Thursday, July 8, 2010

Richard Edelman - 6 A.M: Media Strikes Back

At Edelman’s fourth Annual New Media Academic Summit, we convened a superb group of senior media executives who offered insights into the future of the sector. They included Raju Narisetti, managing editor of the Washington Post; Greg Coleman, president of Huffington Post; Gerard Baker, deputy editor in chief of the Wall Street Journal; Jonah Bloom, CEO and editor in chief of Breaking Media; Mark Lukasiewicz, VP of NBC Digital Media; Mike Oreskes, senior managing editor of the Associated Press; David Carey who has just joined Hearst as President of the Magazine Unit; and Jon Miller, CEO of Digital Media at News Corp.

These media leaders are addressing challenges head-on, and are optimistic about their future. Here are a few of the most important insights:

1. New Readers & Channels—David Carey, Conde Nast group president cited the incremental revenue and readers for its relaunched Gourmet food magazine and Wired’s completely reimaged iPad app. (they sold 95,000 digital copies at $4.99 each in June)., as only the beginning as people are willing to pay for mobility and engagement. Baker described the iPad as a potential game changer, noting that the WSJ has sold many subscriptions at $208 per year for this platform, and the Washington Post charges $1.99 for iPhone application for a year.

# New Revenue Options—Bloom believes Media will integrate eCommerce directly into content so “media will sell stuff directly.” So, right beside a book review will be the option to buy the book. Access to the archives, conferences and direct access to journalists via email are also being considered viable premium paid options.

# The Pay Wall—Narisetti offered a strong defense of the Washington Post policy on free access to content. “Subscription revenue has always been a tiny part of the newspaper business model. We have 30 million unique visitors each month to our site.” Baker went the other direction describing the Wall Street Journal pay model, “In the beginning of the web, there was optimism that we could focus advertising so ad revenues would suffice. Now it is clear that we need other revenue streams.” News Corporation is bringing in paywalls for its British newspapers and Miller emphasized that will keep investing in quality content to get people to pay.

# Trust in Content—Baker noted that the decline in trust in establishment institutions (business, government) extends to mainstream media. “We often fail to properly represent the views of the majority of our readers.” He quoted Oscar Wilde, “The parts that were original were not true and that which was true was not original.” Jonah Bloom noted that “there is not enough originality in stories being tackled.” Lukasiewicz said that “transparency is the new objectivity. We will have a point of view in stories.” Oreskes took a strong position on “Journalism being distinguished by its higher standards for quality, not by ownership of the printing press.”

# Narrow-casting—Narisetti wants to get away from the single “front page approach” so that a reader can focus only on specific more narrow interest (politics or sports). “We need multiple front doors to the house, such as,,” He said that “we link to other sites on stories they break (Politico as example)—we need to offer everything that is relevant.”

# Value from Conversation—Coleman said that the Huffington Post gets three million comments from its users each month. “Our content model envisages 1/3 from each of bloggers, original reporting and aggregation.” Narisetti added, “Comments may reflect the market’s view but those who comment represent a narrow slice of readers—but we keep comments as open as possible because these are the most engaged readers.”

# New Measurement for Reporters—Narisetti said, “Newsrooms have never wanted to measure how they are performing—specifically how many readers look at each article. We now do a daily report to 120 editors, with page views, time spent, unique visitors, which photos are preferred—metrics that are key to the business.” He said that his reporters must use meta-data to be sure they use words that “help readers to find your story…people search for Republican Party, not GOP, so use that term in stories.” Bloom added that reporters must be able to market their stories via Twitter and Facebook.

# Power of Visuals—Oreskes noted that while the AP may have 50 reporters on the coverage of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the most powerful content has been visual. “People remember the pelican photo or the AP photographer donning scuba gear to get unique video.” He quoted Walter Lippmann, media pundit, “The world outside, the pictures in our head.” At our dinner, key note speaker, Tom Cibrowski, Good Morning America Executive Producer, ABC, also mentioned they are rapidly adopted new hi-def video cameras to reporters to report more quickly and cheaply with video.

# Importance of Local Market Dominance—The Washington Post reaches 45% of Washington area households. You need 30 ads on local TV or 60 ads on cable TV to achieve the same reach as one ad in the Washington Post. Of the 18-34 year olds in the area, 62% use the Washington Post on-line. This is group most easily monetized in advertising. Note that 86% of the Washington Post web traffic comes from outside of the DC area.

Those of us in PR would be wise to adapt our business model to reflect the new demands of immediacy, visualization, conversation and localization.

You can watch the discussion by going here.

Richard Edelman - 6 A.M.

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