Thursday, December 16, 2010

Debunking myths about social media sites

New study backs up earlier study in debunking some myths about social media and young adults. In short, the report says, college students may keep tuned in to a social media site like Facebook, but they use search engines to research possible purchases, not a social site.

It makes all the money being thrown at social sites look like money thrown away

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Survey results raise questions about online ads

Interesting story today on Internet advertising. I'm not an advertising expert, but this story raises a number of questions that I have to ask as a media observer.

Online Media Daily, quoting an online marketer's study, found that most Internet users are aware of advertising they assume is targeted at them -- but more than a third of those viewers dislike the ads with many concerned about privacy.

The study is filled with contradictory information like that, but it left me with a question for those who are advertising experts -- is it a good thing if people are aware of your advertising, but hate the ads? An anecdote: I complete online crossword puzzles most days and there is one particular advertiser whose popup ad is incredibly bothersome. I don't go to this large retailer even though I've enjoyed it in the past.

Ethnic media isn't keeping pace in influence

Ethnic media continue to grow in audience, but its influence isn't keeping pace, conference determines.

The numbers attract attention (57 million and growing, not counting Univision and the Black Entertainment Network power), but general audiences want to use ethnic media to sell products but don't listen to what's being said, said Félix Gutiérrez, a long-time student of ethnic media.

It's a shame since ethnic media is clearly fulfilling key roles in places like Milwaukee where it's the only media around (except for the Internet) that continues to grow. We really see that with Wisconsin's new governor effectively killing the only new industrial facility built in our central city.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AP suspends internship program

A report quotes the Associated Press' Media Relations Director Paul Colford as saying that AP is suspending its internship program for a year. Not only is this bad news for prospective journalists, but it's yet another dumb idea from an industry wallowing in dumb ideas, I think. Interns are the cheapest labor possible (as well as being some of the best), and keep supplying content when regular staffers are off. It shows once again that too many media companies don't really understand that content is what sells.

Freelancing, business style

Freelance business journalists make $25,000 to $30,000 a year, survey shows, but most of them wouldn't take their old jobs back if they could (40% were laid off).

The Society of American Business Editors and Writers conducted the survey, and plans to repeat it annually. It's yet another brick in the edifice that is the new journalism. I remember making more than $20,000 a year freelancing back in the '80s, and think it is a viable way to make a living. At least it's better than working for some of the media companies out there.

What's the world's largest new site?

The experiment is intriguing; a new report calls it the largest "news" organization in the world. Don't really trust these reported numbers, but it's certainly worth following. The link above takes you to the organization's Milwaukee site -- today featuring a story on M.U.'s Vander Blue. The site unfortunately is littered with old stories as well as credibility issues, but it's certainly interesting.

The great paywall debate -- part (x)

The planned paywall at the New York Times prompts frenzied (well, frenzied for journalists anyway) debate at the Nieman Journalism Lab's online newsletter, with many contributors saying it'll be a flop or won't happen at all with others saying it'll be a big success. Interesting reading. I'll go with one of the commenters -- I just won't tell you which one.

Press freedom and Wikileaks

It's interesting that the best discussion of the implications of the Wikileaks situation from the point of view of freedom of the press that I've seen so far comes from a German site.

Spiegel online's Thomas Darnstadt argues that press freedom has come under attack ever since 9/11 and that "the U.S. government has transformed itself into a huge security apparatus." He makes a strong case for fighting back in the article titled "Is Treason a Civic Duty?"

Press freedom is vital, he argues, and this essay will make you question some of our assumptions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

How far has CNN fallen?

Deborah Potter muses about how far CNN has fallen, and her short essay in the American Journalism Review online offers some sobering thoughts about how American news media is approaching news.

"Whatever happened to the CNN where the news once mattered?" she wonders aloud. It's something that the rest of us have also wondered as we watch 24-hour "news" channels fill prime time with opinion. As a certified news junky, I don't know how many evenings I've just given up -- driven to YouTube to find video of news (this happened yesterday when I wanted to see video of the dome collapsing in Minneapolis).

Potters looks at the CNN personnel for its evening lineup and finds them all wanting, at least one of them ethically challenged, and the only real newsperson among them, Anderson Cooper, planning a daytime syndicated talk show when Oprah Winfrey retires.

She closes with longing: "When I worked there briefly in the early '90s, the mantra ' news is the star' didn't seem laughable in prime time. Sadly, it does now."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Violence and the journalist

A Russian journalist writes of his being physically beaten in today's New York Times. Oleg Kashin listed three theories that abound as to who was behind the attack. In each case, though, the ultimate villain is the government itself.

It prompts some thoughts as to recent political campaigns in the U.S., where reporters have been verbally attacked not only by those attending rallies but, often, by politicians themselves. The intriguing part of Kashin's account is that it seems to be taken for granted that reporters are fair game for violence.

Friday, December 3, 2010

No comment needed

Gawker Media boss Nick Denton, as quoted on Yahoo news:

"I love paying for information because it's a great investment," Denton said, confirming that Gawker's sports blog, Deadspin, paid $12,000 for its scoop that revealed naked photos former Jets star Bret Favre allegedly sent to a "buxom" (Denton's word) female sideline reporter story. "The other thing I love about it is it gets the traditional media contorted," he said. "They're envious, but they're disapproving, and it's a beautiful thing to watch."

You get what you pay for

For years, I've been asking politely to see evidence that Internet advertising works. I've watched it race away from mainstream media to whatever new digital platform seems hottest at any moment. But I've always wondered if it works.

In part, that comes from my own experience with finding a new travel location. The beach that I've used in recent years has lost its appeal since the latest hurricane attack, so I'm searching for another. Used to be, travel sections were filled with great advertising making me think of this alternative or that. Today's travel sections are filled with . . . nothing. Where has the travel advertising money gone, I ask. Why to the Internet where it is targeted, I'm told.

Well I spend much of my life on the Internet, and I am actively seeking travel ideas, and newspaper and magazine advertising guided me repeatedly in the past. Not so today.

Finally some data seeps through: Americans ignore Internet advertising in record numbers. They ignore other forms as well, but not nearly as much as they ignore Internet advertising. What Internet advertising seems to have going for it is that it's cheap. So is television at 3 a.m. You get what you pay for.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

FTC suggests "do not track" mechanism for Web

In a move that potentially has a lot of impact, the FTC is proposing a "do not track" mechanism for the Internet. It's yet another sign that consumer privacy concerns might be adding up to restrictions on the Internet. Leaving aside the practicality of such a proposal, it potentially could strongly affect advertising.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Print is dead -- Not!

More evidence that print isn't dead. Another survey finds huge readership of print magazines. Each month, 188 million Americans read print magazines, the survey says, with each averaging 6.1 titles.

Another clash between mainstream and non-mainstream media

I suppose it's part of the big news picture but this entertainment story is more important for what it says about how mainstream media continues to miss the boat on how to use non-mainstream sources.

In short, Jay Leno's show ripped off an Internet video after promising credit (not the first time, by the way). It got called on it, and basically did the right thing in giving credit for the video (a funny montage of Taylor Swift winning awards) the next day. But why did it have to wait a day? We're in a more collaborative era now, and giving credit is easy, adds to a medium's credibility, and is ethical. So do it from the start.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Is the obit dead?

Upon the death of a daughter's friend who had been instrumental in building G.M.'s electric car, columnist James M. Naughton tried in vain to interest a couple of influential newspapers in commemorating the passing of this interesting man.

Their lack of interest caused him to wonder if newspapers' dire straits has caused them to eschew the feature obit -- even for worthy candidates -- in favor of the paid obituary, and he rightly bemoans the loss. Naughton's correct. Once again, the newspaper industry misjudges its audience, costing it yet another area that could be used to attract subscribers.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Times looks at digital distraction

The New York Times visits the problem -- and I think it's a major problem that is growing worse -- of digital distraction today with a nice story (you may have to activate a free account to view this site) about how educations are using technology to battle technology.

