If only because I laid my Google revenue cards on the table early on…

https://outwithabang.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/lesson-no37a-for-all-that-follow-dont-pin-your-hopes-on-good-ol-uncle-google/ 

…this was interesting, Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine and Guardian column fame doing the same… and, in paricular, what Google did for him last year.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2008/apr/14/5

For those of you who are hard of linking, the two paragraphs to put side-by-side are, first the MFW ‘experience’… 

“Take, for example, our Google AdSense numbers since March ‘07.

“406,002 impressions, 846 clicks…. $223. So I did Google a disservice at JEECamp. Apologies. When I said $180 for 400,000 page impressions I was $40 out and 6,000 page impressions under. We made £110 in a year…”

To be then followed by the Buzzmachine one…

“Last year, Buzzmachine.com, which has been in business, loosely speaking, since 2001, made $9,315 (£4,655) from two blog ad networks, $1,866 from ads on my RSS feeds, and $2,674 from Google ads, for a total of $13,855. Though I’ve written many a blog post and column lamenting that there aren’t better, richer ad networks to support grassroots media, when I add that up, I’d say it’s not too shabby…

I, however, would describe our own Google ads income as shabby. If not particularly shabby. Or, indeed, utterly shabby. I might also describe it as someone having a laugh…

And let’s make several things clear; we’re not running like-for-like – it’s a horribly inexact science; the comparisons don’t stand up; we didn’t, for example, run AdSense for a full calendar year; if we had, who knows? We could have cracked the $300 mark…

But what I would be intrigued to know is just how hard our Jeff had to work to earn that $2,674…

Given that Buzzmachine has ‘loosely speaking’  been in business since 2001, he’s clearly had to work his ‘brand’ for at least five years (2001-2006) before earning a thousand quid off Google in Year Six…

I earned my princely sum off 400,000 page impressions – and all on the back of busting my b*lls twice a day to deliver two, great 1,000-word ‘sticky’ reads to the waiting Norwich City masses who, come January’s transfer window month, were 33,000 monthly uniques strong.

Plus we had coulmnists, characters and all sorts. We worked – indeed, still work – our collective n*ts off draging football punters to that site with a quality journalistic product that, we hoped, would offer enough context, comment and quotes that it would not only drag eyeballs there, it would keep eyeballs there.

And, touch wood, it appears to work. That’s back to my 436-second average visit time for the month of January. Seven minutes every time they visit.

Because it’s a passionate niche. Just as the future of news is.

What would be very interesting to discover is just what numbers Buzzmachine.com generates in terms of uniques, page impressions and average visit times to pop a cheque for £1,300 from Google into Jeff’s hands at the end of the year….

I’ve no idea. I read it most days. As, I suspect, many a media-luvvie does.

And because it is, more often than not, a well-informed and engaging read, my eye-balls stay fixed. And if, for argument’s sake, me and Jeff run at roughly similar numbers per month – my www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity versus his www.buzzmachine.com – then fair enough, he cracked the Google nut more than I did.

Maybe – he says, looking for his excuses – Jeff is actually mining a richer niche seam; that the ads that appear on his site are far more click-appealing than those that ever appeared on ours; that maybe ‘football’ and ‘Norwich’ never quite made sense as ads.

And maybe it’s just a case of being patient – that come Year Six, 2012, I too could be pulling £1,000 a year back off them. In the unlikely event I was still pinning many of my hopes on Google by then…

Don’t know.

Fotunately, we didn’t put all our eggs in Google’s basket – and, nor, of course did Jeff. He’s got two blog ad network tickets working his brand; covering his ass to the tune of £4,500 a year.

Me? I’ve got Kev acting as MFW’s tail-end Charlie – trying to pick off every local advertiser we can find; as well as those national ones that like the cut of our demographics. Three cheers for the British Army… newly-signed up for a year-long banner ad deal on all three sites.

It’s still a tough nut to crack. Very tough in these credit crunch times. But they’re out there; all starting to think what they would do next if they didn’t have a local evening paper to advertise in… And if I can pull, say, £2,000 per month off the Norwich site in Pay-Per-Month advertising, that’s not too shabby either.

Particularly, if we can then find further revenue streams to add to our income bow.

