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Vin Crosbie Vin Crosbie
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Dorian Benkoil Dorian Benkoil
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Bob Cauthorn Bob Cauthorn
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Ben Compaine Ben Compaine
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Dorian Benkoil senior consultant at Teeming Media. An award-winning journalist and editor, he was a foreign correspondent for AP and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for ABCNews.com. At ABC News he moved to the business side, handling sales integration and business development, before joining Fairchild Publications as General Manager for their Internet division, becoming editorial director for mediabistro.com, then a consultant for Teeming Media in New York. He graduates this year with an MBA from Baruch's Zicklin school of business. Learn more about him at Benkoil.com or his blog - MediaFlect.com.

Robert Cauthorn is a journalist, former vice president of digital media at the San Francisco Chronicle, and was the third recipient of the Newspaper Association of America's prestigious Digital Pioneer Award. He launched one of the first five newspapers web sites in the world and is generally considered to have delivered the first profitable newspaper web site in 1995. Cauthorn has been in the middle of the transition from old media to new and is recognized as frank-talking critic when he believes newspapers stray for their mission. In mid-2004 he became the president of CityTools, LLC a new media startup based in San Francisco.

Ben Compaine has divided his career between the academic world and private business. He was a journalist when manual typewriters were considered state of the art, but also led the conversion of his college newspaper to cold type. He has started and managed weekly newspapers. His dissertation at Temple University in 1977 was about the changing technologies that were going to unsettle the landscape of the staid and low profit newspaper industry. Since then he has focused his research and consulting on examining the forces and trends at work in the information industries. Among his most well-known works (and the name of his blog) is "Who Owns the Media?".

Vin Crosbie has been called "the Practical Futurist" by Folio, the trade journal of the American magazine industry. Editor & Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry, devoted the Overview chapter of executive research report Digital Delivery of News: A How-to Guide for Publishers to his work. His speech to the National Association of Broadcasters annual conference was one of 24 orations selected by a team of speech professors for publication in the reference book Representative American Speeches 2004-2005. He has keynoted the Seybold Publishing Strategies conference in 2000; co-chaired and co-moderated last year's annual Beyond the Printed Word the digital publishing conference in Vienna; and regularly speaks at most major online news media conferences. He is currently in residence as adjunct professor of visual and interactive communications and senior consultant on executive education in new media at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and meanwhile is managing partner of the media consulting firm of Digital Deliverance LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.
About this blog
Two forces have shattered the news media. Technology is the first. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, for more than ten years now the news industry has mistaken new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or analog products. Estrangement is the second. The news media has lost touch with people's needs and interests during the past 30 years, as demonstrated by rapidly declining readerships of newspapers and audiences of broadcast news. How we rebuild news media appropriate to the 21st Century from the growing rubble of this industry is the subject of this group weblog.

Rebuilding Media

Monthly Archives

June 29, 2006

Frustrated in Amherst

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

I'm in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the Media Giraffe conference and am frustrated.

Most of the speakers from mainstream media seem to have an intrinsic belief that the package of journalism they're been providing for the past 50 years shouldn't change, plus that their journalism ("quality, objective journalism") simply needs to be placed onto new platforms (the Web, mobile phones, etc.) to get more people to use it and ensure the future of journalism and the news media in general.

The facts belie their faith in that belief. Newspapers' and news magazines' circulations and readerships are steadily declining, as is listenership and viewership of news broadcast. Some publishers and broadcasters claim that their websites' increasing numbers of users show that there are no declines but increases. But I know that the data from those sites show that those users actually use the news media online far less frequently and much less throughly than users of those media's traditional print and broadcast products. People are 'voting with their feet' and rejecting mainstream media's package of journalism, whether in print, broadcast, or online.

Meanwhile, I'm also frustrated by the alternative being offered here: the utopian fantasy that if the news media would only incorporate 'citizen journalism,' all will be well. Bullsh*t!

Yes, I think that most of mainstream media long lost ago lost touch with a plurality — if not majority — of their audience. I agree that much of traditional media might have been complacently 'talking down' to their audience for years. I indeed think that "citizen journalism' is an excellent tool for helping to repairing those problems; but it is just one of many new tools needed. Most of "the people formerly known as the audience" still want to be the audience, don't want the onus of reporting the news themselves, and the ongoing data — including those from 'citizen journalism' projects that have existed for a few years — about citizens' involvement in journalism isn't and won't reverse the declining usage of news. Facts, not faith.

During the opening session of this conference, I raised my worry about 'citizen journalism' being peddled as a panacea. But Jeff Jarvis, my co-moderator of that session, cut me off. "I don't think that's the question!"

Well, thank you, Jeff, for telling the conference that what you're co-moderator is asking is not the question. I think it is. I'm not alone 'Citizen journalism' shouldn't be a sacred cow. Certainly not at a conference whose stated purpose is to examine the future of journalism and participatory democracy.

