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Strategic insight and analysis for people in the media industry



 



I Miss The Simple Days

Tue, 25 Jul 2017 10:20:10 GMT

Let's talk about simplicity. One of things that we all need to do is to optimize our publications so that they work better. But at the same time, we also often see how over-optimization just takes the fun out of everything.The best example of this was something Derek Sivers said back in 2011 in his video (and book): "I Miss the Mob". If you haven't watched it already, you absolutely should. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/GFRLSAPnIG0?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">In his video, he talks about how optimizing businesses takes all the fun out of them. Instead of feeling welcomed and part of something, you end up feeling used and kind of violated.As he says:I was in Las Vegas for a conference, taking a taxi from the airport to the hotel.I asked the driver, "How long have you lived here?"He said, "27 years.""Wow! A lot has changed since then, huh?""Yeah. I miss the mob.""Huh? Really? What do you mean?""When the mafia ran this town, it was fun. There were only two numbers that mattered: how much is coming in, and how much is going out. As long as more in than out, everyone's happy. But then the whole town was bought up by these damn corporations full of MBA weasels micro-managing, trying to maximize the profit from every square foot of floor space. Now the place that used to put ketchup on my hot dog tells me it'll be an extra 25 cents for ketchup! It sucked all the fun out of this town! --- Yeah... I miss the mob.''The reason why I'm reminded of this is because I see this every single day. For instance, this morning I read an article over at The Telegraph about how "Former Doctor Who Peter Davison says casting of woman means loss of role model for boys".At the end of this article there is a quiz, where its readers can take part in this discussion by making their own opinion known. This is brilliant from an engagement perspective, but then when you click on it, the optimization takes over.I recorded a video of it (see below), but the first time I did this was actually even worse (before I recorded it), because that also showed a video ad after I clicked on my answer.In other words, this was my experience:I added my answerI was shown the result...which was then immediately replaced by a "see also" box...which then (which you can't see in the video) was immediately replaced by a video ad class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K_fAo6QPgO4?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">This feels exactly like what Derek explains.As a reader, I thought we had a moment. I was reading this article, I had an opinion about it, I decided to engage with it, but then I learned that I had just been tricked by another advertising monetization optimization tactic.Adding all this optimization noise is exactly like being asked to pay another 25 cents for ketchup. It just takes the fun out of it.And it's not like The Telegraph doesn't have plenty of other things on their page already. By just loading the page, 27 different trackers are triggered, exposing my 'attention' to several advertising and content recommendation schemes.But even with all that, they still thought this quiz needed another set of extra optimization elements. In that box alone, there is a share link, a 'like' link, a partner link, a brand link, two more social links, three content recommendation links and a video ad.That's just in the quiz!It's insane.The problem I have as a media analyst is that I can't really say that you shouldn't do this, because I'm pretty sure that if we just look at the numbers, this type of optimization probably works.It probably creates more social engagement and more social sharing. It probably increases additional traffic to recommended articles, and the video ad (because of how that is measured), probably works too, because the video appeared right in front of the very place I was looking at.So, from a pure optimization perspective, this is probably the way to do it.But at the same time, I feel the same way about this as I feel about in-app purchases in mobile games. I absolutely hate t[...]



Can You Give a Non-Video Example?

Fri, 21 Jul 2017 14:44:52 GMT

This is one question that I keep getting from my readers. You want me to give you more examples that don't involve video.For instance, one reader recently emailed me this:Reading your last article, I had the feeling that you rely too much on video for your examples of good practices. The examples are valid and top notch, but I miss some examples of good content in other formats, text articles especially. After all, magazines or news agencies are not just YouTube channels.This is a very good point, and in many ways I agree.I'm very aware that many of the examples that I use in my articles come in the form of video, and from that, most of them are from YouTube.There are, however, a number of good reasons for this.Let's start with why I use YouTube video more than any other form of video.The simple answer to that is that they are so easily embedded into an article. And I have designed my CMS to handle it very efficiently. If I want to embed a video from YouTube, I simply write "youtube:[video id]" in my article, and my CMS will automatically convert that into an embedded video that matches the (responsive) format of my site.I can't do this for most other video sources, because here, either it's impossible for me to embed it, or... worse... when I do embed it, it breaks the layout (because many video embeds force a fixed width).It's also very easy to find good examples to use on YouTube, because YouTube is built around discovery.You can't easily find good examples on Facebook, because Facebook Search is terrible, there is no good way to discover things on Facebook pages. Similarly, trying to find something on a traditional media site is usually impossible, and trying to do any form of discovery on Snapchat (or Instagram) is just a joke.But these are just the technical reasons for why I use a lot of YouTube videos, another has to do with the trends.As I have said before, YouTube is wonderful in that it's often the place where new long-term media trends start (or at least mature). This is because YouTube is a platform for creators. So every single day, we see all these wonderful examples of creators exploring new ways of connecting, engaging and creating long-term audiences.This makes YouTube very different from, say, Facebook. Because Facebook is mainly focused on 'at-the-moment' engagement.So trends that we see on YouTube often have a much longer impact, and are much closer aligned with the bigger macro-trends of the media (all the trends that are important). Trends we see on Facebook are flimsy and short-term.More to the point, when we compare this to what we see in traditional media, we find traditional media are often five years out of date. So when a publisher is doing something new, the trend that made that possible often happened five years before on YouTube.This is not always the case, of course, and YouTube is still just a video site. But think about things like the focus on influencers, on how to connect with people, how to think about journalists as those who drive the success, how niche verticals are growing in importance, the atomization of media, etc. ...all of those happened on YouTube five years before we started seeing it in traditional media.So the reason I often don't give examples from traditional publishers is because I can often give you an even better example from a YouTuber.Then we have the need to make the articles flow.My Plus articles are very long (compared with what you normally see online). The average length is about 30-35 pages, and it takes about 15-20 minutes to read each one.This means that I have to write my articles in such a way that you get 'drawn in' for a lengthy period of time, and the only way to do that is to focus on the momentum of the story.You can see this in every article I write (even this one). I don't do listicles or '7 ways to do blah'... because the tone and style of those articles forces shallow reading. And with those, there is no way that I can keep people engaged while explaining a complex issue with them.This is a problem we see all the tim[...]



Making Journalists and Editors Relevant to a Digital Audience

Thu, 20 Jul 2017 11:58:17 GMT

Back in the early years when journalism was first invented, we made two mistakes that have haunted us ever since.

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Rethinking The Digital Future of Magazines: A Case study

Tue, 27 Jun 2017 17:08:37 GMT

As a media analyst, I have had the pleasure of working with a lot of very big publishers, trying to help them rethink what it means to be a publisher. But one of the things that is often hard to explain is how the bigger media trends impact individual magazines.

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The Analytic Connections That Define Intent

Mon, 12 Jun 2017 19:21:27 GMT

Usually when I talk about analytics for publishers, I take the long view on data because, in publishing, momentum over time is what defines us.

