Posts about german

The German privacy paradox

As a group, Germans are more private than anyone I know. My German grandfather-in-law used to lecture me: “People do not need to know that.” Germans complain about Google Streetview taking pictures of them … in public. They’re going after Facebook on privacy. They say that Google Analytics violates privacy. They even enable convicted killers to expunge their names from Wikipedia out of privacy. And now they’re up in arms about airport body scanners.

Yet go into a German sauna, and there the Germans are, male and female, together, sweaty and naked. Germans protect the privacy of everything but their private parts.

I do think we have something to learn from their sauna attitude. On my last trip to Germany, I got addicted to the sauna — no, not to gawk and, since my surgery, certainly not to show off anything (as I’ve revealed, I’m in a chronic state of shrinkage, or should I say, Sternage?). When I first visited a German sauna, I had the surprise Americans have and just decided to go with the flow: When in München….

But when I was in a Davos sauna (a very cool one in a log cabin outside the hotel) with a bunch of sweaty and naked Russians, the door opened and an American couple almost came in, until the wife saw me and shrieked (I do hope it wasn’t for the reason above). She slammed the door and pulled out and we heard her husband pleading, “No, really, it’s OK, honey. Yes, it’s supposed to be co-ed.” She came in after all, hermetically wrapped in her towel (a violation of German sauna etiquette) and sitting as stiff as a church lady, looking only at the ceiling. It was not relaxing for her. I suspect it was not going to be a relaxing evening for her husband, either.

So what’s the more mature attitude about privacy and publicness and the body? I’ll vote with the Germans on this. And that makes me ask why what’s private is private — a question worth asking as we hear so much about privacy in the internet age. One way to pose this question is to ask what harm could come from something private becoming public.

Start with the Germans: What’s the harm of being naked — especially when everyone else is? As I’ve written here before: In the company of nudists, no one is naked (I’m still trying to convince my editor thats a book title). So you have breasts and I have a penis. Surprise, surprise, surprise. Perhaps you could blackmail me because of the current state of mine, but when I went to a public sauna in Munich, I saw every possible body flaw. Even the Germans know there’s no harm in revealing one’s body.

What’s the harm that can come from revealing something else about oneself, as adults fear young people are doing in excess in Facebook and the web? The issue, I’ve long said, is not privacy but control: We have a right to control our information and how it’s used. But all this talk about privacy could make us withhold more than ever; it could make us downright antisocial. So I’ll ask again, what harm will come from publicness? Where’s the line?

* I don’t want to reveal anything about myself that robs someone else of their control of their privacy. So even though my current state of things may be obvious, I’m not going to talk about my sex life because that would violate my wife’s privacy. I wouldn’t make all my email or phone conversations public — as if anyone should care — for the same reason. I should pull no one into my glass house.

* I’m hinky about revealing what I make – most of us are. But why? I suppose I fear someone trying to scam me or beg me for money. But teachers don’t make much. You can easily find out what professors at CUNY earn since, if you live in New York, you’re paying me (up to $90k is the answer). I’ve revealed what I make from my blog (average of about $15k). For some reason, the publishing industry likes to leak what is paid for book advances. I reveal my consulting and speaking gigs. So you could probably come close to guessing my income. I have no reason to publicize it but I also am not sure what the harm is.

* I don’t want to reveal anything that would enable someone to steal my identity for financial ends or to impersonate or attack me or my familiy. So, of course, there’s no gain to be had and much harm to be gained from revealing passwords, account numbers, addresses, and the like.

* No one wants to be embarrassed and so we don’t want to reveal embarrassing things. But who to say what’s embarrassing? It comes out of our fear of what others will think of us. So others do. As a journalist, I’m embarrassed to make mistakes, but I’ve had to learn in blogging and Twitter that correcting mistakes enhances credibility. It’s not the mistake that matters but what you do about it. And, yes, the argument is made that young people will regret putting their drunken party pictures online when it comes time to apply for a job. But I say that as we shift generations, the bosses will have their own embarrassing party pictures and they will find themselves in a state of mutually assured humiliation. In What Would Google Do?, I hope that this stand-off might yield a more tolerant society.

What else? Is it possible to say that anything else is fair game for public sharing? Put that way, and it smacks of exhibitionism: My life is an open blog. So I prefer to turn the question around now and look at the benefits of publicness that we lose when we make something unnecessarily private. I’ve said that revealing my prostate here brought me great value: support, links to sources of information, incredibly candid and helpful previews from patients who’ve gone before, and the opportunity to spur others to check for the disease. Without revealing my cancer in public, I’d have received none of that benefit. I also argue in WWGD? that there’s value in the aggregation of our knowledge: if we all chronicled what we were doing 24 hours before the onset of my other condition, heart arrhythmia, would doctors find new patterns? If we all shared and could analyze our repair records for our Toyotas, would we surface dangerous flaws earlier? Not revealing such data may indeed someday be seen as antisocial.