To me, the distractions of technology continue to grow -- and I teach the stuff. I find it is affecting me personally. I can barely watch television without a laptop also scanning the web. If I'm without my cell phone, I feel uncomfortable. If I don't check email for a few hours, I think I've lost touch.

However, there is a good side. If I don't check several news sites for a while, I feel out of touch. For those of us in the news business, that's a good thing. We need to redirect our youth from Facebook to the news (and, yes, Facebook is a form of communicating news). My problem with the digital world is that it's a real distraction from the real life going on around us. When I'm scanning sites on my laptop, I'm not really paying attention to the television. And, even worse, I'm not learning as much as when I read ink on paper. I haven't read research, but I'd bet that our retention is not as good. I know news sites are far less satisfying than newspapers or magazines, and I also know that I don't learn as much. More stories like the one today may prompt the research needed to validate my gut feeling, or show that my concerns are unwarranted.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Online copyright and ethics

Online copyright problems just continue to be sore spots. While still thinking of how the always-heavy handed Recording Industry Association of America smashing yet another teen stupid enough to be downloading music without paying (I'm not condoning it, just commenting on the huge settlements asked by the RIAA, which certainly seems to relish its role as bully), along comes a blog on how online editors continue to believe that they can just copy about anything that's been on the Internet without permission or payment. It included this comment by the editor of a cooking magazine called on the carpet by an author whose material it had ripped off: "But honestly Monica, the web is considered ‘public domain’ and you should be happy we just didn't ‘lift’ your whole article and put someone else's name on it! …" I hate to dump on the ignorant, but the editor's comment fits with the rapidly-eroding ethics of the Internet, which seems to be following talk radio into irrelevancy. If only writers and photographers had stables of lawyers to threaten businesses.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Are media ethics passe?

Hamilton Nolan at the website suggests that media ethics are outdated.

His proposal for replacements: 1) disclose, 2) vote, 3) realize the category "analyst" exists only in the mind of journalists themselves, 4) hire whomever you want, just don't let their investments color their coverage, 5) you can be friends with someone, or you can cover them, but not both, and 6) know that "opinion" is not a dirty word.

My view, as a journalist of many years who followed a strong ethics code: Hogwash!

A more reasoned approach is that, yes, it's very hard to remain objective, and I have nothing against most of his suggestions. I just would work harder. Journalism depends on verification, and that doesn't mean getting an extremist from both sides to weigh in on a subject and then calling it "balanced." It means finding out the facts as best you can, and presenting it in a fair manner. It means not mixing analysis with reporting without clearly labeling it. The problem comes, I believe, often with new media and television, both areas where analysis and commentary are often combined. That doesn't absolve print, but the problem is less there.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Journalism and Andrew Breitbart -- they shouldn't be used in the same sentence

Once again Jay Rosen has come up with a perceptive take on the media. This time, he looks at the fiasco that was ABC News' attempt to meld right-wing blogger Andrew Breitbart, best known for deliberately airing a doctored video accusing a black federal official of racism, into it's election night coverage.

It's instructive because he deconstructs what seems to have happened in the frame of contemporary journalists attempting to show balance by using extremists on both sides, thinking that one's lies offset those of their opponents ("lies" may be a bit strong, but I'm awfully sick of the extreme lies of the last political advertising cycle, lies that any sentient being should know were falsehoods). By using the Breitbarts of the world (or even the James Carvilles or William Bennetts), television has ceded any authority of even claiming it was committed to the truth.

These are not journalists, folks out there in TV-land. Using them in a journalists' role means you are no better than Fox News, which left journalism behind long ago.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Is Washington Post looking hyperlocal?

A new Washington Post survey may presage a strong move into hyperlocal Internet sites. A similar survey earlier on business news was quickly followed by major changes in its business coverage. Hyperlocal seems to win again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A peek behind a newspaper pay wall

The question of the millenium (at least this one) is this: Will online viewers actually pay for content that used to be free? There's an answer, of corts, from Great Britain but, of course, it comes with all sorts of further questions that need to be answered. The Guardian reports that the Rupert Murdoch paywall at the Times of London and the Sunday Times has cut sharply into online audience. "Total unique monthly UK visitors to the Times site went down from 3,096,000 to 1,782,000 when the wall went up, and that only 362,000 – about 20% – ventured on to pages beyond the wall," it says, but those viewers behind the wall are the most desirable by far, indicating that advertisers may well gravitate toward viewers behind the wall. Or maybe not. We'll find out.

Have media managers botched the iPad?

In what should be a surprise to no one, media managements have totally botched the iPad opportunity, according to MediaWeek. The APS are "clunky," the pricing is vastly inflated, and advertising tactics are unsustainable. Why should media managers (I know the story is about magazines, but the same holds true for all "old media") suddenly start getting smarter just because they are operating on a new platform? They should, of course, but as long as bonuses are based on short-term thinking (especially lucrative if you can sell your company) media executives will continue to insult their customers -- and their companies will pay.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Will video be atop the new media foodchain?

A video-oriented blog talks to an expert and finds, surprise, video will dominate new media. "REELSE, the Online Video Marketer's Guide," posts an interview with Rick Calvert, founder of the Blogworld conference, and quotes Calvert as saying that video is the top of the media foodchain so it will obviously be atop the new video foodchain. Interesting take, although as a word person I still think video is going to need lots of words. After all, there are lots of words on TV newscasts already, and I have yet to see video online without lots of words surrounding it. Is video a great tool? Sure. Maybe the best tool? Possibly. But, in a vacuum, video doesn't exist.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Media companies forming parnerships with universities

Coming soon to the news media near you -- the media company + university hyperlocal news site.

According to Emedia Vitals, an online newsletter, several media companies are forming partnerships with local universities. One of the more aggressive, AOL's Patch, is building its Milwaukee news site. Haven't heard of any attempts to tie up with a local university.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Behind newspaper circulation numbers

AdAge takes a look at newspaper circulation trends (decline is slowing, it says), but says you need to go below the easy numbers to figure out what's going on. The insight, I see, is a quote from John Strum, who heads the National Newspaper Association: "What counts is that newspaper companies continue to retain their most loyal and engaged readers even as they increase print circulation pricing to rebalance their revenue streams." That means that newspapers continue to raise prices, and are working to hold readership. They are are working to build new readership using targeted methods.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Students prefer print newspapers

Poynter Online blog reports its research that college students -- who may be the digital generation and live online -- prefer their college newspapers to be printed on paper.

I agree both from watching online viewership as well as how many Marquette Tribunes are picked up in the printed version. As to why, I especially agree with a student quoted in the blog: "Stephen Heleker, student body president at Boise State University, told me in an e-mail that students spend so much time on computers doing school work that 'they value the respite offered' by the print version of the college newspaper. 'It definitely becomes part of the routine at college.'" As someone who spends hours on computers daily, including hours spent look at news sites, I really value my time to sit with a printed newspaper (I read the Tribune, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Wall Street Journal print editions). I also believe I learn so much more in print.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why should students study journalism?

NPR's "Morning Edition" has a nice five-minute report on the subject this morning. Interestingly, last week one of my students brought up the same topic. The class ("Publication Editing") discussed it, and we found that three of the 11 class members weren't journalism majors at all -- one was an advertising major and two were English majors. They were taking it because they saw a need for more editing and that specialized journalism training that is so easily mocked these days.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Fascinating story in the New York Times of what one observer called "haiku journalism," coverage of a sensational trial by Twitter. Is it the wave of the future? It's one of them, at any rate.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Tribune: How to kill a newspaper giant

And now, for the way to destroy a newspaper, read the story of Sam Zell's Chicago Tribune.

