You’ve arrived at a blog about transforming the companies that publish newspapers. And it’s a blog with an unorthodox point of view.
Here it is: News will not save you.
Why not? Because the disruption that’s pounding newspaper companies is not about people Read the rest of this entry
Sounds like a great session for a publishers’ conference, doesn’t it? It’s a big topic for local media businesses these days, as mobile web traffic surpasses desktop traffic for more and more newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations.
After a couple of hours, I gave up.
I had no problem finding people who were opining on what publishers should do on mobile. The supply seemed unlimited. But all of them were talking about how to get their own content read or consumed (video) on mobile.
As for making money, the only idea anyone seemed to have was banner ads.
Banner ads on mobile. Yuck.
Not that we shouldn’t try to get our content consumed on mobile. We absolutely should.
And not that we shouldn’t sell banner ads on mobile. We should.
But the money to be made there is minuscule. It will definitely grow a lot in the coming years — and even then, it will still be minuscule.
Okay, then, where can local media find a real revenue opportunity in mobile?
There is one. But it’s not about our content on mobile.
It’s about our advertisers’ presence on mobile. And our non-advertisers, too — the large majority of businesses in our markets that don’t use traditional media to reach customers.
Because what is mobile, really? It’s how consumers find stuff they want to buy, things they want to do, and answers to questions that arise on the spot and in the moment.
Mobile isn’t a channel. It isn’t really a device. It’s a series of circumstances in which people try to find the next thing they want or need.
Where is a hardware store near me? What’s the highest-rated restaurant nearby? What are the hours at the dry cleaners?
Local businesses desperately need to be found in those mobile moments, when consumers are looking for the things they sell or the services they provide.
The searches that used to be done in the yellow pages, or on the desktop, or even by asking friends, are being done more and more on mobile devices, right at the time of need.
Whatever the business is, there’s a limited number of opportunities in any given day, week or year when someone in the local market looks for what they do. More and more of those opportunities are happening on mobile devices.
If a business can’t be found on mobile, isn’t mobile-friendly when found, or doesn’t make its case powerfully on mobile, those opportunities are going to their competition.
That’s where we, as local media people, come in. We need to remind ourselves that we have always made most of our money by helping local retailers and services get found and win the business.
Helping them get found and win the business on mobile is our biggest revenue opportunity in this new space.
Our content isn’t a big factor in this. On mobile, people trying to find a restaurant or a vacuum cleaner belt don’t start out by reading a news story.
They start out by doing a search. So, for local businesses, mobile resembles the yellow pages more than it does newspapers, magazines, radio or television. And, as in the yellow pages, the end of the search is a piece of content presented by the business itself.
The consumer does a search, touches a link, and BANG! — she’s on the website of a business she may choose to patronize.
That’s why our money-making opportunity in mobile is not about our content — it’s about helping local businesses make THEIR content powerful. When found, businesses need to present better content, more content, more engaging content than ever before.
We’re in a new era of direct contact between consumers and businesses, without the aid of a media intermediary. But this doesn’t mean we’re not needed.
It means we’re needed for different things. Most businesses have little knowledge or capacity to do what’s required to win on mobile. They need help.
Our services for mobile must include:
- Website design that looks and works great on mobile.
- Search-engine optimization that makes the website pop in mobile searches.
- Facts on the site that provide exactly what the consumer needs in a mobile moment, like hours, address, phone, map, etc.
- Content that closes the deal — engagingly produced text, images and video that show why the business is a great choice.
- For larger businesses, paid search and maybe programmatic banner advertising on frequently used mobile sites (like Facebook) to drive up site traffic.
We can also provide ancillary services, like promotions (in-store events, contests, games, puzzles, surveys) and marketing (email campaigns, social media management, search profile management).
Not coincidentally, this list does not include selling banners on our own mobile-friendly sites. We can do that, too, but it’s secondary or even tertiary. The real action for local businesses is in how their own media are presented in and after searches, not in little ads on mobile news pages.
This opportunity is huge. Just about every business in our markets needs help to create a powerful presence in mobile — not just those who currently advertise with us.
If we take off the blinders of our old model — ads alongside our own content — we can see the big opportunity on the little device in every consumer’s hand.
A recent email from Internet Retailer grabbed my attention.
Its purpose was to plug their new annual Top 500 Guide — a huge directory packed with stats on who’s big in e-commerce, who’s growing market share and who’s not.
But what caught my eye was their take on what’s new in the data.
For years, it said, previous guides had shown big-box stores getting drubbed in e-commerce sales by web-only e-tailers.
“But,” the email said, “…that began changing in 2013, when the chains closed the gap by growing their online sales by 16.7%, taking market share away from manufacturers and catalogers…. Read the rest of this entry
Lots of people understand that the traditional business model around news is breaking down. Far fewer realize it’s not just the business part — advertising — that’s broken. It’s also news itself.
Why is this so hard to understand?
A planet full of people is going from a daily diet of a newspaper and a couple of news broadcasts to constant access to almost everything there is to know. Inevitably, this is causing people today to want and expect different things from their time spent on content than people did 20 or 50 years ago.
But what we produce as news has hardly changed. Read the rest of this entry
For those of us in traditional media, it’s the source of our problems, and it’s also the uncharted space of our new opportunities.
With bandwidth rising toward infinity and costs falling to near zero, it’s enabling all sorts of new content models to eat our lunch. “Free” digital bandwidth has enabled all of our disrupters, from early ones like Craigslist and Facebook and to newer ones like BuzzFeed, Instagram and SnapChat. And more will keep coming. Read the rest of this entry
It’s the Year of the Millennials, according to Pew. In 2015, at ages 18 to 34, they will surpass Baby Boomers in the U.S. to become the largest living generation. And a major new report by the Media Insight Project, just released at the NAA mediaXchange, sheds a lot of new light on their consumption of news.
The report (pdf, html) emphasizes the bright side, stressing the finding that most Millennials do value news and consume it regularly. But the most worrisome finding for newspaper companies is that they rarely go to traditional news providers to get it. We are far back in the loop, when we’re in it at all. Read the rest of this entry
Media folks, can we all agree on this statement?
- We’re in the audience business.
If you disagree, we need to talk, and we’ll do that in a minute.
But first, here’s the nut graf:
As an audience business, we’re overdue for a drastic rethink of what we do. Too often, we’re still doing 20th-century audience thinking amid the starkly different realities of the 21st century. We’re getting pounded on the audience front, and we have to figure out what audience strategies will work in this new environment. Read the rest of this entry
In the local media business, whatever hurts retailers hurts us, too. They’re feeling a big hurt right now, and we need to help them fight back.
That big hurt is a steady and continuous decline in store traffic. This means loss of sales, and that leads nowhere good for them — or for local media.
- Figuring out how the business has to change.
- Changing behaviors in the organization to get the new things done.
As most people in the newspaper industry can testify, both of these are difficult and relentless. There’s no “one and done” in a disruption as massive as the digital revolution.
And, unfortunately, success at No. 1 is no guarantee of success at No. 2.
Over last three years, I’ve blogged frequently about No. 1. This time let’s look at No. 2. Read the rest of this entry