Archive for June, 2010

Slipping Digital Ad Revenue, Emerging Content Farms Present More Challenges for Struggling Industry

by Nat Ives
Published: June 28, 2010

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Look at newspapers’ share of digital advertising, the crowds checking out other kinds of news sites, or the prices that advertisers will pay for the competition. The conditions in digital media, essential to just about any future growth for newspapers, are getting worse for papers instead.

Bad  News chart
BAD NEWS U.S. newspapers’ digital ad revenue is not keeping pace with digital advertising as a whole.

Some of the challenges, as usual, are simultaneously offering new ways forward. Newspapers might want to overcome their unease, for example, and strike alliances with the content farms surging to grab newspapers’ audiences.

But newspapers have to move more quickly if they’re going to take advantage of the strengths they still possess.

Right now newspapers reach more than a third of web users, for example, but their share of all digital advertising is much smaller than that — and declining.

“It’s a tragic story if you look at it from a revenue perspective,” said Rusty Coats, who worked in newspapers’ digital operations for more than 15 years and recently left E.W. Scripps to become a consultant.

Slow growth
Newspapers’ share of digital ad revenue has fallen from 16.2% in 2005 to 11.4% last year and is heading for 7.9% in 2014, according to the new entertainment and media outlook from PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The picture in dollar terms isn’t much prettier. With the worst of the recession apparently behind us, some newspapers are already selling more digital ads again. But it’s going to be a couple more years before newspapers as a whole start increasing their digital revenue, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers. And their digital total in 2014 will still fall 16.3% short of its level in 2007, the pre-recession peak.

This is digital advertising, remember, where growth is supposed to come quickly. Digital’s overall total in 2014 will crush its 2007 level by 56.6%.

The riddle for newspapers, and perhaps the uncomfortable answer, lies in the continued demand for news.

“There’s no question that there’s demand,” said Alan Mutter, an independent industry analyst who sounded an alarm over newspapers’ share of digital revenue in a post on his blog Reflections of a Newsosaur. “The question is whether particular channels or sites can sustain their traditional share of the business,” Mr. Mutter said.

The cheap content factor
The big story about the news business these days, as a matter of fact, revolves around companies that generate news and information using big networks of cheap freelancers. They include Associated Content, which Yahoo bought last month for about $100 million; Demand Media, which is reportedly considering going public this summer; Seed, where writers, photographers and others can submit their content for publication on AOL; and Examiner.com, which says it has 40,000 freelance “Examiners.”

They’ve already got big traction with readers. Examiner’s sites got more than 14.4 million visitors in May, according to ComScore — more than the 14 million people who visited all the McClatchy newspaper sites combined, or the 13.4 million people who visited MediaNews sites, or the 12 million who visited Hearst newspaper sites.

AOL and Yahoo have separately been staffing up their original blogs and news sections; Yahoo is currently advertising for a blog editor for Yahoo Finance, who will report original stories plus hire a team of bloggers. And sites that aggregate local content are also mixing things up. Last year MSNBC.com acquired EveryBlock, giving it a new ability to horn in on newspapers’ role as local information centers.

RUSTY COATS: Consultant who worked in digital operations for  papers for 15 years.
RUSTY COATS: Consultant who worked in digital operations for papers for 15 years.

Newspapers have, meanwhile, been cutting reporters, thinning the distinction between their products and those of their rivals.

Advertisers also seem to see a diminishing difference. The gap between newspapers’ high ad rates online and other news sites’ prices is apparently shrinking.

Newspapers still on top
Newspaper sites still typically command much higher rates than most of the internet — collecting $6.99 for a thousand impressions in April compared with $2.52 across the web as a whole, according to a recent ComScore report. That’s partly because advertisers trust newspaper sites to provide safe, sober environments for their brands and partly because marketers want newspapers’ authority to rub off on their ads.

