lunes, abril 20, 2009

Cobrar o no cobrar

Los más damnificados en el ranking anual de las 500 mayores empresas en EE.UU. de Fortune fueron los grupos mediales. No es una sorpresa, porque la tendencia ya parece irreversible. Tendencia que parece -más allá de la dura realidad- sometida a la percepción colectiva. Y ésta muchas veces está lejos de la lógica. Como dice un artículo de Slate: El Boston Globe perderá US$80 millones y la posibilidad de desaparece parece un hecho, pero Youtube tendrá pérdidas por casi US$500 millones este año, pero la espada no cae con la misma fuerza. En este escenario se hace inviable y casi absurdo la idea de cobrar por contenidos, una discusión que abrió Murdoch y que levantó AP. Pero eso no significa que mientras internet vaya madurando sus concepciones de audiencias, modelando nuevos negocios y avisaje, no se generen proyectos de contenidos pagados. Hoy Google es el despecho de los medios tradicionales y el enemigo arrogante (Goliat) que todo David necesita. Una pelea (en realidad no alcanza para eso) que obligará a los medios a repensar infinitamente su negocio y las alternativas de ingresos y a los analistas a poner paños fríos en su entusiasmo. El siguiente artículo del The Economist habla de esta segunda burbuja de internet (aferrada pero sin modelo) y de la posibilidad que el pago vuelva a ponerse de moda. No ahora, obvio.

“IN RECENT years, consumers have become used to feasting on online freebies of all sorts: news, share quotes, music, e-mail and even speedy internet access. These days, however, dotcoms are not making news with yet more free offerings, but with lay-offs—and with announcements that they are to start charging for their services.” These words appeared in The Economist in April 2001, but they’re just as applicable today. During the dotcom boom, the idea got about that there could be such a thing as a free lunch, or at least free internet services. Firms sprang up to offer content and services online, in the hope that they would eventually be able to “monetise” the resulting millions of “eyeballs” by selling advertising. Things did not work out that way, though, and the result was the dotcom crash. Companies tried other business models, such as charging customers for access, but very few succeeded in getting people to pay up.
Then it happened all over again, starting in 2004 with the listing of Google on the stockmarket, which inflated a new “Web 2.0” bubble. Google’s ability to place small, targeted text advertisements next to internet-search results, and on other websites, meant that many of the business models thought to have been killed by the dotcom bust now rose from the grave.

It seemed there was indeed money to be made from internet advertising, provided you could target it accurately—a problem that could be conveniently outsourced to Google. The only reason it had not worked the first time around, it was generally agreed, was a shortage of broadband connections. The pursuit of eyeballs began again, and a series of new internet stars emerged: MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and now Twitter. Each provided a free service in order to attract a large audience that would then—at some unspecified point in the future—attract large amounts of advertising revenue. It had worked for Google, after all. The free lunch was back.


  • Time Warner (#48; #9 biggest loser) lost $13.4 billion last year. Much of this was due to a $25 billion writedown of the media conglomerate’s cable, publishing (Fortune parent Time.Inc.) and online businesses. Warner Brothers held up fairly well; The Dark Knight in the theaters and Two and a Half Men on TV drove solid results from that division.

  • CBS Corp. (#10 biggest loser; #186) lost $11.7 billion last year, almost all of it from writedowns of its TV station assets ($10 billion). The network scored points for beating out NBC, ABC, and FOX in total ratings, but advertisers are cooling on TV and with heavy programming and distribution costs weakening ad revenue turns into poor profits.

  • Gannett (#371; #14 biggest loser) lost $6.6 billion in 2008. Like TV it costs a lot to produce and distribute a newspaper and since many have burdensome union requirements newspapers saw their profits plummet in 2008. Gannett’s $2.1 billion writedown of its UK newspaper assets and $4.4 billion writedown of its US newspaper assets didn’t help either.

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