Results tagged “monetisation”

Should we be taking a harder look at the potential ad revenue of the (defunct) Gigaom? Rick Waghorn thinks so:

Maybe, just maybe, the fall of the Gigaom empire is the first tremor of a bigger earthquake; evidence that something is seriously awry in the relationship between publisher and advertiser if 6.5m passionate tech readers when matched to widely valued original content can’t deliver a living for the journalists concerned.

Short version: Gigaom seems to have had a big enough audience to draw a decent ad revenue, but not enough to support the size of staff it was running on. The more I read about the fall of the tech site, the clearer it becomes that the mismanagement of the company was the biggest single reason for the failure.

Welcome to medium Matthew Butterick:

Among web-publishing tools, I see Medium as the equivalent of a frozen pizza: not as wholesome as a meal you could make yourself, but for those with out the time or motivation to cook, a potentially better option than just eating peanut butter straight from the jar.

He’s talking about typography - appropriately, given that his site is called Butterick’s Practical Typography and is stunningly lovely to read - but it applies just as much to running your own blog or site as opposed to just publishing on Medium.

And sure enough, he explores that idea:

Rather, because gentle scrutiny reveals that these systems are powered by a form of human fracking. To get his fracking permit on your territory, Mr. Williams (the multi billionaire) needs to persuade you (the writer) that a key consideration in your work (namely, how & where you offer it to readers) is a “waste of time.”

If you really believe that, then by all means, keep using the billionaire’s typewriter.

Make no mistake - the team behind Medium aim to make money from the service. And they’re already in danger of building an ecosystem of lords and serfs - those who get paid for their work, and those who don’t, those who get their own domains, and those who don’t - an elite of established content creators and the hoi polloi of mere users.

We’re a very long away here from the sense of the democratisation of publishing that blogging used to hold.

That’s not to say that Medium isn’t a useful tool. Or indeed, that this is inherently a bad thing, which it’s not. It just requires you to be careful in where you commit your time and effort; caveat auctor, if you like. Be sure you understand the value exchange you’re participating in. Your words will help Medium make money.

How is publishing them at Medium helping you achieve the things you want to do?

If you don’t have a clear answer to that, you’ve just been fracked because you like the new, shiny thing.

LeWeb: Surviving media evolution

Cedric Ingrand


  • Ben Huh, Cheezburger
  • Michael J. Wolf, Activate
  • Frédéric Filloux, Groupe Les Echos
  • Host: Cedric Ingrand, Podcaster & resident geek at LCI/TF1

The revenue challenge

Frederic Filloux

Frédéric Filloux: This will be the first year in six years we make a profit. The overall circulation of the title will be the highest for 10 years, with digital being 25% of that. The readership is shifting, though. It went from print to the web, and now from the web to mobile. Mobile is 30% of the readership now, and they expect it to be 50% by the end of the year. Right now they need two digital subscribers to compensate for one print subscriber loss.

Michael Wolf: Everyone is watching more video. The major providers are finding new outlets for that. Shows won't just be on TV, they'll be on Netflix and Amazon streaming, They're finding new places.

Ben Huh: Old media has a very difficult constraint - it needs revenue to survive. For us, revenue just extends our runway. It gives us more time to experiment with new formats.

MW: It's not about investment - it's about the user. Frozen is the fifth highest motion picture ever. Someone like Katy Perry still draws a tremendous amount of interest.

BH: Newspapers still sell advertising better than us. Rates from older media are significantly larger than from new media.

FF: the split between high audience, low yield media and the low audience, high yield media has never been greater. But these new businesses are valued far higher than traditional businesses.

MW: Mobile gives readers more opportunities to look for news. People are looking at weather, Facebook, news…

FF: But the revenue for mobile is going to be only 20% of the web. The deflation keeps going.


Copyranter on Buzzfeed's flavour of native advertising:

In an interview with Wired last February, Peretti spouted about how they “label everything really maniacally" (How does one label an ad post maniacally? Maybe a starburst?), and that they “take church and state really seriously”—meaning the separation of editorial content from advertising content. But looking at BuzzFeed’s daily layout, it’s obvious that they're praying to God you don’t notice that their ads are in fact yucky ads. It is purposely deceptive. And it is anti-Bernbach, and anti-creative.

