Brian Fuller's blog on the media, marketing and content creation

The boy on the bike

Posted on | September 28, 2012 | No Comments

5 reasons why live video news will never be the same

Posted on | September 25, 2012 | No Comments

With the advent of streaming, live video news is cheap and ubiquitous but no one is sure what to do with it. Established TV companies like ABC must decide how the era of internet streams meshes with their traditional broadcasting model. Meanwhile, upstarts like the Huffington Post are cranking out reams of video streams without an obvious way to pay for it.

Video news experts explored how to go forward at an event held Tuesday at the British Consulate in New York. Here are five takeaways:

Takeaway 1: Live news is a commodity, media firms are responding

Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, observed that consumers now take for granted that they can see anything, anytime and from multiple angles. He says this means media companies must work to  “create something bespoke out of this commoditized raw experience.”

News firms are responding to the commodity issue with strategies based on curation and engagement. According to Huffington Post President Roy Sekoff, people no longer want scheduled shows but instead clips and highlights on which they can comment.  “People don’t want to watch a full hour of Meet the Press, they want a minute and 30 seconds of Romney saying [something].”

Even if footage of real time news and events is no longer hard to get, it can still offer new ways of attracting an audience. Ray Mia, CEO of Streamworks, a service that helps companies use real-time video, cited a phenomenon in Japan where a live-stream of events in Syria has become an ongoing forum for news discussions.

And even when live news is a pure commodity, there is still money to be made. “We can get cable news ratings just through streaming events,” said Joe Ruffolo, VP of Digital Meida at ABC News. He added that putting events like Michelle Obama’s convention speech on YouTube video leads to millions of additional, monetizable streams.

Takeaway 2: Streaming is a lifeline to young viewers

“The first time my kids plan to watch a network evening news cast is never,” noted Heyward. He says that networks have failed to engage young people in a systematic way. The streaming format presents a new opportunity to do that and perhaps teach new viewers to associate traditional news brands with a given level of quality.

Takeaway 3: We need a better marriage between video and text-based media

Traditional print-based publications like the New York Times and the Huffington Post are rushing into the video space but the results have been underwhelming. Heyward noted that many of the videos simply amount to a print reporter regurgitating a story. “There’s a glut of video but not enough quality video… This is better consumed as print – give me something new.”

ABC’s Ruffolo said his company is experimenting with building fresh types of news by overlaying different forms of textual information onto video. He says text should not be written off because it’s a fast and efficient way to consume information. Combined with video and social engagement, it has a strong future.

Takeaway 4: Metrics are a problem

As with much else in web-based media, no one can figure out how to measure what counts as success for streaming video. Even the experts at the event were unsure if it should be clicks or some more nebulous measure based on “engagement.” All they could agree on was that the status quo doesn’t work and that everyone  is waiting for some type of standardized Nielsen rating for the 21st century.

“Analytics need to get better across board,” said Streamworks’ Mia. “The tools and technology are not there.”

Takeaway 5: Unique video experience requires a unique ad experience

Ruffolo says ABC’s goal is to “create a unique content experience for everyone” but, from a business perspective, the  ”key is how to pair that with a unique advertising experience.”

The ad industry should be blazing a trail in the new live video paradigm along with the content industries. But, as we’ve observed before, they have been slower to adapt. According to Sekoff, this is in part because “brands have to become comfortable with new forms of monetization. They also need metrics to convince [people to commit to] ad spends.”

The panelists predicted the industry will adapt soon and that the present era of pre-roll ads will evolve.


The panel was moderated by former MSNBC editor-in-chief Merrill Brown and sponsored by Streamworks and by UK Trade & Investment.

(Image by  alexwhite via Shutterstock)

via paidContent

What it’s come to

Posted on | August 30, 2012 | No Comments

So this is what it’s come to in the era of digital newspapers. This is a shot of a newsstand containing issues of the once-competitive Santa Clara County Times and the San Jose Mercury News. Notice anything different? They’re the same front-pages, same stories, same advertisements. San Mateo County and Santa Clara County abut each other and share many things in common, but they aren’t the same demographics. Yet the , which owns both, treats the demographic exactly the same.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. If you going to go down that route why don’t you kill the San Mateo County Times? Push the Mercury news the circulation a little bit farther north, change the name from San Jose Mercury News to Mercury News, and all is well.

