Ken Doctor at M{2e} event: Web analytics are “straw that stirs the drink” of understanding media business

By Jackson DeMos

“Newsonomics” author Ken Doctor (pictured, left) called 2011 an inflection point in the journalism industry partially because the rise of the tablet reader will create a “mobile, news anywhere” era.

Doctor visited USC Annenberg as part of this semester’s M{2e} — Media, Economics and Entrepreneurship — events. M{2e} is a USC Annenberg initiative designed to spark innovation in media industries by increasing understanding of how economics impact communication and journalism. (A transcript of his remarks is available here (PDF).)

Adding to his assertion of the changing tide in journalism are: the rise of journalism’s public equity because of recent bankruptcies and subsequent bank sell-offs; new news organizations multiplying; paid content being tested; and “dramatically morphing advertising.”

He said the decrease in newspapers’ profits have coincided with businesses being able to use direct marketing such as e-mail, Craigslist and social media to reach their consumers.

“Newspapers are becoming re-sellers,” said Doctor, a new media analyst and creator of “They’re selling search engine optimization, search engine marketing, Facebook, they’re selling mobile, they’re re-selling Groupon, you name it. They’re re-selling everything that they can. They have changed, and they are in the process of changing everything they’re doing from being an advertising company that sells space to being a consultative selling company that says, ‘How can I help you win customers?’”

But the competition from the likes of Yellow Pages and local broadcast in the $5.1 billion marketing services industry is fierce. He said media executives must change their thinking to understand that metrics need to drive both the business and parts of journalism.

Mirroring what MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson said at the first M{2e} event, Doctor called Web analytics the foundation and “straw that stirs the drink” of understanding a media business.

“Analytics are coming to drive the business and are important for us to understand,” Doctor said. “It is changing from exhaust that comes at the end of the process to a business driver.”

Six more events remain in this semester’s M{2e} series.

“One of the things we’re really trying to achieve with this M{2e} program is to strengthen and emphasize the connections between the media and communication industries and economics,” said professor of professional practice Gabriel Kahn, who introduced Doctor. “That is of particular relevance in the news industry – and there’s no shortage of hand-wringing about the future of newspapers and journalism. What there isn’t enough of is an analysis of the challenges and opportunities that the industry faces. And that is why we invited Ken Doctor here.”

Doctor gave the audience 10 important questions to consider in 2011:

  1. How much faster does print circulation drop due to tablet reading?
  2. Will “all access” provide new stability for news companies?
  3. Where do tablet minutes come from?
  4. Who wins the aggregation game on the tablet?
  5. How many advertisers do newspaper companies serve at end of year, compared to five years ago?
  6. How fast does the roll-up of dailies proceed?
  7. How much does the New York Times expand its regional partnerships?
  8. What kinds of combinations of local media are tried – public radio/media, online city sites, patch, New York Times, regional dailies?
  9. How much more cutting of journalist jobs will dailies do?
  10. How much will local broadcasters gain on local print?

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