CBS gets serious about

When CBS bought CNET a little while ago, I was quick to point out that the $1.8 billion paid for CNET included some lucrative and intriguing brand assets / web real estate / domain names. Now comes word today that CBS is getting serious about one of those acquired brand assets,

CBS Interactive is relaunching, hoping to transform the well-named site known for its TV-related community and user-generated content into a serious video destination, paidContent has learned. The full-scale relaunch with new content partners is slated for January but the cosmetic changes will start this week with a new look and logo, according to sources familiar with the plans. …. CBS execs aren’t ready to discuss—or even confirm—the project, which is still in product development (likely to be a constant state) and is being rolled out in phases. But CEO Leslie Moonves singled out for investors last week as “extremely exciting,” explaining “we think will become the destination, or certainly one of the leading destinations, for anybody who wants to watch TV shows or have a community around TV shows, see clips, play games, etc.”

via PaidContent

Dark Knight movie proves piracy isn’t the villain?

The 2008 blockbuster movie of the year, Dark Knight, has now grossed over a $1 billion at the box office. A staggering figure to say the least. However, I thought it was particularly interesting to read today that the Dark Knight was not only a box office juggernaut, but it was also the most pirated movie of the year.

Amassing over a million downloads in under seven days, ‘The Dark Knight’ is by far the most pirated movie of this week. Earlier this year, Cam and DVD-screener versions of the latest in the Batman series already found their way onto the Internet, making this blockbuster the most pirated movie of 2008.

That leads to the inevitable question; is movie piracy the big villain that the movie industry would like us to believe it is? Or has piracy to some degree become a precursor for box office success? In other words, if nobody is pirating and downloading your movie, is it doomed to fail? Maybe the Dark Knight is the exception, not the rule. With its big budget aesthetics, perhaps many people who pirated the movie simply had their appetite whetted with the pirated version and then subsequently went to the theater to see it on the big screen to get the full experience. I’m not sure what the answer is, but it appears that piracy alone can’t be blamed for the overall downturn in box office revenues.via TorrentFreak

Newspapers need to be ‘elitist’ to survive, says Meyer

A few years ago I penned a blog post about the future of newspapers and suggested that ‘prestige’ was one of the keys to unlocking a prosperous future for newsprint. So I thought it was pretty interesting to read an article today by Philip Meyer who suggested making the newspaper more ‘elitist’ would be a wise move.

Philip Meyer is one of the industry’s most lauded researchers and wrote an intriguing book called ‘The Vanishing Newspaper – Saving Journalism in the Information Age‘. Philip Meyer suggests a move away from printing newspapers on a daily basis combined with a stronger focus on visual presentation and what he describes as ‘evidence-based’ journalism.

One can infer several things from this viewpoint, the first of which is that daily newspapers need to be free. Secondly, by moving to a less frequent publishing schedule, you can focus more on providing content that digs deeper and thus has more value than what is currently being offered in the daily newspaper or blogs for that matter.

“Recently, I took another look at the readership data from the General Social Survey of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago and tried a different metric. Reasoning that you could still make a pretty good business from an audience reading less than daily, I tracked the percentage of adults who reported reading a newspaper at least once a week. That chart, from 1972 to 2002, shows a much clearer leveling off in the 1980s. Then, at the end of the decade, as though somebody blew a whistle and ordered a column-right march, the line snakes downward again. Now that information is so plentiful, we don’t need new information so much as help in processing what’s already available.

Just as the development of modern agriculture led to a demand for varieties of processed food, the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it. The raw material for this processing is evidence-based journalism, something that bloggers are not good at originating. Not all readers demand such quality, but the educated, opinion-leading, news-junkie core of the audience always will. They will insist on it as a defense against “persuasive communication,” the euphemism for advertising, public relations and spin that exploits the confusion of information overload.

Readers need and want to be equipped with truth-based defenses. Newspapers might have a chance if they can meet that need by holding on to the kind of content that gives them their natural community influence. To keep the resources for doing that, they will have to jettison the frivolous items in the content buffet.”

Mario Garcia, another industry heavyweight, sums it all up…

I think the future lies somewhere at this intersection, the one where a combination The New York Times/The Economist/Die Zeit meet a colorful free version of USAToday. Of course, a strong online edition is a vital requirement. The newspaper of the future – elite or free – is simply a companion to a robust and newsy online edition.

Online video is defining an entire generation

With so much attention focused on things like business models / revenue, other ‘web 2.0’ technologies and a failing economy, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that online video continues to grow not just in consumption / usage, but also in cultural importance. A new ‘must-read’ study was recently released in Europe called ‘Video Republic’. It specifically focuses on the growing importance and transformative nature of online video and how an entire generation of youth is using this new medium to communicate, create, learn, entertain and connect with the world around them.

