Archive for the ‘Publishing’ Category

BusinessWeek's for sale, the industry is surprised. I'm not.

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

NOTE: I’ve got some new blogging gigs – primarily for businesses that I’m operating and launching as part of Pure Incubation – and I want to make sure that I’m sharing the content that I’m producing on those blogs here (in case you care!) So when I blog elsewhere, I’m going to include pieces of those posts here and link to the full posts. FYI!

Here’s the article…

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Apparently the media industry is “stunned” that BusinessWeek is for sale. Really? Stunned?

Today’s article in B2B Media Business cites the following:

  • - BusinessWeek lost $85 million in 2008
  • - BusinessWeek has already lost $20 million in 2009
  • - BW’s ad pages declined 17.2% in 2008
  • - This year, BW’s ad pages have declined 36.8% compared to the same period last year- This year, BW’s ad pages have declined 36.8% compared to the same period last year
  • - BusinessWeek’s online catalogs sellers of viagra and cialis in the usa ad pages have dropped 69% since their high point in 2000
  • - Print ad revenue has fallen 59% in the same time period

BusinessWeek coverWhy are people stunned that McGraw-Hill would want to offload a business unit that is bleeding so severely? I understand that BusinessWeek’s brand is valuable and important, but most companies – including McGraw-Hill – can’t absorb $80 million in losses year after year.

I suppose that the shock and dismay people feel at the loss of well-established print entities shouldn’t surprise me. Just look at the outrage that people felt at the thought of the Boston Globe possibly closing its doors, even though that publication is on track to lose $85 million this year.

Read the full article on the Sauce Technology blog

Quiz: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’m a start-up founder just like many of you, and there are days when I wonder if I’m the only one who feels, acts and thinks the way I do. But there are others that have gone before, and you might be surprised to see which tech founder you are most like. Take our quiz and find out your answer to the question: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Click here to take the quiz

(UPDATE: I’m going to ask you for an email address at the end of the process. I wanted to warn you up front so that I don’t catch you off guard!)

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Quiz Sauce logoOne erectile dysfunction viagra of the things that we’re working on at Pure Incubation is launching a variety of software tools for publishers aimed at helping them solve their most crucial business issues. (If you want to know more about those publishing problem areas, read this post.) We’re doing this through our Sauce Technology business unit, and today I want to introduce you to a specific application – Quiz Sauce.

The quiz above was built using the application – give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Here’s the link to take the quiz in case you missed it above – What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

What a tragedy in my hometown taught me about how media has changed forever

Monday, April 27th, 2009

(Note: Sorry for the blogging hiatus…I really wanted to publish this post before writing anything else, but have struggled with finishing it. Thanks for understanding and hopefully I’ll be back to my regular posting schedule now!)

I’m from Binghamton, N.Y.

In the past, when I told people that fact, I had to explain where Binghamton is located. (Upstate. Do you know where Syracuse is? No? Ithaca? No? How about Albany? You know, the state capital? About two hours from there.) But now, everyone has heard of Binghamton. I wish that it was because our basketball team made it to the NCAA championship. But sadly, it’s for a far grimmer reason.

Binghamton

I have had a number of posts half-written about what happened in Binghamton since I heard the news. None of them seems quite right to publish in the wake of the multitude of experiences and sadness and loss. But I will say that Binghamton is so much more than a sick shooter and tragedy and death. Just as the city isn’t all bad, it isn’t all good with “tidy houses lining the neat streets,” as I heard someone on CNN report (I guess they must have been reading Wikipedia). But Binghamton is my hometown, as Rod Serling wrote. I love it, and I love the people who live there. And I’m incredibly saddened by the recent events.

But that’s not really what this post is about. This post is about how the news spread, and just how much media has changed.

Just a few years back, news was spread by the mainstream media. Some event would happen, and other than the few people who might have been at the scene, the majority of people found out the news through TV, radio, or even the Internet. But typically, the people reporting on the news were the major news media outlets that were using various media to report the news.

But all that is changing. Now, there are a variety of publishing and communication tools that allow everyone – not just the mainstream media – to distribute news. My experience finding out about what had happened in the Binghamton shooting event was completely different than during any other news even in the past. Not only was the information transferred through a variety of media, but the people who were passing on the news were the people on the scene, the people who really knew what was happening; the people who I care about.

Here’s a timeline of what I found out, when and how:

April 3
12:45pm – Instant Message from a co-worker who saw the news on Twitter.