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Fixing Twitter by Blocking Trump... is Wonderful

Tue, 6 Jun 2017 10:23:37 GMT

Let me show you a very simple trick to make Twitter about a million times better, and also how to get Twitter 'back on topic' so that it can actually be used again as a tool for work. I'm talking about blocking Trump from Twitter.We have a problem.The media has this absolutely insane obsession with tweeting about Trump. Sure, there are some important news items that need to be covered, like when Trump decided to drop the Paris agreement, but most tweets don't have any real news.As a result, people are sick of it. Publications such as Quartz now have a 'Trump snooze button', and apps like Nuzzel have introduced a (very expensive) Pro plan, that allows you to block out things like 'politics'.This alone should tell you how the public really feels about what the media is focusing on. People are sick and tired of Trump, and they want something else.But the media doesn't stop, because Trump creates outrage and that in turn creates a whole lot of traffic. So, instead of thinking about the future, we have turned the media (and especially Twitter) into this sinkhole of despair.Just notice how many people tweet this:Wakes up. Checks Twitter . . . uh . . . Regrets checking Twitter. Goes back to bed.What we are doing right now is digging ourselves into a hole, because we are making people hate using the media. And this applies to everyone.I recently asked a friend of mine about it. He is one of those weird people who doesn't use Twitter, and also generally doesn't use Facebook. Even he was annoyed by the constant barrage of Trump related stories, most of which have no real information but feel more like an episode for the new low-end reality TV show: "Trump's White House".For me it's even worse, because, as a media analyst, I'm constantly surrounded by journalists and editors and, through my work, I need to look at what they do. As such, my Twitter has pretty much stopped working.This morning I decided to count just how many tweets there were about Trump (directly or indirectly), and it turns out that it was about one in every 3-4 tweets.That means that my Twitter experience is: Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump . . Trump.That's insane!And I have started to feel sad about using Twitter, as in, it actually had a real impact on my mental state. Some days, I would wake up, read Twitter, see all this insanity about Trump, get angry, and then I would start my work.But because I was now in a negative mood this had a negative impact on my ability to write constructively and efficiently. And as one who makes a living from writing about the media, this is catastrophic.So, I have now (partly) fixed this problem, by very aggressively blocking all mentions of Trump from my Twitter feed.This is my current list of blocked words:Note: There are several ways you can do this. I have set this up in Tweetdeck, because that is the main way I use Twitter, but you can also do it for Twitter as a whole. Here is a text version of the block list.What this does is that it excludes any tweet containing any of these words. And the result is that, instead of 1 in every 3 tweets being about Trump, with the block in place, it's now 1 in every 15 tweets.It doesn't completely block Trump, because people often Tweet about him without mentioning him or his associates by name, but it clears out a lot.Some of the extra filters I added are because of how the media just can't help itself.For instance, you will notice that I have #Covfefe as a blocked word, because the media's obsession with Trump turned this into a tweet storm. CNN even asked a spelling bee student to spell it on live TV.Are you kidding me? Stop with this Trump obsession! Not every story has to be about him. This student is a remarkable person, but CNN completely ignored that story and turned it into another Trump thing.So, this is not a fixed list. This is a constantly evolving list that I modify whenever something becomes too [...]



What is the Best Monetization / Subscription Model?

Thu, 1 Jun 2017 14:40:15 GMT

The most frequent question I get from my clients is "what is the best monetization/subscription model"? And it sounds like such a deceptively simple question with an equally simple answer.

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The Problem with Ethnic Racism in the Media

Mon, 22 May 2017 15:11:35 GMT

There are obviously both good and bad people in journalism, and there are good and bad publishers. And, generally speaking, there are far more good people in journalism than bad ones.Pretty much every single journalist and editor that I know is both highly skilled, ethical and tolerant people. Journalists who, just like you and me, get angry when they see intolerance happening around them.So, it's weird that the media industry has a massive cultural problem around racism. Both in terms of racial racism, ethnic racism, and gender racism.Let me give you just one simple example.A few days ago, I was checking up on the news in one of the big national newspapers in my country and I came this story block on the front page. (It is in Danish, so I have it translated via Google Translate here)What happened (from the looks of this) was that we six young kids between 12 and 16 had assaulted an adult couple, in an apparent attempted robbery, and because of that, our politicians (and the media) went into populistic overdrive to condemn that it happened.But they didn't stop there, they also turned it into a racist and intolerant agenda, demanding that young asylum seekers should not be allowed to go out at night.Why is this racist, you ask? Well, let me change just one tiny thing in this headline.Try reading this:By simply changing 'asylum seekers' to 'blacks', you very easily see just how racist this is. You cannot look at the actions of a few individuals and then use that to discriminate against an entire population group.This is unacceptable.For instance, in my country, a few of our politicians have been caught drunk driving, which in a few isolated cases resulted in them crashing their cars.So, using the same reasoning, should all the politicians not be allowed to drive?But this article isn't really about the politics. I'm not a political analyst (or activist). I'm a media analyst. So let's talk about the role of the media.Media racismThe problem that we have here is a combination of several things.I think we can all agree that the role of journalism is, in part, to represent reality in our focus, to make sure people are aware of that reality once they have finished reading a story, and also to protect the public from being misled.At least, this is how I would define it.And this is true regardless if we are talking about a newspaper covering crime and politics, or if we are publishing a fitness magazine for people at home.If I read a story about fitness, that story should be equally based on reality. Meaning that if the story claims that something is healthy for me to do, we have a journalistic responsibility to make sure that is true.The problem is that, in journalism, we have developed a culture that fundamentally violates this. Because instead of focus on reality, we are increasingly focusing on edge and isolated cases, often only covering the narrative of that single incident.In other words, we have given up on providing real perspective and insight about the real world, in exchange for the quick fix of reporting about smaller stories that don't really mean much.I can prove this in a very simple way.Researchers at Georgia State University looked at how the media was covering extremism, and it found a really troubling trend (in the US).Of the 85 violent extremist incidents that resulted in death since September 12, 2001, far right wing violent extremist groups were responsible for 62 (73%) while radical Islamist violent extremists were responsible for 23 (27%).So, far right wing extremists commit considerable more harm than Muslims.Meanwhile, the media covered it this way:We examined news coverage from LexisNexis Academic and CNN.com for all terrorist attacks in the United States between 2011 and 2015. Controlling for target type, fatalities, and being arrested, attacks by Muslim perpetrators received, on average, 449% more coverage than o[...]



Understanding the Complex Macro Trends That Define the Media

Sat, 20 May 2017 13:09:20 GMT

Every time we have a discussion about how publishers should make money in the new world of media, there is an overwhelming sense that we just need to replace the old model with a new one. That was how media used to work.

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How to Present VR to an Audience?

Tue, 9 May 2017 15:23:46 GMT

Virtual Reality is one of the technologies that both have a tremendous amount of potential, but also struggle with the very high level of friction caused by the need for a VR headset.The number of steps people have to take in order to experience VR, from putting on the headset, to downloading the VR app you want to use, and to do all the navigating to actually get it started ...is just insane.The result is that today VR is not something we can 'snack on'. The mostly gimmicky experiments I have seen from publishers are just that. A gimmick that had a very short term period of fame when everything thought this was a new thing. But it's not a market.There is no future for short gimmicky VR experiences.In many ways, VR is similar to what we see with smartphones. In the early days, every publisher believed that the future was just to create apps, because then people would download them and it will all just be wonderful.Today, of course, we have learned that people really only use a very few apps. So while we all have Instagram, Twitter and Facebook on our phones, hardly anyone have or use apps that only have occasional or short term use.VR is the same thing. The idea that people will download a VR experience and then go through all the motions to set it up and prepare their headsets is just not happening.So, from a trend perspective, what I see right now are three things.First is the future trend, in which VR technology gets to a point where it no longer feels like a really cumbersome thing to use. For instance, the potential is much higher once we make VR truly mobile (like what Mark Zuckerberg talked about last year).But we are nowhere near this point yet.So, today, I see two other trends that define VR.The first trend is the niche markets for high-end VR use. For instance, we see a very interesting business market for VR, like when car designers can design new cars in VR, or how you can use VR in education to train future workers for a much lower cost.Those markets are really interesting.We also see the high-end market for VR gaming. Obviously, the whole first person gaming industry is perfect for VR. But we are not talking simple VR anymore. We are talking about a fully immersive VR experience where you combine high-end gaming computers with the best headsets, with multi hand interface control mechanisms.One example of this is the upcoming 'Star Trek: Bridge Crew' VR game, where a group of players can take control of the bridge of a starship, just like in the Star Trek movies.And it's shockingly good. Here is what some of the Star Trek cast had to say about it. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/romB8e5nMp8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">Obviously, a game like this is the perfect example for VR done right, but the important element is that it isn't just a gimmick or something you try quickly. This is something you will be spending 30 to 50 hours with, if not more.It's a macro-moment.The reason I point this out is because what I see from publishers is always low-quality micro-moments. And that just doesn't work for a VR experience because of all the friction involved.If I'm going to put on a headset, it's because I want to spend a long time with it. So watching a movie as a VR experience is great. But watching a 10 minute thing from a newspaper? What's the point of that?So, the trend of high-end VR experiences is very interesting.But there is also a third trend.This is the trend of VR as a 'viewing' experience, where the focus isn't on getting people to experience VR directly, but to present it to them in the form of a narrated video experience. And, again, the gaming industry is doing most of the innovation here.As we all know, there are two ways to experience a game. One way is to play the game yourself, which is really fun if that's what yo[...]



