Tag Archives: Newspapers

iPad’s Impact on Newspapers: Too Little, Too Late?

Wired on the iPad, via All Things D

Next month, Apple’s iPad comes out (and I will buy one). But what will be the impact of iPads and tablets from other companies on traditional media? Many are considering it to be the new magazine form factor. In theory, the iPad would make online ads compelling, and better enable digital subscriptions and a la carte buys. Wired Magazine, for one, has been showing off a good- looking prototype. I highly recommend this video from the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D site.

Newspapers will look great, too. Look at The New York Times iPad demo. My guess, however, is that the iPad’s impact on newspapers’ bottom line will be marginal for several years – and then, it may be too late. While the iPad should have excellent introductory sales, most sales will likely be low end units without communications, so their usage will be mostly home and coffee shop based. Low end units, limited to WiFi Internet, are $499. Wireless Communications adds $130, plus $30 a month. Wifi-only won’t provide a big lift to newspapers, because it doesn’t get the product onto commuter trains.

Newspaper companies, of course, are better positioned to participate in the mobile revolution than a year ago by virtue of their vertical properties, such as Classified Ventures’ Cars.com and Apartments.com. Both are “on the go” media sites that allow users to get information on a 24/7 basis, but more importantly, while they are out and about shopping for their category.

Other newspaper niche sites, like The Envelope from The Los Angeles Times , bring newspapers into an entirely new domain with the addition of online App games based on news and entertainment. These might ultimately play a role in the transformation of newspapers.

For now, I’m not counting on significant advertising or circulation revenue to develop for newspapers directly because of their investments in tablet devices, or mobile generally.

Boston.com: No More Keyword Sales, But Search is Leverageable

Newspapers haven’t done too well with local search, despite efforts to leverage their potential mix of human editors and algorithms. But Boston.com made more of an effort than many others, launching a local search effort in 2006. As chronicled by Nieman Lab, that effort started out on a promising note but quickly plateaued.

Given the lackluster results, Boston.com might have dumped its search efforts altogether. But the project’s sunk costs – over six figures – were too great to ignore. This was especially the case given the newspaper’s money crisis.

Instead, the site lowered expectations. As we noted in our coverage at that time, Boston.com let Google handle many of the search site elements, and started thinking of its end of the equation as as a “platform” rather than a “product.” Basically, it decided to get out of the business of selling keywords.

VP of Products and Technology Bob Kempf told Nieman that Boston.com essentially decided to use the search platform to “find, assemble, and publish targeted content” around the core information. That would deepen Boston.com’s relationship with users, even if they also used other search engines for research and discovery.

The effort has also better positioned the site for hyperlocal “Your Town” sites in the Boston-area. Targeted articles get pushed out to neighborhood sections. Ultimately, Kempf told Nieman that he believes the search platform will offset the initial investment.

Will any newspapers ultimately breakthrough with local search sales? This is the question that will be addressed on the podium when The LA Times’ Andy Vogel shares the stage with WebVisible’s Kirsten Mangers and Yodle’s Court Cunningham at ILM:09 next week.

Cablevision’s Newsday Goes Behind the Firewall

Cablevision has made good on its threat to put the online version of Newsday behind a firewall, accessible only by print subscribers or online only users willing to pay $5 per week. Classifieds will remain free.

Newsday, purchased last May from Tribune Corp. for $650 million, is the nation’s 19th largest newspaper with a daily circulation of 368,194. That’s down from 488,000 a few years ago

The move to put it all behind a firewall is primarily designed to reinforce the value of a print subscription, while bringing in some new dollars – not many — from those who exclusively use the online site. It goes against the conventional wisdom that has prevailed in the Internet era that online readers extend the user base and the newspaper brand, making both more appealing to advertisers.

Newspapers, of course, have an interesting dilemma. Surveys have shown that many users simply don’t want the hassle of managing the account of a daily paper that needs to be recycled or thrown out, especially if they don’t have time to read it on a daily basis. The online fee – also being explored by The New York Times – would compensate the newspaper for its content. The NY Times, however, is apparently looking at a $5 monthly fee, not $20. And it is a primary source for news.

Limiting users is also appealing to publishers as it cuts bandwidth costs, and focuses advertising on local consumers. Providing content to European and Asian audiences is a constant topic of conversation among U.S. newspaper publishers, especially as they add more and more multimedia features with higher bandwidth costs.

