Bio: The third generation of my family to enter the field of media, I’ve held prior positions at the San Francisco Chronicle (systems director), The New York Post (production and labor), and The Star Ledger (advertising). Now I strive to strengthen BurrellesLuce relationships with content providers and substantially increase the number of licensing agreements with publishers, producers, syndicates, and digital media creators, as senior vice president of content management. I also spearhead efforts that have resulted in significant growth of the BurrellesLuce copyright compliance program. LinkedIn: dschaible; Facebook: BurrellesLuce; Twitter: @BurrellesLuce
Posts by Dan Schaible:
In my previous post published earlier this week, I suggested that content providers just come up with a way to charge for the use of the article when somebody reads the whole article instead of the hextract (header/extract)… do this regardless of whether that somebody is the first reader of the article or the recipient of it being passed along in an email. Make the charge a passive transaction and at a price the consumer considers fair. So the question on the table is why this hasn’t been done?
Pondering this question, two phrases immediately come to mind: “The Inventor’s Dilemma” (a great book by Clayton Christensen, 1997), and “like turning an aircraft carrier around.” The legacy environment is blinding. At the heart, though, I believe, is the much bantered-about idea of “engaging the consumer.” This is the “buzz” used by the folks attempting to do the engaging. The consumer is evidently not getting the message that they are being engaged; at least not by The Media companies’ definition, which is about adopting and paying according to its rules of engagement.
I was at a conference last fall with a significant number of aspiring media titans in attendance. The panels focused on devices, technology, and the creation of apps to support their existing revenue models. My takeaway was the tremendous amount of energy going into convincing the consumer of what their, the consumers’, needs are instead of discovering and meeting those needs that already exist.
This contrast became more apparent with the remarks of each and every one of the CEO keynotes: Jason Kilar, Hulu; William Lynch, Barnes and Noble; and Oprah Winfrey, OWN. They all shouted about the key to success being the result of a dialog with the customer, listening to them, and giving them what they wanted. The panelist’s focus was certainly not the result of these folks being from a culture that celebrates entrepreneurial thinking. The legacy rules discourage divisional collaboration and non-linear approaches. You don’t get your own castle without being able to protect the moat. Problem is that the market in which these rules worked moved and it didn’t happen in the dead of night.
The old marketplace based on scarcity of information has left the building and with it the providers’ absolute control of access.
So what to do . . . ?
After having given this way too much thought, I would suggest an industry strategic planning meeting be convened with a very select group of players. I would gather together Hearst’s Frank Bennack, Advance’s Donald or Stephen Newhouse, Google’s Eric Schmidt, Barnes and Noble’s William Lynch, and Clay Shirky, who consults, teaches, and writes on the social economic effects of Internet technologies. I would also include Ken Doctor, a leading news industry analyst, as the scribe. The group should be sequestered for a week and then every six months reconvene to make adjustments. With all the exclusive consortiums in play targeting “low hanging fruit,” this is one consortium that could actually move the needle, and create enough disruptive engagement to get all those “mortgages” paid for a long, long time.
My guess is that, in the end, a process of marking, tracking, and monetizing will emerge. The only absolute is that time is of the essence in the 30-second world or information.
My name is Dan Schaible. In past lives, I accrued 27 years working in newspapers for large media companies including Newhouse, Murdoch, Thompson, and Hearst. I worked in advertising, production, labor, and IT. I currently handle the relationships with content providers for the pre-eminent American brand in full-service media monitoring, planning, and measurement – BurrellesLuce. This position, with the experience of those past lives, allows me a broad view of the media industry and the challenges it faces.
The challenges are formidable and immediate. More importantly, however, I see tremendous opportunity.
Let me start by saying that content is not free. But let me also quickly emphasize that content must not be perceived as expensive either. It has to compete with free or at least the perception that content is free.
Information is, ultimately, created by people with mortgages to pay – even corporate titans have a roof expense; some are just larger than others.
People, individually and as part of an enterprise, want more and more of this information, and they want it in real-time. The information-consumer is not really concerned with the technology. They just want what they want, when they want it, where they want it, and how they want it. Most users of content are not going to go beyond their usual routines to get info. They are not really concerned with platforms or formats. They are all about convenience; their convenience. In general, they are impatient, conditioned as they are by the 30-second sound bite, the 140-character tweet, and of most importance, the compilation of “hextracts” (headline/extract) and associated links as search or news results, which, by the way, will continue to defy monetization. Oh, and they want this all for free.
I am convinced that, even in the digital world, there is still and there will continue to be a place for full publication and page formats. This falls mostly within the areas of individual use and first use. These formats have an advertising and/or subscription component to provide some support for the creators’ mortgage payment, as long as the payments have been modified.
The 30-second formats are now clearly the largest format in use for the delivery of content to the user. The users receiving information in this “bite” format represent both individual and enterprise, initial use and reuse and generally do not provide support from advertising – except when the consumer occasionally follows the link to the article. These 30-second formats are all about the article format standing alone. Focus on monetizing the article will provide the big win/win for the consumer and the provider. Did I mention this is my view we are talking about here?
So, pretty simple right? Just come up with a way to charge for the use of the article when somebody reads the whole article instead of the hextract. Do this regardless of whether that somebody is the first reader of the article or the recipient of it being passed along in an email. Make the charge a passive transaction and at a price the consumer considers fair (I can hear Clay Shirky from here on that statement).The technology to do just this is actually, for the most part, already in existence.
Then why hasn’t it been done?
In my next post, I will provide my own take on this.
The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism’s annual report is once again upon us. As in the past, it confirms that the majority of us get our information online and that we do not want to pay for it, subscribe to it, or pay-per-click for an article.
