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Baekdal Plus

Strategic insight and analysis for people in the media industry


Putting GDPR into Action for Publishers

Tue, 17 Apr 2018 10:46:59 GMT

Last week I published the article "Publishers Haven't Realized Just How Big a Deal GDPR is", and it caused quite a stir. And, in that article, I illustrated why publishers need to approach GDPR differently, and embrace it rather than trying to fight it.

In this article, we are going to take it a step further and talk about how to actually put this into action.

We will look at this in two parts.

First, we will have a discussion about getting consent, specifically about the IAB's (Interactive Advertising Bureau) new framework, and why this might not be a good idea.

And then we'll move on to more practical examples of how to rethink your approach to advertising, social widgets, embedded content, and finally, analytics.

By the end of this, I hope to illustrate two things to you. First that GDPR is a really big deal, and that you need to take it much more seriously than what I see publishers do today. And secondly, that it's not as scary as it sounds, because the changes we need to make might benefit us in the long run.

The trend is strong with this one

As I mentioned in my previous article, there are two aspects to GDPR. One is the legal aspect, where we have to make sure that we comply with the law. At the same time, there are plenty of exceptions, loopholes, and things that we can do to 'get around it' in a way that would legally still be permissible.

The other is the trend aspect of GDPR, where we look at what people will expect and demand from publishers in the future. And what we see is a very clear trend that people, especially the younger generation, are much more aware of, and active in protecting their privacy.

→ Read the rest of this article on Baekdal Plus.

Publishers Haven't Realized Just How Big a Deal GDPR is

Thu, 05 Apr 2018 17:51:10 GMT

On May 25, 2018, the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (better known as GDPR) comes into effect, and I'm quite worried about how this will impact publishers because most don't seem to be even close to compliant.The problem with GDPR is that most publishers see it as an IT/administrative burden. They think the only thing they need to do is set up some databases and do some other IT things ... and then redesign their privacy page.What I'm not seeing, however, is any real change to the way publishers use data, the business models they have that rely on data, or any consideration as to what impact this will have on their editorial strategies.So, in this article, I'm going to talk about GDPR as a concept in relation to media trends, and consider what this means for your editorial strategies. I hope I can help you realize just how big a change this actually is.Mind you, I'm not a lawyer. I am a media analyst. I do not claim to be an expert in all the nuances of GDPR. My focus is to talk about strategies, user behaviors, business models, etc. But, I am also a publisher, so my knowledge of GDPR is based on the work that I have put into making sure that my site will be compliant (which I'm still in the process of doing).If you want to get legal advice on how to be compliant, you need to get in contact with a lawyer or a consultant with a specific focus on the legal aspects of this.For now, let's talk about this from a strategy perspective.Don't try to avoid GDPRWhen I hear people discuss GDPR I have noticed that almost everyone talks about it in the legal sense. What I mean is that people are discussing what the technicalities of the law are, what exceptions or loopholes it has, and how you could get away with using these exceptions to continue to do the things you have always done.And sure enough, there may be ways to classify some data as 'legitimate interest' so that you don't have to ask people whether you can collect their data or not, and there may be ways that you can designate the 3rd party services that you use as co-controllers, or some other workarounds.You also may be able to argue that you have terms of use with your 3rd party service that says they can't use the data they are getting from you, even though you know you don't actually have any control, and that they are using it anyway.Legally, you may be able to find enough exceptions and loopholes to do all of this.However, there are two major reasons why thinking about GDPR this way is the wrong strategy to have.The overall trend in the marketThe first major reason is the overall trend about privacy.If you look at what is happening around us, you can see very clear signals that the public has had enough.Today, for instance, we see that a majority of people who install an ad blocker don't actually do it to block ads (that's just an added bonus). They are actually doing it to block tracking.What people are reacting to is not just what Facebook is doing, but how every publisher is using a very large number of 3rd party trackers, where neither the publisher or the reader has any control over what is actually happening with this data.We also see this trend in many other aspects of online behavior. Think about how many people have locked and set their social profiles to 'private'. Think about how people are using services like Snapchat, Instagram Stories, or Twitch live streaming ... all services that, by default, delete what you have posted so that it can't be turned into a privacy violation later.The trend here is really clear.If you then, as a publisher, just implement GDPR by taking advantage of all the exceptions or loopholes, so that you continue to load 38 trackers into your site and do it like it's all 'business as usual', you will be fighting against this trend.In other words, you become the bad guy.Google and Facebook know thisThe other very important factor here is to look at big tech companies.Companies like Google and Facebook are perhaps those who have benefited the most from being able to collect data from multiple sourc[...]

