Rick Edmonds

Researcher and writer for Poynter Institute on business and journalism issues. Co author, State of the News Media 2006. ExSP Times and Phil Inquirer


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New Pew study finds most people OK trading privacy for valued digital services

The Pew Research Center this morning released the last of seven studies on where digital life is headed in the next decade — this one focused on privacy concerns.

A survey of experts revealed split opinion on whether there will be a trusted privacy-rights infrastructure in place by 2025.  But there was strong consensus on both sides that for right now people accept a degree of tracking as a fair trade for getting services, typically for free, that they value and use daily.

What’s the implication for media, with many outlets betting the franchise these days that they can develop higher priced advertising as they harvest data on what you prefer and perhaps where you are?

That is not addressed directly in the report, Lee Rainie, Pew’s director of Pew’s Internet research and co-author of the study with Janna Anderson of Elon University, told me in a phone interview. But the implications are clear. Read more

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Capital flows like water to media companies (of a certain kind)

December has started with a bang-up ten days financially for some leading American media companies.

Vox announced it has raised another $46.5 million in a new round of venture capital bringing its total valuation to $385 million. CEO Jim Bankoff, in a internal memo he made public, announced ambitious expansion plans for 2015.

Outbrain, a content recommendation/native advertising company, indicated it is tentatively planing an initial public offering early next year, with a target valuation of $1 billion.  (Outbrain, like its biggest competitor Taboola, is Israeli in origin but has moved headquarters to New York and plans to be listed on NASDAQ).

Meanwhile expanding Buzzfeed’s growth continues and its investor valuation stands at $850 million.  Editor Ben Smith was lecturing in Australia late last week as the site announced it has hired a star from Wired to be its Silicon Valley bureau chief and is forming a health and science desk. Read more

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A look at 5 successful news partnerships

The Pew Research Center is out today with a new report seeking to define what differentiates effective and sustainable news partnerships from the many that launch with a splash and later quietly fizzle.

At Poynter Online, we regularly report on Pew’s prolific series of studies on digital behavior and news industry trends. There is a twist concerning this particular report, however. In collaboration with Pew Research editors, I wrote it.

So this post is mainly to say, if you are intrigued by the topic, take a look.

partner-site-300Our particular focus was to look at five case studies of collaborations that worked and had staying power. Each was, one way or another, many years in the making.

We were searching for business models and an X factor or two that can be of use as experiments in news partnering enjoy a resurgence. That’s a little different from the nitty-gritty of a single successful joint investigative project like the Dallas Morning News/KXAS-TV expose of poor treatment of wounded veterans, my colleague Al Tompkins ably dissected a week ago. Read more

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Deception? Price gouging? Subscription scam? Top magazine titles won’t say a thing

In mid-October, I wrote about the New York Times offer to refund overpayments to customers who fell for an unauthorized third-party renewal solicitation. The Times also warned subscribers in print and via e-mail not to fall for the scam.

I noted that the same company had been blanketing magazine subscribers with these notices for years before broadening to newspapers as well in 2013 and 2014. I couldn’t immediately get a comment from magazines.

Three inquiries later, spokespersons for top publishers Time Inc. and Conde Nast are still stonewalling me. It’s the full Bill Cosby  — they won’t say a thing, not even what they charge for a renewal of Time or Vanity Fair.

From which I infer that they wink and take the money from the scammers (operating under various names but identifiable by a distinctive format and a White City, Oregon return address). Renewals or new subs are fulfilled, and unless a customer complains, it’s caveat emptor about being overcharged 15 percent or more. Read more

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Other privacy concerns overshadow worries about media choices

A new Pew Research Center survey on Internet privacy concerns, released today, has a nugget of good news for organizations producing targeted website content and advertising.

It would overstate the finding to say Americans don’t care whether information is collected about the media they like and their purchasing habits. About a third of those surveyed do. But those two were literally last on a list of 16 concerns Pew sampled.

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My take is that the flurry of concern about blocking cookies, seemingly on the rise a couple of years ago, has been overtaken by more recent bigger-deal security breaches — specifically identity theft and government monitoring.

