Dow Jones, MTV ponder changes

[From AP: Dow Jones, Journal Register Mull Sales]

Dow Jones is considering selling Ottaway community newspaper unit, which currently owns 15 daily and 19 weekly newspapers and more than 18 other publications in nine states.

The unit’s papers have a total daily circulation of 431,057 and Sunday circulation of 473,167, according to the company’s Web site.

While the division has been consistently profitable in the past, its July advertising figures slipped in several categories including display and classified. Its one bright spot was online, which soared 62.4 percent

July ad sales also saw an increase Dow Jones’ flagships, the Wall Street Journal and Barron’s.

Dow Jones has not outright said it is shifting its focus to online, but in a July 20 earnings conference call CEO Rich Zannino clearly emphasized that the company was in the hunt for new media profits.

The company has plans to expand its online video with content and advertising as well as licensing and delivering content to cell phones and PDAs.

Enhancements to its web sites, including live quotes and live news, are also in the pipeline, according to Zannino.

[From Reuters: MTV–will digital kill the video star?]

Twenty-five-old MTV, which now appears in some 442 million households in 167 territories worldwide, including 88 million households in the US, is quietly reinventing itself to retain its crown as as the top purveyor of cool, youth-driven pop culture.

“All the media companies now are having discussions about things that never would have been fathomed two, three years ago. I think we’re finally moving beyond the phase where everyone was afraid to move because they were afraid of making the wrong move, and instead they’re just trying things to see what happens,” said MTV president Christina Norman.

The company has several ventures aimed squarely against upstarts, YouTube and even Yahoo to establish a presence on new digital platforms.

MTV Overdrive, a broadband Internet video-on-demand service, launched in April 2005, has more than 1.5 million video streams per day.

During the recent Video Music Awards, Overdrive viewers were able to watch behind-the-scenes footage during commercial breaks and otherwise interact more broadly with the event.

Norman said the trial was a huge success, so much so that MTV is applying the same experience to such shows as “TRL.”

This strategy of using the Internet to give viewers more access to content extends to MTV’s university feed, MTVU, with its Internet counterpart, MTVU Uber. Norman said she may consider airing other MTV niche programming, such as MTV World, over the Internet.

In the wireless area, MTV got in on the game through a partnership with the teen-focused Virgin Mobile, offering exclusive ring tones unavailable to other carriers. It even commissioned hip-hop producer Timbaland to produce a suite of original ring tones.

The company continues its mobile presence beyond music, striking deals to bring original short-form programming–such as animation and live-action video–to mobile phones.

The mobile strategy has expanded with Flux, a mobile content service that takes different forms in different countries. In the United States, Flux is MTV’s direct-to-consumer mobile content storefront, selling ring tones, graphics and so on.

MTV is exploring digital downloads with the test launch of Urge, a subscription music service that is integrated into the next version of Microsoft’s Windows Media Player.

Just as Urge faces dominant competition from Apple Computer’s iTunes, MTV was outflanked in the social networking boom when its parent company, Viacom, in 2005 lost out to News Corp. on the bidding for MySpace.

Since the acquisition, MySpace’s usage has quadrupled, and only the video-sharing site YouTube has come anywhere close to matching its success.

“We know we want to be in social networking, and we know that’s where our audience is,” said Norman. “But it’s important for us to approach this in the right way and not have another ‘me too’ application.”

One strategy is to extend many of MTV’s social outreach efforts like Rock the Vote, sexual health campaigns and townhall-style meetings with politicians into an online community.

On the entertainment front, MTV is readying a number of services that let people post their own content and interact with MTV’s content on multiple platforms. Norman said to expect specifics “in the next couple of months.”

Content is still king for a company whose programming includes not only vast volumes of music videos but also original series like “The Real World,” “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Punk’d.” Yet the challenge and the opportunity in an age with multiple delivery platforms is to determine which content works best via what channel.

“A lot of us are learning how to create to the platform rather than just spreading content across platforms,” Norman said. “It gets harder and harder the bigger you get. You’d love for everything to be interconnected in some way or another, but that may not always be the right thing for that channel or that audience. For us, it’s always about making it addictive for the audience and not just shoving another (program) down (their) throat.”

Steve McCurry – Aesthetic Hunter web essay

Stumbled upon a piece on “Magnum in Motion” website and the technical aspects that went into creating each web essay by Barbara Gibson at the Apple site.

I think mixing audio with great pics works as a web essay but once you start adding video it stutters and crashes – esp. on crappy web connections like mine. But Steve McCurry’s photos alone are worth price of admission, and his journey from US after many years as a newspaper photojournalist to vege out in India for two years, and his eventual return to journalism via the front page of the New York Times makes a compelling story.

You may remember this guy for his National Geography cover of the Afghan girl refugee whom he later searched for and re-photographed.



The art of visual news

Alan Jacobson’s piece on “How to sell more newspapers” makes a great case for how to design for visual readers.

The new school thinking is not just about “less text, more visuals” but stories better told.

