Monday, October 1, 2012

A print challenge to the Times-Picayune

In an interesting twist as major media companies pull back, offering fewer and smaller print editions, today marks the day the Baton Rouge Advocate begins selling its New Orleans edition daily in the Crescent City. It comes on the day the New Orleans Times-Picayune dropped its daily editions to three a week, relying instead on its website.

The Advocate also offers New Orleans residents some familiar bylines, having hired seven staffers let go (or accepting buyouts) from the Times-Picayune, a long-time respected daily newspaper.

What will be interesting to see is if enough readers miss a daily paper so much they buy the Advocate. It also comes, coincidentally, the day after the Packers beat the New Orleans Saints in a very tight ballgame, which I suspect drove up interest in New Orleans.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Journalist-based news is most trusted on the web

A few years ago, the Diederich College of Communication brought in a futurist to speak about the future of newspapers. Surprisingly, she was optimistic, building an argument that media consumers preferred news produced by professional journalists, and that newspapers' digital sites were considered the best place for them to find that news.

We've see that happen with rising viewership of virtually all newspaper sites despite a rise in alternatives to find professional journalism. It's proof that journalist-based content has a high value.

Now comes a survey reported on the Poynter site that indicates the same thing, only more starkly. Note on the charts that 61.8 percent of users prefer journalists' news while only 19.6 percent prefer getting news from friends. The survey, actual results found here, goes into much more detail. But the results are the same. Journalism is a valuable commodity, which is why a survey by Georgetown University (see earlier post) indicated that journalism graduates have a much lower rate of unemployment than average college students.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is the University of Georgia student newspaper "misunderstanding" over? I doubt it

Why do I get the feeling that we haven't read the end of the story about the University of Georgia's independent newspaper, the Red & Black?

As you'll remember from a couple of days ago, the newspaper's board decided to shift power from students to a professional. Students walked out and quickly created their own website and began posting to Twitter.. The board quickly apologized, calling the contretemps a "misunderstanding," and invited the former staff members to apply for their old jobs. Stories, including a nice roundup by the Associated Press, said the problems seemed to be "resolved" with the board's apology and discussions with students.

It's clear there were misunderstandings but they were all over the place. The board attempted to change the way the newspaper was run, apparently without consulting the students. The students resisted by walking out. The ensuing furor continued, including the board's head and a student journalist for the university's television station physically clashing.

I still don't think the board gets it. Students value their publications, and will demand their views be considered. At the same time, students sometimes are quite short-sighted about issues, and the board's duty is to think long-term. Stay tuned.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Is the Journal Sentinel for sale?

Blogger Bruce Murphy says that it might be, based on the company's buyback of all shares owned by the family of its long-time publisher, Harry Grant. The stock price has risen to a yearly high and at least one corporate raider has been purchasing shares. As could have been expected, Warren Buffet's name has been mentioned. He's said that he is is the market for more newspapers like the Journal Sentinel. There is some sentiment for selling the newspaper part of Journal Communications, Inc. but the company's retaining its other holdings, mostly in television and radio. Murphy's blog is here, and Jim Romenesko's is here.

Students, welcome to the real world

A few years ago one of my nieces was an intern at Teen People when the magazine abruptly closed. It was an awakening to the dark side of media these days. She since has switched to public relations, which has it's own dark side.

This came to mind while reading about the University of Georgia's student newspaper, the Red & Black, where all student staffers walked out after the independent newspaper's board took over operations, installing its former adviser as "editorial director," and said he would approve all stories before publication.

The Red & Black is independent of the university. The action was taken by its board.

These students are also getting, as publisher Harry Montevideo says, "experience which mirrors the real world." Even setting aside the fact the newspaper's publisher doesn't know when to use "which" and when to use "that," it's indicative of the real world in that staffers -- even the newspaper's editor who says he wasn't told about this change until he asked -- have no power, and, often, no voice.  Welcome to the "real world," students, and I hope that Marquette's student media never comes to this state. Some lessons are better left unlearned.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

As the media world turns . . .

Beware of anyone who claims to know what is happening in the media world today. A good example comes from a story today about how the merger of Newsweek and The Daily Beast is working out.

The story, in, begins under the headline: "The Daily Beast's Digital Challenge." It tells us that the merger resulted in "a publication that has crafted a model that is, by all appearances, caught between the analog and digital worlds. It goes on to say that it's not a sustainable business model, quoting Barry Lowenthal, president of Media Kitchen, saying: "Newsweek's not going to exist anymore. It will go away."

But then it quotes Stephen Colvin, CEO of The Daily Beast and Newsweek, talking about "impressive internal growth numbers," up 20 percent over last year with ad volume up 50 percent, with ad revenue at Newsweek up 13 percent.

It's interesting in part because media figures keep talking about synergy, which appears to be what's happening here, but the digital folks keep saying "It's not a sustainable model," and that the print half of the merged publication (I treat them as one) will just "go away."

The experience with college and professional newspapers is that if the print publication folds, the online version loses a whale of a lot of readers soon after.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Newspaper paywalls sprouting -- and working

The newspaper paywall trend is accelerating, a study finds, to such an extent that 84% of American newspapers now have some sort of paywall in place. A big part of the reason is that the paywall is working. Newspapers are retaining readers, and, linking free access to print circulation, has slowed down the decline in print.

The manner of paywalls range all over the place from newspapers with no stories free to ones with a few (the New York Times now allows 10 free stories) to ones with only limited material -- like sports or features -- behind the paywall.

All in all, it seems like the industry has figured out a strategy. Now they should start working on rebuilding content, which has been cut severely in most cases. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Satire is a bad word in student newspapers

Here's a reason why satire is so hard to pull off in print -- especially in student newspapers. People take it seriously.

Study shows paywall revenue to be frontloaded, in one case

There's an interesting report from Poynter about revenues and paywalls. It finds that about half the first year's total revenue comes in the first three months. It's a study from a very small, local site so I don't know how this relates to mature sites like Milwaukee's or Chicago's The report also includes the scary statistic that the average age of paid visitors rose to 59 after the paywall was erected. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

You don't need no stinkin' reporters to write stories

If number of stories counts (see previous post), then do we care whether they're written by a human, a community reporter, or someone in India writing to a formula. Yet more options are available to editors. For example, computers can string raw data into story form. Or a reporter far away from the actual story.

