About Peter C. Beller

Peter C. Beller is director of content at Ebyline. He was previously a staff writer for Forbes and has freelanced for numerous publications. He can be reached at peter@ebyline.com.

Common sense ideas for making online video work (and pay)

News conference

News conferenceThe promise of running video on news sites has been just around the corner for about a decade now. With technology cheap, and bandwidth to spare, news organizations—and newspapers in particular—have reasonably assumed they could compete with broadcast and cable news. Assumed is the key word: while ad rates on digital video remain well above typical rates for text and photos, few news organizations—broadcasters included—have successfully navigated the switch to digital. A report by the International News Media Association sheds some light on why online video has failed to deliver and delivers some common sense advice from the successful few.

The report, Making Video Pay For News Publishers, is only available to INMA members or for a pretty penny on INMA’s website. So here’s a bullet list of what we considered the most intriguing opinions in a white paper that included data on ad rates, various content and selling strategies and interviews with publishers who have gotten it right, sometimes after years of struggling.

Stick to your strengths

If you’re in the publishing business you have a brand and an audience that knows you. Stick to the areas you’re already good at: hyperlocal, sports, business, whatever. Don’t use the new video cam as an excuse to dabble in content you don’t know, and that your audience isn’t expecting from you.

“Whatever you do with video, it has to be very honest to what your brand represents,” Suranga Chandratillake of Blinkx, told report author Paula Felps. “If your audience is 22-year-olds who are very edgy, they’re going to find it odd to be watching a guy wearing a tie sitting behind a desk.”  Canada’s Globe and Mail leveraged its strength in business coverage to produce Market News segments (that could be easier to find). The Daily Telegraph is serious, the Financial Times less formal with its videos.

Go all-in, or don’t bother

“Every medium- and large-sized newspaper could be playing this game tomorrow,” says Michael Rosenblum, president and CEO of RosenblumTV and founder of New York Times Television. “But they’re not.”

Mastering video is similar to mastering social media: dive in and learn what you need to to do it right. With local broadcasters losing eyeballs, advertisers are keen to buy space where those eyeballs have migrated to. (The report cites a typical ad rate of $25 per thousand views for pre-roll and other advertising that’s incorporated into the medium.)

Be honest about costs

Video equipment, and the technology needed to distribute it online, is cheap and getting cheaper. But you still need to spend money to make money and too often news organizations dip a toe by opting to spend little up front in the hopes that money earned on video will have a snowball effect and pay for its own growth. The INMA report suggests that isn’t working. Instead, news organizations that make the modest investment in know-how and equipment will be overcoming barriers to entry in their niche or geographic area. And the investment can be very modest.

Australia’s Fairfax Media is dedicating big resources and hiring broadcast veterans for its online video units while The Guardian and Wall Street Journal are making more modest investments by re-training staff. The Toronto Sun has purchased Canon cameras that shoot video and stills simultaneously. Many U.S. newspaper chains have embraced so-called backpack journalism. Local newspapers are experimenting with new models of what a reporter can and should be.

Featured photo by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via a Creative commons license. Additional photo by Movieing Memories via Creative Commons.

Infographic: Twitter and the art of media punditry

Infographic: Twitter and media punditry

One great thing about our addiction to social media (and really, this may be the only one), is how easy it makes it to turn mushy real-world concepts such as influence into quantifiable, crunchable statistics. For those of us mathematically inclined, it’s almost like everyone got their own baseball card and we can simply flip it over to see who’s really slugging and who’s getting walked. Unlike baseball, however, the real world of social influence hasn’t exactly been figured out by the data crunchers; that is, the relationship between being a real-world macher and a social media starlet isn’t a straight line, though the two are correlated.

In this infographic media consultant Jose Rodriguez has mapped out the social reach of a very special subset of folks: journalism pundits (including yours truly and many of the individuals and sites we follow). What makes this more interesting than, say, a graphic about the reach of Hollywood actors is that this group is speaking to an audience that are themselves influencers of what others consume so in some sense any reach you see here is magnified several-fold (that is, if you believe journalists and marketing folks still have  influence on the content you ultimately consume).

