Reflections of a military dad

WSJ: While My Son Serves

Partying at a raucous sendoff. Waking up worried at 3 a.m. Getting a welcome phone call from the Iraqi desert. The families of deployed soldiers live in a world of their own, says Dave Shiflett.


I’m reading more about military parents as our son expresses his interests after high school.


He certainly chose an unusual path: Fewer than 1% of Americans wear the uniform these days. That, in turn, puts families of deployed soldiers in something of a world of their own.


Shiflett’s comments about listening cable news and dealing with folks back home were bonuses of the article. Also David Shiflett’s web site

How people find news — PEJ study

Using data for top news sites, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism presents a sobering view for news sites of obtaining and retaining customers.

Journalists don’t think of their readers as customers, but there is competition for time. Reading news, watching a video or commenting on a news items is time. Users measure that use of their time with other things which could include watching popular YouTube video, playing a game, doing work or going to the bathroom.

Highlights of Where people Go, How They Get There and What Lures Them Away

8 sites with the most power usersCasual users dominate news sites. Even in the busiest news sites, less than 15 percent visit the site less than once a month. Anything below once a month is considered a casual user. The small percentage of people visiting more than once a month should sober journalists and news publishers. With so many few regular users, it’s logical that the average time on the site is less than 5 minutes.

The source of traffic to news sites. Facebook, Google, Drudge and Twitter are the primary sources. The top news sites received about 40% of their traffic from outside referrals.

The definition of “outside referrals” needs better attention. Many news organizations view referring traffic from Google or Bing as a different engagement from a link from Facebook or Twitter. Links from Facebook or Twitter are considered more important because they more often come from a more trusted network of friends or people being followed than search from Google, which would include Google Search or Google News. Many Google or search readers are considered “one and done”.

PEJ: Google Drives Most Users and Facebook Is Becoming Increasingly Important. On both pages graphs show the portion of traffic to the top 25 sites from these Google and Facebook.

The PEJ data doesn’t given any greater weight from a recommended link than an unrecommended link.  But if I’m having stories in my Twitter feed or on my Facebook page, I’m more engaged with that site, than searching for something and then choosing the link.

Traffic goals for other news sites. The top news sites typically receive between 60 percent and 80 percent from direct traffic, which means users typing in a URL, clicking an email or some other way of going direct to a web site. The remain is traffic from links. Again there’s a debatable issue between the source of the link.

graph on how people get to news sites

The importance of the homepage. The range for the top 25 varied from 79 percent for Reuters to 7 percent for, but it was the most-viewed page for all but four sites.

Demographics of top news sites. Most advertisers and marketers should like demographics: well-educated, better than average income. Interesting that women outnumber men on general news sites, by a greater percentage than the overall population.

Little impact of ads. The audience may be desirable, but the audience don’t like ads.

Not a single consumer product site appears in the mix of destination pages for these news sites.  That means that in no case did five people click on the same ad on a news site in the months studied.

The article is creating a lot of cross talk, such as the study’s shortcoming, and it’s reliance on incomplete Nielsen data. One interesting part of the study is how difficult it is to measure a site’s audience. Even using industry standard tools such as Omnitue, Nielsen, or Compete, there are assumptions about users that make tracking difficult — such as one user who visits a web site through multiple computers or browsers a day.

Monday’s Note: The shift in communications

Monday’s Note by Frédéric Filloux nails the issues news organizations face and the results of journalism’s changing business model.

Highlights are:

  1. The public’s appetite for information has never been greater.
  2. At the same time, due to crumbling business models, editorial resources within news organizations are depleting fast.
  3. Opinion makers have changed.
  4. Today, a large chunk of the news cycle is controlled by legions of digital serfs …
  5. Contents are now tailored for the needs of digital media.
  6. Tools are morphing in the same fashion.

Filloux notes that most journalists are not able to evaluate the news giving increasing control over the message by corporations. For example, content prepared by corporations is being re-published by news organizations as is.

Since distribution channels are the same by companies to both news organizations, consumers, bloggers, etc., many news organizations no longer see a role as being the first group to clarify the message.

The clarification role has greater value, but the demand for that is lower, and the cost of producing it higher, so the ability or willingness to supply it is less too.

