Tag Archives: US media

How corporations killed newspapers

In case you were wondering it wasn’t the internet and free content that killed newspapers it was corporations. Well that’s what Michael Moore has been telling people in Toronto as he promotes his film, ‘Capitalism: A Love Story’.

He spent some time talking about the US newspaper business and the thousands of reporters who have been cut by their corporate bosses, which has left many beats uncovered and stories unwritten. He said he looked at including the decline of newspapers in his new film, but the subject was a documentary in itself.

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Chris Anderson and newspapers, he doesn’t care anymore

Chris Anderson, the Wired editor-in-chief and author of ‘Free’, has had it with newspapers. No seriously, he’s through. He doesn’t care. And journalism? And Media? Kids those words are so passe.

Anderson, who struck it big with his book ‘The Long Tail’ and wants everything to be ‘Free’, has given a long interview to the German weekly Spiegel where he makes a string of provocative statements as he talks about the internet’s challenge to the traditional press.

Spiegel kicked off by asking Anderson about the future of journalism. The
interview could have stopped right there. Anderson was already annoyed
and made this clear. He doesn’t use the word “journalism” and the
word “media” is also a no no.

Anderson: This is going to be a very annoying interview. I don’t use the word journalism.

Spiegel: “Okay, how about newspapers? They are in deep trouble both in the United States and worldwide.”

Anderson:
“Sorry, I don’t use the word media. I don’t use the word news. I don’t
think that those words mean anything anymore. They defined publishing
in the 20th century. Today, they are a barrier. They are standing in
our way, like a ‘horseless carriage’.”

It must be tough for
Anderson who is (okay among other things) a “magazine editor”. Sadly,
Spiegel did not ask him about this, what it did ask him was what other
words would he use instead of media and journalism.

And I have to
tell you at this point things start to get really difficult. Apparently
there are no words. That’s right, like not at all.

“There are no
other words. We’re in one of those strange eras where the words of the
last century don’t have meaning. What does news mean to you, when the
vast majority of news is created by amateurs? Is news coming from a
newspaper, or a news group or a friend? I just cannot come up with a
definition for those words. Here at Wired, we stopped using them,”
Anderson told Spiegel.

Is it just me or is Anderson, you know, like full of himself? I wish to add here that it isn’t only me as others have also noted this “fullness”.

You
kind of want to jump in and shout words like: content, editorial,
commentary and analysis and ask: “Don’t any of these words have any
meaning? Are they all redundant?”.

At this stage in the
interview, the German “journalist” turns to the subject of
“newspapers”. I’m guessing here that as “news” has no meaning then it’s
likewise for newspapers. I’m kind of right here as Anderson really does
not care about newspapers.

Spiegel: “So did you read a newspaper this morning?”

Anderson: “No.”

Spiegel: “Your local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, is fighting for survival. If it was to disappear tomorrow…”

Anderson:
“… I wouldn’t notice. I don’t even know what I’d be
missing…newspapers are not important. It may be that their physical,
printed form no longer works. “

Speigel: “So how do you stay informed?”

Anderson:
“It comes to me in many ways: via Twitter, it shows up in my inbox, it
shows up in my RSS feed, through conversations. I don’t go out looking
for it.”

Speigel: “You just don’t care.”

Anderson: “No, I do care. You know, I pick my sources, and I trust my sources.”

It
strikes me that for a “journalist” (in part at least) who works in
print to dismiss newspapers so out of hand as almost akin to biting the
hand that feeds you. That could just be me.

Wired like every
other print product has seen its advertising revenues plummet. The New
York Times reported earlier this year
that Wired has lost 50% of its ad
pages so far this year, ranking it among the worst off of the more than
150 monthly magazines measured by Media Industry Newsletter.

How many people would miss Wired if it closed? Would Chris Anderson? Does he still want us to go out and buy it even though he gives the indication that he wouldn’t got out and buy a printed publication himself (he’d have a point as he would have to pay for that “media”, as it wouldn’t, you know, be free).

He
goes on in the interview to talk extensively about where he gets his
news from. He talks RSS and Twitter. He loves these technologies (as do
we all) and how he and others are still trying to figure out how we can
all make money out of the web to fund our future.

All this comes after critics recently took a swipe at his new book,
‘Free: The Future of a Radical Price’, with the FT saying that the
problem with Anderson is that he veers between sweeping statements and
balancing paragraphs in a manner that leaves the reader unsure of what
he is actually saying.

