Online Niche/Enthusiast Media: Business Models

Online business models. I hadn’t thought about ‘business’ at all except in a critical (but not always negative) sense until about a year ago. Here is an abstract to a paper I have in the works. However, I’ve been thinking about business models for the magazines since I’ve been involved in developing a new online presence for some of them. This post is the result of some of the thinking I have been doing on the subject and has been in the works for a while now (several weeks). I’ve been thinking about it constantly but have little time to actually work on it.

I work at Express Media Group, which publishes a number of niche-market enthusiast titles. EMG is currently developing its online presence and is working on ways to successfully integrate print and online publishing. As well as working as a Production Editor, I’ve been involved in developing some of the websites for the motoring titles. The first new website up is that for Zoom magazine.

We have a massive advertising campaign starting tomorrow that requires the other websites to be up and I am waiting on our overworked web team to finish them. I look forward to seeing the results.

I’ve been carrying out research in my own time to think about new business models that integrate print and online publishing. I have no official role in this at EMG (yet), rather I have been treating it as an extension of my PhD research on enthusiasm in modified-car culture where I looked at the relation between the enthusiast media and the scene over a 30 year period.

I used philosophical concepts to examine the composition of power relations in the organisation of the scene (dispositif) and how this has changed a number of times over the time period (an event-based conception of history). Now it seems my research is going to be the most relevant if it is developed in a simple set of critical tools for understanding legacy business models.

The general character of these legacy business models is mostly well understood. The current public workshops being hosted by the FTC are working on the issues and problems of “how the Internet has affected journalism”. The FTC has posted a Staff Discussion Draft paper that explores some of the points raised over the course of several months worth of hearings. In the first few pages of the paper (2-3) the FTC outlines the general problem with legacy business models faced by all print-based publishers. I have extracted the three main points below:

1. Newspapers’ revenues from advertising have fallen approximately 45% since 2000. For example, classified advertising accounted for $19.6 billion in revenue for newspapers in 2000, $10.2 billion in 2008, and is estimated to be only $6.0 billion in 2009.
2. With the advent of the Internet, advertisers have many more ways in which to reach consumers, including, for example, through a marketer’s own website or through topical websites that relate to the products that an advertiser wants to sell (e.g., a soccer blog for soccer equipment). Search engines also provide sites for advertising related to particular search queries.
3. Although some types of online advertising (e.g., advertising targeted to a consumer’s known interests) can generate greater revenue than other types (e.g., banner ads), the vast supply of online sites for advertising reduces the amount that an online news site can charge for advertising at its site. This means that online advertising typically generates much less revenue than print advertising (often described as “digital dimes” as compared to the dollars generated by print ads). It appears unlikely that online advertising revenues will ever be sufficient to replace the print advertising revenues that newspapers previously received.

First year journalism students are taught about the ‘news hole’ well in the actual publishing business there is often an ‘advertising hole’ as well. As more advertisers have moved online to directly target the niche market enthusiast communities that the advertiser services, there are less advertisers looking at print-based advertising. Of course, this is a generalisation as there are many enthusiast communities, of mostly older enthusiasts, that have not gone online.

All is not lost, however. There are other ways to sell advertising beyond simple ‘display’-type advertising. Dan Blank has a good post up from over a year ago on different sources of revenue for online media publishers.

The main goal here is for editorial teams to be pursuing fewer standalone articles that rely solely on CPM ads, and look to more integrated packages that build many products from a single effort.

For the last six years or so I have long looked at this from the flip side. Media events assembled from a series of inter-related texts. Often these texts are assembled around a non-media product, so a product is doubled as its media-based simulacra. It was the basis of my work I carried out on exchange to Sweden during my PhD looking at media events not as the media coverage of an event, but the event produced through the media.

