Monday, March 19, 2018

2 niche startups that attracted investors

Email has an intimacy that TheSkimm has used to build a loyal base of 7 million subscribers.
Digiday has a weekly podcast about the business of digital media, and two recent interviews with founders of startups had nuggets of wisdom applicable to any media startup.

Digiday's editor-in-chief, Brian Morissey, interviewed The Business of Fashion's Imran Amed about its move to a subscription model, and the founders of TheSkimm, Carly Zakin and Michelle Weisberg, about how they used email to build a loyal community.

Elements of their success formulas

1. Passion for a topic that you can develop in a way that no one else is doing.

a) Amed, then a consultant for McKinsey &. Co., began writing a blog in 2007 that talked about fashion as a business. He felt that no one was exploring the meaning of the numbers behind the leading fashion businesses. Over time, he developed a loyal audience who began suggesting ways he could monetize that audience.

b) Zakin and Weisberg were both 25 years old and producers for NBC television news when they decided in 2012 to launch TheSkimm. They were frustrated at the time that none of their friends were seeing their best work. Their friends didn't watch TV news. So they started an e-mail newsletter that aggregated what they thought was the most significant news that young professional women like themselves needed to know for their professional and personal lives.

2. Build community first. Opportunities for monetization will present themselves.

a) Amed told Morissey that he had been blogging about the fashion business for years in his spare time and had to hire an assistant to handle all the inbound traffic and questions. It was only after six years, in 2013, that Business of Fashion launched their first commercial product, a careers platform in which brands could advertise themselves and their open positions to the publication's audience. This platform was financed with $2.1 million from various investors.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Where the jobs are for graduates in journalism

"The new journalism specialties". The graphic shows that 56% of the Spanish journalists surveyed work in media that have community managers, and 30% employ data and traffic analysts. Click to enlarge the graphic.
Where will the jobs be for graduates in journalism and communication? The results of a survey of journalists in Spain give some indication. The urgent demand is for people with digital media skills, but more on that in a minute.

The Press Association of Madrid's (abbreviated to APM in Spanish) 2017 survey was sent to 13,500 professionals, and the overall response rate was a respectable 13%. A little more than a third were working in journalism while another third were working in other professions or were retired or semi-retired. The remaining 30 percent were working in communications, mainly advertising and public relations. (News articles about the survey are here, here, and here in Spanish.

Disconnect in training

The survey results show that the respondents to the survey are not the ones who are filling the new digital media jobs in their newsrooms. For example, 56% of the respondents said their publications had digital community managers--the people responsible for interacting with users in social networks and other channels--while only 13% of the respondents said they were working in those jobs.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How publishers can overcome loss of Facebook traffic

Now that Facebook has made clear that it will not be promoting journalism to its users, all of the publishers who were getting much of their traffic there should look elsewhere. (Frederic Filloux of Monday Note has one of the best analyses of the company's announcement.)

What now? Well, there are several tactics and strategies that publishers can take to replace what they have lost (and will lose) from Facebook's pivot away from news. (I have also written about such strategies in Spanish.)

1. A tactic: start an email newsletter with links to your content. Think of it as a walled garden that protects you from Facebook.

Daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters create a more intimate relationship with users. Some publications have several on different topics, such as technology, business, public safety, or politics that users can select from. Local news sites in particular can benefit from daily newsletters.

The links to your content send users directly to your site, and any ad revenue goes to your business rather than Facebook. Many digital news publishers report higher response rates from email subscribers to offers of subscriptions, premium content, or memberships.

2.  Focus on the quality of users instead of the quantity: relationship rather than scale, engagement rather than volume.

The metrics of the "attention web" focus on showing the value of the audience's relationship with the media brand rather than with an advertiser's product.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2018: Credibility will be the new currency for journalism

Editor's note: an earlier version of this post had typeface issues; my apologies.

An organization I work with that promotes development of independent media in Latin America,, recently asked me to make some predictions for 2018.

I really had just one: Credibility will be the new currency of journalism in 2018 and the years to come.

But to explain, here are that prediction's corollaries:

1. Independent media--those based on serving the public rather than turning a profit---will grow in importance through revealing corruption and holding authorities accountable. There are many examples. In the U.S., organizations such as ProPublica and Texas Tribune; in Spain,; in Peru, OjoPúblico; in Colombia, Connectas and La Silla Vacía; in Mexico, Aristegui Noticias and Animal Político; in Argentina, Chequeado; and hundreds of others around the world.

2. These independent media that serve the public first rather than political or economic interests will gain credibility by challenging the powers that be. That credibility will have economic value that will be monetized through support from NGOs, foundations, consumers, wealthy donors, and service-oriented organizations.

3. Journalism will continue its transformation from a business to a public service, and traditional media that view journalism as a business will accelerate their own decline. The traditional media's focus on maintaining profit margins will cause them to continue gutting their staff, their products and their services. They will have neither the will nor the means to make the needed investments in personnel and technology to transition to the world of multimedia, interactive, multiplatform, interactive journalism. (There are a handful of exceptions.)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Think small: the new metrics of engagement for news

Forget about the big numbers of total page views per month or unique users per month.

Fans are engaged and willing to give their time and money.
Those numbers are misleading and meaningless. They had meaning only in the days when the media business depended on mass media, massive audiences, and products aimed at the masses.

That was when the news media depended on advertising.

Today the business of media is all about touching potential customers with personalized, customized messages. It's about identifying the small number of people who are truly fans of your publication or the stars on your team. It's about strengthening the emotional attachment people have to your brand and its mission.

How the big numbers mislead us

In their very successful campaign to reach 1 million paid subscriptions for their digital-only edition, the Washington Post learned that the users most likely to subscribe came to their site three times a month.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Media seek 'emotional engagement' of audiences

Sylvia Chan-Olmsted is one of the leading scholars of media economics, and she stopped by the University of Navarra Dec. 13 to chat about some of the trends she is seeing in the industry.

"Media companies need to translate data into intelligence."
Chan-Olmsted, a professor at the University of Florida, singled out three trends:

1. There is a new value chain in media. Content is becoming "unbundled", meaning users can buy individual movies, TV shows, or songs without having to pay for products they don't want. 

Content is becoming crowd-sourced, meaning that consumers are recommending things to each other through social media.

And the major media companies are harnessing their data about users to recommend media products and even create content based on their customers' tastes.

Media platforms like YouTube, Apple, AmazonHulu, and Facebook are all starting to invest billions of dollars in original content to challenge Netflix, whose business model has disrupted the movie studios, TV networks, and cable services.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The audiences are in charge: are publishers listening?

Recently I was invited to give a lecture at the University of Malaga--"The audiences are in charge: Are publishers listening?" The audience had students in their doctoral, master's and bachelor's programs, as well as a number of faculty.

Below is a summary of the presentation.

1. The marriage of convenience between advertising and journalism is over. For proof, look no further than the graphic below, which shows that newspapers in Spain have lost more than 500 million euros in ad revenue since 2009, and that includes the revenue they get from digital. (The U.S. is very similar.)

In the future, news media will need to develop a deep relationship with their users. The important thing will be not the quantity of eyeballs reached, as measured by page views and unique users, but the quality of the relationship with the users.

Versión en español