(Thanks, Ed Reading)
Posts about newspapers
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:
This chart shows that Wikipedia has 13% share of the No. 1 position in search results:
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:
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.]
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.
Here in a bit more friendly video format is the keynote I gave to the Munich Media Days (in English) a week ago, which I linked to earlier. I decided to be blunt and tough and tell them I was worried about the protectionist talk I’ve been hearing from Germany and that they need to have hard discussions about the change that will waft over there from here. Carta also put up a transcript.
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.”
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.
Before reaching their dangerous conclusion – recommending government supported journalism in a report called the Reconstruction of American Journalism – former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie and Columbia journalism prof Michael Schudson make some basic and, I believe, profoundly mistaken assumptions, namely: “That journalism is now at risk, along with the advertising-supported economic foundations of newspapers.”
Just because newspapers put themselves at risk, it does not follow that journalism is at risk. Newspapers no longer own journalism. As too often happens in this discussion, they focus only on the revenue side of the business ledger of news – advertising falling from monopolistic heights – and not on the cost side and the efficiency new technology – and thus collaboration – that technology allows.
As Downie and Schudson themselves point out in their Washington Post op-ed, there is now a flourishing of new outlets and means of gathering and sharing news.
Journalists leaving newspapers have started online local news sites in many cities and towns. Others have started nonprofit local investigative reporting projects and community news services at nearby universities, as well as national and statewide nonprofit investigative reporting organizations. Still others are working with local residents to produce neighborhood news blogs. Newspapers themselves are collaborating with other news media, including some of the startups and bloggers, to supplement their smaller reporting staffs. The ranks of news gatherers now include not only newsroom staffers but also freelancers, university faculty and students, bloggers and citizens armed with smart phones….
That is a basis for a new ecosystem of journalism, one we begin to outline in our Knight Foundation-funded New Business Models for News Project. We believe there is a sustainable and profitable future for news and they only way to confirm that is to try to build it but that will not happen if we declare surrender and defeat in the hope that the market can support the news a community needs.
Downie and Schudson give up on news as a business and, in their consequent desperation, make this drastic proposal:
American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting — as society has, at much greater expense, for public education, health care, scientific advancement and cultural preservation, through varying combinations of philanthropy, subsidy and government policy.
Collective responsibility. Socialized journalism. This is the ultimate in broccoli journalism: You are not only forced to read what journalists say is good for you but you are now forced to pay for it through taxation.
They make other suggestions with which I have no complaint: Journalism students should report not just for their professors but for the ecosystem and we see that beginning. If philanthropists want to do more to support news, I’m not going to burn their checks – but they are no white knights riding in to save the day. Public broadcasting can do more local reporting and we see movement in that direction from especially NPR and also public TV – though I would be loath to think that we should have government mandate of that. And we want more transparency; I belong to that religion.
All this comes from that dire assumption that journalism is dying with newspapers. That is not and certainly need not be the case. I disagree with Downie and Schudson’s key assumption: There is no crisis. When you start there, you don’t just reconstruct the past of journalism but see the possibilities to build a new journalism.
: Even The New York Times’ David Carr is somewhat incredulous.
: Mulling over the full report on my train ride in this morning, I realized that my problem with it is this: Downie and Schudson are addressing the business problem of news without doing reporting on the business.
The report is a cogent, comprehensive, well-documented summary of broadly held conventional thinking on the history and current state of journalism in America, but it is all stated from the journalistic perspective – no surprise coming from two distinguished journalists.
If this were handed in to me as a term paper in my class, I’d give it back for more reporting and rethinking. I’d tell the students that they made huge assumptions about the business state of journalism – both on the revenue and cost sides of the P&L – without giving me reporting on that. I’d advise them to look at the true cost of the accountability journalism they cherish, at the inefficiency of the business today as it produces commodity news, at whether there is sufficient advertising revenue to cover the journalism that matters once news organizations rid themselves of their inefficiency, at verifying the public demand for the kind of journalism they think the public needs, and at the issues journalism has had with trust and quality. Then, if they still came to the same conclusions – which I doubt – I’d urge them to get more balanced reporting on the risks behind each of their recommendations, particularly involving government subsidies, direct funding, and mandates on journalism. I think they did half the story, the half we’ve already heard (and which they quite ably summarize again). They should have given us the business story since that is what they really wanted to address. I wish they had.
