Posts from April 14, 2005

Oggle

Oggle

: Google’s video beta is up. I just uploaded a video to see how it works. You can charge for people to see your video. The program is only accepting videos now; displaying them comes later; they don’t say when.

Blogging Dr. Kissinger

Blogging Dr. Kissinger

: I was blogging Henry Kissinger and Ambassador Dennis Ross at The Week‘s latest salon. Two seat down was Abe Rosenthal and Dr. Kissinger just came over and tossled Rosenthal’s hair. Across the table was Geraldo Rivera: journalistic matter met journalistic antimatter. In close quarters were ambassadors from Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine. And over there are Mickey Dolenz, Daniel Day Lewis, Christopher Walkin, Skitch Henderson, Robert Vaughn and next to him, Tony Danza. Always a surprise at these things

: The topic: Middle-East peace. The notes are merely tidbits typed as they pass. Nothing new came out at the lunch. Nothing new ever comes out on this topic, eh? But I was there and blogged it, so click more if you want more…

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Bush and the ‘off’ button

Bush and the ‘off’ button

: At the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Bush spoke and Scott Anderson of the Chicago Tribune asked him about efforts to extend indecency legislation to cable and satellite. Bush didn’t hear the complete question and so it’s unclear whether he’s talking about regulation or merely personal standards. But he does repeat that the first and best defense against something you don’t like is the ‘off’ button.

Q There are those who would like to place on satellite and cable some

decency standards.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I’m for that. I think there ought to be a standard. On

the other hand, I fully understand that the final edit, or the final

decision is a parent turning off the TV. I mean, the ultimate responsibility

in a consumer-driven economy is for people to say I’m not going to watch it,

and turn the knob off. That’s how best to make decisions and how best to

send influences. But I don’t mind standards being set out for people to

adjudge the content of a show, to help parents make right decisions.

Government ought to help parents, not hinder parents in sending good

messages to their children.

But, look, I mean, we’re a free society. The marketplace makes decisions. If

you don’t like something, don’t watch it. And, presumably, advertising

dollars will wither and the show will go off the air. But I have no problems

with standards being set to help parents make good decisions.

: UPDATE: The White House backpedals on behalf of its man:

A White House spokesman said later Bush was merely expressing support for legislation that passed the House of Representatives last year that called for increasing fines on broadcasters that violated decency limits but did not address cable and satellite television.

Hear it, read it

Hear it, read it

: Audible just put up a free download of Murdoch’s speech here. And Ad Age finally put up Bob Garfield’s media chaos piece here.

A new model for LOCAL NEWSpapers

A new model for LOCAL NEWSpapers

: Try this on for size:

Imagine a newspaper that is only local news — no sports, no business, little or no entertainment, and commodity national and international news treated as the I-saw-that-already commodity it is: only local news.

Why? Because we need to seriously consider new business models for journalism. See Murdoch’s speech yesterday. See Merrill Brown’s Carnegie report. See a hundred posts about media here. And see the two posts directly below about editors not even noticing the revenue that supports their enterprises disappearing and about putting out one-size-fits all products. We need to stimulate radical discussion of radical new views to rethink this business before it’s rethought without us. This is just one example, an exercise that leads to a point:

As I said in the post below, by my recollection, some readership studies say that only about 20 percent of newspaper readers read sports sections … and those pages get unimpressive ad revenue aside from tire ads … and they add tremendous cost to editorial budgets … and there are new competitors on TV and especially online that are more current, more animated, more complete, more conversational than a piece of paper can ever be.

In the old, one-size-fits-all view of news, you had to have a sports section to vacuum up as large an audience as you could to sell that mass audience to your advertisers, including classified advertisers. But now classified advertisers are finding less expensive ways of transacting their business online. And retail advertisers are finding new ways to target efficiently online. So one-size-fits-all is not a model for growth, to put it gently.

So let’s start by killing the sports section and eliminating all the cost that goes with it. OK, so some portion of those readers will leave but I’ll bet that at the end of the day, the paper will be more profitable and will be able to devote more resources to local news.

