Curley: No longer in Kansas

Finally a story on new media guru Rob Curley in Fast Company.

“He’s clearly an icon in the industry, partly based on what he’s done and partly based on his personality,” says Randy Bennett, vice president of audience and new business development at the Newspaper Association of America. “There’s so much gloom and doom that gets bounced around this industry, people are hungry for his wild-eyed optimism. They look at what he’s done and say, ‘Wow, who knew a newspaper could do this?'”

Curley–“just a nerd from Kansas,” as he puts it–hasn’t won a Pulitzer or worked at a major daily. But since teaching himself to build Web sites 10 years ago, he appears to have figured out what most newspapers haven’t: how to do the Internet right. He calls it “hyperlocal” multimedia journalism, and his news and entertainment sites are sucking in audiences, advertisers, and revenue; they’re racking up national and international awards; and, most important, they’ve begun delivering profits….


Choice quotes

“Content is still king, but the monarchy has been overthrown. YouTube, MySpace, iTunes — it’s the invasion of the pronouns in a world all about me. The consumer-led republic is replacing the monarchy of major media. Consumers are in more control than ever. What’s changing is the very definition of the consumer. Increasingly, consumers might be called small media — just about anyone can now create and deliver content,” Beth Comstock, NBC Universal’s president-digital media and market development.

She said NBC Universal needed to “create the best, most innovative content, get used to sharing control, tap the power of the community, develop a keen understanding of constantly changing consumer behavior and, finally get used to the idea that the media marketplace from now on is going to be full of contradictions and tensions.”

One of those principles is a topic high on every media executives’ agenda these days: consumer behavior. “When I took this job a year ago, I assumed that few people would go home at night, and curl up on the sofa with a portable video device to watch a 22-minute program. But then iTunes video entered the market. And we started doing research. We discovered that 68% of iPod video owners were using the device inside their home, not on the road.”

NBC kept hearing about the guy who took his iPod to bed to watch his show while his wife watched the TV, or about the guy who watched basketball on the couch while his wife watched video clips on her cellphone. [from]

“Industry analysts predict that mobile television could be a global market worth as much as $27 billion by 2010.,” said Anne Sweeney, Co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney-ABC TV. “We now understand that piracy is a business model. It exists to serve a need in the market — specifically consumers who want TV content on demand. And piracy competes for consumers the same way we do — through quality, price and availability.”

Disney has deals with Vodafone Italy and Orange Mobile in the U.K. and has just finalized a deal via France Telecom’s Orange service. Disney distributes the ABC hit “Lost” to 3.2 million mobile-phone customers in the U.K., and plans to bring the network’s “Desperate Housewives” to 24 million Vodafone Italy subscribers. The company is also creating a new mobile product around a series of video diaries by the characters of “Lost.”

In looking for new-media ventures, Ms. Sweeney said, “We want partners who believe in their own products and services enough to market them aggressively instead of relying on our content to drive their sales.”

Ms. Sweeney also revealed that’s latest program-streaming initiative had garnered 2.5 million requests for shows in the past two weeks. That’s compared to 5.7 million requests for episodes over a two-month test period in the spring, when ABC first began to stream its top shows online. The new initiative is supported by a range of advertisers including Toyota. “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Lost” and new shows such as “Six Degrees” and “The Nine” are available online after the shows have completed their traditional broadcasts.

Outside the U.S., Disney also has a similar venture in Germany, where viewers can watch shows online via an IPTV entertainment portal called “Maxdome” operated by broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 and has licensed studio content to wireless-content firm TU Media, based in South Korea. The South Korean market is one of the most advanced in the world for cellphone technology. TU Media now streams 250 hours of Disney programming to its wireless-phone customers. [from]

On the YouTube buy. “Well, on the money side, it’s easy because we have what we think is the world’s best advertising system and we can take that advertising and use that over time to build quite a business off all of the things the users are doing on YouTube,” said Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google.

“The real reason, however, was not the money, and not even the advertising, it was because we believe that video is going to be, and is sort of already, one of the most important new media types on the internet.

“More and more people are going to be doing videos of one kind or another to communicate ideas, sell their product, record their memories, and ultimately a lot of the existing broadcast world that we’re so used to will become available on the internet.

