Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Push" Technology Gets It's Due

I've been thinking a lot about push technology lately. It was a buzz term in the late 90's. I was outspoken for years that it would not work. Suddenly, I realized (sorry if I am slow) some very compelling "push" technologies (not called push) are emerging with the proliferation of smart mobile devices.

I was doing my usual reading around hyper local, GeoWeb, etc., when I came across this post on TechCrunch about ambient streams. If you look at the Venn diagram it closely aligns with my own thoughts in this blog.

The author, Edo Segal, says, "The Holy Grail is a filter which only serves up information which is relevant based on who you are, your social graph, what you or your friends are doing now, what you or friends have done before, and in context of other information you are consuming."

That's where the similarities end. Segal goes on to hypothesize that this combination of Realtime Web, Published Information, Geolocation Data, and Social Communications via an intelligent filter will change how we experience reality.

"A very useful metaphor is that humanity is constructing its own synthetic sixth sense. An ambient sense that perceives the context of your activity and augments your reality with related information and experiences. Increasingly, we will be sensing the world with this sixth sense and that will change the way we collectively experience the world, "Segal wrote.

I'm not one to predict the future. I'm pretty grounded and practical. So, I'll just say that I think he is on to something. This augmented reality is coming, or is here in some forms already. To me, it is essentially a push technology that will change the way we view the world in a very literal sense and possibly in a philosophical sense.

Finally, push is getting its due.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Yext - Why Doesn't Local Media Think of This?

Here's another example of a monetization solution local media could have thought of and didn't and now should consider experimenting with -- Yext Inc. It a is a point solution that could be part of a sales/service package for an SMB and could also be extended to media's local directories pages for lead generation revenue.

Yext places ads all over the the Internet for local businesses . Yext analyzes calls (via speech-to-text) generated by those ads and only transfers calls to businesses that could result in sales. Yext shares its revenue from advertisers with the publishers. The company plans to use the new funding to help it reach a greater variety of advertisers.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Rosenblum: Local TV is Like GM

Michael Rosenblum is cited on Lost Remote with another insightful commentary on local TV. Rosenblum, in an interview, compares local TV to GM, but there will be no bailout.

"They know how to do things in the 1950's. They still do it that way. They cannot bring themselves to change. The change that is required for them to survive, is essentially to have to burn the place to the ground," Rosenblum said in an interview with Mark Joyella.

Ignoring the amusing hyperbole around "death, and GM and burning," Rosenblum is right. Old media needs to be more efficient, in an extreme way. The top line and thus the margins won't be there to support the infrastructure and headcount in the future. They need to revamp their cost structures and start by asking, "is that WSI (or other expensive hardware) system worth it? Is this building worth it? Do I need this chopper or five live trucks?"

Rosenblum says they must burn the station to the ground because the stations are full of absurdly expensive gear and people and the institutions can't help but perpetuate themselves because it is all they know. It is their livelihood. Local TV (and media for that matter) is competing more and more with organizations and individuals with much cheaper gear such as streaming servers, pro-sumer cameras, etc. They don't have to pay for expensive engineers, broadcast towers, million Watt radars, etc.

"When Google does Google News in New York with video. It ain't gonna start in the CBS building with a chopper," Rosenblum said.

Rosenblum is correct, but how does TV evolve? They still have existing costs that must be supported by existing customers and clients.

I would start by committing to build a separate news and information Web site (or networks of sites) with a dedicated P&L and staff. I would incubate that interactive initiative and let it function unencumbered from the biases of the legacy organization. The station management would limited in their ability to drive or influence the organization. Most stations have abandoned the newsroom within a newsroom approach in favor of cross training the TV staff on interactive. This is proving a a painful strategy that is strangling the interactive initiatives.

In all of this, the one media type that may have the best chance to succeed in this change is the newspaper. The newspaper organizations have already been cut to the bone. Their reporters are free of the vestiges of traditional TV production values and their buildings are free of the expensive TV equipment. They are already slashing print production costs or are shutting down the print portions of their businesses.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

You Can Make Money from Free

“You can make money from free,” writes Chris Anderson, editor of Wired magazine and author of “The Long Tail.” “People will pay to save time. People will pay to lower risk. People will pay for things they love. People will pay for status... Free opens doors, reaching new consumers. It doesn’t mean you can’t charge some of them.”

Anderson’s latest book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” discusses how the increase in efficiency as a result of technology results in deflation of prices and salaries.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

LR Tweeted About Media Companies Going Local in Seattle

Lost Remote reports two Seattle media companies created neighborhood news sites to build hyperlocal communities -- The Hearst-owned SeattlePI.com, launched InQueenAnne.com and KOMO TV, the Fisher-owned ABC affiliate, launched neighborhood sites.
Read More...

