June 14, 2004
Is online news registration working?

Online news registration may not be working [Thanks paidcontent!].

Among the reasons offered are that there’s a lot of false information being posted and people are sharing registrations. Some ten to twenty percent of registered email addresses are bad, and no one knows how much of the demogrpahic data is phony. But newspapers seem to think they need demographics to sell ads.

“Our view is that we need help from you: We’ve got to pay for what we do, we’ve got to convince advertisers into looking at us and tell them that these are the demographics we now know about our readers,” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution ombudsman Mike King] said. “The old standard — advertising geared to people who live in the areas we cover — doesn’t work anymore.”

But Google built the largest, fastest-growing advertising business on the Web without any demographics at all. And a huge chunk of that business is never touched by a sales person.

The other part of the justification is that it’s becoming more expensive to publish a newspaper on the Web. That’s weird. It should be getting cheaper.

Posted by barryparr at 10:03 AM
April 21, 2004
Belden is the last to discover that cookie-counts are unreliable

Belden has released a study that says unique-user counts based on cookies are too high. Can this be news to anyone? I remember having this same conversation with my webmaster (remember webmasters?) back in 1995.

I’ve used cookies to count users on MediaSavvy, but I’ve never told anyone what this number is, or believed it myself.

Underlying dissatisfaction with this crude method of counting users is no doubt one of the many information issues that are driving news sites to user registration. While I’m unenthusiastic about registration as a method of gathering useless demographics, it does help create countable and measurable identities for users.

Posted by bp at 02:26 PM
October 09, 2003
Perseus blog study shows the importance of choosing your sample

The Perseus blog survey that says two-thirds of blogs are inactive has gotten a lot of attention lately.

Cyberatlas does a good job of comparing Perseus’ study to The National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education (NITLE) Blog Census, which shows that two-thirds of blogs are active.

The big difference is that Perseus took the easy way out and only looked at hosted blogs, while NITLE took the trouble to gather a reasonable sample. It appears that NITLE has missed a lot of blogs that Perseus counted.

The two surveys’ blog counts are striking. NITLE measures 1.4 million and Perseus estimates that total is 4.1 million. In any event, the number of bloggers, active and otherwise, is in the millions.

There is some great information on the NITLE site that is worth checking out.

Posted by bp at 04:18 PM
More demographic pointlessness Advertising.com tells us that the best click-through rates can be found in New Mexico, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Montana.

Top Five US States for Click-Through Rate
New Mexico 116
West Virgina 114
Arkansas 113
Montara 108
Wyoming 108
Source: Advertising.com, via emarketer.com

What is a marketer supposed to do with that information? Target his ads to the smallest, poorest states in the country? I’m trying to imagine why this information is useful. This is consistent with a quote on Digital Deliverance about how companies compulsively collect worthless information.

Don’t target your customers by where they live. Target them by what they do.

Posted by bp at 03:47 PM
Newspapers’ local Web markets are vulnerable

According to ComScore Media Metrix, monopoly newspaper penetration of their home markets ranges from 4% of Web users in Philadelphia to 16.6% in Atlanta. I left off a couple of nonmonopoly markets and the Washington Times from the bottom, and the more-than-local Washington Post from the top of the list.

Given that major metros typically have around much higher penetrations of their home markets — especially among Internet users — this is a pretty pathetic performance for a free product. Local newspaper sites have plenty of useful local information, yet they can’t muster 20% of their home markets.

The era of repurposed online newspapers must end if newspapers are going to defend themselves against smaller, hungrier rivals.

Posted by bp at 03:18 PM
September 26, 2003
Online personals are advertising, not content

Online personals aren’t content. People don’t pay to read personals–they pay to post them. Or they buy access to a poster’s contact information.

Clay Shirky calls it communication. I’d call it advertising. But, I suppose paid communication is advertising, isn’t it?

Whatever you do call it, observers increasingly agree that the Online Publishers’ Association shouldn’t count it as paid content. The good news is that the OPA is finding a much more skeptical audience this year than in the past.

Their information is so good and so useful that it’s a shame to see them get use the same dopey definition of content. No doubt they will continue to do so as long as news outlets report their big market size number uncritically.

Posted by bp at 11:26 AM
September 25, 2003
More skepticism about the OPA’s definition of the content market

Vin Crosbie have taken on the Online Publishing Association’s hype and loose interpretation of the data in their latest online content sales report. Vin was the first to cry foul on the original OPA report’s fast-and-loose definition of “online content” last year.

Rafat Ali ridicules the following hopeful statement in the report: “While slowing growth is indicative of a maturing market, we may also be in the midst of a quiet period during which content providers are readying new premium paid services for an increasingly receptive public.” He also has come around to the conclusion that online dating services don’t belong in the online content market.

We need a new definition of online content sales.

Posted by bp at 11:10 AM
September 24, 2003
The ITU suggests US broadband penetration is about half what it should be [Free Research]

With our per capita income, US broadband penetration should be about twice what it is. Take a look at the free executive summary [PDF] of the International Telecommunications Union’s Birth of Broadband report.

There’s a great graph (Figure 3 on page 9 of the executive summary) that shows we’re lagging behind the adoption curve that the rest of the world seems to be riding.

What forces are retarding the implementation of broadband in the US?. Clearly, it’s not content, as the copyright holders would have us believe. There’s more US-developed content than anything else on the Net.

The ITU believes the single most important driver of broadband penetration is competition. It makes you wonder why the FCC thinks eliminating competition is the best way to get the telco’s to deploy fiber optic networks.

Posted by bp at 03:26 PM
OPA’s demographic report shows the futility of demographics [Free Research]

The Online Publishers Association has released a demographic study that compares online content buyers to the Internet users as a whole.

Most of the data show that the demographic differences between content buyers and everyone else are meaningless. They’re the tiniest bit younger, a little more heavily represented among people with incomes over $100,000 (like buyers of everything else), and their households are smaller (probably because they’re younger).

The real difference is behavioral. Internet content buyers spend about twice as much time on the Net and view more than twice as many pages. And they’re a little more likely to have broadband service (about 60% versus 50% for all Internet users).

The most interesting fact is that they spent less on conventional ecommerce ($235/quarter vs. $315/quarter) than the average online buyer.

This data confirms my thesis that demographics are meaningless to Internet marketers. Internet content buyers look like everyone else on the Net. We should be looking at behavior.

Posted by bp at 02:12 PM
OPA’s latest content sales report isn’t encouraging [Free Research]

The market for online content sales is growing, but contains the seeds of its own destruction. That’s my interpretation of the new online content sales report [PDF] from the Online Publishers Association. The report covers the first half of 2003. Here are the highlights, in my opinion:

  • The core online content market grew a respectable 14% between the first half of 2002 and 2003. The OPA’s definition on “content sales” is still too expansive my taste. They include personals (up 77% since 2002), streaming audio and video, games, credit repair, fantasy sports, and greeting cards. Core online content, in my analysis, includes business content, research, and general news. This market was $255 million in the first half of 2003, or about a third of the OPA’s content market.
  • General news is flat at about $35 million/year.
  • Online advertising is an order of magnitude larger than online content. The Interactive Advertising Bureau hasn’t released their numbers for the first half of 2003 yet, but it’s likely to be more than $3 billion.
  • Subscriptions dominate the online content market. About 88% of the market was subscription-based. Because the OPA doesn’t break this out by category, it’s hard to know how this applies to the core content market.
  • Single payments under $5 are less than $15 million/year (8% of total single payments which are 11.5% of the approximately $1.5 billion/year market). The OPA calls these “micropayments”. I’d call them “minipayments”.
  • Revenue per content buyer has been stalled at just under $25 for nearly two years. All growth in revenue comes from the conversion of Internet users into content buyers. This isn’t too surprising. It’s more than they pay for the daily newspaper. It’s about what most people pay for Internet access. It’s about half what they pay for local telephone, long distance, cable, broadband, or mobile service. Does anyone think that it will ever be greater than any of these?
  • The average content buyer spent $.25 on single payment content in the first half of 2003.

Conclusions: The market for online content will stagnate if content sellers can’t continue to find new buyers. Publishers of general news and information are misguided if they think that selling subscriptions or archives will ever be a serious business. Meanwhile they risk conceding their core markets to free, advertising-financed competitors if they pursue it.

Posted by bp at 12:25 PM
September 17, 2003
The ITU says competition increases broadband penetration

The International Telecommunications Union has released a report that says The US is 11th in broadband penetration worldwide, with only 7% versus nearly 21% in Korea. I added emphasis to a key paragraph below;

More than 10 million of the world’s high-speed Internet users are in South Korea alone, a rate of 21.3 broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Hong Kong was in second place with 14.9 percent and Canada was third at 11.2 percent.

The United States was in 11th place in the per-capita broadband rankings at 6.9 percent, though it had the highest overall total with 19.9 million subscribers.

Japan was in 10th place, with 7.1 percent broadband use. But ITU experts expect Japan to move up because it is now offering the world’s fastest speeds and lowest prices. Broadband service that is about 520 times faster than a dial-up modem is available in Japan for about $24.19 a month.

[Taylor Reynolds, one of the authors] said a key reason why Japan and South Korea are so far ahead is because of heavy competition among broadband providers. The Japanese and South Korean governments have taken steps to encourage the use of broadband, such as requiring telephone companies to let competitors use existing lines at low cost.

The FCC has taken the opposite approach, granting monopolies to local phone companies in exchange for them granting citizens broadband access when it suits their purposes.

Meanwhile, Peterme points to a Business Week commentary that says we need to grant telcos a monopoly on DSL, subsidize their deployment, and improve content protection to increase broadband penetration. He notes correctly that more content isn’t what we need to create broadband demand. There’s now plenty of evidence in worldwide Internet penetration to show this is nonsense that only serves intellectual property owners.

Posted by bp at 12:04 PM
August 01, 2003
The online ad boom could delay content charges

Right now, there is more money to be made selling ads online than selling news.

With online advertising continuing to climb (Emarketer says online ad spending will be up 4.8% in 2003), and with online newspapers getting an outsized share of that growth, who is going to be willing to jeopardize their seat on the gravy train by charging for content?

The Online Publishers’ Association says that their members (all big publishers) are seeing a 38% growth rate in online advertising. This is consistent with what the big newspaper publishers are reporting.

company Q2 revenue in millions Y/Y growth
NY Times $21.6 22%
Knight-Ridder $19.3 36%
Tribune n/a 15%
Lee Enterprises $5.8 35%

Posted by bp at 02:17 PM
More bad news for print classifieds

It’s no surprise to anyone that the Web now dominates the real estate advertising market.

