Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Podcast mania

So you want to be an internet star. All you need is a script, a PC, and a short list of gear.

The technology allows anyone to produce a radio-style program that an audience can find, download, and listen to anytime. Podcasts aren't just for iPods; they can be heard on any computer or portable audio player.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Internet the future for news

Here's the latest in the ongoing argument about newspapers and the web.

"Simon Waldman, director of digital publishing at Guardian Newspapers, says they 'are getting the whole organisation ready for a digital future'.

"Within 'six to seven years', the group planned to dedicate 80 per cent of its time to digital activities, compared to 20 per cent at present, Waldman said."

Meanwhile, Spain's El Mundo is miles ahead:

"A digital strategy dating back nearly 10 years has made the site 'very profitable' since 2003, with a profit of E1.3 million ($2.08 million) in 2004, according to Elmundo.es director of development Emilio Plana Hidalgo."

Elsewhere, E-media Tidbits reports that future readers are 'content creators'. Steve Yelvington writes:

"Now is the time to focus your Internet content strategy on participation and online community development, and to work to change your newsroom culture to embrace interaction. Question that worn-out term, 'readers.' It doesn't cover the territory any more."

Ten Technorati hacks and one CEO

Steve Rubel has a handy primer on how to get the best out of Technorati.

And BusinessWeek has a podcast interview with David Sifry who talks about his company's struggle to meet soaring demand as he confronts a new blog search rival, Google. But he says that Technorati continues to grow faster than the blog world itself, which is doubling every five months.

News blogs: Peeking inside the sausage factory

The Dallas Morning News is attempting to address declining reader numbers through an editorial weblog.

The blog began in 2003 under the direction of Keven Ann Willey, vice president/editorial page editor.

In an interview with the Public Journalism Network, Willey outlines the two main reasons for creating the blog. Firstly, to "give readers a window into our editorial board deliberations and strengthen the board's connection with readers." And secondly, to "demystify what we do to enhance our relationship of trust/credibility with readers".

When questioned about what has changed at the Dallas Morning News since the advent of the blog, Willey says: “We are a much more agile, responsive editorial board. We are more tightly attuned to issues that resonate with our readers.”

Additionally, Willey feels that the weblog has helped readers to understand the work of the newspaper editor, what he/she does and why.

She says readers frequently praise the blog for giving them an insight into how decisions are made at the newspaper. Another regular comment is: 'This is one of the best things The Morning News has ever done.'

Strategies such as news blogs are an important part of responding to a wide variety of issues and providing readers with quick responses. Willey says: "blogs are great for opinion writers because they allow the public 'airing' of thoughts, analysis and perspective in real time."

She makes a lot of it, but for my money it's a bit underdone. There's no comment facility, for one.

The Guardian has had a News Blog for some time. And it's a proper blog with comments, link log, and even a tag cloud for easy topic access.

More merging online and print newsrooms

The Fresno Bee is the latest of a number of newspapers to integrate online and print operations, following nine years during which print and online staff were located in different offices.

Stephen Dana, interactive media director for the Bee says: "When you look at where a newspaper needs to be in the next two to three years, you really need to seriously consider [online convergence]."

The key to convergence is to spread internet expertise across the organisation and to broaden the focus of traditional departments.

The online content producers will work in the newsroom and report to the managing editor of the paper. Additionally, the online sales team will give more attention to business development and work more closely with advertising and circulation departments.

Online video a must for newspapers

A number of news organizations are expanding their online video offerings, showing the growing importance of online multimedia for newspapers.

The Washington Post has launched video podcasting for use with the recently released video i-Pods. Users will have access to news and documentary video from Washingtonpost.com and can subscribe to a "News and Documentary Video" RSS feed.

The BBC has built on its RSS service for text content and the BBC News Player by offering feeds to audio and video reports, including breaking news pictures, interviews, and analysis. The service will also enable website owners to integrate BBC News video and audio into their own sites via RSS.

AP will be joining forces with Microsoft to launch an online video service to be used by its members. The original announcement in July did not involve MSN. When the service is launched in the first quarter of 2006, AP members will be able to webcast AP video through a branded MSN Video player.

News agencies using video also demonstrates the trend towards their increasing influence over newspapers. Although the Washington Post is including video podcasts on its website, most newspapers do not have the resources to actually produce such material.

But with rising consumer demand for online video and other digital innovations, newspapers will have to include multimedia on their websites in order to furnish their readers with the whole online news experience. Since they generally don't have the capacity to produce their own video content, partnerships are likely.

Fairfax produces some original video content, mainly around lifestyle topics (cars, cooking, tecchnology etc). For the time being Sky News provides most of the news clips for non-broadcast news sites cut directly from a TV feed.

I'm back ...

After about six months.

I let this blog languish while I was writing here. I've since left The Age, but that blog is still floating rather pathetically out there in web land. Come on guys, kill it or put someone else on to it. You've got a few media writers.

So anyway, I've moved jobs and now I'm editing this site. Currently I'm splitting my time between Melbourne and Sydney, a week in each city. Not great for family life.

In the process I'm moving around so much that I discovered I needed to reactivate this blog if only so I've got somewhere to store links, references and other glittering online objects.

A lot has happened in 6 months.

** Three months later, it's February 11, the interstate commuting is over and the family is now settled in Sydney.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The Daily Show and blogs

Jon Stewart pokes fun at CNN and MSNBC's blog reports.



Windows version
Quicktime version

It seems to be a favourite topic with the show.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Deakin Lectures - one not to miss

Jay Rosen is speaking in Melbourne later this week as part of this year's Deakin Lecture series.

Jay is Associate Professor of Journalism at NYU and one of the best thinkers about online journalism. Don't miss this lecture.

Here's a preview of what he plans to say:

That each nation has its own press has always been true. But it is a fact of special importance today because, due to changes in the world that an honest lecturer must call "historic," (even though he is wary of a term of hype like that one) each nation will shortly have a chance to re-establish or overhaul its own press. Or to create one anew. And that is a moment for careful thought.

More hoopla on blogs

Adam Cohen hops into blogs over the less than adequate ethical approaches he says define the blogosphere:
“Many bloggers make little effort to check their information, and think nothing of posting a personal attack without calling the target first - or calling the target at all. They rarely have procedures for running a correction. The wall between their editorial content and advertising is often nonexistent… And bloggers rarely disclose whether they are receiving money from the people or causes they write about.”
Elsewhere, the Times looks at Nick Denton's much pored over blog business, Gawker. The business of blogs, their viability and they may produce, is of great interest. But Denton will not be sucked into hyperbole.

Critics of the blog movement wonder whether the hoopla over the commercial viability of blogs - particularly as publishing ventures - is overstated. "Blogs primarily excel at marketing and promotion for companies or individuals," Mr. Phillips of I Want Media said. "I think blogging can catapult unknown writers, and it can give them a platform if they're talented. But as a stand-alone business, I think the jury is still out on that."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Camera phones as story telling tools

Travelling from Sicily to Malta by ferry last year on a family holiday I got talking to a young Maltese chef who invited us to his restaurant. We were only on Malta for a couple of days but he was insistent. He described the menu he cooks, mostly seafood. It certainly sounded wonderful and to illustrate his point he took out his mobile phone and showed us pictures of the restaurant and some of his favourite dishes. On our last day in Malta we went and had one of the most delicious meals of our whole trip.

Howard Rheingold would recognise this form of communication immediately. The way he puts it, though, "the cameraphone exists at this moment in that ephemeral, potent and confusing phase of its adoption cycle where people are still deciding what kind of social medium it is".

