Tag Archives: content

Content as Software

I recently worked on a large mobile project for the Volkskrant. The project contained mobile websites and numerous applications for different devices, including iPhone apps (iTunes link).

The Volkskrant on iPhone

Content as Software
I learned about the term content as software from Gerd Leonard. Not only does it sound very interesting, it’s also a very exiting development that follows from a series of events. A move from RSS, followed by widgets, API’s and standardization in platforms.

These new platforms like Adobe Air or the iPhone development platform make developing applications easier and accessible to a new and broader groups of developers.

On the other side software is being replaced by the – todays very powerful – browsers. Google is working hard to replace Microsoft Office functionality with Google Docs, and adding even more (web) functionality like working remotely together on documents.

A computer without internet connection is half the fun, or to most people useless. The computer as a communication device needs the web as much as it needs power. Todays software needs the web.

Should a media company make software?
Content as Software. Should media companies deliver content as software? We decided to with the Volkskrant iPhone application because we think an application gives a better user experience and is more effective on the iPhone platform compared to a mobile website. The New York Times released a desktop application based on Adobe Air. The content in the application isn’t unique, the presentation is.

A great advantage of distributing software for publishers is that it gives control to some extend. For example the Times Reader has free and subscription only articles in the same application. The “free” user experience is good, but they will try to persuade you to become a subscriber.

So, should a media company make software?
I don’t know. Just because we now can as easily develop software as we can develop websites doesn’t mean we should. From a pure logic perspective it doesn’t add much value to the content. It’s still the same content. From an emotional perspective it does add extra value to the experience, it’s a nice package. And that’s something you shouldn’t underestimate. An application is also more persistent, it’s always there on your startup screen, desktop or in your dock.

The best thing with content as software is to just try it. Like you would try with a website. Release soon and often. Todays software is like the web.

The Volkskrant on iPhone
Screenshots of the Volkskrant iPhone news application

Times Reader
Screenshot of Times Reader Desktop application

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Four fallacies about monetizing news online

The off- and online news markets around the world are under pressure. Newsmedia and press agencies feel the urge to find money, fast. As a result news companies are looking at alternatives to make more online revenues.

Although the money is needed the solutions aren’t always solutions. Ideas I’ve heard so far.
1. Find a model to pay for referral (for example charge Google)
2. Fight copyright infringement more actively (or pay for linking/embedding)
3. Charge your customers
4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.

These are all fallacies and in my opinion, and easy to deconstruct.

1. Pay for referral (for example charge Google)
Google directs a big portion of the online traffic. Probably not forever, but they are controlling it right now. Their business is to help people from point a to b without noise. This is key to Google. If they add noise or become less relevant a competitor will eventually take over their position.

There is no reason to pay. I think Google is good for almost 30/50% of the traffic to newspaper websites. And even more to some sections. News websites benefit from Google traffic.

If Google wants to be #1 the news provider, they can buy or create a press agency. Google is probably one of the few companies that can generate enough traffic to support the total costs of a press agency with online advertising.

A while ago I argued that online news is a freelance job in a network instead of a job in a company. You might like to read it, it relates to this subject.

Unlike paper hierarchy is less important online. Personal relevancy is much more important. For example. I read a few articles on the website of the New York Times almost every day. I almost never use the navigation or start at the homepage. I’m referred to the articles from blogs, search engines and social networks like Times People and Facebook. I love the NY Times. I don’t really care about the homepage or navigation structure.

Newsmedia should find hierarchy in design on the front-end for a large group of users. In the background they should put online as much information (enriched with metadata) as possible. New relevancy is not in owning the information. It is in what you can do with it. The web has no destinations, only stops.

2. Fight copyright infringement
Sure, people should respect fair use. And companies that aggregate and resell your complete data set should be stopped. This isn’t the biggest problem. Those companies that are mass copying your content are easier to find. The smaller infringements are readers with blogs, the long tail. Those readers are your fans. Just let them friendly know that what they do is not fair use, and suggest what they should do. They often don’t even realize what they are doing and if you just tell them you’re making friends (readers) for life.

3. Charge your customers
You have to make sure your content is worth it. What makes the thing you make more valuable compared to what your competitors do for free? People trust the brand and are willing to pay for derivations on the web. They might not want to pay for the things you offer on a daily base. Your brand or community creates value and this is value you can monetize. The brand of a newspaper is trust and openness. Find things that are close to your brand and with this you can make money. For example Nike is about the running experience. And they sell a lot of stuff around this experience, including shoes. If your newspaper is good in certain subjects, for example healthcare. Why not start a health insurance, the web makes it easy to do so. Or start a bank. The banking business could use some trust. Make sure the things you do live up to your brand standards.

Is this still transparent journalism? I think it can be, I don’t know. As long as you give access to all the numbers and all of your information, if you make yourself controllable. If you create a community and if you keep close to your brand it can be very transparent. In the long run your brand is about the truth and transparency. You can only benefit if you will always respect this.

4. Find some way to keep exclusive content exclusive.
You can’t. The web is for sharing. The only thing to keep something exclusive is to charge people for it. That’s why there is no real online business model for mass information, like news. The news will get out anyway, because people will tell it and someone will amplify the story or make a summary.

There is something the web is very good in and that’s in creating communities. Newsmedia should realize that you shouldn’t do research on your own attic. Share the information. Create a process instead of creating a moment. In a live storytelling environment the process is much more relevant and interesting. It also generates authority and creates an expert role. In a process the product (or publication moment) is less important. It’s about what’s going on. Share data with your readers and setup communities to discuss and analyze.

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How Last.fm distributes your favorite MP3s, to you, for free

Last.fm Recommendation Podcasts
Recently the Last.fm website had a redesign. With video and images more prominent presented they made the website look more visual appealing to first time visitors. More focus on music and a little less focus on people.

Personalized Podcast
I’m not sure if the personalized podcast page was already available on the website before the redesign. I have never seen it before. What is great about this option is that you can subscribe to a stream of free MP3s that will be automatically delivered to your computer through the podcast-distribution-model (xml with enclosures).

A Long Tail with free things and high quality service
Last.fm delivers you the music you might like based on your personal profile, and it delivers the files for free. The music delivered might be from your favorite artists or from artists you have never heard of. This is how you are able to get to know new music that is very likely to be interesting to you.

For artists the group their music is send to is a smaller group, but this group is more likely to like or love the music, and thus distributing free content this way is more cost effective.

For me this podcast is an example how you can add more value to the content through smart distribution. You discover something new, and there is less noise in discovering it.

Mujuice, electronic music from Russia
In my recommended downloads there are a few tracks by Mujuice. I don’t know Mujuice, but if I like the tracks (I probably do, since it is a recommendation) I might search for more, buy MP3s or visit their next, or first performance in the Netherlands.

For the band there probably isn’t any direct business or value, there is only the start of something new by giving something away for free, a new connection or customer relation. And as you might know, all you need are a thousand true fans.

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