Saturday, October 20, 2007
BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Time Inc and Writing for the Web
BoSacks Readers Speak Out: Time Inc and Writing for the Web
Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
Oh, silly Bob, why are you expecting logic? I think one of the last lines in the story gives it away: Guild representation was only for print and didn't extend to online. That would make it a power struggle and, therefore, emotional, not purely logical. The Guild probably saw the push to online as a possible way around its contract with Time Inc. One of the big fears of writers, as well as photographers and graphics artists, is that publishers started people on the web at lower rates because it wasn't "making money," and now that it's gotten really big, wages haven't gone up. It's true for freelancing, and I would bet it's true for staff positions as well. Unless some serious changes come into play, people working on the content end are going to find their incomes seriously cut back over time. Another part of this may also be about prestige and maintaining power within the organization (writers don't get to make traditional empires within corporations), and also seeing writing for the web as additional duties and work with no additional pay - which gets back to the Guild issue.
(Submitted by a Writer)
Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
As a seasoned journalist and editor, I believe that everyone with a passion for covering the news in their industry wants to be writing for the new media. It's a lot of fun and definitely improves your future career choices.
The problems arise when we are expected to double or triple our workload with no increase in compensation. After all, ad sales staff get commissions on everything they sell, whether it be in print or on the web. Why shouldn't editorial staff be compensated for their additional work?
We've been feverishly working away, waiting for the new media to start making money so we can reap some additional benefits. But so far, in large part, it just isn't happening. Oh, and now the latest news is that some media companies are farming out their news writing tasks to India for pennies on the dollar. That should do a lot for our compensation packages. Hopefully the dollar will soon fall low enough that the use of foreign labor will becomes less advantageous.
(Submitted by a print/enewsletter/webinar/event/website writer/editor)
Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
Bob, In terms of missing something . . . has there ever been a union action that wasn't about compensation? There can be validity to "what I was hired to do" but I think you need the context of how the Time/Guild negotiation went. It was contentious and that has been an escalating history since the '80s. When a union is backed up against a wall with so many things they can not control, scope of work and the ability to be compensated for those changes is a point the union has legal basis to argue. There were some similar situations at Time several years ago when "special" and commemorative issues were all the rage, writers were able to argue that these additional "issues" merited additional compensation. I think the Guild just wants to assert that Time mgmt. can't impose scope of work changes without consulting the union and offering compensation. I don't there's a Guild member who doesn't understand the digital migration.
(Submitted by a Senior Magazine Director)
Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
The logic is simple. The writers had a contract, and you're not allowed to change it.
But it does sound like ITU/Big 6 all over again, huh? People being paid to come in and not set type so the new tech can start to be implemented.
They don't want to follow the money. They want the contract honored. Jobs today are more important than jobs tomorrow.
Put your blinders back on and get back to work.
(Submitted by an Industry Consultant)
Re: BoSacks Speaks Out: Time Inc: 'No Pressure' to Write for Web
I'll tell you, Bo, why I don't write for the web: I've done it before, and have found my essays copied, word-per-word, without attribution or so much as a byline, on other people's personal websites. This has also happened to many of the writers who write for my (paper) titles. It's bad enough that I don't get paid for web writing (because folks won't pay for web *reading*) but to find my hard work lifted in toto and passed off as someone else's work is simply adding insult to injury. I'm waiting for better protection for intellectual property before I put my work up on the Web; when I feel there's a reasonable chance of a) getting paid and b) not getting ripped off by readers, for Goddess' sake,
I'll be on the Web along with everyone else.
Until then, I'm sticking with tree bark and petroleum byproducts.
(Submitted by a Publisher)
RE: I cut down trees, I love my job
It's so funny that you send this out. After your first article I was noticing how you really love that "dead tree" analogy with print publishing. It's not all bad, especially to these loggers below . . .
(Submitted by a Publisher)
Re: Anderson News Move Puts SBT in the Spotlight
Harrington has ALWAYS taken the side of the wholesaler(s), and never looked at the perspective from the ND/Publishers side.
He reminds me of the cal Thomas of the Republican right wing. Cannot grasp the changes have taken on both sides of the fence. Without the ND/Pubs the w/s does not have a business, and John has never accepted that concept.
