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Media Entrepreneur

An old equation for a new time: Content + network = relevance

13 April 2014 · by Pit Gottschalk

Dressed like a college girl, shy eyes and black hair, Kara Swisher is an inconspicuous person you might not notice at a Saturday night party. But listen to her for just a moment, and you likely won’t stop talking to her for the rest of the night.

Swisher worked at The Wall Street Journal, where she wrote the popular blog, “All Things Digital,” before leaving to start her own media outlet, recode.net, which reports on things happening digitally, especially in Silicon Valley.

She will tell you: “In a media company, there are a lot of people in the way,” preventing others from working. Her recommendation? “Don’t be lazy!”

Swisher and her small team are doing now what once was the task of traditional media companies in the past: becoming relevant by content.

...[more]




Successfully rethink your media business in 8 steps

17 March 2014 · by Pit Gottschalk

Rethink your business and be innovative.

It’s easy to say, but how can media managers be innovative when they’re drilled to match the key performance indicator (KPI) goals over years? They have to learn as kids do – by trial and error.

Or they can use the guide developed by the smart guys of Stanford University and the Hasso Plattner Institute, which includes eight steps for rethinking your media business. It’s called “The new city experience: An Introduction to Design Thinking.”

Step 1: Create a quick interview guide – with open-ended questions. First, chat with someone and ask him anything about the latest experience in a new city. It’s just to build a bridge to him. “How are you today?” Or: “Tell me where are you from?” 

Next, seek stories. “Tell me about your time in…” Or: “What would I find surprising about how you…” Then, go deeper. Talk about feelings. “Why do you say that?” Or: “How did you feel at that moment, when…”

You see: It’s far away from product development. Please wait and take notes. Yes, you need time.

...[more]




5 steps to establishing your media business in the digital age

02 December 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

In the old economy, there were three leadership rules to set up your own business in collaboration with your staff:

  1. Define your vision in less than five words to let the world know what your company’s business is all about.

  2. Tell your people the exact mission of your business so that any member of your team can share your value to capture value.

  3. Set the business goals you and your staff members are committed to.

These three steps, taught to us as part of Peter Drucker’s basics of modern leadership, worked quite well.

But nowadays it’s different.

In the digital world, the way to success demands five steps you likely don’t like. But, as an entrepreneur of a small business, you capture value by making presents – free gifts to a lot of potential customers.

No, we aren’t talking about traditional promotion; you have to give what is essential to your business.

Step 1: Write a white paper. Tell people what you think about the challenges companies face on the market. Explain the opportunities and threats, as you would do in an old-fashioned Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis.

And don’t be shy. Defend your point of view and your approach to fix problems. That’s the way to show how people could benefit from you personally. It’s an idea you share.

Yes, you get feedback. Yes, you earn critics. But it’s the cheapest way to rethink your business, and you can adjust your approach quite easily.

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Finding common ground with digital nerds in Silicon Valley

04 November 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

There are two provocative questions media executives should be asking themselves nowadays: What would your company look like if you’d founded it today? Would it be the same as it is right now?

Certainly not. But how can you get closer to that perfect version you have in mind? Of course, you can create a vision to see how different it is from reality.

Axel Springer in Germany did this in March 2013, when the entire top management was sent to Silicon Valley for a couple of days to think about the gap between traditional media companies and the way things are done in Palo Alto. Can the old newspaper world and the world of digital nerds find common ground?

At first, this thought sounds ridiculous. Both cultures are too different, aren’t they?

But then Jeff Bezos of Amazon bought The Washington Post, and now the whole industry is wondering: What will happen to the famous Washington Post? Who can benefit from this clash of cultures?

Watch this little video to get an idea what this kind of connection with Silicon Valley really means… 

Of course, it’s fun. But this comedy has a serious message: Don’t ignore what is going on in the digital world. Embrace the change; be part of it. Get to know and understand as much as you can; see the opportunities offered.

...[more]




Your content marketing business model should start with smart blogs

09 October 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

Content marketing is a modern phrase for what we called “advertorial” or “sponsored by” in the analogue past. The business model is very simple: Publishers create a context in which advertisers love to present their products, and advertisers then enrich the context with their own content.

Both sides have to work hand-in-hand – a reality that journalists resent because they see their independence put at risk.

In the past, journalists’ point of view was clearly defined: They reported and wrote stories, safely to one side of a line that advertisers were not allowed to cross. Publishers, meanwhile, protected journalists by safeguarding that line.

Nowadays, in the online world, this line is hard to define. Because of analytical tools such as Google Adwords or Searchmetrics, online journalists known well what content users are looking for and they write stories optimised for search engines. This workflow helps earn money: Google Adsense (CPC) or even affiliate networks (CPO or CPL) deliver the appropriate advertisements ready to click.

