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Media Minds
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We've come a long way since the idea of separate business units was first articulated. The idea was fielded - and largely ignored - by established media years ago, first by the "Newspaper Next Project" and then by Borrell & Associates who have made it their mantra. In reality it is clearly impossible to build a new company that takes advantage of disruption in the marketplace, and so on, from inside the organizational structure of the old one without a separate business unit. But the original idea infiltrated its way into established media in pernicious ways - and that is one reason why it was not adopted faster, even though the research was there to be had. more
One of my favorite slides from the 2011 Borrell Local Interactive Media Conference is a blip on an economic graph. It's called the Dead Cat Bounce (below). Usually the Bounce refers to a brief upward movement in the Wall Street markets preceding a catastrophic slide. The same motion, say Harvard scholars Clay Christensen and Gilbert Clark (both were lead speakers) is seen as new technologies disrupt established industries - from steel to computer chips, to media. The entire cycle ends with a "period of ambiguity" Clark says, including the Bounce, which is a sort of "last gasp followed by perpetual decline." So where is traditional media on the curve? Behind the bump with time to react? In front (after all, media has been in decline for years)? Or poised on the top of the Dead Cat Bounce like a hundred foot wave on (taste precludes a Tsunami comparison) Honolulu's North Shore ? more
Several of you responded to last week's blog (below) on the effect iPads may have on local media's, well, low self-image, if you will. The importance is not just psychological, it's financial. And it's just starting. The iPad yields a $45 CPM - reflecting a combination of the demand, scarcity, novelty and high-end demographics involved. We are gaga over the iPad because these CPM's are not only much higher than mobile CPM's (hovering in the $15 range) but also reconstruct a viable business model out of the ashes. Banner ads on local media computer-based sites still hover in the $6 range for a large site (if you combine remnant inventory with premium positions.) Even in their hehday, alternative weeklies (my personal background as a publisher is in this category) only commanded $36 CPM's and that was back in the 1980's. Smaller circulation meant these maverick weeklies could still trump dailies by offering the low whole dollar pricing that small businesses cared about most. Community weeklies also played this game, using low whole dollar prices to mask huge CPM's. But that was a long ago time ago; a solid $22 cpm (yield/circulation/thousands) is viable for a print weekly in 2011 more
A funny thing happened on the way to the iPad app store: Newspaper executives began thinking about ad design in a more serious way. In short, pretty became profitable. Briefly put, local media on the iPad is … more

Filtering through case studies from around the country, some common threads emerge:

• More large media companies, like the Washington Post with its The Capitol Dish group deal (posted here this week), are tackling verticals in their own markets as a way to compete with directories and group deal providers. Look for categories that are strong in the market and have an appetite for the business model. It may be restaurants in D.C. and outdoor sports in Portland.

HealthDeals, a group deal vertical launching via a partnership of Revolution Health, Mayo Clinic and Drugstore.com is one example of a new national play that will start in New York City and enter the top ten market loop shortly. Its easy to envision how  a local vertical that is female-focused and includes the beauty category may work in a market like Los Angeles - the appetite is there and the group deal model has some of the highest ROI in this category. 

• Smaller markets and media companies may simply not have the critical mass to verticalize a group deal. But they have the advantage of lead time before national providers with crack sales teams (and SuperBowl ads) penetrate their ecosystem. more

It seems every local media convention these days invites at least one industry speaker who gives an apocalyptic vision of the future and incites executives to fire up their digital strategy - without saying exactly how. That role at the Association of Alternative Weeklies 2011 Web Conference last week fell to Leon Brody, who works for but apparently did not want to officially speak for, the sports and media conglomerate owned by Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz. Besides the Lakers basketball team, Anschutz also owns the Examiner.com sites. (Oddly, Brody's employer was not identified in the brochure and he asked a roomful of editors not to Twitter his remarks, due to the "very private" nature of his company, but I digress). Brody argues "human behavior has been fundamentally transformed" by social media and outgrown institutions developed during the industrial revolution. Trying to fit our behavior into our lives is like trying on a twenty year old prom dress. He identified a broad swatch of affected (outdated?) institutions ranging from education (36% of high school students will drop out) to government,media, global politics, dating and marriage. The many-to-many communication platforms represented by Facebook and Twitter (he noted 3000 Tweets per second as the Lakers played in the NCAA championship) is not only replacing many-to-one media but also altering our very brain chemistry (he showed some neat heat maps of brains "on technology"). The resulting 'bad fit' between human behavior, and, essentially, everything else, is eroding three hundred years of societal fabric and is merely expressed by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt ("the very institutions came into question and crumbled from the inside out") as well as declining ad sales. You get the drift. more
One of the most interesting books I've read lately is "The New How" by Nilofer Merchant. She contends how strategy is made now only affects the execution but is, intrinsically, part of execution. Typically decisions to solve important problems are made at the top, then leaders have to explain the new initiatives to the staff who have to execute. For local media executives, this means not only explaining, but inspiring, coaxing, training, ordering, building alliances and so on, that is today a normal function of leadership required to transform companies to new business models. Mechant contends that top down initiatives naturally create an "air sandwich," ie pockets of resistance from middle managers and other teams who are "just not that into it." more
Just before the year ended we attended the 2010 Interactive Local Media conference put on by BIA-Kelsey. As usual the heavy focus on search-type businesses yielded some surprising insights and a variety of new models. Here are several models that go beyond the standard IYP up-sell. more
Is your news organization simply parroting information too local that no other outlet has bothered with it? It might be time to reconsider how to re-position the news brand as the political "truth-tester" in your community. more
A few sizable local media companies have committed to growing digital revenues from 10% to 25% of overall revenues in the next three years. To attain these goals means matching products and sales investment to growth areas. Here are some key trends. more
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