Publishers Need to Rethink How They Define Trust

Thu, 29 Mar 2018 10:44:17 GMT

There is a fascinating trend happening in the media industry right now around trust. With pressure from things like fake news, socially optimized noise (click-baits, low-end content etc.), and many other things, focusing on trust is becoming a very important element for publishers.For instance, during the latest NewsRewired conference, we saw people like the immensely talented Maaike Goslinga and Jessica Best from De Correspondent discuss how they are using trust to drive subscriptions.One of the key things they do is tell people if there is something they don't know:One more lesson is that the more transparency, the better. Journalists at De Correspondent tell their audience about what they don't know, what the limitations of their work are.For instance, the most famous example of this was back in 2016 when De Correspondent "told their readers they were not going to report on the 2016 Brussels bombing as it happened until they'll have something to say".The outcome of this was a massive boost in subscribers and overall loyalty, because suddenly, instead of just adding more noise they created this deeply trusting relationship with their audience.But De Correspondent isn't the only example of this. Another very interesting example is The Trust Project, which is a collaboration between The Economist, The Globe and Mail, the Independent Journal Review, Mic, Italy's La Repubblica and La Stampa, and The Washington Post ... as well as several tech partners including Google.They are creating a set of transparency standards in order to create trust:The Trust Project, a consortium of top news companies led by award-winning journalist Sally Lehrman, is developing transparency standards that help you easily assess the quality and credibility of journalism.For instance, they found that adding trust indicators to articles would generally boost people's perception of each story, as reported by NiemanLab.This is such an important focus, especially today where people have such a hard time distinguishing between fake news and actual journalism.Focusing on trust is not a new thing. In fact, if you go to Google and search for "Trust is essential", you will find more than 5 million results about it.The problem we see in the media is that the overall levels of trust are generally extremely low, often putting media in the same category as politicians and lobbyists.This is really, really bad.In fact, there is generally a very strong correlation between trust in media and trust of national governments throughout the world.This is a terrible trend, because it indicates that we are not actually developing trust, but are rather just reflecting society as a whole. There is zero differentiation in the media around trust.Or, to put it simply, we have not proven that we can be trusted at all, instead we are just 'neutral' in terms of trust in the things we write about. This illustrates that publishers do not understand what trust is. → Read the rest of this article on Baekdal Plus.[...]

We are Missing the Point about Facebook, Cambridge Analytica, etc.