In response to the question, ‘What resources did you use in your home-search process,’ 65 percent of respondents listed the Internet, while 49 percent mentioned newspapers. Two years ago, 43 percent of respondents listed newspapers as a primary information source while 43 percent listed the Internet as a primary source.”

For the true believers (like me), it’s a bit of a surprise that the Web was never able to disintermediate the real estate agents’ MLS monopoly. However, no one should be surprised that the agents recognized the Web as not only a cheaper, but a superior method to promote houses (and their services).

Not only did newspapers abuse their local classified monopoly for decades, but they never were able to offer an efficient buy in a business where the only thing that matters are location, location, and location. Why advertise to an entire metropolitan area when you only want buyers who are interested in a single neighborhood?

Bay Area real estate advertising never recovered from its decline in the recession of the early 90’s because the advertisers in their desperation found newer and cheaper ways to sell houses. The business was already pretty damaged by the time the Web came along.

Given the poor prognosis for newspaper classifieds in general and employment in particular, I was startled to hear that the Conference Board is still promoting its help-wanted index as a measure of the employment market, saying “Because ad volume has proven to be sensitive to labor market conditions, this measure provides an important gauge of change in the local, regional and national supply of jobs.”

What decade do the Conference Board’s economists live in? These days, employment classified ad volume is a lot more sensitive to online competition than it is to labor market conditions.

Posted by bp at 01:50 PM
May 22, 2003
More pressure on the broadband access duopolies

The AeA (what you probably know as the American Electronics Association) says that broadband growth is slowing:

“Now, the limiting factor [to the growth of broadband] is access and price,” said William T. Archey, president of AeA, which was formerly known as the American Electronics Association. Only half of people living in rural areas have access to high-speed Internet service, and many others don’t want to pay $50 a month for it, he said.

The pressure on the broadband access duopolies to increase access and lower prices is growing. They’re not exactly a friend of the citizen, but the AeA should provide a political counterweight to the duopolies and make it clearer to everyone that they’re holding back the economy with their current approach to broadband access. [Thanks Poynter E-media Tidbits]

Posted by bp at 04:36 PM
Perhaps media concentation would be good for kids

I hate media concentration as much as the next guy, but this baffles me. An “advocacy” group called Children Now says that the amount of kids’ television programs in Los Angeles fell sharply when one company owned more than one of the city’s TV stations.

Put aside their misuse of the word “duopoly” to describe one company owning two TV stations in the same market. My question is whether anyone really believes that kids are better off if there are more TV shows for them to watch.

Posted by bp at 04:24 PM
The largest online publishers had a great first quarter for ads

The Online Publishers Association says its members, the largest online publishers, are reporting their online ad revenue is up 40.7% in the first quarter over the first quarter of 2002. Interestingly, total revenue was up 37.6%, suggesting that non-advertising revenue sources are not keeping up as a share of total revenue.

The members of the OPA are the largest online publishers, including of About.com, Bankrate.com, Belo Interactive, CBS MarketWatch, CNET Networks, CondeNet, COXnet, Edmunds.com, ESPN.com, Forbes.com, Hearst, Internet Broadcasting Systems, Knight Ridder Digital, Meredith, MSNBC.com, New York Times Digital, Scripps Networks, Slate, SportingNews.com, Tribune Interactive, USATODAY.com, Wall Street Journal Online, weather.com and Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

Posted by bp at 12:49 PM
May 19, 2003
Free research: Pew shows broadband users are a lot like experienced dial-up users

The number of broadband users grew 50% last year, according to the latest memo from the Pew Internet Project.

CyberAtlas is running an interesting chart based on Pew’s data that shows broadband users and experienced dial-up users are pretty similar in their online activities. Not surprisingly, they use a lot more streaming media. However, the only traditional Web activity whose use seems to be increased by broadband is reading news.

Pew predicts that the pace of broadband adoption is likely to slow as most ready buyers cannot get access.

Slowing growth rates for broadband adoption could lead to price cuts in the near future. Don’t sign any long-term contracts.

Posted by bp at 11:03 PM
May 12, 2003
Free Research: Online Publishers’ Association releases daypart study

The Online Publishers’ Association has released a new survey of at-work Internet use by daypart[ PDF].

The Internet is the best way to reach your audience while they’re at work, and this study does a good job of showing the behavior of this audience.

I wish the study had spent less time wallowing in demographics, which are easy to collect but pretty meaningless, especially in this context. I also don’t understand why they’re looking at the at-work market as a consumer, rather than business, market.

Posted by bp at 04:09 PM
May 05, 2003
Why we need a definition of content sales

PaymentOne’s new study concludes that security concerns are the main reason why consumers don’t buy more content online.

That seems a little weird to me: Not high prices, not the inconvenience of payment, but security.

But if you take a look at what content they’re buying online, 52% of it is advertising and another 9% is Internet services and communications. Only 12% of what they’re buying is news and information.

It seems to me that the value of classified ads and communications services are well established on the Net and that security (the principal bugaboo of all mainstream ecommerce) would be the main problem keeping consumers from buying them. But for news and information, the value proposition and ease of payment are much bigger issues.

Until we treat online news and information as a distinct market, most research into the “content market” will be useless to online publishers.

Posted by bp at 12:17 PM
Why are Canandians (and Koreans!) so much more likely to use broadband? Part 3

It’s not just Canadians. Koreans are two and a half times as likely to have broadband connections as US households (57% vs. 23%). (See also Part 1 and Part 2)

Korean DSL connections are not only half as expensive, they are a lot faster, especially upstream.

Drawing conclusions about Americans from Korean behavior is riskier than using Canadian behavior, but it seems pretty obvious that the telcos the the main obstacle to widespread adoption of broadband. And I find it hard to believe they can’t make money at $25/month by lighting up wires that are already in the ground.

Korea’s secret? Encouraging competition with the monopoly provider. Didn’t we try that?

The United States has gone through a similar shakeout, except it happened before the broadband network was extensively built. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 set off a surge of expansion that collapsed when the Internet bubble burst, driving many of the broadband start-ups, like Rhythms NetConnections and NorthPoint Communications, out of business. While fixed-line operators in Korea and Japan were cajoled into making D.S.L. service available at low cost, analysts say that the Bells are reluctant to cut prices.

At around $50 a month, broadband costs about twice as much in the United States as in Korea and Japan. Worse, broadband in the United States is slower and less suited for interactive entertainment and other two-way uses because it relies on an asymmetric system that receives data much faster than it can send it.

The Bells say they are doing everything they can to promote broadband. But critics say the phone companies view broadband as more of a threat than an opportunity, so they have done little to rectify these problems.

We also failed to enforce the Telecommunications Act, allowing the Bells to starve their competitors.

The current broadband market is a drag on the economy. Billions of dollars in consumer investment in computers, peripherals, software, networking, downloadable music, and content are being held back back because of the low penetration and poor quality of our current broadband connections.

Posted by bp at 11:18 AM
April 25, 2003
Research hints at new revenue pressure on telcos

TNS Telecoms says that per-user telecom spending in the US decreased in the fourth quarter of 2002, the first quarterly decrease in more than three years.

For years, telcos have been relentlessly focused on increasing ARPU (average revenue per user, not the guy who runs the Kwik-E-Mart) to the detriment of customer service and rational pricing. Between competition for zombie telcos, their inability to deliver any new value propositions to their customers, their debt chickens coming home to roost, and the Bush recession (or the Bush dip in the Clinton recession if you prefer) these guys have what positive thinkers refer to as “an insurmountable opportunity”.

Short-term, don’t expect the telcos to cut publishers any slack. They’re going to be looking for change under every cushion in the marketplace. Long-term, look for their receivers to loosen things up after they’ve written off their debts.

Posted by bp at 03:15 PM
Online retail growth bodes well for online advertising in 2003

Both Jupiter and eMarketer are projecting that consumer ecommerce will increase significantly in 2003.

This is good news for online publishers, because consumer ecommerce is a key source of online advertising.

Posted by bp at 03:00 PM
April 17, 2003
Why are Canadians so much more likely to use broadband? Part 2

McKinsey says Canadians are twice as likely as US citizens to subscribe to broadband. This despite the fact that, according to McKinsey, roughly the same percentage of households have access to broadband in Canada (89%) and the US (87%).

I first looked at this issue Monday, when Ipsos-Reid released broadband penetration numbers for Canada and the US, but I didn’t have the access data, so it wasn’t clear whether that was the reason for the difference.

Interestingly, roughly the same percentage of online citizens of each country are interested in broadband (49% in the US and 54% in Canada). Also, the reasons for subscribing are about the same — speed, always-on connection, keeping the phone line open.

So, why are Canadian broadband providers getting so many more takers for their services?

NOTE: There are some problems with these two studies. McKinsey says that 43% of Canadian online households have broadband and Ipsos-Reid says 54%. McKinsey says 27% US online households have broadband and Ipsos-Reid says 34%. I can’t account for the discrepancy between the two firms, but the message is awfully clear.

Posted by bp at 10:53 PM
April 16, 2003
Flash continues to junk up the Web

I’m working on a project that involves using more corporate Web sites than I would if I weren’t getting paid to do it.

I am stunned by how many of these sites are using Flash for navigation and information and how badly this stuff works with all three of my Mac browsers (Camino, Safari, and Internet Explorer).

It’s sad how much they must have paid for these ugly, broken sites they present to the world.

One of the less-celebrated aspects of the blog phenomenon is how much activity there is in using CSS and simple, standard HTML to create fast, elegant sites that work really well. I’ve got a folder full of beautiful sites that I plan to steal ideas from for my next redesign.

Flash on a Web site is beginning to feel more and more like tailfins on a car.

Posted by bp at 10:52 PM
UK Internet advertising is up 19%

it’s still less than £200m for 2002, but it’s up 19% in a year when US Internet advertising was down 17% . [Thanks, MarketingFix]

The only explanation I can think of for this remarkable performance is that the US was still digesting some bad revenue data last year. if that’s the case, it’s further evidence that the US Internet advertising market has already bottomed out.

The Internet Advertising Bureau and PriceWaterhouseCoopers, who released the study, say that Internet advertising was 1.4% of all UK advertising and “on track to hit its target of taking a 2% slice of the advertising market by 2004”. That would be a very satisfying 20% annual growth rate.

