Providing the information you didn’t know you wanted — Google CEO Eric Schmidt on newspapers, monetisation and the semantic web

Snippets from a Wall Street Journal interview with Schmidt:

Says Mr. Schmidt, a generation of powerful handheld devices is just around the corner that will be adept at surprising you with information that you didn’t know you wanted to know. “The thing that makes newspapers so fundamentally fascinating—that serendipity—can be calculated now. We can actually produce it electronically,” Mr. Schmidt says.[…]

On one thing, however, Google is willing to bet: “The only way the problem [of insufficient revenue for news gathering] is going to be solved is by increasing monetization, and the only way I know of to increase monetization is through targeted ads. That’s our business.”[…]

“As you go from the search box [to the next phase of Google], you really want to go from syntax to semantics, from what you typed to what you meant. And that’s basically the role of [Artificial Intelligence]. I think we will be the world leader in that for a long time.”

Read more here [link]

Three fallacies of newspaper thinking (and how paywalls cracked…)

Three fallacies of newspapers’ assumptions about online content, highlighted by a discussion of paywalls etc, summarised by William Owen of Made by Many:

1) the internet is free because of a mix of habit and a spurious moral right, and that if you can change habits and challenge morality we’ll go back to paying for content.

2) a newspaper’s competition is other newspapers.

3) nothing else changes, content is still just the end product of the publishing process.

Read more here [link]

Shifting from mass media to individuated media

Vin Crosbie highlights the magnitude of the transition he envisages:

"We're now in the early years of this transition from mass media to individuated media, maybe 10 years into a process that will take a generation. The writing is on the wall, but most traditional media companies still think it's only graffiti. Yet the change will come and be sudden and sharp, not gradual. Just ask the newspaper industry, the first to be affected. The radio industry's and the TV industry's affiliate infrastructures will be next. There are pioneers who are ably leading the advertising and public relations industries through the change, but not everyone in those industries will make it to the Promised Land.

If you think you've seen changes in the past 10 to 15 years, you ain't seen nothing yet. […] However, the opportunities to profit and grow careers within individuated media, for those who know how to do it, will be extraordinary. Be one of those people."

Read more here [link]

Finding a niche: do papers need to focus better on what they do well?

Jim Brady, web consultant to Guardian America: “You take most newspapers in the U.S., there are a couple things they’re really, really good at, better at probably than anybody else. And then there are a long list of things they’re just no better at—especially if you look at soft sections […]

I don’t think that producing a paper that’s great at 30 percent of the subjects it covers and OK at the other 70 percent really has much of a future on the Web, because it’s just too hard to compete. We’re in this social media world now where if I’m on Twitter or I’m on Facebook and someone sends me an article, three pieces of information come with that: what friend of mine sent me the article, what the headline says, and who produced the article. And I would argue that who produced the article is by far the least important of the three.”

Read more here [link]

BusinessWeek sinks $16m on social media project

Sounds like a spectacularly large spend for a social networking site, even for a large publishing company. Makes me wonder if there's more to be told. From Brand Republic:

"As the bid deadline for ailing BusinessWeek magazine approaches the McGraw-Hill title is revealed to have spent $16m on creating its social networking site, which is generating little cash.

BusinessWeek launched its social networking venture Business Exchange in 2007. By 2008 it had spent $16m on the site, which is estimated by the New York Time to have generated just $600,000 in revenues."

Read more here [link]

Local newspapers will not recover from recession, says former Express editor | printweek.com | Business News and Jobs from the Business, Finance and Mergers and Acquisition Sector

So says Richard Addis, former editor of the Daily Express, as reported in Print Week:

" He made the comment as regional newspaper groups sought government help to save further title closures and Kent media company KM Group announced plans to quit printing its own newspapers and concentrate on publishing.

Addis announced plans in 2007 to launch an "ultra-local newspaper" in London. However, he told PrintWeek that plans had changed and he is looking to launch a series of local news websites across the UK.

He said: "Print will never recover from this recession. And regional newspapers are the worst hit of all. Regional publishers are all looking at digital and how to improve their website. Over the next three years, we will see a huge failure of regional print businesses." "

Read more here [link]

Paid-for-free papers: the mirage of the hybrid models | Monday Note

More than 56% of the IHT's circulation is free, says, Frédéric Filloux (Schibsted), analysing the free/hybrid model and some key questions it raises:

"How to reach a bigger chunk of high value audiences using the same technique?  “Than can be summed up in one idea”, says Bruno Patino, former CEO of Le Monde Interactive, who likes to pitch the concept of paid-for-free newspapers: “The audience I do want, as a publisher, gets the paper for free; the rest have to pay for it”. […]
"The hybrid model bumps against two limits, though. The first one is the fit of the product to the target audience(s). […] The second limit is the social approach of the news business."

Read more here [link]

Bebo kids will value privacy when they see adults do too | Comment is free | The Guardian

Cory Doctorow says parents of the YouTube generation have not learned an important lesson:

"When we tell kids to safeguard their privacy from everyone except governments, merchants, advertisers, entertainment giants, schools, Transport for London and parents, we tell them that we're not really serious about this stuff. Worse, when we allow our own private information to be taken by all these parties, we tell them that privacy is the cheapest coin of all. When BT secretly installs spyware in our browsers and captures all our clicks in order to serve ads to us, our lack of outrage tells our kids everything they need to know about the value of privacy."

Read more here [link]

How the numbers (don’t) add up for newspapers if they axe print

Alan Mutter (aka Newsosaur) picks up on a point from the ‘New Business Models for News’ summit at City University of New York, arguing that scrapping print isn’t a solution, given that 90% of US papers’ revenue comes from ads sold in the print product.

Assuming it would cut costs by 60%, scrapping the print paper would mean the following, he suggests, for a $100m-revenue publishing company with a 15% operating profit:

If the company abandoned print but were able to double its online sales to $20 million, it would lose $14 million in a year, for an operating margin of a negative 70%. To break even, the prototypical publication would have to more than triple its sales from the current levels. To make a profit of 15%, the company would have to quadruple it sales.

A particularly tough target, Mutter adds, because around two-thirds of online revenues typically come from add-on sales to advertisers who are buying space in the print edition.

But this kind of online-only operation is not a pipe-dream, maintains Tim Windsor. Responding in comments on Cory Bergman’s post, he says making it work would need a much smaller newsroom with one or two community managers to make the most of user-generated content, plus linked/licensed content. A core staff of 20 multimedia reporters, he suggests. (Those comments via Mark Hamilton.)