Media Watch Archives

July 23, 2009

Turnaround In Newspaper Fortunes? NYTimes Reports Profit, Beats Wall Street Estimates


The New York Times Company reported a profit of $39.1m for its second quarter, beating Wall Street estimates forecasting a loss.

Three months ago it reported a loss of $74.5m for its first quarter.

The net income was 27 cents a share, compared with 15 cents a year earlier. Excluding special items like one-time charges and the tax adjustment, net income in the most recent quarter was 8 cents a share; analysts had forecast, on a comparable basis, a 4-cent loss.

However, this does not signal a turnaround in the newspaper sector. Profitability was achieved by severe cost cutting measures and a favorable tax adjustment.

The company trimmed operating costs 20 percent from a year earlier, or by $140.5 million; $29 million of that reduction came from the closure early this year of City and Suburban, a money-losing newspaper and magazine distribution subsidiary.

“For the full year we expect to save $450 million,” (Janet) Robinson (CEO) said. “That amounts to 16 percent of our 2008 cost base.”

Ad revenue plunged by nearly 32 per cent, the steepest decline since the Depression. Revenue from online operations dropped 14.3 per cent to $78.2 million.

Foremski's Take:

Clearly, the New York Times Company cannot continue to cut costs in order to make money. It's not a sustainable business strategy. And with online revenues falling it will be forced to come up with a way of charging its online readers.

Ms Robinson told analysts that the company is "undertaking quantitative and qualitative research as to how many of our readers would be willing to pay for online content, and how much they would pay. At this time, our work is centered on a metered model and a Times membership model with special offerings."

This is not a new strategy. The New York Times had to abandon an earlier attempt to charge for content.

July 22, 2009

Adknowledge Buys Smart Rewards: Will Virtual Cash Reinvent Online Ads?


Adknowledge, the largest online advertising network, today acquired Super Rewards, a fast growing startup that uses virtual cash to engage people with advertisers. The value of the deal was not disclosed.

"I'm very excited about the promise of virtual cash," Brett Brewer, president of Adknowledge, told SVW. " We wanted to acquire the leader in this space because we think that growth is going to be very fast. And we can scale the Super Rewards technology across our entire business. We also have offices in many countries and can bring in country specific advertisers."

Mr Brewer said that Adknowledge annual revenues are about $250 million. But display advertising is becoming less effective. "We think virtual cash is going to be very big. Instead of bombarding consumers with more ads, Super Rewards allows people to engage with advertisers, it gives people a choice."

Virtual cash is a big business in the online gaming world and it is now also being used in social networking sites.

Super Rewards pays people in virtual currencies of their choice in return for specific tasks such as if they sign up for a Netflix account or apply for an insurance quote.

Super Rewards buys the virtual currencies and in turn is paid by companies as part of regular affiliate sales commision. It makes its money on the difference between the money it earns from the affiliate sales and the cost of the virtual cash.

Affiliate marketing was initially popularized by Amazon, which pays a percentage of sales to "associates" who bring in customers. Super Rewards has affiliate sales relationships with about 4,000 companies.

Mr Brewer sees applications for virtual cash beyond gaming and social network sites. Virtual cash could be used by newspapers. "I've spoken with some newspaper groups and they are very open to exploring this market."

Mr Brewer says Adknowledge has relationships with large advertisers such as Dell, and Expedia. And that they are interested in virtual currencies.

Mr Brewer is the co-founder of Intermix Media, which created MySpace.

[Please see: There's Real Gold In Virtual Cash - Is This A Solution For Newspapers? - SiliconValleyWatcher]

Foremski's Take:

It's interesting to see the online advertising industry seeking new ways of making money. It's an admission that traditional online advertising is becoming less and less effective.

Virtual cash is one of the potential solutions and the use of virtual cash can be extended to many new markets.

Earlier this year I interviewed Jason Bailey the CEO of Super Rewards. I pointed out that virtual cash could be used by newspapers as a surrogate micro-payments system for online content. For example, local advertisers could pay readers with virtual cash in exchange for viewing ads or filling out a survey. A local furniture store might offer virtual cash to readers of the "Home" section of a newspaper.

And newspapers could use virtual cash to pay for reader generated content. Newspapers could create a real economy around trading news services and content. This is a much more engaging business model than selling an ad - a marketing message sitting inside a box - easy to ignore and increasingly ineffective.

In terms of wider advertising opportunities, the Super Rewards technology could be used by larger brands. However, it is not clear if there is a broad demographic appeal for virtual currencies.

There is also a mismatch in the motivation of people wanting to acquire virtual cash versus wanting a Netflix subscription or an insurance quote. The quality of the leads is likely to be poor and cancellation of services is probably going to be at a higher than normal level.

However, this is a rapidly growing sector and we are in the early stages of the build out of virtual economies in different market sectors.

Adknowledge has made a savvy acquisition and pulled ahead of other ad networks in pioneering a new business model. It is well positioned to discover how this virtual currency market will develop and what are the most effective advertising strategies. And its large size will help to accelerate the educational process needed within the slow-to-change advertising business.

July 1, 2009

Vinod Khosla Says Silicon Valley VCs Tried to Save Newspaper Industry In 1996

At the recent SDForum 2009 Visionary Awards, Vinod Khosla, one of Silicon Valley's top VCs, gave an inspiring and very humble speech.

How To Succeed In Silicon Valley By Bumbling And Failing...

Afterwards, I went over to congratulate him on his award and also say how much I enjoyed his speech. Rebecca Buckman, one of Forbe's top journalists, was also there. He then started to tell us a very interesting story, about how Silicon Valley VCs could have saved the newspaper industry--back in 1996.

Continue reading "Vinod Khosla Says Silicon Valley VCs Tried to Save Newspaper Industry In 1996" »

June 29, 2009

Scobleizer Traffic Plunge - The Real-Time Web Can Be Bad For Your Blog

Robert Scoble has been a tireless evangelist for the real-time web and he has been spending much of his time on Twitter and Friendfeed, and less and less time on his blog Scobleizer. [Please see:  Is Twitter (and Friendfeed) Killing Blogging? Scobleizer Hasn't Posted In 12 Days!!!]

Now he has sworn off FriendFeed and Twitter, saying that those services are "hurting long-time knowledge." This about turn comes on the heels of Mr Scoble berating Kara Swisher at All Things D for not taking part in the real-time web.

It’s interesting that neither Kara nor Walt show up very often on friendfeed, which is the best example of the 2010 Web right now. Kara Swisher has made a total of five comments there. Walt is even worse, doesn’t bring any items in there, and only has six comments. How can you know what the 2010 Web is, if you don’t use it and don’t participate in it?

However, by largely avoiding the real-time web Ms Swisher and Mr Mossberg have chosen to protect their largest asset -- their web site traffic.

By neglecting, Scobleizer, a web site run by Mr Scoble's employer, Rackspace, traffic to the site has plunged.

In just two months, from March to May 2009, reports that traffic to Scobleizer fell from 181,500 unique visitors to 91,792. That's a nearly 50% drop in unique visitors!!! If the traffic for June can be projected, it looks headed for a 75% plunge.

I can imagine that Rackspace isn't too pleased to have such a massive drop in audience for its advertising and outages reports.

I'm sure that Robert can bring back the traffic but it's clear that its going to be difficult for him to also be active in all the other places, Building 43, Google Reader, email, Twitter, FriendFeed, FaceBook. And there's a lesson here for others too. You can't do it all.

The Pressure Is On When Every Company Is Now A Media Company...

I've been writing on this topic of "every company is now a media company" ever since I visited Dan Scheinman, head of M&A at Cisco Systems in March, 2005.

He told me that the @Cisco news site is run by journalists, and gets more traffic than the top computer trade newspapers. At the time Cisco was publishing more than 200 RSS streams. The penny quickly dropped and it was another of many "aha!" moments I have had since leaving the Financial Times five years ago.

These days more people understand the term and what it means to companies. However, not everyone understands what it takes to be a media company. If you are going to do it well It's a hell of a commitment.

Continue reading "The Pressure Is On When Every Company Is Now A Media Company..." »

June 24, 2009

Bitten and Smitten: Why Journalism Is Like Falling For The Wrong Person

I was at an event this evening and I met a journalist who was new to the profession. She had been in IT and now was working for a San Francisco newspaper. She asked if I had any words of advice for a new journalist.

I said welcome. But be careful it doesn't get under your skin because if it does, it will become a problem. It'll be very difficult to leave.

In many ways,  being bitten by journalism is similar to being smitten. It's similar to falling for the wrong person.

Continue reading "Bitten and Smitten: Why Journalism Is Like Falling For The Wrong Person" »

Human Or Machine - Or How To Get The News Before Techmeme

I'm a big fan of Gabe Rivera's Techmeme. Over the past year or so, Techmeme has managed to improve its results by using humans, in addition to its much vaunted algorithm -based approach.

Lately, Techmeme seems to be relying even more on humans by paying attention to Twitter and to Twitter's prolific news tipsters. The most successful of these is Atul Arora.

Continue reading "Human Or Machine - Or How To Get The News Before Techmeme" »

June 9, 2009

There Is No Advertising On The Real-Time Web (Yet) - What Hope For Mainstream Media?!

As the Twitterati, (and FriendFeederati,) abandon blogging and past-tense sites, is this a sign of the next phase of online media? It seems that way.

So what will happen to online advertising, and the "old" media? There's no real-time ad networks right now and none on the real-time media that I see.

The old media (we used to call it mainstream) has barely gotten used to the "Always-On-Media" of blogging, etc. Now they have to jump into the real-time web.

And they can't.

Because there isn't a business model in the real-time web. (Just as there isn't in online media.)

By the time they jump in, there might be a business model then. Maybe. But I bet it won't be enough to support professional work.

June 5, 2009

Is Twitter (and Friendfeed) Killing Blogging? Scobleizer Hasn't Posted In 12 Days!!!

I was going through a list of venture capital blogs the other day and I found many were dead, hadn't been updated in months. . . some in years. But I also noticed that some of the owners of the dead blogs were still alive and active -- they were on Twitter.

Then I happened to look at Robert Scoble's blog, "Scobleizer." When I started SVW five years ago, Robert was the top tech blogger and very prolific, posting many times a day. But I was shocked at what I saw the other day. The most recent entry was on his blog at the time of writing was May 29, 2009. UPDATED: He didn't post again for 12 days!

And his prior post was on May 24.

I know Robert is very active on Twitter and on Friendfeed, and you can find him there.

But I wonder what his employer, Rackspace, thinks about all of this. Presumably they hired Robert because of his visibility online. But his visibility in the "real-time" web is much less than his visibility on his blog, which is read by far more people.

Robert's tag line on Scobleizer is "Exploring the 2010 Web." I'm sure he is, just not that much on Scobleizer.

June 1, 2009

Harvard Twitter Study Uncovers Big Gender Gap

A study of Twitter users conducted by Bill Heil and Mikolaj Jan Piskorski from the Harvard Business School has uncovered a surprisingly large gender gap compared with other social networks.

The study sampled 300,542 users. It found that men were twice as likely as women to follow other men, and women were 25 per cent more likely to follow a man than a woman. This is despite there being slightly more women on Twitter.

This is a big difference compared with other social networks.

On a typical online social network, most of the activity is focused around women - men follow content produced by women they do and do not know, and women follow content produced by women they know. Generally, men receive comparatively little attention from other men or from women.

The authors of the study could not explain the different gender ratios.

Another way Twitter differs from other online social networks is in how rarely a user tweets. Just over 50 per cent tweet just once in 74 days. But 10% of users create more than 90% of all tweets.

On a typical online social network, the top 10% of users account for 30% of all production.

...This implies that Twitter's resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network.

Foremski's Take:

    Continue reading "Harvard Twitter Study Uncovers Big Gender Gap" »

    May 26, 2009

    Does Anyone Have A Fork? Twitter Looks Done To Me . . .


    I was driving through San Francisco on my way to SF New Tech and had to stop and take this shot. This can't be a good sign for Twitter.

    (Evan, Biz. Sell now! (Or take some money off the table . . . Give Mark Z a call, there's always an opportunity to do some laundry. . .))

    Here is more proof that Twitter days are numbered.

    From: All Things D:

    Twitter Guys: We’ll Still Be Running This Company in 5 Years

    Meet the Internet’s It Boys: Twitter co-founders Evan Williams and Biz Stone. A year ago their “micromessaging” platform was unknown outside of a small circle of digerati. Now the service has broken through to the mainstream, or at least to the mainstream media (thanks, Oprah!). But while Twitter has no problem generating attention, it’s still unclear how the company will actually generate revenue.

    (BTW, don't you just love news stories that tell you something new?)

    And of course:

    Twitter in TV deal

    WASHINGTON (AFP) — Micro-blogging sensation Twitter is heading for another screen -- the TV screen.

    Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said in a post on the blog of the hot San Francisco-based startup that Twitter had entered into a "lightweight, non-exclusive, agreement" with TV producers Reveille and Brillstein.

    Stone did not reveal any details about the project except to say it would not be for an "official Twitter TV show."

    (More here.)

    I would be programming my Tivo ((if I hadn't gotten rid of it and cable TV...) but I'm certain it'll be on Hulu or Rev3.)

    Even more proof:

    Kutcher threatens to stop Twittering

    LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Ashton Kutcher -- Twitter's top tweeter -- warned he may pull the plug on his tweeting if the micro-blogging service partners on a reality TV show.

    More here.

    Yes, I did Twit this post but I figure Twitter has about 25 days left... give or take a month or two.

    What will take Twitter's place?

    I'll tell you about it later this week: the next hot club house that the cool kids will be hanging out at.

    May 21, 2009

    Adify: Everything Is Hunky Dory In Online Advertising

    Russ Fradin

    Russ Fradin says the online advertising industry is doing well and growing -- it's certainly not a shrinking medium even though some reports of falling ad rates might indicate problems.

    Mr Fradin is CEO of Adify, a large advertising network that was acquired by Cox Enterprises about a year ago. Its a platform for building smaller ad networks focused on "vertical" content such as iVillage - which caters to women. Here are some notes from our conversation:

    -- I mentioned Nick Denton of Gawker saying that the micropublishing dream is dead. Mr Fradin disagreed, saying that "it was never going to happen." The idea that bloggers running niche sites would be getting rich was a fantasy. He thinks that micropublishing will gradually become more profitable but no one is going to be selling their blogs and retiring.

    -- Every online ad network continues to do well despite the economy because there are still a lot of ad budgets shifting online from radio, television and newspapers.

    -- There wasn't much of interest at the recent AdTech conference in San Francisco except that advertising agencies are wondering what role they will play in the online world.

    -- There is a tremendous amount of content online and more coming online all the time, this appears to dilute online advertising dollars. This fragmentation is increasing and that's what makes it difficult for media companies to make money because there is so much competition. Fragmentation is destroying media. Ad networks provide value because they aggregate content for advertisers.

    -- Won't there be a shakeout on the content side I asked? No, there will always be people willing to create the content for little money because they have a day job.

    -- Politico is a good example of a media company that is doing well. It is syndicating its content along with its own advertising network and sharing the revenues with newspapers. Newspapers are able to shut their Washington bureaus and use Politico content instead.

    -- Social networks won't find a magic formula to boost their CPM rates but they can still be very lucrative because they can serve up trillions of pages.

    -- Adify is nearing signing up 200 vertical ad networks.

    -- Federated Media seems to be turning into a social media ad agency.

    -- Cox has been a great owner, very nice people. It lets Adify do its job. Adify is growing and hiring lots of engineer in UI and back-end operations.

    Continue reading "Adify: Everything Is Hunky Dory In Online Advertising" »

    May 20, 2009

    MediaWatch: Nick Denton - The Micropublishing Dream Is Dead

    Advertising Age has an interesting interview with Nick Denton, a former Financial Times journalist and head of Gawker Media, which publishes several high traffic web sites such as Gizmodo.

    This extract was striking:

    Ad Age: One cherished notion of downturns is that it's the best time to launch a media property. Any plans along those lines?
    Mr. Denton: I have one scheme in mind -- but I'm ever conscious of the need for scale. Remember the dream of micropublishing? A few years ago, we still believed that costs were so low and online advertising so magical that the most arcane of subject matters could attract a viable audience. That dream is dead. We'll spend our time and money on sites such as Gizmodo, Kotaku and Gawker -- where we already have the scale or soon will.

    This is interesting because Mr Denton is a poster child entrepreneur for "blogger" new media. Gawker was born from that early promise of micropublishing yet Mr Denton now has to hoe the old media line: provide large numbers, hopefully to reach a scale that reminds the advertising agencies of the old media -- as if nothing had changed in their world.

    Since the mid-1990s we've been talking about how the Internet would allow hyper-targeting of audiences with content and with marketing messages. Why buy a scatter-shot advertising campaign with a potential reach of 20 million people when you can target just the 10,000 people you really want?

    Advertising agencies still want to just buy "numbers" rather than the right numbers. They would still rather buy a "Super Bowl" type ad than than try to drill down to reach the right people.

    When I met with Russ Fradin from Adify, the Cox-owned advertising network, last year, he said it was because advertising agencies don't want to deal with hundreds of separate invoices for placing targeted ads on sites.

    So, is the micropublishing dream dead? Or has it not yet arrived? That's my view. The micropublishing opportunities are still ahead of us because the ad agencies haven't shifted from their old ways of doing business. But we know they will shift.

    They will shift because there are excellent arbitrage opportunities. The ad agencies that can manage the complexities of targeted online media buys will do much better than the good old boys.

    There are lucrative business opportunities for those ad agencies that can do this well -- especially within a performance based model such as in affiliate marketing.

    When that happens, micropublishing will flourish because it will have the support of targeted marketing dollars. This will enable publishers of micro-sites to continue to produce top-notch content that attracts a specific audience. It might even restore that virtuous interaction between content and advertising -- a familiar media business model.

    - - -

    Please see:

    The Fallacy of Internet Ad Personlization...and the Bleak Future for Social Network Ads

    Gawker's Nick Denton: 'Original Reporting Will Be Rewarded' - Advertising Age - Digital

    May 15, 2009

    New York Times And Google Look To Use SVW's Adtribution Model

    Silicon Alley Insider yesterday reported that New York Times and Google are in talks about introducing a new type of advertising that is embedded in a news story and travels with it when it is quoted on other web sites.

    Nicholas Carlson reported that Arthur Sulzberger, chairman of the New York Times Company, had visited Google's headquarters, and a source close to the talks said "one or two models" were discussed:

    - A potential agreement in which any time Google's search crawlers find a Web site carrying New York Times content and Google ads, Google would split the revenue it gets from those ads with the Times.

    - Google would somehow help the New York Times actually embed ads within its text so that when blogs or other Web sites use that text, the ads go with it.

    A New York Times spokesperson told Mr Carlson that the two companies had been collaborating "for quite some time."

    This is the same "Adtribution" advertising model proposed by Silicon Valley Watcher nearly a year ago:

    June 20, 2008: A Proposal and a Response to AP - Quote Me Freely and Carry my Adtribution Link . . .

    June 22, 2008 Support the Source: Creating a New Media Business Model and Keeping the Web Open

    The Adtribution model is simple: if you publish a section from a news story you would also agree to publish the ads that are associated with that content. By doing that you receive a license to republish that copy. This method takes advantage of the distribution power of bloggers and the Internet, while also rewarding the content creator because the advertising associated with that content is also distributed.

    Google could produce a tool in which any section of a news story that is copied and pasted into a new web page would automatically also copy and paste the associated Adtribution advertising. The Google tool would carry Google's AdSense advertising. Other advertising networks could produce their own, similar Adtribution tools for their advertising. It could also be built into popular publishing platforms for bloggers such as Wordpress and Movable Type.

    Foremski's Take:

    If the Adtribution model is widely adopted, bloggers would be in the front lines of helping to save newspapers. It's an interesting twist in that bloggers have been blamed for stealing content and readers from the newspapers and contributing to their downfall.

    However, there are several issues that would need to be addressed. How would the revenues from advertising be split between the New York Times, Google, and the website owner/blogger quoting the news story?

    Also, how much money would this make for the New York Times? Google is very good at monetizing advertisements on its search pages with its AdWords advertising program. But its AdSense program, which places ads on newspaper sites and other content web sites, performs poorly.

    SVW's analysis of the two businesses, AdWords and AdSense, shows that its profit margin on search ads (AdWords) is nearly 40 per cent; its profit margin on AdSense (content ads on other sites such as the New York Times) is less than 5 per cent.

    In 2008, AdWords produced 19 times more profit than AdSense. How motivated is Google in implementing an Adtribution model? It can make 19 times more money in building out its search engine advertising.

    [Please see analysis here: Google Is Really Bad At Monetizing Content Yet CEO Schmidt Lectures Newspapers]

    Also, how much money would a Google based Adtribution model produce for the New York Times given the poor performance of Google's AdSense ads? Other ad networks, such as Federated Media, which produce higher revenues for publishers than AdSense, could adopt the Adtribution model and generate more money for publishers.

    The New York Times has an agreement with Google that might prevent it from using other ad networks.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Adtribution Might Be A Solution For Murdoch, A.P, Et Al, Versus The News Aggregators And Bloggers

    Lifestream of Brian Solis - Tom Foremski proposes “adtribution” -...

    2008 June : New Communications Review

    /Message: Tom Foremski on Adtribution

    May 12, 2009

    Journalism Schools Wake Up To Need For Media Engineers


    About four years ago I began writing about the need for "media engineers" a skill set that is part journalist and part software engineer. Software skills should be part of a modern journalist's toolbox. (My first job was as a software engineer 29 years ago.)

    Aug 17 2005 Journalists need to learn to speak some geek. . .

    ...journalists barely know how to type, or even how to spell...

    Most journalists don't know a lick of HTML or even much about their software and hardware beyond the basics familiar to a 10-year-old.

    That's going to have to change as the print/broadcast world, on which journalism was built, becomes a mostly online mediasphere.

    Journalists are going to have to learn to speak some geek, because increasingly, they will not only be researching and writing, but also producing and editing and publishing online too.

    Aug 19 2005 The coming era of the media engineer and media entrepreneur

    This is now the era of the media engineer and media entrepreneur because the future is all about technology-enabled media companies.

    [Oh, and BTW, every future company is a technology-enabled media company

    It's been a long wait but I was very happy to see this article by Leena Rao over at TechCrunch: Calling All Coders: Journalism Schools Want You To Save The News Industry

    Northwestern University's journalism school is offering free scholarships to software developers so they can further hone their journalism skills and possibly integrate the two for a media company down the line.

    ...The idea of creating programmers who understand journalism is compelling and brings attention to an important trend taking place in the industry.

    Hyperlocal news site Everyblock and the St. Petersburg Times' truth finding political database Politifact were both built by developers with journalism backgrounds. Their model falls on the heels of Politifact, started by coder-turned-journalist Matt Waite, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year for national reporting.

    It's taken many years for the journalism establishment to recognize the need for these skills. However, I think they have the cart before the horse.

    Journalism takes time to learn. You don't need a journalism degree but you do need time to hone story telling skills. I would argue that it is easier to teach "geek" to journalists than the other way around.

    I'd like to see more journalism schools offer classes in HTML, CSS, PHP, etc, to journalism students.

    Software engineers don't need to know how to be journalists to be succesful. But journalists certainly do need to know some "media engineering" skills to succeed in today's world.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Learning to speak Geek. . .

    Ten Basic New Media Skills Journalists Need To Know

    May 7, 2009

    Google Is Really Bad At Monetizing Content Yet CEO Schmidt Lectures Newspapers

    ericschmidt.jpegEric Schmidt, Google's CEO, loves to tell the newspaper industry what it needs to do to be relevant in today's online world. A sample of recent headlines:

    Eric Schmidt Tells Newspapers: Create Products People Want And ...

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt to newspapers: Innovate your way out of it ...

    Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers

    Google CEO Eric Schmidt to Newspaper Association of America ...

    Schmidt to Newspaper Execs: I'm From Google, and I'm Here to Help ...

    Schmidt Lectures Newspapers - The Daily Beast

    Yes, the newspaper industry needs to get wiser about how to adapt to the online world, but Mr Schmidt's lecturing is the pot calling the kettle black. Google is about as bad at monetizing content as the newspaper companies Mr Schmidt likes to lecture. And Google is getting worse at it! The evidence is hiding in plain view.

    Continue reading "Google Is Really Bad At Monetizing Content Yet CEO Schmidt Lectures Newspapers" »

    May 5, 2009

    Foremski's Take: Forbes CEO Says GOOG Does Evil

    Jim Spanfeller, president and CEO of, accused Google of violating its "do no evil" policy and of failing to clean up a web "cesspool."

    In an article titled What Google Can Do To Make The Web Less Of A 'Cesspool' | Mr Spanfeller wrote:

    ... in attempting to "do no evil," Google has done exactly that. I say this not just as someone running a content site but also as an end user. If this inequity of support continues along these lines, we will see a continuing destruction of our journalistic enterprises -- enterprises that are one of the core building blocks of our democracy. estimated that Google makes $60m per year from directing traffic to About $24m of that is from selling keywords with that include Forbes brand names. Google is making money from "simply being there."

    Continue reading "Foremski's Take: Forbes CEO Says GOOG Does Evil" »

    April 30, 2009

    Media In Transition: Silicon Valley Is Driving The Changes . . . And Is Changing

    I was at Chris Brogan's Inbound Marketing Summit on Wednesday, speaking on a panel moderated by Paul Gillin, on the subject of "Media in Transition: The Future of News in a Democratized World." My old friend Dean Takahashi from VentureBeat (formerly with Wall Street Journal, Red Herring, San Jose Mercury) was also on the panel, along with Ken Doctor, analyst with Outsell.

    Media in transition is a fascinating subject, I can talk for days, for weeks on this subject.

    Between the four of us on the panel, we probably have nearly a century of experience with news media. We now find ourselves taking part in an incredible transition within our industry of a like we will never see again in our lifetime.

    And few people realize that Silicon Valley is the main instigator of the disruption happening in the media industry. It is Silicon Valley technologies and companies that are at the forefront of developing the new landscape of the media industry, and also transforming SIlicon Valley into a "media valley."

    Take a look at some of our largest companies, such as Google, Yahoo, Ebay. These are media companies. These are not tech companies, you can't buy any tech from them, these are technology-enabled media companies.

    They publish pages of content with advertising. What's not a media company about that?

    Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist -- are all media companies, they publish pages of content and advertising. And so are most Web 2.0 companies.

    Take a look at the Internet, it is a media technology. It allows you to distribute and publish web pages, data, to any computer screen, any computer platform. Now, in this second phase of the Internet, anything with a computer screen can publish back -- it's now two-way, it's read/write, we now use both sides of the glass screen.

    It is Internet technologies and services, it is online companies such as Google, Craigslist, etc, that are helping to disrupt the media industry. Or more accurately, disrupt the business model.

    When we talk about the death of newspapers, what we really mean is the death of traditional media business models.

    On Silicon Valley Watcher, I often use the tag line: "reporting on innovation at the intersection of technology and media." Because that's what's happening, that's what I see, a tremendous intersection of technology and media. It's like tectonic plates coming together and crumpling the landscape into a new mountain range.

    And mountain range is a suitable metaphor because there are always two sides to a mountain range, one side is dry and the other is wet and fertile. For example, the Andes protect and enable the massive, wet, fertile Amazon rainforest with its incredible diversity of life, while the west side of the Andes is dry and relatively barren.

    The mountain range being created by the intersection of technology and media is a barrier to the traditional media companies, most don't seem to be able to climb and transition to the other side; most won't make it.

    But, I'm confident we will have a new type of Amazon rainforest emerging in the media industry, we will see an amazing diversity of media companies and services. You can already see the tremendous amount of innovation emerging and we've only just started.

    For example, Facebook and Twitter are very new, even to us in Silicon Valley, and they are spanking brand new for the majority of people today. What other new forms of media will we have a year from now?

    We can create incredible mashups of media technologies and media formats that have never been seen before. How will we use them? How will we deal with the loss of traditional media? How will our society handle the transition? How will we pay for journalists and the vital Fourth Estate service that they provide? How do we sell products and services? How do we find trusted sources of information?

    There are tons of questions waiting to be answered. And that's what's so wonderful about all of this, we are directly involved in figuring out those important answers. We, the people working in media, in communications, in marketing, in startups, we get a chance to help create and define the future.

    This is why I love my job, writing Silicon Valley Watcher, and reporting on innovation at the intersection of technology and media.

    April 29, 2009

    Survey Shows 50% Of Journalists Thinking Of Leaving This Year

    Wednesday morning I took part in a lively panel discussion organized by PR Week that included John Byrne, Executive Editor, BusinessWeek; Erica Iacono, Executive Editor, PRWeek; Michael Schiferl, EVP & Director of Media Relations, Weber Shandwick; and Sarah Skerik, Vice President, Distribution Services, PR Newswire.

    The topic was the results of a PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey 2009 (download). Among the findings: 50 percent of journalists are considering a new career in 2009! This is stunning, I can't imagine any other profession where one-half of the practicioners are seriously considering leaving by the end of this year.

    John Byrne said that BusinessWeek relies heavily on its readers for story ideas; it also reveals what it's working on so that readers can get involved in the research, and that the old days of keeping story ideas secret from competitors are largely gone.

    Here are some additional findings:

    ...The numbers of print journalists expecting a decline in their circulation and an increased focus on the Web at their outlet in the next three years is 62%, up from 55.8% last year, while the number expecting staff reductions is 42%, compared to 26.2% last year. In addition, 8% expect a shuttering of the print title and a future online-only existence, up from 2.9% last year.

    ...70% of journalists say their workload is more this year compared to last.

    ...58% of print media respondents expect their outlet to publish a regular print product indefinitely, compared to 64% last year; 11% say one to three years, compared to 9% last year; and 9% expect it to remain for another four to five years, similar to last year.

    ...77% of respondents have a social network profile, up from 54% last year. Of those who participate in social networking, 58% have profiles on Facebook, 51% on LinkedIn, and 28% and 22% are on MySpace and Twitter, respectively. Of those with a social networking presence, 25% publish content to those pages several times a week, while 13% do so several times a day.

    ...Of traditional media respondents, 43% are the author of a blog; 28% say it is for their traditional outlet, 16% blog as their own hobby; and 9% write a personal blog for the industry they cover.

    ...20% say they use blog searches, while 17% say they often employ company blogs. In the course of researching a story, 29% use general blogs, 25% use company blogs, and 24% use social networks. Yet, when asked how often blogs are part of research, 39% say always or sometimes, while 61% say rarely or never.

    ...The survey finds that 31% of journalists have been pitched via a social network. Of those who responded that they had been, 62% say they've been pitched via Facebook, 42% by LinkedIn, 18% by Twitter, and 13% by another network.

    ...e-mail is still the preferred method of reporters and editors, as 90% of journalists say they prefer the medium to receive unsolicited information about a company, and 80% say the platform is the best way for PR pros to reach them. Asked what the ideal PR pitch looks like, 62% of respondents reply “a personalized, concise e-mail” while 22% say a traditional press release. Only 3% say phone calls are the ideal pitching technique.

    ...The PRWeek/PR Newswire Survey was conducted by CA Walker. E-mail notification was sent to about 115,502 traditional journalists and 1,462 bloggers. A total of 2,174 respondents (2,091 traditional journalists and 83 bloggers) completed the survey online from January 15 through February 9, 2009.

    April 27, 2009

    NewComm Forum: Business Models For News; Social Media And Investor Relations

    I took part in two events today at Newcomm Forum, one of my favorite conferences. In the morning I co-hosted a roundtable with Andria Carter on New Business Models for News Organizations. It was an interesting discussion. We talked about how newspapers need to cultivate "99" separate revenue streams; how online advertising no longer works; how newspapers should learn from some successful B2B publishers such as IDG which makes good money from lead generation.

    Also, people seemed to like my idea to use virtual cash as a way of developing new revenues. Virtual cash would create a separate economy in which trading for information is encouraged, and virtual cash could be used as micro payments but also to reward contributors etc. (Please see: There's Real Gold In Virtual Cash - Is This A Solution For Newspapers? )

    Next: I took part in: "Social Media & Investor Relations -- Disclosure & Other Issues, with 2008 SNCR Fellow Brian Solis, SNCR Senior Fellow Tom Foremski" and Bryan Rhoads, from Intel, David Gelles from Financial Times, and Richard Brewer-Hay, from Ebay.

    Despite promising new guidance because "given the speed at which technological advances are developing, and the translation of those technologies into investor tools, we expected to revisit the guidance provided..." the SEC last updated its guidelines in 2000 and 2008(!)

    Bryan Rhoads noted that there is still a lot of gray in the rules. However, large companies like Intel, and Ebay are forging ahead and so far, so good, no SEC complaints. I made the point that social media, Twitter, Facebook, etc are just additional channels to communicate financial performance. If you follow the spirit of SEC Full Disclosure rules that you make material information about a public company as widely available as possible through many-media channel -- then there shouldn't be a problem. It's not a case of either/or, but of "and."

    David Gelles made an excellent point saying that investor relations and social media don't mix. I agree, investor relations is not interested in a "conversation" about the quarterly numbers it is interested in the widest distribution of that information. Social media is merely a conduit for investor relations.

    Richard Brewer-Hay spoke about his early days at Ebay as chief blogger and about Tweeting the quarterly conference call and some of the legal issues that came up.

    Brian Solis made some good points about SEC disclosure to investors that company results would be available via Twitter and other channels.

    Bryan Rhoads said that the chief blogging guideline at Intel is "write only about what you know." Excellent advice. Don't write about financials if you are designing chips.

    When Jim Finn was running North American communications at IBM, he once told me: "I don't worry about what someone will blog at IBM and upset the SEC because I have only one CFO, I don't have 90,000 CFOs." It's a great point. The vast majority of employees don't have access to financial performance numbers and thus can't leak them accidentally and violate SEC FD rules.

    - - -

    Newcomm is an excellent conference, the distinction between panel and audience is that there often isn't one. You could round up three or four people from the audience and they would do just as well on the panel. That's what makes it such as good conference, it's more like a salon of peers -- not podiums :)

    - - -

    Please see:

    Adtribution Might Be A Solution For Murdoch, A.P, Et Al, Versus The News Aggregators And Bloggers

    Intel Looks Back On More Than 5 Years Of Blogging

    There's Real Gold In Virtual Cash - Is This A Solution For Newspapers?

    25 ideas: Creating An Open-Source Business Model For Newspapers

    Why Pay-For-News Won't Work: The First Mover Disadvantage

    Searching For a Viable Media Business Model: French Government Aid For Newspapers

    FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News

    April 7, 2009

    Adtribution Might Be A Solution For Murdoch, A.P, Et Al, Versus The News Aggregators And Bloggers

    Rupert Murdoch wants a Google rebellion, says Forbes. Murdoch calls Google, Yahoo copyright thieves, says Wired. Newspaper groups step up propaganda war on Google, says the Daily Telegraph. And in today's New York Times, A.P. seeks to rein in sites using its content.

    The saber rattling has been going on for a while but now the battle lines are being drawn. And it is all because news is not free. News has been made available for free, and it has been made into a commodity but that is not its future because there is no future in that model. You will have to pay for it.

    That means the end of the news aggregators. That means the end to arguments that the news aggregators send high volumes of traffic to the online publishers.

    What is the use of more traffic when it cannot be monetized to support the work of the news organizations?

    The only "news" that will remain free will be press releases--but there is little value in that type of unfiltered "news" source.

    But, there may be a solution to keeping news free, one that takes advantage of the distribution power of Google, bloggers, and the large number of of social network users sharing content -- while at the same time making some money for the media companies.

    In Monday's NYT article: Associated Press Seeks More Control of Content on Web

    They [A.P. executives] said they did not want to stop the appearance of articles around the Web, but to exercise some control over the practice and to profit from it.

    I have a solution: A content license for any online site that also publishes the content owners' designated ads.

    For example, if you republish a news story you also publish alongside it one or more "adtribution" links, simple text ads with live links, designated by the content creator.

    In this way, news media companies get a big benefit from having their news stories distributed for free by the news aggregators, bloggers, and online socialistas -- and their advertisers also get the distribution, which would improve ad revenues for the content producer. News would (might) remain free.

    Adtribution links would "stick" with the content. These days fewer and fewer people visit a news site, they read news stories in their RSS newsreaders, or on news aggregator sites. News content is ever more becoming divorced from its web site, which means so are its advertisers.

    Adtribution links could be sent along with RSS feeds and help reunite content with its supporting advertisers.

    It would be simple to automate it, news aggregators and blogging software could be set up to automatically copy a set of associated live ad links, at the same time the content is copied and pasted.

    Adtribution links could be attached to any shareable, embeddable media. And they could be widgetized so that their ad content could be changed at any time.

    In some cases, sites that republish content might agree to run adtribution links in a permanent part of their page, so they aren't directly next to the content, for aesthetic or other reasons.

    Would something like this be enough to appease the newspaper industry and keep our news free?

    Will bloggers etc, be willing to republish text ads? Probably not. But they could get used to it. We can all get used to it.

    I remember the hue and cry in the early days of the Internet that users would not tolerate advertising on the Internet. We got used to it, and I predict we'll get used to many more online business models. Some will work.

    Here's a catchy slogan: "Adtribution supports the source." Maybe the media moguls will catch notice.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Silicon Valley Watcher:

    "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News

    Support the Source: Creating a New Media Business Model and Keeping the Web Open

    Virtual cash could save newspapers | Tom Foremski: IMHO |

    Newspapers: 25 things to try before turning off the lights | Tom Foremski: IMHO |

    Continue reading "Adtribution Might Be A Solution For Murdoch, A.P, Et Al, Versus The News Aggregators And Bloggers" »

    April 1, 2009

    There's Real Gold In Virtual Cash - Is This A Solution For Newspapers?

    Virtual currencies are booming, they have become the best way for gaming sites to monetize their content, and it might also offer a way for news sites to earn revenues. That's what popped into my head when I recently interviewed Jason Bailey, CEO and co-founder of Super Rewards.

    This company today launched a virtual currency monetization platform to help primarily gaming sites earn money from their users. Some of Super Rewards customers are already making more than $1 million per month!

    Gamers can convert real money for virtual money and use it in a variety of ways to gain access to higher levels, gain status, etc. But many gamers don't have to use real money, they earn it through engaging with advertisers.

    The Super Rewards platform allows advertisers to offer virtual cash in exchange for a specific action, for example, signing up for Netflix, or applying for an insurance quote, etc.

    Mr Bailey says that Super Rewards handles the entire transaction. It chooses an advertiser from a database of about 4,000, the advertiser pays Super Rewards if an action is completed, Super Rewards buys the virtual cash from the site owner and gives it to the gamer, taking a small cut (of real money) for itself.

    "We've been able to help companies move out of their parent's garage and make a lot of money," says Mr Bailey. Many sites are making $20,000 to $30,000, and some are making more than $1 million per month. He says that this approach provides a much higher return than online advertising.

    Super Rewards is also targeting virtual worlds, and games found on social media sites.

    This got me thinking that this would be a great way to monetize news content. Online news is free but it isn't produced for free and newspapers, magazines and TV have so far failed to find an effective online business model.

    The recent Pew Project's 6th annual survey painted a bleak picture of the state of the news media:

    - online ad revenue to news websites now appears to be flattening; in newspapers it is declining..

    -nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone

    The problem is not that there isn't an audience for online news, there is, and it continues to reach record numbers, the problem is that online advertising can't generate enough revenue to support news reporting.

    The Pew survey soberly states: "It is now all but settled that advertising revenue—the model that financed journalism for the last century—will be inadequate to do so in this one."

    Charging for the news through micropayments is a possible solution but micropayments have a poor track record of success.

    Virtual currencies could offer the best of both worlds, providing a surrogate micropayments system, and an advertising model that pays more than CPM ads. Local businesses could provide wads of virtual currencies to online newspaper readers, either in exchange for some survey data, or as a complimentary service.

    - Local businesses could provide wads of virtual currencies to online newspaper readers, either in exchange for something such as survey data, or as a complimentary service to build goodwill.

    - Businesses could also provide virtual cash that could be associated with reading specific sections in a newspaper, say furniture sellers to the "Home" section. Best Buy could provide virtual cash for reading the gadgets pages, etc.

    - News sites could reward readers with virtual cash for contributing user generated content, such as a popular column, or for photos.

    - Virtual cash could be exchanged between blogs and other online publishers for republishing great content. And there are a myriad other creative ways virtual cash could be used in news media.

    The beauty is that the virtual cash would be purchased from the news media publishers with cold, hard cash by businesses, instead of purchasing online ads. And the virtual cash then powers an entire dynamic economy within a news site that helps produce great content and provide other services.

    Compare that to buying an online ad that just sits there, usually unnoticed on the side of the page.

    How do you set up a virtual currency system? "That's our next product, a tool that manages virtual currencies for web sites, so that you don't have to build it yourself," says Mr Bailey. That would be great for news media sites.

    It's these types of monetization technologies, borrowed from other publishers, in this case games publishers, that news media businesses would do well to investigate and adopt. What do they have to lose?

    By the way, what should be the name of a virtual currency in the news media world? My suggestion is "lede" it rhymes with seed and it is very specific to journalism, it denotes the first sentence of a news story.

    [This is a 2 lede article.]


    Please see:

    Why Small Payments Won’t Save Publishers « Clay Shirky

    Pew Survey: Online Journalists See Glass Half-Full As 2009 Expected Worst Ever In News Media

    25 ideas: Creating An Open-Source Business Model For Newspapers

    "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    March 31, 2009

    Pew Survey: Online Journalists See Glass Half-Full As 2009 Expected Worst Ever In News Media

    The first survey of nearly 300 online journalists by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism found "uneasy optimism" compared with colleagues in traditional media and concern that the Internet "is changing the fundamental values of journalism."

    They were also more likely to express confidence that a profitable online business model would be found. Most reported staff increases in their organizations.

    The survey results form part of the recently released Pew Project's 6th annual survey of the US news media, a depressing read. More than 180,000 words of it on 700 pages.

    I pulled out a few extracts:

    - Newspaper ad revenues have fallen 23% in the last two years.

    - Growing by a third annually just two years ago, online ad revenue to news websites now appears to be flattening; in newspapers it is declining.

    -Some papers are in bankruptcy, and others have lost three-quarters of their value.

    -By our calculations, nearly one out of every five journalists working for newspapers in 2001 is now gone, and 2009 may be the worst year yet.

    - In local television, news staffs, already too small to adequately cover their communities, are being cut at unprecedented rates; revenues fell by 7% in an election year—something unheard of—and ratings are now falling or are flat across the schedule. In network news, even the rare programs increasing their ratings are seeing revenues fall.

