Wednesday, March 31, 2010

119 Words You Can't Say on TV...Well, on WGN-AM in Chicago

George Carlin famously defined "The Seven Dirty Words You Can't Say on Television." (And it's till funny, even if a number of the words are now said on TV; check out the Wikipedia article.)

Now Randy Michaels, CEO of Tribune Co., recently issued a list of words and phrases he does not want WGN-AM reporters to use on the air.

Some make sense: “Two to one margin . . . (since) 'Two to one' is a ratio, not a margin. A margin is measured in points. It’s not a ratio." Or the mispronunciations of Iraq and Iran as "Eye Rack" and "Eye Ran."

Some are journalistic cliches:
  • Area residents (why not just "residents"?)
  • Clash with police
  • Killing spree
  • Our top story tonight
  • Perfect storm
  • Senseless murder
There are some who are criticizing Michaels for the list at a time when you might assume the CEO of the bankrupt Tribune Co. would be busy with more important financial matters. But I think he's right -- a lot of the terms he banned are cliches that don't move the story forward. After all, referring to some (also a banned word) murders as "senseless" seems to imply that you could classify some as "sensible murders."

The entire list is available here.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Murdoch to Build Paywall Around the London Times -- Will Others Follow?

A fierce proponent that newspapers need to charge for content, even if available online, Rupert Murdoch is putting your money where his mouth is. News Corp. papers, the Times of London and the Sunday Times will establish a paywall and start charging online readers as of June 2010.

The planned fees are not significant --£1 for one day's access or £2 for one week's access for those who don't subscribe to the print edition. (Print subscribers will get free online access.)

What is significant, is that, as AdAge noted in an article, "New Test for Paid Content as Competing News Sites Remain Free,"competitors to the Times of London "such as The Guardian, The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror remain free for all comers." (It's interesting to note that AdAge offers a hybrid approach, with some free articles and some available behind a paywall.)

So will readers pay for online access to the Times of London, when they are not used to paying for content? Will they merely shift to competing online sites? Or will those sites start charging online readers for access?

There are some who think Murdoch is making a bad decision. Well, not just a bad decision. TechCrunch sees it as evidence of The Madness of King Rupert.

My guess: That more paywalls are inevitable because newspapers need the revenue stream, and can't afford to give away content. We're a long way from the dot-com era, when sticky eyeballs were everything. They're still important, but now publishers need those eyeballs to contribute more than just boosting ad rates.

At the very least, this latest move continues to validate our prediction in calling 2010 the year of the online subscription.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Do Corporate Apologies Work Online?

With recalls announced fairly regularly these days, New York Times' Virginia Heffernan takes a worthwhile look at "the Web sites of beleaguered companies."
A company shows anxiety on its face — that is, on its Web site, which has become the face of the modern corporation. Visit sites for recently troubled or confused enterprises, including Maclaren, Toyota, Playtex, Tylenol and, yes, John Edwards, and you’ll find a range of digital ways of dealing with distress.
According to Heffernan, many companies do a poor job apologizing for recalls (and other issues) on their websites. (Our style guide prefers website as one word, without an initial cap -- despite the Times' stodgy style.)

Based on her examples, I'd have to agree that they could do a better job. At first, I thought one issue could be guidance from their attorneys who may tend to advise their clients to be very careful in admitting responsibility for any problems -- since, presumably, that written admission might be used in trial against the company.

Yet I think Toyota has done a decent job in its ad campaign. In thinking it over, though, I realized that the ad campaign says "We haven't been living up to the standards you've come to expect from Toyota."

Which is not really an apology.

Yet I think it works as a commercial.

But not on a website.

Which goes to show that companies need to remember that each medium is different. And it's not enough to take the same approach from one (30-second spots) and translate it exactly on a website.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New York Times Unveils More Details on the Journal's new NYC Metro Section (Which Competes with the NYT)

Interestingly, reports about the Wall St. Journal's new daily New York City metro section, which starts April 12 and is expected to average 12 pages, came not from the Journal but from the New York Times -- with whom the Journal is directly competing in a newspaper war.

