Thursday, January 15, 2009

How a Non Profit Organization can earn money.

This is for a friend:

He said,"
It's safe to say that my customers are all interested in one topic:
how to raise money. Endowments are blown, budgets are slashed, large contributors are bankrupt or indicted.
"How can print help me raise more money, faster?"
So I said,
Use the web and events to locate your fans. Then innovate new stuff that you can sell them. And stop sending out so much direct mail! And printing too many because "the unit price is low."

The easiest things to innovate are Print products. Just off the top; printed facebooks of all graduates. A special paperback edition for $x and the extra special Class of 'xx Hardcover for $x+y, of an essay or two from their favorite professor, either now or back in the day.

Hint: This will work best if the stuff is tied to a news cycle. Probably health, education and e-government are going to be riding the news cycle for the next couple of years.

Watch out: The value is created by Time. Too late just won't work. Sorry, if it's normal school Time or normal non-profit Time or normal business Time, it's not worth doing. To be clear, this doesn't mean content has to be done fast. Just that content has to be ready to go, at the right Time. See the last couple of day's posts to see what I'm trying to get across in tyhe context of newsPapers.

Or in a list format:
1. Develop your fan base through events and the web.
2. Once you have a fan base, figure out stuff they would willingly buy.
3. Figure out the best way to make the stuff.
4. Use your website to advertise the stuff to your fans.
5. Use pay pal or credit cards to collect the money and outsource the fulfillment, so there is no overhead.
How to get from here to there. Different strokes for different folks. But a good bet is try some really smart Print person. The trick is that you never know where you'll find them. Try to get their attention. The good ones will answer the phone or the email. If they don't you probably don't want to get invovled with them in the first place.

Or consider getting in touch with your local newspaper. They are in disarry. Maybe you could work out a deal where you get some money, the local newspaper makes some money, and everybody gets to enhance their brands.

That will get more people to both websites. And then the cycle repeats and repeats.

To our printer viewers:
Why not make a little time to talk the non profits you work for. Tell them about POD books and posters. My bet is that they don't know that you can do them. By the way here's the email you might want to send,

Subject line: We have some new ideas to help you earn money
Dear x,
We've come up with some interesting new Print applications and approaches that might work for you. Let me know if you have 15 minutes for me to describe what we're doing. I would like to get your feedback to see if we are on the right track."

Then if you are lucky enough that they reach out to you, respond within 10 minutes. Any more and you blew it. Then set up the meeting in that exchange. No "let me get back to you. " After 15 minutes - on the clock - excuse yourself and say you have to leave. If they don't respond, don't badger. They are probably just too busy, right now. When it's time, they'll get back to you. Or not. If not. Just go on to the next without wasting any time.

To our designer viewers:
Try to get the attention of any printer you know. I know it's highly unlikely. Usually when a Printer looks at a Designer they see either trouble or $$$$$$. Anyway, if you do get some focus, make the pitch that you can design innovative appropriate Print products at a reasonable cost, very, very quickly. He/she probably won't get it, but it's worth trying. Or look for another Printer.

To our newspaper publisher viewers:
If you have a plant and some extra capacity between issues, make believe you are a commercial printer. (see above) If that sounds too hard, hire some of the great Print salespeople who are all stressed out about the End of Print. Good people who are used to working on commission. What do you have to lose?

Besides you can probably do the ad sale and the printed collateral sale at the same time. Less commission on each, but better overall total $$. Don't have a sheet fed plant? Not to worry. There is a deep network of printers for the trade only. I figure that newspapers are in the trade.
Or if this is not the time to hire anybody, call a couple of the printers in your area. If they don't get back to you for a while, don't worry, that's just the way it is. If you do succeed in getting in touch, let their sales people sell your ads for a normal commission from you sell printing for a normal commission from their company.

Remember - network or stagnate. There is no alternative.

How to fix newspapers: Listen to the Music

When I opened my Google Reader this am, I found the following in the conversation over at Just to remind our viewers. The topic at hand is the Role of Print (and newspapers).
Dan Haugen said:
A local music/art magazine in the Twin Cities is doing something along these lines. It's called Rift. They started out as a print publication, then ceased to exist for a while before returning as a website. Now it's publishing sporadic "best of" print editions that also include content from a few partner website. The publication schedule is determined by reader donations. There's a donation widget on the homepage, and when they reach their goal they print another issue.
Meanwhile over at The Seattle Post-Times Blog. Chuck Talyor asked:
I can't imagine how a printed Seattle Times survives, even without the P-I.