So the Germans inspired me to ask about the line between private and public and why it’s there: merely cultural convention or self-interested reason? Fear or legitimate concern? And what is the cost of privacy?

They also inspired me to come home and try to install a sauna.

[Photo: mag3737]

: LATER: In the comments, Howard Weaver nacks me for saying “merely cultural convention.” I didn’t mean to belittle but to separate whether the cause of a convention is purely cultural or whether here are practical reasons (e.g., women in some culture hide their laughs out of convention but there’s nothing obvious bad that is going to happen to you if it is seen; but someone taking my credit card data can have real impact).

The more important point I meant to emphasize is that, of course, decisions about what’s properly private and public often are cultural and it’s fascinating — using the Germans and their saunas as a starting point — to examine those differences and use that to make us question our own assumptions. In the comments also a Scandanavian points out that there, you can indeed look up what your neighbor makes

: The other point I should make is about those body scanners. Some say that it’s different choosing to take off your clothes in a sauna vs. being denuded in a machine. Yes, but my point is that if we all as a culture saw exposing our (formerly) privates as no big deal, there’d be less of a hubbub about using the machines and perhaps we’d be safer as a result. In the U.S., we giggled about the guy with the bomb in his underwear. That embarrassed laughter could, in the extreme, cost lives.

Similarly, at Davos, I spoke as a patient at a dinner about prostate cancer and I said that our skittishness about talking about things having to do with the penis (or fingers up our asses) is keeping men from the doctors and killing some of them. Privacy can kill.

The danger of the wall

The European, a German online news service, asked me to write a commentary for a debate on paid content. Here it is in German. And here’s the English text:

I have nothing against charging for content, if you can. After all, I’m selling a book. But I believe building pay walls around online news is a bad business decision.

The discussion about charging for content rises from a sense of entitlement—“we deserve to be paid,” which is an emotional argument—rather than from rational economics.

Charging is an attempt to replicate an old business model in a profoundly changed media economy that is no longer built on scarcity—on publishers’ control—now that everyone can publish. The new link economy rewards openness and collaboration.

Charging is also a distraction from the real goal: profitability and sustainability. We must rethink the entire ledger of the business of news, starting with costs, which must and can be reduced through collaboration, working in networks, and through the efficiency that comes with the specialization the internet demands.

More important, charging brings many costs:

• It creates the expense of marketing (when, online, your audience will market you for free, if you deserve it).

• It reduces audience.

• It reduces advertising revenue.

• It reduces links and clicks, which reduces Googlejuice, which reduces discovery, which limits growth.

But more than any of this, pay walls curtail a news organization’s relationship with its public, with its customers. On the internet, it’s in those relationships where value lies.

The New York Times plans to charge its best customers—its most frequent readers—while enabling what Rupert Murdoch calls the worst customers—those who stop by once from a search engine or an aggregator—to get what they want for free. That might make sense if you are selling a scarce resource: those who drink the most wine pay the most. But online, content and news are not scarce. They are the magnets that draw readers to you so you can build a valuable relationship.

Online also brings new opportunities to find value there. Hubert Burda said at DLD that Focus Online is profitable not because of advertising but because of ecommerce. The Telegraph in London brought in a quarter of its profit a year ago from direct sales of everything from clothes hangers to wine. So media companies are becoming in part, retailers. Does it make sense to put a toll booth at the door to your store to keep people out?

Once you have a lasting relationship, there are more ways to serve customers and make money. Some newspapers are holding events. Some are charging for education. Some are even selling real estate. But to do this, you need to invite, not drive away more readers.

There is one more cost to building a wall, a cost to journalism. Alan Rusbridger, the innovative editor of the Guardian in London, just delivered a monumental speech arguing that charging “removes you from the way people the world over now connect with each other. You cannot control distribution or create scarcity without becoming isolated from this new networked world.”

Rusbridger also warns that there are competitors lying in wait to step in when news organizations build walls. “Let’s not leave the field.” Rusbridger said, “so that the digital un-bundlers can come in, dismantle and loot what we have built up, including our audiences and readers.”

Charging could be dangerous business indeed.

