Micropayments: Holy grail or delusion?

No matter how many times people like Clay Shirky or Mike Masnick try to pop the bubble of faith around micropayments as a cure for what ails the newspaper industry (or even the media industry as a whole), another believer emerges to argue that a secure and extensible micropayment system is a big part of the answer. The latest to make an impassioned plea is Jeff Reifman, the co-founder of NewsCloud, a “community-driven news aggregator” funded by the Knight Foundation.

In a recent blog post, Reifman outlines why he believes that micropayments can solve the newspaper industry’s problems. His post is a response to one by Steve Outing at Editor & Publisher, which carried the somewhat argumentative title “Your News Content Is Worth Zero To Digital Consumers,” and argued that charging people for news isn’t going to work unless that news is highly targeted to a specific niche. (Google CEO Eric Schmidt made a similar point recently about why The Wall Street Journal has been able to charge, and Paul Graham echoes that point as well.)

If you want to go back through some of the reams of text that have been written about micropayments for news, Clay’s essay from 2003 is a good place to start — especially since it lists the half-dozen or so attempts to create such a system that failed miserably. (Are you listening, Steve Brill?) There’s also a good roundup at the Freakonomics blog from awhile back that is well worth reading.

Reifman defends his approach by pointing to several successful models of payment for services, including iTunes, text messaging, TiVo, and broadband Internet. The first thing that leaped out at me is that three of those four things — iTunes, text messaging and broadband Internet — are a result of something approaching a monopoly (or an oligopoly or cartel, in the case of text messaging and broadband Internet). Apple can charge for music because it controls access to the songs from all the major record labels. Phone companies and cable companies can charge usurious rates for text messaging and Internet because they have little or no real competition. How does any of that apply to newspapers?

(please read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab)

TEDx Toronto: New Media vs. Old Media

I was honoured recently by being asked to be one of the featured presenters at the first TEDx Toronto, a kind of mini-version of the famous TED conference that took place in at the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto on September 10th (which also happened to be my birthday). The title of my presentation was “Five Ways New Media Can Save Old Media,” and it was quite well received as far as I could tell. So I thought I would post the slides here – they are embedded if you are reading this via RSS – and the transcript. The TEDx organizers said that there would be video of all the talks available, so I will post that as well when it arrives.

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining me for this part of TEDx Toronto. I’m honoured to be included in this event with so many great speakers and thinkers. The title of this presentation is Five Ways New Media Will Save Old Media. If we look at that title, we can see there are three implicit assumptions: 1) old media needs to be saved; 2) old media can be saved; and 3) old media should be saved.

Let’s take those one at a time: does old media need to be saved? Revenues are dropping at many media entities, not just newspapers; circulation is stagnant at best, and some media outlets have already gone bankrupt or closed for good, or gone online-only. Let’s call that assumption “proven,” just for the sake of argument.

Can old media be saved? I believe that it can — although I have no proof of that. If I had proof that old media could be saved, I would be sitting on a beach somewhere. I think it’s also important to think about what we mean by using the word “saved.” Do we mean restoring traditional media to the good old days of 25-per-cent returns and rising readership? I don’t think that’s likely to happen.

Continue reading “TEDx Toronto: New Media vs. Old Media”

Newspapers get the comments they deserve

Since I became the first “communities editor” for The Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto almost a year ago, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what makes for a good community – a healthy community – and what makes for a bad one. I’ve looked at every newspaper I can think of and tried to figure out what works and what doesn’t. I’ve looked at non-media communities like Metafilter and Slashdot and even (so help me) 4chan. I’ve looked at research into real-world communities and how they evolve, and why some thrive and some die out.

There are all sorts of manifestations of community on news sites – blogs, wikis, etc. – but one of the most fundamental elements of community is reader comments. Some media outlets only allow comments on certain stories; some pre-moderate, while others wait for readers to flag unpleasant comments and then remove them. Some sites do the moderating themselves; others outsource to companies like ICUC in Winnipeg. But everyone sees the value of comments, right? Wrong.

The reality is that – as Alfred Hermida of the University of British Columbia journalism school writes at MediaShift – many newspapers still see comments as some kind of necessary evil: a bone tossed to readers to help drive traffic, but something that produces little else of value. Hermida writes about research presented at the recent Future of Journalism conference in Wales (where he presented his “Twitter as ambient journalism” paper) that said most journalists see comments as containing very little news, and mainly view them as a nuisance.