So I said, (slightly edited below)

Suppose the Times uses the web to collect content and locate fans. Different parts of the paper will have different fans. Money made from advertising on the web, will be small, but nice.

Then once a twice a week, put out the Friday/Sunday edition.

Then everyday, put out an issue with a "table of contents" to the web stories, and a "best of" for each fan base.

Then figure out which "fan base" congregates where and put out zoned editions with different "best of's" for different people.

Some advertising, probably a good piece of change.

But the real money is in selling stuff to the fan base.
A fan will buy lots of stuff that is cheap and easy to produce...think special edition books, or t shirts or baseball caps...or stories and pictures from the newspapers long tail of content.

The trick is to stop focusing on advertising to pay for media. It's about innovating stuff that can be sold directly to loyal fans.

It figures that it would come from the music people. The story of the music business is the story of an IP protected business with loyal fans. Publishing newspapers, anyone?

At any rate, lots of people think they know how the story ends. Actually it's still evolving. According to the interview I heard yesterday while driving in the car, iTunes is or has (hard to remember what I heard) their pricing structure from .99 to a tiered pricing structure .$69, $.99 and $1.29. And they are allowing iTunes to be played on not-the-iPod.

It's a long, informative story. I can't wait to buy the book so I can get all the details and understand how a major business has been destroyed and is now re-emerging in a new form. My bet is that if I can make the time to read it, the book will provoke lots of thoughts about how Print publishing and newspapers are going to play out.

You can hear the whole show at Fresh Air. It will take 38 minutes and 12 seconds. The description from the NPR website is:
Fresh Air from WHYY, January 14, 2009 - Rolling Stone contributing editor Steve Knopper chronicles the rise of the record industry — and its subsequent digital-age collapse — in his new book, Appetite For Self-Destruction.
Too bad there isn't a Print version. That would take about 5 or 10 minutes while taking the subway to work. Then I could put it in my back pocket and scan it, while I'm waiting for coffee. Imagine how cool would it be if I found the transcript in my local newspaper.

Come to think of it, if NPR sold PDF's of transcripts to local newspapers and charged a reasonable price, they could probably make money from the long tail of their listener paid for content on the web, by selling it to Print pubs. Plus it would increase the number of listeners, so they have more people to ask for contributions.

For our Print producer viewers:
We know how to do this. If someone can make a little time to talk to your local NPR station maybe you can find some new business, help NPR, and help civilize the public discourse, all at the same time.

For our newspaper publisher (especially the college papers) viewers:
You could probably do the same thing. Make a deal with your local NPR station or college station. They probably could use the money, but don't get greedy. You don't want "to kill the goose." Figure out a way to do transcripts in close to real time and get your layout people to design the page. Nice way to fill a news hole with stuff some people will like alot. Hint: the secret of newspaper success is to publish things that some people will like alot. Later, you can sell this fan base lots of stuff.

For our journalist viewers:
I'm not sure there is a value add in this application. Keep beat blogging and stay focused on the story, not the article. (I stole the phrase from Matt Thompson at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

People are talking at

Another interesting conversation is breaking out at The issue at the table is the role of Print for newspapers.

Tim said:
The web then becomes the train line, and print outlets the station.
Before that he said
Roll up the digital work into a recoking into a print artifact -- this seems to be the emerging paradigm for the role of digital work in academia, NOT primarily because of cost, but because of the relative recognition of and prestige for the different forms. Write the blog, create the public site, edit the online archive, and then use that work / those documents as the basis for an article or more
Before that I said (slightly edited here)
Instead of publishing on the basis of the calendar, Print on the basis of events and the news cycle.

The world of news is lumpy. It speeds up and slows down. The calendar is a remnant of the Cartesian world, which was a constructed reality in the first place, invaluable for the industrial revolution but less and less relevant today. As his been well said on this site, the news is a process. And real life is process. Our readers want the right information in the right form at just the Right Time.
Jim said it best. My two cents is that Print is many things. It can be a token, a tool, or a toy. People like tokens, tools and toys. They will willingly pay for them. The web is interactive TV + search + telephone + filing cabinet + a really cheap way to sell stuff.

