Wednesday, March 25, 2009

IN THIS ISSUE:

BORRELL: TV STATIONS STILL LOSING IN, OF ALL PLACES, VIDEO
PERSPECTIVE FROM THE MOST OBVIOUS PLACE
IGNORE THOSE WHO WANT THE OLD FACEBOOK BACK
SEARCH (WEB) PLACEMENT IS ABOUT HARD WORK, NOT WHO YOU ARE
IN DEFENSE OF FADS
WHAT’S IN A NAME? RTNDA READIES FOR VEGAS
QUOTE OF THE WEEK

BORRELL: TV STATIONS STILL LOSING IN, OF ALL PLACES, VIDEO (Terry)
comScore chairman and CEO, Gian FulgoniGian Fulgoni is a major player in the world of web advertising. As chairman and co-founder of comScore, he has played a leadership role in the commodification of online display advertising (not necessarily a good thing, of course) and is a keeper of the metrics used to drive the advertising business. When he speaks, it’s important to listen, and what he’s saying these days is that video is the bomb!

In a Monday speech to the OMMA Hollywood conference in Los Angeles, Fulgoni admitted that clicks aren’t what they used to be. According to NewTeeVee.com, Fulgoni said, “We have to get off the idea that a click is a valid metric. There are many other ways of measuring the effectiveness of ads.” The new biggie, he said, is video.

ComScore can track the impact of online video ads by measuring whether Internet users who saw an online video ad then went on to visit a site or buy a product, for instance, he said. Brands using online video ads have seen lifts of anywhere from 20 percent to 40 percent or higher in terms of incremental buying with online video and rich media over other ad forms, he said. “The reason advertising works well on TV is it has sight, sound and motion, and you have that in online video. It’s easier to communicate a message and easier to persuade people,” he said.

The growth in viewing of long-form content online is also a boon for the growing online video ad market, he said. The longer people watch, the more advertising opportunities there are. The average online Internet user is watching 3.5 minutes at a time, and that keeps increasing. “That’s a really important metric because if we just stick with three-minute video clips that limits the number of ads,” he said. “You want these longer-running shows so you can maximize ad dollars. This is one of the key components of the future of online advertising.”

Borrell projects growth in videoFulgoni didn’t say whether the ideal format was pre-roll, post-roll or something else, only that video was the place to be for growth. This syncs with data from Borrell Associates that projects video, email and local search as the three growth vehicles for online advertising over the next five years.

For television stations, video advertising should be a logical extension of existing knowledge, but newspapers continue to dominate in the local online video advertising category. Gordon Borrell told me this morning that new 2008 numbers (due out in a couple of weeks) reveal that newspapers made about $165 million last year from streaming video advertising, while TV stations made $105 million. Interestingly, streaming video was just 5% of newspaper website revenues, but 10% of TV website revenues.

Meanwhile, and even more amazingly, yellow pages companies made between $85–100 million last year from streaming video. Think about that for a second. Online, yellow pages companies are making nearly as much local money with video as television stations. This is insane, and, as my partner Steve Safran so famously said a few years ago, “You’d think that the one place video companies could win in is, well, video!”

Gordon BorrellFor Gordon Borrell, this issue has been a real sore spot for a very long time.

The online video-advertising story reads like a page out of “The Innovator’s Dilemma.” It’s another situation where being an expert can actually work against you. The vast majority of video advertising isn’t what TV managers know — high-quality, slickly produced, 10- or 15-second commercials. It’s good-enough quality, and its more of an infomercial. Unfortunately, broadcasters are still relying on TV managers to understand this wildly innovative environment. It takes a separate staff, with divergent ideas.

TV stations are locked into thinking that monetizing THEIR videos is where it’s at, but the truth is that small and medium-size local businesses are making their own videos, and that’s what they want their potential customers to see. Advertising is content in the Media 2.0 world. If they can’t make their own videos, there are plenty of companies out there that will make them for them. And I hate to keep beating an old drum, but this an essential clue to “enabling commerce” in the future, the new role for local media companies today and tomorrow.

For broadcasters, this ought to be a no-brainer, but the evidence, once again, suggests it is not.   Link>

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PERSPECTIVE FROM THE MOST OBVIOUS PLACE (Ken Elmore)
Last night during the coverage of President Obama’s second White House press conference, something interesting happened. CNN used the web tool Wordle, in the most interesting way.

