MediaFile

Google sets Zagat free

This morning, Google took the wraps off  how it plans to use Zagat, the popular restaurant guide known for its burgundy pocket books. The Zagat restaurant  listings are now incorporated in Google + and its local service and, more to the point, are now free. People can access more than 35,000 summarized user reviews from Zagat for more than 90 cities across the globe using either Google +, its search function or through maps.

Google said it will continue to publish the guidebooks and expand to other cities like Dubai, Sydney and Melbourne.

Google picked up Zagat for $151 million last September in a move to broaden its offerings for local based content. Founded by Tim and Nina Zagat,  the 30-plus year old eponymous guide  takes customer surveys and compiles them into brief and snappy summaries . It was a pioneer of amassing local restaurant reviews by people but over the years it  faced stiff challenges from upstarts such as Yelp– especially when a majority of Zagat’s content was subscription based.

The Zagats put the company on the block in 2008 where it languished until Google swooped in and bought it to bolster its local and mobile offerings.

 

Boston Globe sets pricing for new website

Another one of the New York Times Co’s newspaper properties is preparing to officially roll out a pay model for its website.  The Boston Globe launched  bostonglobe.com and starting Oct. 1 it will charge $3.99 per week for a digital-only subscription (print subscribers can read the site for free).  Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage New England is sponsoring a free trial subscription through Sept. 30. Unlike its sister site NYTimes.com, a subscription for bostonglobe.com is required to access all content.

The flagship New York Times rolled out in March a pay model for its digital products allowing readers to access up to 20 articles per month for free. After hitting that limit, a reader must shell out for a digital subscription to read more, anywhere from about $15 to $35 a month depending on the package. Print subscribers get free access to the site, mobile and smartphone apps.

The experiment is a being closely watched in the U.S. newspaper industry as a guidepost to see if general interest newspapers can successfully charge for digital content. The early data seems encouraging: As of the New York Times’ last earnings report in July, the company said that the NYTimes.com had 224,000 digital subscribers.

Investing in the Internet… literally.

One of the Crystal Palace Space Station domes

The headlines were salacious, the scandal was set. This was going to be the water-cooler story of the week.

27 year-old Erik Novak from British Columbia paid out a record-breaking $330,000 (USD) for a digital space station. Let that sink in for a moment.

A digital space station.

In a video game.

Perhaps even better than all the jokes you and I could write all day was the argument from the company that this was a sound investment.

The end of the story…

……is the cash cow for Chinese company Shanda Literature Ltd, a
subsidiary of Shanda Interactive Entertainment.

The company’s business model is simple: read the first half
of a book online for free, and if you want to know the rest
(which usually is the case if you have read that far) you need
to pay for it. Revenues are split with the stories’ authors.

In China, this proves to be successful. According to Shanda
Literature CEO Hou Xiaoqing, the company now has cash reserves
of $1.8 billion, with 800,000 authors creating up to 80,000 new
pages of content per day, he said at the Frankfurt Book Fair.

Wednesday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories about the media industry:

Recession sends Americans to the Internet (Reuters)
S. John Tilak writes: “More than two-thirds of American adults — or 88 percent of U.S. Internet users — went online for help with recession-induced personal economic issues and to gather information on national economic problems, a study released on Wednesday said.”

BBC and Government Fall Out Over Financing Plan (NYT)
“The BBC and Britain’s Labour government, which has a history of support for the “Beeb,” have fallen out over a government plan to share some of the broadcaster’s £3.6 billion in public funding with its commercial television rivals,” writes Eric Pfanner.
Weisberg: Big news orgs have a stake in web-only papers not working (Economist.com|Romenesko) “Web advertising may well end up supporting big newsrooms if they can escape some of their legacy costs,” says Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only ‘newspaper’ with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.”

USA Today introduces Newsdeck site for top headlines (Editors Weblogs)
“To give visitors another way to view the news, USA Today has introduced a site it calls Newsdeck that compiles the top headlines in an easy-to-read format. Users can scroll through stories in eight categories, including News, Money and Sports, with the ability to switch back and forth between the latest news and the most popular articles.,” writes Liz Webber.

Thursday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

New York Times Asks Subscribers: Is It Wrong to Charge for Online Content? (Poynter)
Bill Mitchell writes: “The New York Times is testing a price point of $5 a month for access to nytimes.com, with a 50 percent discount for print subscribers. The Times e-mailed a survey to print subscribers Thursday afternoon inviting their reaction to that pricing plan and asking a range of questions about online pricing.”

