Monthly Archives: January 2009

Paying for foreign reporting requires creative financing

Whether the shuttering of foreign bureaus by metropolitan newspapers and some TV networks in recent years — to refocus efforts stateside as budgets tightened — was a good thing or bad is certainly worthy of debate.

But what is certain is that, as a result, there are now fewer reporters covering fewer stories in foreign countries for American news organizations.

Some of those that do remain are still in the employ of the few remaining deep-pocketed organizations with bureaus. But an increasing number are independent or loosely confederated reporters, chasing stories first and finding buyers for them second.

Read more at The Media Lab…

How to grow local revenue, despite the ad inventory glut

So, what to do about this over-abundance of advertising inventory in our local markets?

Unlike some in this industry who are looking, again, at some form of paid content as the solution to the revenue crisis, I still believe that there’s a lot of life left in the ad-supported model. We haven’t been particularly creative in building ad solutions that work well for advertisers and that generate sustainable revenue for newspaper companies.

Given the diminishing returns of the CPM market outlined yesterday, the move is on to find a better model. Recently, The New York Times’ David Carr looked to Apple for inspiration:

Those of us who are in the newspaper business could not be blamed for hoping that someone like (Apple’s Steve Jobs) comes along and ruins our business as well by pulling the same trick: convincing the millions of interested readers who get their news every day free on newspapers sites that it’s time to pay up.

For a long time, newspapers assumed that as their print advertising declined, it would be intersected by a surging line of online advertising revenue. But that revenue is no longer growing at many newspaper sites, so if the lines cross, it will be because the print revenue is saying hello on its way to the basement.

The iTunes Solution.

And yet there is no parallel between selling songs — which customers will play over and over — and selling a recap of the City Council meeting. Apple didn’t simply say “What do we have that we could sell to people?” They looked for a need in the marketplace — a better way to buy music — and created it.

Continue reading at The Nieman Lab

Five people I wish Jim Romenesko quoted more

(This is a follow-up to Friday’s list of five people outside journalism that all journalists should read.)

I will forever be in Jim Romenesko‘s debt for a number of reasons.

  • First, he’s a great read, reporting as he does every last scrap of news about the journalism biz.
  • Second, he’s wicked fast, an example many of our local market reporters could still learn from. If there’s a document that has news, he doesn’t rewrite it — he links to it (or reproduces it whole). The joke is that he’s already published the internal memo before the publisher has finished writing it.
  • Third, for about a year in the early 2000s, he was my handy answer to any reporter or editor who asked, with clear disgust at the word, “What’s a blog?” Instead of spending ten minutes explaining the blogger ethos, I’d just start out with, basically, “You’re soaking in it!” by pointing out that the venerable Romenesko “page” or “site,” as it was called, was essentially a very robust and well-done linkblog. From that point, the conversation was much simpler.

But one thing I’ve always wished was that he would open up his stable of industry types that he’d quote or link to. For every Howard Kurtz or David Carr, there are dozens of other industry thinkers, some writing and saying quite interesting things.

That’s not to say that the voices in Mister Romenesko’s Neighborhood haven’t grown in number in recent years. If I were writing this in 2007, I’d be complaining about the absence of Jeff Jarvis, Mark Potts, Alan Mutter and the incomparable Jay Rosen, NYU professor (one day of his @jayrosen_nyu Twitter feed features a week of challenging ideas), all of whom are featured with some regularity now on the premier industry blog.

But, never being satisfied, here are a five writers I wish were exposed more frequently to the newsrooms of America:

1. Morris Digital’s Steve Yelvington has been striving mightily to get newspapers to look over the horizon for years. So it’s no surprise that his recent posts, while acknowledging our current sour turn, often focus on ideas for how to move forward. For instance, he’s been offering a peek behind the curtain as his team moves Morris’s Jacksonville.com from a legacy system to a home-brewed Drupal solution more attuned to the needs of readers. Also, his post from December, Explaining Twitter to journalists, is a great elevator pitch to colleagues for using Twitter as a listening tool:  “It’s like a big caffeine party. Everybody’s talking at once. Really fast. But you have magic ears.”

2. Roy Greenslade, the media columnist for the UK Guardian, offers the view from Blighty. He’s prolific, occasionally maddening, and always a good read. I like that he gets me out of my US-centric view of the journalism business. Bonus points for working at a paper that got blogging and other social media while many news organizations here in the US were still refusing to utter the words.

3. Terry Heaton, a former TV producer and current “blogger for hire” at Audience Research & Development, focuses on the emergence of newer, more participative forms of media. In his essay “2009: The Great Beginning,” he uses the example of Kodak’s reinvention in recent years as a beacon of hope for the news business:

Kodak embraced the disruption that was decimating its film business. The company is riding the disruption into the future by never looking back at the “good old days.” It did not come without real pain, however, for reinvention has no respect for those who fight or otherwise refuse the future it offers, nor does it — or can it — concern itself with the unfortunate souls who are, through no fault of their own, caught in its need to save the many at the expense of the few. Note that 60 percent of Kodak’s workforce wasn’t there four years ago.

It’s like that when customers demand something other than what they’ve been getting.

