Thursday, December 31, 2009

Steve Outing's last column for E&P

Steve Outing penned his last column for the venerable Editor & Publisher, which ceased publication today. It's a great look at what might have been. Fittingly, the column has always been titled, "Stop the Presses."

Steve Outing: Goodbye, for Now? But Looking Forward
Back in 1995, Editor & Publisher invited me to start writing a freelance column for its brand-new Web site, initially called Nearly 15 years later, this will likely be my last column for E&P -- and I'd like to project on what digital possibilities c
ould have been for newspapers, and how it's not too late for them to put things right.

By Steve Outing

YORK (December 29, 2009) -- Back in 1995, Editor & Publisher invited me to start writing a freelance column for its brand-new Web site, initially called An ex-newspaper journalist, I had become an early "expert" on the intersection of online services and the World Wide Web with the newspaper industry, and I began covering interactive media for the bible of the newspaper industry. Nearly 15 years later, this is (most likely) my last column, if E&P -- the magazine and the Web site -- disappears from view. Back when I started, I couldn't possibly have guessed that: 1. I'd continue to write this column for that long. 2. The newspaper industry would fail to benefit from the Internet, and bequeath opportunities to eager entrepreneurs who did capitalize, big time, at the expense of newspapers. A confession As much as I have loved newspapers, since the Web came along in late 1993, it hasn't been the paper, per se, that I loved -- but rather the type of journalism that newspaper companies were able to produce. While far from perfect, newspapers were able to afford the big editorial staffs, which other media forms could not, to cover their communities well and (often) uncover mistakes, corruption and wrongdoing by government and business. In fact, in the mid-1990s I really expected that by 2009 there to be a lot less “paper” moving around. I hoped that would be the case, actually, since the trees felled and all the trucks spewing pollution throughout the process of getting newspapers onto millions of home driveways each day has long struck me as environmentally damaging and ultimately unsustainable. Back then, had you asked me to project 15 years ahead, I would have suggested that newspaper print editions would get overtaken in usage by online and digital replacements, and that primarily the older generations would still be reading on paper. Actually, that's why I chose the name of this column, "Stop The Presses!", back in 1995. It felt right, both hearkening to the past and foretelling the future. My E&P editors in 1995 were savvy enough to get the joke, and overlook the possibility that some E&P readers might take offense at what my column's name implied. Back to the present, I've decided to end this column with two lists: 1. How things should have gone for the newspaper industry. 2. Since they didn't go that way, what to expect next. The 20/20 hindsight fantasy scenario If Quentin Tarantino can produce a fantasy revisionist-history blockbuster like "Inglourious Basterds," about a band of Jews killing Adolph Hitler and the Nazi leadership, then I can script how the newspaper industry's previous 15 years should have played out. 1. In 1994-95, newspaper executives recognize that the Web is something with the potential to rock their world, and increase R&D budgets significantly in order to plan for and begin building new businesses based on fast-developing new technology. Knight Ridder (now defunct) does not shut down its pioneering Information Design Laboratory (1992-95) in Boulder, Colorado, and transitions into a corporation that goes on to build successful Internet businesses that complement its core newspaper publishing business. 2. Learning from media history (e.g., TV started out as radio with a video image of the announcer speaking into a microphone), newspaper leaders decide not to repeat it this time around. They direct new-media R&D staff to design new online services that create original content and new utilities -- things that are not possible in print but are online. Print journalism is still leveraged online, of course, but it does not dominate the new-media team's thinking or mission. 3. Fat and happy with enviable profit margins, newspaper companies' leaders take note of the wave of Internet start-up companies in the late 1990s. Business development executives with technology experience are brought in from outside the newspaper industry to identify the most promising trends and start-up companies, and begin making acquisitions and/or significant investments, in a big way. Newspapers may be fiscally fat and happy, but their leaders want more, see opportunity, and they have the money to invest in complementary Internet businesses. 4. Some of these investments and acquisitions take off, and newspaper companies have on their hands complementary businesses that will grow to dominate their sectors. Newspaper executives take a mostly hands-off approach, leaving evolution of the acquisitions to technologists who have their eyes on media's future. 5. Even though these new digital acquisitions seemingly (through late-1990s news-leader eyes) have little to do with the uber-profitable business of publishing newspapers, the acquisitions are marketed (at little or no cost) aggressively in the newspapers. Newspaper executives, educated and persuaded by the technologists they've brought on board, foresee the day when their new acquisitions will out-earn print revenues. 6. Newspaper executives and editors early on grasp the essential difference between print publishing and the Internet: one-to-many only, vs. one-to-one (plus one-to-many). This epiphany, experienced early on, permits industry investments and acquisitions into new businesses that leverage the ability for people to communicate with each other online; newspaper companies end up being part of what eventually becomes the social networking industry. Journalists are educated on interaction with the audience as a result of their employers entering this new space, and that begins the cultural transition of the newsroom toward an interactive relationship with readers rather than the lecture model. 