Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Archives have great potential for traffic, debate, manipulation

A news story from the 2005 archives in which a psychology professor called homosexuality a disease recently rocketed to the top of the most-read list of El Pais, one of Spain's leading newspapers.

The strange incident demonstrated several things: what you produce on the Internet never goes away; in social networks the readers, not the editors, choose what's interesting; ruthless political operatives can manipulate these popularity measures for their own use; and newspapers themselves should more actively control and promote archived stories.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Reloading an old business model for new media

Veteran journalist Tom Stites writes on the Nieman Blog that new digital media might be overlooking a venerable method of sustaining themselves -- the cooperative.

The cooperative is defined as a business organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit. Today we might call it crowd-funding.

When the market fails

Stites says that people form cooperatives when the normal for-profit market forces fail to supply a service or product that their community needs.

There are many examples of user-owned news cooperatives in other countries but none in the U.S.
Stites is trying to launch one here.

Stites reviews recent studies of attempts to establish sustainable business models and concludes that many of the media currently held up as models depend too much on foundation support, which rarely is maintained over the long haul. In addition many of these operations depend on volunteer work, and volunteers burn out. There is thus an urgency to find a new model.

A hybrid model for local news

What is appealing about the cooperative model is that there are many news organizations already functioning. They can be replicated. They mix characteristics of for-profit and non-profit businesses and they can be tailored to the needs of the local community.

More than any other type of news, local community coverage has suffered in the recent downturn of the news industry. The co-op might help give it life again.

Robert Niles: How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online
How much to charge advertisers? As much as possible
More paywalls won't save journalists' jobs
Google takes magic out of advertising sales process
How I ran my newspaper monopoly
Language barrier helps publisher paywalls
How to tailor news for 4 different platforms? 'Responsive design' 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In hyper-connected world, you have to be everywhere

Versión en español aquí.

At 3:34 a.m. on Feb. 27, something shook Leo Prieto awake. His apartment in Santiago, Chile, was in total darkness. 
Nothing worked except for his cellphone. He sent out a message on Twitter: "What the heck was that?" In no time at all, Twitter crackled with messages from all over Chile with stories of serious injuries and collapsed buildings.
Evidently there had been a massive earthquake, and Prieto began to share messages with other Twitter users via his cellphone. In less than half an hour, CNN in Atlanta recognized Prieto as an unofficial hub of information and sent him a tweet asking for his cellphone number.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Never sleep: best social network strategy

Versión en español aquí.

Not long ago the Wall Street Journal, which thrives inside its paywall fortress, recognized the importance of opening the gates a crack with its new Facebook application, WSJ Social.  

“You can’t rely on users coming to you anymore,” said Maya Baratz, head of new products for the Journal, in an interview with Nieman Lab. This change in attitude shows the increasing role of the audience in distributing and curating content for publishers. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

What makes a professional journalist? Ethics

With all types of people publishing news and information on the web, how do you distinguish who is a professional journalist?

After all, bloggers have broken some big stories before mainstream news organizations, for example. Many of them bring value to their work. In other words, how do journalists justify calling themselves professionals, and how do they differentiate themselves from amateurs and drivelers?

One important way is by their adherence to ethical standards of the profession. Another is by knowledge of how to investigate and verify information. Professionals with the highest standards should be dedicated to more than being first and generating page views.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

How to sell advertising without selling your soul

(Versión en español aquí.)

Fayerwayer is one of the most popular blogs in the Spanish speaking world because of its frank and conversational commentaries about the latest gadgets and software. 

Its founder, Leo Prieto, of Santiago, Chile, tells an instructive story about how the blog's first advertiser created controversy among his collaborators and the blog's loyal followers. (photo from

Prieto started Fayerwayer (a phonetic spelling of "firewire" in Spanish) in 2005 because he was dissatisfied with what he saw as a lazy, mindless rehash of press releases in most technology blogs and print publications. 

He decided he would actually try out the products and services and see if they were as described by the public relations and marketing specialists. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

For non-technical journalists, a free platform

Recently I met the people of Sourcefabric, who produce two free publishing platforms for print and radio organizations that want to have a web presence.

This non-profit group, based in Prague, has been helping independent media outlets extend their reach on the Web for more than a decade. (Disclosure, I was a guest speaker at their recent conference in Prague.)

