Posts Tagged ‘GigaOm’

Reinventing Print Media: IDG’s Online Ad Network Gets its Mojo Going

September 8, 2009

Everyone knows the print media is in a world of hurt. The more difficult question is this: What do publishers do about it?

Technology publishing giant IDG just may have come up with one killer idea. And no, the answer does not involve scantily clad women or slide shows touting the best nude beaches.

For IDG, the publishers of hundreds of magazines such as PC World and Macworld, the answer was to go against one of the industry’s most sacred notions and create its own online advertising network–with a major twist. Instead of only selling ads for its own properties, IDG would take advantage of the media’s fragmentation and the shift to online advertising by selling ads for other new media properties. In addition, the network also helps IDG Web sites to grow their audience by syndicating their content across the Web to non-IDG properties. (BusinessWeek, for example, syndicates IDG content on its Web site.)

It’s a bold strategy that seems to be paying off. Peter Longo, CEO of IDG Syndication and Networks, says that its network is currently serving ads to a combined total 75 million unique monthly readers, up from 20 million 18 months ago when it launched the group. Currently, IDG works with about 200 Web sites, including GigaOm, Slashgear, and Xconomy.com. All told, those sites serve up nearly 750 million ad impressions per month. Revenue is forecast to grow 100% this year, says Longo. 20 syndication partners have signed on to the program as well.

Check out the rest of the post on BusinessWeek’s TechBeat.

2009: The Year of Hard Choices for Mass Media, says Craigslist Founder

January 9, 2009

I ran into craigslist founder Craig Newmark Wednesday night at a book party for my colleague Stephen Baker.

I asked Newmark what he thought about the state of the mass media. Newmark is a great person to ask this question since craigslist was an early disruptor of the newspaper business. His answer reinforced my growing belief that 2009 could be a watershed year for mass media, a sort of reckoning.

Why? The Great Recession will likely force more companies to finally restructure their businesses for the digital age, instead of making more of the modest, incremental changes they’ve been dribbing out for the most part over the last 10 years.

“The recession will accelerate the problems of the mass media,” said Newmark. “There are going to be some hard choices that need to be made.”

Newmark didn’t elaborate on those choices but it’s not too hard to see the options. Michael Hirschorn (who edited SPIN when it was worth reading back in the 90s) addressed this issue head-on in an interesting essay in The Atlantic about the growing problems of the New York Times.

Among the hard choices that will probably be made by more mainstream media outlets such as newspapers and magazines:

1. Digital-focused distribution. In March of 2007, IDG publication InfoWorld led the way by abandoning print distribution. Last October, the Christian Science Monitor announced it was going to become the first nationally circulated newspaper to replace its daily print edition with its Web site. The paper isn’t totally abandoning print, though. It will publish a weekly print edition. Expect more papers and mags to go digital.

2. More aggregation. The open nature of the Web has undermined the value of original reporting to a certain extent since readers can access much of that content for free across multiple places. As a result, more media outlets will retreat from areas they don’t consider essential. Intead of original reporting, editors will filter the Web and serve up the most relevant links, much like the Huffington Post does, or many other blogs.

3. More journalistic outsourcing: To make up for the inevitable staff cuts that are coming, more media companies will outsource reporting to blogs and other new media companies. The New York Times recently announced syndication deals with several blogs, including VentureBeat, Read/Write Web and the GigaOm network. The popular politics blog Politico is delivering content to many newspapers now, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Denver Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Of all the changes, this is probably the most hopeful since it will lead to more investment in new media journalism. This will be crucial since the decline of the mainstream media–at least in the short term–will damage the press’s ability to serve as a foundation of democracy.

Qwest: We Don’t Block Internet Traffic

August 29, 2008

At the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet Steve Davis, Qwest’s senior vice president of public policy. I asked Steve about the company’s policy with respect to the management of Internet traffic.

The issue has been in the news recently as Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, has come under fire from the Federal Communications Commission for secretly blocking the peer-to-peer file trading service BitTorrent.

“We are for everything that prohibits blocking of Internet traffic,” said Davis. “But we don’t support regulation of transport.”

I asked Davis if Qwest blocks or constricts any Internet applications as Comcast has done in the past. His response: “We don’t engage in the type of constriction that Comcast does.” (Since Comcast announced on Thursday that it will impose a monthly cap of 250 gigabytes on their customers, I didn’t have a chance to ask Davis about this new policy.)

Rather than blocking or constricting Web traffic, Davis said Qwest’s approach is to offer consumers several different flavors of bandwidth. Qwest, which serves about 13 million customers in 14 Western states, offers four different speeds at the moment, said Davis, including options for 1.5 megabytes (Qwest Connect Silver)), 7MB (Qwest Connect Platinum) , 12MB (Qwest Connect Titanium) and 20MB (Qwest Connect Quantum). Prices start at $46.99 per month.