    - Perhaps least noticed yet most important, the audience migration to the Internet is now accelerating. The number of Americans who regularly go online for news, by one survey, jumped 19% in the last two years; in 2008 alone traffic to the top 50 news sites rose 27%.

    - Yet it is now all but settled that advertising revenue—the model that financed journalism for the last century—will be inadequate to do so in this one.

    - In trying to reinvent the business, 2008 may have been a lost year, and 2009 threatens to be the same. Imagine someone about to begin physical therapy following a stroke, suddenly contracting a debilitating secondary illness.

    - The problem facing American journalism is not fundamentally an audience problem or a credibility problem. It is a revenue problem—the decoupling, as we have described it before, of advertising from news.

    Several interesting special reports:

    -There is one on citizen-based media, including a university study of 363 citizen websites in 46 markets.

    -There is an essay by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel on the Lessons of the Election.

    -There is a backgrounder on the growing models of entrepreneurial journalism, new Web news organizations run by professional journalists outside the mainstream press.

    -There is a review of changes in the last year in public attitudes.

    Here are the direct links to the different sections of The State of the News Media 2009:

    Continue reading "Pew Survey: Online Journalists See Glass Half-Full As 2009 Expected Worst Ever In News Media" »

    March 23, 2009

    WidgetBucks: Fixing Online Advertising - A $9bn Opportunity


    [Matt Hulett- CEO of WidgetBucks]

    Online advertising is becoming less and less effective. Eric Clemons has some ideas on why this is happening, and there are many startups trying to fix the problem.

    And it is a very significant problem because it affects the business model for nearly all types of online publishers. If online advertising continues to fall in its effectiveness then there will less and less revenue support for content creators, such as newspapers and magazines.

    WidgetBucks, based in Seattle is one of those companies that are working on making Internet advertising more effective. It offers clients an advertising "container" or widget, that provides better contextual delivery of adverts, and a much richer user experience, which results in more effective advertising.

    This part of its business has already been extraordinarily effective, helping publishers gain higher revenues than through advertising networks such as Google AdSense, etc.

    "What we do is we optimize the ad networks so that they deliver ads that are more relevant to the site, and that can make a big difference for advertisers and the publishers," says Matt Hulett, CEO.

    The company is also working on making the content of its advertising "containers" more interesting and it is experimenting with combining ads with online games and other types of media that engages Internet users. "Engagement" is the term du jour these days as advertisers seek new formats that will work better than current ones.

    "It wasn't too long ago that people were pleased if 1 per cent of their ads got a click through, these days they are pleased if it is 0.1 per cent," says Mr Hulett.

    The widget approach to advertising means that WidgetBucks has an open window on the publisher's site and it can carry out A/B testing to optimize advertising delivery based on a large number of variables. It can then apply those lessons across other sites.

    "For example, on a consumer gadget site, we track what works and what doesn't and then we can feed the right types of ads onto all similar sites. That increases the effectiveness of the ads and the advertiser makes more sales, and the publisher gets more ads -- everybody benefits."

    Publishers love the service and there are about 26,000 publishers now using WidgetBucks.

    A $9 billion opportunity . . .

    But there is more, much more to be done, says Mr Hulett. The company is testing out a new service that addresses a massive $9 billion optimization opportunity.

    "About 30 per cent of online ads are not viewed because readers don't scroll down the page. Last year PricewaterhouseCoopers estimated that advertisers are paying about $9 billion for adverts that are not seen," says Mr Hulett.

    WidgetBucks will release details in the second quarter on a new service that lets advertisers eliminate payment for unseen ads.

    But won't that hurt many online publishers such as newspapers? They'll be receiving billions of dollars less at a time when they are struggling to increase revenues.

    Mr Hulett says publishers will benefit because they will be able to charge more for the better performing ad positions. "And you can also eliminate cluttering up the page with lots of adverts, it'll be better for readers."

    - - -

    Foremski's Take:

    There is a well known maxim in the advertising business that 50 per cent of all advertising spending is wasted -- but you can't tell which 50 per cent.

    In online advertising you can use an arsenal of analytics technologies that will tell you which 50 per cent is being wasted. And as more and more advertising moves online, the potential cost savings for advertisers are enormous.

    That's why there is a tremendous amount of VC money, about $500 million by some estimates, being invested in startups such as WidgetBucks, that are focused on developing advertising optimization technologies. This will result in advertisers having ever finer control over the ad format, timing, and targeting of their adverts. This will increase the effectiveness of online advertising and reduce costs.

    However, I don't buy the argument that publishers will benefit to the same degree as advertisers. The cost savings have to come out of someone's pocket. For example, eliminating $9 billion in payments for unseen ads won't help publishers -- unless they move to a format where they only publish pages that are the size of one display screen. Even if that were to happen, there would still be plenty of ways of optimizing ads and saving money.

    The transition to online publishing means advertisers no longer have to pay for ineffective advertising. And that's why we now have a media industry going through a tremendously disruptive period.

    It was the 50 per cent of the "wasted" advertising spend that was supporting the media industry: newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, etc. It was helping to under-write the creation of content and support millions of jobs: journalists, editors, photographers, camera operators, delivery truck drivers, printers, producers, camera operators, administrators, etc.

    Better optimization of advertising will save billions of dollars for advertisers but it will mean even less money for online publishers, and for journalism as a whole.

    Without good journalism our society will be more vulnerable to disinformation and it will lessen its ability to make good decisions on very important subjects such as the economy, global warming, healthcare, education, foreign policy. Software engineers have a saying: garbage in, garbage out.   

    I believe we will eventually find a way to pay for quality journalism but we will have to go through a very troubling transition. That's not the fault of companies such as WidgetBucks, it's just the way things are, this is what the Internet enables.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Latest News From WidgetBucks

    WidgetBucks Blog:

    Three Reasons Why Amazon Should Buy Twitter

    March 20, 2009

    Media Is Dead . . . Long Live The Media!

    All the chatter in the mediasphere about the death of newspapers (and TV) makes the subject of media seem so morbid. But, we have more media happening now than at anytime in humanity's existence.

    We have more media, in more formats, and at anytime we choose. We consume more media today than ever before. [It's just that we haven't yet figured out how to make money from it (but we will).]

    These are the best times to be a media or PR, imho.

    I spent 20 plus years working as a journalist in Silicon Valley, interviewing people about the work they were doing on a chip, software application, or one of many technologies. These days people are looking over my shoulder, and that of my colleagues in journalism and PR, looking at what we are doing with a plethora of media technologies.

    Silicon Valley has turned into a Media Valley, because so many of our large and startup companies are essentially media companies. They are technology-enabled-media-companies, they sell advertising around content. That's true for Google, Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, Craigslist, and it is true for many smaller companies, Web 2.0 companies, etc. And the rise of social media is just a continuing part of this trend.

    As journalists or PR/corporate communications people, we are in the middle of a unique period in history. I think it is very likely that we will never, ever, experience this kind of disruption that is happening in our industries, in our lifetimes, again.

    It's not a pleasant time for many, because the chief quality of disruptive technologies are that they are disruptive. But, these are also incredibly creative opportunities.

    There are so many questions and so few answers, and that's great. Because we all get a chance to figure things out, we all get a chance to make mistakes and create the best practices that will become part of the future. We get to discover the new rules of story telling and communications. And that's what gets me out of bed.

    March 18, 2009

    New York Times Defends AIG Bonuses?! - We Need A Return To Muckracking Journalism . . .

    Andrew Ross Sorkin, a reporter at the New York Times, took a contrarian position on Tuesday, writing an opinion piece that defended the multi-million dollar bonus payments by AIG.

    . . . If government officials were to break the contracts, they would be “breaking a bond,” Ms. Meyer says. “They are raising a whole new question about the trust and commitment organizations have to their employees.”

    . . .as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments.

    One problem with Mr Sorkin's argument is that many of the people receiving multi-million dollar job retention bonuses have already left AIG. And the other problem is that these people are being rewarded for creating a financial mess that is being paid for by tax payers.

    Why would the New York Times deliberately choose such an unpopular position? By mid-Tuesday afternoon it received more than 3,000 protest emails and more than 1500 comments.

    There is a great newspaper tradition of crusading journalism, muckraking . . . pointing out corruption, and bringing down the high and mighty. That's the kind of journalism that is missing these days.

    From: Muckraker - Wikipedia

    . . .Roosevelt saw benefits and disadvantages to muckraking activity. He declared that although these men did good work when they scraped up the ‘filth’ of America, "the man who did nothing else was certain to become a force of evil.”

    . . .these journalists, through their research and constant exposure of the wrongdoing by officials in American public life, gave fuel to protests that led to investigations and later on reform of not only Corporate America but the American Government. The Muckrakers’ journalistic efforts helped reform and regulate Wall Street and aspects of big businesses.

    I try to be a muckraking journalist when I can. I was a huge big critic of Yahoo's policy towards China, actions that led to a ten year prison sentence for a Chinese journalist when Yahoo revealed his identity.

    And Yahoo eventually pulled out of China. I'm not saying it was due to SVW muckraking . . . but, I am saying that we need more muckraking. Especially during these times when journalists are being blamed for not sounding the alarm on our broken economy.

    Why isn't the New York Times muckraking? Surely it's not waiting for a better opportunity?

    - - -

    Please see some SVW muckraking on Yahoo and China:

    Despicable behavior by Yahoo management - Shi Tao gets ten years

    Chinese Internet Rep Flees From UK Reporter

    11.07.06: 24 hours against censorship

    Dissidents within YHOO and GOOG will make ethical companies

    A View from Within on US Companies and China

    1.8.07: Google in China

    US Tech Firms Lame Excuse on China Business

    Chinese Dissident's Wife to Sue Yahoo

    Hong Kong Lawmaker Continues Attack on Yahoo over Journalist Jailing in China

    Yahoo gives $1m to fund research into "international values"

    Newswatch 8.6.07: Did Yahoo Lie about Chinese Dissent?

    Yahoo moves for dismissal of dissidents' case

    Newswatch 11.8.07: YHOO's China troubles

    Would You Work For Moral "Pygmies?" - The Costs Of Yahoo's Actions In China

    March 17, 2009

    Where Is The Productivity From Social Media Technologies?

    I recently discovered Hank Williams who writes a blog titled "Why does everything suck?" It is well written and often makes some very good points. Mr Williams is a tech entrepreneur based in New York.

    I was particularly struck by his post from late September called "You Really Can't Get Something For Nothing." The financial world was collapsing at the time (it still is) and Mr Williams was berating our society for trying to make money from nothing much at all, from the rising value of homes, from shuffling money from column A to column B, etc.

    He says that China now produces things of value but the US now produces very little of value. It's a well worn analogy but it still is an apt analogy. He then takes the tech economy to task for creating little of productive value.

    In the tech economy, in the last five years we have produced very little that actually makes any of our lives better. Twitter is cute, but economically unproductive. Ditto Friendfeed. Ditto (fill in the blank with your favorite social media platform). These products are economically neutral. And that is not a good thing. To those of you that would argue with me on this point, I defy you to explain the real world economic value/impact of the social media revolution. How does it help increase the real world GDP even one little tiny bit. I dare you. I double dare you. You can’t do it. Because if all of it went away, the world would be the same the next day.

    He points out that prior technologies such as word processors, spreadsheets, databases, email, etc, did create value, they did improve people's productivity.

    Social media is the first major computing revolution that as far as I can tell, has produced essentially nothing.

    He goes on to point out that social media "is perfectly fitting in a society where producing nothing has been in fashion for years. Mortgages without credit. Profit without product. Riches without risk."


    Is he right?

    Social media certainly seems like it doesn't produce anything of value, that it doesn't help productivity. I spend way too much time on Facebook, Twitter, etc, and I seem to be spending more time there every day.

    For my job, however, I do see value and I do see productivity. I use social media to let people know about my work -- it's a very effective distribution channel. I also get to know my readers better. When I was working at the Financial Times we had to set up surveys and panels to figure out who was reading what and what they thought of it.

    Social media it also a very good research tool, I can find sources, and I can find information about topics I am writing about faster than before. It does make my work more productive.

    But is this true for other professions? Does social media make you more productive at what you do? Is there value in social media.? Or is Mr Williams right when he writes, "if all of it [social media] went away, the world would be the same the next day."

    February 18, 2009

    25 ideas: Creating An Open-Source Business Model For Newspapers

    (Building from yesterday's post...)

    I'm just one of many people coming up with business ideas for saving newspapers. There are a lot of posts being published on this subject.

    Someone should collect all the advice because it's turning into some kind of open source business model. And the beauty of this approach is that only a few newspapers need to have the courage to try new ideas--if any one of them succeeds then the rest can piggyback. They win and we win.

    Here are my 25 ideas on how newspapers might be able to survive and become innovative media businesses:

    1: Focus on original content, do not rewrite wire stories or press releases. If newspapers start charging for content people are more likely pay for content they can't get anywhere else.

    2: Focus on hyper-local coverage, newspapers should "own" their regional beat because they have the best contacts and the best understanding of local companies and issues. For example, SF Chronicle or the San Jose Mercury should be breaking all the top Apple or Google stories.

    3: Don't run foreign bureaus unless you are the New York Times or the like, or are publishing a unique perspective relevant to your community.

    4: Be a regular and visible part of your local communities by making sure journalists get out of the office.

    5: Become an active teacher of media literacy and also media production in your local communities. Help teach citizen journalists how to be great journalists, editors, photographers, videographers, etc. Teach how to be effective and ethical.

    6: Celebrate the best citizen journalists/bloggers in your communities, publish them on your platform.

    7: Become involved in local events, organize conferences. There is a lot of money in conferences. The newspaper becomes a vehicle for drawing people to the conferences.

    8: Don't let advertising networks sell your advertising. They take a huge cut for serving ads and you lose the customer connection. I often see newspapers running Google AdSense on their front page and at the bottom of the ads there is the message: "If you'd like to advertise on this site click here." That click takes prospective customers to Google and not to the newspaper. Newspapers should always own their customer relationship.

    9: Develop a hybrid content strategy for search engines and news aggregators that takes advantage of the distribution power of the Internet without giving away all the content.

    10: Adopt a culture of a "news organization" rather than a "newspaper." Paper or electron, it shouldn't matter how the news is delivered.

    11: Offer some way for readers to pay. Every newspaper has a group of fiercely loyal readers, some more than others, but there is no way for them to pay if they want to read their newspaper online. Many people like the positive ecological aspect of reading online and are proud they are saving resources--and many would be willing to pay for this vastly improved product yet the newspapers don't offer any way to collect this easy revenue. One way might be witha PBS-style volunteer membership package? With discounts among local businesses.

    12: Become the host for all important discussions about local issues and politics. Moderate the discussions to ensure civil discourse. Nothing kills discussions faster than offensive comments made by anonymous people.

    13: Newspaper journalists need new publishing skills in video, audio, images, and should have some basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Being able to type is not enough.

    14: Help raise money for schools and other essential local services. Show you are part of the community.

    15: Create a safe online experience, free from phishing, malware, and adverts for scam services.

    16: Create a search site to search local resources and businesses.

    17: Create a news aggregation site that provides your readers with access to news and other articles available elsewhere.

    18: Each newspaper section should provide a search engine specific to its topic and region: Business: Company information and financial services. Home: Search for builders, furniture, decorators. Food: Search for recipes, local restaurants, etc.

    19: Offer free classified adverts online and also have a free section in print. You can charge for a premium listing that offers better visibility.

    20: Create informational pages to help people in your communities with common tasks such as how to get a business license. Where to find your car if it has been towed. Information for people that have recently moved into the area. In different languages. Have your web people create pages that are mashups of available online data but presented in a more accessible form, such as mapping police reports onto regional maps. School information, etc.

    21: Hire additional salespeople. It is is a different sales environment today and it requires a fresh approach. Salespeople used to selling full page or half-page print ads are not the going to be able to transition easily.

    22: Host web sites for important community groups in your region for free. You can run advertising on them and the groups will benefit from having an easy way to publish online.

    23: Create a way of allowing readers to share in the ownership of the newspaper, or somehow give them a role in what the newspaper should be doing to become more useful to its community.

    24: Create a directory of local businesses with space for user comments. Offer premium listings for a fee that also shows the business is supporting the newspaper, with a sticker. Yellow pages is a huge local business that the newspapers could easily own.

    25: What are your ideas for helping newspapers transition into the online world?

    - - -

    Please see:

    - Why Pay-For-News Won't Work: The First Mover Disadvantage

    - "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    - Bye-Bye Free News - Murdoch Joins The Pay Debate

    - Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media . . .

    - Pandora's Box 1981: The Online Newspaper Experiment

    February 17, 2009

    Some Ideas On Reinventing Newspapers

    Newspapers would like to be paid for their online content because they can't survive on online advertising alone.

    Pay-for-news might work but only if newspapers have original content, "you can only read it here." That's what I try to do with SVW, I try to have original interviews, scoops, original angles -- stories that you can only read here.

    But a lot of newspapers don't have much original content. They use a lot of wire copy or simply rewrite the wire copy; they publish news stories that look very much the same as other news stories; there is little competition to get scoops.

    If a newspaper can generate a lot of "you can only read it here" content then there is a halfway decent chance that it can find enough people to pay for it. And there is a lot of potentially original content to be had by focusing on hyper-local coverage.

    But a lot of newspapers have journalists that sit at a desk all day long and rarely interact with their local communities.

    Some newspapers have recently come up with the concept of MoJos -- mobile journalists equipped with notebooks, cell phone modems, and cameras. Isn't that what journalists used to do, go out into their communities and hunt down stories, hangout in bars, cafes, look for original stories, scoops?

    Newspapers should own their local stories. For example, San Jose Mercury or the San Francisco Chronicle should "own" Silicon Valley stories. They should be breaking all the best Google stories, Oracle, Apple, etc. That would be something people would pay for.

    Here are some ideas on how newspapers could survive and become viable businesses:

    - Focus on original content, do not rewrite wire stories or press releases--people are more likely pay for content they can't get anywhere else.

    - Focus on hyper-local coverage, newspapers should "own" their regional beat because they have the best contacts and the best understanding of local companies and issues.

    - Don't run foreign bureaus unless you are the New York Times or the like, or are publishing a unique perspective relevant to your community.

    - Be a regular and visible part of your local communities by getting out of the office and into those communities.

    - Become an active teacher of media literacy and also media production in your local communities. Help teach citizen journalists how to be great journalists, editors, photographers, videographers, etc. Teach how to be effective and ethical.

    - Celebrate the best citizen journalists/bloggers in your communities, publish them on your platform.

    - Become involved in local events, organize conferences. There is a ton of money in conferences.

    - Don't let advertising networks sell your advertising. They take a huge cut for serving ads and you lose the customer connection. Newspapers should always own their customer relationship.

    - Develop a hybrid content strategy for search engines and news aggregators that takes advantage of the distribution power of the Internet without giving away all the content.

    - Adopt a culture of a "news organization" rather than a "newspaper." Paper or electron, it shouldn't matter how the news is distributed.

    - Online readers that want to pay, have no way of paying for the the news except by buying a newspaper subscription! PBS does quite well with membership packages that include discounts from local businesses, while keeping broadcasts freely available. That's a model that could be offered by newspapers.

    - Become the host for all important discussions about local issues and politics. Moderate the discussions to ensure civil discourse. Nothing kills discussions faster than offensive comments made by anonymous people.

    - Newspaper journalists need new publishing skills in video, audio, images, and should have some basic knowledge of HTML and CSS. Being able to type is not enough.

    - Help raise money for schools and other essential local services. Show you are part of the community.

    - Create a safe online experience, free from phishing, malware, and adverts for scam services.

    - And there are lots of other ideas...

    There are many people coming up with great suggestions to help newspapers survive. There is probably no other industry that has so many people willing and eager to help out with ideas. For example: - How to mend what isn't really broken! - Jan Simmonds

    Newspapers have a unique opportunity to reinvent themselves. In some cases it means rediscovering what they used to do, and what they used to know: original content sells. You can only read it here.

    The other opportunity is to innovate and create new forms of media that have never ever been created. There is a tremendous amount of innovation happening in media.

    I've said it many times: Silicon Valley has become a Media Valley. Google publishes pages of content with advertising. So does Yahoo, Ebay, and many others. Facebook is a media company, and so are thousands of startups in the "Web 2.0" space.

    Why aren't newspapers part of this innovative media industry?

    - - -

    Please see:

    - Why Pay-For-News Won't Work: The First Mover Disadvantage

    - "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    - Bye-Bye Free News - Murdoch Joins The Pay Debate

    - Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media . . .

    - Pandora's Box 1981: The Online Newspaper Experiment

    February 16, 2009

    Why Pay-For-News Won't Work: The First Mover Disadvantage

    As newspapers lose revenues from their print business they are forced to rely on revenues from their online business. But their costs of running a news organization are far higher than their online revenues.

    Print advertising was once able to cover the costs of running a newspaper and do it profitably. But online advertising cannot cover the costs of running a news organization--even when online readership is larger than paper readership and growing.

    This problem of more readers, yet declining revenues, is frustrating the newspaper industry. Lately, there has been a tremendous amount of discussion within the newspaper industry on this issue and the emerging consensus is that readers will have to pay for the news. It might be micropayments, it might be a monthly subscription, but the era of free news is going to go away.

    The Wall Street Journal is a good example of a business model that appears to be working--it offers some free news but it charges a subscription for most of its news. And this seems to be the type of business model with the most support among newspaper publishers.

    But who will go first?

    The Wall Street Journal is a specialist newspaper without much competition. Daily newspapers have a broad range of news content and there is a lot of overlap in their news stories. Any metropolitan daily newspaper will have many of the same stories as any other metropolitan daily.

    They all use a tremendous amount of wire copy from Associated Press, Reuters, Dow Jones, Bloomberg, etc, even if the newswire stories are from their locality. This was fine when newspapers monopolized their regions because you couldn't get that news in any other way.

    Now, thanks (or no thanks) to the Internet, newspapers thousands of miles from each other compete for the same readers. A columnist in Chicago now gets to compete against a columnist in New York or Philadelphia. A movie reviewer in San Diego now competes against a movie reviewer in Toronto.

    Most newspapers have very low brand loyalty. More than 60 per cent of newspapers' web site traffic comes from search engines and news aggregators -- and not from people going directly to their site.

    This is the first mover disadvantage. Lock up your content behind a paywall and your readers will find free news stories elsewhere.

    There is a last mover advantage. The last newspaper to charge for content wins, at which point they'll also have a huge readership collected from all the other newspapers.

    This is why pay-for-news won't work.

    So what is the solution? How can newspapers transition to becoming viable news organizations that make money through paper or electron?

    It's a situation best described by the Maine saying: "You can't get there from here." It's a phrase that doesn't seem make any sense but it makes perfect sense in this context: The mainstream media world cannot transition to the newstream media world of online revenues. Your online revenues cannot support the costs of your news organization. You can't get there from here.

    This is why the Internet is a disruptive technology. And the key point about a disruptive technology is that it disrupts. It disrupts individual companies and entire industries. Even though you can clearly see the train wreck way ahead of you, you can't get out of the way, you cannot downsize quickly enough, you cannot change tracks quickly enough--you slam into it.

    The newspaper industry clearly sees the train wreck of its print business model way ahead. It will slam straight into it.

    - - -

    Please see:

    - "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    - Bye-Bye Free News - Murdoch Joins The Pay Debate

    - Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media . . .

    - Pandora's Box 1981: The Online Newspaper Experiment

    February 12, 2009

    "Google Devalues Everything It Touches" - Wall Street Journal Chief

    Charlie Rose today started a series on the future of journalism.

    A conversation about the future of newspapers with Walter Isaacson of "Time," Robert Thomson of "Wall Street Journal" and Mort Zuckerman of "The New York Daily News"

    It was a fascinating discussion about micropayments, subscription models, and how newspapers can adapt to the challenge of low online ad revenues. And produced an excellent transcript.

    Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal, said many interesting things that showed a deeper understanding of the issues than the other panelists.

    Mr Thomson said, "Google devalues everything it touches. Google is great for Google but it's terrible for content providers." He said that Google doesn't distinguish between the quality of the content around which it serves up ads, it is concerned with quantity rather than quality.

    Walter Isaacson agreed. "Also, what Google does is it allows ads to be spread all over the Web. You can go to Google ad servers and put ads on any site there is."

    Mort Zuckerman didn't think that micropayments for news articles would work. He said "We're ready to be the second or third newspaper that does that."

    Mrt Zuckerman placed his hope in a new printing press. "You get a premium from advertisers if you have color."

    Charlie Rose said,"But you're saying maybe the only thing that your new business model has in it is a better printing press and a cheaper printing press?"

    Mr Thomson laughed off camera. Mr Zuckerman said, "Well, it's not -- yes, well, it's more efficient. We don't like to call it cheaper."

    Mr Thomson supported Mr Zuckerman's belief that newspapers wouldn't go away. "I think Mort is on to something. Dead trees are definitely not dead. . . the idea of spending 30 minutes with any medium, with -- and the only multitasking you're doing is drinking a cup of coffee, that does make newspapers unique. And actually if you talk to ad people, they're starting to recognize that."

    Mr Isaacson said nice things about citizen journalists and bloggers. "We're getting citizen journalists, bloggers, that are adding immensely to the wealth of information that we have."

    He said that citizen journalists should be paid. "I think what you are trying to do is incent good, decent people who want to cover their town planning meeting or become citizen journalists or write blogs that are actually worth reading. You want them to be able to do it not just as an ego kick or as a hobby or as a civic contribution, but have people who have to put food on their table be able to afford to be citizen journalists, afford to be good bloggers."

    The most important point was said by Mr Thomson: "Every newspaper is of itself a great brand, and to have brand value on the Web is to have a great advantage."

    Mr Thomson has a better understanding of the issues because he spent several years as Editor of The Times newspaper in London. British newspapers have been able to adapt to, and exploit the Internet, in ways that US newspapers are only now learning.

    [I used to work with Mr Thomson when he was Editor of the Financial Times in the US. And I met with him on a recent trip to New York. He said that on The Times, they had a team of people making sure that the news stories could be easily indexed by Google, but US newspapers are only just beginning to do the same.]

    - - -

    Please see: has an excellent transcript here:

    And I begin with you, Walter. Tell me how bad is it, from all the surveys that you took in putting this piece together, and what's a modest proposal?

    WALTER ISAACSON, ASPEN INST.: I think it's pretty bad, because I think we've realized after the fourth quarter of last year in which Web advertising for newspapers started to decline, that Web advertising wasn't going to continue to shoot up and form a business model where you could keep giving away newspapers for free online and hope that Web advertising would support it.

    Poynter Online - Romenesko

    Here is the video of the Charlie Rose segment.

    February 11, 2009

    Bye-Bye Free News - Murdoch Joins The Pay Debate

    Murdoch Exhorts to Charge for Content - Media Buyer Planner

    Media emperor Rupert Murdoch is advocating charging an online subscription fee for The New York Times, much like the model currently in use by his own paper, the Wall Street Journal.

    Last year I came to the conclusion that the only way to save good journalism is to charge money for it. Online advertising simply cannot cover the costs of journalists, editors, foreign bureaus, photographers, videographers, production editors, sub-editors, admins, web production staff, software engineers, media engineers, offices, pension plans, admins, electricity, travel, healthcare, IT infrastructure . . . and lunches. In recent weeks a lot of my leading figures in the media have come to the same conclusion.

    (Please see: FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News)

    News is not a commodity, it just seems that way because it has been offered for free. News releases (press releases or social media releases) are a commodity, and freely available because they aren't "news stories," they are one-sided communications from corporations or their agents.

    There is a growing realization that the right business model for newspapers is to charge money for the news. There is a lot of debate about how to do it, if it should be micro-payments, or if it should be a subscription for a package of news, or some other method.

    The most important thing is that there is a broad realization that the free news business model is not viable. Whether we like it or not, some of the news, at least from quality news organizations, will no longer be free.

    I often hear the argument that people have gotten used to free news and so they won't pay for it, they'll get their news from bloggers, from other sources on the Internet. That's fine, that's their choice, people can try their luck looking at free news on the Internet and figuring out if they trust the source. If they have time on their hands, they can research if a news story is true, or has been "hacked," and if it can be trusted.

    I believe that there will be enough people that will want to save time and go straight to a trusted source and pay for the news. That's the beauty of the Internet, it is not "either/or" it's "and."

    Some people will remember the early days of the Internet and how the first online advertising created a controversy -- people said Internet users wouldn't accept being subjected to advertising. Well, people did accept advertising. People will accept paying for online news.

    It is worth pointing out, that like in those the early days of the Internet, these are still the early days of the Internet. We'll get used to these changes and plenty more.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Brill's secret plan to save the New York Times and journalism itself

    A business model that is based uniquely on expensive editorial quality but that derives revenue only from advertisers who only indirectly use or pay for that quality is a business model that cannot work. There is simply no example, not one – in print, on line, in television – of quality content offered for free ever resulting in a viable business.

    Let's talk about the economics of great journalism

    Media innovation cannot be dependent on advertisers, they will not take the risk. Innovation must find a foothold with people who demand that great news be available.

    Can the Press Fix Itself? | American Journalism Review

    Brill is absolutely convinced of the soundness of his opinion — publishers have to raise their self-esteem, treasure what they do and get righteous about charging for it on the Internet. It's not the answer to how the press could have fixed itself a decade ago. For Brill, it's the answer to what needs to be done today.

    New York Times, Other Newspapers Should Charge for Online News Content - John A. Farrell (

    This is capitalism, folks. Nothing worth something is free. A free press is worth 15 cents a day.

    Cloud Journalism and the Fate of Beats

    Jobs -- including jobs in journalism -- just aren't what they used to be. Earlier this week, consultant Robert Patterson observed after reviewing trends in unemployment statistics that "the idea of a 'job' as a full-time object that can support a person or even a family, is disappearing."

    Printing The NYT Costs Twice As Much As Sending Every Subscriber A Free Kindle

    Not that it's anything we think the New York Times Company should do, but we thought it was worth pointing out that it costs the Times about twice as much money to print and deliver the newspaper over a year as it would cost to send each of its subscribers a brand new Amazon Kindle instead.

    New York Times (NYT): Subscriptions Are A Great Idea!

    Two weeks ago, we detailed our plan to save the New York Times (NYT):

       * 40% cost cuts by 2010

       * Increased print subscription price

       * Implement online subscription fee

    For the latter, we were roundly blasted by socialist digerati, who regard subscriptions as heresy.

    Well, we're glad to see there is intelligent life where it counts--at the New York Times. Editor Bill Keller says the paper is committed to getting consumers to pay for its content and will explore the idea of online subscriptions. We only hope Bill's wisdom finds its way upstairs!

    FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News

    February 7, 2009

    Saturday Post: The Inevitable Rise Of Cockroach Media . . .

    CES in Las Vegas was made more tolerable because of the good company of fellow journalist blogger Paul Mooney. One late night we were discussing the media industry, an occasional favorite topic of mine.


    We were discussing how the economic situation was going to accelerate the broad disruptive trend within the media industry.

    Less advertising would lead to a faster rate of job losses, and lower revenues for most, if not all media companies, and that also includes many newer media companies, Gawker Media for example. Simply put, it's not a good time to be in media--mainstream or newstream.

    More recently, the Wall Street Journal cut 25 newsroom jobs.

    Here is part of a memo to staff from Robert Thomson, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal:

    It is obvious to you all that we are in the midst of an unprecedented economic downturn. We are also in the midst of an unprecedented increase in our readership, in print and online, but a precipitous decline in print advertising revenue has forced a close examination of our structures and of our costs.

    It points to a curious anomaly within news organizations, that readership is often rising but revenues are falling.

    And the reason is that advertising is less expensive online but news creation costs remain the same. The cost of being in the news business isn't being covered by online advertising revenues.

    Media companies such as Google and Yahoo can sell online advertising at low rates and cover their costs but Wall Street Journal and other news organizations cannot survive without shrinking their productive resources, which can create a downward spiral of less content, and less revenue.

    When journalists lose their jobs it's tough because they also lose their publishing platform. They lose their byline, they disappear from public view, and that makes it more difficult finding a job. And even when better economic times return, the majority of journalism jobs won't ever return.

    In Las Vegas, Paul Mooney and I were thinking that we are in a better position than many of our colleagues in the media because we don't have far to fall. As long as we can keep the lights on, and maintain an Internet connection, we can still keep publishing during bad times, and worsening times. If you lose your job at a news organization you lose your public persona--a journalist that isn't publishing isn't.

    We joked that we represent a new type of media: cockroach media. Paul is from New York where cockroaches can be formidable in their ability to survive the harshest environments. He says, "I've given cockroaches some of my best hits and they still manage to crawl away."

    Cockroach media will survive this economic downturn a lot better than old and new media companies. And cockroach media should do well once the inevitable upturn comes around.

    - - -

    Cockroach media:

    Paul Mooney Living, Linking and Learning

    February 6, 2009

    Is Media Harming The Economy?

    It's a question that I ask myself and I've seen other people ask it: Is the media coverage of the economy harming the economy?

    By which I mean, the negative stories about the economy, the personal stories of families and individuals dealing with loss and the unpleasant results of this tough economy.

    The health of an economy seems influenced by culture, positive outlook, and reality. And media plays a key role in helping to shape at least two of those components. Therefore, should media be more positive in its coverage of the economy, would that make a difference?

    Let me know.


    In the interests of transparency here are some of my "holy-shit" posts about the economy:

    - Japan's King Kong And Godzilla Scale of Industry Destruction

    Saturday Post: Globalization Comes To A Screeching Halt . . .

    Saturday Post: Are These The Four Horsemen Of The Financial Apocalypse?

    Beyond The Sub-Prime Bubble: The Other Seven Deadly Bubbles . . .

    The Size of Derivatives Bubble = $190K Per Person on Planet

    Here is the start of a new series: BoomWatch on companies that are booming despite the gloom:

    - Tibco: Wrapping Metal Around Software

    - Boom Not Gloom: IT Search Firm Splunk

    Update: How Bad Is It? :: Swampland -

    February 5, 2009

    Ted Nelson, Fish, And Media

    I was looking for a quote by Ted Nelson, the iconic (not graphic) computer engineer and maverick thinker, and enjoyed the trip hunting for the quote. Mr Nelson is known by many for his work on the Xanadu project, which was a form of highly advanced hypertext linking technology predating the web.

    Sometimes Mr Nelson is described in these terms:

    While the World Wide Web may owe much of its inspiration to Project Xanadu, Nelson himself is an opponent of the Web, the Internet, XML, and all embedded markup.

    Here is a small taste of Mr Nelson and his sharp thinking:

    No one's life has yet been simplified by a computer.

    - - -

    In 1974, computers were oppressive devices in far-off air conditioned places. Now you can be oppressed by computers in your own living room.

    - - -

    Why are video games so much better designed than office software? Because people who design video games love to play video games. People who design office software look forward to doing something else on the weekend.

    - - -

    I see almost no difference between the Macintosh and the PC. The Macintosh interaction is much better tuned, but it's the same conceptual structure, the PARC User Interface (PUI) with ordinary hierarchical directories now called "folders".

    Calling a hierarchical director a "folder" doesn't change its nature any more than calling a prison guard a "counselor".  (Zimbardo's prison experiments showed that prison-guard behavior is structural, and so are the effects of hierarchical directories.)

    - - -

    Strange-- nobody believes that God created computers. Therefore we are under no divine obligation to use them according to tradition. We are, in principle, free to start over. But most people do not dare think about it. I say it's high time.

    I agree with a lot of Mr Nelson's thinking.

    The mission statement of Project Xanadu describes a technology that we definitely need:


    Since 1960, we have fought for a world of deep electronic documents-- with side-by-side intercomparison and frictionless re-use of copyrighted material.

    We have an exact and simple structure. The Xanadu model handles automatic version management and rights management through deep connection.

    Today's popular software simulates paper. The World Wide Web (another imitation of paper) trivializes our original hypertext model with one-way ever-breaking links and no management of version or contents.

    Here are some key concepts:


    "How can computer documents– shown interactively on screens, stored on disk, transmitted electronically– improve on paper?" Our answer was: "Keep every quotation connected to its original source."


    An author may legally use this system to quote from other Web pages on a new Web page, without contact the owner, without paying, and without violating copyright.

    It works like this: The materials appear on the Web page, but the transquoter does not deliver the materials at all, even though they look that way on the resulting page. There are several good reasons for this. One is that it avoids the copyright problem-- because the republisher has not made or sent a copy.



    The on-line copyright problem may be resolvable by a simple, sweeping permission method. This proposed system, which anyone may use, allows broad re-use of materials in exchange for automatic tracking of ownership. Payment goes to the original publisher and credit to the original author. Nothing is misquoted, nothing is out of context (since the original context is immediately available), and users are not spied upon.

    Here is more...

    . . .technology, here as elsewhere, masks an ocean of possibilities frozen into a few systems of convention.

    Inside the software, it's all completely arbitrary. Such "technologies" as Email, Microsoft Windows and the World Wide Web were designed by people who thought those things were exactly what we needed. So-called "ICTs"-- "Information and Communication Technologies," like these-- did not drop from the skies or the brow of Zeus. Pay attention to the man behind the curtain! Today's electronic documents were explicitly designed according to technical traditions and tekkie mindset. People, not computers, are forcing hierarchy on us, and perhaps other properties you may not want.

    Things could be very different.

    I wish they were. Mr Nelson reminds us that we don't need to accept the conventions of computer systems design, web service design, or any design at all.

    Computer technology provides us with ways of thinking that are limitless. There's not much of that around at the moment but maybe people just need to be reminded that they can.

    BTW, the quote I was looking for was: "We live in media as fish live in water."

    Here are is a video from his visit to Google in January 2007 and some links to start you off in a further exploration of Mr Nelson's work:

    Video - Transclusion: Fixing Electronic Literature

    Transliterature, A Humanist Design

    Ted Nelson home page

    Doug Engelbart's Colloquium at Stanford | Session 9: Ted Nelson

    An evening with Ted Nelson: visionary prerequisites for a vision - O'Reilly ONLamp Blog

    Here is a Wired feature: The Curse of Xanadu

    February 3, 2009

    Pandora's Box 1981: The Online Newspaper Experiment

    I just viewed an excellent video posted by Patrick Hinojosa. It is a TV news report from 1981 in which newscenter 4 describes a new project, involving the San Francisco Examiner and several other large newspapers, to enable online viewing of their news stories.

    The newspapers published full page ads to encourage people to sign up for the experiment.

    Only a few hundred signed up for the experiment in online newspapers probably because it took 2 hours to download a full newspaper and Compuserve charged $5 per hour.

    David Cole, an editor at the SF Examiner is quoted saying: "We're not in it to make money . . . we probably not going to lose a lot, but we aren't going to make much either."

    Prophetic words indeed! Unfortunately online news is costing the newspaper business a lot of money as it has been unable to monetize that service.

    It's a Pandora's box that the newspaper business probably wishes it shouldn't have opened.

    Here is the link to the 2.17 min video. I'm not sure if you have to be a member of Facebook to view it:

    January 26, 2009

    Searching For a Viable Media Business Model: French Government Aid For Newspapers

    Elke Heiss pointed me to this: The Associated Press: Sarkozy offers new help for French print media

    The French state will help provide free newspaper subscriptions to teenagers for their 18th birthdays, President Nicolas Sarkozy announced Friday. But the bigger gift is for France's ailing print media.

    Sarkozy also announced a ninefold rise in the state's support for newspaper deliveries and a doubling of its annual print advertising outlay amid a swelling industry crisis.

    Sarkozy argued in a speech to publishers that the measures are needed because the global financial crisis has compounded woes for a sector already suffering from falling ad revenues and subscriptions.

    In a speech to industry leaders, Sarkozy said it was legitimate for the state to consider the print media's economic situation.

    "It is indeed its responsibility ... to make sure an independent, free and pluralistic press exists," he said.

    This is interesting news but I'm wondering why does it have to be print focused? Surely it shouldn't matter if the news is delivered via paper or electrons--the point is to support news organizations that are producing high quality media.

    It's a shame that the free market cannot come up with a business model that distinguishes between low and high quality media. State intervention is welcome during tough times but it could be problematic if the state controls the viability of media (although the BBC is doing well).

    OK, I am biased, because I see the world through a media lens, but I believe that the single most important challenge that faces this Internet economy is how to develop a viable business model that supports a professional media class that produces high quality media.

    It is essential to society.

    If we lose our New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, BBC, etc, we lose our "fourth estate." We lose the people that that watch our politicians, business tycoons, and government policies. More importantly, we lose the people that investigate corruption, that check on the conduct of politicians, that know how to deal with spin.

    An army of bloggers won't and can't replace our media professionals - the journalists, editors, producers, sub-editors, photographers, videographers, etc. Our media is the way we figure out solutions to important problems--and the better it is, the better we are.

    Media is the way society thinks about important issues. If we have crap media we have crap solutions.

    Software engineers have a phrase for this: Garbage in--Garbage out.

    We are heading for a world of crap media. Buckle your belts.

    January 13, 2009

    Tip #1 For Any Type Of Personal Publishing

    This is my #1 tip if you plan to publish anything online, as text, images, audio, video, or any combination of content ...

    Continue reading "Tip #1 For Any Type Of Personal Publishing" »

    January 7, 2009

    GOOG Rejects Direct Investment In Failing Newspaper Industry

    Fortune magazine columnist Adam Lashinsky has a very interesting interview with GOOG CEO Eric Schmidt.

    Google's business is very clearly making it very difficult for the newspaper industry to transition to an online business model because GOOG can sell advertising very cheaply, it doesn't have to employ legions of editors, journalists, photographers, etc, it uses servers and algorithms to publish content.

    GOOG a new media company competing with old media in an online environment where it has by far the most efficient economic model. This is an issue I've been following very closely the past four years - the old media can't transition to the new media economy - "you can't get there from here."

    The Fortune interview is set in the context of the dire straits for the newspaper industry:

    Eric Schmidt wishes Google could save newspapers - Jan. 7, 2009

    ...the Christian Science Monitor eliminates its print edition, Tribune Co. declares bankruptcy, Detroit's two dailies slash home delivery to three days a week...

    Mr Schmidt says there isn't much that Google can do to help the newspaper industry. He is asked if Google would purchase newspapers (it has enough cash to buy nearly all the publicly traded newspaper companies.)

    Mr Schmidt replies:

    The good news is we could purchase them. We have the cash. But I don't think our purchasing a newspaper would solve the business problems. It would help solidify the ownership structure, but it doesn't solve the underlying problem in the business.

    That's certainly true - why buy a business that isn't viable?

    What about a cash investment similar to Microsoft's investment in Apple, Mr Lashinsky asks?

    There are no current plans to do that. The necessary criteria to get us to make that decision are not currently in place.