As the New York Times tells it, it's a story of lust, hubris, stupidity and arrogance. Sounds believable to me. Actually, it's a very sad story of how badly the media industry is being managed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good news for magazines continues

The good news for magazines continues, with a 10.66 percent increase year-to-year reported in ad pages for October issues of 150 magazines tracked in one analysis. Ninety of them had increases.

Leading the way was Elle (which doubled its number of ad pages), followed by Harper's Bazaar, Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler and InStyle. Word on the street (meaning I can't tell you who told me) is that some major advertisers are returning to print because online isn't delivering customers. Of course, the lingering recession makes it hard to determine why customers aren't returning. But at least some marketers are dismayed by lack of results online.

Friday, September 17, 2010

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, looks like a duck, it must be . . .

College newspapers aggressively covers administration. Administration faces election fights. Newspaper told it can't print until obtaining "proper approval" for its printing contract. But it's not censorship, just "a purchasing problem."

Basically that's where things stand for the college newspaper at Southwestern College near San Diego. I guess I'm cynical, but it'll be interesting to see how quickly after the Nov. 2 election the college -- which last year suspended four faculty members for protesting budget cuts -- clears up the "purchasing problem."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where do young people get their news?

From "The Colbert Report," "The Daily Show," and The New York Times. That's only part of a large Pew Research report on the news. You can find a digest here. The full report's here.

Very interesting report with lots of ramifications for media folks.

Readers' Digest plans 24 new products

Readers' Digest, having cut back on its print products, has plans to expand its online offerings greatly, along with some new print publications.

It'll be interesting to see how successful this will be. The company says it will "return to its roots" in producing material for a "family-centered" audience. I, as a long-time reader who scrapped the magazine in recent years due to the decline of its content, remain skeptical. This, like National Geographic or The New Yorker, was a magazine that was perfect to read at my pace -- and in print. But the editors fell into the "gotta speed up our readers" mantra that's spoiled so many magazines, filling them with short, breezy, uninteresting items designed for those who "don't have time to read." Hey, folks! Your product is a magazine. People like to spend time with magazines.

Monday, September 13, 2010

More Americans getting news than in recent years

With more ways to get news, Pew reports, more Americans are watching/reading/visiting news sites than any time in the past decade. Heartening news, indeed, for those of us who care.

British media go after Murdoch empire

British media has uncovered a huge scandal in Rupert Murdoch's British empire. His media properties, according to press reports, used private detectives and illegal means to assemble dossiers on British politicians and others.

The Guardian links Murdoch influence to all parties who have controlled Great Britain's political reins for the past 30 years. It said, "Murdoch is a problem for British society and the News of the World phone-hacking story – given further impetus over the last 10 days by the New York Times and the Guardian – is a symptom of the chronic malignity of his power" in a story basically claiming that Murdoch's empire threatens British democracy.

Let's see if American media will challenge Murdoch's power (Fox News, Fox News Channel, Wall Street Journal among others). Seems like a scandal waiting to happen over here as well (somehow, I can't imagine that Murdoch operates differently here than overseas.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Publishers using new tools to match consumers/media content

Meanwhile, in a really intriguing post with deep implications for both producers and consumers of media, eMedia Vitals says that publishers are quickly adopting strategies and tools to personalize their content.

New tools that are being used include social media, current and past viewing to build a consumer's profile and use that to offer suggestions. It's similar to the music site Pandora, which suggests music based on your preferences.

Imagine all the readers . . .

Paywalls aren't a panacea for newspapers, according to An analysis indicated that even if every single subscriber switched to online paid content, newspapers would still lose their shirt. Each online viewer would be worth only a quarter of the value of a paid print subscriber.

Although basically a UK analysis, it holds deep implications for newspapers. As the story indicates positing big losses with readers shifting online behind a pay wall: "If that sounds bad, imagine the situation for publishers whose websites are not starting charging." Well worth thinking about.

Fall fashion magazine rebound on this scale

Measured by weight (its traditional measure), fall fashion magazines are way up. This year's key magazines weighed a total of 16.58 pounds, according to TheWrap's scale. Last year the magazines weighed only 15.34 pounds last year, far from 2008's 21 pounds. Vogue was the winner with its 726 pages weighing a hefty 2.89 pounds.

Time blasts apart its campaign secrecy wall

The old days when media kept its secrets, especially gameplans, close to its vest are totally gone. Time announced its plans for the upcoming campaign season, telling not only its readers/viewers but its competitors exactly what it plans to cover, how and when.

Just one of the plans announced: Joe Klein will launch a four-week, 12-state swing across America, highlighting key races. Wisconsin will be one of the states profiled.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Newspapers aren't going away, innovator says

Another day, another story on newspapers. But this essay in AdWeek, by
Rishad Tobaccowala is chief strategy and innovation officer at VivaKi, is both interesting and offers some good thoughts.

The money quote: "There is a high likelihood that the legacy packaging of the news industry, the newspaper, will become less relevant to most folks; I also predict that the industry's product and services will become more relevant."

Tobaccowala suggests the newspaper industry will grow by continuing changes in newspaper culture, technology, partnering and focus.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

New e-reader on the horizon?

Keep your eyes open, yet another new electronic option for reading newspapers, magazines and books is coming fast. LG, which manufactures screens for the Kindle and iPad, says it's ready to launch two flexible, very thin screens that can be used for books, magazines and even a newspaper broadsheet (on a 19-inch monochrome flexible screen).

Are all the bugs out so these e-readers can dominate the media market? Not yet, but they are yet another step toward the day when e-readers will rule. They have come an amazingly long way in the past couple of years, and I think their flexibility and light weight will prove a long-time winner.

Pictured is a press release photo showing the new flexible e-readers in action.

Radio: The original social medium

What's new is old, and what's old is new. When I really began to study history, I realized that the adage that looking at the past gives a glimpse into the future is really true. It's especially true in media.

Neil Glassman writes about how radio was the original social medium, and perhaps still is the best. For example, he writes:

"AM had Top 40 formats (mashups), DJ shout outs (tweets), contests to win logo T-shirts (badges) and exclusive clubs to which everyone belonged (Facebook groups). I got into late night talk shows (blogs), which had an intimacy and affinity with listeners that radio has lost and web social networks have yet to fully discover. Later, FM jocks changed my music buying habits and political views (influencers)."

All of today's new media buzzwords apply to radio. It also instructive, I think, to realize that "everyone" said radio would die when television came around (as well as movies). And newspapers would die when radio came around. And newsletters and opinion pamphlets would die when newspapers came around. They're all still here, and some are in better shape than they've ever been.

So is radio dead? Not by a long shot. Television? Newspapers? Magazines? Books? None of it is backed up by real data. Are they changing? Sure. But, as with movies and radio, change leads to growth.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

USA Today to shift focus to digital

USA Today plans to shift its focus to its digital side. OK, what does that mean? The announcement wasn't all that clear. Yes, it's going to eliminate 130 jobs (where? what jobs? It doesn't say), it's going to create a stand-along sports section, it's going to push the digital side to be newsier (one goal: post news stories within a half-hour of an event) and it's going to try to win a larger share of the digital and mobile phone markets.

Still, details are pretty unclear. One staffer who listened to the management announcement said it appeared to be a work in progress. Frankly, that's the way I'd approach this sort of change. You don't know until you get doing something how it's really going to turn out. One criticism of newspapers is that they weren't flexible. Sounds like USA Today, under pressure from the Wall Street Journal, is doing that.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Some thoughts about Facebook and privacy

It hit me this morning as I was reading about Facebook's newest option, the "Places" feature that allows you to let your friends know where you are using your smart phone's GPS signal that my reaction was different than what I, or Facebook, must have expected. It was a basic distrust of my data.