The problem with shortcuts is that they seldom produce good journalism. While I don't have a study to back it up, I strongly suspect that most people can tell the difference between the passionless words-strung-together by a machine or written-to-a-formula story and actual journalism. Yes, newspapers have cut their staffs way too far and they are offering way, way too little space for actual stories. But most consumers can tell the difference.

Yes, you don't need real reporters to write stories. But you need them to write good stories.

Once again. content pays off

This study finds a direct tie between number of stories on the website and more subscription revenue.

For those of us on the content bandwagon, it's yet more proof that we're right. The report in Poynter quoted Press+ cofound Steven Brill as saying, "“If you want to sell journalism, you have to do journalism." It's logical. It's a basic tenet of journalism. It's correct.

Unfortunately, given the vast amount of really bad journalism (see next post) out there, I'd caution that it should be good stories to really add up the numbers. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Americans lose confidence in television

Americans' confidence in television news has hit a new low, according to a Gallup survey. Survey authors said, "It is not clear precisely why Americans soured so much on television news this year compared with last." Let me make a couple of suggestions. The first is the product is pretty weak, especially since cable television has gone so heavily toward opinion. The second is that this is a continuation of the almost 40-year long push by politicians to blame the messenger. Most of my adulthood has seen media vilified -- and that's taken a toll.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Younger people more willing to pay for news

Young people who disdain buying print media may well hold the key to the future for newspaper and magazine companies.

The reason? They're more willing to pay for digital services on tablets and smart phones, a study shows (see chart, above; other charts and the study here).  "The research suggests that, as more younger people buy tablet devices, willingness to pay money for the news products many publishers are delivering to them may grow," according to 

Perhaps most interesting is that while respondents said they weren't too interested in paying for news, they actually purchased news at a higher percentage. In other words, they don't way to consciously think about paying for news, but they will do so.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Can partisanship hurt American newspapers?

Sorry it's been so long, but this has been a very busy summer with lots of planning for major changes coming for Marquette student media.

However, this story illustrates the continuing experience of American newspapers in reverting to the past. In this case, it's further illustration that our rapidly segmenting news media is continuing a slide toward a partisan press, such as we had in America partisan press during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century when news outlets (generally newspapers) were openly affiliated with a party or political idea. That's where names like Waukesha Freeman, Manchester Union-Leader or any of the various newspapers called Republican or Democrat originated.

Erik Sass reports that purchases of newspapers by politically-oriented owners with open partisan leanings "threatens the editorial independence of some publications." He specifically cites the recent purchase of The San Diego Union-Tribune by a real estate developer who opens says, according to Sass, that the newspaper will be a cheerleader for a downtown stadium.  Frankly, the newspaper's previous owners were often accused of slanting the news so it's only changing the message, not the tone.

This trend, added to the increasing segmentation of the Internet and the open partisanship of cable television, allows us to only know all the news deemed important by likeminded media. It's interesting to see that issue being intelligently explored by Aaron Sorkin's HBO show, The Newsroom. And, yes, the show is highly partisan itself. Still, it is exploring some of the weaknesses of partisan media.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ever heard of Journatic? You should

Journatic is the organization that largely uses algorithms and offshore "reporters" to write local news. The Chicago Tribune, in its continuing descent to irrelevance, has signed with the company to produce content for its TribLocal editions.

Building off that, published an interview with Journatic CEO Brian Timpone, who does an excellent job of describing just what the Journatic produces for newspapers while not really describing how it does it.

To be totally honest, I'm not dead-set against using outside providers like this for some of the excruciatingly-detailed obtaining content (though I refuse to call them stories) like bringing in agendas of city council meetings or other routine data collections. I just want journalists to be interpreting that data.

But clearly part of today's media management is in love with things like Journatic. It's flashy. It's new. It's digital. It's cheap. Therefore, it will be a success.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Is citizen journalism going mainstream?

Once again the question of citizen journalism is being  addressed. Frankly, it's a subject that won't go away, especially as traditional media is peeling away staff, leaving itself unable to cover much of its former territory. At the same time, others in the broader community are flowing into the vacuum. Some of these newcomers actually follow good journalistic practices (and I would include some of the advocacy bloggers in this camp; if they seek out truth, it doesn't have to be balanced).

What's prompted today's musings is a column posted on titled "Citizen journalism: Ready for a rewrite." Columnist Tom Grubisich uses the hyperlocal university newspaper the Columbia Missourian to frame his argument that citizen journalism is entering a new phase, paired with traditional journalism. It's an interesting concept.

Monday, April 30, 2012

What's the purpose of a newspaper?

There's been a lot of discussion lately about the possibility of some newspaper websites releasing information to some premium subscribers in advance of, or even in addition to, anything published in the paper. The proposal by a Reuters blogger suggested the New York Times might release sensitive business news early to those who paid for the serve.

As you can imagine, it's kicking up quite a fuss. Here's a nice discussion of the subject by Matthew Ingram on His piece is titled "What is the purpose of a newspaper," which cuts to the heart of the idea. It's a piece that will stretch your mind a bit about what's going on in our business.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Rupert Murdoch on the future of print newspapers

What would a day be without word from or about Rupert Murdoch? Love him or hate him -- and there's little in between in our business -- Murdoch is probably the most important single figure in the media business.

So when he says print newspapers will die but it might take 20 years, it's worth reading.

Advertising Age reports his testimony during Britain's inquiry into telephone hacking where to talked about his believe in what lies ahead. While I might question his ethics and even his judgement, I've found Murdoch's predictions to be spot on. He also goes on at length about the situation caused by the digital explosion, including why newspapers should demand payment for access, in his opinion. As usual, well worth reading.

Kim Kardashian and the news of Osabama bin Laden's death

Fascinating story reported in the Times of India about how celebrities and opinion leaders spread the news of Osama bin Laden's death via Twitter. The conclusions drawn by researchers, the newspaper reported, found that celebrity equals followers, which meant that when an opinion leader, like a former aide to Donald Rumsfeld who was identified as the first to mention the death, or a celebrity, like Kim Kardashian, tweeted the news, it was widely spread.