Why Niche Matters, And Subscriptions May Not Work

Steve Outing's latest post draws on some harsh opinions, such as, "newspaper leaders continue to flounder in the classic death spiral without making the necessary harsh adjustments to pull out before hitting the ground."The most interesting conclusion in the post is that newspapers are wrong to think charging subscriptions will save the industry. Instead, he quotes B.J. Fogg of Stanford University as saying they need to target "high-value online niche content" that cane be monetized because of the enthusiasm of the consumer. We used to call these "pockets of passion" in some old circles of mine.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Initiative Hopes to 'Spur Growth' in HyperLocal

Greg Sterling made note of a new hyperlocal play -- GrowthSpur. It's a venture started by Mark Potts, co-founder of Backfence. GrowthSpur offers monetization, tools and training for hyper local initiatives. Interesting idea.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Google Reaches Out to Local Business

Google is reaching out to small businesses in San Francisco. While it is positioned as an opportunity to learn for businesses, it is more likely a chance for Google to learn -- basically, a focus group. It is hard to believe Google would conduct these sessions all across the country. Traditionally, they have monetized the long tail through better technology and automation.

The article in Local Search News states, "Google is providing a very valuable service here, but business owners need better communication and support from Google."

Google needs to understand local business better and understand where their are getting tripped up by Google services in order to drive adoption.

This is again a shot across the bow of local media.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Borrell: Local 'Up,' Dedicated Staff Key

Spotted this on Gordon Borrell's blog tonight:

"....earlier this year when we projected that local online advertising would grow 8% in 2009. At the end of the first quarter, the increase looked closer to 11%. When we finish collecting our second-quarter data in the next few weeks, I’m certain the number will be quite a bit higher. "

Gordon says "dedicated" sales staff are driving the successes.

The dedicated vs converged sales force debate still rages on in local media companies. From someone who has seen both strategies on numerous occasions, take it from me, dedicated is necessary, but they may not be mutually exclusive from converged. In other words, you must have a dedicated staff, while converged selling should also be supported to a lesser degree.


Freemium Strategies, The Key is the Mix?

I've been meaning to write a post about the push to save newspapers via paid subscriptions.

In April, Steven Brill announced the creation of Journalism Online and invited (Read: challenged) publishers. Brill said that he had the formula to save their businesses. Generally speaking, the formula is a mixture of free and premium content known as "freemium."

This week, JO announced a partnership with ITZ Publishing. Together they would track usage of small- and medium-sized newspapers and optimize the freemium strategy for each publication based on usage.

I find this strategy interesting for many reasons, including the similarities to research by inStat. inStat recommended a mix of fee, paid subscriptions, and micropayments targeting the core users of a site. An important element of the strategy is targeting the core user with engagement strategies and subscriptions. The idea is that the core user will will pay because they are devoted users, and their engagement will draw in the moderate users, who will be monetized through display ads and occassionl sampling of premium (fee-based) content. The strategy was echoed in what JO has been proposing.

Of note, inStat believes the freefall in newspaper advertising will stabilize in 2010, providign a glimmer of hope for papers that restructure their businesses.

Friday, June 26, 2009

MJ, Farrah, The Spectacle

The media coverage of people gathering at UCLA, and the Apollo Theater to "honor" MJ reminded me of some old reading of mine. It is interesting how people feel compelled to gather together to hold vigil for a celebrity. It is also interesting to watch the video pour through the TV on multiple channels streaming image after image. By watching, I can see how it almost feels like participating. It reminded me of a book called The Society of the Spectacle.

The spectacle is not a stream of images, rather it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images. - Guy Debord

Update: I realized this should be updated to say "tweets" as well. :-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

'10 Things' from MediaShift

I believe the following has a lot of truth for local TV as well. Republished from PaidContent.org.


Ten Things Local Newspapers Need To Do

By David Kaplan - Fri 12 Jun 2009 07:22 AM PST

Forget the swirling debates over building paywalls or shaking down Google (NSDQ: GOOG), MediaShift’s Mark Glaser has some different suggestions for newspapers. Glaser’s list is a good addition to the newspaper-survival guide he put out back in December, which included aggregating content from outside sources, creating classified ad networks, and focusing on hyperlocal advertising.

1. Smaller print runs: Targeting isn’t just an online thing; newspapers can target specific neighborhoods and do a smaller, custom print run tailored to certain coverage areas.