Geeking Out Over Analytics

Mon, 8 May 2017 16:54:00 GMT

I had a discussion recently about the future of analytics, specifically about what new analytics trends that I'm geeking out about, and I wanted to share it with you.We are living in the most exciting time of all, because the world of analytics is going through a tremendous transformation. The old form of analytics is being replaced with a number of new ways of thinking about data. Ways that are far more in tune with how we humans behave.But let me briefly summarize the four different types of analytics that I'm fascinated by at the moment.The first one is 'scored analytics'.Scored analytics is a form of analytics where you try to measure the importance of an article (or similar things) by looking at the value of the interactions.For instance, having a person actually read an article is much more valuable than just having someone view an article. But it's not just what people do on the page that it's important, it's also how people get to the page, and what people do afterwards.For instance, a visitor coming to an article from your newsletter is generally more valuable than just a random view via Facebook. Having people share an article might indicate another form of value (although not always the type you think). And having people return is another signal as well.The problem is that, with normal analytics, all of these metrics are presented as single data points with none of them making that big of a difference.This is where scored analytics comes in. With scored analytics, you attribute a value to each type of interaction, and then you add them all up. So, one article might have a total score of 290, while another one might have a score of 470. Meaning the second article was more valuable not because of any single metric, but because of the combined value of all the interactions combined.This is a very interesting way of thinking about analytics, especially for publishers.The second type I'm fascinated about is 'behavioral analytics'. Behavioral analytics focuses on measuring how people behave, in order to give us a much better idea of the value of each interaction.Let me give you a simple example.If you are using Chartbeat, it will help you measure how much attention a page gets, but it doesn't tell you whether that was a useful form of attention or not. This is where behavioral analytics comes in.For instance, imagine you want to measure if people read a page. The way this is usually done is like thisHere we check if people start scrolling down the page, and then we also check when they reach the end. And the way we then determine if people actually read the article is by looking at how long this takes.If an article takes 7 minutes to read, but people scroll from the top to bottom in only 15 seconds, then they didn't really read it.This works fine for simple stuff, but it's not very accurate.A better model would be to look at how people scroll down a page. Like this:Here we observe that people started scrolling and then stopped when the next part of the article was in view. Then they scroll again, and stopped to read even more.This is a much better way to measure this, because now we are observing actual reading.The problem is that when you start to measure it like this, you very quickly realize that people don't necessarily behave this way.For instance, with my Plus articles (which are usually about 30 pages long), people often start to read them, leave, but then return later to finish them. So, I might see a pattern such as this:So, behavioral analytics is much more complex (and harder to implement), but also incredibly fascinating because it can help you identify patterns that normal analytics completely miss.And, of course, this doesn't just apply to measuring read-rates. Think about more advanced stuff, like measuring the impact of engagement [...]



The Future for Publishers in an Automated World of Machine Learning

Tue, 2 May 2017 17:23:06 GMT

The future that is coming with machine learning is deeply fascinating and it will fundamentally change the way we do things.

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No Publishers, You Don't Own Advertising

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 15:32:25 GMT

We all know that advertising trends are disrupting the way that media can be monetized. We also know that two companies, Google and Facebook, are totally dominating all new digital advertising spend. And the result of this is a very negative outlook for publishers.

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Publishers and Micropayments. We Completely Miss the Point

Thu, 6 Apr 2017 14:53:43 GMT

Last month, I wrote an article about why a Spotify For News model is mostly just a distraction and what we need to do instead. I also wrote another article about why news startups are all failing, and how to rethink that.

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Advertising Versus Fake News, Extremists and News

Mon, 27 Mar 2017 21:02:29 GMT

Unless you have been offline for the past week, you will know about a mass advertiser exodus from Google and YouTube with accompanying newspaper reporting against Google.So far, a large number of big companies have pulled their ads from Google over fears that they are used to fund extremism. At the same time, eager politicians wanting to win some quick votes and to look good in the press, were quick to give journalists juicy (but misleading) quotes, which the press saw no reason to fact check.Also, the person who has found many of these 'problematic examples' is a guy who has filed a patent for solving this problem, thus using journalists to drive demand so that he can sell it to Google.Add to that stories by the press itself, where they interviewed 'experts' who clearly don't know what they are talking about.For instance, the Guardian wrote:The ads help fund payments to the people who post the videos, with every 1,000 clicks worth about £6. Experts estimate this could have been worth £250,000 to extremists.Anyone who has ever used YouTube knows that this isn't even remotely true. This is not how YouTube works.But there is a much bigger problem here.The problem is that this trend doesn't really hurt Google that much in the long run, but it will decimate the news media industry. While the press is getting 'high' on bashing Google, they fail to realize that everything they say apply to themselves as well.This doesn't mean there isn't a problem with Google. There is. As I tweeted:Is there a problem with the ad tech market? Yes! ... Should something be done? Yes! ... Is this also 'Google bashing' by rivals? absolutely!So let's have a discussion about this from the perspective of a media analyst. What is actually going on here, and what is the real trend?YouTube doesn't work that wayFirstly, let's just get something out of the way here. Much of the discussion around why brands 'justify' pulling their ads from YouTube is based on the narrative that Google is 'funding extremism'.As I mentioned earlier, the Guardian claimed videos earn £6 per 1000 views, providing the staggering amount of £250,000 to extremism.Is this true? Well, no. This is not how YouTube works.Let me explain, starting with who gets the money.There is a misconception in the media that all videos with ads on YouTube generate money for the person who uploaded it. This is not necessarily true. The fact is that only YouTube Partners make money from YouTube advertising.I can prove this:Here is a screenshot of one of the videos I have uploaded to YouTube on my personal account. It's not about anything serious (I am just playing around in Photoshop), but it has accumulated 100,000+ views.But notice that before it starts playing, YouTube is showing a pre-roll ad for something on iTunes.So according to The Guardian's 'expert', I should have earned £648 (or $787) from this video. But how much have I actually earned from this? Well, the answer is ... nothing, nil, nada, zero, zilch.The reason is that I'm not a YouTube Partner. So even though an ad is displaying before my video, as the creator I get nothing unless I become a partner first, which requires you to have an 'eligible' account.Granted, that's fairly easy to do, but the point is that you cannot simply assume that just because there is an ad before a video, that this also means YouTube is paying the uploader. This is especially true when it comes to smaller accounts.For instance, we sometimes hear about some extremist creating a new YouTube account to upload some quick videos. Those accounts are highly unlikely to also be YouTube Partners, which means that they don't actually get any money at all.The same is often true for people wi[...]



We Need to Drastically Rethink The News Startups

Thu, 23 Mar 2017 11:14:02 GMT

One of the strange things about news media is that we haven't really seen any significant changes yet in how it is done. This is despite the fact that every single trend tells us that this market is ripe for a disruption.

