Report of the conference
Wednesday, 15 November
9:00 - 9:20
The Futures of Content
Profit from Prose and Pictures
Norbert Specker, Chief Content Imagination Officer Interactive Publishing (Switzerland)
Specker noted that this year has more content, less publishing. And the attendees list shows changes in industry via new job descriptions, i.e. "head of content," and “content manager.”
He compared today’s content milieu to a jar being heated, with stability becoming elusive. “Right now the content space is dealing with chaos,” he opined, “Nothing is like it was.” Many traditional business models are threatened; new business models are being applied to content. “This summit is supposed to bring clarity to the chaos,” he said, conceding, “I’m not sure we can do that. But the speaker lineup will help highlight where the content world is today.”
9:20 - 10:00
The Dream Society
The age of the story teller
Liselotte Lyngsø, The Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies (Denmark)
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Background: Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies is 46 researchers with different academic backgrounds, working for private and public members, NGOs, companies. "We used to predict the future, then the oil crisis came," she explains. "Now we do not work with one future, we work with scenarios. The future is impossible to predict, so we work with wildcards."
Lyngsø explained that the "Dream Society" is based on the idea that "you can influence the future; the future is an open space." Based on a series of societal trends and their implications, she says, future people will have a different approach to life, one based around experience and emotion not information.
The trends shaping the "Dream Society":
–Technology changes our world consistently—our environment, how we work, live, think, feel. But not until a new technology becomes "something different" does it have an impact on society. Two examples: kids who don’t know how to write exam papers by hand from the beginning, due to always using a word processor; the grandparents who watch Lyngsøs daughter Sophia on a daycare webcam and scold Lyngsø for being in meetings.
–Manslow's hierarchy of needs has been put on its head: Now, most energy is placed on self-realization, then acknowledgement, then social needs, security and physical needs come last.
-Demographics of work force is changing dramatically: Caring, and emotional / experience work will get huge, knowledge work will stay stable.
–Age has come to mean something radically different; people are defined by their activities, not their years
The implication: Experiences are worth money: people own expensive mountain bikes despite living in a flat country, just for the feeling of a connection to Alpine adventure; they buy organic eggs, or even pick them up themselves to connect to the farmer’s story; people pay dearly for ice from Greenland, which contains air from the unpolluted pre-industrial age.
Working life in the dream society, she predicts, would be very emotionally driven / experience driven, meaning that some periods of the life will be intense, while others will involve a hiatus from workaday world. Some common job titles of the future: Chief imagination officer; culture team leader; messaging champion; intangible asset appraiser; director, mind and mood; assistant story-teller (this is only one that does not exist today). In the dream society people organized as tribes, their playing fields will be themed environments, the admired person will be storytellers, and the primary values will be put upon experiences. Consumption in the future will move from being driven by the brain to being driven by the heart. Products will contain both elements: The brain (practical) aspect is taken for granted, the heart (emotional) aspect is what gives the competitive edge. It is here the money lies. Learning to tell good stories becomes crucial.
10:00 - 10:30
Brand and Brand Networks
Crossmedia Brand Extensions
Michel Colonna D'Istria, (France)
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Background: Liberation is a daily paper founded in 1973 by Jean-Paul Sartre, among others. It has a red sideways diamond as its logo, one of France’s most recognizable media icons. France’s youngest quality paper, it was the oldest online. But as it evolved from single to multi-channel, from paper to screen, from information brand to a rich media brand, a wild mix of logos and naming evolved, culminating in the cringe-worthy "Auto Libé," an odd moment for a paper founded in part by Jean-Paul Sartre. Liberation called in consultants, performed internal interviews, analyzed other media group’s solutions ( such as FT and CNN’s co-branding, Yahoo’s "bucket strategy" or Le Monde’s use of the Gothic M logo across various net ventures) and looked toward future new offerings.
It identified four different levels of offers, with Level 1 being straight-ahead shovelware web publishing, followed by three levels of infobrokering, namely:
Level 2: Enriched formula (some new content, editorial and services)
Level 3: Endorsement–partnerships and joint ventures
Level 4: Commercial offers–interactions, transactions, etc.
Defining its expectations of a media brand Libération arrived at the following precepts: simplicity, transparency, clarity between the various offers, fidelity to the parent paper’s corporate values
In the question-and-answer period: FT’s Paul Maidment expressed surprised at seeing FT.com quoted as benchmark in this context as, joking "We’ve had terrible brand management, changing logos as often as we change managing directors, about every 6 months."