Jeff has claimed that if only one percent of a site's users engage in 'citizen journalism,' it will create a "democraticized community." I think he's an advocate who's making the proof fit the results. His claim reminded me of certain 20th Century nations' claims that their 99 percent voter turnouts proved that they're democracies. No, give me usage rates of 40 percent (like U.S. voter turnout) or even 20 or 10 percent, and I might believe. Sorry, but one percent participation doesn't make something a success or a democracy.

There is a pile of solipcism in the news industry. We like to report the news, so we think that most people would, too. But I fear that some advocates' single-minded focus on 'citizen journalism' is distracting the news media from many, many other changes it must make. The advocates are succumbing to Maslow's Syndrome — when the tool in your hand is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. 'Citizen journalism' is a wonderful tool, but more tools than just that are needed to repair and rebuild the media.

Moreover, researchers and analysts such as Prof. Robert PuttnamBowling Alone) have ably documented that we live increasingly in a nation of couch potatoes when it comes to the news usage, civic involvement, and comity. Traditional media editors have long believed that they somehow can control that by changing the story package, but there's widespread evidence that their belief is just an article of faith and not fact. Likewise, advocates of 'citizen journalism' believe that they can that they have that influence, too.

No, just giving the tool of 'citizen journalism' to the public won't reverse the declines. More changes to journalism than just 'citizen journalism' are necessary. What's needed is not just including 'the people who used to be known as the audience' but also changing the core journalism by the people who used to be known as Knight Ridder.

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Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

June 14, 2006

Newspaper Websites' Average User Aging as Quickly as Print Readers

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

The average age of a user of American newspapers' websites has increased by five years during the past five years, according to annual survey data I've seen from Belden Associates. The data strongly indicate that the American newspaper industry's strategy of going online to appeal to younger readers is failing.

The average age of a user of American newspapers' websites was 42 during 2005 and 37 during 2000, according to Belden. The average increased during four of the past five years.

True, the average age of the website user is younger than that of the average reader of a printed edition — 42 versus 55. But the American newspaper industry's online strategy has been largely aimed at reaching users in the 25 to 34 age plus those in the 35 to 44 age group in general.

The Belden data shows that the ranks of newspaper website users who are age 25 to 44 have steadily declined during the past five years while those in the oldest age group (55 plus) have increased.

If the American newspaper industry is to reverse its declines, it must steadily decrease — not increase, the average age of its users — whether users of print or online.

Greg Harmon of Belden Associates showed me the data during Editor & Publisher and MEDIAWEEK magazines' Interactive Media conference.

Each year since 1999, Belden has interviewed more than 134,000 users (including 38,300 during 2005) of 39 U.S. newspaper websites of various sizes. Here are some Belden highlights about the users:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

June 4, 2006

World's publishers gather in Moscow, but it's the editors who are leading

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Posted by Ben Compaine

I’m in Moscow, where I will be attending some of the sessions of the World Press Association Newspaper (WAN) Congress and the associated World Editors Forum. One early observation from what the organizers have put on the program is ongoing concern about the online world for the editors, but business as usual for their publishers.

On the Editor’s Forum is a keynote address by Columbia Business School’s Eli Noam, whose theme starts with the warning “Today's newspaper will become a news-integrator, but the problem for traditional news organisations is that this type of virtual integrator function can also be done by others.”  Other speakers here (remember, this is are newspaper publisher and editor conferences) are Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, Corante Media Hub colleague Steve Yelvington, Yahoo! News’, Neil Budde and  Google News’ Nathan Stoll. Mochila.com and Microsoft have their presence here as well.

Unfortunately, the sessions for the publishers are far more mundane, despite promising titles. A session with the promising description of the “latest research and strategy reports in the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project” is about classified advertising. A session headlined “The Product Innovators” will feature “The Future of newspapers - newspapers of the future” with that digital innovator Axel Springer of Germany and a “Review of the Russian media scene.” from TNS Gallup Media. Of interest, perhaps, but hardly the stuff of shoring up a sinking ship.

In all fairness, WAN has always been heavily European with a strong South American and Asian presence (China has a impressive delegation of 41 registered participants, compared to the 70 or so from the U.S.) In many regions newspaper circulation is still growing, thanks to improvements in literacy that expands the universe of readers and the lower penetration of cable, DBS and the Internet than in the West. That said, the publishers might be serving their future better by attending the Editor’s Forum.

While the New York Times Co. and the Washington Post have some reasonably high level people attending, is there any message in who is missing: no one from McClatchy, Gannett or Tribune Co. (other than a mid level European manager from the Tribune News Service).

If  any worthwhile insights stumble out of these conferences, I’ll be sure to share them.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Newspapers