Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Business: May 27th

The Business keeps chugging along this week with a brand-new show, and a brand-new guest star - Seattle's Andy Haynes, from "Last Comic Standing" and the Bridgetown Comedy Festival.

You can call The Business "butter", because these shows are on a roll! (If you're a vegan, you can call The Business "organic hummus" for the same reason.) Even in the face of rave reviews and ever-increasing audiences, The Business still costs just five dollars. Because we care.

Haynes and Garcia are OUT, Janine Brito and Mike Spiegelman are IN!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Challenges of Online News Micropayments and Subscriptions

The impetus toward subscriptions for access and micropayments for single use of online news is growing because online advertising alone cannot sustain the news organizations necessary to provide high quality and broad coverage.

In recent weeks Rupert Murdoch announced News Corp. will begin shifting its newspapers to an online paid model in the next 12 months, starting with Wall Street Journal and then progressively shifting papers such as the New York Post, The Times of London, the Sun and The Australian to a paid model. Dean Singleton followed by indicating MediaNews Group will begin doing the same for its papers, including Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, Detroit News, St. Paul Pioneer Press, and Salt Lake city Tribune.

Clearly charging for online news is likely to reduce online consumption because of elasticity of demand, but—setting aside the extent to which demand for online news will fall if a price is imposed—moving to a paid model will also creates two common, industrywide challenges.

First, it forces each publisher to bear costs of setting up their own payment system. Secondly, it imposes a heavy burden on consumers. The latter burden results not from having to pay for news, but from the fact that online readers typically do not use only one online news source—unlike the market for print newspapers in which readers typically subscribe to only one paper.

It currently appears that each online newspaper or their corporate parent will set up their own payment systems. The options being most discussed are subscriptions for use or electronic wallets from which to make micropayments for occasional use.

These factors will have a particularly negative affect on the heaviest online news users—voracious and promiscuous readers who seek news from multiple news organizations. If each newspaper sets up its own payment system, for example, these readers will have to have separate payment accounts for the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and dozens of other publications they wish to visit.

To deal with this challenge the newspaper industry should seek to create a joint venture or cooperative to solve the problem. Companies should work together to developing a single system that is usable across sites and one that can be extended to handle payments for other types of online content. Such a system would simplify and encourage payment for content, but also develop a new revenue stream by turning the payment system from a cost center to profit center by charging companies for its use.

Free is clearly not the right price for news, but the movement to a paid model will not be as simple as transferring the existing subscription and single copy payment models for print newspapers to their online counterparts. Seeking payment online creates new challenges and opportunities that will require new thinking about how payments are made and more cooperation across the industry.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Business: May 20th

This week on The Business: Chris, Bucky, Sean and Alex welcome back comedian Hari Kondabolu. Along with a full dose of our regular titters and tee-ha-ha's, Hari and his brother Ashok will present a special session with The Kondabolu Brothers.


We have comedian Eric Andre, and a cameo appearance by Nato Green, asking the questions we've all wanted to know about Cubans. Still just five bucks, still BYOB, still waters run deep.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Business: May 13th

The Business has a very special show this week, May 13th. It's Chris Garcia's birthday, so he made a wish to have two hilarious friends join the lineup this week. And it came true! Hari Kondabolu ("Live at Gotham", "Jimmy Kimmel Live") and Sheng Wang ("Live at Gotham", "Just For Laughs" festival) join us this week for SF's best underground comedy showcase. Still just five bucks, still BYOB.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Seeing through the Haze Surrounding Websites, Blogs and Social Media

Communicating regularly is hard work. It takes skill; it takes a voice; it takes having something to say; it takes time. Making money from it is even harder.

The functions provided by websites, blogs, and social media clearly make it possible for people to express themselves in ways never before imagined, to share their opinions, to express their hopes and dreams, and to share the details of their lives. Media companies are watching these developments and many are rushing to provide content on any communication technology or application the public uses.

Although large numbers of people are trying the new technologies, they are reacting to them in different ways. Some find them highly useful and satisfying; some find them worthless and disappointing; some find them a worthy pastime; others find them a waste of time. What this means is that—like all technologies—they are more important to some people than to others. Consequently, managers need to be realistic in assessing their potential, the extent to which they are being used by the public, and the extent to which they provide opportunities that media companies should pursue.

Because those promoting the technologies are self interested, uptake figures are easy to come by. Finding out who has tried the technologies, but decided they were undesirable is harder. However, research is showing some interesting results in that regard. We now know that 60 percent of the people who try Twitter stop using it within a month, that only about 5% of blogs are regularly updated, that more than 200 million blogs have been abandoned, and that about 37 million web domain names are deleted every year.

Most people and organizations who try these new communication opportunities make limited use of them or give up on them altogether because of boredom or because the opportunities don't provide sufficient results. This is not to say they are not unimportant, however. A good number of individuals and companies are using them to create new abilities and opportunities to communicate with friends, colleagues, and customers and to establish new businesses and revenue streams. Doing so, however, takes commitment that most people and firms are unwilling to make.

From the business standpoint one has to be realistic when evaluating the opportunities presented. Media executives need to ask hard questions: Do all media companies need to provide content across every available platform regardless of the cost and effort? Are all types of news and information appropriately carried on all platforms? In what ways is branding and marketing for the company actually served by these engagements? How are these monetized? What are the returns on the investments? What are the risks of not engaging these technologies?

Success is not easy in this technological environment. It requires investment, effort, regular activity, and provision of content that people want. Media managers choosing to use these new technologies must be clear-headed in their decisions and pursue well-founded strategies or they will be lost in the maze of competing and alternative opportunities.

The Business: May 6th

This week, Sean Keane and Alex Koll will be off somewhere, tumbling through ointment as the say. In lieu of this, The Business welcomes Joe Tobin and Kevin Camia to the fold.