But general news sites — everyone from MSNBC.com to Yahoo News to Examiner.com — don’t trail newspaper sites by much. General news sites got CPMs, shorthand for the cost per thousand impressions, of $6.14 in April. And newspaper sites’ CPMs have held pretty flat since April 2009 while general news sites have been able to increase their rates, ComScore said. That’s good news for the news itself, setting aside the varying quality among providers, but another worrisome sign for newspapers.

The ominous indicators, however, suggest some tactics that newspapers might want to prioritize. Advertisers are warming to competing news sites because they’re finding a better combination of scale and ad technologies like targeting, observers said.

When Michael Hayes, a former newspaper pro who’s now a digital-media buyer as executive VP and managing director at Initiative, wants to target an auto dealer group’s ads to local consumers actively shopping for cars, he usually goes to big, technologically advanced players. “In that case we geotarget, and we do that by and large through the portals, large networks and so on,” he said.

“I would think that the general news sites might be more adept at some of this targeting technology,” said Gian Fulgoni, executive chairman of ComScore. “And they have a big platform.”

There are ways for newspapers to compete better on those fronts. There are many ad networks that include newspapers and offer ad targeting, for example, but there actually might be too many. A smaller number of big newspaper networks — say two or three instead of 40 or more — would give newspapers better pricing power, said Mr. Coats, the former Scripps executive. They could still pitch the halo of newspapers’ authority and offer enough scale for good targeting, but without fighting another 30 similar ad networks with newspaper inventory in the process.

Time to partner up
And if newspaper budget cuts have reduced the quality of their news product, they may be able to buy some time by partnering with the high-quality nonprofit news providers that have sprung up — often staffed with former newspaper reporters.

Some papers are already doing just that. The New York Times has teamed up with the Bay Citizen for The Times’s Bay Area edition and the Chicago News Cooperative for its Chicago edition. Articles by ProPublica, the nonprofit led by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger, have already appeared in papers including the Arizona Republic, Orange County Register, Virginian Pilot, Las Vegas Sun and the Philadelphia Daily News.

MICHAEL HAYES: Former newspaper pro who's now a digital media  buyer.
MICHAEL HAYES: Former newspaper pro who’s now a digital media buyer.

“We as an industry have had to cut so much on the expense side that some of our journalistic local impact has been hurt,” Mr. Coats said. “If you can shore that up while you get into the art of deep transformation with your sales staff, selling in this new environment, getting out of this attitude of entitlement, then I see that as win-win.”

The same holds true for local aggregators, where again newspapers are already showing some willingness to explore. Boston.com, the Boston Globe’s site, includes YourTown sections that combine original Globe reporting with elements like outside contributions, town announcements, and tools to pay municipal bills online or see trash pickup schedules. The New York Times Company has already signed a deal letting it use technology and content from a local aggregator called Fwix. And The Knight Foundation just awarded a $458,625 grant to be divvied up among The Boston Globe, Columbia Daily Tribune in Missouri and the software nonprofit OpenPlans to explore providing block-by-block news and information.

It will be less comfortable to collaborate with the content farms, but that’s looking more imperative as time goes on. “If local newspaper sites can’t cover local newsworthy events, whether it’s sports or otherwise, the consumer is going to find it somewhere online,” said Mr. Hayes, the digital-media buyer at Initiative. “And, therefore, ad dollars will flow there. And that will hurt small local newspaper sites.”

Last April USA Today started using Demand Media, a company that doesn’t like the term “content farm” but draws content from a huge pool of freelancers. Demand is providing the content for USA Today’s new Travel Tips site online.

There’s more concern about the quality of content farms’ contributions. Former New York Observer editor Peter Kaplan told Ad Age this month that publishing content from some of these sites is like “sending unchecked meats out to the public.” But content farms are coming for newspapers’ readers one way or another; maybe there’s a way for papers to do something more productive with the model than giving it the stiff-arm.