Cheap digital technology and broadband access have broken the moving-image monopoly held by production companies and broadcasters. In its place a new theatre of public information has emerged: a messy, alternative realm of video creation and exchange that extends across the internet, television, festivals and campaigns. This report charts the rise of the ‘Video Republic’ across Europe, a new space for debate and expression dominated by young people. Drawing on the extensive research with experts and young people in the UK, Turkey, Germany, Romania and Finland, it argues that the stakes are high, both for the contributors to this realm and for the democracies they live in. Confusion about regulation, copyright and privacy means that young people are plunging headlong into an uncertain set of new relationships online. And around Europe, new types of expressive inequality are emerging as many are held back from participating by poor access and a lack of resources. As young people experience greater freedoms online, many are choosing to ‘route around’ political and cultural institutions rather than take them on directly. This poses a profound challenge to decision-makers, but it also creates new opportunities. For democracies starved of legitimacy, it offers hope for a new sphere of democratic expression and participation. With a range of recommendations for government, media and the private sector, this report outlines how we can channel the creativity locked inside the Video Republic.

You can download the full .PDF version of this report: click here. This study was also featured in the The Guardian this week.

The report makes recommendations to help adults cope with the changing online environment, and calls particularly on schools to help youngsters understand the long-term implications of living their lives in a semi-public way. “Schools, universities and businesses should prepare young people for an era where CVs may well be obsolete, enabling them to manage their online reputation,” says the report. “This generation of young people are guineapigs … we need an educational response that extends beyond the focus of safety, towards broader questions of privacy and intellectual property.” It also suggests that creating video blogs and online diaries should be part of the school curriculum, used by schools in the same way that they organise museum trips or extra art classes.

via PR Studies

Physical vs. Electronic

“To paraphrase Mark Twain, the demise of Blockbuster has been greatly exaggerated,” CEO, James W. Keyes, told analysts in a conference call.

In many ways Blockbuster is the Rosetta Stone for this evolving ‘physical vs. electronic’ media distribution tug-of-war. We live in the physical world but more and more of our media consumption is being enabled through digital delivery mechanisms. As such, businesses like Blockbuster which were deeply reliant on the physical distribution of media are having to re-think their business model and change course on-the-fly. Blockbuster has a lot of good things going for it. A household brand name that is synonumous with entertainment, strong local presence and visibility and a solid track record executing their (albeit outdated) business model. The big challenge for Blockbuster is to figure out a way to make bricks and mortar profitable in an era where retail shelve space is far more expensive and limiting than server space.

“An average movie theater will not show a film unless it can attract at least 1,500 people over a two-week run; that’s essentially the rent for a screen. An average record store needs to sell at least two copies of a CD per year to make it worth carrying; that’s the rent for a half inch of shelf space. And so on for DVD rental shops, videogame stores, booksellers, and newsstands. In each case, retailers will carry only content that can generate sufficient demand to earn its keep. But each can pull only from a limited local population – perhaps a 10-mile radius for a typical movie theater, less than that for music and bookstores, and even less (just a mile or two) for video rental shops. It’s not enough for a great documentary to have a potential national audience of half a million; what matters is how many it has in the northern part of Rockville, Maryland, and among the mall shoppers of Walnut Creek, California.” – Chris Anderson, Wired Magazine

Many have suggested that Blockbuster should buy Netflix, the largest mail-driven DVD rental service. However, while buying Netflix may give their DVD-by-mail business a serious shot in the arm, it does not address the need for a new retail strategy for their 7800+ physical locations. Blockbuster gave a good hint about which direction they were eyeing when they tabled an offer to buy struggling electronic retailer Circuit City. While Blockbuster has since withdrawn their offer to buy Circuit City, it’s pretty clear that Blockbuster wants to delve deeper into selling consumer electronics.

Keyes: …if you look through the rear-view mirror, you say, “It’s a video store, why would they sell a Blu-ray player?” but as Blu-ray discs become more popular, what better place to buy it, what better place to demonstrate it to our customers than the people that are in once or twice a week renting videos. They keep seeing it and pretty soon it’s an impulse item and they want to have one. So, if they’re going to buy their Blu-ray player, and get home and realize they don’t have an 1080p television. Without having an assortment of 50 TVs on the floor, could we sell them a 42-inch Bravia TV? That’s 1080p so their Blu-ray experience is more robust. Sure, it becomes an impulse item, almost a convenience item. Now, back to your original question, technology is the secret sauce in the transformation of Blockbuster.

Imagine in the future someone walking up to you in the store and you’re admiring that Blu-ray player. They’re able to sell you the PS3 player off the floor and then show you on a handheld tablet PC an assortment of 10 different TV sets that are all 1080p-enabled and bring up the transaction right there, swipe your credit card right on the spot like you would in an Apple store, and have that TV installed tomorrow.