Sure, as Rob Pegoraro wrote, you have to activate the feature (Facebook seems to have belatedly realized that we want opt-in), and it's reasonably difficult to do so it probably won't happen by accident. But I have two big concerns immediately.

The first is that it won't take long for someone to be assaulted by a stalker or someone else who wormed their way onto a "Friends" list (do you personally know all your "Friends"; I allow former students to "friend" me and don't keep up with many of them). We've already read of homes being burglarized by "Friends" who learned on Facebook that someone was on vacation.

The second is my long-time paranoia creeping through. Sure, we have to turn the feature on -- supposedly. But how do we know it isn't being misused by Facebook itself (or some of its employees). We know IRS workers have accessed politicans' files, and that's a felony. We know of the school in Pennsylvania that used the laptops it handed out to spy on students.

It's the same as providers (or Google) tracking my keystrokes. Sure most people won't misuse these powers. But if something's possible, it will be used.

We're well past the point where we need legislative action to protect our privacy. I'm contacting the offices of Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold, and urging them to push for privacy protection before any of my concerns become real.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome to the fact-free zone

Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post writes perceptively about the new realities of media: facts don't matter, attacks bring viewers and everybody loses. Not a lot of new stuff, but he brings together a number of the stories that have depressed many of us lately. I can't wait for school to start so I can bring reality to some new journalism students -- and tell them how to keep their standards among the rush by others toward the lowest common denominator.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Interesting thoughts on a 'post-print' world

Meanwhile, BBC offers an essay on what it calls news in a "post-print" world. The gist of the essay by Andrew Marr is that new media offers two different revolutionary changes. The first is that he observes that he is spending a lot purchasing media online (ebook, etc.) so maybe, he writes, Murdock isn't all wrong with his pay wall. The second is that Internet journalism will fall into Internet aggregators but under them "we will have large numbers of specialist news sites," which will offer details on areas of interest.

As if to prove his point about the vigor of the Internet, BBC offers "a selection of your comments" afterward, including ones that both agree and dispute his thesis, but does offer lively takes on Marr's musings. One, from a man in Texas, is worth repeating in whole, it implies we might be more discriminating in news than many think:

"Used to believe the better news will be on the web, but not anymore. I will take known journalists, with good reputations, over the spread of trash opinionators any day. Here in the US, consolidation of news agencies has been a disaster for the public. I get my best news from the BBC, then look beyond for supporting articles. OK, I use the web, but if they don't have printed copy, or television shows, I don't read, nor waste my time." -- Wallace Parnel, Texas.

From O.J. to Sherrod, Halperin traces the spiral

Mark Halperin in Time traces the "spiral" in new media from O.J. Simpson to Shirley Sherrod. Speaking of its inception with the Simpson coverage, he writes: "By dominating the nation's attention through 1995 and beyond, the tale established a template in which the media is triggered and overwhelmed by any storyline that has basic elements of culture, controversy and polemic."

He marks the "three pillars of new media" as cable TV news, the Internet and talk radio. Of them, Halperin writes: "What all three of these mediums crave is content that is driven by contretemps, gripping video, factual disputes, logistics, and compelling dramatic personae." It's the kind of essay that makes reading any form of media worthwhile.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

PBS looks at online journalism

PBS's MediaShift has started what it promises will be a weeklong online series (with links) on the emerging media landscape. It promises to be well worth reading (there's that word again, reading; just doesn't seem to go away no matter how often its demise is predicted).

Better times ahead for media?

Agencies predict better times ahead for media -- except for newspapers.

The analysis, from two leading marketing firms, predict growth in advertising and revenues for media as the worldwide economy stabilizes. Print advertising is projected to continue to decline, but stabilize by 2012. Newspapers, while doing very well in developing countries, are seen as in a deep downward spiral.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Burnout hurting new media

I've felt for some time that the biggest threat to newspapers was their own managers. I watched as newspapers cut deeply into content in search of ever-more "savings," often while raising the prices they charged at the same time (see Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). Let's see, hummm, less content for a higher price. Yep, sounds like a winning strategy to me. (Note to newspaper managers: the preceding two sentences are satire.)

Now comes a story that indicates new media are just as stupid. It's a New York Times story already behind its pay wall, but available easily by searching Nexus or just Googling key words. Its first page is here. The story describes about how various new media sites -- especially Politico -- are pressuring writers to constantly add material to their stories so Google bots will update the stories and the site will get more hits. Quality? Don't worry about it. Added value? No problem. Writer burnout? We'll just hire more.

I love journalism, and I believe new media tools are adding greatly to journalism. But I've yet to see any sign that the media industry really has a clue. Sure, it will eventually settle down to a profitable model based on actually providing information. But I worry about the incredibly-poor judgement in newsrooms and what will happen to the greater public good before the industry managers get a clue.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gannett's announcement on centralizing design is unintentionally funny

Sometimes media news can make you laugh out loud. This morning's example came from reading a story about how Gannett will be consolidating design in five locations across the U.S. It's the typical story these days with a corporation using computers and the Internet to cut jobs by consolidating positions in a far-away location, and it's something that has been foreshadowed by other media companies consolidating design, including some who are outsourcing to India.

Gannett's announcement says it will locate the jobs in Louisville, Asbury Park, Nashville, Des Moines and Phoenix. OK so far. Actually design is one aspect that can easily be transferred to another area. Then the announcement, as reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal and that doesn't say how many jobs are going to be cut, goes on to report that "Some copy editing positions will remain at individual newspapers," indicating that at least some copy editing would be done locally where copy editors have a sense for the communities. This was followed by the "laugh out loud" statement: "The consolidation is intended to allow Gannett outlets 'to focus on - and protect - the creation of unique local content,' the memo said."

In other words, to focus on "the creation of unique local content," Gannett is transferring work away from local control to strangers who have only a vague idea of where, say, Green Bay is.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Magazine industry stabilizing?

In a sign of stability, MediaDailyPost reports that the magazine industry has reached some sort of equilibrium with a net gain of three magazine titles last year (measured by subtracting the 87 titles that folded from the 90 new ones). Significantly, those numbers are both way down from the previous year, which saw 187 new titles but 279 folding).

Meanwhile, magazine ad pages rose in the second quarter, a decided improvement over their big tumble a year earlier. Sure, it was only a 0.8 percent gain, but that beats the heck out of the 9.4 percent decline in the first quarter. This was the first increase in more than two years.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Are there too many journalists?

Are there too many journalists? That's the provocative question asked by this blog, which uses numbers to show no correlation between size of staff and newspapers sold. Even better are some of the points made in comments, especially one by Judy Sims of SimsBlog, who points out the importance (not mentioned in the analysis) of promotion and advertising. By the way, her blog is fast becoming one of my favorites. I'd especially recommend her current post, "If Newspapers Cease to Be, There Will be Two Causes of Death," in which she only gives one, promising the next in up upcoming post.

Good news: Paris Hilton no longers sells magazines

We're always looking out for "good" media news, a category I'd place this report that Paris Hilton is not only no longer a magazine cover "seller" but a negative. Unlike the recent past, this annual survey from GfK MRI, which looks at trends in magazine cover sales, found that Hilton was a negative, along with stories on "green" issues, negative feelings and most celebrity scandal. "Good" sellers include Barack Obama, George W. Bush, some celebrities (Jennifer Aniston, for example) and issues such as the economy, beach bodies and "best of . . ." stories.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Why 140 characters can be too few

Twitter can be deadly -- to careers. CNN has fired Octavia Nasr reportedly for a tweet praising the late Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, one of the founders of Hezbollah. According to the Guardian, she said she was praising his work for Muslim women, not actions many believe led to terrorism. The money quote from Nasr: "Reaction to my tweet was immediate, overwhelming and provides a good lesson on why 140 characters should not be used to comment on controversial or sensitive issues, especially those dealing with the Middle East."