"anti-Bernbach"? To Wikipedia:

William (Bill) Bernbach (August 13, 1911 – October 2, 1982) was an American advertising creative director. He was one of the three founders in 1949 of the international advertising agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). He directed many of the firm's breakthrough ad campaigns and had a lasting impact on the creative team structures now commonly used by ad agencies.

Ah-ha. And the specific quote referenced:

“If nobody notices your ad, everything else is academic.”

I suspect like many journalists of my generation or older, I'm deeply ambivalent about native advertising. On the one hand, it violates everything about the clear distinction between advertising and editorial that was drummed into us as a necessity to maintain editorial reputation. On the other hand, it seems to be working.

If it ceases working, that would allow us to retake the moral high-ground rather happily…

I commend the whole piece to you, if you're interested in the monetisation of online media, as it argues that native advertising has a limited lifespan from the advertising perspective:

The kicker is: BuzzFeed’s native advertising is really—ultimately—terrible for brands. But it’s great for BuzzFeed. And this giddy circle jerk underway between media sites desperate for revenue and misguided advertisers desperate to feel instant gratification, continues.

[Via Rory Brown.]


News from the north: The Press and Journal is using Piano Media's tech for a metered paywall - the first UK company to do so:

DC Thomson’s Head of Digital, Kirsten Morrison said, “After looking at the various paid content solution providers, we decided that Piano’s ‘Lite’ solution was the best fit for us. “We were very impressed by Piano’s flexibility and their integration and implementation speed.”

The Press and Journal’s website focuses on providing instant news access to users with a real-time stream of breaking news in timeline form. The website operates on a metered paywall basis offering readers access to ten free articles per month after which they must choose from one of three available subscription packages.

Interesting that metered paywalls are getting common enough to support a few off-the-shelf tech suppliers.

The FT is offering single-use links for its subscribers to share content.

It's almost a Snapchat for news... :)

Interesting move, in that it potentially turns existing subscribers into advocates for the service - and adds value to their subscription, by making content sharable with colleagues. It doesn't do anything to solve the social sharing problem - but that's a separate challenge for them.

The news release went out today, but the surprise was rather blown last week by excited FT staff:

[Full disclosure: The FT has been a major client for the last few months, and I've been delivering workshops for them in partnership with Neil Perkin and eConsultancy]

HowlerHave I written about Andrew Sullivan's attempt to make his long-running blog The Dish a sustainable media enterprise? Ah, only in passing. Time to correct that.

The Dish has been on my reading list for as long as I can remember. Sullivan's work was a huge influence on me in my early days as a blogger (over a decade ago...). But what makes his current campaign to make The Dish pay its own way is that he's not starting where most bloggers do - with just themselves to support. No, he's got a team of writers and interns, and he's aiming to do it without ads or venture capital backing. It's going well:

With your help, and with six weeks to go, we're now at $807K in our first year revenue, closing in on our goal of $900K. Tinypass made that possible; you made it happen. If you are a regular reader of the Dish, all we ask is that you consider if what we provide each day is worth $1.99 a month or $19.99 a year. If it is, please subscribe.

I've been a subscriber for over 10 months, and I'm really hoping he hits his target. As he says himself:

As you can see, this model is not just about us. It's about building a future for a whole range of new media on the ashes of the old.

That's really the key point here - is there scope for small online businesses built around blogging sustained by the readers? If the answer is "yes", then we have a very interesting future ahead of us...

Groundhog Day Today's the day that all the old arguments about what's gone wrong with journalism and publishing come out to play: David Higgerson has discovered that the "original sin" argument that giving away our content free was behind journalism's problems with the internet has moved from being a theory to being accepted wisdom:

If I talk to digital colleagues outside of our industry, they are agog that journalists still have the ‘free folly’ debate. My concern is the fact it’s becoming less of a debate, more accepted wisdom that the industry was wrong to give away content online. That’s what stood out in Paul’s article. It was less statement of opinion, more throwaway obvious statement of fact.

David goes on to make the case agains that viewpoint

The internet simply made it possible for people to pick and choose the content they consume, rather than receiving everything we thought they wanted. If we’d not bothered putting it online, they simply would have gone elsewhere, or managed without.