Because that’s the real point. For all we do, for all the hours we write and for all the pavements we pound, the jury is still out as to whether advertising of any sort will – on its own – be enough to save our bacon.

And that applies to all of us. From The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The New York Times down… is there enough value in what we ‘sell’ in terms of advertising space to guarantee our survival?

No.

Just ask our Jeff. Without a column or two up his sleeve, a consultancy here and there and a teaching gig at CUNY, could he survive on $13,855 a year. Just over six grand…?

No.

Exactly. No.

 

 

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I knew there was something else. Something else that had niggled away all day.

This.

http://www.currybet.net/cbet_blog/2008/03/google_hijacks_newspaper_search.php

That’s brilliant. Top spot. Or if not spotted, then illustrated.

And while we’re handing out medals, I stumbled across it on Martin Stabe’s blog.

What the newspapers concerned do next will be fascinating to watch. Cos I’d show Google the door…

Don’t get me wrong, Google is the biggest and best taxi service in this web-world; they get me from A to B in an instant. But being an oh-so ‘umble news provider, I’ve never quite got the best out of the other string to their mighty bow, advertising. There again, I don’t have Ernst & Young advising me…

But as a taxi service, superb. They bring the punters straight to my door.

But go back to marvellous Martin, and let’s talk it through. I’m a Norwich fan; I’m not, be we digress…

I’m a Norwich fan; fancy seeing what’s in the Telegraph; so I hail my Google taxi, ‘To the ‘Telegraph’ pal…’ and they arrive at the front door…

Now at this point – if I were the Telegraph – I’d open the door, let the punter out and tip the driver before he left. And then it would be a case of walking with them into our newly-decorated hallway and asking them where they’d like to go next…

‘Sport, please…’

‘Of course, sir. Step this way….’ all in the hope that, en route, they’d notice the fact that we’d actually just had the hallway done; that something smelt nice in the kitchen.

Strikes me that our Google taxi driver is now through the hall and up the stairs before anyone has had time to notice.

Having arrived in the teenage kid’s bedroom that does for ‘Sport’, I can then rummage away through the drawer of dirty underpants until I get to the one with the Canary logo on the front. But if I was The Telegraph, The Guardian, etc… I’d want the taxi driver to be still stood on the front door-step waiting for my return and then to be told where to go next.

Because if I was those ever-so clever people from Google and I did that ‘Taxi for Telegraph Sport: Norwich City run…’ often enough, the next time I hailed a cab, they would have been able – through force of my habit – to predict exactly which smelly drawer I wanted to go to thereby missing out whatever was on the hall, on the stairway and in the bedroom altogether… and it would be their predictive advertising adorning the landing walls….

Now if all I was ever interested in was getting so many uniques into said bedroom drawer and wasn’t that bothered how, exactly, they got there and how many muddy feet were trampling over my newly-laid search carpet in the hall, then fine.

But if we think that the great circulation battles of the future are going to be for the global ABCe’s, what happens if – as an advertiser – I’m now faced with The Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian and The Daily Mail all locked in and around the 15 million uniques per month mark?

Where’s my next measure?

I think – or rather, I hope – it’s time. That within those four walls of your digital home you provide enough ‘sticky’ content to keep the eyeballs lingering over what’s on the hall table, what’s left on the landing, etc, etc… for longer than any of your nearest and dearest rivals.

I’ve dealt in fag packet numbers for the last two years; I’m not about to change.

But, let’s just say, that to get to said dirty pants drawer it takes me four pages – on a first visit. Five seconds, in total. Provided, of course, that I haven’t stepped in anything ‘sticky’ en route.

And let’s say my 15 million month uniques on average visit twice a month.

That’s 30 million visits; average ‘journey’ time to what’s behind the fridge, in the bottom kitchen cabinet, behind the lamp in the lounge, etc, etc… is our 5 seconds. On average.

30 mill x 5 is 150 million seconds; that’s 2.5 million minutes; that’s… ooh… five years worth of eye-ball time a month I’m giving away cos I won’t ask the taxi driver to leave his passenger at the front door.

Mmm.

Paul used the term in one of the headlines to his JEECamp look-back the other week. I can’t remember if the term ‘cottage’ ever crossed my lips or not – it’s usually a phrase that I’m rather wary of – so, I’ll give Paul his due.

