Archive for the ‘newspaper stuff’ Category

Google to WSJ, New York Times, others: Piece of cake

Walked into a story on Mashable this morning that any news outlet, newspaper or defined journalist has to consider concerning.

The title seems inocuous enough “Google News Introduces Quotes in Search Results.”

Let’s be a bit pedantic here solely on the editorial side, what is a quote? And how important is quote if taken out of context?

In truth TV has been dealing with the “sound byte” issue for some time. Average sound byte has plummeted to single digit seconds. However the difference here, though Google’s product management on the feature is good, is that pulling out a quote and searching around quotes compromises the content where the quote was contained.

Wait a second, the newspaper sites are still sleeping after this paragraph. There’s more.

First, Google is creating their own algorithm of indexing and displaying quotes. This makes them an editor.

Second, Google is surfacing these quotes that you have spent resources to attain and attribute outside of your content. This makes them a competitor or compromiser of your business.

If I’m an exec newspaperx.com, I’m concerned by this functionality, or product feature what have you. This is the ultimate paradox. I need Google traffic to drive CPM arbitrage, but every hit of the traffic I become more indebted to it.

(By the way, Reprise Media has a phenomenal product for getting your story into Google’s news and taking a rev share on it.)

Pause….

I originally wrote a few lines of strategic ways of reducing my exposure to Google. But after considering these alternatives, I considered the employee lifecycle of a managing editor or newspaperx.com CEO. I put that at 5 years and I assumed that the newspaper wants to make money now and not worry about their brand 5 years from now.

With this consideration, I would probably merely maximize my site for Google News indexing, count the extra pennies and then introduce the same feature on my site and the blogs I’ve aggregated.

Whoops, I haven’t finished by newspapers steps columns yet. Back to that shortly.

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Newspapers: Step IV: Identify silos of initial value

We have the CTO.

We’ve talked to our advertisers (and set some expectations)

We’ve improved our reporting.

Step IV:

Identify silos of initial value

Summary: I’m going to make an assumption here that a newspaper site does not have enough content producers, product managers and developers (even with the new CTO) to solve everything at once. I think this is a fair assumption.

Therefore, we’ve have to focus on one vertical or set of advertisers and solve their needs. The goal is the following: increase all metrics of a set group of advertisers or vertical across all points of the supply chain.

Directive: Solve a vertical.

Let’s use the travel vertical example. We have 7 travel partners that really like our attention to their campaign. Next they tell us what performs best from them (along with the accompanying metrics — brand and direct response). We investigate where they are displayed and we investigate how users are getting to these pages.

We form a task force. One that has carte blanche to: a) not seek approval on all content issues and b) ability to prioritize work for anyone as they see fit.

(Ideally we have a strong product manager that has followed the CTO leading the charge.)

We do an extensive competitive analysis, we identify success metrics, we build or repackage content as necessary and we strike distribution deals as quickly as possible regardless of price. (Price will just slow us down; we can always renegotiate later).

All the while, we inventory the effort level and manhours needed to achieve this. We identify where processes are repeatable for other veriticals or advertiser niches.

What do we have? Well after a few iterative takes, we probably arrive at something of value based upon a valuable advertiser metric (some examples in travel could be: impressions, clicks, bookings, viewthus, email sign-ups or other).

So know we have a success. We also have the manpower assessment it took to complete this (our operating cost). Further, we have process points to improve operations.

Thus we can do this again and again for a series of clients. This isn’t the end game mind you, but it solves some of the following:

– advertiser value

– advertiser expectation and customer service happiness

– content / production costs

– revenue

Once, we have more users, we can make more valid assumptions and try some riskier, highever value endeavors.

While this post may seem obvious to any user, I wonder how many newspaper sites are evaluating their effort level based upon a specific ROI and putting in processes to improve the profitability.

Newspapers: Step III: It’s all about events and reporting

Okay, I now have a CTO, or I’m in the process of getting one, and I have feedback from my advertisers. I have momentum.

I have goodwill with my advertisers becuase I listened to their concerns and I showed them how serious I was by getting a CTO and vowing to ramp up my technical capabilities.

What next?

Step III

Evaluate what reporting I have and what I need

Summary: Many online publishing companies incorporate a webtrends or an ominture and there done with it. Essentially these publishers are letting reporting software companies determine their metrics. It’s a travesty, it happens all the time, it’s incorrect and there it really no excuse for doing it.

I’m not saying get rid of your Ominture or Webtrends service by any means. I am suggesting that if you have the desire to be a big publication that you need to manage your reporting interface so that you can define new “things” that mean value.

