Tape-delayed sports: an insult to viewers

Okay. It’s Saturday morning and time for a rant.

I didn’t watch the Ryder Cup last weekend, because NBC chose to tape delay the event, which was played in Ireland. I would’ve gotten up early to watch it live, but instead, I had to do what I’m sure many, many people did — “watch” it via the live leaderboards available online.

Same thing this morning. Tiger Woods is on a roll, reminiscent of the 2000 season, and he leads the American Express World Golf Championship in England by five shots after two rounds. ESPN carried the first two days live, but ABC — on a college football afternoon — is tape delaying the event. This is a tired, old Media 1.0 strategy, and it begins with the foolish assumption that a.) more people will watch in the afternoon and b.) they can get away with it. If Tiger wins, it will be six-in-a-row in 72-hole events. That’s what’s called history, but history isn’t live on ABC. I mean, WTF?

Tape-delaying live events has never been okay. It’s programmers swinging their meat because they can, and this is at the heart of the consumer revolt against broadcasting. When will we ever learn?

The future is in databases of local information (part 3,672)

The American Press institute issued its long-awaited report on the future of the newspaper industry this week, and guess what? The key recommendation is something I’ve been touting for a long time: that the path to downstream profitability for all local media is in databases of local knowledge and information. Says USA Today:

Newspapers grappling with declining circulation and profit margins can turn themselves around if they quickly develop publications and affiliated websites packed with local information…

The land rush to meet local information needs has barely begun,” says Newspaper Next: The Transformation Project…

For example, the report says that newspapers might assemble databases about parks, medical facilities and restaurants, information about schools, consumer-supplied ratings for restaurants, mechanics and contractors, as well as chat groups for parents and shoppers.

Remember that Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it easily accessible. That ought to be the core goal of any Media 2.0 business, because that’s where the eyeballs and the money will be. We can either be contributors to the knowledge/information base by supplying content (the expensive end of the value chain), be the aggregator of the local knowledge/information base, or we can do both. Let’s see, hmm. Which path should we take?

Weather widgets seek the local weather franchise

AccuWeather, a company that has been providing weather services to television stations for 40 years, has been slowly moving into a competitive position with stations by providing local information directly to consumers. This week, the company released a series of widgets for bloggers and other Website (or page) creators that will expand their reach exponentially. This includes MySpace pages. Here’s a reduced screen grab from the AccuWeather site:

Let me repeat myself: local stations need to get into the widget business — and especially in the weather space, because companies like AccuWeather and Weather.com are using this as a back door to steal the local weather franchise from local television stations. We’re so busy trying to “drive traffic” to our portals that we’re missing what’s really going on in the unbundled world.

In a Wall St. Journal article about the threat to cable by the internet, Comcast COO Steve Burke makes this remarkably insightful comment: “Whether the Internet is a friend or foe depends on what we do.” This is true for everybody in the Media 1.0 space. The web is a friend if you get in sync with it and explore the marvelous opportunities it presents. It is a powerful foe, however, if you cling to old business models or, worse yet, do nothing.

Quotes of the week

Craig Newmark, Craigslist founder, on why he’s not interested in cashing out by selling his classifieds juggernaut.

“Who needs the money? We don’t really care…

…If you’re living comfortably, what’s the point of having more?

…We both know some people who own more than a billion (dollars) and they’re not any the happier. They also need bodyguards.”

Craig is one of the smartest and nicest people I’ve ever met, and these beliefs come from his heart. And isn’t it refreshing to hear somebody successful say things like this?

Jupiter’s Card: TV loses $7 billion by 2011

Disruptive innovations assailing the television industry will likely result in a loss of $7 billion by 2011, according to JupiterResearch analyst David Card and reported in MediaDailyNews. A new study by the company shows TV gaining $5 billion from new platforms but losing $12 billion due to ad-skipping by those with DVRs.

Jupiter’s forecast is erring on the side of caution, according to Card; it doesn’t cut TV much slack. “We advise media planners not to cave in to TV and Nielsen’s talk about new live-plus ratings. If stuff is time-shifted, a lot of the ads will definitely be skipped.” He was careful to note that the $12 billion loss figure is a worst-case scenario. It was calculated by combining recent data on DVR subscription rates with surveys of American households when asked how often they skipped commercials.
Like all of these forecasts, any little thing can bump the numbers in one direction or the other, but Card’s insistence that the ad-skipping problem is big is a refreshing change from all the spin coming from the networks about it.

Building a local ad network

The Washington Post, more than any other mainstream media company, understands new media and how to make it work. Caroline Little is CEO and publisher of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, and it was Caroline who first caught my attention with her quote, “Coming in through the home page is an old model and coming in sideways is the new method of arrival for most users.” Tom Kennedy and his VJs have won NPPA video awards, and that’s evidence of how newspapers can play in the broadcast video news space. And now comes The Blogroll, further evidence that Caroline and her people simply get it.

Similar to what we’re trying to do with AR&D client WKRN-TV in Nashville, this is building an ad network through bloggers, especially those whose work fits within specific advertiser needs. The premise is brilliant. If you’re a blogger, you submit your blog to the blogroll and if approved, you start running ads served by the washingtonpost.com and share in the revenue.

While nobody’s likely to get rich doing this, it expands the Post reach exponentially, gives them valuable user data, creates deep relationships outside their usual sphere of influence and helps monetize citizen media efforts.

A link to members’ blogs will be featured in our Sponsored Blogroll index, giving your writing promotional space on the washingtonpost.com home page and giving you an introduction to an audience of 8 million readers monthly. At the same time, our hardworking sales reps will help connect your signature musings with the huge number of advertisers we deal with every day who are looking for the next big, slightly-outside-the-mainstream idea.

As a Sponsored Blogroll member, you’ll maintain your independence. But you’ll get additional site traffic, a little buzz and maybe some additional income.

As with the WKRN project, underneath this all is the knowledge that ad networks are where the money is in reach/frequency internet advertising. Building local networks, therefore, is the next killer app for local media, but few understand this or are willing to tie their sacred brands to other websites in the community. This, as we say in Texas, is dumber than a bucket of hair.

The tools and techniques of Media 2.0 allow local media companies to be that which they currently are not, and it is precisely this that holds such opportunity for the mainstream in the years ahead. Caroline Little clearly gets that.