Author Archive

To: Bill Conneely
Subject: Responding to your “smackdown.”

So, first off Bill, let’s talk about customer relations. I argued on this media blog that the market for matching journalists with journalistic outfits (and PR people with PR outlets) is still somewhat inefficient — an observation that others in similar positions to me (aka: your customers) have noted too. I also granted, respectfully, that the closest thing there is to a good buyer-seller exchange is Mediabistro. And for that I got a “smackdown” from Mediabistro’s director of strategy. Perhaps a better approach would’ve been to say “thanks for noting that we’re the place to go, we continuously work to improve the system, and appreciate the feedback,” or even “we beg to differ and here’s why… ” but “smackdown?” Really?

Now let’s dissect this dispute. So, according to you, if I’m reading this correctly, there are two reasons why employers like my peers and me struggle to find people (neither of which have anything to do with the efficacy of the recruiting sites, of course).

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Can anyone explain to me why the recruitment market for entry- and early-mid-level journalists, and public relations people is still so insanely inefficient?

I used to think it was just me who had to dig for days to turn up a single good candidate. Maybe, I just didn’t know where to look. Maybe, as editor of Ad Age, or editor-in-chief of Breaking Media, I just wasn’t offering sexy enough jobs, after all the jobs I was looking to fill definitely required some business reporting skills. But over the last couple of years I’ve had the discussion with countless editors and publishers. In just the last month I’ve spoken to the editor of a section of a major national newspaper, the editor of a pretty-damn sexy magazine/web brand and a couple of editors of online properties, all of whom have been struggling to find the right candidate.

You might think that this makes sense. Maybe students have been forced into a sad-but-probably-practical conservatism by the pay-for-play education in this country, and are simply deciding not to rack up monstrous debts in an effort to join a poor-paying profession in which the largest employers have been cutting their staffs every year for a decade. But that’s not it. In fact, even in the mainstream-media maelstrom of 2009, the J-schools continued to report increased applications and graduate numbers have tended to tick up in recent years too.

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Today, we finish out our rundown of the heroes and goats from the pitch and beyond.

Budweiser 2, Other brewers 2.
Budweiser will be happy to have moved on from Germany, where the official beer sponsor was soundly pounded as spulwasser (that’s dishwater to you) by a populace that takes its beer seriously and didn’t appreciate the lack of local brews at the games. In South Africa it seems to have scored a few more fans and won’t have done its developing world distribution any harm at all.

As you can see from the Nielsen numbers, however, Carlsberg managed to score too with its legends World Cup ad. And Dutch brewer Bavaria stole some headlines too with its 30-women in orange mini-dresses. However, booze is an overall winner during the World Cup, with bars jam-packed even in the avowedly-disinterested United States.

Hooray beer.

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While we wait impatiently for Holland versus Brazil, let me bring you a few of the latest World Cup marketing scores.

Castrol 0, Visa 1.
If a sponsor’s checkbook opens on Sepp Blatter’s desk and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound? Castrol is not the only marketer to pony up tens of millions for official Fifa sponsorship rights, only to fail to leverage its outlay, by, you know, letting the rest of us know about it. (Did you visit Continental Tires’s site? Are you more likely to fly with Emirates than you were before the tournament? What about the chances that you buy a solar panel from Yingli Solar?)

Visa, one of many brand giants that sometimes seems to be applying the somewhat questionable “well, it’s a global event and we’re a global brand” logic to its sponsorship, at least found a few ways to activate its purchase by offering cardholders access to tickets in pre-sale events and making this thoroughly likable ad.

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So the paywall debate is raging. Again. That media rascal Murdoch has erected barriers and toll booths around his London Times and Sunday Times, and the New York Times is going to follow suit with a metered system that will charge readers who try to access more than an as-yet-to-be-determined number of stories.

Predictably in a business that so loves its navel, the NYT’s move spawned voluminous coverage. My cursory analysis of that coverage is about as scientific as scientology, but the pieces that bubble to the top of the search soup seem to be largely down on the idea, pointing to the lost links and, possibly more pertinently, the pointlessness of the exercise in revenue terms.

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Data visualization gets its props on web and information design sites, such as Web Design Ledger, Web Designer Depot, and Information Is Beautiful, which feature some incredible examples of this science (or is it art). Yet its influence on the way the news media tells stories and configures its platforms is still sadly limited.

That’s not to say it doesn’t get any play. Magazines like Wired frequently simplify the complex or enliven the intellectual with clever visualizations. On this week’s Beancast, Angela Natividad of Hypios, ended the show by advising listeners to check out this nifty World Cup predictor from Wired UK. Also on the World Cup tip, Spanish sports language daily, Marca, created this fantastic interactive schedule.