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News Corp talks paid content – content bundling

News Corporation’s new digital boss Jonathan Miller has been banging the paid content drum. His spin was “content bundling” kind of like the charging equivalent of pick ‘n’ mix.

Speaking in New York at the Hollywood Reporter’s Digital Power event, Miller said News Corp wants to see a model established for charging online. He said he envisioned “a return to multiple revenue streams” and that part of that model could include paid-for journalism, which echoes comments made recently by his boss Rupert Murdoch.

On the kind of shape such a service might take, Miller gave a hint of what a media firm as diverse as News Corp might consider. He suggested bringing together content from different arenas under one charging umbrella – not unlike the way that digital/cable TV firms already charge whereby customers buy online, mobile, phone and TV services from one provider.

One scenario he suggested was that News Corp’s various papers or
various New York media, including the New York Post and the circulation
of the Wall Street Journal, could be bundled together. “What works for consumers, I think — and this has to be tested — are bundles,” Miller said.

Looking at the future of ad funded online video joint venture Hulu, Miller said it was “an environment for premium content”. Suggesting that the video freebie might not be free for long.

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DailyCaller.com to take on Huffington and Tina Brown

Don’t know much about former MSNBC and now Fox personality Tucker Carlson, but he launching a site called DailyCaller.com to take on the HuffingtonPost.com and Tina Brown’s Daily Beast.

Report earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal that says pundit Carlson will launch a “conservative-leaning news site that will aim to be an answer to the Huffington Post”.

“We’re sincerely trying to think through what comes next in journalism,” Carlson told the paper. “I think we can answer the basic question, which is: How do you keep reporting? How do you make reporting a viable business?”

As well as blog posts, Carlson is promising original reporting: “We don’t simply want to be parasites of other news sites. We want to be creators of news.”

The site will focus on coverage of President Barack Obama’s administration, I’m guessing from a conservative point of view.

But Carlson is no Bush supporting Republican. He has said in the past that he cares deeply about conservative ideas, but he does not care about the success or failure of any political party. And Conservative Republicans have accused Carlson of not being sufficiently conservative

As well as giving the likes of the Huffington Post and thedailybeast.com (for which he has written for and he’s a fan of) a run for their money (Carlson described it as a “general interest newspaper”) it will also try to outpace the conservative favourite Drudge Report.

There’s more on the website TV News Insider including this:

Daily Intel: So, all of the articles about your new project say that you’re competing with the Huffington Post. But isn’t what you are doing also competing with Tina Brown’s Daily Beast, which you sometimes write for?

Tucker: Even if I could, I’d never compete with Tina, both because I love her, and also because I’m not that stupid.

Daily Intel: Says: You love her? (Thinks: Does he mean in a Harold and Maude kind of way? Ew. Don’t ask that. You don’t want to know the answer.) Says: That’s kind of gross.

Tucker: And also true.

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Life in the clickstream: the future of journalism

Everyone who works online and has anything to do with publishing should be reading this. A report out today that attempts to map the carnage in publishing and take a guess at the future. Full of good nuggets.

With nods to both the Guardian’s Emily Bell (“We are on the brink of two years of carnage for western media”) and Roy Greenslade (“Popular newspapers, the mass newspapers, are dying and will die”) the starting point and the narrative of the Future of Journalism report produced by the Media Alliance in Australia is the declining fortunes of print and the challenges that disruptive technologies bring in the Australian, UK and US markets.

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Boston Globe fate hangs in the balance

The fate of the Boston Globe is hanging in the balance this week as the New York Times Company moves towards a deal with unions, but one with journalists is so far out of reach.

According to a report in the Washington Post, the New York Times Company has backed off from threats to close the paper temporarily at least. It has reached agreement with six of the seven unions that operate at the Globe, but crucially not with the union representing journalists, the Newspaper Guild, which represents 600 editorial staff.

The remaining $10m of cuts the New York Times Co wants to see have to come from the Newspaper Guild, which said it has offered a proposal that has met management’s demands. But the New York Times Company says the Guild hasn’t come gone far enough.

But even if they do agree the $20m cuts its nowhere near the $85m that the paper is going to lose this year.

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Fall in US newspaper sales is accelerating

The economy and swine flu is bad enough, but while big stories fill the front pages of US newspapers, new figures show that the rate of decline in print circulation has accelerated since last autumn.

According to a report in the New York Times, figures out on Monday show a more than 7% drop compared with the previous year.

The industry knows where these people are going as well, but it doesn’t help. They aren’t going away, they are going to the web. As circulation falls accelerated, newspaper website traffic increased 10.5% in the first quarter, but revenue gains have come nowhere near matching that increased audience.

