Archive for April, 2010

Continuing the ISOJ discussion about ‘MNMM’

April 24, 2010

I wanted to use this forum to thank those who commented on the “Modified News Micropayment Model” that me and Jameson Hayes presented today at ISOJ.  I wanted to respond to some questions and issues raised about the model.

Alf Hermida, on, ponders “whether this is an approach that is too radical for the news industry.”  Maybe, but time and time again speakers at the session spoke of the need for news organizations to shake up the status quo, to innovate, to invoke sweeping change.  In short, to try radical new approaches.

Hermida also points out that whether consumers are willing to pay for news is a hotly debated topic, to say the least.  I’ve conducted survey research asking whether people are willing to (micro)pay for news, and under what conditions. I’m not alone. Nielsen and WAN have conducted extensive surveys, as have other leading research organizations.  While I advocate solid research studies such as these, I think you have to take these with a grain of salt given they are asked in an environment where free is the norm. If you ask me whether I would prefer to pay for news or get it for free, I’m going to say free every time. But if the news industry forces the issue by putting its content behind a paywall and pay becomes the industry standard, the issue becomes null and void. The question is no longer whether I would pay for news, but under what conditions and whose news I choose to pay for.

Our research also looks at the existing academic literature on how to influence consumer willingness to pay (WTP), which suggests that consumers are more likely to pay once the pricing point has shifted into a “foreign currency.”

Another issue that was raised was the viability of advertising as a sustainable business model.  A student pointed out that Google has been quite successful with its search advertising model.  First, newspapers have historically relied on an impressions-based advertising model, not a search one.  As the publisher of the Dallas Morning News noted, this revenue model is waning.  Secondly, the future of advertising is a social one (advertising on and through social sites), not through search.  Search advertising is flawed in that it does not take into consideration the context of words.  If I write “I hate Florida Gators” in my email, Google’s AdSense software will provide me ads for Florida Gators.  Social advertising provides the necessary context.  Advertisers can send me targeted information about their products that I voluntarily follow on social media sites.

Furthermore, Google makes some of its money off the content it aggregates that newspapers create.  Rupert Murdoch, for one, is quite angry about this. This is one of the reasons news outlets want their content behind pay walls in the first place.  And finally, most newspapers cannot generate enough eyeballs to make search aggregation advertising a fully sustainable business model.

And finally, some Twitter users took exception with my example of paying for ringtones on a phone as an example of why we would be more willing to pay for news on the phone, than online, because we are more naturally conditioned to pay for mobile content.   Some news consumers also pay for mobile news apps now.  Once that new distribution platform is in place and we become accustomed to receiving news content on our smartphones, will we miss it once news companies flip the pay switch?

Time will tell.  Our model is an abstract theoretical model that relies on many existing technologies and factors that already exist on the Social Web.

We hope that a news partner, or partners, will seek to implement our model.  Will it work? We don’t know.  The current system, however, is broken.  We need action.  We need radical change.

Inaction guarantees failure.

Wilkinson at ISOJ: Newspapers must adapt in “age of micro media”

April 23, 2010

AUSTIN, TEXAS_ Newspapers have to adapt to the “age of micro media” in which every unit of content must have value, INMA chief Earl Wilkinson told attendees Friday morning at the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

Determining their content’s value should be a top priority for newspapers, because content value can serve as a proxy for engagement in the Digital Age, Wilkinson said during a fiery, impassioned presentation.

Even if  newspapers never charge for content, segmenting “content platform,  audiences” forces a market approach to growth and places them in the context of today’s “abundance of information,” Wilkinson said.

The traditional business model will not survive,  Wilkinson said.

“We clearly have reached a point where we need alternative funding sources,” he said.

Advertising will account for a smaller portion of a newspapers’ revenue, but won’t disappear entirely, Wilkinson said.  The pure value of content, however, keeps changing.  Newspapers must find ways to monetize content, which will require significant leadership and industry collaboration, Wilkinson said.

The global recession accelerated changes to the news industry.

“It’s transformed our business models and we’re never going to go back,” Wilkinson said.

Newspapers are going through transformation and evolution, but they’re not going to die, Wilkinson said.

The future media landscape will consist of less advertising and smaller companies, Wilkinson said. There will be less journalists, but more editors as print complexity is replaced by a digital one.  According to Wilkinson, newspapers should invest more in sales, marketing and research, while focusing on product development and speedy delivering of news enhanced through social media.

