Bye-bye newspapers?

From New York Review of Books via buddy Tom:

The American press has the blues. Too many authorities have assured it that its days are numbered, too many good newspapers are in ruins. It has lost too much public respect.

Courts that once treated it like a sleeping tiger now taunt it with insolent subpoenas and put in jail reporters who refuse to play ball with prosecutors.

It is abused relentlessly on talk radio and in Internet blogs.

It is easily bullied into acquiescing in the designs of a presidential propaganda machine determined to dominate the news.

Its advertising and circulation are being drained away by the Internet, and its owners seem stricken by a failure of the entrepreneurial imagination needed to prosper in the electronic age.

Surveys showing that more and more young people get their news from television and computers breed a melancholy sense that the press is yesteryear’s thing, a horse-drawn buggy on an eight-lane interstate.

Then there are the embarrassments: hoaxers like Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass turn journalism into farce.

The elite Washington press corps is bamboozled into helping a circle of neoconservative connivers create the Iraq war.

What became of heroes? Journalists used to dine out on the deeds of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein during Watergate; of David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Malcolm Browne in Vietnam; of “Punch” Sulzberger and Kay Graham risking everything to publish the Pentagon Papers.

Instead of heroes, today’s table talk is about journalistic frauds and a Washington press too dim to stay out of a three-card-monte game.

Quoting former LA Times editor John S. Carroll’s speech “What Will Become of Newspapers?”:

…we have seen a narrowing of the purpose of the newspaper in the eyes of its owner. Under the old local owners, a newspaper’s capacity for making money was only part of its value.

Today, it is everything. Gone is the notion that a newspaper should lead, that it has an obligation to its community, that it is beholden to the public….

Someday, I suspect, when we look back on these forty years, we will wonder how we allowed the public good to be so deeply subordinated to private gain….

What do the current owners want from their newspapers?—the answer could not be simpler: Money. That’s it.

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When you say you are not free…

Gauging your gaze

[via PCWorld]

Nielsen/NetRatings will be using Total Time Spent as a primary measure versus the old pageview to gauge the popularity a website.

The switch will be in favour of sites that stream video ala YouTube and use AJAX for constant updates as in a live scoreboard.

“Total minutes is the most accurate gauge to compare between two sites. If [Web] 1.0 is full page refreshes for content, Web 2.0 is, ‘How do I minimize page views and deliver content more seamlessly?’” said Scott Ross, director of product marketing at Nielsen’s.

For example, MySpace may have 10 to 11 times more page views than YouTube, but myspace.com users spend only three times more minutes on the site, Ross added.

Total Time Spent will make it easier for advertisers to mould their ads to how users are actually accessing content, he said.

“On YouTube there will be more ads flowing in based on duration (on videos),” he said. “The more time I spend on YouTube … [advertisers] will figure out a way to monetize that.”

Nielsen/NetRatings will still report page views as a secondary metric, but will champion minutes if you are comparing two sites. The change will affect the rankings of some companies immediately, Ross said.

For example, AOL will get a boost because of time spent on its popular instant messaging application, while Yahoo and MSN likely would maintain their current rankings, but Google will probably ratchet down because its users don’t usually spend much time there, according to Ross.

Meanwhile, Followthemedia’s Philip Stone suggests that news sites might stuff their pages with more videoclips instead of carrying jumps:

NYTimes.com would still remain number one with 12.535 million visitors spending an average 27:34 minutes on the site giving it more than twice the time than any other newspaper web site. But when the rankings are based on the number of visitors multiplied by the average time they spend on the site then USAToday, currently second, change places with washingtonpost.com, currently third.

The Los Angeles Times site, currently fourth in the rankings based on visitors alone would drop to ninth based on the average time each visitor spent on the site; Boston.com, currently fifth in page views moves up to fourth when time is taken into account and The Wall Street Journal site, currently sixth based on visitors, moves up a notch to fifth when the time ranking is used.

So now editors need to change direction and organize their site around keeping visitors there for as long as possible. It won’t matter if they have call up four pages to read a long story – that can now be sprawled on just one page – but now editors will want to ensure they have the one or two minute video to go along with that story so that by getting the complete multimedia story people linger on the site.

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Head-mounted videocams for reporters?