CNN logoThey captured the text of the press conference and plugged it into the word cloud generating software, and presto — instant perspective. The need for pundits to tell you what was important, really wasn’t needed. The words spoke for themselves. What we saw were the words used most often in big bold letters, with lesser phrases and words in smaller letters. So with one screenshot, we learned that the most talked about issue during the event was, the budget, followed by “going”, as in “where we are going” or “what we are going to do.”

CNN Word Cloud

This is a great example of how the web and new technologies can be applied to what we do in our newsrooms and content centers, each day. This was brilliant on CNN’s part. They generated relevant content from something that was already available to them, they just had to use it.

Got a big story in the making, or a state of the city or state speech around the corner? Plug in the speech and see the most important words on the politicians mind, then show it to your audiences. Bet you will generate some audience comments and buzz.

And if you were curious, here’s my Wordle from this article. Enjoy!

Ken's Word Cloud

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ken Elmore is the newest AR&D blogger. Check him out at KenElmore.com.   Link>

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IGNORE THOSE WHO WANT THE OLD FACEBOOK BACK (Steve)
Facebook recently changed the way that its pages are laid out. Sure enough the petitions and votes started immediately. Right now on Facebook, there are 1.2 million votes against the new layout. Votes in favor of it? 80,000.

customer voting on the Facebook layout

This is a convincing argument against the new layout, isn’t it?

I don’t think so.

There are a few things Facebook users are quite well known for. One is making endless lists about themselves. The other is signing lots and lots of petitions. Any time there is a change to Facebook, users engage in the latter.

Still, this landslide vote should be a sign to the company that they need to listen to their audience, right? Again, not necessarily. The short history of Facebook is one of reinvention and change. And the one constant in all of this is complaints. Whenever Facebook changes, its existing audience base complains. My experience in 10 years of running websites was exactly the same; even an incremental change on our website was sure to elicit angry emails. So, why not change it immediately?

The most compelling reason is that Facebook nearly always gets it right. Facebook is a “Web platform,” meaning it is well beyond a website or even closed social network. Facebook is the platform on which programs and communities are self-made. Its openness is one of the reasons why it has surpassed MySpace in growth and popularity.

Still, we always teach about “listening to the audience” and having “the conversation” of news and information. So why go against the grain? Because sometimes the audience doesn’t even know what it wants. If Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, had asked from the beginning “do you guys want a slightly different MySpace?” he almost certainly would have been met with a “no” answer. After all, there was no great public outcry for the iPod and the iTunes store. Now those are a central fact of online life.

Sometimes, when you ask the audience what it wants, the data is flawed. This is not because the audience doesn’t know what it desires; it just doesn’t realize what the outcome may be. The classic example of this is New Coke. Taste tests showed that people preferred the new formula for Coke. But the audience didn’t know that New Coke would be introduced and would supplant their old, favorite formula. You know the rest.

People hate change. This becomes especially true as people get older, and the Facebook audience is indeed getting older. Where once it was college students-only, now people like you and me are running amok in Facebookland.

Robert Scoble tells about an experience he had that is instructive:

“My former boss, Jim Fawcette, used to say that if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they’d tell you things like “smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc.” He’d then say, “well, they just designed a Volvo.”

His words were meant to get us out of letting the customers run our business mode we often found ourselves falling into.

It is certain to me that, were a traditional media company to have something as successful as Facebook, it would never change it. Yet Facebook has gone through several incarnations. Here, once again, Scoble is instructive, outlining the history and phases of Facebook:

Phase 1. Harvard only.
Phase 2. Harvard+Colleges only.
Phase 3. Harvard+Colleges+Geeks only.
Phase 4. All those above+All People (in the social graph).
Phase 5. All those above+People and businesses in the social graph.
Phase 6. All those above+People, businesses, and well-known objects in the social graph.
Phase 7. All people, businesses, objects in the social graph.

Phase 5 is known as when Facebook (really found its) business model. This is why Mark Zuckerberg is absolutely correct to say he can’t listen to people who (want) Facebook to get stuck in Phase Four. It was a nice phase, yes, when Facebook only had people in the social graph, but those days are over…

Zuckerberg is a real leader because he doesn’t care what anyone thinks. He’s going to do what he thinks is best for his business. I wish Silicon Valley had more like him.

This kind of leadership is lacking in our industry. I have heard many anecdotes from journalists who are frustrated that their company doesn’t give enough time to innovative products. They tell me “as soon as people start to complain, management pulls the product at once.”

