Thursday, 31 July 2008


On holiday until 8th August, 2008. Have a good one.

Here's a pic of me on the front page of this week's edition of the French magazine L'Express (I don't see why they didn't run this cover nationally, but there you are); an article within by me (which did appear nationally) pretending to be know something about Auvergnats.

For a tour of my local market today, and absolutely nothing to do with newspapers, the IHT or the NYT, visit:

International Herald Tribune


New York Times


Wednesday, 30 July 2008

The NYT and Women

No can criticise the NYT, and to a degree the IHT, for not giving senior roles to women. Janet Robinson being just the most obvious example, Alison Smale and Judy Dempsey at the IHT. On both the commercial and editorial front women are well represented, but neither the IHT nor the NYT has ever had a woman at the top on edit, and the IHT has only ever had male CEOs and publishers.

So this debate, reported by Media Bistro, is interesting:

Is Coverage of the Online Glass Ceiling Just Reinforcing It?
Lots of talk today about women and blogging, much of it kicked off by the NYT's
coverage of the annual BlogHer conference in San Francisco last week-end. The article was widely criticized by women in the blogosphere and many questioned whether the NYT was merely reinforcing the glass ceiling that BlogHer was set up to combat by running the piece in the Style section and by focusing on particularly feminine things like the bathroom setup, the lactation room, child care. Meanwhile, the Netroots gathering in Austin, which took place on the same week-end, received far more extensive coverage, and not just because Al Gore and Nancy Pelosi made appearances. Notes Jezebel's Megan Carpentier: "A cursory search of the Times' archives shows no less than 10 stories filed with the paper or its blogs during Netroots Nation...This weekend's story on BlogHer was the first the Times had filed about the event." Says Salon's Rebecca Traister,
The problem is not simply with the placement of one story, but with a newspaper that does not take "women's stories" — in this case one that could have also been about business, technology, politics or gender as a social, economic or professional impediment to success — seriously enough to give them other, more newsy space in its pages.
Another publisher who apparently isn't taking their online women's stories very seriously is Conde Nast. The Observer is
reporting that the publisher has a series of online "'girl'-illa blogs" that it does not seem terribly interested in promoting. And why would they when print is so profitable these days! In the meantime, and until everyone else catches up, there's always Jezebel.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

10 That Do It Right: E&P's Annual Salute to Innovators

IW: I wonder if the NYT or the IHT is going to feature in this top ten. The article below from E&P provides the first 3 winners, plus the general themes of the moment.

10 That Do It Right: E&P's Annual Salute to Innovators
By Mark Fitzgerald Published: July 28, 2008 9:52 AM ET

NEW YORK Our annual "10 That Do It Right" feature, now in its eighth year, has never been about the 10 best newspapers. It focuses instead on how some are performing in one particular aspect — from marketing to online video — that merits consideration and maybe even emulation by their peers. And, boy, do newspapers get that idea. This year for the first time we actively solicited nominations from papers themselves, and were delighted to find not the rambling "we do everything right" boasts we kind of expected, but thoughtfully prepared case studies of successes or noble experiments from the newsroom to the accountant's office to the carrier's vehicle. This is, of course, not a good year for bragging. Every newspaper that can point to this or that breakthrough has also suffered the indignities of the industry slump — the shrinking newsrooms, Draconian expense cuts, nosediving classified revenue, and so forth. Some variation of the comment "It's a great achievement in this economic climate" was appended to nearly every entry.

And while profit has always been as much the point of newspapers as journalism — think of the motto founder Hosea C. Paddock gave the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago more than 120 years ago: "To fear God, tell the truth and make money" — it's clearer than ever that growing revenue is what papers need to get right, even if they're not quite doing it right at the moment.

The final list of "10 That Do It Right" includes picks from papers who nominated themselves and others that emerged from E&P staff suggestions. They reflect the wide variety of areas on which individual newspapers are focused. And they range in size from the nation's biggest, USA Today, to relative squirts like The Daily Times in Ottawa, Ill. But first, here's a review of some of the newspapers that nominated themselves as one of "10 That Do It Right."

The nominations, please

Some three dozen papers were nominated, mostly by publishers or top editors but sometimes by employees with jobs that don't get anywhere near the masthead. An interesting for-instance came from Saul Friedman, who nominated Newsday and himself for "Act 2," the weekly section on retirement and elderly issues that carries his column "Gray Matters." Friedman wrote, "While other newspapers ignore or provide tokenism on issues facing the older population, Newsday and my column get down to the nitty-gritty of the so-called golden years." Bill Church, executive editor at the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., asserted that the paper had found "its niche by developing innovative multimedia approaches for Public Service Projects." Its two Best of Gannett winners probed the local angle on Japanese internment during World War II and environmental concerns in Oregon posed by "invasive species." There were recurrent themes, as follows.

