The Pear Analytics Twitter “babble”

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, Social Networking

This is just a collection of relevant links about the study that claimed 40% of Twitter is just “babble”. To be clear from the outset, the study is flawed, or full of crap.

Had anyone read the original blog post, it would have been plainly obvious the Pear Analytics study was just a shill for some Twitter attention management company who promise to remove all that pesky “babble”.

MSNBC outed it on August 14 as a crock, three days before general mainstream media picked it up.

Stephen Dann tore it apart on his blog, giving a scathing breakdown of each failure in methodology. Pear Analytics employee Sarah, who worked on the study, responds at length in comments – confirming the study was a crock.

Stilgherrian wrote on it in Crikey today.

And from Greg Williams and Derek Barry came these links on Twitter.

Trivial tweeting was written as part of an academic discussion on July 2, well before the Pear Analytics study. It’s by Cornelius Puschmann from the department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Duesseldorf.

Finally Danah Boyd wrote Twitter: “pointless babble” or peripheral awareness + social grooming?

As an example of things that could be categorised as News on Twitter, one of the arguments above contained a link to the original Hudson River tweet. The reason I include it here is because of the popularity of the image – the accompanying Twitpic is closing in on half a million views.


There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick... on Twitpic

The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation – Jay Rosen: Public Notebook

August 18, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, News, Print

The newspaper business model will not be saved with the introduction of paywalls because it is a rejection of the newspaper business model. The current model, entirely based on advertising paying for news, is in the process of being left behind by those who would defend it. It is worrying that users will now be made to pay for news simply because marketing departments are unable to make online advertising work.

The central argument, that users need to pay for news to recoup costs, is an effective raising of the white flag. It’s an admission that, unlike at Google, the media industry is bereft of ideas about how to make online advertising profitable. This extends to the entire industry, all of whom are discussing the merits and timetables of a user-pays model. It just so happens that the News Ltd announcement has thrust that model back into the spotlight.

It reminds me of a rant from David Cross in the outtakes of Arrested Development: “If you can’t market that kind of show and get better ratings, then maybe the problem doesn’t lie here, maybe it lies with marketing”.

In The Australian’s Media and Marketing section on August 10, Mark Day said a paywall would allow newspapers to wrest back control of their business model. How? The way the music industry did, through the “grim enforcement of copyright, uniform action by the music companies and technological advances such as the iTunes micro-payment systems”. The music industry business model was all but destroyed by online, and rather than bludgeoning users to return to the good old days, they instead bow to the consumer who is willing to pay, but demands to control how, when, and what they pay for.

I disagree completely that “the [music] industry was able to wrest back control of its product”. The music industry was dragged kicking and screaming to its knees, finally relinquishing control to a micro-payment model after consumer outrage put a gun to their head and forced the issue. Introducing a user-pays model isn’t about wresting back control of the news product at all, and you could not pick a worse example of an industry to emulate than the music business.

As an aside, in the music industry consumers have always paid for the product. In the news industry, consumers have never paid for the product, advertising has. The cover price of a newspaper wouldn’t cover the cost of the ink on its pages.

Surprisingly there were a few things I agreed with Mark Day about (despite the column’s title, Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense), like his examples of the three strands of news (happening, manufactured, investigated) and what kind of news people might be willing to pay for. It’s a valid argument, and one industry people are having everywhere, but I do wonder if it’s the sense of inevitibility that is now driving the debate. Now that the introduction of pay-per-view content seems inevitable, everyone is expending cognitive energy on the issue, speculating about how the paywall could work, or what content people are willing to pay for. This, instead of developing a model where advertising still pays for news.

Whether it was the classified “rivers of gold” or advertising on the page, the news industry has for some reason given up on that model working online. I find it inexplicable that nobody in the news industry, across the globe, can figure out how to make advertising work online. Google are just smarter, I guess.

No less than the president of media at Thomson Reuters, Chris Ahearn, recently penned a piece titled, Why I believe in the link economy

Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.

From Mark Day’s Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense

It is clear a free internet has the power to wreck the economic model of newspapers and news-gathering itself. But the irony is, if that were to happen, the most valuable elements of news — that which is investigated, tested and credible — would disappear because of a lack of funding. Ultimately, that serves no one. Society would be the loser.

We do a disservice to society by making that valuable and important news inaccessible, by telling society that, unless you pay, we will withhold the information that informs your understanding of the machinations of government and the economy.

Related reading:

I first started writing this post over a week ago. The biggest addition since then is the Associated Press plan for content charging online, assessed by Nieman Journalism Lab after they got hold an internal AP document labeled, “AP CONFIDENTIAL — NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.”

Last week I tweeted about an article that literally took the words out of my mouth in relation to this blog post.
Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing | SPLICETODAY.COM
The first point there illustrates this post:
1. Consumers don’t pay for news. They have never paid for news.

Twitter threatens legal action against third party developer

August 13, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, News, Social Networking

A third party Twitter developer in New York has discovered the hard way that Twitter may now be playing tough, threatening to aggressively “take whatever steps are necessary” to protect their rights.  Lawyers representing Twitter have demanded the developer deactivate his website, transfer the domain to Twitter and cease using the API or any reference to “Twitter”.

Yesterday owner and Twitter third party developer Dean Collins arrived home to find an email from lawyers claiming to represent Twitter,  demanding he cease operating his website and hand over the domain because of his “violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service (“TOS”) and spam rules, and your infringement of Twitter’s trademark rights”.

His website is designed to help users auto-follow people when certain keywords appear in their tweets. Many in the Twitter community frown on auto-following that generates masses of spam, but Collins is vehemently denying misuse, and said he’s using the Twitter API in accordance with the rules.

