Wednesday, December 21, 2011

News tops local searches, survey finds

And if we need more evidence that news sells, a new survey by Google shows that news sites top local searches. News sells.

The Atlantic makes its mark online

An interesting take on the Atlantic demonstrates how concentrating on content can save media operations. Mashable Business demonstrates how going digital can lead to profits for a magazine operation.

It turned things around by hiring good people, and making their work available to all on the Internet.

A big part of the success goes to the Atlantic Wire, on which staffers " synthesize and analyze the takes from the U.S.’s leading commentators in rapid, pithy blog posts," with links to the original. It's a lot like the Utne Reader in its early days when I read it so that I would know what other magazines to read (and what to skip). The Atlantic Wire is mostly opinion, but that's OK. Opinion is what drives the Net. After all, opinion is just more content.

'Tis the season for more stupidity

I know, I know. 'Tis the season to be jolly and merry, but the continuing stupidity of media managers staggers me. Newspaper jobs took a steep decline last year with the bulk of them in newsrooms. The Newsosaur blog has come nice thoughts on what's been happening (and be sure to read the comments for more).

To those struggling managers who sigh and say, "Well, things are bad so we had to cut somewhere," I reply: It's all about content and how stupid are you to cut content when we know there is a direct line between content and readers/viewers and profits?

Last night I was talking about something similar with a friend. I'm fortunate enough to live in a city -- Milwaukee -- where the newspaper does good work. On what it can. Its problem is that it has cut back so much that it can't cover most news. Its three Pulitzers in four years and innumerable other great investigative pieces don't make up for the fact its not even covering the basics -- like the revolution going on in our state after state government was take over by a fringe. My friend's comment? "That's why Patch is handing them their lunch." And Patch is doing it with people who were pushed out of the Journal Sentinel. Am I getting more news from Patch than from the Journal Sentinel? No. But I am getting more news from the variety of Internet locations, including some very sharp blogs.

Meanwhile the Journal Sentinel continued its layoffs. And they included secretaries and photographers -- but not CEOs or vice presidents. They don't produce content.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Journal Sentinel paywall coming soon

Early word from inside the company says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will join the growing number of newspapers with paywalls in January, perhaps as soon as the first week of the year.

Word is that home subscription charges will rise, but will offer free access to all the newspaper's online sites (except, perhaps, Packer Plus, it's wildly successful section devoted to all-Packers, all-the-time). Non-subscribers will presumably get a few free stories, but will need to pay for more than a token number. At the New York Times, the cutoff is 20; the Chicago Sun-Times cutoff is a charge after 20 free page views.

3 trends that changed the 'journalism landscape'

I find myself once again touting a post on the Nieman Journalism Lab site. Today, Ken Doctor talks about three trends that he said "profoundly changed the journalism landscape this year."

He's correct in singling out the tablet, the dawn of digital circulation and "social curation" (which Doctor defines as " social intelligence, gleaned from mountains of data . . . becoming a required part of the companies’ product development and consumer experience" with Facebook as its leader).

It's an interesting take on the future, which is more and more becoming the present.

Here's a product I won't use


Here's an announcement of a product that I don't intend to use. The Associated Press says it has a tool that will automatically correct your writing for AP style.

I don't intend to use it for the same reason I don't use Microsoft Word's automatic spelling and grammar checking software -- it's often inaccurate. Yes, I run everything (including posts on this blog) through the software. That's especially important since I think editing on computers is much less accurate than editing on paper. But looking back at some past posts proves my point: some have spelling and grammar errors even though the software checked them. If I use the wrong form of "its" or "to, too, two"), the computer doesn't blink.

Automatic checks for AP style will catch many of the mistakes, but it'll miss many others and give writers a false sense of security -- just as does spellcheck.

Friday, December 9, 2011

America marked by news deserts

Layoffs and shutdowns and other corporate decisions are leading to news deserts in America, according to Tom Stites at the Nieman Journalism Lab. What's a news desert? It's an area where news isn't being well-covered because of a lack of media.

Stites' observations are right on, and they reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a senior editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which has won three Pulitzer prizes in the last four years. He was talking about all the news around Wisconsin that the newspaper just can't cover. "We don't have the reporters," he said.

Thankfully, we don't have a news desert here. But it's close.

'People are reading more,' says Amazon books editor

As I talk with young journalists, I am often asked about their future since "everyone knows that journalism is dead because people are using the Internet instead of reading," to quote a sophomore in a recent conversation.

Frankly, I think journalism's never been healthier not only because the Internet has opened up so many new forms journalism can take (yes, I'm envious that we didn't have the digital tools when I was reporting), but because the Internet spurs reading, and reading means there is a need for writers. Ergo, journalists.

A Reuters story about the world of books begins with the accurate description: "people are reading more than ever." Sure, the story is mainly about ebooks, but Chris Schluep, senior books editor at Amazon, talks about how the digital universe sparks reading in general as well as breakthroughs in publishing. And when have you ever heard as much about reading and media as you hear these days? Sure, some is bad news (American corporations still don't get it and advertising is moving to cheaper sites), but the Internet has sparked an awareness of reading that we've never had. It's only going to get better.

Virginia Tech shooting coverage relies on Twitter


Once again, unfortunately, Virginia Tech's newspaper, the Collegiate Times, became the destination for a news-hungry America seeking to learn about a campus shooting. But this time, its coverage was quicker and more complete using a Twitter account. Yes, Twitter has limitations. But the coverage of yesterday's shootings showed how it can effectively deliver breaking news.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Al Jazeera plans bureau in Chicago

Great news: A major news organization is expanding and plans to open a new news bureau in Chicago. The not-so-great news is that it is Al Jazeera English. As American media companies pull back, foreign ones like the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera are expanding.

Actually, it is good news all around. Al Jazeera English has long been one of the world's better news sites. Its coverage was invaluable during the Arab Spring revolutions earlier this year. I got in the habit of checking it daily when we got so heavily involved in the Iraq war, finding al Jazeera's coverage a breath of fresh air since American news media was so heavily compromised in its war coverage -- a coverage that's almost nonexistent today. If you want to know what's going on in Iraq, unfortunately, you need to look overseas for coverage.