7. As the Internet bust of 2000 hits, newspaper executives begin to doubt their strategy, but their portfolio includes some Internet companies that ride out the temporary slump. As the Internet bounces back, newspapers recognize the wave heading back up and resume their digital-expansion strategies. 8. In the mid-2000s, the era of cheap money, newspaper executives see the tremendous growth of the best Internet companies and resist inclinations to consolidate and acquire other newspaper companies. Instead, they up the game of complementary acquisitions and investments in the digital and burgeoning mobile spaces. 9. As reader and advertiser behavior changes, newspaper companies accept the fact that their newspaper operations will produce less profit and soon will need to either cut staff or subsidize newsrooms from more profitable new businesses. Because of their foresight, they are able to maintain high editorial quality while making the transition to a digital-centric model for their core news business. 10. The late-2000s recession is ridden out by newspaper companies because they have diversified and grabbed the digital opportunities as they arose early on. There's still room to invest and focus on the next big media opportunity: mobile content and services. Ahh, that sounds so simple. If only someone had created a time machine in the mid-1990s, then comic-strip artists and late-night comics wouldn't be making fun of newspapers as today's buggy-whip makers. What's next Since the newspaper industry in general took the wrong path, let's get back to reality. Here's what we're likely to see in the next few years as a result of how newspaper leaders chose to respond to disruptive technology. 1. Small-town independent newspapers don't grow much, but they are able to continue with healthy print circulation for several more years. But eventually, they start hurting more, like their metro cousins, as local advertisers shift more and more money to cheaper, more effective digital advertising opportunities. 2. Urban metro papers continue to shrink. More papers stop publishing in print on some days of the week; others go to Sunday-only for print and online/mobile for the rest of week; and a few go entirely digital. Unfortunately, we see some more newspapers die. 3. The wave of small news start-ups -- non-profits, hyper-local for- and non-profits, placebloggers who've figured out how to make a living, combo professional- and citizen-reporting digital news services, university-affiliated news entities, etc. -- that we see emerging today grows rapidly. Journalists laid off or bought out by newspapers start many of these services, aided by new companies that help them on the advertising, business and technology sides (e.g., GrowthSpur ), and new local digital ad networks serving all local media, new and old. 4. Some of these small entities partner with local newspapers, gaining for themselves revenue to support their mission, while giving the newspapers quality content much cheaper than the papers could produce it themselves. This is especially the case with costly and time-intensive investigative journalism, where local non-profit public-interest news sites (a la VoiceofSanDiego ) partially support themselves with money from "old media." 5. News aggregators (Google News, et al) and personal digital agents (e.g., Circulate, but more likely to come from the likes of Google or Facebook) become the norm for consumers getting their customized news streams on their computers, mobile phones, e-readers, and other devices. As a result, newspaper Web sites become less important. Newspaper publishers and editors learn, in order to survive, how to get their content into all the appropriate streams. And they develop ways to monetize content as it flees the home pond (Web site) for the many new streams (aggregators, agents, social news streams, etc.). Those that don't, die. 6. The saber-rattling over pay walls at newspaper Web sites will die down as Google, which many newspaper executives seem to perceive as the No. 1 cause of their woes, accommodates their concerns and introduces more technology that helps news producers turn digital dimes into quarters (or more). Paid content by newspapers is supported by new systems, but it's a small amount of the content they produce. 7. Newspaper companies that do survive and prosper do so by devoting significant resources (at executive and technical levels) to mobile as the next platform of opportunity. They don't repeat the mistakes of a decade earlier made with the Web, but instead raise mobile to a top priority. 8. Newspapers that do well adapt quickly to the instant nature of crowd-sourced news (e.g., aggregating and filtering eyewitness reports from Twitter), rather than fight it. 9. Some newspaper companies survive the journey across the chasm between the old print-centric model and a new digital model. These are most likely the companies whose board of directors install new leadership not chained to the success of past business models. Among the survivors, we're more likely to see repeats of National Public Radio's digital transition, where a new CEO (Vivian Schiller) was hired because of her digital experience, mindset and vision, even though she had less of that for radio. 10. I continue to write about the future of news on my personal blog, but don't emphasize newspapers so much. Bye, for now I'm looking forward to re-reading this column in about five years, to see if I'm on target or missed widely. Meanwhile, you'll find me focusing on a new project, the Digital Media Test Kitchen at the University of Colorado at Boulder, hosted by the School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Watch my blog and you'll soon see that launched. To everyone who's read this column over the years, whether routinely or occasionally, thank you for taking some of your valuable time to listen to my ideas, and respond and interact with me. To everyone I've talked with or interviewed over the years, thank you for educating me on innovation in news and sharing your knowledge and vision. --30--

Monday, December 21, 2009

Clyde Bentley's latest research

My Missouri journalism colleague, Clyde Bentley, offers his latest newsletter on news media research, a holiday edition:

'Tis the season to be sage-like, even if you can't be jolly. As 2009 closes and 2010 awakens, researchers both looked back at what we did and made educated guesses at would we might see.

