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I read two good articles recently which got me thinking about the news business.
The first piece is a Techcrunch interview with Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, about his new venture Medium. In the interview, Williams talks about his hopes “to shift our daily reading habits away from consuming incremental news bites” and criticises the media industry’s “incessant need to trump up mundane happenings in order to habituate readers into needing news like a daily drug fix.”
The second article by PaidContent is a summary of a presentation given by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, about the challenges facing the newspaper business. According to the article, Varian points out that newspapers have never really made money from news; that the news business was always cross-subsidized by ads, but that cross-subsidization doesn’t work as well online; and notes that the real challenge for newspapers is to get people to spend more time on their site.
Williams is spot on with the phrase “incremental news bites.” Despite the financial struggles of media outlets, we’re overwhelmed with news. No matter where you turn there’s journalists tweeting headlines the second a press release lands in their inbox; endless updates on news sites, etc. Just to put this into context, Kevin Anderson uses the following statistic – just over a decade ago the Wall Street Journal published 22,000 articles, but in the first six months of 2010 it had already published 21,000 articles. So it’s certainly a case of information overload. Anderson sums up the news business’ challenge in a nutshell – “In the attention economy, journalism competes against everything that competes for people’s time and attention.” Anderson’s full presentation is available below.
So going back to Varian’s point, how do newspapers get people to spend more time on their site? I have two trains of thought on this.
One – Newspapers create a tremendous amount of content per year. Just look at the personal finance section, there’s advice on managing bills, tips on bargains and consumer rights. Yet after an article is published, it’s pretty much forgotten. There isn’t a central resource that a consumer can turn to if they want advice on a specific topic at any given tip similar to a site like MoneySavingExpert.com. It’s madness that newspapers aren’t making better use of the information they’re publishing. Jeff Jarvis expands on this by talking about journalism as a service – “Stories aren’t always the best vehicle for conveying information, for informing the public. Sometimes lists, data bases, photos, maps, wikis, and other new tools can do a better job.”
Two – Give readers a unique experience. One aspect of Lionel Barber’s memo about the changes at the Financial Times that caught my eye was the phrase about shifting further away from reactive news gathering, i.e. as TheMediaBriefing.com put it “rather than reactive everyone-else-has-it news.” The most obvious example of this from a traditional media perspective is the New York Times Snow Fall feature. Closer to home, UsvsTh3m is a great example of how a traditional media organisation, the Trinity Mirror Group, can provide entertaining content to keep visitors engaged. In a Quartz feature about the site, Malcolm Coles of Trinity Mirror says “the main original use case was ‘I’m bored.’ What can I do for ten minutes?” Some of the games they have developed include Iain Duncan Smith’s Realistic Unemployment Simulator and How Much Are You Hated By The Daily Mail, both of which tick the box in terms of Varian’s argument that newspaper sites to get people to spend more time on their site.
I love the Amstel Pause experiment which has seen the beer brand give out a free sample to adults who stand motionless for three minutes in front of the campaign kiosk. The inspiration for the campaign according to the creative agency is that “people as a whole rarely take a break. We decided that we want to help them de-stress a little.” What better way to take a break than having to stand still.
Simple and clever way to build followers on Twitter – give something to everyone who follows you. That’s what @drawing_daily is doing – he drawsa pet monster for everyone who follows him
Brilliant new ad by Mercedes Benz to illustrate the new body control feature on the cars. Really shows how video can be simple, yet simultaneously very powerful if you’ve got your thinking caps on.
Thought this was a great event invite by Stellar magazine for their Bachelor of the year awards
— Slattery Comms (@slatterycomms) September 27, 2013
Hilarious fundraiser by Blackrock Ladies Rugby club – Poo on the Pitch! It’s a raffle, but instead of buying lines you guess where a cow is going to do its business on the rugby pitch for the chance to win 3 grand!
