Another pureplay after local dollars

This company isn’t new, but starting Tuesday, Local.com will begin offering a new service aimed at local advertisers. According to an Online Media Daily report, the company’s “Local Verified” service gives businesses the option of paying an annual fee to secure placement at the top of its localized search results.

“We’re focused on offering businesses of all sizes multiple local search options, from standard CPMs and banners, to completely free listings,” said Jennifer Black, the search engine’s vice president of marketing.

According to comScore, almost half of consumers who used a local search Web site visited a local merchant as a result of their search behavior, highlighting the efficacy of local search as a source to drive traffic and sales.

Paying $249 for a premium listing with Local.com provides smaller businesses with a cost-effective alternative to the primary search engine’s local ad models–allowing them to “play with the big boys” in the online ad landscape, Black said.

This is the kind of application that poses the real threat to local media companies, for advertisers don’t care about being linked to content; they just want to find customers. While media companies argue about the sanctity of their content, the internet pureplays are coming in and taking away local revenue. Why local media companies can’t see this is beyond me.

The solution is for us to enter this world — not with our brands — but as internet pureplays ourselves, only done from a local perspective. Local.com has a nice name, but they are far from local.

Of “real reporting,” parasites and infrastructure

Here we have a fascinating interview from Reason Online (Free Minds and Free Markets) with Jonathan Rauch that’s worth a read. Rauch is a senior writer and columnist for National Journal magazine in Washington, a correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, and the author of several books, including Gay Marriage: Why It Is Good for Gays, Good for Straights, and Good for America (2004), Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government (1994), and Kindly Inquisitors: The New Attacks on Free Thought (1993).

The interview is worth a read for a couple of reasons. One, the guy makes some interesting and provocative statements about the current state of journalism, and, two, for all his arguments in favor of free minds, he’s generally reflective of the prototypical Big J journalist. I find this fascinating.

reason: What do you think about the state of political reporting these days?

Rauch: It depends on what you mean by “political reporting.” If you mean people who are actually spending their lives going out and gathering political news, following politicians around, manning the stakeouts, trying to understand what’s going on in the capitols, then the situation is very good.

There’s a very talented, hard-working press corps and, of course, it represents only a small fraction of the people who are doing [journalism]. I think all the major newspapers are doing it well. Not a single one is doing it badly, the ones that are committing resources to it. The larger fraction are the parasites, the bloggers, commentators, opinionizers — I don’t exempt myself — who are feeding off of the real news that the press is providing. That larger sort of commentariat is not doing a very good job.

reason: What about media more generally? Do you worry about consolidation of ownership?

Rauch: It’s in an intellectually healthy situation and a fiscally not-so-healthy situation, and that’s what I’m worried about. I’m not one of those who yearns for the days when we had three networks doing half-hour newscasts telling us all that they thought we should know. I’m not nostalgic for the days when we covered political conventions for two days straight live on national TV. I’m much happier in a world with multiple sources and more individual ability to pick and choose.

What I worry about is what everyone in my business worries about : Who’s going to fund the real reporting? The magazine and newspaper business was a cross-subsidy. You had the advertising, particularly classified, and you had a local market, which subsidized the gathering of news. That model is breaking down because the bundle is breaking into pieces and it’s hard to see in the long run who funds the kind of large-scale news reporting operations that the major papers have run if the advertising is all going online and if people can all get the news for free at Yahoo.

I’m guessing that 30 years from now, we’ll get to something that’s economically sustainable. I hope that’s the case, but I’m not liking the way the transition is looking. I’m not liking the fact that foreign bureaus are being closed left and right and I’m also not particularly liking the fact that it seems to be that that for a lot of young journalists the model is to get past reporting and into commentary as fast as your feet will take you.

There are a couple of things that require comment: one, the notion of “real reporting” and, two, this idea of journalistic parasites.

There’s something truly, well, special about the phrase “real reporting,” and while I understand what Rauch is talking about, it still has that institutional ring that shouts of elitism and entitlement. This idea — this paradigm of separation — is what’s being challenged by the personal media revolution, and the thought that these two can co-exist is quite problematic. One is top-down; the other is bottom-up, and while their goals may be different, they both provide material for a public that has limited time.

As I’ve written before, the best the institutional press can hope for in the new world is that of conversation starter, a role for which they are ideally suited. This is a lot different than the current definition, because it begins with the assumption that the conversation will continue.

Hence, the “parasites” to which Rauch refers are actually partners in the on-going development of the story. This may not make the pros feel and warm and fuzzy, but it’s a role they’d do well to consider.

Jeff Jarvis has a fascinating post today (The Unbearable Weight of Insfrastructure) that looks back on his few days at the NAB and concludes that the infrastucture of the news business is its Achilles’ Heel. This, too, is part of the evolving professional news hegemony, and I hope we have the brains to pay attention.

If you get rid of the presses and the trucks and the broadcast towers and the headquarters buildings and the fancy equipment and the old-time stars, if you kill the infrastructure, you are left with more resources for journalism — and savings in the face of reduced revenue in a suddenly competitive marketplace — and the bottom line is a and more efficient and sustainable business.

Infrastructure is the enemy of journalism.

