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Strategic insight and analysis for people in the media industry



 



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 with a political agenda. Those accounts are often not YouTube Partner accounts, and thus get no share of the revenue.The problem, of course, is that we don't know whether a YouTuber has a YouTube Partner account or not. There is no reliable way to see this from the outside (at least not one that I know of).It's an unknown, which also means that it's highly misleading to simply concl[...]



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 Times starts to write critical articles about the new Democratic President of 2021, it's suddenly fighting its own readers who subscribed because they thought the NYT was on 'their side'.You see the problem here?Not only will the New York Times be fighting all those Republican voters who completely hates it and has no trust in it. They are now also fighting the Democratic voters[...]



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 woodworker, with 300,000 followers, and the list goes on and on.This is the real world of media today.To suggest that people are now only following 9-15 sources, regularly, per week is not realistic. People follow hundreds of sources, and often without even realizing it.The problem that we all have when we do studies like this is that the word 'news' and 'publishers' mean something differe[...]



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 message equal pay really is. Time to apologise.So, why didn't they back down. Why didn't they realize that they were harming their own market? Which for this particular brand is critical information because they have been in deep financial trouble for years.The reason was that they were looking at their Facebook engagement. As they commented to one person.We can see that there are ar[...]



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 future of media, changes where it is vital that traditional publishers adapt and embrace if they want to have a future.On top of this, is the most important trend of all, which is that this entire transformation of media is very strongly defined by a generational shift.What this means, in short, is that young people are consuming media in an entirely different way, with different dem[...]



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.

(image)

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

So, who should I follow that isn't a white man?

To start this, I have created a public list over at Google Docs of people I think are worth following from a media perspective.

This list is open for anyone to edit and modify, so please add anyone you think that should be on it. And then together we can create a list of wonderful people to follow.

Let's make 2017 the year where all of us who work with the media fully embraces equality (the rest of the world is step two ;))




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 politicians and in the media.So, do we have an immigration problem? No, of course not.When we look at the statistics, it's pretty clear that immigrants pose no threat to our way of life in any way. In fact, everything tells us that immigrants are contributing more than they take. Immigrants, for instance, pay more in taxes than what they get back in benefits. They generally don't commit[...]



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 presidential debate. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.While she did not break 50 percent, Clinton made gains by nearly every one of the Minnesota Poll's measures. She leads among voters between ages 18 and 64, with her biggest lead in the 18-34 group; Trump catches up only among voters 65 and older, where the two candidates are tied.This sounds li[...]



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 of that is telling women that this is not something for them. And the outcome is the same as well. The woodworking industry is now heavily dominated by men, and the few women who venture into it are often met with sexist remarks.Targeting by gender is just a terrible idea.We also see this effect in the media. Today, there is a movement to get more women to become woodworkers (jus[...]



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 newspapers per household, whereas today only 40% read one. Similar trends are appearing world-wide.Obviously, the reason why this happened was because of TV, and how people got their information and spent their time via other channels. And of course, now that we have the internet, this decline will and has declined even faster, because now we have even more choice.What used to be time de[...]



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 other hand, is doing exactly the same as newspapers. The way advertising works on Facebook is exactly the way it works in newspapers. Here you have a NewsFeed with random stories that people look through. And within this feed you happen to come across random advertising (vaguely targeted to you).This is (again) low-intent advertising exposure.Facebook is competing directly with newsp[...]



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 asked me to write this article. Or, I can be a media analyst and provide my unfiltered analysis of this problem.I'm obviously going to do the latter and provide you with the unfiltered analysis, but I really hate being put into this position.So, here we go...Is Facebook a media company?Before we talk about the actual photo, we need to address a common misconception that I see every [...]



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 will also notice that I'm getting more and more subscribers from India and Indonesia, which is just brilliant.Africa is a bit of a problem though, and so is China. I have a few important subscribers in Hong Kong, but because of China's media laws, it's impossible for me to make Baekdal Plus relevant for them.I want to mention Turkey here as well. As you can see above, I do have a num[...]



