Oct 232011

What do we really value online and can traditional publishing companies adapt quickly enough to save themselves?

Earlier this week I and a group of social media ‘influencers’ were invited to a briefing by News Ltd of their, two years in the making plans to move to Australia’s first big Freemium news content model. Basic freemium model – a range of teaser online news excerpts leading to fuller, more in-depth news stories behind a pay wall at subscription prices starting at $2.95 a week to $7.95 including the daily printed paper.

Ross Dawson, Richard Freudenstein, Tim 'Mumbrella' Burrowes - photo garyphayes

The basic details of the plan were dutifully and immediately blogged in traditional journalistic style by Ross Dawson and Tim ‘Mumbrella’ Burrowes (both featured above with Richard Freudenstein CEO of the Australian). But alternate opinions are surfacing from other online ‘influencers’ who were there – including Laurel Papworth (who just published a thoughtful Paywall for News.com and Online Community Social Media), Gavin Heaton (his tweet compilation) Tiphereth GloriaKatie ChatfieldCraig WilsonBronwen Clune and Karalee Evans. Some were feeling privileged to be at this briefing (in advance of traditional media – who of course are competitors so why not invite the ‘independent voice’) but others were confused regarding the actual value proposition being put forward.

Firstly hats off to the large News Ltd operation for taking this ‘if we don’t were damned’ and ‘if we do were also damned’, step. Also for setting up a no-mans land, bridging site, looking at the Future of Journalism. It is really the only thing they can really do at this juncture – so it all comes down to ‘how’ they do it. I and others pointed out during the session that regardless of the mammoth ‘back-end’ production, business and editorial systems upgrade, it really boils down to IF users like the taste of this particular flavour of digital content. Is there a demand for your ‘paid for’ product?

Some heritage news orgs are starting to turn the corner of this ‘experiment’ of course while others have just crashed and burned. Yesterday AdAge reported on New York Times just keeping it’s head above the water with it’s 324 000 and climbing, digital subscribers. It announced that, as it’s print ads decline by 10.4% a quarter it’s digital ads (up 6.2%) and increasing subscribers online are balancing the books, just.

Within the company’s news media division, which includes The New York Times itself as well as the Boston Globe and other newspapers, digital-ad revenue increased 6.2% — slower growth than in the second quarter — while print-ad revenue dropped 10.4% — a sharper decline than last quarter.

In a world of scarcity asking people to pay for ‘information’ or stories about themselves and the wider world makes sense. Get that. But in a world where digital, to a growing number, means free access, open re-distribution, self-publishing and outright plagiarism of those same stories, will ‘paid for news’ ever work?

Lets step back from the granularity of price points and production challenges covered by others for the moment and without getting bogged down in journalistic integrity or endless ‘manipulative’ stats, lets get back to basics.

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Jun 222009

I was invited to keynote at the IADIS multi conference in the really tough summer environment that is Carvoeiro (a quaint Portugese coastal town & limestone cliff’d seascape on the Algarve). The conference (at the Tivoli Hotel image below) has many strands overlapping probably due to over 1300 submitted papers looking at a massive range of topics. I have linked to each of the main strands below that were excellently edited by Prof. Katherine Blashki, Prof. Pedro Isaías & others. Most of the papers are typically academic (meaning theoretical or retrospective), but a few gems some were ‘zeitgeist practical/industrial’ and some needed a good deal of focus, kick-up the proverbial.

TiVoli Portugal

I was lead keynoting for a few strands, namely Telecommunications, Networks and Systems 2009, Informatics 2009 and the main conference Game and Entertainment Technologies 2009. It was a tall order to bridge these areas so I tried to encapsulate a few of my own current practical strands as well as ‘thinks’ at how play is truly everywhere, already escaped the bounds of the screen but the real focus was about the many new forms being created organically inside social media networks. (This slideshare is annotated – albeit in a slightly jetlagged haze and so only scrape the surface of the key messages!). The talk was well received and nice to see terms like ‘transocialmedia’ being used in discussion in later sessions. Also interesting to see a Strategy Analytics report using the term ‘Social Virtual Worlds’ I coined a couple of years ago in a report linked here and in my presentation below.

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