2. All local, all the time: Newspapers have been shedding plenty of jobs, but newspapers can bring in the work of local bloggers who are already doing the work for free. They might appreciate the higher profile and even the chance to share some ad revenue.

3. Out with circ staff, in with SEO: This one will be hard for newspapers to follow, but Glaser says to cut the circulation, printing, print production side and supplant them with more tech, SEO, community managers. Your readers are online and it’s time to cultivate that readership. More after the jump

4. Get a “real focus group”: If you want to find out what your readers want, don’t hire a focus group. Just go out and talk to your community and ask them what they’re looking for.

5. Marry user-gen and professional: The twain can meet; encourage user-gen content and then put a professionally edited sheen over it.

6. Find a better reason for multimedia: Just because anyone can use a video camera, doesn’t mean you should run clips for the hell of it. Find a good reason to use video or audio—and if you don’t have one, don’t use it.

7. Mixed revenues: There’s no either or when it comes to subscription paywalls or ad support. Find a way to bring as many revenue streams into the mix, including seeking donations and selling directory listings.

8. Readers like database projects: It’s all about getting local; readers want anything that focuses on their particular world. Mapping and database initiatives are pretty novel ways of attracting readers.

9. You’re in the directory business: Newspapers missed out early on by not broadening their advertiser mix to include plumbers and pizza places. Online directories snapped up those dollars when the space was still growing substantially. Still, better late than ever, a number of newspapers have been turning to local businesses they previously ignored. And given newspapers’ continued brand advantage, they can set up their own local directories and beat the interlopers at their own game.

10. Get everyone’s ideas: If war is too important to leave to generals, saving the newspaper business is too important to be left to the publishing side. Encourage every part of the business to figure out their own top 10 suggestions to save the paper and reward the good ones.

Friday, June 05, 2009

New iPhone, New GeOpportunity

File this one under "why geo matters."

An E&P article on the new iPhone reads, "the newspaper can send relevant content and, more important, relevant targeted advertising within 2 blocks on a person's location. "This makes local advertising on mobile highly potent with high CPMS," said Art Howe, CEO of Verve Wireless.



Thursday, June 04, 2009

Adsense on Maps Makes Sense

I've been meaning to post this for days. It should probably be filed under, "what took so long."

Google is finally giving geo map developers a new option to earn revenue by releasing Maps Ad Unit, which is AdSense for Maps.

Developers overlay AdSense on a Google Map which they have embedded on their sites. Developers and users should link their Maps API implementation to an AdSense account to earch from this new online ad revenue scheme.

The theory -- as with most geo-ads -- AdSense Publishers will generate revenue because users would find those ad units more relevant do their location.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

TWC Blackberry APP Costs $12.99, Really?

Terry Heaton notes that The Weather Channel has a new Blackberry weather application for $12.99. Terry is absolutely right in criticizing TWC. TWC has a history of offering subscription products that do poorly. Check out their Notify! product. It has never broken even. They sunk development and promotional costs but could never gain traction. As Terry notes, it is a tactical error, that they keep repeating. That is good for local media, because it leaves the door open for a competitive product for free.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Local Based Advertising

Check out this company. It is the first company I have seen that has really figured out how to deliver location-based advertising. They blow away companies like LAT49. The later focuses on delivering ads on maps. The implementation is simple and unsophisticated. Placecast processes multiple types of location, demographic and other information and then adjusts the ad delivery based on what is relevant in terms of location. They have a robust network of advertisers. They have sophisticated engines that drive the ad delivery and they can plug and play with major players such as DoubleClick/Google.

MySpace Partners with Citysearch

MySpace announced the Web site is partnering with CitySearch. It will be interesting to see where this local initiative goes. See how it looks now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Senate Hearing Excerpt

I'm a little late posting this, but life is getting in the way of blogging. I found this to be one of the most interesting items to come out of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology's hearing on the future of journalism.

After Arianna Huffington waxed on about new media, a former Baltimore Sun crime reporter said the following:

"The day I run into a Huffington Post reporter at a Baltimore Zoning Board hearing is the day that I will be confident that we've actually reached some sort of equilibrium."

I thought that was exactly what was starting to happen.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

No. 7. Chaos ensues

I was pondering the news that more newspapers are in trouble, laying off employees, or forcing furloughs. Local TV stations seem close behind. I realized we may be at a new stage in the disruption cycle. We moved from stage 6 to stage 7, possibly stage 8 in the local media industry, according to Andy Kessler's scale.

