Posts about newnews

A newspaper resurrection

The world’s oldest still-published newspaper, Sweden’s Post- och Inrikes Tidningar, founded in 1645, is going out of print today. But it’s not dying. It’s moving to the web. Before we read too much into this for the fate of newspapers around the world, note that this was a paper carrying official announcements, bankruptcies, and such. It’s not the Aftonbladet.

In various year-end prognostications, some have been predicting that a major paper will cease publication and shift to the internet this year: see Scott Karp and Wired. Howard Owens disagrees and so do I. It will come, but not yet, for there is still profit to be made in print and sluggish advertisers still aren’t ready to support the new medium — even if that’s where their customers are — and shut-down costs remain high. I think that within, say, five years, we could see a paper make a strategic move entirely online. But if such a shift comes in the meantime, I think it will be the result of bankruptcy, not strategy: Just as some magazines have folded but supposedly lived on online, so will we see this as a last-ditch effort to keep a brand and business alive.

What’s more likely, I think, is that someone will come along and start a new news business online, backed by venture or mogul money, that competes with and perhaps even kills an old-style publication with far lower costs and greater efficiency and — thanks to networked journalism — greater reach of coverage. In short: local Googles. I think we’re focusing too much on the old entities of an industry and not enough on the industry as a whole: The big, old companies failed to own the new world online; they were passed by new ventures. I expect to see new news ventures starting.

[Disclosure: Though I’m involved in a new news venture, Daylife, but I’m not including it in this prognostication; I’m talking about new, local reporting and news-gathering-and-sharing enterprises.]

: See also Lucas Grindley and Owens having a good argument in the comments here.

: See also David Carr sittin’ round the ol’ cracker barrel today reminiscin’ about the good ol’ days when everybody started the day readin’ newspapers.

As I sat at the kitchen table, I marveled at the low price of a newspaper that had once preoccupied the conversation around my dinner table. Then I looked at the four papers on the table and the empty chairs that surrounded them. Before my second cup of coffee, the rest of my household had already started the day in a way that had nothing to do with the paper artifacts in front of me. Maybe I was the greater fool.

Kinda sad, eh?

News innovation

Just catching up with a report, via Editors Weblog, on a meeting of Dutch and Flemish media execs sharing projects on innovation in news. The reports themselves are mostly in Dutch but the summary reveals some interesting work, including:

* An experiment called Farcast using dolled-up mobile phones for reporting, grabbing audio, photos, and text with GPS attached, working through a dedicated server to publish the news. The meetingn presentation says tThe Dutch news agency dispatched 15 units for four months with 25 users who ended up sending in 500 posts. It was up to four hours faster than traditional channels. Obviously, this doesn’t replace those channels — that is, the typed report. But to be able to get instant multimedia reports up without hassle could be very powerful.

* Another hardware experiment with a dolled-up laptop for news-gathering.

* A local networked journalism product called Hasseltlokaal using what they called many-to-many publishing. Has 20 local reporters between 17 and 70 filing 4-5 articles a day. Sounds like a local Netzeitung Readers-Edition.

* Another model of connecting the people formerly known as readers to ask and answer each others’ questions.

* A free youth paper/site called SP!TS. The kids like the name.

* An e-paper gadget.

Not all of it will work. But this is the sort of innovation we need in news.

Chief inventor

I will confess that when I saw a new title for a newspaper exec, I got loaded the snark gun. But then I fired it at myself. The Chicago Tribune has just appointed an associate managing editor for innovation. And I’ve been arguing that innovation is just what newspapers and the news industry need most. The press release said Bill Adee “will help shape editorial Internet initiatives, prepare the newsroom for an increasingly digital future and spearhead the newspaper’s efforts to produce quality journalism online. . . . Adee will oversee a restructured editorial department merging the multi-media staff and the 24-hour continuous news desk and supervise all online news and feature operations.” I wish him success.

The exploded newsroom

The Washington Post writes today about Gannett’s exploded newsroom in Ft. Myers. I spoke at length with a Gannett exec and will be writing about that when I speak to some more folks.

Another newspaper prognostication

Michael Hirschorn has a good column in The Atlantic on one of my favorite subjects — Whither newspapers? — singing harmony with much of what I say here.

Meanwhile, top reporters and columnists at major newspapers are realizing (or will realize soon) that their fates are not necessarily tied to those of their employers. As portals and search engines and blogs increasingly allow readers to consume media without context or much branding, writers like Thomas Friedman will increasingly wonder what is the benefit of working for a newspaper–especially when the newspaper is burying his article behind a subscriber wall. It will require only a slight shift in the economic model for the Friedmans of the world to realize that they don’t need the newspapers they work for; that they can go off and blog on their own, or form United Artists-like cooperatives to financially support their independent efforts. . . .

Not only do you allow your reporters to blog; you make them the hubs of their own social networks, the maestros of their own wikis, the masters of their own many-to-many realms. . . .

But he comes around to an optimistic ending for print.