Archive for the ‘Programming’ 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!

20120719-202849.jpg

Concern is growing that the overall Advertising Market is beginning to slow down, and that situation will worsen after the presidential election is over. Such concerns have caused media companies to accelerate their hunt for new revenue streams.

None of this comes as a surprise. Increasingly marketers have shifted funds from advertising to PR, social media efforts and even content creation. The percentage of marketing money that goes to advertising is dropping and is expected to continue to drop.

According to The Wall Street Journal today, Kantar Media is suggesting that decelerating ad spending growth in the first half of the year could shift to an actual decline in the third quarter.

The Los Angeles Times Story about the same report from Kantar says that “seismic shifts in spending continue to roil the media industry.” Pointing out that many of these changes have been driven by the recession, the LA Times cites major ad buying categories like retailers, automakers and homes sellers as having “been particularly hard hit, and few are predicting a speedy recovery.”

But there have been other contributors to the problems. After the Japanese earthquake damaged car factories and slammed auto production, the floods in Thailand did the same thing to many of the parts manufacturers.

All of this is contributing to a need on the part of content creators to search for new revenue streams besides traditional advertising. In the video world, while some of that money may come from non-traditional advertising, like digital or even advertising supported video-on-demand, there are also non-advertising related revenue streams, like NetFlix and Amazon deals, where consumers are starting to pay both subscriptions and one-time fees to have content delivered when and where they want it.

For print publications, that can mean several things. One of the more interesting strategies comes from the LA Times this week, which launched its e-books business this week with the publication of “A Nightmare Made Real”, an e-book about a crime the paper covered earlier in the year, combining the paper’s coverage and some new material into a digital book. Coming soon is a collection of holiday cookie recipes that paper had published earlier. Pricing on e-books is going to be tested, ranging from 99 cents to $19.99, with some consideration being given to a subscription model. The books will be sold on Kindle, Nook, IBooks and at the newspaper’s own e-bookstore. According to the LA Times, several newspapers are now experimenting with ebooks.

We can only hope the move to generate new revenue streams happens quickly enough to offset the softening in the traditional markets.

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.

Last week the New York Times took a giant step into the present. It started behaving the way entrepreneurial early-stage businesses behave. Unlike most successful mature companies, the Times is trying to embrace the culture of the startup by bringing its customers into the development process.

The times launched Beta620, a public site for many of its experimental projects, and asked the public to sign on and help them evaluate the projects and suggest how to improve them or even more projects. Under the headline “What’s Going On”, the Times described the site and their goals this way:

“Welcome to beta620. At The New York Times, our software engineers, journalists, product managers and designers are constantly striving to create new and innovative ways to present news and information and interact with our readers. Yet it’s often difficult to try out new inventions on the world’s largest newspaper Web site. That’s why we created beta620, a new home for experimental projects from Times developers — and a place for anyone to suggest and collaborate on new ideas and new products.”

Successful, mature businesses focus on staying successful. They don’t put out products until they are ready for prime time. They don’t want to jeopardize a successful business by presenting something that might not be perfect. The fear is that the consumer might interpret something less than perfect as a defect and lose confidence in the brands behind billions of dollars in profits.

Contrast that attitude with Google, where new products are labeled “Beta” for years, and evolve based on continuing and considerable consumer reaction. New features are added to products after they are suggested by actual users. Besides having the advantage of making your customers feel empowered, the process serves another purpose: it helps Google see changes in consumer behavior as they are happening. The success of new business frequently comes from understanding the consumers better than a more traditional business that may cling to old consumer habits long have they may have changed. For example, don’t just keep pushing DVD’s if the public is now watching shows on digital platforms. Traditional DVD businesses wither while new companies like Netflix and Hulu grow quickly using multiple new forms of distribution.

I remember how frustrating it was in 2006 when I was negotiating to put CBS TV shows on Google. Google hadn’t yet launched Google Video, nor had they bought YouTube. CBS was nervous about how their shows would look on Google TV, and pushed Google on making sure that the viewing experience would be as close to perfect as possible.

The Google folks basically told CBS not to worry. “We just call it Beta and let our viewers test for us and tell us how it’s going. We’ll just keep the “Beta” on the site as long as we want so people will understand if the video freezes or refuses to start.” To emphasize the point that this was a work in progress, the Google management team wanted CBS CEO Leslie Moonves to join them on stage wearing Lab Coats as they introduced the product to the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas.

