Martha Stewart Explains It All For You

April 28, 2011

While reading the latest financials from Martha Stewart I realized that her template could be applied to most long-time publishing organizations today. Revenue up, profit down. The only thing unusual about Ms. Stewart’s story is the “revenue up” portion. More often I read “revenue down, profit down.” Digital widgets generally sell for less than their analog predecessors.

Digital ad sales at MS rose 55% (print advertising squeezed out a 2% increase). Unique website visitors were up 42%. Pageviews up 29%. The result? A net operating loss of 5% of publishing revenues (admittedly an improvement from 8% last year).

I’ll take a two-page spread, please

Charles Koppelman, Executive Chairman and Principal Executive Officer of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, offers an excellent stock phrase: “We believe the transformation of the company is beginning to take hold as we seek to broaden our portfolio…We feel we’re positioned to deliver profitable growth as we execute on our business plan in 2011 and beyond.” Good, no?

Meanwhile Jeff Jarvis has an excellent post this week called “Hard economic lessons for news.” He’s got rules, reality checks and more rules. And then something called “Opportunities.” If you’re in the newspaper business. you might want to take a Valium before reading it – you wont feel encouraged. Jeff talks only about the squishy stuff: “engagement,” “networks,” “value added,” “other revenue streams worth exploring” and “collaboration.” OK, there’s one notation on good old “infrastructure.”

Jeez, Jeff. I thought you were going to tell us about opportunities.

But, keep in mind, today Microsoft announced that it had a $726 million loss from online operations in Q3, staying on track to losing $3.5b (yep, billion) in the full fiscal year. Only Apple makes online look easy.

(Can’t resist: Yahoo previously demonstrated how to lose $3.5 billion in a single acquisition, Geocities.)

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Sign of the Times: The Preview’s Over

July 2, 2010

In return, my best wishes to The Times and The Sunday Times, founded in 1788.

Now owned by Rupert Murdoch, who purchased the paper from the Thomson Corporation in 1981, this is the launch of his born-again content-is-more-important-than-advertising initiative.

times-of_london

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“I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers…”

June 2, 2010

…quoted the blogger on his blog.

jobs-allthingsdigital
© Asa Mathat, the Wall Street Journal

At the All Things Digital conference last night, Steve Jobs, asked whether the iPad will be a savior for content creators, said: “I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers…I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever. Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”

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Back from the Brink — Newspapers Stop Their Slide

August 20, 2009

I would imagine that the title of this blog entry will strike you as about as contradictory a title to yesterday’s entry as would be possible. But it’s pulled from the précis (registration required) of a new report from Borrell Associates, which has a strong reputation analysing all thngs Web. I thought I would rebalance my karma after yesterday’s posting.

Let’s start with the obligatory chart:

newspaperadrevenues2014

Now add some lively spice from the blog entry of CEO Gordon Borrell:

So here are our latest projections: Newspapers will be down this year, then they’ll start going back up. We expect a 2.4% rebound in newspaper advertising in 2010, and continued single-digit increases over the next several years. By 2014, newspaper ad revenues will be up about 8.7% over 2009 levels. While national newspaper advertising will do just fine, we foresee the greatest growth in local print – going from $8.9 billion this year to $10.1 billion, a 13.4% increase.

But there’s a caveat, a “dead-cat bounce”:

True, it all equates to more of a dead-cat bounce than anything else. And even at 2014 levels of just under $30 billion, newspaper advertising won’t be anything near the $55 billion we saw earlier this decade. Nor will it ever return to that level.

The fact is, newspapers reached their peak 91 years ago as two publishers battled over the presidency. On Nov. 2, 1920, in the first-ever radio news broadcast, KDKA delivered the results: Warren Harding beat James Cox. Electronic media was born, as was the business of writing obituaries for the newspaper industry…

The latest mediamorphosis of newspapers is almost complete. This once-fat, gray caterpillar that we knew as the “major daily newspaper” is turning into a smaller, more delicate, colorful local magazine, with fair prospects for growth. The smaller newspapers are firmly entrenched in their niche of providing rich local content that people seem to prefer in print – rather than screen – format. Our local newspaper, the Virginia Gazette in Williamsburg, is actually growing circulation and is thick with advertising supplements.

We may be dead wrong. The entire industry might die, and scores of papers might go belly-up over the next year. I’d like you to mark your calendar for today’s date, 2010, and see if that’s the case, or if we wound up being right.

Mark your calendars!

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Printing from Periodicals Can Now Add Revenue Opportunities

Printing an article this afternoon from Canada’s The Globe and Mail, I encountered an unexpected print dialog box that I thought was pretty nifty.

globeprint1

Instead of just offering the standard print dialog box from the OS, and printing a copy to paper or PDF, suddenly there are additional options which may be handy for you, and can earn the publisher a little cash in exchange for the value you receive. But it doesn’t stop there. To get to the print option you click on the “Print or License” and see the two options

printorlicense

Licensing is where the real fun begins. The main dialog box offers these options:

licenseglobe

Print we’ve already seen. I don’t think that many folks would email an article to more than five people, and regardless, most just provide a link. But posting all or (more often) parts of articles happens probably several million times a day. Here are your options if you want to post the whole thing:

postarticle

As you’ll see here…

posthtml

…the pricing plan is based on how long you want to post it (non-profits are charged half the price).

If you choose PDF, you pay a little more but have another nifty feature available…

postpdf

…you can create a proof of the page and preview that. (By the way, the last two screen shots are partials. What they don’t show is a key feature: you can continue down the page, fill in the details of your order, pay by credit card and confirm the permissions immediately. A very smooth process!

Finally you reach “Other Services”:

otherservices

The interesting one is “Excerpt Article for Print” (note that it des not say “for Print or Online”.)

licenseexcerpt

Nifty little bit of technology once again: paste in the text you want to reprint, the words are counted, a price rendered and down the page you can enter your credit information and the deal is done! (And presumably the text to be quoted is also saved as part of the transaction, so that it can later be monitored.)

But something doesn’t quite add up here (apart from paying $11.20 for 32 words). I wonder why this applies only to print excerpting and not to online. I also wonder what happened to the Doctrine of Fair Use? Like everything related to copyright the doctrine is complex. The most important issue it covers is how much of original material can you use in another publication (song, movie, etc.) before you’re considered to have infringed copyright. The original article that I quote from in the screen shot above contains 1,463 words. I’m proposing to use 2% of them. Not a large percentage, but other factors weigh in in determining fair use. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear in the comments section below what people think about this part of the service.

The company providing this SaaS (Software as a Service) is iCopyright. I’m a big believer that a central tenet for all Web publishers must be to seek revenue from all available sources, and this simple service would be a real boon if it became a standard practice among periodical publishers. Lots are apparently using it, but I don’t run into it often.

I’m sufficiently impressed that I’ve written to Mike O’Donnell, the president and CEO of iCopyright (who provides a personal email address on the company’s “About Us” page — a class act), and requested an interview so that I can learn more about the company and its customers. Expect the results in a later blog entry.

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