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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.
In the Pipeline: Don't miss Derek Lowe's excellent commentary on drug discovery and the pharma industry in general at In the Pipeline

Rebuilding Media

August 24, 2008

Transforming American Newspapers (Part 2)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

(Continued from Part 1)

Violating the Principle of Supply & Demand

If the major reason for the American daily newspaper industry's demise were its stories contained too many dangling participles, then the industry could more easily comprehend its situation than instead hearing that the reason was it had violated the Principle of Supply & Demand.

The understanding of economics, particularly media economics, has never been its strong suit, except if the topic is how many tons of newsprint to buy, how many points a major stock market dropped, or how cut expenses to match revenues. Most newspaper publishers, editors, or journalists tends to equate economics as solely the science of government financial policy, household spending, Wall Street speculation, and petroleum pricing. They don't understand or have forgotten that a major branch of it is the behavioral science of Microeconomics - the study of how individuals make decisions to allocate their time and activities.

The main paradigm of microeconomics is known as rational choice theory or rational action theory, which states that individuals choose the best action according to their preferences and what constraints of supply, demand, time, and access face them. In it now lays the demise of American daily newspapers as we know them.

How did the American daily newspaper industry violate the Principle of Supply & Demand by failing to adapt the industry's core product to a radical change in consumers' supply of news and information during the past 35 years? To understand how, both start and end at the roots of the newspaper industry.

Start in the European city of Strasbourg during 1605 when the world's first newspaper began publication. It used a technology developed there 164 years earlier by the metalworker Johannes Gutenberg, who had invented a device for producing innumerable copies of the same text. (Please keep that concept in mind, because it's now moldering the newspaper industry). The Supply & Demand equation for accessing daily changing information was then quite the opposite it is today: Consumers had little or no supply of daily news until the daily newspaper. So to produce newspapers, this adaption of Gutenberg's book printing technology spread quickly worldwide.

Some modern critics of newspapers say the industry is leaden and 'doesn't think outside the box.' They probably don't realize the historical irony that underlay their criticisms. The core of Gutenberg's technology was a box containing lead type whose impressions could print innumerable copies of the same thing. In that core is the inherent limitation that it produces the same edition for everyone. Although in the 19th Century steam and later electrical power speeded Gutenberg's technology and the introduction of offset lithography during the middle of the 20th Century eliminated its use of lead, the analog technology used to produce today's daily newspapers is still Gutenberg's. Indeed, today's analog printing technology still has the same limitation that it had in Gutenberg's days - it produces the same edition for everyone.

That technological limitation delineated the newspaper industry's editorial and advertising practices during the past four centuries. Because each edition had a finite number of pages and was printed by analog technology had to produce the same for everyone at once, newspaper editors had to select stories according to two criteria:

...continue reading.

Comments (19) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Convergence | Internet | Newspapers | Strategy | media industry

August 20, 2008

Transforming American Newspapers (Part 1)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Ignorance isn't bliss to the dying. Witness the pathos of American daily newspaper companies. Most have finally begun to realize that the deterioration of their businesses isn't cyclical but grave. Yet few, if any, understand why. Almost all grasp for the reasons.

Some attribute their grave condition to advertisers suddenly switching huge portions of spending from print to online - an excuse that ignores more than 30 years of declines in those newspapers' printed editions' circulations and readerships. Some others attribute their deterioration to not having transplanted their content into online quickly enough -an excuse that ignores not only the dozen years they've spent transplanting it but how their online editions are now read even less frequently and less thoroughly than their printed editions.

Most of the print newspaper experts who diagnose these companies' condition still prescribe stale nostrums such as more consumer focus groups, subscription price incentives, more stylish typography, or shorter stories. Meanwhile, most of the experts who diagnose these companies' Web sites prescribe balms and accessories such as giving blogs to reporters, adding video, or having the readers themselves report the stories. American daily newspaper companies have long been too financially impatient to submit themselves to anything but ostensibly quick cures and they've even longer been too conceptually myopic to perceive the real reasons for their declines.

I'll declare the real reasons. There are but two and neither has anything to do with multimedia, 'convergence', blogs, 'Web 2.0', 'citizen journalism,' or any ancillary topics you may have heard presented at New Media conferences this millennium.

Nor is either of the real reasons advertisers' abandonment of printed newspapers. Their abandonment is a symptom, not the reason for the decline. Contrary to myopia of many newspaper executives, advertisers aren't newspapers' primary customers. Although advertising revenues may be sunshine for newspaper executives, the roots of their business are readers. A newspaper with readers will attract advertisers but a newspaper without readers will not. Readers ultimately support and sustain the newspaper business.

To understand the real reasons why the American daily newspaper industry is dying, first understand why more and more Americans are no longer reading daily papers and how their abandonment of newspapers has been wrought by changes in their own media economics. Also comprehend why the epicenter of the newspaper industry's problems in post-Industrial countries is America and exactly how grave the situation is there.

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Convergence | Internet | Newspapers | Revenue models | Strategy

September 20, 2007

It's Time for News Organizations to Stop Defining Themselves by Obsolete ProductsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

A professor today asked me:

"What will the future of the newspapers be?"

Meanwhile, someone on the Online News publishing discussion lists notes:

The question is often asked: 'What will be the future of the newspapers? But, it seems that before we ask that question, we'll have to first figure out what, if anything, constitutes the absolute core minimum of what it takes to be called a 'newspaper.'

What iss troubling about those questions is these people are still trying to define their news organizations according to products that are becoming obsolete. The true question is 'What will news organizations do in the future?'

No news organization should be a 'newspaper"' in the future. Nor a 'news network'. Nor a 'news radio station'. Nor a 'TV station news department'. It's time that news organizations stopped defining themselves according to news formats that are becoming obsolete.

Yes, I realize that newspapers are now asking themselves 'What will newspapers do in the future?' That news radio stations are now asking themselves 'What will news radio stations do in the future?' That TV station news departments are now asking themselves 'What will television stations news departments do in the future?' And that TV news networks now are asking themselves 'What will television news networks do in the future?'

However, the basic fact is that each is a news organization. The problem is they're internally organized to produce products that are becoming obsolete.

Obsolete? Yes, the likilihood is that consumers in the future won't want to receive a daily news report printed on wood pulp or even the online analogue of wood pulp (despite some video and animation added). Nor will consumers want to receive audio or video sent to them in a schedule or program line-up that they can't control or re-arrange. The era of the 'newspaper' in the United States, Canada, and many other countries, is over. And the simultaneous era of tradition 'broadcasting' will likewise be over once broadband becomes part of the tuning mechanism of the average consumer's television.

Note that I didn't say that journalism is ending. News organizations and the service of journalism that they produce will still be wanted and needed after the obsolete products known as newspapers, news networks, news radio, and news programs are long gone. Each news organization will be producing services that utilize all those traditional forms (i.e., text, photography, graphics, audio, video, or animation) plus new forms have yet to discover. No news organizations will any longer produce just one, two, or three of those forms (such as just text and still photos or just audio and video) anymore.

People refer to these new journalistic services as 'multimedia' or 'convergence.' Well, the trick to 'convergence' isn't necessarily to produce 'multimedia.' It is for each news organization to learn which of its traditional practices (such as its journalistic focus, staffing, assignments, workflow, business practices, business models, etc.) to continue and which (such as printing news on wood pulp or transmitting news only at a set schedule) to discard, plus what entirely new practices to adopt. 'Convergence' is as much a choice of practices as it is producing 'multimedia.'

News organization that print news on wood pulp must stop defining themselves as 'newspapers' because that traditional definition intrinsically limits what they should do. Likewise, news organization that have always transmitted audio news clips on set schedules must stop defining themselves as 'news radio.' Etcetera.

The true question is 'What will news organizations do in the future?' Not what will 'newspapers' do?

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

Payment for Online Content isn't Dead, Despite TimesSelect's DemiseEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Many commentators are hailing the demise of The New York Times' TimesSelect service as the demise of paid content online. I hate to rain on their parade, but paid content isn't dead. Consumer Reports, Zagat, Playboy and other premier brands prove everyday that paying for the premier content in a topical category is very much alive.

So why did the premier brand of The New York Times fail at paid content with Times Select? Because The New York Times and other traditional newspapers don't provide premier content in a topical category. Traditional newspapers provide a package of news that attempts to satisfy everyone's interests in all categories— an endeavor that is doomed to fail online and that is increasingly failing in print, too.

The demise of TimesSelect is notable only because it's the last major gasp of newspaper publishers' attempts to charge for providing everybody online with the exactly the same package of content. Not only won't online consumers pay to receive exactly the same package as everyone else gets from a newspaper brand, but they won't pay for even the best slice of that package.

That doesn't mean that online consumers aren't willing to pay; they just aren't willing to pay to receive exactly the same package as everyone else gets. Unfortunately, most media executives don't seem capable of conceiving that their companies can produce anything else at once but the same package of content for every consumers. Those executives are stuck thinking in what academics call 'one-to-many' or mass media terms.

People would be willing to pay a subscription fee for a service that delivers news to them online; but not for a service that doesn't exactly meet their needs and interests, that sends exactly the same package of news to everyone. Paid content isn't dead; just payment for the traditional 'one-to-many' package of content is.

There is a three-step process towards understanding why TimesSelect and other similar newspaper projects are doomed from the start. The steps are to understand why more than one billion people worldwide have gravitated onto the Internet; why traditional newspapers fail to match the reason why those people gravitated there; and why the traditional packaging of newspapers needs to radically change if that industry is to survive.

The fact is that, while everyone shares a few common interests (the weather, for example) and some people share some common interests (such as fans of the Red Sox), each person has many specific interests (a fan of Patrick McGoohan, knitting, Malaysian cuisine, etc.) and each individual is a quite unique mix of those common and specific interests.

To satisfy her mix of interests, an individual will use whatever media is available to her. Thirty years ago, her only choices in media were the three or four general-interest TV networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, and maybe PBS) she could receive via antenna, one or two dozen magazines (mostly general interests ones such as Time, Newsweek, USN&WR, Life, Look, etc.) available on her local newsstands, and one or perhaps two (unless she lived in a metropolis) daily newspapers that were delivered in her town. While those would likely certainly her common interests each day, she'd have to glean them for the very occasional that might satisfy her mix of specific interests.

Then came cable (and later satellite) TV, which gave her dozens of specifically topical channels 24/7/365. Then came developments in offset lithography that made publication and distribution of topical ('niche') magazines economical, and hundreds appeared on newsstands. And then she got access to the Internet, which gave her access to millions of topical webpages. Usage of all of these satisfies her - and a billion other people's -- unique mix of commons and individual interests better than any general-interest newspaper or news program can. People's use of the Internet to satisfy their individual mixes of interests caused the growth of the search engines. They didn't gravitate to online to read general-interest newspapers and news magazines (things that later followed them online).

Because people now have better means of satisfying their unique mixes of common and individual interests, general-interest newspapers' circulation and readership are declining, as are general-interest news program's listenership and viewership. For the past 30 years, you can track those declines to match the rise of CATV, 'niche' magazines, and Internet access (the recent plummet in newspaper circulation began almost exactly when the majority of Americans got broadband access, 'always-on' access to this better way satisfying their individual mixes of interests).

Traditional newspapers are obsolete. The reason why the traditional newspaper deliver exactly the same package of stories to all readers isn't because all readers want exactly the same package. It's due to a limitation of the Industrial Era technologies still used to produce those newspapers: an analog press (like an analog broadcast transmitter) can only produce the same edition at one time. That's the latent reason why a newspaper editor picks for publication mainly the stories that are of most common interest. For example, I'm a New York Times subscriber who's a soccer and Formula One racing fan but I rarely see stories about those sports in that newspaper. Yet I know NYT receives entire wires devoted to daily events those sports (even the Swiss Intercantonal league, Turkish Third Div., etc.) because I was the Reuters executive in charge of delivering those to the Times. The NYT newsroom has the soccer stories I want, but doesn't print them and instead prints baseball and American football stories, because its analog presses simply can't produce editions that match each individual subscriber's interests.

Though that limitation of analog presses doesn't exist online, almost every newspaper is inadvertently transplanting it there. For most of the past ten years, I couldn't get those soccer stories from NYTimes.com either, because it would publish online only the stories that appeared in print. (For the past four years I've been able to find the soccer wire on NYTimes.com but had to click half a dozen levels down into the site to find them.) Shoveling into online the same package of content for everyone doesn't add value in a medium that people are using to satisfy their individual interests and needs.

Moreover, people 'unpackage' the traditional newspaper's package of content online. A person who might have read the printed Willimantic Chronicle for national news because it's the only printed daily available in Willimantic aren't likely to read that paper's website for national news, because they've got now access to NYTimes.com, CNN.com, etc. Ditto with national sports, business, international news, etc. They'll use a newspaper's website only for whatever that newspaper can uniquely do (which is local news in the most cases). This means that only a fraction of the traditional newspaper's package of content has value online. That means people might be willing to pay, at most, only a fraction of the traditional price for it online (which fits within surveys that indicate people are willing to pay online for newspaper content, but no more than about $1 per mo.)

So if providing the same package of content for everyone doesn't add value in a medium that people are using to satisfy their individual mixes of interests and that package is worth only a fraction online of what (fewer and fewer) people are willing pay for it in print, why do so many newspaper publishers still hope people will pay the same for it online as in print? Or pay something for just a slice of that traditional package?

The NYT at least realized that its columnists were a unique part of its traditional package, but wildly miscalculated the people would pay $50 per year for that. Some 227,000 people did, producing $10 milion per year in revenue for NYT, but they were only 1.6% of NYTimes.com's 13M registered users and that revenue wasn't much compared to its $300M in revenues. Pluse, lack of access meanwhile displeased the other 12.7M registered users.

The reason I mentioned soccer is that the stories exist that can satisfy each person's unique mix of common and specific, but traditionally produced newspapers -- in print and online -- don't deliver the right match to each person's mix. It's a distribution problem: the stories exist but aren't getting to the right people. So, people are using new media to hunt for the mix that satisfies them, visiting many sites and using many different mechanisms. Eliminating their need to hunt is the business opportunity here for media companies. Google and Yahoo! know that, which is why they're beginning to offer customizable services that can deliver from all sources stories that can match each user's unique mix of common and specific interests.

Although services like that can be subsidized entirely by advertising, if people are willing to pay for anything online, it's likely that they'd be willing to pay for a daily news service that uniquely matches each of their mix of common and specific interest. Would you be willing to pay $5 to $3 per month for a service that each day delivers exactly what you want from all news sources, trade journals, blogs, etc.? The technologies (structured data, etc.) to do this online already exist, but the problem is the news industry's infrastructure is still based on the Industrial Era practices of producing the same thing for every users and producing it from only one brand.

Therein also lies the problem with most micropayment systems. You'd need a universal one to satisfy most people's needs and interests. People aren't going to use a different one for each site (even if it might serve a number sites). It'll need to either be build into the infrastructure, not layered atop the status quo, or exist upstream of the consumer and built into whatever service ultimately delivers the customized service to her. In other words, the aggregation of micropayments would be done wholesale by whatever service charges the consumer the monthly macro-price.

A paid service for custom content would likely also feature advertising, except it would be advertising to match the person's unique mix of interests. Such a service would be more valuable to both consumer and advertiser. [How to remedy the way that online marketers have blown consumers' trust during the past 15 years is another matter.]

A unique printed edition for each user can also now be produced. Agfa and Oce are now manufacturing digital presses (i.e., giant inkjet printers) for newspapers that, when coupled to a database and templates, can produce an edition uniquely customized for each subscriber. (For example, the Agfa Dotrix press costs a fraction what an analog press does, requires only one operator, and can produce 20,000 newspaper copies per hour. That speed is fine for about 1,000 of the nation's 1,450 dailies; larger ones need only buy multiple digital presses.) I know that MAN Roland and other manufacturers of traditional presses are likewise developing digital presses that would service larger newspapers. [Whether printed editions will soon be supplanted by e-paper is another matter.]

So, the era of one-to-many, of each person getting the same thing daily, is over. People aren't going to pay for that online. Fewer and fewer people are continuing to pay for it in print. And if soon nobody's going to pay for that package, then nobody's going to pay much or anything for just a portion of that package.

Paid content online isn't dead; just payment for 'one-to-many' content. Unfortunately, most people in the news industry, including most of its pundits, still think in only 'one-to-many' terms, which is not how consumers use online.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

August 1, 2007

The Press Will Be Outsourced Before StoppedEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Dorian Benkoil last month e-mailed me asking what I thought about Business Week columnist Jon Fine's recent article, When Do You Stop The Presses?.

In the column, Fine ponders which major American newspaper will be the first to stop publishing a print edition and publish online only. He speculates that it will be the San Francisco Chronicle, which has reportedly lost $330 million this decade, approximately $1 million per week. Fine wonders if how the Chronicle should consider stopping its presses and start delivering news only online.

On the surface, that sounds like a good idea. The Chronicle's print edition is losing money. It has a large potential online-only audience in San Francisco. And if the Chronicle stops using its presses, it will no longer have to bear the costs of purchasing, printing, and distributing paper edition, costs that probably total 50 to 60 percent of the Chronicle's expenses.

But before roaring off with this idea, check under its hood to make sure it has an engine. I don't know what percentage of the Chronicle's revenues its website produces, but my guess is 5 to 10 percent. The printed product generates the rest. So, if the Chronicle were to stop printing paper, it would reduce its expenses to only 40 to 50 percent of their prior level, but the will have also removed 90 to 95 percent of its em>Chronicle's revenues. So, it's rather obvious that the Chronicle would be in a much, much worse predicament than it is now if it were to stop its presses permanently and publish online only. A not-so-fine idea.

But what really troubles me about Fine's speculation—and for that matter most newspapers' attempts to shovel their printed content onto their websites— are two two unconscious and linked presumptions that I think underlie such ideas: (1) That there is nothing inherently wrong with the Chronicle's product (i.e., its package of journalism and advertisements) except (2) that it should be delivered online rather than on paper because more and more people are getting their information online.

A lot of publishers suffer from these presumptions. They see less and less people reading printed publications, more and more of those people reading things online, and believe that all they need to do is shovel their printed editions over to online (and add video and audio) to reverse their newspapers' declines in readership.

These presumptions ignore the fact that newspaper readerships have been declining for more than 30 years and that approximately half of those declines occured before the Internet was opened to the public or the public had any online access. Shouldn't that give publishers a hint that the major cause of their readerships' declines isn't the Internet or their content not being online?

And is adding video and audio to that content (so-called 'multimedia') going to reverse those declines? Consider that television station's news viewerships have been declining for more than 20 years and that radio station's news listenerships have been declining for even longer. Do you think that if radio or television stations add newspaper-like texts to their own websites that this will reverse the declines in their viewerships or listenerships? So, why do publishers think that newspapers adding video and audio to their own texts online will reverse newspapers' declines in readerships? Adding together two or more declining media do not an ascending new-media make.

The real problem, Mr. Newspaperman, isn't that your content isn't online or isn't online with multimedia. It's your content. Specifically, it's what you report, which stories you publish, and how you publish them to people, who, by the way, have very different individual interests. The problem is the content you're giving them, stupid; not the platform its on. But I digress.

Back to Fine's column. If the San Francisco Chronicle, despite losing money, cannot afford to stop its presses and go online only, what it is likely to do?. I think that daily newspaper presses will be outsourced before being stopped.

I think the Chronicle will try to do what another troubled newspaper is considering. Boston Herald owner and Publisher Patrick Purcell has been talking about outsourcing his newspaper's printing. Dow Jones & Company has a printing plant with spare capacity 80 miles outside of Boston, a plant that prints the regional edition of The Wall Street Journal. This plant in.Chicopee, Massachusetts, is far more efficient than the Herald's antiquated presses. Purcell is calculating whether eliminating his own presses, pressmen, ink, and paper costs would save him money against whatever markup on those costs that Dow Jones would charge him.

Two footnotes:

First, we frequently see much larger dollar amounts printed in the business sections of newspapers ('Murdoch Buys Dow Jones for $5 billion', etc.), making us somewhat inurred to smaller financial figures such as $330 million or $1 million per week. However, the San Francisco Chronicle's latest weekday circulation figure is 386,564, so if that newspaper has lost $330 million during the past six years, it's lost approximately $853.67 per reader during that time or $142.28 per reader per year! Now does its amount of loss impress you? It does me. The Chronicle would lose less money if it just bought each reader a fine meal each year at San Francisco's best restaurant instead of delivering a newspaper each day.