Posted by bp at 05:09 PM
Free Research: Pew on why the Internet isn’t for everyone

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has a interesting new report on who’s not online and why. One sixth of Americans are former users and a quarter have no direct or indirect experience with the Internet.

But an equally significant reason why people are not online is lack of desire—they do not want the Internet, do not feel that they need it, and do not feel that it holds anything of interest or value for them. They believe they are not missing out on anything by not being online. For some, this disinterest is based on incorrect assumptions about online content, but for others it is a reasoned choice, based on personal preferences for communication style and information retrieval or past Internet experience.

There’s a ton of information here and I’ll be going back to this report for more items later, but I wanted to make sure you knew it was available.

Posted by bp at 04:56 PM
April 14, 2003
Why are Canadians so much more likely to use broadband?

54% of online Canadians are using broadband, versus 34% of US citizens who are online, according to comScore Media Metrix Canada. From CyberAltas:

“With more than half of our online population using broadband, it’s clear that Canadians are hooked on speed,” noted Brent Lowe-Bernie, president of comScore Media Metrix Canada. “The cable and telephone infrastructure in this country has allowed broadband service to flourish, and Canadian activity within the Digital Media landscape has responded accordingly.”

This raises more questions than it answers about a staggering gap between two nations with so few cultural differences. Why are Canadian Internet users 59% more likely to have a broadband account? How much has to do with the percentage of Canadian homes that can have broadband connections, price, marketing differences, regulatory policies?

In other words, what can the US learn from Canada about how to increase our use of broadband Internet connections?

Posted by bp at 03:15 PM
April 13, 2003
Discouraging news about Google Content Targeted Ads on general media sites

Advertising may not be sufficient to support Internet media.

MarketingSherpa has an important study of marketers’ discouraging experience with Google Content Targeted Advertising on general content sites. [Thanks, MarketingFix]

Generally newsy, how-to, and highly targeted articles on niche sites tend to get far better ad clicks than newsgroups, bulletin boards, general interest sites, or stagnant info pages.

Unfortunately Google didn’t take this factor into consideration when designing the program. They chose the partner sites for contextual ads mainly based on traffic (sites had to have more than 20-million pageviews a month, which very few niche sites do) and “quality” which seems to mean being G-rated.

What they found is that click rates are abysmal for many contextual ads, and that conversion rates (share of clickers who take the desired action after clicking on the ad) have been disappointing for many advertisers as well.

MarketingSherpa says low click rates aren’t too big a deal if you’re paying by the click and you’re getting decent conversions. True enough, but it also means that pay-per-click ads aren’t going to pay the bills for an online publisher.

The low conversion rates are even more troubling. This may doom general content sites to seeking price-sensitive, rich-media-laden, dubiously-effective branding ads instead of light, direct-response advertising that is the fastest-growing category on the net. According to the NY Times, search-related advertising has grown “from an estimated $400 million in 2000 to $1 billion in 2002 and even higher this year”.

If this admittedly limited research holds true, what are the implications for online publishers?

First, don’t assume this means you should charge for content. Just because it’s still challenging to sell ads on general content, that doesn’t mean you can sell it to your readers.

Second, seek services revenue. The services sector is producing more revenue and growing faster than general content.

Third, consider publishing content that supports direct marketing. Get your readers when they’re considering a purchase. For local newspapers, real estate comes to mind.

Posted by bp at 05:49 PM
April 10, 2003
Online advertising may be bottoming out

While 2002 Internet ad revenue was down a whopping 17% from 2001, the fourth quarter was down only 10% from the fourth quarter of 2001, and it was up 2% from the third quarter of last year. This is the first quarterly increase since the second quarter of 2000. This information is from the Internet Advertising Bureau / PriceWaterhouseCoopers advertising estimate for the last quarter of 2002.

Remember, ad numbers that are more than a couple of years old contain a lot of junk, including the tail-ends of some awful long-term deals and hundreds of millions of dollars in phony advertising that AOL has since written off. Under the circumstances, this quarterly increase is very encouraging and may mean that Internet advertising has hit bottom and will grow again on an annual basis when the ad market as a whole recovers.

The IAB release mentions in passing (1) 15 online publishers are getting 80% of the revenue, and (2) “the majority of online publishers are profitable, and their revenues continue to rise year-over-year”.

Posted by bp at 01:36 PM
April 04, 2003
Uncertainty is as bad as pessimism

IDC has lowered its forecast for IT growth in 2003 because of increasing uncertainty about the economy.

I conducted a survey of CIO’s back in August and found them to be fairly optimistic about 2003 spending. But clearly we still have no idea what’s going to happen and no one’s going to spend money in that kind of environment.

“The outlook for the next six months continues to be extremely volatile and a double-dip IT recession can’t be ruled out in a worst-case scenario. But the fundamental drivers remain solid,” said Stephen Minton, director of IDC’s Worldwide IT Markets group. “Once the fog of war has cleared, there will be a gradual recovery in corporate profits and business confidence, and this will translate into increased IT spending. We expect to see improved market conditions in every region in 2004. And by 2006, the global IT market will generate $1 trillion in revenues.”

In other words, someday we’ll get past this, but we’re not sure when.

Posted by bp at 12:28 PM
April 03, 2003
Is site registration based on a fundamental marketing error?

More and more online publishers are requiring users to register if they want to read content. Adrian Holovaty correctly points out that if you don’t do it well, site registration is an invitation to fraud, but Jay Small counters that eventually we’ll learn how to do it and readers will accept it.

In my opinion, demographics (even when they’re correct) are usually the wrong way to target online advertising.

Demographics are almost always proxy for something else. You may believe that the most likely user for your product is a woman between the ages of 25 and 44, but what you’re really looking for is anyone who might want to use your product. It’s just more efficient to buy magazines and TV shows that are viewed by women 25 to 44.

On the Web, you can target users by context and behavior. That’s a lot more powerful than demographics and it’s the reason why Overture and Google are changing the way we think about Internet advertising.

Booz Allen and Neilsen//NetRatings, in an article titled “Seize the Occasion! The Seven-Segment System for Online Marketing“, say:

The focus on demographics — the outward and visible signs of inward attitudes — grew more out of marketers’ need for analytical criteria than out of any inherent link between a person’s demographics and shopping behaviors.

But this approach simply applies traditional marketing methods to the e-world, without exploiting the Web’s unique strengths. The abysmal performance of targeted banner advertising on Internet portal sites, where click-through rates today average 0.1 to 0.2 percent, underscores the failure of this conventional wisdom.

Wherein lies the flaw? An exclusive study by the Digital Customer Project, an alliance between Booz-Allen & Hamilton and Nielsen//NetRatings Inc., shows that the most effective segmentation scheme for online consumers first groups them by their individual behavior at a point in time, not by demographics or psychographics, or even by aggregate online behavior.

There is also an excellent interview with one of the authors at AvantMarketer. Both the article and the interview are a little long-winded for my taste, but the point that demographics is a lousy way to target Internet advertising is dead-on.

Posted by bp at 03:36 PM
Free research: kids online and on mobile phones

Nora Paul distributed a list of research about kids online for last week’s New Media Conference at Berkeley. Two reports in particular were especially recent and interesting:

Connected to the Future is a report on children’s Internet use from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It addresses, among other topics, use among underserved groups.

MobileYouth2003 covers marketing mobile products successfully to the Youth, from a European perspective

Posted by bp at 02:07 PM
March 25, 2003
Jupiter puts online content sales at $1.5 billion

Jupiter says that online content sales will rise from $1.5 billion in 2002 to $2.0 billion in 2003.

Jupiter didn’t define online conent in their public statements: “The $2.0 billion forecasted for paid content spending is fragmented across over a dozen categories ranging from news to sports to health to adult content, making it difficult for any one company to collect a significant share of that spending.”

Without further detail, it’s impossible to compare that number to the Online Publishers Association number of $1.3 billion in content sales in 2003. The OPA didn’t include adult content and Jupiter may not have included services and personals.

“For at least the next 18 to 24 months, most online media companies should generate 60% to 70% of their revenues from advertising.” says Jupiter analyst David Card. That average confuses the issue, probably by including some sites and sources that shouldn’t be lumped into the average. I estimate that non-adult online publishers are getting less than 10% of their revenue from content sales.

UPDATE: David Card tells me in email that their number does include such services as personals and greeting cards. Also, they put pornography at less than $250 million/year, with little growth.

Posted by bp at 02:24 PM
March 11, 2003
Why advertise online? Why the hell not?

Emarketer has a good overview of current research supporting online advertising:

  • The audience is more affluent
  • It’s effective in changing users’s perceptions of brands.

Robert Losch at Marketing Fix adds

  • It’s the best way to reach the work/school audience
  • Consumers are using it to find product information

DoubleClick claims that by increasing the amount of Internet advertising in your media mix, you can increase frequency and brand awareness.

I would add that it’s the best or even the only way to reach people who have begun to limit their consumption of commercial media: TV nonviewers, DVR users, or NPR listeners. Many of the people are as influential as they are difficult to reach.

Posted by bp at 02:52 PM
Content companies are only 4% of Internet M&A Content destinations and content management software companies each represented 4% of the Internet M&A activity last year, according to Webmergers. Most of the activity was in infrastructure, consulting, and access businesses.

Buyers last year acquired 1,087 Internet-related properties for total spending of $23.3 billion, 15% fewer companies for 70% less money. In 2001, acquirers bought 1,283 Internet-related companies for a total deal value of $78 billion.

Top 10 Internet Categories – 2002

Sector % of 2002 spending
Ecommerce destinations 16%
E-business enablement 14%
E-business payments 10%
Internet equipment 9%
Internet security 6%
Outsourced business services 5%
Internet systems integration 5%
Enterprise applications 4%
Content management 4%
Content destinations 4%
Source: Webmergers Database

Apparently, even the bottom-feeders aren’t interested in the content business. At least not yet.

Posted by bp at 02:33 PM
Alexa’s sampling error

Kevin Werbach points out that two of the top five sites on Alexa’s Top 500 are in South Korea.

While Korea may lead the US in broadband and cell phone Internet access, I find it hard to believe that two South Korean portals are more popular than Google.

Could it be that Koreans are more likely to install and use Alexa’s software? I would take any data from Alexa with a grain of salt.

