Posts by Scott Karp

October 26th

High-End Brand Publishers Need to Sell Scalable Premium Ad Solutions, Not Commodity Ad Space

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Newspaper online advertising has not benefited greatly from the recent upswing in online ad spending, according to the New York Times and most of the recent newspaper company quarterly results. This is no surprise because most newspaper websites sell SPACE for commodity advertising — display ads and classifieds — and thus are hard pressed to compete with ad networks that specialize in selling commodity ad space by the megaton (or giving it away for free, in the case of Craigslist).

Back when newspapers where the only game in town for ad space, they could charge whatever they wanted. Now the web has near infinite ad space, and newspapers find themselves playing the wrong game. They’ve got ad sales staff that specialize in commodity order fulfillment and not premium advertising solutions.

So what distinguishes a premium ad solution from commodity ad space? It’s a premium solution if not every site can deliver the value. Any site can slap a display ad on a page — that’s what makes it a commodity. High-end brand publishers like newspapers  really have only one way to distinguish themselves from every other web publisher on the planet — their ability to create high quality content that attracts a targeted, high quality audience.

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September 16th

Content Doesn’t Matter Without the Package

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In response to the launch of Google’s Fast Flip, I observed that Google is correctly focused on creating a new user interface for news, when most media companies are not. A lot of people responded that Fast Flip is not an innovative or effective UI for news — which may be true, but that misses the point entirely.

It doesn’t matter so much whether Google succeeds or fails with this particular experiment. What matters is that they are trying to solve the right problem.

The challenge for media companies is not to figure out what to do with their content — content in and of itself doesn’t matter. It never has.

It’s all about the package.

Newspaper articles don’t matter without a newspaper. Magazine articles don’t matter without a magazine. TV shows don’t matter without a broadcast or cable channel.

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September 14th

What Google Understands About the Future of News and Publishing That Publishers Do Not

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Google knows a lot about the future of news — more than many publishers. It’s evident in Google’s new product, Fast Flip, which allows news consumers to “flip” through news stories. What’s striking about Fast Flip is that Google is innovating precisely where publishers used to lead innovation.

Fast Flip is a new package for news.

The publishing business has always been about packaging content. Newspapers. Magazines. Newsletters

In digital media, on the web, the news package is now a function of software — which is why Google is innovating precisely where publishers are not.

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July 30th

Journalists Are News Companies’ Most Valuable Asset

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Journalists are news companies’ most valuable assets.

That’s what Mike Arrington asserts, and I think he’s right (disregard the “failing old media” rhetoric):

And earlier today I got a glimpse at what AOL is up to – they are hiring all the journalists being fired and laid off by the newspapers and magazines. And they now have a news room 1,500 journalists and editors strong. Amazingly, failing old media is throwing away their most valuable assets. And AOL is eagerly picking those assets up for a song. Before anyone knows it, AOL may be the most powerful news outlet in the world.

Given that NYT has gone to great lengths to avoid newsroom layoffs, I suspect they know full well how valuable their journalists are.

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July 16th

Best Practices for Journalists Curating the Web: New York Times Bits Blog “What We’re Reading”

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The New York Times technology blog, Bits, which features original online reporting by all of the NYT technology journalists, has formally launched a new feature called “What We’re Reading.” This feature (powered by Publish2) illustrates a number of important best practices for how journalists and news orgs can create significant value for readers by curating the web. I’ve got six of them for you.

But first, here’s what the feature looks like, in the blog’s right sidebar, under the ad at the top (click for larger image):

New Feature on Bits What We're Reading

And here are the six best practices:
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May 2nd

Retraining Wire and Feature Editors to Be Web Curators

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If the wire editor and feature editor roles are becoming obsolete for print newspapers, as Steve Yelvington persuasively argues, then those editors should be retrained — or retrain themselves — as web curators. Rather than become obsolete, these editors could become essential to their news organization’s future on the web.

Steve observes:

On the Internet, we have no need of wire editors; if we wish to have wire content on our websites, we can plug in AP Hosted News, or run a full feed of AP Online or some similar product from another service. But with everything on the Internet just a click away, the value of such branded and hosted wire content is low (and measurable), and even that may go away before long, based on simple cost-benefit analysis. We may be better off sending users to CNN, MSNBC and NYtimes.

Feature editing faces the same problem:

But the job simply doesn’t transport to digital media. Again, everything on the planet is just a click away, much of it more interesting, entertaining and informative than can be found in the typical daily newspaper’s features.

Yet there is a HUGE opportunity in this shifting landscape. Just because there’s a wealth of content a click away doesn’t mean that news consumers know where to click in order to find it.

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April 23rd

Joining Publish2: Ryan Sholin, Greg Linch and Howard Weaver

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Today we’re announcing three major additions to the Publish2 team — journalists whose stellar reputations speak for themselves:

Get the full scoop at the Publish2 Blog.

April 11th

How Google Stole Control Over Content Distribution By Stealing Links

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There is so much misunderstanding flying around about the economics of content on the web and the role of Google in the web’s content economy that it’s making my head hurt. So let’s see if we can straighten things out.

Google isn’t stealing content from newspapers and other media companies. It’s stealing their control over distribution, which has always been the engine of profits in media. Google makes more money than any other media company on the web because it has near monopoly control over content distribution (i.e. like a metro newspaper in the pre web era).

Those who argue that Google is a friend to content owners because it sends them traffic overlook the basic law of supply and demand. The value of “traffic” is entirely relative. The more content there is on the web, the less value that content has — because of the surfeit of ad inventory and abundance of free alternatives to paid content — and thus the less value “traffic” has.

The more content there is on the web, the less money every content creator makes, and the more money Google makes by taking a piece of that transaction.

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