The only paper out of the top 25 in the US to post a circulation increase was The Wall Street Journal, but that rose only by 0.6%, according to the US Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Many of the falls are double digit at newspapers whose future is in doubt like the San Francisco Chronicle (down 15.72%), Houston Chronicle (down 13.96%) and The Boston Globe (down 13.68%).

Top 25 US newspapers by paid average weekday circulation

Title                                                       March 09        +/-  

USA TODAY                                         2,113,725    -7.46%
WALL STREET JOURNAL                   2,082,189    +0.61%
NEW YORK TIMES                              1,039,031    -3.55%
LOS ANGELES TIMES                           723,181    -6.55%
WASHINGTON POST                             665,383    -1.16%
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS                      602,857    -14.26%
NEW YORK POST                                  558,140    -20.55%
CHICAGO TRIBUNE                               501,203    -7.47%
HOUSTON CHRONICLE                        425,138   -13.96%
ARIZONA REPUBLIC                              389,701   -5.72%
DENVER POST                                       371,728     N/A*
NEWSDAY                                               368,194    -3.01%
DALLAS MORNING NEWS                     331,907    -9.88%
MINNEAPOLIS STAR-TRIBUNE             320,076    -0.71%
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES                           312,141    -0.04%
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE             312,118    -15.72%
BOSTON GLOBE                                    302,638    -13.68%
CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER                291,630    -11.70%
DETROIT FREE PRESS                         290,730    -5.90%
PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER                     288,298   -13.72%
NEWARK STAR-LEDGER                       287,082   -16.82%
ST. PETERSBURG TIMES                      283,093   -10.42%
OREGONIAN                                           268,512   -11.76%
ATLANTA JOURNAL CONSTITUTION    261,828    -19.91%
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE               261,253     -9.53%

Elsewhere, the New York Times has some personal stories from the heart of the downturn and how some reporters are being hit.

One is that of Todd Smith, a reporter from the St Louis surburbs who was covering a city hall story for the Suburban Journals when a man with a gun and a grudge stormed the building and fatally shot six people, before being killed by the police. Smith was short through the hands, but survived. In April he was laid off.

“I thought my job [as the online editor] was pretty safe,” he said. “And yeah, I thought getting shot for the company might be looked at as something important, but I guess not.”

There is a happier story from Arizona. Paul Giblin and Patti Epler, former journalists at The East Valley Tribune outside Phoenix, were laid off earlier this year and with a few colleagues started The Arizona Guardian, a news site supported by subscriptions and advertising.

Since then, Giblin and Gabrielson have won a string of awards for their project at The Tribune, including, last Monday, a Pulitzer Prize.

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State of Play – new media versus old

Some cracking reviews of the ‘State of Play’ movie appearing, which has amongst its many plotlines something of the current clash between new and old media, between print and bloggers, about it. It is almost portrayed as print’s last stand as the bloggers charge in.

It has an apparent credulous portrait of a blogger played by Rachel McAdams as Della Frye, who stars opposite the grizzled old school journalist Russell Crowe, who takes on the role of Cal McCaffrey, with Helen Mirren as his editor. She says wanker and buggers a lot. She would wouldn’t she, she’s a British newspaper editor in America.

It’s being talked of as the kind of film that they don’t make anymore, about newspapers and conspiracy theories, with nods to classics such as ‘All the President’s Men’ and ‘The Parallax View’, while remaining thoroughly modern.

The film comes at a crossroads moment for newspapers and a lot of reviewers have talked about how it is a film about the death of old journalism and of newspapers, but at the same time asks pertinent questions about the future of the fourth estate.

The Los Angeles Times says one of the questions that director Kevin Macdonald asks is “what happens when journalists aren’t there to ask the difficult questions of politicians?”. It’s a good question, maybe someone will forward an email to Guido Fawkes.

The LA Times goes onto say that the film “captures the feeling of an industry in transition, perpetually under economic pressures from the outside, while inside a battle for supremacy reigns between the brash but unseasoned young bloggers and the traditional hard-charging gumshoe reporters”.

The Times has Crowe as a “newspaperman who has no respect for the ubiquitous internet bloggers and their opinions”, but he finds himself partnered with the paper’s resident internet “whizz kid, Della” on a story involving his former college friend, the US Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck).

