The Tribune Company, an old Chicago-based newspaper giant, has just announced an iPhone compartable version of one of its flagship properties, the Chicago Tribune. As a former Tribune employee it gives me great joy to see my old hometown paper now viewable on my iPhone at this URL: chicagotribune.com/iphone.
They have not enabled an auto redirect to when viewing ChicagoTribune.com from an iPhone but it does promote the iPhone option. I figure the auto redirect on the iPhone will be coming soon. Congrats to the Tribune on embracing the new device. Thanks to Steve Rubel for pointing it out.
Editor's Note: The SF Bit as I am calling it is new short or brief format post on Somewhat Frank which will basically offer a quick informative post or bit rather longer article format. Let me know if you like it and I will keep them flowing.
End of the web's free ride? Doubtful. As a former Tribune Co. employee it was surprising to see the Washington Post article published today (April 7, 2007) saying that, soon-to-be Tribune Co. owner and real estate billionaire, Samuel Zell was set on trying to make news aggregators pay for newspaper.com content. Though Sam is quick to admit he is new to the newspaper industry, he was quoted saying:
"If all of the newspapers in America did not allow Google to steal their content, how profitable would Google be? Not very."
In an age of an open, attention economy of syndication and new media, Sam Zell's direction seems so 5 years ago. Don't Google and other news aggregators provide a service to these news sources by sending them relevant traffic so that they can serve up their own ads and generate revenue? Yes. Mathew Ingram offers some additional perspective on this topic by saying:
"On the contrary, newspapers get a tremendous benefit from being indexed by Google News, just as websites get a tremendous benefit from being indexed by Google’s search."
Mathew is right on the money. Though Google has been reported to be paying for some of its Google News content, publishers have the power to restrict the amount of content that is syndicated and most newspapers do this by only syndicating a one sentence news brief thus sending most traffic back to the source site. While I do not know the entire context around Sam Zell's quote to make aggregators pay, I find it rather disturbing as it could land Tribune in some trouble if this philosophy is applied, especially in a time when micro-publishers and citizen journalists with less overhead thus higher profit margin are out there covering the news.
It will be intriguing to watch what Tribune does with its content, I hope they decide to capitalize on the ad revenues from it rather than the revenue generated from aggregator rights. No disrespect to Sam Zell, he is a billionaire and I am not, but if I could give one bit of advice I would suggest he investigate the recent changes in the media landscape in regard to paid vs. free content strategies before taking the helm at Tribune. I would point to Washington Post Newsweek Interactive a competitor that "gets it" and could serve as a great role model for Tribune. I guess my point is, if Tribune is going to turn the clock back and dive into the old "people should pay for our online content" mindset then Tribune is totally f*cked - I would hate to see that happen.
Topix.net, the news and blog content aggregator, has launched a new fresh design for the layout of its homepage. The design includes a new logo as well as a new layout for the page. The old design is shown below on the left and the new design is shown further below.
In addition to a layout upgrade Topix.net has also released a very interesting historic search sliders that can be accessed by doing a search in the top search box. It appears Topix has been in contact with search guru, Danny Sullivan about the updates and wanted to get them out in time for the Search Engine Strategies show in San Jose. The new slider presents the live web search results for over 1 year. It reminds me of the slider that blog search engine Sphere currently uses to sift through blog search result by date.
These changes come on the heels of the Inform.com deal I highlighted last week. Bottomline: Topix.net offers a more esthetically pleasing product than Inform.com and the redesign amplifies that point.
Topix.net, a news aggregator service owned by three large, traditional media companies, has added the ability to post free classified ads on its site. Topix offers a free alternative to both print and online classified newspaper sites, which have been banking on paid classified ads for years. Another direct competitor would be Craigslist, among others.
You can see a screen-shot of the layout to the Chicago ads below. Obviously, the number of ads is limited, however, I expect them to pick up with time.
According to Chris Tolles, who posted on the Topix blog about the classified system and how it fits into Topix mission:
"Our goal here at Topix.net is to help people connect better with their community -- whether that be where they live, or what they're interested in. We started by collecting news from all over the net and using technology to automatically tag it with geo-location and topic."
I am a big fan of Topix.net and the moves that included the introduction of blog search results, mapping conversations and, most recently, a publisher platform. I think this move by Topix.net further hedges the bet of its old media ownership, which has been looking for additional revenue streams due to the decline in print readership. Maybe they should look to Topix because I feel Topix gets it.
