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  • feedwordpress 19:24:28 on 2015/03/31 Permalink
    Tags: buzzfeed, gimlet, New York Times, , vaynermedia,   

    What’s NewCo? These Videos Will Help 

    The post What’s NewCo? These Videos Will Help appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    The NewCo festival model is counter-intuitive, so we made these videos to help explain what the fuss is all about. I thought I’d share them here. The first one features folks talking about their experience attending festivals, and the second one features host company presentors doing the same. Enjoy! (Oh, and NewCo New York registration is open now, sign up before the best sessions fill – more than a dozen, including TED, NYT, Gimlet, VaynerMedia, and BuzzFeed, are nearly full!)


    The post What’s NewCo? These Videos Will Help appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 04:57:28 on 2015/03/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , New York Times,   

    A Few Questions For Publishers Contemplating Facebook As A Platform 

    The post A Few Questions For Publishers Contemplating Facebook As A Platform appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    tree-roots

    Well, it’s happening. According to no less authoritative source than The New York Times, The New York Times is preparing to plant a taproot right inside the highly walled garden that is Facebook.

    As Times’ executives contemplate moving The Grey Lady squarely under the rather constrictive confines of Facebook’s terms of service, they may be comforting themselves with a few palliative pretty-much-truths:

    1. We may be putting our content on Facebook’s platform, but we’ll still have our presence on the open web, apps, and in print. We’re really just accessing a massive audience natively, in a way they want to consume our content. In our other products, we’ll still be in control (well, not so much with iOS but…).
    2. Really, Facebook is just another channel — like when Borders and Barnes & Noble consolidated the newsstand business. Facebook’s just a big newsstand where we have to have our product.
    3. We’re going to be among the initial few to do this, which gives us first mover’s advantage, and probably the best economics anyone will ever get given how strongly Facebook is wooing us.
    4. If it doesn’t work , we can always call it a grand experiment and move along, sort of like we did with AOL back in the day. Or Apple back when the Newsstand was a thing.

    All kinda true, and compelling enough to “test,” which is how the article carefully positions the Times’ intentions. But as testing beings, here are a few questions any publisher should ask before dipping a taproot into Facebook’s carefully cultivated soils:

    • Do you have full and unfettered access to reader data? Will Facebook have access to your customer data?

    A publisher lives and dies by its ability to maintain a strong connection to its readership. That means understanding how people use your product, so you can make it better. It means knowing who your customers are, so you can call them by name, make them offers, ask them questions, converse with them using sophisticated tools. Will Facebook offer the kind of tools the open web does?

    • Do you have full and unfettered control over your advertising relationships and data? Will Facebook have access to that data?

    If Facebook is selling your advertising, or telling you how to sell your advertising, or dictating what your advertising has to look like, or has access to data about your customer data *and* your advertising, they have your jewels in their hands. I hope those are very soft hands.

    • Do you have certainty over the levers of circulation marketing, including the price of reader acquisition and engagement? 

    Facebook’s record here ain’t exactly encouraging. Everyone knows that if you want to build audience on Facebook, you have to pay Facebook. Publishers have gotten pretty sophisticated at understanding customer acquisition costs, ROI, and the like. Will Facebook offer a consistent ecosystem here, or will the sands shift as the company ropes in your competitors, leverages “proprietary algorithms” to decide who sees what, then ultimately decides to get into your business in some way? If you want to read up on such a market, just ask Yelp how it feels about Google.

    • Do you have control over your core product, so you can craft your reader’s experience as an expression of your brand? 

    I can’t really stress this one too much. I mean, what if a year in, you want to ask some of your Facebook readers to pay you, in exchange for less advertising (or none)? Do you have to ask permission? Wait, you agreed to not do that? Well why would any reader pay you on the open web if they can get it for free on Facebook? And what if you want to do something like Snowfall? Or what if you come up with a really neat widget that pulls in processed content from, say, Twitter and SnapChat? Will Facebook let you? They kinda sorta don’t like those companies, last I checked. My guess is they won’t like others down the road too.

    • Do you have any proof that publishers using another company’s proprietary platform have ever created a lasting and sustainable business? 

    I guess I should have put this one first. There have been good exits for some publishers from platforms — a few of the MCNs on YouTube come to mind — but those were native video publishers who will all admit that they could never reach profitability on YouTube’ economics.

    I can’t really think of any publisher who thrived on someone else’s platform, for the reasons I laid out above. Sure, a lot of apps have done well, but in the main they were either hit businesses (gaming) or free services that kept their customer and revenue models well away from Apple or Google’s grasp (everybody else ever).

    Perhaps Facebook has addressed all these points with the Times and others — but the article certainly didn’t find evidence of that. And all of you other publishers should know how the playing field tilts before joining the game.

    Which brings us to BuzzFeed, which has taken a delightfully inverse approach to platform economics — that is to say, it embraces the distribution of its content independent of its home base. Of course, it can do so because its core revenue model is native advertising content, which is distributed in the same fashion as original editorial content. This model suits BuzzFeed very, very well. I’m not sure it scales for many others.

    So far, Facebook has not clipped BuzzFeed’s native advertising wings. Could it? Just ask Zynga.

