To Michael Wolff – I’m Rubber You’re Glue

This is in response to Michael’s Newser response to my blog on selling content online

MIchael,
I think we agree more than we disagree. let me address some specifics.
1. Respect the fact that Im fat
2. I do have friends.  I didnt realize we were boys, but anytime you want to hang, just holler.. I obviously need as many friends as I can get.
3. Im arrogant and I think that Im smarter than everyone else. Except for my daughters.

As i said in my post, I agree that news has always been free and it always will be. Other than the WSJ, there is no chance of charging per website, article or at all.  Nor do i think the current and traditional model of ad supported will work either.
If selling ads wasnt an issue, we wouldnt be having this discussion.   Old media and new would all be happy.
But it is. Which is why  you have so many  ads per page of Newser. Thats the reality of today.
Its also an outdated model, whether its used by print, tv or the web.

That is where we disagree. I think the summary and aggregation sites, supported by ad sales is already an old, outdated model. Sorry.

My post wasnt about charging for news. It was about getting consumers to pay for content. IMHO, your model still uses the old silo model. This is news. If you want news, you come here. To a news site.
My model is that companies should inventory all the assets they have and try to find optimal ways to deliver those assets in a way that is profitable to the company and of value to the consumer.  In an era where the marginal cost of delivery of digital assets, and many cases physical assets are falling, why not package those assets in a manner that consumers want to buy ?
I gave the example where Newscorp could leverage all their content and deliver it in a profitable way. Which I think could work. I also said it would be a challenge for newscorp (which i know you understand far better than me) to break the old divisional P&L mindset to package cross corporate assets into a marketable package.

Which leads us to the part where i become arrogant.

I try to find solutions to problems that arent necessarily easy, but that I think are better. Even when people think the thought makes be a big fat idiot. I was a big fat idiot when I got lucky and started HDNet when no one thought HDTVs would be mainstream. When we changed up film windows with Magnolia, 2929 and Landmark Theatres, premiering movies for pay, 3 weeks prior to their theatrical release it was criticized by many.  (btw, all but 2929 are profitable). In the 1990s trying to convince people that the net was going to be ubiquitous was somewhat of a challenge, particularly for audio and video.  Being a big, fat idiot has gotten me lucky many times.

Today tweaking websites, as you have done with Newser,  is not transitional. The internet is a utility and websites will be updated and tweaked forevermore.  When it comes to news and its presentation, there isnt a whole lot that can’t be copied from one site to another. I promise you that if the NY Times wanted to buy a cool URL and create a Newser Knockoff, they could. Easily. But it would be moving deckchairs on the Titanic. A waste of time. Its not the format of news sites that is the problem.

In this era of social networks, content companies/media conglomerates  need to develop new business models that create business relationships between their  companies and consumers.

I may read Newser, but i dont do business with newser. If some company out there entices me into a relationship with them that i consider valuable enough to pay for, and that company happens to bundle in a news source that i think is even close to newser, or maybe they are even smart enough to knock of Newser, Im going to use the resource I pay for more than those I dont.

Because I have a financial relationship with them, Im going to be more likely to interact more openly with them, and Im going to expect them to customize their offerings to me. They need to continue to earn my business.

Some think this is out of the realm of big media. That they dont get it. The arrogant part of me says the “internet people” dont get it.

IMHO, the future of paid content and probably even beyond content is in direct relationships with corporations. Why now ? Because people are now trained to indentify themselves and share information about who they are and what they want. There is nothing to stop that from happening directly with  content and companies. They are allowed to use Facebook Connect too.

Companies now are also able to handle the backend technology. The prices of handling mass amounts s of data whether in house or in a cloud, has fallen off a cliff. So its feasible for corporations to maintain  direct relationships w millions of people.
Let me gve you one new example. On Amazon I subscribe to my favorite cereal. I get a couple boxes every month. In exchange for my commitment I get a discount. There is no reason why this “subscription” cant happen directly with the company and fulfilled either by amazon or by the company. Its the model Amazon already uses with 3rd party vendors.  If you give me the right deal, I will subscribe to soap, toilet paper, even Newscorp’s News Junkie program that I suggested.  Its easy, it saves me money and it gives me a direct connection to the company.
I dont think this is easy for all companies to conceptualize and implement, but so what ?  That doesnt mean its not the right thing for them to do. Someone will come along and do it.  IMHO, the biggest opportunities today arent in using the internet to dis-intermediate big  companies. The biggest opportunity out there is for big companies to leverage their assets to re-intermediate their customers and develop direct relationships with them.