Cops in Britain are adding another weapon to their arsenal of “things you don’t want to carry when you are chasing a criminal” – a head-mounted videocam.

They’re shelling out 3 million pounds for 2,000 of these cams, which apparently have been successfully tested in Plymouth as a deterrence for bad behaviour.

Rowdy youths usually quickly calmed when they realized they were being filmed, and those arrested for drunkenness at night seldom challenged police when shown the sobering videos the next day.

I guess it’s just a matter time reporters start using cams that record their every interview ala Justin.tv and — for those of us who remember — Max Headroom.

Going Mandarin: A Chinese news portal

Would you consider a Chinese news portal for your website?

According to the latest Pew stats, Chinese Internet users are now an estimated 137 million and set to ovetake the U.S. (current pop: range from 165 m to 210 m)

Users are young, male, urban, and are disproportionately composed of students. Just over 70% of the user population is under age 30 and almost 60% are men.

According to the China Network Information Center (CNNIC), the country’s internet population grew at double-digit rates over the past three years: by 18% in 2004 and 2005, and 23% in 2006.

China is currently somewhere between the “early adopter” and “early majority” phases, and a huge majority is set to get online in the medium term.

The report adds:

The Chinese diaspora, with about two-thirds of its population living in mainland China and about one third spread around the rest of the world, includes speakers of Mandarin, Cantonese, and many, many other Chinese dialects.

The languages are mutually unintelligible in their oral forms, but are virtually identical in their written form. That is, speakers of Cantonese and Mandarin cannot understand each others’ spoken language, but they can read each others’ written language.

The internet, by offering a shared use of the common written system, makes it possible for all the far-flung speakers of a multitude of Chinese dialects to communicate with each other through their written language.

The internet would offer an unprecedented vehicle for people with different native languages to communicate with each other thus creating a new, coherent, virtual community among the now disparate Chinese diaspora.

If you are news site in, any language, now would be a good time to consider a Mandarin portal.

Questions worth asking:

1. TARGET AUDIENCE: Who would be my target audience – diaspora or the nouveau rich who now would consider travelling to your country, investing in businesses, buying property, sending their kids to your universities, colleges and language schools?

2. CONTENT: What content would be immediately useful to them about my town, city, country?

3. BRIDGING: How could the Mandarin portal be a bridge to connect the current diaspora with Hong Kong and mainland China?

4. ADVERTISERS: What advertisers locally/internationally would be interested in making the portal a vehicle to market their products, goods and services?

5. RESOURCES: What current content do we have that is useable and only requires translation, and do we have the resources to make that happen. How many people do we need to add more content to make the portal happen?

6. COMPETITION: What competition do we have in the local market now and why are they successful or not successful online?

7. LONG TERM TARGETS: Where will the portal be in five years?

Online ads growing in Europe

BBC news item on Forrester findings:

The annual value of pan-European online advertising is set to reach 16bn euros ($22bn; £10.8bn) by 2012, more than double that of 2006, says a study.

The report by research body Forrester said online adverts would leap to 18% of market share, up from 9% currently.

The UK will continue to see the most online advertising in the next four years, ahead of Germany and France

It said 52% of people were now regularly online, spending more time doing so than watching television. European internet users now spend 14.3 hours a week online, compared with 11.3 hours watching TV, and 4.4 hours reading newspapers or magazines, the research group said.

As a result of this increased internet usage, 36% of people who go online said they spent less time looking at the television as a result.

The report said search engines would continue to dominate online advertising spend, followed by display advertisements and e-mails.

“After five years of dipping their toes into the online marketing waters, firms have come to realise that the net is a valuable medium for client acquisition, retention and market expansion,” said the study.

Regina McCombs Top 10 Advice for Future Journos

[via Innovation in College Media by way of Mindy]

Regina McCombs of startribune.com:

1. Deadlines: Make sure you’re not publishing once a week (or once a day), but updating as news happens.

2. Blog. Link to student blogs. Allow comments on articles and respond to the comments.

3. Publish Flickr (or other photo) feeds of campus events.

4. Do any multimedia you possibly can: podcasts, audio stories, video, whatever you can.

5. Study local news sites, watch what they’re doing, decide what you like or don’t like.

6. Produce some multimedia to have on your resume, even if it’s a personal project.

7. Find a local mentor at a newspaper or TV station, or network with others learning it.

8. Get more community oriented, include user ratings, tagging and reviews like you see on our vita.mn site.

9. Learn video

10. Learn to adapt. Commit to life-long learning. Live with certainty of uncertainty.

Work she’s most proud of: A People Torn: Liberians in Minnesota.

