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Precision includes accuracy

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If precision is key and we’re moving into the world of "every ad a wanted ad," then there’s nothing worse than getting some personalized piece of marketing that is just dead wrong.

I just received a letter from Dick Cheney thanking me for my support of the Republican Party. He thoughtfully enclosed a very fancy and official Certificate of Appreciation acknowledging my personal and financial commitment to the principles of the Republican Party. I am apparently a Sustaining Member of the Republican National Committee.

The mystery here is that I KNOW that I’ve never given them a dime. I also KNOW that I’m currently registered as unaffiliated. I’m fairly sure, but not certain, that I’ve never been registered as a Republican. I certainly haven’t been in the last three years while I’ve been living in my current home.

A cautionary tale for those of us who think targeted marketing is the future of advertising. It’s really cool if you can send someone a time-sensitive special for the local churrascaria. If they’re a vegan? Not so much.

Where the readers are all strong,the ads are all good looking,and the newspapers are all above average

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Via Romanesko comes a Hartford Courant interview with Garrison Keillor. Interesting stuff on newspapers and culture, that reveals Keillor as an unwitting member of the electronic fedora club:

Whatever the NEA report says – "Maybe cellphones are taking the place
of the portable book," he suggests – Keillor has what some might
consider a dumbly optimistic view of the future of the classics vs. the
future of, say, David Letterman. But it’s a firmly held view.

"In the course of doing `A Prairie Home Companion’ we try to avoid
pop culture references," he says. "We don’t refer to things like
`American Idol’ – we wouldn’t do jokes about it because you can no
longer assume that the majority of people have seen this or know what
you’re talking about. The entire world of popular entertainment has
become so fragmented that there are no longer uniting figures."


For example, despite Britney Spears’ status as a recognizable
celebrity, he says, few people would recognize her music as they still
recognize Frank Sinatra’s.

Keillor touches on the cultural shift that I think is being enabled by the enabling of the Long Tail: There are precious few "common experiences" for broad, national media to deliver. There’s no Ed Sullivan show.

Check that– there are thousands of Ed Sullivan shows, all with different lineups. You can’t count on anyone knowing all the songs in the top ten anymore. So, how to unify through common experience? Go local.

… But I think that American newspapers have taken a very serious
wrong turn, and that aside from a few newspapers the quality of the
product is in decline, especially for the reader, and I think that
newspapers have forgotten that their readers are readers and love
writing – writing is what people want. They don’t want a sort of
concept of journalism; they want writers. And writers are always
individuals.

"This is what people turn to newspapers for. They don’t turn to
newspapers for advice and for personal service and for sort of glossy
pieces about lifestyle and home decor and cooking and how to bring up
your children. They’re really looking to newspapers for the same thing
that people looked to newspapers for back before television –
television didn’t change anything and USA Today didn’t really change
anything."

I suspect there may be some context missing from Keillor’s quote here, but here’s my take: TV and USA Today didn’t change the need that newspapers filled. Newspapers, however, were born and bred in the world of dominant broad media, and adapted unnecessarily. "Hmm. USA Today is popular. TV talk shows are popular. We have to be like them."

But in the Long Tail aughties, you don’t. Technology enables you to serve readers in the same way you did back in the day. Sure, you may not be serving a certain segment, but that’s OK. Your former mass is now a niche. And they’re hungry for you to come back. I’ve seen the numbers.

Again, it's all about precision

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I’ve been saying for some time that while there’s a sea change in content and distribution, the real mind-blowers are coming in terms of changes to traditional advertising models.

Exhibit: "Our ratings, ourselves" from todays NYT Magazine. Ostensibly about changes in Nielsen measurements, but touches on the core issues of precision in advertising. Some key excerpts, emphasis mine:

”Television and media,” Luff said over the noise of five sets tuned
to five different channels, ”will change more in the next 3 or 5 years
than it’s changed in the past 50.”…

I’ll buy that.