Fri, 23 Mar 2018 13:38:56 GMT

There are many important issues to discuss in relation to the story about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. But there is also a problem with how we are focusing on this story in the media. And this is particularly noticeable within 'media Twitter', where we as 'media people' discuss our opinions.We have a tendency to lose our objective focus, and get so caught up in wanting to be anti-tech, that we start to twist the stories in our favor (i.e., let's damage Facebook, get politicians to regulate it, and get our market share back), rather than actually have a serious discussion.I'm not saying this in order to point any fingers, because I have been a part of this media frenzy as well.For instance, when one of my followers sent the video below to me, I thought this was a perfect analogy for how Mark Zuckerberg said that he was going to do something about this problem that he wasn't aware found this video to be hilarious. So I retweeted it as part of my contribution to speaking out against what has happened.But this 'media focus' is not necessarily a good thing.One simple example is the way we have covered Facebook's response versus what we could get from the 'whistleblower'. It has been a very one-sided coverage.One of the big problems with whistleblowers is that they often get drunk on their own fame, and they start to tell journalists what you want them to tell you.We have seen this many times with people like Edward Snowden, even to the point where he, with the FB CA story, tweeted this:This is not a true statement. Facebook is not 'selling intimate details', and Edward Snowden knows this. But he has become so 'high' on his fame that his objectiveness is starting to slip (and this has been the case for a long time).The same thing seems to be happening with the whistleblower who revealed the scandal about Cambridge Analytica. There are very clear signs that he too is currently 'high on fame'.I'm not trying to discredit him or even say that he is lying. I have no basis for saying either. What I am saying is that I'm not seeing the objective care that I would expect from journalists when dealing with him as a source.From what I have seen, most stories have taken everything this whistleblower has said at face value, without questioning it in any way, while anything said by Facebook is scrutinized or even disregarded. And there is a tendency in the media to focus more on punishing Facebook, rather than taking a step back and talking about the real issues.Mind you, I'm not trying to defend Facebook. My role as a media analyst is not to analyze the news, my job is to analyze the media, how we are working, the quality of our journalism, and figure out what is a problem and needs to be fixed and what can be changed to make things better. And this whole discussion about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica is kind of missing the point, because the problem is somewhere else.Specifically, it's about three other things:What politicians should be allowed to do.How data can be shared.The overall trend around privacy.Why are politicians allowed to micro-target voters?The first big problem is around companies like Cambridge Analytica and how they have provided politicians the tools to micro-target and optimize their messages to get more votes.This is obviously a massive problem, because the idea that a politician can tell one group of voters one thing and another group of voters another in order to win more votes is just pure political corruption. It's incredibly damaging to the principles of a fair election and the democratic process.Obviously this should not be allowed. It's insane that it's even a thing.But how do you stop this? Do you regulate Facebook?Imagine if Facebook were to disappear tomorrow, would that solve this problem? No, because then the politicians would just use some other data and find some other tools ... and keep on telling different voters different things.The only way to actually solve this is to regulate the pol[...]

Metered, Hybrid, Closed, Donated? What Paywall Works the Best?

Tue, 13 Mar 2018 04:54:28 GMT

One question that many of my clients have asked me is "what type of paywall is the best one?" And the answer is always "it depends..." There are many different factors to consider.

Fundamentally, the best paywall is the one that fits your editorial focus in combination with your audience behavior. But even this definition is too simple, because usually the paywall and the actual decision to pay aren't the problem. The problem is to get people to the point of paying.

In fact, in many cases, the paywall itself doesn't work. For instance, here on this site, my paywall (which is actually a paygate, but more about that later) doesn't work by itself. Almost every person that subscribed to this site either did so because of sharing or because of the free trial system.

Those are the two elements that makes it work, not the paywall itself.

So, in this 40 page Plus report, we are going to take a very detailed look at this. We are going to talk about paywalls (or what some call 'hard paywalls'), paygates, metered paywalls, hybrid paywalls, product walls, single-copy sales, donation based 'walls', premium paywalls, the access model, and the importance of upselling.


With each one we are also going to talk about the before and after, like the importance of free trials (before) and the importance of sharing (after), as well as how much marketing and selling is required to make each one work.

So let's dive into this very exciting, but also very complicated world of paywalls.

Momentum or moments

The first thing we need to talk about is the difference between whether a paywall is designed around an ongoing flow of content or whether you just get a single item.

Ongoing paywalls are those where, once you subscribe, you are provided with full access to everything until you choose to cancel. In other words, it's about building up and sustaining the momentum of your readers over time.

But this is not the only model, just as important is the one-time access model, where you pay to access a specific thing. And if we look at the different paywalls, we can divide these up like this:

→ Read the rest of this article on Baekdal Plus.

