How Twitter can damage your career

Of all the things 2017 can claim to be the year of, it has also been the year of the Twitter faux pas. Or at least, the year prominent media types started to be held accountable for their previous social media activity.

Josh Rivers, disgraced former Editor of Gay Times

Two of the more recent prominent career-altering social media incidents have been provided by Josh Rivers, the now-fired Editor of Gay Times, and Jack Maynard, the YouTuber-turned-I’m A Celebrity (not quite) star, who made their offensive tweets between 2010 and 2012. Whilst many deleted tweets resurface after being saved by fellow users, Maynard and River’s tweets remained active and undeleted until news broke.

The important lesson for users of social media is one that has been absorbed by media businesses over the years: that by uploading something to the internet, you effectively surrender control over how that content is used, circulated and interpreted.

As media headhunters, we know that employers do check the social footprint of their current and potential employees. A 2017 YouGov survey found (more…)

Video-on-demand: ITV must win the UX campaign

ITV, one of the UK’s most prominent terrestrial television channels, is looking to translate its expertise in making programmes for the box in the corner to more modern screens. Following its hiring of Huffington Post UK’s editor-in-chief Stephen Hull as the new digital chief in March, ITV has announced the launch of three new digital-only news shows, presumably with the intention of broadening the reach of its international news brand as its non-National Advertising Revenue (NAR) shows healthy growthAn old CRT television

The three shows – ‘Now What?’, ‘Ask A Woman’, and ‘Young, British and Muslim’ – use existing talent from ITV’s news section, which, combined with Hull’s track record at Huffington Post UK and, and ITV’s traditionally high production values, should serve to allay fears that this is ITV doing digital video for the sake of it. Instead, in an interview with The Drum, Hull noted that the shows have the mandate to “show that digital media and publishing can be grown-up, articulate and thoughtful”.

The quality of the programming is all but guaranteed to be extremely high, then – though ITV’s decision to focus on building a product before it sells sponsorship might raise some eyebrows, even if, as Hull notes: “There are loads of carcasses on the digital publishing motorway of businesses who tried to sell something before they built it.”

Presumably ITV believes the shows will add to its digital proposition, which currently includes the ITV Hub and its premium subscription option, which removes the ads for those who choose to pay it. But the digital video space is ever more crowded, and 2018 will undoubtedly see more networks, brands and studios launch their own standalone subscription services, ramping up the competition for existing video-on-demand (VOD) services.

That explosion is expertly explained by Gady Epstein:

“Mr Landgraf, who coined the term “peak TV”, worries that at some point there will be too many streaming services, much as there are too many cable channels now. A great shakeout will follow and the tech giants will have the advantage. Netflix and Amazon have both deep pockets and a head start in streaming customers; the studios will struggle to play catch-up.”

For instance, while the younger age groups ITV is targeting with these news shows are more likely to pay for digital video… (more…)

Is the structure of your business holding you back?

Spot where the buck stops....

Not long ago I spoke to the CEO of a magazine publishing business, one which has been doing pretty well by the standards of the wider market. Its advertising and subscription revenues are holding up reasonably well, but growth has stalled. One reason for this is that the business is siloed by discipline, rather than by product range – so that the editors, salespeople and marketers all sit in different reporting lines, with minimal communication between them. The publishers, the people who might be expected to come up with new revenue streams – from events to online content marketing solutions – have responsibility for their revenue numbers but no direct control over their sales teams. As a result, they have fewer levers to pull and no way to put their plans into action. The result is a dearth of new ideas in the business, while the reporting lines make it difficult to attract the kind of talent who might be able to take the business forward.

Another example is a B2B publishing company with decades of success behind it. The organisation was, for many years, organised as a set of business units whose managers were incentivised purely on profit, rather than on revenue or other KPIs. For a long time, this worked. But it also disincentivised (more…)

The Time Inc sale threatens the primacy of brands

The dust won’t truly settle on the news that Time Inc. has been sold to Meredith Corp. for $1.85 billion in cash for some time yet, at least until we know what the owner of allrecipes and other lifestyle brands intends to do with Time Inc’s brands. The facts, as we know them, are that the deal will combine two radically different portfolios into a media giant capable of reaching, according to Meredith, a readership of 135 million with a paid circulation of nearly 60 million, as the culmination of a long-held desire from Meredith that saw failed bids earlier this year and in 2013.

In the meantime, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the acquisition, from what Meredith plans to leverage its expanded portfolio of brands to do to what it says about the state of the magazine industry.

For instance, can the Koch Brothers, who backed the deal to the tune of $650 million, really refrain from influencing the editorial and commercial direction of the new look Meredith Corp? The pair are known for their backwards views on climate change and workers’ rights, and some are worried that brands like Time, People and Fortune will be coloured by those beliefs. With just a hint of cynicism, tech reporter for the NYT Mike Isaac said:


koch brothers definitely bought in for a fifth of time inc in order to have no editorial control or input, i super believe this

@MikeIsaac November 27, 2017

Given all the talk lately about the power of media moguls – even if, as the speculation around 21st Century Fox suggests, that power is waning, it’s likely to be a concern for some time yet.

Another question is what Meredith intends to do with the brands (more…)

How publishers can wake from the digital dream

Is the digital dream over for publishers? This week news out of BuzzFeed, VICE and Mashable indicated that might be so, and the rhetoric from media analysts suggested a mass awakening for those who hoped digital advertising alone could be the basis for a media business.