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I'm Genuinely Worried About the Future of US Media

Wed, 1 Mar 2017 21:31:21 GMT

As a media analyst, I have now come to a point where I'm genuinely worried about the future of the US media, because of how it has allowed itself to become completely distracted by Trump.Mind you, Trump is a problem. It's obviously not okay for a US president to call the media the enemy of the people, to continually lie to the people (often because he simply doesn't know what he is talking about), and all the other things. All of which absolutely is the role of the media to correct.But we in the media also cannot become the 'opposition party'. That is not our role, and if we happen to end up in that state anyway, the result is dreadful for the future of the independent press.Last week, for instance, I heard the Executive Editor of The New York Times say that: "Every time Trump tweets it drives New York Times subscriptions wildly" ... this is not a good thing.I mean, sure it's nice that the New York Times is growing and that they no longer feel they have a problem with their future outlook, but that is not what is going on here.What we are seeing instead is that the New York Times is only winning because it has become the voice of the opposition party. We see this in every single study.Here we have a study from Gallup that shows a massive decline in trust in media overall, but even more so for Republicans.But worse than this, when asked specifically whether people trust Trump or the media, Quinnipiac University poll found a scary level of polarization between Republican and Democratic voters.Only 13% of the republican voters trust the media over Trump.In a PEW study we see an almost total split between where people get their news, in relation to their political stand:All of these point to the fact that the US media is no longer an independent press, but has become a partisan form of media.Mind you, it's not like CNN, New York Times, Washington Post and others think of themselves as partisan media. They obviously don't, and the journalists are also genuinely doing a good job. But this doesn't change the reality that the public now sees the media as partisan.When Dean Baquet, the Executive Editor of the New York Times, says that his newspaper is winning every time Trump tweets, and that this has made them rediscover their purpose, he doesn't mean that they are being partisan. But that is still what is happening.All those people who subscribe 'every time Trump tweets' aren't doing it because of the independent journalism. They are doing it because they hate Trump and they see the NYT as their platform for opposing him.The NYT has become the voice of the opposition.This is not a good thing. This is not a success criteria. This is bad. Think about what this means for the future... specifically what this means for the future of the New York Times four years from now.There are obviously several things that can happen after the next presidential election, but no matter what happens, the result is bad for the media.First of all, regardless of what will happen, the next US president will probably be a lot more boring compared to Trump. So we won't have daily scandals and idiotic statements to cover. And since this is all the media is covering, we are right back to where we were 2 years ago. If you can't remember where that was, let me remind you:But it's actually worse for the media if a Democrat wins the next election. If that were to happen, think about where the New York Times would be?Since the NYT is currently getting almost all its new subscribers from people who are anti-Trump and anti-republican, four years from now it will discover that it no longer has a neutral audience.So, when the New York[...]



Forget Spotify for News. Let's Fix the Real Problem

Fri, 24 Feb 2017 20:07:54 GMT

The concept of Spotify for News is one of the things that keeps coming back. Over the past couple of months, I have been asked about this model from several publishers, seen several people talk about it on Twitter, and, just last week, Esther Kezia Harding of theMediaBriefing, wrote a well reasoned article about why Spotify for News is needed.However, I just don't see this happening, at least not in the way we think it will. Nor can I see how it would solve any of the problems that we face today.So, in this article, I'm going to illustrate why, but also explain and give examples of what we need to do instead to be successful.We don't understand what the media world really isThe first fundamental problem that everyone seems to miss is what the media world is about. When we talk about Spotify for News, the focus seems to be on only the publications from traditional publishers, like these:(Image via Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures' Flickr)I'm not talking print aspect here. I'm talking about traditional publications in the form of newspapers and magazines.We see this in Esther's article as well. Here she went out to The Media Briefing's Twitter followers and asked them how many different publishers people read each week, and this was the result:You see the problem here?The problem is not that people are saying that they are now reading between 9-15 publications each week, nor that you probably think this is a high number. Nor is it a problem that the people who likely answered are all media professionals and thus don't really represent the larger public.The problem is that this number is way too low and likely completely wrong on every single level. The way people define the word 'publishers' inside their head almost always means they are thinking of old media.Mind you, I'm not blaming Esther here because it's not just this study that makes this mistake. Every media study is making this mistake. The problem is that we don't understand the question.Let me explain.Take a person like me. On YouTube, I follow about 120 different YouTube channels... regularly, every week. On Twitch, I watch some other channels. In my Inbox I get about 25 newsletters per day, and on Feedly, I follow about 100 more sources, regularly. On Twitter, we all follow a ton of different channels. For instance, I follow The Media Briefing on Twitter. And on other social channels, I might regularly follow other channels.So, we are not talking about 9-15 sources anymore. That number only represents the traditional forms of media that we still follow. If you look at the actual world of media, we follow 10 times that amount, or maybe even more."But," you say, "You are the extreme. Most people don't do this." Really? Are you sure?Let me put something into perspective here. Variety has long been doing a good job measuring real celebrity influence, and each year they find that digital celebrities are taking over more and more of our world.Here is the latest list (from 2015), and all the ones marked in blue are digital celebrities that you don't find on traditional media channels.These are just the top ones, but there is actually an even more exciting world of online stars when you look at it in even more detail. On YouTube, for instance, we have people like Sara Lynn Cauchon, who runs The Domestic Geek YouTube channel. She has a million followers who watch her videos regularly, every week.She is nowhere near these top celebrities, but her audience is a million people, and there are so many other YouTuber's like her. We have Dianna Cowern (Physics Girl) with half a million followers. Frank Howarth, a woodworke[...]



The Trend of Creating High-Value Snackable Content

Tue, 21 Feb 2017 04:21:11 GMT

When it comes to the fundamental trend patterns within the media industry, nothing defines it more than intent and moments. I have talked about this many times in the past, but in this article, we are going to focus on just one specific aspect of that: High-intent micro-moments ...or as we might call it, high-value snackable content.

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Flawed Metrics that Publishers Use all the Time

Thu, 2 Feb 2017 16:14:11 GMT

The problem with publishers (and brands) making the wrong assumptions about their metrics is well known, and it often gets in the way of meaningful change. Because how do you convince someone to change their path forward if they are convinced everything is already going well?There are many examples of this, but there are three specific metrics/assumptions that I come across all the time. So, in this article, I will illustrate why these three specific metrics are misleading. And with each one of them, you will probably realize that you have been using them as well, because we all have.Before I start though, I just want to point out that I am not going to talk about the obvious problem with Facebook views vs other types of views. We all know that the way different social channels measure views online is completely flawed and does not in any way measure what we think they do.I have written about this many times before. In 2015, I wrote: "You Can't Compare Facebook and YouTube Views". And, in 2016, I wrote: "A Hard Look at YouTube Views vs TV Ratings".If you are still comparing social media views, I suggest you read those ... because you really shouldn't be doing that.But, let's now look at the three problematic metrics:Social engagement cannot be used for sentiment analysisThe first problem is with how many publishers (and brands) are turning to social engagement in order to understand whether people like a post or not.Let me give a real example that happened just this week. A Danish footwear brand published a campaign that basically made a mockery of equality. They argued that women needed more than equality because they have to buy more expensive underwear.Yeah... that has to be the worst argument, ever. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5xJI4zYR5o8?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">Predictably, many people got very upset about this, and this company suddenly faced a social media backlash. But instead of trying to mitigate the damage being done, they made all the mistakes they could make, and all because their marketing people thought they were doing alright.First they argued that the campaign was working because:If the campaign creates dialogue and encourages debate - as it does now - the campaign has already done something for the better.Yeah... no, that's not how this works. And people obviously didn't buy that argument. Then they did the worst thing any brand can do. They said things like this:We don't state that this is pro feminism. This is a shoe ad with a very ironic and humorous twist :)This ad is a commercial for our new spring collection (shoes) - it's very heavy on the irony and the stereotypes to make it obvious that this is in fact, nothing more but a fashion ad.In other words, they were just using this very important debate about equal pay as a way to get some cheap exposure so that they can sell more shoes.Here is a simple advice for you. Do not ever do this. As Scott Stratten puts it: "When something bad is happening in the world, you either help or you shut up." You don't try to newsjack important events for the sake of selling more products.And people's reaction to this was obvious. As one person put it:Oh please. you tried to jump on a social issue to strengthen your brand (like Always did with fight like a girl) and it backfired massively and now you try to hide behind irony which it clearly isn't. It really is time for you to take responsibility for using a serious topic such as equal pay in this advert which dumb down women and demeans the important mess[...]