Second, earlier this week I posted on my own company's blog some reasons why I've not been blogging here or there lately. I apologize for my absence.

[Update: when I wrote this post a few days ago, I didn't (and I suspect Fine didn't either) that the Chronicle has already signed an agreement to outsource its production to a third-party printer. A tip of my hat to Alan Mutter's blog. The outsourcing deal will cost the jobs of 230 unionized press operators when the new plant opens in 2009. When this outsourcing contract was signed, I wonder how large a newspaper the Chronicle's executives thought they'd be producing in 2009?]

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (1) | Category: Convergence | Newspapers

May 16, 2007

Supply & Demand and 'Unpackaging' on Newspaper Content OnlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Yesterday on the Online News Association's discussion list, the editor of a 37,000-circulation daily newspaper asked to hear:

"…from folks who have tried something in between free and paid regarding your online content, such as holding back some print content from online; charging for 'premium' online content; giving access to some online content only to print subscribers. If you've done anything like this has it produced revenue or slowed print circulation erosion?"

Though I've not run a newspaper website in more than a decade, I today replied because I've spent more than a dozen years studying online paid content strategy and cases and had for several years been a columnists about the subject.

Here's the information I provided:

...continue reading.

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

May 14, 2007

The Media Development Loan FundEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

mdlf.jpg

Sasa Vucinic and Patrice Schneider of MDLF, Prague. March 2007

In 30 years working in news media, I've never encountered a more beneficial cause than the Media Loan Development Fund. So, I've been volunteering some of my consulrting time to it.

The idea behind the MDLF arose during the late 1980s when Yugoslavian broadcaster Sasa Vucinic watched freedom of the press almost evaporate in his country. He worked for B92, which was the independent radio station in Serbia and a thorn in the side of dictator Slobodan Milošević's regime. Unable to find a legal pretext to silence B92, the regime began threatening the radio station's advertisers. B92 began running out of money and Vucinic was unable to find any bank, inside or outside of Serbia, that was willing to loan B92 money to keep operating.

Vucinic never forgot that experience (he gave an videotaped talk about it at the 2005 TED conference). In 1995, he approached billionaire George Soros, who himself grew up under a Communist regime in Hungary, about the idea of creating a foundation to loan money to independent media in countries that have repressive regimes. Soros agreed to setup the Media Development Loan Fund, which is based in Prague.

Vucinic's first MDLF project was a newspaper that during the late 1990s was being forced by the Slovakian government to travel 400 kilometres to print the paper. The newspaper wanted to purchase a printing press, so MDLF loaned it the money. MDLF has since financed 135 projects for 58 independent media companies in 18 countries. When MDLF began, Soros didn't think the foundation would ever see its loans repaid, but 97 percent of the 58 projects have repaid their loans on time.

In 1998, MDLF established the Center for Advanced Media-Prague (CAMP) in 1998 to introduce new-media concepts and solutions to independent media in the post-communist and developing countries. Earlier this year, Patrice Schneider, MDLF's director of development and formerly the Managing Director of Netscape Europe and Deputy Managing Director of Hachette Filipacchi Media, asked several other international new media experts and I to advise MDLF and CAMP about coming changes in new media and new media technologies..

If you have a chance to help MDLF's worthwhile cause, please do so.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Internet | Public Service Media

February 13, 2007

'Citizen Journalism' Is Only One Of Many Necessary ToolsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

editors.jpg

[When terminology gets stretched too far, discussion distorts and tempers snap. A friend in the Poynter Institute's Online News discussion group industry recently stretch the definition of 'citizen journalism' to include Letters-to-the-Editor. That 's when my patience snapped and I released criticisms of the 'citizen journalism' movement, which I've intentionally withheld for years.

Online News is an email-based discussion group, so some other friends have since asked me to post my criticisms here, so that they can hyperlink their own blogs or publications. Here goes:

Letter-to-the-Editor are as much journalism as a man's video of his kid's wedding is cinema. Or as much as a woman putting a Band-Aid (or 'plaster' the British would say) onto her kid's bruised knee is practicing medicine. Or as much as a guy appearing in traffic court to dispute a parking ticket is practicing law. It's too much of a rhetoric stretch.

Does its publication in a newspaper somehow make a person's opinion be journalism? If so, you might as well shutdown college schools of journalism. No need for those.

Yes, too many newsroom have become remote from, and condescending to, readers. Letting readers comment or converse in newspaper (web)pages is a much needed remedy. Yes, it's great when citizens who posses a particular expertise help report stories about that topic. Likewise, when citizens who witness a news event contribute their first-hand experiences. And, yes, it's heartening to believe that citizens themselves might be capable of reporting a significant portion of the news. Don't get me wrong: The concept behind 'citizen journalism' is noble, much like Karl Marx's vision of pure communism or Jean-Jacque Rousseau's vision of natural goodness or Ayn Rand's vision of objective individualism.

However, I live in the world of real people. It's hard enough to find a professional journalist who can sit through 52 weeks of zoning board hearings and write intelligently about that, nonetheless finding an amateur who doesn't have a vested interest or axe to grind and who can sit through and objectively write about those hearings.

Too much of what's being cloaked or prattled about in our industry as 'citizen journalism' isn't journalism at all and a lot of it is simply b*llsh#t. I'm sorry, but I'm tired of all this groupthink. We need objective reporting about this topic, too.

I sincerely compliment my friend Dan Gillmor who, in a neologism that Thomas Paine would have admired, coined the term 'citizen journalism.' That coinage helped make the concept palatable to many professional journalists, a group hugely pre-disposed to believing that everyone has a latent desire to do what they do. Others in our industry, such as my friend 'Robespierre' Jarvis, have even painted 'citizen journalism' as a struggle between the people and 'big media' (I remember Andrea Panciera of 'big media' Belo's Projo.com retorting at an ONA meeting, 'Hey, I'm too a citizen of my community!') And many of the news industry's think tanks -- whose own thinking about how to reverse the declines in news readership, listernership, and viewership has become bankrupt -- have climbed aboard the citizen journalism bandwagon for lack of anything else to play. Propelled by all this groupthink, the concept has gained huge inertial momentum in our industry.

Again, don't get me wrong. I think that technologies via which readers can comment, help report, eyewitness, tip off, and otherwise supplement, amplify, or redirect newspaper coverage are absolutely needed. These are tools that every news organization should begin using (oops, I should have used the politically correct phrase: 'begin sharing') with people. I applaud BlufftonToday.com and other well conceived applications of this. And I support my friends who are helping to teach citizen journalism to the few citizens who do want to report.

But citizen journalism is a supplement, not a panacea. Citizen journalism itself isn't going to reverse the declines in news readership, listernership, and viewership. Not by a longshot. The real solution requires more than just the tools that folks in our industry are calling 'citizen journalism' and that are providing so much distraction.

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

February 6, 2007

A Land Where Beer is Pronounced URLEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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(Oslo Harbor, 3 February 2007)


Every country seems to think that someone else is ahead of it in practical application of online media. I'm often asked which country is the best. The answer since the late nineties has clearly been the four Scandinavian counties, though South Korea and Estonia have joined them in the top rank during the past four years. The Finns, Swedes, Danes, Norwegians, South Koreans, and Estonians have pulled well ahead of the Americans, Canadians, British, Irish, Dutch, Germans, and Singaporeans in online media usage and application.

Before putting Norwegian online usage into perspective, allow me to first tell you about Norwegian printed media usage. Until Japan surpassed it last year, Norway for years had the world's strongest readership of daily newspapers – 0.626 copies sold daily per adult, compared to 0.33 in the US). At the beginning of 2006, the national tabloids Dagbladet and Verdens Gang Verdens Gang and Dagbladet were selling 343,703 and 252,716 copies per day respectively in a nation of only 4,610,000 people. Imagine the equivalent daily circulations in America, which adjusted for population would be 22,366,789 and 16,445,726, far above the actual circulations of 2,269,509 for USA Today or 1,086,798 for The New York Times. DB and VG are very successful printed newspapers.

Despite that strong readership, print circulation is rapidly declining in Norway. The state agency Medianorway reports that VG's circulation dropped 6.2 percent and DB's 13 percent during 2005. Several DB staffers told me that the as yet unreported 2006 circulation changes were be similar. [Update: Audit Bureaux of Circulation figures released Febuary 12th showed that VG's daily circulaiton during 2006 had dropped by 28,000 copies to 315,500. I don't yet have the ABC figure for Dagbladet.]

As in most other countries, many print edition executives are blaming their companies' free online editions for cannibalizing printed edition circulation sales. These print edition executives want either (a) access to the online editions to be sold for a subscription fee equivalent to print or else (b) that the online editions not provide full news and instead encourage online readers to get that by purchasing a printed copy.

That first option is philistine and regressive in a world where the only growing sector of daily newspaper circulation is free papers – up more than 137 percent during the past five years, from 12 million to 28 million copies worldwide. The second option is like insisting that each automobile one hundred years ago have a horse in front of it, a workable but really dumb idea.

Almost all Norwegian adults and teenagers are online, far higher percentages than in America, Canada, or the UK. The average bandwidth into Norwegian homes and offices is 1.5 megabytes per second. And the strong newspaper readership and advanced online infrastructure shouldn't lead to any mystery that Norway produces what may be the world's best online editions (so too do several of the dailies in Sweden, Denmark, and Finland).

VG.no receives 950 000 unique users per day and Dagbladet.no 750,000. The weekly unique user numbers are 2,240,000 and 1,820,000 respectively, almost entirely domestic traffic. The equivalent number in the US would be 61,822,124 and 48,806,940 unique users daily, or 145,770,060 and 118,438,174 per week. Compare those numbers to to NYTimes.com's 13,372,00 unique users per month. Online editions are pervasive in Norway.

Dagbladet's new-media EBITA earnings climbed from 8.5 million to 22 million Kroner (1.3 million to 3.3 million US dollars) between 2004 and 2005. The 2006 increase was at least 40 percent more and forecast to be the same during 2007. The Economist magazine last year reported that VG's publisher Shibsted earned nearly 40 percent of its revenues from new-media. Dagbladet AS reportedly earned about a third of its that way. New-media will probably contribute more than 40 percent of each companies earnings this year.

I asked Dagbladet staffers whether they or VG had the best online edition. With typical Scandinavian humility, most answered that VG did. Their answer was like the student who scores 98/100 saying the student who scored 99/100 is better. A tiny difference.

I've been in Oslo because Dagbladet asked me to be the featured speaker at their seminar Thursday for approximately 90 of Dagbladet's online advertisers. My role was to explain what the future of digital media will be. No one, including me, truly knows the answer to that. I chose not to tell them the trends — indicators that have too often been wrong during the past 15 years of public access to the Internet. I instead explained the underlying dynamics that are driving change and, in particularly, what this will mean to not only dagbladet.no but the company's social networking site, blink.no. More than 350,000 Norwegians – including 42 percent of norwegians between ages 16 and 18 and 75 percent of those younger than 26 years– belong to it.

[I apologize if I'm being cryptic here about what underlying dynamics are driving change. It's intentional and I apologize. I've been writing a long piece about the answer, which I plan to post soon. During the past few months, I've had a radical change in philosophy about what ails the news industry. Let me leave for now to state that the answers are two-fold: failure to utilize fully the new technologies plus the errant course that journalism itself has taken during the past 30 years. The latter should put me in real good standing with journalists and J-schools!]

Dagbladet also invited me to their parent corporation's winter holiday party – where I was easily identifiable as the sole person among the 300 there who didn't speak Norwegian.

I was surprised to discover that the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, which has long been involved in online media, produces a good website, but its online, mobile, and interactive/digital TV developments and strategies seem behind the British Broadcasting Corporation and other Western broadcasters, and well behind the South Korean broadcasters. Is it lack competition that could make NRK change more quickly? I don't know.

While in Oslo, I talk to several people about the idea of holding an online news publishing conference in Scandinavia. But the World Association of Newspapers beat me to the idea, announcing yesterday that one will be held there on March 8-9 – relatively short notice.

By the way, did you know that the Norwegian word for beer, øl, is pronounced url? No wonder Norwegian's are technosavvy.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

January 5, 2007

Promote World Press Freedom on May 3rdEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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The Coming Storm (portent for 2007?), Puerto de las Nieves, Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, 23 December 2006

On November 22nd, a date which marked my 10th anniversary of consulting full-time about new-media to traditonal media companies, after a speech at the Spanish Daily Newspaper Association's annual meeting, I took the liberty of staying in Spain for the rest of the year as an extended vacation in that country's Canary Islands. (Forgive me, but this long vacation was long in coming. My first vacation lasting more than a week in over five years).

I'm back at work now, and want to start 2007 with a suggestion to news websites:

If our new media is to succeed traditional printed and broadcast media, then it also must assume traditional media's responsibilities about press freedom around the world. The world is now in its second ten years of mass use of new media, and I think the time has now come for new-media journalists and editors to begin assuming the mantle of world press freedom in general.

In 1993, the United Nations declared every May 3rd to be World Press Freedom Day, a day to pay tribute to the journalists around the world who risk their lives by professional choice, in their effort to promote the free flow of information and assertion of press freedom on behalf of all members of society. World Press Freedom day also is commemorated by organizations such as Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, the Inter American Press Association, International Federation of Journalists, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, International Press Institute, Media Institute of Southern Africa, and the World Association of Newspapers (WAN).

WAN, for example, supplies newspapers with press freedom case study stories, public service advertisements, and even videos, to publish on May 3rds. According to WAN, as of November at least 109 journalists had been killed during 2006 and many more have been imprisoned. WAN is even holding a conference about 'New Media: The Press Freedom Dimension' in Paris on 15-16 February 2007.

On May 3rd, 2007, I think news websites should each devote a story and at least one home page banner ad (even if in rotation) to World Press Freedom. If newspapers can promote it, why can't our sites? Heaven knows, we should be able to do even better than traditional media. And our commitment is only one story and one banner ad on one day a year. Wouldn't it be great to see nytimes.com, washingtonpost.com, guardian.co.uk, dw-world.de, oglobo.com.br, and smaller sites reminding what journalists risk on users' behalf.

As a publishing consultant and former journalist, I'm asking my clients to promote World Press Freedom Day online.

Sincerely yours,

Vin Crosbie

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Public Service Media

November 20, 2006

Hundreds of American Newspapers SurrenderEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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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

October 17, 2006

What Future Roles for Newsstands, Archives, and Newsrooms?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

On this day when eMarketer estimates that Google is well on the way to capturing 25 percent of all U.S. online advertisement spending and almost twice the amount of Yahoo!'s revenues, with which Google's revenues only 18 months ago were on par, here are some other issues that my business partner and I are examining:

° What will be the future role of news agents and newsstands? Although they don't play a sizeable role in distribution of American, Canadian, German, and Japanese newspaper (only about seven percent of circulation in those countries), local newsstands and news agent play a most significant role in most other major countries' newspaper ecology. Plus they play significant roles in magazine distribution in every country.

In most of the world's countries, newspapers and their hired wholesalers distributed daily copies to the news agents and newsstands, who then distribute them to you. when you subscribe to home delivery of a daily newspaper, you make your subscription with your neighborhood newsstand or news agent (not directly with the newspaper as is the situation here in the U.S.) The news agents or newsstand has the relationships with the subscribers; the newspapers themselves don't know who subscribes, just that the wholesalers reports how many copies were sold to the retail newsstand and news agents.

Some digerati simply expect newsstands and news agents to go out of business if newspapers and magazines someday switch entirely to online publication. But that would create a major disruption in countries such as the United Kingdom, where 47 percent of the daily newspapers' gross revenues came from newsstands and news agents. Must the newspapers forge direct subscription relationships with consumers? Will physical newsstands and kiosks cease to exist? (Do remember that browsing a physical newsstands if much easily than one online.) Or will they be replaced by physical versions of some sort of electronic kiosk?

° More immediately on that topic, we've today been helping a U.S. investment client ascertain what the U.K. Office of Fair Trade's provisional decision-making about news agent competition means for major newspaper and magazine distribution wholesalers such as W.H.Smith, Menzies, or Dawson News.

In the U.K. wholesalers grant news agents and newsstands exclusive rights to distribute certain titles in specific geographical areas (a rural town, a one block radius in London, etc.). Since 2004, the OFT has been investigating whether such exclusivity is anti-competitive and disserves consumers. It last year issued a provisional finding that these exclusivities weren't anti-competitive with newspapers but were with magazines. Several months ago, it however changed its findings to say the exclusivities are anti-competitive for newspapers, too. It's still investigating, and will issue new findings in the spring.

° Would the regional press be better served using virtual newsrooms? We know several reporters at various regional newspapers who've gotten into trouble by not being at their newsroom desks five days and 40-hours per week. They've defended themselves by pointing out that news doesn't occur in newsrooms. That's all too true. The successful newsroom was an empty one 25 years ago because all its reporters who expending shoe leather, but too many corporations now consider an emply desk or cubicle in a newsroom to mean that the reporter isn't doing her job.

Today's technologies allow reporters to work from anywhere. So, why should they be physically anchored to their newsroom for most of the work day? Newsrooms are a great place for reporters and editors to have story conferences, but with instant messaging, SMS, person-to-person webcasting and voicecasting, mobile devices, etc., the reporter should be able to work from his car, home, local coffee shop, or the news scene. Why chain them to an Atex or SII mainframe six or eight hours each day?

Many journalism schools teach how to report using multimedia and new technologies, but none teach editors how to use those technologies to replace the newsroom itself. It's time that was done.

° Open archives. How much are newspapers really making by charging for online access to stories that might be more than a week old? Do they earn more that way than the online advertising revenues from opening up their entire archives to consumers and search engines? Are publishers being foolishly doctrinaire by charging for archives?

° American business publications in print took a revenue bath last month. The Society of American Business Editors and Writers' Talking Biz News reports Magazine Publishers Association data showing large drops in advertising pages and revenues.

Though Barron's, The Economist and Inc magazines showed increases in ad revenue,
Forbes 4.2 percent, Smart Money 5.4 percent, Money 6.6 percent, em>Business 2.0 fell 7.4, BusinessWeek 8.9 percent, Kiplinger 19 percent, and Fortune 28.1 percent (after that magazine had already declined 12 percent in August). It's odd that business magazines would have less advertising once the summer vacation season ended.

° The Financial Times and the weekly New York Sun published 'think' articles about the future of the American newspaper industry, and both make the same point about profit margin versus product development.

The FT story contrasts the Los Angeles Times and the St. Petersburg Times. The former is owned by the publicly-traded Tribune Company and the latter owned by a not-for-profit trust. The FT's reporter suggests that Wall Street demanding too much profit ("trying to push profit margins beyond 20 per cent") comes at the expense of keeping newspapers viable.

The Sun's story looks at The Los Angeles Times and the now defunct Knight Ridder Inc., and is a bit more blunt:

It seems its [Knight Ridder] 32 daily newspapers had been able to record "only" a 20% return on investment in recent years.

Cut back on the quality of a newspaper in order to show an impressive short-term return for the market's sake, and the slide toward disaster has begun. Readers will notice and begin drifting away, and advertisers will soon follow. It won't be long before the vultures are circling.

° Last but not least, the online news pioneer Milverton Wallace, who'd organized the European NetMedia conference during the new-media industry's first decade, looks at the long-term changes underway, in an essay he's written for the Club of Amsterdam.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Convergence | Magazines | Media Competition | Newspapers | Online

October 9, 2006

Do More People Read Newspapers Online Than in Print?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Pardon me for writing again about newspapers, but they're often the starting point in the feeding chains of broadcasters and bloggers. And this story is just in about newspapers themselves:

According to the latest figures from the Newspaper Association of America Newspaper Audience Database project, more Americans visit newspaper websites than purchase printed editions. That is, more do sometime during a month. The NAA announced that more than 55.5 million Americans now visit newspaper websites at least once per month and this total grew by more than 31 percent during the past year.

When many of us started publishing news online during the late 1980s (via Prodigy, CompuServe, AOL, and other proprietary online services) or in the mid-1990s on the World Wide Web, the time when newspapers would have more online users than print readers seemed a distant dream.

It's a milestone, an accomplishment that deserve praise.

Yet this dream isn't a wet dream. Nor is it real. The big caveat in the NAA announcement is those numbers are monthly, not daily.

Slightly more than 54 million Americans purchase a printed edition daily while 55.5 million visited a newspaper website at least once per month. Conflating daily print and monthly online figures makes it appear that the American newspaper industry isn't so much losing daily print readers as gaining equally frequent new readers online. That's good PR for the newspaper industry, and more power to the NAA for touting it. But the claim isn't really true.