John Hendren, former White House correspondent for ABC, said in an al Jazeera release saying he'll be in charge of the bureau that Chicago reporting will give viewers a "deeper picture of movements and sentiments in the U.S." Now maybe we could get our own networks to look at "movements and sentiments," instead of yet another story about a political candidate whose star is a) rising or b) plummeting.

Monday, December 5, 2011

New report both scary and optimistic on Internet media

A new report has mixed findings for those engaged in Internet media. According to the fifth annual KPMG survey, online users are "happy to share their personal data with organizations they trust and if they get something in return, but are increasingly concerned about privacy and losing control of that data."

Tudor Aw, technology head for KMPG Europe, said that brands had to be very explicit about what they were doing with a consumer’s data. “Consumers are waking up to the idea that their data has value.”

I'm happy to share some data -- my location to the Google Maps app on my iPhone, for example -- but I wouldn't describe myself as "happy" to share most personal data, and I'm adamantly opposed to sharing most of it.

But even more chilling for the future of online media is another of Aw's observations, a growing concern about privacy, "Every year that concern worsens. This year it has gone right up to the 90% level." I have two nieces in their early 20s who just announced they were giving up Facebook over privacy concerns. That should be scaring the heck out of social media platforms, and it certainly alarms those of us who see the Internet as a net plus for media.

Is the future for magazines written in digital?


David Carr, the New York Time's media writer, says, in effect, that it's time for us print-nostalgia-laden old media fans to accept the fact that the future is digital.

Pointing to the fact that massive magazine empire Time, Inc. will now be run by digital advertising executive Laura Lang, Carr said "It’s a bracing moment for the print romantics among us. Time Inc., the home of Olympian brands like Time, People and Fortune, will be run by an executive who would not know a print run from a can of green beans."

Lang's words have indicated that she favors the digital direct-benefit approach, which runs counter to the strategies long used in the magazine field.

She may well succeed, and Carr may well be correct that her move presages a total shift in the magazine field. But we've seen an awful lot of successful executives in one field taking over media company and totally botching the job (remember Sam Zell and the Chicago Tribune or any number of manufacturing or financial companies done under by bad managers following the flawed Harvard Business School model of "it's all just about shifting numbers.").

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cross-platform magazine readers growing

In the magazine world, cross-platforms are gaining a bit of traction. Time, Inc. magazines lead the list compiled in Folio with 30% of its readers using both print and digital platforms to read its magazines. Reader's Digest, which includes the former Reiman publications here, is at the bottom of the list percentage-wise with 85% of its readers print-only (9% both print and digital).

Friday, December 2, 2011

Should we all follow Warren Buffett's example?

The rule in the financial markets is to buy whatever Warren Buffett buys. So does his purchase of the Omaha World-Herald mean we should all buy newspapers? The Christian Science Monitor suggests that's not what his purchase of his hometown newspaper says. But it still is instructive for the rest of us.

Buffett himself was quoted as telling the World-Herald: ""I think newspapers ... have a decent future." But, he went on, in terms of profits, "it won't be like the past. But there are still a lot of things newspapers can do better than any other media. They not only can be sustained, but are important.''

I suspect that the purchase was for one of the oldest reasons in the book: power. Controlling newspapers means taking control of local agenda-setting, and rich people have done that since America was a tad. Still, I wouldn't be surprised to see others follow his example. After all, we don't have to look far to find rich guys who want more power.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New York Times opens a conversation for readers

When the New York Times selected Jill Abramson as its executive editor, we knew that the Internet-savvy new editor would move the Times farther along into the digital world. She announced another step today in turning journalism at the Times from what we stuffy academics call "lecture" mode into a "conversation." Specifically, the Times made several changes to its comment system to, as Abramson put it, "improve the community experience" at the Times.

It'll be interesting to see how this whole "conversation" thing plays out. I remember my extreme pleasure years ago when I first read the letters in the Times of London. They were a conversation, and the changes Abramson announced will help with the New York Times.

Could Pulitzer Changes Mean an Award for Live-Tweeting?

I loved the headline the Nieman Journalism Lab put on its item about the Pulitzers changing rules that I used it on this item. That's reducing the changes to their minimum, but it's not totally farfetched.

What the board did was change the emphasis on its rules for the Breaking News Category: "For a distinguished example of local reporting of breaking news that, as quickly as possible, captures events accurately as they occur, and, as times passes, illuminates, provides context and expands upon the initial coverage." As the Nieman Lab folks said, "In other words, the new language seems to ask for multiple snapshots of the active, in-the-moment, messy-at-times reporting outlets are giving their readers."

The times, they are a'changing.

Internet privacy issue boils again

The Internet has exploded with stories about a major privacy issue with Android phones. Apparently a company is installing a program that tracks each keystroke. The company, Carrier IQ, claims, according to a Forbes story, that it's only aggregating data and isn't passing along anything but "anonymized" data, it still would be violating a host of wiretap laws, according to Paul Ohm, a former Justice Department prosecutor and law professor at the University of Colorado Law School.

Unfortunately, it's only the tip of the privacy iceberg, I'm afraid. I don't have any expectation that anything I do on the Internet is really private. This story shows that I may be paranoid, but I'm not wrong.

Update: Social Media Insider recounts the story with author Steve Smith adding "As the debate over digital data tracking moves from online behavioral targeting to cell phones, the stakes over the issue get higher for all sides. This is not going to go away."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

TV blog says social media doesn't drive audience to shows

While I've wondered aloud for quite a while about the lack of research showing online advertising works, I've found some on social media that casts doubt on it's effectiveness. A MediaPost blog -- TVBlog -- had some disappointing words for those looking to the Internet, especially social media as a way to cut costs, saying "Despite the hoopla about social media driving interest in new fall shows, network marketers probably shouldn’t abandon thick inserts in entertainment magazines or planes tugging banners over beaches. Not to mention cut back on their on-air promos. Which is a bummer considering using Facebook and Twitter is a lot cheaper than buying glossy pages or hiring pilots."

Sometimes you get what you pay for.


