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.