Gosh, I thought so - The U.S. Census Bureau counted its numbers and came to the conclusion that newspaper revenue went down -- in 2008. The mid-December federal report only tracks economic statistics for the previous year. And that's bad enough -- the industry's revenues dropped 8.3% to $43.9 billion. A year ago the "bad" news as a 2.7% decline, which most publishers would welcome today.

There is alway more to Census Bureau reports than the headlines, however. For instance, the second biggest drop from the publishing sector was in greeting cards (7%). That probably is less a sign that Hallmark has lost its humor than another indicator of the Internet's impact. Speaking of which, Web search portals were up 18.9%, which was actually bad news for an industry that jumped 38.1% in 2006 and 25.1% in 2007. It may also be some consolation that the search portals generated about $29 billion less than newspapers did in 2008. Likewise, ad revenue for online publishers was only $4.6 billion. That was a 22.5 increase, but not like the 44% jump in 2006 nor the 27.9% increase in 2007.

We're all thumbs -- The Census Bureau also released its latest Statistical Abstract of the United States, packed as usual with trivia such as the number of students who carry guns to school (6% in 2007) and the health of the restaurant business ($453 billion and rising). My eye, however, was caught by the report that mobile phone texting more than doubled in 2008, the last year for which statistics were available. Simple text-messages (not Web browsing or e-mail) went from 48 billion in 2007 to 110 billion in 2008. That confirms the survey I am just now analyzing that shows text messaging increases as you adopt a more sophisticated phone. I had predicted the opposite. I'm paying a lot more attention to the value of text message alerts these days.

Oldies but goodies -- Two news activities made the Top 10 Internet activities among the 65+ crowd in 2008, according to Nielsen. Don't scoff -- 13% of the entire population is at least 65 years old and the number of seniors using the Web rose 55% over the past five years.

The top activity for seniors was e-mail, followed by maps, weather, their bills and all those photos of grandkids. But reading the general news online was No. 6 and reading business or financial news was No. 10. Like surprises? Facebook was the third most popular Internet destination for seniors, only topped by Google Search and Windows Media Player. More? Seniors are within 1/10 of a point from teens in the proportion of people who visit blogs and social networking sites.

The November Nielsen report should be a wake-up call to online editors and others who look at the Web and only think "young." Here's a huge, affluent and well-read market that is eager for useful information, loves to connect with others and puts news above YouTube. Gray hair sounds better than red ink.

Facebook or nothing -- As popular as it seems to be with senior citizens, the social network born in a Harvard dorm hit an important tipping point in 2009 with its original target audience. Anderson Analytics said Facebook is now not only the most popular social network service among the college-aged, but may be the only one that counts. Students polled in the 2009-2010 GenX2Z American College Student Survey overwhelmingly rated Facebook as "cool" (82% of males and 90% of females) and everything else as "lame." The lamest of the lame (31%) was mighty MySpace.

But the curious flip side to the Facebook finding was that 18-25 year olds are using all blogs and discussion boards less. Blog activity was down 5% among college students and use of discussion boards was down 8%.

For now, the findings bode poorly for publishers hoping to establish local social networking sites. But, as the researchers noted, rapid technology changes make accurate predictions impossible. I think it might be worth looking east, however, to the mobile social networking sites booming in Europe. Networks such as Loopt, Aka Aki, MobiLuck and Peperonity allow you to read the profiles of others within a few yards (make that meters) of you. If that's not a cyber party, what is? (Check this video to see what I mean).

Smart phone war? -- Enough of what was, what can we expect in 2010? How about a heated battle between the companies that want to put our news on their little hand-held computers? In 2009, Apple's iPhone stole the show, even though RIM had a lot more Blackberries out there. Google's Android is in the limelight for 2010. When comScore asked smartphone shoppers which type of phone they might buy in the next three months, 20% said iPhones but 17% chose the newcomer. It helps that Android is available on a variety of phones from all the major cell phone service providers, while the iPhone is both Apple and AT&T exclusive. ComScore's research also showed that Android owners use their phones almost identically to iPhone owners, except the Apple crowd fires off more e-mail.

The Great Nielsoni -- The top crystal ball award for December has to go to Nielsen, which released a big packet of Future Trends in Media. The summary is that 2010 will be a consumer's market for digital media on three screens - TV, PC and mobile. Nielsen said to watch for the number of TVs to exceed the number of people in the U.S. while close to half of all video is watched on a computer screen. On the mobile front, 3G networks will grow and 4G (about as fast as broadband) will make a noticeable introduction.

