It has been a very busy few weeks, getting ready for the launch of our first Briefing Media product. Thanks to everyone who has been in touch and to the army of folk who have been helping with the technical build and those who have agreed to write expert commentary about the industry. What industry?
We plan to launch a series of Briefing Media sites in several vertical markets over the next few months, but our first is focussed on our own industry, the media business. Our approach is to combine the old and the new to present a compelling lens on the business of media. Original content contributed by experts combined with a search tool that enables users to explore topics of importance to them. Our semantic search technology looks for relationships between topics and organises stories into intuitive categories and channels.
In addition we have begun to commission a series of detailed, practical and expert reports about the key issues facing decision makers in media today. Or first report is almost complete and is available to order at a prepublication discount as soon as the site goes live.
We are also planning some new media events and commissioning a series of training programmes. Much of this is to come in the next few weeks. In the meantime take a look at the site, give us your feedback, sign up for one or more of our free weekly newsletters. If you spot something missing, or have an expert thought you want to share, or have thought of ways you would like to work with us, then do get in touch.
The Media Briefing updates 24 hours a day 7 days a week so we hope to see you often. If you want to be one of the first to see the live site visit now and register your interest. We will let you know just as soon as we are ready to go live.
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- Neil Thackray’s Business Media Blog: A Future for Business Media (neilthackray.wordpress.com)
It seems only five minutes ago that we were all trying to understand how search worked and how to mximise traffic with good SEO and SEM. Now the web has ballooned to perhaps 100 billion pages of information and with more and more web publishers, twitterers and bloggers fighting for your eyeball, good SEO is not enough.
The two big challenges on the web are how to win the first eyeball and then how to convert that to an engaged user. I have been arguing for four years that part of the answer is in semantic search. Back at Nexus we tried to build a semantic vertical search tool using enterprise search technology. It was expensive and in many ways unsatisfactory. Converting the idea of semantic serch into reality is not easy.
Since we culled that project some two years ago the world has moved on apace. You will see how a new company will develop this in the next few weeks (I am one of the co founders so watch this space) to provide a more compelling experience for users and those who want to reach decision makers. Whatever you think of our efforts I strongly recommend that you start a debate about semantic search in your organisation. First you had better have something to say about it! Here is a short vendor white paper, which is a useful primer to a discussion. You might also enjoy John Battelles blog which tracks developments in search
The spat between Google and Rupert Murdoch has spawned thousands of words of coverage. It arises from the failure of the ad model to scale at the rate of audience growth and the pandemic crisis in print publishing. What should we be concluding from this argument?
First let’s examine whether Murdoch has a point. He alleges, in terms, that Google profits by “stealing” the content from pubishers and then monetising that content by selling advertising. Is he right? Well the concept of thievery requires a victim and News INternational, indeed all print publishers can hardly claim to be that. We have all spent time effort and money optimisiing our sites to get the best ranking we can in the Google listing. Many of us have also invited Google to place it’s ads inside our websites in return for a share of the money. In these circumstances we can hardly plead foul anymore than a householder who invites the burglar into his house, shows him around and helps him pack his swag bag.
Murdoch knows all this of course. He is playing a negotiation game. There has never been anything to stop any of us preventing the Google robot indexing our sites. It’s easy. Much of the web is already behind walls that prevent content being read. Publishers make great play of the power of their brands, but I know of none who have the courage to turn off the search engines and rely on brand for their traffic.
This is a non dispute. We all have a choice about whether we wish to participate in the the Google machine.
So what is this all about? Murdoch has the same problem we all face. We have traffic but not enough money. We fear that the online model cannot sustain our content poduction costs and may be damaging our print brands. None of us, not even Murdoch can succeed in solving this problem by trying to change our customers behaviour to fit our business model. Our readers find content through search engines. Few will pay for news. Those are facts. Somehow we have to adapt our businesses to those facts not try and change the facts to fit our businesses
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- News Corp. to boycott Google? Don’t make me laugh (or wear a dress) (dailyfinance.com)
- Views on the news: Rupert Murdoch’s madness, more banking redundancies and bonuses for Barclays bigwigs (guardian.co.uk)
- Murdoch Takes on Google (newspaperdeathwatch.com)
- Media faces more woes than Murdoogle (guardian.co.uk)
One of the reasons so many media companies are in trouble is the simultaneous crisis in all revenue streams. It seems to many, that whatever strategy is deployed, the size of the potential revenue pot keeps falling.
