Dow Jones, MTV ponder changes

Posted on August 29, 2006 
Filed Under Journalism, Multimedia, Social Media

[From AP: Dow Jones, Journal Register Mull Sales]

Dow Jones is considering selling Ottaway community newspaper unit, which currently owns 15 daily and 19 weekly newspapers and more than 18 other publications in nine states.

The unit’s papers have a total daily circulation of 431,057 and Sunday circulation of 473,167, according to the company’s Web site.

While the division has been consistently profitable in the past, its July advertising figures slipped in several categories including display and classified. Its one bright spot was online, which soared 62.4 percent

July ad sales also saw an increase Dow Jones’ flagships, the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s.

Dow Jones has not outright said it is shifting its focus to online, but in a July 20 earnings conference call CEO Rich Zannino clearly emphasized that the company was in the hunt for new media profits.

The company has plans to expand its online video with content and advertising as well as licensing and delivering content to cell phones and PDAs.

Enhancements to its web sites, including live quotes and live news, are also in the pipeline, according to Zannino.

[From Reuters: MTV–will digital kill the video star?]

Twenty-five-old MTV, which now appears in some 442 million households in 167 territories worldwide, including 88 million households in the US, is quietly reinventing itself to retain its crown as as the top purveyor of cool, youth-driven pop culture.

“All the media companies now are having discussions about things that never would have been fathomed two, three years ago. I think we’re finally moving beyond the phase where everyone was afraid to move because they were afraid of making the wrong move, and instead they’re just trying things to see what happens,” said MTV president Christina Norman.

The company has several ventures aimed squarely against upstarts, YouTube and even Yahoo to establish a presence on new digital platforms.

MTV Overdrive, a broadband Internet video-on-demand service, launched in April 2005, has more than 1.5 million video streams per day.

During the recent Video Music Awards, Overdrive viewers were able to watch behind-the-scenes footage during commercial breaks and otherwise interact more broadly with the event.

Norman said the trial was a huge success, so much so that MTV is applying the same experience to such shows as “TRL.”

This strategy of using the Internet to give viewers more access to content extends to MTV’s university feed, MTVU, with its Internet counterpart, MTVU Uber. Norman said she may consider airing other MTV niche programming, such as MTV World, over the Internet.

In the wireless area, MTV got in on the game through a partnership with the teen-focused Virgin Mobile, offering exclusive ring tones unavailable to other carriers. It even commissioned hip-hop producer Timbaland to produce a suite of original ring tones.

The company continues its mobile presence beyond music, striking deals to bring original short-form programming–such as animation and live-action video–to mobile phones.

The mobile strategy has expanded with Flux, a mobile content service that takes different forms in different countries. In the United States, Flux is MTV’s direct-to-consumer mobile content storefront, selling ring tones, graphics and so on.

MTV is exploring digital downloads with the test launch of Urge, a subscription music service that is integrated into the next version of Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.

Just as Urge faces dominant competition from Apple Computer’s iTunes, MTV was outflanked in the social networking boom when its parent company, Viacom, in 2005 lost out to News Corp. on the bidding for MySpace.

Since the acquisition, MySpace’s usage has quadrupled, and only the video-sharing site YouTube has come anywhere close to matching its success.

“We know we want to be in social networking, and we know that’s where our audience is,” said Norman. “But it’s important for us to approach this in the right way and not have another ‘me too’ application.”

One strategy is to extend many of MTV’s social outreach efforts like Rock the Vote, sexual health campaigns and townhall-style meetings with politicians into an online community.

On the entertainment front, MTV is readying a number of services that let people post their own content and interact with MTV’s content on multiple platforms. Norman said to expect specifics “in the next couple of months.”

Content is still king for a company whose programming includes not only vast volumes of music videos but also original series like “The Real World,” “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Punk’d.” Yet the challenge and the opportunity in an age with multiple delivery platforms is to determine which content works best via what channel.

“A lot of us are learning how to create to the platform rather than just spreading content across platforms,” Norman said. “It gets harder and harder the bigger you get. You’d love for everything to be interconnected in some way or another, but that may not always be the right thing for that channel or that audience. For us, it’s always about making it addictive for the audience and not just shoving another (program) down (their) throat.”


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