Gilbert Cranberg just doesn’t get it.


The War Tapes

Filmmaker Deborah Scranton gave 21 soldiers videocams and had them shoot their own movies.

That became The War Tapes. The doco that won the Best Documentary at Tribeca Film Festival.

MediaShift’s Mark Glaser interviews Scranton. Some excerpts:

But rather than simply turn over the entire production to the citizen soldiers who serve in the National Guard, Scranton created a hybrid film — with much of it shot by soldiers in the field, and another portion shot by Scranton and her crew back home with the soldiers’ family and after combat. So what they created is more of a collective effort in storytelling, with Scranton choosing the three soldiers who are featured in the film, and the soldiers themselves interviewing each other and other members of their troop.

The result is an eminently watchable — and at times horrifying — film of war told in an eyewitness style that’s often missing from mainstream dispatches and politically charged films. The soldiers are patriotic and want to serve their country, and you get a sense of their motivation for going to war. But you also see the pain for their families back home, and the difficulty they have fitting back in and resocializing after combat duty.


I am Gwyneth and I ain’t African

The backlash to the Gwyneth “I am African” Paltrow ad campaign has begun.

Must go down in history as the most culturally-insensitive ad of all time.

Transitioning to video from print

Kevin J. Mireles in “Video: The Next Great Internet Land Grab” suggests some ways newspapers can find their niche in video online:

So what can newspapers do to ride the consumer-generated video wave without getting pummeled in the process?

1. Understand the benefits and drawbacks of the existing sites for viewers and advertisers alike.

2. Make a conscious transition from being strictly content creators to become local communication facilitators.

3. Create new channels to capture and share the best content from around the country and world (similar to the Associated Press or ESPN but for user-generated content).

4. Integrate, don’t segregate. Video needs to be integrated directly into existing sections.

5. Experiment. Create new sections and new services to test what types of videos people want to share and whether they’ll pay to place or see them.

The headaches of new media

[from Editor & Publisher, Aug 07, 2006]
In this piece by Joe Strupp, editorial page editors gripe about their increased workloads, but recognise the opportunities to get closer to readers than ever before.

Some choice quotes:

Gail Collins, of The New York Times: “(Five years ago,it was a quiet time, it was boring.I thought I had a knack for making boring stuff interesting. And the job then was producing just two opinion pages seven days a week.”

In the years that followed 9/11, the Internet explosion dumped a brand-new load of responsibilities and headaches on those who shepherd the editorial and Op-Ed choices — from massive increases in e-mail to new demands for monitoring blogs and Web sites, most of which did not exist five years ago.

“The job becomes a lot more of a management job and less of an editing job,” says Collins, who now oversees an extra Sunday editorial page, five weekly regional pages, as well as a slew of online features — among them the paid TimesSelect services. “The job then was largely about getting editorials together. In the course of a day now, you spend less time working on that. You rely a lot more on the editorial board members.”

Ron Dzwonkowski, of the Detroit Free Press: “People are writing more. I could spend my entire day reading and responding to e-mail.” His mail has tripled since he began in 1998.

Susan Albright, of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, says she receives about 300 emails daily, twice the volume she was getting three years ago. She notes these letters are at least easier to get into print since she doesn’t have to re-type them.

“I think there are new expectations in the public,” she says. “People write to me personally, they take issue with me specifically, and they want to carry on a relationship with me by e-mail. There is an expectation that if they send out an e-mail, they expect you to converse with them.”

Gail Collins: “You get a lot of really nasty, mean, vindictive mail. If those people had to sit down, put pen to paper, fold it, stamp it and put it in the mailbox they wouldn’t be writing.”

Chris Satullo, of The Philadelphia Inquirer: “People used to agree that facts were present in a discussion. Now you get into these ‘fact wars’ with people.”

Dzwonkowski notes the Web’s success in spreading his paper’s opinions worldwide, drawing much more reaction to editorials. Albright says that she often gets more angry e-mail and letters from outside of her circulation area: “We get a lot more from people who don’t read the paper or even live in our state. People say they saw the clip on a blog.”

Joe Oglesby, of The Miami Herald for the past five years, says more attention has to be paid to having correct information in editorials and columns because the online audience is so vast. “There is so much more availability and access to information and opinion,” he says. “What we have on this page has to be specific and unique.” Oglesby admits that more local issues have become the subject of editorials, since there’s so much competition of opinion on broader national and international stories.

Then there are the numerous new online outlets for the opinion-minders, such as blogs, reader forums, and Web-only column space for editorial pages. Online chats and blogs provide readers “a window into how editorial board members make decisions,” says Keven Ann Willey, VP/editorial page editor of The Dallas Morning News, which has had editorial board member blogs since 2003 and has several board member online chats each month. “It has made our editorial fresher, better thought-out, and more representative.” But, she adds, it is also “a tremendous exertion of energy and effort.”

