Content & Channels

Bye bye Fairfax
February 24, 2009, 10:19 am
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In a previous post I wrote about the siege mentality of newspapers and was in turn berated for being negative. Its not because I think they are Luddites or incompetent, its because I believe in the value of professional journalism and the diversity of opinion news services provide. Although we live in the age of the citizen journalist, the vast majority of news that is vital for our society is initially reported by professionals either on their work or personal platforms.

In the last few days Fairfax has announced a $365 million loss, much of it coming from its masthead print publications. In response Fairfax CEO Brian McCarthy said “For now, we have battened down the hatches and we will ride this storm out.” My question is, does McCarthy believe that the downturn in print is wholly attributable to the current economic climate? I think not; to me this sounds like a siege mentality of a company that hasn’t come to grips with the shifting media paradigm. And above and beyond this minor fact, battening down the hatches has never been a smart business strategy in any sector (read more about this here in a post i wrote on the bhlog). But what can be done?

If newspapers want to survive they have to start looking at ways to to increase the value of their inventory- content; and an easy way to do this is through scaling.  One publisher that is  going forward and trying to use the new environment to their advantage is the New York Times. They have released their second API: TimesPeople which allows users to scale the Times’ content via third party applications and channels. I don’t think the Australian market is currently sophisticated enough for this kind of application to gain traction with individual users, but there is definitely potential for a similar API to be disseminated on commercial platforms. It would be nice to see them at least attempting to do something like the Times so we know they are not going to quietly disappear into the night.

I truly hope Fairfax does not disapear, but with a ‘batten down the hatches’ strategy I am not optimistic that they will turn to innovation to transform the storm into an opportunity.


Podcast & download wiki
February 13, 2009, 3:25 am
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There are a lot of great free downloads but they are spread out across the web and not always easy find, for this reason I rarely get much of it. I was thinking about a way to aggregate all of the good stuff out there and built a wiki on the Google sites platform.

It is still definitely in beta mode and the content is only there to demonstrate how it works but check it out here if you have time. I know there are a lot of issues like knowing when a site changes or removes content, but solutions to this and other problems can hopefully be resolved down the line. If you know of any good music downloads and podcasts feel free to leave a link and quick description in the comments section on the site and i’ll add it on. This may be wishful thinking, but…

Social networking and porn
February 12, 2009, 11:32 am
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Social networks have experienced prolific growth over the last few years and it seems they have knocked off porn for market share in the UK according to Hitwise data.  That’s still a lot of time spent looking at porn! This started me thinking about what does the net mean to people as an entity?

From a marketing communications perspective the net is a great tool to engage and build relationships with customers, but what does the net mean to the consumer? It serves such a diverse set of needs, banking, news, business communications, research, commerce, socialisation, stress relief and many more- but apart from the communities that are built around getting freebies and entering competitions, I would speculate that not many people list ‘engaging and building relationships with brands’ as a reason to go online.

Instead of thinking about how can we put something in front of the audience, we should look at how can we help the audience satisfy their needs and wants. Sounds like a pipe dream, but there are some great examples such as Johnson & Johnson’s and the IBM developers community.

February 4, 2009, 11:31 pm
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Within traditional channels the mindset that dictates media use is generally quite easy to understand, almost intuitive. But within interactive media the audience mindset and motivation can vary greatly- thankfully we live in a world of data and metrics that can deliver us actionable insights.

If you want a wordy, academic perspective on the importance of understanding mindset I highly recommend reading The Interactive Advertising Model (Rogers & Thorson, 2001)- download here via the Journal of Interactive Advertising. If you want a to sit back and watch a great example of the importance of understanding mindset watch 1983: The Brink Of Apocalypse– stream here via Google video. I recorded this doco aired on ABC a couple days ago and watched it last night. Basically its about a series of events in 1983 that lead the Soviets to believe that Ronald Reagan was planning a nuclear first strike; announcement of the Star Wars program, beefing up of security around US embassies after the Beirut bombings and NATO war games. The surprising part is that neither the US or NATO had any idea that the USSR even felt threatened- the West (Western Europe, America) did not understand the Soviet mindset. First tenet of Social Judgement Theory: People do not judge a message on its merit, they compare it against what they already know and have experienced.