What's Time charging for?

It looks like Time is going to be following an idea I have been espousing for some time. A brief quote from a Time spokesman on a blog called "All Things Considered" includes this description of the company's plans: "Our strategy is to use the web for breaking news and ‘commodity’ type of news; (news events of any type, stock prices, sports scores) and keep (most of) the features and longer analysis for the print publication and iPad versions."

In other words, the free Internet material will be the sort of "news" that can come from anywhere with exclusive material protected for purchase either from print or iPad versions. Of course, comments on the blog ask the usual "Why would I want to pay to get what I can get elsewhere" questions that proliferate among new media devotes, but the Time plan (and others, such as Murdoch's newspapers) isn't offering news you can get elsewhere behind a paywall. It's up to Time and the others to make us want to pay to get it (as we do now for all sorts of material, see my Internet and cable bills for examples).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paying for articles at Time

Has Time magazine joined the Internet paywall world? Nieman Journalism Lab notes that nearly every story on the current issue of Time carries this phrase: “The following is an abridged version of an article that appears in the July 12, 2010 print and iPad editions of TIME,” but without any links to the full story, just referring viewers to the print and iPad editions.

One comment on the Nieman site says the is "stupid," "
Paywalls are bad enough, but making your digital version only available on one format is just plain dumb." But, putting only part of your stories on free sites makes sense to me. It's a strategy that I expect to see followed more and more as established media attempt to rebuild profits. Other commenters note that Time has pulled its archives from most aggregators, including Nexis.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The medium is indeed the message

Ken Swafford of Slate offers his take on why printed books will never be replaced by ebooks. The reason, based on reading of Marshall McLuhan as well as his experience, lies in the way we perceive words, or "delivering technology" in McLuhan-speak. We perceive words on screens differently than on paper, Swafford says, and the difference is important. The medium is indeed the message.

Monday, July 5, 2010

No more Mr. Nice Guys?

Tom Shales writes in the Washington Post that the end of Larry King on CNN means the end of "the nice guys." King, Shales, says, represented a time when television was more civil and friendly. Shales takes a number of shots at the "incivility" of cable television talk. Can't disagree with him.

Printed books faster to read

Some of my suspicions turn out to be true. One is that I wondered if one could read an ebook as rapidly as on paper. The answer? No. According to a study by A.C. Neilson, it takes significantly more time to read a book on a Kindle or iPad than on paper. The iPad was significantly better than the Kindle 2, which, in turn, was much better than reading it on a PC.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

For newspapers, both good and bad news

The good news is that 57 percent of U.S. Internet users visited newspaper sites in May.
The bad news, according to Media Daily News' Eric Sass, is that it demonstrates how the industry has not yet figured out a way to monetize the sites. My view is that continues to demonstrate the industry's lack of imagination. We're living in an age of new forms of journalism. Too many newspaper companies seem to be just running out the string. Reminds me of how the owners of Pabst Brewing leeched off it for years (story about newest Pabst owner; story giving a bit of earlier history). Basically they cut and cut and cut, dropped R&D, dropped advertising, and just let the market die. Sounds familiar, huh?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Online paper turns to print

I'm teaching in Italy during June, but news that a San Francisco online news startup is turning to print wedged its way into my life of biscotti and chocolata at a cafe.
The San Francisco Public Press is printing a 20-page newspaper with an 8-page pullout. It says that this move will set the nonprofit publication apart. It's not sure about the future. Few of us are.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Media world watches Murdock move

It's getting to be fish or cut bait time for the newspaper industry, and it is paying a lot of attention to plans due to be announced in the next couple of days by the Murdock empire to erect a pay wall at the venerable Times of London. The Times is planning to announce prices and procedures for forcing online viewers to pay for content.

New media folks, of course, all say it will be an abysmal failure. Most newspaper publishers are hoping that it works since they'd like to get more income from their online product. It involves a balancing act: Will enough viewers pay to offset possible declines from advertising revenues. The bottom line, of course, is that online advertising revenues aren't high enough to pay for quality journalism.

New report mixed for newspaper advertising

Moody's, the financial firm, issued a private report about the future of newspapers. There are several stories available on the Internet, including from Media Post, that give parts of the report. It's interesting to see the emphasis since the Moody's report says that newspaper advertusing is stabilizing, but just for a year.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dead as a mackerel

I'm sitting here having breakfast in an outdoor cafe in Cagli, Italy. Along comes this article on titled "Is Print Media Doomed Worldwide or Just in the US." Basically, as seemingly always at the new media sites, the conclusion is "You bet. Dead as a mackerel." Even here in Italy. So I look around the cafe tables. Twenty-two people. Seventeen reading newspapers and the others talking with newspapers laying in front of them. Dead as a mackerel, I guess.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Research shows differences between new and old media in coverage; not news but important

Fascinating and important new research released by Pew Research demonstrates the differences between new and old media in the sort of things they follow -- and they aren't what you might think they are.

Pew says it "has gathered a year of data on the top news stories discussed and linked to on blogs and social media pages and seven months’ worth on Twitter. We also have analyzed a year of the most viewed news-related videos on YouTube."

Top findings, Pew says, "Most broadly, the stories and issues that gain traction in social media differ substantially from those that lead in the mainstream press. But they also differ greatly from each other. Of the 29 weeks that we tracked all three social platforms, blogs, Twitter and YouTube shared the same top story just once. That was the week of June 15-19, when the protests that followed the Iranian elections led on all three."

Newspaper sites continue to grow

Want a tip on hot Internet sites? Try newspapers. Media Daily News is reporting a steady rise ("up 10% from March, 12% from February, and 15% from January") of unique visitors to newspaper sites this year. My take? It's trusted content, baby. The new media folks are always screaming about the latest "hot" site (which generally dies quickly), but newspaper sites offer trusted content, and that's worth a lot. It's a shame more newspaper managements can't see this.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Twitter and journalism

Interesting report of his assignment to profile Rep. Michelle Bachmann in 140-character tweets by Newsweek's Andrew Romano. Romano's bosses asked him to write a profile using Twitter. He was to spend time following her campaign, tweeting along the way, then sit down with her for a formal interview and everything would be summed up in a regular print magazine piece.

After the tweets turned out to be negative, Bachmann cancelled the interview and the print piece never happened. But what's interesting is Romano's reaction to the experience. At first, he writes, he was skeptical with the new style of coverage, but he was won over. It's a piece that will make you think about future journalism.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NY Times sets a date to begin charging for content

And that date is next January, at least according to Bill Keller.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

News is how we see it

I'm probably like the rest of you in that I don't spend a lot of time thinking about screens, but if we're interested in media we should be thinking about screens. In fact, since we now think of "news" as "content," I suppose thinking of "newspapers," "television," etc. as "screens" on which to view content makes sense.

If that preceding paragraph seems overly obtuse, it's just what happens when we contemplate the media landscape today with news being delivered via far more media than in the past. And, frankly, the way it is perceived differs by the way in which we read/see/hear it.

To get an understanding of what the media landscape faces today, slog through Joe Mandese's column today. It's on the way different "screens" change the way we approach news. Some fascinating thoughts that really do have major implications for news delivery.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Should a journalist learn programming?

Ah, that's a crucial question, isn't it. Digital blogger Martin Belam (who you might want to follow) is tackling that question with two recent posts (one and two). Belam, who describes himself as "an Internet consultant, information architect and writer based in London" and works for the Guardian, thinks not, although some knowledge is helpful.

