Featured Journalism

Four fallacies about monetizing news online

The off- and online news markets around the world are under pressure. Newsmedia and press agencies feel the urge to find money, fast. As a result news companies are looking at alternatives to make more online revenues.

Although the money is needed the solutions aren’t always solutions. Ideas I’ve heard so far.
1. Find a model to pay for referral (for example charge Google)
2. Fight copyright infringement more actively (or pay for linking/embedding)
3. Charge your customers
4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.

These are all fallacies and in my opinion, and easy to deconstruct.

1. Pay for referral (for example charge Google)
Google directs a big portion of the online traffic. Probably not forever, but they are controlling it right now. Their business is to help people from point a to b without noise. This is key to Google. If they add noise or become less relevant a competitor will eventually take over their position.

There is no reason to pay. I think Google is good for almost 30/50% of the traffic to newspaper websites. And even more to some sections. News websites benefit from Google traffic.

If Google wants to be #1 the news provider, they can buy or create a press agency. Google is probably one of the few companies that can generate enough traffic to support the total costs of a press agency with online advertising.

A while ago I argued that online news is a freelance job in a network instead of a job in a company. You might like to read it, it relates to this subject.

Unlike paper hierarchy is less important online. Personal relevancy is much more important. For example. I read a few articles on the website of the New York Times almost every day. I almost never use the navigation or start at the homepage. I’m referred to the articles from blogs, search engines and social networks like Times People and Facebook. I love the NY Times. I don’t really care about the homepage or navigation structure.

Newsmedia should find hierarchy in design on the front-end for a large group of users. In the background they should put online as much information (enriched with metadata) as possible. New relevancy is not in owning the information. It is in what you can do with it. The web has no destinations, only stops.

2. Fight copyright infringement
Sure, people should respect fair use. And companies that aggregate and resell your complete data set should be stopped. This isn’t the biggest problem. Those companies that are mass copying your content are easier to find. The smaller infringements are readers with blogs, the long tail. Those readers are your fans. Just let them friendly know that what they do is not fair use, and suggest what they should do. They often don’t even realize what they are doing and if you just tell them you’re making friends (readers) for life.

3. Charge your customers
You have to make sure your content is worth it. What makes the thing you make more valuable compared to what your competitors do for free? People trust the brand and are willing to pay for derivations on the web. They might not want to pay for the things you offer on a daily base. Your brand or community creates value and this is value you can monetize. The brand of a newspaper is trust and openness. Find things that are close to your brand and with this you can make money. For example Nike is about the running experience. And they sell a lot of stuff around this experience, including shoes. If your newspaper is good in certain subjects, for example healthcare. Why not start a health insurance, the web makes it easy to do so. Or start a bank. The banking business could use some trust. Make sure the things you do live up to your brand standards.

Is this still transparent journalism? I think it can be, I don’t know. As long as you give access to all the numbers and all of your information, if you make yourself controllable. If you create a community and if you keep close to your brand it can be very transparent. In the long run your brand is about the truth and transparency. You can only benefit if you will always respect this.

4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.
You can’t. The web is for sharing. The only thing to keep something exclusive is to charge people for it. That’s why there is no real online business model for mass information, like news. The news will get out anyway, because people will tell it and someone will amplify the story or make a summary.

There is something the web is very good in and that’s in creating communities. Newsmedia should realize that you shouldn’t do research on your own attic. Share the information. Create a process instead of creating a moment. In a live storytelling environment the process is much more relevant and interesting. It also generates authority and creates an expert role. In a process the product (or publication moment) is less important. It’s about what’s going on. Share data with your readers and setup communities to discuss and analyze.

Featured The Social Web

People are Mass Media

I just noticed that every time you refresh the Twitter page of @aplusk (Ashton Kutcher), the amount of followers has grown. While writing this post he is at an incredible 714,479 followers.

In a while Kutcher will have over one million people that actively follow what he says or does. Making him continues mass media.

Due to the nature of the web we are all media and publishers. We might have fifteen minutes of fame, but very few people have access to a continues mass audience without necessary having something to say.