British hacking scandal reaches new heights

The news from the British phone hacking scandal revolving around Rupert Murdoch's empire (although it's far from the only offender) has been so disgusting to journalists that we've become inured to the drip, drip, drip of scandal.

But Tuesday's testimony is so openly offensive that we should all read it just to give our ethic brain nodes s a jolt. The New York Times called some of the testimony "jaw-droppingly brazen," a phrase that I've never heard about alleged journalists (and I'll not dignify those in this scandal by calling them journalists).

The Times said that after Paul McMullan, a former deputy features editor at the now-shuttered News of the World tabloid, "had finished his jaw-droppingly brazen remarks at a judicial inquiry on Tuesday, it was hard to think of any dubious news-gathering technique he had not confessed to, short of pistol-whipping sources for information."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

British hearing tars tabloids

A New York Times story sums up the British hearing into tabloid media excesses, and more than just Rupert Murdoch's empire is getting hammered in public.

It's the seamy side of journalism, and, no matter how much he protests, Murdoch is tarred by the brush his journalists used in very disgusting -- and I would maintain, unethical -- ways.

Nothing really new here, but lots of details.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women journalists harassed for their views

Jeff Soderman at Poynter explores the issue of female journalists being harassed when they use social media. It's not a new subject, but he does a good job of exploring the issue.

It seems they are especially attacked if they have opinions. It's interesting since writing with attitude and opinions seems to be the growing trend on the Internet. But sexist criticism won't surprise any female journalist; they've faced it before.

A future without daily print newspapers?

The American Journalism Review questions whether newspapers will continue daily print publication. The story, looking at the experience of the Detroit papers, which cut back three years ago, explores a future in which newspapers are only printed on certain days of the week -- with their websites becoming the platform for daily news.

Reminds me of when the Christian Science Monitor changed its focus from covering news to explaining news. It's a future that might work, although I believe that newspapers provide a lot more than just news, and, although I am perfectly happy to do crossword puzzles online, a lot of the other features -- including the comics -- would take a lot longer to find and read in online-only operations.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cutting through the brush, print magazine still most popular

Trying to justify a position using solid figures sometimes can lead to incredibly confusing stories. We get that a lot with companies trying to show that digital advertising work.

In this Eric Sass piece in the digital MediaDailyNews, we find a bewildering mass of figures and interpretations (sample: "Out of 187 million American adults who interacted with magazine content and ads in the period covered by the AMS, 54% did so via the Web or mobile platforms, including smartphones, eReaders, tablets and other mobile devices. However, 95% of the total magazine audience still consumes magazine content and advertising in print form, according to Affinity, and almost half of the audience overlapped, with 48% consuming via both print and digital channels.").

Cutting through all the underbrush, we find Sass summing up the numbers (I'm guessing "exposures" = readers or pages read) "1.278 billion exposures were print-only, involving no digital component; 135 million involved both print and digital components; and 166 million, or 11% of the total, involved only digital components." In other words, the vast majority of magazine readers still look at "dead tree technology."

Beck, Olbermann prove audience matters

In my Journalism 1964 class, I teach about what is called "the lure of infotainment" and how catering to special interests can hurt journalism. It may not be journalism, but I give you Glenn Beck and Keith Olbermann.

Both left popular platforms (Fox and MSNBC) to take the money and run for restricted, lesser-viewed formats. According to The Wrap, they're both "richer but not relevant." They traded popular, widely-viewed platforms for much smaller audiences, and have lost their power.

Content matters, but so does reaching an audience.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Social media and pysochological problems

Some evidence is becoming clear that use of social media is connected with psychological problems. Add those fears to continuing concerns about surveillance and invasion of privacy, according to the report by the European Network and Information Security Agency.

It's a report that is well worth reading.

Poynter, Jim Romenesko part ways

Once again, former Milwaukee Journal reporter Jim Romenesko has the media world all a-twitter (yes, it's a deliberate -- and very bad -- pun). In a long post on Poynter.org, new boss Julie Moos reported that Poynter was questioning the long-time media commentator Romenesko's attribution or lack thereof.

Romenesko responded on Twitter this way "@romenesko Romenesko. Poynter has accepted my resignation. Thanks to all for the incredible support today. http://t.co/rUevIN7S." [Editor's note: I put the period after the word "Romenesko" for clarity. Wouldn't want to be accused of changing quotes without acknowledging that I had.]

I'll leave it to New York Times media reporter David Carr to sum up all the nuances the way a good reporter would, but I will add that I've read Jim's blog for years and, in many ways, have patterned this one after it. The blog gave me a quick look at what was happening in the media world, and I never questioned his attribution. Yes, he often didn't use quotation marks while quoting material, but he indicated where his material originated along with relevant links.

Meanwhile, Erik Wemple at the Washington Post, an admitted fan, nicely lays out both sides of the argument, coming down on a bit on Poynter's side. He ends his blog post this way: "To all those frothing at how Moos treated Romenesko on this matter, please consider: All she asked is that he be edited."

Romenesko was planning to retire anyway, and is open about plans for a new blog/website JimRomenesko.com. The blog is up with little content other than a title, a line saying the blog "is about media . . . and other things I'm interested in" and a link to an advertising salesman.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Digital pushes newspapers; JS print gains

Digital editions continue to push newspaper circulation. A study of the top 25 newspapers showed a 63 percent gain in digital viewers. This offset declines in printed circulations among them.

Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported gains in both digital and print daily subscribers (Sunday print was off), and announced plans to erect a paywall in the spring.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

St. Petersburg Times to change names

The St. Petersburg Times, long noted for its strong journalism, will become the Tampa Bay Times starting Jan. 1. For some reason, it made me think of how what once was Wisconsin's largest bank with the franchise name of First Wisconsin Bank changed its name to some forgettable generic banking name so undistinctive that I can't even remember what it's called now.

Going back to when television stations all lost their distinctiveness thanks to reliance on outside "consultants," media managements have been driving their once-distinctive operations into faceless entities that, when they die (as more and more do), nobody mourns. I'll miss the St. Pete Times.