Nose, face, cut, spite: Blocking Google

There’s been a swine flu of stupidity spreading about the Murdoch meme of blocking Google from indexing a site’s content (to which Google always replies that you’ve always been able to do that with robots.txt – so go ahead if you want). I love that The Reach Group (TRG), a German consulting company, has quantified just how damaging that would be to Google: hardly at all.

TRG took the content of the 1,000 domains controlled by the 148 German publishers that signed the so-called Hamburg Declaration (a veiled shot at Google) and analyzed how critical they are to Google search results. TRG asked the question: “How empty would the first 10 Google search results be if one could no longer find anything from the 148 German publishers?”

It’s quite another matter if Wikipedia were not there. It appears on 13% of first-page results. That is, one entity – Wikipedia – is on the treasured first page almost three times as often as all of Germany’s top publishers. How does one say this in German? Yow.

This chart shows that sites of the Hamburg Declaration publishers have 5% share of a position on the first page of search results:

GermanGoogleTRGchart

This chart shows that Wikipedia has 13% share of the No. 1 position in search results:

googlegermanchart2

TRG further notes that Wikipedia represents only 0.01% of pages in the Google index – vs. 4.01% for German publishers – yet even so, Wikipedia pages clearly get more clicks and links and thus, Googlejuice.

RELATED: Jason Calicanis fantasizes about Microsoft paying The New York Times to leave Google’s index for Bing. Let me explain why that would never happen. 1. The Times is not stupid. 2. Times subsidiary About.com – the only bright spot these days in the NYTimesCo’s P&L – gets 80% of its traffic and 50% of its revenue from Google. 3. See rule No. 1.

Michael Arrington then joined in the fantasy saying that News Corp. could change the balance by shifting to Bing, but ends his post with his own reality check: MySpace – increasingly a disaster in News Corp’s P&L – is attempting to negotiate its $300 million deal with Google.

Microsoft can suck up to European publishers all it wants – even adopting their ACAP “standard,” which no one in the search industry is saluting because, as Google often points out, it addresses the desires only of a small proportion of sites and it would end up aiding spammers – but it won’t make a damned bit of difference.

As Erick Schonfeld reports, also on TechCrunch, if WSJ.com turned off Google it would lose 25% of its web traffic. He quotes Hitwise, which says 15% comes from Google search, 12% from Google News – and 7% from Drudge (aggregator), and 2% from Real Clear Politics (aggregator). From HItwise:

hitwisewsj3

But so what if News Corp does withdraw from Google? So what, indeed? Will other publishers join? No, they’ll celebrate the chance to grab more juice. If I saw any publishers pull out, I’d run at the chance to create topic pages to grab the little juice they have.

SEE ALSO: This analysis from The Internet Marketing Driver showing the importance of Google, Facebook, and Yahoo in driving audience to many sties. What they then do with that audience is then up to them. According to the imperatives of the link economy, it is up to he or she who gets the links to monetize them.

[Hat tip to friend Wolfgang Blau for twittering the TRG link. If I mistranslated, please corrected me.]

My advice to German media

I have an op-ed in today’s Welt Kompakt newspaper in Germany giving my advice to a German mediasphere that I see becoming more protectionist. It’s not online (ironically) but so you can see the play, a PDF of it is here and here. [Update: Here‘s the piece online.] This is my original English text:

* * *

At the Müncher Medientage, I spoke to 500 German executives from my home in New York and dared to give them some advice about their fate. I urged them to learn these lessons from watching American news companies shrivel and die: Protectionism is no strategy for the future. Every company in every industry (especially media) must be reinvented for the post-Guttenberg age—for the Google era. And the only sane response to change is to embrace it and find the opportunity in it.

I have been impressed with the innovation and openness to change I have seen in German media: Axel Springer shifted a large proportion of its revenue to digital; Bild equipped Germans with video cameras to report news; Burda invested in the networks Glam.com and Science Blogs; Holtzbrinck innovated in its incubator; WAZ created a world pioneer in DerWesten.

But when the times got tough in the financial crisis, I suddenly saw German media looking for an enemy to blame for their problems. The head of the Deutscher Journalisten-Verband called for legislation to condemn Google as a monopoly, an enemy of the press. Dr. Hubert Burda, a digital visionary I greatly admire, urged that copyright law should be expanded to protect publishers, whom he said deserve a share of search engines’ revenue. Chancellor Merkel is considering such changes in copyright. A group of publishers issued the Hamburg Declaration saying that all online content need not be free (though that has always been completely in their control).