It’s nonetheless amazing how much of the Web may now be simply invisible to English-speakers.

Posted by bp at 02:10 PM
March 10, 2003
Web ads are irritating & ineffective, says RoperASW

MSNBC reports that 43 percent of Americans say online advertising is “a nuisance” and 53 percent of active Web users are irritated by online ad clutter:

To be fair, clutter is considered a problem all over, with 75 percent of Americans saying that advertising is shown in “far too many places,” Roper found. TV commercials annoy 65 percent of Americans, and 56 percent object to the ads in print publications, Roper found.

But impatience with online ads is growing faster than with traditional media, according to Roper, posing a bigger problem for Web publishers who are still trying to prove the Internet’s marketing power.

While 38 percent of consumers found online ads to be “useful and informative,” an almost equal number, or 37 percent, found “almost none” of them to be useful and informative, the survey found. By comparison, 78 percent of Americans believe at least some TV commercials are “useful and informative.”

“This is a critical time for online advertising,” said Jon Berry, senior research director of Roper Reports. “In terms of usefulness, online ads have a long way to go to catch up to other media.”

Roper loses credibility points for having no information about this study on their site.

Let’s face it, the advertising industry doesn’t care whether it’s irritating or intrusive, only whether it’s effective. I’m not sure anyone in the ad industry puts a lot of stock in whether consumers find their ads to be useful and informative, only in whether they take an action or change their attitudes.

Having said that, it’s pathetic that online advertising isn’t considered at least as useful and informative as (gasp) TV advertising. Utility and information are what the Net is about, yes? [Thanks, MarketingFix!]

Posted by bp at 01:47 PM
Internet advertising to grow 7.4% in 2003

CMR/TNS Media Intelligence says that Internet advertising will grow 7.4% in 2003, after declining 12% to $5.7 billion in 2002.

This makes Internet advertising five to ten times the size of the paid content market, depending how you define content.

The biggest sites will probably get the largest share of this increase.

Posted by bp at 01:00 PM
March 08, 2003
Married white male seeks answer

I’m winding down bashing the OPA’s billion-dollar-content report, which does contain a lot of good information. But I have one last question: why are personals included in their definition of content, when you can read the listings for free, but have to pay to add your own listing?

Shouldn’t personals be classified (no pun intended) as advertising?

Posted by bp at 11:53 AM
March 07, 2003
Defining “content” and why it matters

I got a thoughtful and irritable reply from Rick Bruner of MarketingFix on my analysis of the Online Publishers’ Association study of the size of the content market. Rick has gotten me to refine my thinking (but not to change my mind).

Defining content is really hard. I’m leaning toward dumping the term entirely because it’s so vague as to be meaningless. I think the OPA has exploited this vagueness to overstate the size of the market that online publishers can address.

I would include the following in my definition of content:

  • News & Information: General news, magazines (consumer reports, salon), horoscopes. Excludes Business & Investing. Includes archive database revenue from a single site. Excludes aggregated content databases, such as Northern Light.
  • Business & Investing: Wall Street Journal, TheStreet.com, Smartmoney. Does not include stock prices.
  • Databases: Hoovers, Northern Light, Ancestry.com, stock prices. Includes database that aggregates information from multiple sources for flexible searching.

I would exclude the following from my definition of content:

  • Services: Includes greeting cards, online games, fantasy sports, email, and personals. Personals aren’t content, they’re a service. You can browse the listings on Match.com for free. You pay to add your name to the database and to get contact information on people you want to meet. It’s not clear how much of Yahoo’s and MSN’s “content” revenue comes from services.
  • Music: This seems like a different thing altogether. It’s produced, delivered, and consumed differently, using different media. It’s more like software than it is like published content. This includes streaming and downloadable music.
  • Electronic documents: Credit reports, people trackers, and vehicle histories feel more like ebooks–single, indivisible lumps of content sold and delivered electronically. Aside from the fact that they’re delivered electronically, this business is a lot like selling books.
  • Pornography (hard & soft core): Includes webcams, amateur sites, Playboy.com, etc. No one is buying Playboy.com for the articles.

What’s my objection to the OPA’s definition of content? Rick says on MarketingFix:

For those who maintain “users won’t pay for content,” I reply “neener, neener, neener.” Paid content would appear to now amount to roughly 20% of all revenue for online publishers, and spending for content roughly doubled in 2002 over 2001.

Rick seems to be saying that “online publishers” are getting all $1.3 billion–about 20% of the $6 billion in online advertising in emarketer’s 2002 estimate. He’s making the mistake the OPA wants everyone to make: inferring that there’s $1.3 billion dollars out there for online publishers to get their hands on.

But (a) Two thirds of this revenue will go to companies that cannot be described as “publishers”, (b) ten percent of the remainder is going to one property, the Wall Street Journal [NOTE: this used to read 1/3, but I overestimated the revenue of the WSJ], and (c) the growth rate of the revenue available to publishers is a lot less than 100%.

My conclusion from the OPA study:

Paid content is less than 10% of all revenue for online publishers, and that share will not grow in 2003. However, there does appear to be an opportunity for online publishers to increase non-advertising revenue by using their sites to sell services to their readers. The market for online services is twice as large and growing five times as fast as the content market.

Posted by bp at 12:31 PM
March 06, 2003
How to predict the future

Emarketer has an interesting description of how they arrived at their broadband forecast.

I’ve done a lot of forecasts, and taught forecasting at IDC, and I think this is a good description of one way to approach the problem. This is worth reading. Emarketer is very smart, their forecasts are reasonable, and I really admire their presentation.

Posted by bp at 01:25 PM
March 05, 2003
Free research: online content sales reach $1.3 billion…or do they?

The Online Publishers Association is promoting a study [PDF] that says online content sales in the U.S. totaled $1.3 billion in 2002, an increase of 95% over 2001.

However, a closer examination of the data makes this billion-dollar figure suspicious. Here are some of my observations from their top 25, which I have classified into Content, Service, Entertainment, and Database:

  • The single biggest category is more properly described as “services”. It includes Yahoo, MSN, and personals.
  • Yahoo is seeing results from its efforts to increase revenues from fees, and MSN is falling behind.
  • Financial information is the biggest contributor to true content sale, with sales of $292 million.
  • The OPA describes financial content as “maturing”, with a growth rate of 18%.
  • Sales of “General News” rose from $52 million to $70 million. No “General News” site was in the top 25.
  • Consumer Reports and Encyclopedia Britannica are the two true consumer content brands on the list.
  • Consumer Reports has fallen from #5 to #11.
  • The IEEE.org site sells conferences, so it’s not clear how much of their revenue is really for content.
  • Pressplay, the much-maligned music service, is on the list at #22.
  • ESPN’s revenues are apparently mostly from fantasy sports games.
  • It’s not clear why Playboy is on the list, since “pornography” is excluded from the survey.

Here are the top 25 content sites, according to the OPA:

Content Service Entertainment Database
1 yahoo.com up from #4
2 match.com personals
3 real.com down from #1
4 classmates.com friend finder
5 wsj.com down from #2
6 weightwatchers.com x
7 ancestry.com x
8 consumerinfo.com credit reports
9 matchmaker.com personals
10 1800ussearch.com people tracker
11 consumerreports.org down from #5
12 espn.go.com fantasy games
13 carfax.com vehicle history
14 thestreet.com no change
15 bluemountain.com greeting cards
16 playboy.com OPA says it excludes “pornography”
17 kiss.com personals
18 msn.com down from #15
19 egreetings.com greeting cards
20 ieee.org Does this include conference sales from web site?
21 arttoday.com ugly clipart
22 pressplay.com Music service
23 britannica.com x
24 astrology.com x
25 smartmoney.com no change
Posted by bp at 11:10 AM
March 03, 2003
Broadband users adopt audio, orphan video

The share of Americans who use Internet audio monthly has tracked closely the share who have broadband access, but the share using Internet video has not.

Here’s a chart I created from the data in the report. The blue line is broadband adoption, the red line is audio and the green line is broadband. Click the chart for a larger view.

This extraordinarily clear message can be found in the Arbitron/Edison survey released last week. It puts the lie to the idea coming from Los Angeles that potential broadband users are waiting around for copy-protected video content before they sign up.

Posted by bp at 01:31 PM
February 28, 2003
Free research: University of Maryland NTRS

Despite its intimidating name, the National Technology Readiness Survey isn’t very impressive. It has a small sample size and the questions seem either generic or poorly thought-out. I’m including this one mainly in the interest of completeness.

But it’s worth checking out. I used some of their data to calculate that the share of Internet users with personal Web sites hasn’t changed in the last five years.

Posted by bp at 02:22 PM
Free research: UCLA Internet Report

This report came out a month ago, but I’ve been making an effort to note free Internet research reports on MediaSavvy. This is probably the best free report on the state of the Net. The previous two reports are available from this site as well.

Posted by bp at 02:17 PM
Content management systems are not good at managing content

Jupiter Research says “more than 60 percent of companies that have deployed Web content management solutions still find themselves manually updating their sites.

This research confirms a study by the Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture that found most users’ experience with content management software was unhappy.

Other findings:

  • “Overcomplicated, end-to-end packages can as much as quintuple site operational costs over human labor alternatives.”
  • Most companies felt they overspent on content management platforms.
  • Two thirds said they still rely on manual processes to update their Web sites.
  • Nearly half felt their deployment “barely scratched the surface of the functionality they originally licensed.”
  • Only a quarter planned to continue using their Web content management systems as they do now.
  • One quarter (27 percent) said they had so many problems they would build another system from scratch.

One media company spent over a year and $250,000 working its content management package into its site production process. “The company recently realized that its content had little structure to speak of, and that because it had not made a strict separation between content and presentation, the company’s broader needs for reusing content elsewhere were effectively blocked.”

One surprising conclusion: “(o)rganizations should not look to content management systems to publish pages.”

Posted by bp at 12:38 PM
Free research: affluent users love Internet, like newspapers

The Washington Post and Nielsen//NetRatings have posted a study of affluent online users [PDF]. Not surprisingly, they found virtually all affluent adult shoppers use the Web to make or research their purchases.

They made less play of the fact that the affluent also spend a lot less time with newspapers (19% spend more than 1 hour/weekday) than the Internet (68% spend more than 1 hour/weekday).

Posted by bp at 11:35 AM
February 27, 2003
Is Nielsen//NetRatings undercounting African-Americans?

