I had the opportunity to attend a Facebook Small Business Boost seminar this week. I wrote a more detailed post for the brass blog, but here are some key takeaways:
With leaked information about changes to Google’s AdWords and plans from Facebook to roll out an ad network of its own, it’s clear that if your revenue model is ad-based and isn’t driven by Google or Facebook, find a new model. Automated ad-buying is making the value of page views an outright commodity, and the effectiveness of banner advertising (while always dubious in my view) is at rock bottom.
Page views (as a measure of value) are dead:
An analysis of one international brand’s traffic from display ads found that of the thousands of visitors they bought over a multi-week period, only two users registered a non-zero engaged time. Meaning only two people read any of it.
Meanwhile, even social engagement is an unreliable indicator of real reach among an audience, when thousands of likes and followers can be had for meager investment.
I say good riddance!
Much hand-wringing has gone on about page view chasing causing a loss of focus on the mission, but with no real alternative to present. I think we always knew in our gut that counting hits or suffering trolls wasn’t a good approach to build lasting relationships with the communities (geographic and topic-based) we set out to serve. And that’s what good content — good journalism — is all about.
I’ve been reading Jeff Jarvis’ posts on Medium on this subject and found resonance with the concept of advocating and enabling:
We need to use or build platforms that enable a community to express and discern its goals.
What’s great about this is that it provides a crystal clear “Why” for the organization. Considering a new product/service/platform/event? Does it enable the community to express and discern it’s goals?
Such a position also allows for an organization to layer its approach and slate of offerings. Small, focused platforms provide specificity for both the community and those who want to reach and support them. By crafting many of them, each with a clarity of purpose and how it makes money, the organization becomes less at risk to disruption. Antifragile, even.
It’s not easy, and there’s probably plenty of pain yet to come as the old model (even the newest old model) grinds to a halt. But I suggest that the fun part is around the corner.
My friend Jason posted a comprehensive list of items to consider when crafting a mobile strategy for local media. It’s solid, and I found myself drawn to the “Audience approach” portion of the post:
- Recognize mobile users are task driven and formulate everything around that
- Know what users are doing on mobile devices in the market
My takeaway from the list, and the audience-centered approach in general, was that it outlined not just a mobile strategy, but a real set of targets to shoot for across an organization. I got a little picky about this in my response to the post; after some further thinking, I’d like to elaborate.
I live in Salem, Oregon and work about an hour south in Corvallis. Of course, when I worked as a reporter here, I knew pretty much everything that was going on in Corvallis. About Salem, however, I knew very little. Part of the curse of commuting, I suppose. My wife is active in the community and plugged in to a range of groups, but we decided to take the local paper, thinking it’d help us broaden our knowledge of chicken dinner stuff.
Keep in mind that we decided to subscribe for three primary reasons:
Also keep in mind that this would be a bit of an experiment for me: reading a paper in a town I lived in without working in the newsroom that produced the product.
It didn’t last long. I found the reporting incomplete with just a few local stories and all the usual national and international stuff I’d read elsewhere fully 18 hours before my paper arrived. The papers kept getting thinner, with less room for the events and community information I wanted. A few months after we started subscribing, the paper went on a major campaign to promote their columnists, none of whom I found very insightful or entertaining. The truth is, the useful information just wasn’t there and we decided that it wasn’t worth the money we were paying.
This week, I read that the paper had been recognized by APME for “Digital Innovation in Watchdog Journalism.” The award-winning story was of waste, corruption and fraud in a local education service agency. It was a great series: deeply reported, with great online tools to sift and visualize data, and led to overhaul of the agency staff.
I don’t mean to detract from their good work, but my concern is that an award like this will tell the editors and managers that what they are doing is just right. We were subscribers when this story unfolded. Award-winning watchdog journalism couldn’t overcome the paper’s lack of day-to-day utility.
I read or heard a long time ago that journalism is information people use to organize their lives: who to vote for, what to do Saturday night, things to talk about over dinner. It’s all about utility and it’s only as good as it is useful (newspaper’s called fishwrap for a reason). In a competitive information market, we all have too many choices to put up with mediocre options.
In my experience, starting with what’s essential for maximum utility and relentlessly simplifying around that core makes for a more focused and useful product. For media companies, that utility generates habit and trust. You’re there when they needed you. And when you have deep or broad stories to tell in a narrative and multimedia way, you get the eyeballs and time you’ve earned, without reservation — even pride. Without the recognition of a customer’s real needs, you do your finest work and lose them anyway.
A mobile strategy is essential. When it’s the starting point, it’s even better.
