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Press Mentions

  • Ad Age/Nat Ives: It's Back: 25 MORE Media People You Should Follow on Twitter
    25 media types worth following on Twitter.
  • Ad Age: Why So Many Media Companies Stumble Globally
    The few news brands that have succeeded, to greater or lesser degrees, arguably include CNN, Bloomberg, People, Thomson Reuters, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Financial Times and The Economist. Other contenders are the Associated Press, the BBC, ABC, NBC, maybe CBS, National Public Radio, News Corp. and the top U.K. dailies, said Ken Doctor, the newspaper veteran who's now an analyst at Outsell. "If a news-media organization sees itself as covering the wider world, sees it as its foundation, that in and of itself differentiates it from all the local media -- newspapers, TV, radio -- out there," he said. "If, in addition, it has substantial reporting and editing resources, then it can play. The tough part is the part we're in: Who wins the race to ubiquity and can make it pay off?"
  • NYT: If The Globe Were Sold, What Price?
    “The best guesstimate of the real price: a buck. The best of an announced price: between $50 and $100 million,” he wrote in an e-mail message. The devil will be in the details of the obligations that a buyer would assume, he said, adding that “a buck essentially represents a gentleman’s agreement: I take a liability, headache and a distraction off your hands.” He said that the Times Company could hang on to some pension liabilities or other obligations in exchange for a higher purchase price, a number that would give the appearance that it was getting something for the more than $1 billion it paid 16 years ago. He added that no bank would be interested in financing a deal given how other deals have blown up, so “the owner’s own money is immediately at risk.”
  • Economist: It isn’t just newspapers: much of the established news industry is being blown away. Yet news is thriving
    Ken Doctor of Outsell, a research firm, reckons that the Kindle appeals to baby-boomers who would otherwise read a paper magazine or newspaper. The young prefer their iPhones and their aggregators. Indeed, the top four magazines on Kindle, according to Amazon’s website, are the New Yorker, Newsweek, Time and Reader’s Digest. Not much of a youth market there.
  • Forbes: San Diego News Shoot-Out
    "The Union-Tribune is cratering. That opens a hole in the market and the opportunity for some unconventional business models."
  • Journal Sentinel faces daunting choices
    “There’s no strategy – this is panic. What we’re likely to see this year (around the country) and what we’ll see in Milwaukee too is (publishers asking) how much they need to cut back and how much they can do to still hold their place in the market. For publishers, it’s about ‘How do we stay alive and stay profitable until we can get to some sort of breathing period?’ (Economic) recovery will not bring back their old business, but it will give them some breathing room.”
  • AP: Threat to shut Boston Globe shows no paper is saf
    The threat to close the paper "sends a very clear message to all employees and unions of surviving newspapers — that this is not business as usual. This is uncharted territory....Newspapers all "have a sword over their heads," said Doctor. If the industry wants to survive, he said, "everyone has to give some blood."
  • Guardian: Seattle mourns the last day of its venerable Post Intelligencer
    "There's a lot less reporting happening, on a national scale. For the 1,500 or so daily newspapers, it's just a matter of getting smaller and smaller."
  • Seattle Times: Seattle's oldest newspaper goes to press for the final time
    "They're bringing the full force of their national relationships and content to bear on Seattle. They [Hearst] could sustain this experiment indefinitely. If it makes a million or loses a million, that's nothing to a company like Hearst."
  • AP: Hearst hopes Web-only Seattle P-I will turn profit
    "It [online-only PI] definitely can make money. They have a head start in terms of the brand and (Web) traffic. They have to run like hell to create a new identity."

What's On My Netvibes

  • Steve Goldstein
    Fellow KR alumnus Steve Goldstein understands the research/info needs of end-use enterprise customers, and he's built a company that is helping satisfy them.
  • Peter Krasilovsky
    Centered on e-commerce of all kinds from Yellow Pages through classifieds and new ad models.
  • Mark Potts
    Mark Potts is an experienced journalist, observer of Internet journalism and an alumnus of the Backfence experiment.
  • John Blossom
    Thoughtful views on a wide-ranging mix of media change.
  • Jay Rosen
    Jay Rosen is a provocateur in the best sense, an NYU journalism professor deeply committed to keeping the press accountable and vibrant in the digital age.
  • David Meerman Scott
    David Scott understands web marketing of digital content. Check out his site and his new book, "Cashing In With Content"
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« Presstime: Don’t Stop the Presses! | Main | "Fair Share": Google, Trust, Anti-Trust....and What Happens Next »

April 08, 2009


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Frank Strong

I don't agree with the argument in this blog post either. Google is nothing more than a modern day newspaper delivery person. For as long as I can remember, I've always tipped the delivery person at Christmas as opposed the newspaper publisher. You're argument here strikes me as the newspaper publisher asking the delivery person for a percentage of their tip because through their own intelligence or diligence, they've discovered a way to deliver many more papers and have therefore made the tips far more profitable.

