their websites with paywalls for “exclusive” content.

The experiments to pool, among local TV stations, more types of news coverage, will accelerate over the next year —leading eventually to the end of an era in which most major cities have at least three or four TV stations airing several newscasts.

Dan Kennedy, journalism professor, Northeastern U.

AOL executives, despairing at the dearth of advertising on their hyperlocal Patch.com sites will hit upon a bold new strategy: print. “We believe that publishing weekly community newspapers will prove to be the hottest new media idea since Twitter,” AOL chief executive Tim Armstrong will say. “A study we conducted shows that local businesses such as hardware stores, funeral homes, and nail salons are far more likely to advertise in a newspaper than online. Our goal is nothing less than to revolutionize local journalism and the business model that supports it.” Kirk Davis, president of GateHouse Media, which publishes nearly 400 weekly and daily community newspapers across the United States, will not be reachable for comment.

Time magazine will name Google’s ruling troika its Persons of the Year for 2011. In singling out chairman Eric Schmidt and co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the magazine will explain: “In a digital media world in which most consumers are all too willing to live under Apple’s semi-benign dictatorship, Google has kept the flame of openness alive, selling tablet computers and smartphones for which anyone can write applications without fear of censorship. The spirit of the garage-based startup lives.” In response, Apple CEO Steve Jobs will order Time’s iPad app to be removed from the App Store.

Rupert Murdoch’s “The Daily” debuts. Both subscribers are extremely satisfied.

In August, after months of crushing losses, The Daily Beast/Newsweek folds. In November, Howard Kurtz stops filing stories.

Glenn Beck shoots at two black helicopters hovering near his home, killing a Medevac pilot and a Fox 5 traffic babe.

Katie Couric steps down as anchor of CBS Evening News to join 60 Minutes, lowering the average correspondent age by 28 years. Kim Kardashian assumes Couric’s role reading the news.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, on trial in Sweden, is asked by prosecutor where he pays taxes. “None of your beeswax,” Assange replies.

On March 1, Steve Jobs introduces the iPatch, a tablet designed for content piracy. More than 30 million units sold on first day.

On April 1, 100 million iPatches explode, maiming the entire US population between 15 and 29.

Fearing revenue declines at its Kaplan Education subsidiary, the Washington Post Co. buys 49 percent of the Mafia.

Comcast, under FCC scrutiny for first time, sells NBC Universal to Barry Diller. Tina Brown brought in to run it.

Paul Krugman loses his sense of outrage. Universe contracts.

December 15 2010

17:00

In-car app stores, success for Xinhua, and more social media: Predictions for journalism in 2011

Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2010 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Below are predictions from Paul Bass, John Paton, Philip Balboni, Martin Moore, Mark Luckie, Adrian Monck, Ken Doctor, Keith Hopper, and Vivian Schiller.

We also want to hear your predictions: take our Lab reader poll and tell us what you think we’ll be talking about in 2011. We’ll share those results later this week.

Every city of 100,000 or more in America will have its own online-only daily local news site.

Local governments will create their own “news” sources online to try to control the message and compete with new media and compensate for the decline of old media channels.

Newspapers, TV and radio stations, and online news outlets will collaborate on a bigger scale on local coverage and events

Vivian Schiller, president and CEO, NPR

“Local” takes center stage in online news, as newspaper sites, Patch, Yahoo, NPR member stations and new start ups (not for profit and for profit) form alliances, grow, and compete for audience and revenue online.

Twitter and Facebook become established as journalism platforms for newsgathering, distribution and engagement.

In-car Internet radio becomes a hot media topic, though penetration of enabled cars will lag by a few years.

Keith Hopper, director of product strategy and development, NPR

One of bigger things to move in 2011 will be triggered by emerging, seamless connectivity in the car. The historical limitations of satellite radio have obscured the real potential here. We will see a revolution in how news is presented on the go if auto manufacturers get past their inevitable awkward attempts and are able to streamline the user experience. I fully expect in-dash app stores and additional inspiration for distracted driver legislation that goes well beyond basic audio news. On the positive side, engaged news consumers will never fall asleep at the wheel again.

Philip Balboni, president and CEO, GlobalPost

2011 will be a seminal year for the reinvention of the business of American journalism — especially notable for the continued maturation of the new generation of online only news sites: the Huffington Post, Politico, GlobalPost, Daily Beast, and others. With The New York Times paving the way for monetizing one of America’s most visited and highly regarded general news sites, 2011 should be the year we can point to as a game-changer for online revenue generation by charging consumers for high quality news content and the beginning of the movement away from sole reliance on selling page views and ad impressions.

