Mac: I have never found a newspaper classified that was easy to use. I assume somehow they are an offshoot of the print media and that is why they are crippled. I encourage every newspaper person to try and use their own website - use it for at least an hour - then see how it compares to drudgereport and craigslist. So far the only use I have for a newspaper is the comics and the Sunday advertisments. Everything else is either too biased to be true or intellectual bubble gum.
Eric Bates: The strategy you’ve suggested is what we’ve implemented here in Atlanta with ajcexchange.com. Our previous site, ajcclassifieds.com had been losing revenue, audience and listings steadily since the arrival of craigslist. Rather than wait until it all dried up, we made the decision to cut the cord and go all free. That coupled with social networking features, better search engine optimization and a better overall user experience has been a winning formula for us....
Scott Nelson: A response, and one idea for building a better Craigslist: http://is.gd/nVQp
Daniel: Personally, I think one could certainly build a better Craigslist. Two points of feedback, however. First, most newspapers should focus on improving their websites before attempting to invent the next Craigslist. Most (actually all) have vast opportunities for both improving their UX and how they sell advertising. Second, the web 2.0 rule still applies here: figure out how to make your tool useful so that people love it before you try and monetize it.
Daniel: An interesting idea. However, given the immediacy of the Web, I believe only a few types of “deadline deals” would work. And those are for purchases that don’t cost a lot of money. With larger purchases, folks may want to do their research before making a buy. But this could be a good play for grocery stores, etc. announcing deals. However, I’d want to see the sales strategy for this. The Web is always a tough sell, and something like this seems a bit...
kent kirschner: Ads are content…..how many web searches a day are people trying to figure out what car to buy, where to find a local plumber and who has the best pizza in town? I’d say as a %, many more than who would actually be navigating to a local newspaper site. So, let’s take it a step further and put the advertiser in control of their content area as well. Let them self manage their ‘ad’ on an ongoing basis. Reputation management obviously must be left to...
Tim Windsor: What I like most about this is that it begins to leverage the one strength that local papers have that they don’t explicitly sell: Google Rank. Of course, it would be a good idea to reach out to Google to be sure that this is built in such a way that it doesn’t unnecessarily set off any scam alarms at the mothership, but the notion of organizing commercial content in the same way that news is organized and exposed to search just might have legs.
Jay Small: I’ll vouch for that, Chris. Our group turned a couple of idea sprints into wireframes and concept taxonomies that resemble — in my view, at least — a completely workable approach to SMBs. The beauty is, this isn’t a technology platform arms race, it’s a human services and skills solution.
Chris Krewson: What I liked most about this session - aside from the chance to meet so many talented designers and Web developers - was the reception to new or different ideas. Just saying “ads can be content too” was not dismissed or brushed off. Once an idea was floated, others took it, riffed on it, polished it and then got it on paper. I was truly impressed by many of the people in my group and in the room. It was a great experience.
Charles Batchelor: The really great thing about this is it moves the newspaper away from “web site” thinking. This looks like sophisticated Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It holds value for ad clients for several reason, the least not being the major search engines are providing more localized results. Therefore, with this we have the newspaper sales force fighting Google with judo—using Google’s power to sell against them. Newspapers have GOT to establish themselves as...
Paul Balcerak: I don’t really care to crown or demonize you guys like some on this thread have taken to, but I really appreciate you dedicating your time and resources to trying to fix the journalism industry. I remain cautiously optimistic and will keep a very interested eye on this site.
David Habrat: From the Ad side of the street…TeamR2.0 good start to your list! John, love your zeal. I do not know if activation rates on a kindle platform ROP ads will be comparable to print…study that so you can sooth the fears your advertisers will have. Some additional thoughts as you prepare to meet…The number one online ad crisis is CPM value. Action point 1. Make a pact when you meet on the 21st to drop every Google ad and or remnant ad from your sites. Google will eat your...
Charles-A. Rovira: I agree completely. Journalism hasn’t made a dime for a journalist outside of working for a newspaper. But you assume that it can’t while it always has. Its about time the creative and editorial processes were actually respected and turned into a revenue generation mechanism. People bought newspapers for the news they contained and it was the tail that wagged the dog of all those ads, which paid for the paper. The Web freed the reader from all those unfocused...
Mike Donatello: Alan Jacobson wrote: 18. March 2009 at 10:13 am : We’re “wasting time” on this because that’s where the money is. Journalism doesn’t generate revenue, nor should it. ========================= Sorry, Alan, but you just lost me there. Just because no one’s done it well (i.e., generating revenue directly from a fee-for-content) arrangement doesn’t mean that it cannot or should not be done.
Alan Jacobson: We’re “wasting time” on this because that’s where the money is. Journalism doesn’t generate revenue, nor should it.
Charles-A. Rovira: I’ve been looking at the task list: 1. Build an effective advertising model for news content delivered on smart phones, such as Apple’s iPhone. 2. Create a better CraigsList. 3. Show newspaper-centric companies how they can better meet the advertising needs of small- and medium-sized businesses. 4. Re-imagine the homepage and display advertising. Why are you wasting your time doing 1. Apple’s job, 2. Craig Newmark’s job, 3. the impossible (show them and...