Let’s keep going: Business sections aren’t really local. Stock tables cost a fortune in paper to publish and most of America is now online and can get more current information there with targeted advice and functionality a piece of paper can’t deliver. One newspaper down the road eliminated its stock tables and found little ill effect on circulation while saving a fortune in paper. You could argue that you still need business news and if it’s really useful local news, ok. But as for the national biz news, the audience can find more of it online. So don’t bother. Kill the business section and you’ll eliminate cost — editorial and paper — and not reduce the audience or advertising base much.

Next: entertainment. OK, you want local listings, you say. But those are really better handled online as well: They are searchable and up-to-the-minute and are not limited by space on paper. You want movie reviews? OK, but do you really have to have your own reviewer in every town in America? Why not buy a syndicated reviewer for much less? Or push people to online for entertainment reviews and listings. TV listings? I haven’t used them in print in years (and I used to write for TV Guide); I use the cable (or occasionally online). So get rid of them. You can save a good deal of editorial and paper cost.

Now to lifestyle news: Outside of certain cities, there isn’t much that’s truly local about food. Chicken still tastes like chicken. And you do want to support grocery advertising, but that’s fluid. So syndicate the content you need to support the advertising and move on.

How about national and international news? Well, that’s a commodity. People already know it from the internet and cable news and sending the 15,001st reporter to the political conventions instead of just picking up wire stories really doesn’t add much or justify the expense or ego involved. So let the AP give you an already-edited digest of national and international news, if you want. Or if you’re Gannett, produce it all on one desk in Washington. Then get rid of the wire desks and save more money.

Editorials? If you own your bully pulpit, you’ll want to use it. A blogger should understand that! But then go get the opinions of your neighbors from what they’re already writing and quote it in the paper if you want — and get rid of the columnists. That’d save money and aggravation.

And what are you left with in this exercise? You are left with your core value: local news. That’s not a commodity. That’s a uniqe value. And that’s the point.

So now take some of your savings — net savings after, yes, you do lose some sports fans and elderly mutual-fund owners — and plow it into reporting. But find new and efficient ways to get more local news: Harness the power of your public and get news and information from new sources that you help support with information, promotion, training, trust, and most of all revenue. Pay the person who covers the school board if the audience agrees it’s valuable. Become the meeting place , as Hugh McLeod says, for everything local, all the news that matters to you — and the conversation about it. Become a better local news operation than you’ve ever been with more news and more reporting and more engagement from the public you serve.

I’d argue that you could cut all that stuff out of the old, one-size-fits-all paper and even raise your price because it would be unique and valuable.

Then you could ask the next question: Do you still want to print it on paper? For now, yes, because advertisers are slow to adapt and so there’s still more money in print. But the public is not slow to adapt, so you must adapt to them and give them this valuable local news where, how, and when they want it; don’t be limited by the press and its schedule.

So you become the great aggregator and distributor — and, yes, editor — of local news that is necessary to the community.

That’s just one model, for argument’s sake — and I look forward to hearing your arguments about it. We’re seeing others with Dan Gillmor’s new effort to support independent journalism, with Backfence, with others that are bubbling up out there. I have no idea what will work and what won’t. No idea. But I do know that we need to consider new models and try them and invest in them or else someone else will: What Craig Newmark did to classifieds — and the newspaper business, in turn — others will do to the rest of news. This isn’t just about newspapers; TV news has already undergone the beginning of a restructuring (see FoxNews v. CNN) but that isn’t over yet, not by a long shot: See Bob Garfield’s piece, which I mention again because it’s now online. This is what I meant the other day when I replied to Jay Rosen’s post firing me from panels to hear new people who are actually doing it: Exactly right. There are new models bubbling up everywhere and now is the time to find some to embrace.

: LATER: Terry Teachout takes this and Murdoch’s speech and has advice for artists who used to depend on media for exposure: He tells them to start their own.

Sports and the one-size-fits-all society

Sports and the one-size-fits-all society

: I don’t like sports. I don’t play them because I’m too damned clumsy. I don’t watch them because I just don’t care and as un-American as it may be, I think baseball is b-o-r-i-n-g. (Insert show-tunes jokes here.)

