To be fair, Omidyar is focused on re-inventing news media generally. While no one really knows what Mr. Bezos has up his sleeve, it may be a more transformative approach if the newspaper itself stays largely the same. Omidyar is preparing to create a national or international news entity, while Bezos is retooling a large metro newspaper with a national brand.
Is anyone reinventing smaller local newspaper franchises?
Certainly, Advance (itself owned by a family of billionaires) is taking a whack at it by reducing print frequency and creating new, digital-only news and marketing operations. The traditionally tight-lipped media company has not revealed much about what informed the strategy or how it has played out so far.
While smaller-market newspapers are healthier than their big-market brethren, their long-term future, too, is in doubt without a fundamental rethinking of the franchise. It would not take the resources of multi-billionaires (perhaps just a cadre of civic-minded local millionaires) to build a successful, for-profit, local media organisation. If I had the luxury of starting a relatively well-funded local media enterprise from scratch, this would be my blueprint.
Note: There are many traditional media organisations that are implementing and executing on strategies and approaches outlined in this blueprint. These organisations, along with innovative digital news startups, provide ideas, approaches, lessons learned, and departure points for our own business and product strategy.
The context for this blueprint is an acknowledgement of a range of market “truths” including:
- The era of mass media is on life support as the new world order of personal media has arrived.
- The news ecosystem has been disrupted by deep vertical players, wide technology-based aggregators, and pervasive connectivity.
- As such, traditional media organisations cannot compete if wedded to their historical organisation, processes, and cost structures.
- As community has splintered into a range of special interests, the only segment that is somewhat defensible is local.
- News is no longer primarily consumed at a single destination. Rather, it is consumed across a continuum, increasingly starting with social media or on a mobile device and progressing through more traditional channels to layer on context, additional information, and related content.
- The media environment is just as (if not more) complex for marketers as it is for publishers.
- Those organisations that provide customers with the best return on time, attention and financial investment win.
25 November 2013 · By Tom Ratkovich
What is “intelligent marketing?”
Most marketers, me included, want to believe they are intelligent. But for the purposes of this article, “intelligence” will have more to do with approach and process than intellectual capacity.
Let me state my biases right upfront: I’m a data geek.
As the founder and president of ASTECH InterMedia and, more recently, the managing partner of Leap Media Solutions, I have long espoused the conviction that the industry’s future will be chiefly determined not by how much we can charge for our paid content initiatives, but by the knowledge we have of our customers — and our customers’ customers. And as part of the ownership group of a Colorado publishing company, that conviction has only grown stronger.
That is not to say that consumer monetisation efforts and new product development are unimportant; indeed they are essential. But those initiatives — and most others — will only succeed if they deliver value to our intended audiences.
And the dominant variable in the value equation is relevance.
Our ability to be relevant is driven by customer knowledge — knowledge that is garnered, enhanced, and applied through intelligent marketing. Such knowledge facilitates the creation, promotion, and delivery of content and offers that are valued by audiences because they are relevant.
So, back to the original question: What is “intelligent marketing?”
The answer is not a simple one. Intelligent marketing is both a journey and a destination. It is a process and an outcome. It is a strategy and an objective.
Let’s start with defining the endgame: the destination, the outcome, the objective.
In the simplest, most idealistic of terms, intelligent marketing is the state in which all communications are customised and targeted based on customer knowledge — and delivered via the channel of customer preference at a time likely to provoke the desired response. That is the euphoric state of absolute relevance.
Obviously, attainment of that state — or anything close to it — requires a level of customer intimacy that can only be achieved through a thoughtful, comprehensive strategy or process that is intended build the company’s knowledge of its customers and those of its advertisers.
This is the process of intelligent marketing.
The process is driven by an ecosystem that includes data, technology, automation, content, expertise, and more. This process integrates and optimises activities designed to, among other things, build and engage audiences, prioritise content development initiatives, nurture new revenue streams through targeted delivery of advertiser communications.
This article is primarily about putting that process in place.
At the recently concluded INMA Audience Summit in Las Vegas, I had the opportunity to share one company’s journey of — and to — intelligent marketing. The company, the Erie Times-News, has made significant inroads in transforming its business over the past 12 months.
But metrics can’t really tell the story of 12 months. Let’s revisit Erie a year from now.
For this article, I’m going to talk about a newspaper whose journey began almost three years ago.
Let me tease you with some results....[more]
28 October 2013 · By Tor Bøe-Lillegraven
I am becoming quite the Berliner.
Last week, I attended the INMA European News Media Conference, where speakers from around the world discussed successful revenue strategies on the Web, in mobile, and in print.