A Deep Dive into the Future of Subscriber Analytics

Wed, 28 Feb 2018 04:36:44 GMT

The most significant shift in digital media is how everyone has realized that subscriptions are essential to their future revenue. The days when advertising was the driving force behind publishers are long gone.

Lots of things need to change for publishers to be successful with online subscriptions, and I have talked about many of these changes in my other Plus reports. One thing that is dramatically different is how we talk about analytics.

The difference between measuring your performance for an unknown audience compared to a known audience is amazing. Because as soon as people subscribe, you also have the ability to track them as individuals. And this changes everything.

Not only do you realize that your existing metrics are very poor, (because those metrics don't work with subscribers) but you also realize that the way you measure things isn't designed to give you the answers that you need.

So, in this 32 page Plus report, we are going to take a deep dive into the amazing world of subscriber analytics. You will learn why they're so important, what metrics you should be looking at, and how to get insights from looking at each person rather than at your traffic as a whole.

Before we start: A word about GDPR

As you already know, a new privacy regulation will come into effect in Europe called GDPR, and it makes a number of important changes in what you can do.

In short, the changes are simple. The data that you use has to be transparent and available for people to see. You can only use data that people have given consent to, which basically means that you can only use data that you have collected directly. Going out and buying audience profile data from data brokers is a big no. And finally, you are only allowed to collect data that is relevant and limited to what people are using your business for.

→ Read the rest of this article on Baekdal Plus.

The Refreshed Edition of Baekdal Plus

Sun, 25 Feb 2018 19:51:39 GMT

Welcome to the new Baekdal Plus. You might have noticed that everything suddenly looks different. And yes, Baekdal Plus has been redesigned, reengineered, and updated in every way possible.There are still a few things that haven't been launched yet (but will be over the next couple of weeks), but let me very quickly tell you about what has changed, both for you as a reader, but also for me as a publisher. And also talk a little bit about preparing for the future.First of all, what has changed?The answer to this is everything and nothing.Technically, everything has changed. Every line of code has been rewritten from scratch. The server is now hosted in a different place, the database is different, the CMS system is different, the member system has changed, the payment system is different ... everything is new.But, at the same time, the business model around Baekdal Plus has not changed. The overall product that you get when you subscribe to Plus, being 25 Plus reports about the future of media, is still the main focus. And obviously, all the existing articles and reports (more than 220) are still available for you to read.What has changed for you, as a subscriber, is a sharper editorial focus.Baekdal Plus has always been focused on helping media executives understand the future of media trends and how to convert that into a useful strategy. But, the definition around this was always a bit vague.My main categories were 'insights' and 'analysis', which isn't really that defined.With this new site, however, I have optimized my editorial strategy to give you something far more focused. Now Baekdal Plus will focus on four key areas.Trends: What is the future of media? What are the overall patterns and shifts in consumption?Strategy: This is all about converting the long-term media trends into a real strategy.Monetization: This section will focus on the best ways to think about monetization. I will also add reports which show you how to change your existing model into something better.Analytics: This section is all about the incredibly important shift that we see in relation to analytics and data for publishers. It's not just about what to measure, but also about the future of data journalism, and machine learning.I have already started writing for this new focus. For instance, not long ago I published 'A Guide to Pricing Strategies for a Sport Site', where I illustrated how Eurosport could change their monetization model. And in 'How Editorial Analytics can Help you Define your Editorial Strategy', I wrote about how you could use analytics in a much smarter way.Each of these articles was written with this new focus in mind. One being specifically about monetization, and the other about analytics.So, Baekdal Plus is not really changing. But it is getting sharper and more valuable.What else has changed?Beyond the focus that has changed for you, I have also updated quite a lot of things about the site.One example is the payment system.Before, I was using PayPal, because it was simple and cheap (and reliable, unlike most payment startups in 2010). But I have never really been happy with PayPal. The problem with PayPal is that, when you subscribed, you were redirected to PayPal's site, where you were asked to create a PayPal account.This is not an optimal experience, especially for business minded readers.What was worse was that PayPal never got around to optimizing for mobile. If you just buy a product, PayPal's checkout experience works fine, but when you ask to subscribe to something, PayPal only works on the desktop.This is what PayPal presented to people when you tried subscribing to Baekdal Plus from your phone.I don't even want to think about how many potential subscribers I have lost because of this terrible experience.So, the new Baekdal Plus is using Stripe, and what a difference that makes.Now when you want to subscribe, you are presented with a payment screen[...]

