Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label technology. Show all posts

6/6/12

Letting go: Making sense of social magazines and news readers

Applications that aggregate articles based on what others in one’s social network are reading and reformat them into an attractive magazine and presentation formats are growing in popularity, but they are raising concern among some publishers.

The processes build upon the referral and curating functions of colleagues and friends in social networks and reduce the need for users to go to multiple sites for content on their own. Some of the best known social magazines are Flipboard, Newsmix, Currents, and Pulse. Some publishers are starting their own social reading apps, such as New York Times that has a Facebook app pulling together stories that friends have read in NYT.
Many publishers are fearful of these developments, however, because they represent another step away from publishers controlling when, where, and how readers use their content, reduce the impact of the publishers’ brand strategies, and diminish control over the presentation and marketing of their content.

But publishers really don’t have a choice whether or not social magazines and readers grow in importance. That ship has sailed. The real choices is whether publishers use them for best effect and whether they are willing to accept the benefits of having more readers driven to their content and reaching persons who haven’t used their content before.
In coping with this and other disaggregation of content, however, many publishers need to adjust their own ways of presenting digital content. Because readers from social magazines, other aggregators, and search engine are directed to individual articles, it becomes more important to think about how that material appears to these new readers and what can be done in its layout to attract the new readers to stay on the site and sample more content. They are not entering through the home page so greater thought needs to be given to what appears on article pages.

Social magazines provide another mechanism by which deliver content to new readers and to existing readers in new ways.  They are not the ‘silver bullet’ for solving publishers’ digital challenges, but they are another means by which benefits can be obtained and pursued. 
Focusing on what control social magazines transfer to users and their branding downsides is a distraction for publishers who are beginning to learn the value of letting go of the control in the digital environment. Digital media are now bringing 15-20 percent of the traffic to many publishers’ digital content and they are feeling the benefits of letting readers decide the means and uses of that content.

3/1/12

Changing social power is reflected in the sales of newspaper offices

Newspapers across the US are shedding large downtown buildings in favor of more modest facilities, often away from the center of cities.

The downsizing is the consequence of reduced need for office space following staff cuts, changes in production technologies that reduce space requirements, and the outsourcing many printing and distribution activities. Examples include:
  • The Miami Herald has sold its bayfront building and the 14 acres around it for $236 million and is planning to relocate elsewhere next in 2013. It will use the proceeds to pay down debt and pension liabilities.
  • The Ft. Worth Star-Telegram has sold its home for the past 90 years and will be moving to new offices this spring
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  • The Boulder Daily Camera in Boulder, CO, sold its downtown facilities for $9 million and is moving to facilities outside the center of town.
  • The Tribune & Georgian in St. Mary’s, GA, shed its former building by donating it to United Way of Camden Country in February to be used for work space and a training resource center for charitable organizations. The paper no longer used the building because it had moved to other facilities after outsourcing its printing operations.
The changes are not just indicative of the changing financial and operational characteristics of newspapers, but of the position of newspapers as major institutions in society. Over the past 150 years, newspapers used the wealth they generated to construct buildings in the center of towns—sometimes monumental and architecturally significant edifices—that reflected their importance and power in the community and their location at the center of society.

Social, economic, and technology developments have stripped that wealth from the newspaper industry. But cities are also changing and many downtown areas are no longer the locus of economic and political power in communities. As we continue to move more firmly into the digital age, the physical manifestations of where the center of society is located will continue to change.

Changes in media and media industries reflect deeper social changes that will continue altering our lives in may ways for many years to come.

7/24/11

What Legacy Media Can Learn from Eastman Kodak

What do you do when your industry is changing? What do you do when your innovations are fueling the changes? Those problems have plagued Eastman Kodak Co. for three decades and the company’s experience provides some lessons for those running legacy media businesses.

Eastman Kodak’s success began when it introduced the first effective camera for non-professionals in the late 19th century and in continual improvements to cameras and black and white and color films throughout the twentieth century. Its products became iconic global brands.

The company’s maintained its position through enviable research and development activities, which in 1975 created the first digital camera. Since that time it has amassed more than 1,100 patents involving electronic sensing, digital imaging, electronic photo processing, and digital printing. These developments, however, continually created innovations damaging to its core film-based business.

Digital photography created a strategic dilemma for the company. It could move into digital photography and destroy the highly profitable film-based business or it could exploit the film-based business while it slowly declined and then--when it was no longer profitable--try to leap out of the business into digital world. It was an ugly choice and the company chose the latter.

