Thursday, December 18, 2008

Boston company to offer foreign news

Meanwhile, another web startup offers something different for media junkies. In this case, Boston's Phillip Balboni has hired veteran Boston Globe foreign editors to offer foreign coverage, something that's becoming almost non-existent in American media. Read the Boston Phoenix's story about the new venture, which has a chance of really improving our knowledge of the world. It's called, and is coming January 12.

That's the thing about the changing media landscape. It's costing us lots of jobs and lots of expertise and shaking up where we go for news, but it's also extending what and how we learn about our world. As a journalist, I can't help but be excited about the potentials (as well as fearing about the paychecks). I watch Marquette student journalists using multimedia to bring stories to life in a way that I couldn't when I worked in print media and with more depth than available in broadcast. The potential is what is most exciting. I can't wait.

How about some success business models for newspapers?

PBS's Mark Glaser gives us a wonderful overview of "successful alternative business models" for newspapers. There are many ideas out there, some already successful. Is any one the perfect one? Not likely, but some show great promise.

I've long advocated special, niche content at a premium, the way the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel does with its wildly success Packer Plus magazine and online section (go to this page, scroll down to "Packer Plus Magazine" to see a listing of some of its content). Thousands of Packers fans, from throughout the country, pay at least $45 extra for access to this section -- and most think it's a bargain. It's a model I'd stretch into other areas, and ADVERTISE WHAT'S THERE. For example, you have to scroll two-thirds of the page just to find the listings of what you are missing, and this is already on a Packer coverage page. I'd get those stories higher.

I used to wax poetic about the intelligent way the JS was handling a columnist named Vicki Ortiz. She generally wrote two online-only blogs, then the paper ran a third as a column in the Weekend Cue section. It also ran online. I got hooked into going to her blogs by reading the printed column. I've often wondered why they didn't also cross-market by not putting her Friday column online. That would make me subscribe to the Friday paper if I liked the column. It's a model that works, so why not expand it.

Is the end of home delivery near?

MSNBC and ABC takes a look (and here) at the Detroit newspapers' decision to cut back home delivery to three days a week, and quotes experts predicting that home delivery might be gone in the near future. As someone who has subscribed to home delivery since leaving my boyhood home, it's a hard concept to grasp. But, you know, it makes more sense than just waiting until your costs overwhelm your company. Picking up individual papers on the other four days of the week isn't all that hard, although I'd suspect advertising would really drop off then.

I would predict that home delivery will continue for smaller community newspapers. But, for metro papers, I'm not so sure. Nevertheless, I look for growth in "total market coverage" products as some advertisers realize that their appeal doesn't fit into the narrower and narrower niches that media is targeting. I think of this every time I try to look something up in the Yellow Pages. Once, it was simple to find numbers and addressed. Today an advertiser has to buy niche ads in several areas. For example, a restaurant might have a listing under "restaurants," another under "ethnic restaurants," another under "cuisines," another under "Neighborhood restaurants," and who knows what other areas?

I remember how nice it was to take the Sunday newspaper's listing of open houses (generally the back page of the Sunday classified section), mark the ones I was interested in no matter the realtor (deliberate lower case of this ostentatious word), and drive around to visit them. Today, one has to go to each website, try to figure out where your interest is, then print out a guide. Then go to another company's site and repeat the process. Of course, I'm going to be told there is an aggregator out there somewhere, but I sure don't know where it is.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pew study reminds us that technology changes are uneven

As our conception of what constitutes media continues to grow, technology keeps expanding our potentials. I'm reminded of this as I'm preparing for a backpack journalism workshop in India, which has me thinking anew of the great tools available for journalists today. The easily used, portable cameras and audio devices have made a new kind of journalism possible. At the same time, the Internet has expanded news consumers' choices exponentially -- even while creating competition that has cost thousands of jobs in the traditional media.

Nevertheless, events and reports keep coming that forces us to rethink many of our assumptions, including those of the immediate demise of one form of media or another. For example, the rise of mobile technology has many proclaiming that 2009 will be the year when mobile media (basically cell phones) overtakes computers for accessing the Internet. Well, Pew Research has come out with a study that points to 2020 as that year. And who can accurately predict what will happen technologically by then?

The bottom line for those studying or practicing journalism, I believe, is to stay loose. Take advantage of what technology exists today, but be alert for potential new venues or technology. And don't forget, good storytelling relies on good techniques -- and they're the same no matter how the end product is delivered.