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Jun 14, 2007

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BV

During the Spring Furniture Market in High Point I saw two pretty neat uses of vlogs and video for traditional print media outlets. The Boston Globe sent a reporter armed with a small hi-def camcorder to record video of the Trump launch. And the editor of a trade magazine vlogged all the events and products that she had seen the day before. Her goal was to expand her magazine's reach without having to print a typical market daily, which is expensive and requires a lot of feet on the ground.

Don Moore

I believe it's not far off. It's become very easy to put video in the Internet and with all the venture capital funding the bandwidth for now - FREE TO DO!

Look at FOX - they are selling off their smaller TV stations (Including WGHP). Looks like it will be the content generators and not the pipeline owners is the new focus of the big media giants.

Roch101

WGHP is for sale?

Bubba

"It would make no huge difference in Landmark's overall numbers to cut profit margins for a while to merely solid rates of return....."

How do you know it even makes a merely solid rate of return?

Has Landmark changed policy to reveal their margin on the operation?

Ed Cone

If you read the post, you'll see that I'm making an educated guess, based on profit margins for publicly-traded newspapers.

John Robinson has said the N&R doesn't make the glamorous returns of some publicly-traded papers -- which have ranged up to 30%, and recently averaged over 17%.

The N&R is a long-established monopoly. Neither I nor anyone I've spoken with know of any unusual drags on its performance. Allowing for the fact that public companies may prefer to plump up profit #s while private companies may prefer to keep them lower for tax reasons, it seems reasonable to assume that the N&R is returning healthy numbers for its industry. People I've spoken with who know Landmark well think that a 15% return for the N&R is not unreasonable.

In my post, I plugged in a 10% profit number on the $62 million revenue figure from S&P (that revenue number was logic-checked, and the source seems valid, and nobody has challenged it since I've published it). If Landmark dialed that low-seeming estimate of 10% profits back to T-bill level returns for a few years as part of a biz-dev experiment/strategy, it would free up perhaps $3 million a year for the N&R....

Beau Dure

Ed -- Do you mean going out and shooting the video or just making it possible for schools to upload their own?

The former would be a little much to ask aside from an occasional use. Any newspaper is going to scramble to get reporters to as many local games as possible. Even if you gave each reporter a camera, you'd get some shoddy one-camera video. (Besides, at many high school games, the reporter is likely keeping some rudimentary stats rather than being at the mercy of an easily distracted sophomore with a statbook.)

If you're talking about uploading, I think there's some potential. The problem is that some schools would be so much better than others in uploading.

Fec Stench

I look for greensborosports.com to show us the way. It's as though the N&R put all their chips on blogs, while ignoring the more obvious online paths to monetization.

Beau Dure

I'll also add in response to the points on monopoly and drags on performance -- I've asked a couple of times about the demographics of growth in the Triad, and so far, no one has convinced me that the Triad is bustling at the same rate as other regions in the South. It's also not quite a monopoly, given the list of links at left here. If Landmark had stuck with its free weekly strategy, it'd be closer.

Ed Cone

Video: uploads, perhaps with some low-$ deal with students to create it on a regular basis. Inksniffer uses a YouTube analogy. Definitely a distributed project. The paper adds value by branding, promotion, print coverage, ad muscle, etc. And remember, this is done not by scavenging the existing budget but by investing a bit as well.

Monopoloy and margins: monopoly is on daily print paper business, a dwindling asset. The local economy has been less robust than in Triangle or Charlotte, but healthier than some other parts of the country. Far from a disaster, and future prospects seem good -- a strong case for investing in new avenues, rather than just milking the old cow til over she keels.

Outdated

If the N&R shut its doors today, other than its older readers, would teenagers, our future leaders, know it, or even care? Teenagers don’t remember a time without the internet. Are they going to look at a newspaper for information when they can type into a search engine whatever relevant information they are looking for and get 175,000 hits in 0.24 seconds? Would the absence of the N&R from the local scene really be detrimental to the area? Would newer smaller more nimble internet based specialized local news sources with expertise in their field fill in and perhaps give all of us a true picture of what the Triad really is about and what the future might hold for all of us.

Beau Dure

Ed -- I'd disagree about the financial value of that daily print presence. That seems to be declining all the time, not just in Greensboro. I live in suburban Virginia, where the Washington Post can barely find my town on a map and I have to rely on the local weeklies to have a clue about town elections. (And I'm sure all the things I've said about the Rhino

But I'd agree wholeheartedly in terms of investment. That much, no one can lay at JR's feet. Argue over how his news judgment, sure, but no editor ever walked up to a publisher and said, "You know, I could do a lot better with a smaller newsroom."

The online video sounds interesting. Of course, the tools could change significantly in a hurry, and that would change the way you spend the money. It's already a piece of cake to upload video to any number of sites -- YouTube, Daily Motion, Yahoo, etc. So if high schools are willing to upload video, then an enterprising newspaper should be able to do a blog that incorporates all those highlights. All the video you want, with no additional production costs. The paper can add value all the ways you suggested -- promotion, getting buy-in from high schools, etc.

