Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

A Polemic on Cheap and Free Content

July 12, 2010

If you find it distressing that those low-paying organizations like Demand Media that distribute written content for practically nothing, Ad Age points out that free content can pull in high paying advertisers just as well. It is interesting to note that the article uses as an example of the new form of writer, i.e., one who is willing to do it for nothing, a young man who started writing sports articles while he was waiting for his bar exam results, and is still doing it for nothing many hundreds of articles later.  This young man, meanwhile, having failed the bar 3 times, is being supported by his parents as he hones his craft. I wonder how long they are going to allow this practice to continue.  The article also points out that the Huffington Post is perhaps the mother lode of all free content.  It is, and most of the content in it which has any value at all is either written by one of the 53 editors that HuffPo pays, or taken from some other source that pays its writers, like the NY Times.  What this says about the future of journalism is more than distressing.  There is a place for journalism of the people, by the people and for the people, and it can even work in concert with the more elite kind. Yet, I find it hard to believe that there will not always be a need for writers who can actually write, for investigative journalism, and for content that is meaningful.

To make this point, perhaps, Nick Bilton’s Bits Blog notes that the content products for digital devices, like the iPad, are really being thought out, as publishers try to find a mix of content, design and community that make them stand out from their free web content.  Many of the magazine apps are rejecting the commentary and social aspect of their web counterparts.  On the Wired iPad app, for instance, readers cannot copy and paste links or text, comment or share on Twitter, or “like” an article on Facebook. Time Magazine’s app does not allow for sharing or linking. Another Condé Nast product, Gourmet (which shuttered its print version last fall), will be reborn in the fourth quarter as an app, which will have social aspects built into it.  This suggests, as some analysts have pointed out, that the lack of social connection on apps is because the mags haven’t quite figured out how to do it yet.  It really behooves publishers to make these apps as striking as possible, since they are behind a pay wall.  Time , meanwhile, is moving the current content of most of its magazines behind that app paywall. Their policy will be to “… use the web for breaking news and ‘commodity’ type of news; (news events of any type, stock prices, sports scores) and keep (most of) the features and longer analysis for the print publication and iPad versions.”

And speaking of magazines, you know those little subscription cards that fall out every time you open one up?  Turns out, they are, or soon will be, a complete waste, as Folio reports that 24 per cent of subscriptions that are sold by publishers come from the web.

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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 Gather.com 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. Gather.com’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.”

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…)

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 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”.

Redefining Journalism I – The AOL Version

January 29, 2010

Among the many people who think it is their mission in life to redefine journalism is Saul Hansell.  He left his job at the NY times for AOl’s new venture, Seed.  Seed is essentially an assignment desk for the company’s 80 web sites, and it’s a way for AOL to assign stories to anyone on the web.  Writing for AOL, you can make $30 to $300 writing a story that will “satisfy the world’s curiosity”.   What kind of things arouse curiosity in the world?  TechCrunch’s Eric Schonfeld signed up and took a look around the assignement desk to see what there was to see.  AOL was offering someone $80 to interview a pet groomer and come up with a story on How to Untangle Matted Hair on a Cat.  For a quick $25, you could do a think piece on “How Humans Will Colonize the Oceans” or “The Top 6 Things Snuck Into Space”. Maybe the concept of having citizen journalists write about what they know best, while at the same time retaining a staff of actual journalists, is redefining journalism.  But with these kind of topics, I don’t think that the Economist has anything to worry about.

Redefining Journalism II – Why the Pay-Wall?

January 29, 2010

One of the things that is actually redefining journalism is the pay-wall. As you know, the NY Times last week announced the very slow erection of theirs.  Newsday, Long Island’s Daily, put its web site behind a pay wall three months ago, and the results may not be what Cablevision, Newsday’s owner, had in mind.  So far, says Crain’s, Newsday.com has attracted exactly 35 people who are willing to shell out $5 per month to subscribe to the site, and traffic has dropped by half (maybe the only place on Long Island where that is true). To be fair, the site was never expected to be a big generator of revenue.  Print subscribers and Cablevision subscribers (75% of Long Island households) can get access for nothing, so the paid thing is really gravy.