Meanwhile, over the pond, Matthew Ingram is dealing with the old chestnut that Craigslist killed the US newspapers:

The reality is that the decline of print advertising rates and the resulting effect on newspaper revenue would likely have occurred with or without Craigslist, driven by the explosion of webpages and ad providers and the advertising industry’s increasing desire to focus on digital markets, not print-based ones. And those factors were arguably compounded by the newspaper industry’s focus on dumping commodity news content onto the web without approaching it as a separate market, the way web-native providers did.

Which makes an interesting connection to Kevin Charman-Anderson's excellent piece for the Media Briefing about the fact that print/digital integration might have been the bigger problem:

More than a decade ago, Gilbert also had statistical evidence that should have been a warning to newspaper executives that digital-legacy integration was not the answer to their problems. In fact, it was exactly the wrong thing to do.

So, what would have worked?

However, it is important to understand that while Gilbert says integration is a mistake, potentially a fatal one for your company, he is not simply advocating a digital first strategy. Key to his strategy is a dual transformation, creating a new disruptive digital company while also transforming the traditional print product.

How many print product do you know that have fundamentally transformed to recognise online disruption of people's reading habits?

In his transformation of the legacy print and broadcast business, he said that it is important to understand that in the age of digital media, generalists are not as valuable as specialists. Local media should excel in this age, but instead they have suffered.

It's a fascinating read, one that deeply challenges much of the received wisdom about where traditional journalism businesses have gone wrong.

The Sun's paywall rises

The Sun+

(This post will be updated as I find other interesting stuff to add.)

Sarah Marshall has made her notes from the Sun+ briefing public. Of note:

"We are not becoming digital-first - we sell an awful lot of newspapers every day," says Derek. And with the coupons in the paper, "if you are a regular Sun reader you never pay for Goals". And they have the white van driver in mind. They have a smartphone in their pocket. They can scan the code below the match report in the paper and can watch Goals.

Interesting. That suggests a primarily defensive move - use digital to shore up print sales. Could be a good short- to medium-term strategy.

You "accept" that web traffic will drop, says Mike. 32 million in July. But there's not a lot of value in the casual reader. Most interested in the really engaged reader. "If you get off on volume metrics it's exciting, but not of much value to the business."

Or, as a metrics-specialist friend of mine once said: HITS stands for How Idiots Track Success.

Update 1: Sarah has now posted her full report of the Sun+ briefing. Of note:

The Sun has also hired "key columnists" and "bloggers". The bloggers are journalists, but not necessarily sports writers, Brown explained. "They are sport fans that are fantastic writers."

Interesting community play around sport. This whole move is clearly very sports-led.

Update 2: Patrick Smith's analysis is now up and he thinks it's all about The Sun's reader relationships:

Does News UK want to increase the ARPU (average revenue per customer) across the Sun's brand, to counteract falling advertising and circulation? No, says Darcey - it's about turning a mass, anonymised web audience into a smaller, more targeted data-rich audience.

He also notes the print protectionism in the strategy:

As some of us have long suspected since Rupert Murdoch's Damascene conversion to paywalls in 2010, the real motivation behind much of this is to protect and maybe even increase print sales. This is especially true of the The Sun which sold 2.24 million copies a day on average in June (down from 4 million in the 1980s).

One of those mornings

Right about now, I should have been emerging into a rainy London from News UK's headquarters after a "blogger briefing" on the new Sun paywall. Instead, I'm sat in a lovely cafe in my home town, because some poor unfortunate ended their days in front of a train at East Worthing.

It's a shame - I'd have loved the chance to put questions to the team the about their philosophy and expectations around Sun+. The conventional wisdom is that people are more likely to pay for "news you can use"- like the FT for example - than general news. Something which borders on entertainment as much as news, like The Sun, seems like a serious challenge. Greenslade has broken down some of the details this morning, a piece which appears to express some doubts about the model.

Luckily, according to the invite list, there were folks from and The Media Briefing there - and Hobbo, too. I'll link anything good from them as it emerges.

(Dammit, I just accidentally buttered the edge of my iPad.)

Are you familiar with the expression "tl;dr"? Classic "internet speak" for "too long; didn't read". It's often used in a mocking, trolling sense. 

