Archive for the ‘News and Information’ Category

The Internet is Either Bad or Good, Depending on Whether You’re Prince or the Rest of the World

July 12, 2010

The artist currently known as Prince shocked and amazed the world when he said that the “Internet is over” and that computers and digital gadgets ”fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.” The upshot was that he is not releasing any music digitally, only in CD format.  He has banned his music from iTunes, YouTube and even what was formerly known as his web site – there will be no downloads, anywhere, ever, from him.  I’m sure the music industry is overjoyed, and wish that Prince could start a movement, unlikely as that is to happen. He does have a point, as far as payment is concerned, because how artists will make money in the inter web world is still  in question.

Meanwhile, back at Pew’s Internet and American Life Project, the world of the Internet is a good and happy place, bringing joy and fulfillment to all who go there. Almost.  Specifically, a large majority of respondents (85%) agreed that, “In 2020, when I look at the big picture and consider my personal friendships, marriage and other relationships, I see that the Internet has mostly been a positive force on my social world. And this will only grow more true in the future.” As a point of ethics, though, I have to divulge that the respondents to this survey were tech experts and “the highly engaged Internet public.”  I think that rosily colors their point of view somewhat.  Still it’s hard to disagree with the positives that they saw (from the report):

They said humans’ use of the Internet’s capabilities for communication – for creating, cultivating, and continuing social relationships – is undeniable. …

Many of the people who said the Internet is a positive force noted that … it costs less in time spent, allowing them to cultivate many more relationships, including those with both strong and weak ties. They said “geography” is no longer an obstacle to making and maintaining connections; some noted that Internet-based communications removes previously perceived constraints of “space” and not just “place.”

Some respondents observed that as use of the Internet for social networks evolves there is a companion evolution in language and meaning as we redefine social constructs such as “privacy” and “friendship.” Other respondents suggested there will be new “categories of relationships,” a new “art of politics,” the development of some new psychological and medical syndromes that will be “variations of depression caused by the lack of meaningful quality relationships,” and a “new world society.”

The visual difference between editorial content and advertising designed to look like editorial content is miniscule.  Given that it’s difficult to define the spot where news and entertainment separate, this has become a bone of contention.  The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors sent an open letter to the Tribune Company asking them to cease and desist, following a four page wrap ad for the King Kong attraction at Universal Studios which was made to look like the front page of the Times’ breaking news section, describing damage done to the city by a giant ape.


Why Mainstream Media Is Not Dead – Except for the London Times

June 4, 2010

You know how many news blogs there are?  No, neither do I, but there are probably millions, including this one.  But don’t start thinking that the mainstream media are doomed, because 80% of all of links on blogs came from only four mainstream media sources, that’s right only four – the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post. This,  according to another study by the venerable Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. And, they say, 99% of links in blog posts have legacy news outlets as their original source.  Yet, the way that I looked at the study, it seems that there is plenty of room for both, we don’t really use social media in place of main stream news.  Because, here’s what the study showed:

  • Social media and the mainstream press clearly embrace different agendas. Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. Twitter was even less likely to share the traditional media agenda – the lead story matched that of the mainstream press in just four weeks of the 29 weeks studied. On YouTube, the top stories overlapped with traditional media eight out of 49 weeks.
  • The stories that gain traction in social media do so quickly, often within hours of initial reports, and leave quickly as well. Just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week. …
  • Politics, so much a focus of cable and radio talk programming, has found a place in blogs and on YouTube. On blogs, 17% of the top five linked-to stories in a given week were about U.S. government or politics, often accompanied by emphatic personal analysis or evaluations… On Twitter, however, technology stories were linked to far more than anything else, accounting for 43% of the top five stories in a given week and 41% of the lead items. By contrast, technology filled 1% of the newshole in the mainstream press during the same period….
  • Twitter, by contrast, was less tied to traditional media. Here half (50%) of the links were to legacy outlets; 40% went to web-only news sources such as Mashable and CNET. The remaining 10% went to wire stories or non-news sources on the Web such as a blog known as “Green Briefs,” which summarized daily developments during the June protests in Iran.
  • The most popular news videos on YouTube, meanwhile, stood out for having a broader international mix. A quarter, 26%, of the top watched news videos were of non-U.S. events, primarily those with a strong visual appeal such as raw footage of Pope Benedict XVI getting knocked over during Mass on Christmas Eve or a clip of a veteran Brazilian news anchor getting caught insulting some janitors without realizing his microphone was still live. Celebrity and media-focused videos were also given significant prominence.