Newspapers’ continued stores of strength enable them to innovate if they’re willing, said Mr. Mutter. “Their unfair advantage is that they are stellar brands in their markets. They also do still have comparatively enormous ad revenue even in their depleted states. They have almost always the largest source of knowledgeable content creators in a market. And most operate a pretty respectable profit.”

original source http://adage.com/mediaworks/article?article_id=144684


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Marketers looking to communicate with students might want to take a look at the results of a recent study that shows smart phones, not computers, are their entertainment and communication tool of choice.

by Helen Leggatt

Almost half (49%) of mobile communication carried out on college campuses is conducted via smart phones, found Ball State journalism professor and director or the University’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, Michael Hanley.

Nowadays, computers are for studying while entertainment and communication take place via handheld devices. Mobile phones are used by just about every student (99.8%) and text messaging has overtaken email and instant messaging. While 97% of students send and receive text messages, just 30% use email and 25% instant messaging.

“The use of smart phones by college students has nearly doubled in one year, and along with it comes heavier Internet use and an increased desire to use mobile commerce like coupons and incentives,” said Hanley. “In nearly all mobile content categories, smart phone ownership is driving increased consumption and usage of mobile technologies.”

According to a recent article by eMarketer, more students are reporting seeing mobile ads this year than they did in 2005. However, their reaction to mobile ads isn’t positive. Over 40% found them annoying while just 1.2% was happy to receive ads.

In fact, nearly 30% were less likely to purchase a product after having received an ad via mobile phone.

Their reactions to mobile advertising go to show just how “personal” students perceive their mobile phones to be and how much more innovative marketers need to be to engage this demographic in this private space.


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social media agreementLast week I was in a café when I overheard a conversation next to me. At a nearby table, a supervisor from a child care agency was interviewing a young job seeker. The interviewer asked the young college student a series of questions about her experience, education goals and schedule. From what I gathered, she had already gone through a phone interview and this was the first in-person meeting between the two women.

The interviewer then handed the applicant a stack of papers and explained, “These are forms we require for new employees. That way, if you get the job, you can start immediately and we don’t have to waste time going through all of this later.”

She explained that one page was about references. Another was about experience. Then she got to the last page.

“We need you to sign this. You just promise not to write our name on Facebook or Twitter or anything like that.”

That statement caught me off guard. Perhaps it shouldn’t have, but I regularly write and read about social media in the workplace because of my job and I’ve never heard about this happening during an interview. I wanted to find out more about the agency’s policy, but I didn’t want to interrupt the interview. So I left wondering a few things:

  • Is that kind of agreement a standard practice in businesses today?
  • Is that agreement legally binding?
  • Does the agreement prohibit any mention of the company or only mentions that are disparaging or divulge confidential information?
  • What about professionals who use social media sites as their online résumé and portfolio? Do they have to leave that experience off of their online work history?

So I decided to ask around.

One job seeker, Bob Johnson from New York City, says he hasn’t yet encountered any of these nondisclosure agreements in his hunt. He, like many job seekers, wonders whether or not such an agreement is an infringement on freedom of speech.

Erin T. Welsh, an associate with the law firm Norris, McLaughlin & Marcus, explains why some companies are persnickety about their employees and social media.

“According to newly revised [Federal Trade Commission] guidelines which took effect Dec. 1, 2009, employers may face liability for comments posted by employees on blogs or social networking websites,” Welsh explains. “If an employee comments about his or her employer’s products or services on such social networking websites and the employment relationship is not disclosed, potential liability may exist for the employer under the FTC guidelines — even if the comments were not sponsored or authorized by the employer.”

For this reason, Welsh explains, explicit guidelines about social media practices benefit employers. Clear guidelines can prevent negative attention from a wayward comment that calls into question the company’s ethics.

Joy Butler is an attorney and author of “The Cyber Citizen’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle: Internet Law for Your Professional Online Presence.” She has seen social media policies and agreements become commonplace in workplaces.

“A social media policy cannot prevent employees from exercising the right to talk about improving work conditions or organizing a union as such restrictions would violate federal laws,” Butler says.