1:20pm – Phone call from my husband Chris, who was driving ativan online pharmacy to a meeting and heard the news on the radio.

1:24pm – Text from a friend: “Turn on CNN now if you can. Shootings in bingo.”

1:28pm – Text from another friend: “Binghamton is in the new Big Time. Shootings”

1:38pm – Twitter Direct Message: “Did you see what’s going on in Binghamton?”

2:44pm – Facebook post from friend: “I just heard that my brother [a Binghamton police officer] is safe from the incident in Binghamton. Thank god.”

4:24pm – Facebook post from my cousin, who’s a firefighter in Binghamton: “Just got back from working the worst shooting in Binghamton history. Never thought that being a firefighter I would be wearing a bullet proof jacket. It was not good at all. prayers for the injured.”

9:23pm – Text from a friend: “Sadly I heard from that [a friend’s] mom was teaching English there 2day and may have been killed. It’s not official yet, but likely.”

For me, during this event, the news that I cared the most about I got from my friends and family through a variety of means – text messages, IM, Facebook. I watched some of the news coverage on CNN and MSNBC, but when Geraldo started spouting off about how Binghamton “is a very tight knit community” I had to turn him off. I didn’t want to see pictures of the American Civic Association via Microsoft Virtual Earth. I didn’t want to watch the news teams scramble to find someone that they could talk to who knew the town and the people there. I wanted to connect with friends and family, via the phone, Twitter, texting, Facebook. I wanted the news from people I loved and trusted, just like I always have. But the big shift is that now there are ways to do this; to gather and disseminate information and to keep connected to all the people I want to talk to who are hundreds of miles away.

Now, instead of listening to what the mainstream media has to say about Binghamton, I can find out what my friends and family think. And I can be encouraged and inspired by things like this awesome note posted to Facebook by one of my cousins:

“Over the past few days, I have listened to people all over the country try and define Binghamton. I will take a stab at it. Binghamton consists of a majority of people that are “down to earth”, love their family, cherish good times with friends, are not afraid to work hard and care about their neighbors. That is why no matter where you go, it is always good to see Binghamtonians! You know who you are!”

One problem with Internet publishing

Monday, March 16th, 2009

I am a huge proponent of Internet publishing – obviously. I’ve built an entire business around creating online media sites and supporting publishing companies with software that facilitates and improves the publishing process. But there is a problem with Internet publishing that many people have referenced in the past, but came to light for me last week with a first-hand experience.

left sign pointing rightI was working on an article for The Industry StandardWhen will BlackBerry App World launch? And I found a lot of reports from various media organizations, including Gizmodo, that the App World store was set to launch on March 4. It didn’t. So then I was looking everywhere for the reports that the store launch was delayed, trying to find out what happened to RIM to delay the launch.

But I didn’t find any stories about the App World delays.

So that oddity caused me to send a quick note off to a BlackBerry PR rep to ask her about the March 4 launch date. Her response:

“RIM announced the official name of the application storefront – BlackBerry App World – on March 4th. The company did not set March 4th as a launch date. I did see some articles that mistakenly said the store was announced on the 4th, but that was just the date the official name was released xanax bars (the storefront was actually first announced in fall 2008). BlackBerry App World is on track to launch within the next month.”

I sent the note and heard back from the rep about 1.5 hours later. Easy. But this experience brought home the point that Fred Wilson made on March 4 (ironically) about talking to the source to get a story right. It is so easy to send a quick note to a company or an individual to check on the facts of a story before publishing, but it’s easier to NOT send that note. Trust me – I’m as guilty of this as the next guy. I just happened to notice a discrepancy when I was researching the story; otherwise it’s doubtful that I would have sent that note to the PR rep at all.

This is definitely a problem with online publishing. Not that one publication could make a mistake – that happens in print publishing, too. But that one publication makes a mistake, which is then picked up over, and over, and over again by various online media outlets without anyone ever checking the facts.

The solution to this problem is the readers. It will be up to all of us to determine the reliable publications, and support them by reading the ones that are good, and not the others.

Photo by srslyguy

Prediction markets, the Kindle & the Industry Standard

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Prediction markets are speculative markets that are created for the purpose of making predictions. Basically, a prediction is made and then people bet on whether that prediction is likely or unlikely to take place. According to Wikipedia,

“People who buy low and sell high are rewarded for improving the market prediction, while those who buy high and sell low are punished for degrading the market prediction. Evidence so far suggests that prediction markets are at least as accurate as other institutions predicting the same events with a similar pool of participants.”

