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
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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