Their web platform for print media (known as a content management system or CMS) is called Newscoop; their system for radio is called Airtime.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

A Spanish journalist strolls through Silicon Valley

Spanish journalist Ana Ormaechea spent a few weeks at a seminar at Stanford University and was dazzled by the entrepreneurial culture of Silicon Valley.

For her, the magic in the air came from the unique blend of talented people, bold investors, big ideas and a tremendous sense of urgency.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Court news, videos drive web operation in Colombia

Versión en español aquí.

Just two years after its launch, the local news website ("ground zero") in Barranquilla, Colombia, has managed to attract 200,000 visits a month. This in a city of just over 1 million population.

This small staff of journalists demonstrates how knowing the community and understanding the audience can make the difference between success and failure.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

How to give criticism effectively, in 6 steps

Far too often I had this conversation with a department manager: "I am so frustrated with Robert (or Roberta). He never listens and never improves. I've had it."

"Have you had this conversation with Robert?" I would ask. The answer far too often was no.

Usually the manager was afraid that confronting the employee would make things worse. The employee might create a scene.

Praise has practical benefits in the newsroom

What could be worse than to make extra effort in your work and feel that no one noticed?

The message would be clear: it doesn't really matter to anyone whether I do a good job or not.  No newsroom boss should let that happen. Judicious praise can change that.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Time's Asia editor says it's OK to spin the news

Time magazine has transformed itself to compete in the world of digital journalism. It publishes multiple editions on multiple platforms, and the most important one is no longer the print edition.

In addition, “You never hear the word objectivity in the newsroom at Time,” says Zoher Abdoolcarim, Asia editor for the publication. “We talk about fairness and balance, yes.”

With so much news available online instantaneously, Time could no longer continue as just a weekly digest of news. It had to tell people what the news means, Abdoolcarim told an audience recently at Tsinghua University's School of Journalism and Communication in Beijing.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Do you know where you're going? Set some goals

When you are consumed by the daily demands of publishing news on your website, it is difficult to step back and think about where you are going. But you have to do this.

Otherwise your destination is Nowhereville.

There are entire websites and shelves in the bookstore dedicated to the literature on goal-setting. I will give you a story from my personal experience.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Facebook still not driving as much traffic to news sites as Google

All the numbers for Facebook are impressive, from its 750 million users to its $500 million in estimated first half profits this year.

However, as a driver of web traffic for news outlets, the results look disappointing at first glance.

At the 25 biggest news websites in the U.S., the percentage of traffic from Facebook is still only in the single digits, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Google, by comparison, was responsible for an average of 30 percent.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Going beyond metrics of page views and visitors

This is Part 1 on going deeper in Analytics.

Publishers of digital news sites have a chance to know their audience far better than their print counterparts ever could.

The data available in tools such as Google Analytics lets you see when people are using your site, where they live and how loyal they are. 

Let’s start with the dashboard page. 

Click to see a larger image.

To the upper left, a click on "Visitors", "Traffic Sources" or "Content" will give you a more detailed profile of your users. To the bottom, the same is true with the six measurements that are visible.

If you click on "Visits", you can compare the traffic on particular days of the week to see if your users have a preference. 

(Click to see a larger image.)
Tuesday July 26 was a big day for traffic; maybe there was a big story published that day. No other pattern seems to emerge. 

The publisher at the site above should analyze his content to see what was so popular on July 26. 

Within Analytics you can see the pattern for the entire month, or whatever period you choose. One of the participants in a recent session was able to see that Mondays were the big day for traffic on his site.

Possible responses? He could look at the popular content on Mondays and produce some of it on other days of the week to keep traffic steady. Or maybe he should follow his users’ lead and produce more content for the Monday audience. 
(Click to see a larger image.) Traffic starts rising at 6 a.m.

While you are within the "Visits" section, you can change the view from days of the week to hours of the day with the buttons at the upper right. Then you can see the pattern of use by hour for the entire month. 

By looking at the entire day, you can make editorial decisions about staffing levels or deadlines. For example, at El País in Spain, site traffic starts rising rapidly at 9 a.m., so the editorial department starts work several hours earlier to produce fresh content for this audience. A second peak in traffic occurs in late afternoon, so fresh stories and updates are ready for this audience.

Let the data help you decide when to publish and when to update stories during the day. 

Know where your audience lives

Part 2 of going deeper in Analytics.