“All of the media companies are dealing with dramatic changes in their business. So what we’re trying to do with all of these partners is to say, ‘if you work with us we can combine our advertising platform and your content with a much larger audience.’ So far people like that message, they are now trying to figure out what to do about it – should they, should they not, under what terms, and those sort of things.” [From]

“YouTube is less a video-sharing site than it is a social networking site based around video. The company gets its content for free and has built a profitable business from acting as a video portal. In the strictest sense this isn’t Web 2.0 at all and actually harkens back to Web 1.0 applications like the Motley Fool,” said Robert X Cringely, PBS’s I, Cringely.

“So is YouTube the future of television or isn’t it?

“The answer to this question has to be based more on how WE use the medium rather than on how it uses us. I don’t think YouTube as it exists today is even remotely the future of television, because if it is then television is in huge trouble.

“Where are the folks who watch YouTube six hours per day? They exist, I’m sure, but there was a time when Americans watched television an AVERAGE of six hours per day, which is more than YouTube will ever know. YouTube gets stale for me after about 20 minutes, which hardly makes it the next Seinfeld.

“If YouTube has 100 million video downloads per day and if those downloaded videos average 2.5 minutes in length as PaidContent suggests, then the average daily YouTube audience consumes 250 million minutes or less than ONE MINUTE OF VIDEO PER U.S. RESIDENT PER DAY. That’s a lifestyle change, true, but not a big one, nor is it even guaranteed to be permanent.

“The whole television viewer experience has always been based on two factors: immediacy and production values. TV brought us live events we could share as a nation. YouTube can’t do that. TV brought us production values beyond what we could afford as individuals. YouTube doesn’t do that unless it is by ripping off copyrighted content.

“Its evident profitability is how YouTube is now able to cut revenue-sharing deals with record companies and TV networks. There has to be revenue to share for revenue sharing to work. But if you look closely at those deals, they also involve the prospect of original YouTube-only content from partners like CBS.

“Is CBS going to put $1 million per hour into its YouTube content? I don’t think so. CBS is going to throw on YouTube all its old pilots and episodes it had previously written off — content that costs it absolutely nothing because it was paid for long ago out of a different budget.

“YouTube is the factory outlet of commercial television, at least for now.” [From I, Cringely]

Going Hyper-local

“Go local” is the new mantra of the web 2.0 leaders. Yahoo, Amazon and Google seem set on trying to make as much money in this overlooked space as possible. The idea is if you provide enough maps and such services to the smalltowns of America, they may just bite.

Others have turned the idea on its head by starting local and going national. Sounds unscalable but sites such as Backfence and YourHub are growing. These sites appear on the same track as sites like Judy’s Book and CraigsList where classifieds take on a more human interface.

The most recent entry is which has received US$3 million in venturecap to creat multi-town site beginning with San Mateo and Burlingame.

Users create a “Webcard” to post and share their wares, services, events, etc. and can pay for an “enhanced card” for a monthly $40 listing fee.

Webcards can be combined to form a “card stack” of information, akin to a file of resources that one might create using index cards and a filing box.

The dream of course is have millions of these webcards of every little service in every little smalltown in America.

Sounds fishy to me. Doesn’t webcard = webpage and if these small businesses were not using the web in the first place, why would they need them now?

In pre-dotcom bust days, the same hype/hope drove thousands to create the space where users would generate the content and the “real-estate” owners would just charge for advertising and reel in the money.

The only difference now is the Flash user interface which — considering its target audience — will be annoying to older audiences it hopes to attract.

Crappy videos – who wants them?

Tom Green sheds some light on the Rise of Flash Video.

With Google paying out US$1.65 billion for Youtube one wonders whether this signals the end of older formats such as Real, Windows Media and Quicktime.

I think it seems too premature to argue that the format wars are over. In fact, it may have just started. Video is not only about content. Or the speed with which it loads up — although that has always been a consideration, for which Youtube has gained traction.

But as users the frustrations have not chnaged. Who wants a two by two screen of great video that pixelates the minute you go fullscreen? How do we get the high-quality video we want at the crappy speeds our service provider provides? And more importantly, how do I upload all these videos and get paid for it?