Five key trends -- The Nielsen seers said to watch for five trends that will have major impact on the media business over the next three to five years. All TV content will be available on any type of screen. The "net neutrality" court battle over whether Internet service providers can control what flows through their digital pipes could dramatically change the online world. With the next wave of more powerful phones, the researchers said, it will be common for people to not only receive information wherever they happen to be, but to share it with others. In the same vein, tiered pricing may make those who download data-intensive content pay more than simple e-mailers. Interactive TV could take even more time out of the American day than the addictive tube does now. Finally, the hardware will dazzle -- combining gaming, TV, computer and who knows what else into a device that looks something like a TV.

It really is their world -- In 2010 and beyond, Nielsen said, the Web will be driven by the audience rather than the content providers. Advertisers will be metrics-crazy and marketers will combine all sorts of media to reach a fickle audience. Research will be king -- the more you know about the audience, the better chance you have of keeping a piece of the pie.

The privacy eye -- That last trend -- getting the goods on the audience -- is bound to keep both researchers and reporters busy in the foreseeable future. How deep should a company dig into a customer's life, even if they asked for the "service?" Do journalists dig into the same data? And who keeps track of what the government is doing with the numbers? It's going to be an interesting 2010.

Ready for the mobile world? That's OK, few of us are. That's why I'm trying to assemble a list of mobile editors at newspapers. We are trying to put together a spring brainstorming gathering at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. If you know an editor charged with delivering the news via cell, e-mail me at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Veteran journalists to head Fiscal Times

Veteran biz journalists will head up the new digital publication The Fiscal Times, which will have offices in NYC and DC. Its mighty new slogan is "The Source for all things fiscal."

It will cover the increasingly busy intersection of economic issues and public policy, and will used content sharing and independently produced articles and opinion pieces. Content will include profiles on key government players to in-depth looks at federal spending programs. Its first content-sharing agreement is with The Washington Post, and other deals to be announced.

Blackstone chairman, Peter Peterson, is initially funding the venture. The veteran journos on board are editor in chief, Jackie Leo, formerly of Reader's Digest; and longtime Washington Post editor/reporter Eric Pianin, who'll be Washington editor.

Its journalists will work from offices in New York and at the National Press Building in D.C. Here's the full list of business journalists:

Editor-in-Chief Jackie Leo, former editor-in-chief of Reader's Digest and Editorial Director of Consumer Reports
Washington Editor Eric Pianin, a former editor and budget reporter at the Washington Post
Ann Reilly Dowd, former Washington Bureau chief for Fortune and Money magazines
David Ewing Duncan, a journalist, television producer and author who has written widely on health care and science
Merrill Goozner, a health care blogger and former Asia correspondent and chief financial writer for the Chicago Tribune
Katherine Reynolds Lewis, former Bloomberg News and Newhouse News Service financial reporter
Dan Morgan, former Washington Post investigative and congressional reporter and author
Elaine Povich, a former congressional and budget reporter for the Chicago Tribune and Newsday

The Fiscal Times Advisory Board

An Advisory Committee consisting of leading professional journalists and public policy experts will monitor the operations of The Fiscal Times and periodically meet with editors and executives to assess performance and progress in meeting its goals and standards.
Robert D. Reischauer, President of the Urban Institute and former director of the Congressional Budget Office
Jodie T. Allen, senior editor of the Pew Research Center, former managing editor and political columnist for U.S. News & World Report, and editor of the Washington Post Sunday "Outlook" section
Drew Altman, President and CEO of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and former commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services.
Jim Brady, President, Digital Strategy, Allbritton Communications and former Executive Editor of
G. William Hoagland, CIGNA Corporation's Public Policy Group director and former policy and budget adviser to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and staff director of the Senate Budget Committee

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Editor & Publisher -- could it be saved by a blog?

After Editor & Publisher, announced today that they are ceasing publication, and journalists everywhere filled the Twitter airwaves with comments.
Some saw the demise of the 125-year-old magazine, which has served as the chronicle and Bible of the newspaper industry. Some Tweeters lamented the demise as the end of the era, others thought that it should live on in web form. Others wondered what would happen to their directories, which gave market information and contacts at daily and weekly news publications around the country.
The staffers were told they would stay on until the end of the month, then given severance. All elements of E&P are ceasing publication.
The Twitter response is encouraging to some.
Staffer Joe Strupp says he may start a blog to fill the gap, as he feels the industry is really losing something if they lose E&P. Despite circulation declines, daily newspapers are still a $38 billion industry in the U.S.
Here's the story:
In full disclosure, my husband is a former editor of E&P when it was owned by the Brown family -- which then sold to VNU. That company was bought up by private equity firms, and renamed as Nielsen. It's Nielsen that's closing the doors.
The Nielsen Co. announced Thursday it was closing Editor and Publisher, a magazine which has chronicled the news industry for over a century, and selling several other brands to a newly formed company.
Kirkus Reviews, a book review publication founded in 1933, is also being shuttered.
Nielsen said eight brands, including the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, were being sold to e5 Global Media LLC, a new company formed by Pluribus Capital Management and Guggenheim Partners. Other brands included in the sale by Nielsen Business Media are Adweek, Brandweek, Mediaweek, The Clio Awards, Back Stage and Film Journal International.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Learning more about Islamic Finance

With concerns unfolding about the stability of Dubai World and it's sovereign backing, many reporters have questions about financing in this part of the world.
The U.S. Treasury Department has a downloadable publication that explains Islamic Finance components and here's the link:

Islamic finance is based on principles of Islamic law, or shariah. The market for Islamic finance has grown 10% - 15% annually in recent years. Islamic finance historically has been concentrated in oil-rich Arab and Southeast Asian countries, but has expanded globally to non-Muslim countries.