    What about an investment from, the philanthropic organization?

    We didn't want to co-mingle philanthropy with business. We are in the advertising business.

    It should be pointed out that is a for-profit organization and expects to make profitable philanthropic investments. Again, the newspaper business is not profitable, so that rules that out.

    The best Mr Schmidt can offer is to point to some fringe media projects:

    What's an alternative way to support the public good? One is Pro Publica [the non-profit investigative journalism organization headed by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger and funded by, among others, the Sandler Foundation].

    What if newspapers die?

    To me this presents a real tragedy in the sense that journalism is a central part of democracy. And if it can't be funded because of these business problems, then that's a real loss in terms of voices and diversity. And I don't think bloggers make up the difference. The historic model of investigative journalists in any industry is something that is very fundamental. So the question is, what can you do about this? And a fair statement is, we're still looking for the right answer.

    Foremski's Take:

    Mr Schmidt is crying crocodile tears. There is a tremendous amount that Google could do today for the newspaper industry. Here are some suggestions:

    -Pay for the use of newspaper stories in Google News. Monetize Google news and send the revenues to the news organizations so that they can reinvest the money and create a virtuous cycle. Sending traffic to newspaper sites is not good enough--the newspapers can't monetize the traffic to any real extent.

    -Create subscription services for news products that can help news organizations monetize their work.

    If Google is sincere in believing that news organizations perform a vital role in society and democracy then it should actively help find a way of supporting this extremely important resource. It has the brains, and it has the means, it just needs the will.

    I don't see any sign that Mr Schmidt and Google has any desire to solve what is one of the most important issues on the Internet today: how to create a viable online business model for news organizations. Without this we face a dire future as a global society, imho.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Google Is Really Bad At Monetizing Content Yet CEO Schmidt Lectures Newspapers

    - FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News

    GOOG Founders Could Buy All US Newspapers and Still Have $12bn

    The Financial Crisis and its Impact on Journalism

    - What Happens if the Old Media Dies Before the New Media Learns to Walk?

    Shrinking Mass Media Masses At Googleplex

    Silicon Valley = Media Valley: The MashUp of technology and Media

    Google is a Media Company

    December 15, 2008

    FutureWatch: The End Of The News Aggregators And The Future Of News

    Since leaving the Financial Times more than four years ago I've been able to observe the demise of the media industry from an excellent vantage point.

    Coming from "old" world and then becoming an online publisher I quickly saw that the economics of the new media world would not be able to support mainstream media business models. There is no way that online advertising can pay for a professional media organization with its army of journalists, editors, sub-editors, production editors, photographers, administrators, etc.

    The reason for the demise is because the cost of online advertising is far lower than for traditional advertising. The cost of online advertising set by biggest companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc. They place ads around other peoples content, or around their own content which is "harvested" from the Internet, or placed around their services such as search, and email. It is a highly automated system that produces content through computers and algorithms, rather than people.

    However, If you are a traditional media company that produces its content using journalists, editors, sub-editors, photographers, etc, then you have a problem because online ad rates are not going to cover your operational costs. And as ad buyers have grown more comfortable with online advertising, and long term contracts began to expire, the move to online advertising has accelerated.

    This has left media companies in a very tough spot. As their traditional sources of revenue have been disappearing their new sources of revenue are unable to cover their costs. And the current economic crisis is magnifying this trend to an ever greater degree.

    The media death spiral has become steeper and faster...

    This is a huge problem because as a society, we need media professionals -- citizen journalists cannot fill the breach.

    We need journalists, editors, sub-editors, photographers, etc, to help maintain high quality standards, to prevent misinformation, and to counter the spin of corporations and governments. We need these vital services as a society, so that we can make decisions about important things, such as the economy, the environment, healthcare, education, war.

    The quality of our decisions as a society is directly related to the quality of our information, to the quality of our media. Bad information leads to bad decisions. That's why figuring out a viable business model that can support professional media has become an extremely important issue.

    Since online advertising revenues can only support companies such as Google and a host of others, that "create" their content with computers and algorithms, traditional media companies such as newspapers will have to move to a subscription model.

    No future in free...

    News is not free, and it is not a commodity. News has been made available for free, and it has been made into a commodity but that is not its future because there is no future in that model. You will have to pay for it.

    That means the end of the news aggregators. That means the end to arguments that the news aggregators send high volumes of traffic to the online publishers. What is the use of more traffic when it cannot be monetized to support the work of the news organizations?

    The only "news" that will remain free will be press releases--but there is little value in that type of unfiltered "news" source.

    In the future you will have to pay for news and other high quality content. Online advertising, affiliate marketing revenues, and lead generation income will moderate the subscription fees but not eliminate them. There is no other solution.

    December 8, 2008

    Shrinking Mass Media Masses At Googleplex

    Monday evening I was at Google's holiday party for the media. It's one of my favorite events because I get to hang out with the Google comms teams and also catch up with my colleagues in the media. It's nice and relaxing.

    But every year the number of press people attending gets smaller. The holiday party used to be held in a much larger space but moved to a smaller room a couple of years ago. At the rate the mass media is becoming micro-media Google can clean out a large broom closet and hold next year's party there.

    It is extraordinary what is happening in the media industry, especially with the recent news of the Tribune bankruptcy filing and New York Times borrowing a quarter of a billion dollars.

    I first spotted major trouble for the newspaper business when I left the Financial Times in mid 2004. I quickly saw that the economics of the online media business model would not be able to support the cost structure of newspaper companies.

    Online revenues would not be able to support newspaper companies with all their legacy costs, pension plans, office buildings, trucks, printing presses, layers of admin, journalists, editors, sub-editors, web masters, IT departments, HR, security, lawyers, ad sales people, etc. I could see that there was no way that online publishing would generate enough money to support media businesses with such large costs of operation.

    I started writing posts around the theme "you can't get there from here." It's a wonderful Yankee expression that makes perfect sense when applied to the established media industry.

    There is no way that the media industry can transition to the online world without totally reinventing itself. And that will happen too slowly. That's why new media companies are better positioned, such as the Huffington Post, because they are built from the ground up on the current economics of the online publishing market. It's never easy to cut back to grow. It's always easier if you are what I call a "new rules enterprise," you don't have legacy thinking and a legacy cost structure to deal with.

    So what do we do? We need professional journalists to sort out the information we need as a society, otherwise we are headed for a damaging period of disinformation.

    Media is how society thinks, it is how we collectively decide on important issues. Without a professional media class we are left with an army of citizen journalists who don't have the same access, don't have the same experience dealing with information "spin," and who don't have to get up every day and be professional journalists.

    Creating a business model to be able to pay for the professional journalism we need is a number one priority for our society, it is even more important than sorting out the current financial crisis, IMHO.

    Stork to visit the Kranes . . .

    Anyway, it was good to catch up with people at the Googleplex. The Google comms team is a little upset at being called arrogant by some sectors of the media but that's not news. The only Google person that I saw looking down at most of the media in room was Brian O'Shaughnessy, but that's because he's 6'6" :-)

    I found out the stork is making a third delivery at the David Krane household very soon (congrats!). And I also met the new head of Google communications and public affairs, a British lady, Rachel Whetstone. She used to work in London running Google's European communications team, she is also the former political secretary to Michael Howard, a senior British politician.

    I googled Michael Howard and found this on the Daily Telegraph site:

    Convicted drug dealer 'bribed former Home Secretary Michael Howard for early release'

    A convicted drug dealer claimed that he bribed former Home Secretary Michael Howard £400,000 to get an early release from prison, a court has heard.

    By Caroline Gammell

    Last Updated: 8:32PM GMT 31 Oct 2008

    Working at Google should be a lot less problematic than working with British politicians and the skeletons in their closets...

    October 28, 2008

    ReadWriteWeb Launches Jobwire to Report on New Hires

    Marshall Kirkpatrick has been working for the last three months on a new publishing project that launches Tuesday morning - ReadWriteWeb Jobwire.

    Marshall told me about this project when we were in Japan together at the end of May as guests of collaborative software company Lunarr.

    RWW Jobwire consists of stories about new senior hires at a variety of companies. There are a lot of press releases announcing senior exec appointments but they are rarely covered by current media publications. RWW can quickly become the lead media brand for these types of stories. Even in a down economy people still get hired.

    October 22, 2008

    Newer Media Cuts Jobs...

    Jason Calacanis, the founder of Mahalo, a "human powered search site" has cut ten percent of his staff in response to market conditions "much worse than I thought."

    However, ten percent staff cuts seems like the normal culling that takes place in Silicon Valley companies...

    Mr Calacanis writes in an email newsletter that part of the cost savings will be achieved by having his writers work from home. He says this is where writers like to work in their pajamas:

    One thing I've learned two or three times now is that writers, in large part, like to work from home in their pajamas with a big cup of coffee and their loved ones by their side. I know this to be true because most of my e-mails to you guys come when I'm sitting in the garden with my laptop, a cup of joe, and Taurus and Fondue curled up at my feet.

    Mr Calacanis has had prior success with Silicon Alley Reporter and Weblogs, Inc.

    Nick Denton at Gawker moved very quickly to make his cuts. I wonder if there will be any staff cuts at newer media companies such as GigaOm, TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, or VentureBeat?

    September 28, 2008

    The Financial Crisis and its Impact on Journalism

    Foremski's Take: Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI) are directly impacted by the financial crisis. Their journalists are part of the real-time financial information systems that are sold to traders and analysts on Wall Street and elsewhere.

    It is not known yet how many seats for the Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters terminals have been lost as a result of the financial crisis but they must be substantial.

    Bloomberg's web site reports:

    . . . more than 2,300 reporters and editors in 135 bureaus, Bloomberg News publishes more than 5,000 stories on an average day syndicating to over 400 newspapers worldwide, with a combined circulation of 73 million people.

    Thomson Reuters has already been cutting journalist jobs as a result of its merger earlier this year. In May it said it wanted to cut 140 editorial jobs out of about 2400. Reuters Media Solutions:

    Over 2,400 seasoned Reuters journalists report from 196 bureaus across the globe, bringing you fast, accurate, objective and comprehensive coverage of important international and domestic news in multiple languages.

    The impact of the financial crisis on the two organizations is certain to lead to cost cuts in editorial, especially since the editorial side of the business was subsidized by the financial services side of the business.

    The financial crisis is just the latest blow to journalism. Analysts have painted a bleak picture for ad supported newspaper and television companies in 2009.

    The UK Guardian reports:

    'Horror show' year ahead for media firms

    The worsening state of the global economy will make 2009 a "horror show" for advertising-dependent newspaper and television companies, with some analysts predicting that businesses may have to wait until 2011 to see positive ad growth.

    September 22, 2008

    GOOG Founders Could Buy All US Newspapers and Still Have $12bn

    Valleywag reports that entire US newspaper business is valued at $20 billion. Sergey Brin and Larry Page are worth about $16 billion each.

    Foremski's Take: US newspapers didn't realize GOOG is a media company until it was too late. Google was able to scrape its content virtually for free, from newspapers and other web sites, and sell advertising around that content. Newspapers spend huge amounts of money to create their content.

    Newspapers, and other media companies, have allowed Google to commoditize content, and retain the value in the aggregation and distribution.

    Yet the technology for aggregation and distribution is a commodity -- content is not a commodity.

    Once the content creators and owners realize that simple fact, then we might have a turnaround in the media sector. If not, then the media sector is next for a bailout--it is too important to fail.

    September 9, 2008

    What Happens if the Old Media Dies Before the New Media Learns to Walk?

    For nearly four years I've been warning about huge changes in the media world and why the old media can't make it into the new media world.

    There is an American expression that I love to use: "You can't get there from here." It seemingly doesn't make sense but it makes perfect sense in this context.

    You can't get there from here. When I left the Financial Times four years ago to become the first journalist to leave a top newspaper job to become a "journalist blogger" I could see the economic model of the old world, and the new economics of new media.

    I could see that pageviews and clicks could barely support me--a chap with a laptop and a cell phone. How could the economics of the new world support the legacy cost structure of the old, with its office buildings, printing presses, pension plans, etc?

    I could also see that the transition of the media's business model would be tremendously disruptive. And that this disruption would accelerate over the the next few years, as indeed has happened.

    I asked then, and I ask now: What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

    What will happen to journalism and to the hundreds of years of best practices created since newspapers were born from Guthenberg's moveable type machine, if old media can't transition to the online Movable Type of the new media world?

    And it won't be able to transition. Because the economics of new media -- pageviews and clicks -- can't support it.

    New media is defined by a machine-based economic model. It is cheaper to plug in a bank of servers and run software to publish content than it is to hire editors, manage journalists, and carry all the other employee related expenses of healthcare, pensions, offices, etc.

    Google is machine-based media. It uses servers and software to harvest and publish content and then sell advertising around it.

    Google and other machine-based media companies such as Yahoo, AOL, etc can cover their costs by selling ads cheaply. And that's what sets the price of online advertising--machine-based media companies.

    Media companies that require people to generate their content can't compete. Their costs are far higher than machine-based media companies--yet they have to sell their online advertising at the same rates.

    That's why "You can't get there from here."

    What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

    It won't be pretty. It'll be ugly and we'll have to relearn our best practices. And there will be considerable damage done to society.

    But it is not just media companies that are at the center of this disruptive tempest. Many new startup companies are in the cross hairs too.

    (Continues here...)

    September 8, 2008

    New Media Increasingly Looks Like Old Media Says Techmeme Founder

    I'm a big fan of Techmeme, the news aggregator run by Gabe Rivera. Gabe has been following old and new media for several years and has created an algorithm that does a great job in filtering up the top stories of the day in the mediasphere. Instead of using customized RSS news aggregators, many people in the tech industry use Techmeme to guide their daily news reading.

    I ran into Gabe last week at an event at the St. Regis in San Francisco and asked him about the state of the blogosphere. I pointed out that there seem to be few "real" bloggers left. Original bloggers such as GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, TechCrunch, etc now all seem to be just online news sites and they read like an "old media" news site.

    Gabe agreed, he said:"Techcrunch and the others used to link to each other and now they don't--they only link if they have to."

    That's very much like the old media, which hated to link or give credit to any rival news organization. I remember at the Financial Times, we would always try to "stand up" a story ourselves based on our contacts and would only give credit where credit was due when we couldn't write the story based on our information.

    Gabe said that in this way, new media sites were very much acting like old media. And with fewer links, that means he has had to continually tweak his algorithm. "I get around the problem by looking in many places for links or references to news stories, in places you might not normally look."

    Gabe is very secretive about how his algorithm does the filtering because he doesn't want others gaming his system. A story on Techmeme can generate a lot of traffic for a news site.

    He says that there are new bloggers coming online and they have audiences as large as the A-list bloggers had in 2005, and they do link to each other. They tend to be in specialist software engineering circles. But that's where blogging first grew to prominence, amongst the software engineers.

    Maybe blogging, that highly personal style of news delivery, is coming back to its roots. I'm thinking of starting a blog...

    September 2, 2008

    Finland Funnels $1.3m into Innovation Journalism Research

    Innovation journalism is a concept that has been popularized by David Nordfors, who leads the Innovation Journalism program at Stanford university. The subject just received a big boost from the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation with the award of a 900,000 euro ($1.31 million) research grant to a Finnish research consortium that will work with the innovation journalism program at Stanford.

    If you have about a minute, here is David Nordfors explaining, "What is innovation journalism?"

    More details from David Nordfors: The Innovation Journalism Blog: Finnish Innovation Journalism Research Gets 900.000 Euro

    The main aim of the new research project (acronym as Ginjo) is to enlarge and deeper the knowledge of global innovation journalism, and also develop new working methods and tools for news media. Case studies will concentrate on topics such as “green tech” and eldercare innovations.

    August 18, 2008

    Public Relations is Such a Sensitive Profession . . .

    PR is such sensitive profession. Anytime anyone criticizes any aspect of the practice of public relations the industry pays lots of attention along with a lot of mea culpa. If journalists did the same we'd never get any work done.

    Jennifer Leggio over at ZDNet has a good account of the latest PR bashing incident: Bloggers vs. PR - the broken record continues to skip | Feeds |

    It seems to me that the PR industry takes on criticism in two ways:

    1 - it agrees with the criticism and pledges to do better accompanied by donning of hair shirts and self-flailing blog posts that go on and on for pages.

    2 - It dismisses the criticism as massively ill informed and the ravings of an idiot..

    It is usually 90 per cent number 1.

    Whenever I come across such behavior in a friend I know that something is up, that there is a self-esteem issue at work, maybe, and that there must be something deeper going on. . .

    The deeper stuff is that things have changed in the PR industry, and they've changed forever. Yet sometimes things look the same as before. And that can be a confusing time.

    Some of my friends in the PR industry get upset with me for saying that things have changed. But my saying that things have changed didn't cause it, I'm just saying what I see.

    Wily E CoyoteIt is similar to when I became a journalist "blogger" 4 years ago. My friends at the Wall Street Journal, San Jose Mercury News, SF Chronicle, Forbes, Fortune, Reuters, AP, etc would sometimes shoot me cold looks as if, as a "blogger," I was responsible for making their lives a misery, because they now have work longer hours, and live under the threat of job cuts, and they can't go home at 5pm every day, anymore.

    The trends in media have nothing to do with me, I'm swept up in the dynamics of this industry the same way as everyone else--I'm trying to deal with the disruption.

    What I understood four years ago was: the business model for media had changed forever and it wouldn't return to the old ways, and that is the future for PR too.

    The same forces that are dramatically changing, and remaking the media industry, will do the same for the PR industry. Yet that change isn't very visible yet, it is masked. This is because PR is making money with traditional services plus making money selling "new media/social media" services, these are boom times for PR. Change only happens when it hurts to do things the old way, that's why the media industry is changing.

    It sometimes seems as if the PR industry is Wiley Coyote chasing the Roadrunner--all is well as long as no one looks down and notices the road has gone, and there is nothing there but gravity and a distant canyon floor.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Chris Anderson's PR Blacklist Backlash - The Long Tail of Bad PR

    Raining on the PR industry's parade...

    August 13, 2008

    The Fallacy of Internet Ad Personlization...and the Bleak Future for Social Network Ads

    exec_0001_russ.jpgI spent part of my afternoon catching up with advertising network of ad networks, Adify, which was sold to Cox earlier this year for $300m. That was a super smart move for Cox and it gives Adify a large media company as a partner that can leverage its technology across borders and across industries.

    Adify has a great front-end for controlling and placing ad inventory by advertisers and publishers. And what isn't appreciated, a great back-end for handling invoices, 1099s and all the other daily paperwork and reports that needs to be dealt with.

    Adify enables publishers to run their own vertical ad networks and to recruit other sites to their ad network, and it takes a cut of the ad revenue. This year it is on target to move as much as $80m in ads, next year it plans to double that number.

    exec_0006_joelle.jpg I met with Russ Fradin, president and Joelle Gropper Kaufman, VP marketing. Most of my questions were on the trends in online advertising--a key interest of mine since I'm an online publisher but also because of my interest in what will be the new business models for online content.

    Here are some key notes from our conversation:

    - If you are doing brand advertising, large ads are more effective than small ones even though focus groups say people prefer small ads. It's about creating an immersive experience.

    - There is a shortage of quality content. Ad prices are good for sites or ad networks that offer quality content.

    - Personalization of advertising on the web isn't happening. Ad agencies want to make large buys. I pointed out that an ad agency might buy a 20m page view site but it really just needs to reach 10,000 people in that 20m. Why not make buys that target that 10,000 people? If ad agencies were to do that, it might mean dealing with dozens of seperate buys and dealing with dozens of invoices and reports and other paperwork. That won't happen. Personalization in any form isn't happening, ad agencies are still buying broad demographic profiles. It will never happen, ad personalization is a myth that has been talked about since the mid-1990s and it continues to be unrealistic.

    - Social networks are offering low quality ad inventory and there is a lot of it out there. It is cheap because people are doing things rather than consuming content, they aren't interested or paying attention to the ads. Adify believes that this will always be the case, Facebook, MySpace etc will continue to offer huge amounts of low quality advertising inventory.

    Adify says it has signed up 40 new networks in the past quarter and will soon announce its first overseas deal.

    - - -

    Please see:

    News Analysis: Cox Acquires Adify For $300m Cash - Will Others Follow?

    The future battle between ad networks and publishers… | Tom Foremski: IMHO |

    August 12, 2008

    Google is a Media Company

    The recent New York Times article "Is Google a Media Company?" reports on Google's recent launch of Knol, a Wikipedia-like service launched last month.

    While Knol is only three weeks old and still relatively obscure, it has already rekindled fears among some media companies that Google is increasingly becoming a competitor. They foresee Google’s becoming a powerful rival that not only owns a growing number of content properties, including YouTube, the top online video site, and Blogger, a leading blogging service, but also holds the keys to directing users around the Web.

    “If in fact a Google property is taking money away from Google’s partners, that is a real problem,” said Wenda Harris Millard, the co-chief executive of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

    A Google spokesperson, Gabriel Stricker says, "We are not interested in owning or creating content." This is a strange statement to make since the article points out that Google owns YouTube and much more.

    Foremski's Take:

    For the past four years I've been saying that Google, Yahoo and many other large Internet companies such as AOL, and eBay are media companies. They publish pages of content with advertising around it.

    The fact of owning or not owning the content is a red herring. Either way, Google publishes pages of content with advertising around it. How is that not a media company?

    GOOG is not a technology company. What technology can you buy from Google? I can buy a database from Oracle--that's a technology company. I can buy microprocessors from Intel--that's a technology company. What technology can you buy from Google?

    Google is a technology-enabled media company. It won't create its own content. It mostly scrapes its content from the Internet, or collects it from users of Youtube, etc, and sells advertising around it. How it gets its content is not important, it is still a media company.

    Why does Google insist it isn't a media company? Because large media companies such as the New York Times outsource a large part of their online advertising to Google.

    Would the New York Times outsource its advertising to another media company such as Tribune or Gannett? Certainly not.

    But Google can get away with it provided it is not viewed as a media company but as a technology company.

    Again, I'll ask, what technology can you buy from Google? Google publishes pages of content with advertising around it. How is that not a media company?

    August 6, 2008

    How to Make Money with Video Webisodes

    Churchill Club SF Earlier this week the Churchill Club hosted a very interesting panel in San Francisco with some of the most successful producers of webisodes — episodic online videos.

    Webisodes are the best way to attract sponsors and advertisers for video content rather than one-off content. The panelists gave out lots of great tips on how to integrate brands into video content, the length of videos, and some do's and don'ts.

    Brent Friedman also talked about the Gemini Division, one of the most ambitious webisode projects created so far.

    The panelists left to right:

    Nathan Coyle, Co-head, Digital, Creative Artists Agency Brent Friedman, Executive Producer and Head Writer, Electric Farm Entertainment/Gemini Division Jordan Hoffner, Head of Content Partnerships, YouTube Ziv Navoth, VP of Marketing and Business Development, Bebo - Moderator: Frank Rose (not in photo).

    Here is an 8 minute extract talking about brands and how to, and how not to, integrate them into webisodes.

    Here is the full one hour version of the talk — it's packed with great content.

    Rave reviews find out why! - Order the The Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader!

    You need video services! Creation, Distribution, Attention. Contact Aron Pruiett at SF Media Collective- 415 533 4487 - Here is a demo reel.

    Silicon Valley Watcher Consulting services - call Tom at 415 336 7547

    July 31, 2008

    SEC Likely to Change Fair Disclosure Rules - No Need for Press Releases Through Wire Services?

    Hat tip to Adam Zand: Utterz - AdamZand's Discussion

    The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) posted a transcript of a speech in which it recommended "that the Commission issue an interpretive release to provide additional guidance and greater certainty on how companies can use their web sites to provide information to investors in compliance with the federal securities laws..."

    Four main topics will be addressed:

    • When information posted on a company web site is “public” for purposes of the applicability of Regulation FD;
    • Company liability for information on company web sites – including previously posted information, third-party hyperlinks, summary information and the content of interactive web sites;
    • The types of controls and procedures advisable with respect to such information; and
    • The format of information presented on a company web site, with the focus on readability, not printability.

    Adam Zand speculates that press releases distributed through wire services might not be required. He says that the SEC's "interpretive release" probably won't be available for about a week or more.

    Demise of Wire services? SEC on Web disclosure

    Please see the full text of the SEC speech at the end of this post.

    Foremski's Take:

    If a company's web site is RSS enabled and it releases financial information and any other material information through that web site, that should satisfy FD requirements. This is because financial analysts and investors can opt-in and subscribe to that information through RSS news readers, or choose to have that information emailed as soon as it is published.

    This form of distribution is much broader than through a wire service such as BusinessWire or PRNewswire. Distribution through RSS and email takes advantage of the full breadth of the Internet and does not require an intermediary such as a wire service. Yahoo Finance and Google News would provide additional free distribution services in those cases where investors are not subscribed to a company's financial information.

    Companies will be able to save considerable amounts of money in bypassing those wire services, where a single release can cost at least $1200 and often more.

    The SEC might mandate a transition period in which RSS and email distribution runs in parallel with wire service distribution.

    For many years wire services have made considerable revenues from carrying FD information because companies were scared that they might face SEC penalties if they didn't disclose material information in the right manner. FD has suffered from not having clear rules around what is considered best practices.

    The SEC appears ready to change or more clearly define those rules to reflect the broad distribution offered by the Internet and a company's web sites.

    - - -

    It's interesting that the SEC wants company web sites to focus on "readability, not printability." This speech is anything but readable:

    Continue reading "SEC Likely to Change Fair Disclosure Rules - No Need for Press Releases Through Wire Services?" »

    July 28, 2008

    Blogger Showdown from Brainstorm: Kara Loves Rupert

    One of the best panels at the recent Fortune Brainstorm conference was the "Blogger Showdown" panel at the Monday evening dinner. Adam Lashinsky does a great job moderating the panel. This is the only video of the panel.

    On stage is Robert Scoble, Kara Swisher and Om Malik. The panel soon gets off to a raucaus start.

    Hear Kara saying that she's loving being a Rupert Murdoch employee!

    Hear Om repeating my mantra that Silicon Valley has turned into media valley!

    Hear Robert Scoble saying how his mistakes are fixed by his readers!

    Hear Adam Lashinsky say how Fortune avoids mistakes by getting it right the first time!

    See Fortune report the "Blogger Showdown" and issue a correction!

    Download video - iPod/PSP


    BTW these are all media professionals, Robert Scoble majored in journalism. Where are the bloggers, the citizen journalists?

    More Brainstorm coverage:
    - Joichi Ito - One of the Smartest Guys in the Room - a "Venture Communist"

    - Internet Father Vint Cerf Says Telcos Harming National Interest
    - Intuit Looking into User Generated Unemployment - the Reward of Social Media?

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    July 22, 2008

    Fortune Brainstorm - All the Action is Off-Podium

    I'm at Fortune's exclusive invite-only Brainstorm conference in Half Moon Bay, California. The content of the panels is really dull . On the breaks everyone is complaining about it. There is little involvement from the audience (except Vint Cerf!) and the moderators talk way too much.

    All the action is off-podium. I've been chatting with Vint Cerf, Michael Capellas, Jeff Bezos, Sophie Vanderbroek and many other tech luminaries. Also, Richard Edelman, Frank Glass, Ross Mayfield, Matthew Greeley, and other local entrepreneurs.

    The corridors are much more fun than the deadly dull monologist moderators. Maybe the afternoon sessions will improve.

    UPDATE: Fortunately the afternoon sessions have improved -- I'll be reporting on some of the sessions later.

    How to Scoop Fortune at its own Conference ... and Other Notes from Brainstorm

    MartinSorrell.jpeg I popped over to the start of Fortune's Brainstorm conference primarily because they said Sir Martin Sorrell, who I consider to be one of the world's savviest media executives along with Rupert Murdoch, would be there.

    Unfortunately, Sir Martin couldn't make it because he is engaged in a multi-billion acquisition. Too bad, this is someone worth watching. Check out Reuter's Eric Auchard's interview with Sir Martin. I love the end part when Sir Martin tells Eric "good luck with your merger." He was reffering to Thomson Financial's acquisition of Reuters, which had just closed a few weeks before.

    Eric says, "it's over, we are the survivors."

    Sir Martin says: "Sorry. It’s not done, it’s just starting. The easiest thing is to do the deal. The most difficult thing is to make it work."

    It's a great interview and I love that Eric left that quote in there, both are class acts.

    Please see full interview: Summit Notebook » Blog Archive » Q&A with WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell | Blogs |

    Despite my disappointment the left over pickings weren't that bad...

    Coming up on SVW:

    Vint Cerf on Internet Neutrality . . .

    I got a fantastic interview with Vint Cerf, father of the Internet and chief Internet evangelist for Google. Coming up: Vint Cerf tells me how he was misquoted over net neutrality in full page ads on WSJ and elsewhere! He talks about how the government needs to stop the Telcos from controlling access to the Internet.

    First Data wants to be first in consumer data . . .

    I also got a great interview with Michael Capellas, co-founder of Compaq Computer, former head of Worldcom and now chairman and CEO of First Data. Mr Capellas tells me about First Data's plans to become a consumer data powerhouse. He says "Right now data is just ten percent of our business I want it to be 50 percent within two years."

    It's a Media Valley...

    I have exclusive footage of the "Blogger showdown" with Robert Scoble, Kara Swisher, and Om Malik. It was difficult to get Kara to shut up but Om got a few words in edgewise and I'm glad that he did because he seems to be an avid reader of Silicon Valley Watcher because he repeated my line of "Silicon Valley is now a Media Valley."

    I've been saying that for nearly four years. I was on the front cover of Nikkei Magazine last year on this topic, Japan's top business magazine. And I had a Japanese TV crew in my living room earlier this year interviewing me on this topic.

    In fact, just Google "Media Valley" and see who pops up?

    Here is my first mention of how the center of the media industry is moving to SIlicon Valley in September 2005.

    I hate blowing my own horn it's better if someone else does it, but...

    Unfortunately, his Omness didn't give me any credit for media valley :-( But maybe he would have if Kara would shut up for a bit :-)

    Video of the "blogger showdown" is coming...

    Behind the Scenes: Japanese TV Crew First Stop In Silicon Valley (Media Valley...)

    Why Silicon Valley is Media Valley: And Why Japan Is Interested...

    Silicon Valley = Media Valley: The MashUp of technology and Media

    Silicon Valley has become Media Valley - someone should tell NYC


    I was Twitting like a maniac during the conference despite not Twitting much at all the last week or so. My view is that you shouldn't Twit unless there is something to say.

    Do I need to know that Loic is having another beer? That really is a Twit of a Tweet imho. Keep it real, don't take up bandwidth with crap like that...

    Media not allowed in to eat...

    There was a bunch of disaffected journalists/bloggers that were banned from the dinner at the Fortune Brainstorm. I won't name them but they are huge in their sectors.

    They vowed not to come back the next day and wondered how I got one of the main (eating) badges. I couldn't answer that question, you'd better ask David Kirkpatrick, he invited me.

    I was late strolling over to the dinner and had to pass by the disgruntled media pack who clearly had been sharing bile about the organizers, (and their blood sugar was very low), and said "Hey, I'll see you over at the dinner!" A howl arose of curses and laughter...

    I think some of them got in in the end :-)

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    July 18, 2008

    Top Blogger Pay Controversy - Pat Phelan

    I'm a big fan of Pat Phelan, one of Ireland's top entrepenuers and also one of Ireland's top read bloggers. Pat just set a cat among the pigeons in one of his latest posts: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

    Pat is of the opinion that blogging will be harmed if bloggers don't disclose who pays them to post. I agree (my money currently comes only from Intel.)

    I do agree with most of Pat's post but not about this:

    If you receive one cent you must disclose you must go public otherwise we are all tarred with the same brush.

    I don't think anyone can be influenced with one cent.

    How about drinks, how about a meal? I often disclose in my posts that I just had lunch or dinner with a company. I get T-shirts, and backpacks, and pens, and I almost always leave them on a street corner near my apartment or use the T-shirt to wash my car. I don't think a single one of my reader's will be judging my coverage by how clean my car is from the use of those T-shirts.

    Companies cannot buy me with lunch, it would take far more than that, and then I would disclose it anyway.

    Should readers of newspapers and magazines be informed about every tsotchke or meal anyone receives? I see journalists from Fortune, Forbes, WSJ, Businessweek, San Jose Mercury, San Francisco Chronicle etc, all the time, drinking and eating and carting off backpacks filled with pens and T-shirts. Should they be disclosing all of that?

    I've written about Pat's company before, and he bought me several drinks. That wasn't why I wrote about Pat's Cubic Telecom. Please see: The Man Who Broke the Telco Cartel . . . and Bridged the Global "Voice Divide"

    I often meet with companies and there are usually drinks and meals involved and yet I don't write about them. I only write about companies if I feel there is something to say. It's about the content of conversations and the meeting not how good the dinner was.

    A year ago I was at one media roundtable at a posh restaurant with top journalists from leading publications and one of the top VCs at the table didn't like where the conversation was going and he stopped everybody and said "Let's get back to discussing XXX I believe the journalists are getting their dinner for free."

    I was livid, I reached into my pocket and was ready to throw my money onto the table and walk out before being stopped by a colleague at CNET. I don't go to evening events for meals or drinks, I can eat and drink at home, and often in much better company.

    I and other journalists turn up to evening events for the content, for the potential story that can come out of such events. It is insulting to think that we turn up for food and drinks.

    I think payments should be disclosed and that bloggers should disclose every tsotchke and meal they receive only if they feel they were influenced by that gift. Otherwise just disclose the payments.

    Take a look at Pat's post and see if you agree: Flixwagon pay bloggers, non disclosure from bloggers or Flixwagon

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    July 17, 2008

    Sam Whitmore at Night: Media Struggling with Media Formats . . . and Leaving the Blogging Life

    I'm a huge fan of Sam Whitmore and his Media Survey. Sam watches the media and spots all the early trends. I ran into Sam outside the Rockit Room Wednesday evening and just happened to have my video camera with me.

    It was a fun and illuminating 8 minute chat, despite the low light. This time I'm interviewing Sam rather than the other way around. We discuss how traditional media is adapting to the new publishing technologies, and also Jason Calacanis' retirement from the blogging life.

    [Many thanks to Christy Whitmore for the great camera work.]

    - - -

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    July 14, 2008

    BoomTown Says TechCrunch Likely Next to be Acquired

    Kara Swisher got a great scoop last week with Guardian Media's $30m acquisition of PaidContent and now says that TechCrunch has been in talks with Time Warner's AOL.

    So far Mike Arrington, the founder and major shareholder, has turned down $20m to $30m according to Ms Swisher's sources.

    However, she says that a deal with AOL makes sense:

    AOL would probably be a good home for a site like TechCrunch, since it has a blog focus from its own Switched site and sites it bought, like Engadget.

    AOL acquired that popular gadget site in 2005 in the $25 million acquisition of Weblogs, which was founded by entrepreneur Jason Calacanis.

    Calacanis, by the way, runs an annual tech conference with TechCrunch, now called TechCrunch50.

    PaidContent’s Rafat Ali Speaks! So, Here’s Who’s Next… | Kara Swisher | BoomTown | AllThingsD

    Foremski's Take:

    The valuation of TechCrunch is not comparable with that of Weblogs or PaidContent. TechCrunch should be valued at a much higher level especially compared with the extremely generous Weblogs valuation.

    But should Mike Arrington take the money and run anyway? Valuations of online news sites appear to be trending downwards. Weblogs valuation was very very good, PaidContent, which has much higher revenues than Weblogs had, has a comparably poorer valuation.

    There are signs that revenues for online news sites are under pressure. Gawker Media, for example, recently cut pay rates for its writers. [Gawker Media cuts payrates… Again! : The Blog Herald]

    Also, Mike Arrington has spoken about plans for TechCrunch to be the acquirer of other online news sites and to take on CBS's CNET. Taking $30m and becoming part of AOL would be anathema for Mr Arrington, even if the deal were sweetened.

    On another note, it's a shame that Kara Swisher and colleague Walt Mossberg didn't have the courage to strike out on their own with They have built up an excellent site but it is wholly owned by Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

    Maybe, AOL would have been bidding $20m to $30m for AllThingsD by now, instead of TechCrunch.

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    July 11, 2008

    FishWrap: First time ever on stage: Kara versus Walt . . . and tales of Euro Domination


    [Wrapping up the week in three dots . . .]

    Kara versus Walt . . .

    Coming up at the DEMOFall conference in San Diego September 7-9:

    Special Session: Walt and Kara: Head-to-Head

    As the hosts of The Wall Street Journal's esteemed D Conference, Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher have challenged the leaders of the digital world with tough questions and probing interviews. Their toughest interview isn't with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, though. It's with each other. The Dynamic Duo of All Things Digital debate each other on their blog,, and now live on the DEMOfall stage. What lies ahead for the Digital Age? Walt and Kara go Head-to-Head.

    [Here is Kara telling hilarious stories about Walt at SDForum Visionary Awards:]

    Euro Entrepreneurial Domination . . .

    Wellington Partners, the $1.2bn European VC firm threw a party to mark the launch of their Palo Alto office. It was a stellar setting, the "cube" of the new Jewish history museum n San Francisco, and a stellar crowd of top journalists and bloggers. One of the Wellington partners made a speech about how Wellington was going to help Euro domination in the entrepreneurial field.

    I spoke with one of the partners after the party as we were kicking around a soccer ball (one of the tchotchkies) outside. I said Euopean based entrepreneurs could be counted on . . . "the fingers of one hand," he finished my sentence with a laugh. Europe is not known as a hot bed of entrpreneurism. There are far, far more European entrepreneurs over here than over there.

    Wellington Partners opens Silicon Valley office ...

    SNCR Call for 2008 New Comm Awards . . .

    I'm proud to be a founding member of the Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) think tank, created by Jen McClure and based in Palo Alto. SNCR has put out a call for entries for the 2008 Excellence in New Communications Awards.

    These prestigious awards honor corporations, governmental and nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, media outlets, and individuals who are innovating the use of social media, ICT, mobile media, online communities and virtual worlds and collaborative technologies in the areas of business, media, and professional communications, including advertising, marketing, public relations and corporate communications, as well as entertainment, education, politics, and social initiatives.

    Events . . .

    Tech Women at the Churchill Club July 15

    The event, moderated by Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, will feature the inspiring stories of four women technology leaders, the critical factors in their success and how have they overcame the obstacles of the fast-paced tech industry that is often considered to be dominated by men: Gina Bianchini, CEO of hot tech start-up Ning; Charlene Li, principal analyst at Forrester Research; Teresa Takai, CIO of the State of California, the 10th-largest economy in the world

    AlwaysON Stanford Summit July 22-24.

    The AlwaysOn & STVP Summit at Stanford is a two-and-a-half-day executive gathering that highlights the significant economic, political and commercial trends disrupting the global technology industries.

    Weekend Watcher:

    San Francisco's premiere jazz composer and performer Marcus Shelby plays a free concert in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Gardens Saturday July 12 at 1pm.

    - - -

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    Friday News Watch 2: UK Guardian Buys PaidContent for $30m ... More Euro Buys Ahead?

    The UK newspaper group Guardian Media paid $30 million for PaidContent, a media company founded by Rafat Ali and which publishes a popular newsletter and web site covering the media industry.

    The Guardian newspaper is one of the top UK newspapers famous for its left of center position. It is also well known for its extensive coverage of the media industry, making it a good fit for the acqusition of PaidContent.

    The Guardian has also been one of the leaders in using new media technologies such as RSS.

    Will European Euros be used to buy more US media properties?

    WSJ's Boomtown:

    Guardian Media Group Buys paidContent for $30 Million


    ContentNext 2.0: Life With The Guardian Media Group


    Confirmed: PaidContent Bought By the Guardian - Here's How Media History is Made


    Why Guardian Media Bought paidContent for $30M - GigaOM

    June 24, 2008

    Om 2.5 . . .

    It was very good to see my very good friend Om Malik Tuesday evening at a reception for his Infrastructure '08 conference. Om recently launched Om 2.0 a slimmer and healthier Om. And an Om that is 50 lbs lighter than the prior version.


    I said, "Surely that is Om 1.5?"

    Om said "less is more." So let's call it Om 2.5 :-)

    - - -

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    June 22, 2008

    Support the Source: Creating a New Media Business Model and Keeping the Web Open

    Linking and quoting content from web sites is what makes the world wide web into a true web. It's a fantastic media technology that can publish content and distribute it to almost anywhere in the world in seconds.

    Associated Press recently took steps to limit the web by preventing unlicensed sites from quoting from its news stories. This is a bad policy because it is restrictive and it lessens the value of the web, and in my view, it is uneccessary.

    Fair use frustration . . .

    AP's policy is born out of the general frustration felt by the media and other content creators when their content is used by others for profit or for publicity--and the content creator doesn't share in the value reaped by others.

    Those that take large chunks of content from AP or from other sites under undefined fair use policies say that they are driving traffic to the source site. But anyone that has access to their server logs knows this is only slightly true. The problem is that only a small fraction of traffic goes to the source site. And only a small percentage of that traffic can be monetised by the source site.

    So that means content creators, if they produce something of value that is widely quoted and distributed, are unable to benefit much from the value they create for others that use or reference that content.

    Clearly, that's not fair use, because creating news content for example, is expensive. You need journalists, editors, pension plans, offices, administrators, and janitors... Google News and other news aggregators machines to harvest that content - that's a low cost of content--all harvested as "fair use."

    Bloggers and others, do pretty much the same: they take and quote freely from content such as news stories and they benefit from that content--they create a personal brand and following that helps them in their day job-- they profit from it. But the content creators don't get to benefit from the value that is created by those that use or reference that content.

    Meritorious support . . .

    It doesn't have to be that way. And we don't have to lock up content and make the web less useful, as AP appears to be doing. There is potentially another way in which content can be created and distributed freely and which would support content creators to create more content.

    My proposal is a voluntary system in which you quote freely from a site and you republish an "adtribution link" next to it that would help support the source site. An adtribution link would be a simple text link ad set by the source site. This would meritorious support because only good content gets quoted and the bad doesn't.

    The adtribution link could be identified this way:

    Support the source: Rave reviews find out why! - Order the The Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader!

    The "Support the source" identifies the adtribution link that could be in green to signify its link to money.

    If you quote from a page with an adtribution link you would copy and paste the entire link, including "Support the source" which identifies and links to the source site. It shows that you are respectful of the work of others and it also allows you to support your favorite sites without it costing you anything.

    In this way good content gets the distribution it deserves, and so does the adtribution link that helps support that content.

    It is a win-win situation. It doesn't cost anything to "support the source." And it would help great content producers create more great content -- creating a virtuous circle.