Schade. In these pronouncements, I hear echoes of American media’s funeral hymns. I see companies resisting the new reality of the internet age by trying to preserve the old rules of their old industry. Take, for example, Rupert Murdoch vowing to put all his news properties behind pay walls just because that’s how media used to operate—when that will only reduce audience, traffic, influence, and advertising just at the moment when growth is needed most. He is even threatened to block Google. That is simply suicidal.

Though I sympathize with media’s economic nostalgia, I must say that swimming upstream against the internet is futile. The better idea is to go with the flow of the internet, to see and exploit its opportunities.

Rather than fighting Google, learn lessons from it. Google understands the new economics of media. That is why it is successful—not because it exploits old media companies. Those old companies still operate in the content economy, begun 570 years by Guttenberg, in which the owner of content profited by selling multiple copies. Online, there needs to be only one copy of content and it is the links to it that bring it value. Content without links has no value. So when search engines, aggregators, bloggers, and Twitterers link to content, they are not stealing; they are giving the gift of attention and audience. Indeed, publishers should be grateful that Google does not charge them for the value of its links.

This link economy brings three imperatives for publishers. First, it requires them to make their content public if they want to be found. That is their choice, but if they retreat behind pay walls, hidden from search and links, they will not be discovered and they only create opportunities for new, free competitors. Second, the link economy demands specialization: Do what you do best and link to the rest. This specialization also brings a new efficiency that can make publishers more profitable. Third, in the link economy, it is the recipient of links who must exploit their value. That is still the publisher’s job.

Google has earned an estimated 30 percent of online ad revenue because it serves advertisers differently—and better. Here, too, Google understands a new economy, one based on abundance rather than scarcity. Publishers, even online, still sell scarcity as if the internet were print: only so many ad positions for so many eyeballs—what the market will bear. Google instead charges for clicks; it sells performance. Thus Google takes a share of the risk and that is what motivates it to place advertising all over the internet, to create more relevant positions for ads that will perform better for both the marketer and Google. That is why advertising has shifted to Google—not because it is enemy of the media but because advertisers prefer it. We call that competition.

The most important lesson to learn from Google is that it grew huge not by trying to acquire and control content on the internet, as publishers do. Google doesn’t want to own the internet, only to organize it. So Google created a platform that enables others to succeed with technology, content, promotion, and advertising revenue. That is Glam’s model, too, creating networks of hundreds of independent sites and then helping them succeed. I believe that platforms and networks will form the basis of the future of media—and much of the next economy.

At the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, where I teach, I am running the New Business Models for News Project, envisioning a profitable future for news if regional newspapers covering cities die. Though national news brands—whether this publication or the Guardian or The New York Times—have a future, regional newspapers across America and Europe are in trouble and some will die. Yet I am confident that journalism in those cities will not die, because there is a market demand for news, which we believe the market can meet.

We believe that news will emerge from ecosystems made up of many players—journalists, citizen journalists, citizen salespeople, volunteers, technologists—operating under different motives and means. Today, in America, we see hyperlocal bloggers earning $100-200,000 a year in advertising; these are real businesses. We see an opportunity to help them make more money by creating local, regional, and national advertising networks. We see the opportunity for a new newsroom to continue beat and investigative reporting and to work collaboratively with these networks. Without the cost of print and distribution, these new news organizations become smaller but profitable.

If you are trying to protect old jobs in old structures of old companies in old industries, then you might see my vision of the future as a threat. But if you embrace change and innovation, then you will see opportunities to reimagine and remake journalism, to find new ways to gather and share news collaboratively, supported by new revenue, reaching profitability thanks to new efficiencies.

Publishers will not get to that bright future by urging government to protect them from innovators and competitors. No, if we want anything from government, it should be universal broadband to encourage society’s migration to a digital economy, and a lack of regulation to assure a level playing field for innovation.

I hope that once the desperation of the current economic crisis subsides, my German media friends will not try to retreat to their old models but will instead continue to invent new ways and to again become leaders in innovation. That is the only sensible path to survival and success.

LATER: I should add disclosures that are also on my disclosures page. I was paid to come speak to editors at Axel Springer (publishers of Welt Kompakt), Burda (I’ve also spoken for their DLD conference), and Holtzbrinck.

Editor as star

Kai Diekmann, the head of Bild, the gigantic German newspaper, is a journalistic celebrity of a sort we don’t have here: utterly charming, lustily egotistical, brashly opinionated, infuriating to those he infuriates (a friend of mine calls him Germany’s Roger Ailes), beloved to his fans, witty, quick, clever, innovative, and never afraid of the spotlight.