How Would I Create a Newspaper from Scratch, as a Media Analyst?

Fri, 27 Jan 2017 09:14:02 GMT

One of the hardest things to talk about as a media analyst is the future of newspapers. The reason is that this is the part of media that is being disrupted the most.

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Nuzzel, We Need A Better System! ... And The Industry Needs To Get Back To Work

Wed, 18 Jan 2017 07:55:40 GMT

As a media analyst, I follow a lot of people in the media industry. I don't really follow journalists as such, but I follow media executives, editors, analysts, professors, and similar.In the past, following all these people was pretty great. My two main sources to follow stuff (Twitter and Feedly) gave me a very detailed and helpful picture of the concerns, the changes, and the focuses of the media world as a whole.But then we got Trump, and now it's like the media industry has completely stopped thinking about itself as an industry and now we only have a Trump industry.Let me give you just a simple example.Back in 2016, I started using Nuzzel. Nuzzel is an amazing service that curates the most talked about issues within your own network. When I started using this, it was one of the absolute best newsletters I got every day. It focused on the most important issues yet varied across the whole industry.But let me show you what it looked like this morning:You see the problem here?What used to be a great curation service that kept me up-to-date every day with what was happening inside the media industry has now turned into a curation service for "Trump said" articles, most of which have zero relevance to me as a media analyst.Granted, Trump and the whole fascist movement is indeed a problem, but if I wanted to read about that I would just go to the Washington Post. And there is more to the world of media than this... a lot more.This is useless to me.I make this point for two reasons.Firstly, I have a personal message to Nuzzel.Hey Nuzzel!Nuzzel, you are great and I love you. But you have been caught up in the same trap as all the other social aggregators in that you are only looking at the data and not the intent, nor the moment.This might have been good enough in the past when you were first starting out, but today it's decimating your future ... just like it has decimated all other social services.I'm at a point now where I'm seriously considering to stop using Nuzzel altogether, because you now provide me with more noise than value.You need to change your system in a number of fundamental ways. You need to add some AI that will allow you to understand the focus, the context, and intent of each article that you link to. You then need to give people a way to say that 'I'm interested in this, but not in that'.You also need to give people more nuances. People are not simpletons, we follow different things for different reasons. But you are adding all of those together into a single stream called "your top stories".You need to look at what people are actually following. Understand why, and categorize it accordingly.Finally, your "Friends of friends" feed is just crap. Not because of you but because of what it is. This is true for all social channels, and a big reason why social media is generally so noisy. This idea that 'friends of friends' is valuable is based on a world that doesn't exist.As Facebook discovered back in 2016, there are only 3.56 degrees of separation between people online. What this means is that we only need to go three and a half steps away from ourselves to be exposed to every single topic in the world.This is not useful.Secondly, I have a message to my friends in the media industry:Hey publishers/editors/journalistsOne of the things that worries me deeply is that the trends point to a future for traditional journalists that isn't exactly good. Every trend we look at indicate a number of highly disruptive and fundamental changes for the futu[...]



BuzzFeed Tasty is Fascinating

Tue, 17 Jan 2017 10:48:46 GMT

We need to have a discussion about BuzzFeed Tasty because, from a media perspective, it's one of the best examples that we have of what really works on Facebook, and how you can take that to another level. But at the same time, it's also a perfect example of why pretty much everything else performs so poorly.

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How Big Publishers Can Embrace Individual Media

Thu, 12 Jan 2017 17:08:50 GMT

We see a very exciting trend with individual media, being single personalities (or small groups of people) who are able to do the same as massive publications. And we see this trend all around us.

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Equality Starts At Home

Fri, 6 Jan 2017 13:26:05 GMT

Everyone knows that we have an equality problem in the media industry, both in terms of gender, ethnic and cultural bias. Most newsrooms is still dominated by white men. And the reporting is often male dominated, even when it's covered by female journalists.Of course, equality is more than just about matching the population, it's also about the focus. For instance, in Europe, many newspapers are focusing on stories about immigrants (both first and second generation), and yet, most newspapers don't really employ anyone with that insight or background.This is a bit of a problem, isn't it?If your newsroom is dominated by white men, focusing your coverage on non-white immigrants is probably not going to end well ... even if you try to be fair and neutral.But the reason I point this out is because I had this very discussion earlier today, and it got me thinking about how I am doing myself.I usually take pride in having an inclusive focus. 97% of my business is coming to me from outside my own country, from all parts of the world, so I don't think about people's race or gender. To me everyone is from this same place called Earth.But I'm painfully aware that most of my sources of information are heavily male dominated, and I don't like it. For instance, I just checked who I am following on Twitter, and the result was not pretty.Of all the people I follow, 55% of them are men, 25% of them are companies, and only 21% are women.I'm doing this as badly as everyone else. I might think of myself as not being part of the problem, but clearly I need a better mix of sources to follow.So, my goal for 2017 is to fix this... and hopefully within only a few months. But to do this I need your help. I don't know what women (or other ethnic personalities) I need to follow--- UPDATE (MAY 2017) ---Thanks to the help of so many wonderful people suggesting women to the list below (and in other ways, I have now achieved gender equality on my Twitter following list. This is the status as of May 2017:There has been a few things I learned through this process. One of which is that the harassment is very real on Twitter. I already knew this, of course, but you really see it when you try to do this.So many amazing women are choosing not to tweet, or to only tweet about 'safe things', which I came across many, many times during this process. This is a real problem, because it reduces the freedom of speech for an entire population group, adding to the problem of gender inequality.The opposite problem is that many women are so upset (and rightfully so) about US politicians, specifically GOP and Trump, that they tweet about nothing else. So, a lot of women on the list below are amazing people with amazing jobs. People I absolutely want to follow. But my Twitter stream is already so heavily dominated by Trump related tweets that I can't take it anymore. I don't want to see tweets about him every waking moment. It's enough that every newspapers basically covers him 24/7. So, I chose not to follow many women suggested to me simply because of this.I also chose to look at women in other industries, specifically futurists and data-scientists, which was just brilliant (see list below). Specifically, I'm now following far more people from outside of Europe/US (language barrier permitted).There was also a weird problem in that, when I asked women for suggestions of who to follow, they would often suggest more men than wome[...]



2016 Was a Great Year. 2017 Looks to be Even Better

Mon, 2 Jan 2017 11:17:57 GMT

If you are working in the media industry (which is highly likely as a reader of this site), you might think that 2016 was the worst year possible. So many things went wrong in so many ways. And yet, from the perspective of the media, 2016 was the best year we have had in a very long time. At least if we can somehow avoid nuclear apocalypse caused by a tweet, which some in the media think is a real risk.

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How Do You Define Reader Loyalty?

Mon, 19 Dec 2016 13:20:49 GMT

Loyalty is an increasingly important metric for many publishers. The reason being that most publishers are realizing that ad exposure with low-intent social traffic is a terrible form of revenue. The race to zero is brutal, and the thing we call engagement isn't actually the same as economic success.