    Would you support the source? How often do you get the chance to be among the first :-)

    - - -

    [Please copy and paste the following link:]

    Support the source: Rave reviews find out why! - Order the The Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader!

    June 20, 2008

    A Proposal and a Response to AP - Quote Me Freely and Carry my Adtribution Link . . .

    Associated Press caused a blogostorm when it instituted a "fair use" policy that was anything but fair. I disagree with that policy but I do understand the frustration of being a media professional/blogger and recovering some of the value of my work. Most bloggers have a day job but I don't and it is tough to make a living doing what I love to do.

    I spend a lot of time out and about, interviewing people, going to events, and writing. It is expensive living in San Francisco and carrying the expenses of travel and publishing. My sponsors are able to support part of my work but it doesn't cover all my costs, it would be great to recover some of the value of my work.

    I'm always happy when others quote my work and I have no AP-like restrictions on how much you can quote. In fact, I allow full text commercial use of my work as long as all the links are kept intact and attribution is given. If you can make money with my work then go ahead.

    However, if you do find my work useful and want to quote it, it would be great if you could carry one of my text ad links. That way if my work gets wide distribution some of that value might come back to me and/or my sponsors.

    More and more blogs are now professional media companies, such as GigaOM, ReadWriteWeb, VentureBeat, All Things D, And I know there are many other professional bloggers out there that would love to share in the value that their work produces.

    If they produce breaking news etc, and are widely quoted, wouldn't it be great to support their work by also giving something back? Especially if you could support that work without it costing you anything.

    For example, if you quote from this post, maybe you could also carry this text- ad link next to it which has my Amazon ID embedded in it: Order the amazing Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader - find out why people are raving about it.

    Maybe this type of link could be called a supporting link, or an adtribution link?

    You don't have to carry the adtribution link but it would be seen as respectful if you did, and it would help to support the media source. Maybe if AP adopted such a system it might not seem to be so mean and ridiculous.

    What do you think?

    - - -

    Adtribution link: Order the amazing Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader - find out why people are raving about it.

    Adtribution link source code just copy and embed in your post:

    <a href="">Adtribution</a> link: <a href=";;tag=siliconval043-20&amp;linkCode=ur2&amp;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325">Order the amazing Amazon Kindle Electronic Book Reader - find out why people are raving about it.</a><img src=";l=ur2&amp;o=1" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />

    June 19, 2008

    MediaWatch: The Mistake of Paying Journalists Based on Pageviews

    There were lots of great comments on one of my posts this week on a job ad from the future:

    Wanted: CMO for Startup - Must Have a Good PageRank

    Wanted: Chief Marketing Officer for a Web 2.0 startup based in San Francisco. Candidate must have a blog with a PageRank of at least 5 and/or at least 800 followers on Twitter and/or 1500 friends on FaceBook or LinkedIn. Competitive salary, benefits and stock options.

    The interesting thing is that I had written almost the same post February 1 2006:

    A job advertisement from the future . . .

    Wanted: Head of Corporate Communications for a fast growing Silicon Valley startup. Competitive salary and stock options. Candidates must have a Google PageRank of at least 5. And/or an Alexa rank of at least 750,000 or better.

    Candidates with at least 1,000 Google hits on their name are also eligible. We will also accept web site traffic numbers from your posts/articles on third-party web sites. This is a senior VP level position.

    I just got one comment on that post, which was great.

    There are several points I wanted to make regarding the current trend to pay writers based on pageviews.

    If I were looking at my pageviews and comments to decide on the types of stories I should be writing then I would never have written about this topic again. Which is why I do not look at the popularity of my posts in deciding what to write about. I write about what interests me and I hope it might interest someone else. And it usually does even if I have to wait a while.

    Yet the trend is to pay writers based on pageviews and that is a mistake imho. However, these are the economics of the online media business model and that's what publishers are responding to.

    Fanboys subsidy . . .

    Do we let the popular articles about Apple fanboys subsidize articles on more esoteric subjects? That's what used to happen in newspapers and I say we should continue that practice otherwise we will just get content that wins based on the popular thinking at that specific point in time. We will lose a diversity of media content.

    Also, there is a way to have your cake and eat it. I regularly trawl through my posts from nearly 4 years ago and I rewrite some of them several times in different ways over the years.

    I've found that some of the concepts and ideas I write about are not yet yet ready for prime time and only a couple of people will notice them. But that's OK, because eventually more people will respond to my posts as some of these ideas become more widely understood.

    Other publications could do the same, rewrite certain articles a year or two years later because more people will understand the content and find it relevant to them. But this means paying journalists to write articles that aren't related to the number of pageviews.

    We need publishers with foresight and the courage to hold up journalistic practices developed over hundreds of years. We shouldn't have to reinvent the wheel.

    But my bet is that we will have to reinvent the wheel because that's what happens whenever an industry is disrupted - it has to be rebuilt over again and the things that we once knew to be best practices have to be discovered all over again.

    June 16, 2008

    MediaWatch: Could AP Ban On Blogs Extend To 1500 Daily Newspapers?

    Associated Press recently said that excerpts from its stories should not be used by bloggers unless there was specific commentary about the excerpt. Dan Farber sums things up nicely here: Welcome to the Web refactory, AP

    Fundamentally, the Web is a content "refactory," in which new material is factored out of antecedent matter and connected in an information "web" via links and snippets.

    The AP or any other source of so-called original content that is built partly on preexisting content easily accessible on the Internet can either participate in the Web refactory and live with the fuzziness, or become a pariah.

    Foremski's Take: Critics of the AP policy say that it will lose Internet traffic for its stories. But it can't monetize that traffic effectively anyway.

    Also, there's an interesting wrinkle here. AP is owned by 1500 daily newspapers. What if each daily newspaper allows excerpts and links? Will AP change its syndication rules with its owners? Will its owners be happy with such a policy since it could decrease traffic to their online sites?

    Or is this the tip of an iceberg - will daily newspapers also institute such a policy?

    How about news aggregators such as Google News? They take the headline and first paragraph of a news story without even blogging anything about it. Interestingly, Google does have a financial deal with AP so maybe other news aggregators will get a call from AP's lawyers?

    May 26, 2008

    Former FT US Editor Returns To 6th Ave At Helm Of WSJ

    RobertThomson.jpg The Wall Street Journal is moving to News Corp's HQ in midtown Manhattan on 1211 Sixth Avenue, just a stone's throw from the Financial Time's US HQ on 1330 Sixth Ave. This is a long circuitous journey back to the heart of the US media capital for Robert Thomson, the former head of FT US and recently appointed managing editor of the WSJ.

    Robert Thomson is a long-time friend of Rupert Murdoch, both are Australian, and both have newspaper ink in their veins. Rupert Murdoch has proved himself as the savviest media tycoon on the planet, and Mr Thomson is not too shabby himself.

    I worked with Mr Thomson when he was editor of the US FT, when he presided over the launch of the US version of the FT in 1999. Those were thrilling and heady times to be a journalist, the FT was pouring more than $100m into the launch, and we were taking on the Wall Street Journal in it's own backyard.

    Mr Thomson had assembled a fantastic team of talented journalists and editors and we were all raring to go. We were the underdogs against the massive Dow Jones. And we were getting great stories the tough way--not with pre-briefings or stories handed on a plate--but scoops through hard-nosed journalism.

    It was the best place to be bar none and I revelled in being part of the most exciting new media launch in decades. Visiting the US HQ for editorial meetings was always a high point, I would always return to San Francisco refreshed and recharged. And a lot of that was due to Mr Thomson's leadership and the people he recruited.

    He could draw you into conversions and share things that he knew you would never repeat. That created strong loyalties. And it was part of a management style that helped create a great camaraderie within our editorial teams.

    Mr Thomson's loyalty to the FT was shaken when one of his main rivals, Andrew Gowers, was appointed editor of the FT in 2001. In March 2002 Mr Thomson was recruited by Rupert Murdoch to run The Times - one of the world's oldest and most famous newspapers.

    The Pink 'Un . . .

    Most of the US watchers of the Rupert Murdoch takeover of Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal have focused on the potential challenge facing the New York Times from a revamped WSJ. I would be less concerned about the Grey Lady and more concerned about the challenge to the "Pink 'Un."

    Over the past six years Mr Thomson has delighted in hacking away at the FT, recruiting some of its best journalists. Now Mr Thomson will get a chance to do the same in the US, on the same street as the FT, and at the helm of its largest competitor.

    The arch strategist of the FT's US success is now its arch rival. This will be interesting.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Updated: Wall Street Journal To Drop, Well, Wall Street

    Thomson Named DJ Editor-In-Chief, WSJ Managing Editor; DJ Head Hinton Adds Publisher Title

    Robert James Thomson - Wikipedia

    Robert Thomson - I Want Media

    The Times - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    May 21, 2008

    Innovation Journalism At Stanford - And Japan's Interest in Silicon Valley As Media Valley

    davidnordfors.jpgI'm spending much of Wednesday and Thursday at Stanford University at the Innovation Journalism conference organized by David Nordfors, who leads the Innovation Journalism program at Stanford. I'm speaking on a panel on Thursday afternoon.

    It's a good event because it pulls together top Silicon Valley journalists and also journalists from around the world--with a heavy bent towards Scandinavian business journalists because of Mr Nordfors' Swedish roots.

    I don't see that there is much difference between innovation journalism and journalism. Both require the same skills to do well and the subject matter shouldn't matter. However, I do agree with the tag line for this year's conference: "Journalism driving innovation - innovation driving journalism."

    That's exactly what I've been seeing and saying the past few years. The media industry is where there is an enormous amount of innovation occurring - and where you find a lot of innovation that's also where you see massive disruption.

    Running around the valley . . .

    For 20 some years I covered Silicon Valley's innovations, running around interviewing people, looking over their shoulders and saying "that chip/software/hardware looks interesting, tell me about what you're doing."

    Since I left the Financial Times nearly 4 years ago, I've had other journalists interviewing me, looking at what I and my colleagues in "new" media have been doing, and saying "That looks interesting tell me about what you're doing." It doesn't get any better than this...

    It's a Media Valley . . .

    Silicon Valley is transforming into a Media Valley. When I would say that a few years ago few people understood it. Now more people understand it especially when I say it this way: Silicon Valley's largest and fastest growing companies are media companies - Google, Ebay, Facebook, Yahoo, for example, are media companies: they publish pages of content with advertising around it. They are not tech companies they are technology-enabled media companies, there is no tech you can buy from them." The same is true for many of the Web 2.0 companies and their Google AdSense based business models, they are technology-enabled media companies.

    My Japanese readers have been particularly intrigued with this concept of Silicon Valley as Media Valley. Last year I was featured in Nikkei business magazine on this topic--this is Japan's largest business magazine. Tokyo Week newspaper sent its New York editor to interview me about another local media sensation: LonelyGirl 15.

    And earlier this year a TV crew from Japan's most prestigious and largest TV channel, the equivalent of PBS, came over to my living room to kick off a week-long investigative piece on Silicon Valley and its transformation into Media Valley.

    There is a quick video at the end of this post which I took as they walked in and we chatted about what we would talk about. I'm always flattered by such attention but it always feels like a hall of mirrors talking about media. But then again, media loves talking about media.

    That's what we'll be doing the next couple of days at Stanford, media talking about media. Join us if you can.
    - - -
    [BTW I'm heading over to Japan next week for almost a week as a guest of Lunarr - visits with Japanese startups and also Japanese government innovation officials, and much more... details to follow. I can't wait, it'll be my first visit!]

    May 15, 2008

    Old Media Buys Newer Media:CBS $1.8bn deal for CNET

    This is an interesting deal: CBS paying a nice premium for CNET Networks. Here is the story by Steve Gelsi at Marketwatch:

    Upon closing, CNet Networks' sites will be combined with CBS's existing Internet unit, which oversees,,,,, Wallstrip and MobLogic.

    Analysts cautioned while CBS stands to benefit from the move, the premium it's offering may be questionable.

    Chart of CNET

    "It's a very efficient way for CBS to expand its advertising reach, by offering CNet advertisers the chance to bundle ad buys across more of its properties," said Sarah Rotman Epps, an analyst at Forrester Research.

    However, CBS could be overpaying for CNet's aggregate monthly audience of more than 140 million users, Epps said.

    Underscoring the risks of the deal, Jason Bazinet of Citigroup pointed that the overall advertising climate has been "sluggish" due to a weakened U.S. economy.

    The key challenge for CBS, said Bazinet, will be how to sustain the premium rates CNet's sites have been able to charge advertisers. He estimated that CNet has commanded about $12 per thousand page views, "well above" rates earned by rival Web sites.

    Marketwatch used be called CBS Marketwatch - a joint venture between Financial Times publisher Pearson and Viacom, the owner of CBS. It was sold to Dow Jones in January 2005 for $500m. Is this CBS taking another shot at becoming a strong online publisher? Will it be more successful this time? It's often difficult to change the culture of a company and at CBS the culture is strongly based in what used to make a lot of money for the company: TV.

    May 12, 2008

    PC World Chief Editor Leaving To Launch New Tech Site

    [Hat tip Jeremy Pepper's Twit]

    Harry McCracken, PC World's Editor-in-Chief is leaving the magazine as it celebrates its quarter century anniversary.

    I'm one lucky guy. In my position as editor in chief of PC World, I have one of the best jobs in technology journalism. I get to do work I thoroughly enjoy, and to be part of a remarkable team who serves an equally remarkable universe of online and print readers. PC World turns 25 this year, and I've been very proud to be associated with it for over half of that quarter century. When I joined the staff in October 1994 as an associate editor, I never, ever would have believed the ride would last this long.

    I could happily do this job forever--but new challenges are good, too. And here's a bit of breaking news for you: After giving it a lot of thought, I've decided to step down as editor in chief and launch a technology site of my own--one that I'll build from scratch and launch this summer.

    Read the rest here: PC World's Techlog My New Adventure

    May 10, 2008

    UK's Pioneering Publisher Mike Magee Launches Indian-based IT Publication

    I'm a long time admirer of Mike Magee, a veteran journalist and media entrepreneur. He just launched his latest publication: IT Examiner, which is based in India, not in the UK as Mike prior ventures.

    I met with Mike when I was back in the UK in December. He mentioned he'd been visiting India lately and I put two and two together.

    Here is Mike describing the project on his blog Mad Mike Magee's Musings.

    In just a few days from now I will join the four staff I have already hired in Ole Bangalore, and supervise the introduction of the IT Examiner to the global scene.

    There will also be an assault and battery of several freelancers contributing to the mix - the aim of the magazine being to interpret what’s happening in India and China to the rest of the world.

    This magazine will not compete with tabloids like the Rogister and the INQster. We will be introducing journalism to the world and the workspace of the world as you haven’t seen it before. Our Indian journalists will be digging deeper and deeper to get our readers stories.

    The Rogister is The Register, a news publication Mike Magee co-founded in 1994, it was the first completely online news site. He fell out with his partners and founded The Inquirer (INQster). He sold The Inquirer to VNU, a Dutch based media company in 2006.

    Mike Magee has become a serial media entrepreneur, a quality that is rare among the UK press corps.

    May 9, 2008

    MSFT Must Acquire Media Or Miss Gold Rush

    BusinessWeek's cover story aims to analyze how Microsoft will take on Google without Yahoo. It boils down to MSFT's top salesman Keith Lorizio.

    Foremski's Take:

    Even if MSFT had a hundred Keith Lorizios - it wouldn't do much good. Because there is no way that it can grow its ad business organically to match the flood of money moving into online ads.

    Microsoft said it itself, when it launched its bid for YHOO:

    The online advertising market is growing at a very fast pace, from over $40 billion in 2007 to nearly $80 billion by 2010.

    The online advertising market will double in three years! Even if MSFT doubled its online ad business every year for three years it would reach about $24 billion out of a total of $80 billion leaving billions on the table for competitors.

    Even if MSFT executed brilliantly in its organic efforts it would still miss what is probably the biggest gold rush opportunity in advertising since the radio was invented.

    That's why MSFT needs to make media acquisitions -- and quickly.

    - - -

    Please see:

    Analysis: Quick Deal Critical To MSFT's YHOO Bid As Online Ad Markets Set to Double Over 3 Years

    May 6, 2008

    Updated: Experimental New Journalism From Chicago - Live Streaming

    Andrew Finlayson, VP and News Director Fox News Chicago writes:

    I'm part of a team of journalists in a newsroom in Chicago who have put together something new that I thought might interest you.

    Think of it as a little experiment in what some journalism might become.

    We are working on a website called The concept is simple, let people watch news as it happens anywhere in the world…raw, unedited on your computer at work or home.

    It officially was made public on Super Tuesday (although we had been tinkering with how to do it for months) with just a couple of feeds focusing on the Republican and Democratic candidates that has grown to 150 streams around the world.

    We think it will double that soon because we keep hearing from stations that are starting up live streams. This little newsroom experiment now has ABC, CBS and NBC stations involved…all with the permission and partnership of the newsrooms we link to.

    We streamed the hearings about Iraq, we streamed the Pope almost from the moment he arrived to when he went home…nothing unusual about that…but we also stream the presidential candidates live every day…sometimes two or three times each a day as they go around the country. No one else is doing that.

    You might have an opinion on this…or even a live feed that you know of that we could link to. Imagine what will happen when every mobile can stream live video…we are working with such a phone right now. That means “live on scene on every screen” is very close…including every press conference.

    Like to see what you think. Our informal motto is “Veritas odit moras,” from line 850 of Seneca’s version of Oedipus. It means “Truth hates delay.”

    Foremski's Take:

    I'm interested to see how this develops. It sounds like an online CSPAN but with more channels. I like CSPAN but it seems that this approach misses the journalist, I don't have time to watch live feeds, I want a two minute summary or less. Beat reporters know which two minutes are worth watching and that's where journalists add value, imho.

    Andrew Finlayson replies:

    We have a moderator that gets notifications from the newsrooms about what they are streaming and points to this in the chat, the twitter and soon will be able to highlight content through a dynamic front page.

    We have found many people appreciate these pointers but want to pick what they want to watch. They want the raw and unedited feed…like that we are offering of Obama right now (which CNN and Fox is doing…but often they do not carry all of the speech like we do from different places around the country)…

    That is why it is an experiment…if we provide the live and unedited…what does that mean for journalists? I believe every newsroom (including newspapers) will want to cover major stories live and then provide the various versions from that point forward.

    I won’t bore you with more of my thoughts but we brainstormed this up when we realized that soon technology will allow us to stream live quality video anywhere…and at a reasonably low cost

    April 29, 2008

    News Analysis: Cox Acquires Adify For $300m Cash - Will Others Follow?

    Recently I had been writing about the business opportunities for media companies acquiring advertising networks and advertising networks acquiring media companies. We are starting to see this happen. Please see: The future battle between ad networks and publishers

    Today Cox Enterprises announced it had acquired Adify, a leading ad network, for $300 million in cash. I spoke with Joelle Kaufman, VP of marketing at Adify, and Rodney Mayers assistant VP of interactive media at Cox.

    Mr Mayers characterized the acquisition as being strategic to Cox and that Adify would continue to operate as an independent company. Cox would not receive any special treatment from Adify, such as favorable split in advertising revenues.

    "Cox has a long history of nurturing companies and enabling them to grow. Plus Cox brings to Adify a knowledge of the advertising industry which will be beneficial to Adify," Mr Mayers said.

    Will Adify's business suffer because its current customers might be discouraged by a large media owner? Ms Kaufman said that Adify had spoken with all of its customers and that they saw no problem with the acquisition. She said that some had said that if it were a media company other than Cox, they would have a problem with the deal.

    Foremski's Take:

    This is a very good acquisition for Cox because Adify has an excellent technology and console for publishers and advertisers that enables complex advertising placement. I don't know of any other company that has a competitive technology of this type.

    Cox could help move Adify into radio and TV advertising placement, which is where Google is moving. Adify has a much better console than Google's ad network and with Cox behind it, it can scale more quickly and potentially become a competitor to Google in key markets.

    However, Adify may find it more difficult to acquire new customers because there will be a natural concern about the Cox connection. Adify knows a lot about its clients such as: how much ad revenue they are making and how well those businesses are performing. This is valuable competitive intelligence and Adify will likely have trouble convincing clients that this data is kept confidential, even if it is.

    Cox said it is a strategic investment. This implies that Cox sees value in terms of its overall business--which means it provides it with a competitive advantage. Mr Mayers also said that Cox brings expertise to Adify in terms of its understanding of the advertising business. This doesn't describe an independent company, imho. Which will mean that potential Adify customers will think twice and thrice before committing to Adify.

    Cox can more than makeup for any loss of business because of its large media holdings but there is a clear question mark on long term growth because of the ownership. This will spur other startups to create a similar technology to that of Adify.

    If a coalition of media companies had invested in Adify, that would have helped it scale even faster, and helped it become a potentially stronger competitor to Google and other large advertising networks.

    Right now there are few ad networks left that have not already been acquired by Google, Yahoo or Microsoft. Cox is showing that this is a media industry and that GOOG, YHOO, MSFT are competing in the media industry. These are technology-enabled media business groups and not technology groups. It is an important distinction.

    - - -

    Please See:

    Adify Blog:

    As Adify began raising our third round of financing to fund our expansion, Cox Enterprises, based in Atlanta, expressed interest in acquiring us. Although Adify was not seeking an acquirer, Cox’s history, resources, and people demonstrated that it would be a very compatible business partner and the perfect home for our company. Cox is a 100+ year old diversified media company with a long history of investing in new media businesses, serving the advertising community and, above all else, a company-wide dedication to customer service. Their known reputation for superior service all starts with a deep commitment to investing in their employees. Operating Adify independently within Cox will enable us to continue building Adify by giving our company considerable new resources to deliver superior value to our customers and to compete in the online advertising marketplace.

    FM Media Looks To Invest In Content Companies And Tie Up Multi-Year Ad Contracts

    Arrington Should Watch Out Because J.B. Is About . . . Ad Networks Will Roll Up Media Companies

    Toktumi and Adify...

    April 28, 2008

    MediaWatch: Why Some Journalists Won't Transition To The New Journalism

    Amy Graham over at has written a great article about the attitudes of some journalists towards the changes happening in the industry.

    • The only journalism that counts is that done by mainstream news orgs, especially in print or broadcast form. Alternative, independent, online, collaborative, community, and other approaches to news are assumed to be inferior or even dangerous.
    • Priesthood syndrome: Traditional journalists are the sole source of news that can and should be trusted -- which gives them a privileged and sacred role that society is ethically obligated to support.
    • Journalists and journalism cannot survive without traditional news orgs, which offer the only reliable, ethical, and credible support for a journalistic career.
    • Real journalists only do journalism. They don't dirty their hands or distract themselves with business and business models, learning new tools, building community, finding new approaches to defining and covering news, etc. As the Louisville Courier-Journal staffer Mark Schaver said just this morning on Twitter, "[Now] is not a good time [for journalists] if you don't want your journalism values infected with marketing values."
    • Journalistic status and authority demands aloofness. This leads to myriad problems such as believing you're smarter than most people in your community; refusing to "compromise" yourself professionally by engaging in frank public conversation with your community; and using objectivity as an excuse to be uncaring, cynical, or disdainful.
    • Good journalism doesn't change much. So if it is changing significantly, it must be dying. Which in turn means the world is in big trouble, and probably deserves what it will get.

    She goes on to say:

    I realize that right now is a scary time for journalists who crave stability. I have immense sympathy for good, smart people (many of whom have families to support and retirements to plan) who fear the unknown. Many of the news orgs that have sheltered and supported these journalists as they ply their craft are crumbling due to their inability or unwillingness to adapt their business models -- leading to layoffs, buyouts, attrition, dwindling resources, overwork, and general demoralization.

    This is why I got out and why I urged my colleagues to do the same:

    . . .when too many people in any culture are in despair, that culture can easily become toxic (overwhelmingly negative to the point of becoming self-destructive or self-defeating).

    I strongly agree with this statement:

    . . .right now is a time of immense opportunity for journalism and journalists to take on a broader and even more vital role in society. It's a chance for journalists to not only continue doing good work, but maybe also to have more impact than ever before.

    Journalism: A Toxic Culture? (Or: Why Aren't We Having More Fun?)

    The future of journalism is to help individuals, communities, and organizations tell their stories. And to teach them how to tell their stories. The more we know about each other the less strange we will seem to each other, and that will help eliminate conflict and help our societies make the best decisions.

    This is the best time since the invention of the Gutenberg press to be a journalist, imho.

    April 27, 2008

    FM Media Looks To Invest In Content Companies And Tie Up Multi-Year Ad Contracts

    I spent much of last week away from the Web 2-point yawn crowd. Instead, I was at my favorite conference, New Communications Forum held this year in Sonoma county.

    I was speaking on two panels, the second one included Neil Chase, VP of Author Services at Federated Media (FM) Publishing. He is a former journalist at the New York Times.

    On the panel he introduced himself and FM Publishing saying that the company "ran a network of blogs." Interesting phrasing since I thought that FM Publishing sold advertising for a number of top blogs, including Techcrunch, GigaOm, VentureBeat, UberGizmo, etc.

    After our panel I asked Mr Chase if he had seen my recent news analysis of the online ad/blog market and that ad networks such as FM Publishing might start to acquire content companies because that was a quick way to boost revenues and also stop the larger sites from leaving FM's advertising network. FM recently raised $50m, and this looked like a war chest to me.

    "We just got the money last week so we haven't yet put it to work." Mr Chase said. He said that FM was unlikely to acquire content companies, (although he later said that if there were some good opportunities FM would make an acquisition.)

    FM was interested in making an investment in content companies, taking a 10 to 15 per cent stake in exchange for a multi-year advertising contract.

    This confirmed some earlier reports that FM had hinted it might take stakes in key content companies.

    "If some of the blogs want to take some money off the table so that they can put their kids through college, we would be able to help them do that," Mr Chase said.

    Also, if a journalist was looking to leave and start a blog FM would help set them up in exchange for a larger share of the advertising revenues.

    He said that FM wasn't worried about its blog sites leaving the network and there were plenty other blogs to work with.

    FM has started to see some effects from the recession, some clients are taking longer to make a decision on advertising deals.

    Foremski's Take:

    FM can make its money go further by taking a 10 to 15 per cent stake in a content company. And also tie up advertising revenues for two to three years into the future. It's a good strategy.

    But the blogs in its advertising network overlap in coverage--that's why it can sell advertising across an aggregated audience. If FM has stakes in some of its blogs it becomes a competitor to the others--it has a vested interest in favoring one blog over another. It can channel ads to sites in which it has an ownership stake.

    This could lead to a loss of blogs to a rival ad network and make it difficult to recruit new publishers.

    But taking a minority stake in a blog leaves FM open to a substantial dilution of its ownership as the blog company grows and takes on new investors--unless it has a board seat.

    Most blog owners are novice entrepreneurs and they should be careful about the terms of an FM investment and seek expert counsel. Taking a nice chunk of cash now is a welcome reward for their hard work but they should make sure there is no remorse further down the line.

    [BTW I took a look at UberGizmo and FM was running public service ads on the site while TechCrunch was getting lucrative Intel ads, showing that not all sites are treated equally.]

    . . .

    Please see:

    The future battle between ad networks and publishers… | Tom Foremski: IMHO |

    Arrington Should Watch Out Because J.B. Is About . . . Ad Networks Will Roll Up Media Companies

    Battelle Turns Down $100 Million Offer For FM Publishing. Decides To Shop Around For a Higher Price.

    Microsoft pays star writers to recite slogan

    Federated Media’s Battelle Slams Rival, Hints At Investing In Publishers

    About Us - Federated Media Publishing

    April 15, 2008

    Jared Kopf's AdRoll Rolls Out of Private Beta - Plus An SVW AdRoll Experiment

    I've been a fan of the astonishingly young and talented Jared Kopf for a while, ever since I met him several years ago when he was working with the astonishingly young and talented Max Levchin at, (and part of the Odessa mafia :-).

    Jared is smart much smarter than his years (and many peers) and he has already paid a lot of dues. For the past two years Jared has been working on a new project the launching of AdRoll, an advertising network that seeks to link up advertisers with community-specific networks of small online publishers.

    Normally I'm not a big fan of advertising networks. They charge too much and they are not a defensible business because online publishers can potentially handle their own advertising once they reach a certain size.

    Adroll.gif But AdRoll could turn out differently. We'll see how its blend of social marketing tools and ad serving technologies disrupt some of the larger networks such as FM Publishing, Adbrite, and BlogAds. AdRoll can certainly give them a run for their money and more. [BTW FM Publishing just raised as much as $50m.]

    AdRoll today emerged from private beta and is now in public beta. Anyone can sign up on their web site and recruit other web sites, set advertising prices, etc. Advertisers can buy space on an AdRoll network in one lump without having to verify out each individual site and make individual deals.

    Media buyers like to buy large numbers of the same type of audience. AdRoll rolls up many smaller audiences into a larger single entity and takes a cut of between 20 to 30 per cent of revenues in return for serving the ads and providing a collection of management tools.

    "Smaller brands can use AdRoll to connect with communities that they wouldn't be able to reach through larger online publishers," says Jared.


    Earlier this year I spoke with Adify, which has a great console and can place ads at different times, sites, etc and also allows people to create their own networks, and it takes about a 20 per cent share of revenues. Adify might be a bigger challenge for AdRoll. FM Publishing takes a larger cut but it goes out and sells ads which AdRoll does not.

    A young man's game...

    Still, pricing is a flexible thing, and servers are cheap--it'll be the design of AdRolls' technology and its relationships that will determine success. Jared and his colleagues are young, with a low cost of operations (and no family support payments yet), which means AdRoll can dig in for the long term while other ad networks that have taken on large investors don't have that luxury.

    BTW I think ad networks will start to acquire online publishers... more on that in a next post.

    - - -

    Join a Silicon Valley Network...

    I'm going to try out AdRoll and I've created a Silicon Valley Network of like-minded web sites that includes Silicon Valley Watcher. So if you have an online site, a blog, or even a company product or service, sign up with my Silicon Valley Network. We'll share in the ad revenues and see if there is money to be made in these types of advertising networks. I've set quite a high CPM of about 1 cent per impression, after all there is no sense (as in Google AdSense) in devaluing your brand.

    Send me an email tom(at) if you are interested in exploring this further.

    Here is how AdRoll works in 45 seconds:

    April 14, 2008

    MediaWatch: Media Widgets Will Be The New Ads... Are You Feeling Innovative?

    There has been much chatter about ads on blogs lately.

    Steve Hodson:

    While ad networks rely on the page view count in order to decide whether they want to do business with you there is never any value placed on the fact that you might only have a 1,000 visitors that come by everyday to read what you are writing. Just as they won’t taking into account that you have a few thousand RSS readers who faithfully pull your feed everyday to read what you write.

    Here is Sramana Mitra:

    The networks, I am afraid, have a LOT to learn. At this point, they are pretty clueless about how to use their chips, including traffic, brand, and ad sales forces. They don’t really understand how to use links, they don’t know how to sell high CPM ads, and they don’t know how to converse with the blogosphere effectively.

    It's really not about ads on blogs but rather online advertising in general. Back in December 2005 I issued this challenge:

    The new media needs new types of innovation--not more banner ads

    Innovative Sponsors Needed

    When it comes to advertising, I'd rather work with companies that would like to be innovative, try different things, and I've got a ton of ideas and challenges if that sort of thing appeals to you.

    For example, let's turn the space occupied by a banner advert into something different, something useful. I don't know what that might be yet, but I have some ideas, and you have some too--that's where the innovation comes into play.

    Are you feeling innovative? Call me, my cell is 415 336 7547.

    It's taken a while for me to find an innovative sponsor. Intel has come to the forefront, which is great. I hand coded a demonstration media widget for Intel (it is on the right) and worked with Ken Kaplan over at Intel on this project. He likes this approach and I like it too.

    The media widget is different from regular ads because we filter out banner ads, skyscraper ads, etc all the time. We have an in-built ad-blocker in our heads.

    The media widget is different because done right, its content can change all the time. It is informative rather than a marketing slogan. It can be RSS enabled for quick updates, and it can be set up to showcase the latest news, blog posts, podcasts, vidcasts from a company. It can also be made shareable, and can be embedded in any web page.

    The Intel media widget is a hand-coded demo for now. Newsgator has offered its technology to take it to the next level.

    Are you innovative?

    I'm looking for four other sponsors for SVW that are innovative companies and would like their new/social media showcased on Silicon Valley Watcher within a media widget..

    I have space for only one PR company to use the media widget to showcase their new media practice and also their clients.

    Are you feeling innovative?

    Call me on my cell 415 336 7547. Or email tom(at)

    April 7, 2008 Chief Dan Farber Brings Lessons Of Blogger Media

    I'm waiting for Dan Farber, the new head of CNET's, in a large, sun-lit foyer. People are coming out for lunch and their mood seems relaxed and cheerful despite a 10 per cent cut in CNET staff numbers made just just a few days before.

    Dan comes down and we walk out to have lunch. He chooses a restaurant that has real tablecloths. "I need to eat some real food," he says. I nod in agreement, the single, blogger lifestyle, doesn't encourage good eating habits.

    It is always a pleasure speaking with Dan because we speak the same language. I'm not saying this in an elitist way, but there is something that happens to you through the experience of blogging, that does change your perception of the media industry, and provides an understanding of what is going on that cannot be attained by reading about it.

    Dan Farber at his deskIt doesn't matter if you've been a media professional for decades, or how young or old you are, understanding the changes going on in the media industry comes from experiencing it first hand. You can see what I like to call the "trajectory of ideas" in the mediasphere, how media is consumed and shared.

    And it is that understanding that Dan Farber brings to his new job, as editor-in-chief of, one of the first online news organizations.

    Dan nods as I say that we speak the same language. "Things have changed a lot in this business. There is a velocity to news media and you can see it as a blogger," he says. "There is no end to your day."

    Over at ZDNet, Dan set up a large blogger network (I write there too) and he was probably the most prolific of the entire group, often writing posts late at night and many times throughout the day.

    "I have to restrain my blogging these days, because we have writers with beats," he says. "But everyone now blogs at, it doesn't matter who you are, even if you are in production, you blog." (Dan's new blog at is Outside the Lines.)

    Dan has a team of about 35 people, most of them reporters and editors plus a few software engineers. And he is leading CNET's premiere brand:

    Emergency meetings...

    Tom Waldrop, over at Intel (Intel is a sponsor of SVW) told me an interesting story about the launch of He said that the corporate communications team at Intel had an emergency meeting to discuss whether online journalists were real journalists and how they should work with them.

    When I left the Financial Times in mid-2004 to become a journalist-blogger, about a decade after launched, Intel had another emergency meeting. Tom Foremski has left the Financial Times to become a blogger. Are bloggers real journalists? How should we work with bloggers?

    It wasn't just Intel asking those questions. Tens of thousands of corporations worldwide are still trying to figure out the changes in the media industry, and who is or isn't a journalist, and how they should respond... was once a leading light of the change in the media industry towards an online media world. For example, CNET's decision to drop print publications (except in China) was a bold one.

    Lost the lead...

    When I met with Shelby Bonnie, the former CEO of CNET, in mid-2004, he told me that the company had 5 different publishing systems, and two large data centers. It was trying to reduce the number of publishing systems.

    CNET tried to create one publishing system, Project X. However, this was later abandoned, at a cost of about $60m according to one of my sources. This was not atypical, many media companies were trying to crete their own content management system. The Financial Times was shifting to a new, never before tried publishing system, when I was there. It broke down several times a day, it cost millions of dollars to develop. Some days it was a wonder that we managed to produce a newspaper.

    All of this meant that was not leading the next big change in the media industry: the adoption of the blogging platform as a two-way publishing platform linking journalists and readers.

    Bloggers take the lead...

    Upstarts such as Mike Arrington, publisher of the popular Techcrunch blog, are these days seen to be in the forefront of the new changes in the media industry, and are challenging even relatively new media companies such as CNET .

    Mike Arrington recently revealed a plan to deliver a "crushing" blow to CNET by building a "dream team" of bloggers and rolling up prominent blogs into one organization.

    Dan Farber smiles at the mention of Mike Arrington. "We are a better platform to roll up blog sites because we have the infrastructure, we have ad sales people, etc." I agree. I can't see the over-sized personalities of the blog world sharing the same planet let alone the same company.

    CNET could potentially regain its lead in pioneering the new media world. And that's what Dan Farber can provide: the blogger publishing experience from the front lines of the business.

    Among the changes Dan Farber has already made:

    -Different CNET departments now publish using the same template.

    - Publish a story as quickly as possible, edit it later.

    - Stories are updated constantly.

    - Adding the right keywords and tags to make stories discoverable by search engines. About 40 per cent of CNET traffic comes from search engines.

    - Use Internet standards whenever possible.

    - There is no end to the work day, you are always on call.

    - Everybody blogs.

    - Create synergies between news, reviews, analysis, and blogs.

    - Getting journalists to put in web links to non-CNET publications. "It's about being part of the web and not separate from it," he says.

    - Carrying a pad of paper and pencil is not enough. Journalists also take photos, videos, and make podcasts.

    I know that some of my colleagues at large media companies are not too happy with all the extra work they now have to do: blogging, video, podcasts etc. Dan says that his team gets it and is happy with the changes.

    New skills...

    You can certainly teach an old dog new tricks, Dan and I are living proof of that. I've got nearly 25 years under my belt as a journalist and Dan has a few more than that.

    It just goes to show that this "new media" has nothing to do with age, there is no "generation gap" it is an "experience gap." And Dan is making sure that his team gets that experience and is ready for this new, always on world. (I'm finishing this at 3 am Monday morning.)

    Dan Farber can bring to CNET the best practices of the new media world, but as he says, he doesn't have control over everything. CNET still needs to sell ads and control costs within a challenging time for all media: a complete revamp of the media industry business model.

    As I like to say: These are the best times to be a media professional because we will never ever be at such an amazing and disruptive change in our industry in our lifetime.

    The trick is to make sure you are on the right side of the disruption, and not on the sharp pointy end of it. Can CNET become a disruptor? That's part of Dan's challenge, and that's what makes his new job one of the most interesting jobs in media.

    April 6, 2008

    The Rock 'n Roll Blogger Lifestyle...

    Blogging is stressful, you are always on. Matt Richtel at the New York Times nailed it: In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop.

    Here are some of the other dangers (tongue-in-cheek) of the rock-and-roll blogger lifestyle:


    Om Malik

    Dan Farber:

    Dan Farber

    Gabe Rivera:

    Gabe Rivera

    Renee Blodgett:

    Renee Blodgett

    Craig Newmark:


    Ze Frank:


    Nick Douglas (et moi):


    Photo by Brian Solis.

    Bloggers in training:

    Bloggers in training?

    April 2, 2008

    PR Pitch Facebook Experiment Ends . . . A New One Begins - Are We Connected?

    I'm going back to using my regular Gmail account for pitches. Facebook doesn't have the tools to manage email plus it send me lots of emails to tell me I have lots of emails on Facebook.

    My original post: PR Pitches Through Facebook: I Have 37, 366 Unread Emails in Gmail... 2 months ago, caused a bit of a stir. (I'm up to 44,548 unread emails.)

    I was hoping that Facebook might make my life a little easier but I also realized that I was seeking something else: connection.

    If we are linked on Facebook or as an SVW subscriber, you know something about me and vice versa, and that makes my professional life a lot easier. It's that connection that I want to take further:

    I will give priority to PR pitches from people that are connected to me through:

    - Facebook

    - LinkedIn [tom(at)]

    - Subscribe to the SVW newsletter:

    Enter your email address:

    - Subscribe to the SVW newsfeed:

    Subscribe to Silicon Valley Watcher

    Subscribe in a reader

    - Follow me on FriendFeed

    - Follow me on Twitter (tomforemski)

    Read and sometimes leave comments on my sites: Silicon Valley Watcher, Silicon Valley Minute, ZDNet: IMHO

    Because then I know that you know me, you know what I write about, and what interests me. I don't want to hear "what have you been writing about lately?"

    At the very least I would like you to be a subscriber to my SVW email newsletter or my SVW newsfeed (I'll be able to see your name in most cases.)

    One or more of the others would be great. I'll still be deluged and cannot guarantee anything but I will try to prioritize my "connected" contacts!

    - - -

    [Software engineers: If someone could create an app for me that can track my most connected contacts that would be great. I'm sure others would also find an app like that very handy...]

    March 31, 2008

    Ten Basic New Media Skills Journalists Need To Know

    Software engineers have to update their bag of skills constantly. They learn new programming languages, new web standards, new development systems, and new lexicons constantly.

    Most traditional journalists can barely type, they certainly can't spell. And they are unusually useless in terms of PC and other tech skills. But they know how to create compelling media and are able to do it consistently.

    With all the new changes brought about by the Internet becoming the publishing platform for all media, journalists now need a few new skills. They don't need to know them well, as in typing and spelling, but they do need to know a bit about them, so that they can flourish as the media sector transforms itself.

    Ten basic new media skills that today's journalist should know:

    1) How to upload an image to a blog. (I know journalists that don't know how.)

    2) How to add a link to text in an online story.

    3) How to take and edit a photo and resize it for a web page.

    4) How to embed the code for a video in a web page and resize it.

    5) How to find relevant links to a story and add them to it.

    6) How to take a digital video, edit it, and publish it in several formats.

    7) How to make online stories discoverable.

    8) How to read HTML and be able to fix common problems.

    9) How to read CSS and be able to make modifications in stylesheets.

    10) How to survive in an always-on work day, and produce two or three times as much content as before.

    February 25, 2008

    Stage6 Shutting Down...What's The Future For 100+ Other Online Video Sites?

    It seems that the consolidation in the huge number of online video sites is beginning...

    Stage6 is closing February 28. This is a high definition video site set up by DivX to promote the high quality video codec and then it was spun off as a private company in July 2007.

    The problem that Stage6 ran into was that it is an expensive business to run especially when the business model for online video sites has yet to be determined. It's a problem that the other 100+ online video sites are facing each day. It's clear that many of them will make the same choice as Stage6 and shut down.

    What happens to all the video work from users that uploaded and linked to the content? A lot of broken links...

    Here is a statement from Stage6 about its closure:

    I'm Tom (aka Spinner), a Stage6 user and an employee of DivX, Inc., the company behind the service. I'm writing this message today to inform you that we plan to shut down Stage6 on February 28, 2008. Upload functionality has already been turned off, and you'll be able to view and download videos until Thursday.

    . . . In many ways, though, the service did succeed, beyond even our own initial expectations. Stage6 became very popular very quickly. We helped gain exposure for some talented filmmakers who brought great videos to the attention of an engaged community. We helped prove that it's possible to distribute true high definition video on the Internet. And we helped broaden the Internet video experience by offering content that is compatible with DVD players, mobile devices and other products beyond the PC.