I recently had a chance to get a sneak peak at the newly created McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum which opened to the public today (April 11, 2006). The museum is three stories and offers visitors an interactive experience focused on our first amendment rights which include speech, religion, press, assembly and petition.
The museum is located next to the Tribune Tower and is operated by the McCormick Tribune Foundation. t houses a unique sculpture center piece which I previously wrote about. If you are ever in the city of Chicago you might want to check it out on Michigan Avenue. The Museum admission fee is only $5.00, a dollar for each first amendment freedom, and getting through the museum probably will take you about 45 minutes.
I take my first first amendment rights seriously, especially with my activity in the blogosphere, so I am glad to see a museum dedicated to them.
A recent debate has surfaced among the pages of the Chicago Tribune calling into question the longevity of the blogging phenomenon. On one side we have the recent Chicago Tribune editorial, "Bloggy, We Hardly Knew Ye," citing dated 2004 data. Although numbers resound with our society, I have to question the credibility they provide in this case, as the blogosphere has doubled - several times - since then. According to a recent report the blogosphere doubles every 5 months.
"It wasn't exactly 'Dewey Defeats Truman,' but the cute valedictory, 'Bloggy, We Hardly Knew Ye,' in a headline atop a Tribune editorial Wednesday seems likely to take a place in history alongside such clouded crystal-ball pronouncements as 'Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?' 'Radio has no future' and 'There is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable.'"
Zorn uses an unexpected reverse method of persuasion to argue that blogging is more than a fad. Agreeing that, indeed, most people don't read blogs, Zorn postulates that the uncharted territory comprised by this group is actually up for grabs as opposed to inaccessible. In other words, blogging simply hasn't yet arrived as mainstream, but along those lines: what were your thoughts when you heard about the Internet for the very first time... and look where that is now.
Personally, I find it refreshing that blogging and its implications has moved beyond simply being acknowledged to actually being debated by and sometimes even influential over media outlets. It's yet another reassuring sign that blogging, citizen journalism, grass roots communications or whatever you want to call it, is here to stay.
What do you think?
A recent Wall Street Journal article by Joseph T. Hallinan highlighted the recent drops in auto advertising of the newspaper publishing companies including the Tribune and McClatchy Co. According to the article:
Revenue from auto classifieds has now fallen for seven straight quarters, to $1.01 billion in the third quarter of 2005 from $1.16 billion in the second quarter of 2004, according to the Newspaper Association of America, a Vienna, Va., industry trade group.
These same newspaper publishing companies have been hedging the print classified losses with investments in a company called Classified Ventures, LLC which owns Cars.com and was also mentioned in Hallinan's WSJ article. As the trend or declines continue Cars.com will continue to be in an excellent position to be successful in the online auto space.
*Image thanks to post-gazette.com
A web developer, colleague and friend of mine Jeff Johns recently talked shop with Editor and Publisher's Jay DeFoore as he lent his expert opinion on some recent newspaper website redesigns. The article highlighted several websites and Jeff, an online producer and web developer for Allentown Morning Call or MCall.com and Jay Small director of online content and operations for E.W. Scripps Newspapers gave their perspectives.
Jeff Johns offered these 5 personal thoughts on web design in general:
1.) Make the user feel like they are part of the experience, they know what they want and how they want it. Let them customize, customize, customize. The more interaction in my eyes the better.
2.) Step away from packing as much info on one page as possible; you have an entire site to use. Put your main "HOT" topics up front, rail items you want to promote, some user features, and you're done. Let the user see enough to get interested and be intrigued to find more throughout the site. You can pack a lot of cool links in one rail item as long as your present it correctly.
3.) Have an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed for everything. Whether you think people will use them or not, having a feed for all possible news on your site will never hurt you. Even if people are leeching it on their site, the user will still end up back on your homepage once they click the link. It's a great way to reach more people.
4.) Integrate more interactive/flash type projects. Build stuff people want to use or play with, which will also bring them back.
5.) Hire the right people. I see a lot of places where people are not in the correct positions. Every newspaper.com Web site should have Web developers, not just graphic designers. Graphic designers are needed but not as much as Web developers.
I particularly found number 5 to be the MOST IMPORTANT tip for any company competing in the online space. Development teams need people who have the correct background and can see the big picture by staying on the cutting edge of technology and business which leads to new ideas and eventually product development. Many times if these types of guru's are not in place within organization thus the first instinct of the business unit might be to partner or acquire, rather then create something new. Number 3 which highlights the importance of offering RSS syndication for just about everything is something that cannot be overlooked in Web 2.0. Excellent job Mr. Johns, keep up the remarkable work.