Another finding was that by the time television first announced the news 21 minutes later than former Rumsfeld aide Keith Urbahn broke the news, 80 percent of the Twitter posts were reporting it as fact.

Perhaps most surprising was the role of celebrities who are mainly non-political in spreading the news of a serious subject. It demonstrates an aspect of crowdsourcing that we don't often talk about.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Newspaper website traffic rises 4.4%

Newspaper website traffic is up more than four percent in the first quarter, according to the National Newspaper Association. The report has lots of other statistics, but a key takeaway is the newspapers seem to have figured out a way to appeal to their audiences, one that I suspect is based on doing their job -- providing news.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Journalism graduates have lower unemployment rate than average college grads

Everybody knows journalism schools are turning out students who can't get a job, right?  Wrong. A new study from Georgetown University (which doesn't have a journalism school) says the unemployment rate for journalism school graduates is below the average of other recent college graduates as well as being lower than the general unemployment rate.

The survey said that recent college graduates with an undergraduate degree in journalism have a 7.7 percent unemployment rate; experienced grads have a 6 percent rate, and people with graduate degrees in journalism have only a 3.8 percent unemployment rate.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Murdock sweats; I enjoy watching

Speaking of journalism and ethics, is everyone enjoying watching James Murdock sweating it out in court over the hacking scandal as I am? The testimony over the past couple of years has demonstrated that everything people said about the Murdock empire was true (OK, not really everything, but an awful lot -- especially about its ethics). I've only linked to one story, and there are many, many more. It's all such fun.

Breivik's chilling testimony sparks an interesting discussion of journalim's duties

Years ago while covering a fire in southern Illinois I had a father come up to me crying, showing his blistered hands, and wanted to tell me the details of how he could hear his three children trying to get out of their blazing house and crying "Daddy, Daddy."

They died, and I remember every moment of that "interview" to this day. I also think about that night and his emotional story and question what was my duty: to tell his story, which he wanted, or not.

These memories of self-doubt are stirred by an interesting discussion in the Sidney Morning Herald of the merits of media censoring hateful testimony of Anders Bering Breivik in which he is dramatically describing how he shot his 77 victims last summer in Norway. It's the kind of question that editors wrestle with all the time. The paper reaches out to a variety of people for their views, including an attorney, a psychiatrist, and a woman whose father was one of Breivik's victims.

The rational discussion of journalism's duties shows once again that journalists have a great responsibility in deciding what to publish -- and the answers, like those I faced outside the burning house, aren't easy.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Guardian writer is spot on, as the Brits would say

It's almost worth more that this report on the Pulitzer prizes comes from a British newspaper than it is to report on its contents, but the most analytical piece I've seen on the Huffington Post winning a prize does, indeed, come from the Guardian.

Nevertheless, the analysis from Columbia University professor Emily Bell in the Guardian offered a forward-thinking look at the change in the journalism awards that allowed a site such as Huffington Post to be considered.

As usual, I recommend you read the comments. They offer some other views.

Newspapers discover profits in online subscriptions

Bloomberg media columnist Robin Farzad discovered something surprising the other day -- newspaper managements may have stumbled upon the path to success in the digital age. It's online subscriptions.

Using the New York Times as an example, Farzad outlines the profits being reaped from circulation sales, even while acknowledging continuing declines in advertising revenues, including, surprisingly, online advertising revenues.

Still, the Times model shows that content alone can lead to profits, if managed correctly.

If a video ad runs in the Internet forest and no one watches, did it make an impression?

Interesting. The headline on the OnlineMediaDaily post was "Americans watch billions of video ads monthly." The report went on to say that, based on data from comScore, video ads reached 51 percent of Americans with each watching an average of 53 video ads a month.

Can't dispute the data, although that seems quite high, but I will question the wording of the story. It assumed that just because I clicked on a site containing a video ad that I watched the ad. I don't. Using me as a typical heavy Internet user, I think of the video ads I come in contact with. They come on, and I do something else until they've used up their allotted 20 sections (the average length, according to the data), then turn to whatever it was that I wanted to do when the ad started. It's a big jump from a video ad playing to my actually watching it.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Once again, tweeting gets someone in trouble

Gotta love people. We in journalism school after journalism school echo editors in telling students and journalists that they are risking major embarrassment by posting inappropriate material on social media venues. And they still don't listen.

Today's object lesson comes courtesy of Richard Grenell, a newly-named campaign official with the Mitt Romney campaign. Grenell reportedly has removed thousands of tweets that -- again reportedly -- made snarky comments about the media and various women Democrats.

His response was the old attempt used by those caught with their hand in the cookie jar: The tweets were all meant to be jokes, he told  the Huffington Post"My tweets were written to be tongue-in-cheek and humorous but I can now see how they can also be hurtful. I didn’t mean them that way and will remove them from twitter. I apologize for any hurt they caused."

RIP for Facts, which died April 18

Chicago Tribune columnist Rex Hupke offers the obituary for Facts, which died April 18.  It's a spot-on indictment of the media, which far too often treats facts as objects that are up for debate. My hope is that Marquette journalism graduates know better.

According to Hupke, "Facts is survived by two brothers, Rumor and Innuendo, and a sister, Emphatic Assertion." 

Friday, April 20, 2012

A new media take on, well, new media; It brings some light to political bias

The new media has brought forth upon this continent a totally different news landscape -- one that is often fresh and invigorating. Let's spend a minute to look at a couple of elements of that landscape today, both sparked by a fascinating article in the current Shepherd Express alternative newspaper.

The first is the substance of the article, titled "Have 'independent news service' groups crossed the line?" It's a substantive look at the nonprofit news groups such as Wisconsin Reporter, Media Trackers, Wisconsin Policy Research Institutes and the MacIver Institute. All purport to offer news, that, the article claims, is solidly affiliated with right-wing, mostly Republican organizations, including everybody's favorites: The Bradley Foundation and groups affiliated with out-of-state conservative business-tied groups.

While it goes too far at times (not all the stories are slanted), the article does the best job of anything I've seen at publicising the financial ties between the groups and political operations. It's to be commended -- and read -- because so much of the new media seems to be accepted on faith, without looking at whether there is an agenda.