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The Populists Wins Because We Let Them Define The Narrative

Tue, 6 Dec 2016 11:01:14 GMT

There are so many articles being published about how to fix the future of newspapers in the age of fake news, populistic politicians, the rise of right-wing, racist and fascist movements, and all the other problems that we have.But while that in itself is a very important topic, we are also kind of missing the point. Because even if we could solve those things, it still doesn't solve the problem that we think we have.One example is the whole 'fake news on Facebook' discussion. Even if we could get rid of the obvious fake news sites, it still doesn't solve the problem that people don't trust the media.So how do we actually fix this problem?Well, let me give you an alternative solution that I see as being far more important to focus on. A solution that looks beyond just the narrow focus of the media, and instead looks at the macro trends that cause most of these problems:The age of entitlementThe fall of democracyThe politicians first focusEach one of these has a massive impact on publishers, and each one requires a very different editorial focus than what we see today.This is critical, because the newspaper industry is really not winning the future right now. True, the Washington Post and New York Times are boasting about their remarkable increase in subscribers, but that's a heavily polarized audience. It's nice that they are growing, but that growth is actually another symptom of the problem.So let's talk about this.The age of entitlement: "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression"The first problem is that we are living in what I would call 'the age of entitlement'.Basically, we don't really have any big problems anymore. We live in incredibly good countries, and the few world conflicts that we do have are of minor importance to people's everyday lives.As such, we have become incredibly privileged, and our sense of entitlement has grown to such epic proportions that the public is now focusing on increasingly minor issues to complain about.Let me give you an example from my country (Denmark).Denmark is one of the happiest nations on Earth, we are generally wealthy when measured per capita, and we have a very low unemployment rate at 4.1%, which has actually been going down for a long time.On top of this, Denmark has one of the strongest welfare systems in the world. We have free healthcare, subsidized child care, one year of supported maternity leave, and we have free education. In fact, our education is not only free, the government will actually pay you about $800/month when you go to school (as an adult).On top of this Denmark is the 2nd safest country to live in, with only Iceland being the safest country of all.We have extremely varied access to goods and services, we are one of the most connected countries in the world, our environment is very good, and our living standard is at the very highest level.In other words, we are incredibly privileged and don't really have any big problems to speak of.So you would think that with all this wealth of living, our newspapers would be pretty great too and our politicians would be generally well respected?Right?Well, not exactly.You see, in a recent YouGov study, Denmark was one of the four countries that listed 'immigrants' as the biggest problem, and not a day goes by when we don't hear about this from our populistic politi[...]



Let's Talk About Innovation for Publishers

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 10:33:51 GMT

One very positive trend that I currently see is that publishers are starting to get very serious about innovation. Over the past six months, I have noticed a big change in how mostly European publishers are talking about the future and the need to actually do something completely new.

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Understanding Your Audience: Visualizing Highly Advanced Analytics

Mon, 21 Nov 2016 18:41:25 GMT

There is a trend happening in the media world at the moment which is making me all giddy and excited about the future. It's a shift that I'm seeing within many larger media companies in how they measure their traffic and audiences.

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No, The Polls Didn't Fail Us

Mon, 14 Nov 2016 19:58:59 GMT

I had decided to hold off talking about the election versus the media until everyone had calmed down. It's not that we don't have a lot of work ahead of us (we do), nor that there aren't plenty of things to talk about (there is), but everyone is so upset right now that it's hard to have a constructive argument.But there is one thing that I need to address today, because it is about to mislead itself again. And it is the constant narrative over the past few days that 'the polls failed us'.This is simply not true, and blaming our failures on the polls is a lie. The polls were pretty good. What was terrible was our constant need for turning variable data into absolute facts.Let me explain:During this entire election, we have been told that Hillary Clinton would win the popular vote by about 4%, with a margin of error of about 3.5% on average.This was exactly what happened. Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote, and when the remaining numbers come in, she is likely to end up winning the popular vote by 1-3%.The polls weren't wrong about this. They were spot on.The problem is that this wasn't the narrative in the media. In the media we talked about the 'chances of winning', which we presented like this (this is from FiveThirtyEight, but other media had the chances of winning even higher):This might be mathematically correct in its theoretical form, but think about the narrative here. Think about what you are telling your readers.What the media did was take data that was about 50/50, and from these very minor fluctuations (well within the statistical variances that would render them irrelevant) we concluded that Clinton had a 71.4% chance of winning.Think of this narrative.We are not saying that Clinton 'might win' or that she would probably win. No, it's that she has a 71.4% chance of winning, a very specific and absolute number that makes no sense to report given the margin of error. And it's a number that is massively higher than the 4% lead that the polls actually predicted.It's the same on the state level. A constant narrative over the past couple of days has been that "State-level polls were all wrong."Again, no they weren't. They were mostly on point. I went over to the RealClearPolitics' polling database and compared the polls with the actual election, and the result looks like this:As you can see, generally the polls were pretty spot on and within or very close to ranges polled. There are a few outliers (which we will get back to in a moment), but the real lesson here is just how big the variances are.Take a place like Minnesota. If we only look at the polls themselves, we see that there was a 16 percentage point variance between them, predicting either that Clinton would win with 13 points, or that Trump would win with 3 points. And when we then account for the margin of error, we actually see a 24 percentage point variance between them.But this was then reported as a sure win by the press, where we obsessed about single polls.Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has expanded her lead over Republican Donald Trump in the state, according to a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll.Clinton leads Trump 47 to 39 percent in the poll of 625 registered Minnesota voters taken after last week's third and final pres[...]



Targeting Advertising by Gender or Race is Often Hugely Problematic

Thu, 3 Nov 2016 19:57:10 GMT

One of the problems that we often don't recognize is just how powerful ad targeting can be in determining the future culture of a society. Or rather, we do actually know that advertising changes the way people think, but we kind of ignore the potential damage this might cause.Let me give you a simple example. When you place an ad on Facebook (or any other site), you are given a huge set of choices of how to target this ad. You can define a geographic area, age, gender and many other factors.This seems perfectly natural. Why shouldn't you be able to target an ad just for men, if the product you make is something that mostly men use? It wouldn't make much sense to target it to women, would it?Right?But this is often where things go wrong and causes damage to our society and our market. Not in the short term, but in how men and women perceive their options for generations to come.Let me illustrate this in a very clear way:Female scientistsAs we all know, women are making great progress as scientists. And, in many fields of study, women are now almost at the point of equality.Here, for instance, is a graph made by NPR illustrating equality of women in the fields of medical, law and physical science. And it's absolutely wonderful to see how much progress we have had since the 1970s.We see the same thing in computer science between the 1965 and the 1980s. Just look at this graph illustrating how the tech industry embraced women, and how quickly women started getting a taste for this new industry.And why wouldn't they?If we look at the early ads of the 1970s, we see how they are generally gender neutral. Computers were presented as a learning tool for both boys and girls, or as a new tool for the whole family. The result was that women were getting just as interested in becoming computer scientists as they were in other forms of science.But, as we all know, during the 1980s, there was a shift in how computers were promoted and perceived. Suddenly girls no longer played with computers. Now it was only a toy for boys. Advertising shifted to a much more male dominated focus, and computer ads were targeting only to men.The result was a rather dramatic shift in who wanted to be computer scientists. Since young girls no longer wanted to learn how to use computers, the share of women with a computer science degree dropped. And today, only about 17% of all computer scientists are women.This is scary because what happened here is the long term effect of gender targeting, and how it damaged an entire industry. And today, the tech industry has a massive problem with gender inequality. Not only are we struggling to get more women to code, we also see huge issues with harassment.So, targeting something by gender, is a massive problem.Of course, this is not just true for computer science. It's true for everything.Imagine that you are a company that is selling saw blades. How would you target your advertising. Would you target it towards men or women.Well, since woodworking is heavily dominated by men, you would probably target it to them... and then maybe optimize your ad to make it look like this (via Reddit user Rocker13666):It's exactly the same as with tech. The industry is targeting men only, and because [...]



