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.