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Friday, September 02, 2005

Philips' Roll-out Display...and of course, Google 

Philips to demo roll-up display at IFA

Regular readers of this blog know that I have an inordinate interest in e-paper and its various potential applications. EETimes reports (in the link above) that Philips subsidiary Polymer Vision will be demonstrating a roll-out display in Berlin over the next week.

Grab: Readius is a prototype of a connected consumer device for business professionals unwilling to sacrifice readability, mobility, performance, or weight in a pocket-sized, e-reader concept, the company said. However, Polymer Vision does not intend to commercialize this concept, leaving that up to future customers.

This one's still monochromatic, but a great step forward in developing e-paper display applications.

Warning: Now-Mandatory Google Comments to Follow

I wonder if Google is anticipating e-paper publishing a bit with its experiments in vending discounted print ad space?

Speaking of which, posted this article on the Google experiment.

Grab: [Jason Young, Ziff Davis' president of Internet and consumer technology publishing] downplayed the effect that reselling would have on its overall ad sales business, instead focusing on the idea that the new tactic would open up the magazine to new advertisers. "In terms of siphoning pages, this is about classified advertising. They're one-sixth or one-fifth of a page together with small marketers that we would have never done business with," he said.

New and more advertisers are good, if that's what results.

Fish are friends, not food!

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Some More Google Print Thoughts 

The sky hasn't fallen with the news of Google's experimentation with vending print space to its Adsense partners, but neither is that news cause for cranking out the champagne and caviar, as ABM's MediaPace blog seems to see it ("Google..wants to work within this [b2b] community as well as help lead it by innovation.")

There's nothing particularly innovative about buying vended ad space and remarketing it for a profit.

And there's nothing particularly good for publishers in the idea of a print ad buying powerhouse. If you haven't had the remarkable pleasure of dealing with a powerful media buyer (as opposed to a typical ad agency) which represents multiple major clients in your market, and whose only concern seems to be to drive your net-per-page into the ground, you're lucky.

And there's nothing actually particularly good for advertisers (other than the price break they get from rate card) in banding together to increase their buying power, since each advertiser misses out on opportunities to leverage the creativity, merchandising and relationships with the media they advertise in to increase the effectiveness of their offering. (Of course, the argument will be made that these are little advertisers, who don't have any leverage anyway. But how long will such an experiment remain the realm of small clients?)

If you read the CNET article closely, you begin to get an idea of how deeply PC Magazine and Maximum PC discounted the space to Google (unless Google is taking a loss on the deal, which I doubt). That's one problem. Another is the same issue I have with Adsense--the publisher loses control of setting a fair price for the value offered.

But it's easy money, I guess, for now.

For some additional thinking, check out John Blossom's post at Shore.

Grab: Instead of selling content that has context, the trend is to sell context that has content. Perhaps we think of this as ads today, but it's more about paid placement for any number of messages and commercial opportunities that are not packaged as traditional ads. Perhaps it's a display from a useful software application that complements a story. Perhaps it's an offer for a financial transaction that can be executed with a click. But most importantly it detaches that ad-placing function from the people providing the editorial content.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Google to Sell Print Ads Too 

Google takes ad sales to print | CNET

According to the Google-embargoed folks at CNET, the company has been experimenting with buying display ad space inventory from publishers, and reselling this space in smaller blocks to participants in its AdWords program.

Grab: "Google has shown that big media companies don't have to be part of the mix at all," [Tim] Hanlon[,senior vice president of emerging contacts at ad agency Publicis Groupe] said. "People can just get the content and ads directly from an uber-intermediary. That's caught a lot of traditional ad types off guard."

I don't agree with that, of course, since the big media companies are evidently providing the space, and the circulation.

Interesting facts and analysis. Click the link at the top for more.

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Via IWantMedia.


Driving Licensing in China 

Big media companies are running into obstacles in their efforts to develop the Chinese market, according to the New York Times. But what about the obstacles smaller media companies face?

We recently negotiated a licensing agreement with a Chinese publisher for one of our clients. We were lucky to have the potential business fall into our laps through the outreach of a Chinese academic, who offered to translate our copy and develop the publishing relationship. (But even so, we face tremendous challenges in crafting a proper licensing agreement, ensuring that we have the rights to license our copy and images, enforcing the terms of our agreement and getting paid for our efforts.)