Somehow Twitter is growing very fast. This changes the numbers of followers and thus perspective.

Within some time it will be possible for some people to directly reach over 1 million people by just using their cellphone while waiting in a supermarket.

People are mass media.

Featured Notes

Invest your Creativity


One thing the web – as a communication tool – really pushed is co-creation. The network helps you to find peers. And it more often extends a hierarchical organization into a network where everyone is part of the product or process. You might even call it the end of the enduser.

Co-creation is already reforming marketing, but it is also reforming the way creative companies work. Not only consumers are invited to be part of the process also creative companies see this as a new way of collaborating by investing creativity and becoming part of the process. Take higher risks and get more involved with the product.

Marco van Heerde – an old colleague from de Volkskrant and friend – recently told me about these new creative companies. He is currently doing an internship at Nothing in Amsterdam (Nalden wrote about the amazing cardboard interior). And interviewed Paul Graham, the founder of Anomaly in London. Both companies were founded recently.

From the interview: Ê»You have to behave a bit like a venture capitalist. But instead of putting your money in, you put in your time and effort.’

Read the interview he did below.

Interview Paul Graham: ʻYou have to be a hustlerʼ
Interview Paul Graham founding partner Anomaly London February 13, 2009, London, Marco van Heerde & Ianthe Sahadat.

Barely seated, Paul Graham starts talking. Anomaly London – which has been founded 10 day ago – has just scored his first client.

One could have called Paul (32) eclectic, as a student. ʻI studied art and design, till a specific point. Later on I studied French and business administration as well as doing literature, law and economics.ʼ In between these studies he went abroad to live in Paris, ʻtrying to figure out what to do with lifeʼ and launching a bar. After graduating back in the UK, he still had no clear vision of what to pursue. But somehow, and fortunately, he ended up working as an account manager at the agency M&C Saatchi and via various employments made it to be Managing Partner of Saint at RKCR/Y&R. In the past he has been characterized as relentless, which he dubs ʻa rather dubious, but not so much false complimentʼ.

Currently he is setting up the London office of Anomaly, and he already has his first pieces of business.

So you already have your first client, congratulations. How do clients normally approach Anomaly? It may sound a bit vague what Anomaly actually does.
ʻA lot of the work Anomaly gets in New York is based on personal recommendation. This can be from the work we have done for entrepreneurs, business-owners and large organizations. Our reputation can kind of precede us, so rather than pitching, we are often approached by clients. We prefer not to pitch.ʼ

Do you work with fees, or do you have a different model?
ʻWe try not to work with fees. We actually become a business partner with our clients. We will try sharing the revenue of the success of what we do. Then you really want it to work. ʻThere are different types of creative people. Everyone at Anomaly is highly creative and has done incredible things in their previous lives. This can be in publishing, production, design, advertising or business school. The creative director of Urban Outfitters is now head of design at Anomaly. They are all focused on return on creativity. You only go into business with the things you can genuinely make a difference in.ʼ

How did Anomaly London get started?
ʻAnomaly started in New York about three years ago and I have worked with them on some occasions. As time went on, we realized it was good to start a business in London as more and more work was being asked to do here, in Europe. ʻHopefully this year we will start to work for Converse, which is based in Amsterdam and Manchester United. Besides that, we are going to work for Umbro, who are also the tailors for the English football team.ʼ

How do you handle the wide range of questions these clients might have?
ʻDepending on the different business-problems these clients have, Iʼll work with different people. Anomaly is based on never knowing what the answer is. We have different sets of concentric circles. In the middle of it, are the day-to-day diehard Anomaly people. In the second circle are freelance or project base people and outside of that are interesting people you will work with one day but maybe you havenʼt worked with yet. Itʼs really important to have a very large network. With a lot of these people I would love to work full ,time but we have to stay flexible.ʼ

It is quite difficult to label Anomaly. With what kind of requests do clients approach you?
ʻThat can be all kinds of business problems. For example, Umbro is an authentic English fashion brand. They were already sponsoring the English football team many years ago. Overtime they lost their position as a authentic brand. Nike recently acquired the brand and has asked us to give them back their heritage and relaunch Umbro into the media.ʼ