Both ND/Pub and wholesaler all need each other, It would be costly for ND to go out and find some new local distributors, like almost happened last week.
(Submitted by an Unknown)
Re: Major Consumer Magazines May Not Hit Wal-Mart Shelves (and other major retailers) Next Week
Simple GET RID OF THE WHOLESALERS AND DEAL DIRECT WITH THE RETAILERS, that is what WalMart has wanted all along and they do over 20% of the newsstand sales anyway, who needs Anderson, or anybody else for that matter?.
(Submitted by a Paper Person)
RE: Embrace digital or die, EMI told
EMI and other content publishers may not have much choice if the creators decide that they've been poorly treated for long enough. Radiohead, like many bands, probably makes little from actual record sales. Virtually any amount fans might be willing to pay would be a huge pay raise for them. I know writers and photographers trying to do the same thing. If they succeed, they'll walk away from traditional publishing happily, leaving publishers in an increasing bind. Going digital may not be enough when the people that they've really depended on feel little loyalty or affection.
(Submitted by a Writer)
Re: The Magazine Marketplace in Flux-How Can PR Benefit (and Help)?
Why is there nobody out there that recognizes the fact , the magazine industry suffers from too much duplication. "Look at the newsstands stupid" especially in chain bookstores and you will see what I mean.
In driving sales, magazines rank No. 1
Medium enhances TV and internet campaigns
By Heidi Dawley
Finally, a positive few words about beleaguered magazines, after years in which the medium has been losing readers and advertisers to the internet and elsewhere.
When it comes to advertising effectiveness, a new study finds, magazine advertising remains especially effective in enhancing consumers' impressions of the product and their intent to purchase that product.
The study found that adding magazines to a TV and internet advertising campaign significantly boosts the success of the campaign, and in some key areas the contribution of magazines outweighed that of TV.
The study, by Dynamic Logic, a New York research company, analyzed 32 cross-media campaigns from 10 different types of companies, including consumer goods, automotive, electronics, apparel and financial services. Most were U.S. campaigns but some were global as well.
The researchers first isolated the impact of TV advertising. They then looked at what impact adding the internet had. Last they looked at what magazines contributed to the mix.
To do this, the study compared results from people who had seen only the TV ads with those who had seen TV and internet, and then those who had seen ads in all three media.
Dynamic Logic undertook this study to better understand how different media work when used together, says Bill Havlena, vice president, research analytics for Dynamic Logic.
With advertisers and marketers increasingly using multiple media together in campaigns, understanding how the media work together when planning becomes more and more critical, says Havlena.
In this study, the researchers found that the three different media worked best when used together. Both online advertising and magazines added significantly to the impact of the advertising when used along with TV.
Further, each media contributed in a different way.
"The different media are working most strongly at different points in the purchase process," says Havlena. "The results confirm the strengths of all the media working together in a way that we hadn't seen before."
Looking at the data shows that TV worked strongly in generating brand and advertising awareness. In those categories the other two media built strongly on the initial impact of TV.
For instance, in terms of brand awareness, TV added 7.6 percentage points to the original percentage of people who were aware of the brand. The internet added another 3.7 points to the level of awareness. Finally magazines added another 5.7 percentage points (see chart, below).
In terms of advertising awareness, TV provided a bump of 9.8 percentage points. The internet, which performed strongest in the same categories as TV, added another 4.4 points.
Surprisingly, magazines also performed strongly in building advertising awareness, adding 8.3 points.
"We would not necessarily have expected that. It is clear that TV did a strong job in building awareness, but TV is thought of as an awareness-building medium, magazines, less so," says Havlena.
But it was in the final two categories of the purchase funnel that magazines really excelled when used in combination with TV and internet.