Except a lot of the big ticket purchases you’re mentioning are not impulse buys by any means.
Keyes: Well, you’re right. A lot of them aren’t but I’m not trying to be Best Buy. What we think the role is that impulse purchaser, the person who is less price sensitive, the person who sees that beautiful 42-inch display who says, “You know, I’m a busy person. I’m just going to get it.” Thankfully, that’s a huge portion of the customer base. Not everybody is a Wal-Mart shopper, yet ironically in the consumer electronics industry, virtually everybody in the industry tries to out price Wal-Mart. Again, if you’re selling solutions, you look at what the price of an Apple product is versus a competing product in another consumer electronics environment, and you’re not buying Apple products cheap. You’re buying solutions and you’re paying a pretty good premium for the convenience of that product working and the solution being readily available. As a retailer, that’s where we’re heading.

This is where CEO Keyes really starts to lose me, and I predict, his business too.

Hiring outside the box

Transcontinental Media is Canada’s largest publisher of consumer magazines and the country’s fourth largest print media company. When Transcontinental went looking for a new boss to run their magazine division, one might expect that a hefty dose of experience in the print business would be a prerequisite for the job.

Finding a job in Canadian magazines isn’t easy, so when a guy who’s never worked in the business gets the top position at one of the country’s largest publishers, a few “WTF?” emails are bound to go around.

John Clinton is their new VP and while he has done just about everything a person can do in the advertising world (and he’s a pretty darn good artist too), running a print business was nowhere to be found on his resume. The magazine industry, much like TV, radio and newspapers are searching for new growth strategies in an era where the internet continues to gobble more of the market pie.

“Most of the people in magazines seem to have been in the magazine business for a long time. Coming from advertising, you can come at it from quite a different perspective.” For example, while publishers and editors often view other magazines as competition, Clinton argues that the real competition comes from other media. “What’s magazine, 7% of the media business? To sit there and beat each other’s brains out over the 7% doesn’t make as much sense as expanding the whole piece of the pie.” “We are not a magazine company” As part of his pie-growing strategy, Clinton wants to change the way staff at Transcontinental think about the products they work on. “We are not a magazine company—we are a media company. We service communities of interest and we surround those communities with magazine, with Web, with mobile, with distribution, with event.”

Cue the cliche; ‘If you keep asking the same questions, you will continue getting the same answers.’ By hiring outside the box and bringing in some creative mojo, Transcontinental will no doubt be hearing some different questions asked, and with that comes the prospect for new answers, new ideas and new possibilities. via Masthead Online

Dreaming of newspapers

I would love to get involved in the newspaper business right now. I realize that may sound crazy given the doom and gloom that is hovering over the entire industry like a black cloud. However, I see the current state of the newspaper business as a tremendous opportunity. Through my work in print for clients big and small and thus exposure to the industry, my mind is full of ideas and concepts on how the newspaper can evolve / change both from presentation and design, to new methods of creating additional revenue. It has become a closet fascination for me. Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in the newsprint business is a corporate culture that is not currently embracing innovation fast enough.

Meanwhile, the default attitude of newspaper management is still caution and probity. And if you point a gun to the head of caution and probity and say “innovate or die,” don’t expect wonderful things to happen. Instead, expect buzzwords. In short: we need more paint thrown at more walls. But there aren’t many true innovators out there yet in positions of authority, and those who are are struggling against an archaic institutional architecture that remains despite all the layoffs: everything from the strictures of AP style to the cluelessness of corporate overlords.

I don’t particularly like the use of the term ‘corporate overlords’ as it does not accurately convey the real challenges that every newspaper executive currently faces on a daily basis. From managing shareholder expectations to restructuring debts and corporate structure, using a term like ‘corporate overlord’ seems like a cop-out. Nonetheless the overall motif of that quote rings true. There is an inherent slow pace of evolution and change in the newspaper industry and that in and of itself may be cannibalizing its future more than anything else. This culture of ‘slow’ needs to change. The corporate newspaper culture needs an injection of fresh thinking, new ideas and this overall fear of experimentation must be cast aside before this perfect media storm quashes the relevance of the medium for good. What is this perfect media storm that is threatening newspapers?

