Saturday, January 16, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

• It's hard to keep up with the number of layoffs being seen in the newspaper industry. Even Romenesko, which normally keeps up with these types of things is, I fear, getting a little bored with linking to the news.  But for the record, here are some of the headlines: Star-Telegram plans 28 layoffs; New layoffs at ADN (Alaska Dispatch); State newspaper lays off more staff; Layoffs To Hit West Michigan Newspapers; Sacramento Bee to cut 25 more jobs; Los Angeles Times to cut 80 jobs (OK, I cheated with this one as it was announced last week).

• Just in time to report on all the layoffs within its industry focus, Editor & Publisher has risen from the dead, but minus its editor Greg Mitchell and reporter Joe Strupp. Mark Fitzgerald, previously editor-at-large, was named to the editor post by the new owner, boat publisher Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc.

• Late Friday the WSJ reported that Media News Group Inc. said it plans to seek bankruptcy protection. The owner of such newspapers as the San Jose Mercury News said it had reached an agreement with its lenders for a streamlined bankruptcy.  As a result, most of the new stock will be in the control of a group of investors led by Bank of America. Dean Singleton will retain control of the company through a special class of stock.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
• Tablet rumors continue to dominate the Apple fanboy universe. So wanting to have a leg up on all the other rumormongers, Gawker Media's "Scavenger Hunt" offered its readers $100,000 to the person who could provide concrete details of the elusive media savior. Apple, in return, set its lawyers on the daring web site. "We believe you and your company have crossed the line by offering a bounty for the theft of Apple's trade secrets," Michael Spillner, a lawyer for the company, said in a letter to Gabriel Snyder, editor-in-chief of the Gawker Web site.  It's nice to have a group of aggressive lawyers on your side of the table. Last time I was in that situation was at McGraw-Hill. (When you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way!)

• As with the Iran protests from last year, Twitter and blogging were essential in the early moments of reporting the massive earthquake in Haiti this week. Major media firms have now made standard the practice of launching temporary blogs themselves in order to report the news, or to pass on news and rumors that originated in other blogs written closer to the scene. As could be expected, by week's end Brian Williams had made his appearance in Haiti signifying the end of the real story and the beginning of the exploitation (and then there was TV's Pat Robertson to give his two cents).

• Finally, three men have been arrested in connection with the murder of Cypriot media magnate Andy Hadjicostis, police said on Thursday. The CEO of Dias Media Group, which runs a TV and radio station, as well as a newspaper and several magazines, was gunned down outside his home in a Nicosia suburb.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 2

It's Friday, that means photoblogging, our version of catblogging. You can find last week's debut here.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Dean Brierly, of Photographers Speak, selected this untitled photograph from Nathan Troi Anderson from his book Shadows of Time.

Dean interviewed him last year:

In Shadows of Time I tried to add as many elements, disparate and related, as I thought I could get away with. It’s the influence of Joyce, but also society today, wherein everything is a layered collage of infinite, disparate, chaotic information. We seem to be facing in all directions at once without a linear path ahead, and our approach is now turning in on itself. 

Click here to read the entire interview.

News of Reed sales and closings will trickle out

Reed Business Information, which has not posted any news to its own site since December 1 of last year, will most likely let others report on their transactions.

UBM International Media, the owner of the HBA Global Expo & Conference, reported today that the company will assume the management of the Spa & Resort shows from Reed Business Expositions.

Other outlets have reported that Variety is up for sale -- though, in reality, the company has made it clear that all their properties are currently on the block.

E&P rises from the dead, a couple limbs missing

Nielsen has sold the rights to Editor & Publisher to California boating publisher Duncan McIntosh Co. Inc. Mark Fitzgerald, a veteran of the publication, who had been serving as editor-at-large, was named editor. The new ownership has promised the resume publishing the print magazine with the February issue.

Editor-in-chief Greg Mitchell was informed he would not be retained.

"Got call from new buyer of Editor & Publisher, Duncan McIntosh, who publishes Boating World magazine and Fish Rap News in Irvine, Ca., late Thursday, telling me that I am out as editor after eight years (and 10 years with magazine)," Mitchell reported on his personal web site, Pressing Issues.
Long time reporter Joe Strupp said he also would not be joining the new team, writing on his blog "I am not part of the deal. It was not the right situation for me. I am weighing other options."

The E&P web site reported the news last night.  "Such a critical information source for a newspaper industry so desperately in need of help should not go away," McIntosh said. "I've been a reader of E&P over the course of 30 years and know its incredible value to readers and advertisers."

As of the time of this posting, the E&P web site had not been updated to reflect the makeup of the new staff. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going mobile: learn from your web mistakes

Ah, if we only had a time machine imagine what we could do -- like avoid all the mistakes we made when we launched our first online publishing efforts.

Well, it turns out that we can do that as we contemplate moving our products onto mobile devices, readers and ultimately tablets. For many publishers this will be their second chance, and this time maybe we can get it right.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic


Original Yahoo site.