Newspapers and online auctions

As circulations continue to plummet and classifieds move online newspapers are hard up to develop business strategies that can ensure continuing investment in quality journalism.

But a Canadian company has come up with an idea that could help. CityXpress works with newspapers in the United States, Canada and Europe to stage online marketplace initiatives through its hosted software and on-site sales and customer support services.

According to Poynter the model works like this:
Local advertisers provide goods or services in trade for newspaper advertising. If a product sells in the auction - that is, meets a reserve price set in advance by the newspaper - the advertiser earns an ad credit equal to the product's retail value. The newspaper keeps the cash received from the bidder as payment for the ad credit. Event auctions are conducted online and supported by a print advertising campaign, and in some cases via a dedicated print supplement. Readers bid on auction items online or by telephone; the highest bidder whose bid meets or exceeds the reserve price wins the item or service.

The first European paper to run an auction was the Berner Zeiting, which brought in €230,000, and the combined result of four auctions that have been run to an audience of 800,000 subscribers resulted in €1.4 million in revenues.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Blogging at The Age

The Age's media blog is live. Finally.

Google eyes new patent

The mystery of Google's algorithms has occupied us before, but now they are seeking to patent a technology meant to help Google News sort stories based on their overall quality, which could augment the current methods of ranking results by date and relevance to search terms.

CNET reports:

At present, Google generates results based on the search engine's perceived relevance of content to a particular term and the time at which any particular piece of data or story is first published online. In the patent filings, Google concedes that while its existing system often generates thousands of results in response to individual search terms, the stories it unearths have no degree of worth assigned to them and may not come from reputable publishers.

"While each of the hits in (a list of search results) may relate to (a) desired topic, the news sources associated with these hits, however, may not be of uniform quality," Google said in the filing. "Therefore, there exists a need for systems and methods for improving the ranking of news articles based on the quality of the news source with which the articles are associated."

The company goes on to describe how content published by news outlets such as CNN and BBC, or companies that are "widely regarded as high quality sources of accuracy of reporting, professionalism in writing," may be of greater interest to its customers, and therefore should top news search results.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The media's war in (and out of) Iraq

Janet Albrechtsen in The Australian uses the kidnappping of Douglas Wood to lay into the media for supporting the insurgents' cause.

It's a fairly well-worn line, and the nut of it is this:

"The terrorists want US, Australian and British troops out of Iraq and will rely on a media-fuelled compassion campaign to achieve that goal. And driven by daily deadlines, ratings and its instinctive objection to the Iraq war, the media will no doubt comply."
Albrechtsen picks up on the use of the word "quagmire" in various media reports and links it to the way the Vietnam war was characterised accusing the media of hitting the "replay button".

Sure, Vietnam was a link that the media made early and often during the Iraq occupation. It's hardly surprising that this was the case, but now things have changed. In the current New York Times magazine Peter Maas writes: "The template for Iraq today is not Vietnam, to which it has often been compared, but El Salvador, where a right-wing government backed by the United States fought a leftist insurgency in a 12-year war beginning in 1980."

I don't image the Times is a favourite read of Ms Albrechtsen's but Maas goes to great lengths to do what she asks, namely report "not just the daily horrors of war, but also stories that provide for a longer view". And the longer view is not pretty.

But Albrechtsen has a counter-strategy. "The bad news angle is too seductive. Even when the Iraqi parliament approved a new cabinet last week, much of the media's tone was bleak. For The Sydney Morning Herald's Paul McGeough, it was a case of the 'war-weary Iraqis' heaving a 'sigh of relief' over the endorsement of a 'government of sorts'."

The bad news angle is too seductive? Well, yes it is. In Iraq. It might suit wsj.com's interests to have a good news page about Iraq, but the idea hasn't caught on elsewhere. For the rest McGeough's characterisation of the new democracy in Iraq is hardly gratuitous.

Last weekend McGeough wrote: "The democratisation process imposed on Iraq by the Americans has involved a series of short-term appointed or elected administrations, in which most of the players have had more of an eye on surviving into the next round than on the needs of their economically crippled and insurgency-bloodied nation."

That sounds like a little more than "the usual haggle-fest that goes on in democracies when positions of power are up for grabs" as Albrechtsen would have us believe.

Albrechtsen's accusation that the media is doing the insurgents' work by running a "compassion campaign" on behalf of Douglas Woods is clearly calculated but nevertheless odd. Is she suggesting that the media should do the opposite? The Defence Minister and the Foreign Minister are already doing that.

It's her job to provoke reactions with her opinions so here are a few facts in response, a few things worth knowing about the US government (borrowed from Eric Alterman's MSNBC blog):

Sometimes they do their own torturing, here.
Sometimes they like to get others to do their torturing for them, here.
They fight dirty wars, involving terrorist tactics, here.
And they are weakening the military, here, making it impossible to face up to genuine threats here, like this one, here, making the country less safe, here.

The minimum effect of this sort of information is to raise serious questions about the conduct of the war in Iraq. But it's also evidence of good reporting with a view to the longer term value of journalism as the first draft of history.

Friday, April 29, 2005

The bloggiest papers in Oz

Prompted by Martin Pike and inspired by Ethan Zuckerman I thought it would be interesting to discover what are the bloggiest Australian newspaper web sites.

Martin wrote in a comment to an earlier post here:
"The Age website generally is something incompatible with the world of blogging, and other fast-moving link-driven media, because of the requirement that people register.

The requirement assumes that someone is a repeat visitor from a single IP address, and this is so often not the case.

In blogging, where we use multiple links in the manner of references within single posts, it makes sense to avoid sites like the Age (in favour of blog-friendly sites like newsltd and the Australian) because you don't want to click readers through to somewhere they may be hit up for registration, a process far to long and unwieldly for blog use, where people may be reading several posts on several different blogs in the space of minutes.

I wish it would change, I hate having to direct so much traffic to the Murdoch rags."
Martin's argument is entirely understandable, but it misses an important technical point about News Ltd web sites.

All of their newspaper sites lock their content behind a pay-per-view barrier after a week or thereabouts, so blog links decay quickly. Added to this News' online strategy has been to direct traffic through their individual newspaper sites to news.com.au. That strategy is immediately obvious from looking at the numbers below. News.com.au has the largest share of News Ltd blog links at 3,631.

Traditionally, metrics on the web has revolved around unique visitors (or browsers) and page impressions. It still does, but with the rise of blogging has come a new metric: links. On that score Fairfax's news sites - The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald - lead the pack by a mile despite their registration requirement.

By comparison, The Australian Financial Review's subscription site barely registers with bloggers. On the other hand, the 55 links it does have are from the last 7 days. By comparison the very small numbers of links to The Australian, Herald-Sun, Daily Telegraph and Courier Mail represent the few articles these sites choose to keep unlocked. (I have no idea what their criterion is for selecting free articles.)

ABC News ranks below news.com.au but above all the other Murdoch newspaper sites. As the national broadcaster they need to be included, even in a survey as unscientific as this one.

The only thing surprising about the ABC News result is that as a free site with no registration requirement it isn't at the top of the ladder. The ABC site has 8,940 blog links to it but that's across their whole output rather than just news. In online terms the ABC is a sleeping giant.

So too is News Ltd, but following Rupert's speech of a fortnight ago we should expect that to begin to change.

And what about ninemsn? Kerry Packer's JV with Microsoft sells itself as "Australia's number-one website destination, capturing the largest online audience in Australia ... 74 percent of all Australians online use ninemsn regularly to get the news, information and communication services they want."