The news organizations, by the way, are finding welcome ground since so much traditional media has pulled back in coverage that news-hungry citizens are so open to any coverage of things like state news that they often accept stories as fact without looking for the slant.

The second element of interest is that it was written by Chris Liebenthal who honed his skills on several blogs, especially at Liebenthal is as dependably left as the above listed groups are right, but he is a wonderful example of how one can use a blog to establish a presence in the community. We have a host of blogs, both left and right, that bring spice -- and often facts -- to the public discussion. It's what new media does best, and it's a good thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

First a chuckle, then more sobering thoughts

A Milwaukee Journal Sentinel business blog reports that news of a new Harley-Davidson factory in Milwaukee is sweeping there world. The only problem is that the world-wide reports are based on a recently-reprinted 1918 magazine report.

At first, the instinct is to chuckle at it -- as we did with the Chinese news reports quoting a story in The Onion as fact. But it does point to a continuing problem. News in the digital university looks alike, so it's sometime hard to separate "real" news from "fake news" or old news. Mediation makes a difference.

Guardian moves ahead into new media realm

Few newspapers have embraced "new media" models as eagerly as London's Guardian, which has long worked to integrate its traditional reporting/writing/publishing with new, digital forms of journalism. It's going farther, according to CEO Andrew Miller.

The Guardian is going to reach out to its audience using what he called the papers "Open Newslist." "We encourage people to interact with it, and we are also trying a live blog of what we are discussing during the day," he said. Miller said the Guardian has going from "being a UK paper with 3000,000 readers to a global news organization with 65 million unique users, according to a story on It's still an experiment, but a lively one.

Miller's talk at a digital media conference in London laid out the paper's plans for its future. It looks like a good plan, at that.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A nice newspaper success story -- using new media

We don't really need more proof that content drives online viewership, but it's instructive to examine what the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal World is doing. According to a story on NetNewsCheck, this small newspaper of 16,000 subscribers has approximately 477,000 monthly unique viewers because it has worked hard to bring them in with unique content.

Most, naturally, come for its strong sports site, along with a strong health site. But some of the content shows how far down a media outlet can drill. For example, the site boasts individual baseball cards for every area Little League player. It's the kind of content that draws readers -- names make news -- that a local newspaper can provide without much fear of competition.

As the NetNewsCheck story says, a quote from longtime editor and member of the family that owns the paper, Dolph Simmons Jr., in 2005 is just as applicable today: “Information is our business and we’re trying to provide information, in one form or another, however the consumer wants it and wherever the consumer wants it.”

Information equals content, and content equals information. It's an idea that works.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Some thoughts on Keith Olbermann

There's not been much news over the weekend in the battle -- now legal -- between Keith Olbermann and Current TV, the latest media company to fire the controversial personality.

Over the years, I've enjoyed watching Olbermann who sort of epitomised the current cable TV host -- engaging, outspoken, often insightful, and always opinionated.

At the same time, I've realized, mostly from good reporting, that he could be extremely difficult to work with. He also was, at times, pompous, vain, guilty of overreach, and seemingly unfair. All words that apply equally to many in both old and new media.

But, above all, to the viewer, he was generally entertaining -- I'd make that always entertaining except for his "special comments," which often were exaggerated to the extent of being boring.

Still, there was a lot said over the weekend about the current battle, and it helps put Olbermann into perspective. One of the best was Sharon Waxman's analysis here, which called him an "arrested adolescent." New York Times is here.

Even though I never could find Current TV so I haven't watched his current iteration, I'll miss Olbermann.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some thoughts on alternative media and its role

As a long-time follower of (and believer in) alternative newspapers, I'm heartened by a column in Baltimore's City Paper in which its editor says in a column summing up 35 years, that his paper needs to define itself better.

That's the secret to alternative media, how you define yourself. The Shepherd Express can't define itself as being the not-Journal Sentinel, because there is lots of competition out there doing just that. The more alternative media defines itself on its own terms, the better positioned it will be to take a constructive role in the vital job of disseminating information.

And I still remember a Marquette student when we were discussing "alternative media" who said, "The Journal Sentinel is my alternative media." It's a great point

Here's what happened when a Seattle newspaper went only-only

One of the continuing stories of old v. new media is that of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, once a Pulitzer-winning newspaper, now living only as a website,

It's been three years since the newspaper went online-only, and its story demonstrates just what can happen when a newspaper goes online-only. The short version of the story is that it immediately loses readers/viewers -- lots of them. And, of course, it loses staff -- lots of staff.

But, the bottom line is that it still exists, even if only a shell of its former self.

An apology from Spike Lee, and a few thoughts on ethics

It was a short little news item this morning. Spike Lee apologized for retweeting an item giving George Zimmerman's address. The problem, he said, was that it wasn't the Trayvon Martin shooter's address but that of an elderly couple. "I Deeply Apologize To The McClain Family For Retweeting Their Address. It Was A Mistake. Please Leave The McClain's In Peace. Justice In Court," Lee tweeted.

The much bigger problem than the fear Lee's tweet caused among the McClain family, who received threats, is that the new media allows amateurs to spread news, sometimes without thinking. There's a group that's offered a bounty for Zimmerman, and I'm sure there are many people who want him dead. Unfortunately this is America today, which means many of them are armed.

Journalists are taught first to get the facts right, and second to put their messages in an ethical context. Lee -- and the millions of others using new media and social media to spread messages -- are far too often inclined to write first and think later.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Wired tries out a new, maybe-intrustive ad technology

Remember that scene in "Minority Report" when Tom Cruse enters a store and is inundated with advertising messages. There's a new advertising wrinkle that seems to offer the potential of something similar happening when you get near a magazine.

Wired magazine reportedly is placing a new technology called near field communication chips in it's April issue. If your mobile device (that's the umbrella term for smart phones, etc.) gets near the magazine, it'll suddenly be showing a demo of the new Lexus and it's fancy electronic apps.

I realize I'm old fashioned (heck, I'm just plain old, at least in terms of digital generations), and I love QR code technology, but I think I like me choosing what ads to watch, not the magazine.