Charles-A. Rovira: The problem as I see it _not_ “how do we create content?” We’re experts at content creation and message massage. Its just that we’ve never been paid for it. _Never_. Our message, our medium if you’ll pardon the McCluhanism, has always been carried and paid for by the advertisers. They gave us a ride, but only grudgingly. If we had credibility, they liked our reporting when it was favorable and could take comfort that our alleged media effects...
John Winn Miller: As a former publisher and executive editor for Knight Ridder and McClatchy, I am encouraged that someone is trying to be innovative. I have long argued that newspaper companies cannot tweak their way to the future. We need bold ideas, so don’t rule out anything and don’t be intimidated by naysayers. You just might come up with a solution. One idea I would love to see you explore is a partnership with Amazon or one of the other eBook book producers. It would work...
Mike Donatello: Color me a hopeful skeptic. IMO, one of the biggest continuing blunders of our industry is too much time spent listening to ourselves hem and haw, and not enough time devoted listening to our customers and solving their problems. Please, prove me wrong this time.
Lydia Chavez: You’re onto something. Look forward to hearing about the results and thank you! Best, Lydia Chavez, UC Berkeley, Mission Loc@l
Charles-A. Rovira: I got tired of waiting and sent my suggestions off. The worse part of waiting for somebody else to see something is that they might not see what’s right in front of their eyes. Nor do they get the hint, no matter how broadly it given. So I decided to stop namby-pandy-ing about, making suggestions about fixing the medium of what will soon no longer be called the press. I wrote to the most eminent editor, writer, newsman, that I could think of, Sir Harold Evans. Then I...
Charles-A. Rovira: The paper part of the newspaper is dead … Get over it. The only thing that will remain is going to be vanity presses like HP is proposing with their printing service [ http://magcloud.com/ ] We didn’t fight for the rights of the buggy whip makers either … Suck it up. Journalism however is definitely NOT DEAD. It has been democratized, popularized, localized, opened up, opened on and opened for a new business model. If you worked as an editor or for an editor, you are...
Mike Higdon: These look like Ernie’s design, am I right? Looks good. I also agree with Ernie in response to Charles. Journalists DO ally themselves with people who are good at this, they are called the sales people. You may not normally see them in news organizations, they are well hidden. Us journalism people aren’t allowed to talk to those sales people, they do nasty business dealings. Journalists should also be thinking about these things. It’s the separation from any...
Chris Amico: Hey Joey, Good thinking, and deeper into the details than we got in a day, actually. I think tiers are a good way to think about it. A lot of what we’d talked about were simple one-time enhancements–make this ad better–or premium ads over premium accounts. No reason both systems couldn’t coexist, though. Part of the question behind whether to use tiered accounts and/or premium ads is how people will actually use it. For regular power users, a premium...
Joey Baker: Seems like ya’ll have come with a really solid plan for redoing classifieds sales online. I was really please to see the inclusion of aggregating craigslist as one of the goals. After all, why should newsorgs try to create a new social network when a perfectly good one already exists? The one concern I had when reading the plan is that the premium content very much follows a micro-payment model. This does work, (see: ebay), but it’s not very user friendly. If you take...
Charles-A. Rovira: Couldn’t have said it better myself. You want new ideas? How about this? What a radical step it would be if we were to actually focus on content and leave the business of broken business models to those who can actually fix them? (Hint: Apple, craiglist and Google are NOT your enemy.) How bout if we fix what is actually broken? The distribution of physical objects is part of the problem, the biggest part. Ally yourselves with someone who is NOT in the business of...
Ernie Smith: Charles, The only job we’re trying to do is keep newspapers alive. We want our industry to survive. “You’re all trying to do Apple’s and Craiglist’s and whoever else’s job for them.” No. We’re trying to keep newspapers competitive in an era when they’re struggling financially. We’re trying to help them learn to think outside their structures so they can build new, better products. We want to help them compete with Craigslist and build...
Neo-Conned: “newspapers should leverage their reputation as the most trusted medium” …. most trusted?… LOL, anyone seen my WMD’s lately?. Rumzzy.
Charles-A. Rovira: What does this have to do with news? If I want to be a reporter or an editor, that implies that I DONT want to be a salesman or to have to deal with supposed clients. The two require diametrically opposed skill sets. Its almost an “either/or” situation. The post office right now is hurting for cash. Junk/bulk mail is down because spam offers much more attractive ROI. The results of a campaign may be low but the costs are even lower. The internet is an all...
Chris Amico: Part of what we talked about in the group is what a user is doing at any given moment. That’s how we came up with the “I have/I want” split on the home page, and it drove most of our conversation about contextual ads. We figured that each time someone shows an interest in a kind of product–a car, in this case–it’s a chance to offer alternatives, and then to refine those based on filters, getting more feedback along the way. And those...
Chase: When I go to a Web site like Amazon.com, I really appreciate their “used and new from [enter lowest price here]” link. I think this ‘newspaper Craigslist’ might benefit by having a similar feature. For me, I’m definitely going to click a link that takes me to the lowest priced product. Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the lowest priced item…it could be ‘most trusted seller,’ etc. Anyway, this template for the possible site...
Robert Ivan: You might be interested in reading my MA thesis December 2008, which starts here: The fundamental problem of newspapers on the internet - The Krugman Paradox http://www.metaprinter.com/200 8/12/the-fundamental-problem-o f-newspapers-on-the-internet-t he-krugman-paradox/ You touch on a lot of the content in there and my conclusion that is that absent online advertising innovations, newspapers must seek alternative revenue streams to achieve economic sustainability. It seems like a...
