Where is the Green Stuff?

February 21, 2013

In the old days of publishing on paper, room for content was scarce and prices for advertisers would go up as audiences grew. In these days space for content is unlimited and in fact infinite. 

So, there is a problem for businesses who depend on advertising revenue. Not just for paper based products also for digital formats. Even more so in fact. Prices online are based on other metrics then the old fashioned supply and demand.

To make things more complicated prices are set by other parties. GOOG, as we all know makes quite a bundle every quarter.

Who will pay for good quality content?

In Europe an answer is popping up. Forces are gathering to get more money form GOOG.

Some interesting background info in this post from Frédéric Filloux, general manager for digital operations at Les Echos Groupe.


Back on the road again

January 3, 2013

Since my last post I have been launching a Big Data start-up and the coding & testing has finished.
It works quite well.
Business deals are underway.

Time again to write and share some of my thoughts.
Just as I enter the arena again, something happened.
Media companies are busy creating the role of Chief Digital Officer.


Time to reflect

August 18, 2011

Two weeks ago I was camping  in the middle of nowhere in La France. An old friend from Holland started the site 15 years ago. His dream was to create a refuge from the modern world. A place without almost anything, except the most basic things like 2 showers and 3 toilets and 1 fridge for all the visitors (mostly around 50 -70 people).

I hadn’t visited the ‘aire naturelle’ for 5 years. The only thing he added in these 5 years were two extra sockets near the fridge. They were all used to recharge iphones and iPads. And there was a waiting list.

I spoke with a man with an iPad, who told me he drove every morning to a nearby village to plug in and check the news and his mail. Screens are everywhere. Access as well. Even in the middle of nowhere (in Europe, that is).

I’m happy to say I did not carry a screen. Even more happier to say I did not read one single newspaper. Instead I read a few books. Very handy mobile media, I must say. I read a novel about the magic of books and Barcelona, finally finished ‘Outliers’ and worked my way through Friedman’s Green Bible.

And I had plenty of time to think. I came to feel, understand and notice the effect of media usage. Instead of browsing and flipping from blogs to posts and tweets, I actually enjoyed the time to reflect.

Microsoft is far from stupid

May 10, 2011

As Nicholas Negroponte thaught us in the early days of the web, one of the certain trends in the transformation from atoms to bits is the convergence of Media, Telecom and IT industries.

Boundaries blurred, blur and will keep blurring.

IT companies are fighting for positions as Media powerhouses. And as things look now, some of them are quite successful, especially Apple and Google, who yesterday changed places as ‘most wanted worldwide brand’.

But things move quickly. Today Microsoft acquired Skype for a hefty fee. In cash, one might add.

Most commentators reacted stunned. Why buy Skype? Skype may have 663.000.000 active members, only 8.800.000 actually pay. And a turnover of 860.000.000 is not that big, is it? It’s only about a 100$ per paying member. So they say.

But let us look at this big news from a different perspective. Imagine that it is possible to double the amount of payments. Imagine it is possible to double the amount of users that actually pay. Then it becomes a no brainer.

Look at this strategic move from another different angle: strategy.

It becomes clear this is a perfect move again. Microsoft is already moving to the clouds. Microsoft just did a deal with Nokia. Microsoft is doing a public beta with Office 365. Microsoft is already one of the fastest growing telephone services companies in the world.  Microsoft has quite an installed base in the business world.

And last but not least the real power of Microsoft is  the strong ties with developers, reaching hundreds of millions of businesses all around the globe.

Microsoft is moving into the business of making phone calls. Phones, not media.

But what are phones really these days?

Zoom In, Zoom Out

May 1, 2011

The Digital Revolution recently entered a new phase. The new screens in our hands offer new ways to read, browse, listen, watch and interact with content and with people. As people keep embracing these handheld devices, businesses are trying to catch up. Again.

Let’s look at the three sectors, usually considered to be at the center of these digital waves of change.

The smartphones and tablets are taking over all IT related industries. Computers basicly just left the building and are on the move. Software will turn into a service more rapidly soon, certainly when Office 365 will go out of public beta.

Telco’s are struggling. Landlines are out. Mobile became texting. Who could have imagined people writing on these things, since they were supposed to talk through them. The industry did not see smartphones coming. Their solution was to sell  internet bundles, but their customers started to use these bundles to acces free services. Why pay to call, if you can send a message for free?

Publishers are starting to realize they can no longer wait to change. Publishers have been neglecting All Things Digital too long. Change was something others would have to undertake, after the publishers themselves retired. A book is a book, you know. Yeah, and a newspaper a newspaper, right? A few years ago publishers had worries and money. Now it’s panic while they are almost broke.

