Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Why digital networks are ruling the world

For the last few years, the name Manuel Castells kept popping up in things I read about digital media, social networks, and mass communications. He is a Spanish sociologist who spent much of his career at UC Berkeley.

Recently I have been reading his "The Rise of the Network Society," the first of three volumes in a series "The Information Age." He wrote them two decades ago, but he seems to have predicted many of the trends we are living through now.

The free flow of money, information, and power through global networks means those networks, not nations, are the source of power, he wrote. Institutions, societies, and ethnic groups with rigid structures that cannot take advantage of these flows will be left behind.

He wrote a new preface for the 2010 edition, before the Arab Spring, before the Syrian civil war, before Brexit, before Trump. He pointed out that structural changes were taking place in society because large sections of the world's population were being exluded from the global networks that accumulate knowledge and wealth.

Highly educated elites from financial and technological centers were profiting from the flow of money and power, while the rest of the world was being left behind.

Email bulletins help news media beat the duopoly

We talk too much about the New York Times when the crisis of journalism is also about saving local news operations and digital entrepreneurs.

But the latest news about how the Times is using email newsletters can be applied to all news organizations. Digiday reported that the Times has 13 million subscribers to more than 50 email newsletters.

What this means is that the Times has a direct communications channel with its users in a walled garden that Facebook and Google, the giants of digital advertising revenue, cannot touch.

When users get an email and click on a link, they go right to the Times website and the newspaper's own advertisers.

It also means that the people who subscribe to the free newsletters by registering have a more intimate relationship with the publication.

Versión en español

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Slovakia is latest to prove subscription model online

Home page of Dennik N
Contrary to all the predictions about the public's unwillingness to pay for news when it is freely available online, more publishers of high-quality, in-depth reporting are making money.

The latest example comes from Slovakia, as recounted by Rob Sharp in Nieman Lab. The editors of a popular national newspaper there discovered that a news organization tainted by corruption accusations was about to buy a significant stake in their paper.

Versión en español

Anticipating restrictions on their work, the editor, Matus Kostolny, and a team of his lieutenants decided to start an independent online news publication, Dennik N.

As Sharp describes:

The outlet attracted €1 million of private investment and advanced subscriptions of around €300,000. They launched their daily website in January 2015, and a printed paper shortly afterward. Now, just over two years later, they are among the top five quality newspaper websites in Slovakia. In a country of 5.4 million people, the paper has 23,000 paying digital subscribers, the most nationally, and 110,000 registered readers.