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According to the chairman of Time Warner, bolstering the financial performance of AOL is a "priority" and the strategic key to unlocking shareholder value at the media giant. The New York Times points out that these comments from the Time Warner executive suite signal "a tweak in strategy and a belief that the stigma of the AOL-Time Warner merger is finally a thing of the past." What's strange is that if you read the first half of the article in the New York Times, it sounds like Time Warner is trying real hard to improve things at AOL and that AOL is definitely part of the long-term future at Time Warner. Then, if you read the second half of the article, it sounds like Time Warner still is thinking of selling off AOL to the highest bidder, whether it is Microsoft or Google or Yahoo.
Anyway, in early January, I wrote a piece for Tech Central Station ("The Internet Company That Time Almost Forgot") about all the reasons why AOL could have a big year in 2005. Maybe it's time for Mr. Parsons and Mr. Icahn to take a look.
(Graphic: Tech Central Station)
On Monday, I received a small note from the head of Community Affairs/Media Relations at The New York Times about the new TimesSelect "premium content" offering. Towards the end of the correspondence was a mention that "plans are in the works for some Op-Ed columnists to produce weblogs."
Apparently, FishBowlNY received the same memo, and was just as surprised to find out about the new op-ed blogs:
"Excuse me? We're getting 8 brand-spankin' new blogs? I haven't seen this anywhere else but the mind frankly reels. MoDo, we'll link to you if you link to us! Details as we have them..."
It may lack the intensity of the West Coast/East Coast hip-hop rap rivalries of the 1990's, but it looks like Silicon Valley's Internet media elite could be trying to start a beef with New York's midtown media elite. Tom Foremski of SiliconValleyWatcher weighs in on the current state of the media industry after a recent visit to New York City:
"It's a shame that the center of the media industry has moved to Silicon Valley and nobody told New York :-) I should write Mayor Bloomberg a letter about that. It would point out that many Silicon Valley companies such as Google, Yahoo, and Ebay, are in fact media companies. They are technology enabled media companies. They publish digital rather than paper pages but they carry content and advertising just like a newspaper or magazine paper page.
And our media industry is growing like gangbusters while New York's is not. Our media industry is hiring like crazy (Yahoo has 700 new positions to fill, Google a similar number) while New York's media industry continues to cut jobs and budgets..."
(Hat tip: I Want Media)
David Lidsky of Fast Company has some unkind words for the new Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal:
"Here's why the Journal's Saturday paper is dead on arrival: There are no surprises whatsoever. At least at this point, there's no evidence of a single fresh idea, or even the deft execution of a well-worn chestnut of an idea. It's a focus-grouped, advertiser-friendly confection with nothing that I can't get in hundreds of other venues. What the Journal seems to have fallen victim to is the kind of insular thinking that kills so many entrenched enterprises: It seems to believe that there's value in the information being delivered by the Wall Street Journal, as if that were enough to carry the day. The decided lack of splash here is also another tale of the downside of hype. If you can't live up to it, the backlash isn't going to be pretty."
According to Lidsky, the "Pursuits" section of the Weekend Edition was especially odious -- what he called "a juiced up version of Personal Journal that's basically a cliche of every entertainment or general-interest magazine's front of the book and every "weekend" section of a major-market daily newspaper."
Unfortunately for Mr. Lidsky, it appears that he doesn't take much of an interest in the financial markets, since there were more than a few new features that got my attention. In the "Money & Investing" section, there was a first-rate article on "New Tools to Hedge Your Home." In the "Pursuits" section, we agree that the article called "When Tough Guys Want Comfy Shoes" was a bit on the cheesy side, but there was also a book review of a new book about Google. The Money & Investing section also has a brand-new column ("Green Thumb") on matters of personal finance. There's also expanded coverage of Friday's financial markets performance and a new "Breaking Views" column that has insights about Wall Street inside dealings (this weekend, it was speculation as to whether Carl Icahn's takeover bid would impact Time Warner's stock price).
A bit of news from last week: according to the New York Post, Viacom's MTV Networks and Comcast are working on a joint venture that will create several new cable networks. An unnamed Comcast source says that the new offerings will include "several lifestyle channels — on topics such as cars and wealth — as well as video-on-demand and e-commerce." Reps for both MTV Networks and Comcast were tight-lipped about the move.
Alan Meckler of Jupitermedia is none too pleased to find that many of the brilliant op-ed columnists of the New York Times are now hidden behind $49.95-per-year subscription walls:
"Readers know that I feel that the Times continues to make a big mistake by getting more restrictive with their free offerings. I guess they feel their purchase of about.com, a free site, gives them license to make the quality Times content an increasingly closed environment?"
Daily Kos also weighs in on the decision by the New York Times to put op-ed columnists like Paul Krugman behind bars (oops, walls):
"I'll be sad to lose Krugman. I also think the Times might be making a mistake here - not only will they be removing their op-ed columnists from the ever-growing "discussion" in the blogosphere and the online world in general, but Krugman's columns are almost always some of the site's most popular pieces. I'm sure they've crunched the numbers and have decided the subscription fees will outweigh the loss in traffic and ad revenue, but only time will tell."
Jason Kottke points to Paragraph, a workspace for writers in New York (we assume noisy, keyboard-clacking bloggers are welcome). The Union Square space is kinda like an incubator -- for writers. At $132/month, it's cheap. You get a private workspace, a lounge, a kitchen, and a locker. Plus, there's free Wi-Fi access throughout the facility. And, as a bonus, there's a fireplace (non-working).
The Wall Street Journal has been preparing big-time for the launch of its new weekend edition on September 17. A brief item in Tuesday's print edition tipped us off that the company BreakingViews will be supplying financial news and opinions for the WSJ Weekend Edition. (In fact, it looks like a larger collaboration might be involved -- a week or two ago, I remember seeing an op-ed piece on hedge funds from a BreakingViews contributor).
Here's the tagline from the BreakingViews Web site:
"Breakingviews leads the way in international financial commentary. Where other websites provide only news, we bring you views: pithy, sophisticated opinion on the top financial stories, as they break. Now we're bringing our unique brand of journalism to America, with a dedicated US edition launching at the end of the year... At a time when people are being deluged with information, breakingviews cuts to the chase. Short, punchy articles. Real-time analysis, delivered while the markets are still open. And above all – views, not news.
There are a few other plugs on the company's site touting "real-time comment on the big US and global stories" and "agenda-setting commentary." Of course, it's all hidden behind subscription walls, so most bloggers and Internet surfers are probably blissfully unaware of the existence of the company.
Without taking anything away from BreakingViews (maybe it's my deep-seated inferiority complex when it comes to the Brits), is this type of "real-time commentary" anything different than what's supplied by the various Corante contributors or by other bloggers? Don't bloggers provide "real-time comment" and try to create "agenda-setting commentary"? Bloggers provide views, not news, so what's so achingly different about BreakingViews? Is the Wall Street Journal afraid to call a blog a blog?
This week's New York Magazine - in addition to having a lovely cover photo of Gwyneth Paltrow for its Fall Preview edition - features a preview of a far different sort inside: a look at all the reasons why the Wall Street Journal could be up for sale by the end of the year. The likely bidders in any kind of deal would involve some of the biggest names in the media world: the Washington Post, News Corp. and The New York Times. The article is not one of those pump-and-dump articles churned out by hedge fund manager James Cramer for the magazine -- it's an eight-page dissection of all the reasons why the Wall Street Journal is a "beleaguered" newspaper desperately trying to right a sinking ship. So, without more ado, a list of the 10 reason why the WSJ could find itself with new ownership sooner rather than later:
(1) The newspaper's new "Weekend Journal" (due out on September 17) is nothing more than a panicked, bet-the-house attempt to bring in more advertising dollars from companies that usually do not advertise in the Journal (i.e. Coach, Ralph Lauren, Best Buy and "importers of Ligurian olive oil").
(2) Even with the new advertisers, the new "Weekend Journal" will do little to add to the newspaper's bottom line -- the new venture is "so expensive and complex" that the costs outweigh the benefits
(3) Content at the Journal has been becoming more advertising-driven than at any time in the paper's history, thanks to an increasing diversion of resources to "Personal Journal" type of articles (e.g. "the rising number of home chefs using dishwashers to cook fish"). As a result, the newspaper's reputation for sterling, well-researched pieces has taken a hit.
(4) Demographics -- the readers of the Journal aren't getting any younger
(5) Bad management and horrendous corporate governance
(6) High staff turnover, as even the individuals responsible for shepherding through the "Weekend Journal" are jumping ship at the first opportunity
(7) The CEO of Dow Jones (Peter Kann) and the publisher of the WSJ (Karen Elliott House) are husband & wife -- what New York Magazine calls "an obvious managerial idiosyncrasy." Hint: employees of the WSJ sometimes refer to Karen Elliott House as "Karen Elliott Spouse."
(8) A failure to diversify the WSJ brand into other media-related ventures
(9) A failure to keep up with the Joneses (the Dow Joneses, maybe, but not the Joneses). According to New York Magazine, the managing editor of the WSJ (Paul Steiger) "wears a faded tie and a yellow shirt that looks as if it slid off a Brooks Brothers shelf twenty years ago..."
(10) Management succession questions - both Paul Steiger and Peter Kann are set to retire two years from now, which could lead to the mother-of-all-board-battles for control of the WSJ.
All that being said, though, I can't think of a better-written newspaper in New York, and it would be a shame to see the Wall Street Journal snatched up by someone like Rupert Murdoch (who also publishes the New York Post). A reporter for the WSJ sums up this sentiment perfectly at the end of the New York Magazine piece:
"As the company’s advertising crisis continues, with few signs of abating, these reporters have found themselves with no choice other than to root hard for Kann to pull off an eleventh-hour victory with the “Weekend Edition,” to ensure that the company retains its independence. After one reporter angrily itemized his grievances against Kann, he took a deep breath and sighed. “On the other hand, he’s all that separates us from ‘Page Six’ and Bill O’Reilly. May God bless him and keep him safe."
Vanity Fair has released its annual "powerbroker ranking," which lists the two founders of Google (Sergey Brin, Larry Page) at #1, followed by a number of big-time media moguls such as Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone (#3) and News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch (#4). As the New York Daily News points out, "The young Google guys have toppled the old-line media moguls," marking a changing of the guard in the world of media and advertising.
Think you know a lot about the future of media? Well, I Want Media is offering its readers a chance to win a free copy of Veronis Suhler Stevenson's 2005 Communications Industry Forecast. All you have to do is submit a brain-busting question about the future of media and communications by September 19:
"For your chance to win, submit one question about the publication to I Want Media. Jim Rutherfurd, executive vice president and managing director of Veronis Suhler Stevenson, will answer the most intriguing question submitted, and his response will be posted on I Want Media.
The reader who submits the selected question will receive a FREE copy of the 2005 edition -- a $1,995 value. The private equity firm's annual publication is a "must-have" tool for media executives, according to USA Today."
For hints about what kinds of questions to ask, check out Veronis Suhler Stevenson's press release. Hint: four years from now, the worlds of media and advertising will have likely experienced massive transformations.
While we stopped reading the New York Press after the paper's "Death of the Pope" fiasco, we still happened to stumble across the paper's list of its "50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers" via a del.icio.us tag. The New York Press list, composed about five months ago, includes a handful of writers and bloggers who were singled out for their, well, loathsomeness.