David Haeberli from Le Temps de Geneve asked: Did the journalists get a say in Liberation’s web strategy? Not really, said D’Istria, it was more of high-up decision. "And if I tell you everybody is okay with doing ecommerce, I’d be a liar," he admitted. "But you have to learn to live with contradiction."
11:00 - 11:45
Beyond the technology: Content strategies for fat cables
Werner Lauff, CEO Bertelsmann Broadband Group (Germany)
Bertelsmann needs little introduction: It publishes 8,000 books per year, 650 special-interest mags, owns media worldwide, just bought Napster. It has 23 television stations that it’s working with in preparing for interactive television, and 120 alliances with content partners.
Technology is not the driver, stressed Lauff. People are not interested in technology, the decisive question is simplicity, convenience. Successful technologies solve problems. The present is inconvenient, he continued, though it is more convenient than the past: "It's inconvenient to go online, to use a computer, to watch TV. But in the near future every relatively modern device will be a computer, which is when it gets serious. Then, TV cannot take 3 minutes before beginning to show images, and nobody will accept a sex clip being played by accident instead of a kids cartoon."
TV now is inconvenient, since programs show at a specific time. So users need to learn when the program is showing; it cannot be paused, cannot be rewatched. But interactive TV will enable transmission of many programs at the same time. And purchasing will be possible immediately: buy what you see on screen.
In that way, interactive TV solves a real problem. Television that is point-to-point works like the internet. Stop, rewind, watch when you want, make image smaller to watch with friends and chat about it. Interactive TV also includes video and music, and makes you the program director. Interactive special interest content might include a cooking channel. There you could look at recipes, watch chefs prepare dishes, buy all the ingredients for a dish or input what you have in the fridge and get directions to make something from it.
But the big drivers are musics, sports, erotica and films. For example: enhanced Sports TV might allowing on players for star profiles, or clicking on shorts to buy them, or choosing different camera angles. But interactive TV hinges on the product—it’s a push, not a pull, and it must be both simple and convenient. Interactive TV combines the entertainment of the TV combined with the functionality of the Internet. "Users and viewers will change," he predicts, "You could call them "vusers.’"
This means new players will be looking for TV-type content and means producers can build their own content-value chain. It will also boost special-interest content, since there will be control over the viewer directly, allowing target marketing and niche marketing. Rounding it all off, Lauff instructed the audience: "If you add connectivity, customization, convenience, e/commerce, broadvision will give you another c: new customers."
11:45 - 12:15
Finding a content future on the go
Bruno Giussani, European Editor The Industry Standard (Switzerland)
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Recently the Swiss UMTS auction totally collapsed, following similar fiascoes in Holland, Italy, Spain and Austria. Does this mean that the mobile internet will not happen? Where is the reality, where is the hype?
Giussani’s presentation broke down the current state of play for the mobile internet
Despite clumsiness of keypad, 160 character limitation and slowness, it's huge and there is unexpected usage, plus huge potential in its integration with Web.
We’re already seeing a "WAPlash" even though it only launched in early 2000. WAP has had incredibly slow adoption: Swisscom has 2.7 million subscribers, 40,000 WAPers (1.5%). In Germany, T-Mobile 13 million subscribers, 175,000 WAPers (1.3%), on average its used once a week. The main problem: WAP was oversold, and under-delivered with limited content, poor design, high cost and un-ease-of-use. Yet WAP’s not dead; it will get a boost from GPRS ("always-on"), which will reduce its slowness and restructure pricing.
Launched by NTT DoCoMo in February 1999, it added 350'000 new subscribers per week. Most popular services are entertainment: ringing melodies and pictures (e.g. Bandai: with 1.3 million subscribers, paying 100 yen(1$)/month for cartoon images); weather; horoscopes and fortune telling. Subscriptions are based on data traffic and specific content, not airtime. DoCoMo opened the platform to anyone, and collects 9% commission, but has no walled gardens, unlike European WAP portals model. Can this model be extended beyond Japan? On the one hand, DoCoMo’s quasi-monopoly (85%) gave it a huge advantage in Japan and its content won’t play the same in Europe. But on the other hand, iMode is essentially a consumer electronics approach, like gaming consoles, and neither Europe’s telcos nor its ISPs know that game.