Fascinating Traffic Experiments by Publishers

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 18:20:00 GMT

Last week, I came across two very interesting traffic experiments, which are worth talking about. One was about how a publisher tried to increase the volume of posts on YouTube, and the other was about a publisher who decided to see what happened if they stopped using Facebook.Both are very interesting, so let's look at what happened with each and what the result was.We will start with this:Fstoppers tried going for volume on YouTubeFstoppers is a site for photographers that I have admired for many years, and that I have used as an example of a brilliant editorial strategy.In 2015, I wrote "Drop The Content Strategy, Create A Care Strategy Instead", where Fstoppers was mentioned as a site that did this really well. In June 2017, I mentioned them in "What is the Best Monetization / Subscription Model?" and, last August, they were also mentioned in "Can Your Readers Trust You With Their Time?"You can probably spot a trend here. Fstoppers is a publisher who is really good at creating very high-value paid-for content that is worth people's time. And the way they earn most of their money is through very high-end tutorial series that you have to buy.Like this one (price: $299):youtube:ykXYCAB1FfcThe problem with high-value sites like this, however, is that the high-value doesn't necessarily create a lot of traffic, and, as a publisher, you start to get antsy about growth.This happened to Fstoppers as well. They already have a successful business, but they started wondering if they could just post more to grow more.The result was that, a month ago, Fstoppers posted a video called "The Future of Fstoppers" where they announced this new publishing strategy.For the next 30 days we are going to be releasing a new video every single day. If this month is a success, we will be focusing on producing more free content in other words, they would try to replace high-value with frequency. The videos would still be very good (they were not posting viral content), but it wouldn't be as in-depth, or as planned as their usual content.So... what happened? Did this work?Well, the month of January is now over and they have published another video where they go into what video is worth watching by itself, but let me summarize it.The first thing they discovered was that the higher frequency boosted the engagement throughout their site and on YouTube. had the highest level of traffic, the highest time on site and the most engagement ... ever!This is great, but when they looked into their analytics, they found that most of this boost wasn't actually coming from these new, extra videos per day, but from other content posted by their community.So, these extra videos seemed to have boosted the activity of the site, but they didn't actually contribute to it by themselves.This is fascinating because it gives us an 'unknown'. We don't really know if this actually worked or not, because the measurable impact was almost non-existent, while the total effect was the best ever. But it also hints to the 'trend of presence'.I have talked about this before. Presence is often a very big part of the effect that you can have, in that, if you can be present in people's minds, you often experience a kind of spillover effect on your business as a whole.This is not just true for content, but also everything else ... like advertising. We know that creating an ad campaign where you show up in front of people continually over time is far more effective than just having one good ad.So, was what we saw here part of the 'trend of presence'?As a media analyst, I don't know from the data that I have. It may simply have been coincidental in that maybe some of the community content was so good that it worked all by itself. And, if this is the case, these 30 videos they posted were basically a fail.But this is something[...]

A Guide to Pricing Strategies for a Sport Site

Wed, 24 Jan 2018 16:48:01 GMT

The digital world has opened up many new ways of defining your publishing model and one of the clearest examples of this is when we look at sports sites.

Sport is a special type of publishing in that everything is seasonal, so designing a pricing model to match is one of the key ways that sports publishers can get a lot smarter about offering people exactly what they want.

In this 36 page guide, we are going to take a look at how you would create a pricing strategy for a sport site. We are going to talk about the power of upselling, how to use niches, and how to network them together to get a better result than if you were just targeting everyone as a mass-market.

