The Times’ left hand doesn’t know what its right is paying for

The Times published an analysis piece over the weekend by business news editor Emily Ford, titled “Why I’m not paying” (you’ll need a subscription to read the article). It’s a short one, but explains succinctly why Emily felt, after a year of paying for Spotify, she prefers the free version.

Despite getting rid of annoying ads, Emily felt syncing music to her mobile had become too much hassle and listening over the web for free is satisfactory. It doesn’t explain what Emily now does for mobile listening. You’d guess good old fashioned downloads or even CD ripping, but then you still have to deal with the hassle of uploading new purchases to your mobile or MP3 player.

Anyhow, Emily finishes her piece with the statement “when you can get something so good for free, why pay?” Any interesting point for a journalist on The Times, the paper with by far the highest and thickest paywall, to make. As Paid Content points out, her subs might have been more than a little surprised when this particular piece of copy crossed their desks.

You can’t compare The Times and Spotify like-for-like, The Times’ subscription model takes an ‘all or nothing’ approach.  You don’t get anything for free, not even the by-line.  However, both companies have similar goals for their paid content models – getting punters to pay for premium, quality content over free options or stealing it from the Interwebs.

Even with these refined, thought-out offerings, it seems not everyone can be convinced of the value of digital content.

Facebook–an Oyster Card for online news?

So Facebook is continuing its acquisition of journalists, with the arrival of former Bloomberg hack Dan Fletcher as the platform’s ‘managing editor’ – but what does this mean for online news, is the social media behemoth about to take on traditional giants of the news industry?

It’s an interesting development, not least because of the vast global audience that Facebook could become an aggregator for, with tailored, bespoke news delivery. Such a service could potentially be able to take on one of the biggest challenges to the news industry, namely monetising content in such a fashion that avoids creating silos.

At present, only a few online news providers require a subscription – the FT seemingly the most successful, with revenue from subs overtaking that from advertising for the first time, while the Times has to regularly ‘drops’ its paywall (allegedly) in order to maintain decent levels of ABCs.

The challenge faced is that the public want news from a variety of sources, but are unwilling – unsurprisingly – to pay for each and every source they visit. Facebook becoming an aggregator for news content distribution, in some form or other, could potentially tackle this, with the potential to establish an ‘Oyster Card’ style mechanic.

Under such, readers could buy pre-paid credit for the overarching network of news sites delivered through Facebook, and simply spend it as they wish, with Facebook taking responsibility for distributing fees accordingly. The sheer scale of Facebook’s network would suit such an innovative solution, and would avoid the silos created online at present, whilst also giving the public the news they want, from the sources they want it from.

It’s a long shot, but it might just work…


The Sun’s in the Cloud

Have you seen the “Modelling the Cloud” study by the LSE?  Probably not.  Wonder why the feeble effort on PR-ing the report, but let’s not worry about that for now.  Lucky that I chanced upon it on, because it is quite an interesting read and certainly quite a departure from the usual all-encompassing reports on  Cloud Computing.  Sponsored by Microsoft, the report specifically studies the economic impact and growth in job opportunities from the use of cloud computing in the aerospace and smartphone services industries across UK, USA, Germany and Italy.

The US pips the rest of world in creating jobs from Cloud Computing, though the study claims there isn’t much to hold Europe back in the race for Cloud jobs.  There is a real opportunity for SME’s and start-ups to capture the potential of the Cloud in Europe.  Let’s look at some of the findings:

  • In the UK, from 2010 through 2014, the rate of growth in cloud-related jobs in the smartphone services sector is set to be 349%, compared to 52% growth in aerospace
  • In Germany, from 2010 through 2014, the rate of growth for cloud-related jobs will be 280% for smartphone services vs. 33% for aerospace
  • US cloud-related jobs in the smartphone sector are set to grow to 54,500 in 2014. This is compared to a projected 4,040 equivalent jobs in the UK
  • Overall, more than 30% of short-term new employment in cloud services originates from the construction of data centres and outfitting them accounts for around another third
  • Almost 25% of new jobs accrue from direct employment in public cloud services firms
  • New direct hires and up-skilling for public cloud enablement result in higher-than average salaries, as we estimate that managers for IT facilities and IT core administration are in the higher salary bracket of $70k-120k in the US and £40k-60k in the UK (with Germany featuring an estimated 95% of UK salary levels, Italy with 80% of UK levels)

European policy makers also have their work cut out:

  • Improved education and re-training in ‘eSkills’ will be essential requisite
  • Energy pricing and incentives for adopting green energy will determine the volume of investment and the location of cloud data centres
  • Ensuring data transfer policies, such as privacy rights protection, which do not impede the development of cloud services

Clearly, us Europeans need to change gears.  Will we pull the right levers to achieve the predictions of this report?