There's Nick Denton, publisher of Gawker, who came in at #38:
"Though far from a pioneer, Franken-headed Gawker Media emperor Nick Denton takes partial blame for the dubious distinction of introducing the word "blog" to grandmothers in Dubuque. Denton single-handedly sandbagged and snarked his way to a post-crash brand of media-mogul-dom through his ubiquitous cultural blogs—Gawker.com, Fleshbot.com, Wonkette.com—while letting his lowly writer drones peck away all day for Birkenau pay rates... Denton has been secretive about the income he made off of his blogger slaves; writers and editors looking for stories about his alleged riches are, he says, "obsessed, and disoriented: nostalgic, cynical and now, with the revival of independent web media, daring to dream again."
And, there's Weblogs Inc. impresario Jason Calacanis, who came in at #23:
"During the dotcom boom, Jason Calacanis was one of those floppy-haired internet hucksters who beat the drum so loudly for tech companies that he became one of the era's major figures. The New Yorker even commissioned a fawning profile when he was editor of the now-defunct Silicon Alley Reporter. Now Calacanis is back and shamelessly beating the drum for (guess what?) blogs. Calacanis is chairman of Weblogs Inc., which now hosts more than 70 blogs about, well, who the fuck knows? His is a blog company that will make money from advertising while allegedly paying his army of typers a pittance in a "partnership" that promises a payday from future earnings."
We just hope that The New York Press, under the tutelage of new editor Harry Siegel, is more readable and less mean-spirited than it has been for the past two years.
According to the New York Times, Conde Nast Publications plans to start a new business magazine and Web site -- despite the fact that the advertising market has been in the doldrums for rivals like BusinessWeek and Forbes. Leading the charge at Conde Nast will be Joanne Lipman, formerly the deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, and David Carey, publisher of The New Yorker magazine (a Conde Nast publication).
While Conde Nast has plenty of firepower to make the new magazine a success (Carey was one of the creative forces behind SmartMoney magazine and Lipman has 22 years of experience at the WSJ), many analysts are skeptical:
"A lot of the traditional business books are still struggling. It is a crowded cluster of magazines of which there are some underperformers. So it is a curiosity."
Conde Nast's move into the world of business was so stunning that even Fishbowl NY - usually never at a loss for words - was left speechless. Conde Nast, after all, is better known for chick mags like Glamour and Lucky, and not at all for hard-hitting business coverage.
Reports are trickling in now about the much-anticipated meeting between billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn and Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons. The New York Post reported that the two men met for fifteen minutes, but Newsday says that the chat was closer to 50 minutes. Either way, both parties described the talks as "frank and open." The New York Times also uses the term "productive" to describe the meeting. Time Warner, obviously, doesn't want to be seen as being bullied by Icahn and his hedge fund gang, so the company only released a tersely-worded statement full of corporate gobbledygook: "The board and management are committed to moving as aggressively as appropriate on its current course to deliver long-term value for shareholders."
Earlier today, we linked to coverage in the New York Times about plans afoot at CBS News to change - perhaps dramatically - the look and feel of the 30-minute evening news broadcast. According to insiders, the changes go far beyond just new outfits for the news anchor(s) -- CBS is leaving no stone unturned, going so far as to consult with the "Dr. Phil Show" and MTV News about ways to make the evening news more, well, interesting.
With that in mind (and with apologies to Fellini), here are a few (admittedly tongue-in-cheek) ways that CBS could revitalize the CBS Evening News:
(1) Bring back Max Headroom. CBS could jump to the front of the retro-cyberpunk movement, revolutionize the world with the use of blipverts (thirty seconds of commercial information compressed into a mere three seconds) and become the Zic-Zac of the 21st century.
(2) Go with a cartoon character like Bart Simpson as the lead anchor. After all, Fox News has skipped the 6:30 newscast altogether, instead running episodes of The Simpsons in that all-important time slot. Why not compromise and have a cartoon character like Bart Simpson reading the news?
(3) Change the name of the show to "CBS Evening Rumors." Instead of news, offer rumors. Isn't that what Dan Rather did anyway? The 18-to-34 demographic already has all of its news by 6:30 anyway via the Internet, so why not just focus on rumors and gossip that people on the Net will be talking about tomorrow?
(4) Remake the show in the style of Naked News. Or, better yet, called it "Nekkid News." Anything with the word "naked" in it has to be a winner, right? What an easy way to appeal to different demographics: each night would be a different naked newscaster.
(5) Combine reality television with the network news. Network interns can compete for the role of lead anchor by completing a series of tasks over the course of the year. The winner gets a job with CBS News and a big fat paycheck from Viacom's Sumner Redstone for saving the company.
(6) Remake the show in the style of CBS's wildly-popular CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. Hasn't that show already had a multitude of spin-offs anyway? Viewers like the show, so give 'em more of what they want, right? There's no better lead-in for CSI than a real-life news broadcast dedicated to stories that will later be scripted into future CSI shows.
(7) Copy the best parts of the Late Show With David Letterman. There would be a "Top 10" news countdown, a live-studio band, and really silly stunts like "Stupid Newsmaker Tricks."
(8) Change the name of the show from CBS News to "See B.S. News" The evening "news" would become just a lot of BS. You know, crazy stories lifted from Fark.com or wild conspiracy rumors about Bush and Cheney's plan to takeover the world.
(8 1/2) Remake the look and feel of the CBS Evening News to look exactly like a Web page. Add lots of annoying banners and Google text ads for CBS shows for good measure so that TV viewers forget that they're in front of the TV. Make sure that the video feed starts and stops at random times, just like the "buffering" process on my broadband connection when I download clips. Once interactive TV becomes a reality, viewers will be clamoring to buy the ties and outfits of the lead anchor (whoever it turns out to be).
CBS News is experimenting with a number of different formats for the post-Dan Rather 30-minute evening news broadcast. Details are speculative at best, mostly because CBS News staffers said the process of developing an evening news format was "too sensitive" to give anything more than anonymous tips. Maybe it's a sign of "out-of-the-box" thinking at the media titan -- or maybe it's a sign of panic at a dying media brontosaurus -- but it sounds like CBS News is pulling out all the stops to create something fresh and new:
"In trying to elicit fresh ideas, [the chairman of CBS] has cast a wide net. Earlier this year he sought advice from executives far afield of the news division, including those who conceived the "Dr. Phil" talk show and others from MTV News. A report yesterday in The New York Observer said the network had asked dozens of college-age summer interns to give Olympic-style ratings - on a scale of 1 to 10 - to ideas for revamping the news."
Somewhere, Walt Mossberg, the personal tech guru at The Wall Street Journal, must be smiling... Tech advertising at The Wall Street Journal jumped by 22% last month, mainly due to increases in ads for consumer electronics, networking, personal computers, office products and software. For the year, however, technology ads in the Journal are down 14.7%.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how the Journal's upcoming weekend edition (slated for sometime in September) impacts tech advertising.
UPDATE: Just heard from Walt Mossberg (check the comments below) - he makes clear that there is a Chinese Wall between the editorial and advertising sides of the house at The Wall Street Journal. Two separate teams walled off from each other. Wanted to clarify that -- guess it was a bit of reckless name-dropping there by myself... That's the way we do things here in blog-land.
With the Dolan family squabble at Cablevision almost resolved (we hope), The New York Observer dives into the mess at yet another troubled family dynasty: the Murdochs. With the announcement two weeks ago that Lachlan Murdoch would resign as deputy chief operating officer of News Corp., The Observer speculates about what it all means for the New York Post, as the 33-year-old Lachlan Murdoch is replaced as publisher of the New York Post by its former publisher, the 74-year-old Rupert Murdoch. Behind the scenes, the struggle for power was messy, says the Observer, with Lachlan chafing under the "absolute authority" and "tyranny" of Rupert.
It's perhaps fitting that the Post - the "beloved tabloid" of Rupert known for ruffling the feathers of not a few New Yorkers - is at the center of the Murdoch family intrigue:
"The restoration of the 74-year-old Mr. Murdoch to the vehicle into which he has thrown so much capital and passion comes after a week of the kind that the Post itself would revel in, of public family turmoil and power Parcheesi that exacted an emotional cost from his son."
The BBC has more on the future of the Murdoch dynasty, asking quite bluntly: "Is anyone big enough to step into Dad's shoes?"
The New York Post, citing a report from Newsweek.com, says that NBC is in the hunt for a "news czar" to oversee the three jewels in its media crown: NBC, CNBC and MSNBC. Already, the company has made overtures to senior executives at Martha Stewart Living, Time Warner and ESPN. The rumor on the street is that the new hire at NBC will be tasked with "a sweeping restructuring of NBC's entire approach to the news business."
Want a "hot summer beach read" full of intimate details about the dating life of a twenty-something New York woman? You won't find it at Barnes & Noble or The Strand, but you will find it in the blogosphere... The New York Times profiles Stephanie Klein, the "Carrie Bradshaw of New York bloggers. According to Technorati, her Greek Tragedy blog ranks in the top 1% of all blogs, giving her instant name and face recognition in the New York area:
"Today the blog has an international readership with fans who recognize Ms. Klein when they see her gallivanting around Manhattan and the Hamptons, and who find parallels to their own lives in her candid, freewheeling stories."
And that's not all: Klein now has a book deal ("Straight Up and Dirty") and a TV deal with NBC for a 30-minute comedy series.
Skimming through the latest issue of the Bay News, happened to run across a profile of Flatbush's SHEE, a "hip-hop recording artist, songwriter and, now, an aspiring web game hero." One of the videogames is "SHEE is Sheer Badness," which features SHEE "fighting off her enemies with two guns while wearing high heels and a miniskirt." A big hat tip to SHEE -- she made it out of a Flatbush housing project to become the first person in her family ever to graduate college. Now, she's got a mater's degree from Central Michigan University and runs her own record label, Sheer Badness Entertainment.
The identity of the anonymous magazine editor behind the blog Jolie in NYC was finally revealed, after much speculation by blogs such as Gawker. She's a 24-year-old Barnard grad who blabbed about the goings-on at Ladies Home Journal. Once her bosses found out, she was out of a job -- the latest blogger booted for tell-all exploits within the corporate walls. Not only that, but Seventeen magazine has apparently also yanked an offer, leaving the young blogger high and dry.
What enraged her bosses most of all was the scandalous tales of corporate perks lavished on anyone in a position to write up beauty products reviews -- items like "Marc Jacobs wallets and coats, plane ticket vouchers, iPods, overnight stays at the Mandarin Oriental, yearlong gym memberships..."
Over at her Jolie in NYC blog, Nadine Haobsh (the anonymous blogger) has a few words of warning for other insider types who plan to spill the beans:
"To all you would-be bloggers out there: even if you truly are "just being funny" or "don't really mean it", think before you write. And definitely don't write about your industry: things will absolutely be taken out of context or interpreted incorrectly, and that's just not fun for anybody."
According to Jossip, Ladies Home Journal is now putting in place a blogging policy to dissuade other would-be bloggers to dish out the dirt.
Under intense pressure to boost circulation and trim costs, John S. Carroll, the editor of the Los Angeles Times, stepped down yesterday. That move, of course, led to a lot of hand-wringing and navel-gazing by the MSM. New York Times editor Bill Keller, who knows a thing or two about newspapers losing credibility, says that the line between newspapers and blogs continues to blur:
"We've only got two things that distinguish us from blogs. One is we have reporting staffs who actually go out and see stuff and are trained professionals. And we have standards which are enforced by editors — you double-check things, make sure it's right — and all that costs money. If you aren't giving people the basics — good reliable news, smart analysis and in-depth investigations — then all they're going to see is the same stuff they can get on cable TV."
