Tag Archives: distribution

New Facebook news apps: bring the news to your users, or invite users to your news?

There’s a salient quote in Journalism.co.uk’s report on Facebook’s  “new class of news apps” launched today:

“As we worked with different news organisations there were two camps: people that wanted to bring the social experience onto their sites, like Yahoo [News] and the Independent; and those that wanted the social news experience on Facebook, like Guardian, the Washington Post and the Daily,” director of Facebook’s platform partnerships Christian Hernandez told Journalism.co.uk.

So which is better? An initial play with the apps of The Independent and The Guardian appears to demonstrate the difference well. Here, for example, is the Facebook app widget as it appears on The Independent – or rather, as it almost appears: various other editorial and commercial choices push it onto the fold:

The Independent's new Facebook App in action

The Guardian app, meanwhile, hands over editorial control to the users in a customarily clean design:

Guardian Facebook app

But hold on, what’s this in my news/activity/information overload stream next to The Guardian’s article?

The Guardian news app with Independent stories in the user's news stream

It appears that The Independent app takes the news to the users as well. Continue reading

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Is Ice Cream Strawberry? Part 2: Cars, roads and picnics

This is the second part of my inaugural lecture at City University London, ‘Is Ice Cream Strawberry?’. The first part can be found here.

Cars, roads and picnics

Throughout the 20th century there were two ways of getting big things done – and a third way of getting small things done. Clay Shirky sums these up very succinctly in terms of how people organise car production, road building, and picnics.

If you want to organise the production of cars, you use market systems. If you want to organise the construction of roads, you use central, state systems of funding – because there is a benefit to all. And if you want to organise a picnic, well, you use social systems.

In the media industry these three line up neatly with print, broadcast and online production.

The newspaper industry grew up in spite of government regulation.

The broadcast industry grew up thanks to government regulation.

And online media grew up while the government wasn’t looking. Continue reading

iTunes models for news? What publishers can learn from mflow

screengrab

An iTunes model for news may be a phantom, but publishers wanting to make money from content online can still learn from the experiences of the music sector. The latest launch in this area is the music sharing-and-buying startup mflow – a fantastic model which I think can offer a lot of ideas to publishers. Here’s how it works:

  • You follow other people and see what music they’re sharing (‘flowing’). You also share (‘flow’) music yourself to your followers, adding comments.
  • If you own a track and share it, the first time a follower listens they can hear the whole thing. After that, they can only hear a 30 second sample.
  • Here’s the USP: if someone buys a track you’ve ‘flowed’, you get a 20% commission to spend on music yourself.

What’s interesting

  • Music consumption is highly social and mflow recognises this. If I can easily share music with my friends, I am more likely to buy music.
  • Incentivise distribution. Distribution is a key part of any media operation: bad distribution can undermine a whole media project, regardless of the quality of the content. mflow recognises that, online, users are your distributors, and adds incentives. The more music I share, the more likely it is that I’ll earn a commission and be able to buy more music.
  • Buying becomes a social act. I found a fascinating dynamic at play with mflow: when someone bought a track that I flowed, I would check out their flows (after all, they must have good taste!). I also felt more inclined to ‘return the favour’ by buying a track they had flowed. Conversely, when I was interested in a track being flowed by someone I didn’t know, I was less inclined to take the risk and buy it (but if it was someone I wanted to know, I probably would). So buying the track was not just about the content I would receive, but the social capital I would build by doing so.
  • Tap into changes in our social networks. We are increasingly engaging in communities that are geographically dispersed. There’s only a certain time period during which we can pop around to our friend’s house to share our latest musical discovery – particularly as people age, move away from their home towns, get jobs, get married, etc. (this may be one reason our musical consumption declines). In many ways, mflow is like blog-DJing – a way to share what we’re listening to, or like, with others in our social networks, regardless of their location or timezone.

What publishers could learn from this:

  • News consumption is highly social. You only have to look at the likes of Digg, Tumblr, and Twitter to see this playing out in the online space. Preventing users from sharing news devalues it.
  • Incentivise distribution. The biggest problem with paywalls is that they don’t address the distribution issue (the New York Times’ mooted plan to allow users access to content if they’ve come via a link is one exception that particularly interests me). If you insist on having a paywall, why not allow subscribers to easily share a whole article? Or if you’re limiting the numbers of articles you can access for free, allow users to access more articles if they share headlines via social networks. More promising strategies may be to stop worrying about the content and build and sell the distribution network itself – e.g. mailing lists.
  • Buying becomes a social act. Again, how do you make the act of buying more social? A commission on content is one idea but I can’t see it working with news. More promising avenues may be merchandise, events etc.
  • Tap into changes in our social networks. When at least a third of your users come from outside of your physical distribution area, it may be worth focusing less on geographical communities & more on communities of interest online.

Any other ideas? Meanwhile, feel free to follow me on mflow… 😉

How the web changed the economics of news – in all media

UPDATE (Oct 9 2012): Following the reviews of a collection of journalism students, as well as other topical events, I’ve written a follow-up piece here.