He offers some examples of how knowing a little HTML helps in doing some of the routine tasks of Internet posting. But it's clear from reading his posts that these are helpful shortcuts, but not essential. He suggests that thinking like a programmer is much more helpful than actually programming. In terms of curriculum, we're on the right track by emphasizing content, not programming (although we should be identifying options for those students who want programing).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Huffington Post actually wants money now

Speaking of advertising sales, Mediaweek says the Huffington Post blogsite is making needed moves to bring in serious advertising dollars. Despite the fact that the site doesn't pay contributors, it gets lots of free content (much of it worth exactly what it pays for it), but little advertising.

As I ponder the heavy losses in Wall Street late last week, I have to wonder about a financial system built on promises, but not on actual performance. That's unfortunately the situation for much of new media.

Time Inc. putting money where its mouth is

Ad Age is reporting that Time, Inc. is putting money where its mouth is. The company is developing a system to promise advertisers results or free advertising. It could be an effective counterweight to Internet advertising's disappointing lack of results (Internet ads are cheap, but so are local TV spots at 3 a.m., and I haven't seen anything saying the 'Net ads are more effective that those cheap TV spots).

Facts v. opinion. Does the nation lose?

The New York Times’ Frank Rich used the White House Correspondent’s Dinner over the weekend as his example in a discussion of how television has given up covering the news, noting the 24/7 cable “news” stations covered the dinner but not a bomb threat in Times Square.

It reminded me of a friend who is woefully ignorant of what’s going on in the world despite listening to talk radio and watching television “news.” He also regularly reads online news. Recently he asked another friend “Was there some controversy” about the 2000 presidential election. When the constitutional crisis was explained, he said, “Oh, yes. I guess I did hear something about it.” Despite listening and watching talk and “news” programs, he doesn’t have a clue about what’s really going on.

Rich decried television, especially the cable version, for its willingness to ignore facts that don’t fit its political slant. That’s a deep concern of mine. Presenting facts is at the core of journalism, and something we insure is instilled in our students. Is that going to work against them in finding jobs?

Friday, April 30, 2010

After abuse, newspaper cuts comments

To hear social media "experts" talk about their area, the future belongs to "open journalism" from "citizen journalists," with no clouds in sight. One cloud, noticed by anyone who reads comments on blogs, comes from ignorant offensive posters. They were so offensive to the Lancaster newspapers chief Harold E. Miller Jr. that he cut off comments.

The Pennsylvania publisher said strict user guidelines and the installation of software to screen objectionable language was unable to stop misuse that "can no longer be tolerated," saying it included comments that were racist, "hateful, abusive and unacceptable comments about their neighbors, area residents and the Lancaster community at large."

My biggest concerns about New Media revolve not only around profitability for all but the few biggest operations, but about privacy and problems with civil discourse. Unfortunately, in Lancaster, civil discourse failed.

New media needs more, not fewer, copy editors

Comments by the New York Times' Bill Keller during a discussion of the future of journalism prompted me to think that maybe American editors are going about this journalism thing the wrong way.

Keller praised work of the Times and the Huffington Post during the recent struggle in Iran: "Both [Arianna's] site and ours, also the Atlantic and Andrew Sullivan, during the Iran crisis all did this wonderful act of hybrid journalism about a place where the actual reporters had been kicked out, and the Iranian reporters had been thrown in jail" Keller said. "And using people on the street combined with the expertise of professional journalists to arrange, package, vet this material...we're finding more and more that having that wall be open means that journalism is a collaborative process."

Of particular interest is his comment about using people on the street "with the expertise of professional journalists." That sounds a lot like professional copy editors shaping up work of amateur reporters. This is the successful format of Korea's which has few if any reporters, but a team of copy editors bringing professional editing to amateur posts.

It's a system that I believe could produce good journalism. Unfortunately many American publishers are opting to cut copy editing, including eliminating all of them in some cases. I'd link to the layoffs of copy editors but there are far too many of them.

It seems to me that, since all of us need editing, the growing use of untrained reporters should dictate more, not fewer, copy editors.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reporters unhappy with Obama administration

Interesting report in Politico today, especially given the 40-year-old mantra by Republicans that the mainstream press (that's "lamestream press" to many commentators on the right) gives Democrats a bye.

Politico reports that the atmosphere between the press and President Obama is the most hostile in years. And "this attitude, many believe, starts with the man at the top. Obama rarely lets a chance go by to make a critical or sarcastic comment about the press, its superficiality or its short-term mentality. He also hasn’t done a full-blown news conference for 10 months.

The exception is the New York Times, which, many reporters believe, is favored by the administration.

What's new is old once again

Ad Age reports on another front in the ever-changing world of media today -- the use of free lance publications. In this case, it's purchasing material from associations of free lance writers that pay as little as $5 a story.

It's yet another case of what's new is really what's old, since these networks are very similar to associations a hundred years ago. While researching the past of Journal Sentinel columnist Ione Quinby Griggs, I found that while she was a writer in Chicago in the 1920s, her material was being syndicated by a group that later became King Features throughout the eastern half of the U.S.

If this trend continues, I'd expect the law of supply and demand to move the price up to a worthwhile figure.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Washington Post watching pay walls

Pay walls even figure in today's news about the Washington Post. In particular, Post vice chairman Boisfeuillet Jones, Jr., says that his company will "watch and see" before making any moves. In a talk Saturday but reported today, he outlined the state of the industry, making one point seldom mentioned: newspapers are largely making money, it's just not the huge profit margins of the past. He talked at length about different types of pay walls and content pay plans.

Craigslist gains, but newspapers lose

Interesting analysis of Craigslist projecting revenues of $122 million with profits of $80-$90 million this year. The story also goes into the potential concerns for the site since adult advertising makes up much of its revenue and it faces other problems.

What's missed in all this is the incredible loss of revenues to media in general. Sure Craigslist is making millions for its owners, a good thing, but that $122 million in revenue pales in comparison to the profit lost by publications that it's replaced. Newspapers posted $19.6 billion in classified advertising revenue in 2000. Most of that's gone, especially to Craigslist.

Free is good for consumers and appears to be good for one company. But it's wreaked havoc on an entire industry. And that's not good.

Pay walls cost visitors, but what about profits?

As the news business continues to struggle through dark days, we're beginning to see some glimpses of light -- not necessarily good light, but lighting up certain pathways.

For example, we now have some data about what happens when we erect pay walls. In this latest case, figures are now available for both Variety and Newsday, publications that erected pay walls. Both initially took huge hits in page views, but those have stabilized in both cases. So the question becomes: Are you making more money with a pay wall than without? With a corollary: Are you profitable? We're still waiting for those answers.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Newspaper print readership (not circulation) continues to increase

In a finding that reflects other research, Scarborough Research found good news for printed newspapers with the readers per copy continuing to increase. The study found that over the past three years, the number of readers-per-copy has risen 7.5%, to 3.30 adults in 2009 from 3.07 adults in 2007.

The findings give newspaper ad departments and advertiser media buyers something to think about. The MediaDailyNews report quoted Scarborough executive Gary Meo as saying:
"Readers-per-copy is especially important as newspapers compete for their share of a brand's media budget, particularly among national advertisers."

Ad forecast is bullish

New forecast is bullish on advertising, especially radio and local television.

The most recent numbers by Barclays Capital have virtually all segments (except newspapers and yellow pages) moving into the black in ad sales, and even the newspaper decline will be minimal. The growth will come from all over, reflecting better economic times ahead, but especially in the automobile and political segments.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Transparency would aid Internet ad growth

The chaotic growth of Internet advertising has led to one of the major factors holding it back. A study finds that lack of "transparency" is keeping a significant amount of display ads off the Net.

The depth of the concern shows up in this comment by Jonathan Margulies, a director of the Winterberry Group, which sponsored the study: "It's critical that advertisers and agencies understand the extent to which certain issues -- the possibility that ad will appear next to content that could potentially undermine its message, for example -- continue to present real threats."

