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Apr 5, 2008

NEWS: Social networking ads making more money

Q&A with Seth Goldstein, on social networking ads making more money

ERIC ELDON | APRIL 5TH, 2008 Ad network Social Media has been making some money with third-party applications on Facebook since around the time of the social network’s developer platform launch last May, but now things are starting to get better.

The Palo Alto and Mill Valley, Calif.-based company runs ads on these applications, and splits revenue with developers. It raised a venture round of funding from Charles River Ventures last fall. Now, it is starting to see more clients coming in, including large advertisers and their advertising budgets.
I recently sat down with Social Media co-founder and chief executive Seth Goldstein, to hear more about the company’s progress.

VentureBeat: So how valuable do you think advertising will be on social networks in 2008.

Seth Goldstein: Right now, everyone’s still experimenting. There’s lots of noise. Reporting metrics are all over the place.

I think advertising in social media will be distinguished by a focus on making ads as socially engaged as apps themselves. It’s a question of how to turn ads into endorsement opportunities.

Facebook itself is doing good experiments on social ads, like where you’ll see a picture of people who have installed an app. That’s the direction ads on social networks will take. It’s a question of how to turn ads into endorsement opp.

I’d say that in this next year there’s a $50 million market opportunity — besides what Facebook itself is doing. You’ll see a lot of it backloaded later in the year, like around November and December. Starting in September, you’ll see a lot of people’s hard work now pay off in the form of ad insertion orders and bigger ad budgets.

The entertainment industry may be a big provider — maybe 30-40 percent of the market. Travel ads will make a lot of sense, same with apparel brands, lifestyle brands, cosmetic brands, deodorant. Basically, any brand that wants to reach a younger audience, and isn’t relying on big, considered purchases. Other advertisers, like car manufacturers and financial services, might take longer to get on board.

VB: Social Media has been up and running since the launch of Facebook’s developer platform last May. What are some of the changes you’ve seen in advertising on Facebook?

SG: The evolution started with cost-per-install advertising last summer, where one app would include an ad for another app. [Note: If the ad resulted in the advertising app getting installed by a user, the app that ran the ad would get paid — critics have called this a pyramid scheme]. Some of these ads were kinda legit, like the Microsoft Office “poke,” where companies could use one of the “poking” apps to sell branded pokes. Lots of people got business there.

November saw the first substantial money from lead generation — millions of dollars in total. Of course, you already see this working on the web all the time, with things like ads for free iPod giveaways in exchange for users filling out a survey. On Facebook, you saw it in areas like online education, dating, wireless services.

Now, the more progressive brands and agencies are starting to get much more focused on advertising on social networks. They’ve realized its not going a way — there was a time when people thought that social networks were just fads, but they’re not.

VB: What’s different about Social Media from other companies that sell advertising and provide data for applications on Facebook and other social networks?

SG: We’re the only network that works exclusively for independent developers. We don’t have our own apps [as opposed to companies like Slide, RockYou, Zynga and SGN, that have their own apps but also sell ads for third-parties].

Lets say you’re a company with both your own apps and you’re selling ads for others, and you get a big deal from Nissan. Where do you put it? Do you run the ad in your own apps first? I think there’s a structural conflict — although these are not bad businesses. I mean, in some sense Google has to manage this problem, as it provides ads on its own site and on other sites with Adsense.

NEWS: Gartner: Open source will quietly take over

Gartner: Open source will quietly take over

    Peter Judge ZDNet.co.uk Published: 04 Apr 2008 

In a few years' time, almost all businesses will use open source, according to Gartner; even though IT managers may be unaware of it, and prefer to talk about fashions such as software as a service.

Open-source promoters have welcomed the endorsement by what is seen as a conservative commentator, but predict the changes will go further than Gartner assumes.

"By 2012, more than 90 percent of enterprises will use open source in direct or embedded forms," predicts a Gartner report, The State of Open Source 2008, which sees a "stealth" impact for the technology in embedded form: "Users who reject open source for technical, legal or business reasons might find themselves unintentionally using open source despite their opposition."...

