The first story in this morning's MediaDailyNews jolts like a cold splash of water on a hot face. Nielsen has released new data from its "engagement panels," and it's not good for the status quo. Only one-third of the 1,000 panelists could recall any TV commercials they had seen, and 21% of viewers could not correctly recall at least one TV program they had viewed.

The findings were released as part of a regular client update on Nielsen's so-called A2/M2 initiative from Nielsen chief Susan Whiting. As part of the update, Whiting said Nielsen also is making progress with its "mailable" TV meters, its out-of-home measurement, its "solo" meters for personal video devices, and with its Internet/TV integration panel.

"As part of our Internet integration initiative, we have concluded our focus groups and computerized individual surveys at our research facility in Las Vegas to determine participants' comfort levels with monitoring their Internet activities," Whiting writes in the client update. "The results, which are still being analyzed, will help us clarify whether people will take part in such measurements; under what conditions; and what would discourage them from doing so."

This is beyond problematic due to privacy concerns — and let's face it, online "adult" venues. Just yesterday, I was invited to participate with a Facebook application that would allow my "friends" to see what sites I was viewing. Holy crap!

But the bigger issue is that this "evidence" from Nielsen shoots holes in the diary method of determining viewing, and it certainly doesn't bode well for stations fighting to maintain (much less grow) advertising market share.

Meanwhile, new players continue to plant their flags in the media measurement space.

Verizon LogoI just moved into a house, and the nice fellow from Verizon came yesterday and installed FIOS, which is the new 800-pound gorilla in this whole TV/Internet thing. Everything's available on-demand. There's a button you push that shrinks the screen and reveals real time weather and traffic information, provided by some distant company (why not a local media company?).

Everything is IP-driven, so the system is two-way without a phone line. Viewing metrics won't be based on panels or algorithms or statistical analysis or any formula-based guesswork.

If you can do it online, you can do it on your TV. Widget development has just begun. The thing is absolutely amazing, and Verizon makes everything customer-friendly. (BTW, My internet is lightning fast, although not up to what's advertised.) I mean, I hate to sound like a commercial, but you cannot imagine the difference until you have it. I've been writing about Fiber To The Home (FTTH) for years, and it lives up to its potential.

I have never been more convinced that the business model of television is at serious risk and that broadcasters who continue to believe that their real competition is the guy across town (see Steve's excellent piece below) are on a one-way path to the tar pits. It is not a time for same-old, same-old, and reaching for revenue in a multi-platform delivery paradigm alone is not going to produce enough revenue growth to offset losses to our incumbent businesses.

Local information is rapidly becoming commoditized, and that's our core competency. You can't scale a content business in such an environment; the economics have to come from elsewhere. This is path two of our Simulpath™ strategy for local media.

More evidence: According to a new study by Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS), internet advertising is expected to become the largest ad segment in 2011, surpassing newspapers. Jeff Jarvis comments:

The report also says that our total media usage is declining, though whatís interesting to me is that part of this, they say, comes from efficiency and thatís an important concept in the morphing of media: The internet exposes the inefficiencies of old media for both "consumers" and advertisers. The internet makes direct connections. Note also in the report that we are taking in less ad-supported media because there is more media without ads and also, again, because we can connect directly to information around advertising.

This is incredibly significant stuff for us, and we simply must have a strategic plan in place that allows us to exploit multi-platform distribution while at the same time moving us into the media world of tomorrow. And nobody's going to hand this to us; we have to work for it.   <Permalink>

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Minneapolis bridge collapseThe web played a remarkable role in the distribution of information about the collapse of the bridge in Minneapolis last week, and it is worth taking a look at some of the best practices.

Many stations put up their streams live. Not content to simply put their on-air product online, stations put their feeds online. You could see a chopper feed on one stream, the feed from outside the hospital on another, and the live feed on a third "channel." Sometimes the feeds were just color bars. It didn't matter.