Wilkinson says that  “Value= Audience + content + platform”

I found myself often nodding in agreement during Wilkinson’s presentation because, in my humble opinion, he “gets it.”  His presentation, more than any other, has me fired up to present my paper proposing a new business model tomorrow.

The Future of Media

April 20, 2010

The future of media may well be in your hands.  I’m talking, of course, about mobile devices.

For a variety of reasons, consumers and businesses alike appreciate the new opportunities mobile either offers, or will offer, distributors and consumers of media content.

Mobile devices offer users personalization, portability and constant connectivity, the ability to socialize and share content, interactivity, participation, and engagement.  Mobile devices offer media distributors the ability to provide these features to users, but also the potential to provide unique, geo-targeted, local, community-focused, monetizable content for all of its clients (readers/viewers/listeners and advertisers).

With mobile devices poised to be a “game changer” for news and entertainment industries in the near future, there was little surprise that “mobile” was a focal point of discussions at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention and the Broadcast Education Association conference, both held last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I attended many sessions where mobile was front and center.  Mobile offers exciting new areas for entertainment (Mobile DTV, smartphone apps), as well as newspapers, radio and television news, and for advertisers.

I’ll report a few highlights from some of the managerial-oriented sessions, where business models, monetization and strategy were key themes.

“The mobile device has the opportunity to reset the revenue models because the ability to do the transactions on a mobile device is very seamless, it’s very easy,” said Greg Philpott, president and founder of mDialog, which has built an ad platform to monetize HTML-5 videos.

Mobile gives individuals the ability to have their own screen wherever they are, Philpott said.

Mobile devices will allow content owners to charge advertisers a higher CPM that’s trackable, actionable and measurable, Philpott predicted.

Bob Hildeman, CEO of Streambox, said that said media outlets still face a challenge getting consumers willing to pay for content.

Media outlets are still grappling with how to do so, but many believe consumers are better conditioned to pay for content on their phone, than they are online.

“We’re growing this audience but we’re not monetizing it,” said Lance Richard, Entercom Communications’ vice president of digital sales for over 110 radio stations and their Web sites in 23 media markets. “We’ve got to figure that piece out… A lot of our focus is figuring out how to monetize that stream.”

Advertising revenue should grow on mobile devices, said Tom Kenney, president of Verve Wireless, which designs mobile news applications for many leading news agencies.

“Mobile advertising now is starting to take off,” Kenney said. ” The thesis behind Verve is that the mobile Web is a new medium and could potentially be the most important medium in a few years and ultimately it’s a local (emphasis mine) medium.”

The idea of consuming digital media with your hands is such a transformation from the norm that providing similar experiences on multiple platforms is going to be key for media outlets going forward, said Kinsey Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of digital media for the not-for-profit NPR.

NPR’s Web site won a  prestigious Peabody Award (housed at my University I might add!)  for general excellence this year and their app for the iPhone and iPad are constantly ranked by users as being one of the best smartphone apps for news.  Mobile devices allow for media outlets to strategically shift their offerings from platform to platform.  While NPR does offer live streams of their radio programs on the apps, written breaking news headlines are the most popular feature, Wilson said.

Overall, media outlets face a shifting environment in which smartphones will outpace the sales of desktops by 2011, according to IT firm Gartner.

Futurist Tomi Ahonen posits that mobile is the 7th medium following print, recordings, cinema, radio, TV, and Internet.

At the end of 2009, two thirds of the world’s population were using mobile phones, according to the European Information Technology Observatory.

There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are TVs, radios, and computers.

While there are many remaining questions about the mobile strategies media outlets will choose to implement, one thing is clear.  The future of media is one you can hold onto.

What Communicators Can Learn from Cornel West

April 9, 2010

Whether you love Dr. Cornel West or hate him, agree with his message or not, there’s no denying that the Princeton professor exudes one quality— passion.

The self-proclaimed “bluesman in the life of the mind” weaved together his usual themes of faith, family, philosophy, love and service with discussion of jazz, blues and soul during a sold-out lecture Thursday at the University of Georgia.

His message of the importance of education, and embracing the un-deodorized funk of life while continuing to fight the fight for equality, resonated with the Athens, Ga. audience.  Moving from Socrates and the pursuit of Paideia to Hamlet, N.C.’s jazz great John Coltrane, West’s hour and a half speech and question and answer session covered a lot of ground and topics.  Too much to adequately recap here and do justice to the talk.

While the modern day philosopher dispensed much knowledge and offered much intellectual fodder to ponder, there are at least two lessons I took away that have relevance for the fields of communication. The two points that students and practitioners of journalism and communication should heed when practicing their crafts are passion and delivery.