"In a move that ackowledges the shift in news consumption from TV to the web, CBS News has announced plans for the launch of a 24-hour, broadband news network which will become the centerpiece of the network's news delivery platform. The new CBSNews.com site will include broadband video, a weblog, called "Public Eye," written by Vaughn Ververs and on-air reporters will produce online segments throughout the day."
According to CBS execs, the move is a nod to the fact that viewers are "increasingly looking for news and information at all times of the day, not just during scheduled periods, and using the Internet for that purpose."
"The prestigious competition is open to women journalists, photographers, writers, producers from print, radio and television, and online media in the New York major metropolitan area. Contest divisions include newspapers, wires, photojournalism, radio and television, magazines and Internet media, with subcategories in each. New this year, blogs and Interactive media have been added to the Internet division, and Internet photography has been added to the photography division."
Time Warner AudioBooks announced an audio download deal with digital media company MediaBay. A number of other leading audio book publishers -- including Simon & Schuster and Random House -- have also signed on with MediaBay to offer audio books via an "online audio storefront."
The numbers behind the audio download industry are interesting, especially as they impact the evolution of the book industry: Audio downloads currently account for almost 4% of the billion-dollar audio book industry. However, this segment could soon represent 30% to 40% of total sales by 2010, according to MediaBay execs.
The Web site of the New York Observer is undergoing a full makeover. It all goes down at lunchtime on Wednesday. It's idle speculation, of course, but my guess is that the new site design will look a lot like popular blog gossip sites or, heaven forbid, the Huffington Post. (Hat tip: Gawker)
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Michael Massing argues that "the New York Times pop-culture reporting is ambitious and hip, but manages to miss half the story." While the Times has made huge strides in moving away from its "thoroughly high-minded" approach to culture, the paper has also steered away from any commentary on the broader social impact of pop culture. The paper's coverage of pop culture may "brim with news about boardroom struggles, mogul rivalries, high-stakes dealmaking, ratings shares, marketing strategies, publicity blitzes, technological innovations, branding, and franchising," but there's little or no reflection on what it all means in a broader context:
"The Times has neglected a critical aspect of pop culture — its effects on society. With the entertainment world grown so pervasive, with its products so thoroughly infiltrating the nation’s households, its influence on kids, families, and communities has intensified as well. Yet the Times, like most mainstream news media, pays all that only sporadic attention...."
Paid Content has more on Viacom's "digital remake". The media conglomerate is actively looking at ways to leverage its Nickelodeon and VH1 brands and re-purpose its TV content for an online audience. The first new site to debut is TurboNick, which will be chock full of ads for young kids, according to a report by Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal:
"It's all about the advertising. Kids won't be able to view the programs without watching the ad. Mike Skagerlind, SVP & GM, online operations, promises not to "bombard" kids with ads, then follows that with the explanation that viewers will see traditional ads about every five minutes."
In the New York Daily News, syndicated columnist Richard Cohen bemoans the fact that the Internet has become a permanent memory bank of everything he has ever written as a columnist (about 3,500 columns since 1976). Thanks to Google and Lexis-Nexis, his writings and musings are now open to prying eyes and potential pundits trying to trip him up with something that he wrote 10, 15 or even 20 years ago:
"I yearn for the freedom to be what I want to be. I don't want to lie, but I want to be comforted by my own version of the truth. I want to own my life and not have it banked at Google or some such thing. The trove of letters that unmasks our hero and his pretensions has been moved from the musty attic to sleek cyberspace.
I am imprisoned by the truth, by a record of what I wrote and the public's silly insistence on consistency - a life sentence without hope of parole. For me, the future is the present..."
(Props to Cohen for getting the identity of Deep Throat right in a 1970s column)
High-powered media moguls like Barry Diller and Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons are arriving in Sun Valley, Idaho this week for the big media "schmooze fest" sponsored by Allen & Co. The events are closed to the public, and for good reason -- the media execs use the week of relaxation as a "breeding ground for potential merger deals." According to CNN, Viacom's recent decision to split apart its media conglomerate into two standalone pieces will lead to a lot of tongue-wagging at this week's retreat as media honchos discuss ways to spin off assets.
In case you haven't noticed, games aren't just for kids anymore. Americans spend more money each year on games than at the box office on Hollywood films. Check out the nearest Blockbuster store -- see how much of the shelf space has been given over to video games? With this trend in mind, MTV has launched MTV Games, a new division aimed at developing and producing online and video games. The Viacom unit will also develop partnerships with independent game developers and work with publishers and other industry partners to produce and market original video game titles.
And that's not all: Viacom being the huge, advertising-dependent media conglomerate that it is, the move into gaming means that consumers should prepare for the next generation of "in-game advertising." The company is already working on a partnership with Midway Games.
The New York Times says that The Lawrence Journal-World of Lawrence, Kansas is rapidly turning into the newspaper of the future. The paper, which melds together the offline and online worlds to form a hyper-local resource for citizens in the local community, may only have a circulation of 20,000 -- but that hasn't stopped big city publishers from taking a hard look at what's going on in Kansas.
Anyone notice that the New York Times has signed James McManus, the author of Positively Fifth Street, to write a regular column on the world of poker and gambling? Interestingly, the editorial staff at the Times has determined that the column will be considered "sports" and not "entertainment." McManus, writing about the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas, leads off by writing that "whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn poker."
Any coincidence that newspapers in general are confronting a lagging readership? That the New York Times has struggled to bring in more advertisers? Or that shares of online casino group PartyGaming are now worth upwards of 5 billion pounds after a wildly successful IPO in London? (For those keeping track, PartyGaming is now worth more than British Airways)
Newspapers, of course, will claim that they are only giving the American public what it wants. Which, apparently, is a generous dose of Michael Jackson, mixed in with the Runaway Bride, combined with a little gambling and NASCAR on the side.
Media executive Merrill Brown, a founder of Court TV and MSNBC.com, was named national editorial director of News 21, a new initiative that will go live next summer with the aim of helping journalism students get practical experience and training in the news business. The new program, funded in part by the Carnegie Knight Foundation of New York and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, is also expected to help attract new and younger audiences to the field of journalism and bolster youth readership of newspapers.
Journalists are ashamed to admit that they read blogs -- yet, a majority of them use them regularly as part of their work. According to the most recent findings of the 11th Annual Euro RSCG Magnet Survey of the Media, completed in collaboration with Columbia University, 51% of journalists are using blogs to do their work, despite the fact that only 1% believe blogs are credible.
Moreover, 28% of journalists are relying on blogs for their day-to-day reporting; 53% of journalists use blogs to find story ideas; 43% use them to research and reference facts; 36% use them to find sources; and 33% of journalists use blogs as a way of uncovering breaking news or scandals. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Not only are blogs influencing online readers, they are now "influencing the influencers," says the head of Euro RSCG Magnet.
Micro Persuasion explains the changes afoot in the world of media: "Clearly, journalists are hanging out in the blogosphere looking for sources, scoops and more. There's no excuse - no excuse - for not monitoring blogs. And clearly those companies that choose to start positive blogging conversations and maintain them will get more press."
(1) Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone is "midtown Manhattan's Mount Vesuvius of self-celebration"
(2) Viacom is "one of the biggest and ugliest outfits in the entire 'media conglomerates' space"
(3) The "wheels and fenders have been popping off the Viacom jalopy"
(4) Sumner Redstone never really cared about building strong brands or becoming a global leader in any category: "Redstone's game was all about making the price of Viacom's stock rise in the foamy bull market of the 1990s"
(5) Viacom has a "sprawling mish-mash" of entertainment-related businesses
(6) Under the Viacom corporate umbrella, there's a "kind of Mister Potato-head of media properties"
(7) Viacom was "fan-danced into the M&A brothel by Wall Street deal promoters"
(8) Redstone's spin-off plans are nothing more than "sticking one's investment mistakes on someone else"
(9) Redstone's strategy "really amounts to little more than a new and improved version of a form of financial engineering known as the tracking stock spin-off"
(10) Viacom's strategy is nothing more than a "new paper shuffle" and lots of smoke & mirrors
The Wall Street Journal counters the assertion that we're drowning in a sea of disposable news, gossip, unedited news snippets and sound bites. With 24-hour cable channels beaming news into our living rooms every hour of the day and small, fast-moving Internet news sites scrambling to send tidbits and headlines to your inbox, news has never been this fast and this furious: "Increasingly you can get your news however you want it – pushed to your desktop, digested in your email or shot out to your Treo."
But are we really "oversaturated with news"? Is "bad media" really crowding out "good media"? The Wall Street Journal says NO: the press is more enlightened than ever before, readers are more educated on important issues of the day, and there are more technological tools available to track the news on a 24/7 basis. We're not being dumbed down, we're being smartened up. Who wants to go back to the day of one daily newspaper and three major news networks?
Starting in mid-September, The Wall Street Journal will publish a new weekend edition that will concentrate on lighter topics, like sports, entertainment and food & wine. The goal is to "attract a more diverse base of advertising to pull The Journal out of its prolonged slump." With that goal in mind, the weekend version will have a "more airy, more casual feel." Karen Elliott House, publisher of the paper, explains: "The idea is to allow people to relax with The Wall Street Journal."
The New York Times' coverage of the new weekend edition from The Wall Street Journal is interesting -- mostly since The New York Times is facing the same kind of financial pressure to bring in more advertising dollars from different sources. According to the NYT, the WSJ is planning to "fluff up its editorial mix." The Financial Times already publishes a weekend edition, and that's not too fluffy. What's really fluffy is the new MarketPlace Weekly from the Times -- a few re-heated articles from earlier in the week and a ton of classified ads.
Anyone notice that yesterday's New York Post included a special section (NYP Biz) for small business owners and entrepreneurs? It looks like the section was pretty much bankrolled by The Small Business Team at Chase, but it's still pretty cool if the New York Post is planning to make this a regular feature once it gets more sponsors onboard.
Articles in this week's edition included advice on how to promote Websites, a how-to guide on becoming an in-demand public speaker, a case study from the Brooklyn Brewery, and tips for getting a new venture off the ground.
Slate weighs in on the age-old question facing all media moguls: Is it better to be rich or famous? Given Sumner Redstone's recent decision to split media conglomerate Viacom into two different publicly-traded companies and Barry Diller's decision to sell off his stake in Vivendi Universal Entertainment, it appears that, for the time being, media moguls are "choosing cash over ego." According to Daniel Gross of Slate, media moguls like Redstone or Barry Diller "no longer think it's good to be the king of all media."
What's interesting is that "there seems to be a new conventional wisdom" for media dealmakers: "Old media sucks because it is condemned to slower growth." Who wants to be caught holding broadcast TV assets or traditional radio stations when your competitor is tapping into high-growth areas like digital music, satellite radio and even Podcasting?
Citing the need to create shareholder value and boost a lagging stock price, the board of directors of Viacom voted to split the company into two pieces, a growth company and a value company. The faster-growing company will include Viacom's cable networks (MTV, Nickelodeon and Showtime), Paramount Pictures and Simon & Schuster. The slower-growing company will include CBS and its television stations, outdoor advertising, radio and Paramount Television.