Chart via WSJ

The Wall Street Journal reported that BuzzFeed – long the poster child for success in digital – would miss its projected $350 million revenue target for this year by up to 20 percent. At the same time it reported that VICE, frequently cited as an example of how to transition from print to a primarily-digital publisher – would likely miss its own revenue targets. Most significantly, Mashable sold to Ziff Davis for $50 million, far less than its 2016 valuation of $250 million.

That effectively puts paid to BuzzFeed’s long-rumoured 2018 IPO, even after the site opened the door to banner advertising in August of this year, a move designed to bolster its revenue generating potential as the native advertising space becomes more crowded and the domain of the brands themselves. It’s hardly the end of the world for BuzzFeed, as its revenue continues to grow, but all together that news represents a cooling of publishers’ ardour for digital advertising as a main revenue source.

MarketWatch Tech Editor Jeremy C Owens said: (more…)

More cures for fake news?

Chris Sutcliffe posted last week about the Truth Spectrum summit, and the various approaches media businesses can take to counter the tide and impact of “fake news.”

Now and Venn: how mis-, dis- and mal-information overlap

Coincidentally, Claire Wardle – who hates the term “fake news“, so I hope will accept my apologies for the title of this blog – last week published an exhaustive study on the phenomenon for the Council of Europe with Hossein Derakshan. Wardle instead prefers the terms “information pollution” or “information disorder” to describe the trend, arguing, among other things, that the term ‘fake news’ has now become corrupted by politicians who use it as a whip to beat legitimate but oppositional media. She also argues, persuasively, that the phrase tends to draw focus to text-based information, where there is equal or greater potential damage done by falsified or misleading images.

Wardle and Derakshan identify three types of information disorder: mis-information, dis-information, and mal-information (see diagram above). Of these, dis-information is the closest to what people mean when they discuss ‘fake news’ – the pernicious spreading of deliberately false information with the intention to harm. The document goes into forensic detail on a number of prime examples, and examines the life-cycle of the content – from creation to reproduction to distribution – and the motivations of people who create, spread and interpret the articles.

These elements are critical, because (more…)

How media businesses can fight the spread of fake news

It’s hard to believe that ‘fake news’ didn’t really exist as a term until a year ago. The accelerated pace of controversies and outrages that has driven the conversation around media bias has had such an impact that the term has now entered the Chambers dictionary.

In fact, it was only when politicians seized upon the term in November of last year that the term entered public consciousness with its current, woolly definition of ‘news that I don’t believe’. Prior to that, it was a specific if vague industry term referring to emotive misinformation created by scammers to game the algorithms that powered Facebook and Google to generate ad revenue.

Now though, the term is out there, for good or ill. A recent Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism report found that most people surveyed were at least aware of the term ‘fake news’ and its negative connotations. It also suggested that the term was able to enter the public lexicon so easily due to the ongoing trust issue people have in the mainstream media – and might in fact exacerbate it.

Speaking at The Truth Spectrum, an industry summit based solely around the ‘fake news’ problem, Quartz’s Global Finance and Economics Editor Jason Karaian said (more…)

Facebook Explore Feed: the opportunity for publishers

The race between Google and Facebook to see which can make itself least popular among content publishers has taken another turn, with Mark Zuckerberg’s company taking a decisive lead. Over the past week publishers in six countries – Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Serbia, Bolivia, Guatemala and Cambodia – have seen their traffic from Facebook fall by up to two thirds as a result of an ongoing test in how publisher content appears within the social network.

Publishers should Explore other platforms.

In an excellent Medium post flagging up the extent of the change Filip Struhárik, editor and social media manager for Slovakian publisher Dennik N, notes that (emphasis mine):

“In main newsfeeds are now just friend and sponsored posts. Yes, you log into Facebook and you can see only posts from your friends and ads. You have to click on Explore Feed to see posts from pages you follow. If you want your Facebook page posts to be seen in old newsfeed, you have to pay.”

A Facebook spokesperson has indicated (more…)

How chasing “hits” has failed publishers

Most digital media businesses are slaves to the ‘hit’ – the number of clicks on or views of a particular page.  And that’s a real shame, because the hit was never a great measure of success for an individual piece of content, and has only become less so as social distribution skews publishing priorities towards creating content designed to go ‘viral’.

How Idiots Track Success?

Worse still, as a result of a focus on the hit that has been around since the birth of the banner ad back in 1994, ads are  mostly sold on a CPM (click per thousand) basis. When you sell in thousands of impressions, all you care about is how many thousands you have. As a result, in some quarters, ‘hits’ has become a damning acronym for ‘How Idiots Track Success.’

The truth is, the hit is a blunt instrument for attracting advertisers. It’s like having a thousand people come to your wedding, but you don’t know any of them, they are unlikely to (more…)

Print magazines: a blueprint for success

Different products...

What do Slimming World magazine and Heavy Lift & Project Forwarding International have in common?

On the surface, not much: one is a lifestyle magazine packed full of mouth-watering recipes and inspirational stories about weight loss; the other is a niche B2B title serving the global heavy logistics industry. One is sold on the newsstand and sells 640,000 per edition; the other is a controlled circulation title with a distribution of 19,000.

But there are several key similarities which may surprise people. First, they are predominantly print-based products. Second, they are growing and profitable businesses. And third, yes, they are both clients of ours.

...same philosophy

The fourth – and main – thing they have in common, though, is that they are both central to their communities, and invest heavily in content to ensure that this remains the case. Both titles have an acute sense of what works for their audience – what they want, and how it should be delivered – and are prepared to do what it takes to deliver that mission. They serve their readers. As a result, the publications are an absolute must for advertisers in their sector.

While much of the media landscape looks like (more…)