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It’s time to wrap up the month-long trial of truncated RSS feeds on Above the Law. I had somewhat put the conclusion cart before the research horse, in that I marked the last day of this experiment in my calendar with the phrase “eat humble pie re. RSS.” And if you wait just a minute I will feed myself at least a small slice, but first let me share our findings.

One of my key concerns about the full RSS feed is that it is used by web scrapers to steal our content, which not only means they derive entirely unjustified benefit from our editors’ efforts but also leads to duplicate content that can hurt SEO efforts. On this front, the anecdotal evidence suggests that truncating the feed helped. In the earlier months of this year we had identified anywhere from 2-6 scrapers stealing all our content, but during May when we were truncating the feed we found no new examples. One of the perpetrators we’d already identified continued scraping the content, but was now getting just the abbreviated stories.

Of course the most common complaint from publishers about full RSS feeds is that subscribers get all the content in their readers, don’t click through to the site, and therefore aren’t monetized in any meaningful way. In the case of ATL, truncating the feed definitely increased the number of people clicking through to the site. Visits from our full feed were about 4% of our total traffic before we truncated it, but jumped to about 7% of total traffic in the month of the truncation trial. In our case this translated to something in the region of an additional 100,000 impressions, which isn’t going to make us rich, but would be worth more dollars and cents than we could make running ads in the RSS feed.

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Nike’s “Write the Future” ad reminded me of something the vivacious magazine publisher Felix Dennis said in the mid-nineties about the then ad-bloated issues of the revenue-producing beast InStyle magazine. He called it the last roar of the T-Rex before the dinosaurs became extinct.

I’m not saying that either magazines or video ads are going to die, partly because that’s simply not the case and partly because it’s the wrong argument to make. But with so few strong brand-building commercials to watch these days, it is easy to imagine that this expansive and expensive commercial from Wieden & Kennedy Amsterdam and director Alejandro Iñarritu is an endangered species. Name me one other ad of its quality since Google trotted out its simple, but beautiful little Parisian love story during the Super Bowl back in February?

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Last week Yahoo agreed to spend $90 million on Associated Content. While we sniffed at the quality of Associated’s two million-plus consumer-written articles, the deal has serious implications for the media business. Here’s how it impacts four different constituents.

For Yahoo
I think we can safely say that it depends on post-deal execution, as it usually does with these things. On the one hand that $90 million could prove to be a big ol’ waste of money: Associated’s content isn’t high-value stuff, CPM’s for lower-value inventory will inevitably keep being driven drown by the proliferation of supply and the reduction of friction in the buying process, and both Associated’s network of Joe and Jane Doe contributors and its technology platform could’ve been replicated by a company with Yahoo’s resources for a lot less than $90 million.

On the other hand if it can focus this army on providing the types of content demanded by advertisers — particularly local and niche advertisers who’ve yet to be effectively mined as a source of display revenue but could be extremely lucrative — while finding better ways of vetting the content for quality and building greater demand for brand advertising online, that $90 million could end up looking like a small price to have paid.

For media dealmakers
Dealmakers will read this as another positive indication that the media M&A market is coming back. I’ve only spoken to one lawyer and one banker on the topic, but both seemed confident this was good news for them. We’ve already seen an acceleration of the pace of dealmaking in the technology sector and the banker’s theory was that this deal would trigger more activity in the digital content space.

Obviously if you’re an entrepreneur looking for crazy multiples, you’d still rather you had invented some instantly scalable, must-have mobile software, but the fact that Yahoo — which has at times tried to distance itself from the media business — is snapping up content and talking about why it wants to be a media company must be a good sign for media owners who create original content. Right?

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Earlier this year, at the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, I was struck by a remark that I thought I heard from Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg. “By 2020,” he said, “50 billion devices will be wirelessly connected to the internet.”

GlowCaps Remind People to Take Their PillsI was going to tweet his statement from @breakingmedia but hesitated because I thought I must have misheard. After all, that’d be more than 10 times the current number of mobile phones in the world—an already incredible 4 and a half billion—and about four web-connected devices for every person on the planet. While those of us who live in the narcissistic media navel of New York are often tempted to imagine that everyone totes an iPhone, iPad and laptop—as well as whatever desktop is getting dusty in their study at home—it seemed a stretch to imagine the average resident of, say, India or China using four or more devices. I concluded that either I wasn’t paying proper attention or Vestberg was indulging in a little bit of corporate boosterism—Ericsson is in the business of enabling mobile connections, so 50 billion of them would be good business for the Swedish equipment manufacturer.

Then, at about the time the iPad was released, I had the chance to talk with David Haight, AT&T’s VP of Business Development, Emerging Devices Organization. Ten minutes of conversation with Haight is enough to change your vision of the future from one where everyone is carrying a wireless internet device like a mobile phone, to one where that device in your hand connects you with an internet of things all around you. Everywhere.

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