Now he has a blog. And a store. I’d heard about his blog for sometime but it wasn’t seen outside the walls of his office. Now it has gone public. He says he’ll do it for 100 days. I predict he’ll be addicted.

There’s a 360-degree tour of his office, starring him. Click on his possessions and learn more – about, for example, a piece of the Berlin Wall signed by Helmut Kohl, Mikhail Gorbachev, and George Bush (41). He has a bio and lots of photos. Diekmann interviews himself (Why are you writing a blog, he asks. “I’m just incurably vain,” he answers). He posts video he shoots himself – “ich bin Videoblogger-in-Chief für Bild.de” – including one in Baghdad and another of him getting a shot. He brags about the commercials for Bild made by Bild’s readers, who understand its brand well. He links gleefully to an interview with a competitive publisher and scion of a German publishing family (founders of Der Spiegel) who says the esteemed Süddeutsche Zeitung won’t be around on paper in 20 years – but Bild will. He tweaks the liberal competition, the taz. On his “fan club” page, he shows his critics (and I thought I was brave exposing underendowment). In his store, he sells books (starting with his own) and hoodies, buttons, totebags, and mugs with his own mug (as Che Diekmann) and Bild branding as “the red-hot chili paper.”

kai2

The guy has balls. And he’s getting attention, which surely is the goal.

I can’t imagine Bill Keller or Marcus Brauchlidoing this, can you? Not even Alan Rusbridger or Will Lewis. Not even the editor of the New York Post (who’s he?). Piers Morgan is the closest thing I can imagine to Kai in the anglophone world, but he had to leave editing to become a star. In Germany, Kai is a brand. In the staid world of anglophone journalism, that’ll probably be sniffed at. But on the social web, I see little choice but to be open and human and even – gasp – have a sense of humor.

I have some personal history here to disclose. See my own story about introducing Diekmann to the Flip video camera here. I later went to speak to editors and executives of Bild’s parent company, Axel Springer, at their retreat in Italy. There, Diekmann was constantly recording every event with his own version of the Flip camera, to his colleagues’ grudging acquiescence. Does he do this all the time? I asked. Yes, they moaned. Sorry, I said. At that meeting, I pushed them all to blog and I’m not suggesting that has anything to do with Diekmann’s effort. But I’m glad to see lots of blogs emerging from Axel Springer. On a very different level, see the blog by the editor of Die Welt. The form knows no limits.

Diekmann took the Flip and surprised me by not just equipping his journalists – other editors’ reflex – but instead equipping his readers. He took interactivity and didn’t just allow readers to comment on what his paper does – as other editors do – but instead had them define his brand. He now has taken the blog and surprised me again, making a comment on the form and his paper and his industry and himself. And it’s fun to watch.

: Later: I left a comment on Diekmann’s blog and in no time, I got email from him. He’s reading what his public is writing.

Me, auf Deutsch

It’s a hoot to see yourself translated and subtitled. Here‘s the Elektrischer Reporter’s new video of me when I was in Munich for DLD. Below, that’s me saying, do what you do best and link to the rest.

elekrep.png

This was another subtitled interview with Die Zeit a few days ago.

My book has been sold in Germany and so there, too, I’ll be translated. I’m actually a bit ashamed of all the years of high-school and college German I took leading to naught. I didn’t dare try to do any of this auf Deutsch myself.

Blather auf Deutsch

Die Zeit came to interview me at CUNY and here’s the video — subtitled. In it, I mention discovering the early German blog Der Schockwellenreiter and he noticed that in turn with a classic of Denglisch: “Jeff »BuzzMachine« Jarvis hat den Schockwellenreiter genamedropped.” The past perfect of verb namedroppen. Ich namedroppe. Du namedropst. Wir namedroppen.

Another overdue recommendation: Filme und So

Here’s another overdue recommendation: One of my favorite podcasts from two of my favorite podcasters — Filme und So (translation: movies and stuff) — is now in video, as I hoped it would be. Fans of Annik Rubins and her most charming voice from her other podcast, Schlaflos in München, can now see her award-winning dimpled smile. Cohost Timo Hetzel has produced a simple and shorter versin of the audio podcast and I like the added connection it gives us with both of them. They know how to podcast well by being informative and casual but still professional and just slick enough. OK, so most of you won’t be able to understand a word (and I can’t understand every word) but I use them as a model for what podcasts and vlogs can be.

: I also just saw that Annik Rubins has a podcasting book from O’Reilly (auf Deutsch).

: And more: Annik held a contest to come up with a podcasting logo. I like it.