January 2012 Archives
January 31, 2012
ABC is going to sell its new US series direct to UK iTunes users:
The much-anticipated new US thriller series "The River", from Steven Spielberg, and Oren Peli, the creator of "Paranormal Activity", is set to make its UK debut on iTunes (www.itunes.co.uk/tv/theriver) on 8th February, just 24 hours after its US broadcast on ABC. iTunes customers will be first in the UK to see this chilling drama series. A Season Pass of all eight episodes of the much-anticipated show will be available to pre-order from today, with episodes one and two launching on 8th February.
The UK networks - non of which have bought the show - are cut out completely. It'll be interesting to see how this goes...
Joanna Pieters, writing about meeting the readers of a specialist magazine for the first time:
In a flash, it all made sense. These men were experts. They knew buses and lorries intimately. They got a huge kick out of using their knowledge to build collections with significance to them, show off their expertise and take the rest of the model industry to task. And they read the magazine because it talked to them as experts, taking them seriously and sharing their passion.
This is why good niche blogs and sites work so very well online. Take those words - talked to them as experts, taking them seriously and sharing their passion - and engrave them on your brain as you produce content for niche audiences. If you don't respect them, they won't respect your content.
Publishers do have lots of content, but a) there are lots of publishers (including online-only ones who have never put ink on paper in their lives) and b) there are lots of websites built purely to be packed with content to attract searching readers. (hint, they’re not called ’content farms’ for nothing). You’re competing against the other publishers for subscription and product revenues, and competing against the whole internet for advertising money (oh, and as Paul Conley explains, a lot of your advertisers are now using ‘content’ to go direct to consumers themselves). Someone will always be able to produce ‘content’ cheaper than you and get the eyeballs on it more cheaply than you can, and these ‘someones’ will be – and are – driving down the CPMs that volume advertisers will pay. (Chasing this revenue leads to what Breunig calls the ‘content crunch’, a downward spiral of cheaper content and lower revenues.)
A neat summary of the battle for attention and its casualties.
It's interesting to note that all of the full time jobs I've been in discussions about - and the vast majority of contracting work, too - have been around organisations producing content to talk to their customers and partners direct, and not in the journalism business. I think that shows where the growth is right now…
January 26, 2012
UK magazine publisher Future made $1 million in new tablet magazine revenue within a month of debuting 65 of its titles on iTunes' Newsstand
January 25, 2012
I wonder how long scientific publishers can cling to their existing models when they're eliciting this level of active hostility from their customers:
Once I did hear about Elsevier’s behaviour, I made a conscious decision not to publish in Elsevier journals and I started to feel bad about cooperating with them in any way. I didn’t go as far as to refuse, but if, say, I was asked to join the editorial board of an Elsevier journal and wasn’t quite sure I wanted to, then the fact that it was Elsevier was enough to make my mind up. (This actually happened. I was a little cowardly and gave it as an additional reason for reluctance rather than the main reason, but I did at least mention it.) I am not knowingly on the editorial board of any Elsevier journal, and haven’t been in the past either.
Stay for the comments, if you want to see a broader range of opinions.
I've noted a surge in posts about Open Access Publishing and other alternative methods of publishing scientific research over the last fortnight - anyone know why that might be?
John Robinson wants to know what we would do if…
* Half of your employees — including those in the newsroom — don’t read the paper (except for their own stories)?
Sadly, that's been the case in pretty much every big magazine I've worked on. News reporters are particularly notorious for never bothering to read the features, in my experience, leading to the occasional embarrassment when the run something in news that was published in a feature a month before…
January 24, 2012
When I left RBI at the end of last month, with my potted plant in my arms and a cheque in my back pocket, I realised that high on my priority list was figuring out exactly what I'd just spent the best part of six years doing. Wait. That sounds bad. I knew exactly what I'd been doing; I just wasn't sure how best to describe it to the outside world, especially as it's more than possible that my next employer won't be a journalism organisation. Outside that rarefied field, the job title "editorial development manager" doesn't mean much. I'm not sure it meant much even within that profession...
Fundamentally, I'd been working with content teams to help the define their content propositions for a digital, social and multiple-channel age. So... content strategy? Seemed like a good description, which begged the question: are there other people who define themselves in that way? A quick dose of the Googles proved that there were, and that they had a meetup and everything.
