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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Papal Obituary 

Our client, Religion News Service, is the only secular newswire which focuses on news about religion and ethics exclusively. It's an interesting b2b business, since we sell our services to newspapers, magazines, broadcasters and other media organizations.

The editorial and business teams of RNS have built an impressive array of coverage and background on the death of Pope John Paul II, and stories and images have moved on the AP and Canadian Press wires. I'm proud of the RNS team for its hard work.

To view the full sked, click here. I think you'll agree that it's quite comprehensive. And many more stories will move over the next few weeks, as the funeral, the conclave and the election of a new Pope occur.

To view the RNS obituary of John Paul II, click here.


Friday, April 01, 2005

Newspapers: Not Dead Yet. Getting Better? 

Borrell: Local Online Spending Soars 28 Pct.

As reported in Mediaweek, and according to Borrell Associates, only about half of the $2.7 billion spent on local online advertising went to pure Internet players, with "old-fashioned local media, like newspaper, TV and radio station Web sites...losing their afterthought status among marketers."

Grab: Yet the biggest beneficiary of an increased appetite for local advertising appears to be publicly traded newspaper giants; companies like The New York Times and Knight Ridder are reporting advertising growth in the 40-45 percent range, though online revenue remains a tiny percentage of these companies' overall gross revenue. Overall, newspapers dominated local online advertising in 2004, accounting for 44 percent share of all locally spent ad dollars.

It's not a big chunk of change yet, but it's growing.


An e-commerce object lesson 

Makeover Case Study: From Print Publisher to Web Ecommerce Powerhouse

Nice piece on ContentBiz detailing how took a legal forms publisher online (and in-store) to build an e-commerce powerhouse. Decent object lessons and approaches for all b2b publishers to consider (even though Socrates is also a b2c business.)

Link is active until April 10.


The Power of Written-Word Media 

Words and ideas from the Atlantic

MediaLife's Lorraine Sanders offers snippets from The Atlantic's National Magazine Award-nominated pieces. As you may know from past posts, The Atlantic Monthly is one of my 'stop everything' magazine subscriptions. When it arrives in the mailbox, I read it that night, cover to cover. I can't think of a single "appointment television" program that commands this kind of attention from me--though I tivo a few for when I have a free moment.

Click the link for some excellent writing. You'll be reading it online, not in print, and it doesn't matter, does it?


Thursday, March 31, 2005

Branding and Reputation 

B2B Lead Generation Blog: Word of Mouth Marketing relies on reputation not branding

Brian Carroll has an interesting meditation on word of mouth marketing, and reputation-building versus brand-building. He notes: "Our reputation leads others to make conclusions about our brand but our brand doesn't create our reputation."

Agreed. In an earlier post on media brands, I argued that all media brands are ultimately personal and human. You could say, they're built on reputations--individual, historical, corporate (a legal individual).


Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Newspaper sites still dominate 

Lost Remote: Survey: Newspaper sites still dominate

Via Rafat Ali: MediaAudit research on the largest website audiences by local markets. Grab: "Local newspapers have the leading websites in 74 of 81 markets." The others are dominated by either TV station websites or siters run by newspapers and TV stations in combination.

While the picture is apparently changing, with TV station websites beginning to edge up on newspaper websites, I think there's a clear message about the power of written-word media to transcend the printing press--and effectively compete with the larger audiences of broadcasters.

The folks who proclaim the death of newspapers should take a look at research like this. As with magazines, the idea of 'newspaper-ness' is more important than the newsprint and lousy ink they're printed on today.

The folks who run newspapers will need to figure out how to make a profit. The online Wall Street Journal, which may be raising its sub fees, seems to be doing a good job of showing one way to do it.


Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Trade Mag 'Whore' March 27, 2005 Archives

From Rafat Ali: And yes, I do passionately believe in magazines...much as I wouldn't be expected to say this, I do hope they survive. I am, at heart, still a magazine whore. My pessimism is mainly about trade mags...

I guess I'm a b2b magazine whore. I think trade mags will do just fine, even if many of them might not be printed on paper in the future. Why is it so important to define a magazine by its technology (printing on paper, distribution via the Postal Service) as opposed to the essence of "magazine-ness" (organizational principles, how an audience is aggregated and served)?

I for one am glad that the invention of the printing press advanced communications technology. And I'm glad that the Internet, the world wide web, and real simple syndication is advancing that technology further. The issue is one of transition to a new business environment, and I have great faith that the transition will be made.

Yes, legacy issues like 'how do we keep our profits up when we can't spreadsheet a future we can't accurately predict' are important, and there will be luddite managers who hang on to old business models until they go bankrupt.

But smart b2b media companies are already moving toward the future. And I look forward to continuing to read their 'trade mags,' in print, online, in my rss reader, on my smartphone, or wherever.


Washington Publishing Bloodbath 

Catch the Buzz: 3 New Magazines on the Way (

As I've noted before, we in Washington are about the welcome three new magazines serving our apparently insatiable desire for luxury goods, service journalism, and voyeurism. They'll be joining current incumbents like Washingtonian and The Washington Post, among many others in this distinctive niche.

In the WaPo article linked above, Samir Husni, Rex Hammock's favorite magazine guru, weighs in with: "It's happening all over the country. Celebrity is the sex of the 21st century as we become a more voyeuristic society," said Husni, chairman of the university's journalism department. "And where is there a better place to be a voyeur than in D.C.?"

I'll put my binoculars aside for a moment, and note the following prediction: total ad pages in this segment will increase for while, then the market will winnow out the losers, and total ad pages will decline, but the remaining magazines will see an increase in their individual pages. Pundits will moan about the drop in total ad pages as a sign of the failure of magazines in the Internet world. But total ad pages in this niche will be higher than they are today.