    So why are we shutting the service down? Well, the short answer is that the continued operation of Stage6 is a very expensive enterprise that requires an enormous amount of attention and resources that we are not in a position to continue to provide. There are a lot of other details involved, but at the end of the day it's really as simple as that.

    . . . As Stage6 grew quickly and dramatically (accompanied by an explosion of other sites delivering high-quality video), it became clear that operating the service as a part of the larger DivX business no longer made sense. We couldn't continue to run Stage6 and focus on our broader strategy to make it possible for anyone to enjoy high-quality video on any device. So, in July of last year we announced that we were kicking off an effort to explore strategic alternatives for Stage6, which is a fancy way of saying we decided we would either have to sell it, spin it out into a private company or shut it down.

    I won't (and can't, really) go into too much detail on those first two options other than to say that we tried really hard to find a way to keep Stage6 alive, either as its own private entity or by selling it to another company. Ultimately neither of those two scenarios was possible, and we made the hard decision to turn the lights off and cease operation of the service.

    February 21, 2008

    Why Silicon Valley is Media Valley: And Why Japan Is Interested...

    For about three years now I've been talking about how Silicon Valley is transforming into "Media Valley" because our brightest, and our fastest growing companies are, according to my metrics, media companies.

    Companies such as Google, Yahoo, eBay, Facebook, Digg are all media companies. They publish pages of content with advertising around it.

    These are not technology companies but rather technology-enabled media companies. And this is a key distinction.

    I've been writing about this change for about three years, and how the center of the media industry is shifting from New York city to Silicon Valley.

    Our media industry is thriving and expanding, their (NYC) media industry is shrinking (as one example New York Times last week announced 100 newsroom job cuts).

    Initially, only a couple of people picked up on my Media Valley concept, a couple of journalism professors at NYU. But gradually, over the past couple of years, more and more people have grown to understand this perspective.

    This has been especially evident within the Japanese media community. Last year, I was featured in Nikkei business magazine, Japan's largest business magazine. And today (Wednesday), a four-person TV crew flew in from one of Japan's largest TV channels and interviewed me for three hours on this topic.

    [I took some video that I will post very shortly, of them interviewing me, about the media industry. I love talking to the media about the media industry, but it always feels a little (sometimes a lot) Alice-in-Wonderland-ish, a hall of mirrors effect.]

    In my world, I see everything as a media technology, and as a media strategy. I've said this before many times: Every company is now a media company to a greater degree than ever before. Even if a company makes steel, or napkins. Every company publishes to its customers, staff, partners, neighbors, to itself. It had better master the two-way media technologies that we now have or it will not survive.

    Three years ago, when I would write about this, few people understood. Now, this is becoming better understood. But only slightly, which means there is still a lot of work to be done to help organizations understand this fundamental sea change.

    And we, in Silicon (Media) Valley, are best positioned to help educate others about what is going on. It is happening not because we say it is but because it just is.

    February 19, 2008

    Dan Farber Takes Over As Chief Editor At

    Dan Farber has been appointed editor-in-chief of CNET replacing Jai Singh.

    Jai Singh, senior vice president and editor-in-chief of will be leaving the organization March 10, 2008. With more than 20 years of experience as an editor and journalist, Farber is one of the industry's most well-known and well-respected voices in the world of technology and new media. As editor-in-chief, Farber will lead CNET in their award-winning coverage of the technology industry.

    Previously, Farber was vice president of editorial at ZDNet, where he built ZDNet into one of the biggest voices in business technology. Farber also co-developed the ZDNet Blog Network, with more than 30 bloggers including some of the most authoritative and well-respected voices in the IT community. He joined ZDNet in 1996, and led the development of ZDNet's worldwide network of more than 70 technology-focused sites. Prior to joining ZDNet, Farber served as vice president and editor-in-chief at Ziff-Davis' flagship computing news publications, PC Week and MacWeek. He was also a founding editor at MacWorld and part of the editorial staffs of PC World and PC Magazine. has struggled in the past couple of years to keep up with fast growing tech news sites such as Techcrunch, which has reached similar traffic volume as at a fraction of CNET's operating costs.

    Mr Farber's challenge will be to revamp's coverage and boost its readership while at the same time cut operating costs. At CNET's ZDNet, he successfully built a large network of bloggers into a profitable business group. The bloggers are paid according to the number of pageviews they receive.

    Mr Farber told me earlier this year that he was looking for a new challenge. "Everybody is blogging these days, there is nothing new about it. I'm looking for something different to do."

    February 18, 2008

    Analysis: Newspapers Giants Combine For Greater Share Of Online Ad Revenue

    Reuters reported that four of the largest US newspaper companies have formed quadrantOne, capable of reaching at least 50m unique visitors per month in 27 of 30 top regional markets, according to December 2007 data from Nielsen Online.

    New York Times Co, USA Today publisher Gannett Co, Los Angeles Times publisher Tribune Co and San Francisco Chronicle publisher Hearst Corp have set up a stand-alone company called quadrantOne to oversee the aggregation of audiences.

    Foremski's Take: Too little, too late. QuadrantOne is set up to primarily compete against Google's AdSense partner network, which generated $1.44 billion in the fourth quarter of 2007. QuadrantOne will provide better returns than Google or other online ad networks, but it will do little to improve the overall financial health of the newspaper publishers.

    That's because online ads on newspaper sites are less effective than other forms of online advertising. An advert placed next to a column of news doesn't convert well.

    You can sell shampoo next to a search engine box far better than next to a news story about beheadings in Iraq. While this is an extreme example, it illustrates the simple fact that journalism is not very good at selling goods and services compared with a search engine.

    This can be seen in Google's revenues. At the time of Google's IPO, its revenues were about 50/50 from its own sites and those from of its partner sites, such as the New York Times, and other large media companies.

    In its most recent quarter about two-thirds of Google advertising revenues came from its own sites compared with partner sites.

    Online advertisers will continue to shift away from journalism towards search engine marketing and other forms of online advertising because it is a more effective means of acquiring customers.

    So what will pay for journalism? The New York Times last week announced it will cut 100 newsroom jobs. Its coverage of Iraq costs $3m a year. As its print business declines, how much of its $200m annual newsroom budget will quadrantOne be able to support?

    Without a business model to support quality journalism we will have inferior journalism. We will have inferior information on which to base important decisions about massive issues such as going to war, global warming, dealing with pandemics, the economy, and plenty more.

    We are heading into a period where misinformation will be rife, and can be easily generated by special interest groups for profit at the expense of society in general, imho.

    January 24, 2008

    Edelman: Who Do You Trust? Mainstream Media Trust Soars

    Here is a quick look at the latest results of Edelman's annual Trust Barometer. It surveys 3,100 "opinion-elites" in 18 countries (400 Americans.)

    American's trust in mainstream media jumps an astonishing 36 per cent to 45 per cent from 33 percent in the prior year.

    And business magazines came out on top – with 60% of the American respondents are most likely to turn to business magazines as a source of information about a company or business – vs. just 11% for blogs.

    Generation gap defined...

    Younger Americans (25 to 34 year olds) were "significantly" more likely to consider the following sources of information to be credible, compared with older Americans: Wikipedia, communications issued by companies, company Web sites, TV talk shows, blogs, social networking sites, and video-sharing sites

    Fewer Americans under 35 (50%) are getting information about companies from newspapers than in any other country surveyed.

    I'll have the full study very soon with more details...

    Edelman is the world's largest private public relations company. Here is CEO Richard Edelman with some more findings:

    Here is Richard Edelman's blog 6AM: we seem to be heading toward recession, the goal for business should be to maintain their license to operate. This depends on banking trust capital by running a good business, taking on large societal issues in the context of profit making opportunities and presenting the business case in a transparent and convincing manner.

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    January 23, 2008

    Media Watch: Phil Bronstein Out At SF Chronicle

    Phil Bronstein, the executive editor, the top dog at the San Francisco Chronicle is out of that job. He is now an "editor at large" for Hearst Newspapers.

    Mr Bronstein, had a pugnacious reputation at the newspaper. And a larger than life quality that included marriage to Sharon Stone, one of Hollywood's top actors.

    He tried to stem losses at the SF Chron, that had been reported to be as much as $1m/ week, by cutting 100 newsroom jobs last summer, leaving 300 jobs. It was the largest single cut in the newsroom of a major daily newspaper.

    There is now no managing editor or executive editor at the SF Chron. According to my contacts at the newspaper, middle managers are concerned replacements for the top jobs will sweep in a new team.

    His bio:

    From MarketWire - Hearst announcement:

    Phil Bronstein Named Editor-at-Large of Hearst Newspapers Division and the San Francisco Chronicle

    Hearst Newspapers announced today that San Francisco Chronicle Editor Phil Bronstein will be shifting his role from running day-to-day operations in the newsroom to taking on broader strategic responsibilities at the paper and for its owner, Hearst Corporation. Bronstein will remain executive vice president of The Chronicle and will assume the title editor-at-large, both for the paper and for the newspapers division of Hearst. A new editor will be announced shortly.

    Commenting on the announcement, George B. Irish, president, Hearst Newspapers, said, "I asked Phil to consider having a larger role at Hearst, in addition to strategic responsibilities at the San Francisco Chronicle. I am delighted that he has agreed."

    Bronstein will continue to represent The Chronicle in the community as a principal public face of the paper. Working with all departments, he will help shape the role of the paper and its Web site,, in San Francisco and the Bay Area. In addition, Bronstein will work with the newspapers division to oversee investigative projects that may involve multiple properties using resources throughout Hearst. He will also seek to expand successful strategies he initiated at The Chronicle to other Hearst papers, and will work with the office of Hearst's General Counsel on First Amendment issues, including a federal shield law for reporters. He will also work directly with top digital media executives at Hearst Newspapers to identify ideas and content that can be applied across the company.

    January 21, 2008

    Fired LAT ed on how to save newspapers: Invest in Journalism

    Via the Wall Street Journal, the more relevant parts of fired editor James O'Shea's goodbye remarks:
    We journalists have our faults, but we also have a lot to offer. Too often we've been dismissed as budgetary adolescents who can't be trusted to conserve our resources. That is wrong. Journalists and not accountants should seize responsibility for the financial health of our newspapers so journalists can make decisions about the size of our staffs and how much news remains in our papers and web sites.

    The biggest challenge we face -- journalists and dedicated newspaper folks alike -- is to overcome this pervasive culture of defeat, the psychology of surrender that accepts decline as inevitable. This mindset plagues our business and threatens our newspapers and livelihoods. I believe that when Sam Zell understands how asinine the current budgetary system is, he will change it for the better, because he is a smart businessman and he understands the value of wise investment. A dollar's worth of smart investment is worth far more than a barrel of budget cuts.

    This company, indeed, this industry, must invest more in solid, relevant journalism. We must integrate the speed and agility of the Internet with the news judgment and editorial values of the newsroom, values that are more important than ever as the hunger for news continues to surge and gossip pollutes the information atmosphere. Even in hard times, wise investment -- not retraction -- is the long-term answer to the industry's troubles. We must build on our core strength, which is good, accurate reporting, the backbone of solid journalism, the public service that helps people make the right decisions about their increasingly complex lives. We must tell people what they want to know and -- even more important -- what they might not want to know, about war, politics, economics, schools, corruption and the thoughts and deeds of those who lead us. We need to tell readers more about Barack Obama and less about Britney Spears. We must give a voice to those who can't afford a megaphone. And we must become more than a marketing slogan. I know I can rely on this newsroom to do this.

    If you have to consider closing foreign bureaus and cutting back in other parts of the paper to free up the money needed to cover the Olympics and the most historic political campaign in modern times, well to me that's no plan for the future, that is not serving the interest of readers. It is simply stupid.

    Even though we face tough and demanding times and I sympathize with those who face daunting revenue challenges, I don't believe that we will succeed long term by giving up; by taking steps that I think will gradually diminish newspapers. I decided to take my stand and say: Change the way we do things. I made that decision and I will live with the consequences. And when I walk through the Globe Lobby for the last time, I can guarantee you that I won't regret taking that stand. I believe history will prove me right. When this industry stops relying so much on cuts and starts investing in Journalism, it will prosper because it will be serving the best interests of our readers. That's when we will prosper.

    MediaWatch Monday: 2 Years on from Die! Press Release! Die!Die! Die!

    Evolving the news release with microformats...Die-Press-Release.jpg

    When I wrote Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! nearly two years ago, it got a lot of attention and a lot of work has gone into creating a more modern news release that includes much of the media technologies that make up Internet 2.0.

    Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Brian Solis, Todd Defren and Shannon Whitley are some of the many people that have worked hard to bring attention to new formats for a press/news release, which is sometimes called a new media release, or a social media release.

    We are still far from what I described in the original post:

    In most news stories, the spin or angle, is set by the journalist in the first couple of paragraphs.
    Much of the rest of the news story is factual: what the CEO said, when the company was founded, where it is based, the stock price, the specs of a product, the price, etc, etc, etc...

    Deconstruct the press release into special sections and tag the information so that as a publisher, I can pre-assemble some of the news story and make the information useful...

    The tags would be things like: recent share price, founders, first quarter revenues, analyst quotes, etc...

    And because we are dealing with tags that are attached to facts--there is no spin so there is no problem in printing the information as it is received. If we can get the tags to be finely tuned, as a publisher, I could spec out a story and assemble it automatically and then quickly edit it by hand before publishing.

    Read more here...Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!

    We are far from this vision but we have the technology to do this. It is because it requires a cultural change and we know that culture is always slow to change. And so we have to be patient.

    In the meantime, Shannon Whitley has done some excellent work on creating those tags I mentioned, which in Geek speak are called microformats. He has been part of the hRelease Working Group and has done a stellar job in producing the basis of a standard.

    Now we just need to have people start using it and refining it.

    Just before the holidays, a few of us got together to do a New Media Release podcast that discusses microformats. From For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report

    Content summary:The usual suspects: Chris Heuer, Shel Holtz, Tom Foremski, Brian Solis and Shannon Whitley. Shannon runs down the recently-released pre-specification working document, which needs your input. The group discusses the flurry of posts taking pro and con positions about the social media release.

    You can listen to it here.

    Shel provides some reference materials:

    Working document referenced by Shannon Whitley.

    The new Social Media Release site

    Google Groups mailing list for New Media Release discussion

    hRelease wiki

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    January 17, 2008

    Jaman Coup: Independent And International Film Downloads Through TiVo

    Jaman, the online movie service specializing in independent and international movies, has a deal with TiVo that provides it with a major distribution channel and bypasses the computer, as in Apple's latest Apple TV service.

    Jaman is based in San Mateo, CA, and was founded by Gaurav Dhillon, the former CEO of Informatica. More details from Jaman:

    By capitalizing on TiVo's vast big-screen user experience, we're making it even easier for people to discover, browse and enjoy our catalog of high definition, edgy and award-winning films on their TVs," said Jaman's CEO Gaurav Dhillon."This venture cements our position as a leading online provider of movies, offering unique and original content that viewers can't find anywhere else."

    The service will be available in the coming months to broadband-connected TiVo Series2(tm) and Series3(tm) subscribers. Viewers will be able to browse and select from Jaman's premier library, featuring internationally-acclaimed titles such as Oscar-nominated "Paheli," "Loverboy" (Sundance) with Kyra Sedgwick, "All About Lily Chou-Chou" (Berlin International Film Festival) and Dardennes Brothers' "La Promesse" (Cannes/Toronto).

    With Jaman on TiVo, viewers will be able to both rent and purchase films starting at $1.99, with a number of shorts and full-length films that are available to download for free.

    Jaman: Movie download service for world cinema

    Here is one of the offbeat independent movies you can find on Jaman:

    Missionary Positions

    Technorati Tags:

    September 19, 2007

    Alan Greenspan Says Economic Forecasting Can't Predict Economic Futures . . .

    Alan_Greenspan.jpgI got home late Tuesday and watched my Tivo recording of Alan Greenspan on "The Daily Show."

    I was shocked: He said if he was able to measure how fearful or hopeful people are about the future, then he would not need any mathematical models of the economy, he would be able to predict our economic future.

    But he said no one can measure people's sentiments accurately. Mr Greenspan added that in his more than fifty years of making economic predictions, he is no better at it now than when he started.

    I couldn't believe what I was hearing. During his time at the helm of the economy, he and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve raised and lowered interest rates implying that they could cool or heat up the near-future economy at will. Now he is saying that he knows of no metric that can forecast the economy except consumer sentiment, which apparently cannot be quantified.

    This is interesting since Mr Greenspan has founded a consulting group advising on financial markets. But maybe this makes sense since he is selling his new book: "The Age of Turbulence."

    What better way to inject some turbulence into markets than for Mr Greenspan to undermine the accepted notion that the Federal Reserve knows what it is doing?!

    August 21, 2007

    You can't get there from here - Why mainstream media is way up a creek...

    I love the American saying "You can't get there from here" because it is perfect for describing the gaping chasm that mainstream (oldstream) media faces in transitioning to the newstream media.

    I've been warning about this issue for nearly three years, ever since I left the FT and saw the economics of the new media. I could see that there was no way that the legacy cost structure of old media could be supported by the new media business models.

    Mainstream media is screwed not because they didn't embrace blogging RSS, etc, in time. It wouldn't have mattered if they were doing it from the very beginning of blogging. And it matters little that their online sites are growing in readership or if Google AdSense and other ad networks paid them twice the going rate--it is not enough.

    Here is an excellent analysis, by the numbers, by Henry Blodget the former Wall Street star analyst of the dotcom boom - of the New York Times online business versus its newspaper business:

    It's easy to say that the New York Times and other newspaper companies are screwed, but sometimes it helps to actually run the numbers. Do you know why they're screwed? It's actually not the cost of paper, ink, trucks, printing plants, and other physical distribution expenses. Rather, it's the cost of content creation.

    Senior New York Times reporters believe they are underpaid, and, relative to other highly educated folks at the peak of their professions, they sure are. But relative to the online revenue they generate, those talented reporters, columnists, editors, and researchers actually cost a fortune.

    Link to: Silicon Valley Insider.

    We are witnessing a historic moment n our society and one that will be scary for a while. Media is how we think through difficult problems. We need a high quality professional media to sort through and present us with high quality information so that we can make the best decisions.

    Otherwise it is garbage-in, garbage out, a software engineering term that explains itself.

    July 25, 2007

    Digg Drops Federated Media for Microsoft Ads

    Federated Media, the online advertising network founded by John Battelle, the search engine analyst, lost one of its largest clients today.

    Digg, the popular news aggregator said it had chosen Microsoft to serve up ads. Federated Media will have a minor relationship with Digg, working on side projects.

    In a post on Digg, co-founder Kevin Rose wrote:

    This move gives us an advertising partner with a larger organization and a more scalable technology platform to keep pace with Digg’s growth. Best of all, it lets the Digg team completely focus on new feature development.

    Microsoft signed a similar deal with Facebook last year.

    Federated Media has bold ambitions to grow revenues by ten times this year to $50m. The loss of Digg could cause it to revise its revenue targets.

    July 19, 2007

    Of Media Engineers and Media Architects...

    I popped into Third Thursday over at Voce Communications (BTW my favorite valley PR firm.) I ran into lots of friends, Jen McClure, Shel Israel, Mike Manuel, Matthew Podboy (A surname from the future :-), Andrea Weckerle, and many more.

    I love my friends but I'm a huge fan of Josh Hallett (Hyku). Josh epitomises what I call the media engineer, or, more accurately, a media architect. The days of the software engineer have peaked, now is the time of the media engineer.

    [I define a media engineer as a cross between a software engineer versed in media technologies such as RSS, CSS, Flash, JavaScript, and HTML. With a media professional such as a publisher, editor, journalist (in any combination). . . And media engineers will thrive in this emerging Internet 2.0, two-way online era.]

    I met Josh earlier this year at the New Comm Forum in Las Vegas where we were speaking on panels. Josh is interesting because he has been working with the New York Times and other large newspaper groups, helping media understand new media and respond in similar ways. And he has a thousand anecdotes and insights into what is going on.

    I have some excellent video segments of Josh and co-panelist Alex Kim from SolutionSet coming your way very soon. In these segments there is easily $1m worth of advice, as you will see.


    Third Thursday

    June 25, 2007

    Federated Media Denies its Top Blog Publishers are "Sell-Outs"

    Federated Media, the advertising network created by John Battelle, the A-list blogger and Google book author, has hit back at accusations that its top web site publishers have become "sell-outs."

    Chas Edwards, the president of Federated Media said that there was nothing wrong with running Microsoft advertising banners on high profile web sites such as TechCrunch, GigaOm and Venturebeat, which included quotes from the publishers of those web sites.

    On Friday, Valleywag published by Nick Denton, head of the New York based media company Gawker Media, criticized the advertising campaign. Mr Denton wrote that Federated Media had mounted a slick campaign but had gone beyond the acceptable limits for product endorsements by journalists.

    John Battelle's ad network has roped in some of its star writers to an ad campaign on behalf of Microsoft's "people-ready" catchphrase. In the ads, and the companion site built by Federated Media, Michael Arrington explains how his Techcrunch site became "people-ready". "When is a business people ready?" asks Gigaom's Om Malik. "The minute you decide to strike out on your own..."

    Link to: Microsoft pays star writers to recite slogan

    Mr Edwards answered the criticism on his blog "ChasNote - Metrics, successes & flaming disasters in digital marketing."

    In a Sunday morning post titled: "Does Relevant Advertising Mean Selling Out?" he argued that it was OK to run the Microsoft campaign because Federated Media had run a similar campaign for Cisco last Fall and that "readers seemed OK with the project."

    He then made a personal attack on Mr Denton saying that there was "a fair amount of evidence Denton is raising a stink all by himself."

    Or perhaps his disdain for the advertisers that support his business (Gawker Media), our business (Federated Media), and every other ad-supported content business online or offline, is so great that he feels they don’t belong in the conversation at all. Except, of course, the conversation in which they agree to pay him, then shut up.

    Link to: Does Relevant Advertising Mean Selling Out?

    In Mr Denton's original post he did not use the term "sell-out." He did not attack Mr Edwards or anybody at Federated Media. He wrote that he could not blame "Battelle's team for latching on to this idea."

    His rebuke was for the writers.

    One would have thought that tech opinion-leaders as influential as Om Malik and Paul Kedrosky would ration their credibility more carefully, and reserve it for companies and products for which they felt real enthusiasm. Link to: Microsoft pays star writers to recite slogan

    Foremski's Take:

    I do not share Nick Denton's "disappointment" with FM's star writers. I'm gob-smackingly shocked that these top journalists went along with this lousy idea for the advertising campaign.

    It is a bad, bad idea and they should know better. The more explanations they write the more it shows up the fact that there is something here that doesn't feel quite right.

    Is Federated Media acting in its own the best interests over that that of its network of top publishers? Would it risk the long-term good standing of its publishers in order to meet very ambitious revenue targets?

    Earlier this year Mr Battelle was touting the success of Federated Media and said revenues would hit about $50m by the end of this year--a 5-fold increase from about $5m last year. Yet when I looked at the ad network's top sites, many were carrying "house ads" promoting the network. This was amidst reports, some from Valleywag, that Federated Media was looking for a buyer.

    I agree with Mr Denton that Federated Media cannot be blamed for "latching on to this idea" but I bet it backfires.

    I have a lot respect for Mr Edwards, he is one of the most successful advertising sales people in the country and has worked at prestigious media companies such as CNET Networks.

    However, I disagree with him that it is OK to mount such advertising campaigns. There is a very real risk of damaging the brand of its star writers.

    Federated Media should be looking out for the best interests of its network at all times. Just because there has been no "outcry" from readers, and that Mr Battelle openly blogged about it, doesn't mean it is OK.

    If Mr Edwards believes that there is nothing wrong with the advertising campaign, let's see Federated Media run another similar campaign with the same set of publishers. My prediction is that this is one new media business model that we can safely scratch off the list...

    Here are some relevant links from Chas Edwards:

    Continue reading "Federated Media Denies its Top Blog Publishers are "Sell-Outs"" »

    June 10, 2007

    Jobs Cuts at Chron and Merc

    Monday marks the beginning of 80 reporter layoffs at the San Francisco Chronicle. There will be 300 editorial positions remaining by the end of summer.

    It seems like the last stand of the 300, and we know how that battle ended.

    Over at the San Jose Mercury, management have told the newsrooms to expect unspecified numbers of job cuts that could come at unspecified times(!)

    The Merc's usual plan is to tell staff to stay home, if they get a call, they are out of a job and can schedule a time, on a Saturday, to clear out their desks. At least the SF Chron management does it face to face.

    I recently ran into Matt Marshall from VentureBeat, he is looking to hire but he wants someone that can grind out the stories... I don't blame him, journalist blogging is hard work. When you are at the large newspapers, you don't have to grind that much, which puts you at a disadvantage in the jobs market...$100K plus benefits for 5 stories a week...?! The economics of this business, right now, can't support that, even though those five stories are top notch.

    June 4, 2007

    Monday, Bloody Monday, As Axe Swings At SF Chronicle

    By Tom Foremski

    The first of 100 job cuts took place at the SF Chronicle on Monday. About 20 managers were the first to receive news they no longer have a job. 

    Some had worked there for decades, some are among the top practitioners of their profession earning the respect of colleagues across the industry. Some have serious health issues within their families and now face a bleak future without healthcare.

    Next in line are 80 reporters. By the end of the summer the SF Chronicle will have made one of the largest newsroom cuts of any major newspaper.

    It's an extremely unpleasant 80-20 rule. Hopefully the management measured twice to cut once.

    Gathering Tempest 

    It was a somber scene Monday evening at The Tempest, the bar that serves as a favorite watering hole for the SF Chron workers. Editorial teams that had worked together for years gathered to say goodbye to some, while many were still awaiting their own fates.

    The Tempest is an ironic name for a bar catering to our local media. It's very descriptive of how quickly change is happening in our industry.

    At no other time in our lives will we be witness to such massive, disruptive changes in the media industry. And as media professionals, at no other time in our lives will we be part of such historic, disruptive changes.

    Such times will deliver great opportunities for some, and great challenges for all.

    I am confident that we will see rise from the ashes a soaring, roaring phoenix. Journalism will once again become a valued profession. And we will see a new enlightenment, a new Venice. New media, in its many-media forms, will usher in new age of reason and logic. We will leave behind the dark thinking of religious fundamentalism, and dark ignorance, here in the US and abroad.


    The movie "300" reminded me that a few people can make a big difference. The Greeks, representing the roots of our civilization, were defeated in that battle. Yet their culture of reason and logic won out over time.

    And so our culture of professional journalism, in the service of reason and logic, will win out over time. And time is now highly compressed, it won't take hundreds or thousands of years.

    After the cuts there will be 300 editorial staff remaining at the SF Chronicle.

    What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

    Media is how society solves its problems and it requires a professional media class. A fragmented and generally lower quality media will not help us figure out our problems--and we have some big ones ahead of us.

    I'm confident we will get to the new Venice, but the next few years will be scary, painful, and dramatic. Because the economic models that supported the media industry are being torn apart and the new economic models are still being formed.

    The new business models can't support the cost structure of the "oldstream media" with its printing presses, pension plans, delivery trucks, administrators, office buildings...

    The new media business models can barely support a blogger journalist, with a notebook, sitting in a bedroom.

    - - -



    Additional Info:
    Media Disruption 80 newsroom jobs to go at SF Chron

    The San Francisco Chronicle, reported to be losing as much as $1m per week, is to cut 25% of newsroom staff by the end of this summer.

    "This is one of the biggest one-time hits we've heard about anywhere in the country," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in Washington.

    Eighty reporters, photographers, copy editors and others, as well as 20 employees in management positions are expected to be laid off by end of the summer.



    And from SVW - September 2005:


    A report from New York city . . .


    Whenever I'm in New York I feel like I'm in the coolest city in the world...this time it also felt like the hottest and most humid city in the world.

    The warm, moist air stirred up by hurricane Katrina, made me melt into a walking puddle, especially when drenched by occasional torrential downpours.

    New York is very cool partly because of its large media industry. The largest news and magazine companies have a heavy presence in midtown where I was staying. You can't avoid seeing their ticker tape news headlines whirl around their buildings, and their giant logos at night.

    My alma mater, the Financial Times US HQ is there, and so are large offices of Reuters, CNN, Time-Warner, Hearst, etc.

    But it's a shame that the center of the media industry has moved to Silicon Valley and nobody told New York :-)

    I should write Mayor Bloomberg a letter about that. It would point out that many Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Yahoo, and EBay, are in fact media companies. They are technology enabled media companies.

    They publish digital rather than paper pages but they carry content and advertising just like a newspaper or magazine paper page.

    And our media industry is growing like gangbusters while New York's is not. Our media industry is hiring like crazy (Yahoo has 700 new positions to fill, Google a similar number) while New York's media industry continues to cut jobs and budgets.

    May 30, 2007

    NewspaperRX: A radical medicine is called for

    John Batelle wrote this yesterday:

    Up until recently, the Chronicle had 400 journalists working at the paper. FOUR HUNDRED! When I wrote for the LA Times, I often wrote two stories a day. Is the Chronicle pumping out 800 stories a day? Is it breaking all sorts of amazing stories and being a leader in the community with those 400 journalists? Hell no! 400 reporters and what is the paper DOING with them? Not much, I'm afraid. The paper should OWN the Valley Tech story. Does it? No. It should OWN the biotech story. Does it? No. It should OWN the real estate/development story. Does it? No. It should OWN the California political story. Does it? No!

    Why? Well, maybe it has THE WRONG 400 journalists working for it?! And the wrong tone/approach/structure? Just maybe?

    I'm not sure the Chron has the wrong journalists working for it. I would argue it has much more to do with approach and structure. But, ultimately, it may have to do with a basic fact no one can escape: putting ink on paper is no longer the appropriate way to do news.


    In newspapering there is a choice. Either you are in the Bob Woodward camp - the reader should pick up the paper every day and exlaim, "Holy shit!" - or the USA Today camp - the paper should make you feel warm and fuzzy. The Chron is clearly in the latter camp.

    What would a newspaper look like if it dropped the hierarchical structure of reporters-sr. reporters-copy editors-editors-managing editors-editor in chief? Thinking about the Chron's piece on James Currier this morning, what if newspapers were run like Ooga Labs?

    The small staff is organized into two-person speed teams, each pair an engineer and designer, who are the only employees working on one of the five businesses. They sit side by side in an open pit in Ooga Labs' Financial District office so people can get to know one another and what everyone is working on.

    What if newspaper writing could be more like blog writing? What if it didn't have to be third-person, inverted pyramid, what if writers didn't have to refer to themselves in the story as "a reporter"? What if business reporters could quote people other than Wall Street analysts? What if Mike Arrington were considered a go-to source?

    What if newspapers weren't afraid of saying when a bunch of facts add up to an obvious truth? As in, Al Gonzales is lying. Larry Ellison is a son-of-a-bitch. Google shouldn't be trusted with your data.

    There was a day when newspapers were wild and wooly affairs, highly partisan, seeking out controversy, willing to make stories happen. Fremont Older was a newspaper editor who exposed graft in San Francisco at the turn of the century. He was not above paying for a source to stay at an undisclosed location and plastering something close to this in the morning paper: "The Bulletin has first-hand information that the mayor was involved in last night's murder. If the mayor doesn't come to our offices by 2pm today to explain, we will print all in tomorrow's paper."

    Maybe that's not quite appropriate these days, but newspapers have forgotten how to sell papers. But consider this quote from Mike Arrington: "If I say outrageous things that are more controversial, I make more money." That is a sentiment William Randolph carried close to his cold heart. It is one very far from the way today's Hearst-owned Chronicle operates.

    May 21, 2007

    Media Ownership Laws And Tech Companies

    (A short series of short essays on tech and media...)

    I've been thinking and writing about some of the recent M&A in the tech/media sector. Three of the West Coast Internet giants, GOOG, YHOO and MSFT have made substantial acquisitions in the advertising sector.

    Those have been smart moves even though there are execution challenges ahead.

    The emerging trend is for the new media companies of the West Coast, which also includes EBAY and AMZN, to wrest away a greater share of advertising revenues from the East Coast media companies. And so far, they are doing very well, growing while their East Coast competitors are shrinking.

    It is interesting that East Coast media companies such as New York Times (NYT), don't consider Google a competitor. It is interesting that GOOG, for example, does not consider itself a media company.  Yet both publish pages of content with advertising around it.

    Oldstream Media Versus Techstream Media

    It doesn't matter what NYT or GOOG call themselves--both are out to grab a greater share of the same  advertising gold. And that goes for the other "oldstream" media companies too, many of them in New York city, most of them out East.

    Yet GOOG and its closest competitors: YHOO, MSFT, EBAY, AMZN (all on the West Coast) are far more efficient in the online advertising space than media companies such as Dow Jones, Conde Nast, Financial Times, Time Warner, News Corp, and the rest.

    The way the trend is heading, the West Coast technology-enabled-media companies, the techstream media,  are going to move up the value chain until they have the content producers in a corner. The content producers such as newspapers, magazines, radio, television will be selling their space through GOOG and the others, because of scale and first mover advantage. If this trend continues without disruption...

    Do We Need New Media Ownership Laws?

    There are US rules about media ownership in various regional markets that limit ownership, which limits influence on society. How will such rules apply if you don't have to own the media companies directly yet you have broad control over the publishing of that media--through search engines.

    And you control the revenues earned by the media companies because of inclusion in your many-media advertising networks: in web, paper, radio, TV, video, and within multiple regional markets. That's a lot of indirect control over media.


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    The Rapid Rise of the West Coast Media Industry...

    ...and the rapid fall of the East Coast Media Advertising agencies have become the prime target of the Internet giants in their most recent M&A activities. It is all part of the roll-up in the industry, as Sramana Mitra describes it...

    Posted by Tom Foremski on May 21, 2007 7:34 PM


    A 1400 mile long corridor of innovation . . .the emerging Silicon Coast

    The Disney acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios is interesting from a regional point of view. It strengthens growing ties between Santa Clara and Santa Monica tech/media cultures. Terry Semel came up from So. Cal where he was co-chief of Warner...

    Posted by Tom Foremski on January 25, 2006 5:05 AM

    The Rapid Rise of the West Coast Media Industry...

    ...and the rapid fall of the East Coast Media

    Advertising agencies have become the prime target of the Internet giants in their most recent M&A activities.

    It is all part of the roll-up in the industry, as Sramana Mitra describes it well.

    It is also a way for GOOG, YHOO, and MSFT to acquire advertising agencies as part of their inevitable move up the value chain.

    The goal in these acquisitions is not the technology but the revenues and customers. Why split revenues with advertising agencies? Especially if you know how much advertising content you can publish in the months ahead. And you have the computing platforms to scale the advertising content much more efficiently.

    It is much better to acquire those companies because:

    • You recover the share of ad revenues paid to the advertising agencies.
    • You also buy the customers. And those customers are going to be increasing their online advertising spend dramatically as they finish up with advertising contracts elsewhere.

    These are easy numbers to crunch for the CFOs and justify the valuations of the deals.

    But the Internet giants will face challenges:

    • These are more people based businesses than they are technology based.  They don't scale nearly as well as servers-and-software. Google and the others know how to grow through servers-and-software but not through people.
    • Managing the advertising businesses is going to require skills in managing relations that are nothing like software developer relations. Managing those businesses well and not killing them will be a challenge.
    • Their market valuations might come under pressure if their cost of business rises because of the people-scaling factor and impacts operating margins.

    The Rise of the West Coast Media

    This is all part of a larger trend as the new media companies of the West Coast grow in value, while the old media companies of the East Coast cutback and shrink.

    GOOG, YHOO, EBAY, AMZN, and MSFT are all publishers. They publish pages of content and advertising. Some of it is subscription based, some of it is advertising supported. These are technology-enabled media companies.

    Our West Coast media companies are growing by leaps and bounds. The East Coast media companies are shrinking.



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    Silicon Valley has become Media Valley - someone should tell NYC

     Silicon Valley is rapidly turning into Media Valley--and New York, NY should look out--the capital of the media world is shifting about 3,000 miles westwards. Some of Silicon Valley's largest companies are media companies: Google, Yahoo, EBay, for example are...

    Posted by Tom Foremski on February 24, 2007 5:18 PM

    The acceleration in the disruption of media

    I'm often invited to talk to groups of people about what's going on in the media sector, and I often start with a simple observation: At no other point in our lives will we be witness to such a...

    Posted by Tom Foremski on November 22, 2006 3:53 AM

    Cherry picking advertising and not paying for the journalism

    Google can sell advertising for much less because it doesn't have to pay for any journalism. Newspapers, TV and radio sell advertising so that they can pay for the journalism. Craigslist can operate a global classified ads business with...

    Posted by Tom Foremski on May 17, 2006 2:17 AM

    What happens if the old media dies too soon? The urgent need for solid online news media business models
    Exploring the new media business models
    Old media is being cut off at the knees as Google and a few others grab ad revenues. But for most new media enterprises, existing business models don't generate enough revenue and it's not yet clear what will. An analysis of the situation and some thoughts on new approaches

    Posted by Tom Foremski on November 14, 2005 7:00 AM

    Media Disruption: 80 newsroom jobs to go at SF Chron

    The San Francisco Chronicle, reported to be losing as much as $1m per week, is to cut 25% of newsroom staff by the end of this summer.

    "This is one of the biggest one-time hits we've heard about anywhere in the country," said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, in Washington.

    Eighty reporters, photographers, copy editors and others, as well as 20 employees in management positions are expected to be laid off by end of the summer.

    Foremski's Take: When I left the Financial Times in the summer of 2004 to become an online publisher I started to warn of the coming disruption in media, especially in newspapers and magazines. I could see from my vantage point that the online economics of publishing could not support the mainstream media's operating costs.

    And while it would take time to take effect, most newspapers and magazines would not be able to make the changes neccessary, they would not be able to downsize fast enough or cut costs fast enough. This is because they are in the grips of a disruptive technology. And the key feature of a disrutive technology is that you can see the train wreck ahead of you but you can't get out of the way.

    That's what happened with the microcomputer/PC--it was a massively disruptive technology. Mini and mainframe companies went out of business or consolidated. Even IBM barely survived and had to reinvent itself as an IT services company.

    This is what is happening within the media industry--the train wreck is dead ahead and most companies won't be able to get out of the way of it. Because the Internet is a media technology and media is where the disruption is happening.

    May 18, 2007

    SF Chron: Cheaper than paper towels

    So it's come to this. I'm a subscriber again.

    About a month ago, I cancelled my subscription to the Chronicle. Over the past six months I'd watched the front page become filled with giant photos and human interest stories, while day after day news about the US attorney crisis, debates over Iraq and other major stories were relegated to nine inches on A12 - or not even run at all. Cruising the Web, I'd read things in the Times and the Post - not to mention the international press - that never appeared in San Francisco's only surviving daily.

    Then yesterday I got a call from the paper, asking why I dropped it.

    "Because it sucks."

    There ensued a lengthy conversation in which the salesperson agreed he didn't read the "liberal rag" for the news, that there was sports and coupons and the pink pages and what the hell, you get some news in the bargain. He said "we really want you back" and the price was just 38 cents a week for Wednesday through Sunday delivery.

    I figured this was one of those deals where it's 10 cheap weeks, then you're back on the seven days a week at 50 cents a day deals. I said I wasn't interested in coupons and it wasn't about the paper being liberal. "It's about the fact that Hearst Corp. has gutted the news operation and filled the front page with meaningless fluff."

    Eventually he clarifies: $10 for six months of five-days-a-week service. And the kicker: "Just use it clean your windows. It's cheaper than paper towels."

    So that's the state of newspapering today. They really are selling newspapers for birdcage liners. So, I went for it. $10 - what the hell? So if you want the Chron, I highly recommend dropping it and waiting for that ten-buck call.

    And my wife misses the Cryptoquip.

    Stanford pardody below:

    May 10, 2007

    Software 2007 Notes: Media Matters To Media . . . And Where Journalists End Up

    I ran into Dan Fost, who has the media beat at the San Francisco Chronicle. What are you doing here I asked?

    He said that Ben Pimentel, the reporter that covered software had left to work for Stanford University, so Dan was adding software to his beats.

    I also ran into Peter Coffee, who was a well known columnist for many years in the computer trade press. He now works for doing competitive research, and there are other former journalists at Salesforce too.

    As our newspapers and magazines continue to shrink, the journalist exodus to other jobs will only increase.

    So what do the PR agencies do? A significant piece of their business model is getting their clients in front of journalists and billing for any ink--digital or otherwise.


    Dan wrote an amusing post on our encounter :-)

    I bumped into blogger Tom Foremski, proprietor of Silicon Valley Watcher, at the Software 2007 conference in Santa Clara Monday. While we talked, he was keeping an eye on fellow tech journos Steve Gillmor and Dan Farber, as Gillmor was filming Farber.

    Meta media moment 1!

    Foremski, of course, had his own camera. He had a friend take a Bluetooth microphone over and stand near the other two, so he could pick up the sound while he watched through the video camera.

    Meta 2!

    The Technology Chronicles Software 2007 Meta media moments



    Steve Gillmor interviews Dan Farber


    - - -

    Please also see:

    Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?
    Where is the PR industry disruption?
    The mainstream media is heading to hell in a handbasket but where is the PR industry's handbasket?

    Posted by Tom Foremski on January 12, 2006 2:53 PM

    May 9, 2007

    Software 2007 Notes: Enterprise Software Is Certainly Not Dead...

    mr.jpgTwo dueling conferences this week, Software 2007 and Sun Microsystems' JavaOne conference. Software 2007 was the clear choice and that's where most of the local hacks could be found.

    I had once written:

    The enterprise software market is dead, dead, dead....

    I was wrong. Enterprise software markets are not dead boring. They're just plain dead.

    But that was before I started going to MR Rangaswami's Software 2005 conference. And I've become a big fan of MR "the swami of enterprise software" as I've called him, because he has made the this space interesting again. And because he has created one of the best conferences in Silicon Valley.

    Every year it gets better and this year it featured keynotes from top stars of the sector: Steve Ballmer Microsoft; Hasso Plattner, SAP; Shane Robison
    Hewlett-Packard, and of course local royalty, Marc Benioff,

    - Software 2007 Powered by Innovation


    The Old Guard Turn Up

    It was interesting to see the old guard of the enterprise software sector, Microsoft, SAP, EMC, etc, because the show is very focused on software as a service (SAAS). And there is little love lost between these two very different camps.

