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Preview: First Draft by Tim Porter

First Draft by Tim Porter

Newspapering, Readership & Relevance in a Digital Age

Published: 2007-03-29T10:08:59-08:00


ASNE Notes: Huffington, Diller, Mossberg


From an ASNE panel just ended on the "digital revolution" -- ahem -- with Walter Mossberg, Barry Diller, Arianna Huffington and Don Graham of the Washington Post:  Huffington is talking about Huffington Post's plan to work with Jay Rosen's new project., in covering the 2006 presidential campaign. We'll have a citizen journalists in every state, she says. What's a citizen journalists, asks Diller. Mossberg, not missing a beat, jumps in: "It's like citizen surgey." Rim shot. Big laugh from the newspaper editors.  Huffington diagnoses web publishers with obsessive compulsive disorder -- hammering a topic either to death or until...

News, Improved on Pressthink


Jay Rosen was kind enough to invite Michele McLellan and I to write about News, Improved on Pressthink. Here's the beginning of the piece: Back in the day -- that day when the newspaper was as much as part of daily American life as the cell phone now is -- back in that good ol' day, newsrooms were run and staffed mostly by autocratic, tough-talking men, news was what those men said it was, by God, and no one on the editorial side (and not too many on the business side, either) worried about making money because having a newspaper...

Notes from ASNE: Changes Underway; Six Things to Do


After beating ASNE over the head the last couple of years for not openly confronting the innovation stagnation in the news industry, it's good to report that this year is different. Yes, the room still looks more like the convention of podiatrists down the hall in the Washington Marriott than a gathering of news media innovators, but the conversation about change had definitely changed. In addition to our session on News, Improved (get the presentation here), there are panels featuring media savvy people like:  Jay Small: "We tend to treat the internet as an information and distribution medium. Most consumers...

Poynter Blurbs the Book


Poynter online did a nice piece today on News, Improved. The sub-head reads: "A new book explains how news organizations can train their staffers to become innovators. To welcome change. To be nimble." Well, the book does do that -- but it also says you've got to work at all that pretty hard. The piece also proves I'm better at quoting than being quoted. Read it here....

Staff Investment? Most News Organizations Would Still Rather Not


A new Knight Foundation study, commissioned to conclude with the ending of our Tomorrow's Workforce project and the release of our book (News, Improved), finds that only three in 10 news organizations have increased spending on staff development in the last five years. Worse, 20 percent have decreased spending on training and 10 percent don't spend a nickel. And this at a time when the news industry faces its greatest challenges of learning new skills. (Read a summary and stats of the summary in this PDF.) The study also found that:  90 percent of journalists say they need more training....

The Real Heroes of Newspapers


Newsroom budget cuts are routine these days (and will remain so for some time). It's also routine for top editors to resign before, or amid, these reductions, throwing their careers on the swords of journalistic quality. These martyred journalists - Dean Baquet, late of the L.A. Times and now relocated in the N.Y. Times Washington bureau, is the poster child for them - are hailed as heroes by their colleagues (whom they've left behind in the trenches) and some of their peers (who perhaps see a similar fate in store for them). What hogwash. Journalists are celebrating the wrong heroes....

News, Improved. The State of the News Media, Not.


Depending on how you see it, I ... A) ... couldn't have picked a worse time to write a book about how newspapers can use focused, strategic learning to reinvent themselves - because according to the State of the News Media 2007 report released today they are withering away at a steadily increasing rate. Or ... B) ... couldn't have picked a better time to write a book about how newspapers can use focused, strategic learning to reinvent themselves - because now more than ever they need good guidance in finding their way forward. I'll leave it to Dickens to...

When the Analysts are Right


In January of this year, Merrill Lynch predicted that "newspaper ad revenue growth in 2006 is likely to trail even the paltry estimated 2.4% in 2005." Look out, I said, journalists can expect the "the boardroom hammer will fall once again on the newsroom." Sadly, the brokerage and I were both right - second-quarter earnings in most news companies (except McClatchy) are dismal and the boardrooms are wielding the ax, with the Chicago Tribune announcing 120 job cuts, including an unknown number in the newsroom. I tell you this not to gloat but because "we live in a digital age...