Charles Batchelor: Jay, I’ve published magazines and sold advertising and know well the feeling that we need to “do more” for our advertising clients. And, anything newspapers can do, they should do. But, I learned early on that we can’t manage our clients biz. So, what more can newspapers do to create, as you put it, “calls to action beyond a simple click?” It gets into what was called “reputation management” at rev2oh, but I prefer to call...
Jay Small: What I said was: we sell space on a Web site as a two-dimensional hole, much the way we sell it in print. Online interfaces are multidimensional, layered and, I joked, intertwined a lot like a web … a world-wide … web. We are only now learning how to sell audience based on what we know or surmise about our audience. But we moved beyond even that on Saturday, focusing on the messages businesses want to communicate to prospective customers, most of which should be...
Charles Batchelor: Jay Small is said to have said: “Right now, we don’t do much beyond the sale” of space. That’s right. Newspaper have sold audience and that’s good. Can newspapers offer ways to enhance the marketers’ relationship with the audience?
Charles Batchelor: Oops, last line in that last post should say, “Any new revenue ideas that are NOT about using the newspaper’s brand and targeting are not likely not ideas that newspapers can exploit well.” Sorry.
Charles Batchelor: Mike Poller hit on the two things newspapers need to start working to exploit, especially on the web: 1) Local, targeted reach. (And that is not just zip codes, but age, gender, family status, etc.) Anything the newspapers can do to target a worthwhile audience, do it. 2) Use the brand of the newspaper on all new products. (Once upon a time, we wanted to create new brands independent of the newspaper. And that was fine when we had the time and money. No more. Time to use...
Mike Poller: cars.com and apartments.com and careerbuilder.com are owned and operated by newspaper groups. These are new brand names, with value, created out of thin air. Newspaper groups could do the same thing with a news aggregation site. Put Drudge right out of business. PRNewswire sells access to newspaper newsrooms, that’s all. Newspapers could band together and create a “pay-to-play” PR submission site that would have PR firms typing in MasterCard numbers every...
Mike Poller: Speaking as an ad agency guy, my beef with daily newspapers is that they never really built programs for the small business. Dentists, for example, only want to reach people who live/work within a few miles of their office. Everything else is waste. But newspapers wanted me to purchase a zone ad covering half a county, because they could keep the price up. Remember the old saying: “I know half my ad budget is being wasted, the problem is I don’t know which...
Charles Batchelor: Thanks Jay. I’ll take a shot at answering. As others here have said clearly, one of the goals is to turn local newspapers into more powerful branding channels. I saw this painfully within the regional retailing organization I worked with, but it is true of small retailers as well. And, let it be said that creating and maintaining a brand is no cakewalk for national firms either. Let’s focus on this: In the local community, the newspaper is one of the most...
kent kirschner: First let me say it is exciting that you are engaged in this conversation. A good thing indeed. But I will continue to harp on one fundamental technology that will impact all of what is discussed in this blog: the digital reader. You’ve only mentioned the I-phone here but the iphone, in contrast with a next generation type Kindle pales in comparison. The implications of the soon to be available technology are monumental: no print/distribution costs but you maintain the...
Mike Higdon: I think this is a great motion forward. I especially like this, “And finally, what if that big ad provided more than a brand message, but an experience? What if that ad “came alive” onMouseOver, just like a photo in Harry Potter’s newspaper, The Daily Prophet? To take full advantage of the Web, advertisers must build true interactive experiences within their ads, with the means to capture the attention, preferences and contact info of potential customers. These ads...
Brad Flora: What are some examples of actual, moneymaking homepages like this in the wild? If this is the way forward, then surely that’s in part based on the success of someone doing this or something similar, right? This looks a lot like Slate or Salon circa 1997. I find it hard to see what’s what. Perhaps that’s the point. The only organized part of the page is the ads.
Jason Fry: Great stuff. Pages are very clean and actually coherent — and so I find myself looking at the ad portion instead of instinctively tuning out everything that’s blinking and cycling. That’s what I’ve been trained to do by lousy ad approaches.
Charles Batchelor: Interesting, Ken. I think that is called “proof of concept.” (It’s new for newspapers, their readers and their advertisers. That’s new enough.)
Ken Carpenter: Not sure there’s much new here. Look to digital magazines for current offerings: http://texterity.com (sample: http://sportingnewstoday.com) http://zmags.com (sample: http://viewer.zmags.com/public ation/e90b813d#/e90b813d/1)
Greg Linch: Great work, team! I wish I could have stayed for the rest of the event.
Charles-A. Rovira: And from what I can see, its a total waste of effort. Why are you wasting your time trying to fix what ain’t yours to fix? You should align you efforts with someone whose business model is broken, yet, like the post office. The internet is eating their lunch too since the ROI on spam is a lot better than on direct mail. A stamp may be cheap but it costs something. The overhead on spam is very, very low. If you made them an offer to store .PDFs (or audio or video...
Magazine Ads: Interesting content. Just wanted to share some information that I came across in a few articles discussing about recession and how we can adopt a different marketing strategy to promote our business. It’s quite eminent that most of the advertisers and businesses are taking to online advertising medium since the Internet has now become a necessity to reach global audience. However, even today there is still a huge chunk of people who do not access Internet and to reach this...