What makes Islamic finance different?

Ban on interest (riba): In conventional finance, a distinction is made between acceptable interest and excessive interest. Under Islamic law, any level of interest is considered usurious and is prohibited. So how do lenders profit from financial transactions under Islamic law? For instance, in a real estate, it could takes the form of leasing, as opposed to loans. Instead of borrowing money, the bank obtains the property and leases it to the shariah-compliant investor, who pays rent, not interest.

Ban on uncertainty: Uncertainty in contractual terms and conditions is not allowed, unless all of terms and conditions of the risk are understood by all parties to a financial transaction.

Risk-sharing and profit-sharing: Parties involved in a financial transaction must share both associated risks and profits. Profits or returns from assets are permitted so long as the business risks are shared by borrower and lender.

Ethical investments: Investment in industries prohibited by the Qur’an, such as alcohol, pornography, gambling, and pork- based products, are discouraged.

Asset-backing: Each financial transaction must be tied to a “tangible, identifiable underlying asset.” Money is not considered an asset class because it is not tangible and thus, may not earn a return.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What did we know; when did we know it?

Mortgage crisis, bank failures, Bernie Madoff ripping off investors.

Why wasn't the business press there to save us from disasters?

That, of course, was a major discussion panel at the 2009 SABEW Spring Conference in Denver. Did the business press foresee the depth of this recession and provide adequate warnings?

In research, we're taking that idea a bit further, and Missouri master's student Boris Korby is looking into the matter for his master's project. He'll be researching the content of warning stories that appeared prior to the recession, comparing what business-focused media reported versus what more "Main Street" media reported.

He's also looking at how broadcast media fared in accurate forecasting of the 2008 recession versus more print-focused platforms. I'll report back on his progress, but would appreciate your insights here.

(photo/illustration by Eric Pier)

Business Journalism at a Holiday Discount

I got an interesting email the other day from SkyRadio, the company that produces the business talk radio channel that's one of the 12 or so channels you can plug into on the armrest of your favorite airline. We've all probably listened in to this news while winging over the ocean on a long flight.

Well, SkyRadio wanted to interview me as an "innovator" as part of an upcoming series they were airing in March and April on Delta and USAIR. I get interview requests at least once a month, so it wasn't surprising, but the catch was the interview, conducted by esteemed journalists, would cost me $2995. Was I interested? And slots were going fast, as that $2995 pricetag was a special holiday rate!

If you go to SkyRadio's website,, you can find lots of interviews with real newsmakers like former President Carter, T.Boone Pickens, and the CEO of Intel. You can also click to find undated interviews with people who apparently paid for the privilege of being side by side with interviews that weren't paid. Some of these paid plugs are apparently pretty old, as the interview subjects have now changed jobs, their companies have been sold, or their web contact information outdated. One so-called expert in Customer Relationship Management left that position in 2004, and her web address is for sale.

While we all know that there are broadcasters who demand a production fee for some interviews, SkyRadioNet does take this to a new low of selectivity. My solicitation message had apparently been sent to so many others that my email server had marked it as suspected spam. That special holiday rate, it seems, was just another "Cyber Monday" bargain in my inbox, but this time it was ethics on sale.

So the next time you plug in to listen to "Business News" on an airplane, it's clearly paid PR.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Business Publication Readership is UP!

Adweek reports on new research that shows more people are reading business publications. the Mediamark Research & Intelligence.
The Wall Street Journal saw its audience grow 11.6%, to 3.4 million; Forbes' grew 11.5%, to more than 6 million; Fortune's rose by 9%, to 4.1 million; and The Economist's audience grew 6%, to 2.8 million.
People may be cutting back on the number of magazines they buy, but they're still interested in the world of business, says Roberta Garfinkle, director of print strategy at TargetCast. Yet those audience gains are hardly reflected in magazines' advertising results. "Some advertisers are losing sight of the fact that the audiences in some instances are growing," she said.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mint on the death of newspapers

The website has taken aim at changes in the newspaper industry. Here is it's great graphic on what's happened in the newspapers in the last few years.
It shows some really interesting data, including the fact that only the Wall Street Journal has gained circulation in the last year.
In preparing this graphic, Mint used stock price data from Bloomberg.

mint death of the news

Budget help from

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Clyde Bentley's latest research

Research for the Newsroom
A wrap-up of research of interest to journalists
Clyde Bentley Ph.D.
Missouri School of Journalism

Sept. 9, 2009

I love how research reveals nagging facts that you just can't get rid of. I'm the same way -- I disappeared for an August vacation, but I'm back with another edition of research tidbits news folks can use.

