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 That strategy is immediately obvious from looking at the numbers below. 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 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 - 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 news - 1,178 links - 8,940 links

Ninemsn - 20 links - 60 links

ABC does blog

ABC Radio National's Media Report spoke to'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.


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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 paying for the Wall Street Journal copy it publishes? If 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 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 Grueskin says in part:

I'm writing this response at 2 pm on a Friday, April 8th. The best-read story on 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,'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 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 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

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 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."


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, 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

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 and, 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 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.