What's new is that the tech has radically lowered the cost of TV, telephone and filing cabinets. Search is free to the user and will remain so. Sometimes users will pay for TV - cable, HBO, sporting events. Users have paid for telephone in the past, now less and less - Skype, Vonage. Users have paid for newspapers, in the past. Now, not so much. Newspapers earned their profits in the past by being the only the game in town. Monopolies are always a good business - ATT, ABC, CBS and NBC.

But, people still buy books. The book publishing model is not broken, just very inefficient and too expensive. To be fair, book publishing, in the past, had to produce product whose sales no one could predict - returns, remainders. Eventually they will discover how to use web analytics to make better predictions. It will still be very hard to create a good book. But it will be much cheaper to sell it.

The issue is not "Will x media survive?". The issue is what will people pay for that media. The good news for Printers is that people will pay for tokens, tools and toys. The bad news for any business that in the past lived on superior "knowledge" is that information is becoming free or very, very cheap.

For our Print industry viewers:
Consider that more people are talking than ever before in human history. The new thing is that those conversations are being captured and can be retrieved. Then consider that the tools exist - XML, et al. - to easily take those conversations and translate them into Printed tools, toys and tokens.

It's either the digital 4 page newsLetter ( 14 x 20 flat, 10 by 14 folded) printed in full glorious color) for an audience of the 150 most powerful people in a place or organization. Or the multipage sheetfed newsLetter (produced in glorious color) Or the cold set web produced newsPaper (usually black only - or less glorious, but adequate color) for a network of communities who care about it. Which one is appropriate? It depends on the Time.

Folks who are doing the talking don't know about what Print can mean in the Google-Mart economy. Maybe we should make some Time to tell them. Here's a hint: follow the links to figure out where is located. I'm pretty sure it's in Minnesota. If your printing company is close by, get in touch with them.

Or, consider adding to your bag of tricks becoming a Publishing Center. Or check out this articles on the value of multi-channel advertising at Media Post. Or this one that gives you data on what they are going to do in 2009. It will help you understand the big brand marketing problem if you are in the Solutions Provider bucket.

For our journalist viewers:
Try to call your local printer. With a little luck, they will answer the phone. Meanwhile, you can check out this at Miller-McClure about how the new tech might make your job easier.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Newspaper blablabla coming to a head

There is a neat discussion happening over at the Buzz Machine, 45 comments and counting. It seems to me that the great Newspaper Debate of 2008 is starting to really get somewhere. My favorite comment so far is by Peter (no link)
Peter says:

Because the business model for books still works. Book publishing is a growth industry. Newspaper is a dying one.

Peter says:

. . . Bottom line, most of the so called news out there are just a waste of ink. That’s why no one wants to pay for it.

Someplace in the thread David asked a question about the business model. So I said, (slightly edited version here)

@ David,

Step one: produce a product that people will willingly pay for. Consider Cooks or the New Yorker. Note: this is the really hard part.

Step two: deliver that product in various ways that get paid. One way is selling CPM’s to a website. Another way is to take seriously “read for free, pay for Print.” Produce various Print products that are worth reading. Then get an advertiser to underwrite the costs or much better, get the reader to pay for it.

Step three: create events with the people that your advertisers want to talk to.

Step four: Do the analytics on your readers who come to the web and sell the analysis of your readership to your advertisers, as either competitive intelligence or a way for the advertiser to better understand their audience.

Consider that Wal-Mart pulled out of the deal with Prism because they didn’t want to share their customer exchange data. It must be worth something to someone.

And then over at WSJ blog, Interesting post about analysis being the real value. Sidin Vadukut says
Does this mean that every newspaper should aspire to become the New Yorker?You are the reader. You tell me.
So I said,
You ask "Does this mean that every newspaper should aspire to become the New Yorker?" The short answer is yes.

But, the real problem is one of excellence. For those who love to read, the New Yorker is pretty excellent. Their readers have the expectation that they will find at least one or two things that are both beautifully written and present a new way of looking at something. The New Yorker has both the audience and the talent to be able to embrace the "read for free, pay for print" model and seem to be doing fine.

