FTW Media

Thoughts about New/Social Media

Lessons learned from the FIPP

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Everything old is new again, as Rupert Murdoch, often looked to as the Warren Buffet of the publishing world, aims to once again charge for online content. “That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience,” Murdoch said two weeks ago, adding that moves to carry out this paid content model could be done within the next 12 months.

This move — a complete U-turn from the decision to remove the paid-subscription model of the New York Times in 2007 — is not surprising, given the crashing advertising dollars brought upon by the global economic crisis. “Eyeballs”, once a golden word cherished by publishers, have now become a tainted word that alludes to publishers’ naivete in making content freely available on the Web.

“Pay for content” was also a running theme at the International Ferderation for Printed Periodicals (FIPP) World Magazine Congress, which ran on May 5 and 6 in London, which addressed the concerns of magazine publishers in moving onto the Web. MediaGuardian summed up the key talking points of the event, including a point made by Roberto Civita, chairman and chief executive, Abril Group, Brazil. Civita emphasised that it wasn’t enough to just put print articles online and charge for them.

“I insist that we are going to have to end up charging for our content wherever we possibly can,” Civita said in his address, but advocated that websites concentrate on content that cannot be replicated online. “The content that sits there and does not make any noise just doesn’t work anymore.”

That statement is obvious to many, but a quick glance through the websites of major magazines and you’ll notice that many of them still rely on putting the print product online, rather than creating new content.  That the “new content” focuses on rich media is a given — readers expect audio and video-enhanced stories from Web publishers — but what many local publishers miss out in the rush to keep up with the times is the emphasis on socially engaging media, where users use websites as platforms to form communities.

The Internet is not an escape

Among the more insightful comments at the Congress were given by Didier Quillot, chief executive of Lagardere Active, the digital arm of Lagardere, the French owners of Elle. He accepts the fact that the Internet won’t be a main revenue generator: “The internet is nice but it will stay small, it will do somewhere between 5% of our business at worst and 20% at best, but no more. Internet, at best, will just compensate for the decline of revenue to me from banner circulation. Internet is not an escape,” he said.

He also stressed on the need for publishers to have joint print/web publications, develop new mobile platforms and branch out into events, B2B businesses and customer publishing brand extensions. Though the online version of Elle France has about 2.5m unique users each month , the audience was not enough to sustain the title, he said. This caused them to create a blogging network around the site to increase user engagement.

He also said that Elle has partnered with local specialists in Japan to develop an e-commerce business, he said, and would look to forge partnerships with mobile service providers to generate revenue through phones and build applications for iPhones and similar devises.

The main takeaway from these two keynotes is this: eyeballs alone won’t pay for the price of content, but the definition of “content” has to evolve beyond words, video and audio. It’s about providing a service for readers to interact with each other. Readers these days expect, and want, to be involved and engage with the publication and that includes its writers, producers, and editors.

This is what networks like TWiT, MarketWatch, and The Forum by CNN facilitates in creating its chatrooms and communities — and magazines wishing to go online would do well to follow their lead in developing their web strategies.


Written by John Lim

May 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Posted in New Media

Wikipedia is still very good

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Tech author Nicholas Carr hates Wikipedia. I think Carr is a brilliant author (I have both his books) and thinker. And I do share some of his views on how user-generated content is vastly over-rated. But I love Wikipedia. I use it all the time to find out more about topics I’m interested in.

For example, after watching Star Trek, I went to Wikipedia to read the back-story of all the major characters. What better, more efficient place to find that then Wikipedia?

Is it 100% accurate? Nope but it’s usually good enough – certainly for general knowledge.

Is it good enough for journalism? No. It’s good for general background info but you must verify facts because writing an article that’s going to be read by the masses is different from reading something up for fun or for curiousity.

Sociology and economics student Shane Fitzgerald recently put a fake quote in Wikipedia’s entry on Maurice Jarre as an experiment. That quote was subsequently picked up by notable news outlets such as the Guardian, the London Independent, on the BBC Music Magazine website.

Fitzgerald was shocked by the result of his experiment:

I didn’t expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers?

He subsequently wrote to the newspapers to inform them of the hoax and they published corrections. The lesson here, of course, is that it’s crucially important to verify facts. Don’t just rely on one source, especially Wikipedia (which is still a favorite site of mine).

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Posted in New Media

BBC headlines best for usability

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Usability guru Jakob Nielsen rates BBC News as having the best headlines in terms of being

  • short (because people don’t read much online);
  • rich in information scent, clearly summarizing the target article;
  • front-loaded with the most important keywords (because users often scan only the beginning of list items);
  • understandable out of context (because headlines often appear without articles, as in search engine results); and
  • predictable, so users know whether they’ll like the full article before they click (because people don’t return to sites that promise more than they deliver).

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 2, 2009 at 2:23 am

Posted in New Media

The human touch still needed

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One of the reasons Yahoo! was so popular in its early days was that its listings were hand-crafted by a team of human editors (not by algorithm). It’s news section too was chosen by human editors (not spiders).

Of course doing things by hand is neither efficient nor scalable. But sometimes it’s necessary for certain offerings.

Take for example, Breaking Tweets, an attempt to do something journalistic with Twitter. It’s pretty nifty. Have a look at the sample below:

April 30, 2009

Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled

Per BBC, a young Saudi girl who was married to an older man in his 50s has been granted a divorce in an out-of-court settlement.