Of course, this knowledge impacts which stories a freelancer chooses to write; his financial situation depends on that. And these bloggers increasingly take ad money out of the market.

Some publishing companies, such as Forbes, mimicked emerging online companies, such as The Huffington Post, and built businesses around the ecosystem of the blogosphere, to capture the value of content bloggers create. Well-organised bloggers can shift the business model of content marketing to a very high level.

As I noted in a previous post, (“Can we afford quality investigative journalism in the digital age?”), no one in a newsroom is capable of producing the amount of content needed to satisfy all niches. Let 1,000 bloggers write about 300 stories a day – and you have about 100,000 pieces of content at the end of the year. Even optimised newsrooms cannot do this.

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Does your editorial team support your digitisation strategy?

29 August 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

Launching a new outlet for content is always the same game.

We see big ads promoting an app in the iTunes store.

We see press releases about the publisher embracing the digitisation of his editorial content with online integration in the newsroom.

And, at INMA conferences, we see case studies of marketing guys telling people how successful the expansion of content platforms was.

All these actions often miss the biggest deal — letting your own print team explain the benefits of what they offer in the online world.

Why? It will show that your own print employees have been convinced. And that will help you answer the main question of the future: Does your editorial team support your digitisation strategy?

A newspaper’s print edition offers the best opportunity to drive traffic to its online counterpart. A recent study set out to measure the online affinity of 102 German newspapers by counting how many times each newspaper included links to its Web site — and how.

No distinction was made between subscription and purchase models of newspapers; neither edition nor reach was considered, nor the respective distribution market. Both of those aspects were irrelevant to the objective of the study.

Also the format is not decisive: Web references adapt themselves like photos to the size of the paper. The number of pages of the newspaper plays a computational role in the examination period; the absolute number of Web references is to be considered in relation to the total numbers of pages to determine the relative amount of Web references per page.

The ascertained Web references were collected, categorised, and listed to show the variety of the Web references in the examination period. From this database, a unique profile emerges for each newspaper, revealing which kinds of Web references are preferred.

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New universe of news demands a new manifesto

30 June 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

There was always a clear definition of what journalists have to do in a newspaper company: Write stories interesting enough to inform or to entertain readers.

There was no denying the fact that others, mainly the management and its marketing and distribution department, were in charge of the size audience the newspaper attracts. Journalists called this approach “independence of journalism.” Of course, it is!

But the role of journalists has changed radically, even among those who are employed and get a huge guaranteed salary monthly. Nowadays, a trend can be observed of journalists bearing responsibility for their own readership or “community.”

There is one big magazine published in New York at which a journalist’s salary is partly determined by the visits he or she pulls to the magazine’s Web site with their own blogged stories.

The management of this magazine sets the online goals: 10 blog posts and more than 150,000 visits a month, or they will have a tough meeting with the journalist.

Is the independence of journalism in danger? Not really. Could this also work for newspapers? Sure. It’s all about justice.

In the past, we saw two kinds of journalists in the newsroom organisation. Those who had a high daily output and carried the newspaper through poor news days (i.e. sports journalists, local reporters, news writers). And there were those who needed a lot of time to rethink any sentence written the day before (i.e. feuilleton authors, culture columnists, some political correspondents).

...[more]




Rethinking our content solutions in the face of emerging technology

28 May 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

Recent studies confirm mobile is helping people consume more news. According to Pew Research, 31% of tablet users said they spend more time with news since getting their mobile devices.

Good to know. But bad to know is that new technology and shrinking newsroom resources have created an opening for new producers.

The competition is getting tougher, thanks to new publishing tools provided by Contently and NewsCred that make it easy for any brand to produce content on its own.

Though mobile advertising grew 80% in 2012 to US$2.6 billion, only one ad segment is actually available to news: display.

News organisations must now compete aggressively with big firms such as Google and Yahoo for ad revenue. But what news company can afford to invest in targeting, which requires both huge tech investments and partnering on sharing revenue models? It isn’t enough to modernise the newsroom.

The new competitors don’t struggle about a press codex to separate the business of a sales department from what is going on in the newsroom. They bring these two puzzle pieces together. The big brands really appreciate this.

Buzzfeed creates a content environment that helps brands make their ads shareable. They do so by customising content in a way that “the brands speak the language of the Web,” founder and CEO Jonah Peretti said.

Voxmedia (“The Verge”), the 2013 publisher of the year in the United States, creates a community of authors by empowering them with publishing tools and even converting readers into authors.

Big brands can market these huge audiences directly, because they know all the marketing benchmarks needed – their interests, passions, and skills.

NewsCred buys content licenses from all over the world to provide high quality content directly to the brands’ Web sites without any costs for manual handling. Technology does this job automatically and in an excellent way.

Do these companies care what journalism and the freedom of press are all about? Not at all.

