iJournalism: Future of Publishing?

I always enjoy hearing what Sam Whitmore has to say. Few people I’ve met in this business seem to have such a concise and insightful perspective on the shifting sands of PR, journalism and publishing. So when Sam visited our offices in Boston yesterday, I was all ears. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm for his talk was matched with some disappointment this time.  It’s not that Sam said anything wrong, per se, just….maybe disheartening is the right word. Let me explain.

A few weeks back, a post by our own Juliana Allen on paywalls and the future of online journalism got me thinking. Paywalls in online journalism are nothing new. And more big-name media brands are planning to start charging for access to their stories to supplement revenues from ailing (failing?) advertising models.

But what if, one day, all the big media brands and magazines you love went behind a paywall, and you now have to pay $10/month (which might end up being cheap – rumors abound that NY Times’ forthcoming paywall might be as much as $60/month) to access each site? If you read 10 sites in a month, that’s $100/month in online subscriptions – at a minimum. That’s not chump change. And, if you’re like me, you really only read 1 or 2 sections out of maybe a possible 10-12 in the whole outlet, and certainly not every story from all those sections. If an online outlet publishes, say, 1000 unique pieces of content each month, I would struggle to read 30-40 of them in full, especially considering that I read other sections at other outlets, as well.

The music industry faced the same problem in the age of CDs. $20 for a full album, from which you only wanted 3 songs. This is why Napster, Limewire and other illegal file sharing applications blossomed: people felt cheated that they had to pay for stuff they didn’t want, just to get the few little things they did. So they stole it instead.

Then came iTunes. And why, I thought, couldn’t the iTunes model work for journalism? Media brands can build trust by charging more incrementally and showing their content is worth it each time. People begin to see the value in good journalism, which helps preserve the institution. In the long run, the best journalists and writers earn respect, and publishing companies can streamline costs by seeing which journalists are earning their keep. They can also figure out which columns or sections are worth charging higher ad-rates for by seeing which articles are bought most.

So I did some more research. I knew I couldn’t be the only person to have this idea (you never are, right?). I wasn’t. The idea, I learned, is essentially called micropayments for journalism, and it is hotly contested as to whether it works with a form of content like writing and journalism. I still argue that it can. But I did learn that no one had figured out how to make it work yet.

Brilliant! I told my idea to friends and family, all of whom liked the idea, saw its worth, and thought I should make it happen. I would be the first, I thought – right up until Sam told us yesterday about Next Issue Media. Essentially, it is a consortium of 5 of the largest global publishing brands (Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, News Corp & Time Inc) coming together to create a platform where consumers can choose to access content from across all the companies’ combined brands via any digital device of their choice – the perfect platform to make micropayments work.

I still thoroughly enjoyed  hearing what Sam had to say about how Next Issue Media is getting ever closer to making this new platform a reality, and how it is really kind of exhibit a for how publishing is becoming more about ‘content’ and less about ‘words’ as the iPad and other devices change the game. But I must admit it did burst my bubble slightly when he said Rupert Murdoch was helming it (realistically, that’s tough to compete with, especially with all publishing houses already involved). So no, I’m not disheartened that this might be the next wave for publishing, because I think it makes huge sense for preserving the quality and importance of good journalism. I only wish I’d thought of it sooner!

But what about all of you out there? Surely you read the online versions of your favorite publications, so what would you say to iJournalism?

This post was first published by Nate Hubbell on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

German Users disappointed by Corporate Social Media Initiatives

Media initiatives of companies via Facebook, Twitter, etc.. This is the
result of a recent survey by the Brand Science Institute with more than
1.000 participants who were questioned about their experiences with
corporate Social Media initiatives. 83 percent rate the activities as
plain advertising. Reasons the survey sees for this include the
perception that the companies don’t relate and react sufficiently
towards the needs of their customers or target groups in the social web.

More than 50% of the survey participants use Social Web channels for
questions, complaints and suggestions in their communication with
companies. 61% of the users are not satisfied with the companies
reactions to their questions and inquiries. They report that companies
either don’t react at all, not adequately or they simply react by
referring to their service centres and hot lines.

The survey results confirm our impression based on many inquiries we
receive at the moment. It seem like many companies think they absolutely
have to do “something” in regards to Social Media an start initiatives
very enthusiastically but without any strategic approach or experience.
It doesn’t come as a big surprise most companies are thereupon
disappointed about the results of initiatives they might have dedicated
a lot of time and effort to. This is when companies might start talking
to an agency.

By working with an experienced partner companies can safe money and
effort as the agency can show them
1. which options the Social Media landscape offers
2. which of those are suitable for initiatives for their offerings,
market and target groups and help them to select the most effective ones
3. how to realize the selected initiatives effectively – either
in-house or with support of the agency

Companies should however take into consideration that utilizing Social
Media can’t be viewed as a one-off action item that can be implemented
goes online and is thereby finished. Social Media is no one way
communication channel therefore requires a constant active interaction
with the targeted audience.