I am speaking of a venture capitalist Andy Kessler's description of how disruptive technology and organizations force incumbents to change. Michael Lewis memorialized Kessler's thesis in his book "Next." I keep a copy of Kessler's thesis on the wall of my office because it is amusing and truthful.

From Page 160, Kessler's thesis reads:
1. Rules are established to create order and maintain profits for incumbents. Examples of rules are: social mores, professional licenses, government regulation, locked-up distribution channels.
2. Cheaper technology suddenly allows for the bypassing of the rules.
3. Incumbents are fat and dumb and happy with current monopolistic profits and their general situation, so they bad-mouth any new stuff which threatens their incumbency or profits, or both.
4. Fringe players emerge to use this ever cheaper technology to simply ignore the rules.
5. Fringe companies attract venture capital since there are great profits to be made by underselling the incumbents.
6. Incumbents are in denial until their profits are really threatened and/or market share begins to erode meaningfully.
7. Chaos ensues; fringe players are threatened with lawsuits, government regulation, public shaming, etc.
8. Growth at the fringe accelerates, as it is the right way to do business using new technology.
9. Incumbents co-opt the fringe, or fringe players become the new incumbents and seek to establish new rules.
10. Go to 1.

Part of the joy of this thesis is the obvious irreverent tone. I typically find myself laughing when I read it.

Typically, when you talk to passionate and "extreme" Internet professionals, they predict the demise of old media. They tell the neophytes and curmudgeons that the Internet will kill Newspaper and TV. Some rally behind the declarations and others become indignant. For years, I felt there was truth in this, but that the argument was overstated. I tried to soften my line realizing that TV and newspapers won't go away completely, but change. Lewis speaks to this as well in his book.

He writes, the "Internet's gift to the fringe was to expose a lot of commercial and social rules as dated an inefficient...The relentless pressure from the fringe did not mean that the center would collapse. But to survive it would be forced to remake itself."

I thought newspapers and TV stations were transforming, already feeling the pain. We all know margins have been increasingly squeezed for the past 5-10 years. But, with the credit crisis the disruption and transformation accelerated. Then came the news of layoffs and shut-downs. Now, there is news of newspapers "re-opening " as Web-only shops, and news of journalist 'on the beach' starting their own Web sites. I interpret this as stage 7 in Andy's timeline, though it is probably impossible to pinpoint a single stage.

Why does this matter? I previously thought we were all the way through the cycle. As it turns out, I had no idea what the acceleration of deterioration of traditional media would look like. To be frank, it is more severe than I imagined and approaching what some of those "extreme" Internet professionals argued. That is a revelation for me. I still don't see "TV" or newspapers going away, but now see a much more swift and violent transformation. Even if the economy improves, things have changed forever in journalism and media.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

MS Takes a Leap into Hyper Local

A friend recently told me about a big geo-based initiative at Microsoft. TechCrunch broke the story at around the same time.

Microsoft is launching Microsft Vine Beta. It uses a GeoSearch platform to provide GeoTagged news and local articles that are represented in Vine. It is focused on communication between people during crisis.

This speaks to the core of why I created this blog. Media companies need to create vehicles for people to communicate and find the information (news, jobs, businesses) they want. Geography is a key part of that strategy, as I explained in earlier posts.

Vine will gather local news (you tell it where you live or are at the moment). News items are gathered from 20,000 local and national news sources, plus public safety announcements from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The tool shows you news items on a local map. You can choose to filter out certain types of news (sports, entertainment, etc.).

It's a cool idea. It will be VERY interesting to see where this one goes. My question: Why isn't traditional media doing this? Traditional media typically own the crisis and alerting space.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Darwin, An Analogy for Internet Success?

I recently heard a "speech" in which the speaker quoted Charles Darwin and applied an analogy to the Internet. That is not in itself very interesting or suprising. What was interesting is that the speaker gave what he thought was a verbatim quote. It was not. As it turns out, the speaker may have had it wrong, twice, with the quote and the truth.

The speaker told an audience of young Internet professionals that Darwin did not say the 'strongest survive,' but those 'able to adapt' survive. He quoted, "It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change." His correction was also in error. This is not an actual quote but a summary or paraphrase of Darwin. Some scholars consider this common paraphrase a misreprestation. According to an article in Cosmos Magazine:

"These sentences do not appear anywhere in Darwin's work," said Patrick Tort, a Darwin expert at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris who said he has spent the last decade "combating the endless distortions of Darwin's ideas."

The analogy was meant to suggest that the Internet company in question can survive and thrive as long as it can adapt. This probably has truth, but maybe that is not the whole story.