Let’s take a look at some of the key factors that are eating away at the newspaper’s future.

a) Consumer attention crisis – Pre-internet newspaper readers may have spent 2 hours reading their daily paper, now that number is probably under 30 minutes. Consumers are pre-conditioned to want everything ‘now’. Combine shorter attention spans with a myriad of other options to consume media, and it’s no wonder newspapers are facing an attention crisis.

b) Advertisers are taking money off the newspaper table – And they’re spreading it out across more mediums and utilizing different marketing strategies. Not only are people spending less time reading newspapers, which has trimmed the value of newsprint ads, but advertisers also have so many other places to put their money these days. Yes, lots of print ad money is migrating to the web, but advertisers are also experimenting more, using strategies like direct-to-consumer and word of mouth marketing campaign

c) Consumers are producers – We’re moving from a few-to-many media spectrum to a many-to-many spectrum where anyone can grab a signal and be heard. Blogs and any form of user-generated content for that matter are fragmenting the media market. You don’t need to be a newspaper columnist to have influence and / or a large audienc

d) Investor fragmentation – The same way that consumers have so much more choice when consuming media, investors too have many more places to invest their money. Money also moves so much quicker today which only compounds and expedites the exodus of investment out of your company / industry if you can’t project a solid vision for the futur

e) Technology game – Media consumption has become very technology driven. How media is both created and transmitted has changed forever and technology is now driving this bus. Newsprint has not evolved, and many newspapers have been incredibly slow to embrace new technology as a whole. In some ways it starts from the inside-out. A change in DNA has to happen for newspapers. I’m not suggesting newspapers need to stock themselves full of technology geeks, but to some degree an internal shift has to happen. If you want to capture the attention of a younger, tech-savvy demographic, you are going to have to start looking and thinking like they do.

f) Market communism, the wall has come down for good – Pre-internet, newspapers had a protected market. Today, there is no such thing as a protected market. It’s now a fluid marketplace with no borders and barriers. You’re audience may be here today, and gone tomorrow. That’s realit

Those are the challenges facing the newspaper business today. Will the newspaper survive this new world of hyper-connectedness and hyper-short attention spans? I think they will, but the sooner newspapers start throwing paint at their walls, the better.

via The big die-off via

CBC defends old media

The CBC recently submitted a 13-page document to the CRTC entitled “Reject old assumptions about New Media“. It’s an interesting read to say the least. Here are the paper’s main conclusions:

1. Traditional TV and radio usage is not being displaced by the Internet. 2. Amateur video will never be a substitute for traditional media, particularly entertainment programming. 3. It would be a waste time for traditional media companies to create Internet-only content if the goal is to generate advertising revenue. 4. Most Canadians use the Internet primarily as a communications and research tool (Ed: Implying that most Canadians do not use the Internet for entertainment.) 5. The trend is towards personalizing and controlling media, not developing new ways to consume it.

This paper seems more like a ‘Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey‘ look inside the CBC’s brain, and far less of a forward-thinking view of the old media / new media paradigm. For example, just a few days prior to the publishing of the CBC’s paper, came a new study about Canadians consuming TV content on the internet. Needless to say, it paints a very different picture.

Canadians are turning on, tuning in and watching traditional TV shows on the Internet often using underground ways to access American programming, says a new study. “A very important thing to realize is that every television program that is broadcast is available in most cases in illegal peer-to-peer broadcasting,” said Sawyer of Toronto-based Two Solitudes Consulting. “Canadians do an awful lot of that. I believe one of the reasons that Canadians do an awful lot of that is that they are not being offered sufficient alternatives.” “Television is largely irrelevant to Generation Y,” said Walker, president of Slurp Media, an online video content production company that produces There’s money to be made in online advertising and ads can be customized to the demographic that is watching a particular TV show, he said. “The larger, more aggressive youth-oriented brands, I think, really get the Internet and the more traditional, staid ones don’t. But I think that’s shifting. I think more and more, you are going to see people shifting their budgets away from print and television and into the Internet.

via InsideTheCBC via Canadian Press

Marc Andreessen gives advice to traditional media: Sell!

When Marc Andreessen talks, people listen. Everybody listens. And well they should, given Marc’s unbelievable track record pioneering and building on the web. Andreessen was recently leading a panel discussion entitled “Looking Around the Corner to the Future” at a closed-door media conference in New York with an audience brimming with top executives from traditional media companies. Any guess as to what his advice was to them?

“If you have old media, you should sell. If you own newspapers, sell. If you own TV stations, sell. If you own a movie studio, sell,”Mr. Andreessen told the audience, which included many executives from the so-called “old media” world, that non-digital businesses are toast.

via NYT

Anyone want to analyze the newspaper business? Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?

I’ll preface this by saying that the U.S. newspaper market is quite different than the Canadian market. Canadian newspapers have managed to hold on to what they had far better than their American compadres. However, the news on the newspaper biz continues to reflect an industry under tremendous duress. A recent article from Reuters indicates that the number of financial analysts who cover the newspaper industry are dropping like flies, and the ones that are still doing it sound like this…

“If I covered only the newspaper industry, first of all I would have been fired a long time ago; secondly, I would have had to kill myself,” Appert said.

Full article: Number of newspaper analysts dwindles