It's important to do it with minimal cost because I see this as one of those projects that impress people but don't necessarily draw huge traffic.

Beau Dure

Whoops ... left off in the middle of a sentence. I was going to say that the Rhino wasn't the only publication to take unfair and unwarranted shots at the N&R while I was there. I remember reading in the Peacemaker that African-American journalists had no opportunities in the mainstream media. It's funny how many different takes on reality can float around.

G/

Fyi// There have several competing firms in the tri-state area of NYC that have been quite successful since 2002-03 streaming live high school sports, as well as providing tapes to schools for scouting purposes, and highlight reels for colleges.

Successful enough, that they have attracted a significant amount of PE $$$, and two that I am aware of now have a national (NYC-area, Boston-area, Chicago-area, and Los Angeles-area) network on which they operate.
The business model counts on the content being cheap/free, labor costs low, and the revenue-side coming from 60-80% paid subscriptions/ 20-40% ads.

FYI//

M

The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia already does this: this.

Steve Welker

Re: High school sports video. Just google "upload your high school sports video" to see how many news outlets (mainly tv stations) already encourage viewers and fans to shoot and post game videos. Sites like ihigh.com make it easy to post flickr-like photo albums and probably will add video soon. Some newspapers are trying to catch up. The Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press has outfitted about 60 stringers and reporters with "mo-jo" (mobile journalist) backpacks complete with laptops and video/still cameras to find and upload local news videos.

In one sense, as Beau Dure writes, this isn't hard to set up. Thousands of people upload YouTube videos every day. However, adding video to a complex web site like news-record.com requires a suitable content management system and additional hardware and software resources.

Ed's absolutely right when he says Landmark and other news organizations must make the financial investments to compete. Other online providers have eaten the newspapers' lunch and now they've nibbling on the steak dinner. These new companies are more nimble, usually because of their smaller size; they're more tightly focused than newspapers who hold on to a be-all-things-to-all-people mentality; and they frequently use flexible open-source software so they can spend more money on employing web-savvy programmers, designers and sales & marketing people.

Beau Dure

Steve -- I'd argue, though, that making a splash with high school sports video is a by-product of the "be all things to all people" mentality. The vast majority of a newspaper's readers won't watch a single highlight. A few more might watch if they happen to know a neighbor's kid is involved.

I agree that newspapers are at a disadvantage against more nimble operations that can focus more tightly. I'm less sure what to do about it.

Ed Cone

The business model is not mass market for each team, but aggregated content -- the paper is the central repository for all the hs video, it provides extra value by publishing original sportswriting, links, standings, archives, etc, and sells ads around its nifty hs sports section. And replicate for other coverage areas as well. Kind of like in the print days...but better.

Outdated

If anyone is interested take a look at HighSchoolSports.net website. It is an example of the quick and agile competition printed newspapers face.

The following came from their website:
“With your HighSchoolSports.net account,
getting the information you need is fast and easy.

You'll go right to your favorite school and favorite teams.
Easily move between schools and teams.
Print a customized monthly calendar with the teams you want from the schools you want.
Print a team schedule.
Get scores and stats.
Get Update Notification of New Scores and New Stats to your email, pager, or cell phone.
See photos from your favorite game.
Free sync schedules to your Outlook, Palm desktop, or iCal.
RSS for the schedule into your RSS Reader
XML feed will put the accurate, current team schedule right onto your fan web page.”

Steve Welker

Beau,

"M" mentioned the Gaston Gazette and its new FootballFridayNights service. The Gazette is one of 70 Freedom Communications newspapers. And an interesting example of what can happen in established media companies who focus more of their attention on web business in addition (and in complement) to newspapers and television.

Just about a year ago, Freedom hired Michael Mathieu to head the corporation's Freedom's Internet division, now known as Freedom Interactive. Mathieu came from an Internet-oriented company, United Online (NetZero, Juno, Classmates.com). He promptly started building what eventually will be a team of 80 programmers, web designers, content people. etc. Peter Krasilovsky at The Local Onliner gives a good capsule report of Mathieu's plan of attack.

About two months ago, Freedom Interactive rolled out its viewer-submitted video service at its 21 television stations. Now the newspapers have it, too. People visiting GastonGazette.com can upload video there, but the Gazette also launched a separate site, the afore-mentioned FootballFridayNights.com, so the audience with a specific interest in prep sports can find and share what it wants without any other distractions. And that's where advertisers can find a specific audience for sports-related products and services.

Beau, I have worked in newspapers long enough (40 years) to say with conviction there's nothing new in the print world. I remember when the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star started one of the nation's first unbundled weekly packages for football fans. That was 25 years ago. Two seasons ago, my most-recent employer, The Mount Airy News, thought it had something brand new with a special weekly prep football tab. It's almost axiomatic in the industry that newspapers innovate at a glacial pace.

