Which “old-media” leaders and companies are innovating most successfully? What is it that they’re doing right? Google News’s Josh Cohen weighs in.
Question: Which media executives and companies currently embody successful innovation?
Josh Cohen: I mean, I think there are a number of different examples in different places. It's -- I think it's hard to make sort of this -- and I don't want to make any sort of sort of grand statement to say, oh, this executive gets it across the board. I think there are -- you can point to what The New York Times has done with their APIs in sort of making that information widely available. The Guardian has done some similar things in the U.K. Let's take in the U.K.: you can look at The Telegraph, which has done -- they've really begun to sort of figure out what are the core functions that we need to do and we need to own in-house, and what are the ones that we can outsource, whether it's sort of technology, or even forms of sort of the content and the printing of the papers.
You can look at the Journal and what they've -- you know, some of the experiments that they've done around paid content and trying to sort of find out how these both paid content and free content can coexist on the Web, how to sort of have their cake and eat it too with traffic coming in, but also having a subscriber base. I mean, I think there's -- you know, the FT, sticking with the pad content side of things, when they sort of did this metered model for content. I think there's been a number of different innovations, and I think it ranges across the board.
L.A. Times; another great example of using technology that's not their own to tell stories better online; in this case, the way that they use Google Maps. I mean, I kind of always point them out as a perfect-use case of this, where the L.A. Times coverage of the wildfires, which unfortunately is basically every year you've got these series of wildfires -- and they just, they take Google Maps, they take our API, the plug it in, they put their images on there, they put the stories, they annotate the map to show where the damage is, where the evacuation areas are, the latest developments of it -- because it's a very visual story, beyond just the images of the fire itself -- but to see the location of it as well. Just a really good example of how they can use technology that's not their own to tell stories in a different way that's just simply not even possible offline. You take a look at the paper and you can say, well, here's the fire. But it's real-time; it's dynamic. So I think there are a number of different people who are doing interesting things. And those are just the big players; that doesn't even touch on all the sort of small startups that are just doing really, really interesting things, some of which are just weird and strange and ultimately maybe you would say are bad, but are just -- are really encouraging attempts to sort of try and figure out how to use the medium differently.
Question: Have The Guardian and The Telegraph succeeded in part by leveraging traffic from news aggregators?
Josh Cohen: Yeah, I think absolutely. I mean, I think that they have -- they are very aware of the traffic that they get that is now beyond their borders, and that gets back -- and there's the down side to the local monopoly, the local newspaper that had a monopoly on information that all of a sudden that's sort of broken down. But that's the down side from a business model standpoint. But the up side for the business model is, is that I don't -- it doesn't cost me, you know, even a fraction of a penny to reach a user who's, you know, tens of thousands of miles away from me, if I've got this great content. So you see things like The Guardian and The Telegraph -- the BBC, which is, you know, really, I would argue is not just a U.K. source of news; it's really sort of a global source of news now. And in some ways it always has been, but the way that they can reach people online is, I think, is very different. And they begin to think about how can I cover stories differently? Who's my audience? I think the definition of audience is rapidly changing.
The Guardian experimented a little bit with having a bureau in the U.S. and trying to sort of target information specifically for those U.S. users. But it's really trying to get those different perspectives and being able to read them just clicking. I mean, like you don't have to go down to sort of, you know, that one newsstand that has all the different international magazines and newspapers, sort of maybe sort of frequented by expats. All that information is online, and I think that's really changed their ideas of what their audience is and how to reach people.