A judge had earlier rejected the girl’s mother’s appeal in the town of Unaiza. He was replaced by a new judge who decided to nullify the case after the marriage was confirmed illegal by the girl’s husband, per BBC.

Twitterers had these reactions when the legal news first penetrated worldwide:

  1. Donnette Davis
    Donnette (South Africa) a Saudi marriage officiate declared that a girl can be married at the age of one if sex is postponed http://tinyurl.com/cev327
  2. danie_d
    danie_d (San Francisco, Calif.) 8 year old girl married to a 47 year old man in Saudi Arabia. U.S. doesn’t allow it to affect trade. But mention trade w/ Cuba and “OH NO.”
  3. Freddie Zacarias
    quantifyme (Undisclosed) A 8 yr old Saudi girl married to a 50 yr old Saudi man is a shame. Not only is a violation of human rights, it is “child slavery”
  4. Joe Newbert
    newbert (Cape Town, South Africa) RT @geekstats 8: age of Saudi Arabian girl married by father to settle debts. (http://bit.ly/WrvB). This world can be hideous.
  5. Governance Focus
    governancefocus (Undisclosed) A Saudi girl of 8 was married to a man in his 50’s and now they want to annul it. What do you expect from a country without democracy.

Following the most recent media reports, Twitterers noted these reactions today:

  1. Michelle Torres
    michou83 (New Jersey) http://tinyurl.com/cwrmxa– Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended…. THANK GOD. Now they just need a real policy.
  2. Akin
    forakin (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended but not by the courts and hidebound religious judges http://is.gd/vEqY
  3. macleans
    macleans (Undisclosed) Out-of-court settlement allows Saudi girl, 8, to divorce 50-year-old husband http://tinyurl.com/cqbcmk

No immediate reaction could be found within Saudi Arabia itself. Tweets were searched for in both Arabic and English.

Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled


Breaking Tweets basically publishes a collection of tweets relating to specific breaking news items. It’s good because it collates and organizes for us interesting tweets about key topics of the moment. The thing is, it’s done by a team of human editors who apply editorial judgment on what should be included and what should not.

Could the Google guys come up with an algorithm to do away with the need for human editors? Probably, but it won’t be as good. Good journalism, whether it involves New Media or social media still requires the human touch.

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Posted in New Media, Social Media

Looking beyond Twitter

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lolcatAs the legendary New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra was rumoured to have said about a restaurant: “Nobody goes there anymore because it’s too crowded.” The same can be said of Twitter’s entrance into mainstream media.

With Oprah joining the Twitter community, and the ridiculous Ashton Vs CNN race, the end of the buzz is near. The cool geeks that first adopted it are now fed up of the constant stream of news about it. Mainstream media knows about it, and can’t stop yammering on about the dreaded microblogging service. While it’s adorable to see how big celebs like Oprah start stumbling around Twitter in the same way an adult watches a toddlertakes his first steps (“aww, look at Oprah twittering — how cute is that?”), the novelty dies out rather fast.

The entrance of the mainstream celebs into Twitter also changes the dynamic of the social network. Where once the sphere was dominated by eager geeks, now it’s become increasingly crowded by a bunch of marketers, brands, gurus, and celebrities that don’t really give a crap about whether you’re the 100,321st or 100,322nd follower. It’s as if Cheers became the watering hole of a bunch of big-talking “I make bank” douchebags and advertising execs. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Lim

April 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm

Posted in Social Media

So, you wanna charge for content?

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Whenever the topic of charging for content crops up, industry folks will invariably cite the WSJ.com as proof that it can work. The key thing is that it’s got to be niche content that people are willing to pay for (e.g. financial news). Or so the myth goes.

I say it’s a myth because there’s a whole lot more to it than just offering valuable print content online. Founding editor of WSJ.com Neil Budde offers some invaluable insights into the extreme value they bundled with the WSJ.com subsription:

All of our work went into creating such a valuable subscription package. We knew, for instance, that we’d need to incorporate more than just the news from the print Wall Street Journal. Yes, as Crovitz and Tofel suggested, that content alone has value and is differentiated. But we knew that it alone would not make a compelling enough product online.

* We fought hard within Dow Jones to include a substantial portion of the real-time Dow Jones News Service, for which stock brokers pay $500/year per terminal.

* We lobbied to include reasonable archival content, for which another Dow Jones business unit might have charged another several hundred dollars a year.

* We maintained a sizable 24×7 newsroom to keep the site updated around the clock and to provide extensive editorially curated links from stories to related content.

* We also licensed and integrated into the product databases of corporate information, advanced stock charting capabilities and other useful and valuable features that added to the convenience of online access.

*We allowed users to customize their pages to show the news they want to follow.

When we launched the product, we charged only $49/year for all of this value and worked like mad to convince people it was worth even that modest subscription price.

We also were in an endless “arms race” to keep adding functionality and improving the product to make it more useful and valuable to subscribers and worth more than free offerings.

Even today, they charge only $100/year for all of the features and functionality and a bundle of information worth close to $1,000/year in other formats.

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 24, 2009 at 2:09 am

Posted in New Media

Social media best practices for newsrooms

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Joseph Lasica highlights some innovative use of social media in the newsroom

Written by Oon Yeoh

April 23, 2009 at 3:46 am

Posted in New Media, Social Media