Today, the company has just 15% of the employees it once had and its stock prices are about 15% of what they were before it finally stripped out its production capacity and distribution systems. An enduring benefit of its research and development activities is that the company now owns patents on much of the underlying technology used in all digital cameras including those in mobile phones. It is building a new digital revenue stream on licenses and infringement payments for use of those technologies. Those alone now account for 10% of its turnover.

Eastman Kodak’s situation is not unlike that of legacy media firms, especially those in print, whose uses of digital technologies two decades before the arrival Internet and whose experiments with teletext and other telecommunication based information distribution systems foreshadowed the arrival of the Internet.

Today, newspapers and magazines—and increasingly broadcasters—are faced with dilemma of whether to keep exploiting their base legacy product or to dump the old business and jump fully into digital. It is as ugly a choice as that faced by Eastman Kodak in the 1980s and 1990s. So, what lessons can be learned from its experience?

1)      Don’t try to fight change

You may not like its direction and may understand how it will affect your current business, but you will not be able to stop its momentum and trajectory if it is beneficial to many customers. In such conditions you can only protect your existing product by making it as productive and competitive as possible, by adjusting its strategies to better serve those who are most loyal and resist change, and by carefully monitoring the pace of change and the investments you make in the existing product. Simultaneously, existing companies that want to benefit from the change need to be creating new products for the new markets and allow them to develop and mature with the pace of change even though they may be compounding the challenges in the pre-existing product.

2)      Don’t wait too long to change

Waiting to move into new markets with new products gives upstart companies and other competitors opportunities to become players with better products and larger market shares once you decide to enter. Although there are sometimes reasons not to be first movers, you should not wait too long because it is very difficult and expensive to enter and become a major player once a new market moves into its maturation phase.

3)      Be willing to sacrifice some short-term profit for long-term gain and sustainability

Careful strategic consideration must be given profits during transitional periods and managers needs to make the strategy clear to the company and its investors. It may be desirable to boost research and development costs even though there is no guarantee they may produce results; it may be necessary to harm the profits of the existing product by building up its replacement and cannibalizing some of its market; it may be appropriate to make investments in the new product that may not pay off in the short-term. Whatever the strategy, it should be the result of clear and deliberate choices and managers need to ensure that investors and entire company understand the reasons for it.

4)      Own the rights to technologies and services your competitors will employ

Use your R&D efforts and make strategic acquisitions to acquire the technologies and services that competitors will need to employ in the new market so they must turn to you and share the benefits of their growth. Unfortunately, few legacy media companies invested in research and development to early exploit opportunities in digital media by creating the underlying hardware and software for content control and distribution online and in phones, tablets, and computers. Thus, they own few intellectual property rights other than trademarks to their legacy media names and most are not benefiting as Eastman Kodak from patents being used by those eroding the business base. However, the new products still need content products and content management services that legacy media have long produced and companies need to be open to cooperating with the new competitors rather than giving them incentives to go elsewhere or to develop their own content capabilities.

These are turbulent times for legacy media and they require making choices and positioning firms for the future. It is no time for timidity or keeping on with business as usual.

4/20/10

SEARCH FOR ALTERNATIVE MEDIA BUSINESS MODELS HAMPERED BY NARROW THINKING

Media executives around the globe are clamoring for new and alternative business models and industry associations everywhere are holding seminars and conferences on how to create and discover them. There is just one problem: They don’t know what business models are.

When you cut through the rhetoric, you find that most executives are merely interested in finding new revenue streams. Even when you consider firms touted as having best practices in that regard, none have been very successful in establishing them. The reason is simple: The dominant thought about business models is highly limited and far too narrow to solve the contemporary challenges of media industries.

Business models are not merely about the revenue streams. Instead, they establish the underlying business logic and elements. They involve the foundations upon which businesses built, such as companies’ competences, value created, products/services provided, customers served, relationships established with customers and partner firms, and the operational requirements. If you get those elements right, the revenue issues take care of themselves.

The biggest problem of media business models today is not that the revenue model is diminishing in effectiveness, but that most media companies are still trying to sell nineteenth and twentieth century products in the twenty-first century. And they are trying to do so without changing the value they provide and the relationships within which they are provided.

Because of the enormous changes in technology, economics, and lifestyle in recent decades, the needs of customers have changed, they kinds of content they want, and the ways they obtain news, information, and entertainment have been dramatically altered. If media firms do not address these changes in consumer needs and behavior, no amount of worry about revenue streams will stem the fundamental challenge that audiences are leaving traditional print and broadcast media behind for content providers and distribution platforms that better serve their needs.