: Alan Mutter’s good commentary.
I found this Associated Press story this morning because of a tweet and then I retweeted adding value along the way, a one-word reason to read it: “Fools.” Many retweets ensued leading to many more readers.
Welcome to the future of content distribution, the new newsstand, if you ask me. Welcome to a den of thieves, if you ask the subjects of the story, Associated Press CEO Tom Curley and News Corp. oligarch Rupert Murdoch.
They stood near Tiananmen Square – as Alan Mairson retweeted, “Nice touch: They made announcement in Great Hall of the People, shrine to Central Control” – arguing once again that people who aggregate, curate, link to, talk about their stories are stealing their value.
“Crowd-sourcing Web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred customer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers,” Curley said. “We content creators must quickly and decisively act to take back control of our content.”
He said content aggregators, such as search engines and bloggers, were also directing audiences and revenue away from content creators. . . .
Murdoch also told the opening session of the World Media Summit in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People that content providers would be demanding to be paid.
“The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators — the people in this hall — who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph,” the News Corp. chief executive said.
I rolled my eyes and hardly for the first time at their dangerous ignorance of the new realities of the next economy – at this suicidal attempt to protect outmoded models and fight the future – and tweeted my comment and thought that was it. But then I got a call from the AP reporter in Beijing who wrote this story, Alexa Olesen, and pulled off the road on my way to work to talk with her. I said exactly what you’d expect me to say, arguing against their arguments.
I presented an alternative future that is being built today, the future we see in the New Business Models for News Project with new efficiencies, specialization, targeting, value that comes with the collaboration that the internet and its links enable, with an ecosystem of many smaller but once-again profitable entities providing news we have reason to hope will be better. I got angry at the irresponsible stewardship over journalism that has been exercised by the Politburo of the Press meeting in Beijing, the people who did but no longer control the press and squandered the last 15 years. I said I was angry because they are the ones killing newspapers, not the internet.
Olesen asked whether I agreed with other talk in Beijing that it’s important for news to be on many platforms. Yes, I said, but that drive is about a decade late. Then I said I was being unfair; there is good work going on and I pointed to three or four things The New York Times is doing by example. But I then said the media world is moving to a next step, after sites and pages to streams.
And then I used this story as an example. I discovered the story through a tweet. I spread the story through a tweet. Others spread the story through their tweets. I’m spreading it again here. We are not kleptomaniacs. We are the new (free) distribution. We are providing value to news. I explained that Google News causes a billion clicks a month and Twitter causes more (Bit.ly alone causes a billion). But the comrades in Beijing can’t see that because they are ignorant of the imperatives of the link economy.
Among the many ironies in this tale is that Curley presages his own defeat. If he and Murdoch and the Central Committee put up walls and guards or unbelievably delays the news (as the AP is considering), we will go to the sites he cites – Wikipedia et al – and create better news with or without them. The way they are talking in Beijing, I fear it will be without them sooner than later.
: Later: Olesen also said that she wasn’t hearing what I was saying in Beijing. And they call us in blogs an echo chamber, I replied.
Except one might have heard these things some years ago … from Messrs. Curley and Murdoch themselves. Kevin Anderson does a wonderful job making them eat their earlier words, a dish of Peking crow.
Brisbane Times Sydney Morning Herald says the summit in Beijing really is run by a media politburo.
The summit has a secretariat based at Xinhua’s Beijing headquarters and is chaired by Xinhua’s president, Li Congjun, previously vice-minister for propaganda. Co-chairmen include Mr Murdoch, Mr Curley and leaders from the BBC, the Japanese news service Kyodo, Russia’s official news agency, ITAR-TASS, and Google.
Big issues are decided through ”collective consultation” with the world media organisations that comprise the secretariat.
”This is beginning to look familiar, don’t you think?” wrote David Bandurski, from the University of Hong Kong’s China media project. ”A self-appointed group of elites making decisions through consultation among themselves … The World Media Summit has a politburo.”
The irony is just too obvious. At the summit, Chinese leaders tell media leaders to create just ”’true, correct, comprehensive and objective’ news coverage.” As we say online: Heh.