Summary:

For the first panel of the Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) and Nielsen Media and Money Conference, MIT’s Michael Schrage leads a panel that’s ostensib…

mediaandmoneypanel1For the first panel of the Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) and Nielsen Media and Money Conference, MIT’s Michael Schrage leads a panel that’s ostensibly about what it takes to reach the consumer.

Finding consumers: “We used to go by the ‘Field of Dreams’ Model… if you build it they will come”, said Washingtonpost.com executive editor James M. Brady. The key now is to go where the consumer is. Martha Stewart Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) CEO Susan Lyne acknowledged that the industry did not anticipate quickly enough the need for personalization, but that this was now a key aspect of media success. “We’re only now adding personalization and community.”

The value of community: Film director and Huffington Post blogger Nora Ephron discussed the site’s evolution from an anti-Drudge news source for people who weren’t right-wing nuts to a community-driven site for… people who aren’t right-wing nuts. Bloggers had to get used to vitriol in the comments and feel safe. Brady added that although the discussion can be coarse at Washingtonpost.com, “community is a net positive”.

The value of community: Film director and Huffington Post blogger Nora Ephron discussed the site’s evolution from an anti-Drudge news source for people who weren’t right-wing nuts to a community-driven site for… people who aren’t right-wing nuts. Bloggers had to get used to vitriol in the comments and feel safe. Brady added that although the discussion can be coarse at Washingtonpost.com, “community is a net positive”.

The value of content: Schrage: “I think that content is overrated… a decade ago, content was 60 or 70 percent of the equation, and now it’s 20 percent.” Susan Whiting of Nielsen disagreed, noting that content is what starts community and discussion. “Take an example of what is happening in television with DVRs… people did not understand that their favorite programs would benefit from this” as the technology creates more value. Former TV exec Lyne on whether she skips ads using her DVR: “Yes, I do.” She then hedged ,saying she never really watched ads before she had a DVR. On Facebook: “My 19 year old lives on there… what I’m seeing there is that this is not just a social community, the technology has made it that generation’s Filofax.” It’s not content, but rather a life organizer.

Getting users engaged: Brady: “The problem is that more and more consumers are coming in through side doors, whether through Drudge or an RSS link.” The challenge is to turn these backdoor readers into more consistent readers and doing so is a key metric of success at the company. Ephron on metrics: “I don’t even know what that means… we’re all dying to have something go viral.” Dick Cheney’s hunting accident was a great week for the site and blogs as a whole. She added in typical Ephron fashion that it might’ve been even better if Dick Cheney had killed the guy, cause it would’ve been a bigger story and Cheney might no longer be VP (audience groans followed). Later, Brady was asked how the site determines what news it should show its readers and disavowed the popularity contest model: “Any news site that turns its homepage into Digg… we’d lose our audience rather quickly.” Better to make editorial decisions on mid-to-long range trends of what users want than to look at short-term numbers.

Search: Lyne expressed frustration with search engine results. You can search for lamps and get tons of results, but it would be better if a user could get “Nora Ephron’s recommendation for a lamp.” (Mark Zuckerberg will be happy to hear that).

Mistakes: Brady: “Fear of failures… if you’re not failing at a few things a year, then you’re not stretching enough. If you’re failing all the time, you have a problem.” On the internet in particular, it’s important to always be experimenting. Traditional media companies have had it so good for so long that they’re nervous about tweaking the model. At MSLO, Lyne, who came form Disney, (NYSE: DIS) had the company invest in the DVD market, assuming there would be a big enough market. Ephron. HuffPo founders assumed the site would be all about celebrities blogging.

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