Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Sunday, September 25, 2021

qualifyingGotta throw some shine on my paycheck source, Florida Trend, this month, because of Mike Vogel’s cover story on International Speedway Corp.’s push to take NASCAR into Seattle and New York City — the final frontiers for stock car racing.

How bad does ISC want a track built on Staten Island? In exchange for entry into the number one media market — and the sponsorship gravy that flows from that — it’s willing to turn the big-league sports stadium game upside-down by paying its own way, and then some:

If the company can get into New York, says [William Blair & Co. analyst Bob] Simonson, “there will be a halo effect that will be phenomenal.” An example: Sponsors entertaining customers and clients at a Cup race in the rural South might well have to lodge their guests in a moderate hotel chain a long bus ride from the race. In New York, the sponsors could lock up rooms at the Waldorf, host a dinner at a fine restaurant and treat their guests to the race and other New York amenities. NASCAR and International Speedway also hope New York will bring new business sectors, such as financial services, into the sponsorship fold.

One measure of the company’s hunger for New York is that it isn’t asking for special government financing, just approval. The potential payoff to the sport and the $100-million land cost have made winning over [New York City Councilman James] Oddo and his constituents imperative. Aside from lobbyists and other experts, [ISC president Lesa] France Kennedy has hired Gameday Management Group, an Orlando company that engineers moving people in and out of events like the Olympics, to devise a way to get most of the fans to Staten Island without their cars. The plan depends on requiring 80% of spectators, when purchasing tickets, to commit to coming to the race by bus or ferry.

Not that the oft-suffering borough is playing along — yet:

“Deeply flawed,” Oddo says of the traffic plan. “The world hasn’t seen that many people moved by small boats since Dunkirk.” He says two other council members representing Staten Island are just as skeptical, and he can’t envision the project being approved over the objections of the local representatives. Says Oddo: “If this is the final plan, it’s dead on arrival.”

Regardless, France Kennedy is optimistic that gearheads will be New York stylin’ by 2010.

Of course, just getting a track built among the bright lights of the big city won’t guarantee market acceptance. Remember the lack of sufficient Windy City buzz for this year’s Chicagoland race, which NASCAR brass took as a shortcoming in getting ingrained into the national sports scene. But it’s better to have a place at the table and therefore a chance, rather than being absent.

There’s lots of supplemental information in the article, including ISC’s revenue breakdown comparison between 2000 and 2004 (TV revenues doubled in that time, from $164.3 million to $334.9 million) and how the broadcast money gets divvied up between ISC, NASCAR, non-ISC tracks and the race teams/drivers.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 10:07pm
Category: Other Sports, SportsBiz
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Last week, the New York Times unveiled Times Select, a pay-for service where much of the paper’s unique content — mainly staff columnists — will now reside.

As happens whenever formerly free (“free” in a sense — see below) online stuff converts to paid, there’s been a lot of bitching. Eric at Off Wing brings up some good points against the move, including a comparison with another national newspaper’s recent Web moves:

In marked contrast, check out what the Washington Post is doing. Working with Technorati, they’re providing a list of blog trackbacks for many of their bylined stories. It’s a very blogger-friendly move, and one the Post ought to be congratulated on.

Indeed, I lauded the Post’s move, and noted that it’ll encourage me to point to their stories more often.

Of course, it’s important to note that neither the Times nor the Post offer completely unfettered access to their sites. Both require free registration — free as in money, if not in the personal information you have to give up (assuming you don’t cheat with fake info, or use BugMeNot). And linkrot sets in when stories convert into archives after a couple of weeks, although again, there are ways around that too. But overall, it’s been a reasonably friendly system for reader and blogger.

As another alternative to the rollout of Times Select, he also points to the Wall Street Journal’s model, which started out with 100 percent paid-subscription-only access but now teases effectively with free stuff:

But because they started out tight, the Journal can now afford to loosen things up, so when they do provide free content, folks are likely to praise them instead of knocking them for keeping the vast majority of their content behind a subscriber wall. And once exposed to this free content, a reader is more likely to become a paying subscriber.

