Creating more valuable online ads in 3 steps

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

Local moms love Uncle Rupert

The world of media can be largely divided into two different kinds of individuals: ad people and journalism people.

As both firsthand experience and the creators of Mad Men have taught me, ad people are suave, snazzy dressers with a silver tongue and a taste for quality scotch. I, on the other hand, drink PBR, sport a hole in my shabby work pants and get excited when the AP announces changes to its style book.

But regardless of my classification, both my income and my industry depend on advertising, and I think it’s important to keep an eye on where it’s headed.

That’s why I find it particularly troubling when Rupert Murdoch decides to chime in on the bleak future of ad-supported journalism.

Like him or not, Murdoch is a media sage and a shrewd businessman. When he speaks, people follow. Read the rest of this entry »

A new model for funding local journalism

Posted: September 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , | View Comments

All right. I’ve complained enough about a lack of ingenuity on the part of news executives.

Now it’s time to do something about it.

I just submitted an application for the Knight News Challenge, a grant program that awards start-up money to organizations with new ideas on community journalism.

I’ve posted that application below. This is an open application period, which means anyone can view and comment on the idea, and I can make changes based on those comments until Oct. 15. Feel free to comment here or on our application’s page on the Knight Web site. I would sincerely appreciate any feedback. Read the rest of this entry »

Will pay walls make news orgs irrelevant?

Posted: June 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , | View Comments

box_kittensAs a follow up to Tuesday’s post, I contacted John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News & Record, to get his thoughts on the fact that 75 percent of the N.C. Press Association‘s newsroom leaders are at least thinking about charging for online content.

Robinson has fully embraced social media. He sports about 800 followers on Twitter and frequently uses the microblogging service to create a dialogue with his community as well as fellow journalists. I figured that makes his opinions particularly salient, since I feel like its social media that will be impacted by a news organization’s decision to placed their content behind a pay wall.

Robinson agreed to answer a few questions via e-mail about his perception of pay walls and the future of online content for the News & Record. Read the rest of this entry »

Combating the myth of the 'free giveaway'

Posted: June 23rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

Pay walls will solve all our problems!

The North Carolina Press Association just released the results of its May survey on charging for online content. Although the response rate was 86, the group was mostly made up of publishers, editors and general managers.

It seems the talk of shoring up pay walls to keep the Internet Huns at bay is beginning to influence some of the state’s newsroom leaders. More than 75 percent say they’re at least thinking about charging for their news content online. Read the rest of this entry »

Steve Brill's own words, visualized

Posted: June 3rd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , | View Comments

Following talk of the clandestine Chicago meeting of the nation’s most powerful newspaper editors, the folks over a the Nieman Journalism Lab got ahold of the presentation from Steve Brill on a new venture called Journalism Online.

In short, it would allow member organizations to charge for their online content through a single system, meaning you won’t have to whip out your credit card to pay for an L.A. Times article and go through the same steps to read a N.Y. Times article 5 minutes later.

Ingenious, even down to the revolutionary name.

Exhausted sarcasm aside, they’re hoping to keep 88 percent of their page views and completely avoid doing anything revolutionary with their content — like make it better, for instance.

I thought it would be interesting to plug the text of the presentation into word cloud generator Wordle (absent a few of the scenario slides). The result is above.

Granted, this presentation was directly pitched to news businessmen. But I think it’s rather telling that words like “publishers” and “revenue” loom so much larger than “readers.” I also like how “staffed” and “invest” are almost nonexistent.

It’s a silly exercise, I know, but interesting nonetheless.

There are, however, a few words and phrases that make me very uncomfortable and don’t appear in the word cloud.

  • “we will restore the value proposition of the print medium by eliminating the fully free online alternative” (creating artificial value by choking alternatives?)
  • “Restoring a Balance of Power” (seriously?)
  • “Think premium CPMs and focusing on most engaged readers” (what happens to the least engaged readers?)
  • “Negotiating power improves with intermediaries through the combination of multiple publishers” (antitrust anyone?)

Something tells me this might be one rocky summer.

Who's really devaluing journalism?

Posted: May 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , | View Comments

I came across a really interesting article today in The Christian Science Monitor about why journalists deserve low pay.

In it, media economics Professor Robert Picard makes a really compelling argument about why I should have never left engineering.

To create economic value, journalists and news organizations historically relied on the exclusivity of their access to information and sources, and their ability to provide immediacy in conveying information. The value of those elements has been stripped away by contemporary communication developments. Today, ordinary adults can observe and report news, gather expert knowledge, determine significance, add audio, photography, and video components, and publish this content far and wide (or at least to their social network) with ease. And much of this is done for no pay.

