Plugging into the Web's user content boom, NBC Universal plans to add a video-sharing service to the Web sites of its local TV stations. The move marks a departure for local news sites, which tend to rely exclusively on their own broadcast video on the Web. NBC last week launched a video-sharing section on the site of its Philadelphia affiliate, NBC10.com, through a partnership with startup Web video company Motionbox. A special "Celebrate Summer" section on the site invites visitors to upload videos of their summer vacation trips. The video service is expected to be rolled out to each of NBCU's ten owned-and-operated stations by next year. To date, local news sites have been reluctant to experiment with user-generated video. "They're just taking the newscast and throwing it up there" on the Web, said Gordon Borrell, president of Borrell Associates, a research firm specializing in local media. He estimated that only a fraction of local TV sites have experimented with video-sharing because of concerns about legal liability and the impact on their credibility. Local station news managers are applying broadcast standards to the Web "and it doesn't work because the rules are different on the Internet," said Borrell. NBC appears to be warming up to user-generated video in other respects. Last month, the network forged a promotional deal with popular viral video site YouTube, ending a public disagreement between the companies that began when NBC demanded that YouTube remove hundreds of clips, including "Saturday Night Live"'s "Lazy Sunday" video. But many TV networks remain wary of user-created video. For instance, Hearst-Argyle Television, which owns or manages 28 local TV stations around the country, doesn't yet include user-generated video on any of its stations' companion sites. "What we're all about is professionally produced local video," said Hearst-Argyle spokesman Tom Campo. "That gives us a very strong advantage on the Web and is a very strong traffic driver." He said many of the sites are the highest or second-highest-rated local sites in their markets. Nevertheless, Campo said the company is looking at ways it might incorporate video-sharing into its local TV sites. Kevin Abramson, director of marketing for Internet Broadcasting--which helps to run about 80 local TV sites for eight major media companies including Hearst and McGraw Hill--said other station owners are similarly leery. "They're looking and trying to see how best to integrate user content with the material their journalists are posting on the sites," he said. Borrell noted that local newspapers appear to be more adventurous than TV stations when it comes to experimenting with user-generated video, based on preliminary findings from research his firm is pursuing on Web video advertising in local markets. "Now that newspapers have these very large Web sites, it gives them an opportunity to go after the TV competitor in the local market," he said. Drew Salamone, interactive promotions manager for NBC10, said he was pleased with the response to the new video-sharing service. About 40 summer-themed videos have been posted so far, and the site will add pet-related and humorous viral videos to the site in the coming weeks, said Salamone. To upload and edit videos, users must first register for a free Motionbox account through the NBC10 site. Salamone said NBC10 is screening all videos submitted to prevent inappropriate or potentially copyright-infringing material from going up on the site. He added that NBCU is planning to institute a central clearing process to vet user-generated video sent to all of the sites run by its owned stations.
Google said Tuesday that it would begin offering AdWords advertisers reports on the number of invalid clicks that Google filters from their accounts. Google is billing the move--which comes the same week that a judge in Arkansas is weighing whether to approve a $90 million settlement of a class-action lawsuit concerning click-fraud--as an attempt to give advertisers insight into click fraud. Previously, Google told advertisers how many clicks they were being charged for; those advertisers then could figure out the number of invalid clicks by comparing their site logs to the number of clicks billed to their accounts. Now, however, the number of clicks Google deems invalid will be easily available to all advertisers, even those who do not employ analytics, said Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's business product manager for trust and safety. Ghosemajumder said the company was offering marketers the additional information to provide them with more insight and hard data about click fraud. "There's a lot of misinformation and confusing information that have been provided to advertisers," Ghosemajumder said. "We see a lot of greatly exaggerated reports," he said. The extent of click fraud remains unknown, but some researchers have pegged the problem as significant. Outsell recently reported that search marketers believe that around 15 percent of all clicks are invalid. The reports on invalid clicks will be available on a yearly, quarterly, weekly, or daily basis, but will not be provided on a granular, per-click basis--information that some advertisers were hoping to receive. A Google spokesman said that the decision to keep the clicks aggregated on a daily basis was made for security purposes. "This is obviously a concern and, while we wanted to be transparent, we also did not want to put our filtering systems and advertisers at risk, so we were very careful about it," the spokesman said. "We are confident that this info is useful to advertisers but not malicious actors." Joshua Stylman, managing partner at search engine marketing firm Reprise Media, said that the move, while not necessarily a major one, was still heartening. "It may not be the ground-breaking click-fraud news, but it is a development, and I think it's a positive development for the industry," he said. Stylman said that while sophisticated marketers could already glean the data that Google is now providing, this would give the data to any advertiser who was running a pay-per-click campaign through AdWords. "Believe it or not, there are advertisers who are not yet tracking," he said. "Anytime there's something that hits the market like this, it's not just for the big guys, it's for the common denominators."