Publishers & Innovation: It's Not One Size Fits All

Tue, 1 Nov 2016 14:41:47 GMT

This article is a collaboration between Thomas Baekdal and the wonderful Ana Milicevic, principal of Sparrow Advisers, a boutique consultancy that helps companies scale, build relevant products, enter new markets, and navigate the digital world. If you are not following her already, you are missing out!It's not a secret that the legacy media companies have an innovation problem. We hear about it all the time. We see their innovation reports (when they leak), and we hear about their frustration of not being able to make a difference in the digital world.The reason why publishers are struggling with innovation is a combination of many things, so in this article, we will take a step back and draw a path to what we need to do.Before we start though, it's important to understand that it's your product that defines the foundation of any innovation. If you don't have a product, you don't have anything else.Think about the history of Coca Cola. Why did they manage to become such a huge success? Well, back in Atlanta in 1886 there was a new trend for flavored carbonated water, and pharmacist John Pemberton was experimenting with different types, called sirups. One of these was Coca Cola (or what became it), and he brought it over to a local pharmacy to see how people would react to it.The short story was that people liked it, a lot, and from there Coca Cola transformed into the $44 billion company that it is today. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ToYfRlEDY_E?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">My point is that the success of Coca Cola started with that initial product. Everything else came afterwards. The marketing, the distribution channels, the packaging, the many variations, the other business ventures... none of that would have been possible without that initial sirup and its success.In other words, the product forms the basis of all innovation, and everything else is just layers upon layers on top of it.Mind you, many of these layers are very important too. For instance, one of the first steps was to move Coca Cola out of the pharmacies and into the soda stands. That was a pretty fundamental step, which completely transformed how it was sold.The media industry must think about products and differentiation in the same way. We will never be able to 'win the future' until we have a basic product that people absolutely love. Everything else is secondary.The problem we have today, however, is that our product is no longer relevant, and thus we no longer have a foundation for our media companies. Instead, all that's left of the media are all these extra layers that don't really work because we have nothing underneath them to make it all work.These extra layers might be just as important as the soda fountains, but without the base product, which in our case is the value, interest and focus of our journalism, we don't have anything to work with.So, how great is our journalism?I can illustrate this with two simple graphs. Here are the market shares for newspapers for the past 70 years, when compared to the number of households in the US and the UK:As you can see, in the UK in the 1950s, people subscribed to an average of two Sunday newspape[...]



Surviving in a Post-Truth, Post-Data, Post-Reason World

Mon, 31 Oct 2016 13:46:54 GMT

One of the biggest threats to journalism, and in some ways our very democracy, is the problem that we now have with the misinformed. I wrote a lengthy article about this earlier this year called "The Increasing Problem With the Misinformed", and during Brexit I also highlighted how badly the UK press added to the misinformation.

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A Hard Look at YouTube Views vs TV Ratings

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 18:22:44 GMT

Over the past week, you might have seen many of us in the media industry discuss the problem with comparing YouTube views with TV ratings. It all started after YouTube released their viewer data for the second Presidential debate, where we were told that YouTube had 124 million views.

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Publishers and Conversions. It's Why We Do Journalism

Thu, 13 Oct 2016 17:34:53 GMT

Let's have a serious talk about how publishers look at conversions. Many journalists have a very weird idea about conversions. They think it's something to do with the business side of the newspaper, and that it shouldn't have anything to do with the newsroom or the journalists. And, they often define a focus on conversions as a negative and as a threat to their journalistic independence.

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More Facebook Data. How Does US, UK and Nordic Publishers Perform?

Tue, 27 Sep 2016 17:05:12 GMT

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote the article "Facebook Traffic to Publishers? Up? Down? Huh?" In that article we explored the many studies that look at how publishers are performing on Facebook.

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What Killed The Newspapers? Google Or Facebook? Or...?

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 14:20:01 GMT

On Tuesday we had a short discussion over at Twitter about what killed the newspapers (or what killed their ad revenue). It started with Ben Thompson who posted this graph.This is not a new graph for anyone in the industry. It has been the go to graph to illustrate the future trends for newspaper ad revenue, and I have used it in many of my articles.But what Ben added was the revenue graph from Facebook, tweeting:FACT: Journalism's business model was screwed before Facebook earned a single dimeAnd I absolutely agree. Facebook might be growing really big, but it was not what killed the industry. So what did? Well, another smart person, being Jack Marshall, asked:What about Google?I looked up those numbers and added them to the graph:Now we see the real culprit. In fact, if you combine Google and Facebook together, you see that the upward trending line (since the 1950s) is still continuing today.I want to make an important point, though: Google didn't actually kill the newspaper advertising market. Google replaced it with an entirely different market. It's the same money, but Google isn't in the same market as the newspapers. It instead created its own market and brands decided that was a better place to be.Let me explain:If we look at advertising in newspapers, they are almost always based on creating random exposure for people with no specific intent. You flip through the newspaper, not really knowing what will be on the next page, and there you find an ad for some random brand.In the past, this was pretty much how all advertising was done. It was low-intent exposure.Google Search, which is how Google makes most of its money, is nothing like this. Google Search is instead based on advertising to people when they are specifically looking for something. This is what Google Search ads are all about. They are for when people are looking for a new blender, a bicycle rack or anything else you can image.This is an entirely different form of advertising. It's based on a specific need that people search for. Meaning it's based on high-intent exposure.This is an incredibly important distinction to understand. Google isn't winning because it's big or that it has so much more scale. It's winning because it created a way for people to have high-intent moments, which brands can reach with their ads.We have shifted from having a single advertising market (all based on low-intent exposure), to having two different advertising markets... and the media only fits into one of them.Brands will always prefer to have a high-intent moment than low-intent moment (at least the brands who know what they are doing). And it's because of this that newspapers are losing the market. You are not losing to Google. You are losing to people's 'intent'.This is the reality today. It doesn't really help to complain about Google, because you don't offer an alternative. If the media industry wants to get some of this money back, you first need to design high-intent moments for your readers and advertisers. That's the only way to compete with Google.Facebook, on the othe[...]



Can We Fix The Comments?

Thu, 15 Sep 2016 15:13:34 GMT

A question that many media executives are asking these days is what do we do with comments? Is it even worth spending any time on them? Many publications have already decided to completely drop comments, while others are spending an enormous amount of time trying to keep them in check.

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Facebook Versus Aftenposten: We Are Fighting the Wrong War

Tue, 13 Sep 2016 15:04:28 GMT

We need to talk about what happened last week between Aftenposten in Norway and Facebook. You have probably already heard the story. Facebook deleted one of Aftenposten's posts when it contained an image of a naked child fleeing from napalm bombs.I won't go into the details, because you probably already know them, and if you don't, head over to The Guardian to read a summary.But the short story is that Facebook deleted the post because it violated its community guidelines, and the press went bananas. The Editor of Aftenposten posted a front-page editorial telling Facebook that it wouldn't comply with their rules; the Norwegian Prime Minister posted the image in her support of this 'censorship', which Facebook also deleted. Not because they wanted to silence the Prime Minister, but because she too posted a picture of a naked child... and it just got crazy from there.After a whole day of the press running around with pitchforks, Facebook relented and reinstated the post. Of course, by doing so, nothing actually changed and this whole thing will repeat itself at some point in the future.The problem is that this is the wrong fight to have in the first place. Regardless of who wins, we are fighting against what the people want... and that is a fight that nobody can benefit from.We need to have an entirely different type of discussion about what the role of Facebook is.So, let's have a talk about this.Two disclaimers Before I start though, I feel I need to make two things clear.The first thing is that, on a personal level, I have an opinion about this photo like everyone else. In my country, our sensitivity towards nudity is quite relaxed, and I didn't feel any outrage when I saw this photo.But, my personal opinion about this doesn't matter. One of the promises that I make to you as a media analyst is that I do not allow my personal feelings to interfere with my analysis, and this is true for this article as well.I point this out because many will think that I'm expressing an opinion in this article, but I'm not. And I hope you will read it in the same way. Please leave your personal opinion about Facebook behind, and let's have a serious discussion about media trends, patterns and movements.Okay?The second disclaimer is that Schibsted, the company who owns Aftenposten, is actually a client of mine. Not only do I have several Schibsted editors and executives as subscribers to Baekdal Plus, they are also a client of my consulting business.I have not worked directly with Aftenposten, but I worked with other publications within the Schibsted Group, I was recently invited to give a talk at one of their events (which I had to decline for other reasons), and I was invited to contribute to the Annual Report of the Tinius Trust, who is the largest shareholder of Schibsted.Schibsted is a media company that is a very dear to me.So, I'm faced with a very painful dilemma. I can either just ignore this whole thing so as to not 'rock the boat' which would be dishonest to my readers, who have ask[...]