The advent of coursecasting

[ via Cnet/Reuters]

The University of California at Berkeley said Tuesday that it is using Google Video to deliver college courses, including lectures and symposia, free of charge.

The university has put up a library of more than 250 hours of video for public viewing on this featured page.

“Coursecasting” is a growing trend in educational technology, enabling students and the general public to download audio and video recordings of class lectures to their computers and portable media devices.


Johnny Does Read…Online News

High school students not only pay attention to the news on the Internet, they like traditional news sources more than most might think.

About 51 percent of 15,000 students surveyed say they get mainstream news on the Internet at least weekly, and mostly from portals such as Google and Yahoo, followed by national TV news sites, and local TV and daily newspaper sites. Blogs came in 4th place.

On the flipside, 29 percent say they never get news online, while 10 percent of teens said they have no interest in the news, mostly because they feel it isn’t presented in an engaging way.

“We have to find ways to connect with them now. Let’s not shove a 1950s newspaper report down every young person’s throat and say that it’s good for you like cod liver oil,” said Howard Finberg, Poynter’s director of interactive learning in an interview.

The survey by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation specifically looks at online news consumption.

It doesn’t try to measure how much students get news from other sources, such as television and radio broadcasts, and newspapers.

It does show, however, that the majority of students think TV is the best overall source of news, the most accurate and the easiest to use.

“The digital revolution is increasing, not decreasing, the connection between American teens and news,” said Eric Newton, director of Knight Foundation’s Journalism Initiatives.

A majority of high school students find TV, followed by newspapers, to be the most accurate news sources. They don’t trust the accuracy of blogs, according to the survey.

But despite their reliance on traditional news sources, nearly half of high school students say they also get news and information from entertainment programs like “The Daily Show”, “The Colbert Report” and “South Park” and others at least once a week.

In the survey sample, 9 out of 10 teens are wired to the Internet through school and 8 out of 10 through the home.

This 2006 survey is the second part of an update to Knight Foundation’s 2004 study, which questioned more than 100,000 students and 8,000 teachers — the largest survey of its kind — about their attitudes and knowledge of the First Amendment. Dr. David Yalof and Dr. Kenneth Dautrich conducted the research for both surveys.


Blogging and crisis communications

Been researching lately on blogging and how new media tools can be used during a crisis. has an interesting list on crisis communications plan in relation to the social media community.


Have a crisis communication plan in place that everyone is aware of including the procedures, their rol, key contact details, etc. A blog should be set up behind a firewall so it can quickly be released to address issues and customer feedback.


Monitor, monitor, monitor. You should be using the various monitoring tools available on the Internet: Goog Blog Search, T/rati, PubSub, TalkDigger et al. Keep an eye out for any warning signs or symptoms and if any do occur address them quickly. Monitor every blogger not just the prominent ones. The PR pros that choose to put their heads in the sand will be the ones that suffer most.

Know the facts – ALL the facts

If an issue does arise with your client, find out each and every detail. Some clients will be apprehensive to tell you everything, but it’s your job to be fully aware of the situation. Know everything, assume nothing.

Tell the facts – ALL the facts

Crisis hit companies tend to be very guarded and say nothing at all. This won’t stop the bloggers from writing about your client and they’ll make up their minds from what facts they do have. Bloggers appreciate openness – they’re an entirely different animal from the MSM and giving them all the information is the key. Answer any questions they might have; post comments on blogs addressing the issue, ask for their opinions and get their insight. Work with them, not against them. Bloggers look for the truth and not a scoop so take every criticism as constructive.

By applying a two-way symmetric model, the PR pro’s role is to gain mutual understanding between the client and its publics – they should act as the intermediary which should result in a change in either one of the two parties.

And remember, there might be a situation when the rumours or allegations are completely false. This doesn’t mean you can ignore it. On the contrary, you should be applying the same measures no matter what. A reputation takes years to build but only moments to destroy.


All of the above is an effort to limit the duration and spread of a crisis. The more information you give, the more you can contain the issue. Don’t let speculation and assumption run wild.


