Archive for the ‘Curation’ Category

Today we launched the new USAToday.com.
Thank’s to the magnificent and tireless work of an army of engineers, designers, programmers, product managers, editors, etc., under the direction of Gannett Digital president David Payne, we are taking a huge step into the future, not without risk, by creating what we believe is a major step for our viewers and advertisers.
The new USAToday.com is a dramatic change for both.

For our readers and viewers it represents a significant step toward visual storytelling, but one that respects the fact that no two readers are alike, especially during times of significant technological change. We give you several options on how to view news, information, entertainment and advertising but all involve significant curation by our editorial staff, the heart and soul of the value we bring to this storytelling process. This creation is truly a collaborative work between dedicated technologists and equally dedicated journalists.

We give the reader the ability to use visuals or words in varying degrees in their consumption process. And we will do it in varying degrees. If the reader wants, for example, he or she can view each story by starting with a photograph or a video. They can even use a device we call “Cover Mode” (see the little book-like design at the top of the page) that allows them to see each story via a full-page photograph, the most dramatic use of still photography in the storytelling process we have ever seen on the Internet.

We give you the ability to view by our definition of importance or by anyone’s definition of timeliness. By merely scrolling over a visual reference to a story they can also see more text to put that story in context. And by viewing our “Right Now” column along the right side of the page, you will see relevant social media reactions to the ongoing story in real-time.
Our horizontal navigation, inspired by the growing and already massive use of tablets, allows the reader to “peruse” the sections or the stories on the site by turning pages, re-imagining the “discovery” process we so love in the print media. It allows you to be surprised by content you didn’t know existed, but to do so at your own speed, depending upon your time and inclination.

Cover View: A new way to peruse stories through their most dramatic images

The horizontal “page-turning” experience also allows our advertisers to reclaim the full-page ad they so dearly want and need. We allow those advertisers the chance to use the entire palate in whatever way they want to grab your attention, all the time giving you the same ability you had in print to turn the page. But watch out, you are going to see some wonderful ads that use dramatic visual tools from interactivity to video to draw you in.

Advertising in general has also changed in a big way on this site. Gone are the many small units that appears in different places on the page, frequently below the “fold” or unavailable until you scrolled down. We listened to our readers and our advertisers, and we have reacted by giving both a better experience. We have limited the advertisers to fewer but much more dramatic positions, giving them the same chance we are giving ourselves of telling their stories better and reaching more people with increasingly dramatic tools.

This is truly a major step into the new world of digital storytelling, one that empowers them, as storytellers with their own story to tell, to use every tool available: video, audio, text, photography, interactivity and more to tell his or her story. This is a step in the reinvention of storytelling, it’s also a step in the reinvention of how news will be created and consumed. We’re extremely excited to be part of that process.

Much more to come. Watch over the next few weeks as we roll out our new tablet and mobile apps, and if you haven’t recently, take a look at our print newspaper, too. It has also begun to embrace the strengths of a print product in today’s media mix and you will be surprised. And we are making it easier on all platforms for you to contact us. In the spirit of this new era of communications, please send us your comments, ideas and suggestion.

Today we launched the “TV On The Web” section of the USA Today Life Section.  And we did so in the printed newspaper first.

Sounds a bit backwards, you say?  Actually, it’s a great example of how various forms of media can compliment each other.  In this case, print has the advantage of being an effective curator of digital content.  There is so much digital content out there that our readers and digital users appreciate our efforts to curate that content and find the best of it for them.  And print is a very effective way to display that curated list. 

By limiting our presentation to what we can fit in one section of the paper, we easily demonstrate to our readers that we have used the scarcity of space in the paper to display the best of the content we find.  On digital platforms our list could be much longer, but on paper we are forced to live within the space we have.  It’s always harder to do anything in less space, and to make the choices we have to make to choose “only the best.”  But that makes it even more valuable to the reader, who knows he or she will get a lot for the small amount of time they have to devote to see the printed list in its entirety.

Print imposed the kind of limitations that force us to work harder for the reader.  And in the end, the consumer appreciates that we put in more work to do that for them. 

It is also much easier to do something new for a print reader, because they are already looking at the page and will notice something new and different.  On a digital platform, it is harder to draw someone to anything new because they tend to go to and get the pages they know to ask for. Image

So for us at USA Today, the printed newspaper is both an editorial product and a marketing platform for the innovations we are planning across all of our platforms.   We sell that platform to other advertisers, so it should come as no surprise that we can use it effectively ourselves to prove its continuing value.