When it came to brand favorability and purchase intent, magazines added far more than TV and internet combined. For instance, in the key area of purchase intent, TV added 4.6 percentage points; the internet added 1.0 points; and magazines added 7.0 percentage points.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The Rich Get Nicher, Go Online, Use Blogs, Read People Magazine
by Joe Mandese
IN THE WORLD OF CONSUMER targeting, not all demos are created equal. For marketers of especially high-end products and categories such as luxury goods, business travel and big, capital intensive purchases, only the most elite consumer prospects will do. The problem, however, is how to identify them with research generally designed to target the masses. Suddenly, however, Madison Avenue has grown rich in data targeting, well, the rich. In the past few weeks, Paris-based research giant Iposos released the findings of an annual study on the business elite in the U.S. and other key markets around the world, and on Monday, U.S. researcher Monroe Mendelsohn Research gave a valuable freebie to members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies: A summary report from its recently released Mendelsohn Affluent Survey. Both studies go beyond conventional, syndicated media and marketing research aimed at the general consumer public, surveying only the most elite consumer prospects. In the case of Ipsos' research, the targets literally are the "Business Elite." In the case of MMR, they are simply the "affluent." As it turns out, there are some surprises in the media usage habits of both those high-end consumer groups.
Most startling of all, says Hugh White, director of Ipsos Media, is the fact that America's business elite - executives with C-level titles or the senior-most managers just below them - are voracious users of new media such as online blogs and podcasts, and their overall usage of online media is growing faster than the general public.
"We were absolutely surprised that these people, who are middle-aged males for the most part, are very active in these new media," says White, of the elite group representing just 0.26% of the U.S. adult population, but earning an aggregate $246 billion and having a combined net worth in excess of $1 trillion.
Nearly a third (31%) of this C-level crowd reported reading an online blog at least once a month, while 5% said they have personally contributed to a blog, statistics that surprised even the Ipsos research team.
"When we added that question for this year's survey, I told people not to expect anything," White admits, citing other noteworthy digital media stats, including the fact that nearly a quarter (23%) of the elite business audience reported downloading a podcast in the past month, and that their overall usage of the Web is growing more prevalent. More than half (54% ) reported visiting a business related Web sites, while the overall daily online reach has grown 6% since Ipsos' 2006 study.
"Media is highly important to these people," White observes, noting that they also continue to be big users of print media, especially business and financial journals, and major daily newspapers.
Meanwhile, the data released to the AAAA members on Monday may not be as elite (it represents individuals living in households with annual incomes of $85,000 or more), but it also reveals some surprising media usage patterns among America's wealthiest consumers.
The top magazine in terms of average issue audience among the richest segments is not financial magazines, golf journals, or high-end luxury magazines, but is actually People magazine, followed by House & Garden, National Geographic, and Sports Illustrated. Joe Mandese is Editor of MediaPost.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Revenues Climb, But Pages Dip for Consumer Magazines
By Dylan Stableford
Great Year So Far for Rachael Ray; Most Business Magazines Struggle
Given the often-beleaguered state of print advertising, any increase should be considered good news, so this news should thrill consumer magazine publishers: the Magazine Publishers of America's Publishers Information Bureau is reporting that total rate-card-reported advertising revenue increased 5.6 percent for the first nine months of 2007 when compared to the same period last year. Total ad pages, However, dipped one percent over the same period.
That revenue climbed despite slipping pages means that the spending-and rates-have increased in top categories like toiletries and cosmetics, says the MPA's chief marketing officer Ellen Oppenheim.
Among the top increases in advertising revenue: OK! registered a 140 percent increase in revenue (to $32.5 million) and a 44 percent increase in ad pages; Star's advertising revenue increased nearly 30 percent (to $147 million) and 25 percent more ad pages. More saw increases of 25 percent and 18 percent in revenue and pages, respectively; Fast Company saw growth in revenue (16.7 percent) and ad pages (10.7 percent); Quick & Simple gained 46 percent in ad revenue despite a nine percent decrease in ad pages; TV Guide's revenue increased 36 percent to $150 million; and Everyday with Rachael Ray continued its magical run, up a ridiculous 500 percent in ad revenue ($49.2 million over seven issues versus $8 million over four in 2006) on nearly double the ad pages (467 vs. 237).
In the men's health and fitness category, Men's Fitness boosted both its ad revenue (a 41 percent increase to $51,663,772) and pages (615, a 25 percent jump); Men's Health saw a 25.5 percent increase in PIB revenue and 17 percent in ad pages; and Men's Journal climbed 22 percent in revenue and 16.5 percent in pages.