Mistake #1: putting the wrong people in charge.

My early memories of internet launches at some of the publishing firms I worked for seem to revolve around turf wars, sad as that is.  At one company web development ended up being the responsibility of the son of the owner; at another it was some guy in a small office who never talked to the publishers or editors (and never the sales people!); and at another the job ended up . . .  well, you wouldn't believe me if I told you.

So who is the right person?  You won't know until you cast the net has widely as possible. Maybe you could have an open meeting and invite everyone in to discuss mobile media. You might be surprised to find out that the only one in the room with a smartphone or a Kindle is your intern. The fact that your staff is completely unprepared for entering the new space might depress you, but at least you will know, and you'll have identified the only person who knows what they are talking about and are enthusiastic about moving forward.

Newspapers: juxtaposed headlines

•  Newspapers still and always the leader in news
•  Owner of 3 Alaska newspapers filing for bankruptcy

•  LG Offers Flexible E-Paper for Newspapers
•  Poll: Most won't pay to read newspapers online

•  State newspaper foists 3rd round of layoffs
•  More Layoffs At Star-Telegram
•  Bee to cut 25 jobs
•  Layoffs To Hit West Michigan Newspapers
•  Study Finds New Media Doesn't Fill Journalism Gap

Digital Mags: are "issues" becoming an outdated concept?

TechWeb, a division of United Business Media, announced this morning that Information Week would increase the number of digital-only issues it produces from four to 12.

According to its web site, the move is part of a "green" initiative:

InformationWeek is leading the technology media market with a 10-year plan to offset its carbon footprint and jump started in 2009 with the addition of digital-only InformationWeek Magazine issues. Direct environmental benefits of InformationWeek's green initiative are the elimination of the recycling and printing process, which create carbon, chemical and water reductions. In tandem with the digital issues, InformationWeek made a commitment to invest with nonprofit organizations that focus on the protection and restoring of damaged forests globally. InformationWeek donated nearly 20,000 trees to American Forests in 2009.
OK, whatever.  I like trees, too. But are you telling me this has nothing to do with cutting production and distribution costs?

But let's get to the point of this post: when will the concept of "issues" begin to disappear?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Misc. conversations

Since these posts probably won't make there way into my News Feed (at right) I thought I'd link to them ala Romenesko.

Alan Mutter has posted the second of three columns concerning the question "How long can print newspapers last?" -- Hint, he's not optimistic, and neither are his readers.

Robert Niles has a post on The Online Journalism Review arguing that there are only three ways publishers can make money from their content: Direct Sales, Advertising and Donations*. Many commenters disagree, though it may be more about semantics than an actual disagreement.

News organizations lean on Haiti bloggers for news from earthquake zone, create temporary blogs themselves

Individual and organization blogs assisted those hungry for news from Haiti following that island's massive 7.0 earthquake. The quake has been especially difficult to cover for journalists because of the extent of damage to the capital Port-au-Prince.

Pew Study leads to hilarity, anger, chest-puffing, and lots of blog posts . . . including this one

I try and stay away from journalism turf wars, but this one is very amusing, and ultimately will lead to me saying a few words about content below the fold. 

If you are in the news business I'm sure you have heard about the study released by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism that asks "where does the news come from in today's changing media?"  The report shows that local papers are "offering less than they once did", but that traditional media still accounted for the vast majority of new information found in stories.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Google to stop censorship of Chinese search results, threatens to pull out of country altogether

In a rather stunning reversal of their previous position, Google used its company blog to announce that it would end censoring Chinese search results, while also threatening to pull its operations out of the country following serious cyber attacks on its infrastructure.

Google blog post complains of the cyber attacks it has faced in December.

In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident--albeit a significant one--was something quite different.

Ihnatko's Sun Times column hits the target; the importance of Apple's tablet introduction to publishers

I want to give a shout out to Andy Ihnatko's Sun Times column from late last week. I was referred to it by a MacRumors post, but because it was from one of those media types (that would be us!) it got very little attention on the computer forum . . . but I really thought Ihnatko hit it out of the park.

The column is basically Ihnakto's take on the much rumored introduction of an Apple tablet -- or as Ihnako inventively calls it, the RAT. Ihnatko goes through his thoughts on the features we might find on the new device, but probably only of interest to those who love the inside game: "The RAT will have a "slate" form factor", or "The price will be above $500 but below $800".  Good stuff if you have been paying close attention, and I can not argue with anything he says.

But then comes the money paragraph. Holy cow! (as the late Harry Carey would say):

Apple will not sell periodicals and books through the iTunes Store.

At least not in the way that they sell music and movies, as discrete products. Instead, they’ll stick to the mechanism that the iPhone uses: publishers and distributors can release their own apps and build their own storefronts for their own content.

It saves Apple from innumerable headaches and opens the RAT up to be “the reader of Everything.” It also emphatically continues Apple’s momentum as the publishing platform of  choice.