The Cosmos article goes on to say that, "It is not the species that are most responsive to change that are likely to survive... 'It is the ones that are lucky, or already have the right features that can be passed on to the next generation.'"

If we accept this interpretation of Darwin's theory and apply it to this struggling Internet company it is far less uplifting, for sure. If we extend the analogy and view the organization as organism, it suggests there is (1) luck, and (2) attributes, possibly equivalent to institutional structure/knowledge/culture, at play. The people and the institutions both carry knowledge, biases and culture with them. I am suggesting these are the "features" or "genes" of an organization. These attributes may manifest in how the company makes key decisions, innovates, and conducts daily business.

This new analysis significantly strips away the ability to WILL success through pure adaptation. Much of the success is left to chance and the ability to transform an institution at its very deepest roots. In comparison, it is simple to change or "adapt" the strategy of an institution, but far more difficult to transform an institutions structure, knowledge and culture, unless that is part of the culture.

Through this new looking glass one would suggest that the Internet company in question will survive by the the benefit of (1) luck and (2) the already established institutional structure, knowledge and culture that led to its early success. Luck may manifest as an upturn in Internet ad-spend in 2010. If adaption is required, and that is part of that culture of the organization, then the company may have an additional fighting chance.

This new looking glass is most interesting when examining traditional media companies such as newspapers and TV. Do they have the right institutional structure, knowledge and culture to pass on to the next generation of journalists and succeed in a digital world? Do they have cultures that are comfortable with adaptation and change? Is luck on their side?

Monday, April 27, 2009

RTNDA vs ONA

I attended RTNDA/NAB again this year. The most interesting session I attended was run by Amy Webb. Amy is on the board of directors for ONA, the Online News Association. Her session was about the top 10 tech trends journalists need to know about. She was smart, funny and informative, capturing a LOT of detail in a very digestible delivery. I was entertained and informed.

It shoudl be noted that RTNDA attendance looked devestated by the economy. The exhibitors area was nearly empty. Typically, there are dozens of exhibitors and this year there was what looked like less than a dozen. The majority of the attendees appeared to be students. I saw many professionals, but the sessions were full of students.

Two things crossed my mind while listening to Amy:

(1) Why is the best session at RTNDA actually run by someone associated with ONA? What does that and the attendance say about the future of RTNDA, or ONA? A lot of my younger journalist friends have essentially given up on RTNDA and are looking to ONA for thought leadership.

(2) Listening to Amy was refreshing and a huge improvement over listening to other consultants brow-beat late-adopters in the TV industry. Most notably, Steve Safran, has smart things to say, but the delivery has become tedious. The reception by traditional journalists is typically antagonism which seems counter-productive at this point.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Survey: Search Engines Take Lead in Local Biz Search

This gets filed under beating a dead horse and running it over with a truck, again. Search engines are continuing to take market share from local media, including precious local business relationships.

According to a recent TMP Directional Marketing (TMPDM), comScore study, search engines are now the "first" resource used by consumers to find local business information.

First Resource
1. Search Engines (31%)
2. Print Yellow Pages or White Pages (30%)
3. Internet Yellow Pages Sites (19%)
4. Local Search Sites (11%)

A year earlier, yellow pages were the leading local information resource at 33%.

There are conflicting reports and debates about why there are conflicting reports. With that said, let's face it, when was the last time you used the Yellow pages? I use them once a year at my parents VERY rural home in New England. Why? Because my parents have dial-up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

TV Everywhere? For Free, Maybe

The cable industry is looking to head off marginalization by extending their offerings to the Web. At first, I thought it would be another failed attempt similar to how the radio industry tried and failed at a walled garden strategy. Now, I am not so sure.

The Associated Press reported last week that, "The largest cable operators are in talks with media conglomerates to take back control. They would create a platform to release cable TV shows online, but exclusively for paying subscribers. Those involved include Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp., General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal, News Corp., Viacom Inc. and Time Warner Inc. "

This week Advertising Age followed up with an interview of Time Warner's Jeff Bewkes.
Bewkes suggests the content would be free for exisiting subscribers.

"For 85% of U.S. households, the added access would be, essentially, free. Mr. Bewkes said he anticipates there will be a Web-only option for those who don't have pay-TV service," according to the article. That strategy may have legs depending on the details.

I should also note that I spoke with someone in the industry last week who said the back office billing would be easy for the cable companies. They already have platforms that extend to the Web easily and provide the necessary DRM to restrict access to content based on subscription status.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Threat to Local Media

Local Media is about to lose even more of its sacred ground. ESPN is launching a local initiative. Local media companies should see this for what it is, a direct assault on them. ESPN will be in a position to take local ad dollars from local media. Local media should either partner with ESPN or get in the game and compete for those dollars with microsites and local verticals.

