Thursday, December 27, 2012

Internet media are creating jobs, just not fast enough

I found this data from Advertising Age fascinating: Internet media are now the second-largest employer in the media industry, trailing only newspapers. The represent 18 percent of the media industry jobs, according to the graphic that accompanies the article.

While newspapers are shedding 1,400 jobs a month, internet media are creating 400 jobs, according to Ad Age. Digital media now employ more than broadcast TV.

Sounds like a compelling argument for more focus in journalism schools on training students in multimedia journalism.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Mark Briggs: create labs for journalism innovation

Versión en español aquí.

The dilemma for journalism schools dealing with rapid technological change is to decide whether what they are teaching today will be relevant a few years from now.

Many of the social media tools that are transforming journalism and society did not even exist just five years ago, said Mark Briggs, author of "Entrepreneurial Journalism."

"What should journalism schools be teaching five years from now?" he asked during a lecture to students and faculty at Tsinghua University Dec. 14. It is hard to predict, he admitted. His last three jobs -- managing websites for newspapers and a TV station -- did not exist when he was in journalism school. How can we prepare students today for jobs that do not yet exist?

In an environment of rapid technological change, he says, journalism educators need to do at least four things:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

More proof that journalists need to brand themselves

Version en español aquí.

New York Times editor Jill Abramson says that half the people coming to the newspaper's website in the runup to the election were searching for Nate Silver, the political forecasting whiz who writes the blog FiveThirtyEight.

"He got huge, huge readership," she said at a conference covered by MediaBistro. "They weren't coming for the rest of the Times; they came for him,"

In other words, Nate Silver has developed a personal brand that is bigger than the New York Times when it comes to the niche of political forecasting.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

To young journalists: learn multimedia, languages

Versión en español aquí. 

In an interview with the Spanish website, Juan Antonio Giner, co-founder of Innovation Media Consulting, shared some of his strong opinions about how young journalists and traditional media should confront the  challenge from digital media. Spain's traditional media, like those in the U.S., have experienced devastating declines in revenues and have cut staff ruthlessly. Some excerpts from that interview follow.

Q. What advice do you have for young journalists who want to make a decent living practicing their chosen craft?

The job market is limited, and for that reason there will never be work for everyone everywhere and in all media. Competition today is fierce, and that is a good thing. The only ones who will find work are those who are the best trained, who have acquired the most knowledge, who have mastered telling stories with multimedia, who speak more than one language, and, above all, who want to take on the world. This is a profession for people with passion, with fight, who are undaunted, relentless.

Monday, October 29, 2012

New Yorker's Osnos: Good writing flows from deep reporting

New Yorker writer Evan Osnos is as fine a storyteller in person as he is in print. Tsinghua University journalism students left their texting thumbs idle Oct. 24 as he told how he profiled a former barber named Siu Yun Ping, who won close to $100 million at baccarat in Macau.

Osnos shared some trade secrets about writing for The New Yorker, which is known for its profiles of the famous and obscure.

The best writing starts with deep reporting, he said. It flows from the detail gathered from court documents, news clips, obscure academic dissertations, neglected public archives and reluctant interview subjects. In other words, gather the facts, and you will have the material for colorful writing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

How to tailor news for 4 different platforms? 'Responsive design'

Versión en español aquí.

The Poynter Institute held a conference last week to showcase its latest study of how tablet users consume news and the problems designers have in satisfying these users' demands.

Tablets are rapidly becoming a platform of choice, with 22 percent of U.S. adults owning one, double the percentage of just a year ago, according to a Pew study.

Economy-minded publishers are trying to find ways to "publish the content once and have it adapt to all platforms"-- mobile, tablet, online and print -- Sam Kirkland writes.

Monday, October 8, 2012

This interview was originally published in the magazine Periodistas (Journalists), a publication of the Federation of Journalist Associations of Spain (FAPE), and is translated below. (Here is the original in Spanish.)