Finding out whether ”C.S.I.” beats ”Desperate Housewives” is just
the beginning. Change the way you count, for instance, and you can
change where the advertising dollars go, which in turn determines what
shows are made and what shows then are renewed. Change the way you
count, and potentially you change the comparative value of entire
genres (news versus sports, dramas versus comedies) as well as entire
demographic segments (young versus old, men versus women, Hispanic
versus black). Change the way you count, and you might revalue the
worth of sitcom stars, news anchors and — when a single ratings point
can mean millions of dollars — the revenue of local affiliates and
networks alike. Counting differently can even alter the economics of
entire industries, should advertisers (thanks to the P.P.M.) discover
that radio or the Web is a better way to get people to know their brand
or buy their products or even vote for their political candidates.
Change the way you measure America’s culture consumption, in other
words, and you change America’s culture business. And maybe even the
culture itself.

And change what you count, like say reader purchases instead of readership or paid circulation, and then you’ve really mixed things up.

Some P.P.M. tests in Philadelphia have already indicated that wearers
tune into twice as many radio stations on a typical day as they ever
note in their diaries.

So perhaps the Long Tail phenomeon is less new than it seems — we just haven’t been able to measure it.


There is a dream within the counting industry that has been around for
decades, called single-source measurement, but it has never been
successfully realized. Recently, thanks to the P.P.M., this goal has
been resurrected under the name Project Apollo, which is a joint effort
between Arbitron and VNU (Nielsen’s parent company). ”Apollo is
basically something that’s been the holy grail of measurement since
people were drawing woolly mammoths on the side of caves,” David
Verklin said. It’s a closed-loop system that will measure the media
people absorb — and then what they buy.

To this end, Apollo will track 70,000 people across the country
who wear the P.P.M. all day. But not for the sake of ratings. The
advertisements and messages these 70,000 people see, hear, read,
encounter will be matched to the purchases they make…

At the moment, representatives of Arbitron and VNU are making
presentations around the country to encourage big companies to sign up
for the service, which should be available sometime next year. The
price is high (up to $1 million per company)
, and many businesses are
reluctant to invest in an untested product. So Arbitron and VNU are
trying to stress the practical appeal: Apollo should allow companies to
understand which advertisements get consumers to buy their products,
but could also offer insights into the connection between their
tactical approach to advertising and the urge to buy…

Um, wow. Two kneejerk reactions:

  1. Media outlets would be smart to put a pay-for-performance mechanism in place before a scheme like Apollo takes hold. The last thing you want is an outside service busting up all your voodoo ad space schtick. Better to bring it to market on your own terms.
  2. What about smaller businesses who can’t afford $1 million in fees? Does this widen the Wal-Mart’s advantage over small retailers?

The market is demanding more precision. (Note that I said precision, not perfection.) Precision may well be the divide that separates the haves from the have-nots in the coming decade.

At least that’s our bet.

Pitter patterRainy-day bullets

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Newspaper wars, ca. 2005

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Fun article in this week’s New Yorker about the ongoing spat between the News and the Post. The catalyst was an error in the News’ reader sweepstakes:

A plaintiff’s lawyer, Steven Gildin, addressed the crowd as his
partners handed out business cards. “How can a company that publishes
information make mistakes?” he said. (The
Post,
the following morning, misspelled Gildin’s name.) Then City Councilman
Charles Barron called on everyone to boycott the Sunday
News. The crowd began marching and shouting, “Boycott the Daily News!,” which turned to “No pay, no readers!” and, eventually, simply “We want money!”

Paying your readers? A revolutionary concept.

Defining 2.0

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There’s a hodgepodge post on Jay Rosen’s blog that contains a nice start on a succinct definition for Journalism 2.0:

In Journalism 2.0 (the way I explain it to myself) the People Formerly
Known as the Audience, safely considered "consumers" during one era,
are more involved in production. Interactivity makes daily journalism
into a better, faster learning machine, which means it can improve its
accuracy many times over. And in the 2.0 era new ways to pay for good
work emerge from a variety of directions– the media industry is only
one, and not the most likely solution.