Daily reach isn't monthly reach and vice versa. There may be 55.5 million users of newspaper websites, but they use those site far less frequently and less thoroughly than daily.

Look closely at NAA's NAD data (which is downloadable as an Excel spreadsheet). How often does the average user visit a newspaper site during a month? There's are no data about that in the NAD data, but we can calculate an indication from the data. Though the NAD spreadsheet is password-protected against any changes or added calculations, you can simply add a new worksheet into it by using Excel's 'Insert > Worksheet' command and link it to the NAD data to make indicative calculations.

Take as an example the first newspaper listed in the data: The New York Times. Divide its number of monthly users into its number of monthly page views to calculate how many pages the average user saw that month. The answer is 24.8, or less than a webpage per day during any month. That indicates that the most frequent possibility would be the average user of that site visits almost daily (i.e., 24.8 times in a 30-day month) but sees only one webpage per visit and that the least frequent would be one visit per month during which he sees more than 24 webpages. (My guess within that range would be about six visits per month and some four webpages seen per visit.)

Make the same calculation about the Boston Globe (line 244 in the NAD spreadsheet) and the answer is 21.3 or only about two webpages every three days. Try the Miami Herald (line 1389) and get 5.6 webpages per month or less than one webpage every five days. Etcetera.

The NAA is conflating the numbers of people who read at least one printed page daily with people who might read perhaps only two webpages per week. Those numbers aren't really equivalent.

Moreover, I'm puzzled by another NAA datasheet (PDF) available online, this one from Nielsen/Netratings data. It shows almost the same number of site users per month as the NAD data, but an average of nearly 47 webpages seen monthly per user. That's a discrepency of more than 100 percent from the NAD data! I wonder what the explanation is such a huge discrepency in data covering the same period and through NAA.



Maybe a clearer picture can be seen in a report the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press released this summer, Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership:

But the growth of the online news audience has slowed considerably since 2000, particularly among the very young, who are now somewhat less likely to go online for news than are people in their 40s. For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting.

Broadcast news outlets continue to struggle over the last two years alone, the audiences for nightly network, local TV news and radio news have all slipped. Even so, the recent trends in news consumption are relatively stable when compared to the 1990s when TV news in particular was suffering losses of far greater magnitude.

Similarly, the latest Pew news consumption survey finds that newspapers, which also have seen their audience decline significantly, are now stemming further losses with the help of their online editions. However, the discrete online-only newspaper audience is quite modest in size.

Four-in-ten Americans say they read a newspaper yesterday, with 6% reading a newspaper online 4% read both a print and online newspaper, while 2% read it only online. In addition, 3% say they read something on a local or national newspaper website yesterday. As a result, even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership 43% for both print and online readers is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50%).

The biennial news consumption survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted among 3,204 adults from April 27 to May 22, finds that the audience for online news is fairly broad, but not particularly deep. People who say they logged on for news yesterday spent 32 minutes, on average, getting the news online. That is significantly less than the average number of minutes that newspaper readers, radio news listeners, and TV news viewers spend with those sources. And while nearly half of all Americans (48%) spend at least 30 minutes getting news on television, just 9% spend that long getting news online.

The web serves mostly as a supplement to other sources rather than a primary source of news. Those who use the web for news still spend more time getting news from other sources than they do getting news online. In addition, web news consumers emphasize speed and convenience over detail. Of the 23% who got news on the internet yesterday, only a minority visited newspaper websites. Instead, websites that include quick updates of major headlines, such as MSNBC, Yahoo, and CNN, dominate the web-news landscape.

The rise of the internet has also not increased the overall news consumption of the American public. The percentage of Americans who skip the news entirely on a typical day has not declined since the 1990s. Nor are Americans spending any more time with the news than they did a decade ago when their news choices were much more limited. In 1996, people on average spent slightly more than an hour (66 minutes) getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers. Currently, they spend virtually the same amount of time (67 minutes) getting the news from all major news sources, the internet included.

As internet news has gone more mainstream, its audience has aged. Since 2000, nearly all of the growth among regular internet news users has occurred among those ages 25-64. By contrast, virtually the same percentage of 18-24 year-olds say they get news online at least three days a week as did so six years ago (30% now, 29% then). Currently, about as many people ages 50 to 64 regularly get news on the internet as do those in their late teens and early 20s.

If newspaper new-media is to succeed printed editions, then it still has a long way to go. And it will need to go that far within not much more than perhaps ten years before declines in print circulation will drop below he level where newspapers become uneconomic to publish and therefore insolvent, as others have calculated.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

September 29, 2006

TimewarpEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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Have you ever wanted to take what you now know and go back ten years in time? I saw it done on Wednesday.

The American Press Institute, a training and think-tank institute for the American newspaper industry, warped time when presenting the second phase of its Newspaper Next project to transform that industry.

The project is being run by Innosight, the consulting company founded by Clayton Christensen (pointing at one of his slides above), the Harvard Business School professor who wrote the book, The Innovator's Dilemma about the troubles established companies have facing disruptive change in the markets. Because newspapers are facing such a change, the API hired Innosight to help it.

Innosight’s presentation on Wednesday basically consisted of two parts: An explanation of what tends to happen when established companies face disruptive change and basically two recommendations what the newspaper industry should do.

...continue reading.

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

September 26, 2006

Peeking Under the BlanketEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Let’s peek under the blanket because there's a lot of people in the dark there. A widespread misconception is that taking printed or broadcast content and putting it online or wireless is new-media. This misconception blankets even many new-media executives.

No, taking printed or broadcast content and putting it online or wireless is as much new-media as microwaving hamburgers is new cuisine. It’s just the same old beef reheated a new way.

The reason this misconception is so widespread is that most people, including most media executives, are myopic. They might see the superficial changes underway but rarely the seismic changes that underlie and motivate the surface. They can’t perceive the forest because all the trees get in the way.

But the verb evolve probably better describes what’s going on than motivate.

Media ever evolves towards greater, more articulate distribution. Technology drives the evolution.

Note that the evolution has two dimensions: Greater. And more articulate.However, most media executives still see only one dimension: the greater distribution (i.e., greater reach). They fail to notice the newer dimension: More articulate distribution. They're conditioned not to see it.

And why not? The first period of evolution led to the greatest distribution.

Gutenberg’s invention of moveable type allowed economical distribution of books, newspapers, and broadsides. The later invention of rotary presses, powered by steam and then electrical engines, allowed their mass production. Morse’s telegraph extended the reach of text. Marconi’s radio extended the reach of words. Farnsworth’s television extended the reach of moving pictures. By 1990, any content could reach anywhere in the world within 24 hours in the physical form of print or instantaneously when telegraphed or broadcast.

But the second period of media evolution is now underway, and it will lead to the most articulate distribution. That means the ability to distribute to each person those pieces of content that are most pertinent to that person’s unique mix of generic and individual interests. It doesn’t mean distributing the same package of content to everyone -- be that package an album of music, a printed newspaper or news magazine, programs in a broadcast schedule, or even an intact broadcast program.

As with geologic periods, there has been occurring a brief overlap between these two periods of media evolution. We are in that overlap.

...continue reading.

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September 11, 2006

The News Industry's Five Stages of GriefEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

In her 1969 book On Death and Dying, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926 - 2004) postulated the now famous Five Stages of Grief that people undergo when faced with their impending death:

  • Denial and isolation - The "This won't happen to me! I don't really have to worry" stage.
  • Anger - The "Why me?" How dare you do this to me!" stage.
  • Bargaining - The "Maybe I can evade this fate by co-opting or sidestepping it " stage.
  • Depression - The "It's really happening and I can't stop it" stage.
  • Acceptance - The "Let it happen; I don't want to struggle anymore" stage.

The news industry is dying. In which of Kübleresque stages is this industry. There have been some major changes this year.

But first, do I exaggerate the patient's condition? I don't think so. Nor do others. Furthermore, when I state that the news industry is dying, no, I don't want it to die. I am just stating the condition of the industry. There will always be a need for journalism, but the question is whether there will be an industry in which journalists can work.

Let's examine the patient. Its vital signs have been fading for decades. Circulations and readership of newspapers and news magazines has been evaporating. Listenership and viewership of broadcast news programs have likewise been are dissipating. These declines had been slow, about half a percent annually, but in the past few years have accelerated to a few percentages annually. The industry's heart still beats, and some industry leaders still to profess its vigor, but now even its core vital signs — its revenues (adjusted for inflation) and its profit margins — the pulse and blood pressure of the industry, have begun to wane.

Many industry executives claim that a transplant into the new-media will save the patient. However, an examination of data shows that their online editions are read by fewer people — and less often and less frequently — than the dying print or broadcast editions. Moreover, ten years into these efforts, the online editions are earning only one-twentieth to one-hundredth per user what the dying print edition earns per reader.

The news industry is in critical condition everywhere except countries that only now are forming their economic middle classes such as China and India; places only now rising to the levels North America and Western Europe reached 90 years ago (during the heyday of newspapers). The patient is dying everywhere else. The industry needs a radical course correction.

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The eldest form of mass media will likely be the first to kick the bucket. 'Who Killed the Newspaper?' asked the cover of The Economist weekly news magazine on August 24th. , In a post-mortem a priori to newspapers' death, the magazine (which in a quaint British tradition styles itself a newspaper) The Economist cover story began with an editorial stating:

Newspapers have not yet started to shut down in large numbers, but it is only a matter of time. Over the next few decades half the rich world's general papers may fold.

And later in a 2,900-word special report about the newspaper industry, it noted:

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Convergence | Magazines | Radio | Television

July 25, 2006

Media IdolatryEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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Batu Caves Shrines, Selangor, Malaysia, 18 July 2006   – © Vin Crosbie

If the Internet distributes information more efficiently and eliminates the middlemen, then why do so many owners and operators of traditional media — who are the middlemen — believe that they will make as much, if not more, money as the Internet becomes the primary means for distributing information?

That belief doesn't make sense.

Earlier this year at a conference in Paris, I pointed out to the newspaper industry that it is earning between one-twentieth and one-hundredth as much per website user as print reader. In April, Scott Karp independently analyzed further why media companies shouldn't make as much online as in their legacy modes.

His post made me wondering if there are historical precedents. When the Industrial Revolution began, did purveyors of cloth, coal, iron, lumber, and other goods that industrialization would revolutionize, believe that they too could maintain their previous profit margins? The answer is yes, those purveyors believed that industrialization would just markedly decrease their costs of production, enlarging their profit margins. But as the Austro-American guru of management Peter Drucker (1909-2005) noted, "Not only did the cost of production markedly decline, but so did the value people were willing to pay for the products."

The value people were willing to pay for those products declined. And that was when those products had been scarce. We today live an era when we're already awash in information. It's surplus, not scarce.

So, why do owners and opperators of traditional media companies believe that they will make as much, if not more, money as they switch to the Internet rather than using paper or radio or television as their primary means for distributing information? Wishful thinking. Belief. Faith.

But belief isn't business; it's religion. Root business concepts in reality, not in belief or faith. During Web 1.0, too many executives rooted their business plans in belief or faith. Unfortunately, the false idol they worshiped then turned out to be the Pets.com sock-puppet.

Today is scarily similar. I'm seeing too many Internet trade journal stories about how this or that 'business trend' is underway because thousands of executives hope to do this or that. Poppycock! Instead, show me thousands of executives who are successfully doing this or that. Hope is wonderful thing (and also the name of a girl I used to go out), but business plans shouldn't be rooted in hope. (Perhaps I too should have stayed with Prudence in 1976 rather than leaving her for Hope, but Prudence is a story for another day.)

Unless you publish or broadcast religious content, hope, faith, and belief don't have any place in media business plans. Including plans from startups, too.

So, if you're the owner or operator of a media who believes that you will make as much, if not more, money online as you did in print or radio or television, get your head out of the clouds. That's not heaven you've been glimpsing. It's aerial fog.

No, the world isn't hopeless. Yes, you can make much more online than you're making online now, just not what you were making when you're business was based upon scarcity and Industrial Era technologies such as printing presses and transmitters. Your world is changing. Or as Ad Age's Simon Dumenco earlier this year wrote about the magazine industry's perchant for traveling in limousines, We're Sorry Ms. Wintour, but You'll Have to Walk. And please use a map, don't just hope or believe that you know where you're going.

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June 29, 2006

Frustrated in AmherstEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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 ReadersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

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.

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May 26, 2006

Culture Shock within Online PublishingEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

I'm still in shock after the two conferences I attended earlier this month. How times have changed!

During 1998, I flew from a new-media conference in Zürich to one in Las Vegas. I was in a different kind of shock then. Zürich and Las Vegas are remarkably different cities, but culture shock wasn't a problem. Jet lag was. My circadian clock was nine hours askew. Fortunately, Las Vegas is the city where being wide-awake at wee hours is perfectly acceptable.

This year, I flew from a new-media conference in New York City to one in Las Vegas. Jet lag wasn't a problem; there are only three time zones between those cities. However, a week later, I'm still in shock. Culture shock. But not because of the difference in cities.

I'm suffering culture shock because I'd too quickly gone from a conference of digerati to one of analogati. I'd almost say, to one of Ludderati.

Worse, the two conferences were all digerati back in 1998, but the times since have left one of those conferences behind.

The digerati were at the Syndicate conference last Monday and Tuesday in Manhattan. This conference was about how the Internet is changing the way that news and information is distributed. Among its 125 attendees and speakers were AOL Weblogs Inc. Founder Jason Calacanis, Rocketboom host and co-owner Amanda Congdon, Newsvine CEO Mike Davidson, Richard Edelman of Edelman PR (who has his own blog), Brightcove VP of Content and Online Services Eric Elia, ZDNet International Contributing Editor Steve Gillmor, Blogger Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com, Eric Norlin, Doc Searls, Technorati Founder and CEO David Sifry, Reuters Consumer Media Senior VP & General Manager Steven Schwartz, Halley Suitt, and David Weinberger. Most of them have invented somne new-media technologies, innovatively adapted those technologies, or successfully started companies based upon those technologies and innovations.

Due to a scheduling conflict, I could attend only the first few hours of the Syndicate conference (I blogged just the opening sessiont of this conference). Most of the speakers and attendees whose names are hyperlinked above can better report about this conference than I can. Nevertheless, I was there long nenough to experience how new ideas were flying throughout, aided by speakers who broke the Fourth Wall of the stage and let the audience participate and by wireless Internet access throughout the conference hall, which let attendees and speakers check facts, check on each other, and all participate even more. It was exhilerating, and I came away with many new ideas.

A few days later, I flew to Editor & Publisher and MEDIAWEEK magazines' Interactive Media conference in Las Vegas. It would be quite unfair of me to call its attendees ludderati or Luddites. The Luddites were a social movement in the early 1800s that objected to technological change and tried to smash new technologies. By contrast, the 300 or so attendees of the Interactive Media conference were executives who owe their positions to technological change and are trying to embrace it. They've spent most of the past eight to twelve years putting their printed publications online. For examples, you can now read The Washington Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, or Newsweek online, hours before those periodicals appear in print. The online versions sometimes even contain hyperlinks to source materials, though most don't.

In 1998, the attendees at these two conferences had been on roughly the same level of sophistication about technology and new-media theory. However, the Interactive Media attendees are still at that 1998 level, while the Syndicate attendees are now eight years' more sophisticaled. The difference was so striking it shocked me.

One of the few Interactive Media attendees who is as sophisticated as any of the Syndicate attendees is Forbes magazine Executive Editor and Forbes.com Editor Paul Maidment. Read his story about how out-of-date the conference's attendees were, if you don't believe me. He leads it with something he heard:

"I don't know what to do, but I am ready to do it." That was the quote that raised the biggest chuckle at the recently concluded Interactive Media Conference, Editor & Publisher's annual gathering at which the U.S. regional newspaper industry's panjandrums stare transfixed into the onrushing headlights of online publishing. Trouble is, it was a self-knowingly nervous giggle.

I remember that quote. It was one of three incidents I particularly remember from the Interactive Media conference. Here are the other two:

The first was when two college students were interviewed on stage in front of the attendees. They were asked what websites they had browsed that day from their personal computers and also what books they'd recently read. The students said they had browsed no websites from personal computers, but instead did their browsing that day from their mobile phones. They also said they hadn't lately read any printed books except college textbooks, except they had recently bought and downloaded several ebooks onto their PDAs.

That they used their phones rather than PCs to browse surprised the attendees, almost all of whom design their websites for PCs. Similarly, the attendees were flummoxed that someone who read ebooks ("The convenience and portability of having all those books at hand," one student replied. "I can read them whenever and wherever I am").

When the conference later held a panel about publishing to mobile devices, it mentioned that most mobile phones in the U.S. can be used to browse the Internet, and asked the attendees for questions. The opening question came from an executive who announced, "Maybe I'm a dinosaur, but I had heard that it's possible to browse the Web from a mobile phone and I had someone show me how. I could figure out how to type the 'www' but couldn't figure out how to type the '.' in Web addresses. So, isn't all this concern about mobile phones way too early?"

Only in the minds of her and most of the 300 other attendees, despite the evidence before them, I thought.

The second incident was orchestrated by speaker and Innosight consulting company Managing Director Scott Anthony. He presented a 30-second video and asked the attendees to count in it the number of times a basketball is passed among a trio of people wearing white who were weaving among a trio of people wearing black. Most of the 300 attendees counted anywhere between 12 and 16 passes. But Scott then asked how many had seen a person wearing a gorilla suit walk across the screen and wave at the attendees. Only about a dozen of the 300 attendees raised their hands.

So, here was a conference about a changing environment, but most of its attendees weren't able to perceive an obvious incongruity — a real change — in a 30-second video. That was Scott's point.

gorilla.jpg

Outside research indicates that only about 10 percent of average people see the gorilla in that video (an ape easily seen in this still image). That means that at least 30, not only a dozen, of the 300 attendees should have seen the gorilla. Moreover, this conference's attendees are people paid by their companies to perceive, understand, and deal with change. Shouldn't more than a dozen or 30 of the 300 Interactive Media attendees have seen the gorilla in their midst? I think that most of the attendees of the Syndicate conference would have.

You won't find much blogged about the Interactive Media conference because its organizers decided not to provide its attendees with wireless Internet access (reportedly because using the Internet might distract attendees from hearing the speakers — a remarkablly Industrial Era policy in an Information Era where people routinely multitask. Moreover, why should a concert about interactive be interactive? Go figure.).

With the exception of not providing wireless, the fault in Las Vegas wasn't Editor & Publisher or MEDIAWEEK magazines'. It was the attendees. They're so driven to do what made sense to them in 1998 that they don't question whether that makes sense now or how things are changing.

There are many executives in the newspaper and magazine industry who are as sophisticated about technology and new-media theory as the Syndicate attendees, but most of them no longer attend the annual Interactive Media conferences. I can understand why (perhaps they correctly don't think they will learn anything), but the people who do attend and the industry as a whole lose by those people's absences.

All this tends to confirm the quote Paul Maidement reported. The attendees might know that their businesses need to change, but they don't know how and probably won't be able to perceive the answer if they saw it. This drives deep to the heart of why newspapers and magazines have failed to adapt to the Internet beyond about 1998.

I'm still in shock. My thanks to the conference's organizers for letting me speak on the panel entitled What's Wrong with Media. I'll probably attend next year's Interactive Media conference, but I've more than enough reasons to question why.

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

April 27, 2006

What is 'New Media'?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

[I earlier this week wrote that:

    The radical changes the newspaper industry needs to implement arise from a more true understanding by that industry of why newspaper readership began declining well before the Internet was opened to the public; about why one billion people worldwide have gone onto the Internet after it was opened to the public (they didn't do it to read traditional media on computer screens), and about why all that plus the misnamed and illusionary 'fracturing' of media audiences requires semantic solutions.

At the root of that problem is a misunderstanding about what the New Medium actually is; a misunderstanding by almost all companies that broadcast programs or that publish newspapers or magazines.

I've long been reluctant to explain this misunderstanding only because I'll need a long post to explain it. This is that post, a new version of my 1998 essay What is New Media? (which is currently being taught in the journalism, film, technology, and game design courses at several universities in North America and Europe). It's 3,200-words long, but I consider it the most important thing I have ever written except for the original essay. I need to have this new version online because I plan to refer to it in future postings, specifically those about what radical changes that media companies need to implement.]

Misunderstanding 'New Media'

A newspaper isn't a medium, nor are newspapers media. Magazines aren't media nor is a magazine a medium. Television isn't a medium nor is radio nor are radio or television stations media. A website isn't a medium nor is the Internet media.