By Marta Molina, Editor, Periodistas

James Breiner is, along with guru Jeff Jarvis, one of the most consulted U.S. experts on new digital media. A tireless promoter of entrepreneurial journalism and new business models, he maintains that the days of the big media monopolies have come to an end.
Q. Why should someone launch a media project when the industry is falling apart?
 Breiner: Journalists complain that they have lost control of their work to the business interests of the publishers. They would like to make decisions more and take orders less. This is actually the best time to act. The weakness of big media creates opportunities for upstarts. Big media are abandoning entire categories of coverage that readers appreciate, and new media can take advantage of that to fill the gaps. It's possible now to launch a digital publication with a small investment. Generating revenue is tricky, but the opportunities are there. There are some who get started in their free time while they have a steady income. If you should find yourself unemployed, take advantage of the time to develop the project you always dreamed about.

Q. The Spanish media industry has done away with more than 5,000 jobs in recent years, however we are light years behind the U.S. in entrepreneurial culture.
Breiner: When confronted with these scary numbers one could conclude that there is no hope for the profession in Spain. I don't want to minimize the current crisis, but a recession also creates opportunities. There is less competition, competitors are weak or nearing bankruptcy. True, the print industry is near the point of economic collapse, but some will discover the basis of a new order in digital media. It could be you. Go for it!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Social media challenge Google for news distribution

The importance of search engines to traffic on news sites spawned an industry of consultants on search engine optimization (SEO). But now social media may be challenging the dominance of "Google juice."

The percentage of Americans getting their news via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+ has risen to 19 percent, more than double what it was just two years ago, according to a Pew study of news consumption habits. 

The data point that should get the attention of newspaper publishers is that almost as many  Americans (19 percent) are getting news through social networks as from print editions of newspapers (23 percent). (Note: In both cases, the survey asked people where they got news yesterday.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Countries wary of Internet, despite economic benefits

Reed Hundt
A single digital marketplace where ideas and goods flow freely across borders offers great potential for economic growth. It also makes many national leaders worry about loss of control of their people and culture.

Whether and how to control the Internet is the biggest unanswered question facing countries today, said Reed Hundt, who helped develop many of the policies that govern the web when he was chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in the 1990s.

He made his comments Sept. 24 during a lively discussion at Tsinghua University School of Journalism and Communication. Students argued about whether to censor web material such as the video that insulted the prophet Muhammad and led to anti-U.S. demonstrations and violence in several Islamic countries.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Journalism schools could re-invent the industry

Newton (Knight Foundation
(Versión en español aquí.)

University journalism programs are not changing fast enough to meet the needs of students entering an industry in which job opportunities lie in ventures that are entrepreneurial and multimedia, say experts writing a series of articles for Nieman Lab.

One of the commentators is Eric Newton, who says it is not enough to make changes every few years; schools need to embrace a culture of continuous change or rapidly become irrelevant.

Monday, September 10, 2012

You don't need all the skills to get started

Entrepreneurial journalists have a tough job.

They need skills not only in journalism but marketing, technology, sales, managing online communities and basic accounting, among other things. Fortunately, they don't need to have all the skills mastered at once.

Start small, but start

This is one of the takeaways from entrepreneurs profiled in Mark Briggs's book “Entrepreneurial Journalism: How To Build What's Next for News.” 

The profiles should give hope to beginners because the founders of successful web ventures such as Paid Content, Talking Points Memo and West Seattle Blog started small and gradually built their sites into authoritative sources in their respective niches.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Are newspaper brands back? Report from Spain

Rosalia Lloret: People are searching for credible
sources amid an avalanche of information.
Versión en español aquí.

El País is widening its lead as the No. 1 newspaper website in Spain with 7.6 million unique users in June (for comparison, the number is 74 million for the New York Times).

At the same time the newspaper's corporate parent, Prisa, is struggling financially and faced a one-day strike over 200 layoffs at its radio affiliate and employee anger over cuts at its financial daily.