Kirk Caraway: Mike Poller, perhaps I’m not understanding what your point is, and if that’s the case, please forgive me. It seems to me you are saying we need to engineer our sites to force readers to click through to more pages to get to the content they want. Because that’s an idea that has been tried and failed. Think about it. If I want to read about marlin fishing, I click on one link, go down one layer, no marlin fishing, just another link, and an ad, which I’m...
Kirk Caraway: I like the basics of this idea. Size does matter, and sticking tiny banner ads on pages doesn’t work. But I’d like to propose that perhaps just making banner ads bigger isn’t an answer either. Maybe on the other half of the page you should present paid content about the advertiser and the products/services it sells, packaged as a story but clearly labeled as paid. And target these paid content pieces to match the editorial content as much as possible. In other...
Mike Poller: When advertisers compete, newspapers profit. When an advertiser ads size or color to dominate, the newspapers is rolling in the dough… you need to change the old-style newspaper management mindset. For example: >Home >Sports >Sports>Fishing >Sports>Fishing>Saltw ater Fishing >Sports>>Fishing>S altwater Fishing>Marlin Fishing That’s five pageviews by creating a navigation system that allows readers to navigate through to find what...
darleene: I really like what you’re saying about putting less on the front pages. I have a hobby site, http://www.weddingdecoratorblo g.com, and I only put two posts excerpts out front. I find it drives users much deeper into my site — since I’ve changed the design of my site, my pageviews have shot up. I also like your suggestion that we make more use of the horizontal space. It drives me bananas that so many sites are still so vertical. I mean, sure, its good for me, since...
Nellie Bly: One problem with putting just a little out front is that readers think that’s all there is. (This was endemic a decade ago.) But tabs are invisible. Ironically, pure text links gets people inside to more pages. It’s those inside pages that have to list the rest of the section’s links. Yes, I know it’s ugly…
Patrick Cooper: Yuri’s on the mark. I’d guess a quarter of the room was under 30. Beyond that, the discussions and tone of the day were very age-blind. The mix was good.
Yuri Victor: There were a couple college-aged journalists in attendance including Greg Linch and Deborah Acosta, as well as several recent college graduates.
Chase: I think this is a great effort, but I wish RevenueTwoPointZero included at least a couple of college-aged journalists, like myself. Not only would someone my age have an interesting perspective to add to the pool of ideas created at this conference, but we’re also next in line to handle the problems you’ll be talking about today. Also, I wish more attention would be paid to how newspaper are not advertising themselves AT ALL. Occasionally I’ll drive by a lame...
Kirk Caraway: I have been working on newspaper websites for 15 years, and all along I’ve been trying to find effective ways to stick paid ads in front of readers. And from the very beginning, the banner ad has failed to produce. Every Eyetrack survey shows people ignore them. Try to make them more visible, and it just annoys readers. The thought of moving this failed model to the iPhone makes me cringe. Readers are seeking out content. If you want them to pay attention to the ads, then...
Dhyana Sansoucie: I think an advertising model in which mobile advertisers need to offer some kind of discount (half price appetizer, 2 for 1 deal, free xxx) with every geolocated ad would quickly penetrate the consciousness of the mobile phone user. If they know every ad is a coupon to a nearby business, they might voluntarily regularly search for advertisers as they go about their day. In this way the advertising on the phone could be welcomed and not annoying.
Todd Bria: I think this is very interesting to read. I was a Journalism Major in college working on community newspapers, but switched to advertising. For the past 22 years I have worked in the business-to-business media, in the electronics industry. In this world, there exits a business press who cover the “news” offer “analysis” of the market and then media that offer “technical information” and “how to information” that in many cases are...
Alan Jacobson: David, your comment is your opinion. The research, above, contradicts you.
Daniel: Advertising kills trust. Content written by advertisers but not clearly disclosed as such would be a death blow to the implicit contract between a reader and the news organization. That’s all I have to say.
Mike Poller: Part of the lure of newspapers is finding the new, discovering the unexpected… On a search engine, I can only find more info about whatever I am searching for. Turning a newspaper page is an adventure that can lead me to something interesting and new. Something I never heard of before, some connection I never made before. This is “news.” We still need photographers, writers and editors to present what they feel is new, different, exciting, enlightening. I still...
Charles-A. Rovira: The entire profession of journalism is a “marginal cost” as far as the old print media is concerned. Where taking away the primary costs and we now have to become respectable and respected; at least enough to attract enough people to pay for the equivalent of a couple of stamps. The salvation of journalism lies in an unexpected and unanticipated direction but a perfectly logical one: the Post Office.
Charles-A. Rovira: Newspapers as we have come to know then ARE doomed… No doubt about it. Journalism has to crawl out from behind the masthead, stand up and be respected. The Matt Drudges and Ariana Huffingtons of the world are the way to go as far as representation goes. But even they have problems related to their ad supported business model. Pre-web: If I made big trucks, why would I want to advertise on their magazines? “Trucker’s Weekly” Is just fine by me. Cut to...
Sterling Chen: I think the the issue for the editorial side folks is whether it makes us look like our coverage/criticism was bought off. And since our credibility is related to our brand value it’s not an entirely out-of-date question. When a positive theater review that uses a handout image runs alongside an ad for the same production (and which happens to use the same image), a paper can’t help but look a little dumb. When an altweekly runs an expose on a brothel, yet rakes in...