Companies that broadcast programs or that publish newspapers or magazines are having problems understanding and adapting to why and how one billion consumers are now using Internet-based technologies to receive news, information, and entertainment.

Those companies have the problems simply because they misunderstand the meaning of media or medium. It is that starkly simple. Their misunderstanding of these terms-- not the new technologies that consumers use -- is the root of the companies' problems.

Ask their executives if they work in the 'Mass Media' (the Mass Medium) and they will be correct if they reply yes. But almost all will take that a step further — a misstep — and say that their broadcast, newspaper, or magazine is a medium.

Rhetoricians and cognitive linguists refer to that extra step as metonymy: the use of a well-understood or easy-to-perceive characteristic of something to stand for either a much more complex whole or for some aspect or part of it. (Another example of metonymy is use of the name Hollywood to describe the entire film industry worldwide)

Broadcast and publishing executives mistake Mass Media as a catchall phrase for all possible media, as if no other medium can exist except as a Mass Medium. Moreover, they extend this mistaken meaning of medium to cover their own broadcasts or publications.

So entrenched has the contemporary misunderstanding of the terms media and medium become that the mistake limits the abilities of most publishing or broadcasting executives to comprehend what exactly is a medium or the media in which they work.

So, what are media, what is a medium?

...continue reading.

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April 26, 2006

Cauthorn and Defense Minister Challenge Asian PublishersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

cauthornasia.jpg


Here are two short videos (QuckTime ) of Rebuilding Media contributor Robert Cauthorn's speech Tuesday at the Publish Asia 2006 conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Cauthorn challenged traditionalist beliefs in order to encourage a new period of innovation and growth within the newspaper industry. He told Asian newspapers that they might not be declining in circulation but that does not mean they are being spared from the world's newspaper crisis, because circulation in Asian countries is not growing in pace with the growth in the middle economic class. He also asked newspaper executives to think about their business in a different way:

"If the car industry realizes that they are not selling enough cars, they create new models, change their products... Newspapers publishers are not selling as many newspapers as before, but continue doing the same kind of newspapers. Therefore, you are taking wrong decisions and in a continuous way."

Cauthorn's was the first regular speech at the conference. He followed the Honorable Y.A.B. Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister od Defense of Malaysia, who opened the conference and also encourage publishers to fulfill new audiences requirements:

"There are many publications trying to inform in real time with sms alers, 24/7 websites... because if you don't move with the times and give audiences whay they want, you won't only be left behing but also force to leave the game. Change is not anymore a possibility but a real necessity."

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A Date with the ButcherEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

picard.jpg

Here is a question for the daily newspaper industry:

    When does the bovine brain realize it's entered the abattoir?

Does it finally realize that something is amiss as it trots up the slaughterhouse ramp? Does it realize only as it receives the fatal blow? Does it ever realize at all? When should the steer have stopped following the herd instinct?

I ask because I don't think that the American daily newspaper industry realizes that its slaughter has already begun. Slaughter may sound overly dramatic, but I think the evidence makes it an accurate description of the situation at hand. A hand with a cleaver.

I think the industry has started to realize that it's being bloodied, but it doesn't yet realizes that its gutting is the reason. Perhaps in a bovine way, the newspaper industry thinks it is the master of its own destiny. The reality, however, is the newspaper industry stopped growing beefy long ago and has been milked beyond the 'mature business' phase, so its owners have begun to lead it by the nose to the butcher.

Consider the American daily newspaper industry's view up the slaughterhouse ramp:

• The industry lost 2,500 local newsroom jobs last year, numbers that have been increasing annually despite the industry mooing that its news coverage must get better and that local news is its core purpose.
• Its circulation and readership has been steadily declining for generations, despite the U.S. population and the number of college-educated Americans steadily growing; yet the industry continues to chew its traditional cud about how it is an absolute necessity for all Americans.
• The industry still claims to be a potent force in America, yet its major stockholders see that as just bull and have devalued the industry's equity by more than 40 percent during the past five years.
• Knight Ridder, America's second largest chain of newspapers and a pioneer in the industry's new-media efforts, provided a rich milk of more than 20 percent profit margins to its stockholders, but they led it to be sold this year.


• Even the largest public shareholders of The New York Times Company have been clamoring for changes in control at that company, despite acknowledging that it publishes the best newspaper in the English-speaking world. Large public shareholders at Tribune Company are similarly upset about that company's decline value.

But why believe me that this is the situation? For years, I've been warning that the end is near for the American daily newspaper industry unless it makes radical changes, but I'm an independent consultant who works for a tiny firm that isn't associated with any media industry think tank; any university; or any big brand name, multi-industry consulting company. So, I'm easy to ignore by an industry that's largely in a state of bovine denial. It's also easys to ignore my warnings that the industry's new-media efforts won't save it unless those make the radical changes, too.

So, who will be believed?

I hope Professor Robert G. Picard, perhaps the world's leading expert on media economics. He is Hamrin Professor of Media Economics and Director of the Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping University in Sweden and currently a resident fellow at Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. Picard clearly has better credentials than mine.

In Austin on April 7 during his keynote speech at the 7th International Symposium on Online Journalism at the University of Texas, Picard (pictured above) gave a dire presentation forecasting the end of the newspaper industry and asserting that:

    "the current strategies of publishing companies to gain economies of scale and scope, to move into cross-platform content provision, and to maximize return across a portfolio of content products will be effective only for the short-and mid-term."

Let me rephrase that in words that perhaps a cow could understand:

Nor is following the herd instinct. (What's convergence, really? See this this definition for a truthful pointer about it).

But let's not digress from Picard's speech.…

...continue reading.

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Newspapers

April 14, 2006

Raise a Web Banner for World Press Freedom Day (May 3)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

worldpressfreedomday.jpg





I call for each newspaper website worldwide to create and display a banner ad on May 3rd forb World Press Freedom Day.

During the past seven years, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has freely provided printed newspapers with photos, graphics, and texts about jailed or killed journalists, including essays by world notables denouncing the jailings or killings of journalists, that newspapers can publish on May 3rd.

Why shouldn't newspapers' online editions also campaign for world press freedom?

Online editions get their news from the same journalists. Plus, if online editions are to succeed print and become the dominant source of news during this century, they must begin raising banners for world press freedom. Let's start now!

WAN has no World Press Freedom Day campaign materials specifically for online editions, which this year is a forgivable oversight. Moreover, my guess is that organization's might not have staff time or budget to create such materials between now and May 3rd.

Yet, online newspaper staffs are creative. I propose that online newspapers editions adapt the World Press Freedom Day infographics, photos, and texts that WAN offers online for printed editions. Shrink the printed banners to banner ad size, etc.

If you run a newspaper website, should you really give this campaign one banner ad space on your home page?

It's only for one day. If you don't want to give it that advertising space, then just add another banner on your home page for this campaign. (Or perhaps create a separate webpage about World Press Freedom Day.) Can't your online edition do that as a public service in support of the thousands of journalists who risk their lives each day, some of whose work you might be publishing? Or for the more than 500 journalists who have been arrested and imprisoned this year? Or for the more than 50 who have been murdered this year?

What should news sites not operated by newspapers do in support of World Press Freedom Day?

WAN offers its campaign materials specifically to newspapers for use on May 3rd. So, I believe that prohibits use of those materials by other types of media organizations. Nevertheless, this shouldn't mean that other types of media organizations can't craft their own campaign materials from other sources, notably from news stories about imprisoned or killed journalists. Do so!

Many newspaper publishers this year have declared that online is no longer subsidiary but core to their news efforts. Let's make World Press Freedom Day core online, too!

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April 13, 2006

March 6, 2006

March 3, 2006

WAN Paris Report: Newspaper Revenues OnlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

My speech last week for Borrell Associates to the World Association of Newspapers Advertising Conference in Paris received good play in The Guardian of London, MarketWatch in the U.S., PaidContent.org, and from WAN itself. Yet, most of the news stories focused on a comparison I made between the relative values of print edition readers and online edition readers.

That was a good 'take-out' quote for those stories to use. However, I made that comparison towards the end of my speech just to show the newspaper advertising executives that they must greatly increase their online revenues, particularly if their readerships continue shifting from print to online.

Other points I made were that American newspapers are earning significant revenues online, particularly now that local advertisers are going online. However, newspapers are in danger of losing local online advertising revenues, not to TV or radio stations but to 'pure-play' Internet competitors such as Google and Yahoo. And that newspapers must their expand their online advertising focus well beyond just the traditional classified advertising categories of jobs, properties, and automotive, because those three categories account for just a fraction of the monies advertisers are spending online.

So, for the record, here's the text of that speech:

...continue reading.

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February 8, 2006

CNN, Losing on the Air, Winning OnlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

The New York Observer compares online usage data about the U.S. news networks' websites and notes that CNN, though losing television audience to FoxNews, is trouncing FoxNews online. That's particularly important, according to CNN.com senior vice president and general manager David Payne:

"The data is pretty clear. The broadcast-news ratings chart just drops and drops and drops. For cable, it's probably less dramatic, but it's still true. There's just no doubt in my mind that online usage is going to dominate in the future. Whether that's 20 years from now or five years from now, I don't know. But it's going to win in the end."

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February 6, 2006

A WAN Attempt to Turn Back TimeEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

In 1994, I was doing some consulting to The New York Times Information Services Group (NYTISG), which had put that newspaper’s content onto America Online’s proprietary online service. It had recently launched a website containing New York Times Syndicate stories, which were taken from the front sections of the newspaper, and NYTISG was deliberating whether to launch a website for the newspaper itself.

But first it wanted to promote the NYT Syndicate stories’ website. Its staff had noticed from usage logs that one person in particular was accessing the syndicate site many times each day. So, they asked me track down that person and ask him if he’d be willing to be part of a promotional ad for the website.

Running that person's IP address through a WHOIS engine, I it resolved to filo.stanford.edu. I phoned Stanford University’s IT Department and I learned that filo.stanford.edu wasn’t one person, but a computer server operating a Web indexing spider under the direction of two doctoral candidates, Jerry Yang and David Filo.

I reported this the vice president in charge of NYTISG. I explained what a Web indexing spider was; how the basics of that technology were in the public domain; and suggested that The New York Times Company should operate one. That way, I said, the Times’ site would offer online users not only ‘All the News that’s Fit to Print’ but also a searchable index of everything that is online.

The vice president (who now publishes a newspaper in the state of Washington) looked at me as if I was daft and he replied, “No, we’re a newspaper, not some sort of online encyclopedia or phone book.“

Of all the consulting advice that I’ve given clients during the past dozen years, it was the one bit that I wish had been followed.

The New York Times Company and most every other newspaper in the world nowadays wishes it had the online traffic, gross revenues, and market capitalization of Yahoo! -- the Web indexing company that Jerry Yang and David Filo built from that spider.

I mention this because last week the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the trade organization representing 18,000 of the world’s newspapers, announced that it had joined other traditional publishers organizations in efforts to determine if can they legally charge the search engines that index their news.

The other publishers organizations involved are the International Publishers Association (IPA), International Federation of the Periodical Press (FIPP), European Federation of Magazine Publishers (ENPA), European Publishers Council (EPC), European Magazine Publishers Association (FAEP), French association for magazine publishers (SPMI), association of French national newspapers (SPP), and the French regional daily newspaper association (SPQR), plus the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP). Some online groups that are dominated by subsidiaries of print publishers, such as the Online Publishers Association of the UK, have given the endeavor a “cautious welcome.

Don’t be fooled by this initiative. Rather than catch up by doing what they should have done long ago, these publishers are searching for legal ways to tax the railroad because the gravy train has left them behind.

The publishers organizations acknowledge that search engines “provide a valuable service to publishers in terms of traffic generation” but claim that the search engines “have built their business models in large part on taking content for free.”

Let’s consider that phrase “taking content for free,” but first look at this:

Did I now just take WAN’s content? Was that citation comprehensible? From it, would you know what WAN and those publishers are doing?

I ask because I’ve just cited WAN’s online content exactly the same way, word for word, that Google News’ automatically did. Neither that eight-word abstract headline nor its 25-word abstract text even explains what WAN and the other publishers’ organizations are doing.

Look at Google News or Yahoo! News and see for yourself how the search engines briefly abstract news organizations’ headlines and texts. Whether or not a gist of a news story, nonetheless its content, as cited by the search engines is comprehensible depends entirely upon if that news organization’s headline writer and text author were pithy and cogent enough. Does the publishers’ content really consist of a (often incomplete) headline of less than ten words and an incomplete text of less than two dozen words?

No. I think the publishers’ claim that the search engines are taking their content is absurd. The search engines are merely pointing people to the content on the news organizations’ own sites. Indeed, the search engines’ citations towards the publishers’ news is even less than academic abstracts or business abstracts. Ask a librarian or professor.

However, WAN President (and Group COO of newspaper publishing company Independent News & Media PLC) Gavin O’Reilly told the Financial Times "That’s often enough” for readers browsing the top stories and “the fact here is that we’re dealing with basic theft."

If you accept Mr. O’Reilly’s logic, then don’t be surprised if the restaurant industry sues the newspaper industry for providing capsule listings and reviews that point potential diners to restaurants. The newspaper industry could defend itself by claiming that it doesn’t actually provide the food content to restaurant's potential patrons (at best, the reviews might provide a bit of the restaurants’ flavors) and that the reviews are simply pointing potential patrons to those restaurants and thereby increasing those restaurants' traffic. However, the restaurant owners might claim ‘That’s often enough’ to prevent people from coming onsite and browsing.

Is "theft" what the search engines are doing? Is theft pointing to something that is being given away for free? The news organizations aren't charging anyone for accessing their news online.

If the newspaper industry wants to claim that citing its headlines online is "theft", then it might first pursue the other daily newspapers that are doing it (such as this or this regular example) Publishers should pursue their direct competitors who are doing it, before claiming that the search engines are competitors.

Mr. '’Reilly also said, “The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense."

That statement is both patently and historically false. Search engines such as Google and Yahoo! existed for many years before indexing the news organizations’ websites. During that time the search engines, without pointing to those organizations’ news, grew to dwarf those organization in terms of online traffic, asset value, and market capitalization. News has never accounted for a significant fraction of these search engines traffic or revenues.

The only basis for theft that Mr. O'Reilly might legitimately claim is that the search engines have 'stolen' advertisers and consumers from using those publishers' websites more often or more fully. Google and Yahoo! now have more online advertisers than those publishers because these search engines attract more consumers than any of those publishers' sites do. And the search engines attract more consumers than the publishers' sites do because the search engines provide a service that those publishers long ago failed to provide but could have.

Indeed, the organizations announced their legal initiative eight days after Google announced that it was removing the ‘Beta’ from Google News. I don’t think that timing was random.

In the WAN announcement, Mr. O’Reilly referred to the’ Napsterisation’ of content, hoping to lend credence to his industry’s claim that search engines are stealing its content.

However, what the search engines are actually doing has nothing to do with ‘napsterizing content or stealing content. What the search engines provide to consumers is a package of pointers to where information — including now news — from all sources is located online. As I’d mentioned from my New York Times experience, the newspaper industry could have done that a dozen years ago. Or five years ago. Or now.

The newspaper industry didn't and doesn’t. Five years ago, did attempt to create what it called Internet ‘portals’, but those website contained only the content from that newspaper company and its affiliates. A portal just to them.

I don’t wish this WAN endeavor well. I think it’s a waste of time and money that the newspaper industry could better be spending on providing the types of services that it should have done long ago or those that it needs to now. Perhaps it is too late for The New York Times or other newspaper companies to become Googles or Yahoos (or Ebays or MySpaces), yet there are still plenty of new services to be developed online.

Don't try to tax a gravy train that you've missed. Start another one.

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February 2, 2006

Freedom/Registration, Control/Controlled: Identity 2.0 Eliminates PolarityEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

STLastBattle3.jpgSTLastBattle4.jpg

The sole Emmy award nominee for acting on the original Star Trek television series (1966-69) wasn’t a regular cast member, but a guest star. Frank Gorshin earned it in an episode entitled Let That Be Your Last Battlefield in which the late actor/comedian played one of two characters: Lokai, a political refugee from the planet Cheron, and Bele, a Cheronian police officer pursuing Lokai.

Their striking feature of Lokai and Bele is that they're half black and half white, the colors split perfectly down the centers of their bodies. Yet Lokai’s left half is white while Bele’s is black. When these two superhuman aliens begin battling each other over that polar difference in appearance, the crew of the Starship Enterprise barely escapes alive.

Lokai and Bele aren't fictional. I've met them online. Although I've not actually seen them, I know them because they maintain absolutely polar differences in opinions about online issues. They permit no gray areas. Bele and Lokai aren't trolls, phishers, pharmers, or any other previously known species of online denizens. They're cheronians, whose polar differences in both opinon and thinking prevent progress online.

For examples, they maintain polar differences about online anonymity and identity, issues about which I've recently written.

Lokai insists that free speech online is possible only when people can post their opinions in complete anonymity. He won't register on any site nor provide any identifying information. He abhors being tracked by cookies or spyware, particularly when he doesn't know by whom and hasn't given anyone explicit permission to tracked him. He regularly uses bugmenot.com and anonymous remailers to evade registration. He's affronted that publishers want to know his household income before they'll allow him to read the news, and he points to the fact that most news or e-commerce sites each use their own different registration systems as proof that requiring registration is an impediment to usage, to the free flow of information, and to e-commerce. Lokai moreover has some very legitimate privacy concerns about whether or not any site on which he would register will sell or distribute any information about his identity to other sites or affiliates without his knowledge or permission.

By contrast, Bele insists that anyone who wants to post their opinions online must be completely identified and thoroughly inspectable. He requires registeration on any site that he operates and insists that all registrants provide thorough information about their demographics and financial situations. His sites routinely use tracking cookies or spyware, and share any gleened information with his affiliates, advertising networks, and other sites. He has very legitimate concerns for insisting that all these methods are necessary for the subsidization and free flow of information and e-commerce. Bele also is fond of quoting his fellow left-black cheronian, Sun Microsystems Chairman & CEO Scott McNeely, "You have no privacy. Get over it."

Lokai and Bele each believe that any compromise is impossible because it involves … well … compromise. So, they insist that because no compromise is possible, then no solution to their differences is possible. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cheronians out there. Their intrinsic mistake is in thinking that a solution must involves compromising their values. They are stuck in Web 1.0.

Web 1.0 is a world that very much still exists. It consists of walled gardens and 'identity silos'. It's a publisher-centric world where the user must explicitly provide the publishers' or marketers' choices of demographic information about himself before being allowed to use the site. Moreover, the user's identigraphic or demographic data isn't portable; he must provide such idata again and again because each site, though it might share tracking information with other sites, uses its own different registration system (an identity silo).

People like Bele have built this world of Identity 1.0, but people like Lokai have fled it or are too fearful to use it. The Lokais are given few means to authenticate their identities without losing their privacies to the Beles, yet the Bele complain that the world can't function without Lokais giving that up. Like on the planet Cheron, this Identity 1.0 absolutism dooms Web 1.0's inhabitants because its inhabitants think no solution is possible without compromise.

Fortunately, most Canadians aren't cheronians. (Most, eh?) Dick Hardt, the founder & CEO of Sxip Identity in Vancouver, abhors the trap of absolutism and knows that all cheronians' concerns can be satisfied technologically and without palpable compromise. It's time for Identity 2.0.

I urge anyone who is concerned about online anonymity, pseudonymity, registration, and tracking — or anyone who is building or operating Internet services that involve those issues or mechanisms — to view Hardt's Identity 2.0 presentation from OSCON (the O'Reilly Open Source Convention) last year. He can explain the problems and the probable solution much better than I can. (Indeed, his is one of the best presentations I've ever seen. I thought that I'd known all about these issues until I saw Hardt's swift, cogent presentation.)

Let's escape this cheronian madness alive. Media companies such as The New York Times, Guardian, Newhouse, Ireland.com, Tribune, and others that are using their own registration schemes should join the Identity 2.0 effort and switch to an Open Source method. It will increase their business while solving many of their potential consumers' concerns. Likewise, media companies that are thinking of implementing registration or tracking should get involved in it now; as should the World Association of Newspapers, Newspaper Association of American, (U.S.) National Association of Broadcasters, and other media organization that are attempting to help their member companies thrive online.

(Disclaimer: I have no connection with Sxip, hadn't known of Identity 2.0 until seeing the online video of Hardt's OSCON presentation, and had been keeping my recommendation of it private to my consulting clients, but I think it should get wider discussion and recommendation within the media industry).