What developed the two conflicting mindsets is quite easy to understand (in hindsight). Compared with Russia, the West has had it pretty good, WWII was a great victory of strength that is celebrated. To the Soviets, WWII/The Great Patriotic War was an ambush from the west that decimated their country on an unimaginable scale- 24+ million dead in four years. Therefore in 1983 we have two camps with very different mindsets; The West: We can maintain peace through strength (eg. Star Wars, NATO exercises), The Soviets: On guard and interpreting any foreign action as a potential act of aggression. Net result, the world came very close to the point of annihilation.

The convoluted parallel i draw here between interactive media and Cold War relationships has a moral: without understanding your audiences mindset and perception of your brand, an action you may believe to be a positive can be interpreted in a totally different manner. Take the time to analyse the data available, look at pyschographics, site metrics and put yourself in the shoes of your audience and forget your brand views and objectives for a while.

Why are newspapers trying to stranggle RSS?
February 3, 2009, 5:28 am
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I used to love my Vienna reader, I now love my Google reader. I love having all the information I want delivered to me in one convenient place. There is one exception to this- if I want news from the SMH or any other professional news site I have to leave my beloved reader and visit their sites.

Its not that news services don’t syndicate their content- but the tiny little headlines with a one line synopsis written by an intern is hardly best syndication practice. The reason why this annoys me so much is that on numerous occasions I have set up mates with readers and they usually ditch them because they think its slower opening a link via a reader than it is to browse the site. One exception to the rule is the Guardian who produce a full text RSS feed- but after subscribing to it on the advice of Jeff Jarvis I found the presentation not to be conducive to reader format, i couldn’t separate the feeds and just got all their content on mass.

I could guess at the myriad of reasons why traditional news services do not syndicate their content, the most basic reason is advertising revenue- but all they need to do is look at the ReadWrite or Mashable, their feeds are littered with ads and promoting their sponsors.

As news services basic inventory is content you would assume they would jump at any opportunity to distribute it- there is so much scope for them to make money out of RSS, unfortunately their siege mentality online overcomes commonsense. Its no wonder that online revenue is failing to match the decline in offline revenue. RIP.

Cheap thrills online
February 2, 2009, 5:56 am
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Welcome to my first post on content & channels. The focus of this blog is the evolution of media, more specifically, how people engage with and use new communication technology. We are currently experiencing the greatest shift in the media paradigm since the printing press arrived and the amount of growth and change is unprecedented- exciting times!

The impending global financial meltdown is predicted to slow the growth of many industries but it is highly likely it will have the reverse effect on media. Media is cheap entertainment, in past economic downturns we have seen growth in cinema revenue as people look for inexpensive ways to pass time, and it appears the Internet will be the 21st century’s provider of cheap thrills.

Comscores has just released a report into the growth of online gaming over the last year in the US and it shows phenomenal growth.


For marketers the implications of this are numerous as the majority of the growth is being experienced in casual segments on add-supported platforms. Unfortunately it seems that apart from standard banners very few marketers are taking advantage of this growing audience. When I play backgammon on AOL or Yahoo the majority of advertisers have really poor and forgettable ads, Wal-Mart is a noticeable exception, although their targeting is somewhat astray- unless they opened in Australia and I didn’t hear about it.

I do not think advertisers are solely to blame. Whilst working in media I get bombarded with magazine and print reps trying to sell their innovations in traditional media, yet I have never had a rep from Msn or Yahoo even mention their ad supported gaming networks. I believe demand for add-supported gaming networks will experience rapid growth in Australia in the years to come, but unless the publishers lift their game marketers will miss a fantastic opportunity to engage audiences via this channel.