Niche vs. Mass=Magazines & Cable s vs. Newspapers–

There’s alot of interesting posting today on Glam Networks–an aggregation of blogs, community, and a few tools–rolling up as a larger women-focused destination–and therefore a potentially superior destination–than long in the game (and long in the tooth) iVillage.
Jarvis uses Glam to beat the network drum; TechCrunch questions the Jeff’s judgement; after all, Glam has has much hype as substance, and the whole game is driving targeted advertising and CT to quality prospects, something Glam has NOT proven it excels at, yet.
That’s all well and good, but part of what these posts reinforce for me is the essential difference between the problems faced by magazines and cable services and by newspapers and news organizations. For newspapers, the issues are audience, advertising, and distribution– for magazines and media–all of which occupy particular niches–the issues are advertising and distribution–the audiences are there–they just need to be grown a bit larger.
In other words, newspapers need all the partners they can muster to distribute their content across the net, to where their audiences are because not only do they need to target and monetize their content, they need to arrangement placements for what is, in large part, increasingly a commodity. (Can a reader really tell you if the story they just read was by an AP writer, a Reuters’ team, or someone from the publishing paper? I think not.) For newspapers, they’re dealing with a surplus of data and a lack of audience, so distribution is everything and ad targeting follows.
For magazines, niche media, cable services on the other hand–think sports, finance, gaming, women’s interests, just to name a few- both the established meaningful brands– ESPN, Lifetime, CNN Money–and the upstarts– Blogher, Glam, Sugar, to name a few–are not considered commodities like news. IMHO, in these categories, the challenge is not to get audience, it’s to get meaningful scale, enough to be the destination or starting service of choice for a big enough audience to make your reach meaningful (like, on the scale of YouTube.) It’s also about having enough data about your users to make your ads deliver–but it’s NOT about losing readers, or lacking community—au contraire, these categories are on fire–the business strategies to full take advantage of the large potential audiences are what have to be (and are) being laid in place (just like the tracks in those Western railroads).
Related comments: I agree with Mike A that networks focused on selling third-party distribution can be in a shaky position–after all, that was kind of what AOL was doing in the late 90’s /early 00s with eBay and others back in the day, and as soon a other options at a lower margin opened up, everyone got out.
On the other hand, we all know that maintaining a sales force can be expensive and truly not scale, so I disagree with Mike’s thought that niche players will find it more efficient to sell ads themselves…the winners will be the services that provide true advertising value to partners and enhanced navigation, cross linking, tools and relevant, customized content to their audiences…and that let the so called audience contribute heavily to the mix.
Is Glam the best at doing that? Is iVillage or the Sugars? There’s more work to be done here, and opportunity lives.