The blogger angle is a nice update from the excellent BBC One TV series even if on the screen there is really little time to explore that debate before we see Della learn to “be a real reporter” from old hand Crowe. Early on in the film when Crowe meets McAdams Della character he says
he will have to read a few blogs before he forms an opinion. The New York Times put it like this: “Each
has so much to learn from the other. What Della learns, charmingly if
none too plausibly, is that some stories lie too deep for blogs and can
only truly live on the smudgy, crumply page.”
 

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Tales of US newspaper gloom: Phoenix, Detroit and Boston

A few more interesting bits out of the Newspaper Association of America with stories about how badly several newspapers are faring after implementing major changes.

I blogged yesterday about what Google CEO Eric Schmidt told executives in San Diego, but Fortune has a story today about how three newspapers that have undergone tough format changes are doing: not well.

The first was a presentation from the East Valley Tribune, which publishes near Phoenix in Arizona. In January it went from a seven-day paid newspaper to a four times a week free paper with an expanded web presence.

In doing so it cut 40% of its staff when it made the switch, but that wasn’t enough and a few weeks ago the East Valley Tribune’s owner Freedom Communications asked staff to take five days of unpaid leave.

The Arizona Republic has dubbed these new style unpaid vacations “Fur-cations”.

The Fortune piece also gave a few more details on how the two Detroit newspapers are doing following their recent switch from seven day a week home delivery to three.

The Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, run under a joint operating agreement between Gannett and Medianews, are now delivered only three days a week and according to Dave Hunke, the CEO of the Detroit Media Partnership, around 85% of the papers’ advertising revenue is now generated on those three delivered days.

The future looks grim when you look at the state of Motor City. Hunke listed skyrocketing unemployment, foreclosures and a market where 47% of adults are functionally illiterate as the challenges the titles faced. “We send more children to prison than to college. So we’ve got quite a problem on our hands.”

As for the changes to the way the papers operate it is, Hunke said, too early to tell.

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Bad day to kill print in Detroit/Is there an e-reader future?

The irony gods were working double time yesterday. The biggest news day in Detroit for years (GM chairman axed, Chrysler and Fiat and big hoop news) was the day that its two newspapers ended their home delivery service and the web couldn’t cope.

You can’t make stuff like that up. The Gannett owned Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News, owned by MediaNews Group, had until last week been landing on the doormats of Motor City residents like they have for years, but Detroit’s two papers are in bad shape and costs had to be cut, bringing an end to home delivery.

Since 1990 Detroit News has seen its circulation tumble 64.4% and the Detroit Free Press 53.12%. Between them they have lost 660,000 plus copies and the future is grim; for the papers and the city so closely linked to the US car industry.

Then comes the brave new dawn of no more home delivery Monday and a hammer blow is struck at the city and at the American newspaper industry.

Such a juicy news day: The White House pushing out GM CEO Rick Wagoner; pushing for Chrysler to merge with Fiat; and Michigan State University basketball team making the Final Four.

It was a real D-Day of news, a real Day of Days, but nothing on the doorsteps. The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News were sending readers online, but it is not the same for some.

One reader, Nancy Nester, 51, a program coordinator at a traumatic brain injury centre who subscribed to both papers for four years, told the New York Times: “This morning, I felt like something was missing. There was this feeling of emptiness.”

Let’s call it the print gap.

The thing is she didn’t go to the store and buy a copy as “I don’t have time to stop at the store. That’s why I have home delivery”.

Instead of home delivery on Monday, The News and The Free Press distributed half a million free copies of a condensed print edition before it is back to the 50 cent cover price today.

The two want people not only to go to the web, but to the e-editions of the papers. At the moment these are free, but soon e-editions will be for paying customers only.

I have never had much time for e-editions. I know there are some good ones out there, but the whole process of trying to reproduce a facsimile of a paper product online seems like a waste of time to me. I don’ t like reading them (on a monitor at least). Give me the web or the real thing.

That said, maybe Amazon’s Kindle will change that. Maybe there are those out there who will pay a subscription fee to read their daily newspaper on an e-reader. Even me, I could see THAT happening and I could see people parting with some cash and some cash is better than no cash.

Some people already like them that way, but with as many as 50,000 people trying to click on the e-editions in Detroit yesterday, five times as many as usual, the NY Times goes onto report that the computers “delivering the e-editions could not keep up on Monday morning, and many people were unable to load them”.

“We had an overwhelming — literally overwhelming — number of people trying to get onto the e-edition site this morning, and it’s gratifying on one hand, but it slowed things down,” said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The News, which is owned by MediaNews Group.

For one generation the jump to an e-edition is clearly too much, but for another there is always Jean-Luc Picard.

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