Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day two at Googleworld

To retain the sense of spontaneity, this post has not been edited -- it's essentially a stream-of-consciousness report as I wrote it from Building No. 40 at the Googleplex.

I'll be attempting to summarize, more or less in real time, the presentations from Day Two of the Media Technology Summit in Mountain View and Palo Alto. For a summary of yesterday's news, find the two posts below that refer to Google. Also, I'm tweeting over at Twitter -- look for the hashtag #mts.

As a reminder, the Media Technology Summit is an invitation-only (so why am I here?) conference organized by UC-Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism and hosted by our good friends at Google.

Personally, my first takeaway today is the potential of coveritlive as a real-time blog site to cover meetings and other events. An interesting concept (particularly if it's available only to subscribers).

Meanwhile, the Yahoo! presentation is interesting, but she's really talking about global numbers and issues. She wants to convince us that the issues for global and local markets face the same concerns, but I'm not there.

Sean Finnigan, who runs a global ad agency, says we should stop talking about click-through rates -- they are irrelevant. Hard to disagree there. When something approaches zero, it becomes irrelevant.

Here's an interesting perspective on how some new media folks see the world, in a sort of New Yorker's view of the world sort of way. Hilary Schneider, executive vice president of Yahoo!, says they want people to make Yahoo! the "centerpiece of their world."

Finally, we get to the session on business models, moderated by Spencer Ante of Business Week. Right off, he says that "legacy" publishers need to streamline their cost structures.

Marchall Van Alstyne, professor of economics at Boston University, delivers a presentation that everyone in the room seems to completely understand. Everyone, that is, except for me. I haven't a clue what he said. Give him a call if you're curious.

We move smoothly to Jeffrey Ulin, Haas School of Business, who argues that we don't, in fact, have a Long Tail phenomenon unfolding, but a "Wide Tail" phenomenon. I'm glad we got that cleared up.

OK, OK. I am not a smart man, but I know what a business model is. I've not heard a business model yet this morning. Fred Vogelstein of Wired Magazine is going to give it a shot. His topic is Twitter, which he says is a "revolutionary new platform" but not a new business. He thinks Facebook is more likely to be financially successful. Twitter, he says, is a platform; Facebook is a business model.

Here's something newspapers might be able to emulate -- self-serve advertising. Can we do that? Worth looking into. We're doing it in classifieds, of course, but how about display ads online and in print? Why not?

Final panelist on business models is Ellen Weiss, a name we all know from NPR. She has no PowerPoint. G' bless 'er. The NPR non-profit model has taken 35 years to build up. Essentially, she's saying it's not as easy at is looks. Contributors are "members", not just contributors of cash. "It's an inconceivable degree of loyalty."

NPR is facing a huge challenge as it decides whether to blow up its longstanding partnership with local stations by providing its content directly via download, live-streaming, iPhone apps, etc. She says it's easier to build a non-profit from the ground up than to try to convert a for-profit.

We now transition to the final panel, "Where Will News Come from in the Interactive Era?" Chi-Town Daily News founder Geoff Dougherty tells the story of how he drove his non-profit online daily newspaper "off the cliff." Now he knows how terribly difficult it is to make a non-profit work.

Lewis Dvorkin, founder and CEO of True/Slant. He's explaining what it is (uses entirely free-lance material). Hasn't talked business model yet. OK, well, his business model is: 1. Raise start-up capital. 2. Create the site and attract an audience. 3. Figure out the revenue stream. Sounds a little familiar. He raised $3 million and the burn rate will require new funding within a year. Five employees, everyone else is freelance.

Kevin Weston, New American Media, Director of Youth and New-Media projects. Gets grants and such. It's a great project that really doesn't present a lot of relevance to our situation. Spoke too soon -- he talks about creating a "square side" of the operation and the "cool side." Doesn't take much imagination to figure out what that means. I've been toying with that idea for years and done nothing.

Peter Bhatia, executive editor of the Portland Oregonian, brings us greetings from the "square side." Essentially, he says to stick to our values, do the hard work, get through the tough times and keep the faith. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. I loved your summary of Lewis Dvorkin, it reminds me of the Underwear business model.

    So after reading all these smart people, have they figured out a way to monetize the net in a way that all can agree on? The paper side we figured it out about 200 years ago, sell ads and sell copies. Is it that simple online yet?

    Ken Clements