Coming Next: Applications and Content
What will drive mobile publishing?
–Impulse buying, on-offline comparative shopping, bookmarking
–Time- and place- sensitive apps
–Time wasters (games)
–Time savers (ticket buying, etc)
If he had to bet on the two first 3G killer apps, Giussani said, "I’d choose news alerts and picture mail, or wireless faxing."
12:15 - 12:25
IP Top 2000 : A look into the brain
Creating Judgement Spaces
Karsten Posse, Director Judging Process TopGrid/IP Top (Germany)
Background: 200 websites entered the contest within five categories: news, finance sports, corporate communications and wireless
The judging process was entirely online, with opportunity for the judges to look at all the sites entered. This presentation was fairly fast and complex, so it’s best viewed via www.topgrid.de. But the basic concept is that judges could build their own scales for judging sites along a single measure, prioritize the various measures for the category, then rank sites against each other along these axes. Each site is plotted within a 3-D sphere rendering that shows its position vis-à-vis the judgers priorities. The primary value lies in the site’s producers extracting what criteria the judges think are crucial for a successful website in their area of interest, and what aspects their site could improve upon.
Posse promised that the various renderings and ratings would be available at www.iptop.com – after the awards, of course – so that people could understand the basis for the awards and check out the system more closely.
14:00 - 14:20
The Talking Internet
Will voice portals get the audiences that the Web missed?
Alexander Griesmeier, CEO Talkingweb (Germany)
"I swore to myself, if I hit 40, I’ll never touch a keyboard again," said Griesmeier. "The dream is voice." The central question of this talk: Will voice portals reach the audiences that the Web missed? After all, fixed-line phones and mobile phones both have a much higher penetration than TVs and PCs. Yet not all of the mobile phones will be mobile-internet enabled, however, so the strongest channel is and will be voice (fixed-line and mobile).
Talking web positions itself as enabling highest ease of use and fairly rich content by converting HTML pages (like iMode) to voice, thereby benefiting from all the available HTML content. Typical content: News, traffic reports, beauty, cooking, stars, flight information, dating, travel information, erotic, restaurants. "It’s about the power of Now," Griesmeier says.
So how do you make money? Griesmeier described 3 revenue streams:
- Advertising Revenue (snippits of 10 seconds)
- Navigation Revenue
- Transaction revenue for m-commerce, (but as Griesmeier admits, the "m" in mcommerce means either "mobile" or "maybe")
14:20 - 15:30
Integrating the Newsroom
Quality and execution
Paul Maidment, Managing Editor FT.com (United Kingdom)
Philip Halliday, (United Kingdom)
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Background: FT.com boasts 2 million-plus registered users in 230 countries, 36 million-plus page views, 1.8 million unique users per month. Most impressive, perhaps, it’s the leading ad-revenue generating site in UK. Its users are demographically similar but geographically more dispersed than the paper’s. It launched in 1995 as a marketing site, moved to editorial in 1996 and merged its print and online edit units in 1999.
The idea behind the new newsroom was to stick to the FT core business—maintaining editorial values, remaining focused on financial-related content and serving the FT audience - globally engaged business people. The guiding principal was that FT’s product is FT journalism, not a website or a newspaper, with a single news agenda, one set of editorial standards and judgements, and one newsroom. There are no more "online" or "print" journalists, only Financial Times journalists.
Practically, this meant:
– creating new formats – both in content and architecture
– choosing partners for non-FT-generated content
– allowing users to dig deeper into a story from headline to abstract to analysis to databases
Now, the integrated newsroom has centralised news commissioning and editing, but separate production for web site and broadsheet pages. To stay on global cycle FT will soon add an Asia office to its virtual news desk based in London and NY
The lessons learned: Cultural change is more important than structural change. "We encourage people to see themselves as FT reporters now, and that may mean writing for the web or cutting some video for the site," explained Halliday. "And we remind people not to fret too much about whether things might happen past the last print deadline."
16:05 - 16:30
"User generated" (editorial) content
When content becomes liquid
Monna Nordhagen, CEO Doktoronline (Norway)
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Background: Started as a spin-off from a popular health-advice column, Doktoronline is a health-related site with 40 health-care professionals who work within a newsgroup/forum structure. It has 13 million monthly page views and 90,000 monthly unique visitors, with an average visit length of 17 minutes. Yearly posts number about 800,000, with 30,000 from the site’s experts. Users are 70% women, mostly college graduates between 24- 40 years old.