In this week's New York Magazine, Kurt Andersen takes readers for a backstage tour of the media sausage factory... You really don't want to know how sausage is made, just like you really don't want to know how journalists create a well-written article out of anonymous sources, sketchy information and less than reliable contacts. If you enjoyed the media barrage after the revelation of the identity of Deep Throat, this article's for you. If not, here's the money quote:
"The reporter’s craft isn’t a clinical process. Journalism is like sausage, and if you’re squeamish, it’s better not to see it being made. Responsible journalists will try to make sausages that aren’t contaminated or dangerous. And some of us will prefer to make and eat kosher or organic sausages—but only some of us."
(photo credit: Nep)
Gothamist braces for the arrival of MarketPlace Weekly, the new advertising-filled tabloid from the New York Times:
"It will be full of classified ads, supplemented by articles culled from The Times's Job Market, Real Estate, Automotive, Business and Dining Out sections, among others. Hmm, so it's like a reverse paper - mostly small type ads, with some content; we're officially in the bizarro world."
The New York Times plans to distribute tens of thousands of these "papers" every Thursday afternoon (3:30 to 7:30) using roving packs of street teams at strategically important commuter hubs.
UPDATE: The New York Post says that the Times tabloid launch was a bust. That's what happens when you try to force "recycled news and old ads" on New York commuters.
Sumner Redstone, the 81-year-old CEO of Viacom, is expected to appoint his daughter, Shari Redstone, as the vice-chairman of Viacom next week, according to Crain's New York. Currently, Ms. Redstone is president of the Redstone family’s movie theater chain National Amusements.
It's pretty much guaranteed that the board of directors will rubber stamp the move. After all, Sumner is also the controlling shareholder of the company.
This seems to happen all the time on the Internet. You read a site regularly, learn how to navigate it easily and efficiently, recognize the different authors and voices on the site and then... one day, you wake up, and it's changed. Not really gone -- but somehow different. Either you've been reading the site via RSS feeds on Bloglines, or you've been on vacation, or your reading interests have changed, but somehow, you don't really recognize the site when you visit it again.
So has something happened to the Gotham Gazette site? It looks, well, somehow blog-like today. Like somebody replaced the old Web infrastructure with a Typepad template, added XML feeds, arranged news stories in chronological order and installed a blogroll of news sites and informational resources. Looks good. It's crisp and readable and might actually make New York public policy fun. Since the Gotham Gazette is funded by the Citizens Union Foundation, my guess is that the Gotham Gazette caught the citizen journalism bug that's been going around lately (just ask Dan Gillmor or Jeff Jarvis).
From the gossip pages of the New York Daily News: "Gawker.com owner Nick Denton is in talks with candidates to replace Jessica Cohen [sic], who wants to do something new, we hear..."
"Today’s Daily News contained a lovely surprise: Rush and Molloy are reporting that my large-headed gimpmaster is searching for my replacement. This was news to me, of course — but, just as Jennifer found out Brad was fucking Angelina in Africa thanks to US Weekly, I’ve learned that Nick Denton has hired Radar’s token hetero, Chris Tennant, to replace me. Seeing as I’ve caught on to the master plan, I expect to be bound, gagged, and shoved in a trunk any minute now."
"Dow Jones is expanding ad inventory and co-branding options at recently acquired MarketWatch with new sub-channels (Industries, Life & Money) and sections that zero in on specific industries or topics. Two of the new sections are being co-branded with the company's own StartUpJournal.com and CareerJournal.com; the new tech section is co-branded with CNET... Meanwhile, the site is doing its share as a promo vehicle for the Online Journal; part of the company's hopes for success with the acquisition hinge on tapping into the unduplicated readers."
"Oddjack is our unlucky thirteenth site. We've covered a range of other vices, from gossip to porn. And our legal department is understretched by libel and obscenity suits. It's time for gambling.
One day, everything will be a wager, from a hand of poker to the likelihood you'll be struck down by a bioterror attack before the next brain backup. One day. For now, there's Oddjack. It's a sneak peek at the future of gambling."
Viacom's stock price is down 18% over the past 12 months, but Sumner Redstone's paycheck is bigger than ever, and that's got shareholders rankled, says the New York Daily News. The news of Redstone's "mega payday" was especially irksome to CBS employees, who labor in the part of Viacom's media empire that is experiencing the most turmoil.
For those keeping track, the 82-year-old Redstone pulled in $56 million last year, a hefty 58% increase from the previous year. His left-hand and right-hand men, too, had nice paydays, with each of them pulling in $52 million last year.
Over at the Village Voice site, we almost did a double-take.. Looks like the Village Voice has outsourced its online real estate coverage to top-flight NYC real estate blog Curbed. It may not be a lucrative deal, but surely is an example of how a niche content Web site can make some money without counting on online advertising dollars to pay the bills.
Anyway, Curbed fans (and we're one of 'em) should check out the 'Hoodwinked contest that the site is sponsoring over the Memorial Day Weekend:
"Here's How it Works: You email us the specific boundaries, name, and a detailed description of a New York City (all boros welcome) neighborhood of your creation... You may rename an existing 'hood, but you are encouraged to create your own. The more detailed the description, the better."
Eugene Hernandez, editor-in-chief of indieWIRE, draws a link between the world of independent blogs and the world of independent films. Hernandez, who will be teaching a class at The New School on American independent films, hints at the impact of blogs on the future success of underground NYC films:
"A peculiar hallmark of New York's cinematic counterculture is the role that the city's intense, sophisticated audience has played in pushing once-fragile films like ''Open Water'' and ''Garden State'' into prominence. Often, small movies that break out have taken root on a single screen at the Angelika Film Center, Film Forum or Lincoln Center, where an enthusiastic reception has opened the door to a wider audience in other cities and on DVD. That audience seems to renew itself each generation, with fans of newer styles and genres (like Asian horror or Dogme, the Danish-based film movement) joining the aging cinéastes who devour sophisticated European fare. And the tribe has grown through the Web, which is alive with blogs and enthusiast sites like indiewire.com that create viral marketing and lead fans elsewhere to order up DVD's of lesser-known films."
The old journalism is broken, now it's time to fix it: The Carnegie Corporation and the Knight Foundation are contributing a total of $6 million over a three-year period to five top U.S. schools (Columbia, Cal-Berkeley, Northwestern, USC and Harvard) to "try to elevate the standing of journalism in academia and find ways to prepare journalists better."
The dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Cal-Berkeley explains what's at stake:
"Journalism as a whole is clearly in something of a crisis. Those of us who run journalism schools are confronted with the prospect of ever fewer distinguished media outlets - especially in broadcast - to which we can aspire to send our students to work. So this is a time not only to try and make journalism schools as relevant as possible to the evolving profession, but also to have universities begin to weigh in on the debate about what happens in the media."
No word yet on whether blogs and podcasting will become part of the new training in journalism.
Tired of following expired links that have disappeared behind paid subscription walls, Tom Coates of Plastic Bag is finally cutting the cord with the New York Times:
"Eurgh. I am so bored of following other people's links to something on the New York Times and finding it all login-required and password-protected. I cannot be bothered any more. I. can. not. be. both. ered. So as of now I'm not going to link to them any more. And I'm not going to follow any link that goes to them. And I'm not going to engage in any debates they allegedly start behind their blanket of white."
In response to a question by Glaser, Jay Rosen puts the future of the magazine business into perspective:
"At NYU, I have colleagues who share my fascination with the future possibilities of long-form journalism, and social criticism in periodical form; and if you start where we do, the natural question is not 'how can magazines prosper economically in the digital age?' (your perfectly valid industry query) but 'how can a Republic-enhancing form of journalism -- long-form journalism, narrative journalism, the journalism of ideas, of criticism in tune with the news -- thrive in the years ahead, whether or not the market values it at such and such a rate, whether or not people call it a magazine.'
Profit, non-profit, semi-profit, patron model, public radio model, new model, old -- we'll take anything that works -- even bake sales -- because we care about continuation of a form, and the chance to be great in it, guaranteed for future authors."
Worried that many of your favorite op-ed columnists at the New York Times will soon be disappearing behind a paid subscription wall? Susan Mernit uncovers a comprehensive plan by Peter Levinson to replace the New York Times op-ed columnists with bloggers. Paul Krugman? Replace him with blogger Brad DeLong. David Brooks? Try Andrew Sullivan. Tom Friedman? How about Juan Cole?
What's going on behind that gleaming facade at Time Warner Center overlooking Central Park? Fortune goes behind the scenes with Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons to see if there are any interesting new initiatives afoot at the company. Somewhat surprisingly (depending on how you look at it), the answer is basically "business as usual." The company is paring down debt, stabilizing operations, settling federal investigations, and trying out a few ideas to boost the stock price. The only problem is that Wall Street isn't paying much attention -- the company's stock price hasn't budged in nearly 12 months.
The takeaway lesson? A few new projects are in the works, but not "some newfangled thing that people can't understand." When asked about some kind of grand strategy at Time Warner, Dick Parsons doesn't seem to have much in mind: "It's not terribly different from what you see today." If you own shares of Time Warner, that has to be disappointing.
(Photo credit: Cornershots)
Christopher Lawton of the Wall Street Journal Online interviews newspaper exec Gary Pruitt, who explains how traditional newspapers are attempting to attract younger readers and, at the same time, counteract the recent growth trend in online advertising. When Lawton suggests that the traditional print newspaper might be "dead," Pruitt quickly counters:
"I would say that the migration of content and advertising online means we will face new competitors. The barriers to entry are less, and there are many more classified companies that can compete... There are many more competitors online, but it also means that we have opportunities. We now compete in the breaking news space that we once fed to broadcasters. We can deliver targeted advertising to online audiences, measured and identified with greater precision than ever before..."
Not quite as exciting as the news about Saddam Hussein in his undies, but... Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine quit his full-time job at Advance.net on Friday to pursue a number of interesting media projects -- including a high-profile consulting assignment with About.com and New York Times Digital:
"I just quit my job at Advance.net to do lots of new things -- a damned career smorgasbord -- all related to changing news and to citizens' media. I'm going to work on content development About.com, on a consulting basis, working with Martin Nisenholtz at The New York Times Company... I will act as editor in chief of a new news start-up founded by Upendra Shardanand (ex Firefly, Microsoft Passport, AOL, and Time Warner) and a sterling team... I got a chance to write the new media curriculum for the new City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism... I am hanging out my consulting shingle to take on a few good projects... I have a book I'm finally ready to start writing and I'm thinking about writing some of it here on this blog. And, of course, I will blog -- blog more, I hope."
Congratulations, Jeff, and good luck!
In Wired Magazine, Adam Penenberg describes how a 24-year-old NYU grad is creating a Chinese Weblog empire along the lines of Nick Denton's Gawker Media:
"The 24-year-old Chan, who has a business degree from New York University, is hoping to build a blog empire in China. His model? None other than Nick Denton, the Rupert Murdoch (without the money) of the weblog set, who started the Gawker Network, operator of meanie gossip rag Gawker; Gizmodo, which feeds gadget lust; and Wonkette, the Dorothy Parker of the web set."
Chan's blog network consists of three blogs: Dianziren (consumer electronics); Shuanga (humor); and Jiaexp (gaming). Two more are on the way: a blog for women about beauty and cosmetics, and a gossip blog about celebrities.