"Gartner has woefully underestimated the penetration of open source," said Mark Taylor, president of promotion group the Open Source Consortium. "Everyone uses [open source] on a daily basis in services like Google."

However, he welcomed the analyst's prediction that open source would disappear from view: "Open source has been promoted since 1998. If it fades from view now, because it is embedded in the mainstream, that is exactly what we wanted."...

This is nothing more than marketing-speak, said Taylor: "It's a very superficial analysis," he said. "The two will become almost indistinguishable as 98 to 99 percent of SaaS will be open source." And Gartner agrees that, by 2011, open source will dominate software infrastructure for cloud-based providers.

Ed: Not news. History.

NEWS: Your ad-supported Web 2.0 site is actually a B2B enterprise in disguise

Doing a B2C is more fun than a B2B right?
A lot of folks are doing consumer internet startups because they think Web 2.0 startups are more fun. You can focus on the end user, make them happy, get traction, and go from there. Enterprise software companies (or their equivalent brethren, SaaS companies) are perceived as annoying because:

  • You have to hire a big, inefficient sales team
  • Your numbers depend on closing key deals (usually at the end of the quarter)
  • You have to deal with annoying suit-wearing people who don't talk geek
  • You have to make your product better not through superior technology, but often through superior PR, sales operations, or other non-geek issues...

It's very hard to just use ad networks like Google AdSense to sustain yourself - just do the math using 10 to 25 cent CPMs and you'll quickly see why.

And brand advertising sales looks and feels exactly the same as enterprise sales, and has all the same annoying characteristics, including:

  • You have to hire a big ad sales team, potentially with an expensive office in New York
  • A small percentage of advertiser/agency relationships will supply a large chunk of your revenues. This means that "key deals" matter, and you will jump if they ask you to - for example University of Phoenix was worth $200MM/yr for AOL
  • Everyone you talk to in the ad industry are not nerds - many come from traditional media backgrounds, again with a NY bias
  • And fundamentally, brand advertising isn't a tech game - it's one based on great execution and great teams - so Silicon Valley tech companies often are at a disadvantage

The key thing here is: The users of your website are not really your customers...

How to avoid this mess
Of course, one way to completely sidestep these issues is to directly monetize your users - this is pretty hard, because you have to deal with transaction processing, coming up with something so compelling people will pay for it, and a number of other problems.

Net/net, the approaches here that align you directly with your customers are business models like:

  • Subscriptions
  • Virtual goods
  • E-Commerce
  • etc

Ed: Brand ad sales is fragmented and expensive. 

Apr 4, 2008

NEWS: Adobe Gears Up Ad Supported Video Service

Adobe Gears Up Ad Supported Video Service

Adobe is starting public trials of its ad-supported video service with CBS and MTV as partners, Reuters reports. Adobe didn't tell Reuters much about it, other than it will be delivered via the Adobe Media Player, which was released in beta form in September; a final version is scheduled for the second half of 2008.

The Flash-based software allows viewers to watch shows while not connected to the Internet. Shows are downloaded in encrypted form along with advertising, via RSS-like video feeds. At the time of the beta release last year, Adobe said it had content deals with CBS (CBS), Yahoo Video (YHOO), PBS and blipTV.

How William Morris and other Hollywood agencies are getting into tech startups and investing

wma040408.pngAll manner of Hollywood businesses are looking at how they can make themselves profitable online. The future isn’t clear for stalwarts like the larger music labels and movie studios. But there are other power players in the media who are making moves. In particular it’s worth looking at the role that Hollywood talent agencies are starting to play in connecting technology companies with the media and advertising industries...

Another big rival agency, International Creative Management (ICM) is also reportedly looking at building technology and investment relationships. Interestingly, ICM’s chief executive, Jeff Berg, has been on enterprise software company Oracle’s board of directors for a decade and has been talking with his tech-world contacts about how is company can work closer with them...

The last of the big four, United Talent Agency (UTA), is meanwhile playing more of an incubator role with online TV firm 60 Frames, and others.