Though the sexuality forum has the most readers, most only "lurk"; the highest posting rates are in forums such as parents issues and pregnancy. In a recent Norway survey 75 percent of people find it easier to discuss psychological problems online rather than face-to-face.
Despite the postings from doctors, Doktoronline’s material is 90% reader-generated. But the experts are critical in setting the stage, monitoring the activity (sometimes even expulsing users). The postings go up totally live, to maintain the sense of it being an interactive community, but unwanted postings are usually removed within 3 minutes. "We are gardeners more than publishers," explains Nordhagen, and the critical issue with that is that advertisers, sponsors and publishers have to buy into the concept, despite the lack of content control.
In the Q&A session, one person asked about the price of employing so many doctors. Nordhagen said it was one of their highest costs. "But the doctors don’t charge us such high rates," she continued. "They get much more mileage out of their competence than they do in their work with patients, and many say, ‘Finally, a chance to see what goes on outside."
16:30 - 16:50
The mundane elements of the content redistribution business
Michael Wechner, CEO/CTO Wyona:research&development (Switzerland)
This was a fairly technical presentation–though, mercifully, far less than it could have been–about XPS (Extensible Publishing System), an open-source system that Wechner created for the site belonging to Neue Zurcher Zeitung, perhaps the premier German-language newspaper.
The core ideology involved independence, from software companies, platforms or vendors. "If you use open-source, you don’t have to rely on one company," he said. "Because you never know when you’ll have a fight with a vendor." Using XML as a basic building block, Wechner and his colleagues created an easily updateable site for the paper at a cost of $130,000-$200,000. That’s a low fee, especially when you consider that NZZ doesn’t now need to pay $50,000 licensing fees for the 4-6 machines it would have required on a traditional platform. As he showed in a demo, the system allows for online editing directly in the code.
But Wechner did not promise a panacea, stressing that the system has its problems, namely its performance under heavy loads and difficulties in authoring and editing because those tools are still in progress.
16:50 - 17:15
"Intellectual property is theft"
The napsterisation of content
Vincent Crosbie, President & CEO Digital Deliverance LLC (United States of America)
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Download About Napster. (pdf) (129 kB)
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Crosbie started by describing the new internet Pantheon:
Vinton Cerf (Father of the Internet)
Tim Berners-Lee (Father of the WWW)
Lars Ulrich (Metallica drummer, Father of the Napster Dispute)
After explaining Napster, he pointed out that its main difference from a search engine such as Lycos is that Napster involves the third-party copyrights of the musicians whose work is downloaded. Bringing the point home to the Content Summit crowd, he pointed to "Deep Linking," in which a site rolls out your content in its frame, without crediting/paying you.
At last year’s conference, he noted, speaker Esther Dyson predicted that copyright will cease to exist. "I say ownership will not cease to exist unless we all work for free." Consumers have to be made to understand that all content costs cannot disappear.
So how do you make people pay? Crosbie pointed out that charging $1 a song yields less than 100,000 users, but charging nothing generates 38 million users. Somewhere between the two, he suggests, lies a viable price point. People will pay for content, but how much? Making his point anecdotally, he recounted an incident in which a nonagenarian George Bernard Shaw asked a woman to sleep with him for a million pounds. When she said yes, he offered her 50 pence. Incensed, she asked what sort of women she was. He responded, "We’ve already established that. Now we’re merely negotiating the price."
The Q&A focused on a few recent European cases of online services (Pressetext and WorldOnline) that used content from wire services to generate their site content, then were attacked for copyright infringement. Then Le Figaro’s representative to the conference made an interesting, oft-forgotten point, copyright infringement can also hurt you financially by running down your carefully built-up brand, as was the case when he came across on an article from his magazine on a Holocaust revisionist’s site.
Thursday, 16 November
9:00 - 9:45
From Television to Multimedia to Localization
David Brewer, Managing Editor CNN Interactive Europe, Middle East & Africa (United Kingdom)
Background: CNN online does fully localized sites all over Europe, and in Africa and Asia, sometimes owning the local site outright, sometimes as a joint venture, sometimes through licensing. It gets huge hits during news events: 40 million page impressions for the Starr Report, 100 million for the US election, 150 million for the election recount. CNN.com broke even last year, though expansion now will push it back into the red for the moment. The target of CNN Europe is European citizens and business travelers, who needs to know what’s happening all around the continent.