With the announcement earlier this week that the New York Times is planning to put the commentary of its esteemed op-ed columnists behind a paid subscription wall, it was only natural that Krugman, Friedman, Dowd, Brooks & Co. would have something to say about it... Once bloggers have to pay to read them, will these op-ed columnists remain a vital part of the blogosphere?
The Yellow Line has an amusing parody of how these op-ed columnists might have reacted when informed by Times management. Here's Maureen Dowd, for example:
"It really is true. I work for plutocrats. I used to think those Bush bumper stickers and Cheney shirts owned by our illustrious editorial board were just wry winks at the nature of power. But I see now I was wrong, we all were. The leadership here has no interest in running a paper. They’re much happier heading out to their Vermont lodges, sipping their Pinot Noirs and plotting their next money grab."
Two points from the speech especially stood out:
(1) Nisenholtz's plan for a New York Times affiliate program based loosely on Amazon.com's affiliate program. It's still a work in progress, but it looks like the New York Times is thinking about ways to provide revenue to small blog publishers. Bloggers willing and able to direct readers to premium content offerings from the New York Times would get a cut of any revenue. (The day before, the Times announced a $50 per year all-you-can-eat subscription plan)
(2) Nisenholtz's analysis of the forces at work in the world of media (e.g. the unbundling of content from central organizing principles, the need to balance serendipity and technology-driven personalization). In the old days, of course, everyone got their news from print newspapers, and there was a generally accepted way of organizing the information. With RSS readers and other innovations, content has become "unbundled" and stripped of context. People no longer access content through the "front door" either. The New York Times online is trying to find a middle between two extremes.
Overall, I was impressed with what Nisenholtz had to say. He didn't have all the answers, but who does? According to Robert Scoble, the New York Times is "preparing for the death of print." That may be a bit extreme, but it is clear that the Times is taking steps to avoid becoming a media dinosaur. Companies like Google and About.com have been instrumental in changing the company's thinking. Google has altered the way that traditional media think about advertising, while About.com has shown that it is possible to monetize micro-niche content that users find through non-traditional means (i.e. search engines).
On Monday, the New York Times announced the creation of TimesSelect, a new $49.95 per year premium content offering for its online readers:
"For a modest fee, TimesSelect will provide exclusive access to Op-Ed and news columnists on NYTimes.com, easy and in-depth access to The Times's online archives, early access to select articles on the site, as well as other exciting features."
According to the company's press release, TimesSelect goes live sometime in early September.
After a short stint as a "guest blogger" for a political blog, David Greenberg of Rutgers University explains why blogging is not for everyone. Quite simply, "blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art."
As Greenberg soon found out, simply posting a few snippets of information is not enough: "I now realized that I didn't need only new information. I needed a gimmick - a motif or a running joke that would keep the blog rolling all week... The best bloggers develop hobbyhorses, shticks and catchphrases that they put into wider circulation. Creating your own idiosyncratic set of villains to skewer and theories to promote - while keeping readers interested - requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece."
It's May 16, and that means the re-launch of the New York Times business section, featuring more blog and media coverage. There's a story about a dispute between an NYU journalism professor and Tom Wolfe over who created the New Journalism, speculation that Tina Brown may have lost her magic touch, and details about CNN's Web site overhaul.
On the CyberJournalist site, Ann Morton has posted a quick six-minute online news survey that will be used as part of a graduate student media research studies project at the New School. The project examines "the factors impacting the current tectonic shift in news consumption patterns."
In the New York Post, John Podhoretz discusses the mass media meltdown:
"It can't be a coincidence that the five major pillars of the American media — movies, television, radio, recorded music and newspapers — are all suffering at the same time. And it isn't. Something major has changed over the past year, as the availability of alternative sources of information and entertainment has finally reached critical mass... Newly empowered consumers are letting the producers, creators and managers of the nation's creative and news content know that they are dissatisfied with the product they're being peddled."
Something has to give, says Podhoretz, since "peddling unwatchable nonsense in Hollywood and on TV, and foisting politically correct pseudo-information on increasingly sophisticated consumers of news — isn't going to hack it any longer..."
The Wall Street Journal is shaking up its European and Asian operations in order to attract more readers and stanch the flow of red ink. Most notably, the company is changing from a broadsheet to a tabloid format for its Asian and European editions and moving more of its international staff to New York. Starting in 2006, the moves could save Dow Jones (the publisher of the Wall Street Journal) as much as $17 million annually.
Starting May 16, look for more blog and new media coverage from the New York Times. Contained in a recent NYT press release announcing a new format for its weekday and Saturday business sections, there's this little gem:
"On Mondays, Business Day will focus on media and marketing news, with technology included as it relates to those industries. David Carr will write a column on new media; the world of blogs will be covered as a regular feature."
Well, the Huffington Post went live today, and, granted, there are some big names blogging: Mike Nichols, John Cusack, David Mamet and Ellen DeGeneres.
However, it's all-too-likely that you'll run across postings like this:
"It may be hard to believe in today's Internet universe that allows anyone to become a pundit, but this is the first time I have ever blogged, if that is a word. In fact, I almost never even read blogs, much less write them, but my friend Arianna Huffington's invitation to contribute to huffingtonpost.com was too intriguing to turn down. Maybe my lack of interest in the blogosphere has something to do with the fact that I'm 68 years old and still mired in the Gutenberg era..."
The Slashdot community is buzzing over an article in the Wall Street Journal which hinted that the New York Times was considering subscription-based pricing to access its vast Internet archives. Instead of paying $2.95 per article for archived material, readers would pay an annual fee of $49.99 for unlimited access to material published within the past 12 months.
An over-heated real estate market and continuous hype about the blogosphere led to this: Business Week Online has a profile of Lockhart Steele's Curbed.com blog, calling it "a magnet for anyone looking for the lowdown on the industry's Gotham gossip." The article characterizes the blog as a "real estate gossip" blog, but it's actually more than that -- Curbed.com often is out in front of issues and developments that affect all New Yorkers, like IKEA's decision to set up shop in Red Hook or the lack of broadband Internet access in some key neighborhoods. In addition, as Business Week points out, the blog does a great job of enlisting reader support in tracking down tips and details to build a community-like feel.
J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism announced the ten winners of its New Voices awards. These winners will receive $12,000 grants to launch innovative local media ventures across the country.
The one winner from New York City was Loisaida Speaks, from the Lower East Side Girls Club. The organization will use funding to train 32 young women to produce weekly podcasts on community news and issues. In the future, these podcasters will build a network of teen podcast correspondents to cover local issues and events.
For more on why podcasting has the potential to change the market reality for traditonal radio broadcasters, check out Buzz Machine's posting on the new all-podcasting radio station (YOURadio) launched by Infinity Broadcasting:
"YOURadio is big news and good news for a few reasons... First, it is big media recognizing that it's time to listen -- and do more than listen: Let the people speak. It is big media recognizing the value of citizens' media.
Second, it is an admission that the old, one-size-fits-all, top-down, one-way models of programming are broken and the audience can do it better.
Third, it an admission that the old business models are soon to break and that the people can provide more talent for less than the old talent could."
The New York Post's Page Six, a must-read for guys and gals who gossip, has contemplated life as a blog -- but don't expect any major changes any time soon. Richard Johnson, the editor of Page Six, responds to a question from I Want Media:
"When would we have time to write a blog? We are too busy gathering info, reporting and writing Page Six. And we find ourselves increasingly busy reading all those blogs out there, some of which actually contain new and accurate stories. Most don't. They are filled with criticism and opinion. I'm sure when there is a market for a Page Six blog, the Post will launch one. It's probably only a matter of time."
(Hat tip: Micro Persuasion)
In his Wired column this week, NYU assistant professor Adam Penenberg weighs in on whether or not the nation's top journalism programs should change how and what they teach in order to keep up with the changin' times: "With newspapers hemorrhaging readers and people migrating to the web for their daily news fix, should we consider changing the way we teach journalism?"
The key, says Penenberg, is keeping up with new technology - whether it be blogs or wikis or whatever -- while preserving the cornerstones of traditional journalism:
"That's why I think that NYU should continue to teach the basics but also experiment with novel ways to approach reporting and writing. There will always be a market for young reporters who know how to gather facts and write them up in a clear, convincing manner. For that, you can't do much better than showing students in our introductory classes how to craft a killer lede, a well-honed nut graf and an airtight structure."
Now that blogging is "trendy" in some circles, it looks like deep-pocketed media types are actually considering the idea of for-profit blog media publications. According to Gothamist, these celebrity blogging publications - like the one being launched by Arianna Huffington - may not be built for the long-haul:
"[The Huffington Post] seems less that than a celebrity vanity project like, oh, we don't know...maybe like an episode of The Love Boat with more street cred and an ability for readers to comments... Sure, it'll be cool to read what Walter Cronkite thinks, but we fear he'll get bogged down with despamming the system. And don't get us started on wondering if certain celebrities are actually posting or making a minion post for them."
By now, it's the worst-kept secret in the blogosphere, but it looks like Arianna Huffington really is starting a blog media project that will feature 250 of the "most creative minds" in the country -- including 88-year-old Walter Cronkite and a host of big names from the worlds of entertainment, media and politics. She's calling it the Huffington Post.
Fortune takes a look at media mogul Sumner Redstone's strategy to save the $22.5 billion "content colossus" Viacom. It's not clear whether he can pull it off -- and it's certainly not clear whether media conglomerates like Viacom are built to last in today's rapidly-shifting media environment. Over at Tech Central Station, I asked the question that must be dogging Redstone as he scrambles to save his media empire: "Is Viacom Viable?":
"Media conglomerates like Viacom are struggling with a rapidly-shifting media landscape and a number of external forces that threaten to make their former business models obsolete. Technologies like the Internet, TiVo and satellite radio continue to erode traditional broadcast audiences, while at the same time, forcing marketers to rethink how to allocate their advertising dollars. After an $18.4 billion write-down of its assets in February; the exit of senior executive Mel Karmazin last year and the imminent departure of Howard Stern next year (both to Sirius Satellite Radio); and the lingering bad taste created by the news scandals surrounding Dan Rather at CBS News, Viacom is under pressure like never before. In order to adjust to this changing media world, Viacom will need to act quickly and decisively..."
At the annual meeting of Dow Jones shareholders, a number of top institutional investors could try to flex their muscles, according to the New York Post: " Major shareholders may try today to break through the wall surrounding the Wall Street Journal's family controlled empire." A number of items are on the agenda -- voting against a bylaw change that would strengthen the hand of the Bancroft founding family, acting to strip CEO Peter Kann of his chairman position, and casting a no-confidence vote against absentee board member Vernon Jordan.
Paul Tharp of the New York Post has details on how Peter Kann is reorganizing the management team at the Wall Street Journal in response to a four-year "ad slump." (Just asking: At the four-year mark, doesn't a "slump" get promoted to something a bit more serious?) Here's how Kann avoided getting Kanned:
"Kann yesterday promoted the Journal's top marketing and ad executive, Scott Schulman, to take over a new post of chief strategy officer at the parent, Dow Jones & Co. Replacing Schulman is Judy Barry, a former ace ad executive at the New York Times until she was poached by the Journal six months ago to help stop its steep ad decline. Schulman will report directly to Kann on the rescue strategy, while Barry will report directly to Kann's wife, Karen House, the Journal's publisher."