So, mainstream media is important to the news media to give them stories; just so, new media are essential to mainstream media, because the links draw people back to the source.  So it was with incredulity that I read in paidContentUK that The Times and the Sunday Times of the UK, now two separate entities in the online world, both of which are about to re-launch as paid sites, will not allow their articles to appear in search engines.  On one hand, this makes a weird kind of sense.  If the papers are asking subscribers to pay for articles, then they should have exclusive access to those articles. On the other hand, limiting readership to people who pay for print, which is essentially what the Times is doing, is disregarding the way most people find articles, it would disregard the whole link culture as defined by Pew, above, and in the end, limiting the audience that it could have. Thank you, Rupert Murdoch.

And here’s what the Times is ignoring.  Recent figures released by comScore from the Newspaper National Network show online newspaper sites in the top 25 media markets garnered 2 billion page views, “reaching 83.7 million unique visitors in April — up 10% from March, 12% from February, and 15% from January , 2010”. And newspaper sites beat out CNN, AOL News and the Huffington Post as sources.

Meanwhile, commenting on news stories has become an ingrained habit, as social media consumption grows.  minOnline reported on a survey by which showed how different demographics consume and send out news.  Different age groups may use different media, e-mail, Facebook,. Twitter as a way of relaying interesting pieces of news, but it’s something that every age group does.’s survey found that more than a third of their respondents  go to search engines to find “multiple perspectives on a story”.  Furthermore, the study “confirm publishers fears” that readers are more interested in the story than the source.  “80% say they click on news stories from sources they don’t recognize. The search-driven information economy has effectively leveled the brand playing field and challenged the brand equity many publishers spent decades building.”

Have a Comment? Identify Yourself First

April 26, 2010

For years, news sites have allowed the public to weigh in on just about anything that strikes their fancy, and still remain anonymous.  But journalists are rethinking this option, and the New York Times says, more and more news outlets are requiring responders to register before posting comments. William Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at Columbia’s journalism school, says that

… a lot of comment boards turn into the equivalent of a barroom brawl, with most of the participants having blood-alcohol levels of 0.10 or higher. People who might have something useful to say are less willing to participate in boards where the tomatoes are being thrown.

He said news organizations were willing to reconsider anonymity in part because comment pages brought in little revenue; advertisers generally do not like to buy space next to opinions, especially incendiary ones.

Some publications solve this problem by policing comments before they get online, although most do not have the resources to do so.  Some think that the mere fact of requiring registration will weed out the most egregious ranters. But requiring an identity before you comment may be an easy transition for people  who are used to being personally connected to their comments and outbursts on Facebook and Twitter.

More New Journalism Models

April 26, 2010

As journalism changes in form and function, NewsLabs is launching a platform that will help journalists get used to online news.  The founder of Newslabs thinks that the future of journalism is around the “niche brands that are created by the journalists and writers themselves.”  NewsLabs will take applications for these branded niches, and then help the journalist build a site for the writer, host it, and  set up advertising and SEO.  In return, NewsLabs gets a cut of the ad revenue.  This is not like Demand Media, where writers get paid peanuts for turning out brief stories.  This is actual journalism, with reporters all over the world, a rigorous screening process, and equitable pay.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reports, ProPublica, a nonprofit news gathering outfit has plenty of influential partners – like the Post, the NY times, the LA Times, USA today, Slate, Newsweek,etc.  (more…)

Chrisitan Science Monitor Doing Well Without a Daily Edition But With Some Help

April 9, 2010

About a year ago, the Christian Science Monitor ceased to print a daily edition.  Since then, online traffic is up more than 60%, and they are on budget.  But, online ad revenues are about half of what they were projected to be , says MediaMatters. CSM also has a weekly print edition that has grown 79% in circulation (from 43,000 to 77,000).  Here’s the hitch, though.  CSM is subsidized by the first Church of Christ which hands the paper $20 million a year into the paper (5 times what it could generate on its own, given the $490K ad revenue that it actually got). There are currently, after a recent buyout offer, 81 editorial employees, better than most web journalism efforts, and certainly more than could be paid by revenue alone. Still, CSM is hoping to extricate itself from its paying parent within the next 5 years. Hmm.

