Tag Archives: advertising

Should media owners ditch journalism altogether?

An interesting piece from Fast Company examines the idea that media owners such as the New York Times and AOL can tap into a “local-advertising pot of gold” by turning over their content infrastructure to hyper-local content producers.

The New York Times launched a hyperlocal community offering – called The Local – in March. Its aim is to mop up the kind of local advertising revenue that would otherwise pay for corner shop window advertising cards – small individual revenues that build up to a hefty total. In theory.

It’s a nice idea. And I’m a big fan of the hyperlocal idea. But I do wonder if the hyperlocal, blog-it-yourself model of self-publishing is at all compatible with the “professional” journalism, top-down hierarchy of traditional media organisations.

Aside from the fact that, according to Fast Company, advertisers don’t seem that keen to fund hyperlocal content, I think the big problem will be cultural.

For example, as part of its move into community publishing, the New York Times is toying with the idea of licensing its local web platform to local content producers.

“Our hypothesis,” [Jim] Schachter [editor of digital initiatives] explains, “is that there is a swath of people — experts of various sorts, journalists, self-trained bloggers — who would want our assistance in professionalizing their work and who would love to be associated with the Times. We could help those people mobilize their communities and gather local-advertising dollars in extremely low-cost ways. That could work, economically, for these local journalism entrepreneurs, and, at scale, it might work for us.”

In effect, that means opening up its online blogging platforms and other content management architecture to user-generated content of various kinds.

But what status will such content have? If it is to come under the brand umbrella of the New York Times, as Fast Company notes, surely it will have to go through the same editorial process. That’s not cheap.

And the paper would have to decide if it wants to beef up its editorial team to ensure the user-generated material is high-enough quality, or spread its team more thinly and accept a dilution of standards generally. Given that news organisations are finding it hard to afford to generate their own content, the former seems unlikely.

There is a cost implication of providing all this infrastructure, too. Any organisation will need to keep employing programmers and web developers. And while bandwidth and storage are relatively cheap, they’re not free.

I wonder if the logical extrapolation is for some media owners to give over their entire infrastructure to hyper-local content producers and stop producing their own content.

Old-style “professional journalism” is taking a hammering – and I don’t think it can survive in its present form. Certainly not at its present scale.

So maybe news organisations should get into content infrastructure instead – in effect acting as vanity publishers for ordinary folks. In effect, the New York Times would act as a kind of WordPress or Flickr, or even YouTube, but with the cachet of the Times brand.

The trouble is that it would mean cutting out what it used to exist to do – providing journalism. And without that, its brand would cease to have much meaning.

And of course we already have WordPress, Flickr and YouTube doing the same job perfectly well (though not necessarily making much money). So it might be difficult to gain enough market presence to make it a solid business model.

It’s a conundrum. To make hyperlocal, user-generated content work, media organisations have to spend more. But the revenues are not necessarily there to pay for it. It’s a circle I can’t really see being squared any time soon.

[HT: Evolving Newsroom via Soilman]

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Why the advertising model for funding print publishing is broken

Following his recent comments on Freelance Unbound, Martin Cloake has a nice post here on the changing dynamics of magazine publishing. 

His thesis (roughly) is that saturation in the market forced down individual title readerships, while a fixation on keeping advertisers happy made magazines so bland that this readership deserted the sector in droves. It’s not tah interweebs what done it – so we can still retrieve the situation with better quality product.

I’d certainly agree with much of this – although I have to stand up for the disruptive technology argument again. 

This time the technology was desktop publishing (DTP), which opened up the print magazine world in the late 1980s and early 1990s to many new entrants and was a big factor in the market saturation that Martin cites. 

Can we go back to a mass readership for magazines, so that newsstand sales and subscriptions pay our publication costs – including decent salaries for journalists?

I think the odds are against it, purely because of over-supply versus shrinking demand. And remember, reading as a leisure pursuit is under threat from a whole range of new content types and formats – from gaming to social networking. Whether we can keep younger potential customers on board is a big question…

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Why corporate communications should lighten up

CIB_May_61.qxd:Layout 1In the course of my series on how to survive the media recession, I talked about investigating membership professional organisations in order to boost your profile.

I also mentioned that I had written a free piece for the member magazine of Communicators in Business, the organisation for corporate communications writers and editors. The idea was to try to boost my profile in the world of corporate comms.

It’s about how businesses and public sector organisations often seem very frightened of actually having a personality – as if being somehow identifiable risked harming their brand image.

But this misses a crucial point – squeezing out any personality from an organization risks damaging its brand just as much, if not more so.

For anyone who’s interested in how the piece worked out, here’s a link to the feature. (Unfortunately it’s a PDF, as the magazine doesn’t get uploaded to the CiB web site.)

As and when I dig deep and take out membership, I’ll report back on how effective it is as a marketing tool.

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