Brewer started by citing his conversation at the Stars reception the previous night with Zurich mayor Josef Estermann, who told him, "I don't use the web, I don't have the time." That should give serious pause, Brewer said, "Because if we’re producing material that gets in the way of our users getting information, we need a rethink."
At CNN, online and TV production are converging. Stories are being written tighter, so you can commit one form of writing to a database, from which that content can be delivered in different channels. "When I began in papers, we were trained to get facts and write stories from the top down," recalled Brewer. "That system works well today for the web and WAP."
But brevity is not the only virtue Brewer stressed. In the long run, sites need to offer users the possibility for drilling down into an issue. As an example, he cited CNN’s online "Death of the Kursk" story package. The site’s package contains time lines, animations of the rescue, proportional comparisons of the ship’s size and depth under water, plus every video clip from the story. Every big story requires such smaller elements now. Yet there are no fixed formats for content; stories drive their form. Or, as Brewer put it, "The information box doesn't matter; the facts matter."
In the future, he said, "Raising concerns in one channel without also providing background, issues and embracing all the issues will be considered irresponsible journalism." Still, he warns, one can go too far. Imagine if breaking news comes in, is ready for TV, but is stopped by program management, because the web presence to the story is not ready. Likewise he said, "Online news does not have to wait for TV. There should be no fight about which medium should break first; everybody should break as fast as possible."
9:45 - 10:45
Content strategies for the Net-Population
The net is local and keeps pushing
Georg Shirk, Editor-in-Chief WIRED News (United States of America)
Jim Ledbetter, Editor-in-Chief The Industry Standard Europe (United Kingdom)
Ledbetter started by pointing out that the Industry Standard was the first magazine to launch simultaneously as print and on the web, in 1998. Since October it has published in Europe. The web site started out thin, he recalled: "Some days we had no new content, other days just a weak story or something stolen from IDG news service."
Email newsletters boosted the site’s visitors and story load. The first was Media Grok, which analyzed the day’s coverage of a few major stories by myriad different papers and sites. The idea which was stolen from Slate.com’s "The Morning Papers."; the term, which means nothing in any language, came from the sci-fi novel "Stranger in Strange Land." Defusing the possibility of people claiming intellectual theft, it includes links to the websites, and journalists liked the idea of someone impartially judging or refereeing the competition between reporters. The newsletter spread rapidly through the media community (a prime case of viral growth) and then beyond, and now has 160,000 subscribers. Primitive ASCII ads are sold within it, at outrageously high rates. The Standard now has 27 different newsletters (most weekly, but some daily). Such a strategy, Ledbetter stressed, requires brevity, to avoid the "spam factor" and stand out from the stream. The notes must be short; the subject line must be catchy.
In the Q&A, one person asked whether the Standard pushes personalities, i.e. big-name columnists. "It’s a mixed blessing to have personalities," Ledbetter responded. While personalities have drawn traffic to sites such as thestreet.com, "There are only so many personalities, and they tend to be expensive." On another note, he questioned the use of photos beside columns, the first steps in building a columnist’s cult of personality. "We started putting pictures on the site columns, and I’m not sure about that, because I went to our site and that made it quite clear that all of the columns were written by white men, which is definitely something we need to work on, but doesn’t need to be quite so apparent "
George Shirk followed Ledbetter, explaining the underlying concept of Wired News. Like any newspaper or TV station, Wired News has a local audience, albeit psychographic: people actively participating in internet activities. "For Netizens, the election was not as much between Republicans and Democrats, but between libertarian and non-libertarian," he cited as an example. "What about net taxation? Or free speech on the net? That issue was hardly covered in the general news, but since its important to the netizens it's our local news."
Like the Standard, Wired News has a strong email strategy. 30% of traffic comes straight out of people’s inboxes. "Subject lines are a part of every edit meting," Shirk says. ‘We want to arrive as welcome guests, not needless SPAM." Often, the subject line might not be the same as the headline on the website, which could be far less direct.
Rounding off his speech. Shirk pointed to the danger of allowing too many "geeks" in the newsroom. "The essence of news is based on nuance, humor, compassion and wit," he said. "Geeks don't know that." As an example of the subtleties a story entails, he pointed the US election, which has whipsawed from great gravity to comedy to pathos in the space of days or even hours.