So I paid my fiver, trotted along and took some notes, sat alongside my arch-event blogging rival Martin "currybet" Belam. (Never quite figured out which of us is the super villain and which is the superhero. And that worries me.) These are pretty raw notes, typed rapidly into an iPad as the speakers, uh, spoke... They only had five minutes apiece, so the notes are by necessity rather brief. I found some talks compelling and insightful, and others rather obvious. No, I'm not telling you which are which. :-)
Mags rattled through the case study of a small business auditor who'd quit to launch to ForMums - a Chiswick-based hyperlocal and hyperniche site.
1. Kate doesn't have a proposition without a content strategy. The blog is the stickiness. Essential, because it brings people in, timely so it brings them back. What is a free listing? What is paid? What is the content for an advertiser? How much should it cost? All these things had to be decided.
2. Defining taregt audiences. There are gwo kinds of mums in Chiswick. Yummy mummies, who stay at home on their partner's income, and then the dual income families. Second audience is local businesses. And how do we ensure it's not overwhelming for Kate herself?
3. How do we get the structure right, so it old be sold to other areas? Kate intended to sell franchises to other West London areas.
4. Reviewing the tactical - what should she do every week? Every month? The event schedule was critical.
Semantic content - do we give people too much choice on their writing toolbars. It's distraction-free. Proper content is good for SEO. It's also accessible. Basically a quick rattle through familiar semantic markup.
Websites are what corporations do to talk to their customers. They're great because you can get all sorts of information out of them. The websites at probably only 10% of the content being produced by a corporation. People don't realise they're creating content; it's a sales pitch, or a presentation, or a user guide... and they're all working in silos.
Lots of the "back" content on your site is from the rest of the organisation. So you need to work with people to find what they've got that you can work with.
Open Source CMSes in Enterprise. Advice: collaboration. Teams working together, collaborating with the community. Gartner spoke to 500 IT leaders. Essentailly three thpe of software in use: Proprietary (provided by vendors) - Open Source - Internal (custom written for the company, usually by internal teams). In the years between the first time Gartner did the survey and the most recent, internal and OS have both grown at the expense of the proprietary. His theory is that Internal and Open Source can feed into each other. Companies can contribute code back as they build internal solutions on OS software. Three big platforms: Alfresco for document managers, Drupal for big sites, WordPress for smaller sites. Cited a Lullabot example (you reading Jeff? :-) ) in which Sony and Warner ended up collaborating on sites through shared code.
Context is the third part of the site. There's content, structure and context. Context brings meaning. If you don't understand your customer! You can't put content in context. Contextualisation has been hijacked by marketing - segmentation. Google tells you that you can't contextualise - one URL, one piece of content. But Google contextualises... Each context is a rock that diverts some of the stream. But how do you apply context to CMSes? They're built on segmentation. Context needs to happen on the word level, not the page level. You have to contextualise for your customers.
January 23, 2012
For a long time the iPad blogging landscape has been a horrible, barren mess, with barely any decent blogging apps to be seen. Most blog platforms' editors didn't function in mobile Safari in any useful way. Blogging using the iPad was, at best, a challenge and, at worst, an impossibility.
Hopefully, this has just changed. I saw on the Everything Typepad blog that the Blogsy app now supported that service and, as an optimistic soul, I napped a copy, downloaded it to my iPad, and was pleased to see that it supports Movable Type as well. So, this is a first test run to see how well it works.
This far into the post it's been a pretty impressive experience - but I'm getting the impression that I need to watch some of the videos to get a good handle on how some of the dragging and dropping works, especially around links.
Time to publish and see if I'm still impressed...
January 19, 2012
January 18, 2012
Peter Buckley of Dorling Kindersley appears to have his head screwed on straight:
Flat content. That assumption that “something else will come along” is also driving what Buckley calls the “flat” content model: that is, content is increasingly conceived and created with a view to it potentially getting used in a number of ways—whether as an app, an e-book, a website, or even a printed tome. What’s also interesting is that Buckley appeared less preoccupied with what “the next big platform” might be—just that his company is prepared for it, regardless.
Anyone with a serious stake in content production should be doing everything they can to structure their content production and storage so as to create a content platform layer that can be expressed through multiple output channels. As those channels proliferate with ever-increasing speed, it's the only economically sensible method of managing the change.
