Hyperlocal belonging

The other day I saw a survey that claimed that 44% of all Danes would like to know their neighbors better.

In a globalized world, where we’re so busy figuring out when and how to travel somewhere next, this is somewhat a mind-boggling number.

You may say that you’re global. But the fact of the matter also is that most of us (not me though) live alone – many even single. We venture out to meet people, but when we are at base, we’re most often alone.

To more and more people that turns into a feeling of anxiety and even depression. The Covid-19 pandemic certainly hasn’t helped with psychiatrists reporting a large influx in ‘new’ patients who all have in common that just a year ago they would have been deemed far from in need of seeking help with their mental health.

So, having said all of that, it is comforting to see that once again there is a surge of interest in the hyperlocal space. In building local (mostly) digital communities, where people who might otherwise feel slightly isolated and alone can get a sense of belonging.

That’s the good part.

The not so good part is that for all the initiatives, I see being announced especially in Denmark, I have a feeling that they will be missing the target and the real opportunity.

Both Jysk Fynske Medier and JP/Politikens Hus have announced that they will be rolling out new hyperlocal mediainitiatives in select geographies in the coming months. It should be applauded. It not for anything else then for the jobs it’s going to create in a media industry that is by now more infamous for its frequent job cuts.

But is a hyperlocal NEWS site really the answer to the question of hyperlocal belonging? Maybe. But I am guessing ‘no’.

It will most certainly be able to fill a need to be informed about what’s going on around you. But is that enough to make you feel connected too? I doubt it. I think that in order to achieve that you need something more.

Considering all the issues with people feeling lonely and borderline depressed, the opportunity to find new ways to connect people and by proxy help build mental stamina and health seems both really good, worthwhile and as something that could have some interesting positive business consequences.

Because people are more than willing to pay for services and products that give them a feeling of being substantially better off on a personal level. And what is more personal than the sense of belonging, being part of something bigger, being seen, heard, appreciated and connect with likeminded people for various activities?

Not really that much.

So I will be curious to see who the first ones will be who make the bet to build a hyperlocal model not based on information as the primary thing but on the psychological levers to make the individual feel better as it’s core.

That’s a really intriguing and cool opportunity.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Bond. Jeff Bezos Bond

Amazon is reportedly looking to acquire MGM Studios for close to 9B USD.

That’s a lot of money to fork up just to get in with a shout at becoming the next James Bond. You have got to hand it to Jeff Bezos:

When he does something, he does it in style.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

Just solid.

Let’s get serious for a moment, ok?

Not only will Amazon get its hands on the James Bond-franchise. Despite my obvious affection for 007 that’s a minor detail. What’s important is that they will get access to a content powerhouse that will be an interesting competitor in the streaming wars being waged between Amazon Prime, Disney+ and that ‘old incombent’, Netflix among others.

The really interesting bit is just how important a part of the overall Amazon offering, streaming is becoming. To me at least it seems like it’s a key ingredient in keeping the Amazon Prime rundle interesting and value for money for consumers. It’s the icing on the cake. After you have eaten the cake, that is.

Taken into a larger context it seems rather bizarre by now that we have been discussing the value of content over the years as something that approached zero, when it’s becoming fairly obvious that great content is a key differentiator that makes the bundle turned rundle ever more evergreen and attractive to consumers.

People have never spent more money on content than they do today. They are just spending it with a set of very different providers and value propositions than they were a couple of decades ago.

Where does this leave the media players that used to skim all the profits?

Almost like a failed Bond villain.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Rest In Peace, IE

It’s been in the cards for ages, but now it’s official: Internet Explorer (IE) will be retired in June 2022.

Most people have long since moved on. And for good reason(s). But many businesses still have some legacy tools that for some silly reason loves IE more than anything else. They will now need to find a new object of their affection.

The reason why I wanted to briefly touch on it here is not for what is happening now but for what IE has meant to the world, to Microsoft – and to me.

For the world, IE was the first way many people got on the internet. Yes, you could argue there were always better, more sexy options. But the inclusion of IE in the Windows operating system effectively made it a no-brainer for consumers to use the browser. Which could again be seen by it’s market dominance for years.

Love it or hate it. There are many ways to make your mark. And IE certainly did that with millions and millions of people.

For Microsoft it also had tremendous importance – if for all the wrong reasons. It allowed the company to steam (late) into the digital era, and it was also the most important source of the anti-trust case filed by DOJ that out then CEO Bill Gates through his most excruciating interview ever (and no, he did not do well in that), and almost broke the company up.

How’s that for impact, huh?

For me personally, IE also played a pivotal role in my professional life. When I started out at MSN.dk in the autumn of 2000, our homepage was the standard homepage in IE and as such, we got a lot of traffic from it.

