Archive for June, 2010

Visually promoting New Items

Borrowing Design Elements from the Past

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Newspass will compete with Journalism On-line’s Press+

A system that will allow publishers to charge small amounts for access to on-line content appears to be gaining speed at Google Inc., reports last week indicated. The system, called Newspass, will roll out before the end of the year, said the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Thursday.

The Newspass system as described by La Repubblica is similar to an process described by Google last fall in a proposal made to the Newspaper Association of America and released by the Harvard journalism program NiemanLab.

“Later this year, Google will launch an integrated payment system that will allow users to buy [news content] with one click and publishers to use a single infrastructure for Web, mobile and tablet to monetize their content,” a New York Times translation of the La Repubblica article said.

Both the Times and asked the Mountain View, Calif.-based Google to respond to the Italian newspaper report. For both the company neither denied nor confirmed the article.

“We’ve consistently said we’re talking with news publishers about ways we can work together, including whether we can help them with technology to power any subscription services they may be thinking of building,” a Google spokesman told the Times. “Our aim, as with all Google products, is to reach as broad a global audience as possible. We have nothing specific to announce at this time.”

The Newspass system from Google would undoubtedly compete with the Press+ system that has been developed by Journalism On-line LLC, the startup that received a boost earlier this month with an investment from News Corp.

Both systems would provide readers with a log-on that would allow them access to a variety of digital media. The Newspass and Press+ systems would aggregate the accesses to various media throughout a month and present the reader with a combined monthly bill which would theoretically be paid off with a credit or debit card.

What prevents publishers or web site operators from doing this on their own are the high “merchant fees” credit card companies levy against companies that accept credit cards. The merchant fees can range from one-half of one percent of the total transaction up to as much as five percent of the transaction, with additional charges such as a transaction fee, a batch processing fee and an interchange fee.

By using a service such as Newspass or Press+, the publisher leverages the larger size of those companies, which would then reduce the fees. Google has a leg up on JOL here in that it already has its Google Checkout payment system.

In other paid content news, Bloomberg News reported last week that The Times of London is offering a variety of incentives to get readers to pay for on-line content, including free tickets to the movie “Toy Story 3” or a free weekend at a fancy boutique hotel two hours outside of London.

The Times and other News Corp. London web sites began implementing a paid-content model last week.

“We don’t expect or require that all the people who do now will still look at it,” said Daniel Finkelstein, executive editor of The Times, told Bloomberg. The paper’s on-line fee will be £2 ($US2.89) a week. “What’s left is still a vast market.”

In other on-line news news, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said on Thursday that it was expanding its neighborhood news project with three inter-related grants that total almost a half-million dollars.

The Miami-based foundation said it had provided grants to OpenPlans Inc. of New York City, Missouri’s Columbia Tribune and the Boston Globe. OpenPlans, a non-profit software firm, will receive $235,000 to streamline and extend code that was developed with a $1 million Knight grant in 2007-2009 for the project, while the two papers will get grants of about $100,000 each to implement the code on their web sites.

So, it looks like web site publishers will either get in bed with Google or with Murdoch (via JOL). That will be a tough choice for many.

We are seeing several fresh examples of main stream media beginning to focus on what it has to do to survive and thrive in the future. Every day we find another example of media companies daring to change their model to adapt to the new world the face, and give the consumer a more relevant and useful product.

Today’s examples are in the area closest to my heart, news. Everyone has seen the business models of news organizations fall apart over the past several years. During that process these major players have done little besides cut costs to manages profits or losses. Few have aggressively tried to change their product to adapt to what consumers now want.

First, we have what may be the biggest news brand in the world, CNN, making a major decision to drop use of the Associated Press, and use the money it spends on that to focus on original content. It is critical for news organizations to give their customers compelling content that is difficult to find elsewhere. Original content becomes even more important when there is virtually no barrier to entry for people to create a news site using the Associated Press to provide the basic story it provides everywhere.

“We are taking an important next step in the content- ownership process we began in 2007 to more fully leverage CNN’s global newsgathering investments,” CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton told his staff in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News, and confirmed by CNN. CNN’s primary source for its news will now be itself. Hopefully this move will also hasten the convergence of CNN’s television and web operations in to one cohesive news force.

The second move I want to highlight today might on the surface seem like a contradiction. But it’s not. It’s a great example of solid news organizations doing something else they will have to do from now on, “curating” information and news from other sources for their readers.

Marketwatch and CNN Money websites have gone to Twitter-based financial service StockTwits to provide them each with widgets that will reside on their sites and give the large audiences both sites enjoy a glimpse into the trading rooms. StockTwit’s tweets generally reflect the topics being bandied about on trading desks in realtime. So no matter how well Marketwatch and CNN Money know their audiences, they know that StockTweets offers a different perspective, and one that is impossible for a news organization to do on its own.