People instinctively documented the disaster and shared pictures and video. For years we have asked people to send in any pictures they have of a major breaking event. We no longer have to ask. People send — and not because we ask but because they want to help tell the story.

The Fox affiliate had a live chat box next to one of their live feeds. A simple touch, but an effective one. People were talking about loved ones they thought might have been on the bridge while they were watching the disaster unfold.

Photo galleries went up within the hour on many sites, thanks in no small part to user-contributed pictures. People sent in their pictures of the bridge before the disaster — one person had taken a shot of the underside of the bridge — and that helped give the story context.

We have always encouraged local media outlets to share information in every way possible, and to avoid the trap of "how good will it look?" In the case of the Minneapolis bridge collapse, the local media, working hand-in-hand with the citizenry, helped tell an urgent story quickly and in ways that gave the audience choices.   <Permalink>

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As if to punctuate one of our themes here (Advertising is content in Media 2.0), NBC Universal is launching, a pure advertiser-as-content video site. According to a report in Variety, NBCU will use the muscle of its USA Network to initially drive traffic, but they have bigger plans downstream.

Set to launch early next year, (the) site will offer a vast archive of current and classic TV spots, movie trailers and other "brand-related content." USA-Sci Fi Channel prexy Bonnie Hammer said the goal is to "become the go-to destination for on-demand advertising content."

" is the logical next step in the changing dynamic between consumers and advertisers," Hammer said. "There's no doubt that commercials are major drivers of pop culture — all you have to do is check out traffic on any video-sharing site. We want to own that watercooler conversation."

...five to 10 "charter" advertisers to help launch Didja. Those companies will get premium positioning on the site as well as access to planned on-air cross-promotion of it.

Sponsors also will get the chance to create customized online environments for their Didja-hosted spots. A page filled with classic Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ads from years past could also include links to Kraft coupons or recipes, for example.

I'm not sure you can "own" anything anymore, but this is a terribly smart idea. We believe there's a tremendous opportunity in this space for local media companies, and it's a great illustration of what new media economist Umair Haque calls "edge competencies." In this case, the edge competency is NBC's familiarity with sales and the various sales systems and relationships it has developed over the years. This is also an edge competency of local media companies, and one that will likely prove extremely valuable in the years to come.

As of this writing, the URL defaults to an Australian sponsored listings site.   <Permalink>

Who are your neighbors on the server that delivers your web site(s) to the public? This is a question that should be of serious importance to everybody in the web space, but it's one of those details about how things work online that I dare say most TV executives don't understand at all.

Harry Hayes recently brought this wonderful little site to my attention, and I'm passing it along here for all of you to use. It's called "My IP Neighbors," and it will show you what other URLs occupy the server that's hosting yours. Why is this important? Because your risk of server crashes or other server problems (or mischief) goes up with the number of other sites on the server.

We recommend a dedicated server or a server array for clients, depending on their needs. So go to the site and enter your domain. You might be very surprised by what you find.

And if you're not on a dedicated server, you need to be asking why not. Clearly, the days of a single website are past, and if you want to grow your own network of sites — and the revenue that comes with it — you'll need a dedicated server for that anyway.   <Permalink>

Reports abound today in the wake of a New York Post article yesterday that The New York Times is giving up on its online subscription service, Times Select. The paper isn't saying yea or nay just yet, but there's general agreement among observers that the service costs more in terms of advertising and authority potential than can possibly be earned through subscriptions.

This strikes at the very core of the economics of news in a changing paradigm. A news organization's authority within the online community is based on inbound links, among other things. By hiding its key editorial offerings behind a pay wall, the Times shut that content off from the aggregating and assorting of what's important, thereby denying a whole generation access to the very thing that made the paper "significant" in the first place.

Moreover, without all that inbound traffic, the paper has lost considerable ad revenue. So, like CNN earlier this year, the Times is apparently deciding that ad-supported is the way to go. This leaves the Wall St. Journal as the only major player that's subscriber-based, and even though that revenue comes from corporate expense accounts, it's hard to think that Rupert Murdoch will keep it around for long. There's simply too much at stake.

Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 notes: "As smart, talented, and insightful as the New York Times columnists behind the paid wall are, the are too many other smart, talented, insightful commentators publishing their thoughts on the web for free." 'Nuff said.

All of this, of course, contributes to the commoditization of news and makes it harder and harder to scale any kind of content online. As Umair Haque says so often, "Free isn't a business model; it's a strategy."

These are exciting but extremely challenging times we are in.   <Permalink>

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Television vs. newspapers. Blogs vs. news. The web vs. print. VJs vs. photogs. You can find tons of "vs." at every journalism conference, in every media boardroom, and indeed on every media blog. The "vs." supposes that there are two choices, and it is the notion that we need a "vs." that is one of the biggest reasons why traditional media and new media aren't performing nearly as well as they could.

"Vs." thinking is what's often worst about TV news. We're constantly subjected to the obligatory "the right says this, the left says this" kinds of reports that are then allegedly balanced. News and media are stuck in "vs." thinking in our own industry.

For years, there was this snobbery that newspaper journalists looked down on TV journalists for being too shallow. TV journalists didn't care - they got the news on faster than a newspaper could. It was "speed vs. depth."

Now, with the web, that "vs." goes away. And newspapers are producing their own video reports. The truth is, most of those reports aren't of the same caliber as those you'd find on TV. At least - that's what the TV people will say, because that's the New Snobbery: nobody can do TV like we can. That's fine - except the web is not TV. And some newspapers now have dozens of cameras on the streets. Their time to publication is no longer an issue. Can they go live? No. Not yet, anyway. But they now present a formidable offering: in-depth written stories, video from the scene, pictures, multimedia presentations and social features like comments and voting are all available at some newspaper sites.

(It's at this point that we need to stop calling that a "newspaper" site at all. Newspaper vs. TV sites is another "vs." that has to go. They're all websites to the user.)

So many digital trees have died on the topic of videojournalists. And 99% of the debate is this: "That's not professional video work!" "Yes it is!" Truly - this defines the debate for so many people who look at VJs. Instead, take away the professionals vs. the VJs and look at the real question at the center of this change: how to we find the people most qualified to tell a story quickly and accurately, and how do we arm them with the right tools to do so? Instead of a "vs." you find an "and," as in "sometimes it's with a single camera, sometimes it's with a crew, sometimes we need a chopper, and sometimes the video someone sent in from their cellphone gets it done."

The more tools we keep giving journalism, the more journalists keep arguing over the tools. What they don't see is the toolbox.

I am always amazed by how any journalism discussion can be ended with the following pronouncement: "That's not news." Not "I think we should devote our resources to something else" or "Our audience has been favoring a different story." The people who say "That's not news" are the editorial "vs." thinkers who stop websites from gathering the great voices from the blogs in their communities. They refuse to let their own reporters blog. They hear the very word "blog" for that matter and think "That's not news." They believe it is "journalism vs. the mob." And in no other business that I know of could you get away with holding your customers in such contempt.

OK, maybe the airlines.

News isn't about our internecine squabbles over how to present it. We're killing each other over methods. We're backstabbing over choices of presentation style. We blame the audience for too much dislike of the media — but then we show them we can't stand each other, too.

Lest the "vs." bloggers think they're off the hook in this artificial battle, they are not. The extremist mindset of "we will overthrow the shackles of the mainstream media and rise up to cover the world!" is proving to be absurdist nonsense as well. No, it turns out that those who try to run their own citizen journalism (another horrible phrase) sites run into the same trouble that every other site runs into: it's damn hard to make money.

If you think that having the best TV or newspaper website in your market means you win, you will lose. If you want the best citizen journalism site in town, you will lose. Got the best blogs? Losers. It's only when we join together that we win. When we build great regional portals that share revenue and give our audience choices — not just on how to consume but on how to create and distribute — we win.   <Permalink>