Despite the bad financial news, Prisa's chief digital officer, Rosalía Lloret believes there are signs that El País is strengthening its brand. She made her comments during the recent summer course of la Universidad Complutense de Madrid in El Escorial.

Two-thirds choose the brand

Lloret noted that more than half of the users of El País and its affiliated websites come directly to the site, either by typing in the web address or from a bookmark. That is, they are coming intentionally, not by chance.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

With crisis in Spain, El Pais expands globally

Spain is suffering through a newspaper crisis as severe as that in the U.S., and the response of one of its leading newspapers has been to expand into new markets.

El Pais, part of Grupo Prisa, is cutting editorial staff at its headquarters in Madrid, but it just announced an expansion of its coverage of Mexico and Latin America.  The Mexico section will have its own digital front page and six new staff people based in Mexico City. This follows on El Pais's launching of a digital front page for the U.S. as well. For journalists in Spain -- who have seen 7,000 of their peers laid off in the past three years -- the expansion in the Americas has to be a slap in the face. But it has a a cruel commercial logic. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Independent print startup thrives despite crisis

While print newspapers are losing subscribers and advertisers in the rest of Europe, an Italian print publication launched by an investigative reporter is thriving because of its independent voice.

Il Fatto Quotidiano (The Daily Facts) has been slaying sacred cows since 2009 and makes its money from subscribers and newsstand sales -- roughly 6 million euros in profit in both 2010 and 2011. Part of its success may be attributable to its opposition to then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose control of a vast media empire tended to stifle criticism of his administration.

As of June last year (the latest figures available), Il Fatto had circulation of 127,000 daily, with 42,000 subscribers (at 290 euros annually), with the rest sold on newsstands. Earlier this year it reported 450,000 unique users daily for its online edition.

The fact that a print publication supported by subscribers could thrive amid a worldwide economic downturn and a collapsing economic model for print seems remarkable.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

10 commandments for digital news entrepreneurs

Versión en español aquí.

I have been inspired by a book about 13 new digital media launched in Spain by entrepreneurial journalists.

The book -- Microperiodismos: Aventuras Digitales en Tiempos de Crisis -- profiles some news organizations that are defying the voices of pessimism, the economic crisis in Spain and competition from the traditional media.

The authors, Eva Domínguez y Jordi Pérez Colomé, compiled 13 stories of journalists motivated by passion, service to the community and a search for alternatives to working for big media companies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In New Orleans, nostalgia is not good for journalism

Let's not cry any more about the decision of Advance Publications, a profit-driven enterprise, to reduce its newspapers in New Orleans and Alabama to publishing three days a week. It is sad for the people who were laid off, and we who love print are disappointed.

But this was inevitable. The big newspaper chains have shown little interest in adjusting to the new digital news competition. Instead they have continued to squeeze whatever they can out of print for as long as they can, prolonging the agony through layoffs rather than investing significantly in digital.

As proof of the lack of investment, Mathew Ingram points out that Advance's newspapers have awful websites, including the one for my hometown newspaper, the Cleveland Plain Dealer. (Will it be the next one to go to three days a week?)

Saturday, June 9, 2012

When will mobile ad revenue reflect time spent?

Two years ago the buzz was that mobile was the next big thing, and now that consumers are moving to tablets and smartphones, the moment has arrived.

  • Nielsen says that 50.4% of mobile users now have a smartphone.
  • More than two-thirds of those in the 25-34 age group have a smartphone. The report is here.

This slide from Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley shows
the opportunity for mobile advertising. Although consumers spend
10% of their time with media on mobile platforms, mobile
is getting only 1% of the ad revenue, a $20 billion opportunity.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Earthquake accelerated use of social media at Japanese newspapers

Yoichi Nishimura (photo by Yang Shaogong)
Versión en español aquí.

Japan's newspapers expanded their role of serving the community by using social media in the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011.

Yoichi Nishimura, former managing editor of Asahi Shimbun, with daily circulation of 8 million, said news organizations cooperated to share information about missing persons with a Google database so  families could find loved ones.

