Monday, December 22, 2008

Saving the newspaper industry

Posted by Craig on 12/22/2008 0 comments
Just about everybody in newspapers readily admits that the current business model isn't working, but few seem to have solutions.

A few alternative models are gaining steam in recent months, such as not-for-profit and crowd-funding, but they're tough to get going with Big Boys like Gannett and the Tribune Co. still running the show.

Then, there was this: Just a few hours ago, Stanford University professor and former New York Times foreign correspondent Joel Brinkley offered up a way out of this mess, with the current corporate structure in place, that just might work. It's at least something that really makes you go "Hmmm" and there hasn't been enough of that yet.

He outlined a really compelling argument in a San Francisco Chronicle editorial yesterday. Yes, newspaper Web content to date has been overwhelmingly free. One reason publishers have been reluctant to charge for Web content, he says, is that such a move would likely just lose customers to other, competing papers.

But what if the newspaper industry as a whole went to the Justice Department "for an antitrust exemption that would allow publishers to collaborate on a decision to begin charging for their Web sites"? He says the price could be debated, and that's not really the issue. The point is getting enough people to the table, and consent from the government, to begin instituting sweeping changes across the board.

It might just work. The most intriguing scenario I've seen tossed out there yet. I hope Brinkley gets his column to the right people who can get the wheels in at least explore this very interesting idea.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Breaking News on the Web: Mats Sundin Timeline

Posted by Craig on 12/18/2008 11 comments
As most know, I'm a huge hockey fan. Here's how news of the biggest hockey story of the year spread on the Web.

3:01 Pacific Time: NHL Director of Corporate Communications Michael DiLorenzo posts on Twitter: @umassdilo "sundin to canucks"

3:01 Pacific Time: Radio personality Buzz Bishop posts on Twitter: @buzzbishop "just got the press release. it's official SUNDIN IS A CANUCK"

3:06 Pacific Time: TSN posted a story saying Mats Sundin is a Vancouver Canuck

3:06 Pacific Time: Alanah McGinley of Kukla's Korner posts the news in the blog Canucks & Beyond

3:11 Pacific Time: Popular hockey site posts an update stating Sundin is a Canuck

3:12 Pacific Time: Vancouver online news site reports the news

3:14 Pacific Time: posts the story on its site

3:23 Pacific Time: posts the story on its site

The first official media outlet to break the news seems to be 95Crave in Vancouver. Buzz Bishop told me on Twitter that he announced the news on the station "seconds after presser was dropped, before twitter."

It would appear that the press release was officially sent out by the club at 3:00 Pacific Time (that is the time stamp for the story at as well). Just one minute later by Twitter, not bad. Certainly beat the big boys on the Web.

This is yet more evidence that Twitter is becoming a viable way to break news to a niche audience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Déjà vu

Posted by Craig on 12/17/2008 3 comments
Our friends north of the border are now experiencing what thousands of Gannett employees went through just a few weeks ago.

Sun Media, Canada's largest newspaper publisher with operations in Toronto, Ottawa, Edmonton and elsewhere, announced Tuesday that it is cutting 10 percent of its workforce as a result of "harsh economic conditions," per the Canadian Press.

That amounts to some 600 layoffs, proving that the newspaper industry's troubles are not just limited to the United States.

The CP quoted Sun Media CEO Pierre Karl Peladeau as saying in a release: "The news industry is being revolutionized and we have to adapt if we want to remain an industry leader."

Similar to the independent Gannett Blog, which chronicled the Gannett cuts, the Toronto Sun Family blog is telling the story of these latest media layoffs.

According to the Toronto blog, President of the Southern Ontario Newsmedia Guild Brad Honywill said of the layoffs: "I don't think Toronto's, or, for that matter, North America's, media landscape will look the same after this recession. We're going through a fundamental shift that will result in fewer sources of news and less and less depth."

Honywill continued, "Increasingly, stories will be shared across chains, diminishing local voices [...] So these cutbacks represent a real loss to the community and to our democracy."