The problems appear to be that advertisers can't control where their ads may be placed (the old airline ad next to a plane crash story, for example) and, even worse, placement next to inappropriate subject matter or ads appearing on pages that "defy"
"taste, respect and basic courtesy."

E-readers showing strength of printed word

A new report shows the strength of the printed word. This time it's on e-readers, where the study showed that 91 percent of e-reader owners read print or digital magazines, compared to 84 percent of all adults. That demonstrates the appeal of magazines can be directly tied to willingness to try the new platform.

The key is reading. Frankly, we're entering an age where platforms aren't as important as content, assuming the publishers can get paid for their efforts. I believe that demonstrating the audience is there will lead to the money. The study shows that e-reader readers (I sort of like that phrasing) will pay for content, if it's not exorbitant. After paying $9.99 for a paperback novel just to get something to read on a plane, I'm redefining exorbitant in my own mind.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Greed and stupidity

That's all I could think of while reading MediaPost's account of a pushback by iPad users who feel gouged by magazine publishers. The problem's that the wonderful magazine apps -- which are supposed to save magazines -- cost $4.99 an issue. As one user said, " I can get 56 issues of the paper version for $20. How am I supposed to feel about this?” If the iPad is the future of magazines, then poor management better be in the past.

By the way, cost of product is what's keeping me from buying a Kindle. With a public library right down the street and paperbacks going for $5-6 (cheaper used), why would I pay $14.99 a book? I'm going to be spending a month overseas and have been buying 30 used paperbacks to take at a total cost of not more than $60. The Kindle price would be nearly $450 for 30 books. Doesn't make sense to me.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The filterless presidency?

The daily Gawker suggests that Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are making the White House press corps obsolete, suggesting a future where "the filterless presidency" is a reality. Not that long ago, a television show called "Who Do You Trust?" was popular. Given the fact-free zones that cable television networks have become and the incredibly ignorant stuff that fills Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, I'm ready to bring it back.

British newspaper websites offer a laboratory

As paywalls rise and fall, Britain is becoming the new media laboratory.

The Times of London (a storied newspaper now owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp) plans to erect a fairly expensive paywall in June. Online readers will be asked to pay about $2 a week. Meanwhile a Scots paper, the Southern Reporter, is abandoning its pay wall.

Given that newspaper readership is healthy in Britain and that the BBC website and the Guardian, which intends to continue free access, offers solid journalistic alternatives, it will be interesting to watch. And journalism itself has a stake in the outcome.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times

It's Monday, time for some depressing news. Actually, it's both buoyant and depressing. The Los Angeles Times reports, at a time when magazines are optimistic since the new iPad seems perfect for magazines and the industry appears to be tailoring its product to the new platform, that journalistic standards are lower than ever in the magazine business.

Reporting on a survey of magazine publishers, the Times says that "about half of the respondents said that copy-editing standards for their websites were looser than for their print editions. An additional 11% said that online content wasn't copy-edited at all. The numbers for fact checking were even more troubling: 40% said that web standards were looser than print, and 17% said that they did no fact checking whatsoever online."

The report, by Victor Navasky of Columbia University and Evan Lerner of, then gets into a "speed versus accuracy" discussion, which I think is the crux. If a magazine expects me to pay (and they do), they'd better give me accuracy. I don't pay $60 a year for the New Yorker (as I do) for speed; I pay it for accuracy. I'm not going to pay a lesser amount for inaccurate stories online -- I can find enough of them for free.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Digital magazines redefined

Wonder about what makes up a digital magazine these days? The Audit Bureau of Circulations has changed its definition with the iPad, Kindle, etc. in mind, according to MediaWeek. The auditing group has dropped its demand that digital magazine be identical to the print version, merely that it include the same content and advertising.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Ready for some good media news?

Certain segments of the magazine industry -- yes, old media -- are doing very well. Think "nature, sustainability, throw pillows and Miley Cyrus." According to the Standard Periodical Directory, the past few years have seen a big jump in titles from home decorating, energy, conservation and celebrities. Leading the way was the home decorating area with a jump from 123 titles in 2005 to 337 titles in 2010. Leading the slump in titles was "sex-related titles."

Monday, March 15, 2010

Milwaukee Magazine offers an aggrated local news site

Very interesting move by Milwaukee Magazine to launch an updated daily local news site that editor Bruce Murphy says will be "in the magazine's long tradition of smart, fun, fearless journalism." And, he says, "we expect to have fun." The site,, "will conveniently combine the top stories of the day, aggregating articles from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee Business Journal, Wisconsin State Journal, Daily Reporter and many other publications. Plus, a daily column sums up coverage of the day's biggest story, what it means and why it's important." It will be fun to see if it can keep up its energy. I hope so. Competition at a professional level may drive out some of the phoniness that keeps being repeated on the Internet. But it takes a lot of staff to keep up, and, frankly, I don't see much change tonight when I checked the site again.

New survey kicks up a lot of dust

Pew's annual "state of the media" report has prompted hand wringing of all sorts. Gawker (as part of a nice summary of the report complete with a couple of the better charts) says the future is: " Facebook wall rants, celebrity tweets, Glenn Beck and the blogs that talk about these things. But it's all freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!" Fishbowl focuses on the disparity between revenues lost old media and the pittance (less than a tenth as much) being spent on new media to imply that news is dying or dead. And the Associated Press highlights a finding that people don't want to pay for news.

My only quibble is that surveys such as this are a slice of what's happening now, not what will happen in the future if the variables change. For example, AP always has the same stuff as People magazine, and it's reported all over the country (also on at least three television shows). But, somehow, the magazine manages to get readers to pay for it. Completeness, convenience and coverage will control the future, delivery systems be damned.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Staying relevant

Blogger and long-time journalist Renay San Miguel offers a rambling but interesting look at what he calls "old new media dogs," older journalists retraining themselves. It offers some gems of insight into how journalism is changing over the years, and how we can keep ourselves relevant. There's a lesson here for students as well. Keep yourselves relevant, and don't lock yourselves into any media idea -- except to always remember that it's about telling stories.

Has social media turned life into a worldwide living room?

Time magazine has an interesting take on new media by . Calling the Internet our "new living room," he maintains that social media can offer sort of a multiplier effect for viewership of big network TV events. After pointing out the high ratings for the Oscar telecast and the Super Bowl, he calls on television -- and print -- to recognize that we are using social media in a different way. He doesn't offer specific suggestions as to how to do that (and several come to mind just sitting here), but suggests that old media needs to recognize the potential. As he suggests, they need to "pull up a chair" in this worldwide living room.

Atlantic executives talk about new design and the future

The Atlantic redesigned its web site for the second time in two years, and a couple of its executives talked about pay walls, redesigns and platforms. It's informative, especially to those interested in magazines.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Digital ads pass those in print

According to Forbes, the day has arrived when American advertisers are spending more on digital media than on print.

The study by Outsell finds nearly a 10% increase in ad spending on digital media pushed it past print. However, print magazines continued to increase advertising (roughly 2%), and mobile advertising seems almost dead, off 16%. A reality check by Outsell's Chuck Richard: "The Sports Illustrated swimsuit iPhone app was touted by many as a huge success. The issue is the most hyped magazine event of the year. The app was the 33rd-highest-grossing mobile app in the iPhone store. But if you do the simple math, 32,000 people paid $2 apiece to download it. That's $64,000." A single page of advertising in the print version of the swimsuit edition, says Richard, brings in about $135,000 a page. "It's time for a reality check."

Backpack journalism in the real world

The Washington Post offers a nice feature on television -- now including networks -- turning to backpack journalists. It gives you a good idea of what life is like for a backpack journalist these days, including the downside (not enough time) and the upside (one-person camera crews don't intimidate people as much).