He touches on an idea that I’m beginning to see flourish amongst those thinking about the future: The "former audience" has to become a part of the conversation, but someone still needs to facilitate that conversation, to provide the salon and all its furnishings.

As Dan Gillmor says:

The people we’ve called the audience play a key role, in several
ways. As consumers (I hate the word) of news they have to make some
choices. I believe they
will pay for quality, to start with.
But young readers have changed media. We in the journalism sphere need
to innovate on new forms and delivery mechanisms as well as the
journalism itself.

We also need, as I’ve said again and again, to involve the audience
in the process. This is crucial. And I want to do it in a way that
gives us all a stake in the outcome.

I don’t know what it’s going to look like in the end. I have some
ideas. But I’m in the process of bringing together some smart people
I’ve met in these travels, from the new and old worlds. They’re
passionate about their communities, the world and journalism. They know
that journalism (real journalism) plays too big a role in our checks
and balances to go quietly into the night.

This will become a combination of the old and new. I know that I (or
anyone) can’t figure it out alone.

The players

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Paul Bass sent me a good synopsis of various citizens/hyperlocal projects. The list at The Media Center is also comprehensive, but this one (in the continuation) provides some detail on the varying business and content models for newcomers to the whole concept.

UPDATE: Ken Sands also has an overview and is impatient with the MSM’s adoption rate.

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Down (under) but not out

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Last week I mentioned the seeming obsolescence of certain types of vendors that serve the print industry.

Mark Fletcher, who runs a News Agency (think Newsstand company) in Australia is thinking ahead and blogging about such things:


In Australia around 90% of newspapers are sold through newsagencies – a
channel of 4,600 retail and distribution businesses established for
this purpose. Almost all are privately and individually owned. The
future of newsagencies as we know them is inextricably linked to the
future of newspaper and magazine publishing and distribution – yet we
are not part of the conversation about future models for mainstream
media.

With the blogging phenomenon newsagents have an opportunity
independently to claim territory in what is called the blogosphere.
Newsagencies could create BLOG POSTS – an in store kiosk like PC where
people can read or post – giving a bricks and mortar presence and
therefore greater person in the street relevance for blogging. This
fits with the movement citizen journalism where everyone is a journalist.  There are several models emerging including this model from Bluffton South Carolina.

I see BLOG POSTS in newsagency stores as the beginning. They
identify this old world bricks and mortar channel with the new
movement. They provide a relevance for the 18-34 year olds who are
shunning newspapers. They provide a starting point from which new
traffic generators and business opportunities for newsagents can evolve.

Pleased to meet you –Hope you guessed our names

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A (hopefully) anticlimactic bit of housekeeping: Our Little Venture has moved beyond the stealth phase, as four of our key leaders are now full-time Pegasi. We’ve actually been "out of the closet" for about a month, but haven’t really been sure how to de-stealthify without making an unduly big deal out of it.

In fact, lacking any other clear reason to name names, we were thinking about trucking along as-is, just not taking any pains to hide our identities. (Mine, for instance, is easily found in a Google search.)

But I was chatting wedia with Dan Gillmor the other day, and he convinced me that it was important that everyone know who we are, even if we’re quite sure that no one knows "who we are." Something to do with that whole open-source and transparency thing we’ve been preaching.

So, here are the folks who are currently full-time engaged in our project. We’ll announce other members of our team as appropriate:

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Precision

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So, several months ago, I started hearing folks — non-media-savvy folks, mind you — asking why newspapers couldn’t be more precise in their ad pricing.

Why can’t you charge the same way Google does, where I only pay for the clicks?

The demand was for something tangible and precise, something that couldn’t be fudged.

Or could it?

If only there was an even more precise metric. Hmm…

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