But not all magazines fared as well. In the business category, BusinessWeek-which unveiled a splashy redesign this week-dipped in revenue (-11.3 percent) and ad pages (-16.4 percent) when compared to the first nine months of 2006. Fortune (down 11 percent in revenue, 18.6 percent in pages), Money (-10.2% in revenue, -20% in pages) and Fortune Small Business (-22.3%; 19.7%) suffered similar declines. Time Inc.'s failed Business 2.0, which published its final issue this month, dropped 32.1 percent in advertising revenue on 36 percent fewer ad pages.
Newsweek, which today unveiled an extensive redesign, was down three percent in revenue ($315.4 million) on 8.5 percent fewer ad pages. Newsweek's chief rival, Time, has had a tougher year on the heels of its own redesign, down 17.3 percent in revenue ($365 million) and 5.8 percent in pages (too 1,459.32).
PC Magazine's print ad revenues dipped 29.8 percent on 33 percent fewer ad pages. And something called Ride BMX skidded 27.4 percent in revenue and 30 percent in ads, respectively.
If you buy into the premise of this article, that the game Halo3 has actually affected the movie industry, Then I ask you ponder if it is a reach to think that gaming is also affecting magazine readership? What do you think?
"Time is swift, it races by; Opportunities are born and die . . . Still you wait and will not try - A bird with wings who dares not rise and fly."
A. A. Milne (English Humorist, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh, 1882-1956)
Bad Box Office? Blame 'Halo'
Film Execs Fault Blockbuster Video Game for Worst October Ticket Sales in Years
By Claude Brodesser-Akner
The joystick has brought Ben Stiller nothing but sorrow.
Industry expectations for "The Heartbreak Kid," the date movie that re-teamed him with the Farrelly brothers (the duo who made him a megastar in "There's Something About Mary"), called for a $20 million to $25 million opening for the film. Instead, "Kid," which cost north of $60 million to make, managed only $14 million in the U.S. and Canada -- heartbreaking, indeed.
'Halo 3' sold an astonishing $170 million worth of copies on its first day before going on to sell well over $300 million.
But there's more. Total industry ticket sales were only $80 million for the Oct. 5 weekend the film opened, a whopping 27% below the same weekend the year before, according to research firm Media by Numbers. That's the industry's worst performance for an October weekend since 1999. Overall, domestic receipts are down 6% from last fall.
Blame the Master Chief.
Glued to joysticks
Many film executives are convinced audiences stayed home to play Microsoft's carpal-tunnel classic, "Halo 3," which went on sale on Sept. 26. The game sold an astonishing $170 million worth of copies on its first day, before going on to sell well over $300 million.
It doesn't appear the Chief stayed in shrink-wrap for long, either: More than 2.7 million gamers have played "Halo 3" on Xbox Live -- Microsoft's multiplayer gaming offering -- in the first week, representing more than one-third of the 7 million Xbox Live members worldwide. Within the first day of its launch, "Halo 3" players racked up more than 3.6 million hours of game play, and that number increased to 40 million hours by the end of the first week. For those keeping score, that's more than 4,500 years of continuous game play.
For Microsoft, it's no wonder video games, and in particular "Halo 3," are competing with blockbusters for opening weekends. "We marketed it like a film," said Josh Goldberg, a "Halo 3" product manager at Microsoft, adding, "and now, we're just as big or bigger than film." He said "Halo 3" was marketed as an event film in terms of its partnerships, with beverage, automotive, fast feeders and mobile-phone companies all joining up.
"The audience on this game is the 18-to-34 demographic, similar to what you'd see in cinemas," said Mike Hickey, an analyst at Janco Partners, a Denver research firm, adding that "this could last for several weeks."
And there's more where that came from. Take 2 Interactive's Rockstar Games is readying its release of "Grand Theft Auto 4." The latest edition of the hugely popular franchise is tentatively slated to hit shelves in March or early April of next year and could potentially steal box office. Mr. Hickey said it "could conceivably ship 9.5 million units" in its first week, translating to first-week sales of more than $400 million.
'The Heartbreak Kid,' which cost north of $60 million to make, managed only $14 million in the U.S. and Canada.
