Think small: the new metrics of engagement for news

“And small numbers of loyal users can mean big revenues:

  • The 22,000 “partners” who pay 60 euros a year for eldiario.es in Spain represent nearly 40% of their revenues but less than 1% of their total unique users, according to the CEO (in Spanish).
  • The 2.5 million digital-only subscribers to the New York Times represent less than 3% of their total users but now generate more revenue than print advertising, a historic milestone.”

 

Read full blog post by James Breiner

A Tough Message for News Organisations: Change or Become Irrelevant

It is currently one of the most pressing questions in journalism: how can legacy media successfully master the digital environment and flourish in a world dominated by the Internet and social media?

So great is the interest and the demand for answers that the Web is filled with think-pieces, best practice guidelines and conference talks on the topic yet, until recently, there has been little empirical research available.

A new report by Lucy Kueng, a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism and professor of strategy and innovation in media organisations, tries to address this gap. Continue reading “A Tough Message for News Organisations: Change or Become Irrelevant”

How Video is Changing the News in the Czech Republic

Video Czech Republic

Czech news video

DVTV, a popular independent online news site, is one of two Prague-based sites reinventing news in Czech Republic: its content is entirely video-based.

News organisations in the Czech Republic have made significant investments in video content in the past three years. While most include video as part of their news package, two Prague-based online news platforms have made video central to their business model.

DVTV, a popular web-based TV platform, and Seznam Zprávy, a daily news site, use video almost exclusively. Using the format to tell stories, report investigations and broadcast interviews online.

The popularity of these two sites, as well as growing evidence that video attracts audiences and advertisers, is leading others to follow their example.

DVTV – video interviews and debates

Czech audiences like interviews. They like to read interviews with well-known personalities, and also to watch them, online or on television. DVTV (Drtinová-Veselovský TV), the first Czech news site entirely based on video content, has capitalised on this.

The platform broadcasts studio-based interviews with politicians, artists, and public figures. They also produce news stories, combined with interviews, on location.

Live streaming is an important part of DVTV programming. DVTV uses various streaming platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, as well as its own website, to stream programmes such as DVTV Forum, an hour long, live-streamed interview or debate with a broad range of guests from different fields. The audience submits the questions asked in the Forum, via social networks.

DVTV was launched in 2014 by journalists, Daniela Drtinová and Martin Vesolovský, and their editorial team. Drtinová and Vesolovský had resigned from their jobs at Czech TV, the public broadcaster, following a 2013 presidential election coverage controversy: Drtinová was one of 23 Czech TV journalists who had complained to the government’s broadcasting watchdog about threats to Czech TV’s independence during the elections.

In 2015, a year after its launch, DVTV started a successful crowd-funding campaign which earned over two millions Czech crown (approximately 80,000 euro). The money was used to develop and extend the content, and to hire new staff.

According to Jan Rozkosny, DVTV’s editor, the investment paid off. He reported that, according to metrics from Google Analytics, the site reached 5.5 million unique users in January 2017. The average time spent on one video page is 11.5 minutes, Rozkosny said.

Seznam Zprávy – mobile journalists producing video news

In November 2016, leading Czech search engine Seznam.cz launched the news site, Seznam Zprávy (Seznam News). The site is also video-based, although it uses a ‘hybrid format’ with articles also appearing on the site in text form.

Seznam hired Jakub Unger, an experienced journalist, to run Seznam Zprávy. Unger was one of the original founders of Aktualne.cz, the Czech Republic’s first digital-native independent news project. Before that, every Czech news site had been supported by one of the larger news publisher or broadcasters.

Jakub Unger drafted other respected journalists, such as political commentator Jindřich Šídlo from daily Hospodářské noviny, foreign correspondent Martin Jonáš, financial journalist Zuzana Hodková from Czech TV, plus investigative journalists Jiří Kubík and Sabina Slonková. With these experienced reporters, Seznam Zprávy now produces a wide range of online video programmes – from short newscasts broadcast from a studio, to longer – 20 minute – investigative features.