As the Web guy for Florida Trend magazine, the online pay/free debate occupies my strategic planning. I’m well aware that Trend’s registration requirement is a turnoff for many potential readers, and so is subject to constant reassessment.

Ultimately, though, there’s a very good reason for the Times to start charging, and it has to do with the difference between “readers” and “subscribers”.

Simply put: For content producers, high levels of online traffic don’t really mean anything unless you can extract some money from it. That connection is often lost on observers, who trumpet how many eyeballs cruise onto a Web page, but it’s fundamental to how professional media works. Someone’s got to pay the writers/actors/musicians, and offering access to a targeted audience’s engaged attention is a juicy morsel.

Advertising is the obvious option, but difficult to aggregate online to the point where it produces enough revenue (syndicating advertising, like Google does, is a different story). Repackaging exclusive content into archives and special reports is another avenue, but not especially high-volume.

After that? Getting money directly from the enduser emerges as the moneymaker. As with the print product, subscriptions are the most reilable revenue stream for a media concern. Not only does it bring in hard cash over a proscribed period of time, it also creates a valuable channel: A subscriber’s information can be used for related marekting pitches, paying for itself several times over.

That’s the key. For the Times and its website, a paying customer is far more valuable than a regular visitor. As much as they might lose in traffic by putting up the Times Select fence, they’ll gain subscribers, which is the acceptable tradeoff. It really is trading quantity for quality.

Beyond that, I happen to think the part-free part-pay model works, much like it does for the Journal. I doubt that Times Select will ever grow to encompass the entire website, because so much of what’s reported in the Times can be found elsewhere on the Web (with varying degrees of coverage and focus, but still). But it’s ingenious to charge for the Times’ columnists — those unique content producers whose work represents the Times brand more than anything else. That can’t be reproduced elsewhere, and that makes it valuable, and thus worth paying for.

As for the rest of the site? The more general news articles serve as the teasers. Advertising can be sold there, and plenty of links can point to the enhanced coverage to be found in Times Select to convert a few more readers into subscribers. But this model only works if it’s applied to that content that’s unique to a particular new organization, whether it’s columnists, market analysts, etc.

The reason Times Select created so much noise was because the Grey Lady is something of a bellweather for online news media practices. If Times Select is successful — and I think it will be — it’ll be emulated by others. That’ll tick off bloggers and others used to the free linkage, but it’s hard to argue with a monetization strategy.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 07:27pm
Category: Internet, Publishing
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Two days, two protest gatherings in DC: Anti-war demonstrations that drew upwards of 100,000 on Saturday, and the pro-war response today, with around 400 in attendance.

Quite the disparity.

I think the conservative crowd can stop disregarding the rotten poll numbers. They can also stop referring to themselves as a silent majority, or even an invisible majority. Call it what it is: An imaginary majority.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 04:48pm
Category: Politics
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Does anyone else take a small bit of childish delight in pronouncing “Numb3rs” as “numb-threers”?

And instead of using a snippet of Talking Heads’ “Once in a Lifetime” as the theme music, wouldn’t “Murder By Numbers” by The Police make more sense?

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 03:32pm
Category: Pop Culture, TV
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on the spot
I didn’t get into the big tbt* blog cover story, so as consolation, I get to be in the Times’ Blog Spotlight this week.

Score! Check it out yourself.

I wish there was a direct, archived permalink for that Spotlight spot. Since there’s not, I’ll record the cutline that Steve Spears wrote up for the occasion, because I rather like it:

The buzz: The name comes from the liner notes of The Police box set. Smartly written, keenly designed.

I’d have accepted “Keenly written, smartly designed” as well.

I guess now I’ll find out if there’s any traffic spike from being in that spotlight.

I guess I picked an opportune time to feature photos of pop-music babes in a top-of-page post. Makes for a more colorful screenshot, anyway.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 09/25/2005 02:50pm
Category: Bloggin', Florida Livin', Media
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