It also shows the continuing mismanagement of the news business with many reporters being asked to increase their workload significantly by doing their own shooting and editing while taking often-large paycuts.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pew outlines new media revolution

The rise of the Internet has dramatically changed media habits (not news), but a new Pew Research report delivers lots of news demonstrating the extent of the change and how it will impact our media futures.

The report is filled with nuggets like "The process Americans use to get news is based on foraging and opportunism. They seem to access news when the spirit moves them or they have a chance to check up on headlines." As the report continues, "While online, most people say they use between two and five online news sources and 65% say they do not have a single favorite website for news. Some 21% say they routinely rely on just one site for their news and information."

People's relationship, the report says, is portable (a third of cell phones are used to access news), personalized (nearly a third have personalized their home pages to bring them specialized news), and participatory (37 percent of all Internet users are adding news or commenting on news).

TV networks cut back on news divisions

Television networks are cutting back on news operations amid fears about the future. The latest is ABC, which is stripping nearly a quarter of its news personnel.

On the surface, it looks like they are following the oh, so successful model of newspapers (it's really hard to show sarcasm in blog posts). In fact, as you dig deeper, it looks the same. Still the New York Times article does a good job of putting broadcast news in perspective as changes sweep the news landscape.

It also contains nuggets like this, which show student journalists where they need to be going: "More journalists will become jacks-of-all-trades, wielding cameras, microphones and lights, as well as lists of interview questions. More production work will be conducted out of New York. 'The ones who fear the most from the cuts are the ones that have a single function,' one ABC staff member said." Training across platforms is as much a part of the job as learning to write a lead.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Internet advertising faces restrictions, industry leader says

Internet advertising faces major regulation, according to industry leader Randall Rothenberg. It's part of a concentrated attack on his industry, he says.

Rothenberg says that proposals are in several federal and state venues to "define nearly all data exchanged through interactive channels as behavioral, and place all of these types of ads under strict regulation."

Rothenberg has called for the industry to self-regulate and publicize its efforts.

Newspaper sites score high on trust

Even in the ever-changing media landscape these days, there are some constants. One is them is that newspapers -- and their websites -- are the most-trusted source for local news and advertising. Yet another study of media web sites released today shows this.

So why isn't this being trumpeted more? Especially the advertising area? The problem, MediaPost columnist Eric Sass says, is that "Newspaper publishers have struggled to monetize large online audiences at anywhere near the rate of their legacy print product." Alas, he's correct.

Friday, February 19, 2010

National Enquirer competing for Pulitzer

It's historic. It's news. It's sort of mind-boggling. What it is, is that the Pulitzer Board has accepted an entry from the National Enquirer as a legitimate news story. The story is the Enquirer's breaking the news story of the John Edward scandal.

Emily Miller of the Huffington Post gives credit to Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler for reversing his earlier position that the Enquirer wasn't eligible. The decision reflects the reality that news can be covered in different platforms than traditional newspaper form. Gissler is a former editor of the Milwaukee Journal, now part of the Journal Sentinel.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Offensive comments draw proposal to ban student media at Virginia Tech

Offensive comments at Virginia Tech draw a proposal to disband student media. The university isn't going to follow up, but the fact that a student group called for ending student media brings Eric Sass to comment on the future of social media and free speech.

Google under fire for cutting users' privacy

Google, which seems to almost want to become hated by copying everyone else's mistakes, is under fire for its new Buzz social media platform. The problem, privacy advocates contend, is that it automatically makes gmail users' contact list public. It's a big problem, and one that Google should have anticipated with the flap over Facebook's security problems.

Frankly, I've used gmail for more than a decade, but I'm switching if I can't shut down this "option." My contact list, boring as it is since it lists several hundred contacts, should not be made public unless I want it to. I've long said the biggest threat to the continued expansion of media on the Internet is stupidity of Internet companies who treat their users with disdain, especially in regards to privacy issues.

79% wouldn't pay for Internet site -- if same content were available free

A new survey has some interesting statistics on Internet viewers' willingness to pay for content. Actually, make that unwillingness to pay since 79 percent say they won't pay -- providing they can get the same content free.

Let's start with the fact that 21 percent said they would pay. Then add in the percentage that say they would pay if the content were improved (71 percent). Then factor in that the first group assumes they can get the same content elsewhere.

But those same consumers are willing to pay for some content, especially movies, music and games.

It seems the key is turning your content into a commodity. If I were operating a site and considering adding a fee, I'd work on a) adding exclusive content, 2) branding some of my content (bylined articles by good reporters and writers, 3) making it easy to pay. All these, of course, were what newspapers did a hundred years ago, the last time they were in a competitive environment. It worked, by the way.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Do newspaper web sites complement print -- or compete?

A new study of Australian newspapers offers some intriguing thoughts about readers, print and web both. The study, offered in the Sydney Morning Herald, says that web sites are complementing print editions, rather than competing with them. It suggests that readers use the two platforms for different purposes.

"If readers want to know more about cars, dining out, real estate and sport they will turn to the newspaper, while readers who are interested in travel, technology, and celebrities and gossip will get it from a newspaper website," it said.

For a lot of years, I've been dismayed at the quality of studies reporting on newspapers because they seldom looked at how people are using media. This one apparently does.

At the same time, the question posed in the headline above is one that I think every publisher and editor should be asking daily.

A different report of a different aspect of what appears to be the same study focuses on print newspaper sales in Australia, reporting they are doing much better than those in the U.S. or even Europe, even showing some increases.

Reporter optimistic about investigative reporting's future

An investigative reporter talks about the future of investigative reporting. The Washington Post's Steve Fainair is optimistic, although offering the usual caveats. He points out that the tools are more plentiful and easier to use than ever before.

As to the future, "I’m still in the optimistic camp. The media landscape is obviously changing in huge ways, and it’s hard to know how it will continue to evolve with the technology. But the demand for good information is not going to end, and we’re increasingly presented with new ways to get information and deliver it. Also, the situation is so much more competitive that the media itself is more accountable, which is long overdue. If you can’t deliver these days, it won’t work."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Successful retailers and Facebook: A disconnect?

Interesting report that half of the most successful online retailers have little or no Facebook presence (25 percent with none). As usual, it suggests those lacking should beef up their Facebook presence.

I'm not an advertising expert, but it seems to me that "the most successful online retailers" do have such people. Maybe they think adding to the glut on Facebook walls isn't effective -- or might even be counterproductive. I know that I really resent all the commercial entities pushing their products on my Twitter account, and maybe I represent a larger number of consumers than many of the social media "gurus" realize.

It's all in how you look at it (magazine circulation division)

Once again, we read of declining circulation of print products -- this time it's magazine newsstand sales that are off 10 percent over a year ago. Ad pages are off nearly 26 percent. Paid circulations are flat.

So is the sky falling? Let's turn it around a bit and state the news this way: Despite the worst economy since the Great Depression, unemployment more than 10 percent and much less content (26 percent cut in ad pages means a whopping hit in editorial content as well), AND lots of free content (including on the magazines' own websites), 90 percent of readers are still purchasing magazines on newsstands while paid circulation holds steady.

Sounds a lot better this way, aina?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Post columnist predicts the future of tablets

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein talked with viewers about the iPad. A lot of ideas were touched upon in this online discussion. I was struck by this prediction "Thin, light portable tablets are going to be HUGE in everything. Reading books and newspapers. Playing games. Keeping up with e-mail and stuff when you are on the move. And when you get to the office or home, you'll put the tablet into some holder, hook it up to a keyboard or mouse, and it becomes the screen for your "computer."

Blogging? It's for old folks.

Proof that social media continues to evolve is a report from Pew Research that blogging is becoming passe among teens. While blogging dropped among teens (down to 18 percent), the use of social media continued to rise (73 percent), indicating that teens are shifting from blogging to other forms of media. Blogging held steady among those older than 18. The Pew report has lots of statistics about teens and computers.