    Even though the software giants continually announce SAAS ventures, the SAAS business model is disruptively different. With SAAS, customers pay for exactly what they use, rather than pay a big lump fee for an enterprise  license and then 20 percent in annual maintenance fees

    "When your customers are on a monthly service plan, you have to continually deliver value and innovation. It is not about just selling a license and disappearing till the next time. You have to be continually on your toes," says Michael Gregoire, CEO of Taleo, a leading talent management service company.


    Software Startup Investments Magnified By Offshoring 

    MR is a tireless promoter of the enterprise software industry: "There are billions of dollars being invested  BY VCs in enterprise software startups. And if you think about the use of off-shoring some of the development, the use of open source software, and other technologies, you actually are getting a factor of four or five greater than the dollar amount suggests." This is going to produce tremendous amounts of innovation, he says.

    Late last year MR sold the conference to CMP, the trade media and events company. - CMP buys Sand Hill Group's Software conference for up to $9m

    I have met with Eric Faurot, CMP's savvy chief strategist, who led the deal. He said he wanted to take MR's Software 2000 conference and roll it into CMP's Interop show in Las Vegas to recreate a type of Comdex--which used to be the mammoth show. MR told me that he thinks his Software conference could become bigger than Interop. He could be right.


    Media Matters

    On Tuesday morning I was on a fun panel moderated by Sabrina Horn, head of the Horn Group. Here is a write up from Martha Feingold from the Horn Group:

    Media - Who Matters Most?
    Martha Feingold

    The provocative title of this post is the subject we sought to tackle at our breakout session at Software 2007 today.  Our CEO Sabrina Horn put together an interesting mix of media and enterprise software executives- Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher, Forbes' Victoria Barret , Ben Smith of Merchant Circle, Helen Donnelly of EnterpriseDB and Sam Whitmore from MediaSurvey.


     Horn Group Weblog

    We got some excellent feedback from the audience, which is always very satisfying.

    I'm off to moderate a panel on film financing, more Software 2007 notes are on their way...

    - - -

    Please see SVW:

    Notes from Software 2005: Lunch with the Swami of the enterprise software sector...
    The Swami of enterprise software
    At Software 2005, MR Rangaswami of the Sand Hill Group wonders if the era of the $1 billion software company is over. Tom Foremski reports on this and other nuggets from the swami of software.  


    The enterprise software market is dead, dead, dead....
    I was wrong. Enterprise software markets are not dead boring. They're just plain dead.
    death-of-Enterprise.jpg An update to my online debate with the esteemed journalist John Gallant, Editorial Director of Network World, who disagrees with my assertion that enterprise software markets have become dead boring. I'd like to change my argument. Enterprise software markets are dead. Period. Killed by Larry Ellison.

    Posted by Tom Foremski on September 13, 2005 2:46 AM


    Enterprise software might not be dead after all. . . at least not in early April


    Posted by Tom Foremski on February 7, 2006 11:00 AM

    Innovation Journalism Conference At Stanford

    I'll be one of the speakers at the Fourth Conference on Innovation Journalism at Stanford University May 21-23. It is free, preregistration recommended.

    David Nordfors, program leader Innovation Journalism at Stanford University and colleagues, have organized this conference. It looks at how media is reporting on innovation, with lots of input from reporters and editors around the world.

    Also at the conference, DO NOT MISS THIS KEYNOTE!!!:

    DOUGLAS ENGELBART/ Introduced by JOHN MARKOFF: Augmenting the collective IQ of writers and readers.
    Doug Engelbart is known as the father of the concept of the personal computer, and inventor of the computer mouse. He is a proponent of the development and use of computers and networks to build collective intelligence that can solve the world's problems. (read more in Wikipedia)
    John Markoff is a senior writer for The New York Times. (read bio )

    The Fourth Conference on Innovation Journalism

    - - -

    Please see SVW:

    What if Buckminster Fuller were still alive and looking for funding? I'm still in shock at Silicon Valley's blindness regarding Doug Engelbart
    Question_All.jpgPart 3 of our series: Tom Foremski is still in shock at how Silicon Valley has ignored the continuing work of Doug Engelbart, inventor of many technology concepts that we take for granted today. [Edit]

    Posted by Tom Foremski on June 15, 2005 12:55 AM

    Excellent piece on Doug Engelbart by Ross Mayfield

    Ross Mayfield, CEO of SocialText, points me to his post on Doug Engelbart, and it's an excellent piece of work. This is how blogging should be done, this should be used as a textbook example of fine blogging.

    Posted by Tom Foremski on June 14, 2005 11:10 AM


    Exclusive interview with seminal 1960s computer visionary Doug Engelbart -- he's still here and looking for funding
    Question_All.jpg Part 2 in our series: How the 1960s counterculture of individual expression nourished the birth of the PC - and smashed the work of leading computer researchers whose ideas didn't fit the paradigm.

    Posted by Tom Foremski on June 10, 2005 3:41 AM


    A tribute to one of Silicon Valley's most influential and forgotten researchers at Xerox Parc event
    He's not just the inventor of the mouse. A book promo at Xerox PARC is dominated by acknowledgements from dozens of computer pioneers of Engelbart's revolutionary, pervasive ideas.

    Posted by Tom Foremski on June 9, 2005 5:50 AM

    May 4, 2007

    Friday Watch: Rupert Murdoch Would Be Good For WSJ

    Rupert Murdoch's bid for Dow Jones, the publisher of the Wall Street Journal is not popular with WSJ reporters:

    ...some employees were angry over Murdoch's comments about certain aspects of the paper, including story length.

    Murdoch told the Times he rarely finishes some articles because they are too long: "I'm sometimes frustrated by the long stories."

    Murdoch fails to win support from WSJ reporters - Yahoo! News

    In my travels around industry events I regularly bump into WSJ reporters and it is true, they don't want Mr Murdoch as owner, short stories or long. But IMHO, Mr Murdoch would be able to leverage the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones as a whole into a formidable global publisher.

    The reason is synergy. James Miller over at Collision Media blog says it well:

    How often does an small town Australian newspaperman take over the most important business journal and website in the world?  More importantly, Rupert Murdoch has a vast amount of ways to leverage the content from the Wall Street Journal - the TV, Satellite, Movies, Print newspapers and the Internet.  This is truly "global media".  I am not a big fan of Fox but this guys have vision and I wouldn't want to be on the wrong end of that collision.  I wish them luck as this move should make everyone stand up and take notice.

    Collision Media The Fox and the Wall Street Journal

    Many people get distracted by his political views and fail to recognize that Mr Murdoch, at 76 years old, is by far the savviest media mogul in the world.

    He has an intuitive understanding of media that guides his investments and turn them into gold. His acquisition of MySpace for a bargain $580m is a good example.

    If he succeeds in acquiring Dow Jones it could be bad news for the Financial Times.

    If he doesn't succeed with Dow Jones he might resume his interest in acquiring the Financial Times, which could be had for a lot less money, and which could be scaled into a formidable competitor to the Wall Street Journal in the US and in global markets.


    UPDATED: ZDNet Offers Sponsored Blogging ... And Other Tales From Outcast CEO Event

    Outcast PR's CEO Dinner was good this year, much better than last year. I didn't write about it last year because I had nothing much to say about it, this year was different.

    I've got lots of interviews, lots of video to publish from the event. And I have lots of stories to tell too, which will appear over the weekend and over the following days.

    Here are some teasers:

    -ZDNet advertising/marketing services will unveil a new business model. Buy our marketing services and we will write your corporate blogs as part of a sponsorship deal. 

    "It is going great," said Chris Jablonski, a former ZDNet blogger, who is now in the marketing department at ZDNet. "We've set up blogs for Computer Associates and other large IT companies. If they don't have a writer we will write their blogs for them." The blog posts are not identified as ZDNet authored. It is similar to how public relations companies ghost write for clients.But will it work in this context? Is it a new and viable media business model? UPDATE: The blogs are labelled as sponsored blogs. Here is an example: The blog is written by ZDNet on behalf of Dice. ...   

    -Sam Whitmore from Sam Whitmore's Media Survey. This time I interview Sam instead of the other way around.

    -Come back to hear Sam's take on the implosion of the East Coast IT trade media.

    -Plus, there is an upcoming merger in the works for Sam.


    Don't miss:

    • -Video interview with Satish Dharmaraj, CEO of my favorite, favorite, Web 2.0 company: Zimbra.
    • -Tim Turpin from Outcast interviews me and my hush hush project.

    I'm still getting used to toting a video camera around with me, so some of the interviews might be a little experimental in quality. I will do better next time around, and the time after that too, I promise  :-)

    April 28, 2007

    Weekend Watcher: Wired Awards Get Tired By 9pm...

    Friday evening I popped along to the swank St Regis hotel next to SFMOMA in downtown San Francisco, for the annual Wired Rave Awards. I was fashionably late, I think it was about 9.45pm when I arrived.

    It's Friday evening, I had dinner with some friends and then popped along to mix and meddle with the Wired crowd. I fully expected to be entering just as the party is hopping. Wired is all about culture and this is their big celebration of what's wired and not tired.

    Clearly, everyone was tired because the party had closed at 9pm! I was shocked.

    I know that Chris Anderson, the super talented editor of Wired has four kids, and he needs to read stories and run around  and get glasses of water, but...9pm? What about the rest of us that can stay up late... If this was NYC I'd have arrived way too early.

    I think Wired should have its next Rave Awards ceremony in San Jose, Santa Clara or even Santa Rosa--9pm on a Friday wouldn't be out of place in those cities.

    Although the place was deserted when I got there,  there was a pile of Wired magazines and I took one with me and headed downstairs to the bar. 

    As I sipped a manhattan I leafed through the magazine and I was amazed at how many tired topics it had. On the index page is a shot of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then another two pager photo of a very bronzed Mr Schwarzenegger in the middle of the magazine, almost pullout style.

    Here is the front cover of Wired and some more Tired topics such as Harry Potter:



    The one redeeming feature was: The Road to Ruin How Grand Theft Auto Hit the Skids. An excellent story about taking the Grand Theft culture into the boardroom. [Let's have a game version!]

    Plus: Excellent graphics on Fred Vogelstein's Q&A with Eric Schmidt. BTW, I don't think Mr Schmidt is the best person to Q&A with on the topic of Google... I'd chat with the boys, but they aren't talking, at least not to Wired.

    Weekend Watcher: $150m Portfolio Magazine Launches


    Top editors from Condé Nast Portfolio magazine were in town this week for the launch of this premier business magazine. It was good to see Kevin Maney, formerly of USA Today, and now a columnist at this high profile magazine.

    There are tons of great writers like Kevin at this magazine. There are some excellent features in the launch edition including Tom Wolfe revisiting his Masters of the Universe theme from his first novel, Bonfire of the Vanities.

    I like the magazine, but then again I like magazines. In some ways it is very "East Coast." Print reading is much more common on the East Coast than here. I think it has to do with the commute culture-- it's easier to read print on a train.

    The magazine is heavy with advertisements which is great. But probably a bit too heavy to lug with you on your commute. It would play well in a dentist's waiting room or even a hair dressers, where it wouldn't look out of place with the other big books such as Vanity Fair.

    I wish CN Portfolio magazine great success and I hope it doesn't become the last gasp of the old world big media launches. Conde Nast is reportedly investing $150M to bring it to profitability.

    And it is promising that its web site will report on daily business news,  plus it will have special interactive tools. So please check it out, it's a well designed site with some great content:


    - - -

    • USA Today's Kevin Maney's Blog......and why SBC etc, will give Skype as much rope as they want Kevin Maney, USA Today's star tech reporter is now also a blogger. Kevin provided me with a once-in-a-lifetime headline opportunity "Column bites Maney" when he became a...

    April 16, 2007

    Accenture Study: Mainstream Media Sees User Generated Content as Top Threat

     Accenture's annual survey of media execs:

    Media and entertainment executives see the growing ability and eagerness of individuals to create their own content as one of the biggest threats to their business, according to results of a survey released today by Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

    More than half (57 percent) of the respondents identified the rapid growth of user-generated content — which includes amateur digital videos, podcasts, mobile phone photography, wikis and social-media blogs — as one of the top three challenges they face today.

    Link to Accenture Newsroom: User-Generated Content Is Top Threat to Media and Entertainment Industry, Accenture Survey Finds

    User generated content is also an opportunity to make money:

    ...two-thirds (68 percent) of the respondents said they believe that within three years their businesses will be making money on user-generated content.  Sixty-two percent said they believe their companies will make money through advertising and sponsorships of social media.  Other sources of profits cited were subscriptions (21 percent) and pay-per-play offerings (18 percent).  However, a quarter (24 percent) of respondents said they do not yet know how their businesses will profit from user-generated content.

    So, how to tackle this challenge? Here is advice from top industry execs:

    • Sir Martin Sorrell, CEO of WPP: "The winners will be those who can probe and analyze the changes and manage and merge on-line and the off-line most successfully."
    • Doug Neil, Universal Studios senior VP: “To succeed in this environment, you need to innovate and anticipate the needs of the consumer, be willing to take risks and try new things.”
    • Leslie Moonves, CEO of CBS: “Current technologically driven distribution channels will expand and new ones will open. But without compelling content, every new platform is an empty shell.  Companies that can combine world-class content with powerful national and local distribution will have the competitive advantage.”
    • Gavin Mann, from Accenture’s Media & Entertainment practice: “Traditional, established content providers will have to adapt and develop new business and monetization models in order to keep revenue streams flowing. The key to success will be identifying new forms of content that can complement their traditional strengths.”


    Looks like they are all holding their cards closely to their chests because their comments state nothing but the very obvious.

    April 3, 2007

    UPDATE:GOOG wants your website to do better

    Have you ever wondered if different web site design would earn you a few extra bucks from Google AdSense? Well, now you can try out different designs and the Google Website Optimizer™ will let you know which ones result in more clicks on ads.

    Google is very keen on improving your web site. After all, it wants the ad conversions as badly as you do.

    Google Website Optimizer is designed to help website owners increase conversions such as sales, sign-ups or downloads. This multivariate landing page optimization tool enables marketers to test different ideas for web page content such as different headlines, promotional copy, or images. The application provides easy-to-read reports that enable advertisers to see which variation resonated best with their site visitor. It is a self-service application that enables website owners to set-up and run multivariate landing page experiments.

    Google Website Optimizer is a beta application that is integrated with the Google AdWords™ program and free to AdWords advertisers. Advertisers can sign up immediately at

    The only shame about this tool is that Google advertising pays so poorly. Unless it's a web site with very high traffic, it pays peanuts.

    It's probably not worth it for many web sites to put the time and effort into optimizing their web sites for Google advertising. Optimize for readers is a better bet. Then, when there is a decent business model for pageviews, you'll be golden.

    UPDATE: Tom Leung, the product manager for GWO writes:

    just a clarification, you can define conversion for an optimization in any way you want so the tool is well suited for a variety of scenarios. e.g., ecommerce sites (conversion being purchase), lead gen (conversion being filling out a contact form), or even pure awareness (conversion as watching a flash demo or some such). net, net, we think any page can be optimized for whatever the site owner's goal happens to be.

    March 25, 2007

    A New "Fair Use" Proposal: If you re-publish my content then publish my AdLink

    News aggregators and bloggers that carry third party content should carry at least one advertising link associated with that content.

    It would be the fair thing to do and a large aggregator such as Google News could help establish this practice. 

    Google News publishes the headline  and the first paragraph of a news story on its site. Since news stories are written in an inverted pyramid format, the headline and first paragraph contain most of the value of a news story.

    Therefore, it's only fair that if you take most of the value of a news story, then also publish one advertising link from the original site.

    And if you are a blogger and blog the content or quote it, then the same would apply: publish one advertising link from the original site alongside the content.

    - For example, if you'd like to republish part of this article, you might agree to publish one of my three advertising links alongside the content:


              -Silicon Valley Watcher-reporting on the culture of disruption.

              -Silicon Valley Minute-Startups pitch in less than a minute.

              -Intel Core2Duo is here!


    It's your choice which one of the three to carry, and your choice to do it or not.

    But over time, it's a practice that would be seen as a mark of respect to the original content creator.

    And it would help the original content creators recoup some of the cost of producing it--and it would encourage good content.

    Google News doesn't monetise the news content it harvests from other news sites. If it carried one advertising link along with every news story it features on Google News, it would be respectful of the original content producers. And it would be in a leadership position that would influence others to do the same.

    Also, many of the news sites run Google AdSense advertising links, Google would be bringing more clicks into its realm and do it for a good cause.

    Also for RSS syndicators too:

    - If you syndicate my content then please syndicate my accompanying AdLinks--don't strip them out. It's only fair.

    If you re-publish my content -- then publish my AdLink.

    This should also be an option for a new type of Creative Commons license.

    For example: 

    - Feel free to make money by republishing this post or anything else on SVW.

    - As long as you make sure you preserve my links in the copy.

    - And give attribution to SVW through a live link.

    - And publish one of my AdLinks alongside each piece of content.

    It should become the new "Fair Use."

    Maybe Technorati could be the first to adopt this New Fair Use--it has been a champion of the blogosphere for many years.

    Or maybe Digg will do it.

    Whoever does it first will gain a spot in history, and a permalink spot in Wikipedia.

    As for Google, do no evil is fine, but do some good is better, imho.


    Please see SVW

    The virtuous trackback A proposal for paying for content

    April 7 - 2006


    We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

     April 4, 2006


    Technorati tags: ,

    March 23, 2007

    Papers charging readers would be death-knell of industry

    Tom just pointed out a study from a publishing conference that found that only one publisher - magazine powerhouse Meredith - was profiting from their online operations.

    And in the Chronicle, David Lazarus' column today follows up on an earlier one in which he asserted that newspapers should bite the bullet and charge for their websites. Right now, only the Wall Street Journal is principally behind a paywall and the New York Times locks up most of its big-name columnists.

    In his earlier column, Pay-to-play is one way to help save newspapers, Lazarus offers a cockamamie scheme for industry collusion, in which the entire industry would agree to charge for content. He means not just charging for some content, but charging for everything. Since industry collusion is illegal, he thinks Congress should offer the industry an antitrust exemption.

    The industry would never agree to this because it would destroy the newspaper business, as I explain below.

    Even if the industry wanted it, it would never happen. Newspapers have already had their asses pulled out of the fire that is economic reality by joint operating agreements. The Chronicle and the Examiner co-existed for many years by that antitrust exemption. In recent years, Hearst managed to take over the Chron, foist the Exam onto the Fangs and degrade the quality of SF's morning paper.

    Granting that an antitrust exemption ain't gonna happen, he likes the Viacom model: Sue Google.

    "Maybe newspapers should follow Viacom's example," said Jane Kirtley, a professor of media ethics and law at the University of Minnesota. "You need to go after all the people making money off your content."

    That would be the Belgian papers' model, the problem being Google doesn't run ads on Google News. The competition is more indirect. The blogosphere (a "silly term," Lazarus says) relies on links to daily news content. Google makes money by placing ads on blogs (and newspaper sites). And it is the blogosphere that Lazurus has a special enmity for.

    The blogosphere -- a silly term coined by bloggers to legitimize their posturing -- is comprised by and large of people whose work consists of commenting on the work of others.

    Thanks to Google, I'm able to stay abreast of what's said about my work online. Dozens of bloggers weighed in on my earlier column, and not one -- not one -- did a lick of original reporting in challenging my ideas.

    So if newspapers want to pull a Viacom, throw up paywalls in front of all reporting and shut down the blogosphere, that might be their prerogative.

    The problem is that newspapers - and indeed society - is confused about whether newspapers are businesses or public trusts. The press is the Fourth Estate, right? Indeed, the mythology that newspapers are a public trust is so strong that newspaper reporters and executives seem to feel that no matter how lame their offerings, if it's printed on a broadsheet, the public should prop up the enterprise.

    Those days are over. The print business continues to fall. For papers that know what they're doing online and are moving aggressively, online is the rising star.

    Let's do the numbers

    Take the Washington Post. The paper reported their fourth quarter numbers last month (these are all year-over-year numbers): Net income down from $102.4m to $95.5m, recruitment classified ad revenue down 22% to $12.5m, daily circ down 2.9%, Sunday circ down 3.2%.

    Where's the bright spot? Online revenue up 22% to $30 million. Display online revenue up 46% over the prior year and 35% just in the last quarter. Online classified revenue up 18% for the year and 8% for the quarter.

    With numbers like that, why are the Post's profits going down? Expenses have increased 17 percent. And what expenses?

    The decline in fourth quarter operating income is due primarily to a decline in print advertising revenue at The Post and increased pension expense.

    $47 million in pension buyouts. Increases in newsprint costs. While the Post has been investing in its online operations, it's been the expenses in buying early retirements and printing the dead-tree paper that are dragging the operation down, even as advertising is clearly migrating online.

    By having a vibrant, well-staffed and technologically up-to-date online operation, the Post is grabbing a large part of the money as it shifts from paper to online. Other papers are cutting back resources, operating online divisions with a couple of production guys and are surprised that online is a loss leader.

    How long before the Post's online numbers and newsprint numbers meet at around $300 million? At this rate, not long. Perhaps users will never pay for online content. But it's clear that having users pay for the printed paper is small solace if the print operation runs at a deficit.

    Crappy content not blogger freeloading is the problem

    Lesson? Investing in making your website really good, infused with blogs, video and social networking features, technically able to do the most basic things like actually linking to URLs, and most importantly investing in solid reporting and writers will make online a very viable option. Especially if you have a diversity of ways to monetize traffic once you get it.

    If newspapers aren't happy with their online traffic, perhaps it's because there's not much worth reading. Lazarus says:

    The New York Times model of charging for select content would seem to be an approach that many local papers could emulate. Why couldn't The Chronicle, for example, charge readers for online access to Matier & Ross or Tim Goodman ... or me?

    If he can't tell the difference between Tom Friedman and Tim Goodman ... therein lays the problem.

    March 22, 2007

    Newspapers and magazines aren't making money online

    Here is an interesting post from BizReport. It shows that publishers aren't making money from their online operations.

    Publishers aren't profiting from online operations - Internet - BizReport

    Out of 350 international newspaper and magazine executives gathered in Hannover, Germany, for a media conference, only one was able to claim making a profit from their online operations.

    by Helen Leggatt

    Furthermore, despite investments totalling millions in marketing dollars, only a handful of the industry players present could claim more than 3 percent of their sales came from online.

    The economics of publishing online can't support the people and processes that are needed to produce it.

    This is a serious issue because as the "paper" based economic models get trashed, it is clear that online publishing isn't going to save old media publishers anytime soon. Even if their online revenues were to double tomorrow, it still wouldn't be enougth.

    It is another example of "you can't get there from here" when it comes to old media transitioning to the new media world.

    It's because publishers have to compete against online publishers such as Google whose costs of publishing a page of content and ads is miniscule. The reason GOOG or YHOO or Craig's List can sell advertising cheaper is because they don't have to pay for their content.

    Mostly, their content is machine-generated, or harvested by their spiderbots roaming the Internet, or it is user-contributed as in Craig's List.

    Online advertising rates reflect this economic reality and thus are held down at low levels. These are levels that won't be able to support old media publishers.

    It costs tens of thousands of dollars for newspapers and magazines to produce, market and distribute a "page" of content. 

    There is no way that they can compete against competitors whose comparable costs are pennies per page.

    Therefore we have to figure out a new economic model for media--it has to be something more than online advertising.

    March 17, 2007

    Old Media: You can't get there from here...

    Blogged content could carry advertising links...

    In the SF Chronicle this week there was a lot of discussion about old and new media. Dan Fost had a great front page feature and daily notes on the geek part of the South by Southwest festival which featured top bloggers such as Robert Scoble from

    And leading columnists Jon Carroll and David Lazarus discussed the economics of new media and how old media could fit into that landscape.

     Mr Lazarus was encouraged by the Viacom suit against YouTube as this showed that "content is king" and that the economics of online media will shift from aggregators such as Google, to creators such as Viacom, and newspapers.

    Content will be king

    From my view as an online publisher, and coming from a mainstream media background, I would say that "content will be king" but it will take a while.

    Right now, even if all the creators took away their content from Google, Yahoo, etc it wouldn't do much good. Because revenues from online advertising cannot support mainstream media's legacy infrastructure costs--buildings, layers of management, pension plans, trucks, printing presses, etc.

    The billions that Google and the other new media companies make, are a fraction of the billions lost in conventional advertising markets. That's why it costs less to advertise online because the operating costs for a Google or Yahoo are far less than for old media companies.

    A blogger with a laptop

    Online advertising models can barely  support popular bloggers, and that is the cost of one bedroom plus a laptop plus an Internet connection plus coffee.

    Online advertising models are best at supporting technology-enabled media companies: servers and algorithms cost less than journalists, editors, printing presses etc.

    Even if online advertising revenues were to double, it still wouldn't meet a fraction of the costs of running New York Times' global network of news bureaus.

    As the saying goes...

    "You can't get there from here" is my favorite American saying and it aptly describes the economic chasm separating old media from new media. I'd like to see how Geoffrey Moore thinks we could cross this one.

    What we need is a better value recovery mechanism for content creators. Google or Yahoo ads are not returning enough value to the content creators. And locking up content behind a subscription firewall doesn't work because it cuts off the distribution power of the Internet.

    Carry adLinks with blogged content

    It would be better to offer content for free distribution provided it was shown along with its advertising links.

    For example, you can freely distribute this post and make money from it, as long as you maintain all links in this article, a link back to the original, fully attributed--and you carry three of my text advertising links such as these:


              -Silicon Valley Watcher-reporting on the culture of disruption.

              -Silicon Valley Minute-Startups pitch in less than a minute.

              -Intel Core2Duo is here!


    If you blog about this post and quote some of it you would agree to carry at least one of my advertising links alongside your blog. As a blogger you wouldn't be forced to do it but it would be considered respectful to do it, and it would be seen by readers as such.

    This might get a bit cluttered if blog posts are quoting each other and their advertising links, but that means people will go back to original sources for quotes to cut down on the advertising links.

    A better value recovery mechanism

    In this way, more value is returned to the creators which allows them to make more content. And it might even help old media transition over to new media economics. It is something I first proposed nearly one year ago. Let me know what you think. 


    Please see SVW

    The virtuous trackback A proposal for paying for content

    April 7 - 2006


    We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

     April 4, 2006



     Please see San Francisco Chronicle:

    Dan Fost, San Francisco Chronicle, 03/16/07
    Two worlds collided at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival this week. Online media of all sorts is coming of age, and the festival was one of its biggest defining moments. The event aims to bring together new technologies and their practitioners to...

    TECH CHRONICLES - A daily dose of postings from The Chronicle's technology blog (
    Dan Fost, San Francisco Chronicle, 03/15/07
    SXSW: So long, geeks Texas -- Bruce Sterling gave the South by Southwest Interactive Festival his annual rant on Tuesday, although the Austin science fiction author no longer has a big party at his house, as he packs a huge conference room. The talk was...

    Pay-to-play is one way to help save newspapers
    David Lazarus, San Francisco Chronicle, 03/14/07
    Viacom staked out a battle line between Old Media and New Media on Tuesday when it sued Google and its popular YouTube subsidiary for "massive intentional copyright infringement." I'm no lawyer and can't speak to the merits of Viacom's case. But this...


    Jon Carroll, San Francisco Chronicle, 03/16/07
    Newspapers have been worried about the Internet forever, fearing that the Internet might usurp their role in the information galaxy, whatever that role is. (Newspapers are also worried about their role.) Many people have said that newspapers should try to...



    March 6, 2007

    MSFT copyright blast at GOOG explained: Teaming with AP and thousands of newspaper sites

    Andy Plesser over at Beet. TV interviewed Jim Kathman, head of AP's global broadcast strategy:

    The Associated Press, the world's largest news organization, and Microsoft have developed an online video platform for thousands of U.S. newspapers, television and radio stations to upload, publish and monetize locally-created video.

    The new system is in beta tests with some 30 newspaper publishers and broadcasters including The Miami Herald, the Houston Chronicle and the Rocky Mountain News.  The program will go live in about 30 days.

    Link to Beet.TV: Exclusive: Microsoft and the Associated Press Teaming with Thousands of Newspapers and Broadcasters in New Online Video Network

    MSFT's attack on Google's use and interpretation of copyright makes lots of sense considering the upcoming launch of this service.

    But can MSFT get more revenues to the publishers than Google? Google's AdSense advertising network for publishers does not pay much, but can MSFT make sure publisher's get more revenue?

    MSFT could offer 100 percent to publishers in order to lure them away from AdSense. We might even get into an advertising war in which MSFT or GOOG, or YHOO offer 125 percent or more... MSFT has a ton of cash--this would be a quick way to buy large market share.

    February 26, 2007

    2.26.07 Who owns video of Congress? A crack in the C-Span business model

    Is it possible that video of the hearings and floor debates of the US Congress are actually private property? The issue exploded when Nancy Pelosi launched a blog, The Gavel, featuring video of House floor debate.

    As The Times reports, Republicans rushed in and accused her of copyright infringement, claiming that Pelosi lifted the videos from C-Span.

    Shortly after the news release was distributed by e-mail, C-Span corrected the record to say that House and Senate floor debates are "government works," shot by government-owned cameras, and thus in the public domain. The Republican committee promptly sent out a news release to withdraw the accusation against Pelosi's office.

    As it turns out, though, one of Pelosi's videos was C-Span property, shot by C-Span cameras at a House committee hearing where Pelosi testified. Although C-Span carries public domain material from the House and Senate floors, C-Span itself shoots hearings.

    "We are structurally burdened, in terms of people's perception, because we are the only network that has such a big chunk of public domain material," said Bruce Collins, the corporate vice president and general counsel of C-Span. He estimated that 5 percent to 15 percent of C-Span's programming is from the House and Senate floor, and thus publicly available.

    "It is perfectly understandable to me that people would be confused," he said. "They say, 'When a congressman says something on the floor it is public domain, but he walks down the street to a committee hearing or give a speech and it is not public domain?'"

    C-Span had some YouTube gold in May when Stephen Colbert's speech to the White House Correspondents Association garnered 27 million views in two days. But C-Span insisted the video come down. "What I think a lot of people don't understand--C-Span is a business, just like CNN is," Collins said. "If we don't have a revenue stream, we wouldn't have six crews ready to cover Congressional hearings."

    The whole business shows some serious cracks in a business model that was predicated on cable TV. If politicians suddenly have online video sites, blogs, webcasts and social networking services to distribute their official and unofficial doings, it's not clear that there's any longer a public benefit to handing over Congressional hearings to a for-profit company. Pelosi's office has its own camera operators and 11 of 21 House committees webcast their hearings.

    The result would be transparency, free access to all of Congress' debates, viewable not on C-Span's schedule but on users' with linkable, archived footage that is all in the public domain. Even Pelosi's opponents favor that vision.

    "The Republican Study Committee, Republicans in general, would favor more transparency," said the committee's spokesman, Brad Dayspring. "We heard that the committees are moving in that direction--conservatives would support that."

    February 24, 2007

    Silicon Valley has become Media Valley - someone should tell NYC

     Silicon Valley is rapidly turning into Media Valley--and New York, NY should look out--the capital of the media world is shifting about 3,000 miles westwards.

    Some of Silicon Valley's largest companies are media companies: Google, Yahoo, EBay, for example are media companies--they publish pages of content and advertising around it.

    Some of the most interesting and most valuable new Silicon Valley companies, such as Youtube, Facebook are based here in Northern California. So is Craigslist, the seventh largest online media company in the English language world (in terms of traffic).

    Take a look at Business 2.0's 25 startups to watch and look at how many of these mostly "social" media and advertising companies and are based in the Bay Area:18. Only two are based in New York.

    Masters of the Universe

    But if you work in Manhattan you feel at the center of the media universe. Midtown and the Avenue of the Americas is where the capital of the media industry has sat for many decades.

    Whenever I am in New York, it feels as if I am in the coolest, the most media saviest place in the world. Just as in the famous New Yorker magazine cover, in which New York is depicted large and the Rest of the World is shown as distant, small, and uninteresting, that's the way it feels to me when I'm there.

    As a media professional, New York has always been a mecca, where I love to be. It was one of the perks and attractions of working at the Financial Times that our US HQ was smack dab in the middle of Manhattan, in the ITT building, and I loved those opportunities of working in New York.

    Which leads me to my point, New York's media industry doesn't see the shift that is going on because it feels as if it is master of its universe. It has noticed that its business models are under tremendous pressure but it hasn't noticed the shift westwards, the competition in Silicon Valley and in Santa Monica.

    Google, Yahoo, Ebay, etc, are keen to portray themselves as technology companies rather than media companies--it is much more conductive to establishing partnerships and ad network deals in which they benefit far more than their old school media partners. If they were seen as more media company than technology company, I'm sure things would be different.

    The New York Times, for example, would not give over its online front page to Google AdSense, which means Google owns the advertisor relationship ("if you would like to advertise on this site click here").

    If Google were seen more as a media company the partnership advertising deals would be a lot different.

    Our media industry is growing

    Which is why our media industry is growing by leaps and bounds. Last time I looked New York's media industry was contracting, facing lower revenues, layoffs and a confused future. But still building skyscrapers(!)   New York Architecture Images- Times Tower.

    Let me help out the New York media industry...

    Five basic rules for media company success:

    -Tomorrow's media industry is all about being technology-enabled and community-powered.

    -Get your content as near-to-free as you can with machine harvesters such as spiders and searchbots.

    -Use algorithms and community-power (also nearly free) to organize the content.

    -Publish it widely and in many forms (video, podcasts, etc) through the amazing scale that the global internet provides and that our media technologies (RSS, media platforms, TCP/IP, etc) provide.

    -And remember Foremski's First Law of New Media: Content is infinitely scalable.

    February 14, 2007

    2.14.07: Wolf case goes to settlement conf - An interview with Josh's lawyer

    After months of denying jailed videojournalist Josh Wolf's motions for release, Federal Judge William Alsup issued an order referring the case to a US magistrate, the SF Chronicle reports.

    Without a request from either side, the judge handed the matter over to US Magistrate Joseph Spero (illustration via to attempt a settlement. I talked to Josh's lawyer, Dan Siegel, about this development and the other aspects of the case.

    "I don't really know where this came from," Siegel said. "It's a surprising and welcome development. No one on Josh's defense team has had any kind of secret negotations with the court. I hope no one from the prosecutions has either."

    So does going before this magistrate improve the odds of Josh's release? "It should but I just dont know," Siegel said. "I'm not trying to be wiley here; it's completely unclear to me what the court may be thinking or what the US attorney may be thinking. He called Josh a 'so called journalist' and 'delusional.' "

    It's hard to understand why the US attorney would make such aspersions, I said, since his status as a journalist is not at issue. There is no reporter's shield law in the federal system, so whether he is or isn't is immaterial.

    The Justice Department under Bush has been very disrespectful of the role of journalists. It leads to abuses as in this case. This case has so many points where the government's actions appear to be reckless: the trivial nature of the offense involved, the lack of showing that Josh has (material evidene), the willingness to criticize an individual and attack his status as journalist.

    Siegel said that the prosecution has been dropped against the individual charged with attacking a police officer in the melee, so that the need for Josh's video - never compelling - is now virtually gone. "One thing that is apparent is that the US attorney is assisting the San Francisco district attorney in doing an end-run around the California Shield. They couldn't bring this case in state court because of the reporter's shield.

    The defense has offered to have the judge review the disk to determine if there is any relevant information on it. Indeed, this is standard procedure for any contested evidence, but "the judge has ducked the issue," Siegel said.

    In a profile of Spero, quotes longtime friend Jan Little:

    "Joe was plenty firm and efficient," Little said. "But what I liked was that he spoke to prosecutors and defense lawyers, defendants, girlfriends of defendants, probation officers and marshals all in the same direct, honest and comfortable way that is so Joe -- a calm talk that reaches people."

    February 5, 2007

    Jailed journalist's mom asks for support for son and Bill of Rights

    From Liz Wolf-Spada:

    Tomorrow, February 6, Josh will become the journalist longest imprisoned for refusing to testify before a grand jury. As his mom, I am angry and outraged that my son, a man of principle, who is a patriot, who is standing up for our US Constitution is jailed by a government that has shown no respect, or even understanding of the Bill of Rights.

    Please write Congress asking that they do for Josh what they are attempting to do for the Chronicle reporters. Rescind the subpoena, purge the civil contempt charge from his record and release him immediately.

    Just last Tuesday, his lawyers were denied the opportunity for a hearing to present evidence as to why Josh would never testify. The judge ruled on this without even allowing the lawyers to present their case or respond to the US Attorney's statement. There is no evidence that the US Attorney is even actively investigating ANY crime from that protest, and there IS evidence from the SFPD report that the only damage that police car suffered was a broken tail light.

    Please visit freejosh (at)
    His proud and very concerned mom,
    Liz Wolf-Spada



    The Free Josh Wolf Coalition will be holding a press conference on the front steps of San Francisco City Hall at noon on Feb 6. Please help spread the word about this important event.

    Press conference press release

    WHAT: Free Josh Wolf Coalition Press Conference

    WHEN: Tuesday, February 6th, Noon

    WHERE: 1 Carlton B. Goodlett Place, City Hall, San Francisco

    WHO: Pueng Vongs, Society of Professional Journalists
    Bruce Brugmann, San Francisco Bay Guardian
    Jeff Perlstein, Media Aliiance
    David Greene, First Amendment Project
    Michael Cabanatuan, Northern California Media Workers Guild
    Ross Mirkarimi, San Francisco Supervisor
    Carlos Villarreal, National Lawyers Guild
    Kevin Epps, Filmmaker
    Sarah Olson, Journalist and Radio Producer
    Andy Blue, Free Josh Wolf Coalition
    Statement from Assemblyman Mark Leno

    joshbenefit169_01 copy.jpg

    From Liz Wolf-Spada, the mother of Josh Wolf:

    Tomorrow, February 6, Josh will become the journalist longest imprisoned for refusing to testify before a grand jury. As his mom, I am angry and outraged that my son, a man of principle, who is a patriot, who is standing up for our US Constitution is jailed by a government that has shown no respect, or even understanding of the Bill of Rights.

    February 2, 2007

    Yahoo Media Group reorganizes to monetize major brands - with or without permission

    Yahoo's top media execs came up from Santa Monica Tuesday to Yahoo HQ to present a new strategy for monetizing audiences of major entertainment brands such as TV's "Lost" and Nintendo's Wii.

    Vince Broady, head of Games and Entertainment, Scott Moore, head of News and Information, and David Goldberg, head of Yahoo Music, presented their strategies at a lunch event for top media.

    One of their largest initiatives is "Brand Universe" which pulls together Yahoo users in message boards, Flickr photos, Yahoo Groups, and other Yahoo sections into one location. This makes it easier to sell advertising because of the larger aggregated numbers.

    Vince Broady, is in charge of Brand Universe. "We will pick 100 of the top entertainment brand names and highlight and promote those brands on Yahoo. We will work with the brand owners but we can do this even if some companies don't want to work with us."

    Mr Broady said that Yahoo already knows what TV shows, music, films, games, game consoles will likely succeed, and which brands have momentum just from studying its users. "We saw very early on that Nintendo Wii would do well and so Wii became the first brand that we rolled out as part of Brand Universe."

    David Goldberg from Yahoo Music said, "We can tell with 100 per cent accuracy which songs will fail within seven days of their release."

    Yahoo said it would share its "Yahoo Pulse" data on which brands are doing well with brand owners because it would help them craft their content for broader commercial appeal.

    Foremski's Take: It's a savvy move for Yahoo and a big change from organizing around broad generic properties such as Yahoo Finance, or services such as Yahoo mail. Yahoo's reach is such that it can create a dominant online site around a brand with a ready made community--just from pulling together it's users and their interests,  from various sections of Yahoo.

    For example, people tag their Flickr photos with a band name, they discuss a band in Yahoo message boards and in Yahoo Groups, and they watch band videos in Yahoo Video. Now, Yahoo can aggregate all those people and sell them to advertisers who are always looking for the largest relevant audience.

    But there is a collision course ahead because brand owners will resent a third party making money off their brand, with or without them. Here's why: 

    • Yahoo is creating an online site that aggregates more of the brand audience than the brand owner can create. Yahoo controls the online presence  of a brand, especially since its search engines can point to its properties. 


    • Yahoo is getting a free ride. Usually the brand owner, for example, the producers of the TV show "Lost" sell to TV networks who then monetise that content by selling advertising around it.  Yahoo doesn't have to pay a penny to "Lost" because it is monetizing Yahoo users who are interested in "Lost." Advertisers don't care, they are buying an audience with a demographic--the larger the better because of the benefits of scale in marketing messages.


    • Yahoo doesn't have any loyalty to the brands. If they start to fall away and drop out of the Top 100 and Yahoo latches onto the next rising star.


    • Yahoo doesn't have to invest in building brands and taking a risk on which will be successful--as TV networks do when ordering pilot series. Yahoo can potentially aggregate and sell a larger audience around a TV show than the TV networks. Because online advertising is trackable, ROI is increased which means more advertising money will go online than to TV and elsewhere. So then TV networks have less money to pay the content producers.

    So who pays for creating the content of a brand and building it up?

    So what if Yahoo is helping to build brands through its online activities, and traffic to a brand's websites increases?

    More online traffic doesn't mean anything if you can't monetise it. And Yahoo can monetise online traffic much better than the brand owners whose business model is selling content.

    January 18, 2007

    Wednesday: Talking about SVW on two panels

    Wednesday morning I spoke on a panel alongside some of the top journalists covering Silicon Valley:  David Kirkpatrick from Fortune, Jay Bonasia from Investor's Business Daily, and Rachel Konrad from Associated Press.  (More details here)

    Then in the evening, I did it again, I was on a panel with Om Malik from GigaOm, and Matt Marshall from VentureBeat. What was interesting was that in the morning I addressed an audience of public relations professionals, and in the evening I spoke to an audience of media professionals--both audiences are trying to understand what blogging is about and how it impacts their work.

    I knew many of the people at the evening event, which is a newly formed "tech writers" group organized by Dean Takahashi and Elise Ackerman, reporters at the San Jose Mercury.

    The group consists of about 50 of the top reporters covering Silicon Valley. Dean and Elise have done an excellent job in bringing reporters together--it is extremely rare that we can chat with each other without PR people or others in the mix.

    We met in an Italian restaurant in San Francisco. Matt spoke first, then Om, and then it was my turn to talk about the trials and tribulations of becoming a blogger journalist. The content of the evening is all off the record. However, I can write about some of the things that I talked about.

    I spoke about how much I liked my job, and some of the many unexpected discoveries and insights that have occurred since I left the Financial Times in May 2004. I also said I didn't particularly like the work of trying to build a business and all that entails.

    The operational aspects of running a business are time consuming. I'd much prefer just going out, talking to people, coming back, and writing. That is the simple life that every journalist wants. However, an independent blogger journalist has to do 15 other jobs/tasks too.

