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.
I’ve said (and perhaps blogged — who can remember) that while I find Twittering for its own sake inane, from a societal perspective utility will come when enough people Tweet that a cloud is created to monitor the zeitgeist. So, let’s say a few hundred, or thousand, people give their thoughts on the Pope from inside his talk at Yankee Stadium. Or a bunch of people from a disaster zone (this is not them asking for help — which is also valid — but rather getting an idea of the general tenor of a situation): panicked; need help; all’s fine; more food. And so on. Amalgamate them and we can start to get a sense of what folks think or feel, at least feel enough to Tweet.
Today, BuzzMachine pointed to Twisorti, which parses for emotive words like “love” or “believe” or “wish”. It’s a start of the kinds of intelligence that will become the semantic Web. Imagine if the application were smart enough to not only search for specific words, but look at Tweets in general, and see what trends and thoughts are emerging, in general. Cross-reference that with search or SMS messages … well, you get it; it becomes a read on “society” — or at least the society that’s using the technology. (And of course, if we want to put our marketing hats on, a way for brands to monitor messages, at some point.) Even better is if and when the cloud can include not just Tweets, but all the bursts from everywhere. Like, whatever becomes the main competitor to Twitter. (Because, as we noted earlier, Twitter has a problem that may hinder its survival.)
There’s been a debate on a Poynter Institute journalism discussion group about how to increase pageviews, bring in new traffic to news websites, to increase ad views, when newspapers are struggling to bring in digital revenues, and that inventory is topping out. My friend and mentor Vin Crosbie points out how numbers from the Newspaper Association of America show that even for the best of the best newspapers, users are coming only an average of once per week, and spending only five minutes per session. Newspapers, he says, are general interest publications.
Meanwhile, another participant, Amy Gahran, has asked why newspaper execs are limiting their vision to commoditized pageviews on websites. Shouldn’t they be thinking more about how to add ad revenues to feeds, mobile distribution, RSS, widgets and the like?
And I’ll add a third thought: Newspapers aren’t really a single general-interest publication, but rather -- in a digital age -- an amalgam of targeted niches. Sure, in print, it’s one branded publication that you hold in your hands and flip through as you’re interested. But on the Web, it’s a local sports “vertical,” a local business “vertical” and so on. While the general interest local news areas of the site will probably remain commoditized, the more targeted areas with a high interest and usership should be sold separately and at a higher CPM. If the frequency is as low as Vin says, that can be made a strength, by asking advertisers to understand they’re buying engaged targeted readership, not frequency or reach.
Similarly, AP announced its test of a mobile initiative to give more content and ad outlets for digital distribution. . That should make some folks in that discussion happy.
Former Wall Street Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz’ inaugural commentary for the paper today repeats a fair amount of what he told the Chicago School of Business last month : that James Rothschild was annoyed over how the telegraph leveled the information playing field (and that we tend to overestimate technology’s effect in the short-run, and underestimate it long-run. (Witness the initial hype over the Web at first, and how it’s now part of daily life with little fanfare.)
But a lot of what he said at the CSB speech -- a thoughtful analysis of today’s media landscape -- wasn’t in the column and bears repeating. One crucial point he made was that B2B information applications now often lag behind consumer ones. Consumer-focused products tend to have better interfaces and applications than the high-priced business and financial services ones. He calls this a “real challenge for the B2B industry, which has so far been less affected by the digital age than B2C.”
“Much of the innovation is based on the broad consumer market,” B2C rather than the B2B market, he says. This is a see change. It’s been a given that people pay handsomely for business-oriented information, and get real value from it. But Crovitz notes that financial professionals with high-priced terminals at their desks today will often turned to Yahoo Finance. This movement has big implications for B2B information providers.
Other points he makes:
* Subscription plus ad revenue “works very well” as a revenue model. (In other words, the WSJ is smart to have subscriptions and ads; new owners News Corp., of course, considered doing away with them.
* Software and information are more powerful together than separate. “Information and software are more closely linked and mutually dependent than ever before. Changes in each affect the other. “The great changes in computing power” have shifted the information industry, changes in information have affected software..
* Neither content nor distribution is king: the consumer is.
At the Brian Storm (of MediaStorm.org) Hearst Foundation New Media Lecture at Columbia J. school. Brian talks about the fallacy of objectivity, or at leas the fallacy of being unwilling to be an advocate, pointing to Darfur, and that it was extremely hard to produce a piece for the non-advocacy Council on Foreign Relations about what’s happening there. “I think Bashir is a bad person,” and should go, he says of the Sudanese leader.
“If you’re a journalist and you don’t have an agenda, you don’t have a pulse,” Brian says much later. Sometimes you have to push hard to get [an audience] to give a shit on the things they should care about,” whether its the Sudan, Rwanda, post-Katrina New Orleans or danger to elephants.
Fascinating to hear him toe this line, which must be anathema to many in these hallowed journalistic halls. Brian notes how when working at MSNBC he was not allowed, for example, to put music in documentary work -- something he does regularly now (and a question about which sparked the discussion).
“Ethics, I do have them,” he says, implicitly arguing that advocacy is actually a more ethical position.
Objectivity, I would argue, is damn near impossible. Where you point the camera, even how you frame the shot, let alone the quotes you choose or the point you make when writing, or what-not, are all choices. With a genuflection to Nanda Kumar of Baruch College (where I just guest lectured in his class) I ask: Is Google an objective search engine? No. Choices are made in how to write its algorithm.
Fairness is possible, and disclosure of ones’ biases helps achieve that aim. But objectivity? Ever seen Rashomon?