Photo Credit: Apega
Not all of Hollywood is convinced. Mediocre reviews on "Kid" piled up from critics, and at rival studio Screen Gems, owned by Sony, marketing chief Mark Weinstock says that "box office is driven by content."
Mr. Weinstock, who just opened video-game adaptation "Resident Evil: Extinction" in September, notes that clearly "some young males decided to play video games" on the "Kid" opening weekend, but noted that the R-rating of "Kid" and lukewarm reviews could have hurt the film just as much as "Halo 3."
Correlation vs. causation
A spokesman for Paramount, which owns Dreamworks, the studio that released the Ben Stiller movie, declined to discuss whether "Halo" had caused the "Kid" boondoggle. But privately, insiders at the studio suspect the blame might lie in part with "Halo 3," and are working to determine if there was a correlation.
That's because, in a twist of fate, Mr. Stiller is producing an adaptation of the bestselling book "The Ruins," which Paramount will open the first weekend of April 2008 -- right in the middle of "Grand Theft Auto 4's" expected release.
Mr. Hickey said that doesn't bode well: "This past weekend will replicate itself next year."
Or worse. He said one could roughly complete "Halo 3" in roughly 20 hours played straight through, but by comparison "Grand Theft Auto 4" is estimated to take more than 100 hours to play. That means it could keep players occupied and out of the theaters even longer.
Paper Industry Acquisitions Continue Amid Rate Hikes and Supply Shortages
By Joanna Pettas
Verso Paper-a major supplier of coated mechanical paper-may be getting ready to buy Sappi, the top supplier of coated freesheet, a number of sources tell Folio:. "It's a rumor that's been kicking around for a while," says one source. If this rumor were to manifest, one could see it leaping over the NewPage/SENA merger set for next year to create an even larger giant-with even more control of supply and pricing. A Sappi spokesperson declined to comment on "market rumors."
When NewPage closes on its acquisition of Stora Enso North America next year, the company will produce 31.4 percent of all coated mechanical and 41.1 percent of all coated freesheet paper on the continent, bumping off Verso and SAPPI who are now at 17.6 and 22.0 percent respectively, according to marketshare numbers provided by RISI, an information provider for the global forest products industry. But if Verso and SAPPI merged, they could likely take the lead. What will the presence of these imminently growing market giants mean for already-rising prices and increasingly limited supply?
More of the same, apparently. Despite a possible marketshare leapfrog, profits and supply are still uncomfortably tight. Verso and Stora are already disappointing some customers, limiting allocation of certain grades and even canceling on orders, other sources say. Also an issue is how both companies are owned by private equity, which puts a premium on short-term profits. Foreign companies divesting from the U.S. paper market are increasingly selling to financial companies, and quickly. That Stora Enso sold its U.S. holdings to New Page for about $1.7 billion after paying $4.9 billion euros in 2000 indicates a concession to a tough market. "That's quite an indicator on just how bad they want to get out of the North American market," says Steve Frye, a publishing consultant.
John Maine, vice president of world graphic papers at RISI, says that recent consolidation is not having a material impact on pricing and availability. "The most likely scenario is that coated paper prices and availability in North America are not going to be greatly affected by [the NewPage/SENA] consolidation among producers." He continues, "Coated paper prices were already rising before this acquisition was announced, and they will continue to rise in 2008 and 2009 due to capacity closures announced earlier this year."
Others disagree on the consolidation point. "I don't think the consolidation trend is good news for publishers," says Ken Garner, president of United Litho. "While some weak suppliers will be forced out, if carried to its natural conclusion, shrinking supply will result in fewer choices and higher prices."
Greater control of supply and pricing can also mean lengthening delivery dates and increasing limits for buyers, which can leave printers and publishers scrambling-particularly smaller paper customers with no reserve supply. Sources say paper buyers might be forced to compromise increasingly on quality, delivery dates, and prices. Meanwhile, Jeff Bruce, a managing director at xpedx, a division of International Paper, believes "there's no question we'll see more M&A activity moving forward."
