Category Archives: Web

Post #11: The CBS “CBSlocal” strategy is an incredibly dumb move

As I look at the efforts by traditional media to incorporate online, the move by CBS in forcing its local stations to adopt “city.cbslocal.com” as their identity is nothing short of mind boggling.

CBS stations around the country have some of the strongest local news and program brands that exist. WBZ and WBZ-TV here in Boston, KYW & KYW-TV in Philly, WBBM & WBBM-TV, Chicago are incredibly powerful local brands and there are many others, both radio and TV.

These are brands which can be vastly helpful in attracting local audiences to their online services. And, by and large, they’re throwing all that brand power away for no reason.
What possibly could be the thinking here?

It’s particularly stupid here in Boston to adopt a brand that, frankly, screams “New York” and certainly doesn’t say “local”. Remember the popular Boston T-shirt? “I’m for Boston and any other team that beats New York”?

And let’s not even spend time considering their tagline describing the Web site: “life just got easier”. WTF does that mean to anyone?

I’m a huge believer in the power of local media to use their local identity to weather the transition to a digital world. I can’t think of a single reason for this CBS blunder except that it makes some corporate Webmaster’s life a little easier.

CBS should bite the bullet and return their local identify to one that is truly local. WBZ is local. CBSlocal is in New York.

Post #10: The myth of hyper local – why AOL’s Patch.com is fatally flawed (sorry to say)

Patch is a collection of local town sites (e.g. smallville.patch.com) which report the news of each town and some stories from adjacent towns that have Patch sites. Each town is supposed to have an editor/reporter/photographer but cost-cutting at the money-losing Patch has led to cutbacks so increasingly the editors are regional.

The revenue base is local advertisers plus some national ones sold by Patch’s central office in New York. Sponsors like Allstate and Citibank are on my local Patch, along with the every popular “5 Hosts That Don’t Suck” and a site selling male Testosterone supplements. (In fairness, the “5 Hosts” Google ad was on the front page of the NY Times this morning too).

The first problem is that there isn’t enough interesting hyper local news to attract a regular, repeat audience. It’s mostly boring. Other than a few boys sports (e.g. football) the only readers for stories about high school sports are the parents of kids on the teams. Even topics which might provoke interest (e.g. taxes) don’t generate enough regular stories to attract repeat viewing. In any event, people don’t define their news interests by an area as small as a single small town.

The whole concept of “hyperlocal” needs much more thought than Patch has given it. In fact, all media, particularly newspapers, have to rethink what local means and how to serve it online. “Local” used to be a religion in local media as a means to differentiate themselves from national competitors. But is it better to carry a local story that’s of little interest than a regional, national or international story that’s much more interesting? Not when you have a choice, which online delivery makes possible.

The second problem is that no matter how you define it, covering local stories and taking pictures is expensive, even with the lowly paid positions that Patch offers. When you do it on the cheap, it’s pretty obvious.

I’ll confess that I really wanted Patch to succeed even though my media gut said it wouldn’t. So this is not an “I told you so” column, it’s a “sorry to see” column. I think there were a number of workable approaches to hyper or regional local that might have worked but this was not one of them

There’s no bigger believer in the power of local than I am, having spent many years in local radio and TV It’s the reason why I think the big local brands in media still have time to reclaim their share of the audience. But Patch’s hyperlocal is not who they have to fear.

Post #8 – Most audience numbers for ad-supported sites are BS

Most of the audience numbers you read about for ad-supported sites are vastly overstated. Here’s why.

Let’s say a site says it has 1 million monthly users. That means, of course, that a million people are estimated as having gone to the site at least once in the month (or the numbers may come off their server records).

However, not all visitors are created equal. In fact, generally on the best sites, only 20-30% of the users do 80-90% of the viewing, whether measured by time spent or by number of pages viewed per visit. So only 2-300,000 viewers of the million are “real”.

The other 70-80% do very little of the viewing and a lot of them visit only once, probably through a search engine, and didn’t even really know what site they were on. These visitors are almost worthless on an ad-supported site. Why? Because they only see an ad once, an exposure that makes little or no impression.

It’s always been shown in any medium that an ad needs to be seen multiple times before it sinks in and causes action. This theoretical site can really only give advertisers a good return for their money against the frequent visitors.

Some sites have even less core users, with 90% or more in the single page category. There was a major search engine that is no longer a factor that had an amazingly small number of repeat visitors. Almost all of them were one-timers. That profile predicted the demise of the site and it did indeed die.

Another frequent trick is to report “registered users”. These are people who have signed up with a log-on and password. These numbers can be really misleading, since many people sign up for an account and then never use it. Or they have multiple accounts. What you need to know is how many registered users accessed their account at least once in the month.

How many users does Facebook or Twitter really have? Hard to say, but my dog is one of them.

Post #7 – Radio needs to re-up with the automobile.

Post-television radio has always had a fundamental dependency on the automobile and never more so than now, as in-house radios reach a low point. Everything that’s come along has impacted radio listening, starting with the cellphone and cassette tapes, through self-burned CD’s and satellite radio. Now it’s facing a new challenge – the online car.

The tragedy is that my Audi dealer is offering me a car that comes with Pandora and not an interactive version of WBZ (our local news and information station) or KISS (our leading rock station). As built-in cellular connections and USB connectors become more and more common in cars at all price levels, things will only get worse for radio if it doesn’t do something about it.

Radio needs to marry itself to the car again – and mobile phones as well. Stations which still have strong brands, particularly news and information stations, should be integrating with music providers like Pandora and, more importantly, to screens in cars and on phones.

Listeners should be able to listen to their favorite stations and have access to key on-demand elements, such as traffic and weather, which can be displayed or played at the user’s command. The service should be GPS enabled so the most relevant traffic would be shown or played, not to mention relevant advertising.

Radio still has brand and habit cards to play – if it plays them quickly. I would like to think that radio companies with savvy management – like Bob Pittman at Clear Channel, are already working on this.

Interesting story: Pandora Buys a Radio Station

Post #6 – Newspapers may be down, but they don’t have to be out.

Newspapers got in trouble because they didn’t protect their turf. No, I’m not talking about news. I’m talking about want ads, job listings, real estate ads and automative – areas that generated the majority of the profits at newspapers.

They didn’t do such a great a job protecting their news either. It shouldn’t have taken them so long to understand that the Internet was a continuous medium, not a once-a-day one. But that’s not really the heart of the problem, which was the decline of all those things that financed the news.

The good news is that it’s not too late for existing papers with a strong brand presence in their markets. The bad news is that it’s very late in the game, immediate action is necessary and the outcome is not certain.

The surviving newspapers still have an incredibly powerful local brand. It doesn’t matter whether people even still subscribe. They know the name. Newspapers need to use this residual brand power to get themselves back in the commerce game.

There are many ways they could leverage their local presence and brand. One that comes easily to mind is a local merchants and services marketplace. If the Boston Globe (my local paper) advertised that any merchant could have a free account and storefront, who wouldn’t take them up on it? The power of the brand is such that every store, every service business and anyone with anything to sell is going to take advantage. Who would dare take the chance of not being there, particularly when the price was zero?

Obviously the payoff comes in two ways. One is to sell upgrades from the free service and the other is to offer 100% local search as the ONLY way to access this extensive local database. And of course sell search ads around the search.

This is just one example. Newspapers need to look at all the markets they lost and see how their brand and local presence can get them back in the game.