The Umbro case could also be done by a more traditional agency. It is brand strategy in essence.
ʻYes, exactly. But a traditional ad agency would probably give you a traditional approach. We have removed the walls and apply our creativity where ever it is needed, for any given problem. We are not limited by our own production departments or ʻblindedʼ by our own specialization.ʼ

Then what is the difference between Anomaly and the agency Naked, because this is what Naked also claims.
ʻIn my opinion, Naked, though awesome, is more strategic consultancy and quite theoretical. At Anomaly we also want to deliver. We try to be part multimedia, part media buyer, part PR, part ad agency, part marketing a part of everything. We would want do all of that and really make it happen.ʼ

Can you tell us more about the IP ventures or product development of Anomaly?
ʻHaving an idea or developing a brand or product is not easy but still relatively simple. An innovation company as ?What If! or IDEO do very good product development and venture capitalists invest in products. But what they both donʼt have is a high understanding of consumers imagery and brands. Which weʼd like to hope we do.

ʻWe also have the experience to grow something with very little money. This makes you more credible. You actually say, I know how to do this for you, without taking loads of money off you.ʼ

How do you get paid?
ʻWe never charge for time or man hours. When you work fee based, you actually put an incentive on working longer to tackle a problem. If you figure out a problem within one day, you will actually make less. This is certainly not the most creative way. ʻYou should put value to an idea, not hours. Hence your profit is made by doing the job quickly and the rest of the money is yours to put in the bank.

ʻOr, again, if youʼre partner in a small product, your are incentivized to maximize your profit. You have to be efficient, quick and open minded. You have to be a hustler. It makes you think differently.ʼ

What would you consider more important for Anomaly: the media independent approach or the fact that you become partners and do not work on a fee basis?
ʻThere are actually three important pillars for Anomaly. We are open minded about which solution is best for a problem. We have an entrepreneurial approach about how we get paid. Which is never charge for time and value an idea. The third one is to get a share of the commercial action and really making it happen.ʼ

Can you give us an example?
ʻThere is this girl in New Castle, her name is Lauren Luke, sheʼs a single mother and living with her parents. She does “how to” make-up tutorials. She can teach you to look like Britney Spears, Leona Lewis and other celebrities. In front of her webcam, she shows you inch by inch how to apply the makeup and puts it on Youtube. Every single one of her videos has over a million views within a day. We approached her and now we are helping her design her own range of makeup. We part-own the company with her and we put in the creativity, the communication and the design.ʼ

You approached her. But how about the opposite, is it also possible for anyone to approach Anomaly with a product or business idea?
ʻAbsolutely and people really do. The trick is to be quite selective.ʼ

How do you choose which project to invest in?
ʻYou have to behave a bit like a venture capitalist. But instead of putting your money in, you put in your time and effort. So this is quite a big investment. Furthermore your have to really like the people involved, you have to be able to work with each other. Secondly; could we be brilliant? Can we really make a difference? Third is, will it make any money? You have to pick carefully and be really sure. It can take two to three years before you start making money, so you have to hold your nerve. Therefore, also having customers for whom you can do communication projects helps to pay the bills.ʼ

Obviously a new type of creative is arising beside the traditional copy and art-direction creatives. How would you label yourself?
Ê»A business strategist, or business conceptor…. Hmm, good question.ʼ

A commercial creative, perhaps?
ʻYes yes, that would be fitting. To illustrate this: at Anomaly we havenʼt got one creative director. That would be a too restrictive view of what creativity is. One person cannot grasp every form of creativity.ʼ

To conclude, what do you think of the traditional advertising model?
ʻWe certainly donʼt think everyone should be like Anomaly. The reason that weʼre called Anomaly, is because we are quite different. Thereʼs certainly still a need for traditional advertising. All we know is, it is not the only answer anymore.ʼ

The image at the top of this post is from the Anomaly website.

