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

Wikis on journalism skills

Online Journalism Review has introduced a new feature -- a series of wikis on journalism skills, designed for bloggers, "grassroots" reporters and others who write online but who haven't formally studied journalism.

Starting with basic guides on writing, reporting and journalism ethics, each also includes a discussion area, where readers can ask specific questions about projects they are working on or debate controversial elements of these topics. Future topics will include: creating multimedia, media law, the business of self-publishing, managing online communities.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

EmPRINT

Steve Outing has reviewed the Columbia Missourian's EmPRINT trial. EmPRINT is a new electronic newspaper format. It's an important component for newspapers to consider in future planning - and there have been a number of attempts at it. But Outing has reservations:
"I'm not sure this advances newspapers much. But it certainly could be the future of magazines. This is the pleasurable printed-magazine reading experience modernized for the portable digital tablet. I do most of my professional reading online these days (Web, e-mail, RSS), but I enjoy the experience of reading print editions of magazines I subscribe to for pleasure. For the latter, I can envision replacing that with the improved digital experience of tablet magazines.

If forced to make a prediction, I'd say that this format of newspaper won't be that popular -- but that the concept has promise for some magazines and futuristic books."

Beginner's guide to the next big thing

It's del.icio.us and it’s a great way to keep track of things on the web.

Thanks to Beelerspace for the step-by-step directions:

"Delicious is easy to use, but it lacks any kind of serious documentation. Its interface is simple, which I find attractive, but it has that ubergeek slashdot unfriendly look to it. So, here’s the way to do it nice and easy ..."

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The new journalism ... according to John Stewart

US comedian John Stewart rips into bloggers in an hilarious skit on the Daily Show featuring an interview with a bemused Jay Rosen.


The video is here.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Whose news?

A conference at Harvard's Nieman Foundation, titled "Media, Technology and the Common Good" is discussing the future of media. Reports are available on the Media Center at the American Press Institute

Questions being discussed include: Should the traditions of professional journalism survive? What are the implications for society? How can we trust in the emerging ecosystem of participatory, always on media?

Len Apcar, Editor-in-Chief of nyt.com, opened with these remarks: "The stakes have never been higher. There is a serious question in my mind whether this new medium can support the great news-gathering operations that big media represent. I don't think it can. Newspapers will have to reinvent themselves."

There you have it. The dirty secret. If online operations can't earn the sorts of revenues that traditional print businesses have, or if the development of new revenue streams takes too long, then journalism as we've known will be in real danger.

The conference organisers are producing some nice Flash-based multimedia pieces of the speakers.

David Weinberger, author of Small Pieces Loosely Joined and co-author of Cluetrain Manifesto, speaks about his curiosity about the conversational nature of blogs and how big media responds to the changing reader-author relationship.

Blogger Halley Suitt told the group, "it's not what the bloggers are doing, it's what the audience is doing that we should be focusing on."

EPIC co-creator Matt Thompson talks about the feedback the piece has generated, how and why there is a forthcoming new version, and what intrigues him now.

Chasing Google rankings

Google sends large amounts of traffic to news websites. Consequently, it's vital for news organisations to register on search engine rankings. If they don't they'll remain largely invisible to the online majority. For sites that require subscriptions or that move their stories to paid links after a week or ten days, this is a problem.

Dave Weinberger writes:

"The NY Times famously moves stories from their original links to new ones in the for-pay archive after a week. As a result, important stories exit the public sphere, and the newspaper of record becomes the newspaper of brokenlinks. ... So, starting in April, NYTimes.com is going to publish thousandsof topic pages, each aggregating the content from the 10 million articles inits archive, going back to 1851, including graphics and multimediaresources. Topics that get their own page might include Boston, Terrorism,Cloning, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Condoleeza Rice. News stories willlink to these topic pages. And - the Times must hope - these pages, withtheir big fat permanent addresses, may start rising in Google's rankings. "
Here's the New York Times link generator.

Dan Froomkin from washingtonpost.com gives their perspective on this issue:

"It may be worth pointing out that washingtonpost.com has had a lot of 'special report'/archive pages like that for at least seven years. And the links to articles on those pages all go to stories with URLs that work just fine. No archive switcheroo (washingtonpost.com URLs never die.) Interestingly enough, I don't believe this gets washingtonpost.com any Google bang. Though it well should! These are hugely valuable resources."

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Do they or don't they?

Savvy newspapers have a future, reports The Oz. Well, yes, they probably do. Thing is, it may not be in print. But even if it is APN News & Media CEO Brendan Hopkins is a little too bullish for my liking.

Hopkins is:
"dismissive of the internet's impact on newspapers. He did not believe it could replace newspapers as long as publishers kept innovating. Then, the internet would 'become just another delivery mechanism in the same way as radio and everything else'."
That's too simplistic by far. It might sound like an echo from Marshall McLuhan but it's not. In 1964, in his seminal Understanding the Media, McLuhan wrote "A new medium is never an addition to an old one, nor does it leave the old one in peace. It never ceases to oppress the older media until it finds new shapes and positions for them."

That phrase - new shapes and positions - is very important. Unfortunately Hopkins glosses over its implications.

He does make an interesting observation about the changing emphases within news organisations, though:

"Gone are the days when there were two powerhouses of any good newspaper: the newsroom and the advertising sales force ... the editorial and advertising teams must now be joined, directed and in some cases led by the product development and marketers as the third force in newspaper publishing."
Editorial excellence on its own is no longer enough to sell papers. Newspapers need to achieve publishing excellence.

Peter Wilson weighs in on the same page (of the printed version) with a piece about attempts by the Evening Standard to halt declining circulation figures by producing a free lunchtime paper ahead of their evening edition. Simon Jenkins had covered the bases in last month's Prospect.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

News online is growing

Audiences have increased dramatically. A study by washingtonpost.com in partnership with Nielsen/NetRatings:
"About half of all online news users are still increasing their use of the Internet, even as this medium reaches saturation. For these Internet users, more time is spent online in a given week than with any other medium. In prior research, we’ve always seen the Internet and TV in a close horse race; this year, the Internet has pulled ahead. When we look specifically at sources for news and information, online pulls far ahead, with 60% of users going online DAILY. Fewer than half use TV or any other source of news on a daily basis."
Of course it's a US sample, but the trends are widely relevant.

[Methodology and full findings available in powerpoint.]

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Twighlight of the moguls

The media moguls who built the big publishing and broadcasting networks of the 20th century are getting long in the tooth. So who are the next generation of executives waiting to get their chance at the big table? And will there still be a big table?
"In this twilight of the moguls, a new, younger generation of executives is waiting in the wings to inherit an industry in upheaval. They're baby boomers with MBAs and law degrees. They are women. They have had media gigs in all parts of the business and the globe. They grew up embracing technology but know all too well that pirates are around every corner."
They're not all baby boomers, but you know what Business Week means.

Observer gets the blog bug

The Observer has got itself a shiny new blog. They launched it last week with this explanation:
"We are impressed by the quality and breadth of writing and reporting that is available on blogs and elsewhere on the net. We recognise serious competition when we see it. But as a bricks and mortar institution full of journalists with great contacts and a lot of experience we also like to think that we still have something unique to offer. Hence the need for civilised and honest dialogue. This is an experiment that we enter into in good faith to try to make the Observer a better newspaper."