Layoffs all over the place, but not newspapers -- today

Not a lot of good news out there today. Actually, there's a plethora of bad news with layoffs at CNN (cuts seem to be in long-form TV journalism as the network readies outsourcing and acquisition plans), Bloomberg (switching to a "digital-centric" model, which means replacing TV jobs with digital ones), and AOL (not many details yet, but it's the second wave of layoffs this week).

What's it all mean? Just that the industry shakeup continues with no segment stable.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How much online video should newspapers use?

There's an interesting discussion on about the philosophical differences among newspapers on how to use video. Using the Wall Street Journal, which is spreading video all over the place, and the New York Times, using two stories a day, as bookends, the story discusses the pros and cons of newspapers getting into the video business.

The reason behind it, of course, is money. The story says ad dollars are flowing to the video-heavy sites.

I'd pick up on a point deep into the PaidContent story to suggest a reason why some news organizations might be leery of too much video. The story says one potential problem is that "much of the content is virtually unwatchable. While viewers may accept a clip that lacks studio-style polish, they will probably balk at a six-minute clip of a fidgety print reporter who can’t make eye contact with the camera."

Given that professional sites are attempting to build on their professionalism, poor video seems to me to be a very bad choice.

Traditional news sites outshine social media sites

Despite what you might have heard, social media has not taken over the news business. In fact, only 9 percent of American adults say they get their news direction from Facebook or Twitter. Most continue to go directly to news websites, use keyword searches or aggregators.

That's really not much of a surprise to me. Admittedly I'm older than many in the Pew Research Survey, and the survey has much, much more than just this number (frankly, the spread of mobile technology and the somewhat surprising fact that is building on loyalty for traditional news sites are much more important), but we hear so much about social media -- which is gobbling up so much of the advertising dollar -- that it's welcome to have some sanity returned to the business.

In short, readers trust old brands for news. They also like news-specific sites for their news reporting while leaving the latest friend checking in at Appleby's or niece needing a piece for Farmville to social media.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Journalism as a good idea

How could I not link to a post titled: Why studying journalism is still a good idea?

The essay by journalism student Mona Zhang on 10,000 Words blog starts by acknowledging the economic weaknesses of some of the key areas employing journalists, but then talks about the skills -- and their marketability. For example, she says correctly, Internet and online publishing are among the top three growing industries, and the study of journalism prepares students for careers in those fields. Writing. Reporting. Knowing the right questions to ask. These are very marketable -- and useful skills.

So there are lots of reasons to study journalism. And a third of our Journalism graduates last year got newspaper jobs with another third getting jobs in other forms of journalism, proving the value of the skills taught.

Want local microsites with lots of viewers?

If you want to be really depressed about the future of our business -- and of an educated public -- read this analysis of hyperlocal TV sites. The good news is that they are making a lot of money and being viewed by lots of people. The bad news is that there's no there there. Almost no news.

The Internet won

That's the only observation needed on the news that Encyclopedia Britannica is going online only.

Cosmopolitan is taking aim at Latina market

Cosmopolitan is launching a version targeted for Hispanic women (two issues a year planned now), Ad Week reports. Cosmopolitan Latina will be printed in English, setting it apart from most magazines aimed at Hispanics.

The magazine says the new version will be franker than most magazines aimed at that market: “What typically happens when you have a magazine or product targeted toward Latinas is, it has a very wholesome, family approach,” said the magazine’s editor, Michelle Herrera Mulligan. Cosmo Latina will provide “the kind of conversation that goes on when the door is shut, when we can talk about things openly and honestly."

It's a huge market, and one that is growing every day.

Poor web design seem in online survey

Poor web site design shows up again in a report about brands' sites. Biggest problems seem to be illegible type and inefficient task flows, according to this study. That's also pretty obvious to anyone who spends a lot of time trying to hunt products on the Web. Seems to me this might be an area for graduating students to look for jobs.

Restating the news

Here's how a blurb about Chicago Tribune staff cuts was reported on a media roundup I read: "The Chicago Tribune cut about 15 editorial employees Thursday as the media company continues to shrink its newsroom."

Here's how I would rephrase it: The Chicago Tribune cut about 15 editorial employees Thursday as the media company its drive toward seppuku.

The Tribune has cut deeper than any fat that might have been in its newsroom. Now it's deep into cutting bone, nerves and, of course, brains.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Philip Meyer on digital journalism

Philip Meyer -- the guru of precision journalism -- gave a talk in October to an Austrian conference that I just got around to reading. I was derelict in my duty. Not only should I have read it last fall, I should have made it required reading for my classes. It's published by Nieman Reports, and you should read it.

Meyer links two major strands of journalism, the precision journalism field in which he was so important and narrative journalism, the field of Gay Talese and Truman Capote and Mike Royko and Jim Stingl. And, I would add, so many digital storytellers today.

Journalism feeds on facts, and the Internet culture makes facts available to us in such a stream that the need for journalism -- for mediation -- is more important than ever. As Meyer said, "Instead of replacing journalism, the Internet is creating a new market need: for synthesis and interpretation of the ever-increasing stream of facts."

We need structure to see “the truth about the facts,” as he quoted from the 1947 report of the Commission on Freedom of the Press led by Robert M. Hutchins.

One takeaway from the talk: "Precision journalism borrowed the tools of science. Narrative journalism was based on art. In their early stages, these two approaches seemed to be in conflict. My argument today is that, in the 21st century, we should consider the possibility that we need both." He couldn't be more correct.

The Internet gives us the capability of offering any story in any fashion. The facts are there, but we sometimes lose track of the need for organization, context, telling a story. What the two strands of journalism have in common is recognition that raw data require structure to be made coherent.

There's more, much more, but this single point makes the case for journalism and journalism education.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A thoughtful look at paywalls

And for a balanced and thoughtful look at paywalls, look no farther than Ken Doctor's essay on the Nieman site.

He takes on the myths about what he says really is charging for digital access, which is a more inclusive term than paywall, which is only one form of charging. His conclusions:

Paywalls will cost digital advertising. Not happened yet.

Paywalls will reduce churn, the number of readers leaving print. It might be working, at least for Sunday sales.

Paywalls will bring in new money. Seems to be happening.

Speaking of the New York Times . . .