ChatRoulette for News

April 2, 2010

An assistant professor of Media Culture at CUNY, CW Anderson, wondered what would happen if we “created a ‘ChatRoulette for news’ –  that generated content we tended to disagree with — but was also targeted toward our regular levels and sources of news consumption? How hard would it be?”

Why would you want it?  Well, one of the advantages of reading a print newspaper versus the online version of a newspaper is that in print you often find some serendipitous articles because of their proximity to something that you want to read.  Newspapers on the web are appealing primarily because of their ability to direct you to exactly the news that you want to read, what Anderson refers to as “the Pandora of news”. The ChatRoulette model would be the exact opposite of that, and solve the problem of the “drift towards a “Daily Me” or “Daily We,” where we only read news content we already agree with, and our political culture suffers as a result.” It would be interesting, Anderson feels, if we could instead be pointed to articles that are the political or idealogical converse of what we usually read.  Food for thought.

The Times vs The Journal- New York’s Cold War Heats Up

March 26, 2010

As we’ve mentioned in the past, the Wall Street Journal will be going head to head with the New York Times in a more overt way next month, when they start up their New York section.  The Times says it isn’t worried.  In a recent speech at a convention of the Society of American Business Editors, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr said that in his opinion the Journal was taking on too much by trying to change its coverage and innovating digitally at the same time. As the Times is trying to do, isn’t it? Rupert Murdoch, in launching the new section, into which $15 million has been invested to cover local politics, business, sports and culture,  said that the Times has stopped covering the city as it once did.  To which Sulzberger simply says, “baloney”.  So some interesting turf wars are going to play out in this space in the next few months.

Meanwhile, as the New York Observer observed, an arts reporter who joined the WSJ’s New York section staff last month quit to join the staff of the Times. Let the games begin.

Maybe Becauase It’s Colder Up There?

March 26, 2010

Unlike the tech hungry folks in the US, Canadians still like to get their news from newspapers.  A new survey of Canadian adults found that 73% of them still read a print version of their daily paper at least once a week.  And, only 4% of those north of the border get their news solely from online papers. Says the Media Daily News:

The Canadian newspaper readership data provides an interesting contrast to some recent surveys of American adults’ reading habits. Earlier this month, a survey of 1,040 people by AARP found that just 29% of adults read a print newspaper every day — a figure that can be compared to the “average weekday” figure of 44% for Canadian adults — even though these categories aren’t defined in exactly the same way. Furthermore, the AARP survey found that 35% of American adults don’t read a daily newspaper at all, compared to just 23% of Canadians.

A Modicum of Dirt About the Times’ Pay Wall

March 19, 2010

At a recent paidContent conference, NY Times executives started to shed some light on the new metered model pay wall that the paper will be erecting by 2011. SVP of digital operations Martin Nisenholtz said that home subscribers would have free access to the site, and that visitors will be able to get a set number of articles before having to shell out. “The need is not just to figure out pricing and metering but how to grow the advertising business,” Nisenholtz said. “The challenge is to come up with a model to get both.” And, reports Editor & Publisher, the panel of Times execs was asked whether they thought  the Times would lose relevance when the pay wall was built. “No, I’m not,” Arthur O Sulzberger replied. “It’s not about mass reach but the quality of the audience and the quality of the journalism.”

The Future of Context

March 19, 2010

At this week’s South by Southwest Interactive  conference one of the questions being asked is how journalists will provide context that shows readers the big picture of a story, not just the little snippets that get posted online.   Several people over the past few months have suggested that the future of journalism lies in reviving the lost art of storytelling – not fiction, but the deep story that will grab you, pull you in and maybe teach you a thing or two in the process.  NPR’s Matt Thompson (a former Poynter staffer), has been interested in this idea for some time time, and Poynter blogged about his discussion on the “Future of Context”.