Seznam Zprávy broadcasts regular, scheduled news programmes. For example, every evening at 6pm a news video summing up the major events of the day is posted. The site also posts several news stories each day.

Seznam Zprávy innovates in other ways, including using mobile journalism to make its video content. Using only a smartphone or tablet, the site’s journalists not only write and narrate the videos, they are also cameraperson, editor and producer. The devices are used for filming, live streaming, sometimes even for editing.

A recent examples of mobile journalism on Seznam Zprávy is a journey by reporter Pavel Cyprich. He travelled to Poland with a US army convoy in March this year. His report of the journey was produced, filmed and edited on his mobile device. Seznam Zprávy published his video news reports and Cyprich was also a remote participant – via his mobile – in a live interview with the presenter in the Prague studio.

A video news report made entirely on the reporter’s mobile device as he travelled through Poland with a US army convoy.

 

Additionally, Seznam Zprávy produces investigative programmes such as Special Investigation in which  political or business scandals are uncovered and reported.

According to a Czech metrics site, Netmonitor Online, which monitors traffic to news sites, Seznam Zprávy had 3,530,953 unique views in January 2017.

Better mobile networks

The growth of video in news has been enabled by improving Czech mobile networks, which now provide sufficient download speed for video content.

Another contributing factor is the increase in media advertising spend in the Czech Republic overall (up 8% overall in 2015). Online ad spend has become a significant proportion (20%) of the total media market – the same level as print, which is on a downward trend, according to the Reuters Institute Digital News Report, 2016.

 

Other EJO stories you might like: Media Predictions Survey 2017, Facts, Quality, Revenue and Video

and

Online Video News Driven by Technology, Publishers and Platforms, not Consumers

 

Images: screen shots, DVTV and Seznam

 

 

The post How Video is Changing the News in the Czech Republic appeared first on European Journalism Observatory – EJO.

The Sun’s business model bet: bookmaking

Faced with finding new ways to make money, The Sun built its own bookmakers last August, just in time for the start of the football season.

Within six months, Sun Bets had amassed hundreds of thousands of customers, bringing in revenue for News UK, although the publisher was unable to provide specific numbers ahead of Sun Bets’ first annual financial results. A third of these were pooled from Dream Team, The Sun’s fantasy football unit and fertile ground for prospective customers.

“We had been doing a lot of work on The Sun around the potential for new business models and revenue streams based on what the audience were interested in,” said Kate Bird, chief marketing officer at The Sun. “They are wildly familiar with betting. It was a natural synergy.”

Although gambling is a highly competitive space — there are hundreds of different bookmakers in the U.K. — The Sun Bets content team has a formula: Pick a talking point, make a video around it and then back it up with a bet. For Cheltenham Festival, a five-day horse racing event in March, it produced 11 original videos in this vein. The best performing in terms of views was one in which former Olympic runner Dwain Chambers challenged a racehorse in a 100-meter sprint. The one-minute video has had 320,000 views and 600 shares on Facebook. The final frame pushes viewers to place a bet. “We’re creating that market for it,” Bird said.

The last frame of one video The Sun produced around the Cheltenham Festival prompts viewers to place a bet.

Together, these 11 videos had half a million views, with the majority of views coming from Facebook, although the videos were released on The Sun’s platforms as well, according to Bird. Determining what content leads to more people placing bets is tricky, as the betting market is influenced by numerous factors. At the moment, it varies whether a video view on Facebook or on The Sun’s own platform is more likely to lead to a bet. The Sun wouldn’t share how many more customers it brought in over Cheltenham but that it was a “highly significant increase” in its average weekly run rate, Bird said.

With this venture, The Sun joins Sky, which launched Sky Bets in 2001, as media companies that offer betting products. But The Sun has a long history with betting: In print and online, it has Favourite, which publishes betting tips. It launched Sun Bingo online in 2006, and the news brand has been a sponsor of Cheltenham Festival for the last five years.