Study shows problems with ad opt out policies

For a long time I've felt the biggest impediment facing the online media world was secrecy and confusion. For more evidence of the potential, Online Media outlines a new report "Why Johnny Can't Opt Out" that concludes most consumers can't figure out how to opt out of online behavioral advertising.

The report, by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, found usability flaws in all nine methods tested. It's a sad commentary when the self-regulating online advertising business deliberately makes it hard to opt out (and I say deliberately because it's not that difficult to put in easily-understood opt out mechanisms -- if you want to).

How many consumers will get frustrated and just bail. I personally know several who are no longer on Facebook because of its seemingly never-ending changes to its opt out policies.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Newspaper websites' traffic continues to gain

In other news, newspaper websites continue to show impressive traffic gains -- up 21% in September, according to the Newspaper Association of America. Perhaps more significant were increases in unique visitors, total page views and amount spent on sites. Almost two-thirds of all Internet users visited newspaper sites, the trade group reported.

To paraphrase the Realtor's slogan, it's "Content, Content, Content" that attracts visitors. And trusted content.

Washington Post eschews paywall -- for now


Despite reports of success with the New York Times' paywall, the nation's other elite newspaper (Murdoch papers needn't apply as long as partisan fingers are on the throttle), the Washington Post indicated that it isn't considering a paywall.

Post Publisher Katharine Weymouth was quoted on Politico as saying: “For us, we believe at the moment it doesn’t make sense. We are making a bet for the long term. We want to be around as The Washington Post for a long time and many generations to come, and at the moment, we think that the best way to do that is to have a free website that is open to everybody and attract as many people as we can to spend as much time as they can with our journalism, and assume that that will bring them back for more.”

The story on Politico delves deeply into the current economics of the Post, indicating that the newspaper may opt for a paywall in the future, quoting Weymouth as saying it charges for editions on a Kindle and plans to charge for its iPad app.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tablets whet appetite for news, study finds

Tablet users -- no surprise here -- are more active consumers of news than they were using other forms of content delivery (I hate calling stories content and newspapers a delivery system, but that's what they are), according to a Poynter report.

Findings include:
  • 63 percent of people said tablets lead them to rely more on traditional news providers and less on news aggregators.
  • Tablets enhance the appetite for news. Fifty-nine percent said they access national or local news more often since they got a tablet. Seventy-eight percent said they follow a larger volume of news stories, and a greater variety of topics than before.
It, along with the earlier Times' report, indicates that the public doesn't really care how they get their news. They just want it. I've also felt for some time that exposure to news in any form whets the appetite for more. This is proof, I believe.

Despite paywall, Times' readership rises

Despite setting up a paywall, the New York Times reports that Internet readership actually rose 2.3% as measured by unique visitors. Page views have head steady in the U.S. although they have dropped overseas, according to Jim Roberts, Times assistant managing editor for digital.

Look for this to increase the pressure for paywalls. Rumor has it that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will move that way soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Facebook officials say new design helps advertisers

For a long time I've been waiting for evidence that online branding advertising works. Click-troughs work, although evidence is spotty on that, but I've not seen any evidence that branding work.

Facebook officials are claiming that their new design will "boost sharing activity and create new opportunities for advertisers." The idea is that the timeline will allow advertisers to link to products my friends "like" and are purchasing. We assume that will push me to buy (in fact, Facebook officials said a friend's "liking" a product increased the chances I will use it by 51 percent). Still no hard evidence.

Wall Street protesters turn to dead-tree technology

Interesting choice for the Wall Street protesters who felt their story wasn't getting told. They started a print newspaper. Certainly they've had plenty of new media "ink," lots of videos on YouTube, blogs and other electronic publicity.

But, when it came to generating buzz, they turned back to print.

Monday, October 3, 2011

70% of Americans read or visit newspaper sites weekly

A couple of years ago Marquette's Communication College sponsored a visit from a media "futurist" who said that newspapers had something valuable going for them that other media missed. It was, she said, the trust of their audience.

I remembered her comment while reading of the latest National Newspaper Association survey that indicated 70 percent of American had read either a printed newspaper or its online version in the past week. That's a pretty high number, but believable because it supports data passed along by individual newspaper companies.

The NNA said the high reader/viewership is "because newspapers still represent the most trusted source of news in America"

The survey also supported by observation -- go into any coffee shop and look at the people reading newspapers and scanning online news sites.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Some clues to newspaper success

Some studies are more valuable than others. Results from a 50-state tour of newspapers, I think, is very valuable. Husband and wife journalists Paul Steinle and Sara Brown took the tour, and reported their findings at a panel at the recent SPJ conference.

“Print is not dead,” Brown said. “We didn’t talk to anybody who believed that newspapers would be dead in the next 10-15 years.”

They didn't come away with any grand plan to insure success, but noted some qualities that work. Among them: Market size matters. Local news and watchdog reporting are indispensable assets.

Brown said that among the more successful smaller papers, the couple found several key characteristics that included a strong emphasis on local news, an ongoing commitment to watchdog reporting, fostering community dialogue and being a good organizational citizen through public service initiatives.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Suddenly, e-books are hot items

Newspapers have been incredibly slow in adapting to the digital age, but we're beginning to see progress. One application that shows potential is for newspapers and other media publications to adapt their content into virtually instantaneous (and inexpensive) e-books.

It clearly makes sense for news organizations that are generating a lot of content to compile them into e-books, which are generally shorter, cheaper and quicker to produce. Recent e-books have been produced by Huffington Post, The New Yorker, ABC News, The Boston Globe, Politico and Vanity Fair.

Let's see if the Journal Sentinel produces one celebrating the Brewers' climb toward a pennant.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PolitiFact franchises growing

Let's give the Journal Sentinel its due: it was ahead of the curve with its adopting the controversial PolitiFact ratings. The system was created by the St. Petersburg Times, which franchised it to the Milwaukee newspaper and four others.

Although its ratings have been attacked by virtually everyone (it's too easy on Republicans was one charge; now some Republicans say it's too hard on them with Democrats criticizing claiming that now that the recall elections are over, it tells the truth -- once again proving that the media can't win), it's been so popular that the system is now expanding its franchisees nationwide. It's a good idea, and I'm glad to see it growing.