In the midst of all these waves of change it is easy to focus too much on details. We tend to zoom in. But we need to zoom out and look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture in the world of business still is the simple fact that all links in the chain that do not add value, will disappear. Vanish. Evaporate. Fade out.

The middleman is under attack.

Take a look at your market. Zoom in on the chains. Which chain is only an intermediary?

Zoom out on the basic needs of customers. What is it they want?

Zoom in, zoom out!

The Price is Right

April 16, 2011

Before iPad was launched I started to think about the sort of ibooks that might form an extra attraction for possible ireaders. As my wife came up with the idea that iPad would become something to put on a table, I thought the old fashioned coffee table books would be a nice starting point. In every home I come, I see nice designed and well published books lying on coffee tables: 1 +1 = 3, right?

So I started touring publishers of books covering the arts, photography, design, architecture, history. I was rather stunned to notice these conversations turned out to be flashbacks.

I reexperienced earlier conversations during the rise of web 1.0 with record company management people.

There was, as we now are used to notice, ‘no real sense of urgency’. Of course it could be explained by the fact that all of these publishers were based in a very small country, called The Netherlands, but one would expect these professionals at least to be familiair with concepts like ‘desintermediation’, ‘e-books’, ‘Google’ or ‘ecommerce’. To my surprise they were not. And if they were, they were convinced that it would take years to develop and mature.

This year I started talks with museums to publish ibooks ourselves, without the publishers, since they were the ones that would be desintermediated. In preparation of making a shortlist for ibooks, I came upon art books, already available on iphone, iPad and iTouch. The price for a neat little handy booklet on Van Gogh was $ 1.99.  At least 50 or so well known painters were published as well for the same price.

This brings me to my point. As The Daily set the price for a daily on the iPad, this publisher set the price for nice, neat, little ibooks on painters.

Publishers and for that matter museums will have a very, very hard time to beat this price.

But for consumers, all over the world, the price sure is right.

Another Wake Up Call Today?

February 2, 2011

Well, it has been a little over a year that iPad was launched. Anticipated as the starting point for new and turbulent times, it certainly played out that way. The most optimistic forecast was it would sell some 3.000.000 units. It sold 5 times as much. Publishers of magazines and newspapers heralded the multi touch device in advance as the perfect moment for the introduction of paid content. Everyone rushed in, as always.

What observations did I make this year?

First of all, I would like to point out that iPad is only the first of many tablets. That’s a no brainer. There is no room for orders of microchips, screens or components  in the factories in Asia where these things are being made.  I expect many more multi millions of tablets rolling out of these factories the next few years.

The computer started to move away from the desk a while back with the laptop, the web book and the smartphone, but now it is definitely removed from it. The machine is in the living room, on the dining table, the couch and in the bedroom. On the lap, in your hands and even, I noticed, on the road. This has implications for usage, and therefore the design of information and content strategies. Most publishers and designers have not even started thinking about this shift. Let alone what it will mean.

After the initial hype, as always a central element in our industry, we, the people looked at the magazines produced for iPad and were not impressed. OK, you buy the first one, sure. But the second and third? Why should I pay for something new, that’s not new? It’s just a 1 – 1 copy of the paper thing!

The amount of apps sold is declining at enormous speed!

Advertisers pronto payed premium prices to reach the young, affluent and hip. But that’s over. Who is using this and how many exactly? Why pay more to these magazine companies?

Publishers discovered that producing content for iPad multiplied the cost of producing content or at least doubled the amount of time spent by their creative department. To ask for extra budgets in these still troubling economic times is not a very sound starting point for boardroom discussions.

And then there’s this small and often overlooked ‘problem’ of the middle man. The most stupifying thing of the last few months is the discovery and outcry by publishers that Apple wants to be compensated. I mean, think before you jump! Did you really expect this innovative company with this very clear vision on how to enter markets that have been sleeping and ignoring All Things Digital, to help you for nothing? Talk about myopia. Amazing.

Apple looked at markets, ready for innovation and full of sleeping  incumbents, before and took over in a split second. I mean, how could one make a dime in music with mp3, torrents, p2p, copycats? How could anyone think of entering the market for cellphones?

The key is probably that you have to be an outsider to come up with fresh thinking. Insiders look at this teutonic shift from their existing frames.

Apple knows that Content is King again. Look at what’s happening in social with al these people pointing towards and distributing remarkable content snippets! That’s why Apple named Flipboard as the most impressive app, I think.

Apple knows very well what is is doing. They have done it before. They will do it again. Someone like Mr. Murdoch understands this BTW. 

I must say I am eager to find out what his Harry Potter newspaper will do in the market. It is expected to launch today.