    So it was great to hear Matt and Om talk about this aspect of their work and to hear about their pain. I just hope that we managed to discourage the assembled hacks from rushing out and doing the same as us, we don't need more competition :-)

    January 10, 2007

    Esther Dyson leaving CNET . . . O'Reilly buys Release 1.0 turns it into 2.0

    This just in from Esther Dyson and pals:

    Dear Tom,

    We are writing to let you know what has happened with PC Forum and Release 1.0. You may have heard some of this, but somehow we never managed to make a formal announcement. Nonetheless, it's time to let you know, as Esther leaves CNET Networks this week and Daphne will follow in March.

    Most importantly, last March's PC Forum was the last ever. It was a great event; we don't think it could have been better....and that made it the perfect time to stop. We'll miss it, and we hope you will too, but it was time to move on.

    Separately, CNET Networks has transferred the Release 1.0 newsletter business to O'Reilly Media, which will continue to publish the report and to manage its subscription base. There's a certain wonderful irony in the fact that O'Reilly will be taking over the business but changing the name, and we can think of no team better suited to turning Release 1.0 into Release 2.0. Such a transition would not have been so easy with PC Forum, which was essentially an entirely new project each year.

    Nonetheless, we will miss PC Forum. Running it was a wonderful and fulfilling challenge for 20-odd years. We got to meet the best of our industry and got all of you to engage with one another. We look back with satisfaction, and forward with anticipation, to all the start-ups, deals, friendships and relationships of all kinds that started and strengthened at PC Forum. We will take all those memories and friendships with us.

    And we look forward to staying in touch with you. Esther will be back at (where you can find out about Flight School and her other activities).

    Tom's Take: Release 1.0 and PC Forum had a very good run. Some media brands eventually just run out of momentum, something which others should pay attention to...

    December 6, 2006

    Dan Farber's Experimental Blogger Army...

    By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

    ZDNet Unveils the Next-Generation of Business Tech Publishing, Weaving Voice of Bloggers Around News, Product Reviews, Vendor and User Content

    In 2003, led by ZDNet veterans Dan Farber and David Berlind, the site launched blogs and later in 2005 original podcasts, adding context and perspective to the day's news in a way that only experts and well-connected insiders could offer. Farber and Berlind quickly amassed a network of more than 30 bloggers that today includes some of the most authoritative and well-respected voices in the IT community.

    I'm proud to be part of Dan Farber's blogger corp over on CNET's ZDNet IT news site where I publish IMHO (in my humble opinion). The ZDNet blogs have grown from strength to strength, largely because of Dan's leadership.

    It is great to work on Dan's team because he exhibits a tireless pursuit of news. I don't think I've ever seen him without cameras and laptops attached.  I wouldn't be surprised to one day see him with a SNL Al Franken satellite upload dish on his head because that is how tenacious he is as a journalist to file a news story first.

    Dan is everywhere, at many of the events that I go to. And I tend to avoid the obvious daytime news events because there are dozens of other journalists covering them. I go to the evening roundtables, the salons, because the journalists with day jobs are home with their families. That's when I get a chance to come home with exclusive content--except that Dan is often there too.

    The ZDNet blog section has just had a new coat of paint, it has been relaunched with a new design-- everyone had to submit new photos of themselves. It is an experiment in media publishing that is well worth watching.

    I've no idea if the venture is profitable. I and my fellow ZDNet bloggers are paid based on pageview numbers. The more pageviews the more money.

    How much money? Well, I have never cleared the $500 per month base rate and I think that many of my colleagues there are in a similar pay bracket. The Apple guy has been the top performer, $4k per month and sometimes much more. It's pocket money for most  since nearly all of the ZDNet bloggers (except me)  have days jobs in well paid professional sectors (i.e not journalism!).

    The money-for-traffic payments are becoming common at other publishers. Business 2.0 for example, has such a system for its recently launched staff blogger section. 

    In theory, such a system of reward for content performance could encourage sensationalist headlines and posts. Or encourage  posts that goad the Apple community, which reliably responds in large numbers and with a lot of passion. (This is John Dvorak's favorite way to boost traffic on a slow day :-) But so far, that hasn't happened to any obvious degree over on ZDNet.

    Although the financial performance of the ZDNet blogger group is not known, I will bet it is far more profitable than ZDNet's dwindling group of salaried journalists. And Dan's blogger elite is far faster in covering breaking news than the salaried journalists.

    Look at the coverage on ZDNet on Yahoo's reorganization. The news was released late in the day, about 6pm Pacific Time, which is just about heading home time for the salaried journalists. But the ZDNet bloggers kicked up a storm of coverage, well into the night and early morning.

    I like being part of ZDNet's blogging experiment and I think it is well on its way to becoming a Wikipedia section on how old media ccompanies can create a viable new media group.

    My two cents on the project is that I could do with some basic support on the production side of things, such as a copy editor to look over my shoulder and correct those things that we become blind to because we have to edit ourselves.

    And a production assistant would be great too. Putting in those links, adding images, pointing to other relevant and worthy content is something that adds value and richness to a post but is often difficult to do as a standalone journalist, when it is late at night and the analog world of sleep beckons.

    Also, we know from the hundreds of years of producing news: great journalism is created by teams and not by individuals. Just as everything else in the world that is consistently good,  is the product of teams... IMHO.

    YHOO news analysis: GOOG is setting the pace as Yahoo faces identity and leadership crisis

    By Tom Foremski for Silicon Valley Watcher

    Yahoo's hastily engineered reorganization does away with key leaders within the company:

    Chief Operating Officer Dan Rosensweig and Lloyd Braun, the head of Yahoo's media and entertainment group, are leaving the company, Yahoo spokeswoman Joanna Stevens said. John Marcom, senior vice president of International Operations, is also leaving the company "soon," she said.

    Two top Yahoo execs to leave in reorg Tech News on ZDNet

    Dan Rosensweig has earned a tremendous amount of respect in this industry. He is one of the few top executives that is able to garner so much positive sentiment from other senior execs. My ZDNet colleague Dan Farber at ZDNet worked with him and is one of his staunchest supporters:

    Yahoo's Dan Rosensweig heading off for new adventures
    My colleague Larry Dignan as well as many others (see TechMeme) have already covered the news about the management shake up and reorganization at Yahoo. I checked in with Dan Rosensweig, the Yahoo COO who resigned as part the reorg. Dan and I go back more than a decade. ...
    Posted by Dan Farber in Between the Lines on: Dec 6, 2006 12:52 AM


    I worked with John Marcom at the Financial Times and he was easily the most impressive executive in that organization. He had a keen understanding of what was achievable and realistic. When he left the Financial Times and joined Yahoo, that shook my confidence in the remaining management team.

    I met with Mr Marcom late last year, he spoke about life at Yahoo, how the growth of the business was exhilarating, it felt like being on top of a galloping horse without a saddle. Clearly, that galloping horse somehow slowed lately and the reason seems to lay within Yahoo rather than in the broader market.

    Yahoo's leadership crisis and reorganization is directly related to Google's fast paced growth. YHOO's performance would be considered very good against any other metric, but in comparison with GOOG it seems lackluster.

    Google's business model is far more efficient because it has shown that using servers and software provides a far more scalable media business than that of Yahoo, which has pursued a hybrid approach relying on a human-plus-machine business model.

    Several times, Yahoo has ventured into producing some of its own content, such as its Yahoo Finance video Internet channel several years ago. And more recently, with Patrick Houston, and other journalists brought in to create original content.

    [Please see: Yahoo gets content . . .but can it make content?]

    Google prefers to create content with machines. It sends out spiderbot armies to harvest content from the open Internet--content created by people but not by Google's people. Someone else is paying their salaries.

    What is very troublesome about all of this is this: If Yahoo has trouble competing against Google then what hope have traditional media companies?

    Remember, Google is a media company, it publishes pages of content and advertising.

    December 5, 2006

    Mass media masses at the Googleplex

    It's that time of the year again when Google opens its doors to the media and offers wine and food and relaxed, off the record conversations with its top people.

    I love this event because it is so is a place full of familiar faces and I can't imagine the holiday season without it.  And I can report that I had some excellent conversations about some topics that are very dear to me: China and the behavior of Yahoo in regards to the jailing of a Chinese journalist; plus the monetisation of Google News. Unfortunately, I cannot report on what Google executives told me.

    . . .

    I was impressed with Elliot Schrage, chief of GOOG's PR/communications teams. The appointment of  Mr Schrage, about a year ago, was fascinating to me because his background is so different from what would be a typical hire by a large Silicon Valley company.  Here is someone that had been representing companies such as Nike, dealing with serious ethical and moral issues around child labor, and also dealing with foreign governments.

    Clearly, his appointment showed that Google was looking into a future where it would need to navigate a landscape of similar ethical and moral challenges, and it would need experience in foreign government diplomacy.

    I was glad to hear that the China issue is well recognized within Google and that the company is trying to understand how best  it can behave in an ethical way.

    I would say that Google has a fabulous  opportunity to create a significant competitive advantage for itself because of the China issue. It can boost its ability to recruit the best and the brightest people. And people are the company, they create the value and the innovation.

    Yahoo faces a significant disadvantage in its ability to compete against Google in attracting top talent because of management's disgraceful behavior in China. Who would want to work for a company that Reporters without Borders called a "police informant" for the Chinese government? If Yahoo fails to create an ethical position on this issue, the brain drain out of the company will accelerate.

    . . .

    I also met the very impressive Susan Wojcicki, VP of product management. She is in charge of monetising Google's products. I asked her to monetise Google News because that action would assign some value to a product that is currently free, but not produced for free.

    By trying to monetise Google News GOOG would then be able to share revenues with the news producers--who are all hurting tremendously. San Jose Mercury, for example, this morning announced yet another round of layoffs. Google has the scale to help create badly needed revenue streams for news organizations.

    Google News has a very large audience and some of that audience clicks through to the original site. However, driving traffic to a news site doesn't help much because news sites are terrible at monetising their online operations. Many news sites run Google Adsense ads and those pay very little per click, nowhere enough to support the costs of producing news.

    How will news organizations survive when their advertising base is rushing into search engine marketing? The simple truth is that selling products or services next to a search engine box is far more effective than next to a news story.

    Yet news is what gets people to return to the Internet. We desperately need a value recovery mechanism that rewards high quality news production. We don't have it yet but a company like Google has the brain power and the scale to create one, IMHO.

    . . .

    There were many familiar faces on the media side and also on the Google side. It was a pleasure running into my former boss at the Financial Times, Richard Waters.

    David Krane, one of GOOG's senior comms guy has had another delivery from the crane, a second child. I'm impressed that David took a bunch of time off to bond with his child and that he recognized how such events impact women so much more than is sometimes recognized.

    It was also good to connect again with Brian O'Shaughnessy, now heading comms for the entire product group at Google, recently recruited from running the show at Verisign.

    Also good to see, John Furrier, co-founder of fast growing media company PodTech, who was wandering around packing various recording devices... Steve Gillmor, famed blogger, told me that he no longer has his Gillmor Gang podcast, but is working on a secret project...His brother, Dan Gillmor was there, I haven't seen him in a while, Dan said he has another book project.

    . . .

    Related info: 

    Despicable behavior by Yahoo management - Shi Tao gets ten years

    From the London-based The Independent: CHINA Published state secrets Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison after "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." His crime was to have emailed details...

    Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher on October 30, 2006 03:06 AM


    Yahoo and Google and China - it's time to Do Some Good

    One of the most powerful images of the 20th Century is "Tank Man" the man that walked out in front of a column of tanks -- a day after the bloody suppression of...

    Posted in Silicon Valley Watcher on November 6, 2006 04:05 AM


    Congress's dilemma: When Yahoo in China's not Yahoo |

    A House panel will look into tech firms that cooperate with China to restrict access and reveal identities. - 44k - Dec 4, 2006 -


    Silicon Valley Watcher

    It has taken about ten months, but Google has finally hired a PR boss, Elliot Schrage--as the new VP of global communications and public affairs. ... - 55k -

    12.5.06: WSJ cuts back and calls it good news

    Wall Street Journal publisher L. Gordon Crovitz announces a new, slimmer (that is, cheaper) Journal starting Jan. 2, pushing more company news onto the website and reserving the printed paper for "what it means" stories.

    Today perhaps a bit over half of our news space is devoted to exclusive, differentiated information and the rest to essentially what happened the day before. Our goal is to move to 80% exclusive news, with 20% making sure you're aware of the key developments of the previous day. Journal reporters and editors serve a community of interest -- business executives and other leaders with similar concerns -- and look forward to devoting more time and space to keeping you ahead of the news that's essential to you. Expect to see more forward-leaning coverage, with headlines featuring predictive and explanatory words like "will" and "means" and "why."

    Crovitz goes on to crow about the growing importance of the website:

    As the print Journal moves even more toward exclusive, "what it means" journalism, will be the place to go for "what's happening right now" in business and markets. The digital medium is perfect for breaking news and for delivering great depth, across media.

    He is even excited about losing about one-sixth of the news hole as this will make the printed paper easier to handle.

    At Slate, Jack Shaffer finds this rich - in the extreme.

    It's the rare amputee who describes himself as better off without his two big toes than with them, but that's what Wall Street Journal Publisher L. Gordon Crovitz attempts today ...

    Instead of leveling with his readers about the reasons behind his paper's new slim profile—to save money—Crovitz insults their intelligence by claiming the change is for the "convenience" of readers. Calling it an "easier-to-handle size," he repeats the testimony of one reader who, upon seeing a prototype of the smaller Journal, said, "I fly First Class, but when I'm reading the Journal now I knock over my neighbor's orange juice. That won't happen anymore."

    People have been flying first class and reading their Wall Street Journals for more than a half century. Suddenly the size is a problem? Doesn't Crovitz understand that he's writing for one of the most business-literate audiences in the nation, and that they roll their eyes when a manufacturer says he shrank the product for the benefit of the customer?

    While the Journal's advertising revenues are a rare bright spot in major newspapering, the rest of its numbers show the move is all about economics, The Times' Katie Hafner reports. The Journal's department, Dow Jones Consumer Media, lost money last year. Circulation is down 2% for the six-month period ending in September, compared to the previous period. And the cost savings from the scaleback are of a piece with others: closing the Canadian bureau, relying more on DJ wire stories, and scaling back international editions to tabloids.

    “People at The Journal are very concerned about quality,” said E. S. Browning, a reporter who covers the financial markets and is chairman of the union bargaining committee that represents Journal employees.

    “Lopping a column off the paper is not a quality move,” he said. “It will be harder to do long-form journalism when there is less space on Page One.”

    December 4, 2006

    12.4.06: Gannett radically remaking newspapers into something bloggy

    The feeling is palpable this year that the newspaper just might not make it after all. Ink on paper, distributed through city kiosks, change boxes and home delivery, is the technology that worked for 300 years but that tradition makes it all the more susceptible to the cruelty of the digital age. Newspapering is slow (today's news tomorrow), impersonal (inverted pyramid with references to the author reduced to "a reporter" or boldy "this reporter"), expensive (those presses run in the $10 million range, delivery requires a fleet of trucks, reporters, production people and press operators are unionized with stultifying effect) and anachronistic (it's a mass market business, delivering only text and low-res imagery in a multimedia time.)

    Newspapers have websites of course with audio and video, and reporters blog, but the cost structures continue to be unwieldly and papers are singularly unable to turn their benefits into online advertising dollars. Thus they have outsourced - at a high cost - advertising sales to Google and Yahoo. With hard costs fixed, some companies like the Tribune Co. have acted to gut the newsroom.

    But as Foremski points out, if newspapers fail to figure out the new media business model before they gut themselves out of any relevance, we're all be worse off. While few newspapers still do it, papers are the institution best-positioned to do investigatory reporting, to follow the money, work leads, build contacts and have enough visibility to attract leaks and smoking gun documents.

    And so to Fort Myers, Fla., where, The Washington Post reports, Gannett is pushing the envelope on digital newspapering in an attempt to build relevance in the digital age.

    Darkness falls on a chilly Winn-Dixie parking lot in a dodgy part of North Fort Myers just before Thanksgiving. Chuck Myron sits in his little gray Nissan and types on an IBM ThinkPad laptop plugged into the car's cigarette lighter. The glow of the screen illuminates his face.

    Myron, 27, is a reporter for the Fort Myers News-Press and one of its fleet of mobile journalists, or "mojos." The mojos have high-tech tools -- ThinkPads, digital audio recorders, digital still and video cameras -- but no desk, no chair, no nameplate, no land line, no office. They spend their time on the road looking for stories, filing several a day for the newspaper's Web site, and often for the print edition, too. Their guiding principle: A constantly updated stream of intensely local, fresh Web content -- regardless of its traditional news value -- is key to building online and newspaper readership.

    Gannett, of course, reinvented newspapers in the early 80s with USA Today and the company's philosophy is "news you can use." But this is radical even for the leading-edge Gannett. That's just how badly broken the old system is.

    The chain's papers are redirecting their newsrooms to focus on the Web first, paper second. Papers are slashing national and foreign coverage and beefing up "hyper-local," street-by-street news. They are creating reader-searchable databases on traffic flows and school class sizes. Web sites are fed with reader-generated content, such as pictures of their kids with Santa. In short, Gannett -- at its 90 papers, including USA Today -- is trying everything it can think of to create Web sites that will attract more readers.

    "We're trying a lot of things. Some will work; others won't," said Kate Marymont, 53, the energetic News-Press executive editor for the past six years and a Gannett lifer. "It's like play."

    What if you were creating a news organization today? Would you hire J-school grads or youngsters who lived and breathed blogs, digcams, text messaging and video? Would you open a Washington bureau or decide that there's no point in replicating the work of the major media? Would you invest in investigative reporting or focus on the super-local?

    For the News-Press the direction is clear. Their ideas are cutting-edge for the newspaper business but have mostly been thought of and tried by bloggers and startups. Gannett is the biggest operation to make blogging, Digg-like voting, and user contributions the core of the news operation. Here are some of the paper's innovations:

    • The creation of 14 full- and part-time mojos. By the end of next year, the paper's 30 other news reporters also will be mojos to one extent or another. The News-Press is nonunion.

    • "Crowdsourcing" or enlisting expert readers to review documents and work on investigations. For instance, the News-Press enlisted retired engineers, accountants and government insiders to look at docs and data to uncover why new sewer and water hookups were so expensive. The resulting investigative report resulted in fees lowered by 30 percent and an official ousted.

      The News-Press and other Gannett papers also are building searchable online databases on as many topics as they can think of, in part to "enable people to do digging themselves and maybe find conclusions we won't," said Michael Maness, Gannett's vice president of strategic planning. "It's having thousands of investigative reporters instead of three."

    • A managing editor for audience building who monitors traffic data and steers editorial towards the most popular topics.

    • Online message boards that sounds like Craigslist.

    And most radically of all:

    Next spring, the paper plans to run a large story on a topic it would not identify. It did, however, say that the reporter on the article will accompany News-Press ad salespeople on trips to advertisers as the paper seeks a sponsor for the article. The logic: The reporter understands the project and can explain it best to potential advertisers. Though the reporter will be in sales meetings, he or she will not be part of the sales pitch. Nevertheless, the practice violates one of journalism's fundamentals -- maintaining a leakproof wall between the news and business sides of a newspaper.

    September 27, 2006

    Two years ago I became a journalist blogger . . . and discovered a terrible thing

    It was about two years ago that I started "blogging." I had left the Financial Times in early June and took the summer off, I spent most of it chatting to people about my plans.

    It was a good exercise, to try to explain to others what I was doing. I wasn't sure myself.

    It took me most of the summer to boil down a 30 minute explanation to one sentence: I am publishing an online news site reporting on the business of Silicon Valley.

    Two years ago I knew in my gut that we were at a crucial point in a rapidly changing media sector; and that taking this risk (two kids and an ex-wife to support) would be worthwhile.

    I knew that business would not be getting better for my employer because: technology advertising wasn't coming back due to the dotbomb fallout; M&A taking away large advertisers; and financial services advertising wasn't coming back either because the IPO market was a bust.

    In addition, advertising was rapidly moving online...

    I didn't realize at the time that I would become the first mainstream journalist to leave to become a professional "journalist blogger."

    Other journalist that also blogged, Dan Gillmor, Om Malik had day jobs. It would be another seven months before Dan Gillmor left the San Jose Mercury, and two years before Om Malik left Business 2.0 to become fulltime journalist bloggers.

    I also didn't realize the effect this would have on my surroundings. One of my contacts at a large Silicon Valley company told me, "Suddenly, we realized that because you had left the Financial Times to become a blogger, we needed to take blogging seriously." It was a comment I heard at other companies too.

    But when I left the Financial Times I had never blogged. And I'm ready to admit, I didn't even read blogs.

    However, I knew that the blogging platform was incredibly robust and that I could produce a column of Tom Foremski for a lot less than it cost the Financial Times. And that my journalism wouldn't be shut away behind a subscription barrier.

    My posts, if they were good enough, would be distributed by my readers and shared among their peers. This is a far better model than trying to limit distribution of content to paid subscribers.

    True, I didn't have a business model at the time, but I knew a business model for online publishers would be inevitable.

    I also knew that the costs for a newspaper business are much higher than online business models can support. That means that "you can't get there from here" a wonderful American expression that sums up the huge challenge media businesses have in downsizing/rightsizing for online revenue models.

    My costs are very modest compared with any traditional newspaper business, with its large legacy infrastructure, pensions, its legions of editors, layers of administrators, office buildings, distribution systems, printing presses, janitors...

    The change in media business models has been created by the simple fact that it is more effective to sell products/services next to a search box than next to journalism.

    The reason online companies such as Google, Yahoo, or Craigslist can provide advertising at such low costs is that they don't have to pay for the journalism.

    Over the past two years I've taken up this point time and again because it is very important that our society find an alternate way to pay for journalism.

    But how will we pay for professional journalism if the bulk of advertising moves to search marketing?

    If we don't have high quality trusted media sources we will face a future filled with a confusion of  many mini-media sources of dubious quality and trust. In such an environment misinformation will be common and will be commonly encouraged by third parties serving their needs.

    Software engineers have a term for this: garbage in, garbage out. We need high quality trusted media sources so that we can make important decisions.

    And we have some very important decisions to make, about global warming, energy sources, bird flu, politics, war.  Yet the financial structure to support our professional media is being taken away by low cost online services.

    I've been trying to raise the alarm on this issue since I started being a "journalist blogger."  I do know that we will solve this issue, that we will figure out a business model for professional  media, but we don't have it yet.

    In the meantime, our society will face a troublesome period of muddled information that will likely lead to bad decisions.
    . . .

    I will write more about my adventures in the blogosphere in the two years since I left the Financial Times. I had no idea that something as simple as blogging could be so interesting and lead me to so many insights and discoveries... :-)

    September 25, 2006

    Techmeme tries out new sponsorship model

    Gabe Rivera's Techmeme is experimenting with an interesting approach to sponsorship by selling space on its front page to three other companies.

    How it works:  A sponsor's blog occupies a permanent place in the "Techmeme Sponsor Post" area of the site for the duration of the sponsorship. The technology is simple: a sponsor's blog feed is polled every few minutes, the latest post of which appears in its assigned slot (first, second, or third) along with a logo image that links to the sponsor's site. See also this post for more on this sponsorship model.

    Link to Sponsor Techmeme

    I see a few wrinkles in this approach:

    -There is no editorial control over what the posts say.

    -The sponsors' blogs will be skewed towards the Techmeme audience and thus they will not be representative of their daily output. This could put off regular readers of those blogs.

    -Readers of Techmeme come to see what the in-crowd (the select group of blogs that Techmeme polls) is talking about.  They have little interest in single blog posts from sponsors who are talking to their communities.

    -The sponsors are trying to sell products and services. Blog posts generally are not selling products and services.

    -Blog posts in the "sponsor" area are taken out of their context, and placed on a page that puts them out of context with surrounding content.

    I would tweak this model a bit.

    I would offer up the three positions as  window onto the Techmeme community and let the sponsors put whatever marketing message they want (with editorial yank control from Techmeme if it should be needed).

    Techmeme could poll every few minutes to see if the marketing message has changed at all.

    August 29, 2006

    New music service at AOL

    AOL will debut today its new music service, AP reports, with 2.5 million audio tracks and thousands of music video for sale at the magic price point of 99 cents per song, $1.99 per video. (Aren't music videos actually advertising? Would you pay twice as much for a song that has the detriment of having a video track?)

    The more interesting pricing option is a monthly fee of $9.95 for unlimited downloads, $14.95 for the ability to transfer to portable players. Does that include iPod?

    The site should be live today at AOL Music Now.

    - Richard Koman

    June 5, 2006

    Stop the MediaNews "media monopoly"?

    Thursday evening my buddy Tom Abate, senior business reporter at the San Francisco Chronicle invited me to join him at a Media Alliance event at the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center (why no heterosexual?) in San Francisco: The Coming Media Monopoly: Concentration of Press Ownership and Its Effects.
    [I tried to get in for free and save $5 by saying I was with the media :-) ]

    MediaNews, the new owner of the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, will soon control nearly two-thirds of local daily newspaper circulation; the two largest weekly newspaper chains, Village Voice and New Times, merged; and there's been an escalating scramble by several large media companies to control the expanding market for ethnic and foreign-language readers. Can journalism survive in an era of Wall Street mergers and acquisitions?

    Continue reading "Stop the MediaNews "media monopoly"?" »

    May 17, 2006

    Cherry picking advertising and not paying for the journalism

    Cherry Pickers.jpgGoogle can sell advertising for much less because it doesn't have to pay for any journalism. Newspapers, TV and radio sell advertising so that they can pay for the journalism.

    Craigslist can operate a global classified ads business with just 18 people and do it on a shoestring because Craigslist isn't paying for journalism. It can cherry pick the classified ads business from newspapers and do it insanely cheaply because it doesn't have to pay for the journalism.

    So who will pay for the journalism?

    Google News cherry picks the best of 4,500 global news sources and it doesn't even want to monetize the business. Therefore there is no way in hell that other media companies can compete against that--because they have much higher costs--and the largest cost is paying for the journalism.

    So who will pay for the journalism? You might ask why do we need a professional media class, when we could empower a citizens army of amateur journalists, as some are trying to do.

    The reason we need a professional media class is because amateurs do an amateurish job. And that is bad because our society, our economy, depends on high quality information.

    In the IT industry, all software engineers know GIGO. This stands for garbage in, garbage out. It refers to the quality of the data that a software program processes. If the data is corrupted in some way, or the source is unreliable, then the end result will also be the same.

    We need high quality media in abundant quantities so that we aren't harmed by GIGO.

    Professional journalism is a vital pillar of our society, it is sometimes called the Fourth Estate, right up there alongside the Church, Government and the People. Yet professional journalism is fast disappearing because the business models that supported it are disappearing.

    I've been asking for more than a year, "what happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?" Media is how society "thinks" it is how we figure out solutions to important problems.

    And we have some very big problems ahead that demand the best, high quality information. There is Bird Flu, there are huge political issues to deal with, there are enormous ecological challenges ahead.

    Yet we have a sick media sector that is getting worse.

    So who will pay for the journalism? Last week Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO seemed irritated in answering the question "when will you monetize Google news?"

    But this is an incredibly important question because if Google was determined to monetize Google news, then it would associate some value to the content. Then the content producers could charge Google and any others, and funnel back the money to produce high quality news media.

    That would be a virtuous cycle and Google News would be supporting an extremely important and extremely vital resource that is a pillar of a healthy society: high quality professional journalism.

    picker_detail.jpgInstead, it cherry picks the best and refuses to try to monetize the news it copies, which compounds the problem because it associates no value to it. Yet our society, our businesses, associate a tremendous amount of value to high quality journalism.

    Google is inadvertently blocking the ability of news organisations to monetize their work. That harms our ability as a society, and as an economy, to make the best decisions.

    We need to have a vibrant professional media, competing to produce the best, high quality news media. Because then we are likely to make the best decisions, and choose the best future.

    I'm hoping Google will recognize that "Don't be evil" means nothing and that "Do some good" is what Google founders and employees would rather be doing (that's probably what the Founders meant so say).

    Google has a chance to do some good on a massive scale. And Googlers love big challenges; the Gordian Knot of this next phase of the Internet is how to pay for the journalism we need. Google could become the saviour of the Fourth Estate rather than one of its pall bearers.

    - - -
    [Published in an experimental format across different sites, the first part is here, the second part is here.]

    May 12, 2006

    Google's garden lunch press party...

    I've been thinking about Google since the Press day. And thinking how much I still like the company, and that more and more of my friends are now working at Google. Not to mention the fact that I've seen Google, just like Yahoo, grow up from a two-room operation into a mega-media company.

    And I've known these people, such as Eric Schmidt, many years--before Google was even a twinkle in Larry and Sergey's eyes.

    And the Google Press Day was a familiar thing, familiar faces on the media side, and on the Google side.

    When we broke for lunch, we sat outside in the gorgeous Norther California sunshine, around umbrella sheltered tables, enjoying being amongst each other, acting in the same way the other groups of people do when they know each other, and like each other. And that's how a lot of the media and the Silicon Valley companies interact.

    A free lunch in pleasant surrounding doesn't mean that media coverage of Google or any Silicon Valley company will suffer. I takes more than that to buy off the media than a very fine cafeteria lunch in the sun, and everybody knows it. Such gatherings and interactions are essential for both groups get to know each other, and develop professional relationships so that fewer misunderstandings and mistakes occur.

    To outsiders, to the readers of the media that were represented at the Google Press Day, it might seem like a cosy situation, maybe a tad too cosy.

    However, I can assure you that journalism has a long tradition of biting the hand that feeds it, even pausing to put some steak sauce on it, and resuming the meal with gusto.

    That's why you will see some great stories some good, some not, about GOOG coming out of the press corp. I've got one or two sizzling hot pieces in the works myself and you'll see the first one in a day or so.

    April 4, 2006

    We need a Google AdSense on steroids: The Grand Challenge of Internet 2.0

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    Your--Face-Here.jpgI've been really enjoying my job lately. I've been writing a lot about the open source movement and the changes it is having on the enterprise software market. Ingres is an excellent example of how the most innovative business model thinkers are taking advantage of the market opportunities.

    I feel that I am often in a unique and fortunate position to move quickly on stories. And that is great for a journalist blogger--which is how I define myself.

    What is also very interesting is that I don't have a business model to defend, or a boss looking over my shoulder. That means I am free to call things as I see them.

    For example, I've been taking on the least progressive elements of the PR industry in my attack on the press release in its current format. I've offered a design for "new media" press release which has inspired many people to create totally new types of news releases.

    The role of journalism - professional and citizen

    It's not that I'm the only one that sees things "as I see them" because many others understand my positions. But I often am able to give voice to those that cannot speak directly. And that is one of the major failings of "citizen journalism."

    There are members of our society that need to have independent journalists tell their stories. And that is what professional journalists do every day--they help our communities tell their stories.

    That is our mandate as journalists and nothing has changed in this new media world--except that the delivery mechanism doesn't rely on a newspaper delivery. It's all about the content not the delivery mechanism: paper or plastic (or digital)? It sounds ridiculous to make such distinctions when you think about it.

    Dan Gillmor, the great champion of citizen journalism is right when he says his audience knows more about a news subject than he does. But they cannot tell the story. They would get in so much trouble if they wrote about what goes on at work under their own names. That is why journalists cultivate contacts over many years, so that those contacts feel safe in telling their stories.

    Yes, there is no transparency in such cases, I will not reveal sources to whom I have pledged anonymity. But it is an important way that journalists can communicate news and information that could not come out into the open in any other way. And the more information is open and shared, the better it is for all.

    Media is how society solves big problems

    Media is how society thinks, it is how it debates and discusses important issues. That is why it is important to have a professional media class--supported by a citizens media army in the form of blogging and fact checking. That is a scenario for a high quality mediasphere.

    And we need a high quality mediasphere because we have some towering problems ahead to solve. Avian flu is the most immediate, but there is a long line of equally disturbing challenges ahead for us that require high quality information widely distributed.

    We have one Mediasphere

    A couple of Sundays ago, Al Saracevic, deputy business editor at the San Francisco Chronicle was at the CyberSalon in Berkeley. He asked the assembly, [which featured many of the blog/media demi-gods of our times,] can you figure out a way to pay for him and his editorial teams? Al is now a blogger, and he understands that both blogging and newspaper journalism share one mediasphere--and they share the lack of a viable business model.

    Blogging is not disrupting journalism--that is a false comparison. Blogging enhances journalism, it contributes to journalism, and it helps disseminate important information in a way that no other way has managed before. This combines to produce a higher quality mediasphere -- at least for now. The problem is the decimation of the professional media by the marketing money flooding toward search engine marketing.

    Our current media business models cannot carry the information load because they are being decimated faster than the ice caps are melting. What happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk is something that I have been warning about (thanks to Sam Whitmore) for almost nine months. And it is getting worse.

    I know we can solve the challenges that face us, because humanity has incredible capabilities. But we must solve the most important Internet problem: how do we recover (pay for) the value of high quality media content? Right now, all the money is in aggregation of news/content, such as Google News, and pennies for the creators of content.

    This is the Gordian knot of the Internet, figure out the value-recovery-mechanism that rewards high quality content and pays for more high-quality-content. Are there any Alexanders out there?

    This is a virtuous cycle--one that Google AdSense took a baby step towards solving and then stopped.

    We need a Super-duper-supercalafragalistic-AdSense that can reward quality content with real $$$ that can lead to investment in yet more quality content.

    We don't have that value-recovery-mechanism and without that we are in serious trouble. Because we have no sponsor for journalism.

    Selling products by advertising around journalism used to be a cost of sales. Now, it is far, far cheaper to sell products/services around the search box.

    How will we pay for the professional journalism that we need? Solve this problem and you will inherit a chapter in Wikipedia. And I'll commision a statue in your (best) likeness.

    - - -

    - What about a virtuous trackback? - Could this be one way to pay for content?[Read]

    - - -

    March 21, 2006

    Defending MySpace: WTF!!! Stay away from the kids let them express themselves any damn way they want!!!!!!

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    say_what?.jpgI'm sick of all this criticism of the content on All the fuddy duddies are warning of hell in a hand basket again.

    I peeked in on MySpace more than a year ago and I was very impressed with the writing, the tone that teenagers could set with very few words. I found some great writing and I found some writing that could only be described as Joyceian in its form and ambition. I was super impressed. Yes, I didn't understand a lot of it--but I'm not the target audience.

    Let the kids express themselves in the manner and way they want to. We are lucky that they feel able to express themselves in such a public way that we can occasionally look at it. They could lock it up and share it only among themselves.

    I wonder what they would say if they read our ramblings about Web 2.0, and online business models, and Google this, that and the other?

    Here is Scott Karp: Ticking time bomb.

    Here is Nick Carr.

    Update: Here is Dana Boyd on MySpace.

    Here is some wisdom from a Lebanese writer K. Gibran:

    Your children are not your children.

    They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.

    They come through you but not from you,

    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.

    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.

    For they have their own thoughts.

    You may house their bodies but not their souls,

    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

    March 19, 2006

    You know you are a journalist and not a blogger when...

    . . .You start getting pitches from PR folk and companies.

    Here is Robert Scoble--Microsoft's A-list blogger:

    Who made me a gatekeeper? I don’t want that job.

    Don’t send me more email pitches please. Don’t beg for me to try out your software. Don’t wait for me to blog about your company or your team or your product or you. That’s what comments here are for. You have direct access to anyone who is reading this post. Pitch in the comments! If your stuff is good, someone will try it out and say so. Maybe even me.

    Please read more at Scobleizer...

    BTW, I am always amazed when bloggers such as Mr Scoble and others, start becoming very irritated at the hundreds of emails they start getting from PR people and others wanting a plug. Welcome to the world of the journalist--we have to deal with this stuff every day, it comes with the territory.

    And as for journalists who now have to blog for their employer:

    Editors at the Washington Post are wrestling with discontent from reporters who think they should be paid extra for contributing to a group Web log. The Washington City Paper reported staffers on the Post's metro section asked for extra money after learning some prominent byliners were being paid for Web logs while they would not be.
    Please read more at Bloggersblog...

    I used to tell my colleagues in the mainstream media "start blogging as soon as you can otherwise you will have to blog for your employer and build its media brand instead of yours!" I don't like to have to say I told you so...

    And as for extra cash for extra work? Forgetaboutit. It would just accelerate the decline of your newspaper because your newspaper cannot monetise your extra work anyway.

    March 15, 2006

    650 words on the beauty of simple messages simply said

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    The best stories have a beautiful simplicity. And this blogging medium has revealed a tremendous amount about how we consume and express ideas.

    One revelation is that our minds comprehend things one at a time, and we will quickly forget whatever wasn't first, or last. Therefore it is best to say one thing and say it many times.

    I used to think that fitting more information into an 800 word news analysis was a good goal. The challenge that I adored was how to explain the many strategic nuances of markets and large companies in a way that covered the entire waterfront. In just 600 to 800 words.

    My thinking has changed over the past two years, especially since I left the Financial Times to become a journalist blogger. I learnt a lot at the FT, and I have learnt a lot from the blogging community--and I am a better journalist and person because of this.

    One of the things I learned is that less is more. In print, we would would have to "fill" a 400 word news story or a 2400 word feature--we were filling space with lots of related information. In the online world, where there is infinite space, brevity is rewarded. There is no need to stretch a 200 word news story into 450 words just because the page has been reformatted for the next edition and there is just 30 seconds before it is sent to the printer.

    In the online world, less is more; plus keep things simply direct. And don't afraid to say the same thing as many times as seems fit.

    Journalists used to laugh and bemoan USA Today. When it launched, my colleagues would point to the 100 word news stories, the 600 word features. Where were the 8,000 word New Yorker type analytical pieces that you could get your teeth into? To its critics, USA Today represented the dumbing down of America, it was sound bites in print.

    But now, I would say USA Today was way ahead of its time. USA Today should receive recognition for its understanding that the best way to communicate important ideas is to communicate just one thing, and to do it as simply as possible.

    Case Study

    Continue reading "650 words on the beauty of simple messages simply said" »

    New blogs launched from SF Chronicle, HP Labs; a creative Ruckus; and the new media hackers...

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    Al Saracevic, a senior editor at the San Francisco Chronicle has launched a tech blog called The Tech Chronicles. Take a look at and get involved.

    . . .

    Dave Berman, who runs media communications for HP Labs has launched a blog called HPLablog to help disseminate information on HP Labs projects.
    Mr Berman says:

    I've launched HPLablog,, with the intent of providing you with timely information about what's going on in HP Labs. I intend to post entries weekly, if not more often. Over time, other HP Labs researchers will also contribute to it.

    The blog is intended to inspire ideas for stories, either about HP Labs or a technical trend in which HP Labs (I hope) will play a part. This first entry, "The Silence of the Labs," will give you a sense of what I'm up to. Don't say you weren't warned.

    I know that last thing the world needs is yet another blog, but a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I used to write a newspaper column. I hope you'll find HPLablog stimulating, or at least entertaining. For me, it's cheaper than therapy.

    . . .

    When there is not much news around, create a Ruckus :-) Here is some creative corporate blogging from Ruckus Wireless: So we then began matching up CEOs, trying to predict the outcome of an 8-round, industry-sanctioned bout. Here were some of our match-ups and decisions:

    Meg is a better technical fighter and breaks Carly's nose with a hard left early in the fight. But Carly has a quicker jab and a stronger will to win. After the nose incident in the first, Carly gets to work in the second. She goes to the body then to a voracious jab. Fiorina's long reach and stamina just can't be matched by Whitman. This fight goes the length with the judges scoring the bout: 5-3, 6-2, 5-3 - Fiorina.

    Read the rest here...Fight Night at Ruckus

    . . .

    Tom Vendetta tests out the mediasphere by issuing a fake press release announcing that he is Google's youngest hire--and huge numbers of media outlets fall for it.

    These are the new script kiddies, the new 15 year old media hackers. And it is only going to get more interesting...

    March 10, 2006

    The metrics of influence--the mania for measuring the blogosphere

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    AudienceMeasure.jpgThere is a current mania among corporations and PR companies to figure out which tools to use to find the influencers in the blogosphere. They are combing through the PageRank and Alexa rankings of online news sites and blog sites, figuring out who has the audience, who do they try to engage in a conversation about their clients. It's PR 101.

    I am often asked "which blogs are the important ones, which ones should we be paying attention to, which ones should we be reading?" I can give you a decent list, but you should be able to figure that out yourselves.

    In fact, you will come to know the important bloggers because they will be the ones that your peers share with you. As blogging moves out of the Geek communities and into many more sectors, that sharing principle is how influential blogs become created and distributed and that is how you will recognize the leaders.

    Finding the right metrics to measure a blog's value as an influencer will never be as simple as measuring numbers of links, comments, trackbacks, Alexa rank, Technorati rank, etc. Because you have to understand the context of each blog and how it fits into its online communities. And you can only do that by being involved in those communities, online and offline.

    Let me say it again: the best way to figure out who the important bloggers are in your sector is to go into the online communities as a participant. It'll become apparent very quickly.

    I'm lucky to be be publishing a popular and influential news blog. Yes, I'm happy that the numbers are very good, but I don't look at them that often. The metrics that please me the most is when I hear back from readers, from emails, from comments.

    What I love the best is when I meet people, from the trenches to the boardroom, and they tell me "I read you and I share you with my team." That's the kind of feedback that energizes me and makes me feel that I have one the best jobs in the valley.

    Transparancy chatter is a current fashion. . .

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    There has been a lot written recently on the subject of transparency in media, PR and blogging. Josh Hallett over at Hyku blog has a nice roundup.

    Media organizations/blogs are already very transparent. You can see who is advertising and you know who the blogger works for. Thus when Robert Scoble blogs about MSFT, the monetary connection is transparent yet it doesn't detract from his passion or his views.

    Do people want to peek into the PR pitching and story-production-process? I doubt it, it's boring but hey, if they have the time on their hands let them check it out.

    I often write and speak on the topic of how news is written and how PR companies attempt to manipulate the press through many strategies. I think it's useful to know how the media sausage is made, and this is a form of media literacy that we should be teaching in the schools.

    But I'm not sure there is much usefulness in having access to every minute of my day--who I interact with, where I ate lunch (today at Town Hall--guest of Horn Group and their clients RightNow Technologies, Collabnet, and MySQL.)

    I sometimes publish the pitches sent to me, but only if they are well written. Sometimes the pitches will be better than the press release that is sent out. And I will publish more about how the sausage is made because there is a tremenous amount of misunderstanding at how media is produced.

    One of the ways PR companies manipulate the press is through granting or refusing access to their top executives. This is part of the belief that they must control a company message and punish those that seem hostile. Let's make such processes and attempts at manipulatin transparent.