Media companies -- but not advertisers -- embrace mobile technology


Several years ago I was at a conference where one of the new media types dominating the speaking roles was extolling his newest toy -- an early version of the smart phone. "This is the future," I remember him saying, holding up a phone with a tiny stream of text. I don't want to read my news on that tiny screen; it'll take all day to read a story, I remember thinking.

Flash forward and here I was sitting in a doctor's office reading the Guardian newspaper's lead story on a tiny screen. It still was slow and inefficient, but mobile has made it's place in the new media world in which we live.

A new report by Online Media Daily indicates that publishers are quickly adapting with more than a quarter of them offering mobile applications -- a doubling in the last year. The problem, as it is with all digital media, is advertising presence.

Online Media says that ad presence remains very low, which makes sense giving the small screen. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel offers tiny ads at the bottom of the screen, but tiny is the operative word. They barely show up, and still are offensive giving the small amount of real estate available.

It's an evolving technology (and the smart phone is vastly inferior to the tablet as a vehicle for media), but where I once disdained the very thought of trying to make sense of such limited text options, I now use it. So who knows what the future might bring.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Newspaper industry shrinkage expected to continue

Continued consolidation. Fewer reporters. Fewer papers. Fewer owners. More money. That's a forecast for the newspaper industry from Dean Singleton, NewsMedia executive chairman who has long predicted extreme industry consolidation.

In an interview with the Nieman Journalism Lab, Singleton said he had that vision 15 years ago when his company wasn't in the top 10 nationally in circulation. Today, it's number two.

Singleton said he didn't expect the industry to die -- just continue consolidation.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

This media merger has broad implications

Should we care about a merger of sorts between newspaper chains that don't have outlets in our hometown? The answer, of course, is yes when it's a merger between two of the nation's largest remaining chains, Journal Register Co. and MediaNews Group. As widely reported, especially in this context-setting piece by Nieman Journalism Labs, where two independent companies are forming a third company to manage the two others. It's a vastly different business model that's worth watching.

Speaking of business models, the new company's CEO, John Paton, also CEO of the Journal Register, is an outspoken opponent of paywalls and MediaNews Group has more than two-dozen paywalls already erected. Paton says it's too early for him to decide what to do with the existing paywalls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Social media editors take on another task -- debunking

Social media editors and reporters are all the rage these days with good reason. They expand a medium's reporting ability infinitely as well as engaging the readers. However, they are serving more and more as debunking editors, this Poynter Institute report says, with a new charge of not only separating the true from the false, but an obligation to let the world know about the false.

As we have moved from a slow and careful analysis of reporting before publishing to rapid posting of information, often without review of even a second person, inaccuracies are swarming the media universe. They post a particular problem for media attempting to be among the first to publish information.

Journalism on the go more than ever

As this essay by Alex Salkever on Streetfight, a blog devoted to reporting all things hyperlocal, says, the move by the Washington Post to close all but a couple of its bureaus shouldn't be surprising given the changes in the industry. It's a fundamentally sound decision aimed at cutting unnecessary costs, which (hopefully) will be spent increasing reporting. Unfortunately American businesses have a poor track record on this strategy. For example the insurance industry started these moves years ago with the result seeing declining numbers of agents along with declining service and declining profits.

Still, today's reporters can do their work in the field using basic backpack journalism equipment, which does cut costs dramatically. I look for more of this.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A question of priorities -- and losing readers

Don't take this as a criticism of Duane Dudak, the very hard-working TV and movie critic for the Journal Sentinel. Instead, it's a commentary on the times and, in my view, one huge reason the JS is losing subscribers.

While a new TV season isn't quite as big as it was when the four networks ruled, it is still a time when people change their habits, building their lives around new, interesting-looking television shows. It was a huge time of year two decades ago with the old Milwaukee Journal devoting not only more than a page in the Sunday paper, but huge stories daily giving readers not only a good overview of the new season but show by show reviews. Back then, the Journal alone had two full-time television writers along with one full-time movie critic. Duane carried the load alone for the Sentinel, but his season preview was pretty comprehensive.

These days, it's back to Duane handling the job single-handedly and the result showed up in today's JS -- a listing of show premiers with only a sentence or two for new shows. Can I plan my fall's viewing from this? Not really since I don't know if any of the new shows interest me. (For example, " 'Up All Night,' sitcom about new parents with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett; "Free Agents," romantic comedy about mismatched co-workers, with Hank Azaria and Kathryn Hahn (NBC)" tells me almost nothing.)

As I said, it's not Duane's fault, but the money-pinching management moves to cut staff and paper use have eliminated so much content that it invites readers to go elsewhere. And I have to question their judgement. A new television season deserves at least as much space and effort as one story in the never-ending series of Asian carp invasion stories.

Friday, September 2, 2011

7 JS newsroom staffers reportedly take buyout

The latest word is that the Journal Sentinel has had seven takers from the newsroom in its current attempt to slash people in the newsroom. Supposedly two more are being sought and, should they not voluntarily agree, involuntary cuts (read "firings") will be made.

I have a suggestion: Get rid of company CEO Steven Smith who has totally destroyed the company (stock is worth less than a quarter of it's value when he took the company public and began cutting) and use his multi-million-dollar pay package to increase staffing in the newsroom. That would directly improve the product.

A real news cafe

The Winnipeg Free Press offers an interesting way to engage readers -- by actually seeing them in person. Read about the newspapers' News Cafe, where readers engage reporters and editors in person. They use it to host online events as well as a base for reporters. Great idea

I remember when the Journal and Sentinel had a lively crossroads of the community in the lobby of the Journal Building (it's public service department went back decades). Of course the far-sighted (note sarcasm here) management killed the budding operation in the first of its many ill-considered cutbacks that have led directly to today's newspaper which is neither hefty in bulk nor in content.

If I were attempting to stabilize a newspaper, I'd look hard at what they are doing in Winnipeg. It seems to be working.

Journalism and transparency

OK, journalists' talking about journalism isn't rare. But sometimes it's worth listening to. Yesterday, on Poynter's blog, Matt Thompson urged journalism to follow the "scientific method" of transparency in reporting. That means reporters should make it very clear how they conducted the reporting they did, not only what a quote said but the context in which it was gathered -- that along would end some of the worst offenses of national reporters -- and how a reader/viewer could replicate the story.