I honestly can’t count the number of times, I have received abuse and pointed remarks from competitors about the unfair advantage, they thought we had, and how we – in their eyes – ‘cheated’.

Of course we didn’t, and the only effect the criticism had on us was to motivate us to do even better and go and create some of the most popular content verticals on the Danish part of the internet, IRRESPECTIVE of the IE homepage.

We managed to build leading verticals within entertainment and lifestyle for both men and women with great local partners. And with that and more most certainly the most profitable display driven advertising business in the Danish media market with margins, our competitors couldn’t even dream of.

It was good times.

So for me, IE was a net positive. It helped me discover the internet, it provided an opportunity to join one of the coolest companies on the planet (which I am eternally grateful for), and it allowed our team to build a digital media business that was second-to-none in it’s time.

Rest In Peace, IE.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Data is subscription gold

Lars K. Jensen from Willmore does an excellent newsletter on innovation within digital media called ‘Products in Publishing’.

If you haven’t signed up for it yet, I suggest that you go and do it – even if you’re not in media. Because the way that he uses data and analysis to inform his thinking is inspirational.

His latest take is on digital news subscriptions, and why it’s probably not the news that are driving conversions from freeloaders to subscribers. You can argue that it’s quite obvious, since very few if any have had real success with digital news subscriptions. But that’s not the point.

The point is how he uses data. Because analyzing different use cases for content, how much content is published in each of them and how they convert, he’s able to do a pretty spot on analysis of what it is that drives value for digital news media subscribers.

And here’s the kicker:

Even though Lars is good, he hasn’t done anything that any media company with a decent analytics department – and yes, they all have one – couldn’t and shouldn’t have done a long, long time ago.

The data has been there for everybody who cared to see it and get to the same conclusions.

Why haven’t they made this analysis years ago? There’s obviously subscription gold in the data.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

An education in truth

Sometimes your old education comes in handy.

The other day I helped flesh out 3 very different angles to an upcoming news release depending on the angle and tonality the team behind wishes to pursue, when they go live.

In doing so it (yet again) dawned on me how powerful the right wording can be; how you can use the right words to set the tone and provoke the thoughts you want to install while essentially saying the same thing at the end.

How your angle is just as valid as the next one. And how little is centrally controlled anymore when it comes to messaging.

And then I came to think about Erik Torenbergs piece on “How the Internet Ate Media” and this quote:

Everything used to be fractured and fragmented by definition. Then came the telegraph, then the telephone, and mass manufacturing, public education and more. We’re now returning to that early way of living before Peak Centralization. Structurally, we have more in common with the 1800s than we did with 1950s.

Using that to reflect a bit on my education as a journalist and the challenging times for journalists at large, I thought to myself:

What if journalism school also taught an “education in truth”?

Scrap all the stuff about finding the angle and write a story up. Focus on doing proper research, asking the right questions and – first and foremost – the ability to get to the bottom of things.

To a solid sense of truth. No angles. No agendas.

I think that would probably be one of the most valuable educations you could lecture/have in modern society as people who can navigate the chaos of (mis)communication without getting lost or crash will be in high demand.

Thoughts?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Twitter finally makes a move

The new Super Follower feature from Twitter looks super interesting; the ability for a user to offer special perks to followers, who choose to pay a monthly fee.

One thing, we should immediately be asking ourselves: What took Twitter so long?

Tiered access and perks is nothing new at all. Lots of different services have had it for years. Dating sites is a great example, where it has long been the norm, you couldn’t contact someone and keep a conversation going, unless you were a paying member.

It should be a slam dunk for Twitter.

Unless of course, they blow this too.

There probably isn’t a big service out there, who have botched so many opportunities to develop their product and their business model as Twitter has. Anyone remember Vine which was TikTok before someone in China got that idea. Thought so.

I do however think there is a chance that Twitter will get it right this time. I don’t think you should underestimate the profound change that occurred when Twitter finally decided to kick the former US president to the curb for life.

It was a watershed moment. The lid came off the tube, and Twitter is in a different place now. So they should be able to do this.

For users it will also be interesting. From the looks of it, it will be super easy to create a Super Follower package, set a price and cater to the needs of that special paying audience. When you enable opportunity and make it dead simple for people to take it up for themselves, usage usually follows.

For media it will also be very interesting. Twitter just made it super easy for any user with some insight and expertise in something to create their own personal brand and get compensated for it. At the same time Twitter has a reach built into it that most media companies can only dream of.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this – or something like this – ends up being a preferred go-to-market plan for journalistic talent that would otherwise have chosen the more traditional media route. And that will in itself carry yet another branch to the bonfire of old medias imploding business model.

Interesting times.