 While consulting for a Mexican newspaper group, I had them dig into their Analytics report to see where their users lived. They were surprised to find out that 40% of the audience for their provincial papers was in Mexico City, evidently for work.

 What were the implications of that finding? Two possibilities:
  • Perhaps they should look for advertisers based in Mexico City who wanted to reach an audience that moves between the two regions -- travel services, real estate agents, telephone services and so on. 
  • Maybe their editorial coverage should reflect the special interests of Mexico city residents living away from their home provinces. 
  • What are some others? 
The publishers of a Latin American website focused on the country’s leading soccer team found that more than a third of their audience lived in the United States. This attracted the attention of a potential advertiser,  a U.S.-based cable television service that carried games from Latin America.

The lesson: you need to know where your audience is accessing your site, for editorial and marketing reasons. Here is how you can do that.

Start in the Dashboard at the upper left. Click on Visitors, then click on Map Overlay and you will see a list of countries. Click on any of them and you will see a breakdown by city or, in the case of the U.S., by state. Then you can click down further for information about particular cities. 
Let’s take a look at the map overlay for the Latin American soccer site mentioned above.
(Click to see a larger image.) 
Based on the color intensity, California, Texas, New York and North Carolina have high interest in a Latin American site covering soccer. Within Analytics, you can roll the cursor over a state for more details.
When you click on California, you can see even more detail about the site’s users. 
Rolling the cursor over the dots in Analytics shows the city and the number of users. 
The users for this site are concentrated in the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas. This information could be used in a number of ways.
  • Potential website advertisers in the U.S. could be immigration lawyers, travel services, airlines, hotels, moving companies, financial services companies (money transfers) and so on.
  • On the editorial side, there are possibilities for reader polls that segment the audience by place of residence or stories about U.S. based fan groups.
  • What are some others? 
Related: How to tell what your core readers prefer and Going beyond metrics of page views and users. 

How to tell what your core users prefer

This is Part 3 on how to go deeper in Analytics.

Let’s say you have a local news website and you publish an article about a famous athlete visiting town. Your traffic gets a big bump, but you don’t really cover sports. You want to know if your core users were interested in this story or if you were annoying them with sports coverage.

 There is a way to get a feel for this. Go to the upper right of the Dashboard. Where you see "Advanced Segments", click on the dropdown "All Visits"and then add "Returning Visitors". Now all the measures you see will break out the totals for returning visitors.

After doing this, go to the left side of the Dashboard page, click on "Content" and from the dropdown select "Content by Title". You will see a display like this.

(Click to see a larger image.) Story headlines blacked out intentionally.

You will see a total of all visits to a particular article with the returning visitors broken out. When there is a high percentage (in green), it means returning visitors found the headline interesting enough to click on it. When the percentage is low, it means that returning visitors were not interested in the subject. 

Returning visitors are those who have visited the site more than once. Although this comparison does not work well for fine distinctions, it is a fairly strong indicator when 75% of returning visitors clicked on one headline and only 6% on another. If traffic is low, it could mean that the headline was unappealing (and should have been rewritten) or that the subject matter itself has no interest for returning visitors.

 As the site publisher or editor, you will have to apply your own interpretation to these data in the context of other information you have about the content. The important thing is to start measuring it and look for patterns.

 Perhaps one of the programmers reading this can suggest a more refined way of tracking the content viewed by loyal users. I will be all ears.

  Related: Know where your users live and Going beyond metrics of pageviews and visitors.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Good data is worth more than a thousand words

Versión en español aquí.

An in-depth analysis of the most popular contents on your website can produce some  surprises and yield some financial benefits.
I was recently advising the editor of a small newspaper whose website was not generating the desired traffic. We dug into the content section of Google Analytics to see what was popular with users. The consistent favorite was the town’s bus schedules.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How much to charge advertisers? As much as possible

Many digital news entrepreneurs have no idea how much to charge for the advertising on their sites.

To set a fair price you have to balance the interests of both the publisher and the advertiser. A fair price should represent the full value of service to the advertiser as well as a just reward for the media outlet.

Generally, Google’s Adsense will not give a publisher a decent price that reflects the content’s value. Adsense is an auction that favors the buyer of advertising since the supply of potential ad space is virtually unlimited.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Total users and pageviews are misleading measures of web traffic

Versión en español aquí.