Jeff Thomas: What is journalism, you ask? For one thing, it is the lone form of communication that strives to get it right. The essence of journalism, as Kovach and Rosenstiel have said, is the discipline of verification. It’s what separates journalism from fiction, poetry, opera, theater, cinema . . .and advertising. This is not a trivial distinction. Getting it right is crucial to open society. When free people invented the tool they needed to make it possible to remain free and...
Charles Batchelor: In the past the practical problem in selling this kind of advertising was that it was time-consuming and it got in the way of the flow of news. Contextual ads are why newspapers are turning to Yahoo. I think we are going to see more of this kind of matching in newspapers via the Yahoo system. The data I saw from 300+ local newspapers’ web sites a few years ago told me most (but not all) of their traffic comes from their home page. So, the issue becomes featuring...
Daniel: Journalism is impartial and generally independent. I agree that you could run a press release in place of your story. Disclosure would be paramount, however, as your brand is generally built from the perception that you haven’t been swayed from commercial influence, and it begs the question of whether you should run the press release on your own site or just link to it.
Classified advertising — which includes cars, jobs and homes — used to account for 25-50 percent of newspaper revenue. Most of that advertising has migrated from print to national aggregators online, such as CraigsList. If newspapers can recover even a portion of this lost revenue, it could be a game-changer. How’s how we propose to improve classifieds online:
Make it easy to use. In one respect, CraigsList is better than newspaper classifieds because it’s free. But more important, CraigsList is easier to use than any other newspaper classified site and that may be the bigger competitive advantage. Ironically, CraigsList isn’t particularly easy to use, but it’s easier than every other system. That’s why we made our solution easier still.
Make it easy on the eyes. Classifieds need not look like HTML 1.0. Our solution provides easy-to-use templates so any user can create a beautiful, professional-looking ad. See the description page, below.
Make it free. If newspapers are going to compete with CraigsList, and every other free classified site, they need to meet or exceed every feature of every other site. So basic listings must be free.
Make it make money: There are plenty of ways to monetize free classifieds:
Sell context-sensitive, behaviorally targeted display ads adjacent to free listings, such as the display ads for Pohanka Honda, below.
Sell ads on to the category-specific search pages, to get the attention of buyers even before they begin their search. See the category-specific search page, below.
Provide “premium” listings above the free listings in search results, as Google does now.
Serve up links to “premium” listings at the bottom of any page that provides the details of a free listing. You can see examples beneath the heading “Check out complete listings” on the description page, below.
The examples described above are primarily for commercial customers. Here are some of the upsells for private-party advertisers:
More prominent appearance and position in search results
Choice of visual “theme” for your description page
Block links from competing ads from appearing on your description page
Allow ad to appear active longer
Make it safe: Craigslists shouts “Let the buyer beware!” — which doesn’t give anyone a warm, fuzzy feeling. While newspapers should leverage their reputation as the most trusted medium, even they cannot vouch for ads posted online via their self-service tools. So newspapers must provide a “reputation engine” where users can post their experiences with sellers, both good and bad, as eBay does now. Providing sellers with a means to manage their reputations online is another source of revenue.
Make it the biggest and best marketplace. How? By aggregating CraigsList and every other local classified site, to provide one-stop shopping for every buyer.
Our solutions for classifieds, display advertising and small businesses are based on existing technologies and existing audiences. Our solutions for monetizing the iPhone are based on existing technology but an emerging audience because the current audience is rather small, but growing.
Mobile remains new, so it offers opportunities to pursue revenue strategies that may not have worked on previous platforms. For instance:
On the internet, there is a cultural prohibition against paying for content – that’s why we don’t believe in micro-payments or subscriptions. Mobile users may not be willing to pay for content either, but they are buying iPhone apps that provide features to customize content on iPhones. So we propose to offer a suite of low-cost features to enhance the experience of content consumption — rather than charging for the content itself — beginning with this feature set:
Off-line reading: Download content that’s normally online-only for use when you don’t have web service. Allows you to take content on a plane or subway.
Geo-tagging: Tells you what is near me now to connect you with news and advertisers as you move through the world of weather, traffic, events and hyperlocal discounts and sales.
Archive/export: Save and share data and permalinks. It’s a way to link your mobile and desktop experience and to share data with your friends.
Customization: Do more than change the background color. Organize the news the way you want to read it by eliminating what isn’t relevant and emphasizing what’s important to you.
Text-to-speech: What better use for a mobile news device than to combine up-to-date news with audio player functions? Perfect for walking, running, subway, trains, etc…
If we’ve learned anything about online, it’s that if we don’t charge now, we can never charge in the future. While we don’t believe the iTunes model will work for content, we do believe it will work for features that enhance the experience of using the content.
Step 1: The new homepage. Homepages get more traffic than any other single page on a news site. Typically, they provide a convenient digest of the newest posts on a site, which is a convenience to users. But this benefit to users creates a problem for advertisers and content providers who depend upon advertising revenue from display advertising. Here’s why:
Depending on the level of SEO, 15 to 35 percent of users enter a news site at the homepage, then exit. This provides relatively few pixels on this single Web page to monetize an entire site. If homepages were redesigned to compel users to view more pages to meet their information needs, then sites would have more opportunities to generate revenue. To do so, homepages must be converted from digests to tables of contents.