"For the first time, there was a large-scale joint effort between social media and the traditional mass media," Nishimura told an audience at Tsinghua University in Beijing. The news media spread disaster-related information through social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Making money Part IV: Events build your brand

Last weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneursan intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; Twitter comments from the course are at #revcamp.)

If you have a digital news organization that has built a community, you can create profitable events. Your loyal audience is something like a fan club and wants to meet other members. They will pay to attend, they will bring friends, they will be an attractive audience for sponsors and they will spread the word about you.

A digital publication with a small but devoted audience might not generate enough from advertising alone, but events can plug the gaps. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Making money Part III: How journalists can do ad sales

This weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneursan intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; Twitter comments from the course are at #revcamp.)

The biggest mistake that journalism entrepreneurs can make in selling is assuming rational behavior on the part of the client, says Mike Orren, principal of Just Be Amazing, a consultancy on content, sales and marketing. 
We might think the client will buy based on the traffic numbers or the audience profile, but often the decision is an emotional one: the client likes the sales rep from your publication more than the rep for a competitor, Orren says. (My own experience as publisher of a business journal is similar to Orren's.)

Making money Part II: custom content at MedCity

This weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneurs, an intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; Twitter comments from the course are at #revcamp.)

Chris Seper, a digital media entrepreneur who started, a portal covering innovation in the life sciences and healthcare, talked about how to make money from custom content. He defined it as any content made to order for a client -- it could be a research paper, a blog entry that runs on the site, a video, an event, or an article. 
"We'll create content for anyone with a vested interest in innovation and health care," he told attendees. The publication's audience is C-level executives, entrepreneurs, investors and other stakeholders in those fields.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Making money Part I: Mark Briggs

This weekend I spent a day and a half participating online in NewsU's Revenue Camp for Journalism Entrepreneurs, an intense session on some of the new ways journalists are making money on the Web. (The entire course will be available to view online in a few days; find Twitter comment at #revcamp.)

One of the key presenters was Mark Briggs, director of digital media at King 5 TV in Seattle and the author of Entrepreneurial Journalism: How to Build What's Next for News.

Briggs has used a case-study method that is perfect for this new world of journalism in which the models are still being invented. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Warren Buffett bets on value of local news

Warren Buffett's decision to buy 63 daily and weekly newspapers from Media General confirms the market value of organizations that build a strong community around local news.

That value is precisely what digital news entrepreneurs like MinnPost, Texas Tribune and Voice of San Diego are counting on as they build their organizations.

Buffett, CEO of the conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway, is not betting on newspapers, so all of those bankrupt organizations out there that are looking for capital had better look elsewhere. Buffett is betting on the value of community news, especially in smaller communities where newspapers are the primary source of news and information.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Social media are transforming Chinese journalism

The Tsinghua University School of Journalism and Communication recently celebrated its 10th anniversary with a conference on international journalism curriculum for an audience of
200 journalism professionals, deans and professors from China and around the world. Some highlights:
  • Qu Yingpu, deputy editor-in-chief of the state-controlled China Daily, noted that social media are spreading news so rapidly that is no longer possible to control the flow of information. The response of China Daily has been to provide more information to more audiences, with editions targeted for Africa, Asia and Europe, among others. 
  • Shi Anbin, associate dean of Tsinghua's school, said digital journalists should learn from Andy Carvin's one-man newsroom at National Public Radio in the United States. Carvin covered the Middle East during the Arab Spring upheavals in 2011 by relying on numerous local activists, bloggers and reporters through social networks such as Twitter.

Building your audience: tips from a pro

Versión en español aquí.

Mi Li, audience development manager for Fiscal Times in New York, recently spoke via Skype to my multimedia business journalism class at Tsinghua University about how to build an audience.

The online publication, which focuses on fiscal, budgetary and economic issues, launched in March 2011 and has grown to 1 million unique visitors and 6 million page views monthly.