Of course, that's the underlying argument in Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel's Elements of Journalism from nearly two decades ago, and the reason I still use the class in Journalism 1964, when we talk about what makes a journalist different from a non-journalist.

The point is that it's the way journalism must work for credibility today, and the more discussion the better.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Overwhelmed by friends

Nina Khosla, who describes herself as a 22-year-old designer who founded a social media startup, offers an interesting look at community, friendship and social media. Her premise is that we can become so friendly that we lose connections. In other words, we have too many friends on Facebook or Twitter just because of the volume.

This is a point I've made to several social media "experts," many of whom don't really understand. For example, I have so many connections on Twitter that my feed this morning goes back only two hours -- and it's morning. By midday when traffic rises, it'll go back about a half hour. And I don't have time to check it every half hour.

Anyway, Khosla's essay should be looked at by everyone attempting to get their mind around how social media fits into the larger mass media world.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Color the "Fairness Doctrine" gone

Broadcast's "Fairness Doctrine" is officially dead. I suppose that since it's been ignored for so long that this is a good thing. It certainly fits with our country's tilt toward corporate rule.

OK, that's the cynical view. But the truth is that actually ordering broadcaster to be "fair and balanced" is as impossible as expecting media outlets to live up to their slogans, whether they are "fair and balanced," "All the News That's Fit to Print," or even "Own Your Power." "Fair and balanced" depends is subjective. "All the News That's Fit to Print" often gets shortened sarcastically by reporters to "All the News That Fits" after their stories are cut.

It was a good effort, and it's tragic that the "marketplace" hasn't really created fairness since more than 90 percent of the broadcast comment seems conservative, while less than a third of Americans list their political leanings as that way.

But a rule that is so flagrantly disregarded should be discarded, so this is a good thing.

As you write today, think links

It's not news that we are going through a media sea change. Nor is it news that links are very important. What is news is a new study from the Knight Digital Media Center that demonstrates the importance of linking.

A blog post by Amy Gahran uses an excellent example to show how interconnected reporting strengthens individual reporting. She also discusses the past practice of major media outlets rewriting local reporting without giving any credit -- and how that practice is so questionable these days when Google so easily brings up all sources.

So it's a question not only of ethics but of creating the best content possible. At times, when I write these simple posts, I find myself with multiple links to the material I'm citing because media today approaches nearly every story from many angles. Links make our work stronger and more complete.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who pays the legal costs of 'citizen journalism'

The report was fairly simple, Elliot Spitzer -- former prosecutor, governor and commentator -- was sued for libel by two executives of an insurance giant over a column he had written for Slate. But it raised a question that is troubling more and more recently: Who foots the bill for citizen journalism?

Slate has owners with deep pockets who can afford lawyers, but many Internet sites don't. That leaves them open to pressure, especially from corporations and those who want to intimidate. Think of it, you run a neighborhood blog, writing about local happenings. A local corporation -- or even a citizen -- threatens to sue you for libel. An attorney asks thousands just to take the case, and you -- assuming you're in the state most "citizen journalists" inhabit -- don't have thousands to battle.

OK, I'm describing the problem. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to describe a solution.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

And the answer is "yes"

Are magazines treating women as sex objects more than in the past? This study uses Rolling Stone covers to dramatically make its point.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Magazines looking to crowdsource some covers


One of the things I've learned over the years is the value of reading across a broad spectrum. I've also learned that magazines like Ad Age and Woman's Wear Daily have a lot of material of interest to me.

For example, WWD offers a nice piece about the lengths magazines are going to appeal to young people, including the pictured current cover of Seventeen magazine, which is offering a cover spot to regular readers (OK, it's a contest with finalists already selected). But it demonstrates the lengths magazines will go to in appealing to their target demographics. The story has some real insights into what magazine folks are thinking these days.

It also shows how unscientific these plans really are.

Attention web designers, news works

In a sophomoricly-written piece (actually it's the stretch in the lead that I object to), Nieman Research Labs offers some excellent research and advice for news websites by examining the Los Angeles Times' website, which, it says, is showing major gains in traffic.

The report emphasizes reader engagement and constant updating, but another look at its numbers reminds me that what it's really talking about is content -- the Times is offering readers/viewers lots of content. I still think content is king. It doesn't matter if its in a blog, a story, a Tweet or whatever. If a site/stream/feed offers me something I want to know, I'll look for it.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Search engines, email still favorites

Surprise, surprise. People "stubbornly" keep ignoring social media platforms for old school search engines and email, Pew reports. That means that, no matter how dorky it is, web designers need to keep those old-fashioned technologies in mind while designing their sites.

OK, the snarkyness is mine, but after years of reading "digital experts" tell me that this new platform or that one is "the one that everybody will use," I'm sort of burned out on those predictions. Search engines do what I want, quickly and efficiently. If I want to know how something works, I'm not going to Twitter the subject. I'm going to use Google or Yahoo to find out. Same with email. I get more than a hundred messages a day. I miss so much of Twitter and Facebook because new posts keep crowding out old posts, and I'm not going to spend my entire day just updating social media accounts.

Obviously, I'm not alone.

Would you care?


Once upon a time newspapers viewed their front pages as a way to guide people into their newspapers. In fact, comics were often wrapped around the Sunday papers since they were high readership items. Editors and Publishers used front pages and headlines to make their newspapers interesting to readers.

That was then and this is now. The Richmond Time-Dispatch covered its front page with an ad. When someone complained, the publisher blithely blew them away telling Poynter's Jim Romanesko that "the reaction here is a real snoozer." I suspect that's because most people threw away the paper thinking it was just more of the trash that appears on our doorsteps or in our mail.

Or that they're so used to being abused by publishers that they don't care any more, and are too busy reading real content on their iPads to care.