Digests and tables of contents both provide a window into a site’s news content. But tables of contents do not discourage further exploration, while digests unnecessarily reduce reviewing of inside pages. For instance, a book’s table of contents doesn’t stop you from reading. Neither does the table of contents of a news magazine — some, like Esquire’s, encourage you to read more.
Story pages, rather than homepages, are the key to monetizing a news site. These inside pages have fewer elements than homepages, so they can provide a more effective environment for advertising by allowing for larger ads and fewer distracting elements.
Our solution was inspired by this New York Times prototype. However, the New York Times prototype is more a digest than a table of contents, because its well-crafted headlines and summaries may satisfy an enduser, and provide fewer reasons for further exploration of the site.
In contrast, our solution merely offers a “taste” of a site’s news content, using fewer words to entice endusers, rather than satisfying them with a summary. It also differs in these other, important respects:
Our solution is based on a multi-block grid, which provides the flexibility to increase the amount of space devoted to a headline to signal its importance and reflect editorial news judgment. It also allows photos to be cropped and scaled for maximum impact and legibility, rather than forcing them into pre-determined holes.
Step 2: The new story page. Changing the homepage to force more views of story pages is the first part of our two-part strategy to increase revenue from display advertising. The second part is changing the story page to provide a more effective environment for advertising messages. This will produce better results for advertisers and motivate advertisers to spend more on online advertising. Here’s our strategy:
Dramatically increase the size of the ad to 480 pixels by 480 pixels.
Reduce the amount of clutter to create a more attractive environment for the ad.
Limit ads to one per screen to increase impact.
This solution looks more like the The New Yorker in print than any news site online, but we think that’s a good thing. It’s based on this prototype for the Daily Record.
While most online execs might blanch at the notion of one ad per page, the fact is that most sites can’t sell all the ad positions currently available, so why not run the paid ads bigger? As long as the table-of-contents-style homepage creates more pageviews, more advertising opportunities will be created to offset any losses.
But more important, if one big ad per screen delivers better results for advertisers, then advertisers will be willing to spend more with the sites willing to offer the more effective format.
And finally, what if that big ad provided more than a brand message, but an experience? What if that ad “came alive” onMouseOver, just like a photo in Harry Potter’s newspaper, The Daily Prophet?
To take full advantage of the Web, advertisers must build true interactive experiences within their ads, with the means to capture the attention, preferences and contact info of potential customers. These ads will no longer need to shout and annoy users, because their message is the only ad message on the screen. Instead, these ads will “rest quietly” next to the editorial content, and only “come alive” when users opt in for the advertising experience, thus providing a better reading experience as well.
Read more about the prototyping process and how the team worked through the issues. (SND Update)
Our group considering options for small and medium businesses started by putting ourselves in business owners’ shoes, imagining:
A handful of employees, if that many
Probably only one location, and probably not exactly where we’d like it to be
Little time to just think or plan strategically
A total marketing and promotion budget less than $1,000 a month
Disruptive pressure from “big-box” retailers
A tendency to spend marketing dollars on the “squeakiest wheels,” meaning sales reps who come calling consistently and insistently — Yellow Pages, maybe radio, maybe the local paper (depending on market size)
Web banner ads probably don’t help small/medium businesses much, especially if the message is poorly crafted, includes no calls to action, or points generically to a “brochureware” Web site.
That annual Yellow Pages ad fills the name/address/phone/category need well enough. What Web advertising should do for small businesses is deliver the message they want to deliver to prospective customers right now, not what they put in the book once a year.
What’s the deal? What’s the special offer, incentive, promotion or value proposition that brings customers in the door this day, this week, this month?
The deal should be the next thing beyond the click for small/medium businesses, and that’s what we created — a way to aggregate, browse, search and promote the best deals from the businesses in a newspaper.com’s community.
A typical newspaper.com — pretty much all of them, honestly — places banner ads in a way that makes them blind spots for Google, Yahoo! and the other search spiders. We don’t treat the advertising messages — the deals — as content. We should. We should put them in databases that are at least as well optimized for search as news articles. Then we should promote the best of them as chosen by users (via printing/redemption of coupons), the most urgent of them by creating limited-time or limited-number coupon offers, and the latest offers placed by advertisers.
We built some wireframes (download the PDF here) that show how these indexes might look and work, how they would connect to advertiser brochure pages, and what we and advertisers could accomplish from them. One appears, below.
So much more to say, and we’ll lay out more details in the coming days, including:
Evolving services for small/medium businesses to include reputation management – showing business owners what people say about them all over the Web, whether they have a site of their own or not.
How this works underneath banner ad servers, targeting techniques, even ad networks — because the focus is on services for small businesses beyond the introductory message couched in a banner.
How it scales up to larger businesses, and to different size newspaper companies.
Stay tuned, check out the PDF examples, and add to this discussion. We need your help to make this practical and profitable!
Marketers should deploy a combination of search and display ads to drive sales, in the same way that time has shown that trade promotion and TV buys can work together to boost a brand’s presence — and bottom line — according to Hernan Lopez, president of .Fox Networks and COO of Fox International Channels. “It’s still early days when it comes to online advertising, and I’m convinced the opportunities in display are still largely untapped,” Lopez writes in Advertising Age.