“Basically they were saying we want you to hand over the domain, stop using and selling your software, and never use the API ever again,” Collins said.
“I think twitter are forgetting how they got so popular in the first place. There are 3000 applications out there all using the Twitter API, all using the rules they gave us.”

In their letter of demand, the lawyers have suggested that use of the word “Twitter” in Mr Collins’ domain will confuse users into thinking his product is affiliated with Twitter.

Twitter is concerned, however, that your use of My Twitter Butler and the related domain may cause confusion in the marketplace by suggesting that you and your site are somehow affiliated with Twitter, or are endorsed, sponsored, or approved by Twitter, which would result in an infringement of Twitter’s valuable trademark rights.

In light of the above, we must demand that you immediately:

1. deactivate the website;

2. transfer the domain to Twitter;

3. comply with Twitter’s TOS and rules, which includes stopping your aggressive and automatic following and offering techniques and software for others to aggressively or automatically follow; and

4. stop all use of the My Twitter Butler name, the TWITTER mark, or any other name, logo, or domain name that includes TWITTER or any confusingly similar term.

Twitter’s success has been built on the back of thousands of third party developers who have taken the API beyond what its founders could have ever imagined, and some in the Twitter Dev community have questioned if this is the beginning of the end for open development using the Twitter API.

Mr Collins said he attended a Twitter-hosted event for developers six months ago, where about 200 developers listened to Twitter representatives give examples of how the API could be used.
“Auto-follow was the second example they gave,” he said.
“I’m just using their publicly defined API.”

Some will argue Mr Collins has been warned, as the case is not without recent precedent. At the beginning of July, TechCrunch reported that Twitter had been getting touchy about using the word “Tweet” in applications. While it seeemed to be cleared up that “tweet” was okay, “Twitter” is still supposed to be a no-go for applications.

In a blog post, Biz Stone later said they encouraged the use of the word Tweet, but:

“If we come across a confusing or damaging project, the recourse to act responsibly to protect both users and our brand is important. Regarding the use of the word Twitter in projects, we are a bit more wary although there are some exceptions here as well.”

A quick search by Collins found dozens of third party Twitter applications that used the word Twitter in their domain or application, and he wondered if he was just one of many to receive letters from Twitter’s lawyers yesterday.
“It will either turn out that I’m just one, or it’s a big deal and 30 to 40 are being taken down tomorrow.”

If Twitter succeeds in forcing owner Dean Collins to deactivate his website, transfer the domain to Twitter, and stop using any reference to Twitter, the future of other hugely successfull third party Twitter applications like twittercounter, twitterfall, twitterfeed and DestroyTwitter could also be in jeopardy.

Read the letter from Twitter’s lawyers in full at’m_Being_Sued/

How much unique content is out there?

August 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Media, News, Print

Comments Off on How much unique content is out there?

Last week Rupert Murdoch announced that News Corporation would push ahead with the introduction of pay-per-view online content. Since then there have been suggestions Fairfax would follow, and the Boston Globe’s has also started to head in that direction.

My question is, “How much unique content is out there?”

The arguments in favor of paywalls have largely focused on the value of unique content that is produced by media outlets. I would like to see an objective analysis and review of unique content. I can only assume some sort of exhaustive analysis has informed the direction we are all being pushed towards.

I had already put this question to journalism academic Julie Posetti earlier in the week in an email, but Murdoch’s comments prompted me to ask the question again publicly.
Are there any in-depth studies looking at unique content in newspapers or their online sites, and what do those studies conclude?

On Thursday night, ABC’s Lateline Business reported plans to introduce paywalls at all News Corporation outlets by next year’s Northern summer. In a recorded teleconference Murdoch is heard saying that, to make a paywall work, News Corp would need to “make our content better and differentiate it from other people“.

RUPERT MURDOCH: We just make our content better, and differentiate it from other people and I believe that if we are successful, we’ll be followed by all the media.

Watch the video or read the transcript of the three-minute Lateline Business report on their site.

Or listen to what was said by just Rupert Murdoch here:

The wording used sounds more like a statement of future intent – this is what we must do – but much of the paywall argument to date has focused on the unique content that newspapers and their online sites are currently giving away for free. I think using the Wall Street Journal as proof of concept is a bit flawed, because it is very different to a “paper of record”. If WSJ are generally targeting a specific market with market-related content, then they could be described as a niche publication. Is a paper of record that covers the gamut of local, national and world news able to drill down and provide unique content? That is, content that won’t be easily found elsewhere, and provides value to the reader.

I’m hoping a study exists, or some clever postgraduate student is currently working on it. It would be illogical to discuss the possibility of making people pay for unique content without a thorough assessment of the quantity of same.

An interesting one that just popped up yesterday in The Australian’s Media & Marketing section was that subscription paid off for one site after just three weeks.
Subscribers turn profit for NZ site | The Australian

Related reading:
Murdoch On Leading The Charging Charge | paidContent
This Is Rupert’s Last Stand: Making You Pay
Rupert Murdoch to charge to view news websites by 2010 | Media | The Guardian
Roy Greenslade: Murdoch is wrong to charge for online content | Media |
News Limited working on paid net models | The Australian
Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense | The Australian

To be perfectly clear on this, I don’t see a paywall working as a flat entry fee for the entirety of a masthead news site. It’s no secret that the internet’s disruption to the traditional business model is choice. People will only pay to get *exactly* what they want. Niche markets…you’ve heard it all before.
If there has to be an argument for paywalls, then the case of the WSJ is illustrative: people are willing to pay for premium industry insight and business-critical information. In Australia that might similarly translate to the business section of the paper, or quality reporting on state politics.

But then again, it might not. The biggest threat to the paywall will be free quality content available from places like the ABC and BBC.