Media business

CBC program explores the future of news

News 2.0 on CBC Radio

CBC Radio launches a two-part series tomorrow on News 2.0: The Future of News in an Age of Social Media

What is now called the “mainstream media” has lost its control over the tools of its trade, and its importance as a centre of social and political influence. The business and philosophical model both appear to be broken, perhaps irrevocably.

There is much to celebrate about this democratization of the media, but there are also reasons to be concerned about the loss of an independent, professional journalistic filter at a time when everyone can be their own media. Can online communities of “citizen journalists” be counted on to help us make informed choices as citizens and consumers? What’s lost, and what’s gained when “News 1.0” gives way to “News 2.0?”

Hosted by Ira Basen the series includes interviews with Clay Shirky, Chris Anderson and Andrew Keen. Partial transcripts are already available at the address above.

The program airs tomorrow at 11am and next Sunday at 10am as part of Sunday Edition on Radio One.

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Online advertising on the rise?

TNS-MI ad spending Q1 2009

New research shows online advertising in the United States grew in the first quarter of 2009 by 8.2 per cent, apparently contradicting other research that shows online advertising declined by 3.4 per cent in the same period.

Writing at MediaPost, Joe Mandese suggests that different definitions and methodologies explain why the TNS MI results (in the table above) are more upbeat about online than those reported a day earlier by Nielsen.

Nielsen says its internet ad expenditure data accounts for, “CPM-based, image-based advertising,” and do not account for, “paid search advertising, text only, paid fee services, performance-based campaigns, sponsorships, barters, in-stream (“pre-rolls”) players, messenger applications, partnership advertising, promotions and email campaigns, or house advertising activity.”

That leaves out an awful lot, including some of the most rapidly growing areas of online advertising.

Mandese quotes TNS MI as saying online is the only major advertising segment to grow in Q1, while the overall media spend fell 14.2 per cent.

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NY Times challenges to readers to become reporters

The Local - neighbourhood websites operated by the New York Times

Neighbourhood website The Local, a project of the New York Times in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, will launch a virtual assignment desk next week.

Readers are invited to propose assignments – and to carry them out, starting with this one:

We’re looking for someone to go to the 88th Precinct Community Council meeting next Wednesday, the 10th.

It’s at 7:30 p.m. at 333 Lafayette Ave, the Pratt Towers apartment complex, in the community room. At these things, the precinct commander, Capt. Anthony Tasso, or his appointed proxy, will field questions from the audience. There are a few other presenters. It’s usually pretty interesting, or at least the good parts are. Sometimes it even gets a little heated.

We’re looking for someone to go, take notes, take a photo and write up the festivities. Get exact quotes and names of the people you’re quoting. And send the results to us by early Thursday morning. We can explain the details and give you basic training.

The way of the future? I wonder if the “lucky” volunteer will realize how many people from the “mainstream media” will be to watching this with enormous interest.

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Charting the change in classified advertising

These charts, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, really need no commentary and certainly won’t come as a surprise.

Percentage of adults using classified advertising websites

Newspaper revenue from classified advertising

Of course “classifieds ads websites” is another way of saying Craigslist, which had 42.2 million unique visitors in March 2009, compared with 53.8 million total unique visitors to classified sites.

For an equally dramatic chart of US newspaper ad revenues (not just classifieds) over the past three years, visit Alan Mutter’s blog.

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American Press Institute endorses paid content

API Report logoIt’s feeling a lot like 2005 again, as newspapers prepare to leap aboard the online user-pays bandwagon. The only thing that’s changed is the level of desperation.

Rick Edmonds, at the Poynter Institute, reports that a new whitepaper from the American Press Institute espouses five “doctrines” to help publishers gain more revenue from their content.

They are:

  • True Value. Establish that news content online has value by charging for it. Begin “massive experimentation with several of the most promising options.”
  • Fair Use. Maintain the value of professionally produced and edited content by “aggressively enforcing copyright, fair use and the right to profit from original work.”
  • Fair Share. Negotiate a higher price for content produced by the news industry that is aggregated and redistributed by others.
  • Digital Deliverance. “Invest in technologies, platforms and systems that provide content-based e-commerce, data-sharing and other revenue generating solutions.”
  • Consumer Centric. Refocus on consumers and users. Shift revenue strategies from those focused on advertisers.

The Nieman Journalism Lab has posted the full API report.

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Bloggers help Globe & Mail create Toronto hub

Globe and Mail Toronto Hub announcementOne of Canada’s two national newspapers, the Globe and Mail, is going after Toronto readers with help from local blog site Torontoist.