In social media circles posting the same material across a number of channels is called ‘content leverage’. So a Facebook post about a blog post describing a Youtube video is Tweeted. At EMG I have been working on producing media content from single opportunities that can be distributed across a number of media channels. So far the best example of this was an ECU guide in Zoom issue 147 that is currently on the stands. I have several hours of video that I shot and I am currently editing to be posted to our Youtube channel and posted to our blog. Here is an example:

The real problem with thinking about new business models for niche/enthusiast media that integrate online and print elements is that most of the current discussion about the state of print media has been about ‘hard news’. Niche/enthusiast media and ‘hard news’ work following different journalistic models of content production. For example, Blank writes:

An underlying theme in many of these is to create evergreen content whose shelf life is longer than a news article – with multiple segments that extend the ways you can market it and sell it. Focusing on business needs beyond the cycle of “breaking news” may diminish the reliance on the single revenue model of advertising.

We already do this to a certain extent, but we are going to be doing much more of this style of content production and it is going to be a real challenge for editorial teams working under increasingly tight deadlines (we make a magazine per week on average!). To make this possible Blank has two suggestions:

1) Editorial teams mapping out a product roadmap, not just an editorial calendar.
2) Editorial teams working more closely with their sales teams to come up with these ideas, and ensure that the sales dept has this information with enough time to test the market, and ideally, sell these products.

Working closer to advertising sales teams is not a problem, the other challenge, beyond deadlines, is getting a sense of what is happening in the scene. There is so much activity nowadays that to track it all, even just all the online activity, for the scene in Australia is a full-time role.

So where to go from here? I am currently rewriting some of my PhD research for a draft paper about legacy media business models for niche/enthusiast media.

How to lose 50 pounds in 3 months

It is the 19th of January and I have now lost just over 20kgs or just under 50 pounds since the 24th of October. I weighed over 124kg and now I weigh 103. That is two months and 26 days, or 87 days in total. 240g (1/2 lb) per day.

Over this period I went home for the Christmas and New Year’s break. It meant I had to contend with my mother’s enthusiasm for feeding me good food. I went to a wedding and many other lovely events that had nice, rich food.

So, how did I do it?

I dieted. With a bit of research I figured out it was easier to remove all fat and sugar from my diet than it was to do enough exercise to eat what I liked. Not that I ate too badly to begin with, but I did enjoy the odd pizza or burger binge.

Then I exercised. I started walking, now I am riding.

THE MATHS

The basic maths are something like this:

1. The basic daily metabolism or Basal Metabolism Rate (BMR) for an adult is about 2000Cal (8368kj). If you go to this nifty site at the University of Sydney it is a basic daily metabolism energy requirement calculator determined by sex, age, weight and height. When I started out at 124kg I had an energy requirement of 2516 Cal (10527 kJ) and now it is 2228 Cal (9322 kJ).

2. For each kilo of fat is around 39000kj. You also lose some lean muscle mass depending on what sort of exercise you do so it is slightly less than this. I use 8000Cal to make the maths easier.

3. The first couple of weeks of dieting I experimented with different meals. I don’t need huge variation. Mostly tuna and rocket/baby spinach wraps, then it became celery and tuna. Snacks were apples and then apples and raw sweet corn cob. The point is that I reduced my caloric intake to below 1000Cal per day. On a perfect diet day it was below 900Cal.

4. I would try to do at least 200-300Cal worth of exercise per day. This is the equivalent of an hour’s walk or 20 minutes on my stationary bike.

The maths basically work out. Needed 2500Cal for basic metabolism had a deficit of 1600Cal and would do 300Cal of exercise, so 1900Cal burned per day or a kilo of fat roughly every 4 days.

To help me figure all this out I have an application on my iPhone called iKeepFit.

THE DIET

The diet for me was an experiment in discipline and patience. I knew dieting all the time would be a total fail so I gave myself two meals off per week to be social. I started off eating what was obviously healthy food, and then began cutting elements out. The below are perfect diet days. I would’ve had about a dozen of these over the 87 days. Most other days were variations of the below. Some days (like Christmas Day!) were AWOL. Plus I had two meals off per week when I was normally eating out. I would often choose the fish option off the menu. A whole pan fired Barra is absolutely delicious!