(please read the rest of this post at the Neiman Journalism Lab)

Unloading Skype gets complicated for eBay

When eBay bought Skype for $2.6-billion in 2005, it seemed like a marriage made in heaven, at least for Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom, co-founders of the free phone-calling app. But there was trouble in paradise from the beginning, trouble that included the Skype duo’s dodgy track record (they co-founded Kazaa, a quasi-legal music sharing network) and a conspicuous lack of synergies between the two companies. Over the past year or so, however, the relationship has gone from merely troubled to outright toxic.

Friis and Zennstrom left the company in 2007, right around the time that eBay took an almost $1-billion writedown on the price it paid for Skype. Although there were no concrete reports at the time of any trouble between the two companies – the Skype founders had by this time launched a new Web-based TV venture called Joost, which has also run into difficulty – the peace and quiet didn’t last long. In March, a company owned by Friis and Zennstrom stopped licensing its peer-to-peer technology (which powers Skype) to eBay. The auction company sued, and the two have been locked in a court battle ever since.

That battle, not surprisingly, has complicated the sale of Skype, which eBay has been trying to unload for some time now. Several months ago, it announced that it had sold 65 per cent of the company for $1.9-billion to a consortium of investors, including several U.S.-based private equity firms – Silver Lake, Index Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz – as well as the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. All of the prospective buyers have been named in the Skype suit, which according to a statement of claim is accumulating damages at the rate of $75-million every day.

In an interesting twist, the lawsuit also mentions Mike Volpi, a general partner at Index Ventures who was previously the chief executive officer of Joost and until recently was a member of its board of directors. He has since been removed from the board, and the company said last week that it is conducting an investigation into his actions while he was CEO.

With the launch of the Skype founders’ lawsuit, more than just the sale of Skype is in jeopardy. eBay admitted in a securities filing that the claims could leave it unable to operate the free phone-calling service, although it has said in the past that it is working on its own peer-to-peer networking system to replace the one that Skype’s founders still own the rights to. Even if it does create its own version of Skype’s peer-to-peer technology, however, it’s possible that Friis and Zennstrom could argue that it is an unlicensed copy of their software and keep eBay tied up in court for months, if not years.

The irony, of course, is that the money the Skype co-founders are using to fight this epic legal battle – over technology that eBay arguably should have locked up in the first place – is coming from the bags of loot they got from eBay four years ago.

50 Cent: Piracy Is Part Of The Marketing

Mike Masnick at Techdirt (who got profiled at CNET recently) writes about rapper 50 Cent’s approach to piracy:

Famed rapper 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson) was apparently on CNBC recently talking about his “business acumen.” I have to admit that having three different people all trying to interview him at once is rather annoying — as they almost never let him complete a thought. However, when they ask him about piracy, and whether or not it makes him angry (around 2 minutes), he responds that: he sees it as a part of the marketing of a musician, because “the people who didn’t purchase the material, they end up at the concert.” He says that people can fall in love with the music either way, and then they’ll go to concerts. He notes that you can’t stop piracy either way, so why try to fight it? He also talks about other business opportunities for musicians.

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

meshmarketing is almost here!

A few months ago, the mesh team — in other words, Rob Hyndman, Mark Evans, Stuart MacDonald, Mike McDerment and I — announced a new event we’re calling meshmarketing, a one-day series of keynotes, presentations and in-depth workshops about online and digital marketing ideas and tactics. During the summer months, we’ve been lining up some world-class speakers and marketing experts for the event, and we wanted to get as many details about it out there as possible, because the event is coming soon (October 22 at CIRCA) and tickets are relatively limited.

In a nutshell, meshmarketing is focused on insights, tools and tactics that are designed to help you get more out of the growing online marketing and advertising markets. It’s designed to provide you with ideas and perspectives on the key trends but also practical and valuable knowledge that you put into action immediately. You can register here.

Our keynote speaker is Hugh MacLeod, a popular cartoonist, author and marketing thought-leader. We also have two though-provoking panels to kick off the event: the first looks at how competition is heating up between PR, traditional ad agencies and digital shops, with each one trying to take the lead in the competitive online arena. Featured on the panel are Mia Wedgbury, president of Fleischman-Hillard Canada; Katherine Fletcher, a senior partner with iStudio and Jill Nykoliation, president of Juniper Park.