EXCLUSIVE, Breaking News

A Washington media blog, Fishbowl DC, criticizes ABC for its excessive use of "Exclusive" tags on stories. It's got a great point, one that comes to mind for me just about every evening when I see Milwaukee's local TV plastered with "Breaking News" announcements (complete with dramatic sound and, of course, a dynamic logo hitting my screen). My thought when the breaking news turns out to be yet another development in a story that's hardly important: Didn't these news directors ever hear the story of "The Little Boy Who Cried Wolf?" If every story is "Breaking" or "Exclusive" what cues to to something that actually is news or is interesting? There's a reason why I turn to the "Daily Show" after viewing the promo for local TV's "top" story.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Celebrity mags lose circulation battles

Official magazine circulation figures show general declines, but especially so for celebrity publications. Here's a spot where I think Internet sites like TMZ.com or PerezHilton.com really hurt. They can report the celebrity news quicker and, since we're really talking fluff here, just as completely.

Why are restaurant sites so bad?

Slate offers an amusing -- and thoughtful -- story about restaurant web sites. Under the heading "Overdone/Why are restaurant web sites so horrifically bad," the story details the problems with many restaurant sites (of course, I agree; after having spent many, many clicks trying to get a menu on a site).

The short answer is that restaurants try to duplicate the dining ambiance, not make the site particularly user-friendly. It offers criticism, with links, and advice on how to create a great site.

Still, what's most interesting is the writing. One sample: "Still, I'm not arguing that Hubert Keller is responsible for the worst restaurant website ever created. That's a bit like trying to decide on the most awful serial killer in history." Content drives the Internet, like it does all media.

Tribune thinks about producing its own tablet


Tribune Co. is the latest publisher to flirt with the idea of providing its own tablet to those making long-term subscriptions. It reportedly would be a Samsung tablet customized to the company's major papers (including the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, Baltimore Sun).

Although some cast doubt on the idea (Wired's Tim Carmody thinks it's a crazy idea, for example), I think it shows initiative. If the app is designed well (see USA Today's iPad app), tablets offer a great deal of appeal for delivery of newspaper material. I wish them well.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

British riots and the media

More and more lately I find myself looking at overseas media to explain the all-important "why" that American media seems too understaffed to answer (I'm being kind, but I do it lack of staffing is why we read about horse-race politics instead of issues and crime report upon crime report without reporters ever seeming to wonder "why?"). Incidentally, this includes American news. The Guardian's reporting on the debt deal is much clearer than what I've read in the US, including explaining the politics behind the maneuvering.

Today, while reading a first-person report about the London riots GlobalPost.com, I saw the media being given at least part of the blame for them, both new and old media. Writer Michael Goldfarb writes that while the underlying causes are complex, television coverage stirred up emotions and texting allowed groups of youths to quickly move to areas without police. The instant news offers what's happening without context (same in Britain as in the US) while new media lets "flash mobs" coordinate. His point -- which I think is valid -- is that without the media, the riots wouldn't have happened or would have been much less volatile.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Well, I'm sitting here in my hot office this morning, playing with the cat, and reading a lot of information about the media before posting some of it, with links, onto this blog. I'm soon going to get a Diet Coke because I'm getting thirsty, but want to finish this friendly, homey, written-by-a-human post before taking a short break.

Ooops, stopped to pet the cat again.

OK, enough of this nicey, nice stuff. I was responding to a study published by the Poynter Institute that looked at Twitter posts written by humans and those generated by computers. While human-written Tweets generated more click-throughs, there is still some evidence that computer-generated Tweets have their value as well.

So, I'm going back to my usual style.

Ad Age sees magazine circulation gains

Good news about magazine circulations. Most will hold or improve, according to Ad Age. It's not great expectations, but positive news for most of them. Newsstand sales are lagging.

Article likens Murdock's News Corp. to the Mafia

And what would a day be without more about Rupert Murdoch and News Corp.? Michael Wolff (who wrote a biography of Murdoch) compares the media company to the Mafia in a long AdWeek article. After writing about how Murdoch ignored his promises in taking over the Wall Street Journal, Wolff writes: "News Corp. protects, too, its reprobates, its pirates, seeing them as, somehow, the soul of the company." It's a sad commentary on media today.

NY Times opens its beta testing site to all

New York Times introduced its public beta testing site for new products. It had seven offerings when Ad Age looked at it. This was announced some time ago, but just opened up on Saturday. It can be viewed by anyone registered with the Times, whether you subscribe or not.

Giving S&P's error a PR examination

Can you imagine a bigger public relations nightmare than downgrading the U.S. bond ranking, then being called for a $2 trillion error? That's what happened to S&P, and, according to PRNewser, the error was as historic as the downgrade.

Dwell called "most innovative" digital magazine

Which digital magazine does a poll find readers think is most innovative?

It's Dwell, followed by followed by Popular Science, Architectural Digest, Wired and, surprise, granola-crunching/planet-hugging Mother Earth News.

Interesting is that Media Daily News, an electronic newsletter that reported the survey, didn't offer a link to Dwell. Here's the link.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paywalls are coming

With the success of the New York Times' paywall, they're acomin' all across the land. Lee Newspapers announced plans for a paywall today, and there are reports that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel will set up a paywall in the near future.

Frankly, such a move makes sense -- as long as its priced properly (for example, free to print subscribers, a reasonable price for on-line only purchasers. But don't underestimate the stupidity of media managers. Lee, for example, is going to charge even print subscribers if they look at too much. The Journal Sentinel already has increased its price even while downsizing both the amount of content and its staff.* That sure makes a lot of sense: less product for more money. Hummm, wonder why circulations continue to drop.

* The Journal Sentinel is planning another round of staff downsizing. Reports are that it's aimed mostly at non-newsroom staff. Firing it's incredibly overpaid and poor performing CEO would provide much more money while retaining valuable content producers and sales staff.

Monday, August 1, 2011

How to produce and print a magazine in two days

An article in the Atlantic demonstrates the revolutionary nature of digital media. It explains how Longshot magazine, a glossy print product, is put together in two days using mostly-free Internet products.

I still believe that the revolution in printing methods, including print on demand, which has dramatic effects on book and magazine possibilities, could be the savior for those of us who want to continue to do our long-form reading on paper.