While their numbers are growing, Neilsen//NetRatings says African-American Internet use still trails other ethnic groups by a significant degree. Meanwhile, Arbitron and Edison say African-Americans have achieved virtual parity with white Americans when you include school and library use.

Since N//NR’s ratings methodology measures at-home (and guesses at-work) use, they are almost certainly undercounting African- and Hispanic-American use of the Internet.

Posted by bp at 11:19 AM
February 26, 2003
Employment classifieds: a sickening drop

Steve Outing notes that the bottom has dropped out of newspapers’ employment classified business. Every category of advertising, including other classified categories, are up. But employment classifieds are down 23% — a sickening drop that goes right to the bottom line.

It may already be too late to save this business. When employment recovers, employment classifieds will not.

Posted by bp at 10:50 PM
February 25, 2003
Free research: Digital Divide bridged, streaming users, and more

The Digital Divide has been bridged by libraries and schools , according to Arbitron and Edison Media Research. The report includes a lot of information on streaming media users as well.

When you look at Internet use at home and work, The divide is small, but significant. 48% of Hispanics and 6% of African Americans have Internet access at home or work compared with 70% among whites.

When you include school and library access, 75% of the total population has access to the Internet compared with 74% of African Americans and 65% of Hispanic Americans.

These numbers are interesting in light of eMarketer’s recent assertion that US Internet penetration will peak at 80%. Their conclusion seems about right, but their line of reasoning doesn’t prove it.

Posted by bp at 03:19 PM
ComScore’s sampling problem

We have a few more details on ComScore Media Metrix’s recent restatement of their at-work measurements, thanks to the Internet Advertising Report.

First, ComScore acquired Media Metrix’s sample, but not its software. Second, ComScore was combining two samples collected by very different means (telephone and email recruitment), and combining two very different measuring systems (end-user and proxy server based) at the same time it was expanding its sample.

Without the tracking software, ComScore incorporated its own server-based measuring system with the November 2002 release of Media Metrix 2.0.

In addition to the 50,000 home Internet users recruited via Random Digital Dial sampling methodology, Media Metrix 2.0 expanded its measurement panel to 120,000, including 35,000 samples of at-work and university users.

No wonder there were some problems with their numbers.

Posted by bp at 03:03 PM
February 24, 2003
The problem of Web ratings

Today, Comscore confessed that its numbers for last fall are wrong. The principal source of the problem was its estimate of at-work use. At-work use is notoriously difficult to measure.

But the Times hints at a bigger problem with web site ratings: what are they for?

When advertisers are paying by the exposure, or even the click or the sale, is it really important which site is number one?

When advertisers are (properly) more focused on response than branding, and when its so easy to test a campaign on the Net, is it really important what the demographics of a site are?

The Times tells us some alarming things about differences between the services:

  • Comscore has cut its estimate of the time users spend on some sites by as much as 75%
  • Comscore and Nielsen use radically different methods for sampling at-work users (email vs. random-digit-dial)
  • ComScore says Yahoo had 107 million users in the United States in December. Nielsen says it was 81 million.
  • ComScore measures usage on college campuses and Nielsen does not, but this is not enough to account for the difference in the Yahoo numbers.

Web advertising must be conducted like direct marketing and not like broadcast. Overreliance on ratings is malpractice.

Posted by bp at 11:17 AM
February 21, 2003
Raleigh discovers the Internet

According to Nielsen//NetRatings [“The extra slash is for slashing prices!”] Raleigh, NC’s active at home online population grew 29% from January 2002 to January 2003, and Nashville and Sacramento grew by 19%. That seems…implausible.

N//NR continues:

The fastest growing local market experienced some big shifts in income levels over the past year. In Raleigh, the number of people with at home Internet access reporting a household income of $75,000 to $99,999 a year increased by 72 percent (see Table 2) from January 2002 to January 2003. Other high-income groups online grew as well with the $100,000 to $149,999 income bracket growing eight percent and the wealthiest bracket of $150,000 to $999,999 moving up 17 percent. By contrast the lowest household income bracket for those with at home Internet access saw its active online audience decrease by 26 percent.

“Raleigh has experienced major growth in high income households that have Internet access over the past year,” said Bloom “This will make it a prime regional target for marketers looking to push big ticket items like luxury cars and appliances.”

This recommendation would be wrong even if the data were correct, which I doubt. Wouldn’t it make more sense to target your ads to markets with the greatest concentration of affluent customers and not the fastest growth?

Posted by bp at 02:45 PM
Is Jakob Nielsen losing it?

WebWord has an great discussion of Jakob Nielsen’s latest screed — “Homepage Real Estate Allocation“. The consensus seems to be that he hasn’t had a new idea since the nineties and that he’s more concerned with selling books and seminars than on increasing usability.

Jakob is a force for good on the Web and it’s hard to argue with the idea that most home pages have too little information on them. But his ruthlessly reductionist approach ignores design as a source of humanity and pleasure as well as information. As Adam Greenfield says, “Poor Jakob. What a cold universe he must occupy.”

Finally, Jakob illustrates this piece with a pie chart, the worst information graphic in the known universe. I defy you to guess the absolute or relative sizes of the OS, Navigation, and Content slices in Jakob’s chart without refering to the the text.

Posted by bp at 12:01 PM
Required registration: worth the paper it’s printed on?

The Atlanta Journal Constitution carried a story saying that a lot of news sites, with the exception of USA Today’s parent Gannett were moving to required registration. Now, USA Today says it’s testing registration, asking for gender, zip code and year of birth.

How reliable is this self-reported data? I lie on site registrations unless there’s a compelling reason to tell the truth, and I’m not alone. A friend of mine tries to get this fellow Safeway customers to trade discount cards with him simply so he can dirty up their database.

On a lot of sites, the most populous zip code is 90210. That might be a good way to test the quality of a registration database. Divide the percentage of the Internet population that’s in 90210 by percentage of the site’s population whose zip code is 90210 and multiply the result by 100. The closer a site’s index is to 100, the higher the quality of its self-reported demographics.

Any advertiser that accepts self-reported demographics on required-registration news sites is guilty of professional malfeasance.

Posted by bp at 11:37 AM
The problem of measuring at-work usage

As media sites discover the benefits of selling the at-work audience to advertisers, the problem of measuring the at-work audience becomes more pressing.

Ratings services depend on the cooperation end-users in measuring their use. But what if the computer and the network it’s connected to aren’t owned by the user?

As far as I know, it’s not possible to get a representative sample of at-work Web users.

Posted by bp at 11:07 AM
February 20, 2003
Why don’t more Americans use mobile phones?

US residents are a lot less likely to use a mobile phone than the people in any country in Europe, according to Telephia (via Emarketer).

Emarketer thinks this is because (1) land line phone service is cheap in the US and (2) GSM is widespread in Europe. I wonder if it has anything to do with the atrocious marketing and pricing by US providers. Whatever you think of the Baby Bells and the people who regulate them, they have created a system as simple and cheap as our mobile system is expensive and complex.

If Michael Powell gets his way, our land line service will look more like our mobile service.

Posted by bp at 05:03 PM
Free research: at-work use

Emarketer is offering a free research report on at-work use. This report supports the growing trend to selling at-work readers as a distinct market to advertisers.

Posted by bp at 04:19 PM
February 13, 2003
Lame Web survey gets media traction

An online survey of the brand preferences of readers of a branding site claims Google is the top global brand, beating out Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nike, and Nokia. What was remarkable was how many references (CBS Marketwatch, Internetnews.com, Toronto Globe & Mail, UPI, The NYTimes’ Boston.com and Reuters) I keep seeing to this awful piece of fake research.

There’s a kernal of truth that makes this story popular. Google is an important brand (as are Yahoo, Amazon, and Starbucks) that achieved legendary status without advertising. Outside of the realm of consumer packaged goods, the role of advertising compared to actual product execution in building a brand is negligible. We forgot this important lesson during the Bubble.

On the other hand, this story, the forehead advertising story, and the success of Krispy Kreme demonstrate that a little clever hype is often an acceptable substitute for quality.

Posted by bp at 03:29 PM
February 11, 2003
Not getting the message

Fifteen percent of marketing emails don’t reach their destination.

This researcher is mum on the reasons, but you have to believe that spam filters play a role.

How many permission-based emails don’t get read because they’re mistaken for spam?

When will the direct marketing industry realize that it is the biggest victim of spam?

Posted by bp at 03:22 PM
Power law indeed

Clay Shirky’s latest essay– Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality–has everyone talking. I think it’s brilliant, probably because it mathematically confirms my prejudices.

Clay says that the popularity of web sites is distributed according to a power low (see the charts on his site). You should also read Jason Kottke’s analysis of this. There are a lot of great comments attached to his analysis. What’s weird and important about this is that the resulting curve is self-similar: it’s true for a subset of sites or for the pages on a particular site.

I’ve been saying for a long time that there are two Webs: the big-money Web and the “some guy with a web site” Web. The future belongs to both. The sites in the middle who don’t have a clearly defined audience are…doomed. Their cost structure looks a lot like the big-money Web, but their audiences are smaller by orders of magnitude. The little guys publish for other reasons. With rare exceptions, they don’t plan to make money from their site. They publish online in support of their offline activities.

Clay goes on to use this analysis to argue that there is no blogocracy of top bloggers. The distribution is too even for there to be an exclusive club. There is some underlying law–although clearly the early bloggers and their friends have some help.

He doesn’t offer an explanation for the power law, and there seems to be signicant debate on the nature of the underlying mechanism. But its a very common phenomenon in a lot of human endeavor. I’ve been trying to reason out what this means for online publishers. Here are some ideas:

  • Success on the Web depends on ruthless focus on a target market.
  • If you’re going after a much-larger competitor, you must have a well-defined market segment where you know you can beat the.
  • You can’t survive as a mid-sized player.
  • Don’t try to broaden your market just to get someone else’s low-hanging fruit. You also broaden your competition.

What I’m still puzzling over is whether this implies that it’s simply impossible for middle-market information sites to make money, either on advertising or subscriptions.

Posted by bp at 03:17 PM
The ad market as Schroedinger’s cat

The real problem with the ad market right now is uncertainty. No one wants to be the first to bet that the economy is going to recover this year. Until there is a clear signal that the economy is on the mend, the advertising market will be weak and unpredictable.