In this guide, we are going to use Eurosport as a case study, not by what they are doing today, but by how we could redefine their pricing model for something much better.

Obviously, while the focus of this article is sports related, the insights that you will get can apply to many other forms of publishing. In fact, it applies to any publisher with a seasonal element, as well as most publishers who are tapping into the trend of niche publishing.

So, let's get started ... and we are going to start with the very end, by taking a problem that we often come across when publishers don't design their subscription and renewal process.

People only subscribe to watch something before the game

One of the most obvious things about sport is that timing has a very big influence on when people are considering subscribing to a sports site.

For instance, if you are a fan of tennis, you might be very interested in watching the Australian Open 2018 Tennis Tournament, which is taking place between January 15 and January 28.


If you are a publisher who is planning to offer people a way to follow this live, when would people be most likely to buy a subscription for this?

→ Read the rest of this article on Baekdal Plus.

Facebook may not be the Right Market for Publishers, but it is for Facebook

Wed, 17 Jan 2018 04:34:40 GMT

It has been almost a week since Facebook told publishers that they were no longer a key element of its future strategy, and the outburst of articles about this has been ... eh... interesting to read.There have been some good observations, like when Wolfgang Blau, President of Condé Nast International, wrote about the importance of China for Facebook. That was a great observation.There was also the very important observation made by Joshua Benton (and others) that people, generally, don't actually use Facebook for news ... and when they do, it's mostly accidental.About 75 percent of users reporting seeing either just 1 news story in their top 10 News Feed posts or none at all.But, we have also seen quite a large number of very frustrated people in the media industry, which is understandable. This has led to some very strange articles where the journalists don't seem to be actually looking at any of the trends.For instance, The Verge wrote that 'Facebook's startling new ambition is to shrink' ... uh... nope. There is absolutely nothing about Facebook's new plans that are about shrinking. It's quite the opposite.A number of journalists are claiming that Facebook's new plan to favor friends' interactions will increase the problem with fake news. But while this might have been true in the past, this new change is different.And there have also been journalists/editors saying that Facebook should be required to include news because of their position in the market ... which doesn't really make any sense once you realize what Facebook is about.So let me offer three different aspects to this story that will encourage you to think about what's happening on Facebook in a different way.And we will start with this:The problem is not Facebook, it's consumptionOne of the biggest frustrations I have as a media analyst, about how publishers talk about Facebook, is that we focus on the traffic but not the audience.I'm reminded here of a tweet that Casey Newton posted last week saying this:He is exactly right about this. Facebook has been pretty big in terms of driving traffic, but it's not very good at driving an audience.But the problem here isn't really about Facebook, it's about the market that Facebook is in.Facebook is a channel that people turn to when they have a quick break and just want to see something random. In other words (as I have talked about for about five years), Facebook is in the market for low-intent micro-moments.We see this very clearly when we compare how people use YouTube with how they use Facebook. On YouTube, you go to your 'subscription page' where you look at what the people you follow have posted ... and then you pick the specific videos that you want to see, which you then watch for maybe 20 minutes at a time.That's a deep relationship.On Facebook, because they have filled our NewsFeed with so much extra content, you are forced into a consumption model where you have no way to pick anything... so you just stop doing it.And because of this, Facebook is extremely 'niche' when it comes to what works and what doesn't work on Facebook.For instance, business publications learned a long time ago that Facebook is not the platform for them. Because low-intent is the opposite of what a business reader is looking for.Facebook is also terrible for building up valuable momentum. For instance, you can't use Facebook to teach people anything.You can do that on YouTube with no problem, in fact, many young people define YouTube as a 'learning channel'. According to Ofcom's 'Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report', about 40% of all young people use YouTube for watching tutorials, DIYs, walkthroughs and other 'learning' content.Nobody talks about Facebook that way.And this is where we come to news, because think about what type of impact this has on news coverage. What t[...]