Highlights included a presentation from digital frontrunner Schibsted, which is embarking on a global investment in advanced data analytics, and a visit to Axel Springer, the largest publisher in Europe, which has seen phenomenal digital growth.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to actually see Springer’s digital innovation in action.
Axel Springer hosted the event, and the main prize was a trip to Silicon Valley, where the winners get to visit its “plug & play accelerator.”
The mission was to hack your way into newspaper archives and make the content found relevant in the digital age. The results were amazing. I wrote a piece about the event, which you can find here.
The hackers really opened my eyes to rapid innovation, and got me thinking about the future of legacy publishing companies such as Springer and Schibsted.
This is a most timely topic, as we look back at the last several months, which have seen some major newspaper properties across the globe changing hands.
Three of the transactions are of particular interest:
- In late July, German media powerhouse Axel Springer announced it was selling of a slew of newspapers and magazines to focus on its digital business. The sale included prime properties such as Berliner Morgenpost and Hamburger Abendblatt.
- The Schibsted Media Group, based in Norway, has enjoyed stunning success in transforming from a newspaper company to a digital frontrunner in online classified ads and services. In September, Schibsted offloaded newspaper properties in the volatile Baltic region. Pundits immediately speculated about whether Schibsted plans to exit the newspaper business entirely by 2017.
- And of course, the news that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos was getting his own pet newspaper sparked a media frenzy of speculation about his motives. Bezos bought the struggling Washington Post for a cool US$250 million, noting that printed newspapers on actual paper is a luxury item: “It’s sort of like, you know, people still have horses, but it’s not their primary way of commuting to the office.”
Are we seeing the start of a massive newspaper clearance sale? Or are owners just making place for some new inventory?...[more]
23 September 2013 · By Jim Chisholm
Readers are flocking to our Web sites. But, on average, they don’t hang around.
Our lack of audience engagement is the cause of our woes. The bad news is, it ain’t getting any better … on average.
The good news is that the application of best practice — and a better understanding of the how, why, and what of our audience (mis)behaviour — could and will raise our industry’s fortunes in the future.
It is simple Darwin. Some will survive. Some won’t.
But it’s not simply about adaptability. It is also about understanding.
According to comScore, in the United States, 62% of digital users visit newspaper Web sites, yet newspapers account for only 8% of total visits, 1.7% of time spent, and 1.5% of pages visited.
One has to ask why a medium that is so rich in content enjoys so little traction.
According to the UK national readership survey every month, digital audiences are around 83% of those of printed product. On this basis, the duplication between print and digital is 20% of the print readership and 25% of digital.
But on a daily basis the digital figure falls to 39% of print. And duplication accounts for 5% of print and 12% of digital. Low daily duplication is arguably a good thing, particularly for paywall aficionados. But over a month, it is vital that print and digital operate in tandem.
The consequence of this fact is reflected in our industry’s financial reality. It is no coincidence that globally the KPIs of engagement online — visit frequency times pages viewed times time per page — are 5% of those in print, and digital revenues are typically around 5% of print.
In the UK, the multiplier of digital engagement is around 10% of those in print. And it’s no coincidence that around 10% of advertising revenues are from print. But in the UK, 40% of total advertising revenues are now digital — the highest in Europe.
So why are newspapers deriving so little revenue from digital advertising? Because they are deriving too little of their audience engagement in the digital space. The correlations are indisputable.
In part, this is because of a historical defensiveness. But in reality, today, it is because we are not confronting what the analytics could be telling us. Hence the recruiting drive.
Solve the audience conundrum and we solve everything.
We know, thanks to comScore, that the Netherlands and Turkey enjoy the highest levels of engagement – nearly triple the average. The UK leads in visits per month, Turkey in pages per visit, Spain in time spent per page.
ComScore’s data also shows that among the top 10 publishers in the countries measured, one newspaper in the Netherlands has an engagement score that is 21 times the global average, yet another Dutch publisher has a score of only 20% of the average — a ratio of 100 to one.
In Brazil, one publisher enjoys an engagement index of 13 times that of another performer. In Germany, the ratio between the best of the top 10 and the worst is 200 times.
And these are the top 10!
The issue isn’t the what, but the why.
Undoubtedly a number of publishers are achieving great digital results. The key is unlocking the reasons for their success.
Every conference, report, and academic analysis focuses on the likes of The New York Times, Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Scandinavians. But these are not typical newspapers.
The question is what makes a typical 30,000 copy newspaper successful online?
A number of factors are driving traffic, engagement, and ultimately, levels of inventory:
- Clearly content is a central factor; but as, if not more important, is navigation. The eye navigates the written page in a very different way from the screen.