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January 25, 2006

January 24, 2006

Readers Must Be Transparent, TooEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

[The listserv of the Online News Association, an association of professionals who run news media sites, has been discussing the viability of unmoderated, anonymous discussion forums. The discussion arose after The Washington Post temporarily turned off the comments facility on its Post.Blog due to "hundreds" of comments "including personal attacks, the use of profanity and hate speech."

While lurking that discussion, I realized that many online news professionals mistake pseudonymity for anonymity. Moreover, I've for some time been meaning to write about a widespread fallacy that I think is impeding progress towards rebuilding the media. So, I today entered that discussion, particularly since someone there had earlier cited some of my earlier writtings elsewhere against news organizations operating unmoderated, anonymous discussion forums.

Because this is a controversial topic and I'd also think it should be discussed beyond the ranks of news media professionals, I below reproduce my ONA response. Because the ONA might prefer to keep private the identities its members involved in that discussions (including about the topic of transparency?), I've disguised the names of the ONA members who I quote::]

[UPDATE: I'm in error. A friend at Online Journalism Review has informed me that New England Courant Publisher James Franklin DID NOT know that his sixteen year-old brother and apprentice Benjamin was the pseudonymous 'Silence Dogood' until AFTER publishing 14 anonymous articles slipped under his newspaper's door at nights between April and October of 1722. The elder Franklin was upset when he discovered the author's true identity and it contributed to a lifelong schism between the brothers.

Walter Isaacson's recent biography of Ben Franklin (which cites http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/courant/story.htm as its source about 'Silence Dogood') however mentions this as the only time when Benjamin Franklin used a pseudonym without the prior knowledge and approval of a publisher.

I was in error, but think the correct facts still point to recklessness by that publisher, who soon served jail time for his own writings in the Courant and the Boston authorities later banned from publishing newspapers. I've corrected what I wrote below, striking out the earlier paragraphs


While I understand how tying comments to names may have help people recognize their personal responsibilities, I also know there is a rich history of anonymity in American journalism, going back to the early blogger Silence Dogood.

Anonymous to the readers or to the publisher?

'Silence Dogood' has been pointed to as the mother of a rich history of anonymity in American journalism. What is true is that between April and October of 1722 New England Courant Publisher James Franklin printed 14 anonymous articles that had been slipped under his door.

The author 'Silence Dogood' claimed to be the widow of a country minister, but Franklin suspected the name was a pseudonym for someone else. It was common for eighteenth century journalists, including Franklin's, to use pseudonyms when writing articles that the authorities might have been considered to be libelous or illegal.

Historical records infer that James Franklin knew the identities of his other pseudonymous contributors, but not that of 'Silence Dogood'. That failing was perhaps one of many reckless publishing decisions by Franklin, who soon served jail time for his own writings in the Courant and who the Boston authorities later banned from publishing newspapers. He was meanwhile not amused to learn that 'Silence Dogood' was actually his 16 year-old brother and apprentice Benjamin Franklin.

The publisher of 'Silence Dogood' knew exactly who 'she' really was before 'her' writings were published in the newspaper. In fact, New England Courant Publisher James Franklin knew his sixteen year-old brother and apprentice Benjamin very well in 1722 before letting Ben use that pseudonym.

Unlike James Franklin, American Weekly Mercury Publisher Andrew Bradford of Philadelphia a few years later knew before publication that “Caelia Shortface” and “Martha Careful” were pseudonyms for journeyman printer Ben Franklin, who’d fled Boston and joined his employ and started writing articles under the pseudonyms “Caelia Shortface” and “Martha Careful” in that Philadelphia newspaper.

As did American Weekly Mercury Publisher Andrew Bradford a few years later when journeyman printer Ben Franklin joined his employ and started writing articles under the pseudonyms 'Caelia Shortface' and 'Martha Careful' in that Boston newspaper.

When later Ben Franklin himself became a newspaper publisher in Philadelphia, he occasionally published his own articles under the pseudonyms 'Anthony Afterwit' and 'Alice Addertongue.' Yet the 'Richard Saunders' of the eponymous book Poor Richard's Almanac was probably Publisher Ben Franklin's best-known, self-permitted pseudonym.

There is a rich and successful history of pseudonymity in American opinion journalism. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay wrote The Federalist Papers using the pseudonym 'Publius,' but not without their publisher's prior permission and knowledge of their true identities. A more recent example occurred in 1947 when the publisher of Foreign Affairs granted the Moscow-based American diplomat George Kennan the pseudonym 'X' to write the renowned political essay proposing the geographic containment of Communism.

Though I can't think of a current American periodical that regularly grants pseudonyms to its writers, the British publishers of the Financial Times and The Economist regularly grant them for some of their columnists. However, those publishers know their columnists' true identities and vet the columns beforehand.

In all the examples I've mentioned, the publishers not only knew the pseudonymous writers' true identities beforehand but also vetted the writers' submissions before publication. That's a far cry from publishing anonymous blog postings.

Though there is a rich history of pseudonymity in American journalism, there is none of anonymity. It has long been understood that if the publisher of a reputable periodical grants a writer use of a pseudonym, then that publisher knows the writer's true identity and takes responsibility -- legal and otherwise -- for that writer's words.

Printed periodicals grant pseudonymity but never anonymity. Imagine the cacophony that would result if printed periodicals published unvetted, unreviewed, and anonymous Letters-to-the-Editor or Op-Ed essays.

Yet we're now discussing how some of those periodicals' are doing the equivalent of that online. Should there really be any surprise that many of those comments are scatological, obscene, or libelous?

Publishing anonymous, unvetted, and unreviewed commentary is a huge difference from those publications' print editions' policies. It's a different kettle of fish, one that can stink for the publishers. Indeed, those publishers and their new-media managers are being reckless. And if you think I've used too strong a word, poll newspaper libel lawyers and libel insurers.

Forgive me, but I would respectfully suggest that the topic IS worth discussing more than once, particularly in a medium evolves as fast as ours.

Yes, it's certainly worth discussing again and again. But we do realize that, for human reasons, the topic has not evolved during the past 10 years despite the evolution of technology. This topic is substantially the same as it was when the first open bulletin boards were posted on the Web in 1996 or when the first proprietary online service user forums went online years earlier. Online news managers who don't know its history are doomed to relive it.

Although the technologies of this medium evolve with the speed of 'Moore's Law,' the actual laws and liabilities governing the technologies evolve about as fast as the eponymous Gordon Moore can walk (he celebrated his 77th birthday this month). That is because the mechanical topic of technology and the human topic of ethics aren't related to each other. Although we may strive to offer bulletin boards and commentary fields where people might provide thoughtful and ethical comments without scatology, obscenity, or libel, we cannot and will not achieve that through technology alone.

What I'm about to state might seem farfetched, but a decade of studying online news media leads me to fear that it is true:

...continue reading.

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January 4, 2006

Quote of the Week?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

"The people formerly known as the audience."

New York University Journalism Professor Jay Rosen quoted in The New York Times about how new media has empowered people to correct traditional media.

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December 14, 2005

December 7, 2005

Pulitzer Prizes Jury Now Accepts Online Content SubmissionsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

The Pulitzer Prize Board announced today that newspapers can now submit Breaking News Reporting and Breaking News Photography award category submissions that consist entirely of content published online. Newspapers also may submit online material as well as print content in all the other 12 journalism award categories, starting with the 2006 competition.

Since 1999, the board has allow online content only as supplementary content to Public Service award category submissions.

"The Board believes it has taken a significant step in recognition of the widening role of online journalism at newspapers," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. "The Board will continue to watch the evolution of this medium."

In any category, the new Pulitzer Prize rules state, online material must be published on the newspaper's Web site and, when submitted for competition, "must depict its original publication on the Web, not its subsequent update or alteration."

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Professor of New Media Leads The Society of Professional JournalistsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

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Having travelled too much and blogged too little during October and November, I'm remiss in not noting the election on October 18th of David Carlson (pictured), the Cox/Palm Beach Post professor of new media journalism at the University of Florida, to president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

The 98-year old SPJ electing a veteran practicioner of the new medium as president is a milestone in American journalism, another signal of how important the new medium is to the future of journalism.

In 1990, Carlson launched The Electronic Trib at the Albuquerque Tribune. The E-Trib was one of two first newspaper-operated online news systems in the world and is believed to be the world's first interactive newspaper in the world operated from, and housed in, a personal computer (running an Intel 286-12 processor!).

Carlson today works with University of Florida journalism students on prototypes of newspapers of the future. He and his students launched the first journalism site anywhere on the World Wide Web in October, 1993. Many readers of this blog might also know him as a long-time contributor to the Poynter Institute's E-Media Tidbits group weblog. The 6'3" (190 cm) tall Carlson drives a 2004 MINI Cooper S with a Florida license plate META TAG.

His 30 years of experience as a reporter and editor of printed and online newspapers and as professor of new media have given him a broad perspective about how U.S. journalism must change in the future. Here are some excerpts from his inaugural speech:

"We need to talk about how Wall Street and its never-ending quest for profit is changing journalism. We need to talk about plagiarism and ethical lapses that have given us a black eye. We need to talk about the erosion of freedoms that are making it harder for the public to learn about the public’s business. We need to talk about our fellow reporters going to jail to protect their sources.

Journalism, to me, is about helping people. It’s about telling stories that get laws changed. It’s about telling stories that save lives. It’s about telling stories that point fingers at what needs to be pointed out. It’s about sending criminals to jail and setting the innocent free. Journalism is about seeking truth and reporting it.

But our industry has strayed somewhat from these principles. Too often and in too many places journalism has become about profits and ratings. Too often and in too many places it has become about political agendas and axe grinding, about entertainment disguised as news, about 'spin' and saber-rattling. Too often and in too many places journalism has involved another 'ism,' plagiarism.

In short, ladies and gentlemen, we’ve allowed our ethics to decay. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to hype a story to make it sound better than it is. We’ve come to think that it’s all right for the TV networks to treat promos for their prime-time entertainment shows as news. We’ve come to think that it’s OK to tell local listeners that 'Bubonic plague breaks out! Details at 11,' when the story is about a cat that died 500 miles away."

Congratulations on your new post, David! And thanks for reminding SPJ just how much journalists need to talk among themselves, and with their consumers, about their own problems.

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December 5, 2005

E&P Laments the 'Meltdown to the Core'Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

An editorial entitled Meltdown to the Core in the current issue of Editor & Publisher magazines, the trade journal of the newspaper industry, laments how that declining industry's cost-cutting is gutting attempts to serve growing niches of readership and is instead focusing on just the "core" brand name daily newspapers:

Whole segments of the once-universal newspaper market, including immigrants and youth, clearly shun the metro daily "core product" these days. Newspapers can either offer them something else, or abandon them to their many new and eager competitors. Not all of these experiments will prove successful, but they must be attempted.

Too many newspapers cling to the idea that their "brand" will save them in the end -- that by relying on a high-margin, albeit shrinking 'core product,' they alone will remain a mass medium in a splintered environment. They ignore the fact that to many in their most elusive audiences, the mainstream brand itself is a marketing impediment.

They would do well to remember all the great newspaper brands that failed in an era long before Google and Craigslist: the Philadelphia Bulletin, the Washington Star, The Mirror in Los Angeles, the Chicago Daily News, the New York Journal-American, and on and on.

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November 15, 2005

A Perspective: The Myth of The Owned ReadersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Traditional publishers and broadcasters aren't the only faction whose perspective creates an illusion.

Today at Corante's Symposium on Social Architecture, I've heard speakers state as fact that 'newspaper publishers think they own their readers.'.

I've been working in the newspaper industry since 1978. My family has been publishing a daily newspaper in New England since 1877. I've known dozens, maybe hundreds, of newspaper publishers. I've never met or heard of one who thinks he owns his readers.

Sure, most, if not all, hold an attitude that 'we the newspaper staff write it and they the consumers read it', so the publishers don't think that 'news is a conversation.' Yet, no publisher thinks he owns his readers.

My blog compatriot Dorian Benkoil reminds me that traditional broadcasters do think they own their viewers, and I agree. Traditional TV broadcasters' attitude towards viewers is 'will the dogs eat the dog food' that broadcasters are doling out.

However, I know of no newspaper publisher who thinks he owns his readers. Newspaper circulation has been eroding since the late 1960s, when most of today's newspaper publishers were still in elementary school. Ever since they began working in the newspaper industry, all of today's publishers have known is how shaky their circulation is; how they've been experienced annual circulation churn of 25 to 60 percent for decades; how they've desperately tried to keep or find readers who are at least slightly loyal.

New-media pundits who claim that 'newspaper publishers think they own their readers.' haven't a clue. They've grabbed a meme from the 1950s, an illusive perspective as out-of-date as the publishers' and broadcasters' illusion that audiences are fragmenting. Two conflicting illusions.

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A Perspective: The Myth of Audience FragmentationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

'Our audience is fragmenting!' I hear that again and again from traditional publishers and broadcasters. They lament their ‘fragmenting’ readership, listenership, or viewership. But it’s untrue, merely a figment of their traditional perspective.

Viewership, readership, and listenership, have always been fragmented.

Each individual listener, viewer, or reader is, and has always been, a unique mix of generic interests and specific interests. Although many of these individuals might share some generic interests, such as the weather, most, if not all of them, each have very different specific interests. And each individual is a truly unique mix of generic and specific interests.

Until about 30 years ago, the average American hadn’t access to any medium that could satisfy each of their specific interests. All they had was the mass medium, which could somewhat successfully satisfy many of their generic (i.e., 'mass') interests.

Then media technologies evolved in ways that started to satisfy their specific interests. During the 1970s, improvements in offset lithography led to a bloom of specialty magazines; no longer were there a dozen or two magazines on newsstands, but hundreds, most about only specific topics. Proliferations of first analog cable television systems during the 1980s, then digital ones during the late 1990s, increased the average American’s number of accessible TV stations from four to hundreds, mostly specialty channels (Home & Garden TV, the Golf Channel, the Military Channel, etc.) Then the Internet because publicly accessible during the 1990s and the average individual quickly had access to millions of websites, most of those sites about very specific topics.

The result was that more and more individuals, who had been using only (the generic) mass medium because that's all they had, have gravitated to these speciality publications, channels, or websites rather than continue to use only mass medium publications, channels, or websites. More and more use the mass medium less and less. And more and more will soon be most.

The individual's haven't changed, they've always been fragmented. What's changing is their media habits. They're now simply satisfying the fragmented interests that they've always had. There are as many fragments as there are individuals. Always has been and always will be.

So, the audience hasn't fragmented. Traditional publishers' and broadcasters' illusion has.

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November 1, 2005

Having Managed Its Decline, Knight Ridder Begins to Reap the WhirlwindEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

You can manage decline only so far before your company crumbles. Case in point: Knight-Ridder, Inc, the second largest newspaper chain in the U.S.

Is Knight Ridder crumbling? Look how the crumbs are starting to fall.

The crumb was today's announcement by Private Capital Management, Knight Ridder's the largest institutional shareholder, urging the newspaper company's board of directors to put the company up for sale..

Private Capital Management said a sale should be pursued, "in light of limited revenue growth across the newspaper industry and the difficulties the company has faced in realizing the fair value" for its shareholders.

Like most newspaper corporations, Knight Ridder has been cutting both staff and expenses, squeezing higher profit margins out of its newspapers even as their circulations declined. Something had to give, and what gave today was the confidence of Knight Ridder's largest shareholder.

Ten years ago, in an essay in American Journalism Review, Philip Meyer, who holds the Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and had spent 23 years working for Knight Ridder, most recently as the company’s director of news and circulation research, warned this would happen if the company continued squeezing its newspapers:

"Which scenario are we moving toward – squeezing the goose or nurturing it? While the signals are mixed, most of the decisions making business page headlines point to the squeeze scenario. Layoffs, closing bureaus, shrinking news holes are the order of the day. On the other hand, the public journalism movement represents an effort to build civic spirit in a way that will emotionally bind citizens to the newspaper. Whether very many newspapers will spend the money to wholeheartedly practice genuine public journalism remains to be seen. The short term economic pressures are against them. The first scenario produces visible and immediate rewards while the costs are hidden and distant. The second yields immediate costs and distant benefits.

"The dilemma cuts across all forms of newspaper ownership, but publicly held companies bear a special burden because of Wall Street's habit of basing value on short term return. Take the case of a long term-oriented, nurturing company like Knight-Ridder. With total average daily circulation of 3.6 million, its newspapers would bring a total of $6.5 billion if sold separately at an average value of $1,800 per paying reader. ... With 52.9 million shares outstanding at the 1994-95 high price of $61 per share, the entire company, including its non-newspaper properties, is valued by its investors at only $3.2 billion or around half the break-up value."

In its letter today to Knight Ridder's directors, Private Capital Management noted that since July, ".the Company's share price has declined by over 14% from $62.23 to $53.38." Knight Ridder's market capitalization today was $4.27 billion. Yesterday, Deutsche Bank securities downgraded Knight Ridder from "hold" to "sell."

Cutting expenses and staff to maintain profit margins while the product newspapers' popularity declines is bad management. It's management that's now unexpectedly reaping the whirlwind.

Knight Ridder Chairman Tony Ridder has been expressing confidence in his company. I think this week that too began to crumble.

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October 26, 2005

The Online/Legacy User Equivalence MythEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

'Don't worry,' the publisher tells his stockholders. 'Our periodical may have lost 100,000 subscribers [or viewers or listeners] this past year; but the good news is that our website gained 500,000 users during that same period!

Now that periodical circulations, TV news viewerships, and radio news listenserships have entered free fall (a situation that many of us have predicted for decades) I've been hearing publishers and broadcasters try to fool their stockholders with what I term the Myth of Online/Legacy User Equivalence.

    The Myth states that each online user is of equal value to a user of print or broadcast.

If you're the publisher or broadcaster whose daily or weekly legacy media audience is declining but whose website has an increasing monthly usership, this myth is a comforting bit of sophism. And it's manna from heaven to your public relations staff.

After all, isn't an eyeball an eyball? Isn't a user a user, no matter whether he uses print, online, or over-the-air? Isn't your audience merely shifting from print [or broadcast] to online; so that if your monthly online usership equals your daily or weekly losses in circulation or viewership, there's no net loss? Right?

Only if you flunked junior high school math. I think that most publishers and broadcasters did. (You'd think so too if you read Temple University Professor John Allen Paulos' A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper, but that's another story.) Because the myth that each online user is of equal value to each user of print or broadcast is a wonderfully plausible but fallacious belief.

The myth is so plausible that it is hard not to blame Northeast University Journalism Professor and former Boston Phoenix media critic Dan Kennedy for falling for it last week. Dan commented in his Media Nation blog about stories reporting about the Boston Globe's loss of nearly 8 percent daily circulation this year:

But though these are certainly dark days at 135 Morrissey Blvd., especially with the national operation being dismantled, there's a larger point that everyone is missing.

Take a look at the media kit for the Globe's Web site, Boston.com. As you'll see, Boston.com claims to have 600,000 registered users. Moreover, it cites a third-party study showing that Boston.com is visited by more than 4.1 million unique users every month.

Now, those 4.1 million people aren't all Globe readers. Boston.com includes features not just from the Globe but also from New England Cable News and New England Sports Network, as well as some of its own content. But, for the sake of simplicity, let's say that Boston.com and the Globe are one and the same. Divide those 4.1 million monthly users by 30 days in a month (another oversimplification), and you've got an average of about 136,000 people reading the Globe online every day.

Add those readers to the Globe's current circulation, and you get 552,000 on weekdays and 803,000 on Sundays. Significantly, those numbers are similar to the Globe's best years pre-Web. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), the Globe's weekday circulation in 1991 was 519,000. Its Sunday circulation in 1994 was 815,000.

You get his point: If an online edition user is equal to a printed edition user, then everything is coming up roses for the Globe.

doesnotequalBut that's not what a closer sniff reveals. Let's nose into the reality:

Almost all surveys of printed newspaper readership (the most recent was by the Readership Institute at Northwestern University) indicate that the average reader of a metropolitan daily newspaper (such as the Globe) reads it 3 to 5 times per week, spending about a half hour each time and scan through all daily pages. Note that I said per week.

By comparison, almost all surveys and meterings of newspaper website usage (including by Nielsen/Netratings and its archrival ComScore Media Metrix) indicate that the average user of a metropolitan daily newspaper's website (specifically including the Boston.com) uses that site 3 to 5 times per month spending about a half hour in aggregate there all month and seeing less than 30 webpages during that time.