Paid vs. free
-- While there is still evidence of a future for print newspapers, most of the current focus is on Web editions. The NAA touted a Nielsen study showing 70 million unique users visited newspaper sites in June. But the discussion in both the newsrooms and the glass offices is on paid vs. free content. The Newport (RI) Daily News saw print circulation gains after putting up the paid firewall online.

A report available only to Newspaper Association of America members shows that Web site traffic drops when papers institute a paid content system, but at least a portion of that audience returns in a few months. The NAA report details the recent experiences of the Daily Journal in Kankakee, IL, the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY, and the Mercury in Manhattan, KS. and also drew on a March report about other papers. All three offered readers a few lines from local stories for free, but required a paid login for the full story. All saw unique visits cut to half after raising the pay wall, but then creep back to near normal -- in six months for Schenectady. The Mercury stats were blurred by the population cycles of a college town. Report author Beth Lawton offered four tips from the experience of the papers:
Don't make the switch a surprise -- promote the change heavily.
Make the switch easy by simplifying the registration process and offering prompt help.
Automatically sign up current print subscribers so their access to the online site is effortless.
Promote the free content still available on the site. Most papers still offer blogs, online exclusives and photo/video galleries for free and some open their obituaries to free access.
Between the lines, however, stories of paid-content success show one consistent trend: Unique and compelling content. Local papers that are the primary journal of their town's life can sell the stories than no one else reports.

Who Tweets? -- Is Twitter for the young or the young at heart? Depends on whose report you read. Back in June, Sysomos released a study questioning the real popularity of the mini-blogging system. The report said less than 5% of Twitter users account for 75% of the activity, that there are more women than men on the system and that fewer than 7% of users have 100 or more followers. The report also said Twitter users are young -- 67% between 15 and 24 and that a quarter of all tweets are generated by commercial robots.

Sysomos analyzed more than 11.5 million Twitter accounts, including the index of user profiles and status updates.

The New York Times jumped on the age stats with a major story saying teens don't drive Twitter. The Times gave Twitter fans a kick in the shins by citing comScore data showing that just 11% of the miniblog's users were in the 12-17 age groups. It's those 35-plus tweet authors driving the phenomenon, The Times reported.
While comScore found that less than 20% of tweeters are under 17, trend analysis showed growth in that group is zooming up while use by the 35-plus segment is declining. Lipsman said the blush may have fade for Flickr business users who were early adopters. Now the culture of celebrity reigns.

The lesson is to look at more than raw numbers for growth. Good researchers parse the data many ways to get at the truth.

Mobile, really? -- Perhaps a more challenging Twitter issue for newspapers is whether the network can serve as a mobile phone system for issuing news alerts. It is also a more difficult statistic to dig out.

Earlier this year, Nielsen said Twitter had 735,500 unique visitors in January through mobile phone Web browsers During the last quarter of 2008, it had another 270,700 text message users a month. But the same report said Twitter had 7 million visitors from all sources in February. At a glance it appears that less than 15% of Twitter users tweet via cell phone. But none of those months match and there is no indication whether this is just for or includes all of the third-party apps.

The actual breakdown of computer and mobile Twitter users is probably buried somewhere in the massive data file that produce that comprehensive Sysomos report. I've asked the company for help digging it out. If the Nielsen statistics are even marginally accurate, newspapers that are counting on Twitter as an easy strategy for providing mobile news will need to rethink their plans. It would appear that Twitter is just another means of reaching readers tied to their laptops.

Climbing the ladder -- Another research organization released a more detailed look at social networking in the United States. Forrester Research first put Americans on the rungs of a hypothetical ladder that climbed from the online invisible to those friends of everyone. Forrester labeled people who don't use social networks at all "Inactives." Above them are "Spectators" who lurk on networks, read blogs and forums but never write. Joiners, on the next rung, at least post a profile on networks even if they don't say much. Collectors are satisfied with pulling sites into RSS feeds, voting in Web polls and tagging friends in photos. Critics are the folks with opinions on everything. They rate products online, comment on blogs and contribute to wikis. And finally at the top are the Creators. These are the folks who actually publish a blog or Web site and like to upload their own photos, videos and text.

Forrester's national survey found that nearly three quarters of Americans of all ages have climbed to at least that second rung. Nearly a quarter of us are Creators, out there publishing on the Web. Forrester concluded that nearly everyone under 35 is involved in some sort of online social network.

The fact that 24% of American adults do a version of our work in the name of fun is something journalists should keep in mind. But we should also note that those two most active groups are growing very slowly while the Joiner and Spectator activity, in Forrester's terms, "exploded."