Niche products

Don't interrupt newspapers to try to tell them print is dying — they're too busy spinning out more print products. The Sun in Baltimore made the argument that "b," its new and well-received youth-oriented daily tab, deserves a nod.
The Arizona Republic pointed to the 20 separate newspapers it publishes for Phoenix neighborhoods and suburbs anywhere from two to five times a week. Delivery to selected non-subscribers and rack distribution has pushed readership among non-subscribers as high as 20% in the Ahwatukee district, says John Leach, managing editor/news and digital media.
And special sections haven't fallen out of favor at many papers. The Bangor (Maine) Daily News now publishes an astonishing 90 special sections a year.

Pursuit of ad revenue

Some of the papers nominating themselves have previously been on the "10 That Do It Right" list. Two of them, The Bakersfield Californian and the Northwest Herald in far suburban Chicago, share another trait — a focus on raising ad revenue in fresh ways. The Californian is investing in research and database marketing to pump up its share of local advertising dollars. The Northwest Herald represented another theme within this theme — an emphasis on nuts-and-bolts selling. Like many papers, the Northwest Herald has tweaked its sales compensation to encourage risk-taking and reward it, especially in bringing in online revenue.

Craigslist was a frequent bugaboo.

One way The Denver Post, a "10" in 2006, and its Denver Newspaper Agency partner, the Rocky Mountain News, are protecting their garage-sale classified dominance is with first-class customer service and a bells-and-whistles Web presence for the many garage-sale junkies. For sheer doggedness, we admired the detailed nomination from Dave Mulvehill — an account executive in the major/national categories of The Record in Stockton, Calif. The rate card of the newly rechristened San Joaquin Media Group includes an impressive number of products and rates, from the core product to a bilingual newspaper and glossy vertical ad books. This list, Mulvehill writes, offers a great start in "assuring we are going to be here for hundreds more years," as they now "have many more products to develop and create as the information leader in our market."

Circulation growth

Newspapers boasting that what they are doing right is growing circulation constituted a far smaller crowd among the nominations. Still, there were some impressive achievements.The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., for instance, has increased circulation at least 5% a year for the last three years. It's up 20% weekdays and 19% Sundays since 2003. The reason, says Circulation Manager Pamela Coleman Denniston, is top-notch service with a complaint-per-thousand (CPT) under 1.0 and retention averaging about 75%.
The Dothan (Ala.) Eagle's circulation increase in the March Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) reporting period qualified it as the fourth-fastest growing daily in the United States (a step up from being fifth-fastest in the September 2007 period). At the same time, the Eagle grew its Web traffic 43% in 2007 — the best among its Media General Inc. community newspaper peers — and it expects to be up another 25% to 30% this year, says Publisher Jim Whittum.
By all rights, this shouldn't be a good year for circulation at The Daily Citizen in Dalton, Ga., a town whose lifeblood is carpet manufacturing — a hard sell in a housing slump. Yet the paper grew its daily circulation 6.3% and Sunday circ 2.2% in the most recent ABC report. It also publishes a weekly 10,000-free distribution Spanish-language paper and five free niche magazines.
More papers, of course, had stories like The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif. Its circulation fell for any number of reasons. The paper is in the very eye of the California housing collapse, and the newly spun-off owner A.H. Belo Corp. has committed to quickly ridding its papers of unprofitable and unwanted circulation.
But its "10" nomination noted that it had increased its overall print readership 5.5% to 825,000 during this period of slipping circulation. It was precisely the decision to cut distant and third-party circ that led to that boost, the paper argues: "The newspaper has created a more engaged readership, and in turn, this reader base is highly responsive for advertisers." Then there's The Dispatch of Moline, Ill., in the Quad Cities, which instituted a successful "DeliveringQC" retention program starting with coupons and gift certificates from local merchants.

Community outreach

Editors and publishers these days are acutely aware of the danger to their papers' credibility — and financial performance — of being regarded as the strangers in town. Several papers lauded their community forums, and efforts to open up their newsrooms. One of the papers best known for opening its workings to the public is the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash. Editor Steve Smith laments in his nomination that its Transparent Newsroom Initiative has "gained little traction" among his U.S. peers. "But we're huge in Europe," adds Smith, who's lectured on the paper's practices in Sweden, Norway, and the Ukraine.

And now, the first three of the 10 Terrific.