Well, now there's a new variation on it: bp;dr

"behind paywall; didn't read"

In the context I just came across it, it was applied to a scientific paper, but obviously the phrase is going to hit the journalistic world sooner or later. As increasing numbers of outlets erect paywalls, more and more people will find themselves in a bp;dr situation. Some will pay, many won't.

This reminded me of Jon Bernstein's recent meditation on the catastrophic effect The Times's paywall had on its blogs, especially Comment Central, which is a shadow of its pre-2010 self:

A blog like Comment Central really needs to be free. There simply isn’t the community among the subscriber base to make it thrive and blogs work best when thoughts are shared, posts link out and are linked to, and discussions are prompted by the opinions and insights expressed. All that needs to happen beyond the walled garden of a single publication.

I think people would do well to pause and remember that, as they rush to erect paywalls around their content, that there's a price for the publisher as well: isolation from the online conversation that determines relevance and attention. Some years ago, I was involved in an effort to build free access content for one online site that had been paywalled for a decade - because its isolation from online discussion and linking was hitting both its reputation and its search traffic. However good the reputation of this site's journalism - to the internet, it looked like it didn't exist. 



Bit of a farmyard metaphor at work in the journalism blogs this morning: 

Roy Greenslade:

You have to hand it to Newsquest/Gannett. They certainly know how to milk a cow to death.

Jeff Jarvis:

Some say those brands are diminishing anyway. So sponsored content is just another way to milk the old cows as they die.

This is what people often miss about the more bizarre decisions some publishers make: they're not trying to build sustainable business models for the future - they're milking what profits they can out of titles before they die.

A scene from Bad Machinery

John Allison, who has a long history of excellent web comics behind him, on the role of Tumblr for content creators:

I would never decry any service as worthless. There are people who have caught mass attention via Tumblr, and sold great piles of things as a result. There's a use for everything, and an exception to every rule. The exceptions are the reasons that others try. But Tumblr sets the bar of success incredibly low. The payout will almost always be zero. Not beer money, nothing.

Just because somewhere is the easy place to get attention doesn't mean it's the right place...

(One of John's sketches made an appearance on this blog a long time ago...)

Linking bird

My, my. It's been an interesting few days for web publishers, hasn't it?

Interflora's Search Death

First of all, Google wiped Interflora from the search rankings:

 Searching for the terms [Flowers], [florist], [flower delivery], [flowers online] and hundreds of other related search terms yielded the domain in first place – until yesterday afternoon.  Now the website does not even appear for its own brand name:

Eeek! There's some suggestion that because it was using blogger gifts to garner links, it was penalised for that. However, at least one commenter suggests that it was involved in more direct paid linking:

I have to say at this point that I know quite a few bloggers who posted the interflora links and it wasn’t in return for flowers or products but paid for links from a rather well known SEO company… Totally against Googles t’s and c’s – to be honest the bloggers themselves could jepordise their own pageranks of they don’t remove the links too.

Punishing Local Papers

That sounds pretty prescient, because it turns out that Interflora had been buying links from local newspaper sites - and they got hammered for it:

David Naylor, a consultant who specializes in search-engine optimization or SEO, described in a post of his own how the Interflora content had broken the rules, and how the company’s own PageRank had declined sharply as a result — and he also noted that the PageRank of the local news websites that posted the content hadn’t just declined, but had actually dropped to zero. According to Naylor, such a massive drop for a single infraction is unusual.

 What's telling is one of the comments:

So Google created a currency and is now pissed that people/entities trade it between themselves, am I getting this right?

No, she isn't. What people seem to be struggling with is what links actually represent to Google.

A link is a vote

The core innovation at the heart of PageRank - Google's system for assessing a page's relevance and importance - was that every link to that page can be counted as a vote for that page. The more votes, the better the page. If someone is taking the time or trouble to link to it, it indicates at least some level of significance. 

The SEO profession tends to obscure that truth – intentionally or not – by use of the words "backlinks". Take that jargon out, and put the word "votes" in, and you see how this becomes uncomfortable. You're not buying or selling "backlinks", you're buying and selling votes. Feel comfortable about that?

From Google's point of view, people buying their way to the top of search rankings is a problem. It means that content which people don't feel is important enough to link to in the general run of things is placing higher than things which people do feel is good. That's undermining their core search business - so no wonder they're penalising it harshly. People want the best results from their search engines - or they'll go elsewhere. If you think your content is the best, but no-one's linking to it, you need to figure out if your assessment of content quality is wrong, or if you're so disengaged from the rest of the web that no-one thinks to link to you. (And this is where a decent SEO consultant can help you.)