    This is very much old rules thinking and doesn't work anymore. The new rules approach is let go of trying to control the client's message and the interaction with the media.

    I don't like to be manipulated and I don't know any other journalist who likes that kind of behavior. I get fantastic access to Silicon Valley's top executives which is great, but I don't require it to do what I do.

    Fortunately, top execs seek me out, they want access to my readers, which is wonderful. But smaller publications are easier to control through granting access to interviews and pre-briefings.

    Unfortunately, there is no level playing field, there is no universal right to access to top management. And there cannot be, there is not enough time in the world.

    That's why most of the blogosphere has to comment on the work of others, because they can't get the access. Unless they can boost their PageRank. It's a cruel law that affects every publication, online or offline.

    NYU is tracking newspaper bloggers

    A very good resource for watching what is going on in newspapers and their struggle to come to terms with blogging is, put together by Jay Rosen and his students at NYU.

    I was at NYU last September at the Impact '05 conference. I was on a panel alongside Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's political strategist . Since then, the work being done at NYU by its journalism school has been popping up regularly on my radar screen. For example, the excellent IWantMedia is put together by Patrick Philips, an adjunct professor at NYU.

    Facts About the State of Blogging at America's 100 Biggest Newspapers

    Blue Plate Special combed through the 100 largest sites. The results show who's blogging, who's not, and which newsrooms are doing what. Look up your newspaper, and compare. (And please: help us fact check this chart!)
    By Trisha Chang, Kat Ocampo, Kaitlin Jessing-Butz
    Alexis Krase, Toli Galanis and Sara Williams

    . . .

    Also, notable on the site is Renee Alfuso's article on journalists who blog, and how obsessive it can become. She interviewed the Philadelphia Inquirer's full-time journalist blogger Daniel Rubin, a 25 year newsroom veteran and George K. Polk award winner.

    Continue reading "NYU is tracking newspaper bloggers" »

    March 9, 2006

    The old rules and the new rules of business...a reply to Tina

    (This is a reply to Tina in the comments section, just in case you missed it. I think Tina brings up some good points...)

    Tina, it is people like you that I like to chat with. Because you are new, you haven't been taught how not to do things.

    I'm tired of people telling me "that's not the way it is done we've been doing this for 15 years." I hate that attitude.

    In my world, there is always a big Undo/Go-Back button. I want to try new stuff. But that's because I don't have a business model to defend. In fact, I don't yet have a business model--(but I know I will have one :-)

    If you have a business model to defend, one that is paying the bills--you can't readily jump to the new. It is what I call "You can't get there from here" a wonderful uniquely American expression but one that is so well suited to what is happening now; it speaks to the culture and business gap (chasm) that has opened up between old rules and new rules companies.

    The old can't move to the new because the business model won't support the cost structure of the old.

    I left the Financial Times because I realized that I could produce a column inch (a measurement of editorial copy) of Tom Foremski, more cheaply than the Financial Times. And on a very robust and powerful technology media platform that was virtually free (a $100 Movable Type license plus $40/month hosting.)

    Yes, I don't yet have a business model that can keep the lights on, but it can only get better for me and more difficult for my former employer, and its peer group of newspaper businesses.

    I'm a journalist blogger with a laptop--the only way you can compete with me is if you are living rent-free at your parent's home, and using your sister's computer (plus 20+ years building your personal brand...).

    These are great times for journalists and PR people because at no other time in our lives will we be at such a disruptive point in our professions. And disruption is good if you are not married to the old--because that's where the next generation of leading companies will grow.

    Continue reading "The old rules and the new rules of business...a reply to Tina" »

    March 7, 2006

    Andy Lark agrees...blogging is disrupting PR

    Here is an exceprpt I fished out of my trackbacks of a post written by Andy Lark, former comms chief of Sun Microsystems:

    The Disruption Of PR
    Tom speaks to the disruption of PR by blogging and search. He couldn't be more right. I speak to many PR people on the impact of blogging on communications. Most view it as an overlay to traditional communications. It isn't.

    While there is a clear case for viewing blogging as complementary to PR, you can really only hold that point of view from the shoes of a PR person. When standing in the shoes of a CMO, it is a very different view. As you look to optimize spend for awareness and lead flow - and juggle priorities such as shortening the sales cycle - you become acutely aware that PR is yet another budget area that should be cut in favor of new communications tools.

    Tom focuses heavily on the economics of the new mediums: "You can get a company message out to your potential customers far more cheaply and far more effectively through the blogging medium." While these are significant factors - especially the fact that your message is unfiltered - others to consider include the utility of the medium. If I want to reach my audience, I just blog. It takes about a tenth of the time to blog as it does to craft a release, liaise with an agency, pitch media....

    (Continue reading over on Andy Lark's blog. . .)

    March 5, 2006

    Oops! I just killed the press release...

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    hands-bloody.jpgHere you go, the coup de grace on the delete-on-receipt press release:

    PR professionals have an ethical duty to communicate their client's message in the most effective format and manner. The press/news release in its current format is not effective.

    (And many journalists will give you the same feedback.)

    I am one of its intended targets and I am using my own time and money to inform the PR community of professionals around the world, that sending out press releases in their current format, unchanged in decades, is not effective or that useful. I hate to see the enormous waste of human resources.

    It would not take that much extra work to change the press release into a format in which it is more useful to me, and to many other journalists. Such as:

    Continue reading "Oops! I just killed the press release..." »

    Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    It's the last hour of the New Communications Forum and Shel Israel and Robert Scoble are performing their very entertainiing double act promoting their book "Naked Conversations." The room is full of marketing and public relations people--some of them are high-PageRank bloggers themselves.

    Both men are promoting the idea that blogging provides corporations with valuable feedback, and it provides an effective message delivery medium, and they cite many examples. This is all very true about blogging--it is an incredibly powerful communications technology.

    Robert mentioned a startup company that collected 400,000 beta users in one week from a mention on just a few key tech blogs. I thought it a good time to stand up and join the conversation and make an important point that many people don't understand about blogging.

    I said that blogging is not disrupting the mainstream media--blogging will disrupt public relations. The company geting its message out to 400,000 beta users is a great example, and I've been collecting many more.

    It's an important point to make because many PR people come to conferences such as New Comm Forum because they want to learn how best to pitch to bloggers and how to use the blogosphere as a channel for corporate and marketing communications as the mainstream media gradually melts away. What few realise is that mainstream media is being disrupted by online marketing--specifically search engine marketing--and not blogging.

    It comes down to this simple fact:

    It is far cheaper to sell products and services through search engine marketing than through mainstream media.

    The millions of bloggers aren't taking any money away from mainstream media...but Google, Yahoo, and Craigslist certainly are.

    The inability of the blogosphere to find a business model that can keep the lights on, is similar to mainstream media's struggle to survive. They are both in the same boat (except the bloggers have a day job.)

    Let me say it again: Blogging is not disrupting mainstream media--blogging will disrupt public relations.

    It comes down to this simple fact:

    You can get a company message out to your potential customers far more cheaply and far more effectively through the blogging medium.

    However, the company message in the blogosphere cannot be delivered by hired communicators. It has to come from the people inside, or close to the company, who are passionate about the company and its products. It has to have an authentic voice. You cannot fake an authentic voice.

    Therefore what role can public relations professionals play in this new world? They cannot be "authentic-voices-for-hire" because that doesn't work in this medium. (Try it and you'll will look and smell fishy.)

    Look at Robert Scoble--who I sometimes describe as Microsoft's second most powerful executive. This A-list blogger has single-handedly spruced up Microsoft's public image in so many areas. And he continues to be Microsoft's best promotional engine because he is passionate about his job and his life and that reflects well on Microsoft.

    The value of the positive PR that Microsoft has managed to reap from Mr Scoble's authenticity, his passion, and his stellar PageRank--must easily be in the tens of millions of dollars--and that's a conservative estimate. I would estimate his software engineer salary at about $200k--so that's a pretty damn good ROI.

    Continue reading "Microsoft's ROI on Robert Scoble - the disruption of PR by blogging" »

    March 1, 2006

    Defending the delete-on-receipt news release. . . and an example of a better format

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher
    There has been lots of whining from the PR community about my press/news release should die post. Lots of business models to defend I suppose.

    I am providing the PR community with feedback on what works and what does not. I'm a target of the product and I'm using my own time and money to to help it become a more effective and useful communications entity. You can ignore my feedback if you want, but change will come, I guarantee it.

    Also, there seems to be some mistaken belief that the SEC mandates news releases in their current format. No, it does not.

    The SEC wants broad distribution of company data as quickly and as efficiently as possible so that all investors have equal access to material information. The only thing that is efficient about the news release is in getting access to client money!

    Anyway, while a bunch of the old guard have been stalwartly defending the classic delete-on-receipt news release, others have spent their time more productively.

    For example, the always resourceful Julie Crabill, from Shift Communications on Tuesday sent over what she called a "Foremski style" news release, and the same release old style. And it is a good example and a great step in the right direction--just these simple things already made the news release a lot more useful.

    Take a look:

    Continue reading "Defending the delete-on-receipt news release. . . and an example of a better format" »

    February 27, 2006

    Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    Die-Press-Release.jpgI've been telling the PR industry for some time now that things cannot go along as they are . . . business as usual while mainstream media goes to hell in a hand basket. I've been saying this privately and publicly and having some very useful discussions on this topic.

    Since I have a disruptive role to play in mainstream PR, here is my demolition of the press release as we know and hate it today:

    Continue reading "Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die!" »

    February 26, 2006

    A mainstream media love note to the blogosphere: Blog off!!!

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    Trevor Butterworth writing in the FT Mag recently wrote a very long 4600 word piece about blogging. Same cast of characters and the same mainstream media misconception that blogging is bringing down their empire, it's not. (See answer at end of this post.)

    The best part of the article was the the last part (I think that's where I skipped down to...) It discusses whether Karl Marx would have made a good blogger and mentions my former university classmate Francis Wheen...and then leaves us with a wonderful image of the billions of posts in a "virtual tomb."

    Continue reading "A mainstream media love note to the blogosphere: Blog off!!!" »

    February 25, 2006

    Anti-censorship in China. . . and anti-click fraud prevention?

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher Jason Dunne over at Contos Dunne Communications sent me this information about a technology being developed by Anonymizer to overcome censorship. However, a technology such as this could make it near-impossible to filter out click-fraud, imho. Click-fraud is the practice of employing people to click on online ads to fraudently collect money from advertisers. It is a growing problem and companies such as Google and others try to filter out the fraud by monitoring the IP addresses and any other information that might indicate fraudulent activity.
    The software will make a secure (SSL) connection to Anonymizer's anti-censorship servers through a frequently changing set of IP addresses that are not associated with Anonymizer. From there, the user's connection will continue to its destination over the uncensored Internet, and will appear to come from yet another IP address. This system will ensure that the user is protected both from interception and blocking of their Internet traffic when exiting China. It will also protect against monitoring of forums or other Web sites which will try to detect the users IP address within China. Any attempt to monitor this connection from within China will only see ordinary SSL Web connections to uncontroversial domains. Any monitoring of IP addresses accessing forums, Web-mail sites, blogs, or discussion boards will show Anonymizer IP addresses which are impossible to track back to the originating IP address.
    Here is the rest of the info on Anonymizer and a statement made by Congressman Chris Smith on the subject of censorship:

    Continue reading "Anti-censorship in China. . . and anti-click fraud prevention?" »

    February 16, 2006

    A conversation about trust with with Richard Edelman

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    It's Tuesday morning and another glorious sunny day in Palo Alto and I'm about to sit down at Il Fornio with Richard Edelman CEO of highly regarded and highly successful Edelman agency. And Mr Edelman is one of the legendary figures, and leading thinkers, of the US PR sector.

    Mr Edelman is just finishing a conversation with Paul Saffo, the renowned futurist thinker at the Institute of the Future (I want a job like Mr Saffo's!). "We used to crew together at Harvard," explains Mr Edelman. "Aha, the old boy network rears its head again," I say with a smile.

    I see Mr Saffo has the latest edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer report grasped in his hand. This is an interesting international study of "trust" and what types of individuals and organizations people trust.

    "You'd better watch out," I tease Mr Saffo. "Third-party independent experts such as yourself are slipping in people's trust."

    "That's what I spotted, I'm going to have to study this document carefully," Mr Saffo says as he prepares his farewells and then leaves Mr Edelman and I to our first meeting.

    The two of us are probably the least "trustworthy" table in the restaurant. That's because the media and PR ranked extremely low in the recent Trust survey. And for the first time, respondents said they trusted their peer group the most--even more than experts such as doctors etc.

    People trust their colleagues, friends and family--it is what Mr Edelman calls the Me2Revolution it is peer-to-peer trust networks. Please take a look at Mr Edelman's essay on the survey results, which are published in PR Week's February 13th edition. You can read the Me2Revolution essay here on his Richard Edelman 6 A. M. blog.

    Continue reading "A conversation about trust with with Richard Edelman" »

    February 13, 2006

    The sky is falling says NYT media beat reporter

    Sky's_Falling.jpgThis is directly related to what I've been asking for the last five months: what happens if the old media dies before the new media learns to walk?

    Hat tip to Romenesko:

    NYT's Carr says he's glad he stayed on the media beat City (of Rochester) David Carr, who has written about the media for Washington City Paper, Twin Cities Reader and, says he almost passed on the chance to be New York Times' media columnist. "Although I was reluctant at first, because I thought I was pretty much done with media, I eventually came around," he says. "And I'm glad I did, because the sky actually is falling right now, and it's fun and interesting and scary all at the same time to watch the ways in which media are atomizing and becoming commoditized."

    ZDNet: Internet 2.0 will be dominated by the new media and its technologies

    As a media professional of nearly 25 years, it is especially wonderful that media is now in the forefront of this technology boom. The new media really is the new technology--a concept that sounds strange at first but I think you will begin to see what I mean over the next year or so.

    I've been reporting on developments in Silicon Valley since 1984. I've gone out with my notebook and peeked over other people's shoulders and said "that looks interesting, tell me what you are doing." Now others, not just reporters come and tap me on my shoulder and say "That looks interesting, tell me what you are doing."

    Part of what I'm doing is trying to figure out if it is possible to make a living in the new media, it is a search for creating viable business models for the new media. And everybody that takes part in such a quest benefits all content creators--because new media business models are not a proprietary type of thing.

    Media businesses are by their very nature very transparent organizations.

    (Please continue reading . . .)

    February 8, 2006

    The inverted pyramid: News aggregators take the very best part of the content

    Quoting myself through others quoting me [it's this Alice in Wonderland inside-out world we live-in these days :-)]

    From Corante's Media Hub posted by Hylton Jolliffe:

    Tom Abate: "During dinner Friday, blogger Tom (SiliconValleyWatcher) Foremski offered me the best reason why news writers can't easily charge for content -- because they load the essence of every story into the headline and first paragraph. Journalism is skewered by its inverted pyramid..."

    Google News and the other news aggregators take the best part of the news and leave behind the least valuable. They take the distillation of the news--it's most valuable essence.

    Let me explain: As journalists we are taught to write in the inverted pyramid style (esp. in the UK.) This means you try and tell the entire news story in the first paragraph.

    One of my editors would say, "You are on the platform of a train station and your mother is on the train and you have to tell her the news story as the train rapidly pulls away. You have no more than 34 words."

    The 34 word limit varies according to the newspapers but the principle remains the same because copy editors cut news stories  from the back to fill holes in the newspaper. So you have to make sure your news story can survive a drastic cut to just one paragraph, if necessary.

    So when Google News, or any other news aggregators take and publish the headline and the first paragraph, sometime the second para too--they are taking the very best part of the news--and leaving the second best a click-away. And most readers get enough from the headline and first paragraph and don't click through to the original story and site of origin.

    The essence of news stories is copied and whisked away by the spiderbots, which offer the promise of return traffic. But that is not a fair exchange, imho.

    The news aggregators should display one of those cobbled together "summaries" they do during normal searches, then the user of a news aggregator could go directly to see all of the meat of the story at the originating site. Something like that would be a lot fairer to the newspapers and news sites.


    February 7, 2006

    Journalists do it every day do bloggers have the same stamina?

    Tom Foremski, for Silicon Valley Watcher

    I've worked as a software engineer, granted, it wasn't for long, not much more than a year. But I know what the work is like and the challenges within that profession.

    However, I wonder if software engineers, many of whom are also bloggers and critics of mainstream media, know much about journalists and how they do their jobs?

    If people think journalism is much like blogging, then anybody can be a journalist. I often tell people if they can write an email, they can become a blogger, as a way of encouraging them to start blogging.

    But journalism is definitely nothing like blogging, and it requires a professional class; I don't think an army of bloggers with day jobs has the ability to can fill the shoes of professional journalists and provide society with the type of high-quality media that it needs.

    Yes, anybody publish but that doesn't mean a thing. It's the same as the fact that anybody can be their own courtroom lawyer, and we know the punch line to that one...

    Similarly, society would be foolish to be reliant on just anybody producing its media, imho.

    Here's a description of some of my work as a journalist at the Financial Times--working as part of a team with the ability to report and publish high quality news in minutes. . .

    Please continue reading...

    February 5, 2006

    Switch off the chatter . . . and the blogs

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    My apologies--but I've been in Greta Garbo mode this past week--I just needed to spend some time alone, with myself. That's why my email is so backed up along with all my other conversations.

    It's nothing personal about anybody, except it is personal in regards to myself. In this Always On world the greatest luxury is time to yourself.

    That means switch off the chatter of the blogs, the chatter of the radio, the chatter of TV, the chatter of marketing messages, the chatter that is the white-noise of our existence.

    Do you get to listen to yourself? That's when you get your ideas. That is precisely why you get great ideas in the shower, or walking down the street--you get a rare moment to listen to yourself (and you should write stuff down immediately).

    I "throw things in the back seat" and then my brain throws them back up and out when it is done processing--sometimes they are good ideas and sometimes they are not. But I write them down always.

    Linus Pauling, the twice-Nobel prize winner (Chemistry 1954 and Peace 1962--died 1994) said that the trick to having great ideas is to have lots of ideas. Yes, most of your ideas will bite the dust, but the rest...?

    The law of large numbers is in your favor but you have to switch off from the chatter once in a while so that you can hear yourself; and that means switch off the blogs too, (including this one :-).

    February 4, 2006

    Tracking some more of my Pushbacks :-)

    Here is a response to a post that I wanted to share, regarding my seemingly unfriendly attitude to PR folk...

    Here is the original:
    Here is an extract:

    Honestly, I think Foremski knows this and is simply trying provoking us. Maybe we as PR people should simply take his commentary as encouragement to ensure we evolve with the changing communication landscape.

    Yes, most definitely.


    On a side: I met Tom for the first time on Thursday night, but only briefly as he was rubbing shoulders with, ironically, some PR folks. Kind of confusing given his comments, but like I said, maybe we take it and spin it into motivation.

    Continue reading "Tracking some more of my Pushbacks :-)" »

    January 31, 2006

    Pulling out the rug: GOOG Q4 shows continued shift away from partner sites

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    GOOG missing its Wall Street estimates is the main focus of the media coverage of its Q4 numbers. The more interesting story is that Google continues to shift revenues to its own sites, and away from third-party sites in its AdSense advertising network, such as those operated by media companies.

    Take a look at the release and what used to be about a 50/50 split in revenues coming from Google sites and network sites:

    Google Sites Revenues -- Google-owned sites generated revenues of $1.098 billion, or 57% of total revenues. This represents a 24% increase over the third quarter revenues of $885 million.

    Google Network Revenues -- Google's partner sites generated revenues, through AdSense programs, of $799 million, or 42% of total revenues. This is an 18% increase over network revenues of $675 million generated in the third quarter.

    In Q3 revenues from Google sites grew 20 per cent as revenues from Google's network sites grew 7 per cent.

    This shows that GOOG is accelerating its revenue shift from network sites. And why not? It doesn't have to share the revenues with network sites.

    This is bad news for media companies such as the New York Times--a key AdSense partner.

    It is also bad news for the many VC funded startups whose business models rely on becoming honey pots for Google AdSense clicks. The trend towards developing advertising supported web service applications could be a short one.

    However, Microsoft might be able to exploit this shift if it can offer a better "AdSense" revenue model to Google's network sites.

    Here is my ZDNet column on GOOG.

    Wonkette, Dave Barry, and Silicon Valley Watcher--in Bacon's secret list of 250 of the most influential blogs

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    SF Chronicle columnist C.W. Nevius chats with blogger Dave Barry--the foremost humorist in the US and the former columnist at the Miami Herald.

    C.W. says that Mr Barry believes that newspapers are dead. "And Barry may even be right," he writes in "Podcasts, blogs and Dave Barry."

    But at the end of the column he writes that it is easy for Mr Barry to survive in the "new world of journalism" because he has written 25 best-sellers, has won a Pulitzer Prize for commentary (1988), etc.

    Well, let me tell everyone that reads this post: you don't need a stellar list of achievements to do well in the "new world of journalism."

    Take a look at this quote from a senior vice president at Bacon's, in a Media Post story that appeared December 27, 2004, just a couple of months after SVW started publishing:

    Ruth McFarland, senior vice president and publisher for Bacon's, said she vacillated about the significance of blogs, but was sufficiently convinced this year to assign three of her 56 editors to monitor the Blogosphere. "We're adjusting our network because no one is accurately monitoring these guys as their influence continues to grow."

    Bacon's is keeping tight raps on its blog list, which covers technology, politics, business, travel, and religion. The racy Wonkette, the Miami Herald's Dave Barry, and the Silicon Valley Watcher are three well-known blogs run by "reputable, credible professionals" that McFarland said will be on the list.

    You can't buy publicity like that :-) And SVW has never spent a single dollar on promotions of any kind.

    In this new world, if you build a better mousetrap the world does indeed beat a path to your door. It's a meritocracy of a kind we've never seen before.

    January 26, 2006

    VNU in acquisition mode: Dutch global media company buys UK tech news site The Inquirer

    Rafat Ali at - the economics of content, reports:

    VNU has bought the Inquirer for an undisclosed sum. Inquirer founder Mike Magee will retain the editor's chair but will hand over advertising and administrative duties for the site.

    Magee helped pioneer a tabloid approach to tech publishing when he co-founded IT news service the Register in 1994. But a split with fellow founder John Lettice led to his departure from that website in 2001.

    The deal comes after VNU came to an agreement last year with U.S. gadget website to publish localised editions across seven countries in Europe.

    More here...

    January 24, 2006

    Silicon Valley Watcher eclipses WSJ's top columnist Walt Mossberg in PR turnout

    By A. Tom

    The decline of old media was made startlingly evident Tuesday as Silicon Valley Watcher drew a much larger crowd of PR professionals than the Wall Street Journal's top media brand: Walt Mossberg.

    Tom Foremski, the publisher of Silicon Valley Watcher, was the featured guest on Sam Whitmore's Media Survey weekly teleconference. The popular Media Survey teleconference allows PR professionals in locations around the US, to listen and ask questions of top journalists, such as Walt Mossberg.

    But huge interest in blogging and the new media pushed the number of listeners to the Silicon Valley Watcher interview to a record 42 PR offices. That compared with 34 PR offices joining the Walt Mossberg teleconference.

    "Silicon Valley Watcher has hit a new record," said Sam Whitmore.

    Andrew Orlowski the pugnacious US editor of The Register--the popular tabloid-style UK based tech news site--is the featured guest on the Media Survey teleconference next week.

    Here is a link to the podcast of the Silicon Valley Watcher interview with Sam Whitmore and Tom Foremski, broadcast from the offices of Outcast Communications in San Francisco.

    SWMS Tech Media This Week Podcast: Jan. 18, 2006


    January 20, 2006

    This and that: Email or posts?. . .Larry skips Fusion event . . .Forrester Mag is no more . . .Fast search . . . I'll be moderating a panel with Scott McNealy on sharing

    My apologies, but I am horribly backed-up on my emails. My first focus is always on reporting/blogging/writing which means I have to hold email blackout periods of several hours at a time, otherwise I'd spend several hours on my emails.

    I try and get out and about Silicon Valley everyday, which eats up a lot of time. I try to get those top exec interviews, scoops, news, tidbits of gossip for the locals, and always, always, focus on original and exclusive content--two key newspaper principles that will continue to be important in the new media world.

    And that means that in during some busy weeks my email gets terribly jammed up--but please be assured it is not personal--everyone gets mashed up into my Gmail inbox. Also, we had a bounce-back email problem but that should be solved. (We just have a problem with our archive permalinks to sort out...)

    . . .

    There was no Larry Ellison at the big Oracle customer event about its Fusion IT enterprise push. Mr Ellison had the flu and couldn't attend the San Francisco City Hall red carpet event.

    I popped in on my way home from an earlier meeting, thinking I would grab a bite or two at the Oracle event, treat it as a blogger soup kitchen of sorts, and also catch up with some of my media colleagues.

    I was very late but the event still had 45 minutes to go--and the drinks and eats were all under wraps. I almost quit but Dan Fost from the SF Chronicle wandered by and we entertained ourselves and made the time pass more quickly until the eat and schmooze-time.

    Customer events such as these are dire for any journalists trapped inside the halls of presentations. It seems IT customers are hardened to four hours of jargon and buzz-word filled presentations, and can maintain a steady alert level.

    Most journalists at such events feel as if they have landed in pergatory and must endure the suffering, obviously a karmic punishment for something--until the media Q&A at the end with the top execs.

    That's why I prefer to go to the evening events where the journalists with day jobs have gone home for the night. And I prefer my purgatory to be in its proper place--in the after-life.

    . . .

    If you haven't heard yet, Forrester Magazine is no more. It was an interesting attempt at representing Forrester's thought-leadership. Although it didn't quite jell, I think Forrester were onto something. And it might have worked if the format were changed a bit.

    . . .

    Take a look at Rock-n-Go for some interesting perspectives on the media. Also, you might want to take a look at this post on Rock-n-go about Antonio Gramsci, whose work influences a lot of my thinking.

    . . .

    The new batch of Internet scandals begins? Fast, the Norwegian search company and Europe's answer to Google is in a bit of trouble due to allegations of accounting scandals and other nefarious activities. . . Here is a Computer Business Review article.

    . . .

    This will be a fun event: February 21 at Stanford University at 10am, I'll be moderating a panel on "The Economics of Sharing" with Scott McNealy, ceo of Sun Microsystems, along with a few other top bods of interest. More details to follow...

    January 19, 2006

    More SVW top ten people lists, this one in media (the PR list is coming next...)

    I'm still in the mood for top ten people lists and since it is still January, I think I can get away with a couple more.

    By the way, please note that nearly everyone I meet is a "top ten" person these lists are just a fraction of the top ten people that stood out for me in 2005. And they are not presented in any order of importance:-)

    Here is SVW's Top Ten people in Media in 2005.

    Dan Farber is vice-president of editorial at CNET and editor in chief of ZDNet. Dan is one of the consummate media professionals in our industry. He is always everywhere, and I am constantly surprised that he doesn't yet sport an Al Franken-style satellite upload dish on his head, but give him time and I'm sure he will because Dan is relentless in his reporting and blogging.

    Om Malik, senior writer at Business 2.0 and founder of, the universal sound of broadband. Of course, his Om-ness could not be left out, he is one of the original gang of A-list bloggers and continues to be year-after-year. He's a good buddy and is always very generous in his advice, of which there never seems to be a shortage.

    Kevin Maney, senior tech reporter at USA Today and now also a blogger. Kevin started the year off with a bit of blast at bloggers. But ended the year as a blogger himself and is doing very well at it.

    Tom Abate from the San Francisco Chronicle. Tom started his blog mini media guy last year and so now when we get together we get to speak the same language. Tom covered tech for a long time then switched to bio-tech at just the right time. And now I'm hearing he is heading back to do some tech coverage, around Silicon Valley innovation.

    Jeremy Zawodny, Yahoo's chief blogger and a search engineer, is one of those natural journalists that you find in the blogosphere. Jeremy is what I like to call a "big link" because of his large audience, and he always keeps things interesting.

    Robert Scoble, Microsoft's chief blogger and very probably the second most famous Microsoft employee. It took a long time for Microsoft to understand his value to the company. Robert spent a lot of last year using his own vacation time to speak at panels and conference events. Microsoft wouldn't give him a travel budget which often meant having to share a room with someone.

    Doc Searls, Senior Editor at Linux Magazine, is one of the godfathers of the blogosphere. I have learned a tremendous amount each time I hear him speak, or get to speak with him. He is a marketer though, not a geek, and he has an intuitive understanding of marketing as shown by his co-authorship of the "The Clue train Manifesto."

    Gabe Rivera is the creator of tech.memeorandum. Using servers and software, Gabe collects the top news items of the day. Gabe is a software engineer but more towards a media engineer--able to create what I call smart-machine media, in a similar way that Google News is created--but smarter :-)

    Sam Whitmore from Media Survey makes a living reporting on the media industry. And he has given me some great advice in further expanding themes such as what happens if the old media dies sooner. And Sam was the first to get me on a podcast (next one is coming up January 24.)

    Charlene Li, a senior analyst at Forrester, is one of the superstar analysts of Internet 2.0. Charlene is a media professional and knows how to use her blogging to great effect. Also, she doesn't seem to rest for one minute and she seems to be on nearly every conference panel at every related conference.

    January 17, 2006

    Business Wire: Is this Warren Buffett's "senior moment?"

    By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

    OMAHA, Neb. & SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 17, 2006--Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A and BRK.B) announced today a definitive agreement to acquire Business Wire, a privately held company that is a leading global distributor of corporate news, multimedia and regulatory filings. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

    I guess you have to hit a dud occasionally, otherwise you wouldn't be mortal. I think Business Wire had about 30 seconds to live.

    Maybe Mr Buffett's advisors hadn't heard of RSS and the fact that Business Wire has a customer (pissed-off) list--and that is all. A pissed-off customer list is not a defensible business model, (maybe he needed a fast depreciating asset for tax reasons?)

    Anybody could disrupt Business Wire. I'll do it today, I'll call up Fergus Burns at Nooked, and some other contacts in the RSS sector.

    We'll get every Silicon Valley corporate news room RSS enabled, and feed those feeds directly to the media news desks, investors, and any shareholder or anybody with an RSS news reader, in fact, we'll give you a news reader for free, already set up with the feeds you need.

    And yes, this does satisfy Full Disclosure regs--much more so than Business Wire I would argue. Because FD calls for the broadest dissemination of news that is material to a company's business activities. RSS gets you into more places much faster and for far less money.

    So give me a call if you want to skip Business Wire, I'll send out your releases for $50 a piece rather than $600 plus. . .

    Hey Fergus, (and others...) let's create a media business on-the-fly and in real-time. Call my cell 4one5 threethree6 seven54seven. Now.

    January 12, 2006

    Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?

    . . .it's coming

    By Tom Foremski, for Silicon Valley Watcher

    With all the disruption that is going on in the mainstream media industry, where is the disruption in the mainstream public relations industry? PR companies and corporate communications teams are still going about their business in the same way, and seem to be thriving.

    You would think that there would be a corresponding shakeup in both industries. After all, one is dependent on the other. The PR teams work with the journalists to find stories, and help them research whatever information is needed for their articles.

    There has always been a close correspondence between the fortunes of both sectors in the past. This could be seen in the dotcom dotbomb fallout.

    PR companies suffered large losses when thousands of internet related companies went bust. Job losses in both media and PR were directly related to the fact that there were now far fewer customers.

    Fewer dotcom-related firms meant less demand for advertising services and thus less demand for PR services. But now there is a growing disconnect; the mainstream PR sector is booming while the mainstream media sector is fading fast.

    The PR boom paradox

    Continue reading "Disruption in mainstream media but where is the disruption in the mainstream PR industry?" »

    January 5, 2006

    The Always On generation--Tony is right

    By Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    I agreed to be a columnist for Always On, Tony Perkins' latest online venture (yes, Tony of Red Herring former fame [not the current one--the pre-dotcom dotbomb Red Herring].

    I asked to be paid to be a columnist. I said my kids need to eat, but they said they don't pay columnists. They see a value in my association and I guess my payment is the Always On brand association with Silicon Valley Watcher.

    Fine, I said, I'll do it anyway. I can eat at the SF soup kitchens such as Aqua, and Boulevard, and Rubicon where many of my evening industry roundtables are held, and my kids can forage.

    And hopefully, I won't have to pay for extra bandwidth this month due to rising numbers of pesky readers ;-)
    [Some of my readers were so bored during the holidays, they were averaging 15 SVW pageviews per visitor! Which is damn good...]

    Sooner than later, I think people will pay for content because isn't that the differentiator? You can get an algorithm and a server anywhere.

    I think I know what the end game is going to be. But in the meantime there is a mid-game--which is where a lot of people are focused. One more bubble, or a least a decent bit of foam, and they are out.

    January 3, 2006

    A (distributed) new media column: It's a New Year and a new media. . .will it be richer or poorer?

    By Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    What an interesting year it has been! 2005 was my first full year as a journalist blogger.

    I left the Financial Times in May 2004. Since then, I've been very much poorer monetarily, but a heck of lot richer in experiences and insights.

    I never imagined that something like "blogging" could be so significant and mind-changing. I never imagined that writing in this format/medium could be so powerful, in so many ways. I didn't expect that I would speak on so many panels and share the stage with people such as John Chambers of Cisco, Joe Trippi, the foremost political strategist, Dan Scheinman, head of M&A at Cisco and senior media execs from Disney, Electronic Arts, and many other companies.

    I feel silly saying this, but I feel that we are all on the cusp of something so huge, it will be mind/life changing for billions of people. Because there is a new media forming and that means this is great time to be a journalist or any media professional.

    There really is a new media--this time. And I'm of the Bachman-Turner Overdrive opinion that you ain't seen nothing yet.

    You will know the new media

    Continue reading "A (distributed) new media column: It's a New Year and a new media. . .will it be richer or poorer?" »

    December 23, 2005

    Time's person of the year should have been a blogger

    Time.jpg It's easy to give away money easily come by...Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    We wuz robbed! I hope no Redmond gold was used to influence the Time magazine cover of Bill G and Melinda, and bizarrely, standing in-between them, Bono?

    I hope Waggoner Edstrom--MSFT's PR firm--wasn't involved in influencing Time magazine. And that the PR company did not create mock-ups of Time magazine covers, (which is its usual practice to focus the minds of the Wag Ed troops on PR goals.)

    Philanthropy is wonderful, but it's easy to do when the gold was acquired through illegal monopolistic practices. Isn't that what the courts said MSFT did?

    The humble blogger, and the not so humble blogger, probably gave zilch to any charity this year, but, they should have been on the cover of Time. Surely, no other persons have had more effect on the global consciousness?

    Blogging is people power at its best, and it should be celebrated, not the largesse of the rich.

    Plus, blogging represents the Next Big Thing. It has ALL the characteristics of the Next Big Thing (don't be distracted by the sometimes wacky content.)

    Another reason Time should have chosen a blogger: 2005 is the Chinese year of the Rooster. And the Rooster is a perfect metaphor for the blogger.

    Last year was the year of the Monkey, and in the Chinese culture there are four monkeys, compared with our Western tradition of three monkeys: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. The fourth monkey is: do no evil.

    Interestingly, Google IPO'd in the Year of the Monkey, GOOG has a motto: do no evil.

    We are coming to the end of the year of the Rooster/the year of the blogger. And if I had enough money to influence things, I would have put a blogger on the cover of Time.

    2006 is the year of the Dog. What will that represent? Packs of new rules enterprises tearing apart the lumbering old world enterprises, imho.

    December 21, 2005

    The crown jewels of the AOL-GOOG deal are not where you think they are...

    The $1bn deal nets Google a lot more than the ads, (that's just the free stuff that comes with the deal.)

    It's about the comms platform and the huge numbers of AIM users versus GTalk's MaryCeleste...imho.

    Please see: These are the crown jewels of the AOL deal...

    And please excuse the bouncing around--it's a new media :-)

    December 20, 2005

    The first journalist from a top newspaper to become a full-time blogger

    I was the subject of an interview published in PR Week. . .

    Interview: Tom Foremski
    PR Week USA Dec 12 2005 00:00

    In May 2004, Tom Foremski took a huge risk. He left one of the top jobs in tech journalism - Silicon Valley reporter and columnist for the Financial Times - to start a blog about the business and culture of Silicon Valley.

    While many journalists blog in addition to their day jobs, Foremski was arguably the first journalist from a major publication to quit to become a full-time blogger. Now, Foremski may be even more influential than when he was with the FT. . .

    More influential than the FT would be nice, I'm not there yet :-)

    I didn't realize I would become the first full-time journalist blogger. I just saw the handwriting on the walls. And I didn't realize the effect this would have on large Silicon Valley companies.

    One of my senior contacts at Intel told me, "When you left the FT to become a blogger, it was a wake up call. We realized we had to take this blogging trend seriously." Others have told me similar stories.

    Wow, that's very cool, but I had no idea my online ambitions would have such a broad effect. Or that I would be doing so much public speaking, and be on panels with John Chambers and other highly respected captains of industry, top media execs, VCs, top thoughtleaders etc.

    And even share a panel with Joe Trippi, arguably the top political strategist in the US. And, I am often asked to talk about the future of journalism, a very serious subject. Sometimes, it all feels very strange, I'm just a guy with a laptop(!)

    Looking over shoulders

    For the past 24 years I have worked as a journalist and I would look over people's shoulders and say "that looks interesting, what are you doing? What is that technology? What does it do? How will it change things? How will you grow the business?"

    Now, I have journalists looking over my shoulder, and asking those same questions. That is unique place to be, and that is why I always urge my media colleagues to come join me. The sooner the better.

    [Seriously, this is a good time to message me if you are ready...]

    It has been an incredible year. And over the next few days I will share some of the many (unexpected) things I have learned as a journalist blogger :-)

    December 18, 2005

    Announcing the first AJAX banner ad!

    Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    A little while ago I challenged my readers to come up with something different from advertising banners and marketing messages.

    I have asked many people, "What else could you do in the space taken up by a banner ad, or a side-column skyscraper ad? Something that is novel and is useful to the readers rather than flashing and annoying marketing messages. Maybe something which demonstrates your thought-leadership or that of your clients."

    Well, I've been collecting some excellent suggestions and we've only just begun.

    My favorite so far, is from SVW sponsor Tibco, which is to produce an AJAX based "banner ad." It will showcase Tibco's AJAX prowess, but it could also usher in an entirely different type of media component.

    As far as I know this will be the the world's first AJAX banner ad!

    And it will be the first banner ad that is also an application!

    But what should the content of such a new AJAX banner ad be?

    We're working on two ideas, which should be ready by the new year. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, and just what do you think would make for great content or application, utilizing this concept.

    Also, this is exactly the kind of thing I, and hopefully you, my readers want to be involved in: innovation. This comes from the application of technologies, processes, and insight. And it is a lot more exciting than doing things the old way, imho :-)

    - - -
    Please see: The new media needs new types of innovation--not more banner ads

    December 15, 2005

    Buying newspapers? Give the hacks a raise . . . then fire the executive managers

    From Business Week Online:
    Newspapers: Buys Among the Battered

    You're-Fired.jpg"If prices of newspaper companies continue falling, it's likely that private- equity investors or activist investors will step in as catalysts for change at the newspapers. On Dec. 1, three private- equity firms (The Blackstone Group, Providence Equity Partners, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts) announced that they're considering the purchase of Knight Ridder. If a sale of Knight Ridder happens in the near term, Peters believes it could lead to shakeups at other newspaper companies, as managements may realize the need to do more for shareholders."

    What about doing something for the long suffering journalists? If I were a buyer, the first thing I would do would be to give the journalists a 30 per cent pay raise--and fire their executive managers.

    Without the hacks you have nothing to buy except for a lumbering and antiquated legacy culture and infrastructure.

    December 14, 2005

    Journalists in the heart of the Googleplex

    Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    Google hosts an annual party for the media in December. And I popped along, as always. It was nice, small, comfortable, lots of familiar faces, and much of the Silicon Valley press corp was in attendance.

    The event is off-the-record, which is a good thing because it relaxes everybody. It is a social occasion, and not a press conference or a publicity event. You don't have to be on your guard. It is a pause in the normal workflow, a chance for the media, the communications teams, and top execs to mingle and get to know each other.

    It is also a rare chance to catch up with colleagues at various publications--there are few such events that bring us together. Yes, there were a few missing faces, a few casualties of the media sector disruption.

    Which got me thinking about the event itself and the irony of it all:

    Here were the remains of the professional media, enjoying the hospitality of a company leading the disruption of the media sector; and potentially endangering their ability to earn a living in the frugal manner of their profession.

    There was no Luddite rage expressed against Google. There was no attempt at a rallying cry for a massed storming of the Googleplex data center. Most were content with picking out all the good sushi, drinking cocktails, and chatting politely.

    December 13, 2005

    If this Dream Media Team forms--it's Game Over for the rest

    Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher

    I am always pleased to see Bulgaria based Dimitar Vesselinov's smart and pithy comments on SVW...

    Here is a recent post from Dimitar's blog: The World 2 Come-My Lifetime Digital Memory. It's about his dream media team (thank you for the inclusion :-)

    It's a killer media team and it would be Game Over for all the rest, if you could swing it. But we are talking Jupiter-planet size egos here, which have trouble co-existing in the same solar system, let alone online.

    Interesting choice of Sir Richard Branson...
    Also, lots of updates, clearly Dimitar has been feeling a bit of heat to add names to the team :-)

    [I propose that we add Dimitar Vesselinov to the team as Chief Blogger. Let someone else do it for a change, I want to spend some time with my kids.]

    Continue reading "If this Dream Media Team forms--it's Game Over for the rest" »

    December 9, 2005 Another news aggregator, another beta

    Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher, yet another "Google News" and yet much better.

    Julian Steinberg, of Inform, emails:

    I think you will be especially interested in our new RSS feeds and syndication features. Through Inform you can now create an RSS feed on any person, place, organization, product, topic or combination thereof and read it through whichever RSS reader you currently use.

    I don’t think any other RSS feed gives you this kind of precision including video, audio and blogs. The new syndication feature or “News Widget” gives you the same functionality as the RSS feed but allows you to create a news widget on any blog or web site.

    Very nice interface. I think it will do well.

    How many more automated news sites can we support, and how fickle are the readers? Gabe's tech.memeorandum took off like a rocket in the blogosphere. Inform could do the same in the mainstream sphere.

    In the meantime, someone has to write the news stories. Is there anybody left in the newsrooms?

    December 7, 2005

    Business Week layoffs

    Business weakens at Business Week as 60 jobs are cancelled in reorganization.

    (Thanks Giovanni.)

    December 6, 2005