That's the danger of looking at advertising box scores for broad trends. Whether a market segment's ad pages are up or down matters much less than how an individual magazine is doing.

Competition usually aways increases a total market's size, but that increased size doesn't necessarily bring prosperity to all players. And declines in total ad pages don't necessarily serve as harbingers of doom for advertising in general. Unless you're tring to prove a point.


Monday, March 28, 2005

It was the best of Shaw, it was the worst of Shaw 

Do bloggers deserve basic journalistic protections?

I have some mixed feelings about the above piece from the LA Times' David Shaw.

First, I began my journalism career in Southern California, and was often asked if I were that David Shaw. I would usually answer that, as far as I could tell, I was this David Shaw. I'd guess the confusion got me some decent restaurant tables, but it was hard trying to carve out a niche for myself behind the looming presence of a Pulitzer Prize-winning media critic (though I have proudly shared in a Jesse Neal Certificate of Merit).

Second, that David Shaw has some valid points. The first amendment and shield laws don't and shouldn't protect against libel and slander. Freedom of the press doesn't mean freedom to slag anyone unfairly. And it doesn't mean freedom from factuality.

But Shaw's implication that only 'real' journalists with 'real' editors deserve such protections is foolish. Sorry, I didn't realize we all held a license, like real estate agents.

Freedom of the press should extend to all who exercise their right to publish, in any format, provided that everyone is held accountable to the same standards of fairness and accuracy.

That's what this David Shaw thinks, anyway


Sunday, March 27, 2005

Farewell to Newspapers and Hello Irony 

ABC News: Silicon Insider: Farewell to Newspapers

Aside from the pretentiousness and preciousness that litter this column, there are some interesting observations. But the conclusion is weak.

First little thought: our esteemed author seems to have discovered hyperlinking recently, along with blogs: "Then I saw the first links embedded in blogs. There was simply nothing in the physical world that could ever hope to match the ability to leap through cyberspace from story to story, file to file, with almost infinite extension."

Shocking! Welcome to the early 90s. I thought hyperlinking had been around since the first www html (hypertext markup language) protocols. Must have been dreaming.

Other grabs: Needless to say, I still read the news, much of it coming from the newspapers I used to religiously read. But I am not reading the "paper," either literally or figuratively, that the publishers want me to read. Throughout the day, I construct my own newspaper in cyberspace, a real-time assemblage of wire service stories, newspaper features, blogs, bulletin boards, columns, etc. I suspect most of you do, too.

In any other industry, a product that lost 1 percent of market share for two decades — only to then double or triple that rate of decline — would be declared dead. The manufacturer would discontinue it and rush out a replacement product more in line with the desires of the marketplace. So, let's finally come out and say: Newspapers are dead. They will never come back. By the end of this decade, the newspaper industry will suffer the same death rate — 90-plus percent — that every other industry experiences when run over by a technology revolution.


Better odds face those newspapers — like the Merc, the Wall Street Journal, the Times and USA Today — that have squarely faced their own obsolescence and have raced to build strong and lively Web sites (It's no coincidence that yesterday Knight-Ridder, owner of the Mercury News, announced that it had joined a consortium of newspapers to buy, a news search consortium — wisely deciding that if you can't beat the news aggregators you might as well join them). These papers appear to be hanging on to their print editions to buy time until they find an exit strategy.

But that plan has its own costs. For example, even the best of these newspaper sites are still surprisingly retrograde. For all of their blogs, online journals and cheeky attitudes, they are still depressingly static. Why? No doubt it's a legacy issue: when you've been in the business of producing words and still pictures for decades, it's hard to cross over into the new reality of links and mpegs. Thus, while some of the best writing on the Web can be found in newspaper sites, it is not always the best (or at least the most rewarding) reading.

Hmm. I think print editions will last as long as there's an audience for them. I think written-word media will do just fine, regardless. Equating and confusing written-word media with manufacturing and distribution technology is small thinking. Sure, publishers make this mistake all the time, but so-called pundits, who use written words in a classic newspaper column format for a broadcaster-created website simply miss their own irony, I think.

The family says it's pooltime. I'm taking my print edition of the Sunday Miami
Herald with me, because there's no wi-fi out there. You can read it here.


Internet beats magazines: Alert the Media 

Internet Reach Bests Magazines

I've been out to lunch the last few days, spring-breaking with the family in South Florida, and hanging out with the alligators. The wi-fi connection is strong, so I'll post a bit as time allows.

I love headlines like the one linked above. Well, duh. It's kind of like saying: Postal Service Reach Bests Magazines.

Because at its heart, the Internet is a distribution vehicle for information, just as the Postal Service is a distribution vehicle for information. Sure, the web offers interesting opportunites for linking, expanded search and multimedia. But it's primarily a mover of information--not a creator of information (though it does a nice job of allowing near instantaneous community feedback and comment.)

The magazine format is an organizing principle. The word 'magazine' has at its root the definition of 'storehouse,' as in an arms magazine. A magazine is a storehouse of information, selected by editors to serve an audience or interest area.

So are most websites. Even broadcast-driven websites use magazine-y approaches, with home pages that serve as a combination of cover and table of contents, and links to individual articles.

The Wikipedia concept isn't much different. The community creates the content, and the community acts as editor of that content. Posts can be changed, expanded or eliminated.

That's why I continue to think that we need to reset our thinking about print media. It's really written-word media, as opposed to oral (think radio) or visual (think TV or movies) media.

I spoke with an investment banker the other day, who asked me my thoughts on the threat to b2b magazines from the Internet. I told him that it was no threat--just another terrific opportunity.

And when I read a headline that says the Internet bests magazines, I think we're comparing apples to horses.

Happy Easter, all.


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