Outside of horse racing, The Sun Bets content team applies this strategy to football, too, and through articles as well as videos. Dream Team has 1 million people playing fantasy football, who join at the beginning of the football season and keep returning for its duration. It’s a free game, with options to pay to upgrade for additional features.

“Dream Team was the base we wanted to attract,” Bird said. “They are a younger, male, online audience, who are already playing with us.” Also part of the appeal is that The Sun has information on Dream Team players’ teams of choice, so it can tailor content and bets to them. This audience belongs to the demographic less likely to listen to traditional marketing messages, Bird added. “Hard-sell marketing isn’t as effective as it once was; it’s much more effective tying in content to make it relevant to the user.”

Some of the most popular videos Dream Team has created include this video from January, in which a Manchester United fan and a Liverpool fan participate in a dating game show. The video was released days ahead of the match between the two teams and amassed 10 million views and 30,000 shares on Facebook.

Sun Bets content and marketing team has 10 staffers, and several from the content side work on Dream Team, too. The betting platform was built by Australian gambling company Tabcorp, which The Sun is still working with to improve user experience.

“The Sun becomes a one-stop shop; we have the ratings, tips and commentary content to guide you, the fantasy football game to play and then we give you the opportunity for you to bet,” said Bird. “We help inform and educate. Our journalists are racing experts. Customers come to The Sun for this content; it’s a powerful position.”

The post The Sun’s business model bet: bookmaking appeared first on Digiday.

Subscriptions: let’s fill the rest of the plane

Cabin plan of an Airbus A-380

by Frederic Filloux

My previous post on the role of platforms in building dynamic pricing for digital subscriptions earned energetic reader reactions.

In a column published two weeks ago, I suggested the two dominant distribution platforms — Google and Facebook — could boost the subscription model by providing granular data to publishers. This would help develop a dynamic pricing system comparable airline industry practices. See below:

How Facebook and Google could disrupt the subscription model for news

Many in the publishing world reacted with the expected: “How stupid! You want to further throw publishers’ business models in the hands of platforms”.

I don’t think I ever said that. My points are:

  • Publishers (especially legacy ones) are notoriously under-invested in critical, customer-related technologies. For most of those, nothing will change, for two reasons: management style (short-term focus, tech-averse posture), and financial inability to invest enough in game-changing engineering. As a result, the next five years will see a split between, on the one hand, a minority of publishers massively betting on technologies (e.g. The Washington Post, now largely inspired by its owner Jeff Bezos) and, on the other, the vast majority that will passively continue down their current path. (In Europe, some German publishers might do well, but Southern European colleagues will dwindle).
  • Unlike what happened in the airline industry, it is extremely unlikely we’ll see publishers band together and build a giant data-driven marketing platform. (However, some independent players that developed dynamic pricing technologies might become critical intermediaries; more about those in a future Monday Note).

In this context, I remain convinced that the publishing world should come up with arm’s-length contracts with platforms. Strong precautions apply: Facebook or Google are known to change the terms of any agreement whenever they feel like it. Hence the need to structure a deal in which the giants are incentivized to become channels (among many others) to sell subscriptions based on each customer’s ability to pay. Finding such equilibrium is key.

Such type of contract could only work if publishers are able to negotiate as a group. As it happens, this could be a great project for publishers already gathered around Google’s Digital News Initiative. Just as this group of publishers had a say in the development of Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages project (AMP), they should be able to lay the foundation of a distribution agreement (Google better move fast because Facebook Journalism project is likely to borrow most of the DNI’s blueprint. Echoes of the old Microsoft Embrace and Extend/Extinguish routine).