Check out the Times article, "Journal vs. Times in Newspaper Battle Over New York Readers – And Advertisers" by blog fav Richard Perez-Pena. The article positions the Journal's new metro section as the latest front in a newspaper war (the advantage: reporters are already embedded). But beyond the scope of a NYT-WSJ war, Perez-Pena notes that the Journal's new section could also impact the New York Post, another News Corp. properties and one already serving NYC -- though not the upscale readers and advertisers.

Here are some key facts about the upcoming section:
  • The Journal is investing $15 million in the new section.
  • It will have a staff of 35 people (out of a staff of 750).
  • Most of the reporters will be reassigned from other sections.
  • The Journal plans to invest another $15 million in another attack on the Times, aimed at attracting women readers and more home subscribers (more attractive to advertisers).
  • The new section will cover daily real estate news, cutlure, business, sports and some metro/government news.
As readers of this blog may remember, the Times and Journal have competed over the past year to shed light on how the recession impacted the super-rich.

Check out Perez-Pena's article for more details and insight.

Monday, March 22, 2010

How Many Followers Are Too Many?

One of the goals of social networking is to connect to as many people as possible. But there's a problem: when you're connected with too many people, you can't really connect to them in a meaningful way.

In Wired, Clive Thompson wrote "In Praise of Online Obscurity," makes the point that "It's great to have a dedicated group of followers online -- until the audience gets so big that the conversation stops...At a few hundred or a few thousand followers, they’re having fun — but any bigger and it falls apart. Social media stops being social. It’s no longer a bantering process of thinking and living out loud. It becomes old-fashioned broadcasting."

The bottom line, according to Thompson: "There’s value in obscurity" even if that goes against what companies are trying to achieve with social media.

Friday, March 19, 2010

MarketWatch Validates Our Prediction on Top Media Stories in 2010

Another validation of our prediction of the top media stories that "reporters are sure to be working on this year.

First was the Wall St. Journal, which validated (as reported here yesterday) our pick that the media would cover competition between Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft and EMC vs. H-P vs. Oracle

Now MarketWatch (also owned by the WSJ), which wrote, "H-P, Cisco face-off highlights rival CEOs' contrasting styles; New rivalry pits an operations maestro against a charismatic salesman."

According to MarketWatch's Benjamin Pimentel:

"The rivalry (between H-P and Cisco) is emerging in a time of shifting battle lines in the corporate tech market. H-P and Cisco face other competitors, including IBM and Oracle Corp. /quotes/comstock/15*!orcl/quotes/nls/orcl (ORCL 25.44, -0.03, -0.12%) , which recently bought server giant Sun Microsystems.

"Still, the H-P-Cisco showdown has drawn most of the attention."

Except, in our opinion, for the battle between Google and Apple. Oh, and Google and everyone else.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WSJ Validates Our Prediction on Top Media Stories in 2010

Earlier this year. we issued a dozen predictions, and have seen a number of them quickly validated.

One of the predictions listed what we think will be top media stories that "reporters are sure to be working on this year (though not necessarily in the order)" we presented them.

We picked Google vs. Apple vs. Microsoft and EMC vs. H-P vs. Oracle -- shorthand for intense competition across a range of traditional and new battleground technologies. For example, Google Android and Nexus One vs. Apple's iPhone.

In yesterday's Wall St. Journal, Ben Worthen wrote, "Gap Widens Between Tech Richest and the Rest," making the point that, "Over the past two years, Apple Inc., Oracle Corp., Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and six other large tech companies have generated $68.5 billion in new cash, compared with just $13.5 billion for the other 65 tech companies in the S&P 500 Index combined, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data provided by Capital IQ."

It's an interesting article that shows that smaller companies are facing not only competition from the big players based on technology but also based on the structure of their operations and acquisitions.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Does Social Media Really Pay Off for Big Companies?

As part of the new normal, we're seeing increased need for ROI. That's a challenge with social media because the right metrics may well be different for each company.

In "Turning tweets into sales: Twitter’s allure is tough to translate into dollars, though Dunkin’ Donuts is tracking results," The Boston Business Journal wrote an interesting story that provided some details about how Dunkin' Donuts, Staples and other companies approach social media.