The content of traditional media products were created in specific technical, economic, and information environments that no longer exist. In order to evolve and prosper media companies must revisit the foundations of their businesses, ensure they are providing the central value that customers want, and provide their products/services in a unique or different way from other media firms.

The range of technologies and distribution and interactive platforms available in the twenty-first century require that firms increasingly see their business activities as cooperative processes requiring coordination and interdependence with external firms and customers themselves. Standing isolated and alone—at arms distance from the customer—is no longer a viable option.

This is not to say that firms must make sudden and dramatic changes in their business models, but they must start revisiting all the aspects to make regular incremental improvements and changes. Questions need to be asked about what is provided, why it is provided, how it is provided, and the entire structures and operations of firms. These need to be addressed first, then the revenue models can be sorted out and improved.

12/21/09

IMPLICATIONS OF CHANGING DEFINITIONS OF MEDIA MARKETS

An important contemporary development is the shift of media market definitions from traditional platform-based definitions to functional definitions. This is occurring because media product platform definitions are losing their specificity and uniqueness due to digitalization and cross-platform distribution developments.

Newspapers are becoming news providers, delivering news and information via print, online, mobile, and other platforms; broadcasters are moving off the radio spectrum, exploiting not only other streaming and video-on-demand opportunities, but also text-based communication on web and mobile platforms.

Although functional definitions clarify what companies actually do, they obscure wide differences in audiences, business relations, and revenue sources on the different platforms and give some the mistaken impression that a functionally defined operation can be successful operating the same way across the different platform environments. The functional definition is also confusing some policy makers and regulators concerned with effects of cross-media activity, consolidation, and concentration who do not carefully sort out the different elements of product and geographic market definitions among the platforms.

From the business standpoint, the fundamental problem of the functional definitions is that it leads many content providers to believe they can simply repurpose existing content across platforms. They are happy to do so because the marginal cost is near zero, but they ignore the facts that it also commoditizes the content, that the content losses uniqueness, and that similar presentation may not be appropriate on other platforms. Consequently, the repurposed content can produce only a small marginal increase in revenue.

To ultimately be successful in functional markets, companies need to offer a good deal of new content and launch new products on the new platforms rather than merely reusing what is already there in the traditional ways. Leading cable channels, for example, early in their development relied on motion pictures and syndicated programs previously shown on network television, but soon realized that they needed original programming to attract better audiences and gain additional revenue. Financial newspapers have begun to get it right on the Internet, offering more content and tools than in their print editions and establishing specialized niche products for different types of industry and business readers.

We are all watching to see who among general content providers manages to get their functional approach to markets right using the Internet, Mobile, e-Readers, and other platforms.

11/6/09

FAIL OFTEN. FAIL EARLY. FAIL CHEAP.

Rapidly evolving technologies and market adjustments have thrust media into states of nearly perpetual alteration that require agile and swift responses to gain benefits and defend the firm from outside forces.

Managers who have been used to stable environments and well conceived plans are often reticent to move to seize opportunities with quick and decisive action based on incomplete information and knowledge. The turbulent contemporary environment, however, require leaders to rapidly evaluate the potential of new communication opportunities and to take risks in a highly uncertain setting.

This is disturbing to managers who are used to employing well developed and elegant strategies that require significant investment and commitment. Declining to test opportunities until a clear roadmap is produced, however, takes away flexibility and the ability to rapidly change with contemporary developments.

While preserving the core activities of media businesses, managers need to simultaneously look for emerging opportunities that can be pursued, communities that can been served, and experiences that can be delivered. It is important to get in quick and inexpensively, to build on small successes, and to abandon initiatives if success proves elusive.

It is better to fail often, fail early, and fail cheap than to avoid risky moves, lose potentially rewarding opportunities, and forgo learning from innovative initiatives.

In the current tumultuous environment, failure has become a form of research and development. Try things; drop those that don't take you somewhere interesting; document what you learn from each unsuccessful initiative; move on to something new. What you learn from unsuccessful efforts is usually more important that what you from success.

The only real failure in the rapidly changing world of media is doing nothing and hoping things will get better on their own,

4/11/09

TECHNOLOGY RESTORES COLLECTIVE CONTEMPLATION

Humans are social and tribal animals and we have always collectively contemplated the meaning and potential responses to issues and events. In the past tribes gathered around fires and villagers gathered in taverns, cafes, and community halls to consider contemporary developments.