One statistic from Ipsos MRBI‘s latest social networking survey for Ireland stood out for me. 11% of adults now claim to have a Snapchat account. Perhaps more striking is that if you drill into the numbers, it’s obvious that it is highly popular with young people. 43% of Irish adults aged 15-24 claim to have a Snapchat account and half of those say they use it daily. A snapshot of the survey findings can be found below.
For those unfamiliar with Snapchat, it’s a way to send friends a picture of video, which self destructs after a few moments. Its popularity is due to users opting for privacy, rather than letting the world share the moment and potentially prove to be embarrassing in the future when it turns up in search results.
This shift towards privacy is part of a larger global trend. One of the latest Pew Internet research studies has shown that 86% of internet users have taken steps online to remove or mask their digital footprints. 55% of internet users have also taken steps to avoid observation by specific people, organizations, or the government. Commenting on the research, Lee Rainie, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and an author of a report on the survey findings, said: “Users clearly want the option of being anonymous online and increasingly worry that this is not possible.”
Culturally this is going to have a big impact on how we interact online and how social networks develop in the future.
Clever campaign in Brazil by Ceva Polar beer, which is running a campaign to get people to socialise again by blocking cellphone signals with a special bottle cover.
Smart campaign by the London Fire Brigade, dubbed #fiftyshadesofred, to highlight the cost to taxpayers of having to rescue members of the public from embarrassing incidents involving people being stuck or trapped in objects like handcuffs and toilet seats.
Simple campaign by the Los Angeles galaxy to crowdsource the design of one of their jerseys. Amazed that no Premiership club has done this.
Paddy Power showed that they are the masters of publicity once more when they turned Farnborough FC into the greatest team of all time by getting all the players to change their name by deed poll to legends like Messi and Maradona.
We’ve all seen when things go wrong for brands on social media like when HMV workers took over the company’s official Twitter feed to vent their fury over being sacked. It begs the question whether organisations know who has access to their social media accounts and what policies they have in place for when key staff leave.
Here’s some tips in terms of a general approach companies should take, as well as specific advice for some of the main social networks.
For any social media account with a password, establish who exactly has access to it. If you work with an agency, you might not be aware of every staff member with access to the password. Passwords should be changed anytime anyone with access to it leaves your business; the same applies to agency staff. In terms of best practice, you should really change your password on a monthly basis and follow the usual security precautions when selecting a password.
Facebook is slightly different in that brand pages are managed by admins. There are a variety of levels for admins, each with different levels of access to the page, which I have outlined below. You should ensure different admins have the appropriate level of access and take care as to who has Manager privileges as they can delete other admins. In terms of passwords, as their admin ability is tied to their personal account, you should ensure that internal and agency staff follow the usual security precautions when selecting a password.
- Manager – Can manage admin roles, edit the page and add apps, create posts as the page, respond to and delete comments, send messages as the page, create ads and view insights
- Content creator – Can edit the page and add apps, create posts as the page, respond to and delete comments, send messages as the page, create ads and view insights
- Moderator – Can respond to and delete comments, send messages as the page, create ads and view insights
- Advertiser – Can create ads and view insights
- Insights Analyst – Can view insights
You should ensure that any contracted agency informs you when staff with admin access leave the business to ensure that they are removed as admins. Similarly, a process should be in place to remove internal staff as admins where necessary.
One of the key things to note is that a Twitter account is tied to a specific email address, so ensure that your company have access to it.
A challenge that people sometimes encounter with LinkedIn is establishing who has control over their company page. In order to find out, you need to currently work for the company and have an email address with the same url as the company homepage. If this is the case, you’re able to establish who the admin is from the Home tab on the company page and contact them to make you an administrator.
The media have finally realised that they cannot give their content away for free anymore. With the exception of the few organisations who have profitable online businesses or state funded media organisations, every outlet is investigating means of charging for content.