Accessibility Featured Notes Social Classification The Social Web Usability

About Long Tails, Distributing Gadgets and Statistics

The Long Tail

The Long Tail

Beyond links
Our information culture is changing into a networked culture. Distributing is changing how we publish from the traditional one-to-many into many-to-many.

For example. If I make a picture of people ice skating and publish it on Flickr. Than Flickr is a traditional one-to-many distribution system. Everyone can be a publisher.

I’m also re-publishing this same picture on my blog, because this is what we can do with data, a duplicate is the original. And beacuse Friendfeed checks my Flickr account, the picture will also appear on my friendfeed page.

Out of control
This makes three places to view this photograph. My blog, friendfeed and my Flickr page. Those platforms have some similar visitors, but most are different. These platforms, Flickr and friendfeed have also full article RSS feeds or API’s that are being aggregated and republished. There is no control about what happens after we publish something.

We like things to have one place. We are used to physical objects that can only be in one place at the same time. This is how we order and structure information. This is how we control the amount of information. This is structure, instead of chaos.

The emerging web with API’s, feeds and social networks is chaos, its networked. The more instances or copies are distributed the more people you reach.

To be a successful publisher on todays web you need to work distributed. Work with websites and integrate with communities instead of creating them. A gadget is one way of doing this.

Voting gadget
The Eclectro election for the best dance record of 2008 is finished. This election took place in a gadget. Over the past weeks we had 68.049 votes and 184 placed gadgets on blogs and social profiles.

The gadgets versus the amount of votes show a power law / long tail. Only a few websites collect the majority of the votes. The web is a networked environment, but not all nodes are equal. In this case the tail of the graph should have been four times as long to make up the amount of votes generated by the hoster of the gadget, the Eclectro website.

It’s difficult to spread gadgets. We had a continues flow of spreading, but there was no self-reinforcing effect. The tail did generate part of the votes, and reached a new audience.

In an ideal situation you want the nodes in a network to be more equal, a better distribution.

The actual amount of votes versus websites
Full tail
See the full graph:

Pageviews and votes
In the image you see stats of every time the gadget was loaded or a vote was made versus all the websites that published the gadget.
Full tail
See the full graph:

Votes a day
votes a day

The winner: Ane Brun – Headphone Silence (Henrik Schwarz remix)

Dutch press release

Featured Journalism

What will happen to news publishers? A guess based on what’s happening right now

The financial crisis speeds up the newspapershift. Media diverges. Newspapers become television, television becomes a press agency. And everything becomes the web. Probably not a single news websites makes enough revenue to employ the same amount of journalists traditional media like newspapers and television employ. The result is a shift. Not in demand, in distribution. What will happen, and how will this shift change organizations?

Here are some ideas and thoughts that I think make sense. Please help me sharpen this concept, or point me at my fallacies. It would be interesting to have a discussion about this.

It all starts with information. Information is and will be infinite accessible everywhere. All smart devices will be connected. This is different to old media where the medium was not infinite and thus choices and timeframes were necessary.

In a connected culture information is directly online accessible, mass media and press functions less as a generator and more as a directional and filter service.

In a connected culture distributed services like Google and Facebook are the new mass media. To reach a mass audience you need to distribute your content through these new mass media. If old media no longer controls the medium it will change our organizations, how newspapers work and what kind of people will be working at newspapers or directional services.

Online you need more websites or less people. Link or syndicate the information that is already out there and focus on the value you can add.

The new rules of information?
I think the expertise journalists have is valuable. The traditional structure of a newspaper is restraining them from using their full online potential. Here is a paradox, because you need the traditional structure to publish a newspaper.

The newspaper is a middle man, this is where you already see a shift. Press agencies have become influential distributers on the live web, and consumers have become influential fire starters. To adapt to the new rules of information (everyone is a publisher), a newspaper should shift up or down the chain. Become a networked company or focus.

To be profitable in a hyperlinked economy you not only need to distribute your information, you should also distribute your costs.