Individual engagement and participation in discussion were the norm, with some reliance on leaders and those who held the history and wisdom of the community.

Lifestyle changes in the 19th and 20th century society created mass society and reduced time and opportunities for collective contemplation. It was replaced by a form of representative contemplation and a greater reliance on expert and professional commentators. The effect was primarily to produce communications telling members of communities what to think and do.

Contemporary communication technologies are dramatically altering that situation and supporting a return to collective contemplation. While not producing face-to-face discussion, blogs and technology-assisted social networking have increased opportunities for discussion and interaction. Individuals are gaining greater opportunities to share their opinions and views, to inform each other, and to respond to and engage in conversation that has been impossible for many years.

Concurrently, technologies are beginning to allow effective meta analyses of buzz, blogs and social networking that gather topics and some sense of opinions being expressed. These information technologies allow us to aggregate the views of millions in ways not previously possible.

Where such technologies will take us in unclear, but the contemporary engagement and contemplation by millions of people online is far better for society than the disenfranchisement that mass society previously encouraged.

Media organizations will have to wrestle with how this collective contemplation is altering the roles and functions of editorial writers, op-ed authors, and columnists. They will have to increasingly engage with the public and see their roles as provoking conversation, not merely telling people what to think.

3/28/09

EVERYONE'S NOT ATWITTER

Journalists and technology writers are enamored with communications technology and tend to portray successful technologies as representing large scale trends. We are regularly presented with news stories and promotional materials about the rise of new technologies and about how their uses create social trend that are significantly altering society.

The release of the new iPhone was recently featured on network evening news, Blackberry has been heavily discussed because its use by Pres. Obama, and Twitter has been featured in numerous television and newspaper stories. The impression given by coverage is that anyone who doesn’t have an iPhone or Blackberry and anyone who doesn’t Twitter is out of touch with the mainstream and being left out of modern society.

These new means of communications offer interesting possibilities, but their consumption needs to be seen realistically. Blackberry, for example, has 14 million subscribers-- about 5 percent of all mobile phone users in the US. iPhones represents about 1 percent of mobile phone users. The number of Twitter users is currently around 1 million, representing only about 3 tenths of 1 percent of the US population.

Certainly those kinds of numbers can create businesses successes for their firms, but we have to be realistic in interpreting their overall impact on technology markets, social interaction, and diffusion of technologies. Not everyone wants to or will be equally wired, communicating, or sharing mundane details of their lives with their friends and the world. Some persons will find communications enabling technologies more rewarding in business and personal terms than other persons.

It is easy to forget the size of market when discussing the impact of diffusion of technologies. Without doing so, however, one gets a warped sense of their role in contemporary life.

12/28/07

CEASED SERVICES AND TECHNOLOGICAL WARINESS

The introduction and suspension of media services is becoming a regular occurrence and the combined effects of multiple false starts is creating turmoil in the marketplace and making consumers wary of new services.

Let me give some examples. Wal-Mart recently announced it is halting its online video download service after only a year of operation because Hewlett Packard Co. has discontinued its underlying technology due to poor market performance. The New York Times has one of the most successful newspaper websites but has changed its business model several times, most recently abandoning Times Select consumer paid model for an advertising-based model. Sony created a CONNECT Player for its Walkman, PSP, Clie and VAIO that was so plagued by problems that it ended support for the product and advised owners to use another music player and library manager instead. These are only a few of the hundreds of starts and stops of services that have occurred in recent years.

The primary reasons for failures of these types of services have been the rush to get them to market and the unwillingness of companies to financially support services for more than a limited time. These factors lead to insufficient product development efforts before introduction and rapid abandonment of products and services that may need time to be corrected or to mature in the market.

Companies of all kinds introduce and withdraw products for the market on a regular basis, but rapid introduction and withdrawal of media services tends to create more disruption for the consumer. Media services differ from other products that companies decide they will no longer manufacture because ceasing media services reduces functionality of hardware products for which the services were designed. Suspension of services also interferes with the strong habitual uses of media products and services that results from them being experience and lifestyle good and services

Media and communication technologies are changing rapidly but consumer behavior changes much more slowly. Consumers need time to learn about and get used to new technologies. The appearance of consumer technology fatigue from the constant changing and versioning of media and communication technologies is well recognized. Today, the rapid introduction and cessation of services is fueling technology wariness among consumers who have purchased hardware on the assumption that the services sold with it will continued to be offered throughout the useful life of the product.

It is a problem that media and communication companies have created themselves and it is making media markets more turbulent and complex.