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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Tag Archives: Audience Growth
The overabundance of suppliers of news and information, nonetheless the supply, leads to another corollary, one that might seem to be counter-intuitive: the ‘good enough’ beats perfect. The overabundance of suppliers leads to competition that actually lowers the threshold of acceptable quality. When there were few suppliers, they used higher quality content (i.e., ‘high production values’) as a competitive weapon against each other. But now that there is an overabundance of suppliers, their competition levers towards being the first to produce content that is at least of acceptable quality. Millions of videos are viewed billions of times each month on sites such as YouTube.com (+3 billion per month) not because of high production values, but because the videos are at least ‘good enough’ to watch. The production of higher quality delays distribution and widespread usage. This corollary runs against the grain of traditional Mass Media organizations, which tend to delay release of their content until it is perfect, but the effect of this corollary is an observable phenomenon.
Bold added. Continue reading
Editor and Publisher picked up on the issue last month, but ironically put the story behind a pay wall — it’s broken free of its chains and is available here.
Jennifer Saba did a good job of covering various angles related to the free vs. paid debate.
Recently, I came across some data — which I can’t find now (wish I’d used del.icio.us like I should have) — that showed how US papers have failed to raise circulation prices, as compared to many European newspaper companies, which both charge more for papers and have higher household penetration rates. The data suggests that actually, people will pay for content. However, it also suggests that newspapers let that genie out of the bottle long before the Web came along. By not adjusting subscription fees to keep pace with inflation, newspapers have educated that audience that its content is not all that valuable.
If anybody can help me find that data again, that would be lovely.
But even so, we’re still only talking about print subscription fees. There is still no evidence, either in the US or elsewhere, that people will pay for general news content online. Continue reading
You won’t find too many television web sites that beat their local print rivals online.
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The TV site has twice the traffic of the two dailies combined. Continue reading
Interesting bit of news related to podcasting this morning.
eMarketer announced that the 2007 podcast audience reached 18.5 million active users. It’s good to take any projection with an ounce of skepticism, but the same study estimates the 2112 podcast audience at 25 million.
When you start segmenting that audience, however, it’s hard to see how the average newspaper podcast garners enough regular listeners to drive sufficient revenue.
That’s no reason not to try, however, but more on that below.
One question not answered by eMarketer is how they define podcast. To many people, podcasts are more than audio shows, but include episodic video as well.
Could video be driving podcast growth?
I know I prefer video “podcasts” to audio, but that could be just me.
Video, however, seems to represent great revenue opportunity because of the larger overall audience for online video and the visual nature of video advertising.
Either way, newspapers should tread lightly here. It’s one thing to take the lo-fi approach with illustrative video, or even periodic story video. It’s an entirely different matter with episodic audio or video.
Any time you expect an audience to develop a habit for a regularly scheduled shows, quality is paramount — and it’s not just production quality. The content must be engaging and the talent behind it must be finely honed. The demand for top-notch on-air audio and video talent will only grow as podcasting grows.
That talent isn’t likely to come from traditional broadcast, because of the more informal nature of online media, which is a mystery to highly trained professionals from traditional media.
In other words, these growth numbers, if true and they hold, represent opportunity for newspaper companies and journalists willing to try new things. Continue reading
We’ve spent many words recently debating the best way for newspapers to manage user participation, particular comments on stories and forum posts.
Most journalists value quality communication and are distressed to see rants, insults, cursing, lies and innuendo pass for online commentary, especially on their own newspaper.com.
It’s an understandable position.
There are a number of strategies to try an elevate the nature of the discourse on a newspaper.com, such as enforcing real identity, or using a Slashdot/Digg-style reputation system, or pre-screening comments (my least favorite), to outsourcing the entire headache to Topix.
But have you ever stopped to wonder why quality blogs usually have quality discussions?
Consider, for a minute, how quickly a discussion on your newspaper.com would spin out of control if you allowed comments on a story about butts on TV. Now look at the interesting discussion on this Lost Remote post (maybe not the best example I could find of a great conversation, but it is a logical contrast to what might happen on a typical newspaper.com).
Some blogs get more and better reader discussion than others, but you rarely hear any more about bloggers debating whether to disable comments and wondering if this whole commenting thing is really worth it (as you do from some editors).
Sure, blogs use some form of pre-screen (first-time commenters on howardowens.com, for example, go into a moderation queue), but any filters on blog comments these days have more to do with trying to block spam than worries over the content of reader comments.
Why is that?
I would say, primarily because blogs get the close attention of their owners. There is little opportunity for trolls to get a foothold on a well-run blog. Most blog owners apply high standards for the conduct they will allow. They monitor closely. They participate in the conversation. In other words, they are actively engaged and involved. They are owners.
How involved are reporters and editors involved in participation on their web sites?
And until we fix that weak link in our participation strategy, we will continue to struggle with developing the kind of online community our newspaper communities deserve.
Newsrooms need to develop an ownership attitude about participation on their web sites. Only then will the technology solutions really work. There is simply no substitute for real, sustained, dedicated participation in the conversation by editors and reporters. Without it, newspaper sites will continue to struggle to grow and retain audience. Continue reading
For a couple of years, I’ve been telling anybody who would listen that the correct measurement for local audience reach on a newspaper web site was percentage of daily unique visitors from the paper’s DMA.
More importantly, that the “visited in the past 30 days” metric, which the industry has been using for a couple of years, was meaningless.
In it’s latest integrated newspaper audience study, Scarobourgh takes a step in my direction — it is now measuring DMA audience based on “past seven days visit.” That’s a hell of a lot better than 30 days reach.
So of the top 25 markets, who has the best local online reach?
- WashingtonPost.com, 20 percent
- SignOnSanDiego.com, 16 percent
- AJC.com, 15 percent
- Boston.com, 14 percent
- Azcentral.com, 14 percent
No surprises in the top 5. They’ve long been among the leaders in local audience reach, because they’ve been the longest among big metros at making that a priority. To reach a local audience, you’ve got to be local, think local, act local — and you’ve got to do a heck of a lot of local marketing.
LATimes.com and tampabay.com are two sites that stand out as particularly lagging — about 4 percent for each.
Here’s a link to another version of the report with more markets covered. Some of the numbers vary by a percentage point from the link up above. I imagine that’s a rounding issue since for my top five above, I added two percentage columns together (exclusive online and duplicated online).
Via Jack Lail, this very insightful quote from Roger Black:
Newspapers will not pull out of this mortal glidepath until they get a lot more interesting. This is something that Rupert (Murdoch) has understood, presumably from birth. His attitude has always been to damn the institutions and give people what they like. This is what worked for Hearst and Pulitizer, and for Paley and Sarnoff. But today the traditional media polar bears (in newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, music, movies and books) seldom blame the product for their shrinking habitat.
I spend a good part of my life worrying about things like usability and strategy — sort of the scaffolding of the online news business, but in the end, all that really matters is the content, and what matters most when it comes to content is what people want.
Give the people what they want.
One thing Murdoch does exceptionally well is figure out where the market opportunity is, and then goes after that opportunity with a narrow, focused strategy. He concerns himself first with building audience.
Related, read this insightful post from Alan Mutter about Murdoch.
UPDATE: Right after I posted this, Jack Lail had another post with this quote from Vin Crosbie:
The real problem, Mr. Newspaperman, isn’t that your content isn’t online or isn’t online with multimedia. It’s your content. Specifically, it’s what you report, which stories you publish, and how you publish them to people, who, by the way, have very different individual interests. The problem is the content you’re giving them, stupid; not the platform its on.