1.2 million votes against the new Facebook is certainly a big number. But Facebook has 180 million users and sometimes adds more than a half-million more per day. Mark Zuckerberg has become a billionaire trusting his instincts. So far, so good.   Link>

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SEARCH (WEB) PLACEMENT IS ABOUT HARD WORK, NOT WHO YOU ARE (Terry)
Will Google be bullied by media companies?The headline in Paidcontent.org’s coverage of the issue says it all: “Media Companies Demand Higher Rankings In Google Results.” This issue requires truthful examination, for media companies long ago lost the ability to demand anything online. However, this issue goes way beyond that, for it strikes at the very heart of the disrespect that traditional media has had for the Web from the beginning. Let me explain.

Traditional media wanted to create a version of the Web that served its mass media needs, so all early media company web presences were made in its own image. This brought about “pages” instead of documents, sites with an imaginary “fold,” and, worst of all, the whole display advertising paradigm. Despite sufficient warnings from tech bloggers and tech media in general that this was not really the way the Web worked, we now find ourselves in a situation where media companies are “demanding” higher rankings with Google.

Advertising Age broke the story.

Many publishers resent the criteria Google uses to pick top results, starting with the original PageRank formula that depended on how many links a page got. But crumbling ad revenue is lending their push more urgency; this is no time to show up on the third page of Google search results. And as publishers renew efforts to sell some content online, moreover, they’re newly upset that Google’s algorithm penalizes paid content.

“You should not have a system,” one content executive said, “where those who are essentially parasites off the true producers of content benefit disproportionately.”

In other words, if a highly-ranked blogger with millions of followers writes about something that, say, The New York Times has published, the original article should always appear higher in search rankings than the blogger (or whomever) that writes about it. This boggles the mind for its lack of logic and, most importantly, its lack of understanding about how the Web works in the first place. For in the view of the network — you, me, and everybody — it is that blogger’s reaction to the article that makes it noteworthy and, therefore, deserving of the ranking it gets. And the media companies profoundly benefit from the attention they get from those who are so ranked, for the inbound links from such bloggers are a very real form of currency that cannot be overstated. What these unnamed publishers are saying is that they could care less how the Web works; they want their old clout back.

“Parasites?” How about replacing that insulting term with the more realistic “host/symbiote” relationship, where both need each other for survival. In the illustration above, the blogger needs the Times article, but the Times needs in inbound traffic and the Google Juice provided by the blogger’s link. Parasite? I think not.

Publishers are…looking forward to the next closed-door meeting of Google’s Publishers Advisory Council on April 30, when many hope to get some solid response from Google. They don’t just want “We’ll fix it.” They want more insight into Google’s black box of data and decision making.

At the very bottom of the AdAge article is the admission from one publisher that Google has long presented how to best position oneself with the search engine, and if people haven’t acted, it’s their own fault. This is the very crux of the matter, for these publishers — having ignored the grunt work that comes with the back end of the Web — now want expect Google to do something about it. This grunt work is hard work, and its work that others have been willing to pay.

Google should (and will) politely tell them to go to hell.

I’m pretty passionate about this, for people like Steve and I have been preaching the need for the grunt work for years, but media companies want no part of it. We’re front-end people, but the Web is all about the back end. You need to tag everything and play by the rules of the Web, like outbound linking and getting involved in the discussion on other sites. Many, many people in traditional media feel that their work ends when their story is published, regardless of the form. But what good is that story if nobody can find? That means tagging, tagging, and tagging some more. You’ve got to play by the rules if you want a place in the game, but traditional media people want to just “present” their content and expect the environment to adapt.

The people formerly known as the advertisers are playing the search engine game, and they’re getting great results. Do you think Google will bend to the will of certain Madison Avenue types that will want preferred treatment over those who are doing the diligent SEO stuff? I think not.

The article also refers to the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), which is mass media’s attempt to use copyright to help regulate search. Search engines use Sitemap, but the copyright industry doesn’t have any control of that and “wishes” the search engines would embrace ACAP. The irony is that Sitemap will work just fine for what they want; they just want to use their own ball.

It’s an insult to the millions of hard-working people who’ve taken the time to study, learn and practice the rules of the game. The arrogance of these unnamed publishers who expect those people to step aside for their content deserves recognition for what it really is: old world bullying. It doesn’t get anybody anywhere, and it’s certainly no replacement for hard work.

