Tag Archives: media

Free News and Faster Horses

We are going through a once in a lifetime shift in the media business, an inexorable move away from the economics that sustained ‘Big Media’ for the majority of the 20th century. From Chris Anderson’s Freemium to The New York Times erecting pay walls, the issue of paid content is about as hot as it gets right now. The underlying notion that you give the content to readers and pay for it through advertisers is going away, to be replaced with a plethora of different ideas about how it may (or may not) be possible to monetise content online.

All this in the face of multiple studies that consistently show only a minority of customers say they want to pay for content online:

  • PCUK/Harris Poll (5% of 1,888 UK adults said they would pay if their favourite online newspaper began charging).
  • Gfk (total 18% of UK adults in international survey of 16,800 said they didn’t want to pay for “content”, ie. “news,
  • entertainment and information sites such as Wikipedia”).
  • Continental (total 37% of 500 UK adults said they would pay micropayment, larger fee or monthly/annual sub for online newspaper/mag).
  • Olswang/YouGov (total 19% of 1,013 UK adults and 536 teens said they would make micropayments frequently, a subscription or otherwise pay for news articles online, on mobile or ereaders if there was no free alternative).
  • Oliver and Ohlbaum (“15 to 20% of respondents [survey of 2,600 UK consumers] said they would pay £2 a month for their favourite news website if it was the only one that charged”).
  • Forrester (total 19% of 4,711 US consumers said they would make micropayment, pay a sub or buy a bundled print/web/mobile package for online newspaper).
  • Boston Consulting Group (48% of 5,083 regular internet users in nine countries, including 506 in UK, said they would pay for online news).
  • KPMG (11% of 1,037 people aged 16 and over “currently spend anything on online media” – findings vary for different media types).

Taking all eight studies in to account, the average proportion of consumers who would pay for online content is 21.8%.

While this is interesting, it is pretty well documented that people are poor at understanding what they want. It surprises me therefore that we continue to treat these numbers as if they actually mean something about whether people will pay for content online, or whether there are workable models for paid content.

We need to start looking at these surveys with a healthy dose of scepticism.

While Rupert Murdoch seems to be treated as a sort of mad uncle of the internet currently with his “crazy ideas” to make people pay for content, in reality what he understands is that it is not a case of customers never being prepared to pay, just that they’d rather not. Sky cracked the subscription TV market in the UK with the introduction of Premiership football.

We seem to be treating a mass media meltdown as a certainty, when in fact there are still opportunities for the big players to make their existing models work – with a few tweaks. What if Murdoch included a subscription to The Times with Sky TV packages for an extra £1 per week? Give customers a workable concept and they may just sign up. Ask them to come up with the concept themselves, and they will be lost.

I would suggest checking out Bad Science by Ben Goldacre for further demonstration of how what people say is often miles away from what they actually think, or may think given different options.

A final example, and this is my favourite, that perfectly encapsulates how consumers have difficulty in really getting to grips with what they want, comes from Henry Ford, who created the mass market for automobiles. He was once asked about the importance of the ‘voice of the customer’ in his business. His reply was surprising: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said ‘faster horses’.”

There is always opportunity for a person or organisation with strategic vision to come up with an idea that changes the game. Given a different context, people will have hugely different ideas about what they want or need.

In a world of horses, people don’t want cars. They want faster horses.

In a world of free news, people don’t want to pay.

The customer is not always right. Or better put, the customer does not always have the imagination to be right.

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Wolfram Alpha on Channel 4 news

I was lucky enough to appear in a Channel 4 News package on Wolfram Alpha last Friday 15 May.

It was a great experience, and a fascinating insight into how TV news works in 2009. My 15 seconds of comment was cut down from a 10 minute interview with Ben Cohen, the Channel 4 Technology presenter.

The piece as a whole is very interesting, and it is great that Wolfram Alpha is getting such a huge amount of mainstream attention. For what it’s worth, I think Wolfram Alpha has been rather overhyped, although it is clearly a fascinating project with some big implications for all imformation providers – Google, Wikipedia and anyone else in the content curation game.

Full Wolfram Alpha TV slot and extended interview with Conrad Wolfram

Leaked FT strategy document points to the future of online news

Cutting a print edition, appointing dedicated “news integrators” and a properly articulated online news presence are all part of the Financial Times’s “Newsroom 2009” plan, detailed in a leaked strategy document which has found its way online.

The document sets out a new publishing model designed to unite its cross-media processes, and ensure journalists put online at the front end of the editorial chain in every case:

  • Reporters are expected to add links, company data, write headlines and check for length on their stories, plus build on them once online.
  • Editing desks then check everything, link the content to ready-made newspaper subbing templates, before the subs desk finish the cycle and press the publish button.

Further emphasizing online as the place to break news is the decision to replace the third printed edition in London with a later second edition.

This does appear to be a genuine web-first publishing strategy, and a step forward from the FT’s current model which holds back some stories for its print editions.

It’s worth noting that the FT already does the two things digital refuseniks are always insisting will save newspapers: they charge a subscription and they focus on quality content. But the point is that the future of newspapers requires greater change than that.