One of the key elements of her strategy when she started at the publication a year ago was to develop a daily newsletter to create audience awareness and drive traffic to articles. This was a strategy that also worked well at American City Business Journals, a chain of weekly business publications, where she was previously marketing manager.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

What 9 European news startups can teach us

A new study of nine entrepreneurial journalism ventures in France, Germany and Italy offers insight into the current industry crisis as well as hope for the future.

 University of Oxford and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism have just published an online book, “Survival is Success: Journalistic Online Startups in Western Europe,” by Nicola Bruno and Rasmus Kleis Nielsen. Among their observations:

  •  There is no single formula that works for all. "New ventures can succeed in many different ways."

Friday, May 4, 2012

France: Paywall works for investigative journalism site


The online investigative publication that recently reported French President Nicolas Sarkozy received 50 million euros in campaign support from Libya in 2007 is an anomaly: a profitable subscription-only service that accepts no advertising.

Mediapart is showing that in the right circumstances, an investigative news organization can be a viable business.

Friday, April 20, 2012

How I ran my newspaper monopoly (and Warren Buffett ran his)

Back in the 1960s, before baseball had a designated hitter, I had a paper route. This was a job formerly given to 12-year-olds but now has been taken over by adults.

It was a measure of the daily newspaper's market dominance that a kid who wanted a paper route had to buy it from another kid. Having a paper route was the pre-teen equivalent of owning an NFL franchise, an enviably profitable protected monopoly. Mine was a particular block on a particular street. The price to buy it was equal to one week's collections -- in my case about $40.

In the grand old days of newspaper monopolies, people had only a few places they could get the news -- either a daily newspaper, the nightly TV news or radio. If you wanted to know if the local major league team won and hadn't listened to the game on the radio, you had to stay up till 11 o'clock and wait until the announcer gave the score. Or you waited until the next morning's newspaper arrived.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Editors are best marketers of a news organization

Versión en español aquí. 

Many editors cringe when asked to be involved with sales and marketing. They feel it betrays ethical and editorial values to make a buck. 

But editors have product knowledge useful in sales, and they have a passion for their work that can inspire sponsors and advertisers to spend money on the site.

Today editors have to be involved in sales and marketing because of the competition from digital media. The question is how to do it without compromising editorial integrity. 

Digital provides audience data

It used to be that editors in large news organizations had little contact with the audience unless someone called to complain or wrote a letter to the editor. 

They had no way of knowing how many people read a specific article, how much time they spent with it or whether they recommended it to their friends. Now editors can and should know all those things. They have the data and they need to study it. 

The goal of studying traffic data is not to pander to the audience by feeding them more news about celebrities' love lives. The goal is for the editor to make the core product as attractive to the target audience as possible by studying the impact of headlines, design, story placement, time of day, geography and story tags on the website's traffic.

An editor should be the chief marketer of the newspaper, where "marketer" means the person charged with knowing the publication's target audience and developing products designed to capture that audience. 

Competition forces change

The old business model in which editorial could be walled off from advertising and marketing does not work in the competitive environment of digital journalism. Hordes of online competitors are studying user data so they can steal the audience and advertisers of traditional media.

Editorial has to be in sync with marketing and sales to help the enterprise compete. All parties have to have intimate knowledge of what the other is doing and have to cooperate on a daily basis. 

How the editor can help sales

The best salespeople can tell stories about how their product benefits the customer, and the editor is in the best position to tell the story of the news organization. 

The editor is recognized in the community and is in effect a celebrity spokesman for the product. A potential client will avoid a salesperson but will make time to meet the editor. 

So how do you get the editor involved in sales without compromising editorial integrity?

Meet-the-editor events are a great way to pull in new potential advertisers and sponsors. The publication can advertise the event to the public at large or just invite a few key executives. The editor can speak about the news products, some recent scoops, local and national economic trends, the audience of the publication, etc. without ever uttering a word about sales. The editor can refer questions about sales to the sales manager, who should be present.  