Check back here at E&P Online Tuesday for more.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, once employee-owned and now part of a publicly traded corporation, is not immune from industry woes — including staff losses in the newsroom. Late last year, 55 people exited the paper in a buyout program that included about two dozen journalists.
Yet the 218,000-circulation daily employs what is perhaps the largest team of investigative reporters for a paper its size. "When I was offered this job, they told me they were building a 10-person team, which sounded amazing in this climate," says Mark Katches, who as assistant managing editor/projects and investigations, heads up the newspaper's Watchdog Team. When Katches took the job in November 2006, the first person he recruited to the team from the newsroom was Dave Umhoefer — who went on to win the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for a series on how county employees were padding their pensions. "In these times, with the buyouts and people leaving, it just lifted the whole newsroom three feet off the ground," says VP/ Managing Editor George Stanley. It was the most visible payoff of the strategy adopted by Stanley and Senior VP/ Editor Marty Kaiser to extend beyond the paper's well- regarded explanatory journalism projects (the Journal Sentinel was a finalist for those kinds of stories in 2003 and again in 2006) into more aggressive investigative reporting. "Even though we have had to face the same sort of staff reductions everyone has to face, we thought, what's going to keep us going is the news and information they can't get anywhere else," Stanley says, "And we're the only people really in the state of Wisconsin that can give readers the good, in-depth investigative journalism that really gets to the bottom of things."
Kaiser got to know Katches, then the investigations editor for The Orange County Register, when they were judges for the Selden Ring journalism award. Attrition was shrinking the Register's investigative team just as the Journal Sentinel was planning to bulk up its own. But Katches did not create an elite team off by itself in the newsroom. Instead, the reporters maintain beats to stay tapped into sources, and they work constantly with reporters outside the group. And they don't lavish all their attention on projects with a capital "P," for journalistic and career survival reasons. "A lot of watchdog teams focus on a six-month project — but if you just do that type of story, you run a serious risk of swinging and missing," says Katches. "And if you swing and miss too often, when buyouts and layoffs are coming, people will look at that bloated watchdog team and say, 'Man, they swing and miss a lot.'"
So the team also tackles quick-hit investigative pieces. They blog. They write and post on consumer protection issues on Citizen Watchdog. They create databases — including a state salary search that is consistently among the most visited on The Watchdog team, though, works knowing that management has their back, Katches says: "It takes a lot of courage at the top, I think, to maintain a team of this size at a time when everybody's hurting."

Carlsbad (N.M.) Current-Argus

For all the advanced newsgathering, editing, printing, and packaging technology newspapers have implemented over the years, the actual task of getting the paper into readers' hands usually comes down to finding a guy with a valid driver's license and a car that's a half-step in class above a beater.
For most newspapers, finding that guy is a year-round job, because the unglamorous work of delivering inky papers before dawn for low pay is notorious for its turnover rate. With gas now heading north of $4 a gallon just about everywhere, finding reliable carriers has become even harder.
When Michael Tombs arrived as the new circulation director of the Carlsbad (N.M.) Current-Argus in August 2007, he found a familiar carrier situation. District managers were delivering seven of the 39 routes because carriers had quit, and another seven or eight routes were contracted to carriers who were regularly late with deliveries — when they showed up for work at all. Carrier turnover was as high as 20% a month, and complaints-per-thousand at the 7,000-circ daily averaged a way-above-industry- standard 4.59. Little Carlsbad, isolated in the corner of the state, has virtually no unemployment even now, thanks to a low-level nuclear waste facility and a boom in potash mining and oil drilling.
"Any idiot on the street could come in with a driver's license and an insurance card and get a route," Tombs says, "and it seemed that the whole town knew we were desperate and would take anybody."
Tombs set out to change the carrier force entirely, with a strategy that sounds as if it couldn't possibly work: recruit carriers who don't need the job.
As Tombs and other circulation managers went about their daily life in Carlsbad, they mentioned the carrier jobs to people with real jobs like bank tellers, receptionists, clergymen, and school principals — working people who could use the extra $500 to $700 a month they could pull in with a route.
"We didn't just wait to have the classified ad answered by a bunch of unemployed or unemployable people trying to feed a household on what they make in this route," Tombs says. Instead, the paper vets carrier candidates carefully, checking their credit history and even conducting interviews in their homes to see how they live. "These are people who tend to be driven by a specific financial goal rather than just needing the cash," he says. "They're just a better quality of worker who do what they say they're going to do."
The paper also eliminated the task of collecting, so the carriers know they won't have to spend Saturdays chasing late payers. Now, the Current-Argus carrier force includes a chiropractor, a bank loan officer, a teacher, and a correctional officer. And the paper is blunt with rejected candidates, Tombs adds: "We told them exactly why we wouldn't contract with them, as if to say, 'Go spread the word to the losers out there that Current-Argus paper routes aren't for you anymore.'"
With the new carriers, complaints-per-thousand averaged 1.29 from March through May. Perhaps more remarkably, turnover has essentially disappeared — even though, as fuel costs soar, the paper is offering most carriers no gas subsidy at all. "I've been in the business since 1995, and this is the lowest-paid group of carriers I've ever worked with," Tombs says. "But the routes make enough to help good people meet their financial needs, which is all you really need."

Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch

In their fervor to go local, local, local, and do it now, now, now, some metro dailies have confused longtime readers by suddenly banishing from the front page stories about Iraq or the presidential campaign, and replacing them with spreads about a controversy among parents at an elementary school or the heartwarming story of a stranger's kidney donation to a sick child.
But the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch has its own definition of local — and it can include the national and international news that the Internet has supposedly made nothing but a commodity. "We define local news as topics that people are talking about," says Times-Dispatch President and Publisher Thomas A. Silvestri. "So presidential politics can become local issues. Affordable housing is a classic case of a national issue becoming local. And we have so many troops from our state going to Iraq or Afghanistan, it becomes a local issue.
"That explains why, when the Times- Dispatch holds one of its "Public Square" community discussions, the topics can be immigration, the state of the James River, or the city of Richmond's proposal to win back a departed minor-league baseball team with a new ballpark located off the Interstate — as well as "celebrities gone wild." The newspaper has held 19 of these Public Square discussions since deciding in 2005 to position the paper as a community leader. In addition, the paper's editors and reporters have hosted eight News Roundtables to hear criticism, observations, and recommendations about its coverage. That's on top of the monthly Listening Tour, when Silvestri and other top executives and editors visit one of its 20 core communities to get to better know newsmakers and readers.
The payoff for the paper — in addition to the launching of a couple of niche products that were first suggested by Listening Tour audiences — has been increased goodwill, a better reputation, and more credibility among the community.
"You'd think, our being newspapers, that people would know we're involved in the community," says Silvestri, but the paper has learned there's no substitute for showing up. People have thanked him for holding Public Squares they didn't even attend in appreciation, Silvestri believes, of the paper listening to what ordinary people have to say.
"I've been amazed and so heartened by how the community has embraced this," he says. "Some of the most poignant observations are made by people who are self- acknowledged non-public speakers — but they have something to say.
"Newsmakers make headlines," he adds, "but the people in the community, they've got to have their voices heard, too."
Mark Fitzgerald ( is E&P's editor-at-large.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

The good old days of March 2008

IW: Just looking back before we look forward again, this from March 2008

U.S. newspaper ads suffered in '07Newspaper advertising revenue in the United States fell 7.9 percent in 2007, the second-worst year in more than half a century, according to the Newspaper Association of America.Those figures, released Friday, include continued growth in online advertising.Until last autumn, the industry appeared headed for a less severe decline. But as the U.S. economy slowed, newspapers suffered a particularly bad fourth quarter - the peak period for ad sales - with revenue down 10.3 percent from a year earlier.Revenue from ads in printed newspapers dropped 9.4 percent for the year, the biggest drop in any year since 1950, the period charted by the association.Internet ad revenue on newspaper sites rose 18.8 percent, a slowdown from the torrid pace of the previous three years, when it averaged 30 percent annual growth, according to the figures. Online ads accounted for just 7.5 percent of all newspaper ad revenue in 2007, evidence that it will be years before digital growth outweighs the print slump.

Farm Blogs

Leftover ad space? Exchanges handle the remnants

Joe Zawadzki's traders spend their days in front of two computer screens, feeding their systems with data and trying to perfect their trading algorithms.
But they are not analyzing stocks. They are analyzing advertising.
What they are measuring is activity on advertising exchanges, where companies bid to place their online ads on space provided by publishers. As advertising exchanges gain popularity — Yahoo, Google and Microsoft have all moved into this arena recently — Madison Avenue is borrowing tactics from Wall Street.
It is reminding some observers of what happened when technology came to the stock exchange, including the arrival of trading advisers like Zawadzki's firm, MediaMath, that are running numbers and promising to offer sophisticated financial instruments.
For now, Zawadzki is using the exchanges to buy and sell ads instantaneously as opportunities arise — a spot market, in Wall Street lingo — but he is working on more complex trading strategies.