In her experience, these policies typically address the following issues:

  • The employee’s postings must not disclose any of the employer’s confidential or proprietary information.
  • If the employee comments on an aspect of the employer’s business in which the employee has responsibility, the employee must identify himself as an employee of the company and make it clear that he is speaking on behalf of himself and not the company.
  • If the employee identifies himself as an employee of the company, refers to the company’s work or provides a link to the company, the employee must include a disclaimer such as the following: “The views expressed on this post are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of [XYZ Co.].”
  • The employee must not include the employer’s logos or trademarks in the employees’ Internet postings.

Amid this head scratching, Becky Blanton, a professional ghostwriter, points out that nondisclosure agreements are common in many industries — especially hers. They’re also obstacles for her to overcome when piecing together her portfolio.

“When your [job depends] on showcasing work — like a brochure or website — and the owner insists that you not use it in your portfolio, you’re often faced with having to show some less impressive or distinctive work simply because it’s all you can show,” Blanton says. “I’ve worked with Hollywood celebrities and two or three people within the gravitational pull of the Oprah-sphere that would have been nice pieces in a portfolio. But the NDA prohibits naming names or using the final product in any public way, so I can’t use those examples.”

Would you willingly sign one of these agreements? Would an NDA stop you from using your social media profiles to find jobs and present your portfolio? Let us know in the comments section below.

By anthony balderrama on May 20, 2010


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Carrier Beefs Up Staff to Monitor Facebook, Twitter, Spreads Word About Strategy

by Kunur Patel

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — When you’re having a bad day, just think: It could be worse. You could handle customer complaints at AT&T.

Few brands engender as much social-media fury as the iPhone’s exclusive carrier. Facebookers and the twitterati adore the devices but despise the service lags and dropped calls. Almost every day during the first half of last year, #attfail and “AT&T sucks” were regular trending topics on Twitter. Just last week, the twit again hit the fan as customers kvetched that they couldn’t process new iPhone preorders on the carrier’s website.

Martin Kozlowski

On a normal day, AT&T has 10,000 mentions on social networks, but during stressful moments like these they rise precipitously. The marketer is out to calm those twit storms by staffing up its social-media customer-care corps. The team, led by its first-ever social-media strategist for customer care Shawn McPike, has been building steam since August of last year and is now poised for full-scale launch.

The team began with five people dedicated to responding to customer dissatisfaction on Twitter and YouTube and has since moved on to Facebook and grown to 19 people. To date, 47% of people reached on social media respond to the social team, which results in 32,000 service tickets per month.

When Mr. McPike, a former IT customer-care employee, assumed his social-media role last July, he thought it better for AT&T to not participate in social media at all rather than to do it badly. But nearly one year in, Mr. McPike is ready to actively promote and grow its social-care footprint. To that end, AT&T will flag social-media customer care on its bills, website and other customer channels to alert customers that they can turn to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with problems. The brand is considering advertising its social care and will grow and train staff to handle increased volume.

Eventually, Mr. McPike says the social-care team could save the company money with operational improvements and processes that affect tens or thousands of customers at a time, rather than just one.

“I’m glad they [AT&T] are going to push forward,” said Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs. “They are a bit behind, like Comcast was. They’ve really let the media run the story for the longest time.”

Comcast, now envied for its social-media customer service, had a tarnished service reputation somewhat comparable to AT&T’s today. Over the past few years, the cable operator has made a steady climb from reviled service brand to being held up as an exemplary customer-care organization, along with Dell.

‘Solve my problem’
Unlike Comcast, however, AT&T is turning to social media for customer care after first using the medium for public relations and marketing. “We started using social media as a PR tool,” said Susan Bean, who leads an eight-person social-media strategy and execution team within AT&T corporate communications. “With marketing, we discovered that for social media to be successful we really needed there to be customer care. Otherwise all anyone would want to talk about is: ‘solve my problem.'”