January 17, 2012
January 16, 2012
January 15, 2012
From The Guardian's profile of Amanda Hocking:
By January last year she was selling more than 100,000 a month. Being her own boss allowed her to set her own pricing policy - she decided to charge just 99 cents for the first book in a series, as a loss leader to attract readers, and then increase the cover price to $2.99 for each sequel. Though that's cheap compared with the $10 and upwards charged for printed books she gained a much greater proportion of the royalties. Amazon would give her 30% of all royalties for the 99-cent books, rising to 70% for the $2.99 editions - a much greater proportion than the traditional 10 or 15% that publishing houses award their authors. You don't have to be much of a mathematician to see the attraction of those figures: 70% of $2.99 is $2.09; 10% of a paperback priced at $9.99 is 99 cents. Multiply that by a million - last November Hocking entered the hallowed halls of the Kindle Million Club, with more than 1m copies sold - and you are talking megabucks.
I remain perpetually amazed that so much time and effort from major publishers is going into iPad editions when the Kindle market is just sitting there...
January 14, 2012
I've not really felt inspired to comment on the whole "should journalists check facts" furore, because, really, me rolling my eyes doesn't make for great blogging. But I couldn't resist linking to this:
One example: the word “maintenance” seems like it should only have one “a” in it. It should be “maintenence,” right? But it’s not. So is it our job as reporters and editors to spell it correctly?
January 12, 2012
January 11, 2012
Sarah Hartley, as part of her prediction that 2012 might be the year that hyperlocals come of age:
Prediction two: Location, location, location. Given that most hyperlocal activity has a geographical focus, this might sound obvious but, taking in the point above, connecting with people across many and/or all platforms requires content to have geo-locative information like never before and the technologies to achieve that are now easily/cheaply available.
Damn right. It's about time publishers of all levels started treating content like the data set it is - and that means tonnes of scrummy metadata, like geocoding, that allow us to present it in all sorts of useful, fun and surprising ways.
I need to get back into the habit of doing these, before my MacBook collapses into a superdense mass and becomes a black hole because of all the tabs I have open in Safari.
So, um, to save the planet from being sucked into a black hole in the West Sussex area, here's some morning coffee reading for you:
- How to completely and utterly botch a blogger event.
- Some myths about the big World Economic Forum gathering in Davos debunked.
- The best summation of linking culture I've seen in a while.
- A great round-up of blogger coverage of Le Web from a month back. Great reading if you want to catch up on the latest web trends.
- Microsoft, if you stop doing embarrassing things like this, I promise to buy a Windows Phone. Deal?
- I'm not sure if this man is an enthusiastic traveller or just a terrible show-off. You decide. ;-)
January 10, 2012
Last week, David Armano of Edelman Digital published an interesting post looking at the qualities needed for a good change agent, someone who promotes change within an existing business. It's a term I identify with closely, as driving and promoting change are exactly what I've spent the last half decade doing. The most resonant phrase?
Change agents aren't sprinters, they run marathons
Preach it, brother. ;-)
It's a good read, and I thoroughly recommend that you take the time to work through its ideas.
However, I was actually struck harder by a remark in the comments, if only because it resonated so strongly with my own life:
Nothing in here tells me why this is the year of the change agent. In fact, at a lot of companies that guy got laid off.
I don't really hold with the first sentence, but I do with the second, and not just because that's how I perceive what happened to me. Since I went public with my news, I've been amazed by how many people in broadly similar roles to me have confided that their change of job, or move into consulting, was triggered by exactly the same set of circumstances: redundancy. Media businesses in particular seem to have been pushing their change agents out of the door for the last 18 months to two years.
So, there's a question here: what's the lifespan of a corporate change agent? How long can companies tolerate people whose natural focus is shaking up and changing the business from within? Do they grow tired of them? Or do they decide that change is "done" at some point, and thus that a change agent is no longer needed? Is, in the end, a change agent a role better suited to a consulting business, brought in for periods of time to other businesses, than a permanent employee?
I don't have the answers. I wish I did. But these are questions I am most certainly asking myself as I figure out what's next for me.
My post on paywalls yesterday garnered a good amount of interest. Kevin Anderson suggests that journalists need to be a little more self-critical about the value of their own work:
It's worth interrogating the first part of that and being pretty ruthless and honest with ourselves as journalists about what value we are creating. There is a lot of redundant content out there right now, and as I said over and over in 2011, content is abundant; attention is scarce.