In addition, a growing number of papers, including the Detroit Free Press, Dallas Morning News, and Miami Herald, are starting to put audio or video of certain editorial board meetings online. And at the Star-Tribune, editorial page staffers are beginning to shoot video and record audio of reader opinions in a man-on-the-street type approach that will become a regular Web feature.


Gyimah on online video journalism

David Dunkley Gyimah laments on how big media boys muscling into broadband may kill the creative solo producer.

The real risk exists for small producers oxymoronically being ‘crowded out’ of this vast space.

Competition for eyeballs is getting tougher as there are just so many sites for your average netizen to visit. The key to success? Aggregate; build a city like Global Voices or atrophy.

With broadband set to ape television the sad prospect of a digital winter for diversity looms.

That’s if satellite and cable TV’s story in the 90s is anything to go by. There will be more-of-the-same in online content production, rather than an explosion of original material.

He points to the fact, however, that although video on the net has finally reached maturity, but video journalism “has become a pre-pubescent teenager”

“(Video’s) accessibility – youtubeness: taut, short, often sensational pieces – has rekindled interest in video journalism.

“We’ve learned it’s simply not enough now to lift the single source offline product online. Now, a matrix of video clips from non-professionals recording major and minor stories has proved, by the audience it commands, to possess potent news value.

“…We’re stripping the film for the audio podcast, the promo, the viral campaign, the article and the series of still images for the multimedia display.

In short we’re cannibalising an old CNN newsroom adage and updating it: ‘kill what you can eat, no waste!’.”

Gyimah, a senior lecturer and media consultant, and one of the first video journalists in the UK says the quiet revolution is gaining much speed — transforming journos on big regional papers into visual essayists.

“I hope to see more experimenting with video hyperlinking, where users/other journos can attach generated video comments, and video paste into blogs. This, I hope, will lead to more remote reportage where multiple sources create a report that will put an end to the oft-knocked parachute journalism debate.”

He points to Rob Chiu’s film black day to freedom,, Resfest, OnedotZero, and his own creation that demonstrate that the door’s still open for diversity and for creative people to add to the mix.

“We need to realise that vloggers, bloggers, videocasters and mashers are an addition to the news status quo. We need to acknowledge that technologists have become as integral to story telling as traditional scribes.

“Richard Deverell, former BBC Head of New Interactive, once said to me ‘we’re still probably not using the net for anywhere near its use’.

“He’s right, which means there’s still reason to be excited about the future and perhaps that’s where the internet on public space visual interfaces – the outernet -will come into its own.”

Same News, Different Media

Jeff Jarvis cites Pew’s findings that we still consume/use the same amount of news, just in different forms:

The latest Pew study on news usage is out (David Newberger does a great job picking the good bits) but this is what struck me:

The consumption use of news across media is fairly constant. Use of newspapers is shrinking. Says Pews: “…even the highest estimate of daily newspaper readership — 43% for both print and online readers –­ is still well below the number reading a print newspaper on a typical day 10 years ago (50%).” That leads some to believe that interest in news is thus decreasing, but Pew says that’s not the case…
“The rise of the internet has also not increased the overall news consumption of the American public. The percentage of Americans who skip the news entirely on a typical day has not declined since the 1990s. Nor are Americans spending any more time with the news than they did a decade ago when their news choices were much more limited. In 1996, people on average spent slightly more than an hour (66 minutes) getting the news from TV, radio or newspapers. Currently, they spend virtually the same amount of time (67 minutes) getting the news from all major news sources, the internet included.”

Getting in a degree in video games


The University of Baltimore has created specialized courses, degree programs and internships to help students sharpen their video game skills.

The goal is to teach students that the games business is about more than entertainment, as software continues to have applications in medicine, defense and corporate training.

Students are also learning that liberal arts skills — not just computer science education — are necessary to be competitive in the field.

“Games have become very sophisticated and very technical, so the need for education has become greater and greater,” said Joe Biglin, vice president of future markets for BreakAway Ltd., a video game company based in Hunt Valley.

Game companies, local business leaders and area educators, prompted by the cluster of game companies in the Hunt Valley area, developed the “2+2+2” program four years ago to prepare high school and college students for careers in the rapidly changing industry.

The program works with several public high schools, community colleges and the University of Baltimore.

Some business leaders say it is the most extensive program of its kind in the area. By educating local students, Baltimore gaming companies say they won’t need to recruit talent from places like Los Angeles to develop and market games.

Area electronic-games companies have created games such as “Civilization,” a PC game from Firaxis Games and “Rise of Nations: Rise of Legends from Big Huge Games.

“Students can begin the “2+2+2” program in high school, where they take courses for college credit. They can then transfer those credits to one of several community colleges in the state, then to the University of Baltimore, said Kathleen Harmeyer, director of the UB simulation and digital entertainment degree program.

The program incorporates game concept, design and testing, programming and team building. Harmeyer said students are also required to complete two internships to gain real-world experience and to work in teams to create a game in every course. “It’s computer science with a twist,” Harmeyer said.

Marc Prensky, the purveyor of the idea of the digital immigrant/native gap and author of “Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning” will surely approve.

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