I strongly recommend getting Emarketer’s free study and forecast of online and offline ad spending. Emarketer does a great job of pulling together estimates and forecasts of advertising from lots of different sources. I spent a lot of time recently looking for ad forecasts and I wish I had known about this study then.

I’d feel a lot more comfortable about the economy and the ad market if we could point to a single reason for optimism other than Bush’s so-called recovery plan or the statement “surely we’ve hit bottom by now.”

Posted by bp at 01:19 PM
February 10, 2003
Daytime drama: online publishers discover dayparts

Online publishers have discovered that the Internet is the best advertising medium for reaching customers during the day, and they’re spreading the news. Both the Newspaper Association of America and the Online Publishers Association have released studies promoting the advantages of buying online advertising by dayparts.

The NY Times charges a 25% premium for daypart-triggered ads, according to the Internet Advertising Report. And Sun bought 100% of Forbes.com ad space between 9 am and 1 pm.

It’s refreshing to see online advertising sold on value and being differentiated more creatively from traditional ad media.

Here are some findings from the OPA report:

  • There are five distinct Internet dayparts characterized by differing usage levels, demographics and type of content accessed: Early morning (M-F 6am – 8am), Daytime (M-F, 8am – 5pm), Evening (M-F, 5pm – 11pm), Late night (M-F, 11pm – 6am), Weekends (Sat-Sun, all day).
  • Daytime is the largest daypart (measured in terms of both total audience and total usage minutes), followed by Evening and Weekends;
  • Affluent, working people between the ages of 25-54 make up a larger share of the Daytime audience than any other daypart;
  • Children under the age of 18 are three times more likely to be reached during the Evening and Weekend dayparts;
  • Internet utilities such as search engines, e-mail and chat show little variation in usage by daypart; online content sites, in contrast, exhibit distinct differences in usage by time of day;
  • Use of News and Information sites is concentrated in the Early Morning and Daytime dayparts;
  • Entertainment/Sports site usage increases dramatically during Evening and Weekend dayparts compared to Daytime;
  • On average, eCommerce activity accounts for only 5.3% of time spent online; a considerably larger share occurs on Evenings and Weekends than during the Daytime.

The NAA report is only available to members. I don’t understand why they’d want to keep this to themselves.

It’s important to remember that although each daypart has distinct demographics, that daypart advertising is no substitute for demographic targeting.

Posted by bp at 03:56 PM
Newspaper publishers flirt with obscurity, irrelevance

“If many people could redo history they would prefer that the everything-is-free Internet model had never gained ascendancy.” says David Hiller, president of Tribune Interactive, in Columbia Journalism Review. That pretty much sums up the spirit of denial that is gripping more and more newspaper industry executives.

Meanwhile, Newsday reports:

Only 33 percent of U.S. families led by someone age 25 to 34 bought a daily newspaper in 2001 compared with 63 percent in 1985, according to surveys of consumer spending by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This decline in newspaper purchases is accelerating with a drop of 21 percentage points in the five years ended in 2000, or triple the rate seen during 1985-1995.

They go on to report that 80% of 18 to 34 year olds in the NY metro area get their news from the Internet and only 55% get it from the web.

Meanwhile Steve Outing at Poynter shares the story of an online news editor who lost his job because he opposed charging for the newspaper’s web site.

Some people get it. In a comment on Steve Outing’s posting, Henry Copeland tells us the NY Times has sold 160,000 subscriptions from its web site. Neil Budde, the former publisher and founder of the Wall Street Journal Online, and hero of fee-loving newspaper publishers everywhere, tells PAID, “Too many people are making a rush towards the subscription model because everybody says now is the time they should go for that.”

I’m stunned that this debate is still going on. What’s clear is that, as monopolists accustomed to 25% profit margins, newspaper publishers are intellectually ill-equipped to publish on the Internet.

Posted by bp at 03:55 PM
About 10% of US Internet users have Web sites

Twenty-five percent of people with Internet access say they or or a family member have their own Web site. Thirteen percent say they or a family member has their own domain name. This, according to the University of Maryland.

This is an odd statistic, because it doesn’t look at individuals, or even at households, but at families. I did some work to make this more useful. According to the Statistical Abstract of the US, there are about 2.7 people per household. For the moment let’s assume one household per family (it’s somewhat higher than that) and assume one person in each family holds the web site and the domain (it’s probably a little higher than that).

I estimate that 9% of people with Internet access have a web site. Keep in mind that the study’s margin of error was 4% and that is compounded by my assumptions. Five years ago, at IDC, we determined that about 10% of Internet users had Web sites.

The share of Internet users with Web sites has not changed significantly in the last five years. [Thanks, eMarketer!]

Posted by bp at 01:35 PM
February 07, 2003
How to make money selling online ads

Two-thirds of online advertising is direct marketing, according to Neilsen/NetRatings. This is up from 59 percent in fourth-quarter 2001. Eighty percent of banner and other large ad formats were direct marketing ads.

If you can’t deliver mass quantities of readily-identifiable people who are ready to buy, you’re going to have a tough time selling ads online. [Thanks, Marketingfix!]

Posted by bp at 08:59 PM
How bad is commercial content management software?

The Asilomar Institute for Information Architecture has some interesting answers to the question “What problems have you experienced when designing for or implementing content management software?”

It’s not surprising that the number one answer was “Commercial software too expensive”. But it is surprising that so may respondents checked so many items on the multiple-reponse list–8.3 problems per respondent!

There are eight complaints suffered by more than 40% of respondents:
Commercial software too expensive 57%
Required too much customization 54%
Poor process for migrating old content 51%
Not flexible enough to accomodate my design 48%
Difficult to evaluate vendors 48%
Commercial software required too much time to implement 44%
Difficult to integrate with other systems 44%
Didn’t allow enough customization 41%

Why would anyone put themselves through this?

Posted by bp at 08:41 PM
February 01, 2003
Convergence myths and cold, hard convergence realities

Console video game sales are growing and PC game sales are declining. Let’s face it, it makes more sense to have a dedicated, inexpensive device that is purpose-built for playing games than to tie up the family computer.

This is more evidence (if more is needed) that device convergence is a myth. Someone once told me (attributing it to Andy Seybold) that the only successfully converged devices were the toaster oven and clock radio.

Meanwhile, visionary journalists still cling to the idea of back-end (newsroom) convergence–one reporter, many media. Despite their optimism, this will result in newspapers selling out to broadcasters, newsroom staff cuts, and “convergence” between edit and advertising.

Posted by bp at 04:58 PM
January 17, 2003
Broadband will increase access concentration

Broadband use is increasing, and dial-up is declining. This is a dramatic change of course and it has far-reaching implications.

Mid-sized ISP’s will have to become part of a larger enterprise or go out of business. We face the prospectedof AOL and Microsoft increasing their hold on the dial-up market. The market should support a few smaller local boutique ISP’s, but it’s not going to be a very good living for anyone, even living under AOL’s rather tall price umbrella.

If you don’t like AOL and Microsoft dominating the access business, don’t worry–dial-up is dying. But you’re not going to like the alternative. The broadband business is much more concentrated than dial-up. The big players your “local” telco (SBC, Verizon, etc) or your “local” cable company (Comcast or AOL Time Warner Cable (which is a very different company from the AOL division of the same corporation)) whose stupidity, bullying, and political clout make AOL and Microsoft seem positively geeky.

Posted by bp at 05:08 PM
December 14, 2002
The access monopolies plan to kill flat-rate high-speed access

High-speed access monopolies have been raising prices gradually for years, until the flow of new customers has decreased to a trickle [PDF], according to ARS Research. (Thanks, Medialife)

ARS predicts that the next step will be the introduction of tiered levels of high-speed access, such as sub-300K service for less than $40/month. As the access monopolies continue to eliminate competition like DirecTV Broadband, we can expect to see them charge us for services that cost them nothing, but are valuable to us.

Directory Assistance used to be free. Back in the 70s, AT&T started running ads on TV “educating” the public about people who were too lazy to pick up the damn phone book and instead used 411. Twenty years later, they were charging $1.25 for a 30-second call to Directory Assistance. That’s $150 an hour.

The onging campaign against “bandwidth hogs” is the first step toward charging you for bandwidth.

Posted by bp at 12:51 PM
December 11, 2002
Should we bridge the Digital Divide, or the Analog Divide?

The digital divide is growing in the San Francisco Bay Area. Of course, it has to close soon, because Internet penetration among households with incomes over $80,000/year is now more than 90%.

I don’t know who came up with the phrase “Digital Divide”, but it’s brilliant. It (unintentionally) redirects us from the growing divide between the rich and the poor in this country. Should we focus on ameliorating the digital divide or on helping the poor with income, housing, education, and medical care? How can we focus on the digital divide when Republicans and Democrats alike are targeting income, inheritance, and dividend tax breaks at the rich?

The real digital divide is that the poor depend on schools and libraries for Internet access–and these systems are under lockdown from the religious right and their whores in DC.

Posted by bp at 01:39 PM
The Internet is maturing as a medium

Online shoppers are buying the same old things from the same old merchants, according to Gartner, who call it “playing it safe”. I call it developing habits. Not many people mentioned that they were buying from online-only retailers, but it looks like an unaided-recall survey, which would disproportionately benefit established brands. No wonder online businesses advertise online.

The Internet is maturing as a medium. Although the number of Internet users continues to grow, they’re becoming set in their ways.

Posted by bp at 01:33 PM
Online businesses advertise online

Online businesses are more likely to use online advertising. I’ve been saying this forever, and here’s further proof from Double-Click and Nielsen.

Sectors that spend more than ten percent of their advertising budgets online included employment services (41 percent of $41 million in ad spending), media companies (15.5 percent of $479 million), retailing (15 percent of $3 billion), and travel 12 percent of their $788 million).

Categories that depend on branding, rather than online selling–such as pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods, and automobiles–are not spending much of their ad budgets online.

Posted by bp at 01:30 PM
December 10, 2002
How broadband users use those big pipes Broadband users are on the web more often and view more pages than dial-up users, according to Comscore, but they don’t appear to have any special interest in content designed for their speedy connections.

Broadband Dial-up
Average Days per month per user 30 18
Average Pages per Usage Day 131 108
Average Minutes per Visitor 1,850 1,119
Average Pages per Visitor 3,882 1,921

They use “Radio”, “Movies”, and “Multimedia” more than dial-up users, but they use “Taxes”, “Shipping”, and “Classifieds” a lot more, too. A lot of the differences in their habits can be accounted for by their greater household incomes.