[Photo source:]


What makes a good community manager?

It may have slipped past relatively quietly but, as highlighted in an article on Mashable, 23rd January 2012 marked the third annual Community Managers Appreciation Day. For those of you questioning why community managers have been singled out for this praise, you only have to look to what their day-to-day role entails.

Something many are unaware of is the huge level of responsibility that people in a community manager role hold to ensure the success of a social media channel. They alone are responsible for the channel’s tone, engagement and development. If, as quite often happens, they fail to achieve the objectives approved by the brand, it can lead to some level of embarrassment and in worst case scenarios losing a client! So what is needed to be a successful community manager?

There is of course no definite answer to this, as the role varies at each organisation. What helps is the ability to multi-task, make quick judgement calls and think critically – all competencies you would expect in a management role. However, the need to establish your brand’s tone and maintain its presence throughout the channel cannot be stressed enough.

Chrysanthe Tenentes, community manager at Foursquare, established such a unique tone for the company’s voice that she created a style guide to ensure the voice is upheld by the team. Brand guidelines are a must before the launch of any social media handle. As proven by Foursquare, managing the entire community for a company can be a more than one person job and failure to implement guidelines often results in a slightly schizophrenic feel.

Natalie Villalobos is an interesting case study as she’s the community manager at Google+. Natalie’s a clear fan of the tried and tested theory as she often trials the new features herself (see here for her brand page) before engaging with the community for feedback.

Another great way of managing a community is establishing yourself as the go to guy. Remember MySpace Tom who was always the first to welcome you to the platform with open arms? Well, Mike Fraietta, the enterprise community manager at News Corp follows his example and becomes every employee’s “first friend” on the organisation’s internal social network.

With the way social media platforms are evolving, it’s not surprising that community manager positions are becoming sought after. There’s even a growing community for community managers. Using the hashtag #CMmeetup, community managers in New York, California and even here in the UK are beginning to organise their own meet-ups to knowledge share and swap expertise.

For those of you that recruit community managers and any doubters of the need for an awareness day, here’s a warning of why it’s definitely worth keeping them on your good side!

So next time you visit your favourite brands social media platforms and something makes you laugh or smile, take a minute to think of the person behind the success. Thankfully the Community Managers Appreciation Day gives credit where it’s due.

The Right to Tweet

Rupert Murdoch joined Twitter less than a month ago in a sort of ‘I’ll give this a bash for the New Year’ kind of way. At the time, this didn’t seem all that interesting. It felt like some PR effort to push News International’s messages from an in-house comms team.

Well, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong.

It’s only been 25 days and Murdoch has already caused a few storms with his tweets. Some of the more widely reported ones include calling Google a ‘piracy leader’ and confirming MySpace was ‘screwed up in every single way’ (as if this needed confirming).

Now he’s gone one colossally controversial step further by comparing the phone hacking scandal in the UK, where several of his papers are at the centre of allocations, to the SOPA bill – calling the objections from the web community “ignorant argument”.

Murdoch Twitter

Agree or disagree with the media mongrel, the controversial and extreme nature of Murdoch’s comments illustrate the potential danger of having an influential company head tweeting.

For online and company reputation, one tweet from a CEO can undo months or even years of hard work. You only have to look at the @replies to Murdoch’s tweets to gauge how few fans he is winning. Of course this is unlikely to bother him, or in the scheme of things News International, in the slightest. Even so, having a prominent company CEO on Twitter comes with inherent responsibly, not least when there’s a high profile court case in the works. There’s not a whole lot of point in gathering an online audience if you’re only going to paint yourself in a darn poor light.