The two are related and feed one another.  Dr. West conveys passion for his subject matter with every word he speaks.  He speaks rhythmically, methodically and at times in rapid fire.  He gets fired up from time to time, depending on the topic.  There’s no denying the enthusiasm for what he talks about.  He truly believes every word he says.  With Dr. West, you get the sense that he’s driven by a calling to lecture, write, speak and teach.  He loves what he does and you can tell it. You get the sense that the man could talk for hours, regardless of the audience.  Don’t believe it? Watch Asra Taylor’s excellent documentary, The Examined Life in which Dr. West spends 15 minutes  comparing philosophy to jazz and the blues while riding in a taxi weaving through the streets of Manhattan.

Communicators should channel their own Dr. West when choosing topics to cover, areas to specialize in or even the careers they pick.  I give my journalism students flexibility in choosing what beats they cover for their beat blogs because I want them to write about and follow a subject they are interested in.  Passion flows through their writing when they find the subject matter compelling.  You can’t fake passion.  Passion fuels excellence.

When you’re passionate about what you do, you convey that passion through your words and actions.  This is where the second point comes in. Delivery.  Sometimes what you say can be lost in how you say it.  Your message can be lost when you fail to adequately deliver it.  If you deliver a tired, boring message don’t expect it to resonate.  If you can’t muster excitement for your subject matter, why would you expect your audience to do so?

Again, Dr. West is masterful here.  Whether it’s standing in front of a podium delivering a lecture before a university crowd, preaching before the pews in a Baptist church or sitting in a taxi in Manhattan, West is a dynamic personality who captivates your attention.  You get the sense that West can hold court and be comfortable in just about any setting, from the barrios to the boardrooms.

Whether it’s a wave of an arm, the stomp of a foot or the tenor and reflection in his voice, Dr. West gets his points across.

Dr. West delivers passion.  Communicators should do the same.

Blogging to a different beat

April 7, 2010

I was thrilled to hear Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Deborah Blum’s advice to Grady journalism students last week. 

One of her main messages was the importance for journalism students to develop a national following writing about and to a specialized audience, primarily through the use of a blog. This has been a recurrent theme I’ve echoed throughout my introductory to news writing and reporting labs over the past year.

One of the largest assignments that the students work on throughout the semester are specialized beat blogs.  Students identify a niche topic they’re interested in, then follow other bloggers and write blog posts on their specialized beat.  They are also expected to promote their work and to build an audience to follow their work.  You can see last semester’s work under the “Resources” tab.  My current students’ beat blogs are a work in progress but they all should be active now.  Feel free to read, comment and follow along on topics ranging from women’s liberation to cancer awareness.  Their blogs are below:

Health Note_ Rebecca

Venir como adqua de mayo_ Melanie

VolunteerChangetheWorld_Christina D



Recession Trickling All the Way Down_ Alison

Serving Athens_ Nancy

Women’s Libber_ Kyle

Campus Candy_ Christina S

Cody’s Food Blog

I Beat Cancer, You Can Too_ Kaylea

The Daily Bread with Brooke

Szene der Katastrophe _Jonathan

Holly’s blog

Bulldawg Blawg_ Mitch

Bloggamundo_ Natalee

Specialize to Succeed in Journalism

April 7, 2010

Journalism students should embrace a specialty niche and success will surely follow.  That was the message a Pulitzer Prize -winning science journalist delivered last week at her alma mater.

“We’re in an age where journalistic specialists thrive in a way that generalists don’t,” Deborah Blum told Grady students during a pizza lunch in the school’s Drewry Room.

Niche publications are doing quite well right now, Blum said.  Journalism students can, and should, build an audience writing about a specialized topic that strikes their interests.

“Journalism is very communal and writing is very communal,” Blum said. ” If you’re working in a specialty you can start building a national community while you’re in college.”

Blum, past president of the National Association of Science Writers, recommended students join an organization with common interests.  The Council of National Journalism Organizations lists a variety of specialized organizations, many of which offer discounted student memberships.

 Blum advised students to:

  • Specialize at some level
  • Build a national profile (through blogging and freelancing)
  • Work for the student newspaper, get clips to get you to the next level
  • Be strategic, build your profile and make connections

 Blum, who maintains two of her own blogs and blogs for a true crime Web site, said that blogging allows students to hone their craft while attracting a national following.  Blogs allow students to write classic journalism mixed in with some of their own voice.