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Friday, July 29, 2005

More Primedia Speculation 

U.S. Equity bids for B2B assets

Per my last post on Primedia, no comments from me. But this confirms what one of my b2b friends said earlier this week..

Via Rafat Ali.

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Band of Bloggers 

if:book: when blogs band together - a new hybrid form

The always-intriguing if:book ponders the phenomenon of blog aggregations (linked above, with links to two additional posts), something we're starting to see more of in the 'consumer' blog segment, but which I have yet to find much of among b2b media.

Grab: But what happens when blogs choose to aggregate themselves under a single masthead? What happens when the voices decide to group together in a chorus? Do they then become a newspaper? A magazine? A union? A league? A society? It may not yet have a name, but some blogs have in fact started banding together to form a new kind of hybrid publication that is difficult to define.

Part cocktail party, part basement pamphlet press. It's looser than a magazine, and more conversational. It is a sort of union, but its dues are purely in the form of a blogger's personal payload - their insight, their charisma, their dedication to certain issues, their unique voice.


I think an aggregation of market-related blogs is a natural--and a must--for b2b publishers. Blog Heaven does it for religion blogs, offering bloggers more traffic (no financial share) in return for access to the millions of unique visits Beliefnet generates each month. Beliefnet gets additional ad impression opportunities, by generating the blog within a Beliefnet frame with a banner ad at the top.

Smart b2b media companies should be doing something similar. I'd offer a financial share to the bloggers, based on the traffic they generate, frequency of posting and number of comments/trackback. I think all would benefit, with more traffic, additional ad impressions, more regularly updated content, higher search rankings, and a forum for market conversation.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Digital Editions in the UK 

Rafat Ali points to a piece from the UK's Press Gazette on digital editions of UK newspapers and adds some numbers from US-base Investor's Business Daily.

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Ouch 

E-mail is for older people, teens say in survey

The Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that teens think of e-mail as for older people and communicating with institutions, and prefer IM to talk with one another. I can confirm this finding with a scientific survey of my niece and nephew, both in their teens. It will be interesting to track whether IM-preference continues as these teens enter the workforce.

Interesting to note that the survey was conducted late last year, with the results available just now. I think the world moves just a bit faster than that, so teens are probably on to something else by now. My scientific survey confirms that online multiplayer gaming remains hot, led by World of Warcraft (my nephew, 17) and The Sims (my niece, 14.)

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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Content Ownership--A Losing Proposition? 

Extra Baggage: Older Content Companies Weigh the Growing Earnings Gap

Shore's John Blossom offers an interesting analysis of the operating margins of Google, Yahoo, Dow Jones, Thomson and Reed Elsevier, and some expectations for the months ahead for content owners and aggregators (linked above).

Grabs: ...at this point the companies that try to make money by licensing other people's content don't seem to do as well as those that try to sell their own content and all of them don't seem to do as well as those who don't bother too much at all with content ownership as a basis for revenue generation.

and

Owning content can be great, but so can owning nobody's content, as many self-styled aggregators have discovered. You want to own only as much as will give you a unique advantage in the marketplace.

And that's the problem we in b2b media face. Creating valuable content is expensive, but delivering it digitally is not. And yet without valuable content, the delivery pipeline offers only so much digital junk mail.

Of course, there is the possibility of building valuable content for low or no cost. Adapting the citizen journalism movement to b2b markets is one such way, aggregating bloggers relevant to a market space is another. But even so, a b2b media company will still be investing in creating unique content--news, analysis, statistics, databases-and suffering narrower margins than Google as a result.

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Competing with Google, and a New B2B Media Blog 

Prescott Shibles runs the Online Development group for Primedia Business, and has recently joined the small but growing ranks of b2b media bloggers (welcome!) with his Shiblog - B2B eMedia. I've linked him to this blog, and added him to my newsreader.

In a recent post, he offers three tips for b2b publishers on competing with Google.

Key grab: At the end of the day, our goal isn't to keep Google out of our markets, it's to grow and expand ours. Magazines have gone from being a medium that gets 3 hours a week of consumption to one that gets 8-10 hours per week. There's huge upside there for all of us B2B publishers, if we stop taking print content, shoving it online and calling it a Web site.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Good E-Paper Overview 

The Hunt for the Last Newspaper

Via Rafat Ali, who points to the above-linked overview of e-paper developments from Presstime Magazine.