As I wrote in my own blog, newspapers need Google more than Google needs newspapers. Take for example the Boston Globe. When a headline from the Boston Globe winds up in Google News, it's projected from a finite metropolitan market to a national -- or even world-wide audience of readers. Google is actually doing the major daily city papers a favor. After all, when was the last time a reader in Washington, DC picked up the latest copy of the Boston Globe?

Newspapers do provide value: the talented, professional and experienced journalists writing fact-based and informative articles. People will in fact pay for that value and there are examples, like The Economist or The Wall Street Journal.

Change maybe hard, but newspapers need to rethink their target market. When Google serves up a page from a major daily, that publication need to it capture that reader -- and transform them into a regular patron. RSS feeds would be one way, but online versions of newspapers have been slow to adopt interactive technologies including search, polling, useful job listings and social media.

Josh Young

Ken, I think your post is seriously flawed.

Your first bullet point, in which you claim, "dollars formerly spent on newspaper ads are now spent on Google ads," is just misleading. Very few advertising dollars are going to Google News--and wouldn't even if Google News had always sported ads. Vanilla search, however, is just a better advertising solution and has little to do with news aggregation. Craigslist offers another example of a service that simple gets the job done more efficiently. We didn't ask that Henry Ford share profits with horse traders.

I won't rehearse your second bullet point, because it's ably covered by Scott Rosenberg's (1) above. Suffice it to say that I can easily see why Google decided to monetize Google News--but not because of the out-of-sorts numbers you provide. Also, for what it's worth, Google's advertising monetizes clicks, not uniques or time spent.

Your third point, in which you write, "20% of the referring pages to Google Search or Maps or Video come from News," is mostly just odd. Google News links only to third-party sites. The only time a user goes from Google News to another Google property is by clicking "Search the Web" via the search box at the top of the page. I've got no more hard evidence than you have (none), but my guess is that the correct percentage is very much closer to zero.

Your fourth point is just incorrect. You claim that "Two-thirds of Google's revenue now derive from Google-owned sites; less than a third from its partners. Not more than several years ago, those numbers were reversed." Now, while it's true that Google-owned sites are increasingly responsible for its revenue, they were responsible for more than half its revenue in 2004, the earliest year I found among the numbers in investor pages you link to. AdSense was only born in the summer of 2003. Also, what really do you mean by "The we're-not-a-destination portal has become a portal"? A portal has become a portal? Huh?

Your fifth point is also, at best, misleading. Basically, it's just strange and tendentious. Like many misleading points, however, it is narrowly true. Yes, "Google's cost of sales is remarkably low." And, yes, that's because it doesn't pay the makers of websites for the privilege of indexing them. You know what, though? Most websites would pay google to for more pagerank. In fact, that's that exactly what the SEO industry represents: people paying to end up in organic search returns.

I'm no google fanboy. In fact, I have serious problems with its lack of transparency around these very issues. I have serious problems with the the secrecy around pagerank. I have problems with how google drives news sites to flatten their content and overall user experience in order to earn pagerank.

I happen to be at least mildly sympathetic to your observation that "mere snippets...have had unintended consequences, enabling huge businesses and depriving oxygen from those who create the raw material from which snippets are harvested." But, no, I cannot conclude that from adding up all your points.

You do no favors to those of us with thoughtful critiques of google by putting on offer either confusing or specious arguments.

Steve Outing

Ken: Please see my latest blog post, "Google could come to the rescue, but won’t?" and especially the ensuing comment thread discussion.

I'd like to hear your perspective. Google could help all news producers, new and old, big and small, but it has to serve Google's shareholders. What I suggested does. What say you?

(And if Google hasn't pondered what I suggested on my blog already, I'd be astounded beyond belief. What's your take on why Schmidt claims Google doesn't know how to help the declining news business, yet it's in his and his shareholders' interest to do so?)