When web entrepreneurs take a deeper look at their traffic in Google Analytics, they might be surprised and alarmed to learn that most of the visits probably last no more than an eyeblink, 10 seconds or less.

(This is not the bounce rate, but we will get to that in a minute.)

The dirty little secret among web publishers is that visitors to most websites have little or no interest in the content and are either browsing or lost. They arrive through referrals or search engines, don´t like what they see and leave.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Too many journalists indifferent to business side

Versión en español aquí.

Michael Meyer has studied some 150 digital news organizations and worries that too many of them neglect and even avoid the business side.

"Someone has to run the business," he said in a column written for

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Publisher Q: Never give up, never surrender

Versión en español aquí.

The new digital media entrepreneurs who are struggling to survive can take some inspiration from the story of Q*,  an independent newspaper publisher in a country of the former Soviet Union. (* Name withheld to protect him from further government repression.)

In 1990, Q was among many journalists who founded newspapers independent of the official media. The scent of freedom was in the air after the liberation from the Soviet Union.But as time went on these newspapers also became uncomfortable with the successor government, which despite providing certain freedoms remained an authoritarian regime.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Media-sponsored events generate revenue, buzz

Versión en español aquí.

Digital entrepreneurs should take notice of the success that the online publication Texas Tribune has been having with special events.

The Tribune’s events have generated significant revenue as well as editorial content and market buzz, according to the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Editorial independence drives business of journalism on Internet

Versión en español aquí.
"Independent journalists on the Internet are able to rid themselves of the powers, practices and ideas that have defined the traditional press," said Guillermo Culell, General Manager for Regional Media in the Mercurio Group, Chile, in a talk with the participants in the Laboratory of Digital Journalism Ventures.
Culell has an abundance of experience in digital media for various Latin American news organizations and offered sensible yet profound advice. He argued that digital media can create a new model of "independent business" on the Internet. Their chief business advantage is that they have independence from:
  • Influence of corporate and political powers
  • Old habits and vices of journalism, such as stiff, formal language
  • Standard political agendas of the powers that be
  • Aversion to mistakes and risk-taking

Friday, July 15, 2011

Don’t dump your email account for Facebook -- yet

Versión en español aquí.

I was suprised and delighted to read today that the New York Times studied its readers’ habits for sharing articles and found that they prefer email over social networks.

The implication for web designers is that they should make email sharing a prominent tool on their websites or they might miss a big potential source of traffic.

For some reason, I still like managing my online life through email. Daily calendar alerts remind me of appointments. I subscribe to maybe two dozen newsletters so I don’t forget to follow developments in digital journalism or the business of media.

Monday, July 11, 2011

How to decide whether to offer podcasts on your site

Versión en español aquí.

At the moment I am leading a course for Latin American journalists who have created their own digital news media (blog for the course in Spanish is here).

We just analyzed the multimedia aspects of a number of websites and a question arose about the value of offering podcasts. The simple answer is that it depends on the purpose of the site and the characteristics of the audience. 

There are tools available to offer a bewildering array of different services on your site, but before you deploy any of them, consider these questions:

  • How likely is it that this new service (podcast, video, audio, poll, blog, forum etc.) will attract a new segment of the target audience?
  • Do our competitors offer this service? If we can’t do it better than they do, maybe we should not consider it.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The three key roles in a digital media operation

The biggest mistake that journalists make when they start an online news operation is that they don’t include marketing and technical people from the beginning.

Journalists are pretty good at figuring out how to tell stories online but they haven’t a clue about how to generate enough income to survive. They don’t know how to sell and even consider the notion somewhat repulsive. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Murdoch was Bubble Boy with Myspace purchase

If ever there were an example of what happens in a bubble economy it is News Corp.’s purchase of Myspace for $580 million in 2005.

Now the social network that was a media sweetheart has been sold for $35 million to Specific Media, an advertising network. In other words, it lost 94% of its market value in six years. Myspace did earn back its purchase price early on with a lucrative ad contract with Google, but it has never lived up to its expectations.

The reality check of Myspace comes at a time when a market value of $100 billion for Facebook is being discussed by supposedly sane people -- that is about 170 times the price Murdoch paid for Myspace.