The most interesting thing (to me) is that prediction markets have proven to be quite accurate at determining the outcome of future events using the wisdom of crowds. And prediction markets are used in all kinds of industries, from finance to politics to entertainment.

Prediction markets are also used in the tech industry, where a prediction market was launched by The Industry Standard in February 2008. This is where I come in.

I’ve been writing for The Standard for awhile, but today marks the beginning of a new assignment – tackling the Industry Standard’s tech prediction market. I’ll be writing a couple of times a week about The Standard’s prediction market, and various technology predictions that are current on the site.

Amazon KindleMy first article debuts today discussing an upcoming announcement by Amazon. The company has announced an “important” press conference on February 9, but hasn’t released any details about what that press conference will entail, leading to widespread speculation that the company will release version 2 of the Kindle next week. So will Amazon launch Kindle 2.0 next week? The market is currently saying “yes.”

I’d like to invite you to participate in the Industry Standard’s prediction market with me. Come and vote for and against the tech predictions that are up on the site right now. And please comment, send me thoughts and suggestions, and provide your insights about the various predictions that are up on the site. I will always be looking for more ideas and topics for discussion.

Come and cast your vote at The Standard today.

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I just got done reading this interesting article “Media execs are asleep at their own wheel” over on the Go Big Always blog written by Sam Lawrence. Sam’s observations about how the long-time tech media companies are way behind in adopting social media – and in the way that they adopt social media once they make the decision to do so – are right on. To quote the post:

“Yes, I get their business model: serve as many pages as possible so they can have enough media “inventory” to sell lots of ads. And then there is subscription. That’s when you collect names through registration forms so you can market the lists and/or prove your readership demographics to advertisers. This is basically the old print media model online. And it, like other old-fart models, is stuck a decade behind.”

I completely agree with Sam – traditional tech publishing companies don’t get it and haven’t adjusted to the online business models. But although I agree with Sam, I actually have a bit more tolerance for their slow transition because I understand what motivates them and what’s holding them back.

The number fourHere are four reasons why I think that traditional media companies are so far behind in adopting social media:

1) They are still trying to support a print circulation model. Historically, in the tech trade publication world of IDG, what was formerly CMP Media, and Ziff Davis Enterprise, it has been all about getting a qualified audience to support a print magazine. The subscribers to these companies’ various print titles don’t pay to receive copies of the print publications, instead, they trade detailed demographic data to prove that they are worthy of receiving the magazine. The publications, in turn, provide the demographic data to advertisers to demonstrate that they have the “qualified audience” to warrant the vendor spending $50k+ on print advertisements.

The secret is this – it’s incredibly expensive to qualify this audience. Every year, magazines lose thousands of subscribers who don’t re-qualify. So circulation managers are constantly trying to recruit new, qualified readers for their magazines. This is costly – and traditional media companies have started to use every online audience touchpoint that they can to try to continue to qualify audiences, including social media registration forms.

2) It takes a long time to make the necessary infrastructure changes. One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.

3) The leadership doesn’t even know what social media is and/or doesn’t have time to stay on top of the latest developments. There are a lot of really smart people working in big media companies – and there are also a lot of really outdated people working in these companies. Much of the leadership in the tech media industry reached the level at which they are at by mastering print readership models – very few of today’s leaders are visionaries promoted to the top because of their success online. There are of course exceptions; but if you were to discuss social media with the majority of the executives at traditional tech media companies, they would mention blogs and message boards – and that’s about it. And with the precarious state of many of the tech publishers at the moment, few have time to stay on top of the day-to-day changes and developments in social media – most are trying to just stay afloat.

4) They are afraid of social media. Although these tech media companies will talk about the “separation of church and state” – meaning the fact that their writers are in no way influenced by their advertisers – the truth is that the media companies are terrified of what will be said by users about their advertisers once the barriers are opened up. Media companies know that they will not be able to control the conversation with a heavy hand, but they still want to maintain some semblance of control so as to not completely alienate advertisers. Until media execs feel comfortable with this fine-line, they will not be able to whole-heartedly embrace social media.

(Disclosure: I was formerly an employee for IDG’s Network World and Ziff Davis Media; and am currently a consultant to Ziff Davis Enterprise.)