In 2011 we will see the return of legacy news media. Chastened by the mistakes of the past, the legacy companies will be more nimble and eager to pursue Digital First solutions. And armed with their billions in revenue and new outsourcing solutions to drive down legacy media costs they will be much better resourced financially to compete with online news start-ups. The New Year will prove difficult for online start-ups like Huffington Post, et al to drive towards sustainability and profitability. Look for consolidation between the old and new worlds.

We have been stupid and slow to change but we are changing. We still count our revenue in the billions and that gives us so much more in the way of resources compared to the startups. Smart plus money is an advantage. We are getting smarter.

The power of news organisations to dictate the news agenda will decline further as peer-to-peer and algorithm driven editorial recommendations grow in influence.

Those news organisations that develop sophisticated skills to clean, structure and filter data quickly will gain significant competitive advantage over those who don’t.

Mark Luckie, founder, 10,000 Words , national innovations editor, The Washington Post

With the recent upswing in the availability of media jobs, I predict those journalists who developed a substantial online presence, created unique digital journalism projects, or who were at the forefront of the digital journalism conversation during the course of their unemployment, will return to newsrooms with zeal and newfound perspective, if they so choose. They will re-invigorate those news operations who are actively seeking employees who will help move journalism forward (and hopefully they will get a relatively larger paycheck in the process).

Adrian Monck, managing director and head of communications and media, World Economic Forum

Julian Assange will be mired in a court case.

The infrastructure of the Internet which made free speech briefly freer will increasingly marginalize and muzzle it.

A handful of diplomats will get HuffPo columns on the back of their cable writing prowess.

Drone strikes will continue to dully but effectively kill more men, women and children by accident, recklessness or negligence than document dumps. The public will remain indifferent.

Xinhua will have its “CNN moment” and emerge as a global reporting force on a key international story.

Western media will increase reporting partnerships with Chinese media.

Business news networks will look to hire mainland Chinese talent.

Piers Morgan will be a critical success on CNN, but not a popular one.

Jeff Jarvis will put BuzzMachine behind a paywall.

2011 is the year of The New Trifecta. The convergence of mobile, social and video on the tablet defines the new platform as a unique consumer experience yielding, consequently, new business models. No longer are mobile, social and video “categories” of content or revenue lines, but powerful forces that when brought together redefine the news reading and viewing experience. That’s one big reason we’re seeing significantly higher-than-online time-on-session tablet data.

Social media optimization will grow in 2011. Almost organically, social referrals (mainly Facebook and Twitter) have become the fastest growing source of news traffic. News publishers can now count 5-15 percent of their traffic sent from social, making search/Google referrals less important. In addition, social referrals convert better (“qualified” social leads) in obtaining new, continuing customers. The next big question: If this is happening without much publisher work, what kind of work would further harness the social juice?

Growth in the company year will be mainly digital. There are few signs the old print business is coming back, and this year’s single-digit decreases in print advertising looks like it will continue into next. That means digital revenue — online advertising generally, new tablet ad revenue and digital reader revenue — is the only hope for building a future for legacy companies.

September 30 2010

10:05

The Independent: Regional press challenging bad forecasts

The Independent has an interesting article by Ian Burrell this morning comparing the current situation for local media – in terms of production levels, revenues and staff – with previous predictions.

The overall picture it paints is that the regional press, despite facing predictions that half of the industry would be closed down by 2013, is proving forecasters wrong.

A year or so later, the picture is somewhat different. Whereas 60 local newspapers did close during 2009, only eight have gone to the wall in 2010. The UK’s local press isn’t quite ready to draft its own obituary.

Early on Burrell discusses the impact of the American press situation on encouraging the bleak outlooks for British media, but adds that action taken by the press such as the increasing use of hyperlocal sites has helped it survive.

The earlier predictions of Armageddon were influenced by events in America, where the regional press has suffered badly. The closure in February last year of the 150-year-old Rocky Mountain News in Denver caused great alarm, as did the demise the following month of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which moved to online-only production after 146 years in print. The company that owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times filed for bankruptcy. But the New York Times reported recently that hedge fund “vulture” investors are circling newspaper businesses in anticipation that the worst days are over.

But the article also raises the question of how you should measure the pulse of the local newspaper industry. Therefore as well as looking at the number of titles (and money) still being made, Burrell asks what the wider impact on the journalists within these newsrooms is?

Barry Fitzpatrick, head of publishing at the National Union of Journalists, says not. “Most of our journalists are working multi-platform and they are working long hours to deadlines that are increasingly difficult to meet. I’m fearful of what the long term effect will be on journalism itself and on the health of a lot of people that are trying to earn a living as journalists.”

See the full article here…Similar Posts:



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