The Mercury News app covers most of the Bay Area with its multi-titled operations from Oakland to Marin County and all the way down to San Jose. So if the print edition has any hope of survival, perhaps it’s time to become the regional newspaper competing against the pathetic San Francisco Chronicle.

20120830-113823.jpgAfter all, the Bay Area News Group has a lock on the region right now.

Fish or cut bait

Posted on | May 19, 2012 | No Comments

Years ago, Girish Mhatre or Steve Weitzner (one of those eminences grise in the e B:B journalism business) told story about the co-founder of CMP, Gerry Leeds. Leeds, years into the successful expansion of the company he founded with his wife, Lilo, would wander into his newsrooms and scan the stories being readied for his newspapers.

“This story would be better if you killed the lede and just started with the second graf,” he would invariably say. And he’d be right. Most of the stories being published in his papers weren’t the hard-news, inverted pyramid types of stories. They were news-features.

Flash forward to today, and you can discount perhaps the 25 percent of any blog post you read. (Much like this very post). Most of the time you’re reading online, you’re looking for answers and insight. Yet, most of our posts wrap a painfully fat amount of context and story-telling around one or two info-nuggets.

Give me the good stuff quickly so I can move on to the next thing.

I thought about this reading Danielle Kurtzleben’s piece in U.S. News and World Report.

Does the post better serve the reader by just cutting the lengthy financial context out or smashing it into a simple declarative sentence: Newspapers are on the ropes. How can they learn from the Game of Thrones?

Probably, yes. You’re drawn in not only by the compelling statement and odd question but by their connection.

Context is vital to story-telling, though. And we go back and forth between story telling and data delivery. Understanding when to craft which is an art.

Lou Hoffman of the Hoffman Agency has been hammering on the value of story telling lately. And right on to that: In a world of INFINITE information, story telling is more important than ever. This is important for his business and mine.

Today’s priority online is figuring out when to fish and when to cut bail, how to tell a story without watching your reader wriggle off the hook.

War of the Worlds (journalism edition)

Posted on | May 10, 2012 | 2 Comments

Get ready for robo-reporters. Not in a decade; not in a few years but now.

Steven Levy writes in a recent Wired article that a company that burst forth from the loins of one of the country’s great j-schools, Medill at Northwestern, has a product that creates narrative stories out of data. Narrative Science, for example, will take a pitch-by-pitch, play-by-play summary of a baseball game and turn it into a readable, accurate description of the game.

“Narrative Science’s algorithms built the article using pitch-by-pitch game data that parents entered into an iPhone app called GameChanger. Last year the software produced nearly 400,000 accounts of Little League games. This year that number is expected to top 1.5 million.”

As Levy puts it, Little League games may be the sizzle, but financial reports could be the steak.

So you knew this was coming right? We’ve already waded into the shark-infested swamp with Indian and Pakistani writers churning out news stories for local newspapers about town meetings they couldn’t cover, all by reading the meetings’ minutes online. It hasn’t fared too well, but you see where things are headed.

These technological invasions of our sacred profession seem life-threatening every time they land on Earth. The Internet. Newspapers ignored the threat until it was almost too late, but they’re finally transforming, albeit slowly and less than elegantly. Mobile technology was a huge opportunity for traditional media, and that train may have left the station.

In any case, traditional media is still breathing. Embrace this kind of technology–no matter how counterintuitive it seems–and free your staff to do what they do best: find sources, build relationships and tell compelling, provocative stories.

The more open-minded among the inked-stained wretch set is waking up to the fact that there are a lot of things we shouldn’t be doing any more, and acting like stenographers on our own valuable time is one of them.