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 vague categories like BBC, internet television, telecommunication, and mass media. Am I interested in those? Well... yes-ish. But I cannot imagine any ad targeting where those vague terms would appeal to me in any way.My interest in the BBC, for instance, is as a media analyst. I don't have any special feelings towards any of their shows. They are good, but that's not why I'm inte[...]



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 (their study for total reach is flat). And when looking specifically at the top (excluding TV and others), SimilarWeb reports these changes in Facebook referrals:You will notice that the publishers who have experienced the smallest drop are also those commonly known for more snackable content, which matches what I have been seeing in other places. Facebook is increasingly only a releva[...]



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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Brands and Publishers: The Trend of Sponsored Content

Wed, 3 Aug 2016 10:21:49 GMT

Everyone is talking about sponsored content these days, which isn't really a surprise since we can't do traditional advertising (either print or display ads) with mobile. But there are two ways to look at this trend.

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How a Growth in Social Engagement is Also a Drop in Reach and Loyalty

Fri, 29 Jul 2016 09:35:36 GMT

Earlier this week, Jessica Guynn, Silicon Valley reporter from USA Today tweeted:Mark Zuckerberg says ranked feed on Instagram has gotten people to spend more time on the app and share more.The problem, however, is that this isn't what we hear from the Instagrammers. Instead, I am hearing from Instagrammers that they are having a harder time with engagement overall.So how can we have these two very conflicting messages at the same time, and why do we also see this on all the other social channels that have started ranking our streams (like Facebook, Twitter, etc)?Well, it's actually quite simple. Think about it like this.Imagine that you have a big supermarket, where each person buys, on average, 28 items across 11 brands on each visit. Now imagine that the supermarket isn't pleased with that, they want this number to grow (and who wouldn't), so they start to optimize how each product is presented, how they are mixed, and how people experience them.The result is a success (according to the supermarket). A month later it announces that people are now buying 31 items (10.7% growth), across 13 brands (18% growth).Sounds pretty good right?But what if we then look at the sale per manufacturer? With 28 items across 11 brands, they sold 2.55 items per manufacturer. But now, with 31 items across 13 manufacturers, they only sell 2.38 items per manufacturer (a 7% drop in reach).Also, now that people are exposed to more manufacturers, since the supermarket is now designed to favor as wide a reach a possible, the loyalty and connection that people feel towards any specific brand is now much less, which means that it is even harder to stand out from the rest.So, Mark Zuckerberg is right that, overall, Instagram has had an increase in engagement. But this doesn't mean that each Instagrammer on an individual level is benefitting from it (it's often the reverse).The problem is that all the social channels are optimizing for the same thing that the supermarkets are optimizing for, which is 'scale for the sake of scale'.We see the same on Amazon, where they might claim that people are now buying more, even though the revenue per publisher is going down. We see it on Spotify. On Netflix. In fact, we see it on every single channel that is based on scale.And one area where we see it a lot is with advertising. Google, for instance, repeatedly report an increase in total ad revenue, while at the same time are also reporting a decrease in ad revenue per click.In other words, as a platform it is earning more and more. But for each individual publisher displaying the ads, they are making less.The reality is that scale rarely benefits the individuals.The reason is that to win as an individual (publisher/brand/person), you need to focus on getting picked. You need to be 'the chosen one' so whenever people do engage, they engage with you.And, as an individual, you also benefit more from a narrow market rather than a wide one. It's far more beneficial for you to be picked within a narrow of publishers, because that means you will have to share the total market revenue with less of your competitors.Again, think of the example I gave you above with the supermarket. It's much better to be one of [...]



Are US Newspapers Still Stuck With 1990s Family Values?