And although Facebook shows a lot of promise, remember that the market value being discussed is 50 times revenue. I remember when a really good newspaper property might sell for two or three times revenue. That was before Bubble Boy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Digital-first gets another advocate: UK Guardian CEO

John Paton, CEO of the Journal Register Co., has been generating a lot of buzz for his revolutionary pronouncements to newspaper editors that they need to put digital first, print last. (Here are his 10 Tweets to transform newspapers.)

Now he has something of an ally in the UK.  In an interview with Paid Content, Guardian Media Group CEO Andrew Miller echoed some of the scary phrases of Paton by saying that Guardian is realigning the business to be digital first.

He also predicted that all newspapers will eventually exit print, although he would not say when.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

African news service thrives as cooperative

Justin Arenstein never really wanted to work for a big corporation, but that is how he started out in journalism. He was a reporter working on contract covering one of the desperately poor shantytowns of his native South Africa.

He and his colleagues ran afoul of corporate management by covering the death squads that were assassinating black activists opposed to apartheid. They quit en masse and decided to start their own news organization, which was the beginning of what is today the African Eye News Service.

African Eye functions as a cooperative, with each reporter keeping half of the revenue generated by his or her own stories and the rest going to support the enterprise. Launched 18 years ago, it has 15 full-time journalists and a network of correspondents covering six countries -- South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Tanzania and Malawi. It has gained a reputation for editorial independence and aggressive investigative journalism.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

News organizations have attracted $187 million in grants since 2005

The new ecosystem of small news organizations continues to evolve at breathtaking speed. When you consider that it has been only four years since the news industry’s business model went into free fall, the number of new organizations and their quality are impressive. 

Also impressive is the financial support that they have attracted. J-Lab has just updated its database of grant activity to news projects since 2005, and the totals are: 

  • $186 million 
  •  from 274 foundations
  •  to 146 news projects
  •  775 grants
  •  23 states

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5 ways social networks generate revenue for news sites

 The owner of a news site recently asked me about how to monetize the traffic he is generating through Twitter and Facebook.

While he likes the traffic, he is frustrated to see Facebook selling ads against his content and taking all the revenue.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Internet excesses recall Shakespeare’s time

Along with the decline of youth morals, a favorite topic of people of a certain age is the decay of the language.

The idea that there was a Golden Age of morals and language, now corrupted in our decadent time, has been a literary topic for a couple of thousand years. It is part of the human condition that elders wax nostalgic about the past and criticize their juniors.

In any case, the Internet is the latest seed of decadence. Some see abominations everywhere in spelling, grammar, usage, slang and taste. They are right, but they are misinterpreting what it means.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nobody cares about your web page or your blog

Hiram Enriquez, director of digital media at MTV Networks, has a saying that is worth repeating to those who want to start their own media: "Nobody cares about your blog."

It’s a way of recognizing that there are millions of blogs and other media competing for attention on the web. In other words, if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You have to prove the value of your content to attract an audience, and you have to market yourself through social networks and search-engine optimization, among other strategies.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Financial website integrates data on Central America

Versión en español.

It was out of frustration that Carlos Mora de la Orden started collecting and organizing information about the economy and stock market in his home country of Costa Rica.

Although an engineer by training, he is a financial adviser by profession. He wanted to provide his clients reliable, up-to-date information untainted by political or business interests.

Much of the information he wanted was hard to get. He decided to start collecting and publishing it himself. That was 14 years ago.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Newsroom integration at El Pais: change the systems to change the culture

Borja Echevarria with El Pais digital desk in the background. (Photo by James Breiner)

Versión en español aquí. 

El Pais is perhaps Spain’s most prestigious newspaper, but its parent company has been suffering financial problems, the print edition has lost readers and it trails its chief competitor in web traffic.

All of these factors have set the stage for the radical changes under way in the newsroom.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Leading digital journalist sees room for small media

Gumersindo Lafuente: Journalists need to look ahead, not back. "You can´t live off nostalgia." (Photo by James Breiner)

Versión en español aquí.

Gumersindo Lafuente, 53, is one of Spain‘s pioneers in digital journalism. He headed the web operations at El Mundo before going out on his own in 2006 and launching, an innovative news operation that won audience and critical approval but closed in 2009 when its investor-partner pulled the plug.