Photo by Cappellmeister

My new gig: The Industry Standard

Thursday, March 20th, 2008

I have been a fan of The Industry Standard for a long-time – I have written about them before, and many of you will remember the magazine version of The Industry Standard as being the fastest growing magazine of all time before the bubble burst, taking The Standard down in its wake. Now The Standard is back, with an online-only site that focuses on a prediction marketplace.

And I’m the newest writer/contributor to the site.

My first article is up now – Five reasons why a recession is a good time to start a company. Go read it, comment on it, let everyone know what you think about it. And then come back to 16thletter and let me know what you think.

Industry Standard article

Ziff Davis MEDIA files Chapter 11

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

Ziff Davis Media logoI just read the news that Ziff Davis Media is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. I worked at Ziff Davis until July 2007, but on the Ziff Davis Enterprise side of the company, as opposed to the Ziff Davis Media side of the business, a distinction that I’m sure the enterprise folks will be working hard to make in the next few weeks.

Ziff Davis Enterprise – which was spun off from Ziff Davis proper at the end of July 07 when it was sold to Insight Venture Partners – is made up of the Web Buyer’ s Guide, eWeek and the eSeminars groups. Ziff Davis Media is comprised of the Consumer (PCMag.com, ExtremeTech) and Gaming (1Up) sides of the business.

It’s too bad that this day came, but I doubt that many people at the company (or in the industry) are surprised. Ziff Davis Media has had trouble with its debt for a few years now, and the selling of the Enterprise group was seen by many as the last chance for Willis Stein to salvage some money it invested when it bought the company for about $780 million in 1999. As the consumer and enterprise groups were splitting, those of us on the enterprise side of the company almost had the feeling of abandoning a sinking ship, that the Enterprise Group was taking the one opportunity it had to get off the boat before it went down for good.

The Industry Standard is back

Monday, February 4th, 2008

I just got an email with the subject line: “Thanks from the Industry Standard.” Here’s what the message had to say:

“You were one of the first in line to ask to see the brand-new Industry Standard. To show our appreciation for your interest, you are being notified of today’s official launch!

“The site is not only designed to give readers insights into technology and the Internet economy, but also provides a unique community feature — a predictive market.”

The new industry standard logoI’ve written about the Industry Standard in the past, related to the fall of the mighty business (print) publications that I used to follow. But today the site (as a Web-only property) is relaunching.

The site is positioning itself as a “prediction market,” offering analysis and opinion from writers and experts, and then giving its readers the opportunity to agree or disagree – and hopefully use the “power of collective intelligence” to predict the correct outcome.

From the site:

“The prediction market articulates the same emphasis on community knowledge and networking that is perhaps the Web 2.0 era’s most important contribution — the power of collective intelligence. Prediction markets have proven to be remarkably powerful tools for gauging events and trends, and we think that the addition of this technology to the site will provide a very special type of meaningful interaction.”

From my first look at the site, it is debatable whether it will have much of an impact. The contributors and analysis are good, but nothing to truly distinguish it from the content on any other site. The predicition market stuff is vaguely interesting at first glance, but who has time to vote on more news stories? Even so, my prediction is that the Industry Standard brand and the IDG parent company (with the top tech brands in its arsenal of sponsors – Intel is the “launch sponsor”) will be enough to guarentee a revenue-generating future.

Looks like I may be betting against TechCrunch on this one.

What's going to happen to the music industry?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Everywhere I turn it seems that there is a story about the demise or revolution of the music industry (depending on your perspective), sparked by two huge music-related stories that broke last week.

The first was the report that music sales were down 9.5% in 2007. The bright note from that report was that the sale of digital music tracks was up 45%, but even that huge leap didn’t help the industry overall. The second was the announcement that Sony BMG will be joining the other three major labels in offering DRM-free songs.

The music industry is scrambling to deal with the impact of the Internet on its traditional business models.

Going out of Business Music WorldIn this October 2007 post, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch sums up nicely the issues that are facing the music industry, and ReadWriteWeb echoes some of the same sentiments. Basically, sales of CDs and digital downloads are not going to make huge amounts of money for anyone going forward. Both argue that the real money will be made from ticket sales for live performances, merchandising, and special limited-edition physical copies of the music.