Here are some interesting facts:
  • 35 percent or 173 of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts, according to a recent study about corporate Twitter usage in 2009 from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research. The study called company growth on Twitter “explosive.”
  • Still, the majority of companies are somewhat clueless about Twitter’s business impact. Corporate Twitter strategies are “all over the map” ranging from hyper-engaged companies skilled at building trust with followers, down to firms that play it safe, sending out lackluster tidbits of information, said Emily Riley, analyst and research director at Cambridge-based Forrester Research Inc.
  • Staples Inc. (Nasdaq: SPLS), which has a “Tweet team” of five staffers and has amassed more than 31,000 followers, are passionate about mastering the art of micro blogging. The company started using the site late last year and tweets mainly about deals and customer service. Even at a sophisticated company, figuring out the ROI of social media “is the million dollar question,” said Michelle Ormes, Staples’ director of corporate branding. “Right now...we value the number of our followers and how engaged they are.”
  • Business-to-business firms are also placing increased importance on social media and Twitter. Forrester predicts that B-to-B firms will increase spending on social media from a total of $11 million in 2009 to $54 million in 2014.
  • Not all companies are convinced that tweeting is a necessity, even ones that believe in social media. Boston-based car-sharing firm Zipcar has some 30,000 fans on Facebook, but does not actively tweet, although company spokeswoman Nancy Scott says the company “listens” on Twitter. Zipcar’s inactive Twitter page has close to 1,000 followers.
Some interesting anecdotes for companies considering how to approach social media in 2010. Ultimately, the decision whether and how to embrace social media still comes down to this: each organization will have to do some experimentation before finding what's right for their brand, goals and capabilities. The need to experiment in social media is a tougher sell in 2010, even with the explosion of users on social media, especially when organizations need to report ROI metrics for all their initiatives.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

TheDeal Validates Our Prediction About Online Subscriptions

Last month, we issued our annual list of predictions, and posted more details on Feb. 2, Prediction #3: 2010 will be the year of online subscriptions. The New York Times has already validated our prediction in an article last month. Now, TheDeal has validated the prediction, too.

In an article, "Creeping Towards Ubiquity: the Pay-for-Play Traditional Media is Striking Back, Winning Some Small Victories Over Digital Free-Content Rivals," Richard Morgan, who covers the media for TheDeal, wrote:

"Will 2010 be the year that traditional media companies disabuse consumers that information wants to be free? Maybe not, but it's off to a good start."

Morgan quoted Rupert Murdoch, who said, "The Philistine phase of the digital age is almost over. If we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid-for content...content kleptomaniacs will triumph."

And then concludes: "Murdoch's assessment may not have convinced everyone, but there's no denying his message in gaining steam."

Friday, March 5, 2010

Wall St. Journal to Launch NY-Metro Edtion

The Wall St. Journal has announced another front in its battle against the New York Times: a local section for New York, to be launched in April. The new section has been an open secret for months now, but the WSJ announced it officially this week, here.

The new section will appear six days a week, include 16 pages of content and ads, and cover state and local politics, business, culture, sports and real estate. About 35 reporters and editors will be assigned the new section, which will be available with subscriptions to the greater NYC area and available online.

No word yet on the reporters now assigned to the section.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Another Prediction Appears to be Correct: Viacom Drops Daily Show & Colbert Report...

We predicted that 2010 would be the year of online subscriptions, and today's news from the Wall St. Journal report, "Hulu Loses Stewart, Colbert," appears to support that.

According to the Journal, the reason Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, which produces The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, is pulling those programs from is that it was not seeing enough revenue from, which is advertising supported, shares a percentage of the advertising dollars with content producers. For Viacom, even those two very popular shows were pulling in pennies on the dollar from So the company decided to pull the shows. will survive without those two shows while people can continue to watch them on their computers by going to, where Viacom can keep all the advertising revenue without having to split it with

But it's another push for to move forward with an online subscription offering. Which is the conclusion the WSJ had. Given that is owned by Rupert Murdoch, who is a big proponent of online subscription fees, we bet that before Sept., will unveil an online subscription model.