19 August 2013 · By PJ Pereira
One of the most tired debates in the media world is that of traditional versus digital media.
Regardless of how much we still remember a world without Internet and smartphones, despite how much you have invested in servers or printers, real life has already left all of that behind.
Technology is so omnipresent that people on the streets don’t think about platforms anymore. They just want to know, watch, play, read — and they expect to do it in multiple ways. All at the same time.
From my optimistic standpoint, that gives news brands one of the best opportunities they’ve ever had to either solidify their reputation or establish a new one.
One way or another, people are still going to want to know what’s going on. And if consumers are redefining their habits, so are marketers. Money flies in flocks.
This moment of reinvention requires you to ignore tradition, of course. But it also requires bandwagons and your own infrastructure.
If you want to succeed, you need to see the world with fresh eyes. You need to ask yourself, if you were inventing the very first news company in history, today, how would you do it?
I have a few tips:
1. Think tweets to books.
There is nothing more anachronistic than defining a news brand based on the way people consume it. Still, many do it: “We are a TV show,” “a newspaper,” “a blog.”
I would think range instead. There is a long continuum of possibilities way beyond what used to be considered news — some faster and more timeless than you. From the instantaneous but superficial tweet, to the depth and thoughtfulness of books, and everything in between.
Newspapers, for example, may play the role of qualifying the quick stories posted online the previous day. Blogs can be a way to reflect on and dig deeper into the stories you tweeted about. Weekly magazines may be a way to show what really mattered.
And why not look at years or even decades with rigor and publish e-books about the main themes within your field? (Let’s see what Jeff Bezos will do with the modern history of America’s backstage in his hands.)
When you look at things in a range and unrestrained by a specific timeframe and platform, you start to see different formats working together, not against each other....[more]
29 July 2013 · By Shafqat Islam
Innovations in digital marketing and advertising have changed the way publishers do business.
From syndication to branded content, the US$44 billion content marketing industry is diversifying revenue streams for publishers.
Publishers reap the benefits of this increasingly popular brand investment:
- Digital sponsorship ad spending jumped 37% from 2011 to 2012.
- Nearly three-quarters, or 73%, of U.S. publishers currently offer native advertising to clients.
- Native ad spending on social platforms is set to hit US$2.36 billion this year and is expected to reach US$4.57 billion by 2017.
This growth trajectory is not unique to the U.S.; 49% of UK content marketers plan on increasing their content marketing spend this year. And Australian marketers have embraced it as well, with 98% of B2B and 89% of B2C marketers investing in content marketing today.
Today, publishers are creating more opportunities for brands to jump on the content marketing bandwagon. Consider these statistics:
- 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads.
- 20% of all Web traffic comes from shared content.
- 67% more leads are achieved by brands maintaining an active blog.
The move to content marketing is not a fluke.
While each instance of content marketing is unique, I believe there are proven tactics publishers can use to impact their bottom lines. Let’s take a look at how.
Syndicate your content
Publisher-to-publisher syndication is not new. Syndicating content to brands, however, opens up whole new (and often bigger) budgets.
Brands have massive digital audiences, and they need content for blogs, social media streams, websites, mobile apps, etc. To sleep easy at night, they want trusted, reliable content from premium publishers.
Syndicating — simply the repurposing of — existing content to brands requires no additional work on the part of the publisher. It increases found revenue straight to the publisher’s bottom line....[more]
03 June 2013 · By Kylie Davis
Mobile is the next great hope for news companies. But the industry will need to be flexible, rigorous in its audience engagement, and offer more creative advertising executions if it is to monetise the platform enough to support quality journalism.
At the recent INMA World Congress in New York, media executives heard they should change their company cultures and their own thinking — and upgrade the quality of their content — or mobile would not save them.
“Our research shows more people will consume the typical news publisher’s digital content via mobile by 2015 with a dramatic uptick through to the end of the decade, as three billion new people connect to the Internet via smart phone devices,” said INMA Chief Executive Officer Earl Wilkinson. “But for digital news to connect to digital consumers, content must be of higher relevance than is being produced today.”
Mark Challinor, director of mobile at the Telegraph Media Group in London and one of the industry’s experts on the brave new world of mobile media, said the real opportunity is not that mobile is “the next big thing,” but that it pulls all the disparate elements of publishing together, amplifying demand even further.
Speaker after speaker, including Huffington Post President and Chief Executive Officer Arianna Huffington, the principal analyst at Forrester Research James McQuivey, and Chief Product Officer at Forbes Media Lewis D’Vorkin, instructed executives that if mobile is going to save journalism, they must stop behaving like mountains and embrace the cloud.
“Stop seeing yourself as a publishing platform, and be a curated network,” D’Vorkin told us.
