Dorian Benkoil


Geo-Location Services Provide New Opportunities for News

Knowing where someone is as they consume media can be a powerful tool in the hands of a journalist, publisher or advertiser.

And as use of GPS-equipped mobile devices has grown, so has interest in and competition to provide location-based services such as tailored news and information, advertisements, coupons, travel guides and more.

Recently, it seems like every digital media and advertising conference has sessions about things like “geo-location” and how to provide local services on mobile devices.

The Ad:Tech conference earlier this month in New York, for example, had three geo-location seminars with executives from:

  • Geo-location services Foursquare, Loopt and Gowalla, all of which let users “check in” from where they are, give and receive recommendations, receive rewards and communicate with friends on the services.
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As Social Media Grows, What Will Become of the Plain Old Banner Ad?

“The death of display advertising has been greatly exaggerated,” Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, said last week at the trade organization’s MIXX conference.

True, rectangular “banner” ads, in-stream video commercials and other so-called online “display” advertising accounted for more than a third of the nearly $23 billion spent on Internet advertising last year, according to David Silverman in a PricewaterhouseCoopers report prepared with the IAB.

But there was another 800-lb gorilla in the room at MIXX. Social media such as Twitter and Facebook are rapidly becoming venues where marketers connect with customers and spend dollars that previously may have gone to more traditional Internet ads.

Dick Costolo, who was just named Twitter CEO, talked about the power of the platform and its new advertising efforts, such as Promoted Tweets and Promoted Trends. Read more

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Rafat Ali Seeks to Re-imagine Travel Guide Industry for Mobile

After traveling around the world for the last two years, paidContent founder Rafat Ali has a new venture. In a separate Q&A, he describes why he wants to avoid the business of covering news.

Here, he discusses how the travel guide industry piqued his interest and how he started to explore whether the industry can be re-imagined for mobile devices.

Dorian Benkoil: Could you tell me about what you’re working on?

Rafat Ali: One of the sectors that I’m deeply interested in, and very likely my next venture, is going to be in the travel guidebook sector.

And that’s born out of a few things. One is, as people who have been following me on Facebook and Twitter know, I have been traveling for the last 24 months. Read more

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paidContent’s Rafat Ali Describes Grim View of Online News’ Prospects

In 2002, after unsuccessfully trying to get a reporting job, Rafat Ali launched, a blog about the business of media. The site gained a following, then sponsorships, and became a leading voice in the industry.

With paidContent as the flagship, Ali built ContentNext, which included a network of four blogs, industry conferences and research and ContentNext Dex, a financial index of the largest companies paidContent followed. He sold the company to Guardian Media Group in 2008 for millions of dollars and spent the next two years traveling around the world.

This July, Ali went out on his own again, launching a Tumblr blog called, an exploration of the travel guide industry. (Details of that new venture are posted separately.)

In a Skype call, Ali told me why he doesn’t want to be in the news business and why he believes it to be such a tough industry right now. Read more


What Web Analytics Can – And Can’t – Tell You about Your Site’s Traffic and Audience

It’s often said the Web is more measurable than any other medium. That’s probably true. But trying to actually understand what’s being measured and translate the different types of measurement into a coherent whole can make your head spin.

A lot of sites fixate on what their Web analytics, packages like Google Analytics and Ominiture, tell them. They look at stats on “page views,” “visits” and “unique visitors” and measure their progress in terms of how much traffic increases over time.

They might look at “engagement” stats like “time on site” and “page views per visit” to glean how much people are enjoying the site after they come in for their visit.

While those stats can be a fine way to get a handle on relative growth, they’re not true measures of the number of people coming to a site. Read more


How to Increase Site Traffic Without Buying Advertising

In the competition for page views, some news sites use paid advertising to attract traffic. There are a few reasons paying for traffic is often a losing game for news, and I’ll get to them in a moment. But first, where can you spend your money to get traffic to your site?

Your content is the big attraction

It’s been proven time and again that giving users what they want, consistently over time, and getting links to it will be effective in building traffic. You want to fire on all cylinders — great editorial, smart marketing that includes social media, and when it works, smartly optimized ad placements — but if you can do only one thing, the most cost-effective thing to do is create great content and let the world know about it through every cost-effective tactic, from social networks like Facebook and Twitter (see below) to e-mails and search engine optimization. Read more

Can Ad Networks & Exchanges Help Increase Ad Prices (Instead of Driving Them Down)?

It’s generally said that advertising networks and exchanges push down the price of advertising on the Web, making it harder for publishers to get top dollar and support quality editorial products.

But there are some innovations coming that could help change the equation in publishers’ favor — at least if a couple of top executives from advertising technology companies are to be believed.

We’ll get to those innovations in a minute, but to place them in context, let’s take a look at the havoc being wrought today by the networks and exchanges that drive down prices by bringing new efficiencies into the market. Why, if you’re an advertiser, would you pay a high price to reach an audience if through an ad network or exchange you can reach the same people at a fraction of the cost? Read more


‘Hybrid’ Models the Rage Among Execs at paidContent Conference

If there’s one thing media bigwigs agreed on in hours of discussion at the paidContent conference in New York on Friday, it’s that to make a profit from media you shouldn’t ask whether or not to charge for it. Instead you should ask when to charge and when not to, and you should consider e-commerce, events, apps and anything else that can add to your revenue stream.

Devin Wenig, CEO of Thomson Reuters’ Markets Division, summed up the sentiment when he told an interviewer on stage that, now ad-supported, will in the coming months include a mix of advertising and paid services, “just like, I suspect, just about everyone you’re going to talk to for the next day.”

He was just about right. Advertising execs, the publisher of The New York Times, entrepreneurs, journalists and many others talked about mixed, or “hybrid,” revenue streams. Read more


Thoora Shows How Publishers Can Use Real-Time Audience Data for Editorial Decisions

To the list of companies that say they measure audience sentiment to help publishers’ editorial judgment, add the name Thoora.

The Toronto-based startup promises to gauge how well individual news stories are doing by analyzing and calibrating real-time data from blogs, mainstream news sources and Twitter. Thoora’s software uses more than 100 attributes to determine not only the most popular content but also the highest quality, using measures such grammar and spelling and the authority of sites that link to the content.

The company said the data could be used to figure out, for example, where to position an article on a page (aiding internal data from Web logs and analytics), how to apportion resources to cover a developing story or even how to follow up on offshoots that you might not have considered. Read more


Shut Off Google? C’mon, Mark Cuban

I can understand why Mark Cuban said newspapers should keep “blood-sucking vampires” like Google from indexing their content. But his argument falls short in a few key ways, I believe.

Cuban said newspapers have to understand that there is real value in what they do best, which is to “go out and find news and create good content.” “Aggregators and search engines think there is no value to that,” the Internet entrepreneur, HDNet co-founder and owner of the Dallas Maverick basketball team said at the OnMedia conference in New York last week. “They think there’s an unending supply of necks.”

If publications shut off their sites to the Google spiders, Cuban said, people who can’t find that content via Google search or Google News might simply type “” or “” in their Web browsers. Read more

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