1. First version.
In the context of an actual day of my early dieting, my diet to begin with was thus:
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
mother energy drink 208kcals
Celery 6x stalks 62cals
Apples large raw 116cals
tuna in lite oil x2 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
spinach raw 2x cups 14kcals
corn wraps x6 389kcals
Total consumption 1325kcals

Base metabolic rate -2521kcals
Activity level desk job -504kcals
Exercise -429kcals

Net kilocalories -2129kcals
Weight/gained lost -304g

2. Second version.
I then started to refine the diet. A problem I had is that my digestive system was not agreeing with so much celery, so I introduced the yogurt for breakfast.
8x cups of black coffee 8kcals
Celery 12x stalks 124cals
Apples large raw 116cals
2x tuna in lite oil 466kcals
corn, raw, small 62kcals
Jalna Fat Free Berry yogurt 200g 156kcal
Total consumption 866kcal

Base metabolic rate -2269kcals
Activity level desk job -454kcals
Exercise -280kcals

Net kilocalories -2137kcals
Weight/gained lost -305g

3. Third version.
The third version is basically the same as above except I now add muesli to the yogurt and have kangaroo and spinach salads in the evening. The third version was required because I started to commute to work by bicycle three days a week, plus walking in the evenings and riding on the weekends, and was feeling a bit light-headed.
Spinach raw 120g 28kcals
kangaroo 250-500g 278-556kcals
Free & Fruity Monster Muesli roughly a cup, 100kcals

EXERCISE

I used to be super fit, about 2.5 years ago. I was going to the gym for two hours per day doing an hour of cardio and an hour of weights. It is all documented on my blog. I got my 2km ergo times down to the low 6:20’s, which should give you an idea of how fit I was. A buggered knee from my rugby days, now a buggered left shoulder from an incline bench press gone awry and crotchety ankles and joints from a decade and a half of heaps of junior sport means I need to do low impact exercise.

I realised that my previous extremely fit persona has helped me cope with doing exercise this time around. When you are super fit you rarely work at 100% intensity of your capacity (except for an ergo or something). Now I am about 80% capacity of fitness compared to then. So me working at 90% when riding for example is just over working at 70% of my previous level of fitness. The capacity for the work intensity may not be there but all the necessary techniques for working that hard still are. Here I mean things like controlling my breathing, doing stretches/prep, being comfortable with feeling the ‘burn’ in my lungs and legs, etc. A big part of this is the mental toughness not to have a breather or stop but to keep going. Already knowing that the level of exercise I am doing is 100% achievable makes it easy.

1. Walking.
I walk up to the local shops to purchase the evening meal and food for the next day. This would take an hour. Over Christmas and NYE period with plenty of time to kill I was doing a minimum of 2 hours walking per day, sometimes up to 3.5-4 hours. 220-800kcals.

2. Stationary bike riding.
I have a pretty good Life Fitness bike my brother bought off eBay for me for my birthday last year. I was doing anywhere between 20-40 minutes 2 out of 3 days. 220-500kcals.

3. Cycling.
I now have a pretty good mountain bike that my lady friend bought for me for Christmas. I have attacked riding with gusto. The previous few months of daily activity, especially the long walks over the holiday period prepared me for eventually commuting to work on my bike. My commute is 17.6km, so 35.2km per day, which is roughly 1200kcals each day. I also ride on the weekends for at least an hour or two. I am currently only riding to work for 3 days as I often need my car for work related meetings.

MENTAL
I am pretty hardcore when I do things. I put on weight when I am depressed, content to watch TV and play video games and basically don’t give a fuck what happens. Here are some things I have figured out:

1. Discipline.
As well as an experiment in weight loss, this has been an experiment in discipline. How much control do I have over my body? Over my desires? Over compulsions just to eat that biscuit? I can afford to be less disciplined now because of my bike riding regime, but in the beginning I would not vary from my diet. There was a strange satisfaction when every Friday my co-workers and I would go down to the local burger joint for Friday burgers. I would take my can of tuna and celery sticks. However, i would also have two meals off per week, plus I would often have some sort of variation to the diets. For example, I went through a week of trying protein bars as a supplement to my diet for my riding. They were too expensive however to eat all the time.

