Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Harris Poll presented last week at the World Association of Newspapers Annual Congress provided more bad news for the newspaper industry, but it also wasn't kind to broadcasters. Take a look at these two graphs.

The first one shows current sources for news and information in the U.S. Television news leads the way, followed by online, cable and newspapers and radio.

The second graph is a projection from the study. People were asked for their sources of news and information five years from now. Online is now on top with television shrinking along with newspapers and radio. Cable shows a slight bump.

But perhaps the most significant finding of the study is from questions about why people don't read newspapers anymore. Care to guess what comes out on top?

Time. People say they just don't have time to read the newspaper, and this was the number one response with 58% citing this as a reason. Number two was "easier to get it online," followed by bias, lack of credibility and poor writing. I would argue that this reason is also relevant to broadcasters.

Time is the new currency, folks, and we ignore this at our peril. It's why people fast-forward through commercials, and it's the number one thing that people want to control. Why? Because in today's world, they have to work more than in years past, which reduces leisure time and negatively impacts the quality of their lives.

(A new Magna Global USA report estimates DVRs will be in almost 35% of U.S. television households and 40.3 million homes in just four years. The study also projects Video-on-demand (VOD) will nearly double in four years--getting into 62.8 million homes, about 54.3% of U.S. TV households, and reaching 95.8% of all cable and telco subscribers.)

We can make our content more interesting and compelling (and we should), and we can carefully make it easier to consume, reduce the bias, enhance the writing and strive to be accurate and credible.

But we can't solve the time problem from the world of mass marketing. This is the number one reason we must unbundle and ultimately move into the Media 2.0 space.

And there's no time to waste.    <Permalink>

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G. Gordon LiddyIt may not surprise you, but G. Gordon Liddy isnít a fan of distributing his stuff on the internet.

I met Mr. Liddy at the Talkers Magazine New Media Seminar in New York City last week. His radio program is available online, but only in a very roundabout way (and then, only live) and so I asked him if heíd like to build his online presence and gain a wider audience.

"I donít think I could," he told me, "Iíve got a pretty huge audience right now."

That G. Gordon Liddy is a little out of touch doesnít surprise me. That heís missing such an opportunity should, at the very least, surprise the people who syndicate his show.

When you have popular content   and, make no mistake, Liddy is popular   you should look at every possible way you can make that content available to people. Radio is doing an excellent job (Liddy aside) of becoming on-demand and giving the audience more power.

At the seminar with AR&D client CelleCast, I found out some very interesting items of note about podcasting. That was thanks to Dave Van Dyke, president of Bridge Ratings, who also is working with CelleCast.

About 7 million radio listeners are listening to podcasts every week, with another 21 million listening occasionally. (That doesnít mean "listened once and hated it," mind you.) Thatís a more-than-doubling since last year.

The adoption rate is getting better among the older audience, according to Van Dyke. Podcast listeners are no longer early adopters   theyíre downright "laggards," to use Van Dykeís language. By next year, nearly half the audience will be "Middle Americans," and not just techhies.

Local TV stations can dive right in. News is the third most popular category for podcasting, according to Bridge Ratings. Entertainment and tech are first and second.

So, while G. Gordon Liddy may not see an opportunity, the rest of us should. There are always new platforms to grow our audience. And we can never get so comfortable as to think that our audience is big enough on any one platform that we're not investing in the next.    <Permalink>

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Behavioral targeting is the path for local media companies who want to leapfrog their competitors in the online advertising space.

A new report from eMarketer -- Behavioral Targeting: Advertising Gets Personal -- shows why.

The $1 billion that eMarketer projects for behavioral targeted ad spending in 2008 represents only 11% of the US display, rich media and video market. With the greater attention paid to overall ad targeting, however, and the rising focus on brand messages online, this market will nearly quadruple by the end of 2011.
Behavioral's share of total online ad spending will grow from 2.6% this year to 8.4% in 2011, and its share of display and rich media spending will grow from 8.9% to 25.8%.

eMarketer graphic

But those numbers could actually be low if the local media industry moves aggressively into this area. It begins with the creation of local online verticals and the building of a network of local sites. We tell clients that this should occur in two phases, build your own network first and then work to include other sites in the market. And this, of course, assumes the ability to serve this type of advertising, too.

Behavioral targeting is the Holy Grail of online advertising -- whether it's video or display -- because targeting brings with it higher rates. If you are serious about growing an advertiser-supported business online, you need to be proficient in this area.

Witness the success of iVillage, the top online destination for women. It was purchased by NBC last year for $600 million and is showing significant growth in ad sales, up 46% year-over-year in the first quarter. If it continues at that pace, it'll do $150 million this year, and most of those ads are targeted. As NBC builds its online network, visitors to iVillage will be served relevant ads elsewhere, which is the essence of behavioral targeting.

The creation of online verticals adds a new value to television airtime -- the promotion of one's own online businesses. This is the right use of TV in building one's online future.

At the local level, niche communities are just waiting to be birthed, but there's really only room for one per topic per market.

The time to build them is now, not six months from now, and the time to get into behavioral targeting is now. Don't let yours be like most local media companies who are waiting for somebody else to prove the concept. That is old thinking and it will leave us in continual wonderment about how outside pureplays are stealing local ad revenue right out from under our noses.    <Permalink>

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ScanScout is a video advertising start-up with an ad model that's worth following. CEO Doug McFarland was interviewed for OMMA Magazine, where he outlined their "performance model."