The Tangled Web of Cookie-Cutter Thinking


A lot of bad business decisions and poor editorial assumptions were made in the late '90s during the heydays of the Boom, one of which was Knight Ridder's decision to impose a cookie-cutter web template on all its newspapers and run their online operations through the rigid backbone of the Real Cities Network. Knight Ridder, of course, is gone, but the sad legacy of its Internet arm, Knight Ridder Digital, lives on as a network of bland, generic websites representing the newspapers the company sold to McClatchy, which later resold to a batch of them to other buyers, among them...

The Audience for Journalism


One reason newspapers and other traditional journalism organizations have trouble embracing change is for them certitude is a treasured value and the changing future of news media offers nothing but uncertainty. One thing is knowable, though, and Jay Rosen expresses it thoroughly in this piece about the changing nature of "audience": The power of publishing has shifted. Once only the privilege of institutions and individuals who had the means, digital technology has devolved publishing into a commodity activity. Jay writes (emphasis added): "The 'former audience' is Dan Gillmor's term for us. … It refers to the owners and operators of...

Right-Sizing the Newspaper


Jack Shafer's column the other day on Slate about how the downsizing of the American newspaper may in fact be "right-sizing" hit the mark. Shafer made a couple of points worth remembering:  The public has a ravenous appetite for news - online. Shafer cites the New York Times' 25 million unique online readers in April.  Newspapers are paying the price of decades of over-reaching - in expanding circulation areas and flinging correspondents hither and yon, whether overseas or to statehouses, in efforts to mimic the Times.  Readership decline also started decades ago, but neither publishers nor editors reacted with the...

Ken Sands: Thinking About Tomorrow, Today


I am wading through a rewrite of a section on leadership and vision for the book my very patient writing partner Michele McLellan and I are doing as our Tomorrow's Workforce project wraps up. The going has been tough since so much of what I want to say in the book I've already said here (or others have said so much better than I elsewhere). Whenever I lack inspiration, or simply can't remember on which of the hundreds of Word files littering my computer I secreted away the exact quote I need right now, I call up a real journalist,...

Why TimesSelect is the Right Thing for the Times to Do


Mark Glaser writes in his PBS column, MediaShift, that the New York Times should put an end to TimesSelect, the paid-content option of its online edition that keeps op-ed columnists and the archives behind a subscription wall. Glaser addresses Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger and reminds him he said TimesSelect was a "bet" and that it's time to call it in (emphasis added): "That bet goes against the movement in the online world toward open conversations and open discussion of the important topics of our times. The business minds at went strongly against conventional wisdom with the idea of closed...

Hiring for Innovation


Bob Niles' interview at Online Journalism Review with Adrian Holovaty, the bright young programmer-journalist hired by the Washington Post, has been well linked, especially for his good ideas about journalism education (get technical) and information use (extend your reporting through structure), but I want to concentrate one something else he said: Hiring and innovation. Here's the question from Niles: "What ought news organizations do to encourage tech innovation from their staffs?" And Holovaty's answer (emphasis added): "Hire programmers! It all starts with the people, really. If you want innovation, hire people who are capable of it. Hire people who know...

News & Notes from All Over


 Follow the money - online: Web advertising for newspapers grew 35 percent in the first quarter of this year, while print ad revenue was up only 0.3 percent, says NAA. Colby Atwood of Borrell Associates supplies the obvious quote: ""Increasing amounts of revenue and focus should be on the online properties. This is a transition that's taking place over several years here."  Follow the people - online: "Web media is the dominant at-work media and No. 2 in the home," says Cnet, reporting on a study done for the Online Publishers Association. And, web users spend more on retail than...