Saturday, March 31, 2007

Questions from the newsosaur

The newsosaur (Alan Mutter) contacted me shortly after our Yahoo announcement with a long list of detailed questions about the deal.

They were good questions, not all of which I'm in a position to answer. But it was a chance to expand somewhat on our public announcement, as I have been doing here at the bureau in DC and with editors at ASNE, so I thought I'd share these further thoughts with you, as well. This is drawn directly from my reply to Alan:

Sorry to be tardy in answering; I'm in DC at ASNE this week and have been swamped.

I'm sure you saw some of my comments on the deal, and I expect your reaction to the journalistic side of the deal is just like mine: we have great, unique content and Yahoo has the largest news audience in the world. I've spent my whole career trying to get great stories to as many people as possible, and this plan is a homerun in that respect.

Obviously, we also need to make money to keep doing that, and I guess that's mainly what you're asking about. We're not releasing the financial details of this deal; both Yahoo and McClatchy have a lot of content sales and syndication deals, and it doesn't make sense to make our business details available to competitors and others. Most of the aspects you ask about ... are included in one way or another; to me, the heart of the transaction comes in using Yahoo's display of a small sample of our content to attract many new readers to the rest of it, mainly at a newly redesigned DC bureau website focused on our public affairs journalism. (We expect that to debut at about the same time the first McClatchy content starts appearing on the Yahoo News pages.)

This initial phase of the partnership involves material from three or four of our foreign bureaus, probably a couple of traditional stories and some blogging each day. (All of this material will also be on our site and available to our papers simultaneously; the blogs will not be syndicated to anybody outside McClatchy except Yahoo). This is seen by both McClatchy and Yahoo as an exploratory phase. Obviously, I hope it's wildly successful just the way we launch it, in which case it could easily scale to include material beyond selected foreign coverage. If we learn we need to do some things differently (probable), we can and will tweak the model as we proceed.

My basic premise is that unique coverage like our fine work from Baghdad and the Middle East is as valuable to readers in Omaha as it is in Kansas City -- but we don't have a paper in Omaha. Our new website -- mainly featuring the national and international work of our bureau, but including new multimedia efforts and national journalism, commentary and photojournalism from all our papers -- intends to attract those readers in Omaha and other cities not fortunate enough to be served by one of our newspaper/website operations :) The Yahoo deal will help us kickstart that.

The new McClatchy public affairs site intends to use a range of Web 2.0 tools and techniques to make it as accessible and intreractive as possible. Public policy and current affairs obviously attract readers who care about the issues and want to talk about them. We want to provide that opportunity, to engage them and showcase their ideas and observations along with the work our professionals produce.

The site that debuts this spring intends to make it plain that we're committed to that relationship; I don't suppose we will get it all done by launch or get it all right the first time, but we're determined to hit the right spot.

The answers to your many more detailed questions will emerge as our plans unfold, and I'll be happy to stay in touch as they do. I'm not in a position to offer more details now, but I appreciate your interest and will appreciate any feedback, reaction or ideas you have to help us make this better. As you well know, we're all exploring new territory nowadays; I have high hope for this particular journey.

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