Maybe. But the low numbers of bloggers linking to it suggests they don't see ninemsn quite the same way.

Here are the results using Technorati:

Fairfax sites
Sydney Morning Herald - 8,326 links
The Age - 5,140 links
Australian Financial Review - 55 links (past 7 days only)

News Limited sites
News.com.au - 3,631 links
The Australian - 89 links and 56 links (URL variants)
The Herald-Sun - 65 links and 20 links (URL variants)
Daily Telegraph - 17 links and 20 links (URL variants)
Courier Mail - 14 links
Adelaide Advertiser - 20 links and 11 links (URL variants)

ABC
ABC news - 1,178 links
ABC.net.au - 8,940 links

Ninemsn
news.ninemsn.com.au - 20 links
ninemsn.com.au - 60 links

ABC does blog

ABC Radio National's Media Report spoke to theage.com.au's former night editor Jon Burton who now lectures in online journalism at RMIT, as well as Margot Kingston, Xeni Jardin from Boing Boing and others about blogging.

You can read the transcript or listen to the program in real media or windows.

Podcasting killed the radio star

Well, maybe. But most of the radio stars around here wouldn't be missed anyway, and let's not even consider Sydney.

I say - Go poddies!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Flickr for video

Vimeo is the new Flickr for video. It's in closed beta mode right now, but keep an eye on it.

Endism

Chris Anderson gives a rundown of the woes facing the different media forms in terms of circulation, sales, and market share. It's comprehensive, and it's bad ... but of course it's not news.

Still, you'd never guess that from talking to old media editors, producers and executives.

Jeff Jarvis has a lot of useful to stuff to say about whether this is a tipping point or a melting point.

And the New York Times adds its muscle with a woe-is-me argument:

"Within the newspaper business itself, however, recent financial results suggest that big newspapers are suffering more than smaller ones."

It turns out that big papers are losing out not only to the internet and competing new media but to local papers as well.

No one should be surprised at this. It's been a consistently strong line from some commentators for years. Vin Crosbie and others have been making this same point for ages.

Yet the NYT can still report it yesterday as if it was a brand new revelation. It would be ironic if it wasn't so sad.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Catching up

Work has been hectic and other things have been demanding time over the last week. I'll be starting a media blog at theage.com.au, possibly next week, so will redirect much of my blogging efforts in that direction shortly.

In the meantime here are a few recent favourites:

1. Matt Drudge tells the Times his perfect news story would be “An earthquake hitting a hospital with Bill Clinton having surgery and President Bush in the waiting room and an asteroid coming its way.”
2. Seymour Hersh tells New York Magazine he's willing to tell a lie as a public speaker in order to convey a Larger Truth. “Sometimes I change events, dates, and places in a certain way to protect people. I can’t fudge what I write. But I can certainly fudge what I say.”
3. The New York Times Magazine tells us watching TV makes us smarter.
4. BusinessWeek looks at how blogs are changing business.
5. CEO and publisher at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive (WPNI), Caroline Little, and washingtonpost.com executive editor Jim Brady, talk to Online Journalism Review about business and editorial challenges that lie ahead as the company integrates Slate into the mix and considers pumping up its award-winning multimedia offerings and a plethora of new blogs.
6. Jay Rosen has a posts on Pressthink from Chris Nolan that explores the concept of the "stand alone journalist", what it means and how it might work.
7. Tim Porter has posted a summary of his research and thoughts over the past 18 months. The mood of the newsroom is not pleasant reading but it should be essential for anyone who cares about the future of journalism.
8. Ken Sands, online publisher of the SpokesmanReview.com offers seven points of advice to newspapers taking on blogs.
9. Some McKinsey guys told the Newspaper Association of America convention in San Francisco last week that newspaper classifieds' Internet-caused erosion will cost US newspapers about 9 percent of total ad revenues (or 20 percent of classified revenues) by 2007. The problem is the effect of the pricing of the internet competition on the entire classifieds model.
10. The business case for RSS.

Monday, April 18, 2005

wsj.com v The Wall Street Journal

Here's a fascinating piece of news, and a scary one for media execs everywhere.

For some time now the wsj.com has been considered a prime example of a successful online business model. Their financial journalism via The Wall Street Journal is a specialist product for which they have been able to charge for access.

But it seems they might have become a victim of their own success. Dow Jones earnings have dropped 54% this financial year and - get this - for the first time wsj.com has earned more than its mother ship The Wall Street Journal.

That's a very significant milestone. But I wonder exactly what it does reveal.

The New York Post article only refers to the drop in advertising revenue at the Journal and its effect on the print side of the business. With first quarter profits down to US$8.2 million from US$17.8 million a year earlier, the company has a big problem. Their print profit margin is quite small - averaging 4.2% - but online's is up to 20 times higher. Online is gaining subscribers at a rapid rate. They currently have 731,000 online subscribers.

There's a fair degree of anecdotal evidence that says print subscribers are dropping the more expensive subscription for a cheaper online-only sub. No doubt that is having an effect on the print business, but I suspect it is probably over-emphasised in the rush to find an answer to the problem.

An important issue that has been lost to date is: how much is wsj.com paying for the Wall Street Journal copy it publishes? If wsj.com is picking up the copy for nothing because it can then its published results are misleading because they don't include the real cost of doing business.

Dave Taylor argues that the article should be about the success of the online site rather than the failure of the print side. If wsj.com is paying a syndication fee, or some other fee to use Wall Street Journal copy then they can rightfully claim to be in the ascendancy. If not, they are simply standing on the shoulders of the print business and there's not really anything to get worked up about.

But it would help if the New York Post had got all the details.

Further to this whole issue, Jay Rosen has a Q & A with Bill Grueskin the Managing Editor of wsj.com. Grueskin says in part:

I'm writing this response at 2 pm on a Friday, April 8th. The best-read story on WSJ.com at the moment is an exclusive Page One Journal piece about how Warren Buffett provided a key tip in the AIG investigation. Down the list a bit is the Online Journal's latest survey of nearly 60 economists; it includes an interactive graphic and tons of downloadable data. Next is a richly reported story from the paper about a Wal-Mart executive fired for allgedly defrauding his firm. Then comes an online-only column by Carl Bialik, WSJ.com's "Numbers Guy" who looks at how US News' new law-school rankings could affect minority admissions.

That, to me, is a perfect most-popular list. Our readers are clicking back and forth between print stories that showcase the best of the Journal and online columns and graphics that make the most of the medium.
In other words there's a clear distinction between wsj.com generated content and stories that have come originally from the paper.

To give an idea of the scale of the issue the Dow Jones corporate web site says that wsj.com is "published by a dedicated news staff of more than 60 editors and reporters who draw on the Dow Jones network of nearly 1,700 business and financial news staff world-wide — the largest network of business and financial journalists in the world." Sounds impressive, but what's not explained is how much the 1,700 news staff world wide cost wsj.com.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Circulation woes

Newspaper circ figures are out for the six months to March 31. The news is not good ... and the spin, predictably, is furious.

But how reliable are these figures anyway?

After a recent scandal in the US over circulation fraud Newsday was forced to cut more than 100,000 phantom papers from its reported daily circulation of nearly 600,000 and the Chicago Sun-Times reduced its daily claimed circulation by 72,000 papers. Other papers were implicated in the fraud and all of the companies involved took millions of dollars in corporate write-downs to reimburse advertisers for overcharging them based on the faulty numbers, and each of those parent companies has been sued by investors.