A bleak report for news media

The outlook for the news media has yet to find a clear path, concludes today’s release of the State of the News Media. The title says it all State of the News Media 2011: New revenues have not arrived, but new challenges have.

The industry still hopes to find a four-lane highway or yellow brick road leading to a financially stable future. Instead, the quest continues to be more like chopping through a dense jungle with a machete. — Rick Edmonds

The list of problems ranges from the threat by Groupon to continued dwindling of ad revenues for newspapers — online ad revenue was not enough to overcome lost print revenue.

Good pieces to read from the report

> Newspapers: Missed the 2010 Media Rally

(T)he destination that newspaper organizations are trying to reach is pretty clear now — more robust digital enterprises to pick up the slack as print advertising and circulation fall. The path from here to there, unfortunately, once again is not clear at all.

2011 State of the News Media print and online advertising revenues 2003-2010

> Seattle: A New Media Case Study

In the last few years, it has experienced both a sharp loss of traditional news resources and an exciting rise in new journalistic enterprises and inventive collaborations between traditional and emerging media … A new, vibrant media scene is emerging. But it also may not take hold.


Will Apple Tablet disconnect publishers from readers and revenue?

New local tech-business web ventures

GeekWire logoThe two journalists most identified with TechFlash in Seattle, Todd Bishop and John Cook, have left to start a competing site, GeekWire.

The site launched over the weekend of March 5. Their goals for the site are in the post  Welcome to GeekWire, from John Cook and Todd Bishop, including a video of their goals.

TechFlash logoTechFlash plans to fill the positions and plans other changes, says Emory Thomas, publisher of TechFlash and Puget Sound Business Journal. Both sites are part of The Business Journals Digital network, where I work.

Another recent start-up focuses on general business news and was founded by a master’s student at Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge Business Journal, was founded by Ariel Hammond, who wants to be a business journalist.  The site competes against Baton Rouge Business Report, which is owned by Louisiana Business Inc.

Both sites are WordPress sites. The tools and equipment needed to start an online news site are low. The biggest cost is human costs. The biggest challenge is finding revenue to cover those costs.

Previous posts:

What digital dimes from print dollars looks like

From Monday Note byFrédéric Filloux: The Publisher’s Dilemma

Let’s face it: the online advertising business model, when applied to the transformation of the newspaper industry, is largely failure. The reasons are well known:
– The profusion of free, news-related contents diluted the perceived value of editorial-rich “trusted brands”.
– More agile competitors, quite adept at using sophisticated audience-catching techniques (that are implemented at a fraction of the cost of a modern printing plant).
– The endless stream of pages with hundreds of URLs added each day ended up destroying any balance in the supply vs. demand mechanism.
– The resulting pressure on prices, as “premium” ad formats slowly yielded to bulk fire sales.
– An unreliable audience measurement system that rewards cheating instead of editorial quality or relevance.
– The advertising community’s inability to base their purchases on solid market analyses.


And on GigaOm by Mathew Ingram: Memo to Newspapers: Incremental Change is Not Helping, which buils on Filloux’s article:

Washington Post print and online revenue 2004-2010




That should keep both journalists and the business side of newspapers awake at night.

NY Times examines black-hat SEO by JC Penney

The New York Times story “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” is describes the various ways JC Penney employed through a hired SEO company to get itself to prime places in Google search for phrases ranging “area rugs” to “dresses”.

Now that the results have been disclosed, Penney will pay a penalty. Google is not amused when its system has been tricked. Google seems more regal when portrayed in articles like Wired’s “Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web“, which was awe-inspiring in the attention given to search results and to make them as useful as it could. Oh to see Google’s results compared to its competitors. it’s easy to see why it continues to dominate over Yahoo and Bing.

But black-hat SEO companies mock Google. The techniques they use take Google’s efforts and ridicule them and use them against Google itself. The methods have been around for years, but it’s been mostly discussed in the tech circles. The NY Times articles just brought it to the general public and embarrasses Google more publicly.

Since the NY Times story, Penney has dismissed the SEO company, SearchDex, and other companies are expected to look over the SEO practices they use and hire. The reward of prominent Google listings is too much for some companies to rely on the vague and uncertainty of white-hat SEO efforts.


Scene from "Angel and the Badman"