I have seen this technique work for business publications and think it can work for other types of publications as well. The editor has to feel comfortable doing it, and a way to ensure that comfort is to not ask the editor to cross the line. 

Digital media competition is breaking down the Chinese wall. That doesn't have to mean the barbarians are invading the newsroom. It can mean that peace now reigns between two formerly antagonistic camps: editorial and marketing/sales. 


Friday, April 13, 2012

Journalist as caped crusader with special powers

Tini Tran, right, chats with students after her talk 
on "Survival Skills for a Foreign Correspondent"

When she was in middle school, Tini Tran was assigned to a journalism class and her career path became clear.

As a refugee from Vietnam living in the U.S., she had been very shy. But as a reporter on her school newspaper, she could ask anyone any question at any time. She felt transformed, like one of those superheroes who acquires special powers by donning a magic cape. She was shy no more.

Tran, a veteran correspondent for the Associated Press in Beijing, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, was a guest of the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University April 13.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Crap detector Part III: verify Tweets, FB

Lately I have been teaching my students at Tsinghua University how to verify information they get in press releases, hear from news sources and see on the web. This is my third entry on the subject.

Crap detector Part I: Credibility as business model
Crap Detector Part II: Mr. Daisey's Apple Factory

The website has posted the most thorough list of techniques I have seen of how journalists can verify information they find on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Language barrier helps publisher paywalls

Europe is a patchwork of dozens of different languages, and news media now see this as an opportunity. They are banding together to charge for internet access to local-language products.

Dutch and Flemish publishers are the latest in Europe to consider erecting a shared paywall around  content in their languages, Paid Content reports.

The concept is already under way in Slovakia and Slovenia, where Piano Media has gotten media outlets to create a shared-payment system.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Newspaper culture still blocks move to digital

Gumersindo Lafuente of El Pais (photo by James Breiner
Versión en español aquí.

The culture war of print vs. digital rages on and continues to block the transformation of the newspaper industry. An incident at Spain's most prestigious daily and a study of 38 U.S. newspapers both made this clearer recently.

At El Pais in Spain, the newsroom protested after Gumersindo Lafuente, the head of digital operations, told a journalism conference that a prime consideration when hiring a journalist should be the number of his or her Twitter followers.

It didn't help that Lafuente and his team were imported two years ago from a failed web operation amid layoffs of print journalists, according to the report in

Monday, March 26, 2012

Guardian's Facebook app challenges Google

A new Facebook app launched by The Guardian in England could signal a major challenge to Google’s dominance of referral traffic to news websites.

Google used to drive 40 percent of The Guardian’s traffic, but social networks referred more than search several times in February, said Tanya Cordrey, director of digital development at Guardian News and Media.

In the U.S., Google refers a third of the traffic to news websites, four times more than Facebook, according to The State of the News Media 2012.

Nifty new app

Much of The Guardian’s Facebook traffic is attributed to an app that has been downloaded 8 million times since its launch in September, according to

“The ‘frictionless sharing’ app works by readers opting in to share all articles they read with their Facebook friends, generating more traffic for the news site with ‘no editorial curation’,” the site reported. 

It is not clear how this app might be different from or better than those used by other news organizations. But if something similar were adopted at U.S. media, Facebook could become more of an ally of news organizations instead of just a competitor for readers’ time.


Google takes magic out of advertising sales process
Social media challenge Google for news distribution
Facebook to overtake Yahoo in display advertising
Total users and pageviews are misleading measures of web traffic
Robert Niles: How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online
Making money Part I: Advice from Mark Briggs
You don't need all the skills to get started
How much to charge advertisers? As much as possible
More paywalls won't save journalists' jobs

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crap detector Part I: Credibility as business model

Crap Detector Part II: Mr. Daisey's Apple Factory

A digital news organization has to differentiate itself from the mass of online competitors vying for people's attention. The best way is to be credible, reliable and trustworthy. 

