Friday, September 29, 2006

Time to consolidate print and online

I've been enjoying Steve Outing's columns for years, but this one nails an important issue for newspapers in a way few other writers have been able to articulate so succinctly.

Here's a choice quote:

"A huge part of the problem is that newspaper companies are still being run, mostly, by people from the print side -- and who, though they may attempt to understand interactive media and the needs and media habits of young people, aren't effective at moving their organizations in a radically different, and necessary, direction. That's because they're still too tied to the print business and thus are unwilling to go in directions that might damage it, even if in the long run placing more resources and executive energy into new lines of (digital) business at the expense of the print edition is the right way to go."

A number of Outing's interviewees suggested that newspapers need to consider putting online people in charge of the entire news operations. He recognises that this is still a very radical idea, and I agree that there aren't many news operations that would go there yet (are there any?), but I do believe it is unavoidable in the long run.

Update: Comments from Roy Greenslade and Andrew grant-Adamson and Matt Terenzio

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cutting a bigger slice of the online ad pie

Amongst the gloom, some good news for newspapers' online efforts. Research by Veronis Suhler Stevenson shows that legacy media companies are growing their share of the online ad market faster than the Big Tech competitors Google and Yahoo!.

Paid Content reports:

"Traditional media’s share of the $22 billion 2006 spend is forecast at 37 percent, up 23 percent from 2000. By 2010 that is predicted to rise to 35 percent or $17 billion in a total market worth $44 billion. VSS MD James Rutherford said that despite the 'handwringing' about old media not making money online, the data shows the hard work is paying off."

Yes, the hard work is paying off. That growth, though, is coming off a low base, so it will be interesting to see if the rate holds. The strength of the legacy brands can translate into strong online audience numbers but it relies on more hard work and staying ahead of some pretty smart competition. (See Cameron Reilly's interview with Bob Cauthorn for an alternate take on the brand argument.)

Add to this the proliferation of independent and niche publications, and it will be very interesting to see how much of the online pie the old media companies can actually grab.

Time Inc is betting big. It is selling 18 of its niche publications to concentrate on the mass audience titles, both online and in print.

CEO Ann Moore explains:

“While these titles are good performers, Time Inc. is focusing its energy, resources and investment on our largest and most profitable brands, brands that have demonstrated an ability to draw large audiences in print and digital form. … I am confident that the biggest brands in print, with our expertise and support, will develop into the biggest brands online.”
- Adage

Monday, September 11, 2006

An interview with Simon Waldman

To mark his recent promotion to Director of Digital Strategy for the Guardian Media Group, Simon Waldman spoke to Gemima Kiss at Paid Content.

Some choice quotes:

"For a long time we could count on the fact that people in other newspaper groups didn't know what they were doing and didn't have any investment. That is no longer the case."

And ...

"After their dot com disasters, anyone who talked about the internet at News International was deemed to be completely barking. The internet was seen as an insane thing to be involved with so they closed it down, charged their international users and rubbished us for having large traffic. Then all of a sudden Rupert Murdoch stands up and says being big on the web is good and we need audience - and suddenly the whole thing changes."

How newspaper sites need to change

Adrian Holovaty has some interesting things to say in response to the recent Bivings Report on US newspaper sites.

Here are a couple of gems:

"Journalists should have less of a concern of what is and isn't 'journalism', and more of a concern for important, focused information that is useful to people's lives and helps them understand the world."


"Just about every newspaper Web site content-management system I've ever seen is unabashedly story-centric. Want to post event calendar information into your news-site CMS? Post it as a 'news article' object. Want to publish listings of recent crimes in your town? It goes in as a 'news article'. There's not much Joe Reporter, or even Jane Online Editor, can do about this, because Oh We've Invested So Much Into This CMS, and/or Our Newspaper Web Site Doesn't Employ Any Computer Programmers. (The latter of which makes as much sense as a film director refusing to employ cameramen or video editors.)"

Amen to that!

Friday, September 08, 2006

New news design

Plenty of good advice from the Society of News Design conference in Florida this week. Good stuff about teams working in Flash and some great advice from Alberto Cairo about working with infographics.

Plus a keynote from the authors of Epic 2015.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Newspapers passing into history

Writing in Editor and Publisher, Tom Mohr former President of Knight Ridder Digital outlines what he sees as the main challenges for newspapers. He writes: "The window of opportunity is closing. Ultimately, the key is leadership at the highest levels.

I couldn't agree more.

Meanwhile, Google is doing its bit to document the passing into history of quality newspaper journalism.

It's a window into some pay-per-view archives, but it's also a cool tool.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Irwin's death shows Wikipedia at its worst

Wikipedia is a phenomenon and an immensely valuable source of information. But only some types of information.

I've long thought that its news coverage is a real weakness, to the point of being detrimental to the effort of the site as an online encyclopedia.

Today was a good example.

Steve Irwin, otherwise known as the Crocodile Hunter was killed whilst diving off the Queensland coast. Here's how broke the news.

And below is a screenshot of how it first appeared on Wikipedia.

Wikipedia closed off the editing function to anonymous users: "Due to recent vandalism, editing of this article by anonymous or newly registered users is temporarily disabled," it said.

Click on the thumb to see a larger version.

Steve Irwin's death as reported by Wikipedia

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Searching for a business model

Web flavour of the month, Youtube, is fishing around for a way to actually make some money out of its hype. Great traffic, lots of media coverage, but no revenue.

Still, they've appointed a CFO. That's a start.