CQ and the Media Economy

Written by Ryan Thornburg January 30, 2009 10:46 am EST 1 comment

News broke this week that the Times Publishing Company is putting my former employer, Congressional Quarterly, up for sale. This immediately prompted a small Twitter storm from current and former CQ staff about the need to protect and preserve … faithfully … the company’s mission.

It also prompted a small Twitter storm among online news gadflies about the future of the non-profit business model for news.

For me, the news was a reminder that the genius of CQ is that it has been able to turn a low-value commodity and resell it as a high-value service. To grow the business, its next owner will need to understand that and look for ways to evolve CQ from a service to an experience.

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Newspapers & Movie Times: A Brief Case Study

Written by Ryan Thornburg May 23, 2008 12:37 pm EDT 2 comments

Being a dude and being a child of the ’80s requires me to go see the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend. I liveƂ  in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region of North Carolina, one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and I wanted to find movie times.

Fifteen years ago I would have gone to the Chapel Hill News, the Durham Herald Sun, the Daily Tar Heel student paper, the Raleigh News & Observer, The Independent Weekly or The Spectator to get the times. Since movie times are commodity news, the paper I would have chosen would have been the one I found first — either at the bottom of my driveway or in a drop box on campus.

But here’s how I did it today:

  1. I searched for “southpoint durham movie times” on Google.
  2. My search returned 21,000 results, with 10 on the first page. Of those 10 choices, only one was to a newspaper site. I had six other choices before it.

What publisher of 165,000 daily circulation newspaper would have said, “It’s OK if every single one of our customers will walk by six other drop boxes before getting to ours”?

OK. The past is past. What should you do about it now?

  1. If you don’t have software that lets you easily see usage stats for your site, now is the time to get some. Many are free. Google Analytics is just one of many solutions. For the moneybags among you, Omniture is a popular (and I think good) choice.
  2. Look at your site usage statistics and determine at what percentage of referrers come from Google. See whether there are differences in behavior for different types of content on your site.
  3. Start getting serious about search engine optimization. And by “serious,” I mean this: Are you dedicating the same (or more) resources to search engine optimization and social network marketing as you are to your print circulation department? Until you are, you’re just hoping this Internet fad will soon pass.
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The Pitfalls of Commodity News

Written by Ryan Thornburg May 9, 2008 9:48 pm EDT No comments

While watching campaign coverage here in North Carolina earlier this week, I was reminded of one of my longtime frustrations with live election returns — it’s a game news sites have to play, but cannot win.

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What I'm reading

  • Writing from Video Exercise 1 hour ago
    These video writing and editing exercises are from the 4th Edition of the Broadcast News Handbook by Charlie Tuggle, Forrest Carr and Suzanne Hoffman.
  • News Corp. Donation Clouds Fox Coverage of Prop. 24 - NYTimes.com 2010/11/02
  • How to Count Items in a Filtered List in Excel 2010/10/25
  • Relational Databases - Example - Martin Baker 2010/10/16
  • MySQL :: MySQL 5.0 Reference Manual :: 10 Data Types 2010/10/16

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