The strength in mobile is not that it gives consumers a new news site to go to, but that they can remain connected to things they care about and that interest them wherever they are.
“Our future survival and the ultimate prosperity of the industry rests on how we embrace mobile platforms as an integral part of the mix we offer,” Challinor said. “In this new age of information overload, print still has the power to cut through the clutter. But the new world of media is revolutionising the old by offering a new level of transparency, responsiveness, and efficiency. Together, it is all powerful.”
Challinor spoke with the flush of success of a publisher who believes he has cracked the code....[more]
13 May 2013 · By Jim Fleigner
“How should we allocate our acquisition budget among our channels?”
On the surface, it appears to be a reasonable question from circulation executives.
Many newspapers manage their acquisition budgets and strategies at the channel level because it is intuitive, simple, and transparent.
Perhaps as importantly, managing by channels is probably the way acquisition activity has always been managed, so the familiarity and comfort level in continuing to manage by channel is high. After all, this is why newspapers hire channel managers.
And yet, the question cannot be answered nearly as simply as it was asked, namely because acquisition dollars should not be allocated exclusively among channels.
Why? Because such an approach undercuts one of the key principles of strategy development and is inconsistent with true optimisation of subscriber acquisition performance.
The Matching Principle
A fundamental tenet of strategy development is the Matching Principle: Allocate investment resources in those segments that are most attractive in terms of their potential to generate a sufficient rate of return, and avoid segments that are least likely to generate a sufficient rate of return.
After all, most companies do a great job of employing the Matching Principle when compensating employees, as they pay the most compensation to their highest earners to prevent them from leaving for greener pastures.
Companies should employ the same principle when it comes to all investment decisions – invest the most where the prospective returns are highest.
Rate of return is driven by three factors:
- Acquisition investment.
- Net margin per week.
- Weeks retained.
Thus, those segments that offer the best combination of lowest cost per start, highest weekly net margin, and most weeks retained are the segments with the highest rate of return. And these are the segments that warrant the greatest emphasis and investment per the Matching Principle.
One way to demonstrate this visually is through a Net Margin & Retention Scatter (top right of this article), where each quadrant represents a different degree of attractiveness.
The green quadrant is the most favourable (thus warranting the most investment); the red quadrant is the least favourable (thus warranting the least investment); while the yellow and orange quadrants possess a mixture of favourable and unfavourable characteristics, which make a determination of optimal investment more nuanced and conditional.
For decades, it was simple for a newspaper to apply the Matching Principle to its acquisition strategy. Because all starts were highly likely to generate a favourable net margin and retention (i.e., they were homogeneous in this regard), they would all appear in the green quadrant, regardless of how the starts were segmented.
This meant that the optimal acquisition strategy reduced to “sell as many starts as possible in as many channels as possible, because 100% of them are profitable regardless of their characteristics (e.g., delivery frequency, payment method, term, ZIP code, etc.).”
As a result, the need for newspapers to track performance simply boiled down to this: “How many starts did we sell?”
It was understood that more starts equaled more incremental net margin and higher rates of return. No prioritisations needed to be made. It was the “shotgun” approach — aim at the broadest target and blast away with the same strategy.
And it worked when all starts were effectively homogeneous.
Today, worldwide, the market could not be more different....[more]
09 April 2013 · By Gary Meo
There has been much debate about print versus digital.
Many argue that print is the past and digital is the future. Others argue that loyal print readers, who are willing to pay higher subscription prices, will be around for a long time.
This debate is reminiscent of the fable about the traveler and the ass.
A traveler in need of transportation hired an ass to convey him on his trip. The day being very hot, the traveler stopped to rest and sought shelter from the heat in the shadow of the ass. The shadow provided protection for only one, and as the traveler and the owner of the ass both claimed it, a dispute arose between them as to who had the right to the shadow.
The owner maintained that he had rented the ass only, and not his shadow. The traveler asserted that he had, with the hire of the ass, also hired his shadow. The quarrel proceeded from words to blows, and while the men fought, the ass galloped off.
The moral of the story is that when quarreling about the shadow, we often lose the substance.
The debate is not between digital and print. That’s quarreling about the shadow.
We must embrace the truth about today’s media audiences: they want what they want, when they want it, however they want it. That means that our content must be available on the platforms our readers want – in print, online, and on mobile devices.
The answer to the question of print or digital is a resounding “yes.”
Passionate print readers
Scarborough conducts syndicated consumer behaviour surveys in 77 U.S. markets – and the total U.S. – and is the primary source for newspaper audience information. Much of the information included here is from Scarborough’s most recent surveys.