Fox Interactive Media Creates Advertising Network

Los Angeles-based Fox Interactive Media said late Thursday evening that it has created a new advertising network, focused on its own web sites and third party publishers. According to FIM, the new unit, Fox Interactive Media Audience Network, will be headed by Adam Bain, formerly the firm's EVP of Technology and Production. The new unit will be based out of Santa MOnica. According to FIM, the new unit will combine its advertising technology, ad operaitons, and performance sales efforts; the unit will sell performance-based ads for Fox Interactive Media--including MySpace.com--and third party sites. FIM said that it will also continue to work with third party ad networks to sell its advertising inventory. Bain joined Fox Interactive Media from the firm's acquisition of yield optimization firm Strategic Data Corporation in 2007. 

NEWS: TV Learning Importance of Targeting

TV Learning Importance of Targeting

April 4, 2008; Page B7

The advertising industry has long had a hunch that consumers are more apt to watch a television commercial if they actually are in the market for the product or service being pitched. Now, they have some evidence.

[An ad for Saab, a GM brand, was tested in a recent targeted-advertising study.]
An ad for Saab, a GM brand, was tested in a recent targeted-advertising study.

A 16-month study by cable company Comcast and Starcom MediaVest, a media firm owned by Publicis Groupe, found that households that had ads targeted to them were about a third less likely to change the channel than those that were shown traditional ads.

The idea of trying to reach people with ads that are more relevant isn't new to direct-mail and Web marketers. But TV advertising, at least in this respect, is behind the curve. The TV business is only slowly starting to roll out technology that allows advertisers to target narrow slices of the audience. With marketers clamoring for more sophistication and accountability in the $70 billion U.S. television-ad market, ad executives say such technology is key to preventing more of an exodus of advertising money from television to the Web.

The outcry from marketers is prompting companies such as Comcast and Starcom to experiment more with ways to deliver specific TV ads to consumers. The backers of the study, which was conducted from December 2006 to March 2008, used thousands of targeted ads on eight cable networks in 8,000 Comcast households in Huntsville, Ala. The test included ads from Starcom clients such as General MotorsDiscover Financial Services's Discover Card, Kraft FoodsSABMiller's Miller Brewing, Procter & Gamble, Mars and Hallmark.

"Clients are demanding accountability," says Laura Desmond, chief executive officer of Starcom MediaVest the Americas, adding, "We will reward those that deliver a higher level of measurement and accountability to us and our clients."

Here is how the study worked. A pet-food maker in the study decided to target only pet owners with its ads. Experian, a data company that tracks households by everything from age and gender to income level, can pinpoint households in the region with pet owners. Comcast, using digital technology from OpenTV, can deliver the ad to the appropriate set of households. The idea is that the pet-food ads are seen by pet owners and not by those who aren't in the market for such products.

Targeted ads in the study were anonymous, meaning the media agency, advertiser and cable operator weren't able to see personal information about the households being targeted. Comcast and Starcom MediaVest have agreed to launch a second phase of testing later this year; it will include 100,000 households in Baltimore and about 10 marketers, including General Motors.

For participants in the first trial, such as GM, the study was an opportunity to use successful strategies from the direct-mail world in television. GM is taking a closer look at so-called addressability in television because it speaks to a very narrow group of consumers, says Betsy Lazar, executive director of advertising and media operations at GM. Since most consumers shop for a car once every few years, GM is looking to speak to only about 1.5% of people in the U.S. each month, she says.

In the study, GM used mostly demographic characteristics, such as age and income level, to target ads for foreign-branded cars, mainstream cars and luxury cars from the company.

"It's logical that because we know so much more about them that [the company is] going to get a lift," says Ms. Lazar. Because of the encouraging results, she added, GM has signed on to the next phase of the study.

National advertisers often have been reluctant to buy ads with cable operators, in part because of a fragmented cable landscape in which no one operator covers the entire country. Targeted advertising may help change that.

