Posts about newnews

The yahoos and Yahoo

Today’s announcement of a big deal between Yahoo and a bunch of midlevel newspaper conglomerates has its benefits for both. But I can’t help but thinking that this is a meeting of old, old-media companies and the new, old-media company, Yahoo.

The benefits: The newspapers will get local functionality they need and new means of selling automated ads they don’t have and they will tame the beast they thought was a competitor. And Yahoo will get more content (can it ever get enough?).

But they’re both trying to maintain old businesses and old models.

Classified hasn’t just moved online; it’s dead as a category. Craig didn’t kill it. He was merely the first and smartest to see that the internet connects buyers and sellers directly. It massacres middlemen. And both newspapers and Yahoo still want to be middlemen. So the real challenge is to figure out how to enable transactions in new ways.

They talk a lot about content but in a linked world, the goal is not just to own more content but to create a new relationship to more of it: ‘We find the good stuff, wherever it is’ which used to be Yahoo’s goal and should be again — and must become the goal of newspapers as well.

They still operate on the media model of getting people to come into a centralized place and so the newspapers hope that people will go from Yahoo’s gathering point to theirs. Except everyone I know who has done a content deal with Yahoo finds that it is not terribly good at sending them traffic because Yahoo — like newspapers themselves — wants people to stay in its world.

Dean Singleton, one of the moguls in the deal and one of the smartest and toughest newspapermen alive, said this in The Times: “There has been a big question asked for a while as to how newspapers will navigate the online future. I think this is the answer to that question.” I sure hope he said more than that (and I’ll bet he did). For this is not the answer. Is it an answer? Maybe. Maybe not. The challenge is to find many answers and relying on a portal has proven to be an incomplete one. Ditto being a portal. The question is not, ‘How do we get enough stuff to get people to come to us?’ That is their old-media model. I think the question is, ‘How do we go to where the people are with what they need and how do we enable them to do what they want to do?’ That is what Google asks itself.

Dos and Dont’s of newspapering

The Independent asked a bunch of media machers about the future of newspapers and not much came out of it but these rather opposing viewpoints:

Gets it: Piers Morgan, former editor of the Daily Mirror and reality-TV star:

Every newspaper has a great future online. End of story. Within five years every newspaper will be free and they’ll all be online. And if they’re not, they should be. There will still be a presence in print but that will be for older readers and you will find that anybody under the age of 35 will only read newspapers online. It will be the newspapers who are the most dynamic online who win. Any newspaper editor or proprietor who believes they will escape this inevitable translation from newsprint to online will get buried. They are under a massive misapprehension. If newspapers do it right and invest now they will be successful and make lots of money. It’s not the death of the paper. It’s the morphing of the paper from a print version to online.

Doesn’t: John Humphrys, anchor of the Today show:

And sooner or later we will explode the blog myth. The idea that you can click on to a few dozen blogs and find out what’s going on in the world is nonsense. It’s fun but that’s all it is. …

But we’ve already exploded the myth of radio presenters’ wisdom.

So much for free speech

So the CBS Evening News With Katie Couric it cutting down its so-called Free Speech segments (and I’ll bet they’ll be dead altogether before long).

I recorded a Free Speech segment and I bet as I made it that it would never run. Reason: I talked about Dan Rather. I shot it the first week Couric was on the show. It’s now mid-November, so I think it’s now a sure thing that it won’t air. They said they were waiting for a peg. I think that peg was global cooling in hell. They also would not send me a copy of the segment to show my CUNY students (contrasting that with the version I made using the same script) because it would violate CBS policy. One is amazed that they apparently have a policy for everything.

Here’s what I was going to say on CBS but can still say here, thanks to the free speech of the blog. My 1:30 script:

The war is over. No, not that war. I mean the war between mainstream media and bloggers.
It never really was a fight – because we are on the same side. We all want the truth:
When bloggers called Dan Rather on errors in 2004, he dismissed them as partisan operatives. But when bloggers recently exposed faked photos from Beirut, Reuters thanked them.
So we are making progress.
Together, professional and amateur journalists can gather and share more news than ever. Bloggers just forced two senators to admit they were secretly blocking a reform bill. And bloggers goaded Dell and Apple into recalling burning batteries. Dell, which once ignored bloggers, now blogs itself.
See, it doesn’t hurt. Bloggers are just people talking. We are your viewers, your voters, your customers, your neighbors.
Now that we, the people, are armed with our own printing presses, old media have nothing to fear and everything to gain – so long as they’re wise enough to trust us.
Trust us to be smart; if you can’t, then what’s the point of democracy?
Listen to us and what we truly care about – and that’s not endless Jon Benet.
And let us share your best reporting: The networks should be fighting to get the most stories watched on YouTube – for those are the stories that are part of our conversation….
Just because newspapers and networks are shrinking, that doesn’t mean journalism must whither. No, we have to expand the definition of news and change the role of the journalist from oracle on the mountaintop to member of our community.
We’re in this together.