We don't have a full-time licensing department, as some successful b2b media companies have. And while there are a few--very few--folks out there who offer licensing services on a rep basis, there's almost nowhere for smaller, resource-challenged publishers to turn for advice, counsel and help cost-effectively and with a reasonable hope of return.

In this, I see a business opportunity. I wonder if my fellow b2b bloggers Paul Woodward (based in Hong Kong) and Hugo Martin (based in Germany, but just back from a business trip to China) see it as well? (Handy hint for reading Hugo's post, if you don't read German, and use the Google toolbar. Right click and press 'translate this page,' and you'll get the gist.)

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Media, Damned Lies and Statistics 


The piece linked above from Advertising Age drove me crazy. You have to read down to the fourth graf before you find that the "startling changes in TV viewership over the last year among 18- to 34-year-olds" are the result of "changes to the meters' ability to track overall local viewership more accurately."

What's startling about that? Theoretically more accurate information provides a different result than theoretically less accurate information? Hmm.

Grab: Kathy Crawford, president of local broadcast for WPP Group's MindShare, said she thinks the numbers represent measurement improvements, not real changes in viewing patterns. "This is more right, more right than wrong, but I can’t tell you if it's absolutely right," she said. "It more right than the metered diaries."

And yet the piece spends a lot of time focused on the startling theoretical increases in TV viewership among 18- to 34-year-olds in a variety of local markets.

Isn't the real story the pathetic information sources used to make billions of dollars in local TV buys?


Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Reasons to Attend Conferences 

My Top 10 Reasons to Attend

The always-excellent Sue Pelletier outlines her top 10 reasons to attend a conference. As usual, great food for thought, especially reason # 3:

Show, don’t tell. I don’t need talking-head dudes and dudettes telling me about the latest developments in an industry. Put my damp little hands on whatever it is and let me take the idea for a test drive. For example: ASAE did a brilliant job of introducing attendees to new tech tools they can use with their meetings by incorporating a show blog, Flickr photo sharing, content tagging, and the social networking tool IntroNetworks into ASAE’s recent annual meeting. Score: 10+.

Why do I attend conferences? Ultimately, for the "hallway track" that Sue talks about in this post. Everything else is secondary.


Discontent with Content 

Who wants to own content?

Hate to say this about a post from the esteemed Jeff Jarvis, but the one linked above is a bit of a stinker.

His mantra:

Distribution is not king.
Content is not king.
Conversation is the kingdom.

I have no bone to pick with Jarvis' view on distribution. The 'how' of media is certainly less important than the 'what.' So let's talk content. I'm starting to agree with Rex Hammock that it's a lousy word, because it seems to presuppose that everything labeled 'content' is equal.

Which of course it's not. There's content, and then there's content. For me, the point of what we do is to provide valuable content--information that provides understanding, insight, entertainment and knowledge. Information that creates conversations (internal or external). Information that creates the opportunity for action (including inaction).

Without that value, content is just so many bytes--just like conversation. See this short piece from Sunday's New York Times (be sure to click on the multimedia graphic link). Scientists estimate that the volume of the world's phone calls in 2002 amounted to more than 17.3 exabytes of data--or 86.5 times the 'content' of all existing printed material. It's little wonder the NSA and other intelligence agencies are so far behind in reviewing all of the intercepts they've captured.

There's simply too much information, too much conversation, too much all-things-being-equal content. And not enough value.

But that doesn't make conversation the kingdom. Conversation without valuable content is just so much post-modern Waiting For Godot.

Of course, we in the media haven't always done a good job of creating value out of the exabytes of information out there. As the Irish proverb (and great Tom Waits lyric) has it, "In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king." Well, that's no longer true, and our one-eyed view of 'content as content' has turned into discontent among our audience.

That discontent is an opportunity, of course, not an ending.

I've been thinking a lot about what b2b media would look like if we took a blank sheet of paper (yes, I see the irony in that) and designed it without reference to distribution methods or legacy technologies. I'll be posting on this "Blank Sheet Project" more in the near future. And as always, your thoughts are most welcomed.

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