This week Crikey.com.au has been running an anonymous insider's account of Australian newspaper circulation fraud. The explanation goes like this:

"Just before the audit period is complete, Circulation do not process some newsagent returns, enough to obtain a satisfactory audit figure for the various products management need. The poor old newsagent is told that a virus has affected the Circulation system and it will take a few weeks to rectify.

Auditors arrive and review the figures, these are all good. Auditors leave with the good figures, Circulation then process the returns after the auditors leave, and newsagents are happy. The Circulation Department get the great audit figures and charges accordingly for advertising in their fine products.

The next option is to have a Company that supplies services to buy bulk copies of the products, not ten or 20 per day but thousands, and dispose of the product, if they actually even print it. The invoice is then paid by Circulation so that the Company does not have to pay it themselves. I understand this Company was then rewarded with a lucrative contract for their participation.

The word is events are big for hiding sold copies. Sponsor an event or 'sell' copies to the event organiser, hand out your product and then claim whatever figure you like, provided it does not exceed the attendance and nobody would ever know.

School teachers are very big on the hit list, with this poor profession targeted. Teachers are sold the daily paper for the year at $10 delivered to the school. If the required figures are not reached, they pay newsagents to sponsor the school and the newsagent supplies the papers at no cost to the teacher or newsagent. How long before teachers catch on that the company is paying to supply teachers for free?

Again they target this area by selling papers to schools on the assumption that a reference or an insert in the paper relates to the curriculum that the schools are studying will sell the school papers. Again if the school does not willingly participate, the company pays incentives to the newsagent to sponsor and deliver to the school regardless."
The Financial Review today reports that the Media Federation of Australia, which represents media planning and buying agencies, is concerned about newspaper publishers using heavily discounted copies to inflate their sales. This follows an earlier campaign by the MFA in 2003 at which time publishers were presented with a list of demands, including more frequent audits and more detailed information about readership, greater accuracy in circulation figures and diligent observation of the requirement to include only 1% of promotional copies in audited figures.

The publishers apparently satisfied the MFA which said in January this year that it was no longer concerned about loopholes and irregularities. But MFA president John Sintras has now asked the Audit Bureau's chairman, News executive Stephen Hollings for a full investigation of the recent claims.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

BBC gets participatory journalism

The Bebe is way ahead of most news organisations on this.

In an interview with Hypergene media blog Richard Sambrook, director of the BBC Global News Division, explains how participatory media strengthens the BBC's core values; the BBC's role shifting from broadcaster and mediator to facilitator, enabler and teacher; and forthcoming projects such as the Creative Archive, the Global Conversation and the BBC College of Journalism.

Rupert admits net mistake

After doing his best to ignore the web for ten years Rupert Murdoch has finally come around to embracing the net. After all, it won't go away, even for him.

In a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors he said newspapers must overhaul how they gather and deliver news to collect the readers and advertising revenue shifting to the web.

I assume this change of heart has come off the back of News Corps mid-February pow wow with the McKinsey boys.

The irritant of copy-sharing

Fairfax's New Zealand business has run into a few problems with the culture of sharing NZPA wire copy.

Unlike the arrangement with AAP - part owned by both Fairfax and News Limited - which is wholly commercial, "member newspapers from Whangarei to Invercargill supply the Wellington-based NZPA with news stories from their regions. Those that the NZPA editors consider newsworthy enough to circulate nationally are edited and distributed electronically to other member papers - hence the NZPA tag on the bottom of stories. For this service, member newspapers pay a subscription fee based on their circulation figures."

- Stuff.co.nz

Clutching at straws

A piece titled Why people read newspapers lays out some research commissioned by the Scottish Daily Newspaper Society that shows "what makes people read newspapers, and what makes them take precedence over other media".

“Benefits of newspapers include portability, privacy, selectivity, intimacy, the fact that it’s flickable – whereas the Internet is searchable – and the fact they are multi-functional.

“Newspapers build more personal relationships as they help readers live their lives, both through the editorial and advertising.

“Newspaper readers are also more valuable to advertisers.”
Well, there's nothing new there. It seems the problem is that the study, which is described as being "conducted through focus groups and then ethnographic research – observing and understanding what people do", has disregarded competing media. Or was it that the focus group participants were all over 60?

The Annotated New York Times

The Annotated New York Times “tracks blog postings that cite articles published by The New York Times”. The key point is that the Annotated New York Times is not associated with The New York Times. This is not the Times talking to its readers. It’s readers talking about Times articles. And the Times is not involved.
But, says Yeald, it should be. If it can spend $US410 million buying About.com, it could certainly spend a lot less to keep readers informed about what other readers think about Times articles.

Monday, April 11, 2005

The ratings mystery

Who watches what, when, where? And how do we know?

The New York Times looks for an answer:
"When it comes to figuring out how many of us are watching television, and whether we're paying attention while we're watching and even whether we're actually noticing the advertisements among the shows we may or may not be watching -- well, this is where things get tricky."

Reuters: Blogs and the Media forum

On April 5th, Reuters convened a panel of experts at its headquarters to discuss the impact of blogs in journalism and the media.

The forum was moderated by Paul Holmes, Reuters global editor for political and general news.

More Reuters blogging clips: John Fund of OpinionJounal.com

Halley Suitt of Halley's Comment

Thursday, April 07, 2005

John Paul II's PR genius

John Paul II clearly had a talent for media management; but the unprecedented amount of publicity around his death and upcoming funeral presents a radical departure for the Catholic Church. The Guardian takes a look at the Vatican's media strategy for the 21st century:

'John Ryley, the Sky News executive editor, said: "You had the pictures of his body being carried through the streets. That was quite medieval - a fusion of 21st century technology and the medieval. That was a coming of age for the Vatican and the Catholic church, to have live pictures of a dead Pope being carried through the streets and broadcast around the world.

"That's probably never been shown before. That will have a huge impact on the way the Catholic church and the papacy is viewed - though I'm not sure if it will be good or bad," said Ryley.

And the Guardian's Bates added: "Life has changed a lot in the last 30 years, but in the old days a Pope was never ill, he was well one day and dead the next. The Vatican even said one of them was off hiking when in fact he'd died. Most of John Paul's predecessors were locked in the Vatican and never looked out.'
- The Guardian

Blogging builds traffic to news sites

Industry expert Vin Crosbie told a newspaper conference that small circulation papers in America had seen page views double with the introduction of a series of popular daily blogs.

He told an audience of editors and circulations bosses how advertising was now being sold on the back of blogging and examined the possiblilty of it taking off in the UK.

"This is the idea that journalism is not to be handled only by specially-trained individuals," he said.

"We can only imagine how this might go down with the National Union of Journalists, but this is happening for the US and has provided a way to develop loyalty of readership."

He highlighted LJworld.com and Lawrence.com, which have 12 links to weblogs direct from the home pages.

- Hold the front page

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What Rupert wrought

Rupert Murdoch bought the New York Post in 1976. It was there, according to New York Magazine, that he perfected the mix of hard conservative politics and unapologetic tabloidism with which his name has become synonymous.

Murdoch’s editors built stories out of the thinnest shreds of news, jammed them together in unwieldy packages, and shamelessly plugged the results. And while Murdoch wasn’t the first newsman to realize news could make spectacular entertainment (see Hearst, William Randolph), he mastered the art of news hysteria, which would prove irresistable to television. That was no accident either, since Murdoch’s Fox network led the way there, too.
- New York Magazine

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The dying of John Paul II

The Saturday papers have their special features, but the Currency Lad provides a personal perspective.