To abate the criticism, the care team responds directly to consumers on Twitter who engage @ATTCustomerCare or others on the team with “ATT” prefixes to their handle six days per week. (A program scrapes Twitter for AT&T mentions during off hours so staff can respond when they’re back online but, to compare, Comcast responds to tweets all week.) AT&T also responds to customers on its Facebook wall, while corporate communications chimes in with brand messages and content. Outside of direct customer requests, the team monitors social networks to seek out complaints and, well, AT&T haters.

“It’s hard to sit there and let someone blast you, but that’s the only way we’re going to improve,” said Mr. McPike. “As much as it’s not pleasant, I have to fully acknowledge and encourage people who come to me and listen.”

One vocal and visible critic of AT&T service, TechCrunch blogger MG Siegler, thinks acknowledging holes in service and outreach might be able to quell at least some backlash for the brand. “It’s enough for a certain percentage of people,” he said. “A lot of people complain about Comcast, but when they get someone person-to-person reaching out, a lot of people feel better, even if it doesn’t actually serve long-term problems.”

In the end, though, the only thing that may ease social-media angst is increasing its bandwidth; to that end, AT&T plans to invest $18 to $19 billion to improve both its wired and wireless infrastructure.

In the meantime, AT&T seems equally sanguine about its chances to save its brand from routine pummeling on Twitter and Facebook. “From a care perspective, I don’t worry about it from day to day,” said Mr. McPike. “What we worry about is that there are customers out there who have problems. We need to at least get them engaged to show that we’re listening and that may turn the tide over time.”

Original Story Source : http://adage.com/digital/article?article_id=144561

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The epicentre of Jamaica’s arts and cultural landscape, Kingston is always abuzz with a robust vibrancy befitting the island’s political, economic and social capital.

For more on New Kingston and Jamaica, including accommodation, activities and attractions please go to


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The 2007 Caribbean Media Conference

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Broadcast, cable and satellite providers will be doing just fine by 2014 as they find their footing in the digital world and the economy improves, consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers says today in its annual “Global Entertainment and Media Outlook” — one of the media industry’s most widely used resources.

Television will continue to be “driven by the traditional (TV) companies and traditional content” as many people begin to watch videos on high-speed Internet-connected PCs and smartphones, says Stefanie Kane, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Entertainment & Media Practice.

That’s welcome news for conventional TV providers after last year, when their ad sales fell 11% to $60.4 billion, according to the report. They’ll make up that lost ground by 2012 and generate $75.7 billion from advertising in 2014, the firm forecasts.

That doesn’t include a jump in sales for TV transmitted via broadband. Advertisers will spend $4.8 billion in 2014, up 177% from last year, on shows that the traditional TV companies will offer online and to mobile devices, according to the forecast.

Consumers also will pay more for television.

Mobile subscription TV services, such as FLO TV, will double by 2014 as 6 million people pay $1.1 billion to watch shows on the go. That forecast won’t be affected by AT&T’s decision this month to begin making heavy users of wireless broadband pay higher rates than light users do, Kane says.

Meanwhile, prices for basic TV service — what cable, satellite and phone companies charge for channels such as USA Network, Discovery, CNN and Comedy Central — will rise about 4.3% a year through 2014, PricewaterhouseCoopers says.

Consumers will be willing to pay those higher prices, the firm says, as providers beef up the number of movies and shows available on-demand and enable customers to see many programs online.

“People didn’t (cut off) their subscriptions through the recession, and we expect the trend to (improve) as long as consumers continue to get more and get what they want,” Kane says.

That optimism is reflected in forecasts for pay TV. PricewaterhouseCoopers expects to see 113.8 million people subscribing to cable, satellite or phone company TV services in 2014, up 13.8% vs. last year. Phone company services, including Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-Verse will be the biggest winners, with 16 million TV subscribers, up 264%, while cable and satellite see only slight increases.

Others are less sanguine. For example, research firm SNL Kagan says there will be 106.7 million pay TV subscribers in 2014, up just 6.8%. It expects the number of cable customers to decline while satellite grows slightly and phone services end the period with 13.2 million TV customers.

By David Lieberman, USA TODAY


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