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 14:59:34 GMT

The big news today, of course, is that Hillary Rodham Clinton has been nominated for President by the Democrats. This marks the first time in US history that a major political party has a female leader. And it welcomes the US into what is now considered 'a normal thing' in the rest of the western world.However, many US newspapers seem to be stuck in the old 'man's world' of the 1990s. For some weird reason that I do not understand, all the major newspapers either didn't prominently show Hillary on their covers, or worse, showed pictures of men instead.Here is one example from the Chicago Tribune. That's not Hillary!As many of their readers pointed out:What a great photo of Hil... - oh. Think you got the wrong Clinton there.And you choose to show her husband? What century is this??!!Was someone confused as to which Clinton accepted the nomination?Did you really do that? REALLY?Wait, so how come Hillary is not on the cover? Afraid to show the women of the world?!This is outrageous.Please tell me this is not your actual front page. This is a joke, right?And Chicago Tribune isn't the only one doing this, many large newspapers in the US did this too.But before I show you the other front pages, I want to take you back to The Tuscaloosa News, on September 23, 1995. Here we can find an an article about Wal-Mart pulling a t-shirt off their shelves that said "Someday a woman will be president".What happened was that one customer (yes, just a single person) had complained about it, which was enough for their legal department to decide that it was 'offensive'. And the reason given was that this message "goes against Wal-Mart's family values".This was only 20 years ago. How insane is that?You would think that in 2016 that this would be a thing of the past, and that women would now naturally be featured just as prominently as men. Right?Well, I already showed you the front page of the Chicago Tribune. Now let me show the front pages of all the other major newspapers:Wake up newspapers. This is embarrassing. Or as Justin Trudeau, said: class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LLk2aSBrR6U?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">There are a few exceptions, though. While The Washington Post's front page is full of men, its magazine prominently features Hillary. And La Opinion, Newsday as well as The Indianapolis Star did it right.And I will leave it up to you to determine if the front page from Boston Globe is a tribute to Hillary... or to her husband.Not to mention Orange Country Register, which does seem to focus on Hillary, but... hmmm...---Update: Seattle Times apologizes for their mistake:[...]



Okay, Okay... Let's Talk About Pokemon Go for News

Wed, 27 Jul 2016 13:08:43 GMT

As some of you know, when Pokémon Go first launched, I tweeted that I wouldn't spend any time on it as a media analyst, and that people could judge my indifference towards it in six months... which is roughly the time I give it to stay relevant for the mass audience.I still stand by this tweet. From a media perspective, Pokémon Go has no relevance whatsoever.But in the time after I tweeted this, I have been asked by quite a lot of people both about why I tweeted that and why I didn't think it is important; I have even had editors and CEOs questioning my role as an analyst by not analyzing it.So... okay, okay. I give in. You win.I will write this article about it. Or rather, this article isn't really going to be about Pokémon Go for News, but will instead focus on why Pokémon is a success, about the future of location-based news and augmented reality news. We will talk about whether there is something here that we use, and we will talk about the trends and the behaviors that make this work, or not.Okay?Pokémon Go as a game and a social phenomenon is amazingWhen I tweeted that I wouldn't spend any time on Pokémon Go, many people thought I said it because I didn't like the game. This wasn't what I meant.Pokémon Go is very interesting from the perspective of mobile gaming. And it's absolutely amazing if we look at it as a social phenomenon. And I have spent some time looking at it from that perspective.So let's talk about Pokémon Go for a brief moment... from a non-media perspective.First, let's talk about its success, which is due to a number of very specific factors.One factor is that the developers behind the game have a very long history with mapping and location-based technology. It was started by the people behind Keyhole, the company Google bought to create Google Maps, and the game engine itself is a product of years of experimentations.As such, Pokémon Go didn't come out of nothing. It's the result of 15 years of innovations by people working in this space.So when I hear media people (or others) say, "We should make something like this", I don't think they realize just how much has gone into Pokémon Go before it reached this point. Not just in terms of technology, but also in terms of understanding human behaviors, optimizing the social engineering, and generally refining the way everything works.You can't just make something like this out of nothing. This is next-level gaming development. We are way above the baseline that we usually see with mobile games or apps.Remember, before Pokémon Go, they had developed Ingress. What is Ingress, you ask? Well, it's basically the same thing as Pokémon Go. Here is a trailer, and you will notice the many similarities. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/X4hY0UBAmlo?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">So, why wasn't Ingress this huge success that we see with Pokémon Go? Well, because Ingress was designed as a 'secret agent' kind of game. It was something you did in hiding, which meant that it didn't really have the social element.Pokémon Go changed all of that by centering the same experience on lots of people doing the s[...]