As the Tribune story states: "Local and hyperlocal publishers are among the most important growth areas for interactive publishing companies and the interactive ad industry," said Randall Rothenberg, chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. "There's an innovation explosion already under way in this area."

I am waiting for CNN, MSNBC and others to make a similar move.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Industry Tries to Stop Boxee

I spotted this post about Boxee on Silicon Valley Insider. I downloaded Boxee just before CES. Great app. I was looking for a cheap alternative to Apple TV. After CES, it moved above on the radar for some folks in 'the industry' and they are apparently pretty unhappy about it.

By John Murrell at Silicon Valley Insider writes, "this disruption is driving the entertainment overlords into defensive positions based on arbitrary distinctions, just look at the current contretemps between Hulu and Boxee...

Boxee is media center software that makes it easy to watch online content on your television via a connected computer or device like AppleTV. Essentially, as explained by board member and investor Fred Wilson, it’s a Web browser optimized for TVs the way a mobile browser is optimized for phones....

...I’d guess Hulu had a deal to show ‘content’ on computers, and the ‘content providers’ balked when those computers started talking to their precious televisions.”

I am not sure studios can maintain this position indefinitely. They may look to DRM to prevent free access to content off their annointed platforms, but DRM isn't going to stop it for ever.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Must See Internet TV

Lately, I have come to realize that how I want to consume media and information has changed. I am no longer satisfied with my current experience. For the longest time, I have been happy to check my Blackberry for email, news, etc., during the day. I could also disappear into my office to catch up with the WSJ, Ny Times and industry Web sites. Some days, I actually watch TV news or read a printed version of magazine or newspaper. But, this post isn't about how I have chosen the Internet over traditional media as my primary vehicle for information. That changed happened a long time ago for me. This is about how my Internet experience needs to move into my life more seemlessly.

My Blackberry may have been the first agent of change in my life. I love it, and not in an unhealthy, addicted, "Crackberry," can't miss a single email kind of way. I love it because I can get movie times any place, any time. I love it because I can check the stock market (As painful as it is) whenever I want. I read the NY Times almost every day now that I can read it on my Blackberry. Beyond all this, I love that I can do research, get directions, check traffic conditions, catch-up on trends, etc. I love the personal media revolution. But, there is something missing. I have gotten so used to having what I want when I want it, that I am frustrated that I can't consume original content on the Web from my couch, the kitchen, the bedroom, etc., without the use of a laptop, or Blackberry. I want a more relaxing and high-fidelity experience. I want Internet programming on my TV. But, don't confuse this with IPTV. The key to my frustration is both the content and how I experience that content. I am not looking for only professionally created entertainment or news content from a traditional media source or two. I also want to consume original Web content and content that can only be found on the Web, all from my couch.

I realized allof this a month ago when I came home and sat on the couch. I flipped through hundreds of stations on DirecTV and found nothing to watch. I realized then that what I really wanted to watch was video from the Kelsey Group's most recent conference, and SMX. The only way I could do this was to open my laptop, or go in my office. According to a recent article from the Ny Times, executives think I am an anomale. Sony and Sharp Electronics execs said it was too soon.

"'I don’t think that consumers are yet ready to access all content on the Internet on the TV,' said Bob Scaglione, senior vice president for marketing at the Sharp Electronics Marketing Company of America," according to the article.

I have to disagree. It is too soon for most people to set up a Media Center that connects to the TV, or to spend thousands of dollars on A/V installs. I am of the opinion, the ability to surf on a TV needs to be as simple as turning on the TV for mass adoption to take place.

It looks like someone may have figured that out. According to NYT, Gordon Campbell started a company called Personal Web Systems which will soon sell a simple device that enables surfing via a TV. I could not agree more with Mr. Campbell's assessment that TV manufacturers are not being genuine when they say consumers do not want full Internet access.

"This generation doesn’t want their hands tied behind their backs. They want the same experience as with a PC, and widgets don’t do that.”

According to NYT, "Campbell ... believes that consumers will eventually buy set-top boxes that get the Internet, forcing TV makers to embed chips themselves or lose the business."
“The ultimate test will be when the technology hits the market and consumers decide,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to be on the widget side when that happens.”

Widgets are narrowcasting of limited channels of content via the TV. That is the approach most TV manufacturers have embarked upon. Of course, that walled garden will come tumbling down as soon as the user/consumer figures out the content can be obtained through other means. I can tell you that 'widgets' will not satiate my desire to consume Internet content via the TV.

