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.