But as grim as this all sounds, Picard’s greater point seems to be that there are ways for journalists to become valuable and to create content that is worth more than Monopoly money (dibs on Baltic Avenue!).

Photo by SqueakyMarmot under Creative Commons license

For example, he suggests getting away from the echo chamber of wire reports and instead focusing on “uniqueness.”

I take this as yet another argument for hyperlocal coverage — at this point, it’s starting to look like a better and better business decision. If your resources are limited, refocus coverage on a more limited area and go deeper to provide more enterprise stories that no one else can produce.

That makes sense, but can you imagine a world where news organizations said “no” to coverage simply because they couldn’t figure out a unique angle?

That’s blasphemy. Read the rest of this entry »

Why e-editions are so 2001

Posted: April 15th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , | View Comments

Other products under development at The News & Observer: The Newsboy Tamagotchi!

To be honest, I thought it was an April Fools joke.

On a day rife with bad spoof articles and terrible gags, I figured when blogger Ginny Skalski tweeted that Raleigh’s metro daily, The News & Observer, was going to begin distribution of an electronic edition, it was just another one of those things that would go away when the clock struck midnight and the pranksters hung it up for another year.

I was wrong. In an e-mail sent out Tuesday, The News & Observer was “proud” to hawk it’s newest product, the N&O e-edition.

Aside from the fact that the hip name already includes abbreviations, which is sure to draw the texting crowd (r u srs?), the paper’s marketing team also highlighted some of the other features of its “newest newspaper product.”

The e-edition is a digital replica of the print newspaper, available on your computer 7 days a week.  It’s visually pleasing and reads like the real thing – perfect for the traveler, youngster or mover and shaker in your family.

I would love more than anything to join the managers at the N&O in a hearty laugh and a hard drink and congratulate them on a prank well pulled.

But they’re not smiling. Read the rest of this entry »

Why it's best not to anger Google

Posted: April 7th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , | View Comments

bear_pokeIn their most recent attempt to stall innovation and flail their arms wildly about in a misguided attempt to summon help from anyone but themselves, the Associated Press has decided to pursue litigation against aggregators who “walk off with our work under misguided legal theories.”

Fair use, by the way, is the misguided legal theory to which they’re referring. And Google is the largest intended target of this unanimous AP board decision, which will pave the way for the negotiation of a new contract between the search and news giants.

As other bloggers have pointed out, the AP’s groundbreaking tactics largely mirror that of the RIAA, which decided to sue the pants off song-stealing pirates, like dead grandmothers and children.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some similarities between the litigious strategy of the RIAA and the AP, but there are a few reasons why biting the hand that feeds is even more dangerous for a news organization that relies on traffic and trust to survive. Read the rest of this entry »

They're just not that into you

Posted: March 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , | View Comments

"Suspension of disbelief"

OK, Newspapers, I get it.

The Seattle P-I is now online only, the Rocky Mountain News has folded and it seems all those apocalyptic scenarios about the death of the deadtree edition are finally starting to come true — so I know you’re a little irrational right now. But as a friend, I feel like I need to step in and stop you from doing something stupid.

All this talk of pay walls, government intervention and lawsuits has you looking a little desperate, and frankly, it’s unattractive and unbecoming.

I know you’re worried. But right now, you’re about as delusional as a geek playing Romeo.

I only want the best, so I feel I have to be straight with you. It’s time to face a few simple truths about your Audience — they’re just not that into you. Read the rest of this entry »

Thriving on a community

Posted: March 11th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: journalism | Tags: , , , , , | View Comments

Image courtesy XKCD

When I worked as the editor of the student newspaper of N.C. State, my adviser once asked a question of my colleagues and I in a survey. It was something along the lines of, “Do you feel it’s the job of the paper to foster school spirit?”

While I don’t remember the question exactly, I do remember wrestling over the answer. The obvious reply, as a member of the independent press, is no. The newspaper is not a cheerleader and is not responsible for promoting the university.

But the Technician was the very definition of a community newspaper — one intensely focused on the group of students, faculty and staff of the university. As a community newspaper, it has a responsibility to help make that community better by equipping its members with the knowledge they need to make responsible decisions about the university’s future.

That meant exposing corruption, making public the debate about tuition and fee increases and criticizing highly paid coaches for failing to perform.

That same idea can be carried over to community news organizations. What’s more, that passion for local coverage has led to amazing success for some community news sites, even amid a recession.

But you wouldn’t know it from reading the work of former editor and technology blogger Mike Elgan.

Read the rest of this entry »