news – Stay N Alive

In the Collaborative Economy, Are Local Classifieds in Trouble?

I’m a big fan of my friend Jeremiah Owyang’s principle of “The Collaborative Economy.” The principle is thus (yet very hard to explain unless you actually experience it): the trend in social media, up to this point, has been the sharing of virtual content, goods, and services through close friends and family on social networks like Facebook, Google+, and Twitter. The Collaborative Economy is a new phase of this principle, where instead of only sharing online, close friends, family, and some times strangers are now using online tools to find ways to share in real life. The idea, when applied to commerce is that instead of businesses being the source of the transaction from them to their customers, they will instead become the facilitator of the transaction between customer and other customers. The future of social media will be services like Uber, AirBNB, and others that grasp this concept and enable real life social transactions to occur in physical form, from customer to customer and not from big business to customer.

This is why I fear for local classifieds markets. Having worked for 2 media companies so far (and at one being responsible for developing new online classified experiences), I know how important classifieds are to the revenue of local news media. Classifieds are at the core of revenue for most news media outlets, outside display advertising, and as sites like Craigslist have taken over these markets you are seeing some of that result on revenue for local news around the world. It affects these markets so much that you see when local classifieds sites like Salt Lake City’s KSL Classifieds overtake Craigslist, it develops a sort of monopoly on the market in terms of classifieds revenue that goes to these news orgs within the local market.

A key element to good Classifieds is getting local auto dealers to sign on. On top of that, real estate is another big factor for revenue in modern classifieds sites. To get an idea of where that revenue comes from, just go down any classified site like Craigslist or KSL Classifieds and look at which ads they charge you money for. You’ll see the biggest are auto and real estate. There are other similar categories though.

This is where the trouble begins. Right now we know (Deseret News, KSL Classifieds’ own sister site declared the end of cars!) that automobile sales are in decline in favor of services such as Uber (for getting around town with a driver) or ZipCar (for getting around on your own) or RelayRides (for longer-term car rentals) that embrace the Collaborative economy. On the real estate front, you’re seeing more and more people embrace the collaborative economy in favor of renting through services such as AirBNB. All of this is so much so that businesses like Ford are reconsidering their sales strategy to provide similar type rental services of their cars as they recognize the recent decline in sales.

In fact, my friend Jeremiah Owyang, who is advising many of these businesses already, is seeing such great demand in this market that he recently quit his job at Altimeter in favor of advising these businesses full time on their collaborative strategy. This should have all classifieds departments in news organizations, as well as Craigslist and the like paying attention – their revenue stream from autos, real estate, and similar transactions is in trouble!

My hope is that local classifieds, Craigslist, Ebay, and other similar sites begin to recognize this. Person-to-person transactions are in, and business-to-person transactions are on the way out. Services such as the person-to-person trade service Yerdle (founded by a former Walmart exec Andy Ruben, btw), really get this. They’re finding ways to build business models without the businesses at the top of the model, focusing on platform the B2B relationship. They’re developing new business models unfamiliar to traditional e-commerce sites, and ways to get in the middle of those C2C (Customer-to-Customer) transactions. Local classifieds will need to take this same approach in the future to survive as their business partners stop selling, and start taking this same approach (essentially making those partners competitors!).

I mentioned before that local news orgs are competitors with Facebook and other social networks and they don’t realize it yet. Local news has the potential for a very strong, tight-knit community of individuals passionate about their community and growing that community. They are in the business of sharing, and getting people to share. When it comes to classifieds, this applies there as well – the future of classifieds is, and should be the collaborative economy, and facilitating transactions from customer to customer, not from the business to the customer. As long as the revenue comes from the latter, classifieds websites are going to suffer in the future, and those that get this will be the winners.

The Future of Local News WILL Disrupt Facebook

I am often asked, “will Facebook ever go the way of MySpace?” The truth is Facebook has been very good, like it or not, at not looking at current users’ needs, but instead anticipating the needs of future users, therefore fixing the Innovator’s Dilemma and ensuring their survival. There is one thing Facebook is overlooking right now, and with what I have seen in the news industry, I think Facebook may be blind-sighted at what I think is going to happen. The answer lies in the local news orgs.

The truth is, the current state of local news is in trouble. Revenue of news orgs is at the same level it was back in the 50s. People are seeking their news online. People are replacing their TV watching habits with Youtube, and Hulu, Netflix, Xbox, and Apple TV. At one news org I worked with, the term, “side door traffic” was brought up over and over again, as something to strive for. The fact of the matter is, people have stopped having the news open all day, in favor of sites like Facebook and Twitter and Google+. Homepage traffic is at a meager low right now for all local news orgs.

