The Media Oxpecker: A New Twist on Performance-Based Pay

Every Friday we round up media & tech industry news you may have missed.

  • As it continues to try to differentiate itself from content-farm websites like Associated Content and Demand Media, the network of sites announced this week that it is going to take steps to “increase the professionalism of its content.”

    But as David Kaplan points out, it’s kind of hard to do that without human editors, who cost money (just ask Patch). Since Examiner doesn’t want to spend that kind of money, it instead will “use a mix of peer reviews and incentive pay” to make the content better, with the incentive pay being based, at least in part, on peer reviews. It’s an interesting new twist on incentive pay in the digital world, which has been tied thus far to how much traffic a post gets, not how good it might be.

    “We don’t just want to reward driving traffic alone as the basis for paying contributors extra,” Examiner VP of Quality Mitch Gelman says. “We think popularity and quality have to be equal and our payments to contributors will reflect that.”

  • Speaking of incentive pay…the hot scoop that USA Today would begin paying annual bonuses to writers based on pageviews quickly turned out to be not quite ready for prime time. However, the idea generated a lot of buzz, at least one great headline, and a pressing question: “Who even knew USA Today had a website?”
  • The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s Tom Rosenstiel penned an interesting piece in the Washington Post this week in which he debunks the “five myths about the future of journalism.”

    There are a few tidbits worth quoting at length here. First:

    The syllogism that helped journalism prosper in the 20th century was simple: Produce the journalism (or “content”) that people want, and you will succeed. But that may no longer be enough.

    The key to media in the 21st century may be who has the most knowledge of audience behavior, not who produces the most popular content. Understanding what sites people visit, what content they view, what products they buy and even their geographic coordinates will allow advertisers to better target individual consumers. And more of that knowledge will reside with technology companies than with content producers.


    Now we are entering what might be called Hyperlocal 2.0, and the market is still up for grabs. Google, which garners two-thirds of all search advertising dollars nationally, doesn’t exert similar control over local advertising. Locally, display ads — all those banners and pop-ups — are a bigger share of the market than search ads.

  • And while we’re on the subject of content losing its crown, Aaron Brazell argues that product has replaced content on the throne.

    In today’s internet economy, the real value and, in my opinion, the only viable model for successful online business is in product. Products. Real, tangible products. An iPhone app. A digital goods marketplace. A software product. A social network, perhaps. Something that has measurable customer acquisition and a real exchange of monetary value.

  • While not quite ramping up on the scale of AOL’s Patch, Yahoo’s “efforts to improve the local content it shows users by hiring editors in major cities nationwide are coming together,” according to Paid Content’s Joseph Tartakoff:

    We understand there are nine editors now doing so in San Francisco, New York City, Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington D.C. … Yahoo is supplementing its staff of local editors — who are each responsible for major cities — by aggregating local news, deals, and events in specific neighborhoods and cities on Yahoo Local, which it overhauled late last year.

  • Elsewhere in Yahoo-land, the San Francisco Chronicle has more info on the company’s forthcoming Livestand tablet, which will feature the ability to customize publications’ offerings inside the interface, much like you can customize your Yahoo (or Google) homepage.

    For example, digital magazines will contain modules that can be rearranged by users. So a reader of the Economist, for example, could move sections around depending on which regions of the world they were most interested in.

  • Twitter’s Adam Bain told the Ad Age Digital conference this week that Twitter followers are more likely than Facebook fans to buy something related to something or someone they follow. But of course, it’s his job to say that, right? In his talk, he also outlined the company’s revenue plans, which involve evolving Promoted Tweets to Promoted Trends, and eventually, to Promoted Accounts.
  • Living Social picked up a cool $400 million in its latest round of financing, as it tries to compete with Groupon in the group-buying/daily deals space (a space that one analyst says will grow to $4 billion a year by 2015).
  • If it works for an actual radio reporter, surely it can work for, let’s say, a multimedia producer for an alt-weekly’s website: Neal Augenstein details how he ditched all his equipment for the iPhone 4.
  • If only the New York Times offered “very special content or weird porn,” its paywall just might work, says Arianna Huffington.
  • The Knight Foundation has unveiled its new Community Information Toolkit (take a peek here), which “offers a simple, easy-to-use
    set of tools to help take stock of your community’s news and information
    resources, and take action to improve them,” according to a Knight spokesperson. There is also a free webinar about the toolkit next week — April 14 at 2 pm EDT.
  • The new Journalists on Facebook page “will serve as a resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories. Content will be added regularly, and feedback from the journalism community will be incorporated,” a company spokesperson tells WebProNews.
  • What do Pitchfork, the Economist and Huggies have in common? They are all businesses that are using Tumblr well, according to the Globe & Mail.
  • The digital video ad spend, not surprisingly, is expected to continue to climb, according to a new IAB survey.
  • New figures show that magazine ad pages grew a modest 2.5 percent in the first three months of 2011 compared to the same period last year. While the numbers aren’t earth-shattering, David Kaplan points out that any improvement is a pick-me-up for the collective psyche of publishers:

    Such a slim percentage is generally not worth celebrating. But given that the severe declines between 2008 and 2009 are still etched in the memories of most publishers — plus the fact that collective newspaper ad sales are still in negative territory — it’s hard to fault the magazine industry for patting itself on the back for having four positive quarters in a row as of Q1.

  • Google is promising to make the ads in Gmail “more relevant,” and — perhaps more importantly — will “begin to incorporate more local offers and coupons” in the ads for its free email service.
  • Speaking of coupons … while TV-watching rubberneckers gear up for the premiere of TLC’s latest reality show, Extreme Couponing, companies continue to experiment with best practices for couponing online. One clipping service, AdKeeper, is reportedly set to roll out its “Keeper” ad button on a number of prominent sites, including ones run by AOL, NBC Universal, Yahoo, MSN and Forbes.
  • Will too-low pricing of digital offerings like apps or subscriptions cannibalize print revenue? Robert Andrews looks to the UK to in search of an answer Also from the UK newspapers: a look at the size of the digital revenue pot within publishers’ total takings.
  • With Gawker Media’s unique visitors continuing to slide post-redesign, The Business Insider’s Jay Yarow wonders how much longer Nick Denton will stick with the changes.
  • In NYC, Craigslist has partnered with the office of the public advocate to steer would-be apartment seekers to a new website listing the city’s “worst landlords” before inking that lease.
  • Are you innovating online? Then you should enter the Knight-Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism (deadline: June 6).