"Right now it's more the in-the-moment, taking advantage of the spot market with aggressive bid management," said Zawadzki, whose firm is based in New York. "But we're certainly thinking about where that goes later in terms of secondary markets, derivatives, options, hedges, all the rest."
Big publishers try to sell Web site advertising space through their sales forces at high prices. Most cannot sell all their inventory, so they send the leftover, or "remnant," space to an ad network or to an ad exchange. These deliver an ad, but at lower prices than the publishers' sales forces fetch — usually around $1 per thousand impressions, versus the $20 and up that top sites' sales forces ask for.
Ad networks and ad exchanges are both in the business of selling remnant inventory, but they do it in slightly different ways. The networks, which function as middlemen, sell chunks of inventory through their sales forces, which can simplify the buying process for advertisers.
Exchanges, on the other hand, let advertisers buy ads directly, and place them one by one. Because there are usually lower fees, buying off exchanges tends to be cheaper — though more labor-intensive — than buying through networks.
In 2007, exchanges sold about 15 percent of the remnant inventory, and about 5 percent of online display advertising overall, according to ThinkPanmure, a research and financial services company. Most of the other 85 percent was sold through networks.
The major appeal of exchanges is that with some analysis, advertisers can buy ads one by one, and track the performance of each ad. This contrasts with ad networks, which roll up broad audiences for advertisers (often using the exchanges) through their own sales forces.
Ad exchanges have gotten a few big boosts lately. In 2007, three major portals announced they were buying exchanges. Yahoo bought the Right Media exchange for $650 million; Google announced it was buying DoubleClick in April, which had announced weeks earlier it was setting up what is now called the DoubleClick Advertising Exchange, for $3.1 billion; and Microsoft acquired the exchange AdECN.
Last month, the advertising holding company Publicis Groupe said it would start working with DoubleClick and Right Media's exchange to buy advertisements. The advertising companies Havas Digital and WPP have announced similar deals with Right Media in recent months.
But it is not so much the exchanges themselves that is interesting the advertising world — it is what can be done with them.
"The exchanges are just a platform to buy and sell media, but you have to layer the measurement and data on top, which could come from different areas: some agencies will build it, some agencies will partner," said Darren Herman, head of digital media at the Media Kitchen agency.
"We use the analogy of, anybody can trade on the financial markets, anyone can get an eTrade account, but it's how you're smart about how you use your eTrade account that determines how well you're going to do trading," Herman said.
With some Wall Street-like analysis, advertisers can find individual Web surfers, figure out how much to pay to show them an ad, and analyze how those ads have performed. Firms like Zawadzki's are analyzing which of those users might be attractive, then tracking whether people click on the ads they see. If an advertiser wanted to reach a very specific group — say, people in Atlanta who have already visited its home page — it might bid more to get that audience.
The growth of exchanges has a clear benefit to advertisers, allowing them to test multiple ads quickly with specific groups, potentially minimizing expensive campaign testing and focus-group work.

The exchanges may benefit publishers, at least short term. Most exchanges take a lower cut of ad sales than ad networks, the other option for unsold ad space, because exchanges have lower costs and no big sales forces.
And some exchanges offer additional leverage for publishers: on the exchange Adsdaq, publishers are able to set minimum prices for their inventories. (If a price is not met, the inventory is kicked to a second-choice network.) Two other exchanges, Traffiq and AdBidCentral, serve as rudimentary futures markets, letting publishers sell ad space several months in advance.
"Once there's a market place where you can buy and sell using your own technology, you can absolutely create financial instruments or media instruments," said Zachary Weinberg, the chief executive of Invite Media, a start- up in Philadelphia that is working on ad-exchange strategies. "I think what you'll see is traders come in, and they'll look to create derivatives on certain packages of media, and resell them to other guys. You'll see a whole marketplace develop because of this technology shift."
The auction-based pricing should, theoretically at least, set fair market prices.
"I think the exchange is really good at creating a market-based pricing dynamic," said Shar VanBoskirk, an analyst at Forrester Research. "They'll not necessarily guarantee higher pricing for the publisher if the publisher doesn't provide any value. So I think the exchange will work just like we see a stock exchange work, where the inventory that is of great value will definitely go up in price because of market demands for that inventory."
Long term, it may be a different story for publishers. If the exchanges grow, and advertisers figure out how to find their target audiences wherever they are on the Web — rather than going through a Web site focusing on motherhood or autos — they may not need to pay the high prices that publishers are asking for.
Of course, an exchange needs supply and demand to work, and the exchanges are not huge now. The largest exchange, Right Media, based in New York, says it handles about six billion transactions a day. This sounds large, but that six billion is the total number of transactions — that is, the number of interactions between the buyer and the seller — rather than the ad impressions it is serving, a much lower number. And MySpace alone showed an average of 1.7 billion ads a day just to United States viewers in April, according to comScore Ad Metrix.
"It's still very early in the development of these exchanges and marketplaces, but there's no doubt that they are here to stay and I think they will continue to get more influence in the marketplace and will continue to evolve," said William Morrison, an analyst with ThinkPanmure.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Publishing a newspaper, via cellphone

SAN FRANCISCO: The thud of the morning newspaper landing on the front porch may one day be replaced with the beep of download onto a cellphone.
Verve Wireless believes it can save the dying local newspaper in the United States by making it mobile. It offers publishers the technology to create Web sites for cellphones. The company, based in Encinitas, California, already provides mobile versions of 4,000 newspapers from 140 publishers, including Freedom Communications, McClatchy and The New York Times's Regional Media Group.
The Associated Press, its biggest customer, is betting that Verve has the solution to the nagging problem of dwindling print readership. It led a $3 million round of financing in Verve, a rare investment for the news organization.
People are increasingly using their phones to surf the Web. Of the 95 million mobile Internet subscribers in the United States, 40 million actively use their phones to go online, twice the number of two years ago, according to Nielsen Mobile. After portal sites and e-mail services, newspaper content - weather, news, politics, city guides, sports and entertainment - is most popular among mobile users.
Verve's chief executive, Art Howe, says he is convinced that people will always want local news and information - just not in the format of a print newspaper. But to be useful to readers, mobile versions of Web sites "cannot just be Internet lite," Howe warned. The AP recently released a popular iPhone application developed by Verve that lets users scan the day's headlines, send articles to friends and save articles to read later.