Print Media is going the way of the dinosaur. Newspapers are dying. Magazines are dying. So as a result, news is going entirely online. Now we find both print and video orgs, especially at the local level, competing against each other in a market where they previously did not compete. The sad thing is many of these former print and former video news orgs don’t realize they are now in competition with each other (much due to the fact that Nielsen ratings still exist and ad revenue is still going towards different sources like TV, but that won’t last for long).

Here’s what I predict will happen (and is already happening, to an extent): the TV and the Print organizations will be forced to merge, or compete in the very near future. Local TV and local Print news orgs will no longer be Print and TV orgs, but just “Web orgs.” The same reporters that serve print will also serve TV, and video will, more and more, move towards the same online source that print is located. Ad dollars will all go towards the web. Youtube strategies will become more important as more people use Youtube to get entertainment and news. It will no longer be a TV or print strategy, but a “multi-media strategy.”

This is all just the beginning though. Once print and TV at the local level all merge, local news orgs will be unified again. Print won’t be competing with TV, and the same for vice-versa. Sales teams will all be selling for a common goal, and new ad technologies will be developed. Social technologies will be integrated, allowing ordinary citizens to provide news and video, and targeted ads will be built targeting the user and their friends at the local level, where they are (through mobile technologies). People will be able to follow their friends on these websites and mobile apps.

This is when Facebook should feel threatened. At this point, news orgs will begin to realize that Facebook has been doing this for years now. Facebook now becomes the competition for them. The competition will go from getting “side door traffic” to getting “front door traffic” as Facebook does. The fight will be to get the user to have YOUR website open all day, not rely on them to congregate at places like Facebook to get their news.

The difference between now and before though is that local news orgs have a monopoly on their local markets. It won’t be like Washington Post and their “social reader” that targets a global audience and their friends. It will be a much more localized, personal audience of people much more devoted because it represents their culture and information they are much more familiar with. This puts local news orgs at competition directly with Facebook.

At, owned by a former employer of mine, they had the market on classifieds, perhaps the only market in the USA to overtake Craigslist in traffic and community. They did this through following the devotions and loyalties of a passionate local audience and culture. The same can, and will be done with social. I saw similar passionate cultures and niche communities in the many communities that Media General served when I worked there. This can be repeated.

The biggest disruption to Facebook is going to happen when these local news orgs are forced to reinvent themselves, and utilize their passionate, niche local audiences to take advantage of circles of friends that are very tightly woven in the areas they serve. It’s not ready yet, but desperation and disruption in the local news industry is going to force this as soon as they realize Facebook is actually their competition – mark my words. Facebook is local news’ biggest competitor – they just don’t realize it yet.

Don’t "Feed" the Regator App – it Finds News for You

CrocodileRecently at a speaking engagement I took part in I was asked by one of the audience members, “How do I find good blogs to follow if I don’t want to worry about an RSS reader?”  It was a valid question, as someone like my Mom, who is very careful adopting new technology, may not want to spend the time learning to find and add new feeds to some sort of “RSS Reader” she is already very scared of.  I immediately thought of websites like Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop to refer people to when they don’t want to worry about RSS.  I was recently introduced to another website along those lines, Regator, which today launched an iPhone app for helping you, your friends, or even my Mom discover new news, no RSS Reader necessary!

regator home

The Regator iPhone app is quite simply a categorized index of thousands of human-selected blogs at your fingertips.  It starts with a list of the most popular blog posts at a given time, giving you a very useful little slider to filter out blog posts in the popular posts by category, similar to what the Facebook iPhone app uses for filtering friend lists.

Or, you can look at all the newest posts by category.  For instance, if I select the technology category filter, the first post that comes up is an article by Ubergizmo about MSI touchscreen netbooks, posted just 1 minute ago.  If I select the post, I can read the blog post right there, in the app, without ever having to switch to a browser.  I can then opt to share that post via e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook in just a few points of my finger. (just don’t get bit!)

trendsThere is a trends feature, similar to Twitter trends, but for the blogs indexed on Regator.  The trends at the time of this post were “iPhone”, “App Store”, “iPod Touch”, among others, signaling there must be something going on in Apple news currently.  Touching “iPod Touch” reveals multiple articles on rumors of a new iPod Touch coming up on September 9th.  I can click through to each of them.  The cool thing is I can also filter the trends by category as well, so I can only show Technology trends, for instance.

If I ever just want to browse articles, something my Mom might want to do, there is a directory selection, giving you a filtered directory of all the indexed blogs, by category.  I like to flick through, and randomly put my finger down to see what comes up – serves as a fun way to discover new blogs.

regator socialtoo search

Of course, if you don’t care about categorization, and just want to find the news you’re looking for, they provide search throughout the entire iPhone app.  Just type in the term you want (I searched for “socialtoo“), and sure enough you get an entire list of blog posts on the topic you just searched for.  It’s fast, too!

So, if you get a chance, and have an iPhone, go take a swim with the ‘Gator – Regator that is.  It’s a great source of news right in your pocket.

