Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: July 27, 2006
Logan Molen, VP of interactive media for the Bakersfield Californian, just sent an e-mail to the NAA’s New Media Federation e-mail list announcing that Bakersfield.com has hired a push technology specialist.
Here’s Logan’s description of the job:
… we’ve just hired our first “push technology specialist” whose job is to create strategic email newsletters, SMS and RSS services, and other mobile strategies.
I think responsibility for e-mail, SMS and RSS all fit together neatly. A specialist can keep abreast of trends and technology and ensure these key areas of present and future growth receive appropriate attention.
Steve Outing’s column asks: Have we come far enough?
Outing’s question is prompted by a sliver of archive from a mailing list he started in
1995 1994 called online-news. Steve is nice enough to credit me with unearthing this archive through Google, and it’s true I had been on a quest to find this archive, but really — this find was purely accidental.
But my motivation in looking for the archive is tied very much to the subject matter of Steve’s latest column: Have we come far enough.
I’m not sure, however, the online-news archive is really needed to answer the question.
If you look at the newspaper industry as a whole, most newspaper sites are under performing. In some things, some sites are doing well while other sites do well in other areas, but after more than a decade of trying to get up to speed, newspapers still lag behind.
Here’s where I see newspaper.com sites failing to fully tap the power of the Web, or properly react to the competitive threat:
- They are not online hub of their community. Resources and information remain sketchy if they exist at all.
- Classified sites are not often rich, compelling, community-driven experiences.
- Classified verticals lack the depth to engage and meet consumer needs.
- Newspaper.com sites are not engaging place for local citizens to meet, discuss, debate and contribute.
- Newspaper journalists are too seldom fully developing their stories for online, by skipping over multimedia opportunities.
- Where are the niche products to reach the long tail of local audience interest?
- Newspapers have more than just a commitment to citizens and readers: They owe it to local businesses to help them succeed in a digital world. So where are the compelling ecommerce sites and the full service of advertising options? Where is self-service retail advertising?
- Too few newspapers even spend a dime on outside promotion so that local readers know that the newspaper.com should be a habit.
- Too few newsrooms have grasped the basic fundamental need to keep content fresh and that all news should go on the Web first and frequently.
- And almost no newspaper has realized the need to create virtual community to serve the real community.
Some sites do some of these things, as I said. Some are making good strides in some of these areas, but at this stage of the game, newspaper.coms should be a lot further along than they are. IMHO.
Lee Gomes, writing for the Wall Street Journal, says the Long Tail may not be so long after all.
Chris Anderson responds.
From my perspective, even if some of Chris’s details are off, the basic thesis of the long tail still rings true. Unlimited inventory does mean that a lot of stuff that had no chance of selling before can now find a market. Whether the misses ever really overtake the hits misses the point somewhat.
WSJ has an article on the Friendster patent.
The San Francisco nonprofit is running a “patent-busting” campaign to combat patents that it sees as illegitimate. “I don’t think they’ve really come up with an innovation for finding people you know,” he says.
But Mr. Lindstrom argues that Friendster’s founder, Mr. Abrams, who left the company and is preparing to launch a startup called Socializr, invented something original. Two and a half years ago, you’d never heard of a social network,” he says. “Jonathan Abrams did something, and suddenly this new thing existed. Maybe it doesn’t seem new now, but it certainly did at the time.”
When I first heard the term “social network,” my thought was, “yeah, right, it’s just the new buzzword for virtual community.” And when I first heard about this Friendster patent, I thought, “They can’t patent that. Virtual communities have been around for decades — before there was a Web even.”
But after I read the patent and understood that what they were really claiming as intellectual property was the ability to link friends together so that friends might follow a path to other or new friends, I couldn’t think of a pre-Friendster virtual community that had such a feature. If there was one out there, I would like to know about, because I can’t remember it or never saw it.
I think this patent has a chance to stand up.
The typical newspaper auto vertical is nothing more than re-purposed classifieds and maybe some dealer inventory.
One problem with that strategy is that the limited inventory of such a site is competing with national sites that have substantially more inventory (unless the newspaper is a Cars.com affiliate).
Now there is some research that says auto sites that are aggregators of inventory are essential to most online car shoppers.
Newspapers with auto sites that are lagging in their markets shouldn’t think, “if we could only get more inventory online.” They should be thinking, “how do we make our sites more engaging and useful to consumers?”
At any one time, only a small percentage of people are in the market for a new or used car, but everybody is in the market for something related to a car almost all the time — insurance, service, parts, etc., and a lot of people are often thinking two or three years ahead for their next car purchase. Auto sites that are nothing more then inventory don’t meet the needs of this audience, and therefore lose an opportunity to become a trusted brand to future auto buyers.
For all those media companies out there wondering if they should invest more in video — of course you should — but if you still need more evidence, here it is.
And notice I said “media companies.” It’s not just newspapers that are lagging on video — most television stations have exceptionally insufficient video offerings. They rely far too heavily on just re-purposing their news broadcasts instead of offering online-only features and additional footage.