Inside Yahoo News

From Mark Glaser at Online Journalism Review, a look behind the scenes at Yahoo:
"Yahoo sits at the intersection of technology and media, fueled by the Internet boom in advertising and paid content and led by a Hollywood studio executive in Terry Semel. Plans are afoot to move most of the editorial operations to the new Yahoo Media Center in Santa Monica, Calif. Though Yahoo spokesmen are relatively tight-lipped about who's moving when, signs abound that new editorial hires will be heading south."

The transparent newsroom

On Morph Ken Sands writes about the ongoing developments in the Spokesman-Review's experiments with interactive news and participatory journalism. They are moving towards a "transparent newsroom":
"And we're also ordering webcasting equipment so that we can webcast our morning and afternoon news meetings. The plan is to post our potential story lineup on the web, and encourage readers to interact with us, in real time, about the choices we are making about the next day's print edition. ... This is part of our attempt to create an atmosphere in which news truly is a conversation."
Webcasting morning and afternoon news conferences is a very interesting idea, but I can't imagine it happening here. For one thing neither The Age nor the Herald-Sun would want to give away their story line-up to the opposition. And that's just for starters ...

Friday, April 01, 2005

Abandoning the news

Why news industry is in peril and how participatory media can save it.

In a report for the Carnegie Corporation examining how young people get their news, former Editor in Chief of MSNBC.com Merrill Brown, says the news industry is in peril unless it dramatically rethinks it's approach to news.

"For news professionals coming out of the traditions of conventional national and local journalism, fields long influenced by national news organizations and dominant local broadcasting and print media, the revolution in how individuals relate to the news is often viewed as threatening. For digital media professionals, members of the blogging community and other participants in the new media wave, these trends are, conversely, considered liberating and indications that an “old media” oligopoly is being supplemented, if not necessarily replaced, by new forms of journalism created by freelancers and interested members of the public without conventional training."
The report builds on Brown's contribution to the Project for Excellence in Journalism's State of the News Media 2005. Altogether, a valuable summary of the challenges facing the news business.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Dow Jones exec predicts more paid web sites

Gordon Crovitz, president of electronic publishing at Dow Jones, says more US publishers will try to wean readers off free internet versions of their newspapers by starting to charge online subscription fees, according to Reuters.

Steve Rubel argues that if this happens then readers will move down the long tail of the blogosphere looking for free, unfiltered content.

Newspapers that choose to charge for content may not be able to return to prominence online ever again. New media brands will emerge in their wake as leaders.

Grokster and Morpheus v The Supremes

Malcolm Maiden is spot-on with his comments about the current court cases over file sharing technology.

As reported elsewhere in The Age, "Grokster and Morpheus, are before the US Supreme Court in an action that US experts say touches the capacity of the legal system to enforce copyright laws and ultimately affects elements of Western freedom."

And Australian software company, Sharman Networks, which owns KaZaA, used by about 200 million people and one of the most popular peer-to-peer applications on the internet was sued in the Federal Court in Sydney.

Maiden argues that the music and movie industries business model has been made redundant by the internet:

"But file-sharing is also an emerging telephony network, and a process that is central to the operation of the World Wide Web.

The industry's attempt to outlaw file-sharing is, in that sense, an attack on the architecture and logic of the internet itself - and the fecundity of the Net means it cannot succeed.

New models for producing and distributing information on the Net are emerging. In most cases, they generate thinner profit margins than the ones they replace, but that is the nature of the internet: it is a low-margin, high-volume network."
That last comment is particularly revealing. While new models are emerging, it's happening slowly. And the fact that the margins are thinner means that the new businesses that evolve with these models will be quite different in structure from traditional entertainment companies.

It's also worth pointing out that media companies are caught in the same bind. While peer-to-peer technology is not a direct current threat to news organisations they will inevitably face the same fate as film and music businesses.

The challenge is how to embrace the technology and work with it rather than try to shut it down.

Lawyer Harold Feld from Media Access Project was at the Supreme Court hearing and blogged about it here.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

What's the story with Google news?

The mystery of the Google news algorithms is intriguing. How do they select which stories to display?

Private Radio has created a wee script that cites a continuously updated list of sources on the main Google news pages. It doesn't actually explain the decision making process, but it does show many stories were used from each source and that raises a bunch of other questions: How come ABC (US) is the top source of stories for the Australian Google news? Why does BBC news rate below Xinhua, The Scotsman, The LA Times, News 24 and Bloomberg, among others?

Of the top ten news sources only 4 are Australian, and the 6th top source is the Chinese agency Xinhua. What's going on there?

Saving newspaper journalism

Jay Rosen has a piece on his blog today provocatively titled - 'Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die'.

It's a round-up of a lot of current strands of argument that says online publishing models need greater commitment in order to save quality journalism.

Quotes an excellent line from Tim Porter:
"... getting newspaper journalism across the divide means a big investment now in the Net and its emerging forms. It requires a wave of Research & Development. It means re-training your people, and taking on "newsroom cultures that discourage innovation, don't reward risk-taking and drive out many of the best and brightest younger journalists, all of whom entered the profession aware of the paltry pay scale."

The future of magazines

The US Magazine Publishers Association has a fairly whacky, jetsonesque view of the future, if their super-slick website is any indication. Despite that they believe we'll still be reading printed mags.

Well, maybe ...

It's certainly possible to imagine some mags continuing in printed form - I know I enjoy reading NYRB and Atlantic Monthly in print. I'll scan the websites when the issue is out and print anything I absolutely can't wait to read, but then I'll wait until the copy arrives in the mail a few days later. It's just a more enjoyable experience to read their lengthy articles in the hard copy format.

Trade mags have got to be an endangered species, though.

Businessweek takes a more realistic approach to the problem. Embrace the internet and make it work for you!

But for pure inventiveness, Vodaphone's future site takes the cake.

Learning from the Boxing Day tsunami

Citizen reporters and bloggers played an important part in reporting the Boxing Day tsunami. A lot of news organisations used material taken directly from tourists, vloggers and bloggers. But how many had a strategy in place subsequently so as to take advantage of the next major news story in the area? Not many, it seems.

But when the latest earthquake struck near Sumatra MSNBC were ready. For a start they set up a special eyewitness blog, but they went further than that. They've also set up a section on their site devoted entirely to citizen journalism.

Best photojournalism 2005

Here's a collection of the year's best photojournalism on the web. The winners of the large site categories are somewhat predictable - nyt.com, washingtonpost.com, MSNBC etc - but the work is undeniably good, and there are number of gems tucked away in the smaller sites. Definitely worth a browse.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Advertisers wary of blogs

Not so suprising, really. The Wall Street Journal thought it worth investigating, though.

"Many companies are wary of putting their brand on such a new and unpredictable medium. Most blogs are written by a lone author. They are typically unedited and include spirited responses from readers who can post comments at will. Some marketers fear blogs will criticize their products or ad campaigns. And, like all new blog readers, companies are just learning how to track what's being said on blogs and which ones might make a good fit for their ads.

As a result, advertising on blogs is still in the early stages. Although advertising on Web sites was a $9.6 billion business in the U.S. last year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau there is little data to date on blog ad-spending. Blogads.com, a service that matches bloggers and advertisers, says its business has grown from 28 ads in September 2002 to 1,685 ads last month."

Who is making money from newspapers?