Because, to my mind, Paul’s spot-on. Journalism has every chance of returning to a cottage industry as the next generation of local journalists finally find their feet in this ever-shifting digital landscape.

After all, there are three of us here in East Anglia who sit at our kitchen tables and churn out professional copy for a living; whether the coffee shop in Tesco’s counts as a ‘cottage’ might be a moot point as Mark looks for the best place to file his Portman Road Press conference pieces, but the fact of the matter is we all travel light these days.

A lap-top, a 3G data card and a digital voice recorder and we’re away.

And, for me, it is a case of ‘returning’ to a cottage industry. For way back when, ‘journalism’ could be achieved by writing your proclamations on a scrap piece of parchment and nailing them to the nearest church door. Ask Mr Luther.

OK, so in every likelihood it was only the print press that then allowed the word to spread, but – in essence – you could still publish from home. There was, then, no other means of production.

Until the print press, of course. Which changed the world for ever. And as said presses got bigger and better, so they became more expensive and that control of the means of production slipped out of an individual journalist’s hands for the better part of 500 years.

Just as the weavers that weaved cloth for a living found themselves enslaved to the mills, so those that weaved words for a living found themselves with a print press strapped to their back. Dark, satanic press halls and all that. The cloth barons and the Press barons; peas from the same pod. Both made fortunes from the industrialisation of wool and news.

The Internet, of course, changes everything.

For I now control my own means of production.

What I don’t, yet, control is my own means of making a living. And, for me, if we all don’t pull together soon, there is a very real danger that having shrugged that press monkey off our backs, we will find another one in its place. Its name is Google.

Hence the need to crack this advertising nut.

But the analogy with the weavers and the mills still holds true. Because for as long as a journalist continues to produce something of value – be it fetching out football quotes from a dressing room or making either a head or a tail out of a West 14th St planning application – then we have a chance.

All we have to do is organise ourselves; to build ourselves a ‘market place’ where we can, collectively and elegantly, display our wares. Most will just feel the quality of the cloth and move on; others might be tempted to buy. In bulk; en masse. From our journalistic co-operative.

And, for me, that’s what ‘mother’ does; that’s what www.myfootballwriter.com is – a market place for our home-produced wares.

Here you go; from Wikipedia. It’s a Sunday night; I’m self-subbing, so I’ll trust it’s right…

The Halifax Piece Hall is a building in the town centre of Halifax, England, originally built as a sales centre for woollen handloom weavers. It opened on January 1, 1779, with over 300 separate rooms arranged around a central courtyard. The term piece refers to pieces of wool that were sold. As factories started up in the early nineteenth century the trade in handwoven wool declined…

No different to MFW; it’s just that our ‘piece hall’ has – thus far – just three seperate rooms; just three hand-weavers. But we’re still producing pieces – two a day; sticky, 1,000-word pieces, to be precise. The ‘central courtyard’ – the place where people come to read and, potentially, buy – is the mother hub, www.myfootballwriter.com.

And if MFW can, eventually, be a 72-room hall as we cascade down the Football League ladder, www.MyLocalWriter.com can, of course, be a piece hall of many, many rooms.

At the end of next month, Rupert Murdoch opens a new, state-of-the-art print press facility at Broxbourne. It is likely to be the mill to end all mills – literally, if you’re a provincial newspaper group trying to compete in that contract print market.

Speaking in the City of London back in 2006, Murdoch all but admitted that the control of the means of production was slipping from his hands – http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2006/mar/13/news.rupertmurdoch1

“Societies or companies that expect a glorious past to shield them from the forces of change driven by advancing technology will fail and fall,” he said.

“Power is moving away from the old elite in our industry – the editors, the chief executives and, let’s face it, the proprietors.

“A new generation of media consumers has risen demanding content delivered when they want it, how they want it, and very much as they want it…

The mill owners are in full retreat. Time to build our piece halls, people…

My BlogAds pal – he of the ‘race to the bottom’ cheeriness – was right in one respect.

Once you get out here, it is all a numbers game. We are, indeed, entering ‘the Age of Quantification’.

And, as he suggested, for all us professional locals the numbers don’t add up.

