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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

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November 20, 2006

Hundreds of American Newspapers Surrender

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Posted by Vin Crosbie

white-flag.jpg

Newspapers all across America are using newsprint to wave the white flag, surrendering to the major search engines.

Earlier this month, 50 American newspapers agreed to have Google sell some of their online advertising inventories. Those newspapers include The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune.

Today, 176 other American newspapers announced their agreement to have Yahoo! sell some of their online advertising inventories. These include newspapers owned by MediaNews Group, Hearst, Belo, E. W. Scripps, Journal Register, Lee Enterprises, and Cox Enterprises.

Welcome to the wholesale surrender of major American newspaper companies to the search engines!

The chairmen of many of these newspaper companies are claiming the deals represent victories or advantages for their newspapers, but their claims are hardly true. The deals instead represent their failures during the past ten years. You can see this when looking back on the long perspective (which is why I've pictured the white flag atop the mountain, above).

Reporting Yahoo!'s arrangements with those newspapers, The New York Times today mentioned the effort ten years ago by the New Century Network consortium of the largest American newspaper companies -- Advance Publications, Cox Newspapers, Gannett Company, Hearst, Knight-Ridder, The New York Times Company, Times-Mirror, Tribune Company, and The Washington Post Company -- to form a common online advertising platform and also a common news search engine that included all their newspapers content and advertising space. But the executives of those companies bickered and failed to work together, and the New Century Network effort collapsed.

Little was done in the nearly ten year interim. Three of those companies (Gannett, Knight Ridder, and Tribune Company) joined forces to create a common online job ads services (Careerbuilder.com); and, along with Belo, McClatchy, and The Washington Post Company, a common online automobile ads service (Cars.com), but those online ventures intentionally excluded many other newspapers companies.

Moreover, almost all American newspaper companies during the past ten years have decried the growing market power of the online search engines. Google and Yahoo! have captured more national online advertising, and almost more local online advertising, than all American newspaper sites combined. American newspapers also worry if the search engines' news search sites sucks online traffic from their own sites. (In Europe, the World Association of Newspapers is leading an effort to sue or block the search engines from accessing newspapers' contents without remuneration.)

However, now most of those American companies or their successors have agreed to let Google and Yahoo! sell their newspaper's online ads. So, much for newspapers competiting with those search engines for ten years!

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

November 9, 2006

No newspaper (or Web site) ever went out of business for lack of content

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Posted by Ben Compaine

Earlier this year a thick volume was published with the descriptive, if uninspiring, title Handbook of Media Management and Economics. The editors of the Journal of Media Economics asked me to use a review of the book to expand on the state of the new field of media economics and management. I have posted the complete review at my Web site. In brief, what I wrote was that it is difficult—maybe impossible—to understand the dynamic of the media landscape today without some basic knowledge of economics in general and the micro economics of the media industry in particular.

For about 20 years I have been using a line with industry and academic audiences: “No newspaper ever went out of business for lack of content.” (The folks running the media know this). And the same applies to those who publish magazines and books, operate radio stations, cable networks and even Web sites.

The responsibility for that survival sits not only with management but with every employee in each enterprise. No matter whether the central mission of a particular media organization is news or information or entertainment, a piece of that mission statement needs to include something to the effect that its product must meet a need or want of some audience.

One of the editors and an author of the Handbook, Sylvia Chan-Olmstead, recounts in the Preface her experience at an academic mass communications conference, where a respondent to one student’s paper that had used media management theories “blasted her study.” The respondent’s argument was that the student should have relied on “serious” mass communication theories and left the “business stuff to the people from business schools.”

That respondent represents the “head in the sand” attitude that remains apparent among some journalists, “reform” advocates and even in some schools of communication. Think about it: For anyone who feels that the media have a special role in society and who wants those who control the media to take that mission into account in their decision-making, would it be best to leave it to “those folks in the business school” or to decision-makers who have been schooled in the ways of the media along with an understanding of how their industry functions and thrives?

Large publishing enterprises that grew along with the steam driven rotary press and the railroads did not fully take shape until the 20th century. The earliest substantive work I have found devoted to a media industry was O.H. Cheney’s Economic Survey of the Book Industry, published in 1931. In that landmark work he noted that management and control methods were inadequate, hazards and wastes were high, and the distribution system could not handle a reasonable volume profitably. Little, if anything, had change in that industry by the time I revisited the book publishing industry in a 1978 study.

Most early “research” of the media industry was in the form of histories, though with an occasional nod to the economic side of the business. James Playsted Woods subtitled his 1949 book Magazines in the United States “Their Social and Economic Influence.” When Alfred McClung Lee published The Daily Newspaper in America in 1947 he included sections on Ownership and Management as well as Chains and Associations. However, he had no research to refer to. For example, he described the acquisitions and divestitures occurring during the 1920s and 1930s at Hearst and Scripps-Howard, among others. He quoted the vice president of the Lindsay-Nunn chain, who said in 1930, “I think it is becoming more and more evident that it doesn’t matter who owns the newspaper as long as it is operated vigorously and fairly. The average reader doesn’t bother about the paper’s masthead.” Lee added “Good theories, perhaps.” But then he speculated with his own theory that perhaps readers do care about editorial policies.

That’s all that existed: speculation and assumptions. Thanks to research that started in the 1960s we now have real data, actionable information that tests the assertions and justification of the stakeholders, strategic planners and policy makers. Plans and policy based on rigorous data is far sounder than those based on opinion.

Today more of us understand that the media are businesses, even if run by a union, a not-for profit organization, or an employee-owned commune. And except for a handful of true idealists who don't mind living in their parent's basement (or come with their own trust funds or well paid spouses) the best people expect to be decently paid. They also expect reasonable travel budgets, resources and up-to-date equipment. That means they need to work for organizations whose income exceeds their expenses and keeps growing, the better to provide them with better wages and resources. Income must be generated to invest in new plant and equipment and to keep pace with old and new competitors.

Whether as journalists, film makers, MBA managers, media entrepreneurs, investment bankers or FCC staff, the capacity to understand developments in the media industry and analyze its activities will only become more challenging. Enhancing our understanding of media economics and applying it to media management is critical for a vigorous and thriving media arena. The coming of age of the disciplines of media management and economics is symbolized by the arrival of this Handbook and could not have been more timely. After all, no Web site ever went dark for lack of content.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: media industry