What countries are Baekdal Plus subscribers from?

Mon, 5 Sep 2016 15:49:37 GMT

One of the things that often defines a digital native is that they have no country. Traditional media companies are all country-based. We often hear that traditional publishers are 'expanding into [insert country]', as if they are not already there.Digital natives don't think like this, because they are global by default. A US YouTuber would never say, "I want to expand into Canada," because they are already in every country in the world.I wrote much more about this in my recent newsletter, which you can see here (and if you aren't getting it already, do add yourself to the list).Another place I see this is looking at this site, Baekdal Plus. My audience comes from all over the world (although some countries are dominating more than others), and it's quite interesting to look at.The way I run my business simply wouldn't be possible 10-15 years ago. Baekdal Plus is 100% digital, but only 3% of audience is coming from my own country. 97% is coming from other countries, which I would not have been able to reach before the internet.But let me show you the data.There many ways we can measure an audience. Do we just look at the traffic, or do we look at conversion (which in my case means subscribers)? Well, let's look at both.Here is a graph illustrating which countries my audience is coming from if you look at unique visitors.As you can see, I have a ton of traffic coming from the US, but keep in mind that the US is also a country with 318 million people, so it's not really surprising that this one country stands out.When we instead look at this per capita, now we see that most of my traffic is coming from countries that are close to my own (Denmark/Northern Europe) and/or English speaking.Notice how I have just as much traffic from Australia as from the US, when compared per capita. Language is more powerful than distance in the connected world.But notice how people from almost every single country in the world visit this site. The only ones missing are a few countries in Africa, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Eastern Europe... and North Korea.This would have been impossible just 15 years ago.But I'm not really interested in unique visitors, because I don't make any money just from the traffic. Baekdal Plus is monetized by subscriptions, so it's far more relevant to me to look at that.So, here is the same map but for all 'conversions', being both actual subscribers and people signing up for a free trial.Yes, the US is dominating Baekdal Plus in a big way. About 60% of all my subscribers and free trials come from the US.But again, because the US is so big, it is kind of hard to see what's going on everywhere else. So here is the same data excluding the US.What you see now is that the UK and Belgium are my two largest (non-US) countries in terms of where my subscribers are coming from. Next are Norway and Sweden. Then comes Australia, followed by my own country (Denmark), Germany, Canada and Brazil.Yes, Brazil. How awesome is that?You wil[...]



Facebook Doesn't Really Know Anything Important About Me

Fri, 26 Aug 2016 08:17:36 GMT

We often hear how people are scared of all the data Google and Facebook are collecting about us, and how they know everything about us. But do they really?I agree that there is a ton of problems in the US around data brokers and how data is being collected and shared without my consent. In fact, most of the standard practices that we see in the US are illegal in many parts of Europe.For instance, in my country (Denmark), companies are not allowed, by law, to share personally identifiable data with third parties. This pretty much eliminates data brokers from even existing. It's also illegal for companies to collect information about me that isn't directly related to the product I'm buying.If I go down to Ford to look at a car, Ford is not allowed to write down what type of clothes I'm wearing. This data isn't relevant to buying a car and as such cannot be collected by law.This is one reason why there is so much friction between US tech companies and the EU. Our definition of privacy is much, much stronger.But what I don't agree with is the notion that Facebook is scary because, let's face it, it's not very good at targeting ads.When was the last time you went to Facebook and said, "Yes, this ad is just what I wanted!"Right? That almost never happens. Most of the time you say, "Why are you showing me this crap? I will never buy this in a million years!"And it's not just Facebook. This is true on any channel. We talk so much about big data, tracking, and advertising... but the ads aren't really that relevant.In fact, Twitter recently admitted as much when their US head of sales said this:We can provide the same level of deliverable results that we can with logged-in users.In other words, whether they know who you are or not doesn't really change how the ad performs.But let me give you a practical example.You can go over to Facebook and see exactly what things it thinks you are interested in, or what it calls your 'Ad preferences'. And the result is never that good.Here is what Facebook thinks it knows about me.First, we have what businesses and industries it thinks I like:Business and industry: Restoration Hardware, Porsche, BBC, Internet television, SpaceX, Science, The Walt Disney Company, Facebook, Pixar, Google, Nieman Foundation for Journalism, NASA, Designer, Facebook, Developers, Futurist, Telecommunication, Mass media, Physics, Porsche Design Group.I do love SpaceX, NASA, futurism, and science in general. But, you have to be very specific in what you are trying to advertise before I would even consider buying anything related to those keywords.Yes, I would probably buy a great book about the history of NASA and space exploration. No, I probably wouldn't buy a t-shirt with a picture of the moon on it.I also do like Disney and Pixar. I have watched every single Pixar movie ever made. In fact, I own every one of them... including the original shorts from when Pixar first started. So, it's kind of right.Then we have the v[...]



Updating the Social Media Plan for the Age of 24 Hours

Thu, 25 Aug 2016 18:50:15 GMT

Back in 2010, I wrote a fairly popular article called 'How To Create a Social Media Release Plan'. There is still a lot of truth to it, but quite a lot of things have happened since then. So, how would we think about this today?

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Facebook Traffic to Publishers? Up? Down? Huh?

Thu, 18 Aug 2016 00:50:00 GMT

If you, like me, have been following the media sites lately, you will have noticed quite a lot of articles about how Facebook's recent changes have had an impact on reach.The problem is that the data we have is massively inconsistent, and the sources from which it is measured are almost always third party. But let me sum up what we have been hearing for the past couple of months.First, we have a study from Parse.ly that claims that publishers haven't experienced any drop in reach, but rather that it has increased.When measured across the Parse.ly network, the overall referral traffic from Facebook looks like this:And as they say:Parse.ly's network of sites includes more than 600 digital publishers, including many big names (Upworthy, Slate, The Daily Beast, Business Insider), so its experience is likely to be representative of news media more broadly.Meanwhile SocialFlow did a similar study, where they measured not just the overall traffic, but also the reach on a more granular level.Keep in mind, this study is from before Facebook's latest change (which some claim made it even worse).If we look at it overall, they report the same as Parse.ly, in that over the past couple of months, there has been no noticeable difference in overall reach.But then they also looked at Post Count, and found publishers have been posting more and more every month. In other words, the total volume of posts has gone up quite a bit.Obviously, if the volume goes up while the reach stays the same, the outcome must be a decline in reach per post. And this was exactly what SocialFlow found. When you look at reach at a granular level, there has been a 42% decline in reach, which is a lot.Mind you, one could argue that this isn't really Facebook's fault, since it's not Facebook that is posting these. If we as publishers just all stopped focusing on 'scale for the sake of scale', we wouldn't have this problem.And while that is true, it also illustrates how Facebook works. The way Facebook optimizes its engagement is like a supermarket. And every supermarket will optimize for the volume of goods rather than value of the individual product.I wrote more about this in "How a Growth in Social Engagement is Also a Drop in Reach and Loyalty" and also in my latest Plus article.This is something I have been talking about for more than a year, because the trend here is very clear. Social media - which was once a place where people chose to connect with us, and we used that connection to nurture our audiences - has become a place for random posts for people with very low-intent.Then we have a study from SimilarWeb. Every month they release their ranking: "U.S. Media Publishers and Publications - Ranked for July 2016", and here we see... well... it's a bit tricky.If we just look at the total list, we see that reach is down by 19.4%, which as you may notice is contrary to what Parse.ly and SocialFlow found (thei[...]



How Publishers Can Beat Facebook and Google ... or Join Them

Wed, 17 Aug 2016 06:42:31 GMT

When you look at the future of advertising for publishers, the trends are rather depressing. And it's not just one trend. It's a multitude of trends that all look pretty bad.

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