For many newspapers, print still provides the largest portion of overall audience.
Each week, 61% adults in the United States age 18+ read a newspaper in print. That’s more than 144 million adults.
While the print audience has declined considerably over the past five years, it is still a very large audience: larger, in fact, than the U.S. adult television audiences of the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Academy Awards, our research shows....[more]
11 March 2013 · By Ed Greenspon
In the summer of 2010, John Cruickshank, president of the Star Media Group and publisher of the Toronto Star, invited me to join his operation.
That, in itself, wasn’t so strange. I had been in the newspaper business 30 years, moving from a tiny daily in a town of 15,000 to editor-in-chief of The Globe and Mail, Canada’s top national newspaper. And I had worked for John almost 20 years earlier, as one of his two deputies when he was The Globe’s managing editor.
What made the invitation unusual was that John was looking for someone to develop new business opportunities to help fill the opening revenue gap from print advertising’s decline.
As all editors operating in the past dozen years understand, the classic role of producing and projecting great journalism jostles for attention with the macro challenges of new product development, cultural change, and process efficiencies. Editors are well acquainted with the front lines of the industry’s battles.
Still, putting a journalist in charge of finding new ways to make money could be construed as, let’s say, a brave move — though apparently not to John. He reasoned that we would continue, in one form or the other, to be in the content business. So a thorough understanding of content was a prerequisite for business success.
Today, our Strategic Investments and New Ventures unit is running six businesses, five of them launched in the last year-and-a-half.
Together, they employ about three dozen journalists, plus sales and marketing staff, and behave like start-ups. They can draw on corporate support in areas like research, promotions, finance, and human resources, but are otherwise mean and lean – and very focused.
These businesses operate outside the core of the mothership, but adjacent to it. Our job is not to replicate what other units are doing; they are obviously better positioned to build off their bases. Other than at a strategic planning level, we have no involvement, for instance, in thestar.com’s coming metered digital system.
Instead, our mandate is to experiment with net new businesses that would exist only because of our unit’s presence. We are influencers and implementers of strategy — seeking out new opportunities, examining those that come in the door, and creating opportunity from within.
What we’re doing and how we’re doing it speaks to the innovative character that has made the 120-year-old Toronto Star the largest newspaper in Canada for generations, bigger than even the two national newspapers.
The Strategic Investments and New Ventures team is very small. There’s me; Dean Ostilly, who spent six years in management consulting and has an MBA from Kellogg School of Management; and Dev Saxena, a business graduate who recently joined us from a venture capital firm. One journalist, two business specialists — a fair fight.
Our first major initiative emerged from a conversation with the advertising department: We asked it to identify where the company should be making money but was not.
Beauty and fashion stood near the top of their list. The Star had a small and declining share of that market. The reasons, according to the advertising executives, were that we lacked environments that were either predictable or beautiful enough. We also lacked deep relationships with fashion and beauty marketers.
After some investigation, we identified a small, digital beauty magazine called The Kit. It was less than a year old and had been launched by several veterans of the women’s magazine industry forcibly liberated during the recession.
Ultimately, we purchased The Kit and took aboard its key people, seeking to bring its expertise and entrepreneurialism together with The Star’s reach and reputation. We invested in a new Web site and reverse-engineered The Kit into print on glossy stock that had to be outsourced.
We entered into an agreement with Postmedia, an historic rival, to distribute The Kit in major Canadian cities beyond Toronto and have exploited a plethora of partnerships to enlarge its digital footprint.
In its first year, The Kit made money. A high proportion of revenues come from digital, but the majority come from print, where we can draw upon deep pools of knowledge for high-end, custom content work.
The Kit has all the go-go culture of a start-up, coupled with the propellant power of The Star. Ultimately, we see the future of The Kit lying with the original digital magazine, in which we continue to invest.
To suggest our unit has followed a direct path over its first couple of years would be bending the truth. After some trial and error, we have organised ourselves around three strategic insights:
- Consumers increasingly engage news and information in verticals.
- Marketers are seeking services beyond just advertising.
- Our content and content capabilities need to engage consumers on whatever platforms they frequent.
These buckets slosh over one another to some extent, as is the case with The Kit. Still, these principles anchor our choices and help keep us on strategy.
Insight #1: Information has become verticalised.
We used to talk only about the need to aggregate audiences. Now we speak increasingly about segmenting audiences — and how they segment themselves.
Consumers increasingly access information in deep vertical shafts rather than the broad but shallow bundles of yesteryear. This behaviour is amplified by digital.
Recognising the debundling of the print package (or the broadcast news one for that matter) is nothing new. But what opportunities does the changed behaviour of news and information consumers generate?...[more]