Vernon Loeb is deputy managing editor/news at The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was a reporter earlier in his career. Before returning to Philadelphia, he was Metro investigations editor at the Los Angeles Times and a defense reporter at The Washington Post. Says Loeb: “Journalist are the most creative and resourceful people in the newspaper business so they must be involved in the quest for new business models, otherwise the quest will fail. Saving newspapers, with emphasis on the word news and not necessarily paper, is critical to the American democracy.”
There has always been, and I would argue, rightfully so, a line between content and advertising in newspaper media. The wall definitely exists, but the question is whether that wall is the Great Wall of China or a backyard picket fence.
Of late, newspapers have shifted a good bit, brought on by the difficult economic times we have been experiencing, to a role of curators of content rather than creators of content. In so many ways, newspaper editors select the best content available for their constituencies and present it in the very best ways. We do the search for our readers.
As we present content, we are still operating in a caste system of sorts. We tend to suggest that the best, most credible and trusted content comes from the newspaper’s own reporters, editors and writers. Then, we likely take the wires such as AP and value them next, followed by the syndicates and now the emerging UGC (user generated content). We blend that content to attempt to offer the best, most valuable sources for the best, most credible information. One source, we do not even consider in this mix is content from advertisers. AGC (Advertiser Generated Content) ranks a distant last in the mix of resources of information and when used, typically is required to wear the Scarlet Letter (Advertisement) all around it.
The worry has always been that information from an advertiser is tainted, biased and will somehow fool, even con, unsuspecting readers. I would argue otherwise:
1. Readers these days are pretty used to figuring out commercial messages especially since product placement and branded content are commonplace on all other media; and
2. Certain types of information might actually be preferred when it comes from a knowledgeable advertiser. Examples might include fashion information about emerging colors and styles coming from Bloomingdales might be seen as more expert than that coming from our own newsrooms, and home improvement tips might be more welcomed from Home Depot. The question is how do we present these sorts of information appropriately and what reactions do readers have to it?
NAA has commissioned prototypes to test with consumers. The complete report and prototypes will be available for download on April 7. Here are the results:
1. We learned that U.S. consumers do notice who wrote the stories they read at least some of the time (63% notice).
2.The originator of a story only makes a minor difference as to whether a consumer selects to read a story in a newspaper (40% said it makes a difference and 45% said it did not).
3. However, the originator of a story does make a difference as to the credibility/ trust and accuracy of the story (62% say it does).
4. Respondents overwhelmingly stated that they knew who was writing the stories on the prototype pages including the AGC stories (93%).
5. 85% of respondents agreed that there are times when stories written by advertisers are acceptable.
6. Respondents ranked stories coming from newspaper itself as more valuable than stories coming from newswires (second), syndicates (third), advertisers (fourth) and then other users (fifth), so it seems as if AGC (advertiser-generated content) is rated higher than UGC (user-generated content).
7. 58% of all respondents stated that stories written by advertisers are acceptable when the advertiser has specific expertise and when the advertiser is not making a “pitch” for their goods and services.
8. 79% of the consumers responding to this survey indicated that they could identify which stories on the protoype pages were written by advertisers.
9. 79% of those interviewed believed that the identification of AGC on the example pages were acceptable.
10. 84% of the respondents felt that this sort of identification was important. Remember that we differentiated by utilizing the bylines and the advertisers logo.
The test also included a question about and an example of product placement.
86% of respondents stated that product placement as shown did not bother them however, another 86% said it would not influence purchase decisions.
As with many creative, game-changing revenue ideas, they may not be for everyone. The bottom line is that unique new approaches to content and advertising are worth discussing and considering, especially today.
– Mort Goldstrom is the VP/Advertising for the Newspaper Association of America
Journalists have focused on editorial content and eschewed advertising — until now. With the shuttering of newspapers, advertising seems a lot more important because the lack thereof is putting journalists out on the street — not to cover stories but to search for new jobs.
As Shirky says, we’re in a revolution, so everything must be put on the table, including the long-held belief in the separation of church and state (editorial and advertising).
Historically, it’s been an important distinction for journalists, but less so for endusers, as common sense and NAA’s research indicate. To find new ways to fund journalism we need to reconsider every strongly felt belief, especially any so dogmatic.
David Kordalski of The Cleveland Plain Dealer said it best: “It took (anti-communist) Nixon to go to (Communist) China.”
Likewise, it will take journalists to find the new separation of editorial and advertising that is appropriate to the digital age.
Below you’ll see a page from washingtonpost.com with a report on the new portable printer from Polaroid. Note that the ad notched into the story is a generic ad severed up by Google. The skyscraper ad to the right is for Cisco. Neither ad is related to Polaroid. Ironically, the news story about the new Polaroid product does not show the product - which is an important piece of news content that is missing from the news story. The story emphasizes the small size of the new product, but it is nowhere to seen.
In the next example, you see what this page could have looked like, including a paid ad for Polaroid that promotes the product but also informs the public.
Is this paid ad journalism? No. Does it inform the public? Yes. This begs the question, “What is journalism?”
Clay Shirky says we’re in a time of revolution. It’s time for us to think different, act like patriots and do something revolutionary. In this instance, it means forgetting about newspaper’s separation between church and state (news and advertising) so that editorial is free to fix the revenue crisis.
