Hulu – Holler!

A firm needs to define itself not by the product it sells, but by the customer benefit provided.

From the get-go, Hulu remained freakishly focused on its three customer sets – content owners, users, advertisers. It developed a comprehensive and expansive platform to distribute content. It created innovation laboratories to constantly tweak the usability of the site, while placing a premium on responding to user feedback. It discovered new forms of niche advertising for its advertisers.


Hulu’s advertising strategy centered around its ability to allow advertisers to target users belonging to a host of different segments – geography, demographic, interest, behavior, taste, etc.

Channel Management

Hulu has had to consistently wade through a minefield of logistical, legal and distribution challenges with their partner content providers. Some content providers have chosen not to partner with Hulu. Others have had their doubts and been hesitant to license their content. Etc. There’s also the simple fact that Hulu now receives video content from so many sources – it must be a serious ball of yarn to untangle.

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Zinio – The Numbers Were Never There To Begin With

I did a double-take the first time I saw the number. And then I read it again. Sure enough, I read it right the first time:

Five-hundred thousand. A half-million. 500,000.

That’s how many Spaniards Raul Suarez wanted using Zinio within three years of launching the digital magazine reader in a country with 45 million people, only 37 percent of whom used the internet regularly. That’s 16.6 million people. Which means for Zinio to achieve its goal, one out of every 32 internet users in Spain would have to buy into the platform, which was fairly limited in scope to begin with (magazines, and only a select number).

Not a promising proposition, if you ask me. The numbers look even more grim when you see that only 49 percent of Spaniards were even reading magazines in 2006. Yikes!

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Local Overkill?

We’ve heard it over and over again. Hyperlocal news has a future in journalism. And we should work toward developing sustainable business models around this format. Yet Churchill and Ubois’ study on local news production and consumption has me doing a double take. Their research seems to uncover a bit of a disconnect between those who make the news and those who read it. I believe the phrase they used in their study was “parochial,” when describing readers’ perception of hyperlocal. Well, that’s not good.

There’s also the question of what actually constitutes local. Again, Churchill and Ubois show that for a lot of people, local doesn’t mean the neighborhood they live in. But something else entirely. Local could mean the other side of town. Or simply a group of people who share the same interests and beliefs. There’s spatial locality, but also locality that is intellectual and emotional.

This is not counter intuitive. In fact, it makes a good bit of sense. But it adds a layer of complexity for someone like myself, who hopes to build an ad network for “local” publications in Brooklyn.

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Yo! I Have Questions. I Want Answers.

Here’s three questions I have. I have my heart set on some answers.

-What websites, blogs and print publications do people living in South Brooklyn actually read? I’d  like to get a sense of how often they read sites like the ones I’m thinking of partnering with. Also, what kinds of local content have value for people living in the area?

-I want to get better demographic data on people who read a number of these hyperlocal sites in Brooklyn. What do these people do for a living? What music do they listen to? Where do they shop? What do they like to do? Etc. I reckon answers to these questions will help with finding advertisers who’d be a good fit.

-What kinds of advertisers (esp. national/big) are interested in advertising among a small, but influential demographic of people in Brooklyn?

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Myths of Innovation – Abridged!

Here’s my attempt to take the 80 pages of this book we read over the weekend and boil it down to 150 words. A real time saver, if you ask me! Ok… Go! Profound and revolutionary ideas are the product of years of work and, often, failure – they don’t materialize out of thin air. History is often the story of success and not the story of failure. Good luck trying sell that book you wrote on How to be an Innovator – in the world of innovation there’s no how-to, dummy. The powers that be maintain their power through protecting the status quo – don’t fuck with it! Finally, one man does not change the world by himself. See, wasn’t that easy? So far Mr. Berkun has yet to dazzle me with his pithy anecdotes or yawn-inducing examples. What’s truly innovative about this book? The fact that his publishers charge $17.99 for it. (151 words)

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I’ve been mulling over this project for the last few days. Scratching my head. Etc. Trying to figure out into whom we’re going to put the fear of God.

I’ve spent the last year thinking about how a number large U.S. cities have only one daily newspaper. A paper that continues to decline in circulation and, ultimately, relevance. I’ll use the Oregonian as a case in point because I worked there last summer. It’s a great paper, with solid editors, reporters and a staff that truly gives a shit. But their newsroom has slashed in half. They cover less turf throughout Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. And, their website is garbage. I mean, really awful. Take a look for yourself.

I wasn’t entirely surprised that nobody in Portland my age read the Oregonian. I mean nobody. I’d talk to them at bars and coffee shops and parties I went to. No dice. And this is a city with a ridiculously large number of young, well-educated people. Who, allegedly, give a damn, are politically active, socially conscious, liberal, progressive, what have you. There are two alternative weekly papers in Portland as well, along with another mainstream rag that comes out a couple of times a week. But people weren’t really reading much of them either. In addition, I’ll argue that the two alt-weeklies are pretty poor at covering actual news and currents events (exhibit A: The Village Voice).

This landscape, in my estimation, seems like an ideal place to launch a news-based website that can cover Portland, and do so in a meaningful fashion. Just my two cents. Take it or leave it.

A couple of other quick thoughts. First, Gawker’s recent re-design, as well as its movement toward a more national audience, leaves a hole that could be filled. Similarly, I think someone could take on New York Magazine, as it continues to chart a new course (and as the Observer continues to go down in flames). Finally, I’ve seen no publication that has been able to adequately seize Brooklyn’s growing influence and brand. It’s still a completely untapped market.

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Problems? I Got Solutions.

Problem. Hyperlocal publications thrive in the creative enclaves of Brooklyn. They provide many of the borough’s best news, features, tips and editorials. However, they’re either making no money. Or not enough to be sustainable. To boot, publishers and editors want to spend their time reporting, writing and creating. They don’t want to spend all of their time trying to convince businesses to advertise on their sites.

Problem. Advertisers want to reach the demographic of readers who frequent many of these hyperlocal sites. However, most of these sites are too small by themselves. Advertisers don’t want make a dozen ad buys and only reach 250,000 people in a month. They want to deal with one person or sales rep. To boot, many local businesses don’t know how advertising works. And many don’t even have an ad for their business designed.

Solution. OVERFLOW Publishing. No joke.

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A little bit about OVERFLOW Publishing

OVERFLOW Publishing is an ad cooperative for hyperlocal publications in Brooklyn. The actual product of the business is a network through which advertisers (local, regional and national) can reach a highly desirable and influential group of individuals living in the borough. The cooperative also allows for editors and publishers to make money from their sites, while spending less time trying to focus on ad sales. I reckon it will be a relatively low-traffic operation that won’t take up a whole lot of space to run.

When it launches, OVERFLOW will focus exclusively on Brooklyn, and quite possibly a smaller area within the borough. People who visit the sites and publications belonging to the cooperative are in the age range of 20 to 45, with an average income of over $50,000. OVERFLOW will serve as a bridge between businesses and the publishers and editors of news and culture publications in the borough.

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