That might be part of the problem -- Kann's wife is part of the management team? In the immortal words of Captain Kirk, "Kaannn!"
Advertising revenue at the Wall Street Journal is down, and that's casting a pall of gloom over Dow Jones, according to Brand Republic. The problem, quite simply, is that financial and IT advertising -- considered the lifeblood of a publication like the WSJ -- is mired in a persistent slump. As a result, analysts are decidedly bearish: "Dow Jones and The New York Times were pretty much as bad as expected and the outlook for Dow Jones remains grim..."
How bad is it? The New York Post says that the weak performance at Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal could cost Peter Kann his job.
Rupert Murdoch's speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington outlined how and why entrenched media companies must respond to fundamental changes occurring in the world of media. Murdoch emphasized the importance of the Internet for today's news editors, using an extended metaphor about "immigrants" and "natives" to make his point clear. In many ways, "digital immigrants" must strive to catch up with the new generation of "digital natives" who are already at home on the Internet.
Blogs, not surprisingly, could play an important part in how Murdoch's own media empire bridges the gap between the 'natives' and the 'immigrants':
"Our internet site will have to do still more to be competitive. For some, it may have to become the place for conversation. The digital native doesn’t send a letter to the editor anymore. She goes online, and starts a blog. We need to be the destination for those bloggers...
At the same time, we may want to experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the Net... [Bloggers] may still serve a valuable purpose; broadening our coverage of the news; giving us new and fresh perspectives to issues; deepening our relationship to the communities we serve..."
For more perspective on what the speech means, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine has extensive commentary. The mainstream media is also picking up on the story. Newsday, for example, has more on how Murdoch might shake up the Web site of the New York Post.
Shhh, don't tell anyone, but it looks like John Battelle (founder of The Industry Standard) is trying to launch some kind of blog media venture called FM Publishing. (The "FM" stands for "Federated Media," not for "Frequency Modulation") Anyway, Alarm:Clock is calling it a "stealth sister-site to John Battelle's SearchBlog." The new media company has been so stealthy, in fact, that the venture has "gone largely un-noticed in the blogosphere."
Here's one guess: the company will remain in super-stealth mode until Battelle finishes his long-awaited and oft-promised book on Google.
In his notes from a recent online journalism symposium in Austin, JD Lasica hints that Len Apcar and the New York Times could be considering a number of moves to tap into the grassroots media phenomenon:
"The Times is well aware of the grassroots media phenomenon, and is looking at sensible ways of incorporating grassroots media into the website. It'll happen gradually."
"Len [the editor of the New York Times on the Web] is particularly interested in social networking and has even visited Tribe.net in San Francisco with Martin Nisenholz to get a first-hand glimpse of a market leader. Sounded like the Times is still early in the process of determining how they might want to incorporate social networking into the Times network."
"Len said that he and the Times don't want to be seen as one-way, take-it-or-leave-it big media, and they're constantly looking at ways to bring readers into a burgeoning conversation."
Yesterday, MTV offered more details about its plans for MTV Overdrive, "a Web channel through www.MTV.com offering more advanced viewing and video-on-demand capabilities for an audience accustomed to instantaneous content."
MTV Overdrive, which has a scheuled launch date of April 25, will offer continuous MTV News updates, artist interviews, music videos, live music performances, original and newly created short-form programing, MTV and MTV2 show footage, movie trailers, and whatever else the folks at Viacom can think up.
Nick Denton's Gawker Media blog empire has launched a new blog, Sploid.com, that will challenge Matt Drudge for leadership in the "online news/gossip/investigative reporting/scaremongering Web space."
Nick Denton, named by the Wall Street Journal earlier this year as one of the newsmakers to watch in 2005, describes what he has in mind for Sploid:
"Sploid is a news site with a tabloid mentality -- top stories up top, played big, as fast as they break. If there's a political line, it's anarcho-capitalist -- sniffing out hypocrisy and absurdity, whether from salon left or religious right... We want to occupy the space between the whiny left and the ranting right. Drudge is very good. It will probably take us 10 years to catch up with his level of traffic."
For more on the trashy, sensationalist blogging that's ready to take over New York publishing circles, check out the New York Observer article called "Bloggorhea." The name says it all...
Paid Content points to an article in Hollywood Reporter about Viacom's plans to leverage its existing media and entertainment assets by experimenting with technologies like wireless and interactive TV. Last week, the company announced the creation of a new CBS Digital Media unit to consolidate its Web properties, and there's apparently more to come (like a music download service from MTV):
"Viacom has been increasingly pushing into the Internet, wireless, video game and interactive TV services space to leverage its franchises. The creation of CBS Digital Media... was only the latest sign that Viacom has evolved into a formidable multiplatform player."
Larry Kramer, who founded MarketWatch.com in the mid-1990s, is joining Viacom as the president of a newly-formed division, CBS Digital Media. According to the New York Times, Kramer will oversee the content and sales of the network's online properties, including SportsLine.com, CBS.com, CBSNews.com and UPN.com. From various reports, it looks like Kramer's plan is to combine all of these Web sites into one group, in order to take advantage of the boomlet in online advertising.
Paid Content has a sneak peek at the behind-the-scenes maneuvering between the power players involved, while Lost Remote has a copy of the actual memo from Leslie Moonves to all CBS employees announcing the arrival of Larry Kramer as the head of CBS Digital Media.
Are blogs like Defamer, Gawker and FishBowlNY putting an end to the one-page gossip column in newspapers across America? According to long-time gossip columnist Liz Smith of the New York Daily News, "It's really hard now to get a scoop. With the whole world writing gossip, where is the place for the professional gossip?"
A gossip columnist from the Washington Post also points out that today's Internet gossip sites and blogs are meaner and cruder than the newspaper gossip columns: "The Internet and blogs have returned gossip to its earliest human roots--the kind of gossip that the priests told you was a venal sin... You can make it up. You can speculate wildly. You can accuse people of the most taboo practices, all in this sort of merry way."
According to FishBowlNY's Guide to Blog Snobbery, though, even gossip columnists who refuse to admit that they know anything about blogs check in daily, if not hourly, for some hot scoops.
FM radio is under siege, thanks to technological innovation and the corporate suits who are willing to sacrifice artistic originality for bottom-line profitability:
"MP3 players, satellite radio and the trend toward M&As in the radio business have degraded traditional FM radio and possibly driven away an entire generation of listeners... In the past, listeners relied on DJs to expose them to new types of music, and play what they thought was the very best stuff. Now, with station consolidation, fewer choices and centrally-dictated playlists ("McMusic"), music is too uniform and bland to be of much interest. Little wonder that Internet radio and P2P music sites are filling that void..."
(Hat tip: reBlog)
The evolution of media just took another step forward this week, with the announcement that three big-time newspaper publishers -- Gannett, Knight-Ridder and the Tribune Company -- are combining forces to acquire a 75% stake in Topix.net, a Web site that monitors more than 10,000 online news sources. Financial terms of the deal were not divulged. This deal comes on the heels of recent Internet-related acquisitions announced by the Washington Post, the New York Times and Dow Jones.
The BBC is finally getting a news bureau of its own in New York. According to the New York Daily News, the Brits will be subleasing space from WNET/Channel 13 at 450 West 33rd Street. (BBC currently has 20 or so staffers in New York, spread out in various locations) Not surprisingly, "the move means the BBC and WNET are likely to cooperate on more programs," similar to their collaboration on news programs like "Wide Angle."
Viacom is mulling over plans to break the media conglomerate into two smaller pieces, driven by the failure of Wall Street to attach a higher valuation to the company. According to CEO Sumner Redstone, one piece will consist of the CBS television network and Infinity radio unit, while the other unit will consist of MTV and other high-growth cable assets. Since 2000, shares of Viacom have dropped by more than 50%, as investors grew dissatisfied with growth rates at the various media properties.
Viacom's decision will surely influence the strategic direction of other large media conglomerates: "Dividing Viacom also raises the question of whether media consolidation, which led to the formation of Time Warner Inc. and Walt Disney Co., the first- and second-biggest U.S. media companies, makes sense." Going forward, will the trend toward bundling together media properties be reversed?
In a special PressThink commentary, Eric Nelson (a senior editor at John Wiley and Sons) "explains why he reads blogs obsessively, and why you don't do a book deal with the big name columnist to whom no one links..." Who wants to sign a book deal with a big, branded columnist who's "famous" -- but that nobody reads or links to?
He also explains why great bloggers with great (but under-publicized) Web sites are like great writers who manage to write a "handsell" book on the first time out. "Handsell" books are books that the publishing industry initially ignores -- but through steady word-of-mouth, these books steadily build a following and generate buzz weeks after they've been published. They are, quite simply, "those very few books that find astonishing success without a six-figure marketing campaign, Daily Show appearance, established author following, or can’t-miss topic."
The Project for Excellence in Journalism has concluded that "the future of traditional news organizations, in particular newspapers, could be in cyberspace." Recognizing this fact, mainstream media -- especially newspapers -- should invest heavily in their online news operations in order to make up for a decline in traditional offline readership.
That's the prescription, but the medicine is hard to swallow. Most mainstream media organizations are actually adopting the opposite strategy -- they are slashing their Web operations while trying to win back traditional readers. According to the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, "Cuts in Web newsrooms have meant less original content and fewer updates, along with a reluctance to embrace new technologies that allow for video reports, blogs and greater interactivity."
After receiving hundreds of anonymous tips and suggestions, FishBowlNY felt compelled to offer readers a peek at the increasingly public war-of-words between blog publishers Nick Denton and Jason Calacanis:
"If you're interested in blog warfare and graft issues related to blogs, Gawker media's Nick Denton and Weblogs, Inc.'s Jason Calacanis are lobbing virtual grenades at each other over whether bloggers should be allowed to take junkets. We'd much rather see Conde Nast and Hearst lobbing grenades at each other over whether highly paid journalists should be allowed to take junkets, and the commercial blogosphere is irritatingly similar to academia—tempests, teapots, small stakes (microscopic, even)—but some of you care about this stuff or we assume you wouldn't have Anonymous Tipped us those 347 times..."
Writing in this week's New York magazine, Kurt Andersen suggests that the end of Dan Rather's Old Media reign is yet another sign that a grander, less democratic (but more Democratic) age is over, flushed out by bloggers with little or no regard for institutional media.
While Andersen appreciates the power of bloggers, he still views them as "a second-tier journalistic species":
"They are remoras. The Times and CNN and CBS News are the whales and sharks to which Instapundit, Kausfiles, and Kos attach themselves for their free rides. (Remoras evolved special sucking disks; bloggers have modems.)"
Andersen offers his vision of the future -- Big Media eventually absorbing the blogging intelligentsia -- but not before journalism returns to its 19th-century roots:
"Journalism is reverting to a very old-school status quo, when most coverage was as partisan as today’s New York Post’s. In the middle of the nineteenth century, New York City had a population of 500,000 but more than a dozen daily papers and countless weeklies, most of them small-scale, idiosyncratic reflections of their editors and owners, chockablock with summaries of stories nicked from other publications—in other words, very bloglike. Back then, too, papers and magazines depended overwhelmingly on revenue from selling copies to readers, not from ads. The advertising tail did not yet wag the media dog."