Unable to Deliver
According to Bruce, about 17 percent of North American coated paper production permanently shut down this summer due to limited profits on coated grades and a weak dollar. A number of mills, he says, are telling customers they can't deliver in time for their fall press date, especially on the popular and particularly-tight groundwood coated #5.
This is not a surprise to many who've been expecting a turnaround from paper companies that have struggled for years. Verso, the current largest supplier of coated mechanical paper, reported a $63.8 million loss in the first six months of this year.
"Mills have finally decided to reduce supply to create shortages and raise prices," says Bruce. "The plan has worked and we have seen two rounds of roughly 7 percent increases for coated #3, #4, and #5 grade-one in July and one in October. Another is heavily rumored for January '08."
NEWSWEEK GETS A NEW LOOK IN PRINT, ON WEB
By KEITH J. KELLY
Newsweek on Monday will unveil a sweeping redesign of the magazine and its Web site while at the same time formally ending its seven-year distribution agreement with MSNBC.com.
While some recent redesigns have been introduced with fanfare, such as BusinessWeek, whose new look hit newsstands yesterday, or Time, which was overhauled in March, Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham has consciously avoided publicizing Newsweek's revamping.
"It was stealth redesign," Meacham said yesterday as he was getting ready to ship the first of the new-look pages to the printer.
"I just want people to judge it when they see it," said Meacham. "I don't believe in sweeping declarations."
As part of the redesign - the first in six years - Newsweek's logo will undergo a slight tweak, but won't be radically different from what it replaces. In addition, many of the stories in the print version will be longer.
Meacham has also lengthened its Periscope section, doubled the size of its Conventional Wisdom Watch and added four new columnists.
"What we are trying to do here is clear out the clutter and speak in a print vernacular," said Meacham.
Meanwhile, Newsweek.com will now be a standalone Web site, though it will still have some loose ties to MSNBC.com under a new multi-year contract.
The new Web site goes live tomorrow with more breaking news, a blog from Newsweek political reporter Andrew Romano and daily updates of popular print columns such as "My Turn."
Though the magazine's Web strategy of going it alone will give Newsweek technological control of over how its site is displayed, it's a gamble because a large chunk of Newsweek's Web traffic was driven by MSNBC.com.
In August, for example, roughly 50 percent of the 7.2 million unique visitors to Newsweek's Web site came from MSNBC.com.
Rival Time magazine, meanwhile, had 4.4 million unique visitors.
Microsoft's Ballmer kicks off ANA show with claim that all media will be digital in 10 years
Phoenix-In his opening keynote presentation at the Association of National Advertisers' annual conference, Microsoft Corp. CEO Steve Ballmer said that in 10 years, all media will be digital, with tremendous ramifications for marketers, agencies and publishers.
"Within 10 years, the consumption of anything we think of as media today, whether it is print, TV or the Internet, will in fact be delivered over IP (Internet protocol) and will all be digital," Ballmer said. "Everything will be delivered digitally."
He said this transformation will change the ways in which marketers, agencies and media companies deliver information to consumers and business customers, using rich Internet applications to deliver targeted messages to the audience.
"We will have rich databases of information to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in any communication," Ballmer said.
"As soon as you assume that everything is delivered digitally, all media and all advertising will have to take that into account."
Ballmer said Microsoft is committed to developing a marketing platform that will help advertisers deliver next-generation marketing and media services.
"We're investing in this as aggressively as anything we've ever invested in," he said, pointing to recent acquisitions such as Microsoft's purchase of digital marketing company aQuantive.
Critic: Media Content 'Losing Its Value'
Art & Commerce: Death by YouTube
By Andrew Keen
Is the Web 2.0 cultural revolution of user-generated content good news for the ad industry? Will the explosion of fashionable blogs and social networks increase the size of the advertising economy? Can the YouTubification of professional creative content and the wikifying of mainstream authoritative media benefit advertisers and advertising companies?
The answer to these three questions, I'm afraid, is unambiguously negative. No, no, no. Web 2.0 is, in truth, the very worst piece of news for the advertising industry since the birth of mass media. In the short term, the Web 2.0 hysteria marks the end of the golden age of advertising; in the long term, it might even mark the end of advertising itself.