Since then Lafuente has headed the web initiatives at El País, which is No. 1 in print readership and No. 2 in web traffic in Spain. In an interview in his office in Madrid, he drew on all these experiences in offering advice to digital entrepreneurs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

How to make money on digital journalism: a course in Spain

Last week I gave an all-day seminar to 30 journalists in Valencia, Spain, on the business aspects of starting a digital news outlet.

It‘s easy enough to launch a blog or web page, but the hard part is making money. I gave participants a series of examples of revenue sources other than advertising and subscriptions:

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journalism students in Madrid told to "go for it"

During a presentation at the Complutense University of Madrid (center), I talked about the new vision of entrepreneurial journalism (center photo) and some of its advocates. One of the attendees created a collage of the people mentioned: (clockwise, from upper left) Clay Shirky of NYU, Dan Gillmor of Arizona State University, Brian Stelter of the New York Times and Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter.
MADRID -- Traditional news media are suffering in Spain, with some 3,500 journalists laid off in the past two years. Add to that the recent news that one of the country’s most prestigious news organizations, Prisa Group, owner of El País newspaper, is laying off 2,500 workers, or nearly one in five.

The dream of journalism students to work for large media organizations is being crushed by economic reality. I urged a group of 150 at the Complutense University in Madrid to start their own digital media and be news entrepreneurs.

I told the students about a number of news entrepreneurs in Latin America, where I worked for three years, and some of the innovative news projects in the U.S., such as Texas Tribune, ProPublica and Voice of San Diego.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Argentine journalist searches the deep Web for scoops

Versión en español aquí.

Sandra Crucianelli is a pioneer in hyperlocal journalism on the Web. Her news website, (Just Local), provides in-depth investigative coverage of the industrial port of Bahia Blanca, 400 miles from Buenos Aires in Argentina.

She and two partners manage the site, which has 790 registered users and 50 regular contributors of news, videos, fotos and opinion. In a city of 300,000, attracts 4,500 unique users weekly.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tech, intermediaries leave newspapers far behind

I came away from reading the State of the News Media in 2011 with the sense that newspapers in particular are being left farther behind by all of the advances in technology and payment systems.

One example is Apple. Although it is selling subscriptions to publications on its iTunes platform, it is taking 30% of the revenue and keeping the all-important customer data and credit card information to itself.

Few news entrepreneurs in Latin America make money

Versión en español aquí.

A study of 54 independent journalism sites in Latin America has found that 20% of these new ventures produce no revenue.

What’s more, only one-fourth of the for-profit operations are covering their costs. Most did not do a financial viability study before launch and less than half are taking advantage of social media.

Those are some of the findings of a survey of new journalism initiatives conducted by the prestigious New Journalism Foundation for Iberoamerica, as reported on the website of ABC in Spain.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

New director takes reins at Digital Journalism Center

Versión en español aquí.

Rosalía Orozco, who has directed the journalism program at the University of Guadalajara the past two years, is the new director of the University’s Digital Journalism Training Center.

Rector General Marco Antonio Cortés Guardado announced the appointment Monday while installing the members of the Center’s newly formed Advisory Council.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

2010: Attacks on Mexican journalists more brazen

Versión en español aquí.

The work of journalists in Mexico is becoming increasingly dangerous, and governments at the state and national level are doing nothing to change the situation. 

This is the essence of the new report by the Center for Journalism and Public Ethics (CEPET). 

At least 139 journalists and 21 media outlets in 25 Mexican states were attacked for reasons related to their reporting, says CEPET. 

During the past year, nine media workers were killed, three reporters disappeared in the states of Tamaulipas and Michoacan, and two other employees of a newspaper in Chihuahua were forced to leave the country after receiving death threats. 

New form of kidnapping  

The report describes "a new scenario in which drug cartels kidnap journalists, hold them hostage and demand that the media disseminate their messages." 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

7 tips to stimulate innovation in newsrooms

Tina Seelig,
Versión en español aquí.

I just finished taking the free online course on innovation offered at NewsU and thought the beleaguered folks working at newspapers could certainly benefit. So could digital news entrepreneurs. The course offers simple, useful techniques to encourage innovation in any newsroom.