PS. Big hattip to Prof G who saw this coming from a mile.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Regulating media tech right

If governments were so intent on getting tech platforms to support quality journalism, they should be approaching the matter in an entirely different way.

First of all they should put a revenue tax on advertising at the source of the income, ie a VAT kind of tax albeit small they place on advertisers, when they run ads on big tech platforms.

Second, they should use some of the proceeds from that tax to support – and here is the kicker – fact checking, NOT journalism.

Why not journalism?

Because media has a tendency to elevate every piece of content into groundbreaking journalism, when it’s clearly not. Let’s just here mention celebrity gossip, ‘he said, she said’ arguments between politicians – funnily enough – often taken directly from said politicians Facebook page (without media paying the THAT privilege of course) and loads of other forms of content.

Why fact checking?

Of course because it speaks to the core of the problem on both sides:

Facebook in particular has a big issue with misinformation and fake news, and there’s no apparent reason to think they are any good at monitoring and/or regulating it. And media has a huge cost associated with quality reporting and fact checking.

So by taxing advertising at the source and rerouting some of the proceeds towards supporting fact checking, politicians would effectively be able to solve two big issues in one fell blow without breaking the core fundamentals of the internet:

They would be able to get tech giants to pay more taxes locally (as they should), and they would find a way to support quality fact checking/journalism, which is needed more than ever (especially in the absence of media themselves being able to figure out a viable business model going forward).

Do I think politicians will get inspired by the above?

Absolutely not. They are probably too busy getting their ears screamed full by lobbyists for media companies with little interest in doing this right. As long as they just get paid.

NB: I have no idea about how the practicalities of this would work, but I am sure there are more than enough brainy people out there to figure out the details.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Zuck versus Murdoch

So, Facebook decided to pull the plug on links from Australian news organizations in response to a suggested new law that will force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for links to content.

Good. For. Them.

Facebook, I mean.

Now, I am by no means a Facebook fan, but I think there are so many inherent flaws in the arguments for paying for links that I jump to the other side of the table on this one.

First of all links and linking is an integral part of the web and a key component to the very infrastructure that supports perhaps the most impactful – for better and for worse – invention we have seen since WWII: The internet.

Links is such a crucial underpinning that they need to be free. Free to show that is. What then happens when you click the link is another matter, and that may be arbitraged at will based on the business model of the place, where the link is being clicked.

But just showing the link?

FREE. Period.

Second, what the proposed legislation really does is that it differentiates. It says that some links are worth money, the rest of them are not. It puts rules in place for determining when a link has value that warrants payment, and those rules are such that only a very few get to profit from it.

Who are those few? The biggest Australian news organizations. Who owns a lot of them? Yes, one Rupert Murdoch.

So Rupert Murdoch, whose record on effectively undermining democracy through the use of opinionated media in major countries is…I don’t even know where to begin, is a chief beneficiary. That alone should make you want to kick this particular piece of legislation to the curb.

Because let’s make no mistake about it: This legislation is not born out of concern for democracy. It is born out of intense lobbying by the news media associations, which is taking place every single day all over the world, and where they have so far happened to be most successful in moving the needle in Australia.

This is not about freedom of speech or protecting democracy. This is a Hail Mary pass for failed news executives who have over at least the past two decades failed miserably to meet the challenge posed by the emergence of the internet and innovate their products and business models to keep up with the times and changes in user behaviour and preferences.

Everybody and his uncle knows that when it comes to politics, motivation for action and legislation should not always be taken at face value. There is a reason why there is a term called ‘special interests’. Legislation becomes tainted, skewed and formed to fit individual special interests every day, and to a large extend that is fine. But let us at least call it what it is.

So following on from that, here is what the proposed Australian legislation is: It is a protection money-scheme with the “Pay us or else…” not explicitly stated but with no one in doubt as to who should be kept in a ‘friendly’ mood.

Even in this day and age politicians fear ending up on the front page.

Add to that that the core argument doesn’t really make logical sense:

You need to pay us for showing links that are effectively advertising driving users and traffic to our own properties. We want your dollars AND your traffic.

And you’re just going “WTF?!”

It’s mind-numbing.

In fact it is so inexcusably stupid that Facebook is well within its right to just pull the plug on Australian news organizations. It’s a private company – not a public utility – and they are free to define their policies as they see fit within the law. And if the law works against them they are entirely free to just pull out.

I hope that they do. Australia is the perfect case: It is isolated to a corner of the world, the legislation benefits someone who very few people are true fans of, and the argument just doesn’t make sense.

So if the fight has to be taken, this is the time and place to take it.

And for the sheer stupidity of the underlying media argument and for the demonstration of yet another epic fail to innovate and look forward, I – in this one case – hope Facebook wins.

Media in general and Rupert Murdoch in particular certainly doesn’t deserve to.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)