11:20 - 12:15
Scandinavia on the move
Learning from the North
Krister Bengtsson, CEO & Editor-in-Chief 24timmar.se (Sweden)
Arne H. Krumsvik, Publisher and CEO DB Medialab (Norway)
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Krumsvik detailed the decision by the major newspaper Dagbladet to spin off its web site as a product of DB Medialab, rather than integrating it into the paper’s media group. The basic rationale was strategic: Separation allowed more economic freedom and flexibility of business development. "Employees know they'll never fight with another publication for resources," he says. "We have our own economics and we're doing pretty well, actually. But if it fails, we all go."
The DB Medialab approach involves developing digital Dagbladet products for web, WAP, SMS, email, PDA, web-TV, etc. Still, Krumsvik says, ""When you're from the newspaper business, it's a little worrying to find yourself as only a content provider." So DB Medialab has invested in the portals Start networks (250,000 members) and the device developer Teknopolis, which means it spans the access/content/device spectrum of the content value chain. "It is still unclear where in the value chain the money is coming from," he said, meaning that smart players are spreading their bets.
Bengtsson opened by challenging Krumsvik: "Dagbladet has been around 135 years, we have been around 3.5 years. Let’s see who wins." His 24timmar (24 Hours) site started in 1997 as a local news site in Orebro—it was not spun off from a print paper—using advertising revenue and staffed with ex-newspaper people. The focus of 24timmar is on local news, which has changed the town’s local media landscape. The plan is to expand to other markets, where single publications monopolize the media space. It launched this summer in 9 other cities, with local staff and local news. "In one town, the editor in chief of our competitor paper said our arrival was biggest media event in 30 years," he said. "The previous big event was the death of its competitor 30 years ago."
The most interesting effect of 24timmar has been its effect on local papers, who have been forced to react with their own localized sites. Bengtsson, naturally, feels the newspapers are at a disadvantage in competing online. "The web is more of a broadcast medium," he explains, "so newspapers have a further way to travel in producing 'liveline' news, not working toward a deadline. We can use classifieds as a form of free content, but newspapers see it as losing 30 percent of their revenue."
One major side-effect of all these Nordic newspapers being pushed online: Sweden has proved to be a tough market for foreign content sites, such as Yahoo! The wildcard in all this is broadband, which is coming faster to Scandinavia. In this domain, the weight of the old media companies may well allow them to make up for some of their lost ground, so there has been an odd set of scrambles between telcos, ISPs and content providers trying to form partnerships to establish position.
14:05 - 14:30
The Net? - It's women, stupid!
Maybe it is not that simple
Chine Lanzmann, CEO Newsfam.com (France)
Background: Newsfam.com is France’s second biggest women’s site. Founded one year ago, it has 30 employees, 15,000 registered users and 80,000 monthly unique visitors. The biggest application is a daily horoscope; the most interactive is a Feng shui program. Its demographics include 80% women (high for a women’s site, surprisingly enough!), roughly 50 % between 20 and 35 years old, roughly 50 % with children. Predicted revenues: 1 million euros in 2000, 3 million euros in 2001from advertising / sponsorships, ecommerce affiliation and content selling.
Developing newsfam has been a harsh learning process, says Lanzmann. "At first I was very wrong about users. I thought women online wanted to be like high-style Parisian woman—a fashion victim or high-powered executive—as in a French women’s magazines. But maybe there are too few women online in France to do that, so we have to target every woman. And they wanted to be themselves." Commenting from the audience, Doktoronline’s Monna Nordhagen observed that it might also stem from a difference in the mediums themselves, "You dream yourself into a magazine, but when online you're more natural." In other words, the magazine is aspirational, the web experience more grounded in real life.
Another key thing Lanzmann learned: women don’t read news; "We had news from Agence France Presse and nobody clicked on it." (This observation loosed an audible murmur of disagreement in the audience.) Then again, apparently, women in France also aren’t major consumers of daily papers. Equally unsettling some audience members, Lanzmann also suggested that for women’s sites technology must be kept really simple, since women have less patience to deal with complications. Fashion videos, for instance, were not a success. Lanzmann admitted she herself couldn’t get the plug-ins to work; Norbert Specker then gamely admitted he has the same problem, suggesting that technical problems might just be an issue for most men as well.