Proctor & Gamble are you listening ? Give me a nice discount for committing to your products and have them show up on my door as scheduled and I will make an annual commitment to your products. I will let you ding my credit card monthly.  And give you feedback. Give me a bigger discount and I will let you show my public Facebook Profile as a customer. Do we have a deal ?

27 thoughts on “To Michael Wolff – I’m Rubber You’re Glue

  1. Pingback: To Michael Wolff – I’m Rubber You’re Glue | Ethiopian News

  2. I feel kinda bad pointing these out, but a lot of energy is being spent on a site that probably will not be around too much longer. Sorry Michael.

    1) Newser has no less than 5 ads per page, and most are being provided by 3rd party networks including ad exchanges (networks like Interclick) which means he is likely averaging .15 CPM. And means he is not selling too many direct ad campaigns.

    2) Aggregators like Newser have few returning visitors and a high bounce rate. The traffic is coming from search engines due to the sheer volume of posts (it’s easy to do when you are copying others content etc). Newser also gets a lot of their traffic by purchasing it: http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/08/why-did-newsers-traffic-fall-off-a-cliff/

    So once you remove the purchased traffic, and the search engine traffic, I have to wonder whether anyone is actually intentionally going there or not??

    This is a fake site, with fake content, fake traffic and no real value.

    The true power of content providers is that they get real visitors. The problem is that marketers have traditiionaly had a hard time distiguishing between the fake sites and the content providers; but this is changing.

    Keep in mind that Thrillist.com is expected to do $10mm this year in sales off of 1mm list subscribers. Why? Because these are people that have opted in deliberately. Thrillist does not buy lists or add people on their own. Quality is prevailing in this case. Big media will educate marketers and the aggregators will eventually die off. There is a reason no one will buy Digg.com – there is no value, just like newser.com.

    Comment by ianbell330 -

  3. Pingback: Paid Content, Paywalls, Aggregation and Mark Cuban's Waistline | Sips from the Firehose

  4. Espn.com has been charging for premium content for years with ESPN Insider. It is very easy to understand the difference between “the news” and premium content. I can read about the Lakers beating the Magic winning the championship anywhere. I cannot get in depth scouting on how each team played the previous game and how they predict each coach will change their game plan going forward from an aggregate blog. If I don’t care about scouting and game plans, I don’t have to pay for it, but I still get the news for free. Simple concept. Why is this even a topic for discussion? Newser is flat out WRONG.

    Comment by dbreezee -

  5. Espn.com has been charging for premium content for years with ESPN Insider. It is very easy to understand the difference between “the news” and premium content. I can read about the Lakers beating the Magic winning the championship anywhere. I cannot get in depth scouting on how each team played the previous game and how they predict each coach will change their game plan going forward from an aggregate blog. If I don’t care about scouting and game plans, I don’t have to pay for it, but I still get the news for free. Simple concept. Why is this even a topic for discussion? Newser is flat our WRONG.

    Comment by dbreezee -

  6. Hey Mark, What do you think about what Al Neuharth has to say about “All the news that’s fit to buy”? http://twurl.nl/s48x5k

    From MC> Read the link. Dont agree. All the things you mention are features. Not products. In this day and age, adding features is easy to do and easy to copy. When its easy to copy, people are going to stop paying for it as soon as someone else offers it for free

    Comment by comradity -

  7. As I said in my comment on the previous post, love your advice for Myspace.

    But on news — you’re way off! First of all, why bundle? Bundling is inefficient. Why should I have extra stuff I don’t want shoved in my face? Why should I be locked in to one source of news? Why should content creators see their work mis-allocated to people who aren’t interested?

    Instead of increasing inefficiency by bundling, you can increase efficiency by un-bundling, and smartly targeting. Give me good specific recommendations (a la Amazon & Netflix) that I can trust, and I will be willing to pay per article for news. It would be one-click, I could continue to read from a variety of sources, and I’d keep a running tab with a trusted third-party payment provider. Even with $0.01/article, a big site like nytimes.com could gross $100M/year.