The CBS idea was doomed for a number of reasons. For one, they made much too much hooha about producing the segments; I wrote about that here, comparing the dozen or so people it took for them to produce this segment for the cutting-room floor vs. what it took for me to produce it in my den. For another reason, as Howie Kurtz reports, the rest of the CBS News structure was jealous of any seconds giving to outside voices. But most of all, it was controlling in the old media way. They had to approve what I was going to write about. They went back and forth on whether I could mention Rather. They were in control. That aint’ free speech.

For a better model — one that still doesn’t go far enough but at least heads farther in the right direction — see the BBC’s Newsnight, its major nightly news show, telling people to produce their own segments and send them in — or actually, just post them on YouTube or Blip or such and send in the link. That means that you don’t need the BBC to show your opinion; you’ll broadcast before they do. The editors will pick the best, in their judgment, and then the public will decide what makes it to air: The Survivor of News. They will get our more unvarnished, unproduced, uncontrolled voices. That’s closer to free speech.

Edit me

I’m on a panel for the American Academy of Arts & Sciences next month with Jill Abramson, John Carroll, Geneva Overholser, and Jon Klein, with Norm Pearlstine presiding. They’re having us write our spiels beforehand so continued on the jump is my attempt to boil this blog down to five minutes. Take a look and comment, please:

News is not shrinking, even if newspapers are.

We are faced with no end of new opportunities in journalism as our definitions of news explode and as interest in news expands. We have new ways to gather, share, and judge news from new sources across new media.

So it is time to end the editorial Eeyoreing and newsroom protectionism that has dominated this discussion to date and instead to focus on the many opportunities we have to update, upgrade, and expand the scope and reach of journalism in society.


The stewardship of journalism’s future

Now how’s that for a haughty headline? But it’s what I’ve been asking myself lately: Does journalism have the right protectors, builders, supporters, stewards? One has to wonder based on the news about news just in the last 48 hours:

The LA Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer get rid of their editors but bring in more editors like them. No offense to any of these editors, fine journalists, all, I’m sure. But if you want to change, don’t you want to bring in new people to do new things? That’s what Mark Potts wonders. That’s what I shrieked about here.

And then we have rich egotists trying to buy the LA Times or Tribune Company (not to mention the Boston Globe) and that’s all about rich boys’ toys and nothing about bringing in new ways to reinvent the news business. It merely staves off the inevitable… for a few weeks (witness Philadelphia and its layoffs). And then there’s Morgan Stanley pressuring the NY Times Company to change its management and stock structure.

I spent some of the last 24 hours at the FourSquare conference, which is filled with CEOs and moneymen in suits. Last year, there were lots of newspaper execs there. This year, fewer. It’s an off-the-record schoozefest so I won’t quote the moguls by name, but a couple of guys who run very big, very new companies, each barely a decade old, agreed that their organizations can’t invent from within. That’s why they’re buying companies from outside.

And so I thought about the newspaper business. If these new, successful, innovative, smart, large media companies can’t invent, how can we expect for a second that the existing newspaper industry can invent its future? It can’t. Full stop.

So the future of news gathering and sharing and vetting and investigating needs to be built on the outside. But is it? Not much is. (And I’m not referring to the ventures I’m involved with: Daylife and; consider them present companies excepted and see my disclosures here.) I don’t see enough development going on in new news efforts — enough to save journalism from the sinking news business. And that’s what’s troubling me. The old players are proving to be quite ineffective stewards — we knew that — but there aren’t enough new stewards joining the church.

I’m obnoxiously optimistic about the future of news: the definitions of it are exploding along with the new means to gather, share, judge it. I am confident that the public wants news; the society demands to be informed. I know there are no end of great opportunities. I’m just surprised that so few of them are being grasped. The old players can’t do it. We need more new players to take hold of the future of news — not just journalists but entrepreneurs and managers and investors and inventors. It’s there for the taking.