14:30 - 15:00
Turning Flax into Gold
Upgrading existing content
Steve Yelvington, Network Content Director CoxInteractiveMedia (United States of America)
Yelvington started out by revealing that he’d recently left Cox (a large newspaper chain), and had been taking time off to recharge his batteries. After years of being inside the net’s production machinery, he said, "In the past months, I've been using the web almost like a normal person to get news. And I've been very disappointed. I thought we'd be farther along by now. Instead I’ve seen sites edited for editors, designed for designers, and just incredibly self-indulgent, with 200K downloads on the first page. And lots of flashing ads.. just horrendous stuff." In short: people are not designing around consumer needs and interest.
As an example of doing it right, he cited the Minneapolis Star –Tribune’s election guide a few years back, which he helped create. This allowed users to answer a few questions, get an overview of the election and a full list of their local and state candidates. This year, web surfing, he found that most newspaper’s election guides were mere "link barns," with hundreds of URLs and very little context.
The central issue of site design, he argues, involves creating value for users. And value comes not just from content (which is more art than science) but also from context: the structure and related concepts. You need to think like a user, anticipating needs and interests, from the content you have to the tools you give users in navigating. It’s also crucial to be part of the web, not just on the web, i.e. give people good links, use feedback mechanisms and community tools.
Typically, Yelvington says, people claim that low budgets deny them the tools they need to build a great user experience. Yet a lot can be done without using high technology. His prime example was a page from the Augusta, GA, Chronicle, designed for visitors to the town. "The page doesn't move; isn't animated, no Flash, no Shockwave, but it has a point of view"—and therefore a purpose. Overlapping much of the content, but not quite the same, there is also a page for people thinking of moving to Augusta.
After all this criticism, someone asked Yelvington to cite a single paper’s site that delivered a solid experience. His response was unequivocal: "Newspapers? Hang them all! I want them to be so good…and they're not." In fact, he's broadly frustrated with the usability of the websites, though some ecommerce sites have been leaders in this (e.g. Amazon.com). Yet such sensibility seems far less likely for media sites, Yelvington says, since the designers often come from the print side without the understanding of the new medium—beyond, that is, how to make mouseover color-spectrum effects.
15:00 - 15:30
Content: Hot Start Ups
Big plans - big ideas
Background: First Tuesday started in London, in a Soho bar and is now in 100 cities. It has 100,000 members worldwide; 5,000 in Zurich alone. The purpose—fostering an environment where money meets ideas, where funding flows to the entrepreneurs. "We believe that entrepreneurs are made, not born," Kish said. And the milieu for entrepreneur-making is a little weak here in Europe. Predicted VC investment is 13.5 billion Euros in Europe for 2000, less than one quarter’s VC investment in the States.
For the Content Summit, First Tuesday organized a mini "matchmaking event," a focused session in which investors meet with pre-screened startups, hoping to make a connection. They got 90 plans and picked 12, from the US, Canada, Holland, Switzerland and Norway. Investors, especially skeptical about investing in content since the crash in March, were harder to find but eventually 10 turned up.
To demonstrate the matchmaking concept, the three best-received plans each did an "elevator pitch"—the concept being that the pitch should be short enough to fit in the time frame of a 30-floor elevator ride and strong enough to generate serious funding within that period. The presenting finalists were:
Sophia.com, based in Netherlands looking, for seed round.
Described as a "knowledge exchange facilitator and online content generator," it seemed geared to a) helping people handle customer-relations issues by building up databases of problems and solutions, b) allowing customers to interact. The audience appeared generally unclear on what problems it solved—and, even more, how it solved them.
Mediamatec based in Zurich, already closed $1 million, looking for 2nd round
This company is based around the Secure Digital Music Initiative, i.e. the music industry’s response to Napster (well, make that the "music industry minus Bertelsmann.") The vision is to work with all leading music-industry players as they move towards the new digital economy. Mediamatec has major partners: IBM, Microsoft and Intertrust, and music content is just the first step, to be followed by books, video, etc.
Ping Pong technologies (of California). Launched 2 weeks ago, most mature of the three. $15 million in funding already.
Ping Pong, said its pitchman, solves 2 problems: finding the information needle in an internet haystack and generating secondary information for further investigation. Basically, it seems, Ping-Pong creates a browser full of related links when you’re surfing. The audience liked the concept, though they didn’t like the sight of a third of your window being taken up by Ping-Pong’s co-browser.
