Friday, March 27, 2009

Why are magazines in trouble: a suggestion

Meanwhile, Mark Newman at Folio offers an essay that blames magazine problems on bad editors. Hey, Mark. Just substitute "newspaper" for "magazine" and the essay still works. In my years in newspapers, I've worked for some incredibly brilliant and thoughtful editors. I've also worked for one who didn't really like college graduates because "they're too smart," another who criticized a desk editor because "you're staff seems smarter than you" (the desk editor's answer: "That's because I hire only the best"), another who came back from an ASNE session on using color then gathered all of the editors on the newspaper together to lecture them on how to use color -- even though he'd never used color in his life, another who not only was clueless about the staff, but didn't care.

Enough fond memories. Newman's point is that too many magazine editors just don't change their publications. A choice comment, that applies to all media: "If a magazine is not growing or changing, then it's dying."

You, too, can blog about the death of newspapers

Every once in a while I read something that I wish I had written. OK, it's a lot more than once in a while. The most recent was the marvelously funny book, "Gods Behaving Badly." Until this morning, when I read Paul Dailing's witty jab at all the bloggers who write about newspapers dying and how everything's going digital -- while promoting their upcoming book, which will be on paper. I'm not going to try to pick up anything from it. Read it yourself.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mobile Internet use growing, Pew says

A new Pew Research report shows the fast-moving world of mobile communication is continuing its incursion into our lives. The people who carry their Internet connections around with them (as in the iPhones and Blackberries that my colleagues bring into meetings) are still a minority. But a growing one.

A question of privacy

The past few weeks, I've noticed some trends that may result in limitations on the Internet or on our use of it. A court case in Illinois, for example, concerns whether comments can be posted anonymously -- and their anonymity can be retained. Combined with other questions I've posted recently, it makes me wonder about the future. We are in changing times, and I'm not sure where the changes are leading.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Has the second shoe dropped at the Wall Street Journal?

A memo issued last week by the new managing editor at the Wall Street Journal has many in the newsroom wondering about their future. It seems to suggest the new culture will not be the long, thoughtful stories that have led to the Journal's success, but would value short items online or blogs more.

Bill would allow nonprofit newspapers

A bill introduced in the U.S. Senate would allow newspaper companies to reorganize as nonprofit organizations, sort of like National Public Radio.

Meanwhile, in Columbia journalism school . . .

They're getting ready to change the curriculum. The new changes -- if approved -- will be introducing new media skills and, significantly, business skills into the journalism program. In an era of journalist entrepreneurs (who are creating their own jobs) like today, that sounds like a good idea.

By the way, traditional TV still looks good

While we're on the new media subject (and I don't think we're getting off it anytime soon), MediaDailyNews online reports on a panel that says traditional television viewing has a bright future. In fact, one of the experts says, average TV viewing increased five minutes a day last year -- that five minutes alone, he says, is more time than spent on Internet video.

How to save your newspaper

Because I don't regularly read Time magazine, even in free form, I missed this story on saving newspapers. Because I have students who do read it, I was alerted to it. Walter Isaacson, former managing editor of Time, suggests that publications must charge for content online, else they will die. It's totally an anecdotal experience, but I think I'm seeing a groundswell of movement in this direction.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Does social media work as an advertising vehicle?

At least one media expert doesn't think so. But he does think Twitter and search media are great. Social media, in his view, are "fantastic at collecting data, behavioral stuff, you can use at some other point, but it's greatly overstated," in terms of advertising.

Is this the future? 4 Michigan markets lose newspapers

New York Times reports four areas of Michigan to lose their daily newspapers, including Ann Arbor. Three of the areas will still have three printed editions a week in addition to an Internet presence. That strategy may preserve the ability to restore editions if the economy so dictates once we're out of the really bad times we are in now, which is not a bad thing since nobody really can predict the future and all four were money machines in the not too distant past. The four are owned by, the Internet arm of the Newhouse Company.

Monday, March 23, 2009

We asked what happens when a town loses it's newspaper; here's an answer

Los Angeles Times reports on a Colorado community that lost its local paper, and just decided to publish one itself. My prediction is that this is going to happen more and more. Publishing a newspaper doesn't take the huge initial investment it did in the past with computer publishing software easy to use and inexpensive. The key is not building up a huge debt. It's debt service that's killing newspapers these days, along with overexpansion by clueless corporate ownership. Anyway, this is an interesting story.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Newspaper bashers' motives questioned

In a commentary at Editor & Publisher, Randy Siegel, president of Parade Publications, questions the motives of some prominent critics of newspapers, including some who we've liked to here. While a bit self-serving (Siegel is co-founder of the Newspaper Project), it still points out some blatant conflicts of interest. For example, the list of 10 newspapers most likely to fail soon run on Time magazine's site was written not by a Time staffer but one at a Wall Street company specializing in stock market tips, Siegel says. Another critic, he says, is building a cottage industry out of speeches, articles and books describing the impending doom of newspapers. As in the previous item, it's not to say the critics are wrong, but for new media to have any credibility, it had better start giving us some ability to determine whether writers have conflicts.

Another vote for letting 'em die

Writer Sonia Arrison at TechNewsWorld likens newspapers to buggy whips in an essay that predicts, as do others by many other tech writers, that we'll just have lots of media outlets rather than just a few major media ones. She's quite confident that this will happen (frequently using the word "will" rather than "may" when predicting the future), and that is one of the reasons I'm doubtful. Like so many of the new news outlets, she doesn't offer any evidence except for citing one writer about technical coverage (if any subject would be covered well on the Internet, it should be technical coverage). Like so much of the new media, the essay is rich in opinion -- which may come true, but it's still relatively unsupported opinion. 

What happens when a town loses its newspaper?

According to a study reported in Time magazine, it can be pretty unpleasant, including lower voting rates and less civic involvement. It was a small study on a limited area (Cincinnati's Post was the closed newspaper), but some of the trends are clear.