Wibke Sonderkamp – GlobalCom PR-Network Munich

Top 10 Reasons People Check-In to Foursquare

Last week, I looked at where people are checking-in on location based social networks like foursquare, but now I want to know why people are checking-in. Is it the accumulation of points? The attainment of new badges? The hope that your friends actually care where you are and will want to come join you?

…What is it that drives people to check-in on the popular location based social network, foursquare?

According to BitsyBot Labs, 17 people check in to foursquare every second. With such a popular response to the social media tool, so much so that Facebook is even planning to implement location based updates, the reasons have to be good. And so they are.

Here are my top ten reasons for why people check-in to location based social networks:

1. To meet up with friends – Just like the NBA finals example I gave in my post, The foursquare Phenomenon Explained, location based social networks can be great for finding your friends in the city or seeing whose nearby so you can meet up.

2. To see what trending places are nearby – Bored? Check foursquare to see what’s in the area – probably more fun things than you realize. Or… recently, I found myself waiting an hour for a table at a restaurant. My stomach was protesting the wait, but I was not familiar enough with the town to start walking towards a new destination, which, with my luck, would take more than an hour anyways. With a stroke of brilliance, I was able to turn to foursquare to see what else was in the area and pick out a restaurant just a block away that had no wait at all!

3. To look up an address – I knew I was at P.F. Chang’s for dinner, but when my friend driving to meet me got lost and asked for the address, I had no idea. Luckily, foursquare displays the street address at each venue so you know you’re checking-in to the right place. I was able to pull up the address for her so she could enter it into her GPS and wouldn’t leave me waiting for another 20 minutes.

4. To show off and let your friends know what an awesome time you’re having – It’s sad, but true. Aren’t half the updates you see on Facebook about how awesome people’s lives are anyways? It’s okay – you’re cool and you want people to know it. Just invite your friends along and they’ll still like you

5. To check up on people – Whether you’re an anxious mother or a paranoid boyfriend, being able to know where people are is sometimes a comfort. Just don’t go too far down the stalker route!

6. To earn points and play the game – foursquare gives you points each time you check-in and more points if it’s a new venue. You can even check the leader board to see how you’re doing each week compared to your friends and try and earn more badges. While this may seem a bit dorky, it’s actually a good incentive to get out and explore new areas of the city.

7. To kill two birds with one stone… or even three – When you check-in on foursquare, you can enter your own personal message and then automatically update your Twitter and Facebook accounts simultaneously. Voila, now everyone knows you’re rocking out at the House of Blues!

8. To keep track of your travels – If you remember from my post last week, travel was fairly high up on the list of types of venues people check-in to. But, if you’re like me, trips are often too short and crammed with too much. Your foursquare check-in history is a nice way to keep track and remember where you were. I just got back from D.C. last week and, just like in elementary school, my mom asked what I did that day… for probably one of the first times in my life, I was able to recall every place I visited, much to her detail-starved delight.

9. To stall for time – When meeting friends out, there’s always the one friend who’s punctual while the rest are just “five to ten minutes away.” I think smartphones were invited for the punctual people in the world. Checking-in to foursquare gives you something to do while you wait for the friends who are actually fifteen to twenty minutes away.

10. To boost business – Last, but not least, many businesses are finding creative ways to use social based networks. How? Check back next week to see!

How have you used foursquare or other location based social networks successfully?

This post was first published by Meredith L. Eaton on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

Will Pay Walls Save Professional Journalism?

new report by USC’s Center for the Digital Future confirms once again that online consumers aren’t willing to pay for online services.  Fast Company reporter Austin Carr sites some disheartening examples of this in his article earlier this week:

“This past October, Newsday, the Long Island daily newspaper, was purchased for $650 million, and its Web site, newsday.com, was put behind a pay wall. For just $5 a week, users could gain access to the site, but after three months on the market, how many had subscribed? Thirty-five people.”

Some people may say, “Well, that’s the Long Island daily newspaper, not theWall Street Journal or Financial Times,” but sadly, that’s not the case.  Carr also notes that:

“Just last week, for instance, it was revealed that Rupert Murdoch’s London Times had gained just 15,000 paid subscribers after putting up its new pay wall. What’s more, the wall cut Web traffic by two-thirds, with some estimating it could plummet as much as 90%.”

Despite consumers’ unwillingness to pay for online services and content, a large percentage of users deeply distrust online information, according to the study.  This is the one of the hardest things for me to grasp with the rapid decline of traditional journalism….consumers distrust online information, but if they’re not paying for the content, how do they expect to get reputable content that journalism has historically provided?

This certainly isn’t to say that sites that do offer free content aren’t reputable, because many of them are.  But most of those sites aren’t trying to be aBusinessWeek or New York Times with hundreds of professional journalists on payroll.

When I think about if I would pay for content online, at first thought I would say no, which I know contradicts my statement above, but I also still get a print subscription to the New York Times, which includes an online subscription, so technically I’m paying for online content.  Consumers are also just so used to getting content free now that the thought of having to pay for it is a turn off.  But if you think about it, the Internet has only really been a mass good for 10 years – or less depending on your age – so it hasn’t been that long since most people were used to paying for a subscription – or two or three – to a reputable outlet, whether it’s a national magazine or newspaper or local one.