The Denver-based phone company is able to offer beefier bandwidth because it recently began rolling out fiber optic cables in certain parts of its territory. Qwest is pursuing a strategy called “fiber-to-the-node,” which means it is laying cable from its central offices to nodes in various neighborhoods. That contrasts with Verizon’s more aggressive and expensive strategy of installing fiber optic cables directly into people’s homes.

Even so, Davis noted that offering consumers pay-what-you-drink options “doesn’t necessarily solve all problems” when it comes to U.S. broadband policy. “You could have back-haul problems too,” said Davis.

And it won’t help Americans living in rural areas who have no access to the Internet. To help solve that problem, Davis said Qwest is in favor of providing government subsidies for areas with no service to one low-cost provider that could wire the locale. “You wouldn’t subsidize competition,” said Davis.

My own take: Generally speaking, it’s better to have a solution come from the marketplace rather than government regulators. And while Om Malik and others have criticized the idea of tiered broadband, I believe some version of tiered pricing is the best solution to the bandwidth shortage.

Om makes a good point when he notes that cheap broadband has been a key factor in fueling the growth of the Internet. The broadband revolution has helped give birth to YouTube, MySpace and a host of other innovations that have energized the Web, creating new demand for Internet services.

And since Internet service has become a critical utility of our age, I agree that Internet providers should offer basic level service for a reasonable price. But let’s face it: Some people use more broadband than others and they should probably pay for it. I think it’s a very American idea: pay for what you use. And it’s economic 101.

That’s why competition should be a hallmark of our broadband policy–not government regulation of pricing. Competition will spur communications providers to offer higher and higher speeds at lower and lower prices. The battle between cable companies and phone companies has helped lower Internet service prices and raise entry-level speeds. But we need to find more ways to promote competition in future mediums, such as wireless broadband–especially since our appetite for bandwidth continues to grow with the rise of high definition video content.

What do you think?

Nokia Embraces Openness; Welcome to Openness Wars

June 24, 2008

Today, in yet another sign that open networks are coming to the US wireless world, Nokia announced it will purchase the remaining stock it doesn’t own in Symbian and then migrate the solution to an “Open” platform.

First question: why are they doing this? According to ABI Research vice president Stuart Carlaw: “There has been financial pressure on Nokia to move in this direction at some point. The sheer economics of the number of devices it ships with the OS versus the value it gets out of its historic shareholding clearly indicated that such a `rescue’ was inevitable at some point.”

The second question of course is: How open will the platform be? “Perhaps this is an admission that the pressure from the Linux industry is really forcing Nokia and Symbian to change their game,” adds Carlaw. “Questions remain as to whether the solution will be truly open and what the cost of a Symbian Foundation membership will be.”

ABI research director Kevin Burden believes Nokia may still maintain a proprietary operating system for high-end mobile devices. “It’s very possible that Nokia will eventually position the Symbian platform for mid-tier devices with another platform powering its high-end devices – a position that Sony Ericsson has already taken,” says Burden.

Om Malik has a good post on what it means. My bottom line is that there is clearly going to be a war to dominate the open wireless platform. And it’s probably going to take a few years for all of this to settle out. In the meantime, innovation will flourish but not as much as if the industry had already decided upon a single open platform. Get ready for the next standards war featuring Android by Google, Symbian by the Symbian Foundation, Blackberry by RIMM, OS X by Apple, Windows Mobile by Microsoft and the LiMo by the LiMo Foundation. It’s enough to make your head spin!!!

Revolving Door: More on Sprint’s Poor Customer Service

February 25, 2008

So my investigative feature “Sprint’s Wake-up Call” has been burning up the Web. It’s been the most read, emailed and discussed story on BW.com for the last four days, with 96 comments and counting. Many thanks to a bunch of bloggers for linking to the story, including the diva blogger herself Arianna Huffington, super-activist site The Consumerist, and the tech mavens at GigaOm and CrunchGear.

Over the next few days, I hope to share more of my reporting and thoughts with readers on this blog and BusinessWeek.com that explains why Sprint Nextel has consistently delivered the worst customer service of the U.S. wireless industry, which arguably means the worst customer in America given that cell phone providers consistently rank at the bottom of industry customer satisfaction surveys.

One theme that did not make it into the final version of the story is the incredible turnover that Sprint Nextel has seen in its management of customer service. Over the last 17 months, four different people have run customer service: Cindy Rock, Timothy E. Kelly, Steve Nielsen and Bob Johnson. Last October, Johnson took over as Chief Service Officer from Nielsen, whose tenure only lasted six months. Rock left the company in 2007, according to her LinkedIn profile, and Kelly was one of three top execs to be let go on January 24, one month after new CEO Dan Hesse took over.

What’s the impact on operations? Well, as one former senior executive told me: “It puts things on pause for three to four months. You can’t be successful. You need to have more stability in an organization.”

When I ran this point by Johnson, he said, “I am in a role that I hope to be in for a long time.” Sprint’s customers can only hope he is right on that count.

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