"Mobile is actually a better way to reach people than print or even Web. It's versatile, immediate, travels and is just as compelling," said Howe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter and former owner of 50 local papers.
The problem, said Verve's president, Tom Kenney, is that local papers do not have the resources, expertise or relationships with cellphone carriers to build mobile sites themselves. Verve does it for them, in exchange for a cut of ad revenue.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Rupert Murdoch: Merely Valuing the Valuable

This from Media Bistro:

Is a little Rupe optimism going too long a way? Over the last few months the chorus of commentary where Rupert Murdoch and the WSJ is concerned has frequently been a concession that things are not nearly as bad as people had assumed they would be (read: apocalyptic). Just last week, former WSJ head Paul Steiger said that thus far he has seen no evidence of the "bad Rupert showing up" at the paper. Well, not so fast! Jack Shafer says that Steiger is "playing stupid." Referring to a 2007 article by Portfolio's Felix Salmon, which described Rupe as valuing editorial independance when it's valuable, Shafer says that the WSJ is not "stink proof" and that its "editorial independence" is the paper's primary asset, as well as a way for Rupe to achieve wider political influence, be it on of the red or blue hue.
Speaking of optimism gone awry, remember those
95 little rays of reporter-hiring sunshine Robert Thomson mentioned in a memo a few weeks ago. Well, turns out things are a bit less sunny than everyone presumed. The Observer is reporting that all the hires will be to the Dow Jones news wires, not to mention, there is no set time limit in which they will be made.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Monday, 28 July 2008


A great piece on the weakening of Shiite militia's in Iraq.

Militias in Baghdad weakened, but waiting

But hot the heels of the American military expelling a freelance photographer from any U.S units because he dared to publish pictures of dead marines, given the difficulty and danger of moving around Sadr City, given the NYT's track-record of being manipulated by the Pentagon (J. Miller) and State, I have to admit that I take such pieces with a pinch of salt.

That just shows the fragility of the credibility brand element, as much as the piece purports to demonstrate the fragility of Shiite militias.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Reinventing a stodgy grey paper

I'm not holding this up as a model, and of course market conditions are very different. I am just pointing out that it can be done - turn around a declining audience publication into a mass seller, and on print:

Stodgy Communist youth organ evolves into raucous tabloid

MOSCOW: For decades, Komsomolskaya Pravda served up article after leaden article about Soviet officials meeting with other Soviet officials. Now, reinvented as a tabloid, the newspaper has a rowdier agenda - and a huge audience.
The paper's most-read article one recent day was a spat between a celebrity radio hostess and Kseniya Sobchak, Russia's answer to Paris Hilton.
In the newspaper's Moscow offices, a star correspondent was polishing an intrigue-filled opus on the death of the supermodel from Kazakhstan who jumped - or so the police said - from her balcony in Lower Manhattan, New York, last month. The editor in chief was lukewarm on the photo of the model in her prime: Was there one that bared a little more leg?
A 27-year-old crime reporter thought he might have a big scoop, the ultimate Russian tear-jerker: A World War II veteran said he had been robbed of his medals. Better yet, the old soldier claimed to have served with the father of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"We'll run, before the competition beats us," the reporter, Shamil Dzhemakulov, shouted to his anxious editor. "I have all the documents!"

The newspaper is part of a vibrant tabloid culture that illustrates the complex nature of Russian life under Putin. As long as they do not threaten the Kremlin or its closest friends, it seems, Russian papers can be as raucous as they like.
For papers like Komsomolskaya Pravda, which sells more copies than any other Russian newspaper, the country's recent rollback of press freedoms is largely beside the point.
Their investigative journalism tends toward exposés of incompetent police work, corrupt low-level officials and dirty train stations, everyday problems Russians care about. And their standard fare of scandal, entertainment and "news you can use" represents a normalization of sorts in a country that for years was too poor to develop a consumer culture and too caught up with political turmoil to dwell on celebrity gossip.
Founded in 1925 as the organ of the Komsomol, the Communist Party's youth movement, Komsomolskaya Pravda has kept only its name from the Soviet past. Now, its bread-and-butter themes would not be out of place in the tabloids of New York or London.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Sex and Celebs

I'm getting a bit fed up with the IHT following 'sex and celeb' stories under the guise of only reporting what Fleet Street are reporting, and using press and media commentary as the vehicle to get sex and celebs into their own pages without the stain of actually writing about it themselves.

Either be up front about it or drop this vein of news altogether - I'd prefer the latter.

I'm English and I haven't read a British newspaper for about 15 years, initially because I don't like the blending of news and opinion, news and news analysis, but more recently, their obsession with sex and celebrity culture.

I don't want to read about it, know about it, and every time it pops up in the IHT, which I read in part to avoid it, I regard it as an invasion and a waste of a limted news hole.