Thomas Jefferson created the separation of church and state, but he also said this: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate any moment to prefer the latter.”
I absolutely love the iPhone apps for nytimes.com, usatoday.com and other major U.S. news outlets. But I don’t see how these great products will pay for journalism because the apps are free and none of these sites seem to display much paid advertising. However, if I missed something, please contact me.
In contrast, free iPhone apps from some overseas newspapers are showing paid ads. Download the apps to see examples from El Universal in Mexico City and El Pais in Madrid.
Unfortunately, both of these solutions have the same fundamental flaw — the banner ads click through to Web pages that aren’t designed for the iPhone’s small screen.
However, The Straits Times in Singapore goes the next step with a click-through to an advertising message that is legible on the iPhone. See below for a news page with banner ad, and the full-page ad you see after you click through.
The Straits Times model is good, but we can make it better.
First, the click-through seems unduly clunky. I think a reveal of the ad onMouseOver (sliding up from the bottom of the screen) would be far more elegant than a click-through.
Second, and more important, the banner ads should be improved in the following ways:
Advertisers hate them because they’re ineffective: Click-through rates are less than one percent.
Publishers hate them because they aren’t generating enough revenue to make up for the shortfall in print advertising.
And most important, users hate them because they’re annoying, distracting and useless.
Clearly, everyone will benefit if these problems are solved. Let’s see how we got here so we can avoid repeating these mistakes.
Mommy, where do leaderboards come from?
Can you remember what the ads looked like on the first newspaper Web sites? I’m sure you can’t, because the first newspaper Web sites had no advertising. Back in the early ’90s, when the first newspapers began posting online, there was a cultural prohibition against advertising on the Internet. Many believed the Internet should be non-commercial.
That notion slipped away by the mid-’90s and newspapers began adding advertising to their pages. But these pages had not been designed with ads in mind, so the ads were shoe-horned onto the pages, first at the bottom, then at the tops and down the sides.
Banners and buttons begat leaderboards and skyscrapers. But these, too, were squeezed onto the tops and edges of Web pages. And that’s why online ads appear in an awkward array of shallow and skinny sizes and shapes.
Multimedia gone wrong
Advertisers are limited by awkward sizes and shapes, so they’ve escalated their war on users with a never-ending series of annoying and intrusive techniques. As is the case in most wars of aggression, it’s the aggressor that loses.
The battle for users’ eyeballs began with animated GIFs. Then advertisers fortified their flintlocks with Flash. These animated ads look great by themselves, but two or more together create a shouting match: “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!”
Users responded like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch: “Oh the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!”
So advertisers served up pop-ups. Web browsers responded with pop-up blockers. Now Web sites offer video and advertisers have responded with pre-roll – this decade’s version of the much-hated pop-up. And don’t forget the interstitials – those ads that get between the user and the page the user wants to see. This latest contrivance is bound to spawn 2009’s hottest Christmas gift: “Tivo for Web,” so users can skip past the interstitials.
The battle for the user’s attention has produced an unintended consequence: Newspaper Web sites have trained users to ignore online ads.
It’s gonna take a lot to undo this damage. We should heed Matt Mansfield’s call to improve the enduser experience of editorial and advertising. Here’s a starting point:
1. Make the advertising message the primary visual on each page and limit each page to a single ad. Adopting this strategy kills two birds with one stone: First, it provides advertisers with the best possible environment for their message. Second, it provides a better experience for the user by eliminating all the noise. But to do so, sites must migrate away from the ineffective IAB standard ad sizes and shapes to create sites that serve up ads like this or this.
But serving up fewer ads per page doesn’t mean serving up fewer ads per visit if sites are redesigned to increase page views. But first we need to change the current paradigm:
2. Create a next-generation homepage. Too many users visit the homepage – then exit – before viewing interior pages because the homepage meets their information needs. And webmasters put too many ads on homepages in hopes of reaching these endusers.
This is a self-defeating strategy that pits advertisers against each other and creates a chaotic environment for endusers.
To increase page views, homepages should be redesigned to be less comprehensive. Homepages should provide a “taste” of a site’s content, rather than a satisfying meal, like this or this.
This strategy will force users to visit interior pages to meet their information needs. These interior pages will provide a more effective environment for advertising, like this or this.
But we need to stop thinking of a Web page as a single page. It’s really more like a magazine spread of two pages. Here’s why:
The first web pages were limited by the size of the prevalent monitors of the day: 800 pixels wide by 600 pixels deep. Today, 1024×768 is the minimum, with most desktop and laptops no smaller than 1152×720. Even my 3-year old Powerbook displays 1680×1050.
But we can’t use that full width for text, because it becomes difficult to read when it is set too wide. Even 500px — half the width of the smallest display — is almost too wide for text.
So a Web browser can really display two pages side-by-side, like a magazine. And like the best magazines, one side can be for editorial and the other side can be for advertising.
Consider this spread from The New Yorker, above. Note how the ad is the primary visual element, yet it doesn’t interfere with the reading experience. Now consider this prototype, below, to see the same dynamic at play.
Print ads must be static, but online ads can be dynamic. What if that Thunderbird ad “came to life” onMouseOver, like the photographs in Harry Potter’s newspaper, The Daily Prophet?
Maybe we can draw some inspiration from a newspaper after all, albeit a fictional one.