Marketers pay each time their video creative is viewed by consumers. There's a minimum flat fee that works out to 50 cents -- more or less -- per click. We don't get paid until someone clicks on an ad. ScanScout splits these fees with publishers, creating an incremental revenue stream for them. I believe that far too many companies make their business model inordinately complex and too difficult for clients to understand.
McFarland notes in the interview that any advertisement that forces users into watching is contrary to a medium where the user is in charge. This includes, he says, pre-roll and post-roll ads.
Despite the fact that an increasing number of high-demographic consumers spend more time online than watching television, the way that video is tagged and served online today has not caught up to digital technology. And as the technology advances, consumers will be able to find messages they're interested in without forcing things on them that have little relevance.
This is the second company we've written about with a performance model (the first is here), and I think what we're seeing is a growing acceptance of Google's philosophy that if ads are delivered in context, users will click through. Performance models are good for advertisers, because they only pay for action, and at 50-cents a pop (as a starting point), the math begins to look good for media companies as well.

The thing I like most about this is that it shifts the focus of campaign effectiveness directly to the publisher, and that means we can control our own destiny. We'll learn what works and what doesn't, and that will lead to tiered pricing of some sort (think Google's "bidding").

But what I like most is that the concept becomes disruptive in and of itself, which is where we need to be headed anyway.    <Permalink>

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Widgetbox LogoAs we wrote last week, widgets are the bomb, and the Wall St. Journal today says they're the next big thing. Comscore also announced today that they are getting into the widget measurement business. Widgets are a great way to expose your content to new audiences by allowing users to "embed" RSS feeds, videos and other content in the sites of their choice. While those choices may be limited today, they are growing in popularity every day. And as I've tried to point out previously, this is all about getting ahead of the growth curves.

Pomo Blog widgetWidgetbox is a new widget community that "hosts" widgets from thousands of companies but also allows you to make your own and track its use/adoption. The image at the right (reduced in size) is a widget created from my own blog. Widgetbox grabs the logo from the site and allows me to choose if I want to serve only headlines or a little text from the entries. I chose a little text, and I think this is always the right choice. People will grow wearing of having to click through every headline for a glimpse of what follows, and that means a short shelf-life for your widget.

Widgetbox allows you to search their growing library to find widgets that might help in the development of local verticals. While one could create a vertical entirely with widgets, it won't have any value to local users unless the site is built around real local content. If, for example, you were building a real estate vertical that was generating valid local content, you might select one or two widgets to augment that content. Mortgage calculators, payment calculators and even some search widgets are available today, and I expect to see them grow in numbers in the months and years ahead.

But besides using the library at Widgetbox, the ability to create your own widgets without a programmer will help a ton of people, including broadcasters, get into this space. We're not there entirely yet in terms of metrics and such, but that shouldn't stop us from getting into the game.

Widget resources: Widgipedia    <Permalink>

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I've ranted before about how the professional sports franchises are being stupid and greedy when it comes to online coverage by the local media. But it appears stupid and greedy is going to college, too.

Brian Bennett, sports writer for The Courier Journal in Louisville, Kentucky, discovered a new interpretation of broadcast rights last Friday as he tried to report on an NCAA baseball game between the University of Louisville and Oklahoma State. Bennett was covering the game for his paper, and he was liveblogging the game as well. You can read that here.

However, the NCAA decided that Bennett's liveblogging constituted a violation of exclusivity for broadcasting and Internet rights, granted only to official rights holders. Bennett received a memo outlining this interpretation before the game. His editors told him to blog anyway. He posted an item once every 5-10 minutes. Bennett was not posting a strike-by-strike simulation. He was writing occasional notes such as "Cards settle for just the one run, but maybe more importantly, they are showing an aggressiveness and passion that was lacking at times yesterday."

NCAA officials found him in the fifth inning and kicked him out. His last entry: "I have been ejected from U of L's Super Regional game against Oklahoma State by the NCAA for blogging live during the event. I won't be providing any more live updates."

The NCAA is out of its mind.

Even if this case goes against the strict letter of the "description or accounts of the game" clause, it's still shortsighted. The NCAA's decision in this game sets a terrible precedent. Should it decide to enforce this silly decision   and should that decision stand   the ramifications for all sports, college and professional are profound.

This would mean that everyone on Earth would have to stop blogging about sports events while games are in progress. This interpretation means that if you write on your blog "Holy cow! My team's back in the game" while the game's still on, you're in violation of broadcast rights. Ridiculous. One would presume this would extend to BBS posts as well. Yet there is no way anyone could look a blog and think "Wow - that must be stealing a massive share of the television and internet audience."

Blogs, conversation boards and chat rooms are the places people talk about the game. They don't steal audience share. They add to it.

As the Courier-Journal's attorney points out: "Once a player hits a home run, thatís a fact. Itís on TV, everybody sees it. They (the NCAA) canít copyright that fact. The blog wasnít a simulcast or a recreation of the game. It was an analysis."

It's our opinion the NCAA didn't think this through. There's simply no way someone at the top looked at this and said "that's right - nobody's allowed to write so much as 'hooray for my team' until the game's over!" It was only a matter of time before this kind of challenge came to light, and we strongly encourage the NCAA to change its policy and embrace live blogging.    <Permalink>