This piece below has some valid points about press privacy but the headline is extremely grating.

Scandal! Fleet street without sex!

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

International Voices on the Op-Ed pages

I've posted many times on the over-reliance on American columnists and opinion formers for contributions to the op-ed pages.

Here's an example of a piece I would like to have seen in last week's IHT.

Why was Paddy Ashdown writing for U.K newspaper and not the IHT?

Is budget the problem? Not enough money to commission pieces for the IHT, therefore use NYT contributors, who are invariably heavily weighted to American voices?

But as I've said before, are NYT readers best served by being served up mostly American opinion and perspectives?

Bosnia threatened with break-up
LONDON: Bosnia is closer to breaking up than at any time since its 1992-95 war and the European Union must do more to prevent its division, former international peace overseer Paddy Ashdown said.Ashdown said the Serb Republic, which together with the Muslim-Croat federation makes up the Bosnian state, had set up parallel institutions and was working towards secession."Radovan Karadzic is at last on his way to The Hague. But the division of Bosnia that was his dream is now more likely than at any time since he became a fugitive," Ashdown said in an article published by The Observer newspaper on Sunday.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Traditional Information Hierarchies

What I do at is to ignore traditional information hierarchies within the IHT, and try and find a daily narrative, tailored to my own interests. Which is what younger people, teenagers indeed, do every day online. And I don't expect to pay for the privilige.

And I am 42.

Young people "aren't as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn't go in a line," said Rand Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. "That's a good thing, because the world doesn't go in a line, and the world isn't organized into separate compartments or chapters."

Some other stuff that is also relevant to what I call 'information ebru' which I practise at

Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. Often, they argue, writers on the Internet employ a cryptic argot that vexes teachers and parents.
Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers. And many youths spend most of their time on the Internet playing games or sending messages, activities that involve minimal reading at best.
Web proponents believe that strong readers on the Web may eventually surpass those who rely on books. Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book.
"It takes a long time to read a 400-page book," said Spiro. "In a tenth of the time," he said, the Internet allows a reader to "cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view."

Some traditionalists warn that digital reading is the intellectual equivalent of empty calories. Often, they argue, writers on the Internet employ a cryptic argot that vexes teachers and parents.
Zigzagging through a cornucopia of words, pictures, video and sounds, they say, distracts more than strengthens readers. And many youths spend most of their time on the Internet playing games or sending messages, activities that involve minimal reading at best.
Web proponents believe that strong readers on the Web may eventually surpass those who rely on books. Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book.
"It takes a long time to read a 400-page book," said Spiro. "In a tenth of the time," he said, the Internet allows a reader to "cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view."
Web readers are persistently weak at judging whether information is trustworthy. In one study, Donald Leu, who researches literacy and technology at the University of Connecticut, asked 48 students to look at a spoof Web site, at, about a mythical species known as the "Pacific Northwest tree octopus." Nearly 90 percent of them missed the joke and deemed the site a reliable source.

So if you have brand trust, but mix up the mix outside traditional newspaper information hierarchies who says that the NYT can't be a major destination for young people, and who says they won't read a newspaper? (Especially if you throw in some brand status - see earlier recent posts on this.)

And while we're on the subject of traditional information hierarchies, why is it that the NYT and the IHT present ONE internet face to readers of ALL ages. Does that really make sense?

Isn't it time for Newspaper 2.0?

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Experts on reading wonder: Is the Internet friend or foe?

The previous post was about whether young people will pay for certain types of information.

This one is about how they read.

Experts on reading wonder: Is the Internet friend or foe?
BEREA, Ohio: Books are not Nadia Konyk's thing. Her mother, hoping to entice her, brings them home from the library, but Nadia rarely shows interest.Instead, like so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer in this suburb southwest of Cleveland.Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses, a social networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on or, reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies.Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A's and B's at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Konyk said, "I'm just pleased that she reads something anymore."Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age. The discussion is playing out among education policymakers and reading experts around the world, and within groups like the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Anyone think there's a future in paid content?

The received wisdom is that newspapers will save themselves via the Internet and other platforms.

But that's going to have to revolve around getting advertising CPMs up, because the idea of future generations paying for general interest content seems a poor one to rely on, given how there is already a perception that Internet = Free.

Combine that with a new moral compass on copyright among the young, and a willingess to rip even highly specialised content (once considered the saviour for the paid content model), well, then it's back to the drawing board on paid conent models.

Witness this little peach (which as an author I feel super about, but understand):

First it was song downloads. Now it's Organic Chemistry.