The Problem With Cognitive Ease and News

Fri, 22 Jul 2016 15:26:06 GMT

The always amazing Derek Muller, from Veritasium, recently published a great explainer video about how we are all susceptible to "cognitive ease".Cognitive ease is the concept of which when you hear something repeatedly, your brain starts to form connections around it, thus making it easier for you to process later. And since we prefer things to be simple and easy, things that are easy to think about generally makes us feel happier.This has a lot of implications in terms of happiness, relationships, and life choices, but for newspapers it's part of the problem that we all face with the rise of the misinformed.But first, take a moment to watch the video: class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cebFWOlx848?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">As you can see, cognitive ease is an extremely interesting mental phenomenon, so what does that have to do with news?Well, the problem is that if we tend to favor and trust things that are repeated often enough, it can also very quickly be used in a detrimental way.Let me give you a simple example: after the failed coup in Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was quick to point his finger at his political rival Fethullah Gülen, and the media have spent the past week posting article after article with this specific accusation.Sure, many media articles have been critical about it too, but the phrase "Fethullah Gülen was behind the coup" has been repeated over and over again.Take the Guardian, where I counted 15 articles within the past day alone mentioning his name.So, I now give you three possible versions:The people behind the coup were a small group within the military that truly did it to protect the future of democracy in Turkey, after seeing how Erdoğan had eroded several democratic ideals. In other words, the people who were behind it were exactly the ones who said they were behind it when they issued a statement as the coup started.The coup was some big conspiracy orchestrated by Erdoğan himself to secure even more power. Something many have started speculating about after the massive purge of what seems to be innocent people afterwards.The coup was planned by Fethullah Gülen in a bid to take power.I don't know which one of these is the truth. For all we know, there might be a completely other explanation because nobody has provided any proof backing up their accusations.But now think about this in relation to the concept of "cognitive ease". If you take a look at the media over the past week, which version has been the most covered by the press?Yep, the third version. The newspapers have been absolutely filled with stories discussing the blame on Fethullah Gülen.So, the media is causing a specific version of the event to be repeated over and over again, without data or evidence to back it up, causing that one version to become the "easy choice" for people to hang on to.And, if you were to do a study today, you would probably find the same result as Derek Muller talked about in his video, in that people would choose to believe whatever it is that they have heard about the most.Mind you, I'm not blaming the journali[...]



Publishers and Their Future Video Strategies: It's Complicated

Wed, 20 Jul 2016 18:38:41 GMT

When we look at the future trends for videos, we see something that is fascinating, hugely misleading and frustrating all at the same time.

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Journalists not liking data is weird

