Bryan Ruby


Thoughts, Words, and Deeds from Sioux Falls, SD

Newspaper

Publishers benefit from Google News

Interesting misfire of EU's Article 11 (according to Google). Article 11 is a proposed EU Copyright directive that would prevent quite a bit of the caching of content and inclusion of content Google does with its News pages.

According to Google:

Then there's Article 11. We reiterate our commitment to supporting high-quality journalism. However, the recent debate shows that there’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the value of headlines and snippets—very short previews of what someone will find when he or she clicks a link. Reducing the length of the snippets to just a few individual words or short extracts will make it harder for consumers to discover news content and reduce overall traffic to news publishers.

Let me illustrate this with an example. Every year, we run thousands of experiments in Search. We recently ran one in the EU to understand the impact of the proposed Article 11 if we could show only URLs, very short fragments of headlines, and no preview images. All versions of the experiment resulted in substantial traffic loss to news publishers.

Argus Leader inverview for #dontjerkanddrive

I was recently asked by the Argus Leader, a local newspaper in Sioux Falls, to give my two cents on the controversial South Dakota #DontJerkandDrive campaign. Since then the article has been syndicated out to USA Today and other publications. It seems that I caught the attention of a reporter when I labeled the campaign as "brilliant" on Twitter.

The word on the street is that the State of South Dakota is pulling back on this specific campaign. I can't say I'm surprised. I understood the gamble Lee Axdahl, the Director of the Office of Highway Safety, was taking when he signed on to this marketing strategy.

Bryan Ruby, owner of the web consulting business CMS Report, was impressed with the campaign from a marketing standpoint. Online, he called it "brilliant."

Local Media Goes Paywall

Yesterday, the Argus Leader announced that they will be moving toward a subscription model for their online content. Readers no longer will be able to visit ArgusLeader.com and expect to be able to read all the content for free. I didn't visit the website too often, but I'll miss the freedom to come and go as I please without being an online subscriber.

By now, most of us and have seen this paywall subscription model being offered by various news sources. Until recently, subscriptions were required from some larger print publications but rarely were part of the local or regional online news ecosystem. When a paper from a relatively small city such as Sioux Falls, SD moves in this direction it isn't difficult to acknowledge this as the trend we'll be seeing followed by more newspapers in the coming years. The move toward a subscription model was inevitable, as research as shown time and time again that publications haven't seen the same revenue through online advertising as they once did in the print media world of yesterday.

Revenue from online ads for niche sites like mine that have little overhead is enough. But real publications producing high quality content on a wider scope have genuine revenue concerns when providing you their content. Randell Beck of the Argus Leader acknowledged this in Sunday's edition of this paper.

Who really invented the tablet?

The 1994 Knight-Ridder video I attached at the bottom of this post  is a fantastic reminder that the tablet predates the iPad and Android tablet by many decades. During the "hypermedia" era of the late 1980's, I can recall taking a "tech of the future" class where my professor discussed in similar detail what a tablet might look like in the future. He described a day where students would be sitting under trees reading not from paper books but utilizing exactly what we know today as the digital tablet. 

 Believe it or not though, the origins of the tablet computer date back to the 19th century.

Electrical devices with data input and output on a flat information display have existed as early as 1888.[3] Throughout the 20th century many devices with these characteristics have been ideated and created whether as blueprints, prototypes or commercial products, with the Dynabook concept in 1968 being a spiritual precursor of tablets and laptops. In addition to many academic and research systems, there were several companies with commercial products in the 1980s.

Charging for online news doomed to fail

There has been a lot of articles written lately on Rupert Murdoch's latest comments regarding the need to charge online readers for the content they access to the business model The Wall Street Journal utilizes. Murdoch recently announced that additional News Corp's newspapers would be charging users access to their online content.

Speaking on a conference call as News Corporation announced a 47 percent slide in quarterly profits to $755 million, Murdoch said the current free access business model favored by most content providers was flawed.

"We are now in the midst of an epochal debate over the value of content and it is clear to many newspapers that the current model is malfunctioning," the News Corp. Chairman and CEO said.

"We have been at the forefront of that debate and you can confidently presume that we are leading the way in finding a model that maximizes revenues in return for our shareholders... The current days of the Internet will soon be over."

That pay for content business model that Murdoch wishes to spread to the the rest of the News Corp holdings has worked pretty well for the WSJ. Yearly subscription to WSJ.com is around $100 and the business news site recently introduced a cheaper micro-payment system. Deane Barker recently pointed out this story on his Gadgetopia blog. Barker points out that this business model could possibly work for additional online news sources, but Murdoch needs "another big player on the bandwagon, and he might kick the snowball off the hill. Gannet? New York Times Company?". Barker's point is that for News Corp's subscription model to work, access to news content needs to be limited at other places online too. In my opinion, a fight against free online content is a war that has already been lost.

As a subscriber to the WSJ in both print and online content, I do see paid online subscriptions working for niche news sites. I however have serious doubts that the model can work for general news. People are willing to pay and only pay for content they can get nowhere else online. The news articles found in the WSJ is unique content and since its also content of value, I'm willing to pay for it. However, reporting general news is a much different game. Even if the majority of newspapers started charging access to their content it only takes one newspaper willing to offer that same story for free to break the pay for access model.

You know you're getting old when...

You know you're getting old when...

...younger people discover the benefits of paper.

The printed pages were better then just looking at the digital versions, since we could code on our laptops while looking at the printouts, compare different pages, sit around pages and discuss and have all this goodness at our fingertips.

My respects to Drupal developer Gábor Hojtsy for his good reminder on the benefits of non-technology in the things that we do.

The State of the News Media

The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism does a fantastic job reporting annually on the state of the American news media.  The Pew Project's sixth edition for 2009 is no exception and provides lessons for all businesses on the importance of agility, adaptability, and competitiveness.  The following paragraph from the report's introduction says it all.

Journalism, deluded by its profitability and fearful of technology, let others outside the industry steal chance after chance online. By 2008, the industry had finally begun to get serious. Now the global recession has made that harder.

This is the sixth edition of our annual report on the State of the News Media in the United States.

It is also the bleakest.

I have friends in the businesses of radio, television, and newspaper.  I take no pleasure with seeing people's careers in jeopardy due to all the rapid changes taking place in their profession.  What is truly sad to me is that the owners and managers of traditional media seemed to deny for too long what was happening.  The event is even sadder because it seemed obvious to many of us that look at industries from an information technology perspective where things would be headed.

Focus on print hurts newspaper sites

Mark Van Pattern has written a piece on PBS's MediaShift titled, "How the Focus on Print Hurts Our Newspaper Site".  His story is a common story I hear time after time from those in the newspaper business.

It's definitely no tangled bureaucracy, but even within this simple system you find conflicts holding the website back. The problem is that the different people in that system just have different priorities. As general manager, I want to see both a strong online presence and continued healthy print circulation. In contrast, the managing editor doesn't want to "hurt" the print edition by making the online edition too strong, fearing that it could tempt subscribers to abandon print.

Ultimately, this conflict is what's holding our online edition back. Without a full commitment from the managing editor, the website will never reach its full potential.

The digital age remains to be a dillemna for newspapers.  Newspapers either have to ballance their resources between print and online media or put more focus on one over the other.  I think it becomes even more difficult for publications when they find a large readership online yet the higher revenue remains on the print side.  Although it may take some years, I still say that eventually online media will beat old media.  It is just a matter of time.