Since there are 4 and one-third weeks in a month, this means the average readers of the printed edition and the web editions are clearly not equivalent. Each print edition reader uses the publication 4.33 times as oftenas the average online reader. Then factor in the difference between how many pages those respective average readers read: 40 to 60 daily by the newspaper reader versus less than 30 all month for the online reader. Finally, factor in the amount time each spents reading: approximately 30 minutes per print use versus 30 minutes total for all monthly usages online. There are obviously one or two magnitudes difference between the value of these two types of readers.

Speaking of value, it gets even worse: A Borrell Associates survey by of 245 U.S. newspaper websites in 2003 showed that their average annual revenue measured per user was $7.93 (the revenues for the New York Times Company, which includes Boston.com, was $7.56). Compare that the average annual revenue measured per users of a printed edition. How do you calculate the average annual revenues from a print reader? Take the printed newspaper's annual advertising revenues and divide those by the newspaper's circulation, and then add the newspaper's annual subscription rate ($400). You'll come up with a figure of between $500 and $1,200 per reader, depending upon the individual newspaper.

In other words, a print edition reader is one or two magnitudes more valueable to the publisher than an online users. As a consultant about online publishing, I hate to state that and am working to change it, but it is true.

Unless publishers {or broadcasters] can create compelling website that get used — and earn — at least as much as their legacy media does per user, then the fact that more and more of their legacy media users are switching to online access of their service isn't good news.

And those publishers and broadcasters who are claiming that each online media user is equivalent to a legacy media user? Either they're fooling their stockholders or they themselves are the fools.

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October 20, 2005

What Obstacles Exist for Online Journalism?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

What obstacles exist for online journalism?

That topic will be on the minds of attendees at the Online News Association's annual conference next week in Manhattan.

Unfortunately, the major obstacle for online journalism is the people who practice it — the best of whom will be attending the conference. Most are transplanting into the new medium the failings of the old, mass medium: the failings of traditional journalism and the failings of traditional journalism’s packaging.

Journalists, whether they work in mass or new media, still tend to believe that traditional journalism and its packaging are as correct in a new medium as those once were in the mass medium. It is as an article of faith within their secular trade.

Yet, traditional journalism and its packaging have demonstrably failed in the mass medium, and there’s abundant evidence that that those are failing the new medium, too.

The verdict was handed down long ago in the mass medium. North American viewership of televised news has been plunging for two decades. In most of the world’s industrialized countries except Japan and China, newspaper readership has been plummeting for a third of a century. Radio listenership of news dove even longer ago. And the credibility of the news media, at least in North America, is in tatters.

So, why is most online journalism shovelware from traditional print, traditional video, and traditional radio?

Speak with most of the journalists who will be attending the ONA conference and they'll give you several excuses: 'Our website doesn't have enough staff to do anything but shovelware.' ‘This type of journalism is what was taught to us in journalism school and is still being taught there.’ 'If it’s good enough for print or video or audio, it's good journalism online.' Etcetera.

Even what little original journalism is being done online is being done along traditional models (Macromedia Flash optional).

Although there are other reasons why viewership, readership, and listenership of news have declined for decades, traditional journalism is certainly a major reason, if not the major reason.

Simply reporting who, what, when, why, and how; quoting both sides' statements; and expecting the public to decide the issues from such factoids is no longer effectively satisfying the unambiguous needs of viewers, readers, and listeners. Neither does traditional journalism’s story selection and packaging. The numbers were in decades ago.

Delivering that traditional journalism via HTML, CSS, Flash, PDF, streaming media, RSS, or podcasting solves nothing. If anything, it only makes the problem worse.

Ten years into the Internet era, although news publishers and broadcasters now boast of the numbers of people who visit their websites, the sites’ average visitor use those much less frequently and far less thoroughly than the average reader, viewer, or listener of those same publishers’ or broadcasters’ plummeting old media.

Neilsen/Netratings and Comscore Media Metrix agree that the average visitor to an American daily newspaper website visits only three time per month and read less than 20 pages and spends less than 30 minutes there during that month. According to the Readership Institute at Northwestern University, the average reader of a printed newspaper reads it three times per week, and readi more than 20 pages and spends nearly 30 minutes each time. The ratios between American broadcasters’ websites and their TV or radio broadcasts are little better.

Online journalism — if it is ever to be used more than the continuously lessening use of newspapers, news television, and news radio is — must change. Otherwise, shovelware will bury it.

Some online journalists say that 'citizen journalism' should be the future of journalism. But that shirks their own relevant roles.

The people attending the Online News Association next week have done yeoman work putting news online and deserve credit for that. However, it has come time for them to stop shoveling traditional journalism online. To stop waiting for their brethren in broadcast or print edition newsrooms to solve the problem of why viewership, readership, and listenership have been declining for decades; to stop hoping to shovel into online whatever that solution is. Judging by their long track record, it is highly unlikely that traditional journalists will ever solve that problem.

Because traditional journalists will never lead that change, it has become incumbent upon online journalists to lead, reinvent, and revitalize journalism for the 21st Century. That time is now. I challenge my fellow Online News Association members. Manhattan beckons.

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October 19, 2005

Leo Bogart, R.I.P. (1921-2005)Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

leobogart

Leo Bogart, a Polish-born, former U.S. Army Intelligence officer in World War II, who later applied his talents for analysis to the media in general, and tried to reverse the decline of American media, died Saturday in Manhattan.

During the 1960s, Dr. Bogart was among the first of analysts to detect and predict the since continuous declines in newspapers' readerships, television news viewerships, and radio news listenerships. He later lamented that the print media industry wasn't using methods of modern marketing analysis to stem those declines. He also argued that market forces shouldn't be the only determinant of media content.

Author of more than a dozen books and hundreds of media trade journal articles (an example from 1996), Bogart was best known for applying scientific analysis on the editorial content of newspapers, magazines, and television and relating the results to readership and viewership.

He served as the executive vice president and general manager of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau; taught marketing at New York University, Columbia University and the Illinois Institute of Technology; and was a senior fellow at the Center for Media Studies at Columbia and a Fulbright research fellow in France. At the time of his death, Bogart was a director and senior consultant for Innovation, an international media consulting firm, and wrote a column for Presstime, the magazine of the Newspaper Association of America.

The New York Times today reported that Bogart died ten weeks after being diagnosed with babesiosis, a tick-borne, malaria-like disease that destroys red blood cells. Rarely infecting humans, babesiosis is typically found in coastal islands of the Northeast U.S.

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October 12, 2005

October 7, 2005

October 6, 2005

The Aims of Journalism in the 21st CenturyEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Don’t think of stories as text or video or audio. Free yourself of any legacy constraints such as 'This is how [online] newspaper stories have been presented' or 'this is how [online] broadcast reporting has been done.'

Forget about conveying just who, what, when, why, and how and any concept that people can decide for themselves given just those facts. That model of journalism has failed. Think instead of your stories as something to be taught.

Yale University Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Computer Science and Statistics, and Graphic Design Edward Tufte (who The New York Times has called "The Leonardo da Vinci of data") has said the core ideas of good teaching are explanation, reasoning, finding things out, questioning, content, evidence, and credible authority without patronizing authoritarianism. And a good teacher interacts with those who he teaches.

Those are the core ideals for which journalism in the 21st Century must aim.

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September 29, 2005

They Actually Said That: CBS Chairman Les MoonvesEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

How did the media get into its dire predicament? Who's been running this show?

We often trip over interviews with the people in charge — excerpts from which we'd occasionally like to share with you.

For instance, here's some excerpts from Giving Them What They Want, the September 4th The New York Times Magazine cover story [unfortunately, paid online archives access only] about CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves

What strikes you most about Moonves, [The New York Times Magazine Editor-at-Large Lynn] Hirschberg says, is his enormous self-confidence and his focus. "Most people have a hard time trying to decide what they want for breakfast," she says. Moonves, on the other hands, "has a vision for what's going to be on the air every day and every night on a network with millions of viewers." It's easy to be cynaical about televison, she adds, but industry leaders like Moonves have a very differenct mind-set: "They're not jaded about what they are going. They're passionate about it. They have a kind of belief in what they're doing as important, and they do not quesiton that."
“CBS is back because Les has done a great job. … But the broadcast audience will continue to erode. Networks like CBS cast a wide net that attracts a vast number of viewers, but eventually that audience will want something more specific, and they’ll turn to cable of the Internet.” Home Box Office Chairman and C.E.O. Chris Albrecht.
“There’s a way to fix news, “ Moonves says confidently. “Just as there was a way to fix prime time. I never saw TV as an ailing medium. There’s no place else to get that kind of audience."
Now that [Dan] Rather is no longer the network eminence at CBS Evening News, “Moonves says he intends to completely revamp the program. In January, he even suggested that he might e willing to have Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central’s mock-news program The Daily Show play some part on the evening news — a sign of how drastically Moonves feels the news needs to change.
“We have to break the mold in news,” Moonves had told me. “We don’t have a choice.” Moonves has expressed his frustration about the news division to friends and colleagues — sometimes with intentional hyperbole. Moonves genuinely likes and respects [CBS News President Andrew] Hayward, but has said to colleagues that Heyward may not be able to “lead a revolution.”
It might seem surprising that Moonves, given his approach to the genre of TV drama, is so taken with reinventing the news. But then he is, as usual, following his sense of what the viewers want. The audience, he imagines, would like its news to be more like his entertainments shows: better stories told by attractive personalities in exciting ways. To this end, Moonves requested in June that Heyward shoot some prototypes of nightly news shows using alternative formats. There were more than 10 meetings that followed in which Moonves pushed Heyward to be less conservative in his thing. “The News anchor Andrew wants to use is not surprising,” Moonves told me, referent to John Roberts, the chief White House correspondent for CBS and one of Heyward’s leading choices. “That’s bothering me. On the one hand, we could have a newscast like The Big Breakfast in England, where women give the news in lingerie. Or there’s Naked News, ‘ which is on cable in England. I saw a clip of it. It’s a woman giving the news as she’s getting undressed. And then, on the other hand, you could have two boring people behind a desk. Our newscast has to be somewhere in between.”
The finished news prototype will probably have some nontraditional features — humorous segments, conversations between reporters and than anchor, interactive elements involving viewers. Throughout the summer, the news division solicited ideas froma variety fo sources: products of entertainment shows, MTV News, and even a group of college-age interns who were working at CBS. IN the end, though, Moonves will be the judge. “It’s like pornography — I’ll know it when I see it,” he would tell me later.
“News is commerce, too. The news people are all being paid lost of money. So it’s a little hypocritical to claim that I was turning news — a sacred institution — into commerce by putting ’60 Minutes II’ on the air. Well, you know what, guys? When you agent calls, he’s not being shy about asking form money. He views this as commerce.”

Yes, they actually said that.

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September 28, 2005

Newspaper Print Edition Executives' Visions of the FutureEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Why in this blog do we frequently write about newspapers? Mainly because newspapers have had the longest experience with the new medium.

The New York Times launched the world's first online edition in 1974 with LexisNexis, followed by many magazines and other newspapers on that professional online service or competitors such as Dialog. Though I forget which printed periodical launched the first online edition aimed at consumers , but it probably was on an dial-up bulletin board service around 1980. Many newspapers and magazines launched online editions on CompuServe and Prodigy later that decade. And in 1995, The San Jose Mercury News became the world's first newspaper to launch an edition on the World Wide Web. Broadcasters followed years behind.

So what have newspapers learned during all that time? What can anyone learn from newspapers' experiences with the new medium?

One facet can be glimpse in the cover story of the October edition of Editor and Publisher magazine, the trade journal of the American newspaper industry. Entitled 2020: A Press Odyssey, it asked print newspaper executives what they think their products will look like in 15 years. [Unfortunately, the cover story is available online only to the magazine's print edition subscribers or to paying subscribers of its online edition.] Here are some excerpts:

Industry veterans across the country imagine neither the disappearance of printed editions nor the likely appearance of all- digitally printed newspapers by 2020. Almost all, however, point to improved targeting of advertising and customer-selectable content. "I don't think that in 15 years our economic model is going to allow us to mass-market everything to everybody," says Richard Rinehart, operations VP at The News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.
"The idea that we call ourselves a newspaper is a problem," says St. Petersburg Times Tampa [sic] Publisher Joe DeLuca, because it identifies the business by its distribution channel -- something like "Coke calling itself a can." The former Times operations director now responsible for the paper's business operations in Tampa says advertisers are focused more on niche markets, and want to target them in ways that mass distribution now cannot.
"I believe the whole paper will have to be targeted," with only requested sections delivered, says LA Weekly Production Director Robin Shank, adding that subscribers shouldn't have to toss out half their papers. … What's more, she and others think revenues should rise from charging subscribers by the section and raising ad rates to correspond with subscriber-section targeting. … Advertisers know not everyone reads every section. "They're not stupid," says Shank. "If I'm buying that section, I'm a heck of a lot more valuable to that advertiser because I'm going to read it." Rather than selling an ad on the strength of total circulation, she urges charging advertisers a premium rate to reach those they know will see their ads.
"We just need to become more of a niche product," says Rinehart, even if it means doing some custom assembly. "It's not all about savings."
Shank says [this] unbundling is hard to sell, nowhere more than in the newsroom. At Gannett, Production Vice President J. Austin Ryan isn't buying either. Besides waste and time-consuming replates and restarts of many small zoned runs, he worries that if publishers tell advertisers that few read the section in which their ads appear, many will just ask to move their ads to the A section, which cannot hold every ad.
On the other hand, Ryan thinks distribution needs only to be better utilized. "We have a distribution system that works very well -- at 4 o'clock in the morning," he says, calling it the envy of the U.S. Postal Service and wondering if it couldn't deliver whatever customers are willing to pay for.
Future post-press automation, therefore, will need to shrink the workforce and "allow mass customization," … says consultant and former Gannett production executive Chuck Blevins The good news, he adds, is that systems at the front end of publishing are up to the task.

Most of the rest of the cover story details the pre-press, press, and post-press technologies needed to make such things happen, details that will probably bore newspaper online edition executives as much as their talk about server technologies, JavaScripting, and Flash bore the print executives. It's nonetheless an excellent article by E&P Senior Editor Jim Rosenberg.

I've been writing elsewhere since 2000 (example) about how printing press technologists are moving towards the idea of the individually customizable newspaper, yet most newspapers' online executive dismiss the concept of offering equally customizable editions online. Why is that?

Of course, this E&P cover story begs the question of whether or not a print newspaper industry will exist in America by 2020. A few years ago, when the industry's perrenial circulation declines were only in the 0.5 to 1 percent range, Journalism Professor and former Knight Ridder newspapers executive Philip Meyer, the author of the recent book The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age, noted that "the last daily reader will disappear in September 2043."

During the past few years, despite a rising economy, those annual circulation declines have accelerated into the mid to high single percentages. If all these trends continue, that predicted last reader might arrive 23 years earlier and read an individually customized edition.

What do you think?

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September 22, 2005

Behold the Power of ThemEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

The ironically named 'BEHOLD THE POWER OF US' is a single-day online news industry digerati calvacade, organized by the American Press Institute and held at the headquarters of the Associated Press. It should appeal to the FEW OF THEM in the media WITH THE POWER to afford an event that's way too expensive to be much good for majority of the American news industry.

The nine-hour symposium in New York City on Wednesday, October 5th, costs $695 to attend.

Its speakers include Current TV Chairman and former Vice President of the United States Al Gore, Criagslist Customer Service Representative & Founder Craig Newmark, Associated Press President & CEO Tom Curley, BBC Global News Division Director Richard Sambrook, CBS News President Andrew Heyward, CBS Digital Media President Larry Kramer, Netform President Karen Stephenson, Wonkette Editor Ana Marie Cox, Bayosphere Founder Dan Gillmor, futurist Watts Wacker, Yahoo! Vice President & General Manager Craig Forman, New York Times Columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, Pop and Politics Editor & Founder Farai Chideya, Gawker.com Editor Jessica Coen, NewsGator Technologies President & CEO J.B. Holston, I Want Media Founder & Editor Patrick Phillips, Union Square Ventures Partner Brad Burnham, Young and Rubicam Brands Chief Insights Officer(yes, that's actually his job title) John Gerzema, and Micro Persuasion blogger Steve Rubel.

Plus, Edelman PR President & CEO Richard Edelman, Voy Chairman & CEO Fernando Espuelas, MMB Media LLC Principal Merrill Brown, Ogilvy PR Senior Vice President & Creative Director John Bell, Global Voices Co-Founder Rebecca MacKinnon, Backfence.com President & CEO Susan DeFife, PRESSthink Founder Prof. Jay Rosen, Glamor Editor Ellen Kampinsky, Senior Editor, Weblogs Co-Founder & Chairman Jason McCabe Calacanis, BlogAds Founder Henry Copeland, Mobius Venture Capital Managing Director Brad Feld, Wireless Ink Chairman Scott Rafer, 5ive Senior Vice President Susan Mernit, PDX.CN CEO Marcus Xiang, Deutsche Bank Media Analyst Paul Ginocchio, Americans for Informed Democracy Executive Director Seth Green, Majestic Research Co-Founder & Chairman Seth Goldstein, NextNextBigThing Director Dominik von Jan, BIA Financial Executive Vice President Rick Ducey, Greensboro News-Record Lex Citizen Journalism Coordinator Lex Alexander, Mindshare Interactive Campaigns Director Brian Reich, and American Press Institute Media Center Co-Directors Andrew Nachison and Dale Peskin.

That's a wonderful roster of speakers, probably the best I've ever seen for any new media conference! The symposium's program is aimed at helping American news media thrive in the 21st Century, and will focus on "participatory media."

So, what a pity that the cost of attending it is more than perhaps 93 percent of America's daily newspapers, 96 percent of America's television stations, 99 percent of America's radio stations, and 99.999 percent of American citizen journalists can afford!

The event is a nice idea. But to whom is the American Press Institute marketing it? It can't be to the average American daily newspaper, a publicatoin with weekday circulation of approximately 40,000. More than 1,200 of the nation's daily newspapers have weekday circulations of less than 50,000 and roughly 1,375 have less than 100,000. This event's registration fee of $695 is far too expensive for those newspapers — particularly when combined with the costs of travel to New York City and an overnight hotel stay in that most expensive of American cities. The total cost of attending will probably run to more than $1,500 per person, not counting taxis and meals. Fat chance of getting the publisher of small or medium-sized newspaper to approve those expenses.

Likewise, an even smaller number of the nation's 6,000 television and radio stations could afford to send someone to it. And surely few 'citizen journalists' will be willing to foot the costs of attending.

I have to ask: How can the organizers of this event hold a participatory media symposium that's too expensive to attend for the vast majority of citizen journalism participants and for the vast majority of American media interested in participatory journalism?

What's the effective purpose of this symposium? Is it just a prestige event for the American Press Institute? ('Hey, we got Al Gore and several CEOs to speak at our event!') I don't understand.

If the organizers, hosts, and speakers at this event want it to be effective, they should hold it somewhere less expensive and easier to travel, and make its attendance fee inexpensive enough for most media organizations to afford. The point shouldn't be to hold a prestige event, but to hold an event that vast majority of its market can attend. Otherwise, it's just an example of the FEW atop media purportedly helping themselves, while congratulating themselves for purportedly helping the MANY below who work in media but who can't attend.

Unfortunately, BEHOLD THE POWER OF US will be attended by the few of them in the media who have expense accounts that can easily digest $695 to $1,500 to attend a single-day event about participatory media. That's not many participants!

So, no thanks! I'll skip this soireé — and thereby miss seeing the princes of 'citizen media'.

UPDATE: Two American Press Institute executives reply in Comments.

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The New Guardian: Intelligent Design in NewspaperEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

I never thought I'd call a daily newspaper beautiful.

I've always considered daily news periodicals to be grubby Industrial Era products — cheap paper products fabricate by clanking contraptions that melted lead into hardened cylinders faced with typeset characters and that inked newsprint streaming through rotary presses. Although those hot lead technologies were replaced by cold photolithographic typesetting late last century, most newspapers are still crudely designed commodity products — like paperback books or paper cups, not something anyone would call beautiful.

Sure, I've seen some nicely designed parts or sections of newspapers during the past few decades. Some nicely designed front page formats by Mario Garcia or Edmund C. Arnold. Some strikingly designed section fronts in color. Some Sunday magazines designed by people who had all week to figure that out. But most newspaper design examples looked like attempts to put a designer bib on a cow. No matter what most designers added, underneath was still a banal and profane beast —: the daily newspaper.