In an announcement on the Globe’s website late Friday night, Toronto editor Kelly Grant [pictured with the announcement] said the newspaper had created an online Toronto hub that would include material from Torontoist, in addition to features such as a Toronto traffic page incorporating Twitter feeds.

The Globe would also increase its city hall staff from two to four.

Torontoist editor David Topping described the agreement as a content-sharing partnership, but didn’t say whether Torontoist would publish Globe and Mail content in return.

The arrangement doesn’t appear to be content-sharing in the usual sense, but rather link-sharing. So far at least, if you click on a Torontoist story from the Globe and Mail site, the story opens on Torontoist, giving the blog site a nice traffic boost.

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Cute, but short on insight

This is a nicely done video, even if it adds little to our understanding of the problems facing newspapers (repeating the old saw that newspapers shouldn’t have offered their content online free of charge and accusing them of doing too little with video to compete against television).

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Ideas on membership-funding of newspapers

Further to my previous post about the NY Times considering selling memberships to help fund its journalism, Steve Outing at Editor & Publisher today posted some useful ideas on how to entice members with more than coffee mugs, t-shirts and tote bags.

Here are some of his most innovative and promising ideas, in my opinion:

* Every newspaper member gets exclusive discounts from a large group of participating newspaper advertisers. Rather than the anachronistic printed coupon books that have been around for decades and are sold for fund-raisers (in Colorado these are called Gold C Books and sell for $10), allow members to use their mobile phones to show retailers, restaurants, etc. their discount coupons after entering their password. This eliminates the problem of leaving the coupon or coupon book at home, since most of us carry our cell phones everywhere. A special app for smartphones could identify nearby discount deals based on your current location, or be browsed or searched.

* Advertisers should be persuaded to take part in the member discount program as part of their overall ad deal with the newspaper and its digital services, so there’s a wide variety of discounts and deals to be had.

* Consider deals with groups of restaurants, or ski areas. A paying newspaper member can get one free meal (when another is purchased) once per month at a selection of participating restaurants, or one free ski lift ticket per month. If our hypothetical newspaper membership is only $10 a month, it’s a no-brainer that you buy a membership if you like to eat out or ski.

As Outing points out, the key to making memberships work is in offering value. If people won’t pay for online journalism directly, perhaps they can be persuaded with discounts on other things they buy.

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NY Times considers another run at paid web content

New York Times

When it comes to funding online news, most ideas revolve around either wringing more dollars from advertisers, or somehow convincing consumers to pay for access to content.

The New York Times continues to explore the latter approach, despite the disappointing returns from the Times Select pay wall which was dismantled in 2007 after two years of operation. [For more on Times Select, watch this video interview with former Times VP-Digital Vivian Schiller.]

Writing in the New York Observer today, John Koblin quotes Times executive editor Bill Keller as telling staff this week that the company is consider two options:

  • Allow users to view content freely, then charge if they go over a certain limit
  • Invite users to contribute voluntarily through a NY Times membership – the benefits of which could include access to special online content

Jeff Jarvis lampoons the first idea, pointing out that it (like other content payment ideas) discourages readers from doing exactly what websites want: spending more time on site, and viewing more content.

Readers’ inner dialogue is not hard to imagine: ‘Uh-oh, should I read that next story – and see that ad and maybe find something worth linking to and bring in other readers? It might start costing me. I’d better conserve my Times characters; they’re adding up; already read 20,000 of them. I think it’s time to go elsewhere now.’

The second approach is hard to imagine taking hold – although at least in the United States there is a tradition of voluntary financial support for public broadcasting from individuals and institutions. And really, isn’t membership-based access to content just another way of saying “paying for content”? The challenge for the Times will be to make that fly in a way that Times Select couldn’t.

Koblin says Times execs will make a decision by next month.

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Newspaper group will stop ’shovelling’

MediaNews Group plans to reduce the amount of content from its 54 daily newspapers that it makes available for free on the papers’ websites.

The move was announced Wednesday and reported today on, a MediaNews website, which quoted company president Jody Lodovic:

“The strategy is about creating a different audience online and not about shoveling that day’s [newspaper] content online for free. It’s about creating options for people getting their news in different ways.”

The Tribune said no launch date or pricing had been announced.

…Lodovic painted a picture that he likened to how telephone and cable television companies “bundle” their services into packages with different levels of access. Bundles could be structured in numerous ways — newspaper delivery three days a week and electronic delivery during the rest of the week; combining print and electronic editions with access to a paper’s archives; free Web sites that summarize daily news, while referring readers to the print product or another Web site, where fees might be collected to gain access to deeper information; sites aimed at target audiences, such as young readers, pet lovers or parents.

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