Redefining Journalism III — It’s an App

January 29, 2010

And here’s yet another way to redefine journalism. Maya Baratz, Product Manager at MTV wrote an article (I have no idea where it showed up first – I got it from the Huffington Post, and for all I know, that’s where it started) that makes a really good point about how newspapers define themselves.  I have mentioned before that rather than thinking of themselves as distribution engines, as they have for years, newspapers should think of themselves as content engines.  Now, says Baratz, they should really think of themselves as apps. Here’s the good point that she makes:

 I think of the state of being an app – the condition of not only allowing, but thriving off of, having your content live elsewhere – and, on the flip side, that of being the platform, or the ‘giant’, if you will, that fuels that growth through attracting an audience. The growth and profitability of social games, for instance, is built upon having such games exist where the users already are (e.g., Facebook), rather than trying to draw in a crowd to a new destination. But more than a mere means of finding games to play with someone, the app environment represents a revised means of consuming content. In a way, it’s a Darwinistic solution to a problem that’s bred out of too much noise. With the platform/app structure, consumers visit one place to get content from numerous sources…..

 In terms of finding a solution, thus far news orgs have fallen back on ideas like the pay wall a means to get users to pay to view content. While this model does relate revenue directly to content (vs. site ads, per se), this is likely a sort of band-aid – because it fundamentally relies on withholding content vs. freeing it to reach consumers wherever they are.

Revised revenue streams, the creation of which is by no means a small feat, will likely encourage content to be spread; perhaps the paywall will evolve to do this, but there will probably be more revenue products and models to accompany it.

Yet Another Idea To Save Newspapers – This Time from Germany

December 11, 2009

Publishers everywhere are sure that a paid model for online news is in their future if we want to keep quality journalism alive.  Most do not have a very clear plan of how to go about it, though.  Not so for German publisher Axel Springer.  The idea, according to his head of public affairs, Christoph Keese, is for publishers and Internet companies to work together to form a joint marketplace for  online information.  This is what magazines are doing in setting up their communal kiosk, and really what the whole Ten Balloons project was about, too.  Could it mean the end of rugged individualism?  In any case, the thought is that Internet providers and search engines like Google would direct searchers to content in print or video from a number of outlets, much the way they do now, except that there would be a one-click pay portal for receiving the content.  Or, said Keese, they can subscribe to unlimited plans.  Springer, unlike Rupert Murdoch, feels that working with Google could only be to the benefit of the news organizations, since the search company already has expertise in monetizing content.  This would work for any “commoditized” news. The Times reports that  “to try to improve their leverage, German publishers have lobbied for a new kind of copyright preventing the secondary use of journalistic content online without express permission. The governing coalition headed by Chancellor Angela Merkel has pledged to enact such a law, though the timing remains unclear.” Many feel that putting new laws into place is time consuming and that aggregation and collaboration is really the way the future is heading. Such a law would put a damper on aggregation, requiring bloggers etc. to purchase site licenses.

Real Journalists and Citizen Journalists Collaborate

December 4, 2009

In other news, and there was other news, a few TV stations have found a new way to make peace with citizen journalists, by incorporating them into the news building process, developing a collaborative, rather than an us-vs-them culture.  WITI in Milwaukee, for instance,  has a daily story meeting which is now open to the public through live blogging and video streaming as well as a web program that allows users to contribute ideas.  Generally, 50 to 60 viewers participate in this process daily, and one or two stories make it “to the whiteboard”. Says WITI’s News Director, “We get more texture, more substance and more context because we have more eyes and ears” with the collaborative process. Broadcasting & Cable has the story.  

In another instance of collaboration, the Seattle Times used Google’s experimental Wave to cover a story.  Four police officers were murdered in Lakeland WA, and  there was a subsequent manhunt for the killer. (more…)