Are you Time-Warner? Great. Release a free “newsstand” app for your group’s publications.   Apple’s SDK supports in-app purchases. The user can buy or subscribe to magazines easily; the publisher gets ongoing sales through the biggest store for digital mobile content, and as usual, Apple gets a big cut of every dollar spent on that planet. 

Are you an independent publisher? Or maybe even just an author with a collection of short-stories? Great. Hook up with an iPhone developer and hand over a copy of your book in PDF or HTML format. He or she can quickly stick it in an app wrapper and you can release it as an saleable ebook without going through any publishers or distributors. There’s no vetting process; Apple is happy to just take 30 percent of the purchase price.

And there, in just a couple of paragraphs is the essence of the article to me: this introduction could be a major step towards an ubiquitous (as Zinio said in their own product introduction) publishing platform that would be of value to not only major publishers like Time-Warner, but also citizen publishers, or  small publishers trying to find ways to monetize their electronic publishing efforts.

And that, in the end, is the issue: how do publishers finally get to make money and drive subscriptions online? (I've deleted some thoughts that would have appeared here on why publishers have so far failed online. Let's save that for another day.)

That's why I think small publishers may have a huge stake in the tablet/reader market. If a new Apple tablet/reader can successfully create an "open" marketplace that is friendly to individuals or entrepreneurial publishers, just as they have for music with iTunes, or software developers with the iTunes app store, then we may have a gold rush of new media publishers. Small publishers may fine that building an app for use on a tablet (and the iPhone) is potentially a more profitable alternative to the web (though I seriously doubt any publisher would want to surrender their web presence).

So am I alone in my praise for Ihnatko's column? Hardly. Bill Barol on True/Slant loved the column, displayblog sang its praises, and the column was reproduced by the WSJ on its All Things Digital site.  But despite being late in singing the praises of Ihnatko's column I think the points he makes about publishing are just too important to let slip by. Go read it yourself!

(Or better yet, sign up for Instapaper's Read Later and use this handy app on your computer or iPhone (iTunes link) to save the article for later viewing.)
Cross posted on Citizen Publishing.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Detroit Daily Press launch cost "several hundred thousand dollars", remain shuttered for now

Update: I suppose this has nothing to do with "New Media", but I find this saga too interesting to ignore.

It was supposed to be a brand new newspaper to fill the gap created when the News and Free Press cut back on home delivery, but now the Detroit Daily Press saga has become a soap opera.

Launched back on November 23 of last year, the Daily Press announced it was suspending publishing within a week.

"Due to circumstances beyond our control, lack of advertising, lateness of our press runs and lack of distribution and sales, we find it necessary to temporarily suspend publication of the Detroit Daily Press until after the (first) of the year," the publishers Mark and Gary Stern said in a statement.

"Once we can fix these things, we plan to be back stronger and more organized when we return. This is just a bump in the road and not the end of the Detroit Daily Press."

But alas . . .

There once was a B2B company that was enthusiastic about the web . . .

OK, I'm sure your company is enthusiastic about the web. But an awful lot of B2B web sites look like they have been put online simply to distribute media kits, or to show how serious they are about the Internet. But ask any advertising rep what it is like today to sell a print magazine with no web site, or a very anemic looking web site and you'll know how important a good web site is to B2B print.

It's good to remember that as March approaches because we will be at the ten year anniversary of the beginning of the Internet boom meltdown. Between 2000 and 2002 the NASDAQ fell 77.6%, and one stock "darling", whose valuation was once $12 billion during the crazy days of the boom, began their fall. That company, founded in 1995 with the launch of WaterOnline.com, forced the hands of a lot of reluctant trade publishers.

Of course, the company in question was VerticalNet, maybe the most infamous company in Internet (and B2B media) history. But I would argue that VN is still worth remembering today.

"Location based advertising" creates major threat to local media ad sales (and B2B) but also new opportunities

The pursuit of local advertising has begun in earnest.

In the fall of 2002 I was approached by a friend to give advice to a technology start-up here in Chicago. Their concept was simple: using IP addresses they would deliver local advertising on national web sites. At the time this concept was still in its infancy but showed promise as some national sites were already using IP addresses to send localized messages or content to readers. This companies idea was to approach newspapers with a deal: you sell internet advertising to your local customers, these ads would then appear not only on your local news site, but also on major national web sites like Yahoo and CNN.

The idea seemed to have merit as long as 1) the national sites were willing to surrender the ad space to the ad network -- and share the revenue; and 2) the newspaper would play along and enthusiastically sell ad space outside of their own products -- something newspapers have historically been hesitant to do.

In the end, the whole thing fizzled for many of the common reasons start-ups fail, but the concept made sense: localize the Internet experience.

Today, there are several ways in which major companies are going after the local advertising market through location based advertising -- and the development may become a major threat to local media outlets trying to hang on to advertisers who already are questioning the value of traditional local print advertising. Worse yet, even local media companies that are successfully making the transition to the web and mobile media may be impacted as their customers choose between you and . . . Google, for instance.