While MarketWatch and CNN Money are embracing the art of curation, by getting help cutting through the noise that is the crowd on wall street, the CNN move seems to be going in the opposite direction and eliminating outside content from it’s sites. But actually, the CNN move is really solving a more critical problem it has. In CNN’s case this is an opportunity to have resources to develop its own voice and more original content, which it desperately needs. It needs to bringmore original news and content closer to CNN’s consumers on whatever platform they are using at the time. They are creating positions at headquarters and in bureaus to get information on TV more quickly and they are starting something called “CNN Share,” which will package breaking news immediately for distribution over mobile, the web and on television. CNN can no longer afford to be giving consumers news they feel they can get anywhere, from anyone.

Coffee ‘n Email

Posted: June 15, 2010 in Convergence

From the Center for Media Research:

According to a new study by ExactTarget, based on more than 1,500 consumer interviews, 58% of U.S. online consumers begin their day interacting with companies on Email, compared to 20% who start their day on search engines and 11% on Facebook. Consumers’ early morning online preferences reflect key differences in their motivations for interacting with companies across email and social media, observes the report.

Morgan Stewart, principal, ExactTarget’s research and education group, says:

* “Consumers who check email first tend to be more task-oriented, subscribe to more emails and interact with brands across email and social media to obtain deals, promotions or new product information…
* … in stark contrast to people who initially check Facebook, who tend to draw firmer, more segregated boundaries and become fans of brands for entertainment purposes or to show support for a company or product.”
* Key findings of the research include the fact that 93% of U.S. consumers subscribe to email marketing messagesand 42% of U.S. online consumers use Facebook at least once a day. And, of these:
* 69% are a fan of one or more companies
54% of U.S. consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 are fans of brands on Facebook.
While consumers between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most active demographic on Facebook and Twitter, they are also among the most active on email.
* 43% of all online consumers are either fans or followers of at least one brand on Twitter or Facebook
* 68% of daily Twitter users follow at least one brand, yet only 7% of U.S. consumers participate on Twitter with that frequency

Tim Kopp, ExactTarget’s chief marketing officer, said “… Consumers’ initial online activity provides a glimpse into their priorities and motivations… marketers must move quickly to… deliver the most compelling and relevant messages… ”

For more information about the study, or to access an interactive application of the Subscribers, Fans & Followers data, please visit ExactTarget here. has become a digital media powerhouse and one of the best extensions of a traditional business. All sports have had interesting moments figuring out their long term relationship with their fans. Every major sport now has broadcast businesses of their own, including in the case of Football, Basketball and Baseball and even some college conferences, their own television networks. Still, the relationship between the leagues and broadcasters is a critical one, giving teams the largest portion of their guaranteed future revenues, and allowing those teams to sign stars to long term contracts.
Meanwhile, the leagues have understood just how quickly the media landscape is changing, and have begun to aggressively put their product on every possible platform because their fans are among the first on each platform, from satellite to phone to IPad, to want to use that platform to see their favorite team and catch up on the news. Sports so often are the definition of leasure time for Americans.
Bob Bowman has built from scratch into a powerhouse business and quickly made it a source of income rather than a drain. It’s a worthy story to any business looking at how to support an entrepreneurial division.

Best Headline of the Week

Posted: June 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

NYPost June 13, 2010

Four years ago, when I was running digital media at CBS, we had a meeting with Google’s top management to see how we might work together on some projects. We started the discussion with video, which Google wanted badly from us because they were hungering for video content to help jump start what was then a fledgling video business (pre-itunes).

But for a brief moment I shifted the subject to news. My thought was that if we put Google News together with CBS News, we could create the killer application for news. The idea was that they were the hands down leader in aggregating news from all sources without actually creating any news of their own. If a story broke, you could go to Google News and find links to almost every version of that story available from almost every source. CBS, on the other hand, would “Curate” the news and use their extensive experience in journalism and their room full of smart editors and producers to put news in perspective and, in effect, rank the news of the day and cover the best of it.

If you put the two together well, you really had something. CBS would guide you to the important stories, and put those stories in a context that would help readers know where to spend their time and what these stories really mean to them. Then Google News would allow the reader to go to any version of that story. If there was a ferry crash in San Francisco, you could go directly to a local news site that might be covering the event live, or at least in more detail.

This was the perfect mix for any reader. They would be helped to understand the relative importance of stories, but they would also be able to go to any version of that story, from any preferred source. The consumer wins.

But Google shut that discussion down almost immediately. Eric Schmidt said they were concerned about partnering with any news organization for news coverage because they wanted their audience to understand that Google News was a pure technology created to dispassionately display the news of the day based on their algorithms, and not reflect the agenda of one news organization or another. In fact, Google News was meant to reflect a consensus of what news is interesting.

Now, according to, Google is asking selected news organizations to create “editors’ picks” for the front page of Google News. And, there are rumors from SearchEngineLand that there is a new version of Google News coming that is more share-friendly and a new look.