Jack Shafer, writing on newspaper entrepreneur Philip Anschutz, says, "Nobody dumps hundreds of millions of dollars into the movie and exhibition business—or newspapers—to uplift the masses. There's got to be an angle". Shafer refers to Philip Meyer's book The Vanishing Newspaper to illustrate his point:

"A cynical owner of a fading newspaper, Meyer writes, will "squeeze the goose to maintain profitability today without worrying about the long term." He'll raise the price of the paper and increase advertising rates. He'll cut the news hole, trim the staff, reduce circulation in remote and low-income areas, and suppress salaries. He'll do whatever is necessary to keep profits as close to the 30 percent margins some dominant papers have recorded. The owner who follows this path is essentially liquidating his publication over time, Meyer writes.

If an owner insists on squeezing the goose ("harvesting market position" in business-speak) he creates an opportunity for a competitor to enter with a new paper. If the competitor builds goodwill (editorial quality and standing) into his paper from scratch that is comparable to that of the established newspaper, he can end up with a paper as profitable as the dominant title but at only 20 percent of the cost (printing plants, trucks, offices, computers, etc.). Meyer explains:

... the challenger can get the same return on investment with a 6 percent margin that the old paper's owners get with a 30 percent margin. Voila! A happy publisher with a 6 percent margin!

There is no way to overstate the complacency or arrogance of the greater newspaper industry. In many markets, the big daily acts like a quasi-monopoly, raising advertising rates annually or semi-annually—anything to reach those historic 30 percent margins. As falling circulation has put a crimp in advertising rates, some newspapers such as Newsday, Hoy, the Dallas Morning News, and the Chicago Sun-Times have padded the numbers to appear healthy, defrauding advertisers in the process. At Newsday, one-sixth of circulation was phony!"

Can blogging retain its revolutionary fervour?

Proponents of blogging emphasise its revolutionary aspects: It makes the creation of news active and participatory rather than passive and disempowering; it overcomes the didactic approach embedded in much of traditional media, replacing that approach with a more conversational one; it has low (or non-existent) barriers to entry meaning everyone can publish.

Yet, as blogging begins to mature as a medium there are reasons to question the extent to which this utopia might be realised.

- Trevor Cook

More on podcasting

NASA is doing it, 14-year-old boys in bedrooms are doing it, couples are doing it, gadget lovers - male and female - are definitely doing it.

Podcasting - DIY radio in the form of downloadable MP3 audio files - is a fledgling movement, but it's gaining momentum now that people have started thinking about how to make a business from it.

- BBC

Webgobbler

WebGobbler wanders the web, downloads random images and mixes them. Enjoy the chaos of the internet.

Yahoo buys Flickr

Yahoo has purchased online photo-sharing service Flickr.

The most interesting thing about the deal is that Flickr is a pioneer of tagging which is shaping as a revolution in the way information is found and distributed online.

How to succeed as a citizen media editor

When old-line news organizations go online, they must compete with local bloggers, Craigslist, Slashdot and any online source that lets readers do the talking. So it's not surprising that the more industrious news sites have started to ask their readers to take on citizen media projects, submit photos, start a blog or give live online feedback that runs beneath each staff-written story.

But who do you put on the front line? Who can oversee these efforts with a light but discerning touch, allowing free speech without inviting lawsuits? That's the role of the new citizen media editor.

- Online Journalism Review

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Is online news reaching its potential?

A decade after digital news trailblazers discussed the Internet's promise as a cutting-edge news vehicle, only some of those forecasts have become reality, writes Nora Paul in the Online Journalism Review.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

US publishers buy 75% of web news monitor

The New York Times reports that three of the largest newspaper publishers in the US, Gannett Company, Knight-Ridder Inc, and the Tribune Company are collaborating to buy 75 per cent of Topix.net.

Topix.net is a Web site based in California that monitors over 10,000 online media news and government sources. The specific price of the acquisition has not yet been disclosed, but each publisher will own 25% of the company with Topix.net itself retaining the remaining quarter.

Though the site already keeps tabs on news from the three publishers, the recent acquisition will allow the company to better attract advertisers. In return, the newspapers’ websites will get more fine-tuned technology and more customized ads.

Chief executive and a co-founder of Topix.net Rich Skrenta explained that his company’s technology can make ads more profitable by placing relevant adds next to articles.

Following other purchases in the industry, including that of MarketWatch by Dow Jones & Company and that of About.com by The New York Times Company, this acquisition marks another attempt by publishers to broaden their reach and profit from online advertising.

It's interesting that while AFP is busy suing Google for copyright infringement these US companies see the value in search sites that aggregate news content. In Australia Fairfax has developed its own version of a news aggregator - Newsbreak.

Dinosaur blog


Click to enlarge

Paying for online news gives mixed results

The International Herald Tribune reports:

"Few European general-interest papers charge for basic access to their web sites, though El PaĆ­s in Spain is a prominent exception. More common are mixed models in which access to most news is free, with users billed for premium services such as searches of archives, or downloads of crossword puzzles. A number of newspapers also charge for providing 'e-papers' - exact electronic replicas of the day's print edition - rather than just the basic web site.

Many newspapers, including the Guardian and the Daily Mail in Britain, also require web users to register their personal details in order to gain access to some content.

One newspaper web site, that of The Times of London and its sister paper, The Sunday Times, is moving away from the subscription model. Until October, the site had charged users based outside Britain about £90 a year for access. But the service, free in Britain, gained only a few thousand international users, so the Times decided to drop the international fee for basic access, keeping it only for an e-paper version.

As a result, the number of international visitors to the Times site has surged. It attracted 4.3 million unique users worldwide in January, including 1.7 million in Britain and 1.6 million in the United States. That was more than double the unique users as recently as a year ago.

With Internet ad spending expected to grow 20 percent worldwide this year, according to Initiative, a media strategy firm, the Times and many other European newspaper Web sites seem most interested in growth, at least for now."

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

The growing power of blogs

Chris Anderson's influential thesis is used as a framework on which to hang a lot of hopes.

Technorati's David Sifry has applied 'The Long Tail' theory to the influence of blogs and produced an interesting chart showing the growing power of weblogs when compared to the mainstream media: "Even though the amount of influence that a single blog may have is less than that of a single blog on the A-list, the aggregate influence of all of the long tail far outstrips even the mainstream media."



So what future effects does the media industry expect from these digital diaries? There are a range of diverse answers.

1. The age gap: This Gallup Poll shows the age gap in blog reading is particularly noteworthy because it is a complete reversal of the typical age pattern gap for news consumption. Gallup finds Americans' use of all traditional news media to be positively correlated with age. (For instance, only 32% of 18- to 29-year-olds read a local paper every day, versus 61% of those 65 and older.)

2. The media's PR role: an article in Toronto's The Globe and Mail shows that blogs are diminishing the media's role as a public relations tool. Blogs, theoretically written by 'normal people', empower companies to have direct contact with their consumers, thus bypassing the media who traditionally has played a major role in PR firms' message. A prediction that blogs will become more influential in swaying public opinion comes from two 'trust' polls, one in Canada and one in the United States. The first showed that 55% of Canadians trust a 'person like yourself', falling only behind academics and doctors, and that 56% of Americans do the same, up from a mere 22% of peer trust only two years ago.

3. The business opportunities: 'The value of blogs to businesses is their ability to enable and facilitate communication', says Frank Barnako at Market Watch. Barnako says that blogs are both good and bad for publishers; good because their content is being read, attracting people to their website, but bad because it becomes impossible to charge for their content. That's his view, others have a different perspective. Chuck Richard, vice-president of Outsell Inc., a technology market research firm that has recently released a report on blogs concurs that 'they are going to be big'. A similar article at The Deal provides a summary of the venture capital that is being presently put into blogs and citizens' media. Although it notes that it's still early in the blogging game, the article predicts that 'social media' investments will not experience the same crash landing that technology companies went through in 2001: Social media is 'Not the next bubble'.

