Times To Pay The Price

March 28, 2011 § 3 Comments

Updated: March 28, 2011 8:12 p.m.
And so the experiment begins, with traditional print journalists heaving a sigh of relief and online folks raising an eyebrow or two while posting away jauntily on their blogs with the words “failure” and “mistake.”

Today, the NYTimes website unveiled a small box in the upper right corner entitled “Digital Subscriptions” that has the potential to re-energize what some have referred to as  a sinking paper ship known as the newspaper.  But will people go for it?

That question alone has been the subject of  intense conversation between professional, amateur and even journalists in training (such as myself) at some point or another, touching upon the industry’s ability to charge an audience for what it’s been able to get for free.

But whether the move spells out success or doom for the media giant is yet to be seen.

What we do know is this: it wouldn’t be the first time that a newspaper has evoked a pay wall onto its online twin (The Wall Street Journal claims the prize for largest newspaper to initiate and sustain a pay wall), nor is  it even the first attempt by the Times itself.

Indeed, the Times briefly flirted with the idea of monetizing their online content with TimesSelect only to ditch the plan two years later in 2007. Up until today,  readers were given unbridled access to any of the Times articles written post 1980.  The site’s general manager at the time had this to say on the decision to eliminate what had brought in $10 million a year for the company:

“We now believe by opening up all our content and unleashing what will be millions and millions of new documents, combined with phenomenal growth, that that will create a revenue stream that will more than exceed the subscription revenue.” (Vivian Schiller)

Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case as the Times continues to bleed red and viewers  have much more to choose from now than they did back in ’07 –both for free and online.

The wall has already dominated the blogosphere with some supporters like  The Onion who called  it a “bold business move” and  readers of Business Insider affirming the wall’s future success. But the web also hosts the paper’s ‘fare’ share of wall naysayers like The Street who call it “the dumbest of this week’s dumbest.”

Unsurprisingly,  sites such as this one take a stronger stance on the inadequacies of the wall with instructions on how to evade it entirely. (If anyone tries it, do tell me how it goes. I am very interested in seeing if the web gods really are all powerful–even in the likes of the Sulzbergers). PCWorld does a great job at breaking the terms of the pay wall down for size with their post here.

But while many are anxious to see just how porous or impervious this pay wall is, I for one am dreading the day that I see the pay wall in all it’s digital brick-ish glory upon hitting my 21st article (something that will occur in probably less than a week’s time).

As a broke (journalism) college student, paying that extra $7.40 a week just isn’t an option.

So, food for thought: how many of you are opening your wallets for an online subscription and how many of you are not ready just yet to throw in the proverbial towel?

Coming Soon To A Google Near You: Larry Page

January 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

I’m not an admirer, more like a user. But then again, who isn’t?

Personally I’ve always found delight in Google doodles, which exemplifies Google’s quirky web nerd roots.

With a multitude of products available for your computer, your smartphone, your iPad/tablet, and now even your tv, Google is taking over–one free download at a time.

It’s hard not to notice when something changes in the Google stratosphere, whether it’s ‘instantizing’ the already instant with Google’s live search mode, or taking on another web giant at its own game (ahem, Skype) with Google Voice.

Indeed, the one blip on Google’s radar (besides China) would probably be social media. The multimedia giant has yet to stake its claim on the lucrative business of making the internet social.

Where Google Buzz failed to attract, well, buzz, Facebook and other socializing empires continue to rake in users, and revenue.

Cue the management change.

Media reports have it that Google, not wanting to be outdone by the likes of such Harvard snobbery (after all, both co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin met in Stanford), is gearing up for a change in strategy that has co-founder Page stepping in for long-time CEO Eric Schmidt, who held the post since 2001.

While I think the reaction to the personnel change has been rather disproportional, I’ll admit that it appears that the decision is more than a game of musical chairs.

By appointing Page, (who is set to debut in his new role this coming April 4th) Google hopes to better marry its technological and business side. At first glance that doesn’t seem to point to social media, but then consider one of the most valuable (by speculation anyway) internet companies today, Facebook, and then the most popular cross-media ‘technology’ to emerge in years, Twitter, and you get one thing in common: social media.

And it’s important to point out that Schmidt hasn’t really been demoted, he will still serve as executive chairman, which seems to suggest more of a change in direction versus poor job performance.

So in closing, I leave you with the best headline I’ve found related to the Google change thus far, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal: “Google Turns the Page on Schmidt.”

Farewell 2010, Google-Style.

December 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

zeitgeist |ˈtsītˌgīst; ˈzīt-|noun [in sing. ]: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from German Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit.’

In under three minutes, Google has managed to sum up the year while promoting its bevy of online services and products. Leave it to Google to multitask!

Television Without the Box: Ads Galore

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

With Google TV and Apple already making their rounds on the online television circuit, a report from Turner Broadcasting that claims web viewers may be willing to watch even more ads online is drumming up support for television without the television.

The report found that online viewers may be willing to sit through ads comparable to that of current television ads (read: a half hour of NBC’s “Community” actually breaks down to a 23 minute episode with the remaining seven minutes left for 30 seconds+ ads).

