Wednesday, March 31, 2010

web-first at the christian science monitor: one year later

Check out this Mediabistro Q-and A with John Yemma, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor. He talks about what it means to go web-first, and how digital journalism can make print editions viable:

The Monitor's decision to go online-only last year was seen by many as a major step in the evolution of newspapers. What was the genesis of that decision?
For about two years before they hired me, [the paper] had been involved in a fairly deep-dive [analysis] into the future of print. They looked at their financials, they looked at the future of print, they did prototyping of a weekly in two different forms -- a slick weekly and a tabloid weekly -- and they'd already made a lot of progress along the lines of moving from daily print to weekly print. It seemed like where they weren't making much progress, and where they were still caught in the old paradigm was "What do we do with print? How do we make it most effective?" -- when what we really needed to do was go Web-first. Print should be there, but it shouldn't be the lead dog on the dogsled.

Even though print still makes the bulk of the money?
In fact, that's true of the moment. And it's certainly true with most newspapers. But it's clear that the future is digital. That doesn't mean that you won't have print. It just means that you either lower the frequency of print -- which is what we did -- or you do what the Globe and the Houston Chronicle and others have done, which is to decrease your print footprint... down into your core readership areas, so that your supply chain and distribution chain is much cheaper. And then you raise your subscription rates -- which all of the big companies have done. So that's an attempt to keep print viable.


How has your revenue model worked since the move away from daily print, and how has that affected your workflow generally?
Our revenue streams now are print circulation, print advertising, syndication sales and Web ad revenue. We have a daily subscription email with about 2,000 subscribers at $84 a year, that has an abridged version of the daily news stories. I think we've got the mix right for us.

It works because we've been able to unharness the manpower that used to be devoted to daily print, and free them to work on Web-first content. That's been the big revelation. When you have print on a daily basis, then everything funnels into those print deadlines. Everything backs up from that, and everything that you're doing is oriented toward that one deadline, so you're not really optimizing your posts for the Web, you're not thinking about trending stories, you're not thinking about when the best time to post something is, and you're not living Web-first. And that's what we've done in the past year. We've taken a culture that had been a traditional news culture, and we've transitioned them to a Web-first one where they understand the rhythms of the Web better. That's probably been a big factor in contributing to our increase in Web traffic.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Thursday, March 18, 2010

all the news that's fit to tweet

How to go hyperlocal without much of a payroll? The Business Insider tells us here what the New York Times has up its sleeve:

The New York Times Co. (NYT) is roping in more hyperlocal news content with a new announcement: They just made a deal with Fwix, the real-time newswire that filters and finds local information on blogs, news sites, and social media sites.

Um, okay. If you check Fwix's "about page", what you find is that out of a staff of twelve, there are a lot of engineers but no reporters. There is, however, one "content editor."
Here's what Fwix has to say about itself:

Founded in October 2008 by Darian Shirazi, Fwix was originally designed to filter news & information on the internet by local area. Since then, the team at Fwix has built technology designed to filter and find the best local information on blogs, news sites, and social media sites. Currently, Fwix is active in over 160 cities in the US, Canada, UK & Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand.
Now, Fwix seems like a smart, techy outfit that probably provides an alternative to traditional news media for lots of folks supremely interested in where they live. Nowthat the NYTimes has hooked up, I suspect Fwix stands to make a lot of money. In fact, I wish I had thought of it. But really, is it the source of news you expect from the gray lady? Yeah, didn't think so. Back to Business Insider:

According to Outsell analyst Ken Doctor, the NYT partnership "would have seemed like a punchline a decade ago." But the "now the FWIX partnership is part of the expanding local experimentation of the Times and tells us lots about the Times’ strategic direction, its multi-front competition with Dow Jones and a more nuanced recognition of what putting content under your brand means these digital days."

"It’s the end of an era, and the Times is clearly moving on a new philosophy: gather as much higher-quality content under its brands, national and regional, on as low a cost basis as possible," he added.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

tell me again why ...

.. philanthropy -- and short staffs -- will succeed where others have failed?

The latest from the LA Times on the Warren Hellman-sponsored news project in the San Francisco Bay Area:

When the Bay Area News Project launches its website in late spring or early summer, it will be just the latest -- and perhaps the most ambitious -- nonprofit venture among a string of similar start-ups. Now all it must do is figure out how to provide coverage for a nine-county region, starting with only 15 employees.

Still confused as to why a wealthy businessman, who clearly has ties to corporate interests, would be less likely to interfere with the news than, well, corporate interests. Seems to me, if you believe that journalists are influenced by the need to stay on the good side of their funders -- and I do NOT believe that good ones are -- what difference does it make who does the funding?

Also wonder why it's assumed that a short staff -- or worse yet, amateurs equipped with cell phones and twitter accounts -- will do a better job than professionals. But that's another issue. Entirely. bk

Friday, March 5, 2010

off with their heads...

... or some such.

Yeah, yeah, the print newspaper industry is hurting for cash. But this? The front page of today's LA Times was an ad for the new Johnny Depp film, Alice in Wonderland.

You have to wonder if the Mad Hatter is now making editorial decisions. From the HuffPo:

The Los Angeles Times has already cut its editorial staff in more than half, but it's crossed another line here by making the real news little more than an aside to advertising dollars, and selling its masthead off to the highest bidder. Advertising used to sustain the news, now it's obscured it.