Journalists: Business is not a dirty word

At the Future of Journalism Conference at Harvard last week, 100 journalism researchers and professors heard repeated messages that the mainstream media must embrace, not fight, the blogosphere and that serious reporting can survive by catering to niche audiences. Here is a summary of a report on the conference from the journalism institute (the full report is here).

Carl Sessions Stepp, a University of Maryland journalism professor, said journalists should consider themselves entrepreneurs and find ways to make more money from existing news services like archives. From Gutenberg to Google, he added, “Young marginal upstarts with great ideas is a journalistic tradition.”

Robert G. Picard from Sweden’s Jonkoping University, said that although journalists hate the words “business” and “money,” they must develop new revenue streams. He said news organizations should abandon their “all you can eat buffet” offerings of mediocre coverage of all subjects. Instead, Picard said, they should provide higher quality news for smaller audiences, present information in various media, and reuse and reconfigure existing content.

Clyde Bentley, a Missouri School of Journalism professor, said, “we’ve had our head in the sand” about the blogosphere’s impact.

The debate over bloggers’ influence “is over,” he said. “Blogging is a numbers game. It’s there and we’ll just have to deal with it.” Noting that 120,000 new blogs a day dwarf the country’s 1,427 dailies, he said editors should treat the blogosphere like a giant wire service.

Bentley said that while consumer demand for content decreases, their demand for content navigation increases. “There will always be a place for the journalist who can craft a story better than anyone else, but there will be a bigger place for the journalist who can help media consumers find the information they want.”


Hands up if you want an EHR – anyone?

With all the discussion and developments going on in terms of electronic health records/personal health records online, someone has finally asked the question: is this what consumers want? Keith Schorsch wrote on the Health 2.0 blog the other day about “the elephant in the room: Do consumers really care about having online personal health records?”

He cited current evidence suggesting that less than 3% of health consumers maintain a personal health record online (presumably US figures – Australian figures would only be a fraction of that). While Google “trotted out some great enterprise partners” for its recent announcement about its trial of Google Health with the Cleveland Clinic, Schorsch pointed out that there were no consumer testimonials talking about how Google Health would change their lives for the better.

“I struggle to see how it’s creating value for the average health consumer,” he writes. “How much work is required by the user to create this asset? And how important is data portability to the consumer? We all remember the predictions of the paperless office. The ‘paperless record’ feels like this decade’s version of the paperless office.”

“Google Health fels like a good, incremental step toward putting more control in the hands of the health consumer,” Schorsch concludes, but “without a clearly delineated consumer benefit, this is a platform waiting for a killer app.” 

Google the tool of choice for Australian doctors

A study published in this month’s Australian Family Physician shows that more than half of Australian general practitioners use the Internet during a consultation, and Google is the most common website they visit, at a rate higher than the next five most popular websites combined.

More than half of all respondents (56%) – and every one of the doctors surveyed in the 20-30 age group – used the Internet during consultations. Looks like the millions spent by the government offering free broadband to GPs all around Australia has had some payoff, with 93% of respondents using broadband in their practice and only 3% on dial-up. Interestingly, only 63% of the GPs said they used email at work (though 92% used it at home) – more work to be done to move to email consultations (aside from reimbursement issues).

Ninety per cent used a clinical software package, with 98% of those using the package for prescribing, 85% to order tests and 64% to record progress notes.

The study was conducted by Edith Cowan University and was based on 1,186 surveys from the Osborne Division of General Practice in Perth.


Surprise, surprise – e-health records >3 years away

The Australian Doctor website reports today that Australia “is at least three years away from introducing shared e-health records for every patient — despite $150 million being sunk into e-health programs over the past eight years.”


Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon, when interviewed by the Australian Financial Review last week, refused to commit to a 2012 deadline for a national e-health record system.Clinical leader of the National e-Health Transition Authority (NEHTA) and ex-AMA president Dr Mukesh Haikerwal told Australian Doctor, “There is no element of the reform agenda that can succeed unless we have a decent underpinning by a robust e-health system.”NEHTA is believed to be looking initially at a minimum-quality data set – limited to information such as allergies, hospital history and medical conditions to ensure there is enough information “to treat the patient safely”.

RACGP e-health spokesperson, Dr Nathan Pinskier, said while a national e-health record would provide an informed framework for each patient’s care, “GPs were concerned about being overloaded with information not related to their interactions with the patient.”

The big questions

Pete Blackshaw has just published an article on Clickz which echoes my piece yesterday. He outlines 10 ‘big questions’ every chief marketing officer should ask. The questions:

  • What’s the strategic relevance of listening?
  • How do we stay credible with consumers?
  • How do we gain permission to market to consumers? What is permission?
  • What is engagement? How do we measure it?
  • How do we stay authentic and meaningful with consumers?
  • How do we facilitate and catalyze cross-functional relationships to unleash new value and synergy?
  • How do we intervene with consumers at critical inflection points? What are they?
  • How much marketing budget should be invested in indirect activities?
  • How do we nurture customer advocacy?
  • How do we protect and defend brand equity and reputation?

As Blackshaw writes, “You simply can’t decouple service and marketing in this new era of consumer control. Without satisfied customers, we simply can’t market. Without strong customer advocates, we simply can’t sell.”

It’s all relative: Internet ads grow as economy contracts

The sub-prime economic crisis in the US is accelerating the share of ad spending on Internet advertising, according to a new IDC report.

During the next five years, Internet advertising is predicted to grow eight times as fast as traditional advertising, doubling from US$25.5 billion in 2007 to US$51.1 billion. That means by 2012 the Internet will be the second-largest area of advertising spend, behind direct marketing and in front of TV, radio, and newspapers. The Internet is currently number five on the list.

According to IDG, “Video advertising will be the principal disruptor of Internet advertising over the next five years by attracting the most new marketing dollars. Its revenue will grow sevenfold from $US0.5 billion in 2007 to $US3.8 billion in 2012 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49.4%. This growth will take place because brand advertisers will shift significant amounts of money into these video commercials, primarily from broadcast television.”

Would love to see some equivalent statistics for Australia if anyone has them.

If not king, at least prince

“Don’t just take what you’re doing offline and move it online in the hope that being there will somehow make people stand up and cheer.” – Charles Rubin

The phrase “content is king” may seem hackneyed, but over the past few years finding, reading and interacting with content has become the dominant reason people spend time online, overtaking communication and well ahead of commerce and search (according to the Online Publishers Association Internet Activities Index, conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings).

With the rise of social networking, creating content and interacting with it has become a critical part of the online experience for your customers. All businesses need to address this issue in order to create and develop healthy relationships. You need to speak the same language as your customers. You need to ask yourself:

• What message do I want to get across?
• What interactions am I trying to make?
• What conversations do I want to have with my customers?
• Where do my customers want to go – and how can I come alongside them for the journey?

Australian companies are starting to get the message, putting more effort into creating content specifically for their website rather than shoe-horning existing brochure or advertising material into their web pages. Even the newspaper sites are creating web-only content, acknowledging the importance of the online component of their business. I will be writing more about these companies over time, highlighting who I think is getting it right (and wrong) online. Stay tuned…