Listening to news executives talk about micropayments, Kindles, public subsidies, micropaymentscollusion, blocking Google and anything else that might save their businesses, it occurs to me that they may have missed some developments in, ah, well, the past ten years. For those and anyone else who is interested, I offer the following primer on how things have changed.

Any attempt to create a viable news operation needs to recognise and take advantage of these changes. I will probably have missed some – I’m hoping you can add them.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen suggests reading this post alongside this one by David Sull: “newspapers are essentially a logistics business that happens to employ journalists”. He’s right – it makes some great points.

1. Atomisation of news consumption

In the physical world news came as a generic package. You had your politics with your sport; finance news next to film reviews. You might buy a paper for one match report. No longer.

It’s probably no coincidence that majority news consumption recently shifted from regular consumption to sporadic ‘grazing‘.

2. Measurability of users

If you placed an ad on page 3 in a newspaper with a circulation of 100,000 or a broadcast watched by 5million, you didn’t think about the readers who only bought that paper for the sport; or the viewers who popped out to put the kettle on – and that’s before we talk about circulation figures inflated by the assumption that every paper was read by 3 or 4 people.

Online you know exactly how many have looked at a specific page. Not only that, you know exactly how many have clicked on an ad. And you know exactly how many made a purchase (etc.) as a result.

There’s more: you know what page the user was coming from and went to; you know what search terms they were using; you know what country they are in, how high spec their computer; and depending on how much data they’re provided, a whole lot more besides.

There are two huge implications of this measurability (which many advertisers are only just waking up to).

Firstly, advertisers expect more. Online, advertising has moved from a print/broadcast model of paying per thousand viewers (CPM) to paying per thousand clicks (CPC) to paying per action – i.e. purchases, etc. (CPA).

Secondly, it means that editors and managers now know in much more detail not only what readers actually read – but what they want to read (what they are searching for). My name’s Britney Spears, by the way.

3. Mutually conflicting business models

In print you could have your cover price and your ads; online, any paywall means vastly reduced readership because you are cutting out distribution channels – not just Google, but the readers themselves who would otherwise pass it on, link to it and blog about it. You either square that circle, or look for other revenue streams.

4. Reduced cost of newsgathering and production

The technologies were dropping in price long before the internet – satellite technologies , desktop publishing. But the web – and now mobile – technology has reduced the cost of newsgathering, production and distribution to almost nil. And new tools are being made all the time that reduce the cost in time even further. When publishing is as easy as making a phonecall, that causes problems for any business that has to maintain or pay debts on costly legacy production systems.

UPDATE: Robert Brand takes me to task on this one in the comments but also on his blog, where I have responded in more detail.

5. End of scarcity of time and space

Sometimes people need reminding of the basic laws of supply and demand. From a limited availability of journalism to more than you can ever read, any attempt to ‘sell content’ must come up against this basic problem.

6. Devaluation of certain types of journalism

If a reader wants a book review most will go to Amazon. Music? Your social networks, Last.fm, iTunes or MySpace. Sport – any forum. Anyone producing journalism in those or similar areas faces a real issue.

7. The end of monopolies

Just as the scarcity of space has been broken; the scarcity of distribution networks has been blown apart. To distribute information in a pre-web era required significant investment. To distribute information in the web era requires an email account or a mobile phone. Social networks are more powerful and efficient than delivery vans, and you don’t need to sell a certain amount of information to make them viable.

Oh yes, and that makes news even more perishable than it was before.

Meanwhile, the monopoly on advertising has gone. Where before an advertiser might have had a choice between you and a local freesheet, now they can choose from dozens of local media outlets, national directories, international outlets, search engines, social networks, or spending money on becoming media producers themselves. This competition has driven the cost down and innovation up. What have you done to stay competitive?

8. Cutting out middlemen

Because anyone can publish and anyone can distribute, retailers can talk to customers directly. If Threshers can release a money off voucher directly to customers and it become wildly (too) successful, why should they advertise in a newspaper or magazine? If councils can publish news on their own website, or indeed publish and distribute their own publications, why should they publish announcements in a newspaper? If Coca-Cola can create a ‘brand experience’ on its website, and gather consumer data at the same time, why should they limit themselves to 30 seconds in the middle of Britain’s Got Talent?

9. Creating new monopolies

Google rules this space, not you. Amazon rules this space. iTunes rules this space. eBay rules this space. Facebook rules this space. Craigslist rules this space. If you want to thrive in the new environments you have to understand the contexts within which users operate. Search Engine Optimisation is one aspect of that. Social Media Marketing should be another. Understand how one website’s domination of a particular space of the web impacts on your strategies, and acknowledge you no longer control your own destiny. Yep, Google stole the delivery trucks and Amazon stole the newsstand. Oh, and you gave away a whole lot more too.