Currently, Hulu viewers are accustomed to much less, watching that same 23 minute episode with four to five 15-30 seconds breaks–totaling a whopping minute and a half of ads. Viewers on Hulu also have the option of watching a minute-long trailer or long-form commercial first and bypass the 15-30 seconds breaks entirely for an uninterrupted viewing experience.

The plan? Pad online streams with so many ads that its simply television online. Really? Moving backwards much?

Granted that online viewing still has its limitations, the idea of online streams simply becoming jam-packed with ads will still not bode well with online viewers. The flexibility of the web is still hampered by traditional media, with some shows running on a delayed posting date in conjunction with broadcast agreements (e.g. popular shows like Fox’s “House” is posted 7 days after the original broadcast).

And we still haven’t seen anything comparable to a 6 o’clock news show online that doesn’t originate from a network. [And even so, how many times will you go online to watch Nightly News with Brian Williams the DAY AFTER the original broadcast? It’s old news made even older.]

But for now, it’s good news for those hoping to squeeze the nickels and dime out of online viewers, who, for the most part–don’t really pay attention to ads. At least I don’t. The best part of watching House online, even if it’s a week later, is being able to quickly toggle to my Facebook page while some Toyota ad blares on in the background. Is it just a case of the dollar-dime rule, this time applied to television and the web instead of print and the web?

The Downside to the Buzz: Google's Failed Attempt at Popularity

November 8, 2010 § Leave a comment

In 2009, Myspace was found to be home to thousands of sex offenders as well as aspiring musical bands. [No worries, they’ve since moved to Facebook.]

In 2010, Facebook’s numerous privacy violations became the subject of a book, which in turn became the subject of a movie. All are successful.

In September, Tyler Clementi commits suicide after a telling tweet from his roommate and Perez Hilton vows to be nicer.

Foursquare, and other location-sharing applications, let you become your own GPS and is a privacy suit just waiting to happen.

Digital native or not, we’re all familiar with the fallout of when popular social networks become too social.

The latest notch in the proverbial stick is Google Buzz, an experiment by the tech giant that was launched earlier this year with mixed results. Though it has in no way reached the status of any of the aforementioned, it’s interesting to note that Buzz is not without its problems. As one of Gmail’s 170 million + users, I received the following email earlier this week:

My experiences with Google Buzz were uninspiring and short-lived. I basically clicked on it during its debut in February, only to find a mismatched collection of some of my Gmail contacts that included everyone from good friends, acquaintances, professors, and random people from some random mass emails I’ve received/or sent over the years.

It was weird. It lacked the interactivity of Facebook and even the shallowness of Twitter. And that was about it.

And by the looks of it, I wasn’t the only one to feel this way. Google’s current lawsuit stems from angry users who suddenly found their contact lists made available due to Buzz. You can view the terms of the settlement here:

Of course, tech-media watchdogs like TechCrunch were all over the suit like white on bread, pointing out that Gmail will not be forking over a penny to any of its disgruntled users. Instead, the $8.5 million fund will go towards “organizations focused on Internet privacy policy or privacy education, as well as to cover lawyers’ fees and costs and other expenses.”

In a time when companies are thirsting after web interactivity and web 3.0+, privacy issues are ablaze. And when you figure in the economic and editorial impact such services play in today’s journalism industry, it’s no small matter.

Leave it to Google to reap the cost without the benefits. On the social front, anyways.

Happy Birthday: Google Turns 12 and Plans to Save Journalism

September 27, 2010 § 1 Comment

Google turns 12.

Today, Google turns 12 years old.

In addition to being the world’s leading search engine (everywhere except China where it’s second to Baidu), Google has come to shape the very way Internet users navigate and utilize the web with a wide array of useful and, more often than not, free products.

Google is number two when it comes to China. Users there prefer Baidu, which was created by two Chinese nationals.

In conjunction with its birthday, Google unleashed Google Instant, a live search function that’s more cool than shocking in terms of changing the way users search online (it didn’t). And Google is becoming a force to be reckoned with outside the confines of the Web, competing on the phone market with its highly popular Android operating system for smartphones, as well as the newly launched Google Voice, which is set to compete with Skype as well as traditional landlines.

Google’s web shadow is monstrous, yes, but what exactly does it have to do with journalism? Well, just about everything.

For starters there’s Google News, the popular news aggregator that had that pesky run-in with the Associated Press, and Google’s ongoing partnership with China, which brought up a censorship debate over the country’s use of a search-limited Google.

China's relationship with Google hinges on being able to search limit internet users.

So it’s no secret that Google plays a large role in the dissemination and access of information on the Web, which in turn plays a part in the general dissemination of news. And more recently, the ‘killing’ of traditional news as it shifts from print and television to the web…but perhaps we’ve been looking at it all wrong.

Back in June, James Fallows of the Atlantic wrote a piece entitled “How To Save the News,” providing readers with an inside look at Google’s attempt to save journalism by coming up with an alternate business model.

Google might be 'killing' the news, so maybe it can 'save' it too?

Among Google’s suggestions for the drowning industry? Cutting newsprint, bundling news online, rebuilding display ads, designing a paywall, and basically transforming the way people digest news by linking directly to youtube videos and breaking up text.

All in all, it’s an interesting take on the biz from a group that’s poised to kill it.

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