Most people don't want to write with the intensity of a journalist. But they do like to browse the Web for information and to link themselves with networks that serve them well. Sounds like opportunity to me.

Super hyper
-- An incredible research project is awaiting some eager grad student in Seattle. In the wake of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's print demise, Fisher Communications has launched 43 hyper-local neighborhood Web sites. Fisher owns both KOMO TV and KOMO AM and the broadcast newsrooms anchor the neighborhood effort.Will Seattleites put down their Starbucks to click on the Fischer sites? The jury is out, as Seattle already has a host of alternative media and a remaining daily newspaper that has edged back into the black and is gaining circulation. Fischer bets that the hyper-local strategy is a winner -- and is already planning a similar launch in Portland this fall.

Video on the go
-- The tiny screen is becoming a very big draw for video fans in the U.S. A new Nielsen report shows that use of mobile phones to view video grew 70% in the second quarter of 2009. At the same time, online video jumped 46% to just under half the 141 minutes of TV the average American watches. The figures get a bit fuzzy when you consider that more than half of Americans with Internet access surf with their computers at the same time they are watching TV.

A second study by Knowledge Networks showed that 66% of people who have access to broadband in their home also have a mobile video device such as a cell phone, video iPod or laptop. Laptops still dominate, but use of iPods soared from 5% in 2006 to 23% in 2009. However, only 15% said they actually use their iPod to watch video. Video-enabled cell phones were owned by 10% of the respondents.

Videos are generally viewed at home with laptops, but only a third of iPod users and cell phone users are tied to home. For journalists, that may indicate a need to differentiate content and format for news aimed at viewers on the go and news to be consumed in the comfort of home.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Should newspapers be publicly financed?

U.S. bill seeks to rescue faltering newspapers

Tue Mar 24, 2009 3:05pm EDT

By Thomas Ferraro, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With many U.S. newspapers struggling to survive, a Democratic senator on Tuesday introduced a bill to help them by allowing newspaper companies to restructure as nonprofits with a variety of tax breaks.

"This may not be the optimal choice for some major newspapers or corporate media chains but it should be an option for many newspapers that are struggling to stay afloat," said Senator Benjamin Cardin.

A Cardin spokesman said the bill had yet to attract any co-sponsors, but had sparked plenty of interest within the media, which has seen plunging revenues and many journalist layoffs.

Cardin's Newspaper Revitalization Act would allow newspapers to operate as nonprofits for educational purposes under the U.S. tax code, giving them a similar status to public broadcasting companies.

Under this arrangement, newspapers would still be free to report on all issues, including political campaigns. But they would be prohibited from making political endorsements.

Advertising and subscription revenue would be tax exempt, and contributions to support news coverage or operations could be tax deductible.

Because newspaper profits have been falling in recent years, "no substantial loss of federal revenue" was expected under the legislation, Cardin's office said in a statement.

Cardin's office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations. His bill would also let a non-profit buy newspapers owned by a conglomerate.

"We are losing our newspaper industry," Cardin said. "The economy has caused an immediate problem, but the business model for newspapers, based on circulation and advertising revenue, is broken, and that is a real tragedy for communities across the nation and for our democracy.

Newspaper subscriptions and advertising have shrunk dramatically in the past few years as Americans have turned more and more to the Internet or television for information.

In recent months, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the Rocky Mountain News, the Baltimore Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle have ceased daily publication or announced that they may have to stop publishing.

In December the Tribune Company, which owns a number of newspapers including The Baltimore Sun, The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times filed for bankruptcy protection.

Two newspaper chains, Gannett Co Inc and Advance Publications, on Monday announced employee furloughs. It will be the second furlough this year at Gannett.

(Additional reporting by Chuck Abbott)

(Editing by David Storey)

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Newspaper Ads

Americans rely on newspaper advertising as essential shopping tool; When consumers read newspaper ads, they take action

From the Newspaper Association of Ameri

Arlington , Va. – Newspaper advertising remains the leading advertising medium cited by consumers in planning, shopping and making purchasing decisions, according to early data from a MORI Research survey of more than 3,000 adults. The findings, announced today by the Newspaper Association of America, provide conclusive evidence of the ongoing value newspaper ads deliver for marketers trying to reach consumers who are ready to shop and spend.

“Newspaper advertising remains the most powerful tool for advertisers who want to motivate consumers to take action,” said NAA President and CEO John Sturm. “While new technologies have their place in any total marketing program, initial findings from this important research demonstrate the enduring power of today’s newspaper ads. We’re looking forward to offering more comprehensive data on consumer motivation and the influence of newspaper advertising after a full analysis is completed in early fall.”

This study, part of a series entitled “American Consumer Insights,” examined the impact newspaper advertising has on consumer shopping and spending patterns. Early results indicate:

* Nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent) identify newspapers as the medium they use to help plan shopping or make purchase decisions
* 82 percent of those surveyed said they “took action” as a result of newspaper advertising, including:
o Clipping a coupon (61 percent)
o Buying something (50 percent)
o Visiting Web sites to learn more (33 percent)
o Trying something for the first time (27 percent)
* 73 percent of adults regularly or occasionally read newspaper inserts
* 82 percent have been spurred to action by a newspaper insert in the past month.