What can this data teach us? Well, we’re flattered to be here but obviously have some catching up to do in terms of reach. I can see from Jose’s visualization that there’s a pretty obvious link between number of tweets and number of followers. But maybe those with more followers just tend to tweet more. Since it’s free to tweet, no harm in upping the level of communication although many of the top tweeters on here have been at it longer than Ebyline has been in existence, which probably explains some of it.

As always, outliers are the most interesting data points. While nearly all of those with big followings themselves follow a relatively small number of feeds, there’s Stuart Elliott of The New York Times’ Media Decoder blog out there on his own (in hot pink, no less) hitting the Follow button like a retired mayor at the video poker table. What gives, Stuart?


Infographic_ TwitterJournoBlogoSphere | infogr.am

Why can’t bloggers and journos get along? #NMX recap

NMX 2013 Recap

Ford's Scott MontyIf there’s one thing we learned at the NMX conference in Las Vegas this week, it’s that the gulf between “new” and “old media is still pretty big. Bloggers complained about the mainstream media’s lack of respect and a few traditional media folks (current and former) tried to get across how newspapers, TV, magazines and news sites work (or don’t work). It didn’t seem to take, but we picked up a few pearls of wisdom and some trends worth watching.

Here’s our executive summary in case you didn’t make it to the conference, or spent most of your time schmoozing by the bar.

Traditional media should learn from bloggers, up to a point

Many bloggers think what they have to offer mainstream publications is their content and voice. It’s not, at least not usually. While big traditional outlets such as The New York Times, Bloomberg and ESPN are increasingly willing to give space and prominence to individual voices, their business is trafficking in content that appeals to the broadest audience possible. We heard a lot of advice to bloggers along the lines of “be an expert.” Its not bad advice, but many bloggers are equally good at something else that’s in demand: cultivating a community.

Pitching those skills might be as tough as pitching a cover story to savvy pubs such as Wired or WaPo, but not to a local newspaper or alt weekly whose expertise is newsgathering, not social media. There’s no reason for traditional media to blacklist bloggers from contributing badly needed expertise, instead of just content. Too often, this is a one-way street with a traditional outlet dictating how and when a contributor can contribute instead of a partnership. Creating a social media voice, running campaigns and events and partnering with others is often left to junior marketing people at media organizations. Maybe it’s time to give a little more responsibility for innovation to the outsiders.

Bloggers should, but often don’t, get journalism

By 2013 it’s tough to argue that the journalism world hasn’t embraced blogging. Overembraced would be an easier argument to make. Not so the reverse. At NMX there appeared to be a lot of confusion over why a reporter who spends 40 hours a week covering the local school board deserves to be paid and a blogger who ruminates about [fill in random interest or hobby] doesn’t. Trust us, there’s a reason. But that doesn’t mean bloggers can’t up their game to the level of journalism by adopting the newsroom’s core values of accuracy, timeliness and impartiality.

Dr. David Perlmutter and David Schwartz of University of Iowa’s journalism school outlined some of those steps. Even as she took swipes at the media, Afrobella blogger Patrice Yursik, told her audience to create and execute an editorial calendar and put some distance between their personal and professional selves online. It seemed a tough sell: reporting means not just calling people up or knocking on their doors, but asking them questions that lean toward the uncomfortable, if not downright impolite. NMX bloggers seemed more interested in how to get free swag or junkets from companies, a no-no (if an increasingly frayed one) in the news world and a good reason to think that the Associated Press isn’t going to cede its spot to mommy bloggers anytime in the near future.

Content marketers are looking hard at the blog world. The media, not so much

Among the raft of interesting companies pitching their services at NMX, were several seeking to cement the link between brands and bloggers who can create compelling, niche content. Some were big agencies such as Brafton, and we ran into plenty of  smaller shops scouring the conference for contributors and solutions to help their clients create content or get it placed in the media. But there were also new platforms such as GroupHigh, which provides data to marketers on blogs and their audiences, and PostRelease, which places sponsored posts. We’ve covered how content marketing is moving away from bland, search-focused content and toward higher quality narratives and community-building. This just reinforced it for us.

Photos via creative commons license courtesy of Jess1820 and toprankmarketing.