Creating ads that audiences have a greater impetus to view is increasingly important as the spread of video-on-demand and DVR technologies makes it easier for viewers to skip commercials. And advertisers continue to demand greater targeting and accountability as the growth in Internet advertising heats up competition for budgets, says Andrew Ward, Comcast's vice president of strategic alliances.

Ed: Comcast is motivated to take advertising from broadcasters. Otherwise, would GM pay 50 times more per impression to reach targeted viewers?

Yahoo Reveals (Some) Details About Its Ad Plans

NEWS: "Free" is Killing Us--Blame The VCs

Ed: Another great conversation starter using an argumentative opinion piece. SAI and Mr. Arrington have been masters of public stimulation.

"Free" is Killing Us--Blame The VCs
nacholibre.jpgI believe it should be possible to start a small business and to have a small number of profitable customers, and to earn a living. From there, it should be possible to work hard, and to grow your business into something substantial. Until recently, this was the American way, and it applied to technology as much as to any other business. But no more.

In today’s “free” world, in most online business categories, it is inherently impossible to start a small self-sustaining business and to grow it. This is because in the digital world, advertising, the only real revenue stream, cannot support a small digital business. If businesses were based on the idea that people paid for services then small companies could succeed at a small scale and grow. But it is very hard to charge when your competition is free...
HOW-TO: Instant Conversation Among Techcrunch, Rea..
Reality Television Comes to Journalism - Thy Name

Apr 3, 2008

Instant Conversation Among Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, and Silicon Alley Insider on Craigslist

Ed: The EST time advantage for SAI...

Craigslist Valuation: $80 Million in 2008 Revenue, Worth $5 Billion (Silicon Alley Insider)

Henry Blodget | 8:00 AM EST
We're working on our list of the World's Most Valuable Startups, and Craigslist is a shoo-in. We think the company's worth at least $5 billion. But we'd love to get your input. Read >

Ed: 4 hours later...

Craigslist Launches Official Blog (Techcrunch)
Craigslist launches their official blog today at blog.craigslist.com. Previously founder Craig Newmark would get the word out via his personal blog, but now Craigslist has it’s own voice. The blog is lacking a RSS feed and has only rudimentary comments, but it is a true blog nonetheless...
Ed: 2 hours later...

How to Enjoy Craigslist's New Blog, Born Without an RSS Feed (ReadWriteWeb)

When they say Craigslist is simple, it really is remarkably simple. The company finally launched an official blog and it's every bit as functionally pared down as the rest of the site. Maybe even more so - there's no way to subscribe. What's a blog without subscription? A blog that gets read a lot less than it would be otherwise!

That's a real shame because there's already some very interesting looking content there. This is a solvable problem, though.

Michael Arrington, who saw the blog first, writes "The blog is lacking a RSS feed and has only rudimentary comments, but it is a true blog nonetheless." Why didn't they just through up a WordPress install? Nobody knows. While the bloggyness of it all seems debatable, we've got your RSS feeds right here.

Half for fun and half for work, we created an RSS feed for the new Craigslist blog that you can subscribe to below. That blog should be interesting, but if it ends up half as interesting as the Best of Craigslist section of the site - then look out Technorati 100.

The New Craigslist Blog

Full feed URL: http://feeds.feedburner.com/craigslistblog2

The body of the posts won't be delivered in this feed, as we struggled to scrape a feed at all using Feed43. When I say we, in this case, I mean my dashingly handsome and brilliant co-blogger Josh Catone...

Ed: Or is it scooping the competition in real time? Where is the New York Times?

Craigslist Valuation: $80 Million in 2008 Revenue, Worth $5 Billion (Techmeme)
As we prepare to release our SAI 25: World's Most Valuable Startups list, we're running through some final valuation numbers.  One company that is a shoo-in for the list is Craigslist (yes, it has been around a while … Discussion: ClickZ and Deal Journal.

Reality Television Comes to Journalism - Thy Name

NEWS: More Sex, Power, Money

Ed: Canals to blog or website.