Most of the besl-designed newspapers that I’ve seen have been European. That’s probably because Europeans perhaps value good design in most products more than North Americans do and because of a fundamental difference between the newspaper business models in Europe and North America:

Transatlantic Differences

What difference? North American newspapers earn most of their revenues from selling advertising to other companies, but European newspapers earn most of their revenues from selling newspaper editions to people.

Indeed, the ratio reverses across the Atlantic. The average American newspaper earns approximately two-thirds of its gross revenues from selling display advertising to other companies or classified advertising to other companies or individuals, while the average European newspaper earns approximately two-thirds of its revenues from selling newspapers editions at kiosks and news agents (newsstands) or via subscriptions.

European newspaper's primary customers are readers. But American newspapers' primary customers are advertisers, not readers. Readers haven't been American newspapers' primary customers since the 1930s, when advertising sales eclipsed circulation sales as their primary source of revenues. Contrary to whatever they say, American publishers are in the business of designing and selling newspapers to advertisers; European publishers are in the business of designing and selling newspapers to readers.

Compare and see the obvious differences: More than 60 percent of the total page space in the average American newspapers is given to advertisements; while more than 60 percent of the total page space in the average European newspaper is given to news and information — the ostensible purpose of a newspaper.

Or try another measurement. Compare the percentages of ‘canned’ content (stories the newspaper purchases from wire service and features syndicates) and ‘fresh’ content (stories written by the newspaper’s own staff or uniquely for that newspapers by freelance journalists). You’ll find inverse ratios on either side of the Atlantic. More than 80 percent of the average American newspaper’s content is canned content, but no more than 20 percent of the average European newspaper is.

Unlike their American bretheran, European publishers design their newspapers for readers. They design to appeal to readers more than advertisers. Nevertheless, I’d never seen even a European newspaper that was beautifully and comprehensively designed. Until now.

Seeing the first Berliner-format edition of The Guardian of London was a revelation – one that yields another clue to the rebuilding of media in the 21st Century.

...continue reading.

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September 13, 2005

Public Service Site ChicagoCrime.org Wins $10,000 Batten AwardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Congratulations to online journalist and software engineer Adrian Holovaty, whose chicagocrime.org today won the $10,000 Grand Prize in the Batten Award for Innovations in Journalism.

Created as a public service by Chicago resident Holovaty, with design input from Wilson Miner, chicagocrime.org lets users map where crimes have been reported, by type of crime, neighborhood, and date. The site utilizes Google's satellite mapping service to show where crimes happened. Users can even draw routes and find what crimes have occured along route. The technologies that Holovaty developed for the site can be used in any city or town.

Four other new media services won Batten Awards.

The $2,000 first prize was awarded to The View, Interactive Magazine Online (IMOL), a quarterly netcast in which 'backpack journalists' from England, South Africa, and the U.S. tell stories from particular points-of-view.

And $1,000 Awards of Distinction were given to 'Town Square', a citizen journalism initiative by The News & Record of Greensboro, South Carolina; to Minnesota Public Radio's Public Insight Journalism projective, whose Idea Generator helpspeople suggest stories; and to Newsday's 'The Cost of War' series.

The Batten Awards are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and administered by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland. The Awards were presented at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

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September 9, 2005

Rock v. Armour: Actual Dissension Within the Audit Bureau of Circulation BoardEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Speaking of circulation problems, there is at least one sign of actual dissention within the usually complacent U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulation's board of directors.

The website of Folio, the magazine industry trade journal, reports that David Rock, director of online/partnerships at Ziff Davis Media, is running for the seat currently held by Peter Armour, senior vice president of consumer marketing at Advance Magazine Group and vice chairman of the ABC board, and that Rock says he’s running out of frustration for a variety of reaons, notably ABC’s unresponsiveness to publishers:

“Too often, publishers feel like they can’t pick up the phone and call their representative—and really, that’s what they’re there for,” Rock says. “We need a true publisher advocate on the board, someone who can articulate the challenges that publishers face.”
“There are a lot of holes in the rule book,” he says. “When you abide by the rules, you should know the score. Subjective and arbitrary interpretations shouldn’t be coming through. It’s frustrating to follow the rules—but then get an answer that can’t be found in the rulebook. We need to be clear and concise about what publishers can and can’t do.”

Folio also quotes a 'high profile circulation-indiustry observer':

“It just goes to show how pissed off everyone is at what’s going on at ABC.... We need everyone to turn out for the vote.”

The vote for some seats on the 36-member ABC board is be held on November 4. Of those, nine seats in the 17-seat publisher division will come up for a vote (two of the five magazine seats). Members serve two-year terms, and typically aren't challenged. Peter Armour has been on the board for 14 years and has never been challenged.

I'm not sure what Rock means by "the challenges that publishers face," but given the circulation problems (declines, falsely reported rate bases, etc.) that many major magazines have been admitting, you might think that the ABC magazine division's board members might be using their chairs to hit each other or the organization's hired executive staff.

But the board has largely been a prestigious, ornamental panel, at best a rubber stamp for whatever the ABC's executive staff has wanted to do. Yes, it may be time for that much of rubber to hit the road, but rubber isn't the most fluid of substances, so it might be time to rub a few out, so to speak.

Moreover, there's an interesting contrast here that mustn't be overlooked -- there's not any signs of contention or dissension over the newspaper division's chairs on the ABC board. Odd!

Whatever the woe of magazines, newspapers have suffered far worse circulation declines and scandals during the past few years than at any time during the past half century. A few major newspapers have had to refund millions of dollars to advertiser after being caught falsifying large percentages of circulation. Many circulation executive at those newspapers have been indicted on felony charges.

Yet, despite vows by ABC to audit harder, there seems to have been no significant changes in personal on the ABC newspaper division's board seats or among the ABC hired executives who were supposed to have prevented or discovered those falsifications. Are the ABC newspaper division's board members or their hired staff doing their jobs? The facts don't show it. Nevertheless, they appear to be keeping their seats and jobs.

By contrast, at least there's a wee bit of change going on inside the ABC's less scandalized magazine division.

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September 6, 2005

Online Journalism Review's Interview with Bob CauthornEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

I hope my fellow Rebuilding Media contributor Bob Cauthorn won't mind my pointing readers to Online Journalism Review's interview with him a dozen days ago.

Journalist David LaFontaine wrote that a Cauthorn speech inspired him to write an article — -- Old-school community journalism shows: It's a wonderful 'Light' — about the long-term success of the Point Reyes Light newspaper in Marin County, California, and then to interview Cauthorn about what newspapers can learn from that example. Some excerpts:

"People need to make a distinction between newspapers and journalism and the newspaper companies that currently run newspapers and make the decisions. The companies that run newspapers and make the decisions, they're the ones that are in error. It's not the concept of journalism. It's not the concept of newspapers. It's the companies who are producing a product that is failing. That people don't want. This is basic – if Detroit makes a car that people don't want to buy, their business future fails, correct?"
"If I were Tony Ridder, I'd be looking hard at my operation, saying, "Now wait a minute. Maybe we need to stop defending the idea of newspapers, because the idea of newspapers is different from the companies that own newspapers. And maybe we need to look at our company and say – let's say I'm Bob the Generic Newspaper Mogul – maybe we need to look at my company and say, "Why do people walk away from my product? Why?'"
"Modern journalism as it's practiced, the companies that conduct modern journalism right now – they're the problem. It is incredibly removed from the life of the community around it. It is insular, it takes place over the phone. It does not pay attention to reader habits. The fear – I always laugh at this – you talk to newsroom people about the news that people want to read and they say, "Well, we will just be pandering then." As if being aligned with your reader is wrong. Not only that, but newspapers in their glory days – at the height of the power of modern journalism, in the 60s and 70s, when newspapers really made a goddamn difference – their circulation was exploding. And trust me, people who were reading about civil rights stories and Vietnam and women's rights – these people were not reading fluff stories, you know?
The assumption that if you align yourself with your readers – somehow or another you're dumbing down – means that you think your readers are dumb. That's the inescapable result of that logic. And it's wrong! Our readers aren't dumb. Our readers are great."
"The mistake people are making is that they say that the reason people are leaving newspapers is because they just want a different distribution mechanism. Well, that's nonsense. They were leaving newspapers for 15 years before the Internet arrived. They're leaving newspapers because newspapers don't matter to them. And if you look at any market where innovative new news products have been introduced, particularly in Europe, you'll find that people flock back to print. This isn't a media choice.
Certainly people love digital media. They love it for different reasons, though. The simple fact is that they're walking away from papers because it doesn't work from an editorial standpoint.
The argument that someone is leaving newspapers because of lifestyle choices and the Internet is like somebody making steam engines in the 1940s saying, that 'Hey, we're making the right product, it's just that lifestyles have changed.'"
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Introducing Dorian BenkoilEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Labor Day sun set, we're back at work.

Joining Rebuilding Media is Dorian Benkoil, a senior consultant in digital publishing for Teeming Media, a New York-based media group.

An award-winning journalist and editor, Dorian was a foreign correspondent for The Associated Press and Newsweek, and international and managing editor for ABCNews.com. At ABC News, Dorian moved to the business side of media, handling sales integration and business development. He later joined Fairchild Publications as general manager of its Internet Division, responsible for its profit and loss, as well as its editorial output. He launched a redesigned website for Women's Wear Daily and oversaw numerous other high-profile Web properties for both consumers and the business community.

His own blog is MediaFlect.com.

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August 30, 2005

MIT Technology Review Goes Less Print, More OnlineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

During the Magazine Publishers Association's second annual IMAG Magazine Leadership Conference in Atlanta last month, MIT’s Technology Review Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Pontin predicted that the disappearance of print will come sooner than we think, thanks largely to “citizen journalism” and an increasingly fragmented digital media platform. "If there’s a future in print, it’s in decline as an advertising supported medium."

The assembled magazine publishers probably weren't too pleased by what he said. Nevertheless, Pontin may now be moving towards his own prediction. The Boston Globe today reports that he's been named the new publisher of Technology Review, while keeping his editor-in-chief position; is reducing the magazine's print edition's frequency from 11 times a year to six; and will be emphasizing its Internet presence.

''With this change of leadership," said Ann J. Wolpert, who chairs the magazine's board of directors, ''it seemed to us we also had a fine opportunity to rethink the distribution model. ... A redesigned technologyreview.com will be launched in November that will feature news analysis, daily commentary, audio and video feeds, blogs, podcasts, and 'webinars' about the impact of emerging technologies."

Technology Review's print edition will focus on longer articles, and will be published every other month.

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Introducing Ben CompaineEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

On this day in history, Cleopatra committed suicide by snakebite (30 B.C.), Tokugawa Ieyasu entered Edo Castle and became the first Japanese Shogun (1590), Honolulu officially became a city (1850), Confederates defeated Union forces at the Second Battle of Bull Run (1862), Lenin was shot in an assassination attempt (1918), the German siege of Leningrad began (1941), General MacArthur arrived in Japan (1945), the U.S.-Soviet hotline phone was installed (1963), Bob Dylan released his album Highway 61 Revisted (1965), Ho Chi Minh corresponded with Richard Nixon about ending the Vietnam War (1969), Cameron Diaz was born (1972), Madonna declared that “Having money is just the best thing in the world”, (1993) and we've added Ben Compaine as a contributor.

Although not on this day in 2001, Ben's Who Owns the Media: Competition and Concentration in the Mass Media Industry, now in its third edition, won the Robert Picard Award for Best New Book in Media Economics. He is also the author, co-author or editor of six other books, including Information Resources Policy Handbook: Perspectives on the Information Age, and The Internet Upheaval: Raising Questions, Seeking Answers in Communications Policy and The Digital Divide: Facing a Crisis or Creating a Myth?, all published by MIT Press. Ben's articles about the changes media are undergoing have appeared in journals such as Telecommunications Policy, Science Digest, Success, Teleconnect, Daedalus, Reason, and the Journal of Communication.

A graduate of Dickinson College, Ben received his M.B.A from Harvard University and Ph.D from Temple University, and has been research affiliate at Harvard University's Program on Information Resources Policy, senior rsearch professor in communications at Penn State University, and Bell Atlantic Professor of Telecommunications at Temple University. He has also served on the editorial board of the Journal of Media Economics and the Publications Committee of the Broadcast Education Association.

Earlier this month, when I posted an essay about Ben, I hadn't realized that he blogged and might be amenable to contributing to Rebuilding Media. We're increasing the number of contributors here, and had been looking for an expert in communications theory, policy, and practice. Viola!

Months ago, the mid-summer seemed like a ideal time to launch this Rebuilding Media blog. The summer was supposed to be a slow time for business, with plenty of free time for blogging. But as former news anchor Dan Rather once noted, "If you try to read the tea leaves before the cup is done you can get yourself burned." Or something like that. Mixed with vacation time, I'm having my busiest working summer this millennia, so my postings here have been all too infrequent. Mea culpa! Bob Cauthorn, who's about to launch a new company, says he's in a similar situation.

Although Bob and I have posts in the works, adding accomplished contributors here helps our quest how to rebuild media for the 21st Century. I'd like to have ultimately a half dozen or so contributors, each from different aspects (print, broadcast, pure online, academia, etc.) of media, all ideally with multi-disciplinary (reporting or production, theory, business development, etc.) experience. We've got some candidates in mind (and if you know of others, e-mail us).

Ben is a cornerstone of our effort to rebuild the media and we heartily welcome him aboard!

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August 17, 2005

Ben Compaine as Jonathan Swift: Should Media Set the Community's Agenda?Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

My own interest in new media began in 1980 during a seminar about the future of newspapers. Its moderater was Dr. Benjamin Compaine, who was then executive director of Harvard University's Program on Information Resources Policy. The seminar talked about an era towards the end of the 20th Century when households would be wired with instant communications devices which could provide all the world's information instantly in text, audio, and video formats. One of the seminar handouts was entitled The Road to Wired City.

Most of that seminar's predictions proved true (or else you wouldn't be reading this). As for Ben Compaine, he became Bell Atlantic Professor of Telecommunications at Temple University, visiting professor in Communications at Penn State University, and later research and development consultant to the Massachusetts Institute ot Technology's Program on Internet & Telecoms Convergence. Whenever he and I correspond, I tease him that, for better or worse, he is to blame for getting me into this crazy business.

Because Professor Compaine has long been ahead of me, I'm wasn't surprised to discover that, weeks before Bob Cauthorn and I launched this Rebuilding Media blog, that my teach wrote in his own blog, Who Owns the Media?, about The Critical Need for Restructuring the Media Industry Before It’s Too Late.

In the spirit of Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal', Compaine splays the contention among some media traditionalists that giving consumers more choice in media is bad for society:

An unintended consequence of the information technologies that have become widely available in the last two decades is a dangerous fragmentation of culture and community....
There are so many choices of media—within print, video, audio, online, in the movie theater—that every old channel, every traditional mass audience publication, every network, every frequency has not been able to sustain the kind of unifying, common influence that used to provide a national common thread....
We are losing our homogeneity. Is that progress for American society?

I increasingly hear that question asked by executives of mass media companies and professors of mass media.

The Internet creates new diversions like kudzu: 10 million blogs and counting. Podcasting. Streaming and archived radio. Peercasting is going to undermine the national desire for a very limited number of sources. We will not have a basis for common subjects for discussion over coffee at Starbucks.

So lament many newspaper editors and journalism professors.

However, I believe that the mass media's ability to set a common agenda for the community has been merely a side effect that arose from the technological limitation of mass media. This limitation is that the analog production technologies of mass media required that a common edition (or common program in broadcast) be produced for all readers (or all listeners and viewers).

In other words, because an editor could produce only a single edition at a time for all readers, he had to choose stories according to the greatest common interests of all readers until all the space in that edition (or time in that broadcast program) was filled. A side effect of this production limitation was that his choices set a common reading agenda for the community.

During the past four centuries of the mass media's influence, media executives have grown so used to seeing this side effect that they've come to believe it is the mass media's original purpose, rather than an incidental result of technological limitations.

No wonder they're upset nowadays when the new media technologies are shattering that one-to-many technical limitation of mass media.

I cherish that shattering. I believe it is good because people's interests aren't common or generic. Although it is true that we all share some common interests (such as the weather), and that many people might share some quite individual interests (anyone for bonsai gardening and the films of Patrick McGoohan?), the fact is that each and every one of us is a unique mix of common and individual interests. We each don't have the same mix of interests (as much as the mass media might hope we do).

The new media technologies let each individual acquire whatever mix of content better matches his own individual mix of common and unique interests.

The mass media was excellent at satisfying common interests but lousy at satisfing individual interests. I think that's why more than 600 million people worldwide have gravitated onto the Internet, despite those people already having access to mass media. Fortunately, the new media can do all that the mass media did, satisfying common interests, plus satisfy individual interests.

I believe this to be natural and ineluctible evolution for media technologies. Today, most people have to satisfy their individual mix by visiting a number of websites, TV channels, publications, blogs, podcasts, etc.. Yet, I believe that as more individualized (i.e., 'personalized') media appear in the future, their individual mixes will be delivered to them. The role of media.

Media technologies are naturally evolving to match the common and individual interests of each person (if there is such a thing as naturally in technologies!) A result of this natural evolution is a shift in the ability to set community agenda. It's shifting more out of the media's hands. The media will never again be able to set common that agenda the way that mass media alone used to do.

Is that a good thing? Only time will tell.

For a quarter century, Ben Compaine has been my Jonathan Swift. He's helped form and stimulate my thinking, by sound teaching and, occasionally as with his blog entry on community agenda, sharp satire:

The media industry must be reformed. It needs the restructuring that only the federal government can undertake. Congress is certainly on the right track, having already handed out free digital spectrum to the incumbent broadcasters. Good thing they didn’t have it auctioned off to other players. The shrinking media companies must not be permitted to get any more fragmented. We must write to the FTC and Justice Department urging them not to permit further divestitures, such as the recently announced sale of big multinational Bertelsmann’s magazines to the much smaller publisher, Meredith. The FCC must be convinced to limit the bandwidth available for wireless services such as satellite radio, Wi-Max and the like so newer services cannot be initiated. And certainly we cannot allow any further news services to find room on the multichannel video providers. Even better would be to roll back to the conditions that existed before 1986, thus taking the Fox, WB and UPN networks off the air as well as removing Fox News and MSNBC from the cable line-up.
Only that way can we be sure that we have the base of shared values, shared views and shared culture that we had in the Golden Age of the media from the 1950s until the 1980s.

Perhaps the mass media's traditional ability to form a common community agenda was beneficial?

However, shouldn't each member of that community have the democratic right to use whatever new technologies are legally available to satisfy his mix of interests?

Should the community's agenda be set by media as the community's guiding light?

Or are the community's agenda something that should be formed by the incidental aggregation of all community members' mix of common and individual interests, with the media more and more just the reporters of the agenda?

Let us know what you think? (Do first read Ben's original posting because my excerpts omitted much.)

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August 10, 2005

Evening TV News Might Disappear Like Evening NewspapersEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Now that news anchors Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, and Dan Rather have vanished, The New York Times' advertising columnist Stuart Elliott predicts that much of the $500 million dollars which advertisers spend annually on the news programs from ABC, CBS, and NBC will shift from the evening news programs to alternatives such as morning news and daytime magazine shows.

"It is not unlike a sea change that has remade the newspaper industry as readers of evening editions migrated to papers that publish in the mornings," writes Elliott.

He quotes Bill McOwen, an advertising agency managing director: "There is still a generation served their news nightly with their cocktails, and they like it. And till that generation moves on, there will be clients who want to reach them. But my generation, and anyone younger, is not getting news then. And marketers know that."

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August 2, 2005

New York Times to Merge Print and Online NewsroomsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Here's a significant signal of the growing importance of publishing news online:

The New York Times today told its staff that it would merge its print and its online (NYTimes.com) newsrooms in 2007.

The online edition's newsroom is currently several city blocks away from the print edition's newsroom. Look for stories in the news trade press about this significant internal merger later today and on Wednesday.

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Prologue to a Radio Interview about 'Citizen Journalism'Email This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation has asked me to speak on their program today about 'citizen journalism'. They're looking for someone skeptical about it. When their producer ask me to go on the air, I told her that I might not be that person.

If you go to your library and read a local daily newspaper from 50 or more years ago, you'll find it full of the type of hyperlocal coverage that new-media pundits are discovering in 'citizen journalism'. In other words, 'citizen journalism' is a return to what professional journalists used to do.