Why haven't more newspaper companies exploited the interweb? I believe they're held back by their long-held, institutional resistance to doing anything new. You would not believe the fights I went through to start and support zoned editions at small dailies, even after I proved how well one worked in the late 1980s.

Newspapers can become more nimble, but not if they remain locked in the mindset of providing one product for everyone. Ed's on the right track. Unbundle the newspaper. Create separate sites for specific audiences and targeted advertising accounts. Employ site-focused tiger teams (four to eight people, including at least one programmer, designer, content producer and marketing/sales rep). Make them work within the framework of a single content management system, but use open-source software that permits rapid prototyping and permits easy integration. And invest the money now before innovative online companies snap up the scarce talent (last I heard, Mathieu had found only 40 people so far) and start taking the revenue that media companies will need for future expenditures and profits.

Beau Dure

Steve -- That's a remarkable project, especially for the Freedom chain. The people I knew who had worked there didn't speak too highly of its willingness to spend money or innovate. Must have been a sea change somewhere along the way.

What you're describing is basically what we had on the initial N&R Web staff back in 1996 and '97. It worked for a while.

But you're right about the pace of change. Newspapers had been a safe industry for so long.

Beau Dure

Ed -- I guess I'm still at a loss to see why a blog can't do what you're spelling out here. For one thing, the blog is platform-agnostic. If one high school wants to work in YouTube and another wants to work in Daily Motion, no problem -- the blog can handle both.

You can add original sportswriting in the blog, categorize it however you like and add widgets for standings.

So why build something new? In newspapers, that's generally the holdup. If the editorial side can do it without trying to get programming help, it can be done much more quickly.

Bubba

"If you read the post, you'll see that I'm making an educated guess, based on profit margins for publicly-traded newspapers."

You can't necessarily make the assumption that the N&R does not have extraordinary situations that make their "profit margins" different from other newspapers.

Do you not think the N&R could possibly have larger long term liabilities that other newspapers have?

Do you not think the N&R's debt/free cash flow ratio may be significantly different from other newspapers?

Ed Cone

BD: It's the coordinated effort under the newspaper brand that publishers should pursue. I'm a big believer in lightweight software, including blogs. My argument isn't about a specific platform, it's about using newspaper assets and skills to create something more valuable than a simple collection of clips.

Bubba: An educated guess is an educated guess. As I said, given what I and people I've spoken with know and surmise about the newspaper industry and the N&R in particular, the educated guess seems reasonable. Is it possible that factors exist that set the N&R's financials apart from its peers in negative ways? Sure, it's possible, but we aren't speculating about a mystery company here, we're talking about a company with stable longtime ownership, reasonably well-understood economics, a market in which many of us actually live and work, etc.

Bubba

None of which says they can afford to do as you suggested.

Newspaper Publisher

Someone said that to integrate video into a newspaper website like the News & Record's would be an expensive and complex proposition. Sorry, but one of our papers did it in about 10 minutes. It's called LINKING to a video on our SERVER. If their existing website framework can't do that, then they need to hire some high school kid to come in and write code.

If you don't know anything about using technology, then don't comment on how hard it is to use it.

Also, someone said that the News & Record could not afford to go into video on a larger scale. They just have to go down to Circuit City and buy a camera for $275 for Pete's sake. Wow, I hope they can afford to buy something that costs a little more than a newspaper rack.

By the way, if you want to learn how to edit videos, then feel free to take a look at the FREE programs that come with Windows or Apple computers.

That argument about a newspaper not being able to afford it may have been true in 1994, but not 2007.

The main question is just whether a newspaper wants to make the "investment" in time as to training and keeping up the video posts every week or not. It's really that simple.

Sorry to be so caustic here, but these were a couple of comments that made me laugh because they obviously come from people who don't know what they're talking about.

I'm really tired of hearing about how newspapers have to make the decision about whether to "spend all this money to reach their readers on the web" because (1) it doesn't cost a lot of money anymore and (2) the easy to use technology is out there.

If papers choose to ignore it, then that is their business decision and that's fine, just don't make excuses for not doing it that aren't valid.

Kathryn Hopper

I agree that it doesn't have to cost a lot to post a video. You can simply upload it to youtube and link to it if nothing else. Newspapers have to become more multimedia savvy or become increasingly irrelevant. My parents in Greensboro spent Friday watching the Nifong hearing on their laptop via WRAL's live online feed. Forget reading about it in the paper the next day.

By the way, I live in Dallas, TX now and wanted to put in a plug for a fellow Greensboro native Mike Orren who is kicking booty here in the Lone Star State with his online news site http://www.pegasusnews.com/

The site started out focusing on local bands and bars- www.texasgigs.com - and expanded into news last year. It looks like Mike just got some fresh venture capital cash and is hiring so maybe some of those laid off and the N&R can send in their resumes. Texas isn't that bad and there are actually a few places here you can get decent N.C. style barbecue!

WFB

And Texas brisket is daggone good to boot (Hey Kathryn - Forrest)

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