Author: Neil Sanderson

Washington Post closing hyperlocal site

After two years of trying and failing to make a buck on its hyperlocal website LoudounExtra.com, the Washington Post will close the site next month.

Rafat Ali has the story at PaidContent.org, while former LoudounExtra blogger Tammi Marcoullier posts a few thoughts on the site’s demise.

As Rafat points out, the closure stands in interesting contrast to yesterday’s news that MSNBC is purchasing hyperlocal data service EveryBlock.

Residents of Loudoun County, a suburb of Washington DC, have also just lost their only local radio station.

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Globe & Mail flattens structure, adds digital staff

Globe and Mail

J-Source has posted a memo from the Globe & Mail’s recently promoted Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse outlining a reshuffle of senior managers.

There will be no deputy editor. Three masthead editors will take expanded responsibility for News and Sports (David Walmsley), Features (Jill Borra) and Business (Elena Cherney). Commentary and Custom Content remain under their current editors.

Executive Editor Neil Campbell remains in charge of Resources. Adrian Norris is Managing Editor – Presentation with responsibility for photos, graphics and design across all platforms.

As previously announced, Anjali Kapoor joins the Globe next week from Yahoo as Managing Editor – Digital, with Kenny Yum (from nationalpost.com) as editor of globeandmail.com.

In keeping with the digital expansion, Stackhouse announced that:

Two more positions will be added shortly to the core digital group – one to manage new projects across the site and our growing video capacity; the other to edit our content for a growing mobile platform.

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Kiwi stunt promotes breaking news on the web

Click to watch video

From the breaking news battleground in New Zealand…

One of the country’s leading news websites, stuff.co.nz, drew a crowd in downtown Auckland last Thursday, causing pedestrians to look up, grab their mobile phone cameras and start clicking.

The publicity stunt (click the video above to watch) touts the site’s commitment to being first with breaking news, while looking very much like a breaking news story itself. And of course, it’s all captured on video, which stuff.co.nz is no doubt hoping becomes a viral hit. (That would be much more likely if the stuff people offered a video embed code.)

It reminds me of the days when radio stations battled for breaking news honours. Remember 20-20 News, 60-second updates and news hotlines with weekly payouts for the best tips? This stunt brings that sort of competitive tub-thumping to online news. All good fun, but will it change reader behaviour?

Stuff.co.nz is owned by Fairfax, which publishes several New Zealand newspapers and owns the trademe.co.nz auction website.

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This newspaper owner is doing OK

Calixe in Toronto

Times may be tough for some newspaper owners, but Santa Barbara News-Press co-publisher Wendy McCaw appears to be getting by just fine.

Her helicopter-toting 193-foot motoryacht Calixe is in Toronto, drawing plenty of admiring looks.

Ms McCaw and her fiancé, Arthur von Wiesenberger, are co-publishers of the News-Press, a newspaper she purchased in 2000 from the New York Times company.

She is divorced from cellular telephone tycoon Craig McCaw and has been a controversial newspaper owner.

In 2007, a National Labor Relations Board judge ordered the News-Press to reinstate eight employees it had fired for union organizing.

In 2006, six editors quit the paper over editorial ethics, an issue highlighted in the film Citizen McCaw.

Calixe’s helicopter

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Washington Post redesigns mobile services

WashingtonPost mobile site

The Washington Post has launched a new selection of mobile services, including an iPhone-optimized site, a BlackBerry application, and other variations to work on cellphones.

The services use a simplified navigation structure, comprising Politics, Business, Metro, Arts and Lifestyle, and Sports sections.

MediaPost reports that the services were built in-house, and that two editors have been assigned to mobile content. E-commerce functionality, such as restaurant reservations and movie ticket purchasing, are reportedly under development.

Simulated screenshot: washingtonpost.com

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Citizen journalists racing to cover Nascar

racintoday.com

Advertising Age reports that stock car racing body Nascar has accredited 28 bloggers and non-mainstream websites to cover races this season.

It seems fewer newspaper sports writers have been turning up in the press boxes as a result of newspaper cutbacks, so Nascar decided it needed a “Citizen Journalist Media Corps” to keep the fans satisfied.