He also reinforces the value of social media as part of the content mix.
Don Brown, on the other hand, choses to focus on the fact that we're on an unknown point on the journey through change, based on my disruption post:
We are currently at a point somewhere in the digital revolution. We know what's changed, we can see other things that will change, we expect other consequences to flow; but we simply cannot know where this process will end up, nor when history will say that it has 'finished'. The revolution so far has disrupted the music business, the insurance business, the news business, books, TV, retail and will work right through everything including the individual's relationship with the state, but we can only guess at the outline of what ultimately will be played out.
January 9, 2012
On the 31st December ’10 we recorded a huge 14TBs (terabytes) of data being used on Three. In 2011, that leapt to a staggering 80TBs of data. In real terms, that’s the equivalent of almost 21 million MP3 tracks or roughly 118,000 movies being downloaded onto smartphones in the UK in just 24-hours.
And it didn’t stop there! You continued using data through to New Year’s Day, with 74TBs used compared to 14TBs the year before.
Interesting look at paywalls this morning from Frédéric Filloux on Monday Note. He analyses the reasons for the successes of the Financial Times and New York Times "progressive paywalls", and makes some good observations about what it takes to make these sorts of things work, for example:
Both are working hard at converting readers to the digital paid-for model. The FT is heading full steam into digital, furiously data-mining its 4 million subscribers base to convert them into paid-for subscribers (250,000 according to the most recent count).
But his overall conclusion is one I agree with strongly but which many don't want to hear, I suspect:
Of these three factors, the uniqueness of content remains the most potent one. With the inflation of aggregators and of social reading habits, the natural replication of information has turned into an overwhelming flood. Then, the production of specific content -- and its protection -- becomes a key element in building value.
I was involved in a significant amount of work in my final year at RBI looking at exactly what kinds of content people will pay for, through what mechanism, and how to create more of it. Uniqueness was certainly one key factor - as was the amount of business value that investment returns to the reader, which is exactly why the FT does so well.
January 8, 2012
Rather lovely and insightful post from Steve Yelvington drawing comparisons between the newspaper business and the current perilous state Kodak finds itself in. I like this element particularly:
Disruption doesn't happen just once. On the digital side, Kodak initially pivoted quite well, creating the "Easyshare" concept and reconquering digital photography from the Japanese tech companies. By the middle of the last decade, Kodak was the market leader. But suddenly smartphone cameras have autofocus lenses, 8-megapixel sensors and HDTV video capability. Result: the low-end market is toast, and Kodak isn't taken seriously in the high end, where Canon and Nikon reign.
I'm always surprised when I run into publishing executives that seem to be operating on the assumption that the internet's disruption of publishing is done now, and we just need to figure out how to adapt to it. 'fraid not, chums. We're in a period of perpetual change, and that requires a whole different approach.
UPDATE: on a related note, Brian Micklethwait makes a good point on Samizdata:
One of the things I notice about technological change is that it is, so to speak, quite abrupt but not completely abrupt. In historical terms, the arrival of, say, the printing press, was a huge upheaval, changing one reality to a completely different one. But on closer inspection, something like printing turns out to be a series of disruptions, including disruptions yet to come, rather than just one. And if you actually live through one of these disruptions, you typically experience it as something far more gradual and complicated than, say, a mere once-in-a-lifetime explosion.
And then we’ll go through the whole “alternate-year Apple device disappoints spec-crazy nimrods” rigamarole, as if the entire class of technology pundits suffered blows to the head as small children and can’t remember anything from more than six months ago. Come to think of it, that would explain a lot.
It really would.
Been a little quiet around here, hasn't it?
2012: time on my hands, money in the bank - surely my blogging should have shot through the roof? And that was, indeed, the theory I had. But instead, I've been following the patented Adders Plan Diet for dealing with your festive weight-gain:
- Get very ill on Boxing Day evening
- Spend the next 10 days continuing to be very ill
- Barely eat for the majority of that time
The pounds just fall off, I can tell you. You also end up exhausted, a little shaky, and somewhat scared of food. But hey, no pain, no gain.
Thankfully, for the last 48 hours or so I've been eating normally again, and have got much of my strength back. However, at least one pair of jeans now look like comedy clown trousers when I put them on…
Which is a rather long-winded way of saying: normal blogging service resumes now.