It's so sad to see the newspaper industry come to all of this, and I feel deeply for all Canadians affected by these cuts. I have a particularly close eye on all things Canada with my paternal grandfather's family being from there, and having many cousins in the country still. This hurts.

Once again, we can blame the economy in terms of how rapid this media collapse has been. However, this was bound to happen eventually - the economy is just speeding up the process. It's a new world out there with the Internet, and so much free content available to consumers online. The need for a new business model is more urgent now than ever before. Now is the time for the news industry to act.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Newsstand price rising for two papers

Posted by Craig on 12/13/2008 0 comments
If you haven't heard, a copy of Gannett's USA Today now costs $1 daily and the Washington Post is jacking its paper up to 75 cents a pop. Both price increases amount to a quarter more than they were previously.

The USA Today price increase was announced Friday, Oct. 10, but it didn't officially take effect until Monday, Dec. 8. The Washington Post change will happen on Monday, Dec. 15.

Harry Jaffe of the Washingtonian brilliantly coined this lede to describe the latter change: "The Washington Post is going to ask readers to pay more for less." Literally. He says "The Post also has told staffers that it will shrink the size of the paper and use a thinner paper stock to help with rising paper costs."

While newspapers scramble for revenue, this curious change won't go unnoticed. In an economic recession, when everyone - everyone - is affected in some way and pinching pennies more than normal, that quarter could make all the difference in the world.

At a time newspapers should be trying to draw a higher readership, this seems to be pushing people away. People aren't stupid. Your papers are shrinking, your staff is being slashed, and everyone is looking for bargains these days - yet you raise the price. It just doesn't make any sense.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

NPR announces layoffs

Posted by Craig on 12/10/2008 1 comments
Add National Public Radio to an ever-growing list of American companies cutting back expenses and laying off workers due to the current economic crisis.

The recession has left no business, including NPR, "exempt" from being affected, NPR interim president and CEO Dennis Haarsager said today in a statement.

Two NPR programs, Day to Day and News and Notes, will go off the air in the next few months as a result of the cuts.

A total of 64 employees will be laid off. Twenty-one positions currently vacant will not be filled.

The company will still have "more than 800 employees on staff, including about 300 journalists," according to the NPR release.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Motown Mystery

Posted by Craig on 12/05/2008 0 comments
While there's been plenty of chatter about the Gannett layoffs this week, everywhere from the blogosphere to many of the affected newspapers' Web sites, it's been eeriely quiet in Detroit.

Gannett's Detroit Free Press never reported any layoffs on its Web site, even though it was among the papers expected to make cuts. Corporate's deadline of Thursday, Dec. 4 for action to occur came and went, and still, no official word out of Detroit.

The Free Press has had no shortage of economic issues to report on, just a few hours ago reporting that General Motors will lay off 2,000 employees at three factories, including one in Michigan, but it's been mum on itself.

Rumors are swirling. According to an anonymous comment at the independent Gannett Blog, 14 Detroit Media Partnership workers were laid off today, and the Free Press specifically will be making cuts in the next few days. Another anonymous user at the same blog notes that the DMP (Free Press and News ownership) may begin publishing primarily online.

While most Gannett papers are profitable (apparently not enough for corporate but that's another story), there's been plenty of speculation that Detroit is largely in the red. Things aren't getting any easier with the auto industry woes and other economic problems in Motown.

While I don't have any inside knowledge on this situation, something's definitely up, in my opinion. And it's not good. It will be interesting to see what decisions are made by Gannett when it comes to Detroit. It may rely heavily on Motown's hopes that the government passes an auto industry bailout. Something to keep an eye on.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Something positive amidst the negative

Posted by Craig on 12/04/2008 2 comments
Yesterday was a brutal day for Gannett newspapers, as the majority of the estimated 3,000 job cuts this week were carried out. The official account of layoffs/buyouts, as official as one can get anyway, per the independent Gannett Blog, is now 1,770. The number continues to climb, as that only accounts for 57 of the 85 community dailies owned by Gannett.