It's not possible to talk about the meteoric rise of Web 2.0 without discussing the equally dramatic fall of mainstream media. These two profoundly significant historical events are occurring in parallel, each a cause and an effect of the other. And the fate of the advertising business is intimately bound up with both Web 2.0's growth and mass media's decline.
Evidence of the crisis of mass media is depressingly ubiquitous. The recorded music business is in free-fall, the tragic victim of mass digital kleptomania. As Craigslist gives away free classified ads and fewer and fewer of us are reading a daily newspaper, so journalists are being laid off while physical papers are shrinking in size and even being shuttered. Magazines aren't doing much better, nor is radio. Meanwhile, the advertising-driven television business is about to be engulfed by the perfect technological storm of the digital video recorder and the YouTube content revolution. Even the publishing business is on the verge of an equally hideous fate as Google's universal digital library undermines both the physical coherence and economic value of the traditional book.
As the mainstream media shrinks (and with it, advertising revenues), user-generated content and even user-generated advertising are becoming increasingly popular. Web 2.0, of course, is all about the so-called "empowerment" of the consumer through the disintermediation of traditional gatekeepers such as editors and publishers. Sites such as YouTube, MySpace, Wikipedia and BlogHer are essentially bringing the price of creating content down to zero, thereby unleashing amateur mobs of wannabe Maureen Dowds, Bonos and Steven Spielbergs. Instead of Schindler's List, we now have hundreds of thousands of personal videos on YouTube; instead of op-eds in The New York Times, we get tens of millions of ill-informed opinions from the blogosphere; instead of U2's hit song "Vertigo," we have the vertiginous cacophony of hundreds of thousands of aspiring bands on MySpace.
So how does this cultural freedom and its chaotic corollary, the eruption of infinite user-generated content, affect the advertising industry? The consequences are bleak for everyone except the newly minted multimillionaires at MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. What Web 2.0 is doing, compounded by the online consumer's shrinking attention span and his or her hostility towards the "inauthenticity" of commercial messages, is radically deflating the value of advertising.
As the scarcity of mainstream media is replaced by the abundance of Web 2.0's user-generated content, advertising itself is being painfully commoditized. Sure, Google sells billions of dollars worth of ads, but advertisers are failing to reproduce the value of analog commercials in the digital sector. Web 2.0 advertising is like user-generated content: inane, ephemeral and annoying. In a word: worthless. What sells online is direct marketing (that means spam) and other increasingly low-cost, ineffective and unsuccessful ways of reaching the consumer. Today's Internet advertising is akin to life in Thomas Hobbes' state of nature: It's nasty, brutish and short.
To misquote Marshall McLuhan, the message is missing its value. More content, of course, represents less value to the advertising business. "Long-tail" digital utopians try to seduce us with the vision of a cornucopian dawn in which the Internet's infinite content will provide infinite advertising opportunities. But the supposed "freedom" of Web 2.0 is creating inferior and often corrupt content, which in turn results in fewer credible advertising opportunities for discriminating buyers. After all, what sane brand manager would consciously invest his or her dollars in a narcissistic blog, a semi-pornographic teen social network or an anonymously authored, self-serving wiki? Rather than choices, these are punishments. Caught between the Scylla of online garbage and the Charybdis of vanishing traditional media content, it's no wonder, then, that the chief marketing officer's average tenure has now dropped to little more than 14 months.
Yes, for the advertiser, media content is indeed losing its value, a value historically derived from its scarcity. This devaluation of media isn't hard to quantify: It can be measured everywhere, in falling CPM and the failure of social networks to develop viable business models. No new technology-neither the false dawn of mobile, nor the holy grail of personalized, targeted advertising-is going to save the advertising business now. No, the truth is that advertising can only be saved if we can re-create media scarcity. That means less user-generated content and more professionally created information and entertainment, less technology and more creativity. The advertising community desperately needs more gatekeepers, more professional creative authorities, more so-called media "elites" who will curate, filter and organize content. That's the way to re-establish the value of the message. It's the one commercial antidote to Web 2.0's radically destructive cultural democracy.
Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism
By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
As struggling newspapers across the country cut back on investigative reporting, a new kind of journalism venture is hoping to fill the gap.