Take, for example, our Google AdSense numbers since March ’07.

406,002 impressions, 846 clicks…. $223. So I did Google a disservice at JEECamp. Apologies. When I said $180 for 400,000 page impressions I was $40 out and 6,000 page impressions under. We made £110 in a year.

We took AdSense off www.myfootballwriter.com/norwichcity round about September. www.myfootballwriter.com/ipswichtown and www.myfootballwriter.com/colchesterunited have never run AdSense; it didn’t make any sense; by the time both launched, for better or worse we were giving ‘addiply’ a go.

AdSense remains sat there on the mother site, www.myfootballwriter.com in the hope that any passing Colchester United, Norwich City or Ipswich Town punter might want to buy some Champions League quarter-final tickets off www.acetickets.co.uk

Unlikely, I suspect, but as the publisher it’s one of those little straws that Google leaves me to cling to.

It’s somewhere about now that ‘Out With A Bang’ veers more towards ‘Shuffling Off With A Whimper’ as we start to tip-toe around the whole G-word issue.

Cos clearly, in many other aspects, we need to cling to their magic black box with a passion. It is, after all, how all-too many people get to find us in the first place. And where would any of us be without that Google searchlight to illuminate this infinite web darkness?

But when it comes to earning anyone a living off their local web toils, well, I’m sorry. I can’t get it to work.

Not on my numbers; great, sticky 436-second copy twice a day and all that, but £110 for every 400,000 page impressions… someone’s having a laugh.

Of course, Google has now got a new toy for us all to play with – Google Ad Manager. It has, says Mr Jarvis, the odd chink in its armour – one that is unlikely to make the life of the local publisher any easier in terms of sourcing local advertising.

Because for 400-odd years that’s what under-pinned the business model of local newspapers, local advertising. And that hasn’t changed; that’s still there; all that’s changed – albeit dramatically – is our reliance as journalists on the wood-stainers to distribute our thoughts.

Nor for that matter do the little local advertisers increasingly want to bother with the wood-stainers any more – not when they’ve got a nice, new shiny website to promote. Like Ady. And his skips. www.adysskips.com

But back to Google Ad Manager and our Jeff’s thoughts from www.buzzmachine.com…

One big problem with its program is that it doesn’t share that data with the publishers and let them use it to more efficiently serve its ads. It also doesn’t share it with advertisers and let them take advantage of a more transparent marketplace.

“No, Google’s holding onto that information itself and, once again, becoming smarter than all of us. And I say that’s our own damned fault for not building our truly open ad marketplace. It’s not too late, but it soon will be…”

That’s why for the Ady’s of this world we built www.twadservices.co.uk – these people have been used to paying 500 notes for a half page ad in their local evening paper and seeing that half page ad on Page 17 on a Monday night. So when the Mrs does the books, Ady can point to where, exactly, that £500 went.

What, exactly, they got for their money. A half page. On Page 17. On a Monday.

www.twadservices.co.uk causes me, the publisher, a pain in the a*se cos armed with all his new figures from his own client log-in page, I have to explain to Ady why we’re unlikely to hit 1.3 million banners this month; that January was transfer window month; that Norwich are doing crap; Colchester are bottom of the table; Ipswich are falling away from the play-offs…

But look, Ady… there’s your new ad. We’ve made it a sky-scraper this time. And look, don’t worry about this cpm stuff; just give us 140 notes for the month… and we’ll bung you a month for free at the end.

Go back to New York and my pal with his race to the bottom, and his other gem was the battle was lost; the war was won; that before any of us had re-organised and re-grouped, Google would have an ad rep in every city and town in the UK.

Me and our Kev bust our proverbials to get Ady and his skips onto our site. The story was that he got a call from Mrs Huckerby one day, ordering a skip from an ad that she’d seen on-line somewhere…

I would pay a small fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get an ad off Ady.

I would pay an even bigger fortune to watch a Google ad rep go and get money off someone like an Ady. He’s as good as gold; doesn’t owe us a penny. But most of these boys come from a generation – maybe that’s now passing – in which paying us out of what’s rolled up tightly in their back pocket was the norm.

Cos they’re a local. And that’s where our future lies. At an Ady’s door, not at Google’s.