Murdoch papers paid £1m to gag phone-hacking victims (Guardian)
“The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures to gain unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills,” writes Nick Davies.
UK police won’t reopen Murdoch paper phonetap case (Reuters)

A is for abattoir; Z is for ZULU: All in the Handbook of Journalism (Reuters)
Dean Wright writes: “The handbook is the guidance Reuters journalists live by — and we’re proud of it. Until now, it hasn’t been freely available to the public. In the early 1990s, a printed handbook was published and in 2006 the Reuters Foundation published a relatively short PDF online that gave some basic guidance to reporters. But it’s only now that we’re putting the full handbook online.”

Monday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s stories on the media industry:

‘Tonight Show’ Audience a Decade Younger (NYT)
“In Mr. O’Brien’s first month as host, the median age of “Tonight Show” viewers has fallen by a decade — to 45 from 55, a startling shift in such a short time. This audience composition means advertisers can now address almost exclusively young viewers on “Tonight,” and NBC is already contemplating a shift in how it sells the show,” writes Bill Carter.

Springer’s daily Welt dreams of going international – again (Reuters)

“German publisher Axel Springer plans to launch an international weekly edition of its flagship daily, Die Welt, in a 48-page tabloid format starting February 2010. Springer is still mulling distribution options but the paper will likely be available from airlines,” writes Nicola Leske.

Just the Messenger: Mediaite.com Focuses on Celebrity of Journalism (WP)
On the newly launched website, Howard Kurtz writes: “Mediaite paints with a colorful palette, even if its hues will appeal mainly to journalists and those who obsess over them. By hiring bloggers who worked for Mediabistro and the Huffington Post, Abrams has put together a sassy critique of media missteps and foibles, an overall take not driven mainly by ideology.”

Wednesday media highlights

News about the media industry:

Netflix looks to future but still going strong with DVD rentals (USA Today)
“Netflix CEO and co-founder Reed Hastings doesn’t think his 58 distribution centers are in immediate danger of becoming obsolete, but he knows that day will come. He believes DVD rentals have four to nine years to keep growing, despite inroads in Internet delivery of movies to set-top TV boxes and other video-on-demand options,” writes Jefferson Graham.

Is the bell tolling for Clear Channel? (San Antonio Express-News)
David Hendricks writes: “Analysts believe Clear Channel, now with about $22 billion in total debts, will have trouble making scheduled payments later this year. The company, already down to about 800 stations from its peak of about 1,200 stations, either will have to start selling stations itself or go into bankruptcy, where lenders will put stations up for sale.”

Foes No More, Ad Agencies Unite With Internet Firms (NYT)
Eric Pfanner writes: “With consumers spending more and more time online, analysts say Internet companies and ad agencies have no choice but to work together to develop ways to make money from digital media.”

Tuesday media wrapup

News about the media industry:

Google Makes a Case That It Isn’t So Big (NYT)
“Google has begun this public-relations offensive because it is in the midst of a treacherous rite of passage for powerful technology companies — regulators are intensely scrutinizing its every move, as they once did with AT&T, I.B.M., Intel and Microsoft,” writes Miguel Helft.
> Graphic about Google share of all ads and online ads (Lost Remote)

Media and cable now the riskiest sector (Reuters)
“Default risk for the media and cable sector has risen from its already high levels a year ago, CreditSights said. Rising leverage, along with a protracted decline in advertising revenues that was accelerated by the U.S. recession, are behind the higher risk,” writes Dena Aubin.

Sun-Times seeks more time to reorganize (Crain’s)
“Lawyers for Sun-Times Media are asking for three more months to come up with an exit strategy, a request they considered “neither surprising nor remarkable.” The publisher currently has until July 29 to submit a reorganization plan,” writes Lorene Yue.

Media Wrapup

Here is a selection of the day’s stories about the media industry:

US TV prepares for $2bn ad shortfall (FT)

“Digital video recorders that allow viewers to skip through commercials have knocked confidence in broadcast and cable advertising while younger, tech-savvy audiences are deserting their TV sets to spend more time online,” writes the Financial Times.

Smartphones, social networks to boost mobile advertising (Reuters)

Reuters reports: “As more consumers embrace new technologies and devices such as smartphones, personified by Apple’s iPhone, mobile advertising is seen growing at an annual average of 45 percent to reach $28.8 billion within 5 years from a current $3.1 billion, according to Ineum Consulting.”

Journalism Rules Are Bent in News Coverage From Iran (NYT)

Brian Stelter writes: “In a news vacuum, amateur videos and eyewitness accounts became the de facto source for information. In fact, the symbol of the protests, the image of a young woman named Neda bleeding to death on a Tehran street, was filmed by two people holding camera phones.”