The horrified look on the faces of the rest of the CBS management team said it all. No, Leslie Moonves would not wear a lab coat. The CBS people pushed hard for guarantees that the video would be perfect before the launch (those guarantees never came…and how could they? Who could guarantee anything involving the public internet?

The clash of those two cultures was symbolic of the ongoing relationship between traditional businesses and the emerging digital royalty. While the CBS’s of the world were right to protect their brands because those brands had built multi-billion dollar businesses, the Googles of the world were also right to engage their audiences in the process of product development, because they recognized that so much is changing so fast, it’s virtually impossible to keep up with changing consumer habits unless you track them in real-time. Public Beta tests do exactly that. The difficulty in that world is to make sure you don’t overreact to real time data…instead opting for continuous evaluation and analysis, and regular testing.

In both worlds the companies ultimately have to trust the instincts of their smartest people. But the difference is the quality of data they have to inform their decision. In today’s world, much of it has to come directly from customers or consumers in as close to real time as possible.

Tablet owners have quickly adapted a preference of using their tablet rather than a computer for media consumption of all kinds. Weather, music, games, News and Information are all categories of information that tablet users would rather get from their tablets than from a PC, according to new research from Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc.
“Reading” has also quickly become something tablet users would rather do on their tablet than any other place.
Tablet users have taken the time they need to be on tablets from a number of other areas, including time they had spend reading print newspapers and magazines AND the Time they spent using the Internet on their phones.
Finally, Tablet users as a group are much more active media consumers than mobile phone users are. Those who get tablets spend much more time on their email accounts, on the internet and doing many different things on digital platforms.
The charts:



The New York Post hasn’t made any real money in years. That’s why it’s an unlikely frontrunner in the publishing industry’s uneasy turf war with Apple and the IPad. And even though it comes from a company that is spending tens of millions to invent a new news product for the IPad (News Corp’s “The Daily”), the Post has fired the loudest and most effective shots for the newspaper industry directly at Apple’s broadside.

According to the Media Industry Newsletter, The NY Post is the top grossing publisher’s paid App in the App store, and number 11 overall.

At issue is Apple’s insistence that any newspapers or magazines that sell single copies or subscriptions give 30% of their take to Apple for use of its system to deliver the Post content and collect the charges. Also at issue is Apple’s attempt to keep all or most of the customer data to itself.

Last year, the Post built a very effective IPad app that truly captures the look and feel of the paper but also takes advantage of the navigation and interactivity of the IPad. It downloads relatively quickly, giving the reader the ability to download and read while not connected to the web. It captures the fun and impact of Post headlines and layouts, and makes it easy to navigate to specific sections, pages or stories, giving readers multiple routes in a very intuitive platform.

It also engages you by giving you the opportunity to write your own Front Page headline and see what it would look like on a few variations of the front page. Your attempt goes up against everyone else in a competition each day to see who did the best job. And it allows you to share Post content easily to social media or others. For me, a life-long reader, it has replaced the print edition.

After a brief free trial period a year or so ago, they started to charge me to subscribe to the App. No public hand wringing for two years, no huge press events. They just put it up and charged for it.

Then it really got interesting.

First the Post began to block IPad users from accessing NYPost.com’s resident browser, Safari. So suddenly IPad users didn’t have the option to call up NYPost.com on their IPads. Now, to get any NYPost content on the IPad, they had to pay for it. (Here I have to disclose that since I had downloaded the Firefox IPad browser, too, I discovered that I could still get to NYPost.com on my IPad via that browser).

Then, the Post introduced a new feature IN the app that allows App subscribers to access the live NYPost.com website in a pop-up box on the App.

In the process of trying to force subscribers to pay for the Post on the IPad, and to maximize the transaction by pulling all live web content under the pay umbrella, the Post may be stumbling onto the most effective combination of content for the IPad. They offer both an IPad-optimized look and feel…with the easy navigation and the stunning photos the IPad features…. AND the constantly updating elements of the 24/7 website which are now available whenever the IPad is online. It’s a powerful offering together.

Mainstream media companies are still in the early innings of the game when it comes to new business models. But the Post is aggressively pushing in the right direction. They are gradually matching their journalism to the new medium. If they continue to build their interactive storytelling skill and develop video content and presentation, they could eventually have the first killer news app.