It’s pleasing to note that the FT is really getting involved in Newsroom 2009 and beyond.

Growth in Social Media Marketing interest 2009

I have just been researching social media marketing for a client presentation, and wanted to share some figures gleaned from Google Insights for Search which really highlight the growth in interest in social media marketing over the last few years.

Since 2007 searches for “social media marketing” have increased by 900%. Even from early 2008, searches have tripled.

Searches for "social media marketing" 2007 - 2009

These are huge increases, and really show the level of interest there is out there in and around social media marketing strategy.

Looking at the growth drivers from a geographical perspective shows the key early adopters were the US and UK alongside a cluster of other developed economies.

Worldwide searches for "social media marketing" 2007

Significantly, India is the only BRIC country represented back in early 2007.

Moving to 2009, we can see the remainder of BRIC coming on board alongside other core developed economies in Japan and Sweden amongst others.

Worldwide searches for "social media marketing" 2009

There is also a marked increase in interest around social media marketing from India, which demands further investigation.

Digging deeper, the majority of growth is driven by Delhi and India’s richest state Maharashtra, specifically Mumbai.

Searches in India for "social media marketing"

The social media marketing scene in India is clearly heating up, with digital advertising agencies, PR practitioners, and prominent bloggers offering a range of social media services. According to reports there are up to 25-30 serious social media players operating in the Indian market, and working across popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. It would be interesting to hear your views on why it is that India is adopting social media, and social media marketing, so quickly.

My thoughts are that in a world in which the internet is primarily a mobile medium, the services that matter are social ones. Mobile internet access is primarily about social networking, something true both in India and elsewhere. So in India, in effect, the marketing is going where the people are.

Would recommend following Watblog or Blogworks India for more insight on social media marketing in India.

The Future of Media with Martin Sorrell

I caught a very interesting discussion about advertising and the future of media last night on BBC Radio 4’s “The Bottom Line”.

Sir Martin Sorrell shared his views about some key issues in marketing and media from an agency perspective, including the future of advertising, the benefits of scale, and how long the present financial crisis may last.

Also present were the CEOs of Vodafone and Eurostar respectively, both talking about the huge impact of digital marketing and media on their business.

The key take aways were:

1. Agency revenues are increasingly tied to consulting fees, and moving away from commissions.

“What we’re seeing is clients looking for us to harness the talent that we have in more effective and efficient ways. We’re seeing clients asking us to put teams together – for example we have a team Vodafone, a team Unilever, a team Ford or whatever it happens to be – to put together the best talent to deal with the issues in the marketplace.”

2. The rise of online and the decline of traditional media vehicles.

“The average client worldwide is spending 10 or 12% of his or her budget on internet. You and I spend, according to the statistics, 20% of our time online, so the weighting should at least be 20%. By the time we get to 20%, you and I will probably be spending a third of our time online.”

The balance has shifted. So TV, instead of being a third in a normal market or worldwide, probably will go to about 15 to 20%. Newspaper and press will go to 20 to 25% with internet, mobile, video content making up the balance.

3. Customer insight is increasingly becoming a viable revenue stream

“For us, there have been three engines. One is the new markets which are now 27% of our business; second is new media or digital, which is now 25% of our business; and third is consumer insight, which we think is becoming more and more important.”

All parties were fairly bullish about digital, and the structural changes occurring in media, feeling that even as existing revenue models collapse from both an agency and publisher perspective, new ones are forming to take their place.

In many cases this has meant a greater engagement with online, although the impact of new media is being felt as much by website owners and digital agencies as by owners of traditional media vehicles.

Link to listen again and transcript.

The problem with Google (and how to sue Google and win)

Interesting story over on the Huffington Post about Aaron Greenspan, who sued Google when his site, Think Computer, got kicked off Google’s AdSense while owed $721.

After failing to get any answers as to why this had happened, or how to go about claiming the outstanding monies from Google, Think’s CEO filed a small claims lawsuit and won.

Aaron states:

Effectively, Google’s position was that it was above the law, and if not any law in particular, then at least the spirit of the law.

Not a good look. And also a shame. Because despite some of the bad press it has been getting recently, Google is still a genuinely innovative company that is pushing the boundaries of what the internet can do, and what we can do on the internet.

However, until Google buys into the fact that being good (or not being evil) doesn’t mean not being accountable, it will continue to follow the same disappointing path as Microsoft in the late 90s.

Rather than there being any sort of Google killer, will Google just end up killing itself?

Dynamic weather based targeted ads

Weather site Weather Underground has partnered with Dapper to create WeatherMatch, a real-time system that delivers ads that match local weather conditions, paired with relevant items from a catalogue or other electronic inventory database.

Essentially this means the system will create ads for umbrellas targeted to rainy areas, on the fly. And then later in the day, when the sun comes out, it will create and start serving beachball creative.

This is the first dynamically targeted weather advertising solution, and one with interesting potential. Anyone with better ideas for ads than my meagre efforts above?