The long tail of video content will get longer

"Even as cable programmers are ascendant, new forces are at work which hold the potential to flood the market with a torrent of new video content. This would dramatically lengthen the long tail of video programming, as it would be defined today. In addition, consumers will also have new ways to find, share and consume this video.

While these disruptive influences are well-known, their effects are not yet fully understood. Broadband and IP have opened up a new path to deliver quality video directly to the end-consumer; wireless connectivity and new devices are redefining how and where video is consumed; production costs to create high-quality digital programming are low and getting lower; video search engines from Google, Yahoo and Blinkx, which extend existing internet usage behaviors, are becoming more sophisticated and widely adopted; and most importantly, traditional television advertisers are increasingly shifting their mindsets (and their bucks) from big brand-building campaigns to surgical, ROI-based online tactics prompted by consumers' heightened disdain for commercial interruptions."

- Broadband Directions

Google News removes AFP

Google is in the process of removing French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) from its Google News service, after AFP sued alleging copyright infringement over the inclusion of AFP content in Google News.

Google doesn't have a timetable for when all AFP links and content will be removed from Google News, but the company is actively working on the matter, said Steve Langdon, a Google spokesman.

"We allow publishers to opt out of Google News. Most, however, want to be included in Google News because they believe it's a benefit to them and their readers," Langdon added.

- PC World

Alpha chick bloggers

Martin Pike has noticed something's goin' on in the Aussie blogosphere ... and it's far more entertaining than earnest dissections of the day's oped pages.

He writes:
"Is something in the air? A certain class of female blogger who might be described as polisex (poliblog meets...) appear to be on a mission to outdo each other with provocative, saucy or deeply personal posts. Not that I'm complaining, but are they vying for some blog award I haven't heard of?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Where the wikis are

Four years ago, a wealthy options trader named Jimmy Wales set out to build a massive online encyclopedia ambitious in purpose and unique in design. This encyclopedia would be freely available to anyone. And it would be created not by paid experts and editors, but by whoever wanted to contribute. With software called Wiki - which allows anybody with Web access to go to a site and edit, delete, or add to what's there - Wales and his volunteer crew would construct a repository of knowledge to rival the ancient library of Alexandria.
- Wired

Do ads still work?

Did they ever work? Of course the answer is, yes. Back in the good old days people could be sucked into buying anything ... not any more. But hang on, if advertising doesn't work - and traditional classified models are struggling against free online offers - who pays for the news?

Ken Auletta thinks the message can still cut through ... just:

"In many ways, the advertising business in the early twenty-first century would be unrecognizable to the generation that once thrived on Madison Avenue. The traditional assumption, as Keith Reinhard says, was that advertisers chose the time and place of a 'one-way show-and-tell' ad. The consumer was a captive audience. Today, advertisers chase consumers with a certain air of desperation. 'It’s not just about looking pretty anymore,' Linda Kaplan Thaler says. 'There are all these beautiful products out there. You need a lot more personality to get the date.'

"Because the audience is increasingly fragmented, advertisers have found other media—from the Internet to 'guerrilla marketing' tactics, such as using the foreheads of college students (Dunkin’ Donuts paid for that privilege). Ads are increasingly showing up in movie theatres; last year, the Cinema Advertising Council generated three hundred and fifty-six million dollars for theatre owners—thirty-eight per cent more than the year before. Jack Fuller, who, until the end of 2004, oversaw twelve daily newspapers as the president of Tribune Publishing Company, says that his company was among the first to print newspapers zoned by neighborhood. 'The answer to fragmentation is, quite simply, to adapt to changing circumstances and compete hard against all comers,' he says."

The origins of "broadsheet"

The trend towards tabloids has crossed the Atlantic and is gaining traction in the US.

Tabloids aren't new to the US, but the debate surrounding high profile new English tabs such as The Times and Indepenent is taking off.

Slate's Jack Shafer takes exception to The New York Times report characterising the origin of the term broadsheet in this way:

"In the 1600's, newspapers were pamphlets about the size of modern-day paperback books. But in England in the early 1700's, newspapers began to be taxed by their number of pages. To reduce taxes, publishers printed bigger pages and fewer of them, helping to create the broadsheet that is now considered standard."
"If broadsheets owed their existence to a paper tax," Shafer writes, "then newspapers would have right-sized themselves to a different, optimum dimension after the British tax (a duty on paper) was discontinued in 1855, according to Barnhurst. Yet the broadsheet flourished for another century and a half in Britain before its 'quality' dailies started printing in the tabloid format."

Florida-based design guru Mario Garcia calls them compacts. 'Tab smells of down-market, of blood, sex and guts,' he says. 'You want to go compact. That makes you think of a small Mercedes, a small jaguar.'

So where did the word (and the tabloid format) come from? Barrister and author Julian Burnside, writing in Crikey.com.au, offers this explanation:

"In 1894, the Harmsworth brothers (Alfred and Harold, later Lord Northcliffe and Lord Rothermere respectively) bought a failing newspaper, The London Evening News, and revised its contents by ensuring that news items were short and easily digested. They then established The Daily Mail, which was first published on 4 May 1896. It was advertised as 'The penny newspaper for one halfpenny' and 'The busy man's daily journal'. Its style was short and to the point. What it lacked in depth, it made up in brevity. It became very successful. The style of newspaper pioneered by the Harmsworth brothers was quite soon referred to as 'tabloid news'.

Tabloid has no current use other than in connection with the style of journalism pioneered by the Harmsworth brothers. It is used to describe the format of a newspaper, as well as the style of journalism generally found in those newspapers. It is also used to describe television and radio journalism which is superficial or sensational. Strangely, its true signification today is the opposite of what was originally intended, since the news dosage in tabloid journalism is not only not concentrated, but diluted to almost homeopathic levels."

Monday, March 21, 2005

AFP sues over Google news

Agence France Presse has sued Google Inc., alleging the Web search leader includes AFP's photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission.

The French news service is seeking damages of at least $17.5 million and an order barring Google News from displaying AFP photographs, news headlines or story leads, according to the suit filed on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

- Reuters

Paper v web in classies struggle

EBay recently launched free classified Web sites in seven international markets including Germany, China and Japan. Those new Kijiji-branded sites mimic Craigslist.

Moves like these are causing havoc with newspapers, many of which have fought back with online versions of their publications -- complete with classifieds.

The Newspaper Association of America expects the market for print newspaper classified advertising to grow 5.2 percent to $17.4 billion this year.

But newspaper market share is falling amid intense competition from a range of players, including Web sites and Internet search companies, as well as radio and television, niche publications and Yellow Pages providers, Zollman said.

- Reuters

The potential of microformats

Adrian Holovaty has some interesting things to say about microformats - lightweight, informal standards for adding metadata to Web pages by using existing XHTML elements.

The idea is that adding metadata to web pages makes it easy for automated tools to aggregate information.

Where are young audiences?

The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released the results of a survey of media use among 3rd through 12th graders. More than 2,000 youth participated in the project, which comprised answering detailed questionnaires and, for nearly 700 self-selected participants, maintaining seven-day media diaries.

The survey, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds, found children and teens are spending an increasing amount of time using "new media" like computers, the Internet and video games, but by media-multitasking they do this without cutting back on the time they spend with "old" media like TV, print and music.