Back in the sixities, almost all business to business titles were paid for. News about your industry was valuable and that value could be measured with money. Today nobody charges for news. In print, yields have been under pressure for some years. Online display advertising with it’s transparent measurability has given advertisers a legitimate stick with which to beat media owners. Where there has been success in selling online display the achieved CPM has been falling. Too much traffic, too little of it useful or enaged, consequent poor click through rates mean that much inventory remains unsold – a growing proportion for many – and what does get sold is at rates that are falling. Where once the choice advertisers had was limited by the number of titles in a market, today they are confused by so much choice.
We lost our way with recruitment. Where we used to charge thousands of pounds for a page of advertising, the job board model now offers an ad £100. In the recession prices here too are falling.
However we solve the current strategic conundrum, it seems pretty clear that unless we can push back the tide of prices tending to zero we don’t have a business. The truth is, whilst there are things we can do to make a difference the price of a transaction in the new world is unlikely to reach the heady heights of the old world. There are four steps that all media companies must take:
1) Set the fixed cost base at a level which is supportable by the new model. This means attacking some sacred cows and stripping away layers of management costs.
2) Improve the value of your advertising proposition. Seth Godin says,
“As long as your site is about something else and the ads are a distraction, you’ll see CPM rates drop. As soon as you (or the advertisers) figure out that creating online communities aligned with the advertising, where attendance is a choice by the consumer, then you’re creating genuine value.”
In B2B that means making ads relevant and targeted. Don’t give up on vertical search solutions. Keep experimenting – there are riches ahead for the media company that gets it right.
3) Audit every activity that leaves the building and assess it for value. Use that value audit to establish the prices that could be achieved.
4) Give up on the idea that you are going to survive by doing the stuff you used to do. News products supported by advertising are going to be very small businesses. Plan and implement a series of new product developments that will help you scale your business. Buy some expertise to help you do it.
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- Online Growth Failed To Offset B2B Media Companies’ Decline In ’08 (paidcontent.org)
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- B2B Media Revenue Falls; Online Offsets Some Print Losses (marketingvox.com)
In earlier discussions on this blog we have summarised the two big challenges facing business media in the online world as being user engagement and the development of an effective advertising model. I recently had the pleasure of being introduced to Cognitive Match which goes some way to addressing both these issues.
Imagine that the publisher has a set of content parcels, each of which may be of interest to different parts of the community. Let’s create a real example by pretending that we are the owners of a food and wine web site for for the catering trade. Let’s imagine that we have written a series of wine reviews. To keep it simple let’s assume we have written just four. One is a review of fine champagne that sells at £50 a bottle. The second is a good quality Merlot that sells for £25 a bottle. The third is a dessert wine, a muscat perhaps and the fourth is a blended £5 a bottle Sauvignon. Let us further imagine that we have cleverly sold relevant advertising against each of these wine types.
We are so excited by these wine reviews and our potential revenue (which has all been sold on a CTR basis) that we devote a third of the site page area above the fold to it on every page of our site. All we have to do is to decide which wine review to show at any given time to which user. Now this where Cognitive Match gets clever. Using some mathematics which I am not going to try to explain, the Cognitive Match engine collects annonymous informaion about each user and shows, on the fly, the content most likely to be of interest to that user. A user looking at dessert ingredients content might be shown the Muscat, whilst someone who had looked at a job advertisement for sommelier in a Michelin star restaurant might be shown the Champagne. As with all search solutions this is about probability mathematics. If the probability that the content is relevant and personal to the individual user is increased the value of that engagement with the user is enhanced.
For retailers, Cognitive Match claim that the basket attrition rate will fall dramatically. For business media companies, the ability to match content to user interests increases the chances of an ad click and is likely to encourage the user to spend some more time on the site. It provides a key to unlocking profitable CPA deals too. We have all done CPA deals, but how many have exceeded our expectations? Matching the right offer to the right user is clearly a useful approach.
Matching content to users is a famously hard trick to pull off. Ask my team who built foundography (a vertical search engine) or anyone who has experimented with vertical semantic or intelligent search. The Cognitive Match team appear to be close to a model which is easy to deploy for their clients. It has an impressive academic team developing the application and an interesting pipeline of blue chip prosepective clients. I am promised a live demo in the near future. I’ll keep you posted and let you know if it does what it says on the tin.