Broadband Visitors As % of Total Visitors
Total Internet 32%
Taxes 55%
Radio 52%
Shipping 52%
Car Rental 49%
Politics 49%
Classifieds 48%
Jewelry/Luxury Goods 48%
Movies 47%
Hotels/Resorts 47%
Weather 47%
Home Furnishings 47%
Consumer Goods 46%
Multimedia 46%
Online Gambling 46%
Comparison Shopping 45%

There’s little or no evidence in this study that broadband users are looking for broadband content. And once you account for the fact that they were probably heavier than average users when they had dial-up connections, it’s even unclear how much of their increased usage is due to their higher-speed connections.

It’s probably not a mistake to think that the one-third of US Internet usrs who have broadband will mind slow sites less than the two-thirds who have dial-up. But thinking that broadband users demand a new kind of Web is a mistake.

Posted by bp at 04:54 PM
November 28, 2002
Debunking broadband myths

Broadband doesn’t change Internet users’ behavior — a least not in the ways we’d expect. A new study from the UK says that broadband users don’t necessarily gravitate to “broadband” applications, treat the Internet as “always on”, or even increase their use of content.

The UK experience is slightly skewed, because most phone calls (and therefore most dial-up connections) are billed by the minute there. The biggest effect the researchers found was the users were more leisurely in their use because the clock wasn’t running in their heads.

The conclusion of the study — consumers don’t find faster connections or always-on connections compelling benefits of broadband — is dramatic. The benefit are more subtle: a better-quality experience.

I’ve always believed that broadband adoption didn’t demand broadband content. Broadband improves the quality of the standard Web experience in much more subtle ways, making it more responsive and more like…print.

Clearly, broadband enables uses that are tedious on modem connections: e.g. Flash, P2P, background streaming, downloads. But these applications are icing on the cake of a better Web experience.

Here in the US, broadband adoption is lagging our expectations, and most consumers don’t believe the benefits justify the expense. As the Telecommunications Act of 1996 is gutted de facto by the cable and telephone monopolies and de jure by the FCC, the price is rapidly rising. Meanwhile, the copyright hoarders are pushing digital rights management as necessary to “unleash” the broadband-only content that they claim will pull broadband adoption.

Broadband adoption is being held back by a lack of competition, not an excess. Only when real competition drives the price of broadband access down to a price set by the market will we see wide broadband adoption. I doubt the price is much over $20/month. And in a competitive market, there is no doubt that the winning providers could make a nice living at that price.

Posted by bp at 10:34 AM
November 04, 2002
The music business is about giving up control

Here’s a shocker: online downloading is hurting online sales of CD’s.

So, online CD’s sales are off 25%. Let’s face it, the current distribution system suits the needs of the record companies, because it makes it gives them something concrete they can count and make sure they get paid. But it doesn’t suit the needs of tens of millions of computer users who want their music in a format they can control and really use.

What’s shocking is that consumers are so desperate for music files that they are willing to put up with the hopeless agony of using Kazaa or LimeWire. Imagine how much they would pay if they could get authorized, quality copies when and where they needed them. The demand is there and the money is there, as soon as the RIAA is willing to give up control.

Posted by bp at 10:18 PM
October 29, 2002
Newspaper executives underperform random chance

MIN’s spin is that major media (newspaper) companies have done pretty well since the market bottomed out in 1987, gaining 230% in 15 years.

But on the same chart shows that the Dow gained 379% in the same period, showing that a chimp with a pellet gun could have invested his money more wisely than the executives of the top newspaper companies.

Posted by bp at 11:42 PM
October 26, 2002
Consumers don’t want (mobile carriers’ vision of) wireless Internet

US Mobile phone users aren’t interested in wireless internet service, according to the Yankee Group: 82 percent of respondents said they did not use wireless Internet service.

About half of the nonusers either didn’t want to do so or didn’t need too.
16 percent said it was too expensive. Other reasons: it was too complicated, too slow, or not available in respondents’ area.

Now, think about the billions invested in 3G spectrum and infrastructure. That money is never coming back.

Posted by bp at 09:39 AM
October 23, 2002
Online advertising to increase 10% in 2003, especially ads that suck

Jupiter says online advertising will be up 10% next year. They’re especially enthusiastic about online classifieds, which they peg at about a billion dollars. They’re not optimistic about prospects for increasing CPM’s anytime soon.

UPDATE [10/26]: Emarketer has an excellent roundup of Internet advertising numbers, with a positive forecast for the fourth quarter.


That is, of course, unless AOL restates their earnings again and wipes out the increase all by themselves.

Elsewhere, Jupiter is predicting that rich media will be about a quarter of online advertising in five years. I still don’t understand where this groundswell of interest in rich media is coming from. Eyeblaster’s PR team is earning their money, because I’m seeing their name on a lot of these stories. This idea has been around since the dawn of Flash. This trend could be bad for Macromedia, as more people discover that Flash is now used almost exclusively for ads and should treated like any other virus.

Posted by bp at 02:58 PM
October 22, 2002
Internet advertising is down 22% for the first half

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, Internet advertising was down in the second quarter by 4.1%. But the first half is 22% below the first half of 2001.

Keyword-based search ads grew from 3 percent to 9 percent of ad spending, and “niche ad formats” (i.e. “rich media”) grew from 9 percent to 12 percent of overall revenues.

Top categories:
computing 19%
financial services 14%
media 12%
telecom 7%

These are categories that mostly sold by direct marketing, instead of brand advertising. It’s another indication that the current mini-trend toward to rich media is a move in the wrong direction.

Online advertising is highly concentrated. The top ten media outlets took in 76 percent of all revenues, and the top 50 got 97 percent. Most media sites are not in the top 50. How are they going to pay the bills?

Posted by bp at 04:47 PM
October 16, 2002
Handheld market to rise from the dead

Handheld sales will grow 18% over the next five years, according to In-Stat/MDR, and are poised to grow the fastest next year.

Their theory is that speed, better form factors, and Internet connectivity will breathe new life into what has been the moribund personal organizer segment. Palm’s lack of innovation and Microsoft’s unappealing offerings have pretty much stifled the demand.

Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to believe that we won’t have handheld computers at some point, but no one knows how we’ll get there. Meanwhile, the wireless carriers are a huge barrier to innovation in this segment.

In the meantime, start prepping your templates and CMS to deliver information to multiple platforms.

Posted by bp at 03:27 PM
There’s nothing surer…

People with household incomes over $100,000 are the fastest growing group on the Net, according to a report from Nielsen/Netratings. This is surprising, because the penetration of that group was always high. Among those making less than $50,000, usage growth was less than 5%.

Because the growth rate is for individuals using the net, this may be the result of increasing use of shared broadband connections and multiple computers in the home.

Posted by bp at 03:04 PM
October 11, 2002
Americans spend $1 apiece on Internet porn

Online pornography revenues in the US were $230 million in 2001, according to Jupiter.

Posted by bp at 12:00 PM
Internet use is hurting other media

Gartner confirms that Internet use is diminishing the use of other media. It’s not surprising, but it’s nice to have the number to back it up. The net is clearly affecting communication patterns more than media use:

  • more than half of Internet users said they use postal mail less,
  • A third placed fewer long-distance telephone calls,
  • 20% watch television less,
  • 20% read newspapers less,
  • 18% go to see fewer movies,
  • 15% watch fewer videos, and
  • 15% read magazines less often.



It’s hard to believe these numbers are so low. I suspect the effect is higher than the respondents are reporting.
Posted by bp at 11:59 AM
Europeans aren’t paying and won’t pay for content

90% of Europeans have not paid for online content, and 40% say they won’t, according to Jupiter.

Also notable, some 16% said they would pay for news and archives, and of the £140m spent on online content this year, nearly half was on pornography.

I don’t have the figures for online advertising in Europe handy, but it has be to significantly, more than an order of magnitude, more than the £70m they’re spending on nonporn content.

Posted by bp at 11:56 AM
October 09, 2002
Internet advertising: still crashing, perhaps not plummeting

According to the Internet Advertising Bureau, Internet advertising was down 18% in the first quarter.

This is still worse than other media. The IAB says, “According to CMR, 2002 first quarter ad spending was down 13.8 percent from the first quarter of 2001 for cable TV, 9.6 percent for magazines and 8.5 percent for national newspapers. In contrast, Spot Radio and Network TV both reported strong results for the first quarter of 2002, up 9.5 percent and 6.6 percent respectively.”

It’s not clear how much of the decline is due to the improved booking and accounting practices.

Posted by bp at 04:43 PM
Don’t expect miracles from customization

Jupiter says, “Fewer than 20 percent of most sites’ audience will customize, and only five percent will increase usage frequency because of it.” There’s not a lot more information available without buying the report.

This isn’t surprising, but it’s certainly reason for caution and parsimony when implementing customization.

Posted by bp at 04:37 PM
More evidence that consumers multi-task media

Another researcher is investigating consumers’ simultaneous use of multiple media. As I said earlier, this multi-tasking almost certainly favors the Net.

Try it and see. I think you’ll find that if you’re really reading and thinking, you won’t have any idea what’s happening in your local soundscape. Certainly not well enough to follow a narrative or ad message.

Posted by bp at 04:37 PM
October 02, 2002
Newspapers: get your share of this $300 million

Newspapers are missing out on $300 million in national online advertising, according to Clark G. Gilbert of the Harvard Business School. From E&P:

“Newspapers are exhibiting the classic symptoms of an industry faced with disruptive technology,” said Borrell Associates CEO Gordon Borrell in a statement. “They’ve invested in Web sites, sometimes heavily, but they have remained dangerously over-reliant on their traditional customers. The disruptive technology of the Internet opens up new classes of potential customers that newspapers must pursue.”

The recommended tactics — “tap into the power of the Web as a medium”, focus on banner ads and email notifications on classifieds, invest in databases, create online ad staffs, and sell localization to national advertisers — sound awfully familiar.

If I understand the notion of disruptive technology expressed in The Innovator’s Dilemma, more than this is needed. Online newspapers need a new charter of independence from the print edition, and a mission to put the print edition out of business, if they’re going to succeed.

It’s clear how the Net disrupts newspapers, but how can newspapers use the Net to disrupt other businesses?

Posted by bp at 04:05 PM
October 01, 2002
Emarketer’s broadband forecast roundup

Emarketer has an excellent summary of different analyst firms’ forecasts of broadband penetration to 2005. It’s a great resource if you need an estimate.