The main takeaways:
  • Innovation is a discipline and it can be taught. 
  • The big eureka moments occur when there is a culture of continuous incremental change. 
  • Do cheap prototypes of a product or service early in the process. It reduces risk and produces valuable insights.
  • A new product or service needs to solve a problem. The bigger the problem the bigger the opportunity. No one will pay you to solve a non-problem.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Facebook to overtake Yahoo in display advertising

The rich are getting richer in the online advertising market, which means the antitrust lawyers must be sharpening their pencils. eMarketer is forecasting that Facebook will have one-fifth of the online display advertising market in 2011 and will displace Yahoo as leader in the category.  
The digital research website is also predicting that the top four companies in the category -- including Google and AOL -- will have more than half the market by year-end. 

Google is a relative newcomer to display ads, but it dominates search-related advertising with its AdWords service, which will have three-fourths of the U.S. market in 2011, eMarketer predicts.

Google’s vast storehouses of data on consumer behavior, collected through its analysis of billions of searches, allow it to target display ads more effectively than some of its competitors.
All of these big players have automated ad-delivery systems that reduce the need for salespeople and cut costs to advertisers in terms of cost per impression, cost per click on an ad or cost per transaction. It is tough for smaller advertising networks to compete.

A vote for user comments signed with real names

Versión en español aquí.

A Spanish colleague who has been asked to develop the comments section of a new digital publication asked if it were better to require users to register or allow anonymous comments.

The dilemma is always quantity vs. quality, I told her. If the idea is to generate traffic, comments can do it, and some editors will be content with that.

Although the numbers might please the higher-ups in the short term, don’t expect comments to attract advertisers. YouTube has never made money because major advertisers are skittish about associating their brands with content that might be amateurish or in bad taste. Anonymous comments represent the same kind of risk.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

TBD may have failed because of cultural clashes

Versión en español aquí.

Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute has the best early take on why Washington’s hyperlocal failed. One of his points is that the operation started out too big, with 50 people.

This number troubled me from the first announcement of the launch. Why wouldn’t they start with a smaller staff and build up gradually? Innovative ventures are an exercise in exploration, and it is hard to know at the beginning where to focus most of the people and resources. It’s often better to start small and let the market tell you what it wants.

Selling digital ads not like selling TV

One of Edmonds’s other points was that the sales staff of television station WJLA that was a partner in this venture was supposed to sell digital advertising.

Without knowing the details here, I cannot imagine that a television salesperson accustomed to making big commissions would want to dedicate valuable time to selling digital without some significant financial incentives. Were they part of the deal?

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Google takes magic out of advertising sales process

Una versión en español se encuentra aquí.

In a confrontation between Old and New Media in 2003, Mel Karmazin, CEO of Viacom, told the founders of Google that their advertising sales program was "messing with the magic" of sales.

Google’s Adwords told advertisers exactly how many people were exposed to their ads and how many clicked on them, as well as other specific data.

The model for selling advertising espoused by Karmazin and the Old Media was, "Advertisers don’t know what works and what doesn’t...You don´t want to have people know what works. When you know what works or not, you tend to charge less money than when you have this aura and you’re selling this mystique."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Twitter valuation of $8 billion hints of a bubble

The whole world knows how Twitter and Facebook gave power to the people and overthrew dictators.  

Events in Tunisia and Egypt did more to advertise the power of these social networks than multimillion-dollar campaigns.

Still it was a surprise to read recently in the Wall Street Journal that some investment analysts were putting a market valuation of $8 billion on Twitter. In an informal poll on the Journal‘s website, 80% of the readers said Twitter was not worth that much.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Faves from NewsU’s 100 ideas for better journalism

(Aquí se encuentran entradas relacionadas sobre periodismo emprendedor y liderazgo.)

NewsU and its founder, Howard Finberg, celebrated their 100th webinar today with ideas from faculty at the Poynter Institute on making journalism better.

My favorites had to do with leadership and the business side of the news.

From Wendy Wallace, on journalism entrepreneurs
  • Play to your strengths. Develop a niche that highlights your special skills, knowledge or talents. 
  • Pick a problem that needs solving, that will make your community a better place.
  • Find the money to survive by studying how other entrepreneurs did it.
  • Form partnerships. You can´t succeed alone. Even competitors might be allies in selected activities. 

From Paul Pohlman, on coaching your colleagues
  • Spend a few minutes a day with people to ask them how their work is going. Feedback is crucial and greatly appreciated.
  • Be an active listener. Replay to them what you heard.
  • For long-term coaching, set aside time each week to see how employees´ projects are going. Schedule it or it won´t happen.
  • Help people make plans, review past work, give honest criticism.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Selected reading to get started in digital journalism

(Aquí se encuentra una bibliografía de 131 libros gratuitos y 76 blogs sobre periodismo digital, en español.)

