Saturday, January 31, 2009

Enough of this gloom-and-doom whining

Madison's Bill Leuters offers things to remember in Isthmus when approaching the press. (Hint: It's under the headline "I'm not on your side."  It's a nice reminder to the public about how we in journalism do our jobs.

Let newspaper readers have a say

Throw out an idea -- like, say, nonprofit newspapers -- and the American public will come up with ideas. In this case, the New York Times published the idea, and readers offer a lot of suggestions, including why nonprofit won't work as well as why it could. That comes along with several other suggestions.

Actually the idea brought out a number of suggestions, nicely aggregated by  A couple of them are pretty good.  And some are really terrible (see: comments to Techdirt blog). 

It's about time

Finally, someone in the newspaper industry is starting a public relations campaign to tell the good side of newspapers. The ad campaign will start Monday. It will tell the good stories of newspaper, after all readership has never been higher.

Money flowing away from media

Report finds that value lost from traditional media (and it's a lot) isn't flowing proportionately to new media.  The entire sector is losing money.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Nonprofit newspapers?

The New Yorker -- does anyone want to read it only online? -- makes the case for nonprofit newspapers in an essay by Steve Coll. It's a thought, and something that I think has the potential to preserve our democracy (and, yes, Dr. McAdams, I do think print newspapers are vastly superior to online, and that they play a significant role in the informed electorate needed for a democracy).

It's a thoughtful essay, primarily laying out the case for large papers like the Post or New York Times. But I think the same case could be made for regional or even local newspapers, which would require much smaller endowments. At some point, American leadership is going to realize the need for that informed electorate, and I can see no greater purpose for some of the giant foundations -- many of which already are spending far more funds than are needed for smaller newspapers, which still generate vast sums of money, for informational purposes.

Of course, the potential drawback might be that the foundations will slant news coverage. A lot of their current spending is to promote political ideals (the book, The Bell Curve, was underwritten by the Bradley Foundation), but I would think that public pressure would preserve some independence if newspapers were funded by foundations.

TV views flock to hard news

For more evidence that Americans really like serious reporting of news, you only have to look at ratings for "serious" television news programs like "60 Minutes" or "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," says the Wall Street Journal. You can read the first two paragraphs here, or go to a site like Lexus/Nexus (available through Marquette's -- and many other -- libraries) to read the remainder of the story. You could, of course, pick up a copy of the print publication as well. I actually advocate that, even if it does add to Rupert Murdock's profits. I consume lots of news online, and it's never as satisfying as reading it in print since I miss so much online.

End of Washington Post's Book World isn't end of reviews

The end of the Washington Post's stand-along Book World section shouldn't be too big a deal, says the section's editor. Plans are to shift reviews and coverage to the Style and Perspective sections, with those sections carrying about two-thirds of the number of present reviews. Maybe not, but it's another loss of content at a time when the print newspapers should be fighting for readers. Once upon a time (not that long ago), fighting for readers meant offering more and better coverage.

Newspaper readership grows 16 % -- online

That's the number from Nielsen's online unique visitors figures, at least for top ten newspaper sites. Number one is the New York Times site, followed by USA Today and the Washington Post. An MSNBC story has lots of other figures in nifty tables so you can see what's happening across the web.

Frankly, the growth in top newspaper sites doesn't surprise me. If you are a serious news person and are shifting your news consumption patterns to the Internet, it stands to reason that they would be drawn to newspaper sites for the credibility. At the same time, if some of the new, Internet-only sites invest in content (i.e., hire journalists or others who establish credibility), I can see them doing well.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Pope and new media

He may be 81 -- and almost certainly the message was crafted by others although approved by Pope Benedict -- but the Pope gets new media and its importance. I especially like this comment: "This desire for communication and friendship is rooted in our very nature as human beings and cannot be adequately understood as a response to technical innovations." We talk and think a lot about the hows and outcomes of the media revolution, but not so much the whys. It is more than just technical, and the Pope's message gets it. The message was written in anticipation of the Catholic Church's World Communications Day, which is May 24.

4 differences between new and old media

A European advertising executive suggests four differences between new and old media that ad people need to be aware of. It hold true for the editorial side as well. I think the first, user control, is the most important for both aspects of media business. With users controlling what and how they consume news, media professionals need to be looking at ways to make their offerings stand out.

Is there life after newspapers for journalists?

Ever wonder what newspaper people do when they're laid off? American Journalism Review reports the results of a survey -- pointing out that it's self-selecting so not statistically reliable, although it does offer good information. The short answer is in the following three points, taken from their story:

• Just under 36 percent said they found a new job in less than three months. Add those who say they freelance full time, and the total jumps to 53 percent.

• Less than 10 percent say it took them longer than a year.

• Only a handful – 6 percent – found other newspaper jobs. The rest are doing everything from public relations to teaching to driving a bus and clerking in a liquor store.

From my experience with Journal Sentinel cuts, that's pretty accurate. There are newspaper jobs, and magazine jobs, but journalism trains people for lots of other areas and many mid-career journalists are looking that way. I suspect it's for perceived job stability.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Times gives in to Gatehouse; why?

An observer looks at a settlement of the New York Times v. GateHouse Media case, and wonders why the Times seemed to give in. Good question.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

One to watch: GateHouse Media v. New York Times Co.

This is an interesting court case. GateHouse Media, a publisher of community newspapers, has sued the New York Times Co. and its subsidiary for using Gatehouse copyrighted material in its news aggregator site (details are here).  The suit has enormous implications, if Gatehouse wins, since much of the material on sites competing with print publication is similar news aggregation. For example, that's what this site does. I don't create much news; I merely link to others' work.

New business model needed, Star-Tribune says

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, which has filed for bankruptcy, ruminates on the need of a new business model for newspapers. There are some up-to-date figures about advertising revenue drops, but not a lot of news here.

Return of the press barons sought

A major British newspaper, amid reports that many British newspapers may go online only or reduce frequency of publishing, calls for the return of the press baron. Times Online recalls that owning newspapers were a way for a privileged elite to exert power, and suggests that press barons might be a savior for newspapers. It suggest that perhaps Bill Gates might want to buy his hometown Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which is either going to be sold or closed, according to the company.  It's a game plan.