Okay, you’ve addressed the issue and you’re on the road to recovery. Remember to keep reassuring and easing minds. Take nothing for granted and continue to monitor, monitor, monitor. Try to develop relationships with your critics; get their opinion and ask them: “what can we do to make our product better?”


What was lost? What was gained? How was the performance of the crisis communications plan? What have you learned from this? Is there anything that could be improved? No doubt it wasn’t perfect so take it back to the start and continually improve it.


How a blog came to play in the tsunami crisis in Sri Lanka, just shortly after they were taught how to blog makes an interesting case-study.

Indrajit Samajiva was the person who provided the training.

9 ways to improve news sites

Todd Zeigler of the Bivings Report has expanded his 9 ways to improve news sites two-fold.

In summary:

1. Start using tags.
2. Provide full text RSS feeds.
3. Work with external “social” websites.
4. Link to relevant blog entries.
5. Get rid of all registration.
6. Partner with local bloggers.
7. Offer alternative views of your content.
8. Modernize your site’s graphic design.
9. Learn from Craigslist.
10. Make your content work on phones/PDAs.
11. Allow readers to comment on every story.
12. Improve search features.
13. Use better html.
14. Focus on local and regional news.
15. Open up your archives.
16. Provide multilingual versions.
17. Offer supplemental content.
18. Open up the letter to the editor process.


Adrian Holovaty chimes in.

Google AdWords Goes Mobile

We knew it was coming. How could Google ignore the mobile space any longer? The question is will mobilephone users be as welcoming of text ads on their third screen?[from MediaPost]
Google Introduces Mobile AdWords

GOOGLE IS CURRENTLY TESTING a new service that allows paid search advertisers to distribute pay-per-click and pay-per-call text ads to mobile phones in the United States, the U.K. and Japan, a company spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

The text ads will appear when a user searches using Google from a mobile device; the ads will contain two lines of text, with 12 to 18 characters per line. Marketers must purchase the ads through the standard AdWords interface, and also must have either a mobile Web site for pay-per-click ads, or a toll-free phone number for pay-per-call ads.

David Berkowitz, director of strategic planning for search engine marketing firm 360i, said Google’s entry could make the world of mobile advertising more accessible to smaller advertisers. “Right now, there’s only so much mobile search buying going on, but Google’s done a great job integrating this into their overall AdWords system,” he said. “There’s a lot of mobile advertising companies, it’s a really chaotic, confusing space, so for a lot of marketers, this could be a relief for them.”

Tom Burgess, CEO of mobile marketing firm Third Screen Media, added that Google’s initiatives in the mobile marketing space lend the medium credibility. “To see a company that’s so well regarded as Google pay homage to the opportunity of mobile advertising is a great thing,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of marketers that buy from them. Now that they’ve got a mobile solution, those marketers are going to be further exposed to mobile.”

Rob Curley joins Washington Post.Newsweek Interactive

[from Sys-Con Media]
Converged-media visionary Rob Curley, 35, of “let’s stop making crappy news sites” will assume the new position of vice president of product development for WPNI.

He will lead a team dedicated to innovation in online news and technology.

WPNI currently oversees,, and Slate, all recipients of numerous industry awards.

These properties, as well as WPNI’s, also have experienced rapid user and revenue growth.

Curley joins WPNI from the Naples Daily News where he directed new media and convergence.

Curley has become one of the most critically acclaimed and award-winning online news developers in the world. He has distinguished himself in the emerging new-media realm of hyper-local media convergence.

In 2001, the Newspaper Association of America named Curley its New Media Pioneer of the Year. Curley’s online development teams at the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World, the Topeka (Kansas) Capital-Journal and the Naples Daily News garnered numerous national and international online journalism awards from Editor & Publisher magazine and the Newspaper Association of America.

[Note: Adrian Holovaty, an LJWorld/ alumnus, and creator of has been working at for a year]

Washington Business Journal reported that the
Washington Post has been looking to new media plays to rescue it from falling ad revenue and circulation at its newspaper division.

It recently tapped Newsweek editor Mark Whittaker, as editor-in-chief of New Ventures at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the publisher’s digital division that oversees its Websites, including,, Slate and

Online publishing sales grew 36 percent last quarter, to US$25.3 million.

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