Most "analysis" in most newspapers most of the time tends to be talking heads and the latest version of the conventional wisdom. So, when you say, "How do we generate, position and sell analysis as profitably as possible?" I would suggest every newspaper concentrates on "generate." Given the internet and the blogosphere, marketing and positioning are subsidiary issues until you have the product.
And then I found this conversation over at Pub 2.0 from one of the posts, Chuck Taylor
A clearer way to look at this is to start with the ideal online-only newsroom budget and figure out how much ad revenue you need to support that and the overhead cost of selling the ads.

The whole bit about The New York Times needing X-times page views to match print revenue is a red herring. It’s all about covering the newsroom budget.

That budget should be reconfigured to eliminate coverage and editing of content better served elsewhere on the Web. When you’re done refocusing the mission to core competencies, you will have a leaner, more impactful newsroom and a less expensive news operation. And I bet you’re damned close to covering that with existing online revenue.

Mr. Webb is absolutely right: Newspapers have under-invested in technology all along, and in terms of the platform, they do need to start from scratch.

Meanwhile some folks are talking about the deeper issues at and

Once the newspaper people and media gurus stop being blind to the value of Print, this should all settle down and we can get back to the business of trying to fix the real problem, the state of the world and our local economies.

Maybe some of our viewers who are in the world of Print would like to take some time out of the day to have a meeting with your local newspaper publisher and help them with their problem. Tell them about versioned print, database publishing and ultra niche publications. You can also point them to this story about local advertising.

Then we will all have a lot more time to curl up with a really good book.

Monday, January 12, 2009

It's not the Internet. It's not News. It's advertising and the cost of admin + sales.

In the last couple of months, the industry debate about "The Future of Newspapers" has become mainstream. No mind that newspaper circulation started to dip in the 1970's. Until recently they were money machines. Everyone was still making a living. Now, not so much.

The discussion has been complicated by soul searching questions about the Fourth Estate. Last week I found the following at MediaPost. It is written by David Morgan. He writes,
. . . the notion that the purity of newspaper journalism is the cornerstone upon which today's great metropolitan newspapers were built is revisionist history. Most of today's great newspapers were built through achieving dominant distribution in their markets, not through delivering better journalism. Most U.S. cities used to have two or more competitive newspapers. The eventual winner was almost always the one that won on the battle on distribution or advertising, almost never on journalism. Great journalism came later.
Then I found this over at SeekingAlpha written by Alex Rappel in an post entitled, The End of Brand Advertising. He writes,
In the good old days of performance-less advertising, engagement didn’t really matter because you generally couldn’t quantify it. Studies on Reach, Frequency, and Recall aside, General Motors (GM) had no way of measuring the marginal benefit (much less revenue!) of a particular advertisement
and then he writes
a seismic shift is underway – one that will not only change the nature of advertising, but will also show that the last century of offline advertising witnessed a tremendous amount of money being flushed down the toilet. We are a lot smarter than we were 50 years ago, and those analog dollars really should have been analog pennies all along.
And then today, over at Buzz Machine, in the comments to Jeff Jarvis' post, Jon Garfinkel says
Yes, editorial is ~15% of the cost, but newsprint/production/circulation is only 41%. The rest is advertising costs (the sales staff) and administration/depreciation (e.g., Renzo Piano edifice, and travel/communication expenses).

So, 56% of the costs go into creating value. 44% of the costs is overhead. If you ran a newspaper would you stop printing and fire talented value creating people? Or would you minimize the cost of sales and admin ?

Of course this gets complicated if the person making the decisions is part of the cost of sales and admin overhead. Better to blame the customer, the unions, the cost of newsprint, the fact the Print is Dead, the "economy" and of course- "the Internet." Sounds good. But it's not true. The problem is that if you can't define the problem, you can't fix it.

It's just the Google-Mart problem in different places. Consider the cost of sales and admin in education, health or government. The tech has made communication very cheap. The function of admin and sales is to coordinate communication. Meanwhile, tech keeps making production of goods and services less and less expensive. Newspapers, education, health, government.

The question on the table is who is going to capture the excess value produced, admins or customers. I'm betting on customers.