Lee Rainie, who directs the Pew’s Internet Project, said in a phone interview that interpretation is roughly right. “We didn’t ask people directly to compare one concern to another.  But it’s fair to say that over the last 18 months a host of things have come to the top of people’s agenda.  Read more

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Tribune Publishing’s first earnings report: ‘We have much work to do’

With downbeat third quarter results already recorded by McClatchy and the New York Times Co., Tribune Publishing followed suit today in its first quarterly earnings report and conference call as a public company.

Tribune Publishing operated at roughly break even, recording a tiny net loss (less than a tenth of a percent) on revenues of $404 million. Advertising revenues were down 9.5 percent compared to the same quarter in 2013 when the company was a division of Tribune.

National advertising was a particular culprit, down 17.1 percent for the quarter and 12 percent year to date. And with papers in Los Angeles and Chicago, national is a bigger slice of the total for Tribune Publishing than at Gannett’s 80 community papers or McClatchy’s 29.

CEO Jack Griffin, in his initial conference call with analysts, noted weak movie advertising in Los Angeles and loss of a leading grocery chain in Chicago.  Read more

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9 takeways from the New York Times Co. 3rd quarter earnings call

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times building in this 2009 file photo. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The New York Times Co. joined McClatchy yesterday in booking a rare operating loss for the third quarter, $9 million or about 2.5 percent on revenues of $364.7 million.

But the many moving parts of the Times digital transformation effort had a number of positives mixed in as well. Here are nine takeaways:

  1. About that loss. It was driven by high costs associated with staff reductions ($20 million) and investment in new products. The first will be a one-time blip. But the Times will be launching and relaunching new digital versions for some time to come. Each is expensive to develop and market, and significant new revenues may be slow in coming.
  2. Equilibrium in ad and circulation revenues. A 17 percent year-to-year gain in digital advertising for the quarter roughly offset a 5 percent decline in print. 
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Why the newspaper industry is leaving six-month circulation reports behind

For several years now, the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM) has been reporting more and more detail on print and digital audience numbers for individual newspaper organizations while saying less and less about the industry as a whole.

That progression reaches its conclusion today with AAM’s final six-month report, to be supplanted by required quarterly updates and monthly digital numbers too if a company chooses.

Related: USA Today, WSJ, NYT top U.S. newspapers by circulation

The current six-month reporting format, now called Snapshot and previously FAS-FAX, has been in place since 1968, AAM spokeswoman Rachael Battista told me.  But audited newspapers have been compiling six-month averages, she added, since the organization (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations) was formed in 1914.

The changes aim for greater timeliness, AAM executive vice president Neal Lulofs said in a phone interview, and need regular adjustment as organizations explore varied and more complex audience strategies. Read more

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Tough times at McClatchy — A quarterly loss and four assets sold

McClatchy closed the books today on a rocky third quarter with an earnings report yesterday showing a small loss of $2.6 million (1 percent on revenues of $277.6 million).

But CEO Pat Talimantes instead opened the conference call with analysts offering commentary on a much bigger issue, what he described as “important events that have sealed our financial flexibility.”

An unfriendly commentator might describe those “events” as a yard sale. So far in 2014, McClatchy has sold four separate and substantial assets. The largest of them, in a deal with Gannett closed the first week in October, was a 25.6 percent stake in Classified Ventures’ Cars.com, which will bring in $631.8 million before taxes, $406 million after.

Earlier this year McClatchy sold its stake in Apartments.com (another part of Classified Ventures)  It also sold its half of McClatchy/Tribune Information Services to Tribune and the Alaska Daily News to wealthy investor Alice RogoffRead more

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The politics of reforming digital audience metrics — don’t underestimate the status quo

Long-time critics of imprecise unique visitor and page view metrics like me have had reason to cheer in recent months.

Both the Financial Times and Economist have started to offer advertisers the alternative of rates based on time spent rather than raw traffic numbers.

Chartbeat corrected a major flaw in existing measures of time spent, then got its system “accredited” by the influential Media Ratings Council. And Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile has been an effective evangelist in interviews and speeches for a more sophisticated way of looking at the attention of digital audiences.

That’s real progress. But plowing through dozens of articles and interviewing a few key sources, I have concluded that it is way early to declare victory and a new day dawning in digital measurement.

Oddly, although we like to think of the digital world as fast-moving and progressive, there is an established status quo for counting digital audiences backed by powerful vested interests who remain mostly happy with the unholy triad of uniques, page views and clickthroughs. Read more

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