Friday, December 18, 2009

The newspaper shell game

Jennifer Saba at Editor & Publisher (still there, online) correctly calls out the newspaper publishers for their shell game of charging readers more and offering them less. It's a strategy that probably will doom the industry, I believe, despite plenty of evidence that readers still like, desire and will pay for newspapers. In fact, my belief is that many advertisers will soon become weary of getting no results from their ultra-cheap online advertising, and look at print as a proven model. Of course, that doesn't include classified advertising lost to Craig's list and its ilk, but I'm predicting that some sectors may well return.

Anyway, Saba's comments indicate that she also sees the obvious weakness in a strategy of bleeding resources from a product that you want to sell for a higher price. If only newspaper publishers would.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Email remains atop social media

In more evidence of overreaching by new media partisans (most of whom have a financial interest in touting new media), the latest research contradicts those saying email was dead.

The newest study finds that email is still much more likely to be used in sharing content than Facebook or Twitter. In fact, email's share of the content-sharing market (as measured by those buttons at the end of stories using "Share This" buttons) is more than both Facebook and Twitter combined.

There's just a lot of bad information out there, and media folks trying to figure out the future from present and recent past trends need to be quite wary.

Does the media need to hire more conservatives?

In a switch from the norm, Thomas Frank (the Wall Street Journal's token moderate commentator) writes about Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander who said the media is too liberal and needs to hire conservatives (I'm paraphrasing Alexander, but this is the gist of what he's written). Frank points out the media is quite conservative already (no questioning of the run up to the Iraq war or, frankly, much else at the Bush White House until the final couple of years when it imploded, or questioning the banking industry as it took America down).

Hearkening back to basic journalism 101, Frank says what is needed is a media willing to hold power accountable. More power to him and his views.

Monday, December 14, 2009

I wonder if she went to journalism school?

And for those just dying to know how low the media can sink, the New York Post started a weekly advice column by Ashley Dupre, the "escort" who sank Eliot Spitzer's career.

A disquieting report on the Wall Street Journal

For nearly four decades, I've touted the Wall Street Journal as the best newspaper in America. I ignored its editorial page, not because of its editorial stances, but because I knew of at least two instances when the editorial page continued to use "facts" in its editorials that it knew were untrue. Despite that (and I routinely ignore opinion pages since they are, and should be, advocacy journalism), I felt the Journal did the best job of covering most of American society fairly and completely. It wasn't perfect, but it was better than the job anyone else was doing.

Two years ago, Rupert Murdoch took over the Journal, much to the dismay of many of its employees and loyal readers. He pledged to keep politics out of the news coverage. Then, as now, I kept an open mind since much of Murdoch's journalism is excellent. I watched as Journal editors broadened the coverage with more societal and cultural coverage. I believe media does have an important role in setting a cultural tone for our society, and by cultural, I mean reporting and reflecting on what is happening in our culture. I've seen significant improvements in areas of Journal coverage, for example an innovative approach to the field of sports, for better or worse, a significant part of our culture.

I've enjoyed reading the expanded Opinion page with often-thoughtful columns and a lengthy daily book review/essay. Sure, I noticed that page tilted heavily rightwing (only one columnist with a discernible moderate bent), and the Editorial and op-ed page, both also labeled "Opinion" seemed to become even more predictably fringe-right in stance. (I do wonder if people on the fringes on both sides of the political spectrum don't realize they'd gain credibility if they didn't always paint everything from their ideological stance -- for example, hasn't President Obama done anything right?)

Now comes a New York Times' "Media Equation" column that basically supports those who felt that Murdoch's company couldn't keep it's hands off the news pages. David Carr's piece cites several instances that appear to be clear ideological coloration to news pages. It supported a general impression that I had been having over the last year or so with instances of direct ideological tints. It saddens me. I had hoped that Murdoch would have kept his word concerning keeping ideology out of news content at the Journal. It's now started a slide into becoming as irrelevant as most of today's newspapers.

Animation and journalism: A good thing?

Oh, goody. Another chance to write about Tiger Woods. OK, this is a media blog, and this is a serious topic for the media, although Woods does illustrate a point, it's the point that matters.

Now that I've buried the lead deep enough, let's talk about how new technology leads to . . . old media ideas. The media world is -- properly, I think -- buzzing about video animation of news events. Most of us by now have seen the animation that shows an avatar of Woods' wife smashing the tailgate of his SUV before the crash, or some of the others since then.

This has led to all sorts of tsk, tsking since it's faked news, but is it really? It works by reporters telling artists and animators their version of a story, which is then converted to avatars to give video the film it really needs.

There are two points about this I believe are significant: First, use of this technology might lead to television actually covering some of the harder topics that don't come with film. That's always been the Achilles heel of television: most film comes on the easy stories. Here's a technology that allows television to move away from fires, crimes, "unsafe eating" and "sexual predators living among us!!!". The second is that, once again, it's a throwback to a journalism technique that influenced newspapers in the 19th century. Before technology allowed newspapers to have photos, they had illustrations and cartoons. They were good for journalism, and this most recent trend might well be good for journalism now.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Study reinforces newspaper audience strength

It's not news any more, but a Scarborough study shows that 74 percent of Americans are reading a newspaper each week, either online or in print. That follows other studies with similar results.

The audience also skews upscale, 84 percent college graduate, 82 percent of households earning more than $100,000 and 79 percent of white collar Americans read newspapers. Now, how to translate that into revenue?