The facts may be free, but getting them collected, edited, checked, and delivered to you online or otherwise still costs money. Like almost every else you do in this life, you do get what you pay for. The old joke of “hiring’em young while they still got all the answers” may work fine for opining in the blogosphere, but may not cut it in the “knock three times and tell’em Dan sent you” world of investigative journalism.
Then there is this little issue of legality. At the recent OnCopyright 2010 conference put together by the Copyright Clearance Center in New York City, a self-proclaimed investigative blogger lamented the chilling effect of the many defensive lawsuits filed against him. While we may be prejudiced against the larger media organizations at times, they can stand up to this type of intimidation. To preempt the criticism they vet their sources and data prior to publishing and if that’s not enough they have financial resources to support their position.
Back to free; the cry is that everything should be free on the Internet . . . Well it never has been and never will be. The content and information you get every day on the web is being paid for by somebody, usually advertisers. For lots of reasons we can look at later, this subsidy is just not cutting it.
So if we want reliable, vetted information we have to support its creation. In other words, we have to pay for it. The organizations that are creating vetted content are searching for a way to do this. There are a number of models being tried currently.
- The pay-wall which is in place at a number of sites and variations are being implemented by the Financial Times and the New York Times.
- The pay-by-article model for which you pay only for what you read á la iTunes.
- A central subscription service for many participating providers.
I believe all of these are doomed to fail. However, I do believe there is a fourth solution that could prove viable and consumer-friendly. It would be a hybrid of the pay-by-article model and the aggregated subscription combined with some as of yet unreleased technology.
Over the coming weeks, I look forward to examining more closely some of these monetization options and having a bit of discourse on the topic. In the interim, I strongly recommend that anyone whose livelihood, especially journalists and public relations professionals, is tied to media read the Pew Report. And share their thoughts with myself and the readers of BurrellesLuce Fresh Ideas.
Outing someone nowadays has an entirely different meaning than it did 10 years ago. Today, “outing” someone refers to revealing their true identity online. Golly Homer, you mean people would have to actually be held accountable for what they say under their digital alias? This leads one to believe we have collectively arrived at a place that says it was once okay to be irresponsible. Hold that thought for just a moment …
The convergence of new digital modes and economic amorality, combined with some good old-fashioned denial puts the media in a challenging situation. To cite a close-to-home example, the old-line media lost track of their advertisers’ need to connect with audiences and did nothing to stay connected to the last two or three generations who are linked to the world by digital tethers. Hence the old media groups are in a spiral trying to deliver the younger audiences to their advertisers who are no longer interested in +55 year olds.
With the financial markets being closed for the present – the economic amorality part, denies all businesses in crisis (media included) a life vest. Of course, they could have crossed the stream before they needed the life vest, but that is the denial part.
Just like with the “outed” it all comes back to lemonade or, to use another word, responsibility. So I ask, “Who are you responsible to?” Note, I did not ask, “Who are you responsible for?”
I am going to go out on a limb and say that a big part of our current problems are the result of this very semantic confusion. I have recently accepted the responsibility for the technical effort here at BurrellesLuce and in so doing my ultimate responsibility is to insure that our technology meets the needs of our customers and exceeds their expectations. The reality is that it is the IT team that is actually meeting the need, not me. IT’s customers are the sales department, the production department, and the finance department. What IT is responsible for is how it meets its responsibility to them.
What about the company’s customers you ask? In respecting the ability of the sales, production, marketing, and finance management to be responsible to their customers, the IT team can focus on IT’s customers. Meeting the needs of my customer requires having a belief that this will lead to my needs being met.
This is no small task for the “outed” generation. It is about an orientation to “you” from “me,” to “I respect your ability” from “I am better,” from lemons to lemonade.
Yesterday, I attended the annual information summit of the content division of the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) of which BurrellesLuce is a member. Mark Walsh, CEO of GeniusRocket and formerly the first chief technology officer (CTO) of the Democratic National Party used the term “human Ritalin” to describe … Well, I will get to that in just a moment –
In his presentation, Mark spoke about micro scripts. Although this may be tough on the ego, the majority of us fall in the middle of the bell curve of life and are, thus, only average. And as average folks we don’t deal well with huge amounts of written data. Enter in the sound bite – a small snippet of auditory information – which if institutionalized becomes the micro script.
To understand Mark’s point, it might be helpful to think about these phrases: “lipstick (on a pig),” “nowhere (as in bridge to),” “maverick,” and “change.” Chances are they didn’t mean much prior to the presidential campaign. But now, us average people around the water cooler can use them and sound smart.
Although sometimes in accurate, this is, of course the stuff that makes good branding. Case in point: we all know Al Gore “invented the internet.” Even though he never said this, even he references that particular “micro script” now. The very nature of the micro script transforms it into an accepted fact that needs no explanation. As such, we must find shorter and shorter ways to express core features and mimic what the customers think of themselves if we are to brand ourselves effectively.
(By the way, Mark slipped that Bill Schley who, along with Carl Nichols, brought us “Why Johnny can’t brand” has a book coming out with this theme in a couple of months.)
But as this phenom plays out, we start to miss the point about using what customers think of themselves. Instead we move to what we think they think. Than the annoying idiosyncrasies of the digital interactions start to grow into full-fledged indigestion. The conversations based on micro scripts spread in nano seconds. God help someone who wants to dialogue on a topic cause there isn’t any there, just the sound bite. This fragment is packaged and on the virtual PA system which drowns out all chance for interaction. So now us average people are left to our own interpretations mostly in a vacuum … a little scary.
So, about that Ritalin. Since Washington, DC is the ultimate “evidence free” zone, our hope, according to Mark Walsh, is our new president’s penchant for slowing down the conversation and getting scholarship and experience a seat at the table. So, President Obama is Walsh’s “human Ritalin” for the downside of the micro script culture.