Her must-read blogs:

1. Teaching Online Journalism
2. Multimedia Shooter
3. Lost Remote
4. Cyberjournalist.net
5. Journerdism

Others to watch out for: AndyDickinson.net, Broadcast & Podcast Gadgets, Common Sense Journalism, Getty Images News blog, Inside Online Video, Journalistopia, Multimedia Evangelist, Multimedia Reporter, News Videographer, NewspaperVideo — Chuck Fadely’s blog related to the list, Online Journalism Review, Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog, What the Duck, the X degree, yelvington.com

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Why video online sucks

Pete Clifton, the head of BBC Interactive, says stop doing standups that suck:

“What irritates the hell out of people is if they click a story which says ‘Britain buys 100 new tanks for the war in Afghanistan’ they then click on the video and it’s just a bloke standing in Whitehall saying ‘they’re going to buy 100 new tanks for the war in Afghanistan’. The viewer could say ‘you’ve wasted my time’.

“We have done a lot of that. We have put up hundreds of pieces of video on the news site and too often they have replicated what the story has already said.

“We should think more about what that page does in the round and come up with a piece of video that absolutely complements the text… we should do less video but be much more focused on how it works and give it a higher profile where it can work alongside the story.”

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Newspapers’ cold embrace of the Internet

Patrick Thornton, of The Journalism Iconoclast, hits the nail on the head with ‘Do newspapers need to be innovators?’:

I would argue the only areas that newspapers can truly be innovative in is telling stories. But to tell stories in innovative ways, newspapers need to embrace technology and trends. Newspapers don’t need to be social networking pioneers (too late for that anyway), but I think it is important for many newspapers — especially more local ones — to embrace social networking and other Web 2.0 conventions.

Let’s face a cold, hard reality: newspapers and most journalism companies don’t put a lot of money into R&D (or staff or anything). If you don’t put money into R&D, you can’t be innovative. But every newspaper needs to be forward thinking (and most aren’t).

That means having a publisher and top editors who are willing to take risks. If they are willing to take risks, then you need a new media team that stays abreast of the latest trends on the Web and what is popular among users. If they know the trends, they can research and figure out how to best apply those new technologies to their Web product.

Social networking has existed for years. Main-stream media companies like USA Today are now embracing it. Yes, they are years late to the party, but they really had nothing to gain by trying to be a pioneer, because they probably wouldn’t have dedicated enough resources to realize the potential of social networking.

What USA Today has to figure out is how to best apply these technologies to their site, because there needs to be a compelling reason for people to join another social network.

Flash, video, databases, etc have been on the Web for years. What’s important is not being a pioneer in programming APIs or anything technical, but rather being a pioneer in deploying those technologies to tell stronger stories and inform people better. It’s 2007 and still most newspaper use photos poorly on their sites.

Why am I not seeing tons of slide shows — whether they be Flash or Ajax — every day? Photographers take countless good photos everyday, and my research indicates that people love photos — way more than they love video. And why aren’t photos searchable on sites?

Every photos should be tagged extensively. If I go to www.washingtonpost.com, I should be able to easily find photos of President Bush in Iraq on a certain date for a certain event. I can’t.

I want multimedia content tagged like crazy and searchable. It’s possible. Technology companies built the technology, now newspapers need to embrace it.

None of what I am talking about is being a pioneer. It’s just being forward thinking.

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[via Journerdism]

Livestreaming the future of news

Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine points out how the iPhone launch’s multiple live coverages by individuals sans Big Media may be a milestone in the future of news.

Short list of live vloggers: Scoble,Justin.tv, GroundReport.tv and Diggnation.

Jarvis laments how most old media guys still don’t get the idea of eventstreaming:

I never sit in a meeting with journalists without hearing them obsess about all the things that could go wrong; that is, sadly and inevitably, their starting point in any discussion about new opportunities. I blew my gasket Friday when I sat with a bunch of TV people doing just that…

.

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