If you are just getting started in digital journalism, or if you want to broaden your knowledge, the following books and blogs might be helpful. They have helped me.

All of these writers recommend other tools and websites that will keep you busy for weeks. Don´t hesitate to send me your own suggestions.

Eminently practical

Briggs, Mark.  “Journalism Next: A Practical Guide to Digital Reporting and Publishing.”  Washington: CQ Press, 2010.  Tutorials, examples galore.

Luckie, Mark. “The Digital Journalist´s Handbook.” 2010.  Luckie is the author of the 10,000 Words blog and has good advice on all aspects of producing media for the web.

Niles, Robert. "How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online." 2012. Excellent complement to Briggs's book, with

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Citizen news sites in Chile generate $2 million

Versión en español aquí.

Jorge Domínguez, general manager and co-founder

A chain of websites in Chile called Mi Voz (My Voice) is taking advantage of user-generated content to provide an alternative to crime and celebrity news.

The news sites span the country and cover topics neglected by the mainstream media, such as technology, social issues and local politics.

On a recent day, the stories on the main page were about indigenous groups observing the winter solstice, the dislocation of street merchants in the city of La Serena, and how authorities in Los Ríos are taking care of the homeless this winter.

The sites have taken to task national authorities for paying more attention to World Cup soccer than helping people in the wake of the recent devastating earthquake.

Web users are lazy, selfish and ruthless

(Versión en español aquí.)

Somebody brilliant said that, and if we need any proof we need look no further than a study by Comscore and the Newspaper Association of America.

The data show that the 108 million unique users of newspaper sites in June 2011 spent an average of just over a minute a day, 32 minutes a month, viewing their contents. (Updated July 2011.)

In a separate study, Facebook users were shown to be spending 14 times more time on that social networking site, or a total of 7 hours a month.

It´s one reason why newspapers are trying to make their contents part of that social web with strategies such as hiring community managers.

Headlines for cellphones produce $60,000 a month for Guatemalan newspaper

Newspapers battered by the collapse of the traditional business model might turn to this type of text-based SMS service as a new source of revenue.

(La versión original en español se encuentra aquí.)

El Periódico of Guatemala has launched a headline service for cellphones that is producing $60,000 a month. After only four months, the service had 40,000 subscribers, said José Rubén Zamora, founder and president of the newspaper. (Photo from International Center for Journalists)

The subscribers for these headlines outnumber the 30,000 who buy the daily paper.

Zamora is not aware of other media offering this type of service, but he is bracing himself for competition in the niche from his biggest competitor.

Six messages a day

Subscribers pay the equivalent of 36 cents a day to receive three text messages with news in categories they choose, such as traffic, sports and business. The next three messages are free. The charges are added to the subscriber´s cellphone account, and the newspaper receives 30 percent.

Zamora said the goal is to send no more than six messages a day so as not to overwhelm the subscribers.

Why 10% of your web traffic is worth more than the other 90%

The blessing and the curse of the web is that everything is measurable. For reporters working in newsrooms that measure the traffic of articles on a minute-to-minute basis, it can be discouraging to see fluff trump substance.

In some newsrooms, reporters are competing for raises and bonuses based on the traffic to their stories. Editors encourage the practice, because they too have their compensation tied to traffic numbers.

It´s easy to get lots of page views with a gossipy piece about a celebrity, but is the site serving its community and adhering to its editorial standards by chasing the numbers?

That is the million-dollar question for journalists working in the digital world.

Worthless users and worthless page views

To illustrate the value of loyalty over volume,  I´m going to use some graphics from the website of the Digital Journalism Center, whose articles are published in Spanish and whose audience is Latin American journalists interested in training opportunities.

The chart below depicts the loyalty of the 15,000 unique visitors to the Digital Journalism Center´s website in the past year, using the Google Analytics tool.

Our site is typical of websites in terms of loyalty: two-thirds of the visitors came to the site only once during the year. Ten percent came only twice.

Visitor loyalty to

I urge you to look at the loyalty numbers of your own site using Analytics or some other tool. You will see a graphic that follows this same pattern: the majority of your visitors are casual, infrequent. They probably find you through search engines or some other reference.