Mon, 18 Jul 2016 11:42:14 GMT

As a media analyst, one problem I often come across is this sheer animosity from journalists towards data and analytics.One reason is due to fear. For instance, a while back I was asked: "How can editors survive in the future of data?" Which tells you more about how old media defines their role than any problem with the actual data.The problem here is that old media still defines itself as the bringer of news, in which the editor picks what you should see. But today, the internet is the bringer of news and the platforms algorithmically ranks what is most popular. And if this is your view of the world, I can see why editors think data is putting their role at risk.But this isn't really why we need editors. The real reason why we need editorial focus is to guide us. You will notice, for instance, that YouTubers don't have this problem.When Robert Llewellyn recently talked about CleanSpace, a crowdsourced air quality sensor that you can wear, he was not worried about the future of data. Neither in his reporting, nor in his ability to define an editorial strategy. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/4C1zjblLIyI?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">The reason for this, of course, is that he isn't defining his publication as a platform of random content with no editorial focus.Data forces clickbaitAnother reason that journalists don't like the data is because it forces them into publishing articles they don't want to publish. This is the result of what we see from the endless focus on shallow view metrics over the past years. As soon as you start to look at those specific metrics, you end up creating listicles about completely pointless things.This is an argument that I certainly can understand, but it's also the wrong way to look at it. The problem here isn't the data, but that publishers are measuring the wrong things.And let me prove this in three ways:One way to prove that we are optimizing for the metrics is simply to look at the 'revenue per ad view', which is generally in decline. In other words, brands are paying less for each view because the view is less valuable.Another way is to look at people's 'Confidence in Newspapers', which has now dropped (again) to an all time low.A third way is to look at what people actually want from the media. PEW did a study about this and found that the main focus areas in the media (candidate's comments, lives etc.) is not what people want to read. What people actually want is more focus on things that really matter, being their experience and stance on important issues.Isn't this amazing?But don't their clicks say otherwise?Yes, in terms of clicks, people look at different types of articles, but every single metric that counts tells you that this is the wrong metric to look at. Who cares what people click on the most if the result is a continuous decline in ad revenue per view, a loss of trust and confidence, and a growing annoyance by the public that the media isn't covering the right things?We are killing ourselves because we are looking at the wrong metrics.[...]



How Can We Trust a Journalist that Lies?

Tue, 12 Jul 2016 11:17:05 GMT

One of the things I constantly have to struggle with as a media analyst is the culture that exists in media companies to lie to their readers to make something more exciting than it really is.Let me give you a simple example (there are far worse examples than this). A Danish news site (the Danish equivalent of the BBC) recently published an article about Tour de France with the title:Chaos in the commentary box: Wild Englishmen smash table in the middle of the sprint.It had a subheading that said this:DR sport commentator had to 'jump for his life' and the BBC had to think quickly when disaster struck in the middle of the sprint of the fifth stage.And in the article we could read:There is usually lots of stress in the commentator boxes during the final sprints at Tour de France. But it was still more chaotic than usual during the 4th stage.One of the BBC's commentators toppled their table, during their enthusiastic commentating on the final meters. Something DR sport commentator Henrik Fallesen experienced close-up as the English neighbor.'The enthusiasm of the close sprint was so great with our colleagues at the BBC that their whole radio board overturned. So I had to jump for my life, and people had to help hold the table which was making a dangerous amount of mass spectacle,' said Henrik Fallesen on P3.It sounds crazy, right? Wild people, chaos, tabled being toppled and smashed. What kind of hooligan is that?But then they also embedded the video so that we could see it for ourselves, and what we find is that none of this happened. Instead, while the commentator was gently leaning on the table, it slid out of the groove it was resting on, causing it to slide down.Nobody jumped for their lives. There was no danger at any point, or any damage caused to anything.Here you can see it for yourself: class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Xp5-5nnGVcw?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">In other words, that whole article was a lie.This is an absolutely terrible culture, because it erodes the trust that people have. More to the point, it devalues the connection people might have to the newspaper.Think about it like social interaction. How would you feel if someone you follow on Twitter was revealed to have told a lie to you... on purpose? How would you feel if this was a common problem with that person? Would you continue to like him... or would you stop following him?We already know the answer to that. In fact, we see every day how brands and internet personalities lose all their momentum when they are caught lying to their followers.But for some weird reason, the media never seems to learn this lesson. I see this every single day, and not just by the tabloids but also in the large respectable newspapers.This is a cultural problem, in that newspapers don't care about the reputation they have with their readers. In fact, this is not just about the reputation, it's also about thinking about their readers first.It's a cultural problem when you as a journalist think that misleading y[...]