Meanwhile, Poynter’s Will Sullivan offers three links that might help people understand that work.

“10 Ways Journalists and Newsrooms Can Conquer SEO,” Search Engine Journal

SEO Reference Guides and Tools for Journalists,” Journerdism, my (Will’s) personal Web site

“How to Get Your Site into Google News,” Online Journalism Review   Link>

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IN DEFENSE OF FADS (Steve)
Curmudgeons greet every new technology with the same dismissive phrase: “It’s just a fad.” Talking motion pictures? A fad. Television? A fad that will never replace radio. The VCR? Maybe not a fad, but certainly only a niche product. The Internet? One seriously big fad.

the fad called TwitterIn the past five years, the fad curmudgeons have had plenty to dismiss: email, Craigslist, the Drudge Report, blogs, podcasts, iPods, YouTube, MySpace, TiVo, Slingbox, Facebook — the list goes on. Blogs are my favorite on this list, because they were written off as “not journalism” until it was decided that they are “an integral part of journalism.” don’t bet your money on anyone who dismisses a new technology as a fad.

According to dictionary.com, a “fad” is “a temporary fashion, notion, manner of conduct, etc., esp. one followed enthusiastically by a group.” We are now hearing this word most often in reference to Twitter. It certainly has all the hallmarks of a fad: it has caught on like lightning, tons of people are using it, there was nothing like it before, and everyone and their mom seems to be trying it and raving about it. Twitter, it is argued by many, is no better for journalism than the Pet Rock.

The fad curmudgeons are nearly always wrong. It is easier to predict that something will fail than foresee its success. But let us suppose, in the case of Twitter, that they are right. Let us suppose, further, that Facebook is also a fad.

So what?

The prime time version of “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” only had a short, but blazing, run. “American Idol” will, in all likelihood, peter out as well. Fads? I guess. But wouldn’t you want to be associated with them at the height of their heat?

Traditional media is used to thinking of success in terms of large audience numbers and lasting dedication. But online, what we seek is often the opposite. We need to be where the audience is. That’s not just in one or two places — that’s everywhere. If Twitter is only popular for another 24 months, then we need to be all over it for the next 24 months. If Facebook has a short life span and starts to wane (the way many social networks before it have) we need to ride it out, be a part of it, and then move onto the next thing.

You don’t get rich predicting (or rooting for) online failure. You succeed when you take risks. Success is not a fad.   Link>

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WHAT’S IN A NAME? RTNDA READIES FOR VEGAS (Terry)
RTNDA Conference LogoRegistrations are down for the upcoming NAB show in Las Vegas (April 19–22), and that impacts the Radio Television News Directors Association annual gathering as well. In an interview with tvnewsday.com this week, RTNDA Chairman Ed Esposito discussed the association’s growing challenges in the face of disruptions to mainstream media. Its operating budget is less than half of what it was a year ago, and Esposito said he wouldn’t be surprised to see attendance at this year’s conference off by 25–30% from last year.

These are challenging times for everybody in media, and I like the move the RTNDA is making (it’s still in the due diligence process) of changing from the RTNDA to the all-encompassing RTDNA, or Radio Television Digital News Association. This will open membership to many others and expand the mission of the organization beyond broadcasting. We need a healthy RTNDA, and it’s unfortunate that most people will miss this year’s convention.

Virtual conferences will likely become a part of any trade organization’s future. They’re much cheaper to stage; vendors love them for generating leads; and you don’t have to travel to Vegas to attend. I’m not sure virtual conferences will ever completely do away with face-to-face, but they solve a lot of problems these organizations face.

I’ll be at this year’s RTNDA conference. Here’s the session:

Sunday, April 19, 4:00 to 5:30 pm: Opening Supersession: Leading News Reinvention
The gloomiest year ever in some newsrooms leads some to wonder whether there is a viable future for broadcast news. Part of the reason for the slump on the business side is the growing lack of relevance of traditional broadcast models to younger audiences. Traditional TV and radio spot advertising is no longer capable of sustaining the operation, capital, and profit needs of many stations. Those stations have looked to change models to support free broadcasting. News managers may sometimes have trouble helping find and adjust to these models. This session will help introduce attendees to what is working in the industry now.

I’m not so sure much IS working, but we’ll give it a go. See you there, I hope.   Link>

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
It’s amazing that people have so much time to fret about today’s emergency but almost no time at all to avoid tomorrow’s. Seth Godin, How far away is your emergency?