The second panel looks at the merging of marketing and social media, and will tackle the thorny issue of how to blend the two successfully. This panel includes Mitch Joel, president of Twist Image and author of the new book, Six Pixels of Separation; and Ferg Devins, chief public affairs officer for Molson Coors, who leads Molson’s social media activities.

The rest of the day features a series of workshops, filled with hands-on, practical tools and knowledge. A big part of the inspiration for meshmarketing came from feedback we got at mesh, where people said they wanted more focused and practical insights and tools about marketing and the online world, so we’re hoping these workshops fit the bill. They include:

Building Web Properties that Convert, with Dan Martell
Advertising Networks 101, with Mladen Raickovic
Search Engine Marketing/Search Engine Optimization, with Jeff Quip
Generating Customer-Driven Creative, with Andrew Sutherland and Dino Demopoulos
The Keys to Mobile Marketing, with Amielle Lake
Facebook 101 for Marketing, with Elmer Sotto
Social Media Analytics, with Katie Delahaye Paine
Inbound Marketing Campaigns, with Dharmesh Shah

As usual, we’re planning to kick off meshmarketing with a pre-event party and, of course, an after-party. More details on those to come as we get closer to the event. But in the meantime, get your tickets for meshmarketing soon — if mesh is any guide, they will be going quickly 🙂

The future of news in 4 dimensions

C.W. Anderson — @chanders on Twitter — has an update to his recent post at Nieman Journalism Lab, which tried to go beyond the binary “real journalists vs. bloggers” equation to look at online and traditional journalism entities on an axis related to how institutional/open they are and how fact-oriented/commentary-oriented they are.

The future of news in 4 dimensions

By C.W. AndersonSept. 8  /  2:27 p.m.  

September 8, 2009, 2:27 pm


In my last post, I spent a lot of time laying out a fairly abstract framework for how we can think intelligently about future kinds of news organizations. I argued they could be usefully evaluated and charted on four factors: the type of work they do, how institutionalized they are, how many resources they have, and how open they are to outsiders.

But the value of any model lies not in its elegance, but in the degree to which it can help us think about the world in a useful way — the way it can give us “tools to think with,” as the saying goes — and can help us solve practical problems.

Note that by “solve practical problems” I don’t simply mean “figure out a business model for journalism.” Business models are important — but questions like “what kind of journalism best integrates with the nature of 21st-century democracy and society?” are also practical problems. So in this post I want to apply the model to a few real new organizations, describe what problems I think it might help us solve, and answer a few questions raised by my previous post.

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

Kevin Smith Says Pirates Lead To Converts

Mike Masnick at Techdirt notes how director Kevin Smith disclosed his thoughts on piracy during a recent 24-hour Twitterthon question-and-answer session with fans.

Smith seems to have the whole CwF+RtB thing down cold — and has for many years. But, given all of that, I had no idea what his opinion was on the question of “piracy.” While he notes, at one point, that Disney will own the rights to his movies forever, someone asks “How much money do you think your projects have lost to piracy?” to which Kevin responds:

See, I think “How many more converts did I get from piracy?”

Bingo. The smart creator these days looks to use “piracy” to his advantage. Smith has done that and more.

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous

Child-safety software sells your kids’ IM conversations to market-research companies

You know that “child-safety” software that monitors your kids’ every click and sends it to some spyware creep whose main profit-center is running national firewalls for totalitarian states who use the same service to figure out whom to hood, kidnap and torture?

Turns out that these same sleazeballs also monitor your kids’ IM sessions and sell the info to market-research companies that want to fine-tune how they sell sugar and explosions to kids.

Software sold under the Sentry and FamilySafe brands can read private chats conducted through Yahoo, MSN, AOL and other services, and send back data on what kids are saying about such things as movies, music or video games. The information is then offered to businesses seeking ways to tailor their marketing messages to kids.

“This scares me more than anything I have seen using monitoring technology,” said Parry Aftab, a child-safety advocate. “You don’t put children’s personal information at risk…”

EchoMetrix, formerly known as SearchHelp, said companies that have tested the chat data using Pulse include News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting and Dreamworks SKG Inc. Viacom Inc.’s Paramount Pictures recently signed on.

Web-monitoring software gathers data on kid chats (via /.)

Posted via web from mathewingram’s posterous