Fri 07 Nov 2014 09:13:46 AM PST
Your online journalism brand is doomed...unless you master these four basic tech tips (and break one well-known online rule)
(update 21 Nov 2015: New Aloodo link)
Just picture this for a minute.
Your city puts in a brand-new monorail system.
A Journalist rides it to work.
On the platform, someone steals his wallet.
The Journalist gets in to work and writes a long think piece about "how can Journalism survive in the age of monorail technology?"
Please, knock it off.
Yes, Journalism is in trouble. But it's not the monorail, or the Internet, that's taking your money. Journalists, the Internet is just the playing field for a game that other companies are beating your employers at. (Just like Amazon is better at ebooks than publishers are, but that's another story.)
Why are news organizations failing?
Alexis C. Madrigal said it
The ad market, on which we all depend, started
going haywire. Advertisers didn’t have to buy
The Atlantic. They could buy ads on networks
that had dropped a cookie on people visiting The
Atlantic. They could snatch our audience right out
from underneath us.
The problem isn't Advertising as such. Advertising has always been part of the revenue mix for Journalism. Back in the day, we used to say that the ads paid for the content, and the subscription revenue paid for printing and postage. Good journalism can be a high-signal ad venue, so the potential rewards to advertisers are great. Supporting Journalism on the Internet isn't about going from ad-supported to some untried subscription-only model. We can fix the bugs in what we have.
Where is the money going?
The problem is that advertisers are caught up in the Big Data trend. Instead of putting ad budgets to work where they can send a signal, and supporting Journalism along the way, advertisers are choosing third-party ads, which follow users across multiple sites.
While Journalism depends on advertising, half of the online ad money is going to adtech intermediaries and another half is getting stolen. This doesn't add up to 100% because the adtech companies get their cut from the fraud perpetrators too, but, come on, Journalists, of course you have no money.
The advertising business has been sold on the proposition that it's possible to reach an audience without paying for some kind of quality product to put the ads on. Instead of attaching an ad to an attention-getting article, the current fad is to spend on intermediaries instead. The result has been crappier advertising, less money for content, and more money for fraud.
It will be hard for publishers—even the large ones—to resist the momentum that will build to plug into these walled gardens, forcing publishers to effectively commoditize themselves in exchange for access to identity, targeting and analytics data.
How does working for a commodity publisher sound?
Not so good? Tired of watching pay, benefits, and expense accounts shrivel up, while somehow the online ad business is all Aeron chairs and free tacos?
It's a game. Make a move already.
This is where Journalists can stop lamenting the Future of Journalism, and, ready? Act in your own economic interests for once. Look, the Internet is not hard-wired against you. It's just that people who understand it better than you—online ad firms and their frenemies, the ad fraud gangs—are using it to rip you off.
Here are those four tips and one broken rule.
You have to learn privacy tech to protect yourself and sources anyway, so take a few extra minutes to learn the economics of how user tracking affects your own business.
Have a look at online ads from the advertiser's side. Spend a little money on ads to promote your own blog. See how it works. (Or try something a little "edgier".)
never read the commentsrule, and listen to people's primal fears about Internet privacy. Write about the privacy tech that works for you. Get your audience started using it.
The more you make your audience aware of tracking problems and motivate them to be harder to track, the more motivation the advertisers have to work in a constructive way.
For Journalists, a future high-signal/low-tracking online ad business isn't just a source of positive externalities. As far as I can see, it's the best shot at a respectable living.
aloodo.org tracking protection for sites and brands