After four months of planning and hacking and testing, I’m proud to announce Revamp, a niche vertical aimed at the homebuilding, renovation and repair industry
After launching a self-contained social network about a year ago that was half community, half business directory, we learned that the product lacked consistent reader activity and was difficult for non-blogger business owners to use.
So I and a colleague regrouped and tried to distill the essence of what businesses might want from the Web. Our answer? Personal contact with potential customers. It’s why they join Facebook and do branding advertising and buy a listing on a newspaper social network.
The problem? These are plumbers and designers and landscapers, not writers. So we trimmed down the options to three categories: news, events and offers. We integrated an “Ask a Pro” feature as a way to put experience front-and-center to start the conversation with primed customers. And we always have a way for people to contact our pros to ask in person or schedule a bid.
We can also work with networks like Facebook, Twitter or existing products like a company Website or blog. We want to be the hub for our advertiser’s various work on the Web. We want to bend like the reed and help local businesses understand the social Web.
Seems like a funny thing to explain, but it’s important:
Take a look and see if it meets your needs. I’ll be following up with the kind of feedback we get from the pros who join the network.
A lot of posts about doing modern journalism are surrounded by technological solutions. That’s fine, since there are so many new and pervasive tools to choose from. But sometimes making a connection with a networked, busy reader involves simply tweaking the process of news to fit a modern lifestyle.
One reader recently suggested that our local news organization would do readers a much better service if we focused more on events that were upcoming rather than on what happened at the event.
“Instead of covering what happened in the news, which people are seeing all over on facebook, Twitter and online, for a small town, cover what will be … All too often we miss events from not seeing them and increasing publicity might be a good thing all around.”
About half the work of covering a beat is preparing advance stories that tell people what to expect from meetings and forums and entertainment events. But they’re not always written as regularly as they could be (they’re not very sexy) and they aren’t given any real prominence (no news is broken in them).
What this reader suggests is that the only thing that’s really important with some items is when, where and who. Online calendars (when they’re updated religiously) can put events, meetings and shows front-and-center. But in print, that information gets scattered all over the place.
Long-time readers might know to cruise through the fine-print notices for local land-use hearings or understand that a cute name for calendar like “News and Notes” holds relevant information, too. But for people who adhere to the mantra “if news is important, it’ll find me,” it’s not enough.
I’m in favor of a standing column in print that pulls out events and other go-and-do items. And maybe while we’re at it, we can start calling calendars by their rightful name.
I’m really pleased to be part of an interesting panel discussion happening this afternoon on using Twitter for journalism. The discussion was put together by University of Oregon Assistant Professor Tiffany Derville Gallicano (@derville) and Instructor Suzi Steffen (@SuziSteffen) and features a great range of folks.
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A recent post by Joshua Porter attempts to sum up Apple’s innovation strategy: “Make the very best products. Business will follow,” he concludes. In it, Porter tracks down a quote by Steve Jobs in which he says the company does no market research:
“We do no market research. We don’t hire consultants. The only consultants I’ve ever hired in my 10 years is one firm to analyze Gateway’s retail strategy so I would not make some of the same mistakes they made [when launching Apple’s retail stores]. But we never hire consultants, per se. We just want to make great products.”*
If this isn’t bull, it’s foolish.
Continue reading “Maybe a little market research would do Apple some good”
I just finished watching a fantastic video, produced for the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference.
For the record, I live in Oregon (Beervana) and I love craft beer.
But I’m also a journalism fanatic and I just couldn’t help but think about my own professional values every time these folks were talking about their own work.
This weekend, many of the best and most heretical minds in the field will be meeting at BarCamp News-Innovation Philadelphia to hammer out some new ideas and models for remaking the news industry. I couldn’t make it to Philly, but I’ll be there in spirit and following along from afar.
And so, to journalists who feel abused and stranded by the industry that controls the work we love, let’s borrow the creed of passionate brewers to wrest control of our craft and duty and move boldly into the new century:
We must illuminate our strengths, keep true to our standards, educate those who seek to understand what we’ve created. We must draw hard lines, we must expose those who would seek to capitalize on what we have created. We must not chase after those who do not understand what we’ve created or care about what we do. We believe in quality, bold character, fun, responsibility, and we believe in pushing the boundaries.
Do good work in Philly. And every day forward.
My friend Jason Kristufek heads up the paper’s Web efforts, and he’s been doing them proud.
From a map-enabled display of stories as they were breaking (sorry, no link) early on and wall-to-wall coverage during the event to reader-driven clean-up resources and assistance and postings of “Random Acts of Kindness” by volunteers in the area, the Gazette rocked under extreme conditions.