Sex, Money, and Power - The Anchor of Social Networks
Feeds, Weeds, Reads, and User Needs

MySpace Becoming a Portal to Artists' Own Networks

When MySpace first launched, one of its main draws was the music offered by independent artists on the site, something which generated a strong following among new musicians and their friends. These young artists were using the platform as a way to get their name out there, share their tunes, and attract a fan base.

As MySpace's popularity grew, other big-name talents flocked to the network, setting up profiles and adding all their fans as friends. Using MySpace became a standard way artists would complement their own web site, often a static creation produced by their label. On MySpace, artists could communicate with their fans, share info on upcoming concerts, and gain interest for their new releases by promoting them as free downloads or by letting fans add the tracks to their MySpace profiles.

As other social networks came onto the scene, some artists ventured out, creating profiles on sites like Facebook, Bebo, and the like. But MySpace remained the number one spot for music, musicians, and music fandom when it came to social networking.

Now, MySpace's function as the central place for fans to gather is starting to change.

Today, a growing number of artists are using their social networking profiles to funnel their fans out of those large, public networks and into their own private social networks.

Take for example, social network Thisis50.com, a fan site for rapper 50 Cent. The network is less of a traditional online fan club and more of a place for 50 Cent to showcase new tunes as well as interact with his fans by releasing news and commenting on fans' profile pages.


Why Artists Want Their Own Networks

On the surface, it may not seem like there's anything too different about this private social network and a typical MySpace profile page, but behind the scenes, it's a whole new ball game: the difference is the control.

Says Chris "Broadway" Romero, director for new media at G-Unit Records, which handles Thisis50, "The thing that separates Thisis50 from MySpace is we control the e-mail database. We can email members if we want to."

Not only that, but artists can also sell ads on the site, offer downloads, and sell merchandise. But most importantly, they own the content and data, something MySpace can't offer.

These artists aren't worried about data portability and how to make it easy for fans to jump from a main social network like MySpace to their private network. They know their fans will just follow them there.

So, now, the big social networks are just becoming a means to advertise to fans about the "real" social network - the one the artists control. These private social network's do double-duty, functioning as the artists' main homepage as well. No longer boring, label-produced marketing tools, these private social networks are a personalized way for artists to reach their community while also promoting their products - music and merchandise.

Building Private Social Networks

To build these private social networks, services like Ning and Social Project's Flux are providing the tools.

Flux's fShare product, for example, provides a way for anyone to share content like videos, blogs, or photos across the social web, be it on MySpace, Facebook, LJ, or Blogger, as well as one any Flux-powered community. An artist who puts the fShare widget code on their site provides their fans an easy send that content across the web: by email, embedded code, or directly to social networking sites.

When an artist upgrades to Flux's largest package, Flux Custom, the possibilities are even greater: member profile, community pages, easy integration of photos and videos, discussion boards, pre-built templates and customizable layouts, content moderation and flagging tools, and more.

Fans benefit, too, from using a centralized service like Flux. They can create one Flux profile and then join the networks of any artist using the platform without having to re-register on each site.

Meanwhile, as the fans participate on these networks, the artists get detailed information about their users - what the watched, what the clicked on, and what they shared - analytics MySpace couldn't provide.

The cost for artists to get started is relatively low, too - only $34 per month at Ning and at Flux, it's a percentage of the revenue earned. The artists might hire someone to run the site, but once fans get involved, they're often the ones posting content, so the staff doesn't have to work nearly as hard to keep the site fresh.

So far, the model is working. Fans are not only participating, but are also happy to buy directly from the site, be it music, ringtones, or merchandise, again making artists question their supposed need for a label.

Today, several well-known artists have launched their own networks built on the Flux platform, including The Cure, Sheryl Crow, Ashlee Simpson, Pussycat Dolls, Nicole Scherzinger, Esmee Denters, Halfway to Hazard, Souljaboy, Lil John, Mims, Pitbull, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Michael, J Holiday, and, of course, 50 cent.


However, some questions comes to mind: for one, if the real musician-to-fan interaction is moving off of MySpace and similar networks, will this hurt them? MySpace especially draws strength from its music offerings and has plans to launch a music service in the future.