Preliminary data also reveals that other media trailed well behind newspapers as the primary medium for checking advertising. The closest competitor – the Internet – trailed newspapers by 20 percentage points (41 percent vs. 21 percent). Direct mail only mustered a 14 percent response in the survey, and television was cited by only eight percent of respondents. The numbers for other media trail off from that point (totals are displayed in the chart at the end of this release).

New NAA Ad Touts Newspapers’ Influence on Consumer Behavior

Putting its initial findings about the profound impact of newspaper advertising into practice, NAA separately released a new advertisement that describes engaged newspaper readers as “Action Figures.” The ads, produced by Allied Advertising, are available to NAA member newspapers and use early results of the research to highlight the ways newspaper advertising drives consumers to action.

“This ad stems from the fact that readers are not simply exposed to newspaper advertising – these ads resonate and consumers use them to take action,” said Randy Bennett, NAA’s senior vice president of business development. “There is a connection readers feel with newspaper advertising that no other medium can match.”

Primary Medium for Checking Advertising 2009
Newspapers 41%
Internet 21%
Ads received in the mail (Direct mail) 14%
Television 8%
Catalogs 6%
Magazines 3%
Radio 2%
None of these 5%

MORI Research conducted this phone and Internet survey of more than 3,000 adults for the Newspaper Association of America. MORI Research is a division of Frank N. Magid Associates, a leading research-based consulting firm serving an international clientele from offices in Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, and Marion, IA. Engagements range from tactical and operational issues to strategic direction and are informed by the perspective gained from broad and deep experience over the past 50 years in all sectors of the media, communications and entertainment industries.

NAA is a nonprofit organization representing newspaper industry and more than 2,000 newspapers in the U.S. and Canada. NAA members include daily newspapers, as well as non-dailies, other print publications and on-line products. Headquartered near Washington, D.C., in Arlington, Va., the Association focuses on the major issues that affect today’s newspaper industry: public policy/legal matters, advertising revenue growth and audience development across the medium’s broad portfolio of products and digital platforms.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Changes at Scripps Howard

Scripps Howard was a company that bet on afternoon papers. Many were in Joint Operating Agreements, and some, like the Cincinnati Post and Evansville Press, have closed.

Here's an interesting article on reshuffling for better economics within the company.

E.W. Scripps reorganizes newspaper management in effort to boost local news, ad sales

On Tuesday August 25, 2009, 7:55 pm EDT
CINCINNATI (AP) -- E.W. Scripps Co. is reshuffling the management overseeing its 13 daily newspapers in an effort to produce more unique stories on each community and boost the company's slumping ad sales.

Like many other publishers, Cincinnati-based Scripps has struggled to keep up advertising sales as readers rapidly shift online and the recession hurts advertising both on and off the Web. In the first half of the year, ad sales at Scripps' newspapers dropped 29 percent to $165 million. The severe slump contributed to Scripps' decision to close the print edition of the Rocky Mountain News in Denver six months ago.

Scripps also owns 10 local TV stations, including nine affiliated with ABC or NBC, besides daily newspapers such as the News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tenn., and the Ventura County Star in Southern California.

To streamline its newspaper management, Scripps said Tuesday that it has created an operating committee that includes two national posts to steer sales and content. There are also four other posts responsible for operations, finance, information technology and human resources.

Bruce Hartmann, the vice president and publisher of the News Sentinel, will become vice president of Scripps' print and interactive sales, starting Sept. 1. Rusty Coats, now the vice president of interactive operations for the company's newspaper unit, will become vice president of content and marketing on Sept. 1.

Frank Wolfe, Scripps' director of operations, will take on the role of vice president of operations for the newspaper unit. He will be responsible for production and circulation operations across the country.

Jim York, who is the head of information technology for the newspaper unit, will become vice president of IT.

Robin Davis, who is vice president of finance and administration, will remain in that post. Mary Minser, vice president of human resources for the newspaper unit, will retain her current role, as well.

Scripps also said Tuesday that it is sorting its newspapers into two categories.

The newspapers in Scripps' six biggest markets -- Memphis and Knoxville, Tenn.; Naples and Treasure Coast, Fla.; Ventura, Calif., and Corpus Christi, Texas -- will be treated as regional media organizations. The publishers of these papers will be on Scripps operating committee and report to senior vice president of newspapers Mark G. Contreras, while advertising and circulation sales directors will report to Hartmann.

Newspapers in Scripps' other markets, which include Evansville, Ind., and Redding, Calif., will be termed "mid-sized" media organizations. Their publishers will be in charge of local ad sales and report to Hartmann.

Shares of Scripps closed earlier up 34 cents, or 4.7 percent, at $7.63.