Paul E. Steiger, who was the top editor of The Wall Street Journal for 16 years, and a pair of wealthy Californians are assembling a group of investigative journalists who will give away their work to media outlets.
The nonprofit group, called Pro Publica, will pitch each project to a newspaper or magazine (and occasionally to other media) where the group hopes the work will make the strongest impression. The plan is to do long-term projects, uncovering misdeeds in government, business and organizations.
Nothing quite like it has been attempted, and despite having a lot going for it, Pro Publica will be something of an experiment, inventing its practices by trial and error. It remains to be seen how well it can attract talent and win the cooperation of the mainstream media.
"It is the deep-dive stuff and the aggressive follow-up that is most challenged in the budget process," said Mr. Steiger, who will be Pro Publica's president and editor in chief. He gave up the title of managing editor of The Journal in May, but is staying on through the end of the year as editor at large; during his tenure, the newsroom won 16 Pulitzer Prizes.
Pro Publica is the creation of Herbert M. and Marion O. Sandler, the former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation, based in California, which was one of the nation's largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans. They have committed $10 million a year to the project, while various foundations have provided smaller amounts. Mr. Sandler will serve as chairman of the group, which will begin operations early next year.
The Sandlers are also major Democratic political donors and critics of President Bush. Last year, they sold Golden West to the Wachovia Corporation for about $26 billion, a deal which valued their personal shares at about $2.4 billion.
Pro Publica plans to establish a newsroom in New York City and have 24 journalists, one of the biggest investigative staffs in any medium, along with about a dozen other employees. Mr. Steiger said he envisions a mix of accomplished reporters and editors, including some hired from major publications, and talented people with only a few years' experience, so that the group will become a training ground for investigative reporters. He would not say specifically where he is shopping for talent, but did not rule out The Journal.
Richard J. Tofel, a former assistant publisher and assistant managing editor of The Journal, has been hired as general manager. Board members will include Henry Louis Gates Jr., the Harvard scholar of African and African-American studies; Alberto Ibarguen, a former publisher of The Miami Herald, who is currently president and chief executive of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; James A. Leach, a former congressman from Iowa who directs Harvard's Institute of Politics; and Rebecca Rimel, president and chief executive of the Pew Charitable Trusts.
The nearest parallels to Pro Publica may be the Center for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco, and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, groups that support in-depth work and have had considerable success getting it published or broadcast in mainstream media. But their budgets are a fraction of Pro Publica's, and they do not actually employ most of the journalists whose work they help finance.
Pro Publica will provide salaries and benefits comparable to the biggest newspapers, Mr. Steiger said. "I won't be offering somebody 50 grand or 100 grand more than they're making to jump ship, nor will I ask them to take a pay cut," he said.
Newspapers routinely publish articles from wire services, and many of them also subscribe to the major papers' news services and reprint their articles. But except for fairly routine news wire service articles, the largest newspapers have generally been reluctant to use reporting from other organizations.
But experts say that resistance is breaking down as the business is squeezed financially, and newspapers make greater use of freelance journalists.
"They're looking for alternative means of paying for ambitious journalism," said Stephen B. Shepard, dean of the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism and a former editor of BusinessWeek. "Steiger has the credibility and judgment to bring this off, and if they do good work, it will get picked up."
Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times, said The Times would be open to using work from an outside source, "assuming we were confident of its quality," but that "we'll always have a preference for work we can vouch for ourselves."
Mr. Steiger said that relationships with publications could be tricky, requiring the flexibility to make each comfortable.
In most cases, he said, Pro Publica will appeal to a newspaper or magazine while a project is under way, to gauge interest and how much oversight the publication wants. In others, he said, his group might present more or less finished products to other outlets.
If Pro Publica and a publication cannot agree on how to approach a topic, or what can be written about it, he said, his group will look for another outlet, or publish its reporting on its own Web site.
Mr. Sandler said his interest in investigative journalism has been abetted by friendships with reporters in the field.
"Both my father and my older brother always focused on the underdog, justice, ethics, what's right," Mr. Sandler said. "All of my life I've been driven crazy whenever I encounter corruption, malfeasance, mendacity, but particularly where those in power take advantage of those who have few resources."