Mobile grows in importance

Mobile is now 20 percent of the Financial Times' Internet traffic.

Readers rule

It's amazing how real life keeps getting in the way of "common wisdom" about new media. For example, everybody knows that consumers only care about graphics and quick reads on the Internet. Meet the New Yorker iPad app.

The magazine reports 100,000 subscribers to its iPad app, which -- surprise -- is text-heavy like the magazine. Frankly, it only makes sense that those who like the New Yorker like text. And many of them are willing to pay extra for the Internet. Frankly, the success of ebooks had already proven to me anyway that people are willing to read text.

Once again, the consumers confound the "experts."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

ABC to stop paying for interviews

The headline on today's dailybeast.com media page was intriguing, "ABC Bans Paying News Subjects." But the subtext was even more. ABC had been paying for interviews, even while denying the practice.

Seems ABC was following a common industry practice of not actually paying for interviews, merely paying for photos or videos -- thus passing money along to an interview subject. Following the practices noted in our Wisconsin Supreme Court justices' advertising, it wasn't actually a lie to say they weren't paying for interviews because they were actually paying for the photos. Wink, wink.

Sadly, other networks (and print and online publications) haven't abandoned the practice.

Consumers hate advertising tracking

As the media become more and more digital, especially in planning, evidence is piling up that consumers are not as eager for that future -- especially as seen by the advertising industry. Yet another survey shows that a huge majority of Americans don't like their browsing tracked by advertisers, even if that resulted in more relevant ads.

I fully realize -- especially since I live in Wisconsin -- that merely because we consumers don't like something doesn't mean it won't be pushed down our throats. But I think the surveys show there is a depth of anti-tracking that must be considered.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Is the media biased? The public thinks so

Meanwhile, another poll shows that American likely voters overwhelmingly believe the media is biased. A poll by the congressional newspaper, The Hill, found that 68 percent "consider the news media biased," 46 percent believe the media generally favor Democrats, while 22 percent believe Republicans are favored, with 28 percent saying the media is reasonably balanced. Some things don't change.

Oh, yes. We're also seen as too cosy with politicians.

What is the future for comics, both in newspapers and in book form?


One area of media that seldom gets mentioned, but I believe is very important, is comics, both newspapers and in comic book and compilation book form. Comics were seen as vital to bringing in newspaper readers a hundred years ago, and I believe they serve the same function these days despite the industry's virtually ignoring them in recent years.

I don't know how many times when I was talking with readers while at the Milwaukee Journal, the comics came up. Often it was "I started reading the newspaper with the comics," or "They're the only thing my son/daughter reads." The same with comic books, which are a way of getting children to read (an active intellectual pursuit) rather than just watch television (a passive media experience).

Tom Siebert files a long and thoughtful post on the current state of the comics business from the San Diego Comic-Con (it includes lots of links for those wanting more). His takeaway is that, despite the splash comics are making in movies and on television, the actual comics themselves aren't doing too well financially but remain important creatively. Even if the 32-page, full-color comic book is merely a loss leader these days, as he concludes, its importance to the industry is that it spawns the compilation books that are big money-makers (not to the mention the films).

Meanwhile, those readers remain lonely, but Siebert's post shouldn't. It should be read by anyone interested in media future.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murdoch's scandal is a newspapers scandal

I could just turn this blog over to Rupert Murdoch coverage, and it would be wonderfully exciting, varied, and both thoughtful and frivolous at the same time.

"But I won't do that." (Meat Loaf on "Bat Out of Hell 2"; also at Summerfest a couple of weeks ago). Besides, it would be too easy. Instead, I continue to pick and poke at the many, many stories about the apparently well-earned troubles of Murdoch these days.

However, I do want to recommend Richard Cohen of the Washington Post today. Cohen points out -- correctly, I think -- that Murdoch's influence is because of his newspapers. "Newspapers pack a wallop that no other medium has." Cohen says that it was the newspapers that elected Margaret Thatcher and other British leaders, Rudy Giuliani and George Petaki in New York, and the Guardian and other British newspapers implies that he hand-picked current British Prime Minister David Camerion.

He writes that newspapers aren't Murdoch's money-makers, but they are the source of his power. We should think about that a bit (so should advertisers, who, ultimately, want power). It's newspaper. Not TV. Not the media. Newspapers.

Virtually instant e-books ofters publishers another venue

One area of journalism that is often overlooked is the importance of real long-form storytelling -- books. Like all other aspects of media these days, digital publishing opportunities is changing that form as well, not only in the regrettable loss of physical booksellers like Borders, but in the actual publishing.

A report by Jeff Sonderman on the Poynter Institute website points to some examples of virtually instant e-books as a publishing venture. It's easy and, most important, e-books can be created quickly for significant stories on which a publisher has sufficient content.

This is another example of using the technology, not letting technology use us.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

That nasty word -- paywalls -- crops up again

For at least one publisher, paywalls are working -- and he predicts they will work for all. Jim Moroney, CEO of the Dallas Morning News, told a panel sponsored by the Newspaper Association of America that paywalls are a key component of the three things he predicts will save newspapers: paywalls, revenue diversification, and strategic circulation pricing.

As part of the same teleconference panel, Mike Klingensmith of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune said that his company had dramatically raised prices all around without any drop in circulation. "The print subscribers who are with us are really with us."

A takeaway from this discussion is that print will survive, but it will take more flexibility in business practices and increases in revenues.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Phone hacking scandal leads to closing of News of the World

In stunning news, Rupert Murdoch is closing his News of the World in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.

Meanwhile, the Murdoch media empire quakes

If you are not familiar with the wonderful German word "Schadenfreude," you probably can't understand my feeling about watching Rupert Murdoch and his company reeling from reports about its News of the World British tabloid suffering after allegedly hacking into the private telephone of a murdered girl and deleting messages while police were hunting for her before her body was found.

Advertisers and subscribers are leaving not only that newspaper and others while media folks are repeating all the story of how Murdoch has allegedly lied and cheated his way to control of much of the media. Probably the best coverage is in a Murdoch competitor in London, the Guardian. That paper has at least nine stories today with links to the whole sordid affair.

By the "Schadenfreude" is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.