There is no lostness like that which comes to a man when a perfect and certain pattern has dissolved about him. — John Steinbeck
MORE DIMES, Part 2 of 5
I. Rule Number One: Draw audiences the way successful internet companies do.
While uncomfortable, and disconcerting, the phrase “we’re trading dollars for dimes” has the solution imbedded in it: trade dollars for dimes. In other words, make more dimes. Lots more dimes. If my math hasn’t eluded me, 10 times more dimes is a fair exchange for a dollar. 20 times more, and you can double the size of your news operation.
What are the most successful internet businesses of our age? As of Spring 2013, the most visited sites, according to Alexa via Wikipedia, were these:
|Google France||Hao123||Alibaba Group|
|Baidu||Sina Weibo||Go.com||Google Turkey|
|Windows Live||tumblr||Google Mexico||Google Indonesia|
|Amazon.com||Google User Content||Odnoklassniki|
|Tencent QQ||Mail.Ru||Google Canada||The Huffington Post|
|Blogspot||Google Brazil||Amazon Germany||Stack Overflow|
|Google India||Soso.com||Adobe Systems||Sogou.com|
|Yahoo! Japan||Google Russia||AVG Technologies||Livedoor|
|Sina Corp||Google Spain||Ifeng News||360buy|
|MSN||Google Italy||t.co URL Shortening Service||eBay UK|
|Yandex||xHamster’s Free Porn Videos||Pornhub||Netflix|
|Google Japan||FC2, Inc.||Rakuten||Imgur|
|WordPress.com||Internet Movie Database||The Pirate Bay||Google Poland|
|Google China||XVideos||eBay Germany||360 Safeguard|
It’s been long noted that sports and pornography are the principal drivers of new media technologies. The internet was no exception, with historic data indicating these categories funded improvements in video streaming and “on-demand” technologies.
But what does that tell us?
It tells us that my local TV stations may want to monetize high school and college hockey, football, etc. and provide a robust, largely uncensored personals section; the former predominately at their home sites, the later, perhaps, through a subsidiary.
But let’s digress and begin anew with more palatable options to become the center of the state’s information universe.
BE Craig’s List
Does anyone really feel Craig’s List is doing as good a job as is possible? Really? In Minneapolis, just to post at Craig’s List, you have to choose your location as being Minneapolis, St. Paul, Hennepin County, or Ramsey County, etc. Is that the best we can do? Might a map with a distance calculator make more sense (within 5/10/25/50/100 miles/sort by distance/location finder)?
A localized service could include banner ads, but if the purpose is to be the center of the state’s information universe, then ads may not be necessary or even desirable for this particular function. I’m suggesting local media outlets create what the business community calls “value added”; add options to Craig’s List doesn’t have; make it local and desirable. How about an RSS feed for those shopping for specific items? Because Craig’s List is infamous for predators, how about adding a sex-offender list to the sign-in feature; blocking or reporting offenders that sign in. (This might require a new law; but a new law sponsored by a local media outlet would be … news.)
This is not a change of business for newspapers, and older radio stations will remember putting classified ads on the air (KPIG still does). Classified ads on TV are a stretch, but not for their website. And if my hypotheses are even partially correct, they might want to start doing this yesterday.
Is there any software on the planet more byzantine than eBay? How likely is it that my chances of selling my Minnesota Vikings – Green Bay Packers tickets are improved by going national?
Providing auctions for a fee are as American as Lefse and Apple Strudel. Local auctions can be a valuable asset. Again, value-added would be key – create simplified posting, substitute local Credit Unions for PayPal, preventing auto-bidding. There are a thousand things eBay does that could be done better at a local level.
BE the Entertainment Guide
What’s going on this weekend? Next weekend? Tuesday? Where do you get that information? Why is such information constantly relegated to some otherwise nondescript weekly or Facebook?
As the Associate Editor at the Triad Radio Guide in Chicago, I tripled the size of the “Happenings” page in a few weeks. It’s by far the easiest thing a news outlet can do. But somehow, it’s beneath the dignity of serious media.
Why be the entertainment guide? Well, there’s a lot o’ dimes in entertainment weeklies. Don’t want to build a local weekly? Then buy the local weekly. And why or why should the local NPR magazine be THE place to go for upcoming entertainment, restaurant reviews? Do what the internet companies do – provide entertainment listings for free. Charge for bigger ad space. Do NOT charge more than a nominal fee for placement on your new entertainment feed.
Add value. Has a sister station or paper videotaped the concert? Reviewed the restaurant? You think Yelp would host an evening at that restaurant? The local media could. Use being local to your advantage. What would it take to partner with, and localize, TripAdvisor?
I just Googled Hank’s Hardware Plymouth MN and got 230,000 results. That means 229,999 wrong answers. Bing has made a big deal out of finding the “right” answer, but Bing came up with 39,300 results. The Yellow Pages gave me 12 answers and the first one was correct. What would it take to partner with Yellow Pages and a local mapping service?
Apple’s Suri gets me close, most of the time. But it doesn’t know that the exit to Xenia is now different than the exit to Highway 100 – they’re no longer combined. What would a map app cost? Probably too much; but what about a Suri corrections service?
But localization is more than that. How many news stories does the local media outlet have archived about neighborhoods, buildings, locations? Make them findable. Use them. Be the source. Do Minnesotans know that Hardware Hank is headquartered in suburban Minneapolis? Add a profile, a link to an archived story.
On the other hand, it is far, far easier to find an article at the Minneapolis Star Tribune through Google than it is to find the same article using their internal search. So it has to function correctly to be a successful part of the brand, rather than a detriment.
Copyright 2013, Craig Sinard.