Thursday, March 30, 2006

Content behind walls

Click here for an interesting take on the debate about putting content behind paid-only walls. While immediate income may rise, reach and influence will certainly wane. I'm inclined to think that only rarely will the content in question survive that equation, but others disagree. NYT columnist Thomas Friedman acknowledges that he mourns the loss of audience, but knows somebody has to figure out how to finance his $8,000 tickets to Mumbai. (I guess he flies first class).

An ominous sign for the paid-subscription model: the celebrated WSJ Online service grew only modestly -- from 712,000 to 731,000 subscribers -- in recent months.

The basic argument in favor the walled garden, from NYT Publisher Arthur Sulzberger:
... Sulzberger told me that, "If you were to take the number of people who have signed up for TimesSelect, it is the third largest paper we own, after the Times and the Boston Globe. Now many of those are people who are home subscribers to the paper. But many of these people pay for it uniquely, and if you were to take just them, they are our fourth largest paper, behind the International Herald Tribune."

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Getting to know them

I've recently added a new address to my regular web reading routine. You might also want to make it a habit to look at the Knight Ridder Washington Bureau home page, which is available here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Too much information?

I think you'll enjoy this stock analysis:

We actually believe that in a world filled with way too much information--much of it inaccurate--delivered via more media and channels than any one consumer can possibly manage, the editorial skills found in the newspaper industry could prove to be very valuable. Study after study has shown that the average consumer actually doesn't like to have too many choices, which is exactly what the Internet provides. In the long run--and recent research suggests that this has already started--consumers will gravitate to a handful of trusted information sources for their news.

We suspect that newspapers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal will benefit from this, as will local newspaper publishers. To this end, newspaper publishers have been allocating significant amounts of capital in recent years to make their Web sites attractive destinations. They have also begun to partner with high-traffic sites like Google and Yahoo in order to drive more consumers to their news. By employing some tech-savvy and embracing new business models, newspaper publishers with strong brands and topnotch content may actually thrive in an increasingly fragmented media landscape.

We also think that companies like Journal Register (NYSE:JRC - News), McClatchy (NYSE:MNI - News), and Lee Enterprises (NYSE:LEE - News) can survive and even thrive in the future.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

With youths rioting all over France in protest to the new "CPE" employment law, two French papers -- Liberation and Le Monde -- made the smart decision to solicit photos of the riots from readers on their Web sites. The galleries that resulted are pretty much what you'd expect: a handful of interesting, but amateurish, snapshots from around the country. In itself, hardly an impressive argument for the imminent rise of "citizen journalism."

Ah, but as some have noted, under the tag "CPE" on the popular photo-sharing site Flickr, you'll find over 1500 images from "citizen journalists" depicting the demonstrations. 1500. Clearly, the newspapers' galleries are comparatively sparse not because amateurs aren't taking pictures, but because they're just cutting out the middlemen. Why would Joe Photograph send his pictures to a newspaper for a crappy credit when he can publish them himself, exactly how he wants them displayed?

But 1500 photos is a lot to wade through to find good content, some point out. How do we get the best of the best? Could the newspaper do that?

Probably, but so can Flickr. If you sort the Flickr photos not by "most recent," but by "most interesting," you'll be presented with the cream of the crop, as determined by a mysterious algorithm that considers comments, traffic, and user behavior. Yes, a great photo editor might be able to select and polish with better flair than the Flickr crowd, but the top selections among the "most interesting" photos really are top-notch photojournalism: I see a number of lessons for news orgs in this case study, but among the biggest immediate takeaways for me is the importance of establishing presences in our online communities. Flickr is probably the most populous hangout you're going to find for amateur photographers. If someone at Le Monde or Liberation had maintained an active presence in that community (maybe a photo editor posting a photo-of-the-day?), the newspapers would have had an instant connection to hundreds of talented photogs, many of which might have been happy to share their work with the newspapers' audiences. If we're willing to explore working with our readers as partners, we should be willing to meet them where they are. Here's a related article from OJR.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Getting to know new colleagues

In the interest of getting to know prospective new colleagues, here's a link to an exerpt from a recent article in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs by John Walcott, the bureau chief at Knight Ridder Washington. John is widely known as the architect of much of the celebrated journalism that so distinguishes the KR bureau. We met briefly a couple of times in Washington last week, and I'm looking forward to getting to know him better.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A McClatchy blog directory?

Does anyone know of a link to blogs at McClatchy papers ? Actually, what I'm really seeking is links to blogs posted by other McClatchy editors and managing editors. I try to post several times a week and I'd like to see what others are up to. There's just the tiniest chance I might appropriate some of your ideas for the blog Editor Mark Vasche and I share. It's at

About the Knight Ridder Washington bureau

Here's a piece that will help introduce you to the KR Washington bureau. As we've said publicly, we expect to integrate it with our DC bureau, with David Westphal in charge. Many details obviously remain to be determined, and our top editors will be meeting in Sacramento next week to talk about that, and other things.
Film at 11 ...

Here's a clip of Gary speaking at the Kansas City Star, courtsey of We were there for a fly-by visit, the last stop on the first week of our Tell the Truth & Run tour. I'll try to post some more notes about the experience here soon. Maybe after my nap.

And in the meantime, where the hell are YOUR posts? I know a lot of you signed up. How about somebody writing something to get thinsg going again here?


Monday, March 13, 2006

Here's a case where I thought the sound told a story better than the words could. The online audio file let readers hear the oyster shuckers singing. This option was plugged on the printed page.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Slutty one night stands of the media world

I admit that I read this post because of that original link headline at Instapundit: Once you get to the item -- a media column by William Powers in National Journal, it's a bit less racy, but still insightful. A central point:

I meet new blogs all the time, through word of mouth and serendipity, and we have some nice moments together. But I don't usually crave a second date. Life is too short.
But don't get smug. He has cautionary words for all of us toiling in media vineyards. To wit, this:
In a world of way-too-much media, no one medium or outlet is ever going to get a firm grip on our attention, no matter how much mindless buzz is lavished on it.

My takeaway: blogs are tools, not silver bullets. Good tool users will prosper, the clumsy will fade.

I think Powers is smart and cogent, and I recommend the whole column. It's available here.