What could the newspaper of the future look like?
Newspapers are in a race. I don’t believe paper is sacred. And I see no real advantages in paper compared to modern media. Even when e-readers become mainstream we probably want books and maybe magazines on these devices, we don’t want newspapers. We want something tailored to the medium. We want news as it happens. News is not a book, it is all about now, about relevancy, about why and what is happening. This consuming pattern is irreversible.

A modern news organization might not have that many people on the payroll. Journalism could become primarily a freelance job. Everything a journalist does can be done virtual. Journalists don’t have to work together in the same building at the same time. News very rarely happens in the building of a news organization, news happens somewhere else or is made by investigating. Being a reporter is a networked job. Your value is in your knowledge and your personal offline and online network. A journalist should feel at home in a networked culture.

If this shift happens journalists will work primarily on a free marketplace, like photographers. They will connect through online organizations (agencies) or virtual marketplaces that connect distribution channels (newspapers, search engines, social networks) and journalists.

These organizations act like press agencies distributing articles or information to all outlets. You can subscribe to specific feeds of information, buy articles, ask for research, or set assignments. If we can have public funded journalism, we can also have research or stories payed by media portals. If you want exclusive news or research the price will be higher. If you’re a very good and trustworthy journalist your value will be higher.

The focus of a news publisher is how they sort information and on what news topics they focus. What news publishers can add to the knowledge and information that is already out there is focus and a filter. This focus and filter is their revenue model, the rest is a mix of syndicated, linked and original information.

Like a group blog. You can’t pay the salary of a hundred bloggers to write content, but you can make money with a group blog. You need to invest your money smart and use it for those things that really set you apart from others. Use money to create unique value that defines your brand.

News is free
I think news (defined as what’s happening right now) will always be free for the consumer. This doesn’t mean news has no value. For end-users it will be free. News will always atract people. By presenting, sorting, linking and packaging the news websites, search engines and networks can make money that funds new journalism and drives new traffic.

Where Attention Flows, Money Follows.

This blog post was also published on the online journalism blog, there are some interesting comments you might like.

Experiments Featured Live Web Music Online Identity Projects

The Eclectro Lovewall installation (video)

Eclectro Lovewall (interactive bluetooth installation) from Wilbert Baan on Vimeo.

Yesterday we had the first Eclectro party. As written in the last post I was working on a bluetooth/ application. And it worked :)

The Eclectro lovewall is an interactive installation that uses bluetooth to scan for mobile phones. Visitors are asked to change the bluetooth name of their phone into their username.

A laptop scans the room using the open source Roomware software. It connects to random visitors and searches the database for similarity. It then shows the similarity on a big screen by showing the profiles. A percentage and five artists both have in common.

The installation worked well and I got a lot of very positive feedback by enthusiastic visitors. A few things I learned.

  • It is possible to have a zero percent match but still have artists in common.
  • Similar artists are often Gorillaz, U2, Muse, Air.
  • It is very easy to join, people see something happen and they think it’s too difficult to join. If you tell them that all it takes is changing the bluetooth name of their mobile phone they are really surprised.
  • Explain, explain, explain.
  • People like seeing their avatars on a screen. Only showing avatars would probably make a successful application by itself.
  • Make the screen dark. I used grey photographs and still the brightness of the beamer lightened up the entire place.
  • The internet connection at public places is almost always difficult (unstable/low signal).

The interface with testdata (working demo)

Open in new window

And the photographs + Roomware installation
on Flickr + Roomware installation
on Flickr

on Flickr

Poster Eclectro loves bluetooth friendfinder
on Flickr

on Flickr

on Flickr

Starborough test de dj-tafel
on Flickr

Experiments Featured Journalism Live Web Projects

Analyzed what Twitter votes (graphic)

Based on Twitterpoll by Erik Borra I made this visualization. The animation is created form filtering tweets on content. If someone says he or she voted for Obama or McCain this information is stored and turned into numbers. This creates an election poll based on tweets.

You can say Twitter is pretty much in favor of Obama. To update the results refresh the page.

A point goes to Obama if the regular expression /vote.*?obama/i succeeds, it goes to McCain if the regular expression /vote.*mccain/i succeeds, else it is undecided / unrecognized.

The animations that led to this animation