Publisher content is the backbone of a web of information on the Internet. Without publisher content, search engines would have less results to provide thus searchers would be less likely to find relevant results. Content producers, namely large publishers, have known this for years but have been trying to determine the best way to position content to monetize on this strength. This could help examine the recent trend by the large search engine companies jump into their own unique content development. Additionally, bloggers have begun to realize and capitalize on content production via the emergence of the blogosphere. After various attempts, two high-level, basic publisher content strategies have emerged though they may have slight variations or hybrid form the purest form are as follows:
1. Paid Content
2. Free Content
The paid content method has been tried by many but has been successful for few. This strategy has only worked when the content offered is so extraordinary that visitors cannot get it somewhere else and, therefore, are willing to pay for it. The Wall Street Journal is the prime example of successfully executing this strategy as an online newspaper site; however, the WSJ produces an overabundant amount of unique content and boasts an international brand that people trust.
The New York Times recently started a similar strategy with Times Select and seems to be doing well thus far for predominantly the same reasons as the WSJ. Outside of the traditional newspaper publishers, Playboy is the prime example of how sex sells with its paid content offerings. Additionally, Consumer Reports is another example of a paid content success story for its valued, exclusive reviews and ratings of consumer products. There are probably other paid content initiatives that I have failed to mention but I will leave it to you do find and discover them.
Those successful examples aside, the free content scenario seems to make more sense, as not every content-producing firm has the same brand awareness and iconic following. However, with a free content offering a content producer could still position its offering to leverage abundant and strong content by making content free, permanent and opened to the world to discover. This way, each individual site could push out thousands of content items or stories a week that could then be optimized to the item level for search via Google, Yahoo and MSN.
Search engine optimization, or SEO, at the item level is very important to a successful free content strategy. It has, for example, helped countless bloggers pull visitors to their blogs without having the brand awareness of a large content producer. So, in short, the website is just a place to display free content and serve advertisements around that content. Syndication has furthered the website as a landing place for content display and ad serving, however, that’s another Somewhat Frank post topic altogether.
Google, Yahoo, MSN search and the viral qualities of the blogosphere content producers should drive traffic and page views to the excess of indexed content. As more content becomes available online, there is now more virtual real estate available to sell and display advertisements. By making content evergreen, or permanent, a publishing company will have enormous amounts of content available in search engine results, thus, increasing their traffic. Google, Yahoo, MSN and other search engines should just be brokering visitor eyeballs to this content and the content producers should truly be King.
*SEO logo thanks to funponsel.com
I finally returned from Los Angeles late last night after a quick trip where I trained the LATimes.com team on the various Tribune systems that run the LA Times website and over fifty other Tribune owned sites. It was one of my final Tribune assignments since today is my last day working for Tribune Interactive.
I have accepted a position as the Product Manager for Apartments.com. Departing is never easy however, I am very excited about my new role which focuses on the strategy for the consumer website. It has been a pleasure working at the Tribune Tower and I will cherish it forever.
Two-thousand five, was a year of big expectations for me and for the most part it lived up to its billing. I felt it was in some ways a year I could do no wrong. Maybe it is because I am the fifth Frank and the five at the end of 2005 was going to align and somehow bring great fortune. Call it arrogance or maybe it was just pure ignorance for other years. Nonetheless, I used the following catch phrase far too many times then I would like to repeat at this time:
"2005 is my year!"
However here is a very quick month-by-month overview of some of the happenings in my life and the Somewhat Frank blog.
January 2005 :
The Tribune has launched a new "edgy" national entertainment site under the Metromix brand. Metromix is a well known Chicago entertainment website brand but now its going "national" with local flavor and a sharper edge and voice with the launch of site for Baltimore and Orlando site.
I was fortunate enough to be on the strategic planning committee for this project at Tribune Interactive which has been going on since November of 2004. I worked primarily on the music strategy as well as lent my technology expertise in every possible way I could throughout the duration of the project. So I am happy to finally be able mention the project publicly.
The site offers a number of entertainment categories which include music, movies, bars & clubs, restaurants, and TV. Additionally, the new entertainment site offers downloads of ringtones, mp3's and movies. The site also offers user posted comments and commentary on just about every article. I am hopeful the site is a success since it was such a magnificent team effort at Tribune. So what do you think about the new edgy entertainment site?