. . . a financial institution, Barklays Capital, says the Times' paywall could bring in $100 million a year, and has a number of other good attributes, including lower subscriber churn. I believe the latter is one of the key reasons for newspaper paywalls -- protecting print subscriber bases. Will it be enough? Who knows? But doing nothing definitely doesn't work.

What did I learn here?

My first thought when I saw a story was on Huffington Post about New York Times editor Jill Abrahamson speaking at the South by Southwest conference was that this should be good. Old media talking directly to new media. The Time's new editor connecting with a much-needed audience. Then I read the story. Frankly, it didn't tell me much.

I thought, she did have to actually say something, right? So I read another story, this was on the Poynter site. Again, it didn't tell me much, but did say I could learn more on Twitter using the hashtag #FutureNYT.

I read three or four more stories, and realised something I've long known -- people often don't really say anything at these conferences. Oh, there are always a few facts, but nothing substantive -- despite the thousands of cites Abrahamson's appearance garnered.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Is Twitter financially sound?

Twitter is getting a good press lately with Bloomberg Businessweek declaring the company has turned its financial world around. Gawker, however, offers a different story -- one of a company that is losing far more money than it makes, and doesn't seem close to turning it around.

Why do we care? If a company doesn't make make money, it merges with one who does or goes out of business. Twitter's huge user base indicates that we like it. So, presumably, we don't want it to go away. It'll be worth watching for those who look at Twitter as a means of publishing news.

Higher resolution iPad offers a file size challenge

With every good thing that comes along in the digital world, it seems there is an equal bad thing. The new iPad offers great resolution -- which poses a major problem for digital publishers. Great resolution = great file size. asks "Will the new iPad put display mags on a crash diet?" in its headline. The story explores the issue of resolution and file size (thus download time and storage space on your tablet). Some publishers are embracing the challenge. Others seem a little more reserved.

It's going to be interesting to watch what happens. My hope is that I'll be watching more than that stupid downloading icon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rush Limbaugh and new media

Distasteful as it is to get into the mess created by Rush Limbaugh's slanderous attack on a college student (granting that Limbaugh's not a journalist but there are some basic human ethics involved), it's instructive to follow the role being played by social media in putting pressure on advertisers. Several stories go into detail about it. Bloomberg here; Business Week here; here.

The third link listed may be the most interesting. It's a crowdsourced listing of nothing but messages, in this case under the title "Why Limbaugh Lost the Slut War." The first message is instructive. Containing the errors and inaccurate information we've unfortunately come to expect from such messages and reflecting a conservative bias, it still offers the most cogent argument about Limbaugh's error in a message from "Freedomfighter: "Limbaugh's message control depended on a mass media monopoly that no longer exists. In the bad old days Rush, by carefully screening callers, cutting off anyone who went off message, and being under the radar of his critics who rarely listened to his program (Al Franken's otherwise tedious book on Rush opens hilariously with Franken barely able to endure Rush's long winded self promotion of his stupid neckties) could run his show as he pleased with very little pushback. Only when he ventured into a medium like television, where he wasn't as skilled or where he wasn't the producer (Monday Night Football) did he suffer major humiliations." It cuts to the heart of Limbaugh's current problem: He can't control the message in new media and social media.

I suspect this will become another good case study of media and message.

Alternative media looks to the past for the future

In yet another case of where traditional journalism is being recreated in a new media world, the Association of Alternate Newsmedia, which you've probably never heard of, is creating a kind of exchange papers/early Associated Press-style system of sharing content. It has the promise of improving content among alternative media while spreading their messages inexpensively.

Early newspapers subsisted on exchanging their content, often reprinted stories from other papers made up the bulk of their content, enriching their experience by multiplying efforts of their small staffs. That's exactly what is likely to happen with the new association. It's a good thing because content is king, and this will add content to yet another form of American media.

And, you know, this system worked pretty well in establishing our newspaper history. It may work as well in building a new model of media.

Monday, March 5, 2012

When class discussions spil over into real life

During an interesting class discussion on crowdsourcing today, one of the students asked "But how would we know the story was true?" when talking about non-journalists posting stories. I was thinking of that tonight when I looked at an interesting essay on a website I'd never heard of until finding it tonight in a discussion of Pew Research's new survey that suggests in its headline: "Newspapers; It's not a revenue problem, it's a culture problem."

The essay was by Matthew Ingram of Building on the new report, which you should read, Ingram offers some perspective and analysis of the numbers and findings. Frankly, this is what non-traditional and new sites can offer to build our confidence. Well-reasoned analysis is part of that value-added material that journalists can bring to their offerings to bring readers.

Ingram is pushing newspapers to make major changes and the "culture" is that of established news management that is afraid to disrupt its traditional culture. "But for too many newspapers, disrupting their own culture is something that just doesn't come naturally, and But for too many newspapers, disrupting their own culture is something that just doesn't come naturally, and that could literally mean the difference between life and death.

Newspaper glass half-full (or half-empty)

There's a wonderful example of viewing the media glass as half-full or half-empty in the above chart from Mark Perry at the University of Michigan showing newspaper advertising revenues are at the levels of newspapers in the 1950s. A story by Steve Myers on the Poynter site lashes it up with ASNE's newspaper employment numbers showing employment at 1970s' levels.

Glass half empty version: Newspapers are virtually dead since ad revenues are so low, and they're working their staff way too much since newsrooms have 1970s' staff numbers and 1950s' ad revenues.

Glass half full version: There are still lots of newspaper jobs, although much tighter resources due to low ad revenues. Newspapers are leaner, more-efficient operations with much more flexibility than ever before -- and there are all sorts of new opportunities. Myers reports that circulation revenues are up due to higher prices, while digital revenues are also way up.

I hate Firefox now

Rhetorical question (but maybe all the intrusive spyware will catch it and pass it on to Mozilla management), but does anyone actually like the new Firefox design? I spend hours clicking the ALT button so the stupid browser will display the very important tabs that are hidden in normal view. And the window tabs at the top of the page are too small and hard to read.

Since I won't use Internet Explorer, I'm shifting everything to Safari, which I also don't like, but I dislike is less than I dislike the new Firefox.

OK, I feel better now.

Do paywalls work out?