After scanning his textbooks and making them available to anyone to download free, a contributor at the file-sharing site composed a colorful message for "all publishers" of college textbooks, warning them that "myself and all other students are tired of getting" ripped off. (The contributor's message included many ripe expletives, but hey, this is a family newspaper.) All forms of print publishing must contend with the digital transition, but college textbook publishing has a particularly nasty problem on its hands. College students may be the angriest group of captive customers to be found anywhere. Consider the cost of a legitimate copy of one of the textbooks listed at the Pirate Bay, John McMurry's "Organic Chemistry." A new copy has a list price of $209.95; discounted, it's about $150; used copies run $110 and up. To many students, those prices are outrageous, set by profit-engorged corporations (and assisted by callous professors, who choose which texts are required). Helping themselves to gratis pirated copies may seem natural, especially when hard drives are loaded with lots of other products picked up free.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Just to keep in mind: readers=fans

As someone who writes a blog (part of a social network) about the IHT (not, but possibly, a luxury brand for younger people), this caught my eye:

Luxury brands discover social networks

PARIS: 'I love Cartier," writes Rockstar Mom. "Thanks for being so classic and timeless," adds Emily. Sting just gazes out broodingly from his publicity photo.
On MySpace, Cartier has many friends like these - 3,761 of them, to be precise. Some of them are famous, others less so, but the jeweler is counting on them to spread the vibe through the social network and beyond.
Cartier's presence on MySpace is the product of a recent agreement that makes it one of the first luxury brands to market itself in a big way on a mainstream social network.
The MySpace profile was set up to advertise jewelry in Cartier's Love collection. But visitors can also sample music from artists like Lou Reed and Grand National, including several songs around the theme of love that were composed for Cartier. They can watch film clips with a romantic story line. And, of course, they can click on any of those friends' pictures to visit their profiles.
The possibility of blending entertainment and marketing and spreading it through chain letter-style links has gotten many marketers excited about social networking. But luxury brands, worried about the company they keep, have been reluctant to get involved with the likes of MySpace or Facebook. Cartier took the risk, said Corinne Delattre, its director of communications, because it saw a "different way to talk to a young audience."

"To work in the luxury environment, it means being a step in advance sometimes," she said. "We work with people moving fast. They use technology. They are ahead in their way of life."
Actually, many luxury brands have been slow to move to the Internet more generally, let alone freewheeling frontiers like social networking. Some brand owners have spent years battling eBay, the online auction site, contending that it does too little to curb sales of fakes. Others have clashed with Google over its advertising system, which has allowed rival marketers to snatch away their trademarks as search keywords.
A number of fashion and luxury companies have advertised on ASmallWorld, an invitation-only social network aimed at wealthy consumers. Now some of them are getting their first exposure to mainstream, mass-market social networks. Some have "fan pages" on Facebook, which allow people to post videos of themselves wearing their favorite designers' fashions, for example.
But practically anyone can set up a page on Facebook, at no cost, which demonstrates two of the biggest problems with social networking as an advertising medium. One, for the advertiser, is a lack of control over the process; the other, for the network owner, is the lack of money changing hands - if "fans" of a luxury brand voluntarily tell their friends about it, why should the brand owner spend any money to do so?
Though ad spending on MySpace has trailed expectations, the company, part of News Corp., thinks it has solved some of the problem, with the Cartier campaign serving as a model. MySpace requires big marketers who want to create profiles to pay for the space, though it declined to say how much Cartier was being charged for its yearlong campaign.
In return, MySpace takes steps to drive traffic to advertisers' profiles and to ensure that the material that appears on them "respects the brand's objectives," as Damien Vincent, head of sales at MySpace France, put it. In the case of Cartier, that means weeding out some would-be friends. Candidates whose photos show them guzzling a beer at a party, for instance, are unlikely to make the cut, Vincent said.
MySpace is eager to show that its audience extends beyond teenagers looking to kill time after school. Eighty-five percent of American users are over 18, it says. "I think there's a huge potential market for luxury advertisers," said Jamie Kantrowitz, senior vice president of content and marketing at MySpace International.
Ben Hourahine, futures editor at the London branch of the ad agency Leo Burnett, said the use of social networks was appropriate at a time when consumer attitudes about luxury were changing. In a recent survey of U.S. consumers by the agency, only 7 percent said they thought "luxury" meant being part of an exclusive club.
"Luxury brands in the past had this unattainable aspect to them," he said. "Now they realize they need to connect and communicate with people."

International Herald Tribune
New York Times

Sunday, 27 July 2008

If the solution is the Internet, where are the readers?

China says Web use surpasses that in U.S.
SHANGHAI: China said the number of Internet users in the country reached about 253 million last month, helping China overtake the United States as the world's biggest Internet market.The estimate, released by the China Internet Network Information Center in Beijing, shows a powerful surge in Internet adoption in this country over the past few years, particularly among teenagers.The estimate, based on a national survey, shows that the number of Internet users jumped more than 50 percent, or by about 90 million, during the past year, suggesting that China could soon have more than 300 million people using the Internet for everything from news to online shopping.

By contrast, the United States is estimated to have about 220 million Internet users, or about 70 percent of its population, according to the Nielsen Company, with similarly high percentages in Japan and South Korea.

International Herald Tribune
New York Times