4. Paul Gillin is a double-threat, with two essential blogs. The first, Newspaper Death Watch,  is a chronicle, not a celebration, with solid reporting and analysis about the death throes of the old ways, and the shoots of new life that are appearing amid the carnage. His other blog is simply PaulGillin.com, where he reports on the growth of social media. And he writes books. Because writing two high-volume blogs apparently leaves him with entirely too much free time on his hands.

5. As I wrote elsewhere recently, Gina Chen is really no different than the thousands of journalists in newsrooms around the country, trying to make sense of where the news business is heading. Except this: She’s doing something to help her colleagues along. In her Save The Media blog, she’s been presenting a comprehensive course of steps that reporters and editors can take to be sure that their journalism is ready for the post-paper era. Chen isn’t wringing her hands; she’s pointing the way.

So that’s five. The list clearly could be a lot longer. Who did I miss? Who else should more journalists be reading on a daily basis? Add them in the comments.

Why it’s so hard to move revenue from print to online

It’s shorthand for the chief problem of transitioning a local news operation’s business model from print to online: Newspaper revenue dollars become online pennies. Despite increasing readership online, advertisers continue to pay a much higher price when they place their ads in print.

A lot of that has been laid to inertia on the part of advertisers and a lack of sales imagination at papers. But there’s also something very real at play as well: the loss of scarcity.Why it’s so hard to move revenue from print to online

Post continued at The Nieman Lab…

Six essential non-journalism bloggers for your feed reader

I have a confession. My feed reader is half-full of journalists writing about journalism.

Which, in itself isn’t all that bad, I suppose. But perspective is welcome after an hour wallowing in twelve takes on the latest bad news from the world of publishing.

So that’s why the other half of my feed reader is full of people who do not hold journalism degrees and don’t work in newspapers or television stations. These are people that are brimming with ideas, many of which are either directly relevant to the business of news, or which fire off some synapses in reaction.

Here are six that I can’t imagine going a day without.

1. Chris Brogan. More than even many journalists, Brogan has been exploring what the incredible proliferation of easy-to-use tools and cheap and accessible publishing platforms has meant for average people who suddenly find themselves in the role of publisher. His goal is simple: He want to help you become a better blogger. You can start at his “Best-of” page and dig from there. Side benefit: Brogan shows by example how to manage a highly readable and useful blog. Blogging journalists are urged to crib liberally.

2. Guy Kawasaki. Here’s why I know Guy is smart: Earlier in his career, his job was to convince developers to write programs for a computer — the Macintosh — that almost nobody owned. And he succeeded! Guy recently bundled up a year’s worth of blog posts from his blog called “How To Change The World” into a book called “Reality Check.” More significantly,  in the past year, he created Alltop.com, a simple idea that newspapers could have owned if they’d tried: aggregation by category. As he explains, “We help you explore your passions by collecting stories from ‘all the top’ sites on the web.” Among the latest categories: cities.

3. Seth Godin. Seth is the guy who recently wrote that real estate agents with free time on their hands should start hyper-local newspapers. So you can start your hating now. But face it, he’s right. If newspapers don’t start doing a better job of reporting the kind of local news that matters to community members, someone will — and they just might just be underemployed mortgage-jockeys. Godin’s the kind of guy who’ll show them how. When he’s not suggesting that newspapers are replaceable, Godin can be found dispensing equally provocative ideas on an almost daily basis.

4. Dave Winer. If you called up Central Casting and said, “Send me a post-hippie programmer-genius with questionable social skills,” you’d get Dave Winer, or someone very much like him. But understand this: Dave is the real deal. He created RSS. He helped invent podcasting. He’s been promoting the concept of a river of news that flows past as an organizing concept for headlines. And, yet, if you called him a journalist, he’d probably hit you, or at least write some withering comments about you on his blog. And then he’d probably use the experience to inspire work on yet another cool tool. Reading Dave Winer isn’t a constant love-fest, but it’s guaranteed that your mind will be expanded.

5. Robert Scoble. Appropriately mentioned here, as he’s something of the cheerful flip-side of Dave Winer. Technically, Scoble’s a journalist at Fast Company, but he’s really more of a fan with a camera. That’s not a knock; his enthusiasm can be catching, especially when he’s raving about a new technology he’s just seen that is The Future of All Things (until the next thing comes along). Recently he and Steve Rubel (below) got into an exchange — that generated much more light than heat — about whether video or text is the better tool for storytelling and journalism.

6. Steve Rubel. If it’s true that great PR people think like journalists (and, often, are former journalists), then Steve Rubel is a great PR guy. His blog offers a window not just into the craft of public relations and how it’s being put to use in this time of micro-media growth (think bloggers and citizen journalists), it’s also a great ongoing conversation about communication. It doesn’t hurt that the man leading the conversation was among the first to move PR into the social realm, taking it online and introducing such now-common concepts as transparency long before other practitioners.

What non-journalists do you read when thinking about journalism? Share your favorites in the comments.

Buy a newspaper or save a newspaper: Your choice

facebookpaperWhat’s the better way to save the newspaper business?

Sign a pledge on Facebook to buy a newspaper on February 2nd?

Or work from within to show journalists how to use Facebook (or MySpace or Twitter or Google or just how and why to link) to advance journalism beyond the old business of ink on paper?

The first may briefly make you feel good about yourself, but the second just might change you, whether you’re a journalist or not.

Read more…