For those of you who missed it, Jon Stewart's The Daily Show did a satirical piece on blogging and the "new journalism". PressThink's Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at NYU, was the featured guest:
"I appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night (March 3), in a taped "report" about the new journalism with correspondent Rob Corddry. It was fun and a little unnerving. Bill Doskoch has a blow-by-blow, and Crooks and Liars has the video, if you want to see. I didn't see the whole show (traveling) but I am told Stewart asked Ari Fleischer straight out if the administration just saw the news media as just another special interest group."
In "Preparing Today's Student Journalists for Tomorrow's Journalism," Steven I. Weiss, the editor and publisher of New York-based CampusJ, talks about the issues of covering Jewish news on campus and the challenges of training a new generation of Jewish journalists. According to Weiss, Jewish campus life matters more than ever before for the wider Jewish community:
"Major concerns of Jewish life are increasingly influenced by what goes on at college campuses. Whether it's academia's approach to teaching Israel, or anti-Semitism faced by students, events and issues that resonate with the entire Jewish community often are located there - and there's no better place to get that information than from the students themselves."
Buzz Machine summarizes some of the key ideas circulating at a Harvard conference on blogging & journalism, including one notable quote from Len Apcar, editor in chief of NYTimes.com, who said that he is "ecstatic we bought About.com because it says the New York Times is not a newspaper company."
That's right, says Buzz Machine, the New York Times is not a newspaper company: "The New York Times is a news company, an advertising company, an audience company, a company in need of diversifying its ad base and in need of new sources of growth; it is and must be more than paper."
On the Red Herring blog, Mitch Ratcliffe weighs in on the rapidly shifting competitive landscape for traditional media companies like Viacom, which recently posted a $18.4 million quarterly loss. The loss, which included a huge write-down of the company's radio assets, is nothing less than “another watershed event in the transition from old, centralized media to something new. Viacom and other media giants may play an important role in the new media landscape—they most likely will—but their valuations are going to take a beating during this process of rapid media evolution."
While companies such as Viacom believe that consolidation, cost-cutting and a re-focusing on traditional media like radio and TV will be enough to pull itself out of a financial mess, the reality may be much different, writes Ratcliffe: “Media is in flux at every level and in every niche. Viacom is easing investors into a new reality, one where highly centralized programming processes probably don't fit as comfortably as they did in the broadcast era. The retreat has only just begun, as the mobility of personalities like Howard Stern to new channels has only started, and with the talent the value will go.”
The Deal (publisher of TheDeal.com) and CNET News.com are joining forces to publish a bimonthly magazine, Tech Confidential, starting in May. The magazine will cover the "business and finance aspects of technology" and cater primarily to executives and entrepreneurs within the tech sector. Some content from the print magazine will also appear on the flagship CNET Web site, according to Crain's New York.
BuzzMachine reports that Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times, addressed the subject of blogs and blogging during a recent talk at Columbia University:
"Keller also sees 'blogging,' or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger's ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog's inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. "A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole," he said."
In a case of "that's not what I really said," it looks like media pundit Michael Wolff may - or may not - have written on the I Want Media site that The Wall Street Journal stopped mattering when it started charging for its online content. According to FishBowlNY, the site took down the article under pressure from Wolff.
Wolff explains: "It wasn't an interview. It was a talk I gave that somebody recorded and then transcribed. Beyond being purloined, it was poorly transcribed, unedited, and not meant to be a piece of written work, so I asked that it not be published."
As seen on I Want Media (at the top of the rightmost column): the editor & founder of the site is teaching an undergraduate class in digital journalism at NYU and wants your input, suggestions, and ideas:
"The course covers Internet culture, online magazines, blogging, and more. Scheduled guest speakers include writer/editor Kurt Andersen, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg, WSJ.com managing editor Bill Grueskin, and several bloggers. What topics in digital journalism do you think students should explore? Your suggestions are welcome and appreciated..."
When you don't check your RSS reader on a daily basis, news like this is bound to slip through the cracks... On February 4, Jay Rosen of Press Think announced that his new book ("Gatekeepers Without Gates") on how the Internet is changing media has been greenlighted for publication.
According to Rosen, the book (due out sometime in 2006) will be "a 'secret book' behind the week-to-week posting at PressThink. Of course, that's just a figure of speech. I could also say: the book will be the backstory to the story you can follow by clicking in here. A different figure of speech. For a preview of sorts, see Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over..."
ClickZ reports that Gawker Media has signed up Sony as the sole sponsor of a new software blog called Lifehacker. In addition, another blog in the expanding Gawker Media empire, Gridskipper, has lined up CheapTickets as an exclusive sponsor. Wagging tongues say the Sony deal was brokered by BlackInc Ventures, an interactive sales and business development agency.
The New York Times gawks at the impending "duel for the dirt" between Gawker and FishBowlNY, the new media gossip blog launched by Media Bistro's Elizabeth Spiers (the co-founder of the original Gawker site). Given the snarky tone popularized by Miss Spiers and the possibility of bad blood between her and Gawker's Nick Denton, this should be an interesting fight to watch: "The rivalry falls squarely into the grand New York tradition of competing for the juiciest bits of gossip. This being the new millennium, the battle is being raged not in screaming tabloids but in cyberspace."
What's interesting, says the NY Times, is that the rumble in the gossip jungle may pull in a number of other indirect competitors, such as media trade publications, Romenesko, and "anybody who does media reporting." Susan Mernit, for example, thinks that media-centric blogs like Paid Content may be facing a possible competitor.
Ouch. Christopher Byron is calling Dow Jones & Co. "Dumb Jones & Co." for its bungled $519 million acquisition of CBS MarketWatch. "Just as Time Warner's ill-fated merger with America Online in January of 2000 marked the boom-ending high-water point of the dot.com era," Byron writes, "So too may Dow Jones's takeover of MarketWatch come in time to be remembered as a similar accomplishment."
Dan Gillmor wonders why more newspapers do not open up their archives to the public: "One of these days, a newspaper currently charging a premium for access to its article archives will do something bold: It will open the archives to the public -- free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins. I predict that the result will pleasantly surprise the bean-counters. There'll be a huge increase in traffic at first, once people realize they can read their local history without paying a fee. Eventually, though not instantly, the revenues will greatly exceed what the paper had been earning under the old system. Meanwhile, the expenses to run it will drop..."
Gillmor compares the San Francisco Chronicle (which does not charge for access to its archives) to the San Jose Mercury News (which does), theorizing that newspapers that open up their archives will become authoritative voices within the community. Gillmor also notes that a recent Harvard conference on journalism and blogging found "a surprising consensus in favor of opening archives."
New York newspaper publishers, take note: Gillmor also publishes a five-step guide for publishers with a pay-per-view archive on how to make the changeover to free archives.
The high-stakes "bidding frenzy" for CBS MarketWatch eventually won by Dow Jones is just another sign that Internet news sites are making a comeback, says the New York Times. Thought to be "dot-gone relics of 1999," these news sites are now valuable properties for Internet media companies looking to offload advertising inventory: "Publishers are being forced to confront a potential advertising inventory crunch. There is no physical limitation to the number of Web pages, of course, but advertisers want to be placed on the most popular pages and those which cater to their most profitable audiences. And those kind of pages are in shorter supply."
Recent deals involving Internet news providers include Dow Jones/CBS MarketWatch ($519 million), Washington Post/Slate ($20 million) and Viacom/SportsLine.com ($46 million). More deals could be on the way, with rumors already circulating that TheStreet.com and The Motley Fool are being shopped by investment bankers. Paid Content, of course, has been monitoring the Dow Jones/MarketWatch deal since the beginning.
Howard Stern reacted with glee yesterday to the news that Michael Powell planned to resign as FCC chairman: "Howard Stern did everything but sing 'Ding, dong, the witch is dead' when he learned during his wakeup show yesterday that FCC Chairman Michael Powell is history." Stern had this to say about Powell's legacy at the FCC: "Appointment from his father [Colin Powell], a billion dollars squandered of taxpayer money, ruining the First Amendment [and] putting radio stations in the hands of the few so that you've got five formats now..." We'll assume for now that Michael Powell has little or no chance of ever landing a gig at Stern's future employer, Sirius Satellite Radio.
Fresh from Reuters: FCC Chairman Michael Powell plans to resign today after four years as the chief regulator of the media and telecom industries. His reign has been controversial at times, but there have been a number of highlights: "Among bright spots, he shepherded through a plan to eliminate interference with public safety wireless communications, advanced the transition to higher-quality digital television and promoted high-speed Internet service." In many minds, though, he will always be known as the regulator who attempted to crack down on indecent behavior and conversation in TV and radio. This should keep talking head commentators busy over the weekend, as they rush to assess the potential impact on the New York media industry.
In today's Wall Street Journal, Jessica Mintz takes a look at a possible code of ethics for bloggers. With bloggers "finally moving from the alleys and side streets of the Internet into the mainstream," she writes, there is a real need to ask, "What are the rules of the road?" That's exactly what's happening this weekend at a Harvard University conference, where a small group of journalists, bloggers and media thinkers are gathering to "hash out some of these issues, and kick around the idea of a blogging code of ethics." FYI -- NYU's Jay Rosen will kick off the Harvard conference with a talk on blogging and journalism. Keep an eye, too, on Jeff Jarvis for round-the-clock commentary on the blogging medium and the latest scoop on blogging ethics.
In an open letter to CBS's Dan Rather, Jay Rosen of Press Think suggests that bloggers could have acted as a "feedback loop and failsafe device" in the CBS newsroom: "I would not go so far as to say that you, Dan Rather, need to write a blog. You don't. But take the money you spend on the person who is sometimes called your spokeswoman, and hire yourself a skilled blogger, to do a Dan Rather Reports blog. Here you post additional source material, put tapes of your interviews, and also explain yourself, react to crtics and follow up on stories aired by 60 Minutes. Participating in debate around the blog and online journalism worlds could be as simple as lose the spokesperson and meet with your personal blogger for 20-30 minutes a day. He does the rest. Morning talks are turned into posts quoting you; your blogger gets the links to go with them and "runs" the blog, including comment sections. Whenever you want to write, you do..."
ClickZ reports that VillageVoice.com is redesigning its Web site as part of an effort to make news updates available daily, rather than weekly. According to executives at the Village Voice, the changes could boost the site's online ad revenues by 50% over the next 12 months. The online version of the alternative weekly draws 1.6 million unique visitors monthly.
In "Old News is No News," Tom Watson does an admirable job of putting the current Blogger Nation v. Mainstream Media debate into much-needed context: "To say that blogs brought this "revolution" about is akin to suggesting that the Internet banished cave drawings as a means of mass communication. Network news half hours began peeling off viewers 20-odd years ago, and those people have never looked back. If bloggers are standing in their triumphant "I'm available to comment on Fox at a moment's notice" stance over the corpse of CBS News, they might glance down to notice that the body has rotted away to skeletal remains, with a bit of putrefied flesh still clinging to the bones..."
The problem, says Watson, is that most bloggers writing about the demise of CBS News can't see the big picture. They're spending so much time blogging about other bloggers blogging, that they don't take the time to glance up from their laptop computers. On that note, Watson's division of the blogosphere into two different groups is priceless: the "under-employed writers and commentators" and the "little nipping terriers from the right."