Wikipedia on the march

Wikipedia is about to pass Dictionary.com as the 3rd ranked reference site, behind Mapquest and MyYahoo.

Folksonomy

Folksonomy is a term that has come to describe the potential for user-defined tags to organically develop structure out of what might appear to be chaotic collections of information. It's putting the power to categorize everything from links to digital photos into the hands of users.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

A Year to Remember in Internet News

Interesting essay on the state of online news from Merril Brown, founding Editor in Chief of MSNBC.com:
"So, while business might appear prosperous, beneath the success lies a perplexing reality. Many of the news organizations that make most Web site journalism possible, either through their dollars or the work of the journalists reporting for their traditional products, are in some combination of strategic, journalistic and financial peril. It is those organizations that make large-scale Internet news sites viable. In a world of dwindling resources, a world of falling daily newspaper readership and fragmented television news audiences, who will produce the journalism of scale and importance that informs citizens about national political campaigns and international conflict? Bloggers? Citizen journalists? The software developers who produce RSS
readers?

The answers that emerge over this decade to those questions are certain to impact the future not just of Internet news but of journalism itself."

Pre-packaged news

Hardly surprising the Bush administration are proving experts at this:
"Under the Bush administration, the federal government has aggressively used a well-established tool of public relations: the prepackaged, ready-to-serve news report that major corporations have long distributed to TV stations to pitch everything from headache remedies to auto insurance. In all, at least 20 federal agencies, including the Defense Department and the Census Bureau, have made and distributed hundreds of television news segments in the past four years, records and interviews show. Many were subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production."

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Free news online - the door is closing

In Monday's New York Times:

"Newspaper Web sites have been so popular that at some newspapers, including The New York Times, the number of people who read the paper online now surpasses the number who buy the print edition.

This migration of readers is beginning to transform the newspaper industry. Advertising revenue from online sites is booming and, while it accounts for only 2 percent or 3 percent of most newspapers' overall revenues, it is the fastest-growing source of revenue. And newspaper executives are watching anxiously as the number of online readers grows while the number of print readers declines.

'For some publishers, it really sticks in the craw that they are giving away their content for free," said Colby Atwood, vice president of Borrell Associates Inc., a media research firm. The giveaway means less support for expensive news-gathering operations and the potential erosion of advertising revenue from the print side, which is much more profitable.

'Newspapers are cannibalizing themselves,' said Frederick W. Searby, an advertising and publishing analyst at J. P. Morgan."
Ken Sands, online publisher of The Spokesman-Review, is quoted in the article - but in an email today he expanded on his comments:

"We're at an interesting period in the evolution of online news. Many newspapers simply put their print content online, add some breaking news and maybe a few bells-and-whistles multimedia and interactivity and call it good. Sell a bunch of online advertising and everybody's happy, right?

I don't think so. In the next few years, in my view, online news should become much more independent of that print content. If you think about it, posting a newspaper online is giving people a snapshot of yesterday's news. We should instead, give them today's news and a bit of tomorrow's news, as well as making full use of the unique attributes of the web, including: immediacy, interactivity, utility, multimedia, entertainment, archiving, aggregation and community publishing. When you truly take advantage of those attributes, you've got a much different web site.

Here in Spokane, we started on Sept. 1 charging an online subscription fee, but it's ONLY for the repurposed print content. Everything else on the web site is free. As it is now, we frequently post breaking news and have between 20 and 25 staff-written blogs (immediacy and interactivity). We have multiple databases of information (the utility function). We have video, photo galleries, etc. Is it enough web-original content to withstand the partitioning of our print content behind a subscription wall? Obviously not, as we saw our year-over-year traffic growth go from plus 42 percent to zero.

In a perfect world, I would have preferred to wait a couple of years to let the evolution proceed toward web-original content before charging for the repurposed print content. (But you can hardly blame the print circulation folks for being antsy as their numbers decline.)

I'm hoping that what it really means is that we're simply ahead of the evolutionary curve. Give us a couple of years to jack-up the web-original content and people will come for that first and foremost. Then, who cares if we charge for the print content? (Of course, we could find out that the evolution is going an entirely different direction.)

Regardless, we really have no choice but to look for a better business model. If print circulation and advertising drop significantly, there's probably no way an increase in online revenue can make up the difference.

Who's going to pay all of the reporters and editors? Maybe those of us who are left in the future will simply aggregate and edit the news that's provided by citizen journalists. I don't pretend to have all of the answers, but you can't say we aren't looking."

The growth of blogs

David Sifry, founder and CEO of Technorati, reports they are now tracking over 7.8 million weblogs, and 937 million links. In other words, about double the number of weblogs tracked in October 2004. He says the blogosphere is doubling in size every 5 months. And it's showing no sign of slowing down.

Monday, March 14, 2005

News sites and social networks

OJR looks at the phenomenon of social networks and asks why news sites aren't taking advantage of their potential. Why indeed?

"In the last two years social networking sites mushroomed across the net, heavily fertilized by hype and the promise of six degrees of connection between socially dispersed people who shared common interests or friends. Now companies actively apply social networking principles to shift more stock and lure more clickthrus to their site."

WWW @ ten years

Video from a conference on the visions, technologies, and directions that characterized the Web's first decade. The conference, from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Indiana, October 2004, provided a forum in which scholars and practitioners of all disciplines shared perspectives, and innovative ideas about the Web.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

The vanishing newspaper

The webcast of The vanishing newspaper panel discussion. MP3 is here.

The panel featured Phil Meyer (author of The Vanishing Newspaper), Mary Lou Fulton of the Bakersfield Californian and Northwest Voice, Stefan Dill of the Santa Fe New Mexican and Tim Porter together for a discussion about the future of the newspaper business in today's digital world and beyond. The conversation was hosted by Jeff Jarvis.

What's it all About(.com)?

There's been a lot written about NYT's purchase of About.com but largely from the Times' point of view.

About.com CEO Peter Horan gives the other side of the story ... as it were.

New era for Crikey

Crikey's new owners take over today and they've sent subscribers a letter explaining the changes. Should be interesting. Here it is:

Dear Crikey Subscriber,
In a few hours we’ll be emailing you the Crikey Daily – the first edition of the daily email newsletter we’re publishing as the new owners of Crikey. We bought Crikey because we believe in its role in giving readers the “inside” story of what’s really going on in Australia. We love its edginess, its irreverence and its surprise element. We also recognise that these aspects of Crikey’s character are fragile, and our aim is to preserve them and improve on them. And we think Crikey’s role as a “clearing house” for information is incredibly important in a country where most media is pumped out by a tiny number of proprietors.

The “new” Crikey won’t be remarkably different from the old Crikey -- but there will be some differences. First, we plan to publish just one edition of the Crikey Daily each weekday -- at midday (later in the day for alertees). It will carry around 20-25 items, and we have summarised our editorial approach on the Crikey website (click on the ‘About Crikey’ button).

Crikey will now run a little more like a typical newspaper, where writers and columnists discuss their stories with editors and co-ordinate their coverage. But that doesn’t mean the Crikey ethos of disclosure, tough commentary, hot tips and inside information will change – it won’t. The same team of writers will produce Crikey, and founder Stephen Mayne will write his typically insightful business analysis and comments every day.

There will be a few new elements, which you can see for yourself later today. They’re all aimed at making Crikey just as interesting as it’s ever been, not turning it into something glitzy or fundamentally different.

We hope you like it – please tell us what you think by emailing us at
letters@crikey.com.au.
Eric Beecher
Diana Gribble
Misha Ketchell