Newspaper Audience Decline Again, No End Till Zero

This is hardly surprising or unprecedented. Newspaper’s print audience is literally dying off and they are pulling the plug on all the free copies they give out, all of which means circulation numbers are terrible, again. But make no mistake about it, while print circulation tumbles, online traffic grows by impressive jumps which makes one wonder what the intersection of business model transition is going to look like… more on that later.

Print circulation continues on its steep downward slide, the Audit Bureau of Circulations revealed this morning in releasing the latest numbers for some of the country’s largest dailies in the six-month period ending March 31, 2008. When a full analysis appears it is expected to find, according to sources, the biggest dip yet, about 3.5% daily and 4.5 for Sunday.

[From New FAS-FAX: Steep Decline at ‘NYT’ While ‘WSJ’ Gains]

Amazon Kindle or Bezos’ Windmill?

Amazon is highlighting the fact that Kindles are available for immediate shipment following long delays following unprecedented early demand. That Amazon is devoting the choicest real estate on their site to the Kindle, as well as publishing their shareholder letter, underscore the commitment that Amazon is making to this device.

I’ve been watching the Kindle with a high degree of curiosity, fully aware that no electronic book reader has ever gone mass market despite some impressive technology achievements. It has not been lost on me that the reason why the Kindle is different is that Amazon is not a consumer electronics company, they are a retailer that has an enormous amount of clout in the content side of publishing and that is exactly what is required to drive success in electronic books.

It’s clear that Bezos sees a day when any and all content can be delivered to a Kindle and not only won’t Amazon have to store inventory, they also won’t have to ship anything but the Kindle itself to support their book business. In that light, the Kindle totally fits and is an impressive disruptive strategy to boot. Having said that, we have 550 years of mechanical printing to overcome and in terms of simplicity and cost, it’s hard to beat a hardcopy book.

I’m still skeptical that in the next 10 years we will be able to displace print but in many categories not only will this be success but it could be transformative as well. Can you imagine the capabilities that would be made available in classrooms if textbooks were available electronically for the Kindle and then integrated with social network capabilities? Take magazines and other periodicals as another example of a category that could be transformed with electronic delivery.

Still, even though I’ve had one on backorder for my wife, I think I’ll hold out for a little while.

200804281448.jpg

Community Managers and Managing Communities

I wonder how most organizations are handling the role of community manager. I’m curious where a community manager reports. Marketing? HR? Customer service? I wonder how organizations are justifying the cost, and what they believe the role entails for level of effort. How are companies using the role in either direction?

[From On Managing A Community | chrisbrogan.com]

NewsGator has a new community manager. I hired Josh Larson a few weeks ago to take on this newly formed role. The truth is that we were all doing some measure of community management before Josh came on board, we just were not focused on it and a lot of stuff fell through the cracks.

As you can imagine given my background in corporate blogging, this is an area that interests me greatly, but it’s not just about blogging on behalf of a company. I think that is where a lot of companies go wrong on this front, they think that just getting someone to “go blog it out” is enough when in fact community management is like marketing like customer support is to engineering. All are critical functions but community management is about advocacy more than promotion, just like customer support.

This is also why Josh reports to me instead of to our marketing group. I want this role to represent marketplace advocacy and I thought that ultimately I am responsible for that so it makes sense for the role to report to me. I also happen to care alot about the tactics by which we manage community, an outgrowth of my now many years of experience in corporate social media.

Our community manager has several distinct but interconnected roles. The first is easy, establish and grow a meaningful blog presence through which we expose and highlight our activities AND connect directly with influencers, power users, early adopters, customers, and many other groups of individuals who are relevant to our market space.

A blog is just a tool, which means that we will use many tools at our disposal to reach out and with an authentic voice talk about what we are doing and listen about what we could be doing. What we are doing with Twitter is another example of how we are taking advantage of social media tools to connect to our marketplace.

Communities are about networks and as such the community manager is responsible for building out and maintaining networks related to the above groups, and like a pilot who’s hands are on many levers apply leverage to various constituencies as determined by what our objectives are. The important aspect of this is that for a network to remain vibrant and active, we have to give back as much as we take.

There are probably a dozen other responsibilities that fallen within the scope of community manager but in the final equation it comes down to the commitment of the company to support that person in his/her role. I think we have a well earned track record at working with our community and not just talking to it, which hopefully means we are prepared to amp up those efforts with a person who is dedicated to the task.

Like all things that are on the forward edge there is an element of learning as we go, but this type of role is not so new as to suggest it’s all experimentation. We, as an industry, know from recent experience that the marketplace is demanding a richer interaction with companies so I think we’re on the forward edge of mainstream as opposed to on the bleeding edge.

DMA Irony

Is it not fantastically ironic that the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) puts their news site behind a registration page? If anyone should be aware of the bounce rates when registration is required, it should be the DMA. But it gets worse, when you actually do click on create a visitor account you are presented with a process straight out of the 1990’s, first doing a database search and then asking you to create a “new customer record”. I haven’t seen descriptions like that since I worked at SAP.

And they ask you, actually they require, your email… like I’m gonna give my email address to the DMA.

It’s really quite disappointing because they have some really good content, it’s too bad their web team never quite made it into the 21st century.

200804280929.jpg 200804280932.jpg