As Campbell says, “I wouldn’t want to be on the widget side when that happens.”

Friday, February 13, 2009

Commerce as Information, Geography for Relevance

I could not be more excited to see that Adrian Holovaty has added coupons on EveryBlock. He now shows ValPak coupons on the mashups in the listings. There is a subtle importance here.

Holovaty gets the value of hyper-local. He sees the value in providing people information about their immediate community and sees the value of providing that content in the context of geography/maps. Now, he has begun to draw the important connection with commerce as information and geography for relevance. The average person does most of their living and consuming within 20 miles of their home. So, advertisements increase in value based in part on their proximity to the consumer's home.

Newspapers, who have thrived on classified revenue for decades -- more than any other media -- should see this value, but somehow continue to overlook it. TV stations appear to be oblivious as well.

Monday, February 09, 2009

N2.0 Speaks to the Future of Local

I have been re-reading "Newspaper Next 2.0" and highly recommend that anyone in Local Media read it as well. There is a paragraph in the summary of the document that speaks to what I have posted previously and recommended to others repeatedly in the past five years -- Local media needs to go after SMBs if local media is going to compete with Google and Yahoo/MS. The quote:

"Progress in developing ways to open the vast "low end" of the business market -- small and medium sized enterprises -- is agonizingly slow. Although this segment represents the largest growth opportunity in local markets, newspaper companies continue to use traditional ad offerings and sals structures in their attempts to reach them, with only moderate success. Better answers are needed."

While this statement speak to newspapers, TV stations have done little or nothing to go after SMBs in any meaningful way. Now, they are going to feel the pain more than ever since local TV stations have lost billions of dollars in auto-related ad revenue. Even though local ad spendings is slowing, local media can't expect big auto money to ever return to its past heights, and so needs a local ad strategy that includes SMBs.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Hyper-Local Mashups, Quick, Easy, w/ UGC

Here is a very cool tool. Someone should buy this company and integrate what is probably a very simple app, or duplicate it. It allows anyone to create a mash-up quickly and easily and it allows users to submit content to the app for display on the mashup.

It eliminates the need for a developer and increases interactivity on the site. The uses are endless. It could be used to accept user-generated crime reports, car accidents, weather events/damage, or a publisher could plot parade route information, information, etc.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Not Starting Any Rumours, but Leo at Babies R' Us?

There is nothing Internet-related in this post.

I'm not starting any rumours. Just telling the facts here. My wife and I went to Babies 'R Us this weekend to return an item. This should be good for my wallet, but it never turns out this way. As usual, we returned one item and bought two more. As we are headed to the check-out we notice a tall blond guy and I tell my wife, "I almost thought that guy was Leonardo DiCaprio." As we are checking out, I looked over at the guy at the counter next to ours and again think it looked a lot a like Leo. The customer was wearing cargo shorts, a T-shirt, a black baseball cap and sunglasses inside the store. The guy looked like a college frat boy, not a star. It couldn't be him.

Then, the cashier said something to the customer and he responds, "I know. And all this stuff isn't even for my baby." Likely story. Clearly, this guy was protesting too much :-) Either way, his response sealed it. It was defenitely Leo. The voice sounded like his, even with a slight east coast accent. I signaled to my wife and she confirmed she heard it too.

At this point we chose to just let him leave the store without harassing him. In restrospect, I should have asked him to autograph my wife's baby bump. :-)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Another Step for Hyper-Local

There's a lot of press about NBC Local teaming up with hyper-local platform Outside.in to offer geo-targeted content. While it allows NBC to offer geo-relevant content for its users, it appears to be a reactionary move to competitors and so limited in its implementation and vision. Even so, it signals an important shift in local media.

NBC uses a hosted widget from Outside.in. The widget delivers aggregated results provided by Outside.in. The use case is pretty limited. The user can select "neighborhoods" from a predetermined drop down and get back results. I suspect the partnership is a reaction to what is already built into a competitor's platform, and not as proactive as it may appear at first. In contrast, competitive sites such a WNYW-TV and WISH-TV on the FIM platform provides two use cases. First, the user can click on the "Map These" button on a headline list and be driven to a page where the stories are geo-tagged. From there, the user can actually pick and choose the center and zoom of the map, determining in a more democratic manner what they want to see as results. This is essentially local search via a map/geo interface. The results of the Outside.in solution is aggregated content. The results from the FIM solution are stories from the local station Web site.