Grab: As Sheridon and others now envision it, the optimum unit would resemble a window shade, complete with a screen that can be pulled out of a slender 6-to-8-inch-long cylinder. However, Sheridon admits he is baffled by the lack of developmental progress. “I’m a little disappointed at how much hasn’t happened.”

Much of the holdup may be due to the lack of a truly flexible backplane—considered by many to be the final hurdle to a convenient, portable device. Yet, one technology startup in Denver believes it has found a way to supply the missing piece of the puzzle.

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Google: Friend or Foe? 

Are Aggregators Friend Or Foe?

UK NEPA's International Conference in London wrestled with the question: "Is Google Friend or Foe?"

Key question: Is there enough return in selling your content to aggregators to offset the business you may lose from subscribers turning from your high-priced products to aggregators?

NEPA's looking for positive and negative experiences in dealing with content aggregators. Click the link at the top to read more and join in the debate.

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Monday, July 25, 2005

Pay for Play 

NEW FOOD MAGAZINE WELCOMES PRODUCT PLACEMENTS

Advertising Age's piece (linked above) on the launch of Relish, a food magazine/newspaper insert which will "offer advertisers brand integration in editorial content," will, I'm sure, cause many editorial ethicists' heads to explode. And, indeed, ASME weighs in:

The integration goes against the spirit of the guidelines from the American Society of Magazine Editors, said Marlene Kahan, executive director at ASME. “It will be a violation of the future iteration of our guidelines.”

While product placements probably (and I emphasize probably) go too far, we media types have to wrestle with the issue of selling editorial placement. We live in a world where content wants to be free, where advertisers continue to demand provable ROI (even though we don't control the creative or the offer, but can only deliver a potential target audience), and where editorial mention is valued more highly than an ad page (which is a huge irony, but a reality).

We have one client wrestling with this issue now. Directors & Boards is a paid circulation quarterly journal of corporate governance which reaches more than 5,000 top board members and executives. Its position: the journal of thought leadership, with content provided by directors and other governance professionals. We use no freelance, and no generic content. Our editorial team receives far more queries and submissions from law firms and consulting companies than they can possibly use. And our advertising team hears, more often than not, that law firms and consulting companies just don't advertise, preferring instead to provide valuable content. (Thankfully, there are enough companies out there that realize this is a bizarre logic that our ad revenues have more than doubled in the past year).

But that's left us in a strange position. Whose content should make it into the magazine? If we have two submissions on the same topic, do we choose the submission of the firm who advertises or otherwise supports the magazine? So far, we've avoided going that far, instead choosing the best content, regardless.

But we've come up with a partial solution. We're going to launch a special supplement to the magazine this Fall, called Critical Issues. It's a hybrid which allows law firms to submit content on a paid basis. The content will be vetted and approved for validity (no hype, no marketing--thought leadership pieces only). Critical Issues will be clearly marked as a special advertising supplement, but we hope that it will also add value to our audience, by providing top notch insight and analysis into critical issues facing directors in the year ahead.

We think the approach will allow us to continue to build on our thought leadership position, and get paid for it, while not harming the magazine's editorial integrity. I think this is the basis of most successful custom publishing, which needs to provide quality content if it's going to work.

We're not quite to the stage of selling editorial mentions or product placements--and we'll never allow that to happen anyway. But we are getting into the pay to play model. It's a rocky road, and we'll be stepping carefully. I'll let you know how it goes.

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Serendipity 

This morning, I was checking out a few of my favorite blogs, and Sue Pelletier pointed me to Kartoo.com, a graphical search engine. It's an interesting approach, and like Sue, I did a few personal searches, including one of this blog.

And that led me to find Clyde Smith's ProHipHop blog. Clyde's referenced this blog a few times (thanks!), and I thought I'd return the favor. Clyde covers the business of hip hop and rap, and does a terrific, funny and insightful job of it.

Here's a sample post on Reebok's recent profit increase.

Grab: Props were given to high performance sneakers and the "I Am What I Am Campaign" that CEO Paul Fireman described, in a burst of lyrical poetry straight off the dome, as "beginning to positively impact our target consumers' intent to purchase."

Good stuff. I'll be adding Clyde's blog to my reading list.

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