At the same time, Cablevision risks losing even more subscribers and further reducing Newsday’s storied brand, which must compete against television news outlets (including Cablevision’s own News12), Internet news sources, and other metro titles (i.e. The New York Times, New York Post, The Daily News). Brand value is especially important in retaining major accounts, such as retailers and auto dealers.

Cablevision’s assessment, obviously, is that it can shore up the Newsday brand, especially using promotions on cable, and its pioneering use of dedicated, on demand channels for autos and real estate – an area that the cable company has been actively pushing.

My assessment is that the MSO is not necessarily de-emphasizing online ads, as some newspapers have. It just hopes to reach them in different ways, with a more focused audience. Executing on that vision (and minimizing the collateral damage) is the daunting task that lies ahead for Tad Smith, the information industry heavyweight from Reed Business Information who has just been appointed Cablevision’s new head of local media group.

Cablevision has already written off much of the $650 million that it spent to buy Newsday. Financially, the acquisition was a very poor decision. The question is whether it can get some of it back and rebuild the Newsday franchise for a new generation.

Trend: Personalization Platforms Pursuing Newspaper Deals

Personalized news platforms that can guess what users want to see are being developed by several competing teams. One expectation is that newspapers and other local media will want to use them to power next generation services.

Last week, we wrote about DailyMe. Other contenders include Pegasus News’ The Daily You, Kosmix’s MeeHive, and now, Serendeputy, a site launched by former Boston.com local search and classifieds director Jason Butler.

Serendeputy, which Butler warns is still in “early beta,” is conceived as an adaptive news site that tracks the news habits of its users and then chooses new articles based on their habits. It also has a tentative local angle with unique URLs associated with Boston area communities. such as Hollistan.

Butler had the brain child while he was still with The Globe. “How could I create the best possible Boston.com for a particular person,” he asked himself. “How could I make it so that I’d get the news that mattered most to me first, regardless of what everyone else was looking at?”

In developing the company, which is currently self-funded, Butler says he is especially focused on “thinking two-three years ahead.” Many sites require users to fill out lots of forms. RSS also doesn’t cut it – it remains mostly for the tech-oriented, and requires constant management to be readable. Entire groups (i.e. women) aren’t being effectively targeted. “I am trying to build a more adaptive profile that is as passive as possible,” he says.

Neil Budde: Personalization, Local and Daily Me

The overlap (and confusion) between “local” and “personalization” has always been a big one. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Online media pioneer Neil Budde is the founding publisher of WSJ.com and former head at Yahoo News. Budde has made something of a study of the cross-roads of local and personalization in his new role as President and Chief Product Officer at Daily Me, a 14 person company based in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, with much of the tech staff in Caracas, Venezuela.

Daily Me, which attracts 100,000 unique visitors per month, is as much a platform for media companies enabling their users to personalize news searches as it is a destination site, says Budde. Personalization has always had “lots of implications in terms of local,” and is a given for subjects such as sports, business and politics.

“But if you drill down, lots of personalization isn’t really broad-based,” says Budde. “It is for highly specific things, such as teams, players, certain people and certain organizations. It may be for geographic community or butterfly collecting,” he says.

Ultimately, the service is less about the category than about the user. “We try to match it up,” says Budde. He notes that the company has developed several methods for understanding content “very deeply” in the database, and for tracking users as they go through the news site – something that has facilitated serious discussions with various ad agencies.

“Everything that everyone reads is tracked,” says Budde. “It provides a detailed picture of what users read and are interested in, and also helps improve the news experience and target advertising.”

Indeed, the tracking goes beyond behavioral targeting because it is always changing. It is not what users think they should be reading, or what categories they clicked off, but is much closer to what they actually read.

One thing that Daily Me doesn’t do is list local categories, such as city or neighborhood names. Part of the reason is it gets a lot of vertical content from local newspapers, says Budde. It’s been a successful model that brings the newspapers bigger and bigger checks. “They’re happy to license to us as long as we’re not coming directly back into the market,” he says.

Another reason not to spell out local is that newspapers are good candidates to license the platform and create their own geographic community. “There is a lot of interest in what we’re doing,” says Budde.

Looking forward, social media is bound to play a significant role, says Budde. The company already has a Facebook fan page up, and also “a few dozen” Twitter feeds. “From a news standpoint, Twitter is more important,” he says. Eventually, categories might be syndicated out so that wine and food bloggers, for instance, could post a Daily Me rundown of wine and food stories.