2. Enthusiasm.
I treated this process as a challenge and an experiment. I didn’t know what would happen. The basic maths seemed sound and I have been active enough in the past to already have a sense of how my body would react. I enjoy stepping onto the scales everyday and seeing my progress. The sense of satisfaction I feel because I have been disciplined enough to rise to the challenge makes me feel good and makes me feel like further weight loss and the required discipline is not only possible but achievable.

3. Mood.
I treat food as a drug and as a nutritional source. Sugar, caffiene and nicotine are mood enhancers for me. Plus I did not curb my alcohol intake at all, I often have a few very small glasses of red or a beer or two every few days. I will probably stop smoking shortly. I probably won’t give up coffee. Sugar was easy to cut out. The apple and corn cob contain enough natural sugar to enhance my mood during the work day. There is no point getting all cranky at work because you are starving yourself. Eat an apple or some other piece of fruit. The timing of my meals are designed to maximise and affirm my positive mood.
6:20am Yogurt and Muesli, Coffee
8:30am Coffee
9:30am Coffee
10:30am Apple, Coffee
12:00midday Celery and Tuna
1:00pm Coffee
3:30pm Corn Cob, Coffee
4:30pm Coffee
7:30-8:00pm Kangaroo and Spinach

4. Goals.
My first goal was 115kg. Then 110kgs for Christmas. Then 105kgs for my return to work after the Christmas break. Now it is to get down into double digits for my birthday coming up early February. Goals are important, but make them realistic. Again because of my previous experience I was confident in setting some pretty tough weight loss goals.

WHAT IS NEXT?
Next I am going to use my discipline developed as part of my weight loss regime to tackle my finances. I want to pay off my debts and save money to be able to buy a flat. It is going to require some different strategies. I am off to a good start because dieting and riding to work are already good steps for saving money!

When you hit your late twenties or early thirties it is time to take stock of your life and make changes, this is part of that process. You can make changes if you want to. So if you want to, make them.

EPIC LOL

A lost soul poses the question to Slashdot:

Where does a geek find a social life?

The responses are half lmao, half serious business and half wtf (that’s right, 150%, cause it’s that awesome):

don’t call it meatspace, it freaks out the normal people.

If you try something and it fails, you can always reload from a previous saved game. If only real life were like that… “Wow, that didn’t go over well. ctrl-z! ctrl-z!”

It doesn’t matter where you go, or what you do. Just start talking, and when it feels awkward, and people give weird feedback, don’t take it personally, move on, and try again. After a while, you’ll be person of character, and able to interact meaningfully with everyone.

You could start by not ASKING SLASHDOT…

Subscription-based streaming of tourist locales for private consumption on wall size screens

Idea: Subscription-based live streaming of tourist locales for private consumption on wall size screens.

One way remote, beach-side, famous or whatever tourist location-based businesses can make money is to have a multi-camera live video and audio recording of whatever view they have of their locale (and ambience produced) and then broadcast it live to subscribers over the internet.

Subscribers would then set up a multi-projector display on a wall of their house or business or whatever and have a wall-sized installation. Then they can have a taste of whatever location.

Think google street view, but live and fixed. Local governments in remote but beautiful parts of the world could sell their view on the internet.

Idea 2: An extension of the above. Think of a scenario of a chain of say four cafes in famous places around the world. Each would have the display setup on three walls and have recorder setup for the shop front. Imagine how freaky that would be to be sitting in a cafe that has one actual shop-front and then three other virtual shopfronts of equally famous locations.

It would be a useful way to think about the commodification of experience in relation to iconic tourist locations as it intersects with the post-industrial, service-based economy.