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.