Scott Pitoniak - one of my first journalism mentors, a former professor of mine, and someone I have the utmost admiration for - was among those laid off. I've written about him before in this blog. He did a phenomenal job covering the Beijing Olympics this past summer, and he's easily one of the best sportswriters in the country. It was an untimely, and unjust, end for him at the Democrat and Chronicle. I wish him all the best. Sadly, he wasn't the only one affected who I knew. Copy editor Ted Rosen and assistant sports editor Jim Castor are among the departed, who I both worked with in the Sports Dept.; I wish them both the best as well. Great people, with more than 90 years of Rochester, N.Y. sports journalism experience COMBINED. So sad.

But here's something positive. Even though Gannett is headed in the wrong direction of serving the American people and carrying out the First Amendment, the journalism profession itself is not dead. Other media companies are growing without laying off their workers; and undoubtedly, more news organizations will be born in the coming years (perhaps smaller ones, more independently-owned and non-profits). And there's tremendous room for growth too, tremendous opportunity, as big media companies continue to fail the American people, cutting back personnel and seeking higher profits.

One journalist, Chrys Wu, provided a wonderful list tonight of places for unemployed journalists to find work. They include ACES Job Board, Copy Editor Job Board, and IRE Job Center, but there's more. The full list is here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Doomsday on the horizon

Posted by Craig on 12/03/2008 0 comments
Gannett will carry out the majority of its 3,000 lay offs tomorrow. With the exception of a few, it appears (reading the accounts at the independent Gannett Blog) most of the affected employees still have no idea at this hour whether they'll survive the latest round of cuts.

This was my company. I worked with the Sports Dept. at the Gannett's Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y. from Oct. 2006 to April 2008. I loved it there. I loved serving the people of Rochester. I loved the newsroom environment. My heart, thoughts, and prayers go out to everyone at the D&C on this night. Everyone at Gannett for that matter.

Former Gannett employee Paul Oberjuerge nails the situation in his blog tonight:
"At some point, Gannett should have remembered it was a media company, a newspaper company, with all the First Amendment privileges and responsibilities that brings. It could have and should have spent more on its newspaper products and tried to scrape by on, oh, 20-25 percent profit."

God be with everyone at this time. Gannett is making a big mistake here. Laying off employees is not the answer, especially after how many it's laid off already. Morale is as low as ever at its newspapers, I know people at several of them. The greedy leaders of this company will pay for this in the long run. Justice will be served.

And journalism won't die. Gannett's place as a leader in American journalism is quickly fading. Quicker than I can even type.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

How journalists should use Twitter

Posted by Craig on 12/02/2008 0 comments
This convenient list was posted at The Earley Edition, a blog by Australian journalist Dave Earley.

"Journalists should use Twitter:

* to find contacts
* to maintain and communicate with contacts and their audience
* to monitor keywords relevant to their round (their beat, for my American friends)
* to monitor updates around a specific geographic location."

Earley works for the Courier Mail, a large daily doing some cutting edge work online. I first ran across him and his Twitter feed during the recent severe thunderstorms in Brisbane, Australia, and the Courier Mail's use of Twitter at the time.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Economy adds to newspaper woes

Posted by Craig on 12/01/2008 0 comments
New statistics released today revealed more bad news for newspapers.

Newspapers lost nearly $2 billion in the third quarter, a record 18.1 percent decline from the second, according to Advertising Age, citing a study by the Newspaper Association of America.

Even worse - online ad revenue for newspapers declined for the second straight quarter. It went down 3 percent in the fall quarter after a decline of 2.4 percent in the quarter before.

The Advertising Age predicts more trouble to come: "This fall's financial collapse affected only some part of the latest results. However, the rest of the year is likely to look even worse."

Not the type of report the newspaper industry needed to hear on the day the U.S. economy was officially declared in a recession.

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