Congrats to the team for getting our new TV on the Web listings launched today, along with the fantastic coverage of Web-based video we are launching in the Life Section news columns (See today’s story on Tom Hanks and Jerry Seinfeld’s efforts to create online-only TV shows). 

TV on the Web is getting big and deserves the kind of coverage we normally give to traditional television.  How cool is it that we launch that coverage in a newspaper!

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Well it’s been two years and three IPads, so its a good time to step back and look at how my life as a heavy consumer of news has changed.

Much has changed.  But there is no question that I have come to use both the IPad and IPhone for a great deal of news consumption, though I still largely depend on traditional brands.  The latest IPad and IPhone have been particularly good to the news companies that embrace the tablet and mobile formats.  The speed of downloads has improved dramatically,  and the quality of video continues to improve.  And, finally, advertisers are at least trying the platforms.

Let me start with the The Daily, the first IPad native news business.  I use them more today than I did in the past.  The faster download times, the far better indexing and  briefing features and the quality of the journalism  have all made a difference, and as always, the application makes terrific use of the IPad’s true value to display beautiful photography.  It’s slickness still makes it hard for me to grasp how timely the information is — it’s almost too pretty to make you believe it’s very current — but that may just be my problem associating beautiful design with magazine journalism.  There isn’t enough video or interactive storytelling to make this a total home run yet, and too much of the video that is there  is a talking head.  I am a paid subscriber, but I don’t have the sense of urgency that I must have this product.  It think still needs some defining and exclusive content. I do love the new “Breaking News Alert” (see left) that blasted in front of the cover when the news of a foiled Al Qaeda plot was reported.

I still use the NYPost App, after it has moved into Apple’s newsstand.  It’s easy to navigate and a terrific digital manifestation of the paper’s look, feel and content, capturing much of the personality that the defines the Post.  I have subscribed and I rarely buy or see a print edition anymore.

For the several months I have been using a terrific App called “PressReader” from Newspaper Direct, which offers access to “replica” versions of hundreds of newspapers around the world in real time.  You can, for the price of a single subscription, get all the papers you want to get on the service.  Or you can buy single newspapers when you want them.  It’s a nifty App that shows the exact newspaper that is printed, but then allows you to drill down and navigate digitally by clicking on the stories you want to read.  Hard to explain, easy to use.  I have been able to keep up with the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post,  and several other publications including some British papers, on an as-needed basis.

I still read my old standby national newspapers:  The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today via their apps.  The Times is now part of the Apple Newsstand, but to me the application, while clean, loses too much of the look and feel of the times, and just seems less urgent and complete.   Too many stories are first presented with a headline and a couple paragraphs, with no graphic stimulation.   It’s easy to use, but has no soul and I frequently miss stories that I see in the Print Edition.  I still get the NYTimes printed paper at home on the weekends, and I much prefer it.

The Wall Street Journal app is a much better translation of the newspaper and its feel.  It also gives the reader a version of the journal that is updated to the time the reader has signed on.  It’s a great mix of a daily newspaper of record and updated news since printing. There is growing use of photos and video that shows real promise.

Finally the USA Today Ipad App is also very clean.  The good and the bad news about the USA Today app is that it is a close cousin to the look of the paper.  While it captures some of the design feature of the paper, some have become tired.   The site loses a sense of urgency and  news judgement by stacking stories with essentially the same look and feel as each other.  The larger layouts in the print version of the paper are often the most attractive devices in the newspaper, and they are not translated to this platform.  Photos dominate the visuals, and the reader gets little interactive or even passive, graphic presentation that approaches what is so great about the print paper.  The page looks the same every day.  USAToday’s IPhone app is slicker and faster to use.

Broadcast news outlets have become a large part of my news consumption through digital platforms as well.  On the financial news front,  I love Marketwatch, but hate that there isn’t a better presentation of it’s news product on the IPad.  There is a data app, which was recently updated, but while it’s clean and efficient, I hate that it is a fixed horizontal app, and when my IPad is in the upright position (I have a charger that leaves it vertically on my desk) the content is sideways and useless to me.  I have the same problem with the Wall Street Journal Live App.  So I have shifted to CNBC’s RT (Real Time) App, which is easy to use, gives me the most graphic depiction of Indexes, My Stocks, News (easy and efficient access to all news) and Videos and has the added bonus of being in Real-Time, not delayed data.  And, there are much better and more timely videos, which you would expect. This is CNBC’s first major success on digital platforms.