Excellent story by Russell Adams in the Wall Street Journal asks whether paywalls are successful. He points out that most newspapers aren't showing huge numbers of new digital subscribers, but correctly observes that isn't the point. Retaining print readers is.

Adams says, "Executives say these efforts are less about adding digital subscribers than they are about eliminating readers' incentive to ditch their print subscription for free alternatives online." He then points to cable TV that are opening online operations to paid cable subscribers.

It's an excellent refuting of the argument that low numbers of digital-only subscriptions indicates that they're a failure. It is convergence, folks.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Online streaming increases TV watching time

For years I've wondered why the commercial television networks didn't repeat shows, like we've become used to on HBO or Showtime. I remember when I quit watching "Lost." I loved the show the first season, watching it faithfully until I went to a beach over the winter holidays, and came back to find myself three shows behind. That was the last time I watched the show, and I could have been kept so easily.

That came to mind with a little story from MediaPost offering statistics on how a network online presence increases television watching. It increases total watching time, not just watching missed shows. I think it increases out interest in shows with evolving storylines. Sorry nets, but we don't like on your schedule any more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Digital free for Post, but extra content available

The Washington Post is trying something different, Poynter reports. It's offering free digital apps for iPhone, iPad and various other smart phones, but adding premium content. This is the basic model cable television used. It worked for them, and I don't see why it won't work for the Post.

Meanwhile, Warren Buffet, who knows a few things about making money, doesn't understand the newspaper industry giving away online content, the Post reports, but thinks "they will have a decent future if they continue delivering information that can’t be found elsewhere." "He says,newspapers need to make sure they remain the primary source of information about subjects readers are interested in," the Post reports.

Hearst predicts half revenue to come from digital

Speaking of digital media, as we do so much these days, AdWeek reports that Hearst is anticipating that half of its revenue will come from digital subscriptions this year. Hearst charges extra for digital subscriptions, which may explain why its newspapers are dying so quickly.

Journal Sentinel move gets attention

Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel paywall (oops, they like it called a "digital subscription package"; sounds better) gets a lot of attention in a long story on Poynter, with a lot of details that haven't been locally reported. Apparently it's successful enough that other newspapers are look at how and what they are doing in Milwaukee.

There are some worrisome notes, especially on pricing. Along with an announcement that the "digital subscription package" -- which is free to print subscribers -- will soon have a tablet app, is the ominous phrase that " the tablet launch will come with a free-to-subscribers, two-month trial period," implying that print subscribers who want to use the tablet app will be charged extra. That means more revenue, but removes any incentive there is to remain print subscribers.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Now, a word from the other side

As long-time readers know, I really like print publications and believe they have a future. I'll give you some reasons why, but first here's the other side: Jordan Kurzweil at says "It’s been said before, but it needs saying again (and again and again): PRINT IS DEAD."

Kurzweil, CEO of a digital company, makes a good argument for why print has no future and that media companies should clear the decks for a digital future if they have any hopes of having a future.

My quibble is that he's ignoring media history, which shows that media has adapted tremendously over the years and few forms of media actually die. Most evolve. (Remember radio was going to kill newspapers, television was going to kill radio -- and certainly kill newspapers; none of that happened.) The point is that media evolves rather than dies.

As I look across the room to a iPad and type on a laptop while watching the Wisconsin-Ohio State basketball game on television, I certainly appreciate digital media, especially well-designed web sites. But I keep seeing people reading and buying print products, and I can't imagine some of them -- think National Geographic magazine -- losing a print presence.

And, in fact, some of his arguments try to argue both points. After making an argument that people want digital rather than print, he then says that Patch "can't seem to find readers or revenue," and, after making are argument that content and technology are equal, he states that content is the "most cherished" asset. Sorry but one can't have it both ways.

Still, Kurzweil has some good points. Print media has been poorly managed, although I think it's getting better lately. Younger audiences skew digital; most old media web platforms are awful; and, of course, that print revenues are declining.

Read his article. It's thought-provoking.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Print newspapers most trusted for election news

A few years ago one of the speakers Marquette Journalism brought in to discuss our field's future talked about something newspaper had that, she said, was a unique and valuable asset. That was the trust of the industry's readers.

Now comes a survey of likely voters in the 2012 general election that shows she was correct -- the most trusted source of election information is print newspapers. At the same time, there appears little trust in blogs and social media. The report in the Christian Science Monitor quotes Ben Agger, director of the Center for Theory at the University of Texas, Arlington’s Sociology Department, as saying that people haven't trusted politicians since Watergate. Now, he says,“they don't trust news media to provide anything but infotainment,” with print newspapers trust numbers higher than the rest.

Boston newspaper eschews the Net -- and it pays

Meet the Boston Courant, a weekly of 40,000 readers and rising, one that is profitable and filled with advertising.

What doesn't it have: a website.

Nor does it have a Twitter feed, a Facebook page or anything else to do with the Internet.

It's not that publisher David Jacobs doesn't appreciate the Internet, Nieman Reports says, it's just that it doesn't seem to make business sense to him. To paraphrase, the current business model ain't broke, so why fix it? Jacobs is not alone in eschewing the Internet; many other weeklies aren't on the web. But he has spent more than $50,000 designing a web page (eight years ago), but just doesn't see the business model that would make exchanging his current system for a digital one work.

With paywalls thudding down all around, maybe he's right.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Gannett adds paywalls

Gannett announced plans to erect paywalls for "scores of local community newspapers nationwide," according to reports. Nine of its community papers already have paywalls, most of the rest will be getting them now.

But not USA Today -- at least for the present. The company said it had no plans to erect a paywall for its national newspaper.

Of course, money is the reason. The company said that print and broadcast advertising revenues were way down pushing it to find other revenue sources -- like paywalls for digital.

Wisconsin newspaper numbers hold up

Amid all the despair and gloom covering the traditional media business these days, it's nice to see a bit of facts thrown in that might dispel some of that dark cloud. The Wisconsin Newspaper Association reports that not only are there as many newspapers published in the state (similar to national reports), but readership is growing due to fast-growing digital readership.