But there is money being made from digital downloads – it’s just not of the scale that the major record labels are used to. In 2007, there were 844.2 million digital tracks sold. Radiohead’s recent experiment, in which the band released an album online for free download and asked listeners to pay what they wanted, made them more money from the digital distribution then they made from the digital distribution of all the rest of their albums combined. If this seems strange, there is a simple reason – Radiohead was released from their contract with their record label, a contract that in the past excluded them from any royalties from the digital distribution of their music (remind anyone of the current writer’s strike?) Many signed bands and musicians are currently stuck in contracts like these, the relics of an era when digital distribution didn’t really matter.

Of course, there is still money being made in the music industry, but as fewer people are buying CDs (that are costly to produce and distribute) and as more people are downloading digital music (that is practically free to reproduce and distribute), less money is being made. And, the money is being spread among more musicians. The Long Tail is in full force in the music industry, allowing more people to make money as consumers spend their dollars on a wider variety of music and musicians.

So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.

The really big question is: What online business model is going to work for the music industry going forward? Any successful model will have to support both the record labels and the artists who are producing music. And it will have to be one that consumers will spend their money on.

Here are my predictions:

  1. The new model will be all about the audience.In the past, bands knew how many records or songs they sold, but not the name of the individual that bought them. Digital download and distribution, as well as social networking sites like MySpace, now let musicians know much more intimately who their audience is. By collecting the name of the individual who downloads their song (whether they pay for it or get the download for free), musicians will be able to have a much more personal relationship with their audience – and they will be able to re-market to them in the future. As musicians begin to realize that having the name of their fan is worth more money than the $0.70 they get from iTunes, they will either begin  offering all their songs for free, or Apple will have to adjust their business model and begin sharing data with the artists. Radiohead may have been the first major label to try offering free downloads, but many others are following suit. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame), just produced a Saul Williams album and released it online the same way that Radiohead did – and he has told everyone about the data that they collected. Reznor is bemoaning the fact that only 18.3% of the people who downloaded the album paid $5 for it. He thinks that this stinks (and it might) but he is neglecting the really exciting fact that 154,449 people downloaded Williams’ album! That is an audience of 154,449 if you at least collected an email address. That is a significant fan base – and in my opinion, it is going to be the primary model of the future.
  2. Musicians will begin releasing songs more frequently, as well as more versions of each song. When digital downloads become the norm (and that day is close), there will be no need to stick with the CD format where musicians release all their fully produced songs in one giant lump. Instead, they’ll release things as they are done, there will be more live performance and acoustic versions of songs, and more interesting bits, more looks into the recording studios, more evidence that songwriters and musicians are humans and that every version that they play isn’t perfect. (UPDATE: Looks like Mark Cuban agrees with this prediction.)
  3. Record labels will try to hold onto their business models. They will succeed only until current contracts run out, but they will eventually fail. They will do this not because they don’t see the writing on the wall, but because they can’t figure out how to change.
  4. A new type of record label will emerge. The new label will serve more as a helper to the artist than an owner of the artist. This new label will assist with marketing, bookings, networking and the other promotional aspects of the music business. But instead of owning all the rights to the artist, musicians will PAY their labels for their help, and the musicians will retain their rights. The new labels that will be successful will be the ones that know how to do SEO, online marketing and social networking. These types of labels will become the norm. (And they probably wont’ be called record labels.) (UPDATE: Looks like CNET agrees with this prediction: “If we end up ridding the world of labels, we’ll only have to re-create them–in some other, probably more nimble form.”)
  5. Apple will be one of the new “record labels.”
  6. Many new online and digital services will rise and fall. In 2-3 years, we’ll be left with the winners. At least three of the winners will be companies that no one has even heard of yet.
  7. There will be new ways to buy music. Walking through Target, no longer will you head to the music section to buy music. Instead, as you hear a song piped over the airways, or walk past a TV that is playing a music video and decide you like the song, you will be able to use your phone or mp3 player to purchase and and download the song instantly.
  8. The stuff inside the CD case will still be valuable in digital format, but it will look completely different. People still buy CDs for the lyrics and the liner notes inside – as well as for the artwork and the experience of opening the case and looking through the packaging. This won’t change, there will always be a market (although a smaller one) for the special edition hardcopy CDs. And it won’t be long until someone comes up with a way to sell that stuff in digital format, as well. But although the digital information will be the same, it won’t look the same as the CDs of today. This will be a huge money-maker, much bigger than anyone expects.

UPDATE: This Music Lessons post by Seth Godin is an awesome add-on to this article. Go read it.

Photo by SqueakyMarmot