A Different Way to Think About Churn Rates and Subscriber Dashboards

Thu, 7 Jul 2016 11:32:22 GMT

There seems to be an infinite number of different ways to calculate churn rate, the rate at which you lose your customers. And yet it's one of the most important metrics that we have.For brands, churn rate can tell you whether your best strategy is to focus on acquiring new customers, or whether you should focus your attention on nurturing existing ones. But for publishers, churn rate is the key metric we use to determine loyalty.The problem, however, is that most seem to measure it in ways that don't tell you anything about what is going on.The traditional way of measuring churn rate is to look at how many members or subscribers a publishers has lost in a given month, and then divide that by the total amount of subscribers. So if you have 50,000 subscribers to a magazine and a churn rate of 2%, it means you are losing 1,000 people every month.And hopefully, your subscription rate will then also tell you that you gained 1,200 new subscribers, otherwise we would have a big problem.This sounds like a very good way to measure this, and in some ways it is. But the problem is that it doesn't tell you anything about who it is that you are losing, or why. Are the people you are losing older subscribers who have lost interest over time, or is it those same people you gained just last month who failed to see the value and cancelled almost immediately?We need a more nuanced way to think about churn rates. We need to look at the people who churn as individuals, and measure their longevity. We need to know who is it that we are losing.Imagine if you had to build a 'subscriber dashboard' that every journalist and editor could see, what would it say?Well, I would design it like this:Total number of subscribersThe most critical number to look for is the total number of subscribers, and whether that is going up and down. This number should be on the top of the screen.Total subscriber revenueAnother thing we need to see is the total subscriber revenue. The reason this is important is that a lot of people miss their payments (for many different reasons), or other circumstances cause the revenue to not match the subscriber list (like refunds etc).Another reason you want to include this is because it visualizes whether your acquisition tactics work. For instance, if you are offering people a 50% discount to sign up, your total amount of subscribers might go up, but your revenue won't. And if the wrong people then churn, you might end up with a negative revenue growth.I have seen this plenty of times with different publishers. Their focus on cheap scale increased their numbers, but ended up costing them money.So, you need both. You need to know how many subscribers you have, and how valuable they are (the revenue).The 'new subscribers versus churn' trendThe next important metric is the comparison between how many new subscribers you are gaining versus how many you are losing. And the reason this is important is that it tells you a lot about loyalty.Consider these two examples.Here you see two dif[...]



Should Publishers Use Medium?

Tue, 5 Jul 2016 11:24:59 GMT

With the rise of Medium and its recent push into a more publisher focused model (as opposed to the individual focus it had before) many smaller publishers are asking if Medium should be their new home.

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Traditional Media Needs Influence-based Advertising to Succeed

Thu, 23 Jun 2016 15:17:46 GMT

The future of advertising, from a media perspective, is looking increasingly sketchy. If we look at the format of display advertising, we see a very persistent trend that the value of each ad view is getting less and less. This is true both for brands and for publishers. The value brands get out of display advertising, per view, is exceptionally low, and the overall revenue earned by publishers is dropping as well.

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Selling fear and the role of the media