#NMX: Self-publishing tips and Apple critique from Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki

Guy Kawasaki
Ebyline is taking up valuable floorspace at this year’s NMX conference in Las Vegas, blogging and tweeting what we see and hear. Whether you’re at NMX or not, enter our contest for a chance to win free content for your blog or site.

“Writers either don’t understand marketing or detest marketing.” That’s how author and venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki described to a Vegas crowd of bloggers and marketers the challenge of publishing a book. As for publishers, they don’t get it. They don’t get marketing, their primary function. They don’t get crowdsourcing or building a groundswell of buzz before release. They don’t get how an author can become an expert or develop a community around them, just how to purchase one who already has.

Harsh words, especially early in the morning, but they resonated with the NMX crowd and probably with any freelance journalist struggling with the publishing world. Kawasaki made his name chronicling, working for, criticizing and investing in Silicon Valley. His latest book, APE (for Author, Publisher, Editor) takes aim at the industry that helped him get there. Ticked off that his previous publisher couldn’t fill a simple 500-copy order, he self-published his next book, found that the marketing aspect was the big challenge and decided to publish a book on….publishing a book.

Putting out your own book used to be stigmatized as the province of the rich and vain, rejected by New York publishing houses, Kawasaki told moderator and Forbes contributor Mike Fidelman. Today he sees self-publishing the natural evolution of artisinal craftsmanship from baking to beer to books.

What can an independent author do? Kawasaki said that for APE he asked his social followers to review his book outline in Google Docs and, ultimately, to copy edit and fact-check the manuscript (some 60 out of 4,000,000 did and received credit in the book). He asked bloggers to read and review the tome before its publication, building buzz in the run-up to release.

What if you’re not Kawasaki? Even a crime novelist, he says, needs to become an expert or develop a niche—the go-to source for forensics articles and stories, for example. Build a user base. When your book comes out they’ll become your fan base.

“We live in just a great time for an author to build a platform,” Kawasaki said. Publishers, instead of building platforms for their authors, “now they say we want to see how you market your book then we’ll acquire you.”

A former Apple fellow and evangelist, Kawasaki had some unkind words for the Cupertino giant, lambasting Apple for its attitude towards customers. “I truly do love Apple but, shall I say, I don’t agree with some stuff they’ve done.” In particular, tweaking devices to render older models obsolete and produce the regular stampedes to Apple stores that are a favorite of newspaper photographers, stores where Kawasaki says he “Stand[s] in line and pay[s] retail like every other shmo.”

What’s in his pocket? A Nexus 7 tablet. A Samsung Galaxy.

“Real men use Android, let’s face it.”




How mobile is changing the editor’s role: Ebyline original research

Success Strategies for Editors

You can almost hear the collective groan every time a new technology, medium or platform lands in the laps of the journalism industry—or the “content” industries more broadly. From the inception of the internet until very recently the shift online felt, at least to the content creators being asked to populate all those web pages with actual stuff, like a parade of bosses always asking them to “do more with less.” Then came the iPhone and the iPad and suddenly journalists, editors, publishers and pundits were proclaiming instead of groaning (although there’s always some groaning).

To the growing body of evidence that the optimism around mobile is justified, we’re adding “Create, Curate, Channel,” a research paper commissioned by Ebyline that found editors—and the publishers, agencies and brands that employ them—increasingly turning away from the cheap, unoriginal content that worked when eyeballs could be begged, borrowed or stolen and toward high-quality, engaging stories and media that generate the once-and-future goals of writing and shooting: engagement, loyalty, buzz, conversation.

“Create, Curate, Channel” also includes some helpful tips and ideas for making the transition to a more mobile world in which creativity and flexibility matter in equal measures:

•How to manage audience conversations to maximize engagement and minimize inefficiency and priority conflicts.

•How mobile is changing the nature of content creation from a static process to a continuous one.

•Road map for creating an editorial “priority filter” to re-focus your group’s goals on long-term business drivers such as loyalty and engagement.

•Exclusive results from the Ebyline/Editor & Publisher survey of American editors covering how top publishing and marketing executives spend their time and energy.

For anyone in the content business who cares to know how and why what you see on your screens is changing, you can download a copy of “Create, Curate, Channel” here.