    Yes micro-payments, that’s the big opportunity, IMHO. It would take a gigantic effort and that’s where big media companies should be throwing their weight now, not trying to turn back the clock to closed networks with captive audiences.

    Do you really think that in 2009 people would accept to get all their news in a bundle from one corporation like Mr. Murdoch’s News Corp? What you suggest may work for Procter & Gamble, but news is not like shampoo. Maybe it was in the mid-20th century, but now the Internet has been in homes for 15 years. It’s widely understood that having dozens or hundreds of news sources at your fingertips is an enormous public good! If Internet news became an oligopoly of conglomerates offering closed subscription services, that would be a tragedy! I hope the majority of news will be sustainably supported by ads and/or micro-payments, so that average people can still get news from 15 different sources if they are so inclined.

    Comment by Nemo Semret -

  8. Pingback: Commitment Models « Redmarketer

  9. Hey Mark, invest in this! (I’ll help) —

    How to charge for your content in five easy steps:

    Take a page from Hulu’s book. Hulu proved that on the internet, where people generally prefer “indie” content providers, the audience is willing to overlook your Big Brand Name if you give them a convenient and effective delivery system. And yes, it has to be (kinda) free. So…

    1. Start your own Newser/HuffPost. Get the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal together (hey, NewsCorp and GE did it…), and create your own aggregator. Provide article summaries linking back to your actual sites just like the other guys do, and split the ad revenue, with up to 80% going back to the source content (20% for upkeep of the aggregation site). This way you double your money — ad revenue from the aggregator, ad/subscription revenue from your own site.

    2. Get as many papers/sites as you can to join, and give them the same cut of the ad revenue from their pages that the big boys get, no matter how small they are. This would be a giant boon to the small-time paper industry.

    3. Establish an independent editorial staff for the site, so that no one plays favorites and only the best stories get front-paged, regardless of source.

    4. Create “Premium” services. Let people join your social network. Let them “create their own [sitename]” customized to their interests. Let them get updates in their inbox every morning. Hell, let them open their own blog/aggregator page, hosted by your site. Just charge them for it.

    Deal not sweet enough? Throw up a pay wall on your papers’ sites, and add a free subscription to a participant site of their choosing along with a premium account on the agg site.

    5. Become exclusive with this hip, new site and sue the other aggregators when they try to serve your content as their own. Lawsuits too much of a buzzkill? Install the aforementioned paywall and make it as hard as possible for anyone but the “industry certified” agg site to summarize your stories.

    6. Profit!!

    Comment by markcaseyonline -

  10. Mark, you know what you’re doing. You’re successful and have a solid track record, so leaving a comment on your site is only to tell you to keep on doing what you think is best.

    Comment by Mike Drips -

  11. Your ideas are good ones… have you seen the new demos for

    http://www.summitmediagroupllc.com/

    They pretty much implement what your talking about down to a dime.

    Comment by Sean Thayne -

  12. Ok. So both Cuban and Wolff are full of themselves. But after all, we aren’t paying for their point of views so as long as they offer them for free – who cares. And as @pricing recently pointed out – (and I paraphrase) pricing strategy reflects confidence in the value of your product relative to the competition.

    I disagree with both Cuban and Wolff, as I commented on Wolff’s site (but it will probably not be posted since he hasn’t posted any of my other comments in which I disagreed with him on “free”): Aggregation is worth paying for when value is added. For example, analyzing all sides of the issue, or, posting and responding to comments from both sides of the issue. When aggregation is biased and comments filtered to reflect only those that support one point of view, aggregators like newser.com add no value. But you get what you pay for.

    Comment by comradity -

  13. Mark,

    My favorite part about your response to Mr. Wolff is that you and he are unconciously having THE conversation. The one that news aggregators, fighting for the freedom of information, and the content kings, who want to rightfully charge for what they’ve created, NEED TO HAVE. Without conversation, the talk goes in circles and no one wins. I’m not one for “drama” if you will, but if an evolutionary solution comes of it, no matter how painful (not that either of you care enough to take it personally), I’m all for it.

    Mr. Wolff…your rebuttal?

    Comment by adamjmiller -

  14. OT: I’m tired of hearing people trivialize the fortune. Do they trivialize Bill Gates’s fortune? No. And what did he do? Start one company with the blessing of his mother? Was MicroSolutions lucky? Broadcast.com was luck, too? Dallas Mavericks? If you start one successful company it is luck, but if you keep building fortunes it is more than luck.