The personalization tech could also be applied to classifieds. The Daily Me engine could analyze content and suggest better job listings. For a recipe site, it could suggest more specific categories, such as made from scratch ingredients or use cream of mushroom soup.

“The challenge for publishers is to not go out and buy a press and that’s it. This is a constant evolution in software development,”
says Budde. “It constantly evolves with how people behave.”

Hearst Newspapers Launches PaperG’s Self Serve ‘Flyerboard’

Newspapers want to attract smaller local advertisers. To get there, they’ll need self serve solutions. The accounts aren’t valuable enough to assign feet on the street. It would be helpful if they were simple and intuitive as well.

That’s what AdReady, Wave2 Media and 2AdPro have done with solutions for various newspapers that enable prefabricated templates, in AdReady’s case, and fast production of ads, a specialty of Wave2 and 2AdPro.

New Haven-based PaperG is going in a different direction with its Flyerboard product, which lets advertisers instantly create and stick ads up with virtual “thumb tacks,” bulletin board-style. The ads can be hyperlocalized for different zones, and can be themed for certain categories (i.e. babysitting services).

To post, users submit a graphic file. The file is then converted into an interactive ad with various kinds of online functionality, allowing viewers to share it via email and social networks, and locate businesses with online map services

For the past several months, The Flyerboard has been tested by a number of papers, including The Houston Chronicle, The Boston Globe’s Your Town hyperlocal site. It has also launched on other Websites, including Parenthood.com, mtvU’s College Media Network and 50 other sites. Today, PaperG announced a formal relationship with Hearst Newspapers for 15 of its newspapers, including The Houston Chronicle, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Albany Times Union and The San Antonio Express News.

CEO and Founder Victor Wong says Hearst signed after a multi-month test with The Houston Chronicle, which “achieved nearly six figures revenue in the first month” and “is still quickly growing. Sales representatives tell us it is a much easier product to sell than previous offerings, and they can get advertisers who spend between $100 and $10,000,” says Wong.

Top verticals that have been monetized by Chron.com include communities, entertainment, life, sports, moms, real estate, autos and jobs. “We’ve seen a wide spectrum of local advertisers including restaurants, retail stores, service providers, non-profits, real estate agents and auto dealers, “says Wong. “You can see that we have strength in traditional classifieds segments as well as new classified segments like event listings and local promotion listings.”

Wong cautions, however, that the Flyerboard “isn’t a substitute for existing advertising. As reported by the sales people, most revenue is new revenue from new advertisers. We are primarily growing new revenue streams with our partners.”

The service also doesn’t have the flexibility to be totally customized. For instance, advertisers are locked into appearing in a certain part of the page, with good but limited functionality. They can’t post IAB standard ads, for instance. But for those advertisers that can live with that, PaperG certainly represents a new, less expensive option.

Village Voice Media: Jumpstarting Online Efforts

The conventional wisdom is that alternative weeklies have their best days behind them. But that’s clearly not the position of Village Voice Media, which owns 15 titles reaching about ¼ of the 7.6 million alt weekly readers in the U.S.

President and COO Scott Tobias notes that VVM has aggressively moved online in the last 2.5 years. Online currently represents 20 percent of the company’s revenue. Title revenue is complemented by revenue from national features (BackPage,com, which is claimed as the largest classifieds site after CraigsList, and Likeme, a ratings and review site) and networks (Voice Local Network and Ruxton Media, which is on the slate to be rebranded).

At the local level, the company’s especially zeroed in on breaking out VVM’s vertical strengths, particularly in restaurants, music, arts and calendars. “We are the number one in music page views in all of our markets,” says Tobias. “We’re number 1 or 2 in food.”

Unlike daily newspapers, “we do just a few things and we do them very well,” he says. Everything is tailored around the core 18-34 year old demographic. Tobias adds that vertical strengths should pick up as new widgets are applied that direct traffic directly to the individual verticals.

Tobias also likes the company’s chances in transitioning its traditional local advertisers to the Web. More than 12,000 advertisers have participated with the local titles over time, and local online revenue has been up 90 percent in the past three years. Local, in fact, represents 85 percent of the company’s revenue, lead by such categories as small mom and pop boutiques, clothing, bicycles, furniture, cellular and general retail. “We’ll help (SMBs) build traffic,” he says.