Steve: Steve: Great post. Let me focus on your point #1, opening up Google News to full-bore advertising. I agree on that basic principle, as long as the ad payout system is fair and fairly transparent. You're right; the ads so far on Google News are a half-step. The reluctance to further inflame publishers -- sometimes inflamed (Monday); sometimes quiescent (Tuesday after Schmidt's talk) -- results in non-solutions. As AP is trying to convince newspaper CEOs, they are becoming suppliers of content and need to think of themselves that way. Once you cross that line of thinking, that of course you want your buyer to monetize the hell out of your content...and pay you appropriately. As to why Google hasn't moved on it: one of many priority choices. Ken

Carmen Gonzalez

I would easily support an extra $10 in my cable bill or even on my water or electric bill because I think supporting the investigative reporting prowess of newspapers is exactly what a democracy needs to remain healthy and vibrant. I prefer having people contribute to this endeavor rather than skimming off Google so folks see how their investment reaps real info that helps them understand the society they live in.

Tim McGuire

This is a breath of fresh air. The concept of fair share is brilliant. Ken has removed a lot of the emotion from this debate with a reasoned, insightful analysis. Thank you.

Danny Sullivan

Let's be clear. Newspapers get traffic from being in Google News and the completely separate Google Web Search index. So if Google News closed entirely, a good chunk of traffic would still flow to them from Google Web Search -- which lists many, many other non-news sites, as well.

Given this, how do you propose that Google "fairly" share its wealth with all these sites? Some of these sites get 70% or more of their traffic from Google. Do they get a slice of Google's profits, too? And make no mistake, if they weren't in the Google index, it would be a less useful service just as much as if news sites weren't in it.

Newspapers cite other web sites all the time. They are notorious for never or rarely linking to them. Shouldn't newspapers be sharing their wealth with the people they report upon or the sites they draw upon for some of their core content? Why is it fair use -- meaning no compensation to those they report on -- but not fair use if others point at news sources?

I'd love to see the conversation move on into a more productive area. But as long as newspapers seem to think just being listed with a link and a short summary to their stories is somehow requiring a licensing agreement, I think the conversation remains stuck in the early 90s.

Scott Rosenberg

(1) I have no inside information but I'd guess that the notion that Google News is responsible for referring 20 percent of the rest of Google's traffic is off by an order of 10 or so. Google is increasingly such a functional interface for so much on the Web that the news site is just not that huge a piece of it. And the most valuable, revenue-generating searches aren't the ones related to news events.

(2) More importantly: it seems that you feel Schmidt's advice that publishers take a long, customer-oriented view is ill-timed given the straits the industry finds itself in. Yet back when the monopolies were raking in the massive profits you mention, they wouldn't take the long view, either. So it sounds like you're sort of saying this is an industry that is *never* capable of taking the long view, whether times are good or bad.

If that's the case, I think we need to build a new industry to support the public's need for good information and news coverage. Because this one -- however many fine journalists it employs -- flunked out as a business.


There is so many things wrong with this I do not know where to begin. But how about the fact that the American notion of fair use has been under constant attack by the content cartels since Bush I signed the DAT tax 20 yrs. ago.

Next. "Online advertising will continue to outpace ad spend overall..."

No, no it will not. Banner ads are dead. All display ads are dead. The newsy model of wrapping oh-so-bright and informative prose in ads and essentially TRAPPING end users into looking at the pictures -- just how backward and retrograde is that concept? -- is dead.

Goggle has value PRECISELY because end-users are in control via their interests. Mass market ads, such as will exist, will be in the form of opt-in relationships where there is no attachment to the content. I know it is hard to accept, but it is true.

Besides, turn the proposition around. Why shouldn't Google get paid for driving eyeballs to content sites via links? Every second Google provides scads of free links to papers and the papers do what with that free attention? Foolishly hit end-users with pop-ups and banner ads instead of trying to engage their interests on a deeper level.

It is just so sad to watch an entire industry act like it has been wronged when for decades it has been clear that you either give up control to your customers -- or perish.


This is one of the most clearheaded, lucidly written analyses I've encountered regarding this situation. I've been trying to express all this stuff -- in various forms and to various degrees -- for several years in conversations online and off. This puts it all together nicely.


Tom Gallagher

This discourse is tiring. The newspapers in Philadelphia hired an expert to give seminars on how to ensure their articles received good play on Google. Now this "fair play" nonsense. The bottom line, and it has always been the bottom line, is that newspapers need to charge for their content. And they need to charge everyone that uses it, including Google. Anything short of that is bad business. Period.

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