Both solutions fall short in delivering some important features. FIM's solution needs to move towards aggregation of content and display of other types of content from within the host site (video, photos, UGC, etc). NBC's solution has aggregated content, but needs to also add video, photos, UGC, etc. The hyper-local strategy only works through aggregation because local TV sites do not generate enough local content professionally to make hyper-local searches return relevant and robust result sets.

Geo-advertising is also missing. This may be due to sensitivities around news. FIM offers geo-tagged advertising on the traffic maps of the host sites. This technology should be extended to the geo-tagged content. NBC is lacking geo-advertisements all together.

Ultimately, the strategy is more than just offering a *fancy* new method of navigation to the end user. This is about creating a new interface where users can get what they want, when they want it -- relevant information about their surrounding community. If one extends the metaphor to include advertising this is fertile ground. These tools give the host site the ability to connect hyper-local advertisers to hyper-local users. The users can be targeted by geography, which should command higher value. Why? Most shopping is conducted within a close proximity to home and work. It also means we know more about the user, because geography correlates with demographics. The greater the targeting the greater the value.

The fact that the NBC solution is not built into their platform could become an issue at a later stage because it will limit what they can do with the technology. For instance, if NBC wanted to add their own geo-tagged photos to weather maps, they are dependent of Outside.in and other vendors to work together. The FIM solution is part of the platform and so more pliable, lending itself to more uses across the site. Another example of a FIM implementation of geo-tagging can be found here. Weather.fox.com, the first social networking Weather site, offers a mash-up of User Generated Content.

Despite the shortcomings of both solutions, they are import steps in the right direction for local media. Local media should stop trying to compete with CNN.com and start realizing they need to defend their ground from Google. They should be focusing on local where they can differentiate themselves, engage the audience intimately, and go after local ad dollars. Local media can win locally because of the content, the relationships, and the brand loyalty.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Old Media Jumps to New Media

With the economic downturn, significant layoffs in old media, and no signs of improvement, it shouldn't surprise me that I have now seen two TV News Directors make the jump to Web in the past three months. Given the economic climate and historically short careers of News Directors, they must feel like the lucky ones.

Both took Director positions with the New Media division of media companies. I won't name names, but it is interesting to finally see this happen. I know for sure that one of them had been thinking about this for more than a year. The other received a recommendation from their "agent" to make the jump.

I made the jump12 years ago after taking an "acting News Director" role at a TV station where the News Director left for a larger market. I had already taken interest in the Internet as a career. MSNBC had just launched online. I was pressing for the TV station to start publishing news online, and eventually won a small victory in this area. Local TV left me feeling empty. Except for a few people in a newsroom, I thought most of the journalism was shoddy, unimaginative, and counter-productive to informing the public in any meaningful way. Acting as News Director only drove this point home.

Six months prior to this, I bought my first personal computer from Best Buy for $1,500. I took it home, set it up on my dining table in my one-bedroom apartment. I bought a book on HTML (Creative HTML Design, by Lynda Weinman) and a book on Photoshop. Each night and each weekend, barring breaking news, I would crack a beer and sit down at that computer. The simplest of concepts, such as FTP, were difficult at first. It took me several weeks to successfully publish anything. Eventually, I took my thesis from college and published it as a multi-page Web site. It was after that I started sending out resumes.

I was ignored or turned down for job after job. After ~ 8 months, I finally got a call. A TV station in the midwest needed a content manager for a Web site startup. I jumped at the job. I would manage 4 editors and get paid $1,000 less a year than I was already making. While this was a far cry from managing 30 people in a newsroom, it was a lateral move. Everyone was under 30 years old except the graphic artist. I was one of the lucky ones.

For me, it was an easy decision. My career was young. I was young. The Internet was young. I was able to help shape something new, in an industry that had few if any well-defined roles, policies or precedures. In all of these respects, it was everything local TV was not.

If I were a seasoned News Director now, with 20+ years of local TV experience, I don't know how this move would feel. I suspect that in their own way, they feel like one of the lucky ones.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

SpotMixer Should Shed Light on Lost Opportunity

SpotMixer aquisition should connect the dots for local media. They should now see AdSense for content for what it is -- a Trojan horse.

Google has been positioned (first through adsense, then through radio advertising, now spot mixer, etc.) to own local ad spend. Meanwhile, TV and Newspapers have been helping Google (running adsense on their sites, sales partnerhsips) build relationships with local businesses. Every time a company signs up for adsense with a $50-$500 account, it is a new relationship for Google and a lost relationship for local media.

Local Media was focused on one or two $20MM deals with auto makers to support the core. They ignored the florist who has $500 to spend. They were winning a sprint but losing a marathon. In the end, it is a missed opportunity for local media, particularly newspapers.