Time Inc. shocked media executives Tuesday with the announcement that it's closing Teen People magazine. The company will continue to publish the online version, TeenPeople.com. The decision to fold the print edition came after a difficult year and a half when the title was faced with declining circulation and ad pages. According to the Publishers' Information Bureau, Teen People's total ad pages for the first half of this year fell 14.4 from 2005, from about 353 to 302, while ad revenue fell over 10 percent in the same time period. Roberta Garfinkle, senior vice president and director of print strategy for TargetCast, said the move "makes sense," given that teens are increasingly consuming media online. "Teens are not getting their news from magazines, because they're all online," she said. Time Inc.'s move comes several months after Hachette Filipacchi closed Elle Girl's print edition in April. Like Teen People, Elle Girl kept its online presence. Both companies have indeed cast a continuing Web presence as a profitable alternative to print publication--but Samir Husni, a professor of journalism at the University of Mississippi and expert on the magazine industry, said he was skeptical of that explanation. "The beauty of the Web is it gives magazine publishers the excuse, 'We're not really killing the thing, we're staying on the Web.' If people could only survive on the Web, don't you think Playboy would have folded its print edition long ago?" Teen People is a victim of its own success, according to Husni, who traced the title's rise and fall beginning with its 1998 launch. "When Teen People was launched it was one of the big success stories," he said, "but then we had title after title for teens hitting the newsstands. That created this whole teen celebrity niche." The first real setback was the arrival of InTouch, which appealed with lower prices and greater frequency: "I call it the InTouch weekly revolution. When InTouch launched the first major weekly covering the celebrities at this apparently cheaper price, $1.99 per issue, they took the market by storm." Husni went on: "Then came all the other weekly titles: InStyle, Us, Star changed from a tabloid to a magazine, then OK came to the market, then Celebrity Living." Looking back, Husni said: "Those celebrity weeklies have replaced the need for the more expensive teen monthlies." And Garfinkle agreed: "Maybe the need for teen titles has gone."
Fast-growing MySpace.com, which now counts around 100 million users, will take in $180 million in U.S. ad revenue this year, predicted research firm eMarketer in a report issued Wednesday. Overall, social networking sites are expected to account for $280 million in the United States this year, or 1.7 percent of the total U.S. online ad spend, according to eMarketer. By 2010, social networking sites will likely garner $1.86 billion in online advertising in the United States, or 6.3 percent of the projected total, according to the report, "Social Network Marketing: Carving Out MySpace." With consumers increasingly turning to social networking sites, it's not surprising that marketers will follow, said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer senior analyst and author of the report. "Obviously, advertisers want to go where the eyeballs are," Williamson added. Also, she said, sites like News Corp.'s MySpace offer marketers the chance to tap into user-generated content, now considered to be in vogue. "User-generated content and word-of-mouth are two big buzzwords right now in online marketing, and social networks give marketers an opportunity to experiment with both," she said. The report states that most of MySpace's ad dollars come from large-scale promotional efforts on behalf of brand advertisers, which often involve the marketers creating their own MySpace profile and sponsoring branded content. MySpace has run such branding initiatives for several marketers, including fast-food chain Wendy's and PepsiCo's Aquafina water, among others. Fees from more routine display ads, by contrast, make up just a small percentage of MySpace's total, according to eMarketer. The research firm calculated that MySpace's fees from ad impressions alone totaled around $11.8 million for the first six months of the year. Although MySpace accounted for about 17 percent of the 193.6 billion online display impressions tracked by Nielsen//NetRatings last month, the average cost to run a thousand impressions on the site hovers around 10 cents, according to The New York Times. MySpace's Chief Operating Officer Peter Chernin said at a Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom conference last month that around 80 percent of the site's advertising is sold on a run-of-site basis, while just 20 percent is sold at premium rates. Although some marketers clearly are interested in advertising on MySpace, others continue to remain wary of the site. One reason, said Williamson, is that companies are afraid of how consumers will react to the company or its ads. "The big hurdle is accepting that if you advertise on a social network site, you're open to getting comments--good, bad, negative, or ugly--from anybody who views your material," she said.
Newspapers can boost their online presence by partnering with Internet pure-plays, according to a white paper released Tuesday by the Kelsey Group. "Partnering with online players to etch out a strategy is something that we've seen work, and we recommend that partnering with an online player is a good move," said Michael Boland, senior analyst with the Kelsey Group and one of the authors of the white paper. Boland suggested that newspapers' Web sites incorporate features aimed at consumers who research products online, but complete the purchase at a brick-and-mortar store. For instance, he said, newspapers could offer online coupons, redeemable at offline venues. Also, he said, newspapers can leverage the Web to better serve their existing print advertisers. "While newspaper advertising and classifieds have been traditionally based on leading offline conversions, new technologies are being developed to enable them to better reach new and existing customers online," the paper stated. "This is a unique opportunity to bring traditional strengths in circular, classified, and display advertising to new online channels." Another partnership online newspapers should look into is with search, the report stated. "One type of partnership that's very necessary is bringing in search technology," said Boland. "Right now, a lot of content and classified advertising is kind of buried. There are a lot of interesting search technologies that can be used to bring search functionalities to a newspaper's Web site."