    Comment by dmbul -

  15. Bingo! (and I don’t mean Bing!) what’s needed is a simple user-centric tool that will enable publishers to ask for some kind of payment (traditional or alternative) and let users choose from among “many ways to pay.” That is, what’s needed is PayCheckr.com.

    Comment by ahoving -

  16. Pingback: The Intersection « Recalibrate

  17. In response:
    To me that’s like asking, “how in the world can you expect U2 to produce music that’s so unique, you can’t get it from any other band??”
    That’s the kicker. Is it unique? Not necessarily. Maybe it was back in 1983. Today its as homogenized as anything we hear on the radio. But U2 has a stable brand. People will buy their albums because…they’re U2. Loverboy was just as big in 1983. Today I imagine they’re not selling as many MP3s as U2. *cough*

    If you’re talking about 0-day news/opinion content there are relatively unique outlets. Huffington Post and Fox News are two good examples. If you like Fox News – odds are good you LOVE Fox News. If you read the Huffington Report or DailyKos you’re more likely to pay for that content because its been narrowed and strealined for your viewing pleasure. That’s the problem with most media outlets. They try and please everyone all the time. It just doesn’t work. Too many people offering the same pupu platter of easily digested blech. There’s no valuation table because supply FAR exceeds demand. Take a look at the housing market. Too many homes built. Not enough buyers. You could take a bulldozer to 1/2 of AZ, CA and NV and solve the recession in 4 days. Same thing on the web. With 100 million blogs and websites to choose from, you’re not paying for content unless you can’t find it elsewhere. I can count on 2 hands (that’s 8 fingers) the sites that qualify. IMHO.

    Comment by tommyzib -

  18. Mark,

    Its amazing how many people miss the simple fact that the internet is just another channel for distribution. Why should we treat it any different than television, radio, or movies?

    People have always been willing to pay for content. The problem is that there are not a lot of people who have been able to sell the value of their content online yet.

    There are always people who say this is how its been done, or this is what I’m used to. These people aren’t the ones who ever come up with a game changing business model. While it may be difficult to build a charged content model on the internet whomever hits it first will definitely enjoy one heck of a first mover advantage.

    Comment by nickfrommgmtnow -

  19. I think you have been too generous with the word “aggregator” in both responding to Wolff and in your first post. What Wolff and HuffPo and others lean towards is not aggregation… it’s theft. Unlike what Wolff argues, that people don’t want news, the truth in my experience is that people want the option of a short version of information gathering and then, in a small percentage of cases, click for more. Newser is stealing that first option from the originator of the news (an odd conceit itself) and keeping it for their own ad-selling purposes.

    I think that is the line that news producers should be serious about. That is where the abuse is taking place. Aside from that, linkage is a very valuable commodity, even if it leads to some walled situation. In the case on my business, Movie City News, we pretty much single-handedly built film industry profile for The Guardian – a great paper – that almost no one read before we discovered how good their coverage is and linked it daily. We were surely never part of their business model. But in one small industry, thousands of miles away, we infected thousands of readers and scores of media outlets with an interest in their work.

    But your issue with how little links are worth is a real issue. Ads on the web are just not highly enough priced for them to support a grown-up news organization. And I have no idea how they ever will be.

    For a site like mine, quality aggregation is a form of original content and is valued as such. We do not repurpose the hard and expensive work of others as our own content. We do headlines and if you want anything more than that, it is up to you to click through.

    Ironically, Wolff does a pretty good job of straight aggregation. But before you even get to cutting off the links, if copyright owners simply enforced copyright and didn’t allow “Newser Summarys,” his site would probably lose 80% of its page views overnight. HuffPo would lose at least that. And others, who are even worse about claiming “staff” as having created the news when they just stole it elsewhere, often uncredited… well, they would all be unable to stay in business.

    Then we can see who is willing to support WolffBlog, since that is most of what would be left. And truth is, he could probably do $100k a year, at least, on his own steam. But building a business and being a really cool boss of a staff of dozens, that aspires to millions a year in revenue by, mostly, lifting the works of others… not so much.

    Comment by davidpoland -

  20. Mark,

    You should check out Ebyline…

    This will keep people like wolf grounded and bring him back to the real world. Original content is the play, not re-writers.