Ah, but you say, what about editors and correspondents? If they’re vital, they’re not infrastructure. If they are not vital, then they are merely expenses and you must get rid of them.

Infrastructure is the enemy.

I realize that these are not the types of things that — as we used to say in evangelical circles — “sell a lot of tapes.” However, this is exactly the kind of medicine we need to take in order to find our place in the new world. What’s real and what isn’t? Who’s a parasite and who’s not?

It isn’t all or nothing, and it isn’t us versus them.

Messin’ with Sasquatch” delivers a lesson (and laughs)

Messin' With SasquatchPeople often gasp when I tell them that advertising is content in the Media 2.0 world. But take a look at the monthly “most-viewed” section of YouTube, and you’ll find over half are ads. This is because the advertising community is catching on that originality and creativity will put their clients in front of the eyeballs of potential customers.

Gone are the days when advertising only had to be in the right place at the right time, à la the Media 1.0 world.

This has fairly significant ramifications for television, because ads are content in an on-demand world, and sometimes that content is better than the programs that the ads support on TV.

One example is the hilarious Jack Links Original Beef Jerky “Messin’ with Sasquatch” series. Here is a company without an enormous advertising budget whose ads leave people wanting more. YouTube serves them all, and the viewership numbers are pretty stout, especially for a segment that’s internet-only (for obvious reasons) called “The Water Bowl.”

I don’t know if this stuff will sell more beef jerky, but there’s a lesson here for everybody. Advertising is content in Media 2.0.

(Also viewable at Super Deluxe and other places)

Another big challenge for the old way of doing things

There is a fascinating discussion underway via the web that has absolutely profound implications for the world of journalism. You can tune in here for the summary by Jeff Jarvis, and I won’t begin to rewrite Jeff’s excellent overview.

In a nutshell, Wired Magazine is doing a story about Michael Arrington of TechCrunch. Michael’s a lightning rod, and my guess is Wired finds this interesting. Wired wants to interview others about Arrington, including Jason Calacanis and Dave Winer, both of whom know him well. Well, Jason and Dave want the interviews done via email, a technique I personally find increasingly useful. Wired doesn’t want that, and so the whole matter is being openly discussed in the blogosphere and eventually, one hopes, in the mainstream press.

Here’s part of what Winer wrote to the Wired reporter:

Not generally doing interviews these days. If you have a few questions, send them along, and if I have something to say, I’ll write a blog post, which of course you’re free to quote. Sorry that’s about the best I can do.”

Here’s a portion of the Calacanis reply:

I’m an email guy like dave winer.. And I own my words as well, and often print them on my blog (after stories come out).

A wired writer who won’t do an email interview–thats ironic!

Frankly, you need to adapt. Journalists have misquoted people for so long–and quoted them out of context that many people like to have their words on record.

I don’t want someone taking half a sentence or paraphrasing me… Just too much risk.

Besides I have 10,000 people come to my blog every day–i don’t need wired to talk to the tech industry.

What’s emerging in the world of news is that the empowerment of the individual now makes it possible for the interviewee to publish the entire interview him or herself, thereby providing a “check” on the spin of the interviewer. This is something new in the world of journalism, and it’s especially helpful to people who’ve been burned by reporters.

You have to sit back and think about this for a minute, because such a concept completely upsets the idea of an objective press. If, after all, objectivity is what matters, then why would anyone fear their whole interview being published? If it’s all about “just the facts, ma’am,” then why would any professional journalist care?

The problem is that’s all crap, and this idea blows the curtain away from whatever was left of the concept of objectivity in the press. It never was real. Reporters want (in fact, think they have a right) to infer meaning from the tone of interviews and have the liberty to embellish paraphrase quotes for the sake of the story.

It’s all about control, folks, not facts.

Think about your own life as a journalist. How comfortable would you be if everyone you interviewed was able to publish the raw interview in some form? You wouldn’t, because YOURE the one telling “the story.” It’s YOUR story, right? (Did you see/read MY story last night?) You need the ability to interject quotes as you see fit in telling “the story,” because “the story” is what you say it is.

This is why this whole business of defending the professional press in the wake of the personal media revolution is so problematic. The rules simply have changed. The deer have guns.

We’re going to have to learn to do things differently.

This really, um, pisses me off

Oops, some offensive language has slipped into my blog. What ever will I do?

Below is a screen grab of a piece in PCWorld by John Dunn of Techworld. It really does hack me off.

Blogs Now Infested With Offensive Content

Blogs now infested with offensive content? A variety of unpleasant content, including porn, offensive language, hate posting, and malware? Give me a friggin’ break!

The truth is the story doesn’t justify the headline, but we all know that the headline is what sells the story. Its about Scansafe’s Monthly Global Threat Report for March 2007, from which a few juicy quotes were lifted. Up to 80% of the web’s blogs, for example, contain some form of offensive content, according to Scansafe. Of course, to make the list, the company had to pick up just ONE word considered profanity in order to broadbrush the site as “offensive.”

My problem with this is Dunn’s headline and sub-head, which will enter the language of those who already believe blogs to be a blight on our culture.

And so it goes…

AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel

This week, Steve and I look at newspapers, David Halberstam, Dave Winer, MySpace and Forrester’s “Technographics.” Enjoy the newsletter.