While well-known artists might be relocating their biggest fans to interact with them on their own private networks, MySpace shouldn't be too impacted by the loss just yet, although they may miss out on some potential revenue streams once their music store goes live.

However, MySpace will still remain a launchpad for new artists for some time. Once these artists make it big, they may launch their own site. But behind them, plenty of upcoming artists will be available to fill the void.

Another concern some have voiced is that these disparate offerings will lead to "a vast disarray of networks in our midst," which isn't "good news for the social web in general."

Maybe, but maybe not.

As some have guessed, social networking is becoming "a feature, not a destination," so we're only going to see more social networks in the future...but this doesn't have to be a bad thing.

If Flux and Ning joined up with the Data Portability movement, for example, moving in and out of these various networks wouldn't be a big deal.

And then we could enjoy social web, the music, the fandom, and whatever else comes along next, the way that it is meant to be.

NEWS: Behavior Targeting Issues

Study: There is No Tipping Point, Blog Readers Are Skeptical

A new study by Canadian research firm Pollara has surfaced data indicating that Malcolm Gladwell's popular theory about key influencers moving markets may not be valid. Gladwell's arguments in the 2000 book The Tipping Point had reached levels of cliche approaching The Wisdom of Crowds, in large part because of its seductiveness to marketers.

A number of thinkers and now the Pollara study have been arguing that large numbers of people do not make decisions based on the advice of a small number of powerful influencers. The new data from Pollara does say that people use online social networks to make buying decisions, but they trust the advice of their friends and family on those networks far more than they do high-profile bloggers. There are a number of things about blogging that may facilitate this, as well.

From MediaPost today:

Of more than 1,100 adults polled in December, nearly 80% said they were very or somewhat more likely to consider buying products recommended by real-world friends and family, while only 23% reported being very or somewhat likely to consider a product pushed by "well-known bloggers."

"This shows that popularity doesn't always equate to credibility," said Robert Hutton, executive vice president and general manager at Pollara. "Marketers might have to reconsider who the real influencers are out there."

Ed: Headlines different from product recommendations. Repetition/reach of brands matters. Like voting, final decision may lean more heavily toward the opinions of friends.

Your Facebook Profile Isn't Really "You"

A recent study at the University of Texas shows that you might not know your online friends quite as well as you think you do. The study, which utilized a Facebook getting-to-know-you type application, "You Just Get Me," showed that the typical information posted on social networking sites, like favorite books, movies, and music, favorite quotes, majors, hometown, and other similar personal information, does not always give others an accurate impression of you.

Psychology professor Samuel Gosling and collaborator David Evans created the "You Just Get Me" Facebook application and web site, where users could answer forty questions about their personality and then compare their answers to how others view them. The users would rate each other based on these answers, letting their first impressions be their guide. People could be rated as anything from lazy to ingenious to quiet or rude or any of several other unique personality traits.

Surprisingly, answers to most of the basic type of questions, like those found on social networking sites, did not help users figure out what each other were "really" like. Instead, the researchers found that when a user posted things on their profile like their most embarrassing moment, proudest moment, or spirituality, their personalities were much better understood.

A Typical Facebook profile

Even by just posting a link to a funny online video, other people were better able to "get" the other person's personality more accurately that by basic questions alone.

Gosling was drawn to this research because he believed that how one is perceived online is more important than ever these days since social networks are often where other people get their first impression of you. He also mentioned that your social networking profile could also impact your employment opportunities as savvy employers have learned to search out the online profiles of potential new hires.

The full details on the findings of this research project will be presented Monday at the International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media in Seattle.

Ed: Profile, actions, friends views may differ.