The biggest obstacle to a joint, data-driven, subscription program relates to privacy issues. Opening the personal data trove too generously in order to sell subscriptions could backfire in many ways: users might react angrily and regulators might prevent any move in that direction. Except if both parties — publisher and platform — decide to work on an opt-in system. This probably is the most unexplored avenue in the complicated relationship between content providers and the two major distributors.

In many cases, readers maintain a long-lasting trust relationship with a news brand. By the same token, many also have built a trusting bond with the platform: handling email with Gmail, allowing Google Map or your Android phone to remember all your trips, not to mention all the intimate material thrown into Facebook’s newsfeed, is indeed an act of blind confidence. Based on this, publishers are in a good position to ask their customers: “You are a repeated reader of [publication X]. In order to provide you a more personalized experience, would you allow [Facebook, Google…] to share with us some of your relevant data?” This would come with a proper access to the user data in question, and a clear explanation of benefits. How many regular readers would opt in? My guess is the vast majority will do.

To the many who would yell at me for advocating handing the crown jewels of the publishing industry over to platforms, I’ll respond the following:

— One, you did the same with the largest chunk of your revenue model, which is advertising: you gave up most of the value chain to a multitude of players that consume about 70% of the value you tried to create with your content. (For a colorful overview of this historical blunder, see this excellent piece Wolves, wimps…. or frogs by my strong-voiced friend Jim Chisholm (who, for the record, disagrees with my views on today’s topic).

— Why, one might ask, risk giving up the other part of the revenue stream (i.e. the subscription)? Simply because it is completely sub-optimal! Except for the top tier, most publishers I know admit that the user data they (or a subcontractor) collect for advertising purposes is not used for subscription marketing. A telling anecdote: in June 2016, the back-office contractor for some of the top French publishers lost its entire clients base — including billing! Even some backups were wiped out… (The contractor had repeatedly complained that the pressure to lower its price has made him unable to invest in necessary tech…) Will these guys be able to build a platform aimed at optimizing the pricing of their service? No! Will they be able to team up in a consortium to do precisely that? No way. Then why not try and harness the firepower of internet giants who invested billions of dollars in their technology engines to create an alternate channel for serving subscribers?

— My proposal has the merit to be market-driven. This is in contrast to those already voicing a radical surrender to platforms, like this Op-Ed contributor of the New York Times who, in a piece titled What Facebook Owes to Journalism, he naively advocates “a massive philanthropic commitment” by internet giants in compensation for the damages inflicted to the news sector (the author’s interest in faith-based pursuits is detailed here).

Let me finish by coming back to the airline analogy. Detractors find it completely out of touch, saying that large newspapers already propose twenty different price points. Here, I’m advocating for several hundred levels for a large market such as the North America.

Supporting my view, however, one reader (my thanks to her) led me to this account of a recent INMA conference (emphasis mine):

The other top-rater at the INMA European conference, according to delegates, came from a guy you’ve never heard of, talking about an industry that the media often laughs at. Christian Popp is director of revenue management strategy and development at Lufthansa, the German-based airline and aviation services group.

His tips focused on business practices that we have in common and was surprisingly relevant: Get your customer segmentation right and you’ll grow your revenues if you run tight control of your inventory.

Firstly, create an accurate segmentation of consumers and trade clients, based on their willingness to pay.

Knowing how consumers respond is key to being able to maximize the dollars you earn while you offer a range of prices (and all without losing yield). The model needs to be sophisticated enough to recognize one customer will belong to different segments in different buying moments.

Thankfully, some publishers are shifting toward this direction. In the recent weeks here in California, I met two important players in the field, each acknowledging their subscription strategy: they did well at filling the forward section of the aircraft (where the most affluent passengers sit), now they are willing to populate the rest of the cabin for a much lower price per customer. For Anglo-Saxon media, it means a vast potential: worldwide there are about 300 million English-speaking, college-educated people. Some fine-tuned pricing strategy will be required to get them onboard.

frederic.filloux@mondaynote.com


Subscriptions: let’s fill the rest of the plane was originally published in Monday Note on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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