Posted by bp at 10:40 PM
Mass customization: Land’s End delivers on a dot-com promise

The NY Times reports that Land’s End is selling a lot of custom-made pants. They’re now about 40% of their pants sales.

Mass customization was one of the big promises of ecommerce’s glory days.

Dell is another company that has used the net to create the necessary volume to make build-to-order a reality. Back in the dot-com bubble, I really liked Chipshot, a company that built golf clubs to order. We may never know if the problem was with the business model or simply bad management, but I’m betting on the latter.

This may signal a return to a more realistic view of ecommerce. We should probably be taking another look at customized news pages as well.

Posted by bp at 12:23 AM
September 26, 2002
Hoovers averts a subscription disaster

Hoover’s Guide nearly wrecked its subscription business, moving from selling individual subs to the in-depth profiles for $195, to requiring a five-seat license for $1995, to selling individual subs at twice the price and with fewer tools for $395. Thanks to ContentBiz for the case study.

Hoover’s came close to letting their lack of software for user authentication keep them from serving their core customers (individual users) in the way they wanted to be served at a price they could afford. Only by recognizing the resistance of their prospects to the new plan and by adapting their plan were they able to save their subscription business from disaster and get away with doubling their price.

Posted by bp at 02:35 PM
Are there really 23 million wireless data subscribers?

The Yankee Group says that there will be 23 million wireless data subscribers by the end of 2003, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 83% to a 2006 total of 129 million. Wireless data revenue will grow from $70 million this year to $5.8 billion in that period.

I don’t know what is meant by “subscribers” in this number, but the revenue per subscriber will be $.25/sub/mo in 2002 and $3.75/sub/mo in 2006. This is a far cry from what SrintPCS and AT&T Mobile are charging for these services right now.

Clearly, a lot of this usage is incidental. I’m sure it includes the $.78 that I spent on SprintPCS Wireless Web access last month in a fit of bored curiousity.

Meanwhile, TMobile is set to release the staggeringly cool Danger Labs’ Hiptop (as the TMobile Sidekick) October 1, for $200 after rebate, and $40 per month for 200 anytime minutes and unlimited web and email. The outstanding design of this gadget and its elegant pricing plan makes this the first mobile Internet service that has a prayer in the market.

I wouldn’t rush to release a wireless-specific application right now, but I would be working hard to make sure my content management system and site design used XML and CSS so that I could deliver one on quick notice once it made sense.

Posted by bp at 02:34 PM
September 25, 2002
KPMG: Fear of pirates leads big media to stiff consumers

Management consultants KPMG finds that big media companies are spending too much time defending themselves from piracy to make money from digital content. This report is based on interviews with 50 of the biggest.

While two-thirds were optimistic about the prospects for digital media, fifty-seven percent do not even have a process for transforming online intellectual property.

Most of these companies are trying to sell their content in expensive, crippled, proprietary formats that consumers are simply not interested in.

This is costing these companies eight or nine billion dollars per year.

[Warning: KPMG’s site doesn’t work with Mozilla because of the (invisible) proprietary interface junk they’ve added to it. Something to think about when you’re considering hiring a systems integrator.]

Posted by bp at 04:12 PM
You can’t be too fast or too rich

Jupiter reports that broadband users have higher incomes than dial-up users. It’s important to remember that the differences are small, and because the group considering broadband has a lower income that those who already have it, the income difference will get smaller over time.

Posted by bp at 01:35 PM
September 23, 2002
Half the Net reads news online

Jupiter is reporting that email is the most popular application of the Net (93% of users), followed by search engines (79%), product information (63%), local information (60%), contests (59%),and news (54%). Newspapers were used by 46%.

It’s encouraging that local news and information rate so highly among Internet users. The broad variety of uses to which people put the Net still amazes me.

Posted by bp at 12:13 PM
Broadband is too expensive

Accoring to the Commerce Department, many Americans don’t plan to upgrade to broadband anytime soon. According to the AP, the report (which I can’t find on the Commerce Dept site) is based on data from various third parties:

  • Almost all U.S. families live in areas where a high-speed Internet connection is available, but many see no reason to pay extra for it
  • Only 10 percent of U.S. households subscribe to high-speed access, lower than the rate in Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong or Canada.
  • Broadband is too expensive compared to dial-up ($50 vs. $20)
  • More than two-thirds of dial-up users don’t plan to upgrade because of the cost.

Commerce thinks that broadband adoption can be increased, but increasing the amount of music, movies and games on the Net, justifying the monopoly rents of the cable co’s and baby Bells. This plays right in to the hands of the intellectual property oligopoly, who are using the promotion of broadband as a reason to force digital rights management on the public.

How about enforcing the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the Sherman Antitrust Act instead?

Posted by bp at 11:55 AM
Google aggregates the news

Google’s newly redesigned news page raises more questions than it answers.

Google spiders news sites, determines the most important stories algorithmically, and aggregates the stories under a common headline.

According to Nielsen/NetRatings, aggregators still aren’t a huge part of the news business. And it’s easy to see why when looking at Google News. Despite its undeniable coolness, it is editorially flat. There is no point of view and no sense that human beings were involved in its creation. The aggregation process soothes out all the rough edges and we’re left with something that has no point of view.

The strong NetRatings performance of Slate, Fox News and Matt Drudge, despite their small real-world footprint show us how important point of view can be in building an online news audience.

Posted by bp at 11:18 AM
September 21, 2002
E&P: Online newspapers’ glass is 45% full

Nine of the top 20 news sites are run by newspaper companies, according to Editor and Publisher, based on stats from Nielsen NetRatings. Here’s what I found in the data they presented:

  • Three news sites have average session lengths of more than thirty minutes: NY Times (34:13), Fox News (34:56), and Drudge Report (37:41).
  • If you combine Gannett newspapers and USA Today, the unique audience may put Gannett sites in the top 3.
  • The top 3 sites (CNN, MSNBC, and Yahoo! News) are better-suited to breaking news than the typical newspaper site.
  • Yahoo! News, AOL.com News, and Drudge Report are the only aggregators in the top 20.
  • NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times and NY Post (!) are the only single newspapers in the top 20. The other newspaper sites contain all the sites in multi-paper chains.
  • AOL/TW sites (CNN, Time, AOL.com News) collectively have 50% more traffic than number two MSNBC.
  • Internet Broadcasting Systems, which creates web sites for local TV stations is in the top ten.
  • Knight-Ridder is not on the list, apparently humiliated by Belo, Internet Broadcasting Systems, NY Post, and Matt Drudge!
  • Associated Press is number nineteen, just squeaking past Drudge Report.


My conclusions: It’s essential to build a reputation for covering breaking news in real time; having a point of view is desireable; the future probably doesn’t belong to aggregators, but partnerships (such as those cultivated by CNN and MSNBC) could be a very important success factor; and daily newpapers are not setting the pace in online news.

Posted by bp at 12:51 PM
September 19, 2002
Broadband subscribers will quintuple in five years…now what?

The broadband market will grow 361% by the end of 2007 according to the Yankee Group. Right now, they say 58% of the market is using cable and a third is using DSL.

It would be a mistake to use this prediction as an excuse to heavy-up multimedia on our web sites. The performance of text-oriented web pages on broadband connections is still inferior to ink on paper. We ought to be focusing on improving the performance of our pages: removing tables, promoting text advertising, eliminating unnecessary graphics, and using CSS.

Let’s agree to confine our use of graphics and animation to applications where they make sense and not simply to dress up our content.

Posted by bp at 11:46 AM
September 18, 2002
When media crossover favors the Net

There were two interesting media crossover research stories this week.

comScore Media Metrix reports that 45.1 million US net users have their net-enabled PC and TV in the same room, and roughly one-half use both at the same time (It’s also covered on InternetNews.com). Meanwhile, The Media Audit says 40% of those who regularly read print employment ads also regularly read Web classified job sites, and 14.9% of those who regularly visit Web job sites also regularly read print job ad.

This is bad news for traditional media.

If someone is on the Web, they’re probably not paying a lot of attention to the TV, especially during the commercials.

While The Media Audit tries to put the best face on the classified ad crossover rate, saying “We tend to forget that Monster.com is selling a single media, while CareerBuilder.com is selling a multimedia package of web and print. As our knowledge of the Internet increases, it becomes more evident that in many instances the ‘new media’ is becoming an extension of the old media.” However,

  1. Net job seekers are happier with what they’re getting than newspaper users (they have a lower crossover rate).
  2. The more desireable candidates, on whom the biggest ad budgets are spent, are more likely to be on the Net.

The Net doesn’t always win crossover battles (It’s still a lousy entertainment medium), but it’s clearly a strong competitor. [Thanks to eMarketer and Martha Stone at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits]

Posted by bp at 02:35 PM
September 10, 2002
The most-educated readers prefer the Internet to newspapers

According to the Edison-Arbitron study, 20% of the population rates the Internet as the “most essential” medium in their lives, and only 11% say that about newspapers. Among people with a college education, the percentage soars to 30%, but for newspapers it rises only slightly to 13%.

The numbers are probably even more dismal for newspapers if you look at younger people.

We’ve been chasing penetration at the expense of quality for decades, and it shows in the editorial product and readers’ response to it.

The Internet will almost certainly take both advertising and content from newspapers: classifieds, stock price listings, syndicated news, features, and columnists. As newspapers begin the inevitable process of shrinking themselves, they will have to choose whether to become focused products for the most educated consumers in their communities; or dumb the product down to keep it in circulation and satisfy the de mands of their current advertisers and keep their presses humming.

Posted by bp at 11:01 AM
September 06, 2002
The Internet is more essential than TV, radio or newspapers…

The Internet is more essential than TV, radio or newspapers — at least for 20% of Americans, according to a study by Edison Media Research for Arbitron.

That’s pretty amazing for a medium that has been a mass medium for about seven years. Clearly, the quantity and quality of the information on the Internet is better than all of TV and radio, and any reasonable selection of newspapers. Of course, a lot of it comes from newspapers, which post it for free on the net.

Combine the information with communication, and it’s not too surprising that the Internet is more essential than these passive media. I’m sure that more than one in five would rate the telephone as more essential than TV, radio, or newspapers — or the Internet.

However, I wonder whether the Internet has reached its natural market size. Will many more Americans will find this (ultimately pretty cerebral) medium essential?

Posted by bp at 10:58 AM