Below is the a list of the top 20 ways we saw people tweet and a graph showing the Twittersphere share of the top 10 post methods:

  1. Web 56% (20734)
  2. IM 8% (2975)
  3. Twhirl 7% (2754)
  4. Twitterrific 7% (2462)
  5. TXT 5% (1683)
  6. Twit 3% (1182)
  7. TwitterFox 2% (1114)
  8. movatwitter 2% (718)
  9. P3:PeraPeraPrv 1% (459)
  10. Netvibes 1% (266)
  11. TwitBin 1% (260)
  12. Twitter Tools 1% (222)
  13. TwitterPod 0% (159)
  14. TwitterIrcGateway 0% (152)
  15. Snitter 0% (147)
  16. BeTwittered 0% (106)
  17. Tweetr 0% (95)
  18. NatsuLion 0% (84)
  19. Facebook 0% (79)
  20. PocketTweets 0% (70)

NEWS: Clips from Legacy Newspapers

The National Union of Journalists'
monthly mail-out members' magazine The Journalist is going online, ending all print publications to save print, post, and packaging costs. 

Ed: and the environment.

UK: Evening Leader boosts traffic through Flickr and external sites

flickr.pngTo increase the reach and popularity of multimedia content, local news provides should not be afraid of hosting content on external sites, but should "see them as way to drive traffic to their own websites and to reach new viewers," said The Evening Leader's Christian Dunn.

The Evening Leader has been using photo-sharing site Flickr to host their images and has seen a steady flow of traffic to the paper's website from Flickr. Dunn said that the slide shows created from the pictures had attracted thousands of viewed after being on the site for only a few weeks.

This week the paper has created three public Flickr groups for people to submit images, in hopes that Flickr users readers will join. Submitted pictures may appear in the print edition, and the Leader's Picture Editor Rick Matthews will manage one group for aspiring photographers.

Dunn hopes "these features will encourage readers to participate and provide another source of content and means of distribution for the paper."

Ed: Simple, good idea.

US: Newly launched Backyard Post provides neighborhood news and networking

BackyardPost.pngAfter 574 days of development, Palm Beach Post's Online Innovations Editor William Harnett and his crew released Backyard Post, a website which brings the "Neighbors" section of a newspaper to the Web. 

Backyard Post features an interactive map, where users can click on their neighborhood and share news and connect with their neighbors on personal pages. They can also find news on schools, libraries and parks.

Harnett writes: "Think of the value you can build on top of that foundation of neighborhoods. Not just value for your users, but value as well for the 80 percent of local businesses in your typical market that don't consume any form of newspaper advertising."
Ed: Expensive. Bug prone.

"Digital magazines are either passé or the next big thing - depending who you listen to," writes Robert Andrews, editor of Paidcontent:UK. ...

Drift Editor Howard Swanwick said, "With the internet there's a lifecycle with these things - buzzwords such as digital magazine, podcast, blogging - they tend to come and go. I think digital magazines have had their day. As a medium to put features in, they don't work."

Drift also had problems selling space because "advertisers did not understand the digital format" according to Swanwick. 

US: Seattle Times Co. cut 200 positions

The Seattle Times Company will be laying off or freezing about 200 positions due to approximately $15 million in budget reductions, which will be implemented over the next two months, stated a memo by Seattle Times publisher Frank Blethen.

The bulk of revenue declines are occurring in the Classified ad sections, (a newspaper trend partly due to Craigslisand the like) and online revenue is slow in increasing. About 131 of the 200 cut positions will be layoffs while about 60 unfulfilled positions will be frozen. Currently, the The Times has 1,845 employees.

Blethen wrote that, "The only responsible action to take is to better align our expenses to the reduced revenue we now anticipate."

Canada: Newspaper industry in good health

Canadian newspapers have been largely unharmed by the financial problems affecting many America newspapers, says theCanadian Newspaper Association (CNA). 

Total 2007 revenues, including online operations, slipped only 0.8%, with print advertising decreasing 2.4%. In contrast, online revenue grew 29% over 2006. Newspaper circulation as well took a very minor fall in 2007, decreasing 1.2% after a 3.8% rise the previous year. 

Like in the U.S., online revenue in Canada continues to increase, the difference being that in Canada, online is compensating for print losses. U.S. newspaper revenues were buoyed in a similar fashion in the past, but as the latest Newspaper Association of America(NAA) report reflects, this is no longer the case

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