So why should I have to subsidize sports fans in the rest of society? And why doesn’t society subsidize my hobbies? Or my business?

In newspapers, according to studies I once read (but can’t Google now), about 20 percent of a newspaper’s audience reads sports. And sports sections get little advertising, apart from tire ads. Yet a large proportion of the editorial and paper budget of a paper goes to sports and in these days of declining revenues, that’s an important consideration. (More on that in a bit.)

On cable TV, I have to pay for lots of sports channels I never watch. Why should I? Maybe everybody else should help pay for my broadband internet bill, huh?

In New Jersey, the state just agreed to build a new $750 million stadium to keep the Giants — a profitable, independent business, last I checked — with considerable taxpayer support. But very few taxpayers will ever get to see a game at that stadium; hell, season tickets are only inherited.

In my town, the city elders — an all-Republican team that spends our money like drunken Democrats — levied “open-space” taxes that they regularly waste buying property next to the interstate (gee, let’s go have a picnic down by the truck fumes) and near politicians’ homes (hmmm). They recently bought very nice farmland by a busy road. But did they leave this as open space? No, they constructed hugely expensive baseball and soccer fields with gigantic lights that belong on a Nascar track. And those facilities will be used by a small proportion of the population. Yet the entire town pays for them.

On a teen’s blog in my town, a kid asked why the town doesn’t build a movie theater because lots of teens would like to do that? I agree: If you can build a baseball diamond with our dollars, why not build a video game center where our kids could go and hang out with friends and supervision? There is one such place in our town and it’s a private business. But why shouldn’t it get taxpayer support the way the Giants do? This, too, is about citizens having fun, isn’t it?

When did it become assumed that sweat was entitled to support from the rest of us? Well, I think it’s a view of a one-size-fits-all society that is becoming obsolete. Media used to be one-size-fits-all: If enough people read sports, we’ll include it in the paper; if enough play it, we’ll build the fields; if enough watch it, we’ll build the stadiums. But in media, one-size-fits-all is dying. Isn’t it time for that view to die in the rest of society?

Just asking.

1. Find sand. 2. Dig hole. 3. Insert head

1. Find sand. 2. Dig hole. 3. Insert head

: Tim Porter reports a chilling moment from the American Society of Newspaper Editors meeting in Washington. In the one hour devoted to the future of newspapers (well, apart from Rupert’s future-shock-therapy):

One of the most telling moments of the hour occurred just as the meeting opened when Nachison and Peskin put a slide up of Craig Newmark and asked how many people in the room of several hundred recognized him or his name. Only a smattering of hands rose. A few more hands went up at the mention of Craigslist and its free classifieds.

Nachison reminded the editors that the competition of Craigslist didnít grow out of a business model, but arose more spontaneously from Newmarkís desire to create a community of trust ñ the same trust newspapers are struggling to regain.

Newmark ìdoesnít seem himself as competition,î said Nachison. ìHe started to build trust and to build community. He doesnít see himself as competing against newspapers.î

It’s doubly frightening that these journalists aren’t journalistically curious about the phenomenon of Craigs List and its impact on their communities and that they aren’t vitally interested in its impact on their businesses.

: Andrew Nachison, who with the Media Center is one of the people who is really pushing newspapers to think about the future, adds in the comments:

The bigger point was trust – and that there’s someone “out there” who has built a business at the expense of newspapers not by trying to compete *against* anyone, but by trying to help others.

The business followed Craig’s authentic devotion to helping people find each other in a trusted environment.

We contrasted this with the recent Carnegie Corporation survey data that found just 4 percent of Americans age 18-34 trust newspapers.

My message to editors is not that they need to fully appreciate every nuance of how their traditional business is crumbling. It’s that they need to appreciate how people’s lives and their relationships to media in all forms are changing, and that trust isn’t a slogan, it’s earned.

Journalists who seek to build a trust relationship with ordinary people need to pay attention to ordinary people and how they live their lives. The imperative is not to save the ship, save the business – it’s to serve society, create a better world. Seriously. Trust, and the business, will follow.

Don’t worry about competing against Craig. Think of something else, something new. Be the next Craig.