You can't sell what you don't own

Your PageRank - and you ability to convey benefit to someone else's site via a link - isn't yours. You don't own it, and can't sell it. It's just Google's opinion of your site's worth. It's more akin to a credit rating than anything else - and try selling your credit rating and see what happens to you then…

Here's what you should bear in mind: you can sell the attention of your readers to others. You can sell the chance of traffic from your site to them. You just can't convey search benefit to them when you do so. That's why Google has guidance about using nofollow on those links

If your bothered by that, think about this the next time you do a Google search - do you want the best result back, or just the one that someone has paid the most to get there?

Sarah from has been looking into this as well…

Nostalgia for the pyjamas insult

PandoDaily's David Holmes on Andrew Sullivan's new paywall:

Andrew Sullivan isn't some pajama-clad mouth-breather toiling away in his mother's basement. He's an industry veteran who edited The New Republic before the word "blog" even existed.

David, 2003 called - it wants its anti-blogger insults back. Somehow Sarah Lacy has found the world's last person who believes in that stereotype, and allows him to write on her blog. The irony is somewhat tasty. 

Incidentally, I signed up for The Dish's paywall immediately. Sullivan's blogging has been an inspiration to me for over a decade.

An open letter to Superman:

Firstly, let's talk money. I assume you are being paid at The Daily Planet? You are? Well being a blogger is slightly different. As a blogger, you are expected to eat your "raised profile" sleep under "increased traffic" and wear "more followers".

She has a point - I doubt even Supes can build a profitable blog at super speed. Perhaps he'll have to do it the Pete Cashmore way, and run it from his parents' basement in Smallville...

IFTTT CEO Linden Tibbets:

In recent weeks, Twitter announced policy changes* that will affect how applications and users like yourself can interact with Twitter's data. As a result of these changes, on September 27th we will be removing all Twitter Triggers, disabling your ability to push tweets to places like email, Evernote and Facebook. All Personal and Shared Recipes using a Twitter Trigger will also be removed. 

I don't think anyone objects to the idea of Twitter going in search of a business model. Seeking to make that work by progressively making the service less and less useful to a subset of their users while chasing the mainstream seems like an odd decision to me.

Remember when TV shows had links to AOL keywords or MySpace pages on-screen? The mainstream is fickle, Twitter. You may live to regret this. 

[via TechCrunch]

Why your website is ugly

Duncan Arthur:

We’ve seen traditional publishers we applaud for beautifully designed print publications throw out their own rulebook for their web-based versions. High-end design, it seems, has been viewed as incompatible with amassing the glut of page views and ad impressions, required for commercial viability. And the more banner ad inventory prices have fallen, the greater the motivation to find ever more ways to push more ads to readers including such horrible tactics as the auto-refresh.

Thankfully, that trend is slowly reversing. A clean, uncluttered site is becoming a mark of quality - and people will pay more to be associated with that. 

[hat-tip: Say Media]

Skype's daft advertising idea

Andrew Grill, talking about Skype's plans for in-call advertising:

"highlight unique and local brand experiences"- what?? Humans don't speak like this to to other humans.  This is ad speak.

There is a clear phenomenon where people get so embedded in marketing and sales that they lose touch with normal humanity, and come to serve the abstract gods of marketing objectives. I am reminded of a marketing-written proposal for a mobile app I saw once, that required the user to go through two pages of data capture before they could start using it. Serves marketing goals, no sense of what humans actually do, doomed to failure. 

Or, of course, this could just be Microsoft brining its "magic touch" to Skype. I fear for Yammer

My grandparents' wedding

The internet has suddenly opened up new opportunities in archive content. Here's a few examples I've collected over the last few months:

Around a decade or so ago, a new editor on a magazine I was working on pretty much binned the whole archive of photos the magazine had. Anything over three years old? Gone. Decades of built environments images swept away.

That's the sort of short-sighted, now-focused thinking that's crippling so many publishing organisations. For all our obsession with news and the latest thing, people have both a passion and, often, good business reasons for being interested in the past of an industry.

What value lies in your archives?