The Flight to Quality is on the Runway

Sometimes, things need to get bad before they can get good. Such is the case, I fear, with content, conversation, and advertising on the net. But I see signs of progress.

First let’s be clear: No one — not platforms, not ad agencies and networks, not brands, not media companies, not government, not users — can stand back and say that disinformation, hate, and incivility are someone else’s problem to solve. We all bear responsibility. We all must help by bringing pressure and demanding quality; by collaborating to define what quality is; by fixing systems that enable manipulation and exploitation; and by contributing whatever resources we have (ad dollars to links to reporting bad actors).

Last May, I wrote about fueling a flight to quality. Coming up on a year later, here’s what I see happening:

Platforms:

Newsonomics: Will Michael Ferro double down on newspapers or go digital?

Michael Ferro’s not done yet. He may have sold off his prized flagship Los Angeles Times — the cornerstone of his latest transformation strategy — but the publishing wheeler-dealer already has his top team consumed with finding new deals. That deal-making appears to be traveling on two tracks. One involves newspapers — their purchase and consolidation. The other lays rail for a digital-only content business expansion. And then, there’s the seemingly wild-eyed Ferro dream: buy Gannett, a company reeling again, its stock price down more than 10 percent Tuesday after announcing dismal fourth-quarter and full-year 2018 financials. One immediate Ferro goal: Deploy the cash that Tronc will gain when it closes the sale of the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to Patrick Soon-Shiong. Tronc tells me the deal will finalize at the end of this quarter or the beginning of next. Some observers have looked at the incoming Continue reading "Newsonomics: Will Michael Ferro double down on newspapers or go digital?"

Google Chrome’s built-in ad blocker goes live tomorrow. Here’s how it will work for users (and affect publishers)

Here’s something that will either scare or soothe anyone concerned with the future of digital advertising and the web: Starting tomorrow, Google, the largest advertising company in the world, will take an active role in deciding which ads people will see while using Chrome. On Thursday, Google plans to release a new Chrome update that will introduce a built-in ad blocker for the browser. The feature, whose existence was first reported last April, will automatically block ads that don’t conform to the Better Ads Standards from Coalition for Better Ads, as Chrome Web Platform product manager Ryan Schoen explained to TechCrunch. On desktop, these include popups, autoplay, sound-on videos, and “prestitial ads with countdown,” a format that, for most, has become synonymous with Forbes.com. The mobile version of Chrome will target those same ad formats, along with flashing animated ads, full-screen scrollover ads, and ads that take up
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Newsonomics: Can cross-subsidy (and nursing homes) help revive the Singapore Press?

— Even virtual monopolies get the blues. Singapore Press Holdings — publisher of its flagship Straits Times — is confronting the worldwide downturn in newspaper business fortunes. The large daily (383,000 daily circulation, print and digital) and its well-regarded parent SPH saw some tough numbers last year: down 16.9 percent in ad revenue, 13 percent in overall revenue and five percent in circulation revenue for the fiscal year ending September 2017. Profits suffered as well, down 33 percent. And SPH, which still employs 1,200 journalists across its array of 11 newspapers in four languages, magazines, and radio stations, announced significant job cuts in October, with 230 positions cut. The globally oriented company now plans to fund an overseas correspondent staff of 40. None of those results is news to North American or European publishers, who have suffered similarly. Print business woes are universal across the developed
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The Real Cost of the ‘Free’ Internet

The following piece is a guest post. Read more about MediaShift guest posts here. In the U.S., digital ad spend reached $72 billion in 2016, and with roughly nine out of ten American adults now connected to the internet, the typical U.S. internet user is worth around $250 per year to digital advertisers. Yes, you read that correctly. Digital advertisers are making approximately $250 annually – roughly twice the cost of a Netflix subscription – off you and your browsing data. This might be surprising to internet users, not only because it’s a lot of money (more than is spent on TV advertising), but also because digital advertisers make this money in large part by harvesting and selling your valuable personal information. In fact, personal data is taken from you each time you visit a website in order to target you with ads in exchange for
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What’s Ahead for Media in 2018: AI, Blockchain and Billionaires vs. Journalism

Click the image to read our entire series.

It’s time to ignore the warning that past results are no guarantee of future success, stick a wet finger into the cold winter wind and make some 2018 predictions. (Here my predictions for 2017, if you’d like to evaluate my previous performance.) This year, I’m predicting more uptake of AI and the blockchain for media, some business turmoil, and more battles with the duopoly (need we say who that is?).

AI Gets Real-er

In late 2017, it seemed that every media conference had a session about artificial intelligence, how it would boost media’s revenues, trustworthiness, curation and maybe even editorial capabilities. Ad-tech companies are leading the way already, they say, employing artificial intelligence and machine learning, neural networks, deep learning, natural language processing and other related technologies. In 2017, Google acquired at least two AI startups. Amazon and
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Newsonomics: 15 terms that summed up 2017 in news and news coverage

This is the year America wishes it could take a shower long enough to wash away the scum of daily mud-slinging. Remember 2016? Last year, it seemed as if Tronc was the most memorable word of the news year, a new media name seemingly invented as self-parody. In 2017, the memorable words tumble onto the page. Let’s briefly catalog those that have pushed their way into our lexicon. Duopoly: Google and Facebook dominate the field of digital advertising — which is now the largest category of ad spending, surpassing TV in North America and the U.K. Google and Facebook have been taking almost 90 percent of all the digital ad growth in the market in the U.S. The remaining 10 percent or so is supposed to help support news media, as well as all other businesses dependent on advertising. The immense damage done to news media by the Continue reading "Newsonomics: 15 terms that summed up 2017 in news and news coverage"