The week in media, April 2-8

Posted on | April 4, 2012 | No Comments

News organizations’ cultural paralysis

Posted on | March 10, 2012 | No Comments

PaidContent’s Staci Kramer took a deep dive into the much-discussed Project for Excellence in Journalism study that shows among other things that news organizations are losing $7 for every $1 gained in digital revenue. A sobering but not new statistic. (See other interesting media stories in the Week in Media post).

What’s surprising–and what Kramer illuminates in her piece–is the cultural paralysis that plagues news organizations. Presumably most executives know a little math and how to navigate their way around an Excel spreadsheet, but the numbers they’ve been staring at for a decade seem not to be sparking much action.

She writes:

One exec bluntly states, “There’s no doubt we’re going out of business right now.” (Who said it? Unless he or she comes forward, we don’t have a clue. The same is true for all of the newspaper execs quoted in The Search for a New Business Model.)

The same exec explains: “There might be a 90 percent chance you’ll accelerate the decline if you gamble and a 10 percent chance you might find the new model. No one is willing to take that chance.”

I sat in an internal meeting this week at UBM Electronics in which an executive from our parent company, UBM, mentioned that overall the company’s print-digital revenues are now about 50-50. It surprised me that it was even and that print wasn’t, say 25 percent of overall revenues or less. There are still many audiences and advertising segments that prefer print, and that’s fine.

But for those that don’t, many of us have struggled with our changing business for more than a decade. And we’ve acted. It’s a process and an evolution and it’s often not pretty, but we’ve acted.

Acting good. Inertia bad.

Is journalism thriving or dying?

Posted on | March 8, 2012 | No Comments

Newspaper revenue has collapsed (see chart). No surprise. Employment is down only slightly in the past few decades. Surprise.

That’s because organizations (or journalists themselves) are doing more with less, as Steve Myers points out on Poynter. Tools continue to evolve rapidly to give journalists more ammunition to create startups and compete with entrenched media organizations, many of whom are amazingly (still) reluctant to jump in the river and swim. (I see something like the San Francisco Chronicle’s iPad app and just scratch my head: How can you be located in the middle of app development ground zero and not have America’s most powerful newspaper app?)

But back to Myers’ piece: We initially wring our hands over these trends (especially the undeniable revenue collapse), yet recall that 20 years ago we were wringing our hands over the “decline of reading and the American newspaper.” Yet revenues for newspapers were soaring and other publications we springing up like daisies in the weekly, bimonthly and monthly segments, and in the trade press.

I suppose it would be ideal if the people ranks were thinned in tandem with the revenue collapse, which would mean that editorial supply and demand remained in balance, but that’s not the case. And since everyone’s a publisher, it makes the challenge all that much more daunting.

We see that in our own sand box in the electronics B:B segment. We’ve undergone a massive shakeout in the past 10 years. In fact we did the editorial resizing/right-sizing thing before anyone else in the industry because our world (semiconductors and electronics OEMs) moves so much faster than anyone else (for good and ill).

Publications fell by the wayside, and, at times, it seemed like editors were falling as if they were on a field at Antietam. But most of those (most, not all) are still plying their trade in some form. Some doing the same thing for a different (often startup) publication; some doing similar things in a different media sector; some doing good work in the emerging corporate-publisher space.

That’s heartening news. For the mainstream media, the pain level today is where our industry was 5-7 years ago. It’s not pleasant, but people and industries learn to adapt.

The week in media (March 5-11)

Posted on | March 5, 2012 | 3 Comments

A selection of intriguing stories from the week of March 5:

[<a href=”” target=”_blank”>View the story “The week in media (so far)” on Storify</a>]

New social-media tools for journalists

Posted on | March 4, 2012 | 1 Comment

I can’t remember where I came across Mindy McAdams and why I subscribe to her blog feed, but it’s been worth it. Here’s a great post with a number of handy tools for digital journalistsTools

You’ve hopefully heard of most of them (I’d add Storify to her list of curation tools; I’ve been playing with this tool for some time). But the one I hadn’t come across and looks like it has amazing potential is FreeDive from the Knight Media Center.

There is a treasure trove of tools out there for us to exploit and use to tell and present great digital stories for readers. Now if we could only jump off the hamster wheel for a bit to use them!

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