    Then again, and to be fair, I’m not privy to the conversations between the Times and Facebook. Regardless, were I a publisher, I’d sure like to know the answers to those questions above. If anyone gets some, do let us know?

    (cross posted to Medium).

    The post A Few Questions For Publishers Contemplating Facebook As A Platform appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 01:40:04 on 2014/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Innovation Report, Jill Abramson, Leak, New York Times,   

    The New York Times Innovation Report is Both a Manifesto and Warning For Entrenched Organizations 

    "To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often"
    ~Winston Churchill

    There are few documents, articles or any media for that matter that capture and illustrate the complex yet efficient nature of disruption than the New York Times 2014 Innovation Report. Recently leaked, presumably in some connection with the dismissal of executive editor Jill Abramson the 91 page report has been somewhat eclipsed by the debate around Abramson. But while that story has been garnering the most attention in the media—it is the innovation report which needs to be read cover to cover by anyone whose work includes a digital media component. 

    Scratch that—anyone who works should read it. And you have no excuse—I'll make it easy for you. You can download the PDF from here. Print it out or save it to your iPad/tablet but just READ IT. After spending a few hours with it myself over an evening, my conclusion was that the document, while not earth shattering in the recognition of disruption nor the recommendations to combat it—it paints an eerily detailed portrait of an entrenched organization struggling with itself to adapt, change and succeed in a world that no longer recognizes the New York Times as king of the hill. If you read between the lines as you digest the information, it is astonishingly insightful. 

    I don't think I can do the entire document justice, but I'm going to try to capture a few reoccurring themes that stood out for me. I'll also include quotes from the report—but again, please do yourself a favor and make the time to read it yourself. 

    Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.42.00 PM
    Agility
    Page 32: "Launch efforts quickly, then iterate. We often hold back stories for publication, as we should, because they're "not quite there yet"...we can adopt a more basic form so that we start getting feedback from users and improve it over time"

    Agility in some form or another is a constant theme in the report surfacing as a response to the reason it was being championed; disruption. In fact the entire report is essentially a response to the disruption from competitors who move quickly and seem to have an intuitive understanding of customer media behaviors from mobile to social and beyond. The notion of agility highlights initiatives such as Snow Fall but also promotes a systematic approach to both experimentation and innovation highlighting setting goals and tracking progress. 

    Culture
    Page 38: "At The Times, we generally like to let our wok speak for itself. We're not ones to brag. Our competitors have no such qualms, and many are doing a better job of getting their journalism in front of new readers through aggressive story promotion".

    I could not help but feel the tension in culture in nearly every page of the report. Old vs. new, editorial standards vs. attention grabbing techniques, silos vs. open collaboration—you could almost feel the palpable struggle of an established organization grappling with itself. One of the areas where you could feel culture at play was in the section where the report discusses "connection" and puts forth the idea that journalists like Nick Kristof, David Carr and Charles Duhigg—all journalists who promote their own work are doing it right and these skills can be taught. it remains to be seen if the organization can stomach a small army of staff who have built personal brands at scale and leverage them for mutual benefit. Ultimately the document evangelizes a "digital first" movement to be embraced in all corners of the organization, de-emphasizing the front page, print and other hold outs from a previous era. Some would question if it's too late—but that's where the report is rooted. 

    Customer Centricity
    Page 60: "The many business-side development and roles which we refer to as "Reader Experience" throughout this report —need to work more closely with the newsroom instead of being kept at arm's length."

    I debated on elevating this, but I think it's a macro theme in the report and it's not unusual for any organization, especially a large one that has enjoyed dominance in market for a time to lose sight of how their customers think, act and behave as it relates to the world you have in common. There are numerous areas in the report that reference how the NYT's competition have seemingly mastered timeliness, relevance or features which media consumers can't get enough of. The report also goes into some detail about the silos the organization needs to work through as an impediment to serving the modern needs of customers. it seems elementary, but there's enough evidence to support a concerted effort to make "Reader Experience" a top priority. 

    Talent 
    Page 88: "I looked around the organization and saw the plum jobs—even the ones with explicitly digital mandates—going to people with little experience in digital. Meanwhile, journalists with excellent digital credentials were stuck moving stories around on section fronts"

    There were numerous references to the type of talent The Times had at their disposal from analysts to design to technology, product, R&D and more but it wasn't toward the end that you got the sense that there was a struggle to ensure that the right talent was retained. Digital talent by definition can be fickle, impatient and drawn to emerging trends (as digital media typically is always evolving)—but you got a sense from the report that there was a concern for today's departures becoming tomorrow's competitors. 

    Summary: Disruption Happens
    The NYT Innovation Report provides a glimpse into an industry under tremendous pressure and illustrates what it looks and feels like for a large, established organization with a rich heritage to come to terms with a world that looks very different than it did when tried and true formulas worked. It should be required reading for any executive or professional whose job it is to make sure their business is resilient enough to thrive in spite of change. In short, being an entrenched organization or a business resistant to change is no longer a viable strategy. 

    Also: See Scott Monty's excellent take on the same subject. 

     
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