Friday, July 22, 2016

'Distributed content' expands reach, weakens influence of news organizations

The following is an excerpt from my chapter of a book on digital news media that will be published shortly, in Spanish. 

Among the most important developments in digital journalism in 2015 was the emerging practice of creating, distributing, and monetizing news known as "distributed content". 

Bell: "Facebook is eating the world"
What it means: news media organizations hand over their content to platforms like Facebook without linking back to their own websites so that smartphone users can get nearly instant access to the content without having to wait five to 10 seconds for it to display -- an eternity for impatient mobile consumers.

Versión en español

Snapchat was the first platform to stake a claim in this new territory of competition when it launched its Discover channel in January of 2015. Facebook followed in June with its “Instant Articles”, and others such as Google, Instagram, and Apple quickly jumped on the bandwagon.

These social and technological platforms had at least three motivations, according to Josh Constine of Tech Crunch. They wanted to avoid having users abandon a link to news content because of a slow download; they wanted to keep users in their own walled gardens to prevent them from going to other platforms; and, finally, they wanted to take advantage of the audience's attention to send them targeted advertisements, tailored to their personal tastes, preferences, and buying habits.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Forget about the big numbers; go for loyalty, trust

Anyone who has studied the metrics of the internet in any detail knows about the Big Lie: those big numbers of total users and page views that everyone relies on are practically meaningless.

Jon Slade of the Financial Times
In other words, millions of clicks or millions of users are not an indication of trust in a particular news brand or loyalty to that brand. We need new metrics, better metrics.

So it was heartening to see this reality affirmed by of one of the leading lights of digital media innovation, Jon Slade of the Financial Times, in an interview with Ian Burrell (thanks to NiemanLab for the lead):
“I've seen data recently that says that of all the pages on the internet less than 1% of them are from newspapers – the vast majority of time spent is with social channels and they are always going to be much bigger than you are – so if you’re trying to play a game of scale then you’re going to lose.”
There are only a few international brands that have even a slight chance of competing with the likes of Facebook and Google for the digital advertising dollars that are based on the number of eyeballs delivered to specific ads.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Media entrepreneurship takes hold at universities

Journalism professors are adapting to the realities of a historically tough job market. Their graduates are struggling to find stable work in an industry whose biggest players have been cutting staff for a decade.

So universities are teaching new skills -- multimedia production, community management, data management and visualization, among others -- as well as the traditional reporting, writing, and audivisual production skills.

They are also finding new business models. While the traditional media companies are hamstrung by mountains of debt and declining revenue, universities are stepping up to innovate and create new forms of journalism for the digital age.

A Facebook group for those interested in teaching media innovation and entrepreneurship has reached 800 members. And the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism is about to hold its third summit for educators in this growing field on July 15. Jeff Jarvis and Jeremy Caplan have been leaders in this field. I participated in the first two summit.


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Spain's most successful digital journalism startup

In our search for the next big thing, we often overlook some of the steady innovators who grow organically without millionaire investors or crushing debt loads.

Alfonso Vara-Miguel of UNAV
One such example is El Confidencial of Spain (their slogan: "The preferred daily of influential readers").

This is a digital news publication whose value proposition for 15 years has been to offer quality news exclusives "that other media cover up or don't publish because of their overlapping political and business interests," according to researcher Alfonso Vara-Miguel, professor at the University of Navarra (in Innovación y desarrollo de los cibermedios en España, 2016, Eunsa, Pamplona, pp. 166-77).

Spanish news consumers are more skeptical of their news media than most (more on that below), so this independent-spirited publication, with a philosophy of spending no more than it takes in, has racked up some impressive numbers:

  • advertising revenue exceeded US $9.9 million in 2014
  • after-tax profits were US $1.3 million in 2014
  • full-time staff numbered more than 100
  • it averaged 735,000 daily readers in August 2015 (ComScore)

The value proposition is exclusive journalism free of political and business influence. 

Versión en español

Saturday, May 28, 2016

12 road maps for sustainable digital media worldwide

Renaissance maps showed monsters, hazards to avoid.
The future of journalism is increasingly digital, mobile, and in flux. It is unexplored territory. 

Like the explorers and navigators of the Renaissance, various organizations – governments, NGOs, journalism groups, and universities, among others – have been trying to map the most promising routes to sustainability in the new media ecosystem. 

It's not just about making money; it's about providing news and information crucial to a democratic society. 

Versión en español 

(At left, a map from Chet Van Duzer's book Sea Monsters on Medieval and Renaissance Maps. Click to enlarge.)

As traditional news media organizations have lost revenues, laid off employees, and reduced coverage, new digital media have emerged as important players in providing public-service journalism, especially on the local level.

Databases and promising routes

Researchers from a variety of organizations have created databases of thousands of new digital media to study best practices and find new models for sustainability. Below are the 12 studies that I have found useful, mostly taken from a paper I presented at the World Media Management and Economic Conference May 5 at Fordham University in New York City.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Univision looks beyond the U.S. to capture audience of 500 million Spanish speakers

AUSTIN, Texas -- Univision has been the most important Spanish language media company in the U.S. Now its digital news arm is taking aim at the 500 million Spanish speakers around the world. 

Borja Echevarria, its digital editor-in-chief, says his team is at the beginning of an initiative aimed at Spanish speakers in Latin America and globally. 

"Fishermen in the desert," Univision's report on a lake that dried up in Bolivia.
“We are covering topics that might occur in Bolivia but that could be related to something that occurs in Colombia or in Peru. We are not trying to attack highly local topics, at least not in this first stage. We are looking for topics of international interest.”
He made his comments to me in an interview in April on the sidelines of the International Symposium on Online Journalism.

Versión en español

An example of the kind of coverage he described was Univision.com’s multimedia package on Lake Poopó, the second-largest in Bolivia, which dried up because of climate change and has left a community of fishermen high and dry. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Readers pay for digital news when you sell the value

NEW YORK -- The big mystery in the newspaper industry has been how to get digital readers to pay for a product they have been getting free for years.

Denise Warren
The industry has struggled because subscription operations were always loss leaders that didn't pay for themselves. Executives had no idea how to run a profitable subscription operation and have been learning how to do it for the first time, said Denise Warren, who played a major role in the New York Times's transition to paid digital subscriptions.

She spoke May 3 to an audience of professors and industry representatives at the World Media Economics and Management Conference held at Fordham University.

Many publishers make the mistake of marketing their digital products on the basis of price and discounts, Warren said, when they should be promoting the unique value proposition of news and information that readers cannot get anywhere else.