JA Interview: CJR’s Michael Meyer and Street Fight co-founder David Hirschman on technology and revenue for publishers
The JA’s most recent forum explored how collaboration could increase revenue for publishers. This JA interview, below, opens a discussion about innovation; how publishers are responding to rapid technological developments that often focus on commerce over content, and what role innovation plays in bringing bucks to journalism. For two perspectives, we asked Street Fight co-founder David Hirschman and Columbia Journalism Review staff writer Michael Meyer to share their insights. We spoke via Skype late last week, as David was finalizing the agenda for Street Fight Summit West, his organization’s California iteration of its annual New York conference, and Michael was adding startup #267 to the CJR’s Guide to Online News Startups.
Most people can’t keep up with the speed of technological change. So maybe it’s no surprise that Street Fight co-founder David Hirschman mentioned a not-so-new technology when I kicked off our conversation by asking what he’s seen that will actually help publishers earn money.
Street Fight Summit West discount
Street Fight hosts its first West Coast conference June 5 in San Francisco, exploring innovation around local commerce, consumers, and content. For a 20% JA community discount, use the code JASFSW12 when you register.
Hirschman flagged geotagging, calling it one “great step forward” for publishers. Adding location tags to news stories has been possible and practiced for several years, but a Knight Digital Media Center post published last fall asserted that most news organizations were doing “little to upgrade their content management system to systematically and consistently geotag” content.
Hirschman says he sees more and more publishers beginning to geotag now. He sees the practice as a possible path to increasing revenue because geotagging keeps news stories accessible and relevant – in other words, valuable – longer if they are connected to a place. A longer life for content can lead to more hits over time, more hits can mean better numbers and better numbers can potentially help boost advertising revenue.
Jump to the transcript
If you like to read more than listen, check out the full transcript of this interview. We’re testing a couple things with this: the services of new startup, TranscribeMe, which uses multiple people around the globe to transcribe a single interview, and the value of providing information in multiple formats. Please let us know what you think! The JA edited the transcript provided to correct errors, add links back to the audio, and make it a little easier to read.
Why does it take time for publishers to adopt tech to their advantage? One reason may be there is a lot out there! I asked Hirschman and Michael Meyer, who runs CJR’s Guide to Online News Startups, for tips publishers can use as they wade through the onslaught. Meyer says the lure of innovation can be distracting, because successful publishing businesses are rooted in community connection. He says publishers’ “audience and advertisers have to be with them step by step.”
- Michael Meyer on startups: Publishers can “leverage the fact they’re the new kid on the block and turn that weakness into a strength.”
- David Hirschman on all the companies that have “popped up” to create “bells and whistles” for things that publishers could do online. “Another part of the question is should they really be doing it.”
- Meyer on using old skills to earn new revenue.
- Hirschman on why the innovation pendulum could swing from local commerce toward local news publishing soon.
- Why Hirschman calls geotagging a “great step forward” for publishers.
- Meyer on the distracting lure of innovation.
- A discussion of the “Walmart effect” on content.
- Where tech and publishing are headed. (Hint: big data and building credibility with a community.)
Near the end of our conversation, David Hirschman said he doesn’t know of any news product that uses location data “properly” – which I took to mean news sites aren’t taking advantage of the potential of readers’ location data. If you know examples of news producers using location data in an effective way, please post examples in the comment thread! Or share your ideas: How would you like to marry user location and news stories?
CJR’s Michael Meyer closed with the thought that credibility will help startup news sites increase revenue over time. We’ll continue to track that as sites continue to build their reputations. We’re always interested in specific examples to deepen the community knowledge base, so if you can share a story about a news site’s credibility helping close an ad deal, or sell out an event, we’d love to hear that too.