Can a Hulu-Like Play Save the Newspaper Industry?

I was re-thinking about my recent blog post about the importance of Hulu for the TV industry.  A strong “national” brand unifying various media players under the same umbrella while allowing individual players to have their own unique “brands”. For example, you can find The Colbert Report on Hulu but you can also find it on the Comedy Central site.  You can find it on CBS’ TV.com also (powered by Hulu) and on DailyMotion (via an agreement with Comedy Central). You can possibly find illegal versions on other video sites and illegal copies on torrent sites as well. In Canada, you’ll find Colbert on the CTV site.

So, having a “national” hub that aggregates content from, what common sense would call, “competing” players doesn’t prevent other “national” and “regional” brands to co-exist with the same content and it allows TV networks to compete on an equal footing with “national” video portals like YouTube. That works as long as industry players have a stake and a say in the evolution of the “national” hub, and that’s the case with Hulu.

Seemingly unrelated, Google just announced that they were pulling the plug on their Print Ads initiative (where Google was reselling newspaper advertising to their network of advertisers). Many people were watching and hoping this might help support print newspaper ad revenues. It was clearly not going anywhere.  Google said in their announcement “We believe fair and accurate journalism and timely news are critical ingredients to a healthy democracy. We remain dedicated to working with publishers to develop new ways for them to earn money, distribute and aggregate content and attract new readers online.” Yahoo! also has agreements with newspapers to help them monetize their online traffic via a unified ad platform called APT. This seems to be going well but again, newspapers don’t necessarily control their destiny in that agreement.

Now, this got me thinking about the newspaper industry ecosystem in general. Players in this space usually compete with other “regional” players offline (New York Times, New York Post, etc.) but are also competing against “national” brands online, usually aggregators (for example, Google News). I just realized that…

TV industry challenges = Newspaper industry challenges!

I believe it might be time to build a new national brand and platform in the newspaper industry. A “Hulu for news” that integrates national and local news from all major newspaper outlets in the US, citizen journalism content and social media tools. A startup that’s staffed with the most web-savvy new media people, that understand where traditional media comes from and where it’s going but that are not locked in old paradigms. Other interesting technologies for that venture would be the Topix.com platform and content and the Oodle national classifieds platform. This initiative would allow syndicating of news and ad content through widgets and APIs. Content could be displayed on “local” newspaper sites and re-syndicated to smaller sites. I’ve read somewhere about similar past initiatives that failed (can’t find the source now) as offline competition was creating too much of a hurdle for anyone to align. But I think the industry might be at that critical juncture point where they absolutely need to agree to cooperate online while competing offline. Who will take the leadership of this initiative?

Update: Jemima Kiss from the Guardian says “if newspapers start thinking like startups, they might just have a chance.” I agree.

Cartoon Network to Distribute Cartoons on Videogame Consoles

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

The Cartoon Network’s new-media arm is expanding its games distribution to video game consoles through a new browser application developed at AFI’s Digital Content Lab. By early 2008, the new “Mega Series” window will deliver an interactive video and gaming experience to such broadband-enabled consoles as Sony’s PlayStation 3 and Nintendo’s Wii as well as to PCs. Additionally, the application can be adapted for distribution to a broad array of devices, including mobile phones.

Cartoon Network is the first television network to use Adobe’s Flash technology to reach the massive console audience. Mega Series programming will be based on Cartoon Network and Adult Swim TV shows. The content is being designed to be played simultaneously with streaming video and delivered episodically over time. Ross Cox, senior director of entertainment products, Cartoon Network New Media, said this initiative effectively demonstrates how the console browser can be utilized as a new distribution platform.

In related news, Animation Magazine talks about a new cartoon series from Comedy Central called “Lil’ Bush”. It’s promoted as “the first original mobile program to migrate to primetime TV”.

What it means: Cartoon Network clearly sees the potential of these new home entertainment devices that connect to the Web. BTW, Merrill Lynch is forecasting that by the year 2011, nearly 30 percent of all U.S. households will own a Wii. They believe it will reach a third of Japanese households. So, make sure your content is available for these new platforms. On the “Lil’ Bush” news, I like the concept of building something online (or mobile) and then porting it to offline (TV in this case) if it’s successful. A great way to trial for without spending huge TV production budgets.