    Check your email for EBL info.

    Comment by afrobillito -

  21. Mark you are far from an idiot, that guy pisses me off and he obviously doesn’t get the bigger picture of what you’re discussing. I get it and value your thoughts on the matter. Since when does offering up ideas for discussion get you labeled as a “big fat idiot”. And by the way, last time I checked you’re a multi-billionaire who offers useful information to budding entrepreneurs and people trying to better themselves. Mr. Wolfe is some columnist who paid $500 to outsource and create yet another content aggregation website… he is clearly not in a position to be offering such criticism IMHO.

    Comment by uwskiguy -

  22. Mark
    I think you are dead on in terms of your thinking. That is exactly what Alice.com attempts to do where manufacturers sell direct to the consumer and reward them based the actual knowledge of what they purchase…all with free shipping to boot

    Comment by btwiegand -

  23. interesting thoughts here Mark.

    IMHO = In My Humble Opinion

    Comment by Matthew Ho -

  24. Regarding the direct relationship with P&G for household products and food. A start up company is trying that: Alice.com Premium brands are watching retail outlets pinch them out of the relationship with store brands that are no longer sold on price only. It is an interesting topic. I recently noticed 7-11 is providing premium placement for their new brand of chips versus Frito Lay brands.

    I would like to see online business plans mature to the point that advertising is always expected to write the check.

    Comment by blazestreaming -

  25. to the dude above me:

    how are these sites supposed to create “content so unique I can’t find it anywhere else” if they don’t make any money? im sure they can hire rookie writers for free but they won’t get as much play as the sport’s guys column. and also–shame on you if you can save 100 dollars a month but you are “too lazy playing your guitar” to do so–thats not laziness, that’s pathetic.

    interesting post Mark–I would love to see all premium sites start charging for content personally. However, I am sure I am in the minority. You get what you pay for in this world and news shouldn’t be free if it is quality. Haven’t we seen the quality of our news decrease significantly only to see the quantity increase rapidly? Id much rather pay for intelligent reporting, and if they throw the icing on top with other goodies then alright.

    I just worry about the fraud. Mark–what about is I just go to Murdoch’s site and copy and paste all the articles to my site and charge half? And so on and so on? The marginal cost is basically zero dollars and a few minutes of your time.

    and what does IMHO stand for???

    Comment by tm340203 -

  26. Don’t underestimate the differences between a billionare and someone who lives paycheck to paycheck. Seems self evident, I know, but maybe not in the ways we’d initially suppose.

    Most of us don’t want P&G debitting our cards each month, even if it saves us $10 a month on goods. Not even if I’m doing the same thing with 10 different essentials producers and saving $100 a month. Not because it’s not a good deal. It probably is. And not because it’s too risky, in terms of whether or not I truly get my money’s worth. No, most won’t do it because we’re too lazy. There, I said it. A key difference between a billionare and someone who’s..well…NOT a billionare, is that most of us who are not are, to whatever degree, not as fanatical/engaged/devoted to saving/making/investing money. We’re drifting through life much more casually. Make things easy for us and we’re happy. Do I miss out on savings? Sure. More time to play the guitar? In the short term, that’s the goal.

    The case in point, I now frequent ESPN.com far less because they want me to pay for content. I like their writers better. And if the Sports Guy is put on pay-for I’ll either curse or curse AND possibly cough up the cash. In the mean time, I’ll just spend more hours on cnnsi and foxsports. IMO, the smart sites aren’t those that figure out a way to monetize their products. No, the smart sites are the ones that produce content so unique I can’t find it anywhere else. WSJ is the example that works. CNN? Nope.

    Comment by tommyzib -

  27. “I try to find solutions to problems that aren’t necessarily easy”

    Some people just dont understand that innovation is what makes people successful and great. Not arrogance or luck or being fat (even though they cant hurt).

    If it is an easy to vision solution and easy to implement then someone has already beat you to it.

    I think you had the right idea awhile back about companies storing your payment information for easy one click purchases. Amazon owns me with this and my bookcases are loaded with stuff I will probably never get to. Small, incremental, quick, easy purchases. I am not sure how this could exactly fit into an option for media conglomerates but if the direct relationship is there, the trust is built, then the rest could fall into place.

    Comment by jkayser486 -

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