The app is available for free in the iTunes store, or via this link.

My Hiatus From RSS – Is RSS Really Necessary?

RSSRecently, I have become increasingly aware of my dependance on RSS for news and information. Like Louis Gray, I am a data sponge. I like new news, when it happens – I really think I should have majored in Journalism for that reason. Because of that dependance on the news, I have, over the years, subscribed to enough RSS to constitute thousands of news items in my feeds that I read daily. And yes, while some I skim, I go through each and every one of them.

At the same time I’m beginning to realize the amount of time it involves to stay so updated on the news. While I have become increasingly good at using my “J” and “K” keys in Google Reader, I find my dependance on the news constantly drawing me back to Google Reader, in almost an addictive manner throughout the day.

You see, going through my news I’ve come to realize recently that much of the news I get is simply entertainment. Much of it is repeated, and much of it, while very interesting, simply isn’t necessary to enhancing my business, SocialToo, improving my Consulting knowledge or improving me as a person in any way. I discussed this recently with my friend, Jeremiah Owyang, and he gave me some insight into how he gets his news.

Jeremiah is a Senior Analyst at Forrester, and perhaps one of their most vocal (if not the most vocal) employees, with one of the top blogs on the internet on Web strategy, Social Media, and Web 2.0-related topics. He knows his stuff, and is very up-to-date on what’s current and what’s happening in early-adopter, as well as Enterprise technologies. In discussing my dilemma with him, Jeremiah revealed to me that he doesn’t use RSS. He relies solely on FriendFeed Friend Lists, Google E-mail alerts, and what people tell him on Twitter. From that he hasn’t missed anything he needed to know, and has remained an expert in his related field of expertise. I was amazed that he was able to do this without RSS.

I decided to give this a try. In fact, I’m going to use a religious holiday as an excuse to try it. Yesterday at noon was the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday). Admittedly, I’m not Catholic (although I do run one of the largest organized groups of Catholics through my We’re Catholic App, at 70,000 users), but I love the concept of Lent. The holiday is based on the fast that Jesus Christ performed for 40 days and 40 nights, in which he was tempted despite his hunger and weakness, and came out triumphant. People around the world give up different items for those 40 days as a method of overcoming weakness and temptation.

For this Lent, I’m going to give up RSS and Google Reader. I’m going to be a weakling and only do it for 1 week, but my attempt is to figure out if I can be more efficient without it than with it. With the advent of Social Media and tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed, and even normal e-mail, I wonder if I can remove this addiction and still be as productive as I used to. Here is how I will do it:

  • The start – Yesterday at 12pm I closed my Google Reader tab. I haven’t yet re-opened it, and I won’t re-open it until next Wednesday at 12pm. I will declare RSS bankruptcy and delete all remaining RSS at that time.
  • Google/Twitter/FriendFeed Alerts – I’ve been doing most of these through RSS up until now. I am contemplating the best solution. One option would be to create a FriendFeed Room that imports all my searched terms into one place. Another would be to start sending Google searches to my e-mail, filling up my inbox – not sure I want to do that. I could also set up a TweetDeck or PeopleBrowsr column to search for the terms I need to track. I may do a combination of all of the above.
  • Getting the News I Want – If there was ever a better reason to be on FriendFeed, this is why you need to do it. Even if you don’t participate, make sure your blog is populating FriendFeed (I would add it to Facebook as well). This will be how I obtain my news. Now, instead of just tracking news, I’ll be tracking Twitter, Blogs, Youtube, and more through a Friends List on FriendFeed. If I was subscribed to your blog before and you’re on FriendFeed, I’m now tracking your blog via that method. I’ll be “media snacking”, as Robert Scoble calls it, and IMO, this is the future of news discovery, and takes much less time. Add me on FriendFeed if you want me to discover your content as well.
  • Twitter – If there’s anything you think I should read, @reply me on Twitter. I track things there as well, but that will guarantee I read it, and some times ReTweet it.
  • Sharing – One thing I love most about Google Reader is my ability to share items I come across, and even comment on them. This saves me a lot of the need to write a blog post about something someone has already covered. FriendFeed provides a nifty tool you can add as a Bookmarklet in your browser which will add any page you come across to FriendFeed. I’ll be using this religiously moving forward. You can follow my shares in FriendFeed, or on my FriendFeed widget over on the lower-right of this blog.

It’s my hope that I can learn something from this. Fasting, whether it be food or other material items, can teach you what’s most important in life. I did this with Twitter for a few months last year and learned a lot on what Twitter is, and isn’t important for. My hope is I can do the same with FriendFeed. Perhaps this Lent we should all, regardless of religion or faith, figure out something we want to learn about and give up those things we would at other times call a “need”. I think this world would be a much better place if we all did this every so often.

I will post a follow up to what I learned in a week.