That is, they used to do before media corporations purchased almost all of the 1,400 daily newspapers in the U.S. and cut those newspapers' reporting staffs to the point where there aren't enough local reporters left to get out on the streets and report really local news the way they used to do.

So, is 'citizen journalism' today the solution for local journalism?

No, I don't think so. Or, at least I hope not, because it's at best a worst case solution.

The best solution would be for local newspapers to hire more reporters, to staff news organizations the way that local newspapers used to be staffed for a hundred years. Staffed so that those newspapers can again do really local reporting.

Am I naive enough to think that's going to happen? No, I expect that staffing levels at local newspapers will continue to implode. The worst case will happen. So, maybe that means these newspapers should use 'citizen journalism' to supplement some of their reportorial staff loses. 'Citizen journalism' thus might be a useful tool.

However, 'citizen journalism' first needs to shed two impediments to its worthwhile use. The first is hype. As Psychologist Abraham Maslow noted, 'When all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail.' New-media pundits seem to be claiming that 'citizen journalism' is the solution to all, if not most, of the news media's problems. I instead think that it is just one of many, many tools that might be useful to fix those problems.

The second impediment is naïve faith. Ditch it. I've heard some new-media pundits say that if a newspaper were to enlist 100 'citizen journalists', then that newspaper will have 100 new stories every day. Well, that would be true if the newspaper could find 100 citizens who were reasonably competent as journalists. If it could find 100 local people who not only know how to tell a story but also are objective plus know how to research and double-check facts. But folks like that are incredibly hard to find.

A journalist can use a blog and a blogger can be a journalist. However, the true difference between a blogging and a journalism is that a journalist is trained to find, research, double-check, and objectively report. No matter if that reporting is done in print or in a blog, by a professional or an amateur, the objective craft of journalism is necessary.

I'll put it this way, whether people are going to doctors or healing themselves, whomever does the healing needs to know the art of medicine. So too does whomever does the reporting need to know the craft of journalism.

Sure, it is possible to find a 'citizen journalist' who can do that with no training. But most will need training. Fortunately, there are startup companies (such as iReporter) being formed to do just that. But how to make such training widespread is another problem.

So, am I skeptical about 'citizen journalism'? Well, I'm skeptical that it will, or should, replace professional reporting. However, I'm a realist and think that 'citizen journalism' might be a useful supplement for local newspapers that have hobbled themselves by staff cuts.

I'll probably have more thoughts about this topic by time Talk of the Nation goes on the air later today. I hope so. (I also hope that the producers, who are looking for a more polarized opinion, find someone else to replace me on their show.)

EPILOGUE: The Talk of the Nation show went better than I had worried about . Host Neal Conan provided Online Journalism Review columnist Mark Glaser and I with several good examples of 'citizen journalism' to talk about. And I particularly like YourHub.com, the example given by John Temple, managing editor of the Rocky Mountain News.

To hear the show.

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August 1, 2005

Our Infrequency and LengthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

We’ve received sniping from some pundits who are paid to blog, who complain that we blog too infrequently. Well, may we remind them that we write this blog for free, during the sparse spare time we have away from our day jobs. Nevertheless, guys, we're willing to blog more frequently if you'll share some of your blogging paychecks with us.

Likewise, we've caught criticism that our postings are a bit prolix. OK, but as Mark Twain remarked, "If I had more time, I would write a shorter story." Among those criticism, I honestly liked Biz Stone’s suggestion: "It's funny and informative and well written but sheesh. They should break it into parts. Give it to me 600 words at a time throughout the week and build in cliffhangers to get me hooked." Great idea. In fact, one conceived by Charles Dickens in 1848. Pity this isn’t David Copperfield serialized in a weekly magazine. Wouldn't Lachlan Murdoch make a great Uriah Heep?

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July 27, 2005

Finalists for the Batten Awards for Innovations in JournalismEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

The Institute for Interactive Journalism at the University of Maryland has selected five finalists from among 65 entries for the 2005 Batten Awards for Innovations in Journalism. The awards recognize efforts at establishing new standards for American interactive journalism that advance creativity in digital storytelling and challenge the traditional roles new organizations play in their communities.

  • The News & Record of Greensboro, North Carolina's 'Town Square' was selected as a finalist for its "daring initiative to rethink the role of the newspaper in the community" by letting readers submit news stories.

  • ChicagoCrime.org, a public interest site by Web software programmer Adrian Holovaty, was selected for its merging of public crime database with Google’s online mapping technology to allow users to see their neighborhood’s relative safety through an easily searched and navigated interface.

  • Minnesota Public Radio's Public Insight Journalism was selected for its 'Idea Generator' online software designed"'to engage people in brainstorming public issues."

  • Interactive Magazine Online was selected for The View, its quarterly magazine full of stories produced by journalists from England, the U.S. and South Africa, who "use video-centric Web tools to tell personalized stories."

  • And Newsday was selected for its online section 'The Cost of War', which is described as "an extravaganza of detailed information and artful graphics about the U.S. effort in Iraq that set a new bar for telling fact-dense stories."

The main winner will be announced on September 12 during the free Batten Symposium at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and will receive $10,000. Second place will receive $2,000, and the three remaining finalists will receive $1,000 Awards of Distinction.

The symposium will feature a keynote dialogue on participatory news with Michael Kinsley, departing Editorial and Opinion Editor of the Los Angeles Times, and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. The Batten Awards and Symposium are funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and honor the late James K. Batten, former CEO of Knight Ridder.

The Institute for Interactive Journalism offers site showing all five finalists.

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July 20, 2005

The Lessons of LawrenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

One problem with contributing to this Rebuilding Media blog part-time is that sometimes part-time means no time. Work for clients takes precedence and pro bono work backlogs. Now that I've got some free time again, I'm working on that backlog.

One backlogged item involves The Newspaper of the Future, a three-page story published afront the business section of The New York Times on Sunday, June 26th. The story profiled the Lawrence Journal-World in Kansas, a newspaper company that also built its town's CATV system 30 years ago, launched its own cable TV news operation on that ten years later, and nowadays has launched probably the most innovate set of websites by any U.S. daily newspaper.

After the Times' story appeared, it was discussed on the Online News listserv for online news periodical publishing executives. Despite the Times story's length, many Online News subscribers weren't sure what, besides delving early into multimedia, could be learned from the Lawrence Journal-World's example. One Online News subscriber asked:

    "Let me put it another way: It may be interesting to discuss what 85% of the dailies arguably might have done in the past. The relevant question is, whether this so-called 'newspaper of the future' offers any ideas or lessons on what they might profitably do now."

    Good question. I posted a reply there today, which I'm also posting here.

    Many people assume that there might be some glamorous new application or service that a newspaper (or a news magazine or a news broadcaster) can implement onlikne now that will bring immediate profit and success. Unfortunately, what news organizations must do now online are much less unglamorous things and don't bring immediate results. Does the Lawrence Journal-World provide any ideas or lessons about what newspapers must do now?)

Yes, but the answer requires us to see the forest and not just the trees.

What newspapers must do now is the same thing that they should have done then: Specifically, cease myopia and mimicry.

Most newspapers are ill with myopia. Nearsightedness. Short-term thinking. Newsrooms are concerned just with today's or this Sunday's stories; ad sales departments with this month's quotas; circulation departments with the next Audit Bureau of Circulation deadline; publishers with capital investments that can be recouped within 12 to 36 months; and newspaper corporations only with the next financial quarter's results. Relentlessly short-term thinking is pandemic in the newspaper industry.

Even newspapers’ strategic planning is relatively short-term. Most of it concerns pressroom equipment or front-end systems purchases, not new-media. Despite the huge and long-term changes underway, few newspapers are planning for new-media more than two -- nonetheless five or ten -- years ahead. Most don’t even believe that planning new-media that far ahead is possible. Myopia.

Planning what must be done – even in new-media – now and five to tens years out isn't mysterious or even difficult if you bother to see the forest rather than all the trees. I'll explain the specifics of what further below, but lets go back to the example of the Lawrence Journal-World.

I think the primary reason why that newspaper company has been successful at new-media -- why the Sunday New York Times business section devoted a three-page cover story to it, terming it the 'newspaper of the future' -- isn't necessarily because of now departed new-media chief Rob Curley. Nor is it the specific services offered by LJWorld.com, Lawrence.com, or KUsports.com. Nor is it because the Lawrence Journal-World also owns the cable television (CATV) franchise in its town, along with a cable TV news operation. Those are all products of the primary reason, not the reason itself.

No, whether the medium is newsprint offset lithography (which Lawrence pioneered in the U.S. during the mid-1960s), CATV in the late 1960s, the Web in the mid-1990s, or mobile devices today, the primary reason why the Lawrence Journal-World succeeds is because its owners approach any new media with long-term, fresh thinking. Not myopia or mimicry.

The Simons family, who own the company, understood that they wouldn’t receive short-term returns or profits when they started each of those media ventures. They knew that they'd have to invest long-term and sometimes heavily in purchasing, installing, learning, and refining some very unexciting infrastructures before launching any promotable services. They understood that there are no quick solutions, instant answers, nor immediate shortcuts to profits, no 'magic bullets' that will instantly make ventures profitable now. There never were. They Simons instead knew that there is no time better than *now* to start implementing the infrastructures necessary long-term for success.

That’s the first immediate lesson from Lawrence. Begin implementing now the long-term projects necessary for your newspaper to survive in the future, even if those projects don't have short-term paybacks. When faced with major changes in their business environments, the organizations that will exist in the long-term are those that make long-term investments in their future. There aren't any quick fixes or shortcuts. Start the long-term projects now.

The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, and the Washington Post are other examples news organizations using this thinking. You’ll notice that those organizations think long-term plus that most either aren’t beholden to public stock markets or, if they are, tend to resist stock analysts’ maniacal myopia about quarterly financial results.

Although I reluctantly disagree with Professor Philip Meyer's thesis correlating journalistic quality and newspaper survival, his book The Vanishing Newspaper superbly chronicles how most newspaper companies have hobbled (and perhaps doomed) by myopically trimming their costs, staffs, and investments to focus instead on short-term results.

Because long-term thinking forgoes micromanagement, which means that the newspapers that utilize it must find and hire people who don’t really need to be managed. In other words, to paraphrase citizen journalism advocate Dan Gillmor’s dictum about his readers, your employees (should) know more than you do about running your newspaper business. The Simons of Lawrence are smart, but their smartest managerial acts have been to hire of people who are smarter than they are about the pertinent sectors of their business.

The result is 'top-up', not 'top-down', management, somewhat of an inversion of conventional newspaper management. New ideas and policies flow up, not down. The Simons don’t necessarily dictate how their newspaper, CATV system, broadcast news operation, or websites are run. They instead hire people who know more about operating those media than they themselves do and then let those people do whatever. For example, Publisher & Editor Dolph Simons Jr. knew that Rob Curley not only knew how to run a better new-media operation than he did, but that Curley knew better what a better new-media operation was than he did.

Rob Curley likewise knew that his own staff knew more than he himself did about many of the possibilities of new-media. I remember visiting when executives of another newspaper chain asked him how he conceived a few of Lawrence's most innovative new-media services. 'I didn't,' he replied. 'I simply hired some top-notch, young programmers and told them to develop whatever they thought newspaper websites needed but didn't have.'

Curley’s answer may flabbergast many traditional news media executives who adhere to the old dictum that only higher management knows what needs to be created. Yet, what’s truly flabbergasting is that too many news organizations do think that higher executives, who spend most of their time in corporate meetings, might know more about new-media than staffers who actually have hands-on experience working with it. Lawrence’s ‘top-up’ approach fosters creativity missing from too many levels at too many newspaper companies.

Indeed, this ‘top-up’, hands-on approach also increases creativity and perspective at higher levels of such companies. It’s no coincidence that the few newspaper executives who actually have taken time to immerse themselves in the raw materials of new-media (such as program coding or the sciences underling the Internet or telecommunications) are those who are recognizably innovative. Learning the new through hands-on experience, they’ve been training themselves to think in fresh ways, to resist merely mimicking what other newspaper companies are doing online, and to perceive the long-term changes newspapers face.

Therein lies the second lesson from Lawrence: Resist mimicry and instead think afresh for solutions. Zoologists say that primates have a natural tendency to mimic the solutions of their peers whenever they don’t understand. I think that our highest primate specie also tends to rationalizes that there must be a good reason why others are using that solution (even when the real reason might simply be the herd instinct). For instance, how many times have you heard, 'We're doing this online because other newspapers like ours are doing it.' If those rationalizations had proven true, newspapers today would be delivered online via PointCast or ;CueCat scanners.

Business development executives should approach new-media as if the legacy procedures and practices of printed newspaper didn’t exist. Approach problems afresh; there’s no other truly successful way (ask Craig Newmark of Craig's List, if you don’t believe me). Far too many newspaper new-media executives (and their bosses) think that their mission is to transplant their legacy business into online. Ultimately, however, that’s a self-destructive mission. It ultimately transplants online the problems underlying why printed newspapers are declining in popularity (hints: those problems aren’t newsprint or lacks of audio or video).

...continue reading.

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July 11, 2005

Benkoil Calls for New Multidisciplinary Group about Online ContentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Dorian Benkoil, former general manager of Fairchild Publications's consumer and trade magazines' Internet operations and former managing producer of ABC's news site, thinks most new-media groups in the news industry aren't looking at online content from the appropriate perspective. You can read his original posting on his blog, yet he expanded on this topic today for Corante:

    "The groups that exist today leave a gap in the way they address digital media. Some, like the Online News Association, look at media in the digital realm mainly from a content perspective, and largely concern themselves with techniques, standards, technology and other means of executing content. There are groups, like the Online Publishers Association, that look at media from a monetary perspective, and tend to have marketers and salespeople who don't really understand content – its value, how to produce it, etc. – and see it as the stuff that fills the space between the ads.

    "I see a need for a group that acknowledges that, in today's media landscape, we need to look at and understand both, simultaneously. The people who manage and produce the content are now also concerned about making money from it. Today's Online/Digital Editorial Director probably also has to understand the effects of ad serving or bizdev deals on his/her site, and the Publisher or General Manager needs to understand the coding, technology and editorial processes. Unlike traditional media, in which church is able to operate almost devoid of state concerns – essentially going with hand out to the 'business side' whenever it wants to fund a project – in the digital realm even fairly junior manager have to consider the revenue and cost implications of what they do. In large media organizations, this kind of cross-pollination is very difficult. In small organizations, it's difficult for the people running it to figure out all the issues.

    "I propose forming a group that will fill this gap. Call it the Digital Media Business Association, or anything else appropriate. The group will be for thinkers who are able to simultaneously hold both editorial and business ideas in their heads. Its purpose is to find a forum for people who find themselves either ahead of the curve or sometimes feeling off the track – jumping between or among worlds, and having to go to all these different realms to bolster their expertise.

    "The idea would not be to knock down the wall between church and state – not to have rampant commercialism pollute the valuable editorial products – but rather to preserve the value of editorial products by continually exploring both means of content production and the ways of making money from it.

    "More than anything this group would be a bridge, a bridge to help the editorial people appreciate what the commercial folks do, and vice-versa.

    "I know I'm onto something and want to get this going, but am not sure exactly where to take it. Here’s a thought on how we could get it going:

  • Start with a charter group coming up with ideas at informal gatherings. No membership fee.

  • Once we decide on our charter, register, buy a Web URL, etc, and start getting the word out to various email lists. Charge a small membership for first-comers, but only for a limited time.

  • Come up with local events that would fulfill the charter mission – have speakers talk about both, say, ad serving and editorial. Educate marketers about the value of editorial. Educate both sides in the disciplines of the others: ad-sales for journalists, journalism for salespeople, etc."

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July 8, 2005

July 7, 2005

New Media From The Horse's MouthEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Vin Crosbie

Just what is this blog about? If you see a horse on Main Street, ask it how to tell when fundamental change becomes obvious. Its great-grandfather probably knew.

In 1905, although steam locomotives pulled trains between cities and the New York City had some subways trains with electric locomotion, transportation media in America meant horses. They pulled coaches, wagons, carts, carriages, and even streetcars. Riders astride saddled horses were still an everyday sight. As the proprietors of livery stables, businesses of which every town had many, would have told you, 'Humanity has depended upon the horse for millennia and always will'.

They were wrong. Most purveyors of that medium were out of business within 20 years. Despite millennia of humanity’s reliance on horses, fundamental change, fueled by new transportation media technologies, swept that old media away and quickly replaced it with new media. It’s a lesson that news & information media industry executives today should learn for their own sakes and survivals.

With today’s hindsight, it is easy to see how horseless carriages, mass production, and paved roads relatively quickly (circa 1900-1920) and ineluctably replaced horses as Americans’ preferred medium of transportation. But who in 1905 would have seen that fundamental change underway in transportation media to be so obvious?

A similarly fundamental change in news & information media is underway now. For many executives in that industry, this change doesn’t seem obvious. To us, it obviously is.

Despite humanity’s reliance on newspapers for four centuries, on magazines for one and a half centuries, on radio for a century, and on television for half of a century, a fundamental change, fueled by new media technologies, is sweeping away those old media and replacing them relatively quickly and ineluctibly with new media.

By now, media companies should start to realize that the time to start new-media subsidiaries has ended and the time to replace their old media with new-media has begun. Unfortunately, most media companies don’t yet see how obvious their need to accept this fundamental change is. Like those livery stable owners a century ago, they’re still clinging to the past.

It is true that no new medium ever entirely replaced a previous medium. There are places where you can still rent a horse. You can hitch it to a carriage. You can still see horse races. Nevertheless, horses are no longer viable transportation media in America. Newspapers, magazines, and most radio and television broadcast are likewise becoming no longer viable because all communications media are undergoing fundamental change. The time for them to stop clinging to the past has ended.

Please understand that we don’t mean the new media that we see today will necessarily the succeed old media. Most new media today are flawed, as might be many of these new media’s applications.This is nothing new. Thomas Edison believed that rotating cylinders of foil were the best way to record sounds. Alexander Graham Bell believed that his newly invented telephone would be used by people primarily to listen to concerts. Guglielmo Marconi was ignorant that his newly invented radio would be used primarily for entertainment.

We expect that many of today’s new media might be turn out to be merely short-lived steps towards even better, newer media. We won’t be surprised if different, newer, and unexpected usages may soon be found for today’s new media. We believe that we’re perhaps only one-third to one-half way through the fundamental change now underway that might take decades; and that better, newer new media will be developed.

However, whatever the future holds, we know now that old media are doomed to be replaced by new media. The declines in newspaper and magazine readerships, in radio listenerships, in television viewerships, and in cinema visitorships are obvious, well predate the rise of the Internet, and are accelerating. Two forces are shattering the old media.

The first is technology. Although media technology is undergoing its greatest change since the day in 1440 when Johannes Gutenberg first inked type, the news & information media industry has mistaken these new technologies merely as electronic ways to distribute otherwise printed or broadcasted products for more than ten years now. This industry hasn’t, and unfortunately still isn’t, ably using the unique characteristics and capabilities of new media technologies.

The second force is what we can perhaps call estrangement. The news & information industry has largely lost touch with consumers’ needs, interests, and purses during the past 30 years. The rapid declines in newspaper readership, broadcast viewership, and cinema visitorship are among the evidence demonstrating this. The rapid increases in peer-to-peer file sharing systems, podcasting, and perhaps even citizen journalism, plus the very fact that more than 600 million people worldwide have gravitated onto the Internet despite their already having access to the old media, underline this.

We’re here to discuss the fundamental change underway. We’re multimedia and multidisciplinary. We’ll not focus solely upon one format of the news & information media (such as newspapers). We’ll not focus solely upon one discipline within the industry (such as editorial or advertising) because, for examples, we know that editorial solutions that don’t have viable business plans will fail and that new technologies adopted solely for one discipline’s purposes will fail.

Nor will we preach change just for change’s sake. Any change is not necessarily better than none at all. We expect the news & information industry to make many missteps. To divine which, we may need to examine or gore a few sacred cows of new media, however politically incorrect that might be. No holds or examinations barred.

Among a few of the topics we’ll examine, with examples, are how disintermediation, unpackaging and individualization (‘personalization’) of content is changing the industry. What affect will on-demand and online mobility have? Will newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts survive in any forms? Are peer-to-peer file sharing systems, podcasting, and citizen journalism true replacements for old media, just reactions to the old media’s estrangement from its audiences, or are simply reinforcements or building blocks for better new media? How can the growing rubble of the old media plus the exotic new materials of the new media be used to rebuild the news & information industry?

No horsing around.

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