10. Digitisation and convergence

When everything is digital, new things become possible. Audio, video, text, photography, animation – all becomes 1 and 0. You need to understand the efficiencies that makes possible, from broadcasting live from your mobile phone to releasing images on a Creative Commons licence or publishing raw data to allow users to add value through mashups. The value of your organisation lies not just within its walls but beyond them too.

11. The rise of the PR industry

The PR industry is often overlooked as an economic influence on the news industry.  Its first influence lies in the way it has provided cheap copy for news organisations, meaning an increased reliance by news organisations on fake events, reports and releases. This will become increasingly problematic as the PR industry starts to cut out the middleman and appeal directly to audiences.

Secondly, the PR industry has an enormous effect on recruitment and retaining of talent in the news industry. In short, news organisations have become a training ground for the PR industry. Journalists who cannot live on newspaper wages have been leaving for PR for some time now, meaning increased costs of training and recruitment (partly because there are few older journalists able to train informally). Furthermore, good graduates of journalism schools are often recruited by PR even before they enter the news industry, meaning the news industry has a problem attracting the very brains that could save them.

12. A new currency

Oh yes, and that money thing? It has competition. The rise of social capital is a key development that must be considered. Anyone who thinks nonprofessional media is not important because it doesn’t have a ‘brand’ or because people will lose interest, doesn’t understand the dynamics of social capital. Many people read blogs and other UGC because they trust the person, not the ‘brand’; many people self-publish because of the benefits in terms of reputation, knowledge and connections. And many people link to news articles or contribute user generated content because a journalist invested social capital in their communities, or an organisation built a platform that helped users create it.

That’s it. Unless you can come up with some more…?

Letter to Govt. pt3: Should councils publish newspapers? A response to the Media Committee

As part of a group response to  the government‘s inquiry into the future of local and regional media, Paul Bradshaw looks at the role of local authorities in regional journalism. Blog comments will be submitted to the inquiry as well as the blog posts.

So. The Committee for Culture, Media and Sport want responses on “The appropriateness and effectiveness of print and electronic publishing initiatives undertaken directly by public sector bodies at the local level”

The question of what public sector bodies should be allowed to publish, how that affects local journalism, the local economy, and local democracy, is one of the most difficult to resolve – not least because it involves so many interconnected elements.

The first problem is that any discussion runs the risk of conflating a number of separate but interlinked elements:

  • local councils and local democracy are not the same thing; 
  • local newspapers and local journalism are also two different things.

Whatever model emerges must recognise that papers are not the only places where public discussion takes place, and print journalists are not the only people holding power to account.

Continue reading

Newsgathering IS production IS distribution (Model for a 21st century newsroom pt.1 cont.)

How news is produced in a print- or broadcast-only news operation

How news is produced in a print- or broadcast-only news operation

Above is an image representing how journalism has traditionally been done:

  1. You went and gathered your information
  2. You put it all together in an attractive package: the article, the broadcast package
  3. And someone else took that to the readers or viewers

That linear process is pretty much redundant online.

See the diagram below. I’ve found myself drawing this so often recently that I thought I should put it online and save some ink.

Newsgathering, production and distribution are often the same thing in an online environment

Newsgathering, production and distribution are often the same thing in an online environment

The point is clear. Thanks to networked technologies – and RSS in particular – there is no reason why newsgathering cannot also be news production, or news distribution. For example:

  • You bookmark something on Delicious (newsgathering). That is published on Delicious, your blog, Twitter, and/or your news website (see Jemima Kiss’s PDA Newsbucket), and distributed via RSS which can be embedded anywhere
  • You ask a question on Twitter (newsgathering). That is published on Twitter, and distributed via RSS – perhaps as a widget on your blog or Facebook.
  • You film some raw material on your mobile phone using Qik. It’s published on Qik, with an update posted to Twitter too. The video feed is embedded on your blog or news site, and once again RSS distributes it anywhere you or someone else wants.

I could go on, but here are the implications: 1) a web-savvy journalist or news operation will seek to make as much of their activity visible in this way as possible, adding value to what they do and providing numerous access points for users. It’s for this reason I’m a massive fan of social bookmarking (it also makes it very easy to find things you read previously)

2) Journalism is becoming less polished, more iterative and more networked. Broadcast and print do the ‘finished version’ pretty well – online, we’re often happy with raw information, with the emphasis on ‘raw’.

3) As I’ve said before, the journalist (along with their readers) is now the distributor. You cannot leave that job to someone else. The more active, visible and social you are online, the better for your work both commercially and editorially.

Any thoughts? More examples?

The biggest deal for online video this year

Anyone interested in video on the web – and particularly making money from video on the web – should pay close attention to the partnership between MTV and MySpace, which uses fingerprinting technology to allow the broadcaster to identify video being ‘pirated’ and shared on the web.

So far, so old news. The significance is this: the technology is being discussed not as a way to stop people ‘ripping’ and embedding video material, but to actually encourage them. Why? 

The money. Continue reading