It’s interesting to think about how this will play out and where the industry will be another decade from now.  What do you think?  Would you pay for online content?  How do you think the New York Times will fair with its upcoming pay wall?

This post was first published by Juliana Allen on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

„Made in China“ – shaping an image

Globalization of Chinese companies offers opportunities for the PR industry

The rise of China as a global economic and political powerhouse is a hot topic every now and then on a regular basis. Only recently, the visit of German chancellor Angela Merkel has again resulted in a number of media reports on the tremendous changes and amazing developments in China’s economy, such as “China’s companies are discovering the luxury market” in the major economic daily „Handelsblatt“.

It’s definitely true and some of us have been experiencing it ourselves: China is working hard to get rid of its “sweatshop”-image, and its global players have made an amazing progress in developing world-class products of high quality. They are receiving internationally recognized certificates for their technological standards (e.g. ISO-certificates), and prove their compliance with international ecological and social standards.
The result confirms their strategy: Western automotive companies are striving to cooperate with companies like BYD (Build your dream), Chinese specialist for e-mobility, and Warren Buffet has invested 230 Mio. US Dollar in BYD. Chinese solar companies like Yingli Green Energy, Suntech Power and Trina Solar have gained a strong position on their export markets, especially in Europe. Young urban Chinese show their patriotism by developing an increasing trend for „buy Chinese“ – just to name the sports brand “Li Ning” as an example. Read more

Email, Facebook, Twitter… What to Use?

Are you using Email, Facebook and Twitter to reach your audience?  If so, it is important to understand each channel and tailor your message to fit the particular audience—whether it is a subscriber, fan or follower.  A recent eMarketer newsletter explains the differences between these outlets and how to reach them effectively.

According to ExactTarget’s April 2010 report, most internet users engaged with brands only via marketing emails, but nearly a third subscribed to emails in addition to being fans of brands on Facebook.  Moreover, the vast majority of social media fans or followers were also email subscribers—meaning consumers tend to layer their marketing channels, rather than silo them.

Of the daily email users, 94% subscribed to marketing messages; two-thirds of daily Facebook users were brand fans; and roughly four in 10 daily Twitter users followed a company or brand.  Analyzing this situation psychographically, there are different patterns of engagement:

  • Email appeals to nearly everybody.
  • Facebook groups that had a great focus on gaining fans tended to be younger; but also shared a motivation for entertainment and the ability to publicly show support for brands.
  • Twitter appeals most to consumers who want to feel up-to-date and ‘in the know’; which suggests information about new products and services or even brand initiatives would be of interest.

(Source: ExactTarget, Subscribers, Fans and Followers: The Social Profile)

Understanding the channel’s engagement certainly effects how you reach your audience and tailor your message.  Knowing that followers typically like breaking news and you’re launching a new product, it’s a good idea to use Twitter to help support this push.  Take your time to analyze the situation (I personally use GOST for this – Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Tactics), and see if your communication channels line up with your overall goals and strategies.  This should help with reach your target audience.

This post was first published by Nicole Miscioscia on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.

The history of Facebook

…is coming to the movie theaters as the first cinematic portrayal of the attitude towards life of a whole generation. The Social Network is the title of the new motion picture by David Fincher. He takes as his subject the development of Facebook from its inception by student Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard in 2004 to a gigantic network with over 500 million members. The movie starts in US theaters in October.

Here a short foretaste:


Lina – public linc, GlobalCom partner Berlin

Totally Dual – new way to become a PR consultant

The PR profession is a very interesting and versatile profession. There is, however, no particular way of education to become a PR consultant. In Germany, applicants with a universities degree are usually preferred by employers. University subjects such as communications or media, as well as journalism and different languages are typical for this branch. There are also a lot of “career changers”, who studied subjects like politics, history or ecology before applying for a PR position.

Equally or even more important for job applicants however is a certain degree of professional experience. In Germany, almost every company nowadays asks for practical job experience.

Just like the PR industry itself the ways of education are also permanently changing and evolving. New approaches like the “Dual Academic Education” (DAE) on private universities allow students to combine an apprenticeship and a universities degree at the same time. Since 2007, GlobalCom Germany cooperates with the University of Applied Management Erding (UAM) near Munich and offers a DAE. The students, studying Media Management, spend three weeks per semester at the UAM and receive a practice oriented education as Trainees with GlobalCom for the rest of the time. This system offers a well-balanced mix of studying and collecting practical experiences. Another advantage is, that the students can show a universities degree as well as three years of job experience when they finish their B.A.

One thing is for sure: Agencies and companies in Germany as well as in other countries value practical professional experience of their applicants even more than the theory part of their education. This means for students to be proactive and organize internships on their own in their semester breaks and to invest a lot of spare time to collect the relevant experiences if they want to raise their chances for their dream job.

Stefanie Nunberger and Sophie Schmid