CNN’s IPad app is very visual (It should use more words) and allows the viewer to watch CNN live.  The ABC News, NBC News and CBS News Apps are all too visual, showing photos and a few words for every story, and linking to work they have largely done on TV.  They will, someday, discover that words are also important to the storytelling process on digital platforms.

All in all, I am spending a lot more time on my IPad, including the time spent on News sites.  My habits are changing…so are everyone else’s.  Clearly the transition is taking place.  But it still feels like we have some more changes to go and some new software and hardware to lead the way.

The problem with the fight over SOPA is that no one is playing by the same rules.  In fact, there are no rules and frequently people on the same side are fighting for completely different reasons. 

In the media world, we have journalistically-minded companies who have spent a lifetime defending freedom of speech and fighting anything that seems to impair that right.   In that world such freedom overshadows the original reason for the proposed rules, which was the fact that most of those companies are losing billions of dollars because their intellectual property is being stolen and reused by others for profit.

Then we have the Googles of the world, who beat the Freedom-of-Speech drum as well, but who really are among those who have built huge businesses on the back of every content creator with little or no compensation for their content.  In their case, it’s Freedom-of-Profit and Growth that they are protecting.

Having Google out front defending the media on the SOPA issue is like having Larry Flynt be the point person defending Freedom of Speech in court.   We like what he is saying, but is he the right person to make the case around?

While this is a fight about rights for the media, for Silicon Valley its really a fight about an entirely new economic structure that tech firms have built around managing and presenting other people’s content.

The real problem is we have no standards yet to build an intelligent discussion around gray areas. Right now this has become a black and white, for or against, issue.  But like all things, there are going to be many ways to do this right and to do it wrong.  But we don’t even have fundamental building blocks in place.  We still haven’t defined, legally, what fair use is for content on the internet.  That’s something we did a long time ago for print and broadcast media.

Imagine having this fight in the print world without any existing idea of what is fair use.  None of us believe we should be able to sue someone for using a word or two that might be the same as two words in something we created last year.  But in print that doesn’t happen, because their are rules that loosely define how much of an existing work or idea you can repeat with stealing an idea or creative work.  And it’s a reasonable amount.

In television there are rules about how much video someone else can use from the creators of that video, and under what circumstances they can use it.  Beyond that, intellectual property is protected.

In both cases the industries came together and agreed on fair use.  Then  they figured out how to protect appropriate activity. 

With SOPA, the problem is everyone is shadow boxing against a massive grey cloud of “evil.”  
In the digital universe we have not brought everyone together, and we need to. It’s ridiculous to provide massive powers to shut people down when we can’t even agree on what exactly they are doing wrong.

How about as a industry, content creators of all kinds, text, video, photographic, graphic, audio, get together and come up with realistic guidelines that allow for freedom of speech and expression to grow, even around our content, and yet still make sure that those who fund the content creation itself are reimbursed appropriately for what they have given the world? Let’s try to agree on what “fair use” is before we agree on how to punish people for not being fair. 

It won’t be easy, the players in the many subsets of the content universe, music, newspapers, television all have had a hard time agreeing with each other about much simpler issues, but at least we’ll have a better idea of what we are trying to accomplish than we do now.

 

While media companies are starting to realize that they must continue to build their relationship with their customers in order to survive, new data suggests they better do so quickly and with the right partners.
New data from Citicorp shows how dramatically people are growing the time they spend on Facebook.
What this means is that the social platform is providing more and more content and providing its users with a preferred place to consume that content. In much the same way Apple has taken more and more of people’s time to consume content on it’s devices, Facebook has spent the time to learn how people want to consume and converge content into their routines, and continues to build devices for them to do so, on Facebook.
While this is generally a good thing for content creators, because it’s yet another outlet for content, it’s also a threat because it puts the social network squarely between the content creator and it’s audience. And the fact is, Facebook will know more about consumer behavior than the content creators will. This is the exact issue that causes the content providers to worry about Apple.
But now, like Apple, we’re beyond trying to create alternatives. Success will come to those who work best with Apple and now Facebook. It’s a long, hard road to succeed reaching today’s audiences without them.

With all of the chaos at Yahoo, the debate is raging yet again: Should it be a better tech company or should it be a content company? Has it conceded so much ground in the tech arena to the likes of Google and Apple that it HAS to recreate itself as a content company, or should it try to regain the mojo that help it become a powerhouse of the last decade and build an audience of several hundred million users? Or, is content the right way to go anyway?