In the aftermath of the highly-publicized problems at CBS News, MSNBC's Howard Fineman writes about the demise of the American Mainstream Media Party:"A political party is dying before our eyes — and I don't mean the Democrats. I'm talking about the "mainstream media," which is being destroyed by the opposition (or worse, the casual disdain) of George Bush's Republican Party; by competition from other news outlets (led by the internet and Fox's canny Roger Ailes); and by its own fraying journalistic standards. At the height of its power, the AMMP (the American Mainstream Media Party) helped validate the civil rights movement, end a war and oust a power-mad president. But all that is ancient history."
Which begs the obvious question: With mainstream media's reputation in tatters, can Blogger Nation transform itself from an opposition party into the ruling party?
Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine thinks that, in the wake of the Rathergate flap, Viacom should just sell off CBS News: "The only cure for what ails CBS News is to sell it. I was going to say "kill it." But that would be wasteful. There is still a lot of good reporting coming out of this old, tarnished jewel. More reporting is better than less..." The obvious buyers, says Jarvis, would be other media companies like CNN or Fox News. Interestingly enough, the list of proposed suitors includes a couple of names that you wouldn't expect, like Yahoo and Google.
Speculation that the New York Times could start charging for online content has generated a fair amount of buzz online. Most people, it turns out, really wouldn't care -- there are so many other sources of information available online, that the New York Times is not nearly as relevant as it was even 12 months ago.
Joi Ito explains the changing business dynamic for publishers like the New York Times: "They have some great stuff and I read the paper version of the IHT and the NYT when I'm offline, like on an airplane, but there are so many free sources of information and ways to get to information online that the incremental value added by the New York Times on my news consumption habits wouldn't be worth the hassle and the price. I really believe there is great value in the brand and the organization that is the New York Times, but I'm not sure what the business model is. I'm sure the world is better off with The New York Times, but how do they survive?"
Over at PressThink, Simon Waldman comments on The Importance of Being Permanent: "Without permanence you slip off the search engines. Without permanence, bold ideas like 'news as conversation' fall away, because you're shutting down the conversation before it has barely started. Without permanence, you might be on the web, but you're certainly not part of it..."
According to Waldman, the Director of Digital Publishing at The Guardian, "permanence" is one of the most important characteristics of the Net, even eclipsing such factors as "immediacy" and "interactivity."
It looks like the New York Times could begin charging subscription fees for online content that is currently free. There's no "imminent" plan in place, but there are certainly high-level internal discussions about how to monetize the site's 18.5 million unique monthly visitors. After all, The Wall Street Journal charges for online content, and it is increasingly clear that "many newspapers want to wean readers off free online content and transform their Web sites into paid-only publications."
Dan Gillmor weighs in on the speculated move: "I'd probably pay. Then again, I've been paying for Web journalism for years, for such publications as the Wall Street Journal, Salon and Consumer Reports (I even paid for Slate when it was charging). Part of my motivation has been to support online journalism. But part has been the value I received..."
So, it looks like Nick Denton's Gawker Media has poached some top talent from Curbed and is reloading for 2005... Gothamist reports that Lockhart Steele will become the new managing editor of Gawker Media. "In this capacity," says Gothamist, "he will presumably parcel out fame and fortune, and crack the whip at his many blogger underlings..." There are worse things in the world than working for Nick Denton -- the Wall Street Journal recently named him one of the Top 15 People to Watch in 2005 -- ranking him alongside such luminaries as Kofi Annan and Apple's Steve Jobs.
The New York Daily News discovers the new SmartSign Media photo exhibition at the Port Authority: "Operating on the notion that New York deserves art where it least expects it, SmartSign Media is presenting a month-long exhibition of images from Magnum Photos, the legendary photojournalism collective, on its 1,300-square-foot digital sign some 60 feet up the transportation hub's facade at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street." There are the iconic images of Marilyn Monroe and Malcolm X, of course, as well as recent photos from tsunami-devastated Indonesia and war-torn Iraq. SmartSign Media is calling the exhibition a "New Year's present" for New York. (Hat tip: Amy's Robot Links)
Preaching to the converted is no fun. The real challenge is converting those who have absolutely no interest in a product, service or technology. In the case of blogging, the real challenge is converting the suits of Corporate America to the blogging religion. One blogger who is making waves is Steve Rubel of Micro Persuasion. Not content just to write about the blog business, he's actually headed out on to the road to evangelize about blogs. He'll be in Greenwich, CT on January 12, in New York on January 21, in Florida on February 8 and in San Diego sometime during April. Oh, yeah, and he'll also be part of this year's Super Bowl halftime show. (Did I read this correctly? Or is this some old-school Gonzo Marketing?).
For more on converting the masses to blogging, check out Rubel's piece about The Silent Blogging Believers: "Deep inside some of America's largest, most well-known companies is an army of hundreds, perhaps thousands of influential blogging believers. They read weblogs, monitor them, analyze them and fully buy into their marketing potential. They come from different professions – some are PR professionals/marketers, others are webmasters or IT gurus, while even more are corporate executives. What they all share in common, however, is silence..."
Looking for some fascinating post-holidays reading material? David Pogue of the New York Times suggests checking out Cinefex, a quarterly magazine dedicated to movie special effects technology. Each issue of Cinefex "describes how the effects were done in three or four movies, often taking 30 to 50 pages per article. Interviews with the effects artists, behind-the-scenes photos and anecdotes about failed approaches and abandoned plotlines make the proceedings even more interesting."
Well, the honeymoon didn't last long, did it? Blogs and bloggers were the toast of the town in 2004, but just three days into 2005, there are signs of a blog backlash, says Gothamist. Legacy Media is not happy. More specifically, the New York Times is not happy. All those bloggers covering the tsunami in South East Asia are apparently disposed toward "crackpot theorizing" and "political smackdown" -- and in the process, blog readers could be getting a distorted view of the picture.
Without a doubt, 2004 was an exciting year for the blogosphere. ABC News, for example, named bloggers as its "People of the Year" while Merriam-Webster named "blog" as its "word of the year." By some estimates, 27% of online adults now read blogs -- and that percentage will only grow over the next 12 months.
So what's ahead in 2005 for the blogosphere? One question on the minds of many bloggers is whether microcontent will finally lead to macrorevenue. For more ideas on how the blogosphere will develop in 2005, be sure to check out Paid Content's survey of the hopes and predictions of industry insiders.
Have a "solid, stodgy" product that hip young consumers avoid like the plague? It's time for an online brand makeover. It's a strategy that companies like Ford Motor are using to resuscitate old brands like Mercury. According to the New York Times, Mercury is following the example of other marketers like Amazon.com, American Express and BMW, which have used branded online entertainment ("advertainment") to reach a target audience online. In this case, Mercury has produced a five-part "Webisode" series called "Meet the Lucky Ones." Why go to all this trouble? Well, these young consumers spend a good part of their time online: "This customer, a little bit more female and younger than we have traditionally gone after, uses the Web as an entertainment medium and a social network, spending time chatting, reading blogs, on Friendster..."
New York-based word-of-mouth marketing firm Buzz Metrics is among the leading players in tracking how online trendsetters and influencers can ruin a company's reputation using off-the-shelf technology available at any local electronics superstore. The marketing world calls them "determined detractors," but executives of once-proud brands brought to their knees call them "reputation terrorists." After all, says one advertising executive, "One determined detractor can do as much damage as 100,000 positive mentions can do good."
In one of the best-known cases, two brothers who live in New York City created a Web site complete with a three-minute video clip in late 2003 to protest the fact that dead iPod batteries could not be easily or cheaply replaced. There are countless other examples -- as Internet influencers take on corporate icons like McDonald's, Starbucks and Microsoft. In some ways, these passionate anti-brand efforts are simply a natural backlash against buzz marketing.
A portrait of President Bush using monkeys to form his image was banished from the Chelsea Market, but it's now found a new home on a giant digital billboard over the Holland Tunnel. According to Reuters, over the next month as many as 400,000 commuters will see the controversial billboard. It's all for a good cause, too -- a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the original acrylic painting on canvas will be given to the parents of U.S. soldiers in Iraq. For close-ups of the Bush-monkey montage and an explanation of the artistic intent of the work, check out Chris Savido's Workmade.com site.
In its list of the 15 people to watch in 2005, the Wall Street Journal has included online publisher Nick Denton. Is 2005 the year that blogging finally makes it big? We'll see: "Mr. Denton is looking to prove that blogging can be a business, building a small but growing galaxy of publications. Mr. Denton, publisher of the Wonkette political gossip blog and others, has become the poster boy for blog start-ups, snagging big-name advertisers with help from his highly targeted audiences. Altogether, his eight blogs, which include Gawker (Manhattan gossip) and Gizmodo (gadgets), pull in a total of more than 29 million page views monthly."
For more on Gawker Media's traffic figures (and a peek at three new blogs), check out Choire Sicha's analysis.
Microsoft is selling off Web 'zine Slate.com to the Washington Post for an undisclosed price -- a move that will surely reverberate throughout New York's Internet media sector. According to the New York Times, Microsoft had two basic reasons for doing the deal -- the company believed that "a Web magazine of cultural criticism and political analysis had little business salience in an age dominated by search applications" and that "the site's small size limited its ability to contribute meaningfully to Microsoft's revenues."
In the end, perhaps, it just makes more sense for Slate to be part of a media company than part of a technology company. As Slate explains, "We will leave the splendiferous House of Gates for the munificent House of (Washington Post CEO Don) Graham." As far as potential owners go, the Washington Post is not such a bad place to wind up.
Others in the blogosphere seem to agree. At New Media Musings, for example, JD Lasica gives his take on the deal: "That's good news for the good journalism going on at Slate. I can scarcely think of a better fit, a more benign editorial presence, and a smarter new media company than the Washington Post Co." In his "Santa Slate" posting, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine is less upbeat, but still concedes that "they fit well together, not unlike Dow Jones and Marketwatch."
The open source advertising trend continues to gain momentum, says Rick Bruner. Two examples, in particular, stand out: the homemade ad created by a California school teacher for the Apple iPod and the two-page ad for the Firefox browser that appeared in the New York Times (courtesy of donations from 25,000 loyal users).
Buried in the middle of a New York Times article about Time Warner and the $510 million AOL fiasco -- a hint that the company could make a run at two companies in the cable business:
"Time Warner's largest investment is expected to come in the cable arena where Mr. Parsons has shown an interest in joining with Comcast to bid for Adelphia Communications, the bankrupt cable operator. Bids for that company are expected in January, which partly explains why Time Warner has been so eager to settle government charges... Mr. Parsons has also said that his company may be a bidder for Cablevision Systems, should Charles F. Dolan and his family, which controls the Long Island-based company, decide to sell."
NYU's Adam L. Penenberg describes five events he would like to see in the world of online media in 2005 -- Google daring to place ads on its Google News service; bloggers actually breaking news instead of "ruminating over their daily fix of spoon-fed media"; the dismantlement of the FCC; the end of Nielsen and ComScore; and media reasserting its role as government watchdog.
MTV Networks announced it will create three Asian pop music channels targeting Indian, Korean and Chinese viewers in the United States. The move, one expects, will be a big hit for New York neighborhoods like Flushing, Jackson Heights, and Chinatown. More and more media companies like Viacom appear to be coming to the conclusion that highly-targeted niche content is the way to go.
The decision to launch the new channels was a no-brainer, according to one MTV executive: "We recognize that many young people are bicultural. Many kids have a transcontinental view of life, but they live in the United States. And not only are these channels going to connect with those young people, but they also are going to shine a light on their culture and the artists from these communities."