Thu, 16 Jun 2016 11:59:33 GMT

You know when you hear about someone selling something crazy, and then you think about it and you realize that it's 10 times worse than that?Let me give you an example.I came across these tweets by Fortune Magazine writer Erin Griffith the other day:This is pretty crazy.But it gets even worse when you realize that this workshop is based on the combination of survivor bias, the selling of fear, and having no accountability as to if it actually works or not.Let's talk about the survivor bias first. Survivor bias is when the only data you have is from the winners, which Derek Muller from Veritasium explains well in this video: class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/_Qd3erAPI9w?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">But I want to point you to another explanation, from Neil deGrasse Tyson. Back in 2012 (I think), he did one of his many talks during which he talked about analytics.And one example was this.Note: You can watch the whole talk here. This part is 40:40 into the video.At first this sounds really good. This shows that studying the exit locations will improve your chance of surviving a crash, right? That's what people think when they see this data. It was 80% of those who survived!But then you take a step back and think about what it's actually telling you, and you realize not only is this data completely useless, the study is also a massive waste of time, and should never have been done in the first place.Why? Because it doesn't tell you what percentage of the people who died had studied the locations of the exit doors.We don't have this data, because (sadly) those people are no longer alive, but without knowing the other percentage this entire study is meaningless. What if 86% of the people who died had looked at the exit doors?Suddenly, the conclusion you formed before is now completely invalid. Because, with this data, more people had died after studying the exit doors than the people who survived. Or more to the point, whether or not you look at the exit doors has no correlation to your chance of surviving a crash.You see how this works?Survivor bias can be incredibly misleading, because it gives you data that doesn't actually prove anything either way.So back to the "how to survive someone attacking you with an assault rifle" workshops. Those are basically a scam. It's someone who has come up with a way to defraud people, because when their students are later killed they don't ask for their money back. And if someone happens to survive a mass shooting, they might claim it was because of the workshop, even though we have no way of knowing whether that is true or not.The worst part of this, though, is that nobody needs such a workshop in the first place. It's yet another example of the increasing industry of selling fear.Let's look at the data.As you can see below, the rate of firearm-related homicides is in decline, and it's down a lot from 1993. The rate of non[...]



Facebook Launches VR images ... from 1995

Fri, 10 Jun 2016 10:47:20 GMT

There are times when I realize just how old I am, and I definitely noticed this yesterday when I heard that Facebook had launched Facebook VR images. It's a very nice feature, but I have a feeling of deja vu.It's not just that we already have VR videos, or that Google has long supported both 360 videos and 360 images, it's that I have seen this long before that. All the way back in 1995.And since it's Friday, I want to take you back to a time most people have forgotten about. I give you Apple QuickTime VR, launched in 1995 at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference.Below are two videos of the presentation from that event, but you don't have to watch it all. I will tell you where the interesting parts are.(BTW: This was during the time when Steve Jobs had been thrown out of Apple and was working on the NeXT system.)In this first part, you can go to 12:20 where the first demo is revealed. And you see here that even without Steve Jobs, they had a knack for impressing the audience when they zoomed out of the presentation to reveal that everything they had seen so far was happening inside a VR presentation.This is something not even Google or Facebook has been able to do today. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/6XEDlgtLmAs?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">Then in this next video, they started out showcasing how you can use Quicktime VR to create interactive VR videos, where people could navigate around a store. And you really see this come to light if you go to 10:00 where they show you a demo of interactive VR to create a virtual tour of the White House. class="video" title="video" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/MYoGHWCXR04?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="">I remember this very clearly, because this was the first (non-gaming) VR experience I ever played with. I had an Apple Press CD, and this presentation was part of it. And I was amazed. Here I was walking around in the White House, zooming in on the different objects and seeing a world that I would never see in real life.It was incredible.But the presentation didn't stop there. At 12:40, they showcased that you could also use QuickTime VR with 3D models and walk around a virtual building in any way you like.At 13:50, they show you how you could see a racing yacht in VR, or the conference center they were in.But then came the really amazing part, because, at 15:35 they pretended that the software had crashed, which got a good laugh from the audience, but it was all a ruse to show you that quicktime VR could also do video. Which they showcased even further at 18:50 where they show you that the video is VR as well. It's not just a flat video playing in a VR scene, it's 360 video.And by the end of the presentation, at 18:57, Apple took this one step even further when they showcased how they could combine all of this: VR interactive scenes, VR images, VR video ... and spatial[...]



Monetizing News: Where is the Money?

Fri, 10 Jun 2016 10:41:22 GMT

Last month, we took a look at the editorial future of local news, in "Completely Redefining the Purpose of Local News". In that article, I talked about all the things that are impacting the role of local news, why people need local newspapers, why they don't, and how to think about it instead.

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