Speaking of digital readership, sparking up a glum earnings report for the fourth quarter of last year, Milwaukee's Journal Communications, Inc., publisher of the Journal Sentinel, reported 8,800 digital-only subscribers in the month and a half since it erected a paywall with 75% of them outside the newspaper's print delivery area. Print and broadcast advertising declined, but digital advertising continues to grow.

The reader numbers -- and holding steady on number of newspapers -- isn't bad for a "dying" industry.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Don't blow it, media

Yet more evidence that despite the growth of new media, Americans turn to old media for their news. The report, on NPR's Early Edition (follow the link to the NPR site, which will play the audio story), relies heavily on a Pew Research report to demonstrate that, when it comes to election news, Americans want old media.

"Social media has been much heralded but relatively little used by average voters and average citizens," according to Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center.

He may be correct, but old media -- with news operations cutting reporter positions and subsequent loss of content and advertising continuing to shift away from heavily-used media in favor of cheap and unproven Internet options -- continue to miss the point. Audiences are driven to trusted sources. Let's hope someone on the media side cuts the slow version of seppuku being practiced by old media.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Professionalism of newspapers in India questioned

I recently spent a couple of weeks teaching a Marquette University Diederich College of Communication-sponsored journalism workshop in Ahmadabad, India, so I was struck by this story from Bloomberg View concerning journalism at the two top -- and growing -- print newspapers in India. Together they sell more than five million newspapers a day.

Basically, the story attacks the journalism of the two, the Times of India and the Hindu, finding it lacking in much of the basic integrity as well as professionalism seen in journalism around the world. I talked with executives from the Times of India, and both in informal and formal speeches they echoed some of the concerns about how journalism is practiced in their country.

Further, Father Vincent Braganza, head of St. Xavier's College, which promoted the workshop we taught, was quite open in his disappointment concerning journalism in India, which he said was shallow, lacking in ethics and rife with errors -- all elements of the Bloomberg story.

My view after reading the Indian papers for two weeks, is that the criticism is quite true. The Times of India would be considered sensationalist by American standards. Word choice is atrocious, and errors are common. Frankly, the Hindu is dull.

Father Braganza's solution is the teaching of journalism, which is rare in that country. Only a handful of journalism programs exist, he said, with most journalists trained in English departments. Father Braganza says that means they lack grounding in ethics and philosophy. That would explain the shortcomings seen in the Bloomberg piece. Despite growing sales, that lack of professionalism bodes ill for India's future.

Social media more addictive than tobacco or alcohol

I'm sure it's not going to come as a surprise to anyone, but a new study showed that social media -- especially Facebook and Twitter -- are more addictive than tobacco or alcohol. I do believe that it had good ramifications for the news business since it is getting more closely integrated into social media.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Social media continues to stir us up

Boy, are we conflicted about social media. A new study reported on Online Media today says we "hate" it when we are targeted on social media, but we "like" it when companies offer social media sites.

A good bit of this comes from various privacy issues Facebook has had over the years. People clearly don't trust the site, but they use it.

Advertising teasing their Super Bowl TV commercials

If you believe as I do that content is king, there's an intriguing new trend among advertisers to tease their Super Bowl TV commercials online in advance of the big game.

A New York Times story on the commercials focuses on moves by Volkswagen to tease its commercial on YouTube. It quotes Mike Sheldon, chief executive at Deutsch L.A., the agency it says created VW commercials last year and this year as well as this year's YouTube teaser, a takeoff on "Star Wars" called the "Bark Side" as saying the tease produces a "halo effect." Viewers "like to be let in on the joke, let in on the story early," Sheldon says.

It's also a wonderful example of how interconnected we are all becoming. I read a print story, am posting it on the Internet about a company's using the Internet to promote television commercials.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tablets continue cutting into print sales

I've had this sneaking feeling ever since seeing the first tablet that it was the future of news media delivery. Nothing has dissuaded me from that belief.

Latest evidence is research reported on that showed professionals owning tablets are using much less printed product. In fact, 72 percent are buying fewer newspapers, 70 percent are buying fewer books, and 49 percent fewer DVDs.

And, by the way, Robert Andrews of gets special props for using "fewer than" rather than the incorrect "less than" you generally see.

A related story in the New York Times showed that ownership of tablets and e-readers almost doubled over the holidays. 'Tis true even in the Byers/McBride/Caspari household, which now boasts an iPad being used mostly as an e-reader. A Kindle Fire is on the horizon.

Newspaper industry should look at cable TV's past

So what is the future for newspapers? An interesting essay by Nathan Myhrvold on Bloomberg View says newspapers should look at how cable television built a market even with free competition.

The answer: Quality and quantity of content.

He asks: "Could newspaper journalism likewise entice readers to pay for online news? People like quality journalism, so I believe that, ultimately, they can be persuaded to pay for it. But as with cable, the price will have to start low; it can then inch upward as the public gradually accepts the new business model."

Of course, the newspaper industry is headed the other way by cutting staff, which means less quality and quantity.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Post examines the way we consume news

The Washington Post used the South Carolina primary election as a lens to look at the way media consumers are moving into silos in types of news coverage -- moving away from mass media into much more limited media consumption. Ultimately, it's a vision of a sad world where facts are less important than ideology. Still, it's the world we living in.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The truth and the media -- Controversy

When New York Times public editor Arthur S. Brisbane asked the question of whether media (he said newspapers, but it applies to all media) have an obligation to point out when a source utters something that isn't true, I doubt he thought it would controversial. I believe he was reacting to the flap over Politifact.

But he touched journalism's hot button. Politifact is controversial because it draws conclusions. If you agree with them, it's great. If you don't, it's journalists run amok.

The Atlantic has a nice roundup of the flap over Brisbane's column.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Shoppers prefer websites to apps

I'm back from a workshop overseas, and the media world continues to swirl. Buyouts in Chicago, downsizing in other dailies, and some interesting findings about tablet use.

I've spent the last year or so asking people who I see with tablets what they use them for. Primarily the answer has been email, Facebook, and e-books. Now comes some interesting research reported by Direct Marketing News on shopping trends on tablets and smart phones. No surprise to me, but consumers prefer using websites to apps. Sort of deflates a lot of the overblown rhetoric about how they love apps. I, too, love apps but for specific things -- and that's not purchasing things.