Credibility is the most valuable asset of a news organization. It  attracts a community whose members can collectively support the site with their resources as fans, recommenders, subscribers, advertisers, event attendees or customers.

Credibility is also harder to find online. You have to sift through a lot of garbage to find the nuggets of gold. Howard Rheingold describes this journalistic practice as crap detection and devotes a chapter to it in his book "Net Smart."

Crap Detector Part II: Mr. Daisey's Apple Factory

Crap detector Part I: Credibility as business model

A few weeks ago I listened to a podcast of "This American Life" called "Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory," which was the story of a technology geek who goes to China to see where his iPhone was made.

In the course of the story, the narrator, Mike Daisey, makes assertions about Foxconn, the manufacturer, including that it hires underage workers, overworks employees and exposes them to hazardous chemicals. The story was excerpted from Daisey's one-man stage show.

Bold and intrepid

I was immediately suspicious of Daisey's account because he was so much the protagonist of the story. He depicted himself as bold and daring, as undertaking a task that newspaper reporters had warned him was too risky and dangerous. But he was going anyway to interview Foxconn employees, in defiance of the armed guards at  the gates.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It's "digital first" from here on in news biz

The digital publishing industry will hit a significant milestone this year when for the first time it will book more ad revenue than all print newspapers and magazines.

The really bad news for print media, even those with robust web operations, is that most of the revenue is going to non-print publishers such as Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More paywalls won't save journalists' jobs

Gannett's announcement that it will establish paywalls at its 80 community newspapers  is the latest sign that the newspaper industry believes it has found practical technology to charge for its content. 

But these are not really solutions so much as experiments. Every newspaper will have to test reader response to the various subscription offers and adjust over time. Paying for digital editions is new for subscribers as well as publishers.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How a newsroom is like a hit comedy

If you are running a news organization, you have much in common with the coach of a sports team, the director of a ballet or the producer of a hit comedy. The issues are the same. 
  • Motivating people.
  • Encouraging creativity.
  • Developing people's talent to its highest level.
  • Maintaining the discipline to meet deadlines and stay within a budget.
  • Continually surprising fans.
So I found the book "Bossypants" by Tina Fey rich with lessons for people whose success depends on organizing and harnessing the talent of creative people. She is famous for her work as a writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live" (Weekend Update, Sarah Palin impression) and as writer, producer and performer on the hit comedy "30 Rock."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Using "Mad Men" advertising model for the web

Here in China, one of my guilty pleasures is watching DVDs of old episodes of "Mad Men," the cable television hit about the glory days of advertising and mass media in the 1960s.

In one episode, when Don Draper's advertising firm loses the multimillion-dollar Lucky Strike cigarette account, he takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times to announce that the firm will no longer accept tobacco advertising, supposedly because tobacco endangers the public health.

The power of display advertising

Draper has no doubt about the importance of announcing this to the public at large even though the target audience for the ad is very small, perhaps 1% of the audience of the Times -- other advertising executives, the CEOs of tobacco firms and other major advertisers, the firm's own clients.

6,000 paid subs support digital news site in Nova Scotia

At first it seems an unlikely place for an expensive paywall business model to work -- Nova Scotia. 

Nearly 6,000 subscribers are paying $360 a year for access to the website, according to Tim Currie's story in Nieman Lab

That's about $2 million and represents 80 percent of the revenue of the site. 

How are they doing it? One of the key elements is focusing on basic public-records searches and document-based reporting.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

IBM chief gives advice that entrepreneurs should heed

Samuel Palmisano, I.B.M.'s outgoing boss, used four questions to guide his company's strategy over the past decade, according to an interview in the New York Times.

All of them are questions that digital media entrepreneurs should be asking themselves every day:

  • “Why would someone spend their money with you — so what is unique about you?”
  • “Why would somebody work for you?”
  • “Why would society allow you to operate in their defined geography — their country?”
  • “And why would somebody invest their money with you?”