Do they offer content solutions and environments that big money spenders of media companies are looking for? Absolutely.

Should we ignore them? Never!

Media entrepreneurship means we need a shift in thinking how technology can support our business. Not focusing individual steps of our workflow to optimise the cost structure, but rethinking radically what is needed to provide content solutions, rather than just content pieces and pages.

It’s a general structure problem we face. And it has a great impact on the culture within media companies that are not ready to dare the next step.






Like Die Welt, newspapers need to see print as just one piece of the puzzle

01 April 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

Not long ago, Jan-Eric Peters and Carsten Erdmann — the young editors-in-chief of two leading German newspapers, Die Welt and Berliner Morgenpost — visited The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal to see how the Americans are doing their job in the newsroom.

It wasn’t easy to get an appointment there.

More and more journalists, even editors-in-chief, now travel around the world looking for the one solution to ready their newsrooms for future challenges. The questions they ask are always the same:

  • How to integrate the online part in the print workflow?

  • What about video, Twitter, and Facebook?

  • What kind of education is needed to help the elder journalists work in this changing environment?

  • Is there any hope to survive?

Whatever they see, they don’t find what they’re looking for. Because there is no one and only solution to organise the workflow of news. The best you can expect to find are ideas to modernise the newsroom at home.

That’s the entrepreneurial approach of running a newspaper: to see the status quo as just a step to the next improvement. “Online first” and “mobile first” are phrases for marketing guys and have nothing to do what happens where the content is produced.

Ten years ago, journalists from all over the world traveled to Berlin to study the then-state-of-the-art newsroom of Die Welt, which had recently undertaken a big innovative step.

Five years later, the newsroom worked in the same way because people thought anything would still work as fine as initially planned. They didn’t re-evaluate the workflow or compare their processes with that of other newsrooms.

In terms of digital change, the newsroom is ahead of competition again. I describe this approach in my book, “The Heart of a Morning Paper Beats Online.”

But how can you change?

Let’s have a look what happened in 2009. Die Welt, a national daily that first appeared in 1946 and was taken over by Axel Springer in 1953, appears Monday through Saturday. In 2009, in conjunction with its smaller format version, Welt Kompakt, Die Welt had an average circulation of 266,140 copies sold and readership of 670,000. It sold at €1.70 on weekdays and €2 on Saturdays.

In 2009, then Editor-in-Chief Thomas Schmid was responsible for Welt Kompakt, the Sunday newspaper (Welt am Sonntag), and Welt Online (www.welt.de). Welt Online had coverage of 3.3 million unique visitors in 2009. Among German quality newspapers, Die Welt competed with Süddeutsche Zeitung and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Comparison with the observed reality in the newsroom

Close inspection via on-site visit revealed that, in the case of Die Welt, one editorial team operated both media channels, print and online. The bulk of the print content was simply put online with at best marginal alterations.

Channel-specific enhancement happened to a low degree, usually via galleries or polls. Headlines were adapted for search engine purposes. There was no provision for target group-oriented enhancement of content. Licensed content material from third-party suppliers — for instance, from news agencies — was used in cost-efficient ways.

It followed from this set-up that the technical integration of print and online in a single content management system was not viewed as of paramount importance. Fault lines between print and online were bilaterally condoned.

...[more]




Can we afford quality investigative journalism in the digital age?

05 March 2013 · by Pit Gottschalk

In the 2009 political thriller film, “State of Play,” Russell Crowe plays Cal MacAffrey, an old-fashioned but honest hero of journalism.

When a scandal is revealed, MacAffrey is committed to the truth and not to his friendship with a politician. He works passionately on his story, discovering detail after detail. He is not approachable for any kind of benefits offered, while spending as much time as he can on this one and only story for his newspaper.

From the digital point of view, he’s wasting both time and money.

How many stories could Russell Crowe as Cal MacAffrey have written in the same period of time? At least 20 within two weeks. And they would have been keyword-related and optimised for search engines. Easy to consume and perfectly linked to offerings the company can make money with.

A journalistic investigation doesn’t really contribute to the chief financial officer’s profit and loss account, just to the marketing guys focused on the reputation of the newspaper’s brand.

These issues go far beyond any thoughts on paid content, as I explained in a recent blog post. It’s all about newsroom organisation.

...[more]




About this blog

The Media Entrepreneur blog is a platform to show, explain and evaluate new ideas to respond to the increasing challenges news media companies face today. The blog's author is Pit Gottschalk, managing director of content management at Axel Springer in Germany and a member of the INMA Board of Directors. Looking at advertising, content, audiences, human resources, and trends, this blog delivers a meaningful context about what is really important and deserves a closer look at, always considering the needs of our peers in the news industry and contributing to the public discussions of INMA conferences worldwide.


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