The paywall is the most popular solution, but the trade-off is a fall in online visitors and therefore a knock-on effect to digital advertising rates. In this regard, one of the most popular options is the metered paywall, whereby visitors can view a limited number of articles before having to pay for access. The Sun, who launched their paywall this week, has opted for a slightly different approach by offering subscribers extra content such as video of all Premier League goals, in addition to their regular content in a bid to entice signups.
World News Publishing Focus posted an article looking at other paywall options recently. One of which is a system that allows publishers to ask online visitors to watch an advertiser’s video in exchange for free access to their site. It’s not that innovative in that a number of sites preview articles with advertising, which the visitor has the option of skipping. YouTube has a similar ad scheme.
That said, in terms of a trade off there will always be a cohort who will willingly accept advertising if it means that they can access content for free. The challenge for media outlets will be to offer preview formats, which do not frustrate the visitor, resulting in them visiting other sites. Similarly the challenge for advertisers will be to engage the visitor in a limited timeframe. A potential spinoff of this model would be to offer a freemium version, whereby visitors who want to avoid advertising altogether may pay a subscription to avoid ads.
Another variation the Financial Times appear to be trialling is capturing user data in exchange for access to articles. By answering some survey questions the reader gets access to one story for free as the tweet below outlines.
FT's surveywall: To read one story for free, answer market research questions. Powered by Google. pic.twitter.com/j5qdLh4JwC
— Robert Andrews (@RobertAndrews) July 31, 2013
Personally I think most media outlets will be hard pushed to get consumers to pay for content online, unless it’s specialised like the FT. With publications like the Guardian and the Daily Mail offering free alternatives and taking a global approach, it will be hard for a lot of outlets to compete if access to their sites come at a price. Taking a look at different approach like giving content away in exchange for viewing advertising or capturing marketing data would appear to offer a compromise worth considering. They are not without their own risks, but in an age of austerity I think people are far more likely to barter than hand over cash.
Pat Kenny’s move to NewsTalk is probably going to be the Irish media story of the year. Personally I think it’s a good move for all parties involved.
From Pat Kenny’s perspective, he can cement his legacy as one of Ireland’s best current affairs broadcasters and also earn a healthy final paycheck if reports are to be believed. There may be some small challenges in terms of the commercial pressures at NewsTalk; in this context it will be interesting to contrast the production team available to Kenny at the two media outlets.
From NewsTalk’s perspective, it’s a huge win. There has already been reports of advertising agencies contacting NewsTalk about sponsoring the show when it starts in September. Kenny will no doubt bring an audience with him to the station and it’s a crucial timeslot in terms of maintaining listeners for the rest of the day. NewsTalk also can still look forward to Ivan Yates’ expected return to the station at the end of the year. There will be plenty of eager eyes looking at Kenny’s first set of JNLR figures. Obviously it leaves them with a problem of what to do with Tom Dunne. NewsTalk say he’s staying with them, but unless there is a departure looming that we are unaware of, it’s a serious blow for Dunne’s ambitions.
I also believe it’s good news for RTE also, particularly as the State broadcaster looks to manage its budget deficit. RTE looks responsible in terms of limiting its financial offer to Kenny, who came in for a lot of criticism for his salary. It also fires a shot across the bows for other staff who are in the process of renegotiating their contracts. His departure leaves them with a rescheduling headache, but it’s a good opportunity to reassess their current lineup and bring through young blood in other timeslots after the rejig. If RTE is smart they will put a female presenter in Kenny’s place, given the male dominance at other stations for the same timeslot.
Everyone is bombarded with sales pitches everyday, so it’s much harder to get your point across to your target audience. Daniel Pink has started to post a series of helpful videos about the art of pitching, offering helpful techniques like the question pitch which I’ve posted below. Well worth checking out if you’d like to feel more comfortable building convincing arguments.
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- Irish Media News
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- Stuff That Caught My Attention #25
- Some Clever Use Of Social Media By Corporates
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