After the pitches Kish came out to measure the pitches’ appeal via audience clapping. Mediamatec and Ping-Pong were close, Sophia a distant third; but Kish decided to call it a three-way draw, saying they "all had bright futures"—a decision that was no doubt more popular with the pitchmen than with the audience, which clearly wanted a winner.
16:05 - 17:00
But what is it worth?
On the Road to transparent content value and syndication
Steve Outing, CEO Content-Exchange (United States of America)
Grant Slinger, Senior Vice President Screaming Media (United States of America)
Allison Hartsoe, Co-Founder iSyndicate (United States of America)
Marcus Oltmanns, Executive Board Member 4Content - The Content Broker AG (Germany)
Jan van Ottele, CEO YourNews (Netherlands)
Outing started out by discussing the current environment for syndication, which is surprisingly strong. While these are bad times for companies, they still need content for their sites, and buying syndicated work is far cheaper than paying to create new content themselves. Also, content yields rates 200 to 500 percent higher when sold to online media than when it is sold to traditional media.
The four syndicators then came on stage, and discussed their plans, after which Norbert Specker observed that they’re all pretty similar in approach: find people with content, find people who need it, connect them and take a cut based on its usage by the buyer. One differentiating point was the syndicator’s cut: Screaming media takes 10% to 50%, iSyndicate and YourNews usually around 50%, while 4Content is more like 30%. But Slinger, of screaming media, warned that syndicators have to watch these percentages: "We have to be careful not to run a race to the bottom."
Dealing with the net’s big boys has its drawbacks, clearly. As providers, said van Ottele, "They're in the position to do it themselves—it's just a question of make or buy for them—so they can push down your margins." As buyers, Hartsoe warned, "Portal deals are crappy. Portals talk about extending your brand, but they don’t want to pay for the content."
What’s your content worth? In terms of pricing an individual producer’s content, iSyndicate’s Hartsoe counts four factors:
1) frequency of update
3) format (text, video, etc )
4) provider’s brand (which is intangible)
Obviously, branding is crucial. "It's a total fallacy that the internet creates a level playing field," says Slinger. "Brands win in real life, and even more so on the net. You take a great article by Joe Smith and it won’t sell much. Add the word "Forbes" on it and it sells tremendously." But what determines the brand value? Sometimes portals announce brands they want to put on their sides, so the value of the brand is determined by the buyer.
Outing raised the issue of companies like Salon.com, which declared it wants to raise its syndication revenue from 5% to 30%. Should Salon syndicate itself? Slinger suggested a mixed model; obviously, direct deals make you more money, but syndicators can reach clients you wouldn’t. In fact, that’s what Salon’s doing with Screaming Media now. The main appeal of syndication is simplicity, says Hartsoe: "It's just more convenient to syndicate your content than to go out and sign up all your own licensing deals." At the same time, she says, self-syndicators make some of the best providers, because they’ve organized their processes around exporting the content later.
Another big question: Can niche producers make money through syndication? This caused debate. Screaming Media’s Slinger plans to seriously pare the list of offerings, eliminating many more marginal providers, whose content doesn’t move much. But Hartsoe contended that personalization efforts will lead to an era of more targeted content, away from the safe mainstream fodder so popular now. "It's a snowball effect, but it takes time to build a mass market," she said, before conceding, "Right now it's the big brands that sell."
17:00 - 17:15
Where have we gone?
Wrap-Up and final discussion
Norbert Specker, Chief Content Imagination Officer Interactive Publishing (Switzerland)
Closing the conference, Specker returned to themes he had laid out at the beginning
— Content takes center space.
— Brands are context
— Content brand building takes longer (though it’s difficult for newcomers to last long enough to compete)
— Creation of cross-media content will be the key competence (though there are many ways of how to achieve that)
— The age of the story teller is upon us (e.g. "Big Brother" is not a story, per se, but it is a storytelling in many different media)
—Content needs connection (personalization, feedback mechanisms, communities look for connections with the people who are using the content, living the content)
—Media convergence is not happening (Or rather, convergence is happening in different ways: proliferation of media, devices, outlets to get to your consumer.)
—Content copyright = endangered species (i.e. Napster)
—Meaning is the message