The answer is yes, to each question. Yahoo has talented and creative engineers and programmers. It also has a huge audience that it has monetized better than most with display advertising. But it has also been left in the dust by Google’s ability to build a monster search and direct advertising business. And it has lost significant ground in email and mobile application development. On the content side Yahoo has historically done a great job as an aggregator and shown the ability to add value in that aggregation by attracting significant audiences from its large pool of users. But it has not shown an ability to crack the new media formula that has begun to build businesses around a combination of aggregation, curation and original content (like Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and others.)

The magic formula for the future involves a combination of content and technology, specifically the technology that will create new forms of storytelling and guide better and more efficient consumption of content.

We are entering an age of Convergence. Content and technology are converging to create the newest forms of storytelling and giving consumers entirely new ways to consume content. The creation of IOS and Android powered smart phones, The IPad, Kindle etc, and other developments have clearly changed the landscape and they are only the beginning.

Successful content companies will need to understand and even master new technologies and truly understand how their customers will use those technologies to consume content. In order to succeed they will have to learn how to deliver their content on the new platforms AND how to optimize their content for those platforms. If the ability to give consumer content in real time continues to grow, will content companies have to accept that more content will need to be delivered in smaller bites? Will they have to include more video or interactivity on portable devices? Will targeting that content become even more essential in order to help consumers navigate an overwhelming overload of content?

We barely know the questions to ask, much less the answers. We are starting to understand those questions, but the answers are more elusive than we think. Media companies will have to continue to pay close attention to both technology AND consumer habits, particularly how consumers continue to change their habits because of new technology.

While many companies are taking steps in these directions, no one has emerged with all the answers. Apple has done a magnificent job of matching new products with consumer demand, even helping to create the demand. But Apple has done that from the perch of a consumer products company, a hardware company. They have steadfastly avoided the creations of content and have even had very rocky relationships with many of the content creators because their interests aren’t totally aligned.

Google has done a great job of building a targeted advertising business that takes advantage of its search business to uber-target and create efficient management. But Google, too, has avoided becoming a content creator. It does generate content from some acquisitions, but for the most part it’s content created by others, like the videos on YouTube or restaurant ratings from Zagat’s readers.

So the door is open for a company that can simultaneously seek to listen to and understand it’s audience and participate in the development of technology that gives them what they want and more.

Yahoo needs to be a company that commits to creativity in both technology and content, attempting to lead in both, but only in the context of how they work together. Whether content is email, user-generated video, advertising or unique reporting from a war zone, Yahoo should be all over the process of creating and delivering content to consumers through multiple platforms.
It should also take advantage of having one of the best brands built over the past decade to create branded content on all platforms.

In today’s digital world, over time nearly every company has to become a media company. That is a cornerstone theory of my book C-Scape. The “C” stands for the four themes of change that every company, media and otherwise, has to embrace: Content is king, The Consumer is in control, Convergence is changing your business and Curation is a new skill you much embrace.

Today I got an email from the fast-growing digital shopping business Gilt, known for it’s daily sales of high-end branded products and services.

The email announced the launch of “Park & Bond,” which it described as a “new shopping destination for men.”

But let’s look at what they say you will find there:

Curation: “A curated selection of the world’s best brands, available when and where you want them.”

Consumer: “The Ability to see how virtually every item appears as part of a head-to-toe look”

Content: “Tools and Content designed to help men build an amazing wardrobe and get the most out of it, from personal shopping to buying guides and how-tos”

Convergence: “Park & Bond. It’s the New Intersection of Men & Style”

To be sure, Park & Bond is a shopping site from a commerce company, Gilt. But as a new digital business it proves that it understands the most fundamental issues around doing business today. Companies must provide much more for their customers, and create the kind of experience that helps them do everything they need to do in life, including shop. It’s simply good business.

Consumers face an overwhelming set of choices for everything they do, from reading a magazine to watching TV to buying a shirt to taking a vacation. Increasingly they need and appreciate guidance and intelligent curation of their choices. Park & Bond provides consumers with all kinds of helpful information, from “How to” stories helping some of the more style-challenged members of the male species, to details on fashion trends and advices on what to look for when buying clothing and accessories. And the context of the answers is how the customer uses the product, not how it’s sold or who sells it. There are also cultural guides and and advice on taking care of clothes.

In order to succeed as a consumer business in the future, businesses are going to have to give them more and more help in quickly and easily making the best choices they can.