For example, maybe the “weather” page is the largest entry page on my publication site, well maybe I make it a defined goal to improve the content and navigation around weather.

Regardless of “what” it is you need to measure it.

And rigid reporting structures don’t allow you to do this.

You need a flexible event model that allows you to identify metrics as they happen.

Do you have this?

As an additional note, a reporting web display that makes sense for your business drives sound business decisions. I can’t tell you how important that is.

Directive: Easy one here.

– Understand what you have (internal, external, what’s the support level). Have you mastered Omniture, can you dynamically change reports and interfaces.

– Evaluate what you need. You have this already from you advertisers, we don’t have it from content (but that’s okay they don’t know what they are doing anyway). And now your CTO will help you understand what’s supported and what’s not.

Reporting is a “product” in an of itself for any major online publisher or advertiser. It is living and breathing and it needs constant product development and support. It is part and parcel to your content.

Create the roadmap for it and start executing now.

Newspaper sites: Step II: Hire a CTO or similar….

…because there is much work to be done

…because stodgy (but trusted) newspaper brands need to attract engineering talent and put online know-how in their blood stream.

So Step II:

Hire a CTO or similar

Summary: Newspaper brands can’t attract top tech talent. Due to old world practices of relationship management, “cross functional” (I shudder) management, and running everything up the flag role. Newspaper sites, Yahoo (with it’s injection of the Semel entertainment schmooze culture) and eBay (to a lesser extent) have a think middle management layer.  Good idea and opportunities get swallowed up in this layer.

And this is the kind of environment frustrates  developers and breeds apathy in engineering. It’s where you currently are and it needs to change.

Newspapers need to turn this around. Sure, there will be the normal checks and balances, but the culture needs to change and this how it starts.

Note here: Kudos here to EMI who recognized this necessity and reached out to snatch Doug Merrill from Google a few days ago. I’m sure this was precisely the thinking here.

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/01/another-google-exec-bails-vp-leaves-to-head-emi-group/

Directive: Go out an hire someone who:

– who grew up in the consumer tech world and just didn’t come to work in it. 

– has managed a team of developers in a quick release cycle environment and can attract that talent

– who understands or has built products in content management or online reporting and revenue tracking

– who wears normal closes not suits or flashy attire (that’s just a personal preference)

…and pay them through the nose. Why? Because you need to validate the hire to the press and the industry. You need to insure they are given teeth within organization. And you need to attract top flight product development folks.

Why the CTO first instead of lead in product development? Because any good product development person knows that if the company cannot attract top engineers–especially coming from the Old World–then there ideas haven’t got a prayer and those are going to be coming quickly.

Begin the search now.

Newspaper sites: Step I: Talk to your bread and butter

On my run this morning, I got the idea to follow-up on the newspaper post with a blueprint of how a site may go about about operationally improving their service for advertisers and readers.

I’m not going to get into the global issue of walled and free content just yet, but soon.

Step I:

Get a handle on your advertising clients from all angles

Summary: Your advertisers and clients, well, they pay you.

Directive:  Get an online expert to take a 30 day deep dive into your classified/lead gen clients and your branded/display based clients. You don’t need more than 30 days. Why? Because if a client doesn’t respond to your queries within two weeks time, either they are: a) frustrated with current service and support level and won’t be helpful or b) you are not as consequential to their business as you thought.

Process their feedback. Don’t write an email, don’t send out a survey. Go talk to them. Inventory their comments. Annotate whether they respond with data in their answers or not. If they don’t then you can probably help them just through better communication and customer service, before even measureable results.

Evaluate what they think about your technical solutions and integrations, your reporting display, the content where they may be displayed on the site.

Then internally review your technology and you bring them value. Your inventory management, your account management, etc.

What are you looking for through all this, well, quantitative and qualitative factors. What do most people gripe about, what features do they say they really want, what support?

Why do you need to do this first? Well before you even touch your site or content optimization you have to realize if this will equal an ROI.

This is Step I, it should be really ongoing, but I want a hard time believing many companies are really focused on client support and customer service as a primary core competency.

How does this fit the strategic? Well, newspapers I hate to tell you, with the advent of blogging, real time content updates, and search engines, your content needs fixing and is not your strong suit. Sure, you’re brand, editorialship, and the connections of your top reporters is, but not specifically your content.

It’s your client and advertiser relationships beyond this brand that Google, vertical content and search plays (Edmunds and JumpstartAutomitive, HotelChatter and Farecast, Yelp, Service Magic, LaborFair, etc. et.c,) and even blogs are continually attacking.

By speaking with these clients above and beyond the engagement it will create, I’m sure they’ll share with you a number of product and content ideas for you to test later.