“The last 12 to 18 months, we’ve seen a drop in print media,” says Ramsey Poston, Nascar’s managing director-corporate communications, who oversees the Citizen Journalist project. “We’ve not only lost some of the biggest auto-racing writers in the business due to layoffs and cutbacks — people like Jim Pedley of The Kansas City Star, John Sturbin (of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) and Grant James (of the St. Petersburg Times) — but we’ve lost the papers themselves. We used to get great coverage from the Rocky Mountain (Colo.) News, and now it doesn’t even exist. And other papers are simply cutting back coverage.

Nascar’s communications department reviewed some 30,000 websites before making the final selection, which includes RacinToday.com (pictured).

See also: Fire the sports writers? Not if the teams have anything to say about it

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Five trends in the reinvention of news

The Cato Institute’s Cato Unbound website this month features essays on the future of journalism.

Clay Shirky kicked things off on Monday reiterating a theme on which he blogged a few months ago – that this is a time of upheaval for traditional news media, with no single clear path to future sustainability.

Today, another journalism professor, Philip Meyer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, responds with five trends he sees emerging from the current chaos. It’s worth reading his full article but, to summarize, the five trends are:

  1. The marketplace is calling for ever more specialized information. This trend was well established in the second half of the 20th century, and the Internet greatly accelerated it.
  2. The need for processing is increasing at two levels: in the production stage where analysis and interpretation help readers or listeners make sense of the oversupply of data, and in the transmission stage where information is packaged for ready retrieval by the specialized subsets of the audiences that want it.
  3. We are starting to place more value on evidence-based versus source-based journalism.
  4. Dividing journalism into subcategories of specialists has already started a fourth trend: increasing the number of certification programs for journalists.
  5. The leverage for motivations other than profit is growing rather than shrinking. The low entry costs of the Internet guarantee that.

The series is scheduled to continue with contributions from Paul Starr on July 17 and Steve Yelvington on July 20.

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Delivering value to brand advertisers online

Joe Marchese at MediaPost explains why it’s so hard to get brand advertising onto websites at prices that will appeal to publishers.

…the issue with bringing branding online isn’t with the marketers and agencies, it is with the publisher side, maybe with some help from the marketers, of course ;-). Publishers can create “impressions” simply by adding ad units, but adding ad units don’t magically increase the amount of consumer attention in the world, or even on a given page. What publishers have that is of value to brand advertisers is consumer attention. In order to prove valuable to brand advertisers, publisher must find a way to share their audience’s limited attention with marketers in a FAIR exchange of value.

The question, of course, is how can online publishers increase advertising rates to make up for a reduction in impressions.

The marketer’s role in this is twofold: 1. Don’t force publishers’ hands by arguing both sides. Marketers can’t claim they value the opportunity to guarantee the delivery of a message to consumers, then when presented with such an opportunity, cite the lowest ad network CPM rate they have been quoted for negotiation purposes. 2. Build creative that is meant to be a contained brand experience/engagement. Engagements are not traffic generators. People don’t necessarily want to visit a brand’s website at the drop of a hat…

Marchese argues that publishers and ad networks need to do a better job of defining and delivering value for brand advertisers.

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Gawker tightens control over comments

All of the Gawker Media sites have a new commenting system.

As explained on gawker.com, “we the editors are taking control back”.

As a site gets bigger, the comments tend to get busier — and sometimes more annoying. Our titles are no exception. Deadspin’s had to contend with a war between the daytime and nighttime users; Jezebel editors battle for control with a politically-correct mob; perceptions of Gawker are set by a small group of glib and bitchy commenters. All sites that are growing as rapidly as ours have something like this problem — and one that can’t be solved simply by banning the offenders or applying more strictly our approval process.

Editors will grant star status to their most-trusted commenters, whose comments will get greater prominence and who will, in turn, be able to grant prominence to others’ comments they like. (Stars were previously awarded based on how many followers a commenter had.)

Although moderators will continue to monitor the discussion, the stars will have their comments posted without pre-moderation, and will also be able to approve comments submitted by other users.

Commenters can also upload images and YouTube videos.

The Gawker sites are: gawker.com, deadspin, kotaku, jezebel, io9.com, jalopnik, gizmodo and lifehacker.

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