Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Magazines increase interaction with readers

Magazines are finding new ways to interact with readers online, Advertising Age reports. It's paying off for advertisers, and I can see ways the same technique could be used in editorial content. As we grow more sophisticated in the new media, I predict we're going to see all sorts of new ways to use media, both online and print.

Alumni ask college media to eliminate embarrassing stories from their past

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a story online for the next day or so about how alumni are pressuring student media to eliminate embarrassing stories from their college days now that they're out in the professional world. It's not new, but it's something every publication (including the Marquette Tribune) has faced. A problem is that once something is on the Internet, it's almost impossible to get rid of it even if the original publishing entity is willing to do so. It's the same with those Facebook photos.

MediaNews to hold back print content

Another big media company is swinging to the "we're going to cut back on the amount of our print content that we give away free." Read the memo from MediaNews executives outlining that company's new strategy. A problem with assessing the effectiveness of this strategy is that the economy is limiting readers' ability to pay for news content. I just completed an interview with the Milwaukee Business Journal about magazines in which I discussed how many media consumers are cutting back all discretionary spending so it skews analyses of whether they don't like to pay for content or just are cutting back. I've cut back on magazines, for example.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's the advertising, stupid!

News that Playboy is planning "big changes" really demonstrates the weakness of the U.S. advertising business, rather than anything else. Do we really believe people are less inclined to see photos of nearly-naked women than they were in the past? Of course not. The problem, just like that for other print media, is that advertisers are pulling out (Playboy's ad pages are off 22 percent in the first quarter, it says). So much of what I read online doesn't separate reader demand from advertiser demand, and just assumes that falling readership is what's crushing the media. Of course it doesn't help that media companies continue to slash and burn their own product, making it less attractive to readers. (I say this after reading through my 30-page Tuesday Journal Sentinel, not counting the insert, "Spry," which I'm never going to read since I've hit an age where "spry" is an insult. And, of course, the Journal Sentinel now costs 50 percent more than it did a year ago, which is an insult to the remaining readers.) Yes, the business model is broken. Some people out there are going to figure out a new one (unfortunately it's Rupert Murdock who seems to be on the best track; he's actually improving his products).

Wall Street Journal's micropayment plan being watched carefully

There's been a lot of talk lately about micropayments saving newspapers (and, perhaps, magazines). The idea is that one would pay something for reading a story, a nickel, say, or 50 cents for an in-depth story. The problem has been that there wasn't a good way to charge for this content. The Wall Street Journal will be launching such a site this fall, and lots of people are watching it very carefully.

A mother's musings on journalism (and my own)

Interesting and thoughtful piece from the San Francisco Chronicle in which a mother discusses whether she should encourage her daughter's desire to start a journalism career in college. It's a subject that I think about a lot, especially at this time of year in a period when students are hunting journalism jobs, that aren't out there for the most part. (Some are: I've seen several Marquette University journalists land jobs with media, including newspapers. There just aren't many.) But like this mother I think of two things: 1) It's still wonderful training for all sorts of professions (frankly, better training than my soon-to-be-newly-graduated son with his degree in comparative religions), and, most important, 2) it's something that students want to do. Over the years I've had a number of jobs, and I've come to realize the most important thing is to do something you like. For many of these journalists, it's worth it. So I proudly teach journalism, knowing that my graduates are going to be trained in how to gather facts, analyze them, present them. And their going to find a way to make it work.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some unthoughful words on professionalism

In yet another sign of the return of the know-nothing philosophy, at least media-wise, we have a Weekly Standard columnist writing about how great it is that we now have many fewer professional film critics. After all, John Podhoretz believes, you don't need any training to write about film, and the public will be quite well served with a few amateurs. Silly me, I thought conservatives who write for publications like the Weekly Standard espoused the free market where the more competition the better. Ah, well. When we've gotten rid of all those pesky professional journalists, the nut cases can rule the world again.