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August 28 2011

21:17

Now can we all agree that the "high quality web content" experiment has failed?

TechCrunch :: It’s hard to imagine anything more perfect than Slate’s decision to lay off its respected media critic Jack Shafer. What better illustration could there be of online media’s woes than an ezine laying off its media critic because the economics of web content don’t support a writer of his stature and specialism?

[Paul Carr:] At least Shafer can take some satisfaction in the fact that his departure is in and of itself an absolutely perfect piece of media criticism: Jack Shafer as both medium and message.

Continue to read Paul Carr, techcrunch.com

July 15 2011

16:46

Mediatwits #13: Smartphone Ownership Booms; This Week in Rupert

jack shafer.jpg

Welcome to the 13th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This week's show looks at a recent survey by Pew Internet that found that 35 percent of Americans now have smartphones, and that ownership is even higher among people of color. Guest Aaron Smith from Pew explained one surprise from the survey: 25 percent of smartphone users were using their phone as their main source of accessing the Net.

Then talk once again turned to the United Kingdom, and what is becoming a regular feature on the podcast: "This Week in Rupert." The phone-hacking scandal continues to widen, with News Corp. dropping its bid to take over BSkyB, and a new FBI investigation into possible hacking of the phones of 9/11 victims in the U.S. Special guest Jack Shafer, Pressbox columnist for Slate, says not to jump to conclusions and that the New York Post and Fox News are innocent until proven guilty.

Check it out!

mediatwits13.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Google+ addictions

0:40: Mark convincing friends to join Google+

3:10: Rafat waiting until it grows out of early adopter phase

3:30: Rundown of topics for the podcast

Pew Internet survey on smartphone use

aaron smith pew.JPG

05:00: Background on Pew Internet's Aaron Smith

07:15: Smartphones becoming part of daily life

11:15: Theories on popularity of smartphones by blacks, Latinos

This Week in Rupert

14:50: Slate's Jack Shafer now supporting Murdoch (joking!)

16:10: Update on the phone-hacking scandal, spreading to 9/11 victims?

18:20: Everyone's guilty before anything is proven

20:20: Guardian, Nick Davies deserve praise for staying on story

22:30: Fox News impacted? Mark and Jack argue it out

25:45: Twitter keeps Jack updated on story

More Reading

Smartphone Adoption and Usage at Pew Internet

As smartphones proliferate, some users are cutting the computer cord at Washington Post

Smartphones and Mobile Internet Use Grow, Report Says at NY Times' Bits blog

Jack Shafer's Pressbox column on Slate

Rupert Murdoch, Paper Tiger at Slate

Murdoch Pulls the Ultimate Reverse Ferret at Slate

FBI to investigate Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.: Did it hack 9/11 victims? at Christian Science Monitor

Google Plus Users Top 10 Million; 1 Billion Items Shared Each Day at ReadWriteWeb

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you access the Internet:




How do you access the Internet?

Check out the results of a previous poll: What do you think about Google+?

Screen shot 2011-07-14 at 4.00.33 PM.png

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 04 2011

19:30

Posted email addresses for NYT Mag reporters: A flashback to 1995

The new regime has taken over at The New York Times Magazine, and among the visible changes online is the addition, at the bottom of stories, of an editor’s credit and the email address of the writer. Jack Shafer’s written about the editor’s credit, but I’m more interested in the email addresses, which (correct me if I’m wrong) I believe is the first time the Times has ever attached reporter email addresses to stories in any sort of consistent way. (Times writers have their own author pages, but the “Send an E-Mail to Frank Bruni” link hides the email address via Javascript.)

My interest is mainly in the opportunity to repost one of my favorite all-time Lab documents, which Zach Seward wrote about two years ago. It’s a transcript from a conference we held here at the Nieman Foundation back in 1995. The conference was entitled “Public Interest Journalism: Winner of Loser in the On-Line Era” (we dug hyphens back then), and one of the sessions featured Esther Dyson interviewing the then-relatively-new publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger. It’s the oldest documentation I’m aware of the Times’ perspective on its journalists getting feedback from readers. Here’s the relevant excerpt of the transcript, after Sulzberger tells Dyson that they’ve always gotten feedback from readers, even pre-Internet:

MS. DYSON: Yes, and you get that feedback when you go to cocktail parties at Michael’s, and people come up to you who are your elite readers. But now, you’ve got some guy who can’t really spell, who wants to waste your reporter’s time sending him Email.

MR. SULZBERGER: …I don’t think that’s going to happen. And maybe I’m fooling myself, but I really don’t think that an individual reader directly to reporter, that that’s going to be a major factor in how this is going to design itself.

MS. DYSON: But it’s going to be a major factor in how they have their time wasted, or how they have their time enriched.

MR. SULZBERGER: Are you making the assumption that we’re going to put all of our reporters online? Is that the assumption built into the question, that every day, all of our reporters will have hundreds and hundreds of Email’s that they’ve got to respond to?

You can pick up a pen today and misspell a letter any one of our editors, reporters, business folks. Most — I will speak, I think, candidly for the newsroom — most of those letters go unanswered. It drives me nuts, but it’s true.

Anyway, go read the whole thing and have your own journalism version of I Love the ’90s.

March 04 2010

19:11

A “reporting recipe” to dig up dirt like ProPublica

A core goal of nonprofit news organizations is to create impact. Foundations and donors expect evidence of journalism’s impact in a way that the local department store never did. Jack Shafer wrote a scathing critique of the nonprofit-as-impact driver not long ago, arguing that for-profit media is better insulated against donor whims because the audience is the client:

Nonprofit outlets almost always measure their success in terms of influence, not audience, because their customers are the donors who’ve donated cash to influence politics, promote justice, or otherwise build a better world.

(His view of the nonprofit drive to change the world is more jaded than mine. What for-profit newspaper writer got into the business not to change the world?)

Whatever your stance, the reality is here: Maximizing impact is a key part of nonprofits’ aims. Outlets like the Center for Public IntegrityThe American Independent News Network (where I edited The Washington Independent), ProPublica, and others measure the reach and impact of their work to drum up support. They do this a number of ways. Center for Public Integrity published its work under a Creative Commons license to try to get other publications to reprint it and amplify the message. (They also participate in a young, and struggling, AP-nonprofit distribution program.) The Washington Independent tracks both media pickup and how its work resulted in real change. ProPublica partners with newspapers around the country in printing its stories — all of which is aimed at maximizing their journalism’s impact.

Today ProPublica is unveiling a new approach in increasing impact: a step-by-step reporting guide that shows how its reporters executed a major investigation, with the hopes that state-based reporters and interested citizen journalists will continue their work.

Reporters Charles Ornstein and Tracy Weber have created a guide that reverse-engineers how they reported a year-and-a-half-long investigation on how states handle disciplinary action against nurses. The results of their work were alarming, and its consequences were swift: One day after the Los Angeles Times ran a story on how it took years for the state nursing board to take disciplinary action, while allowing dangerous nurses to keep working, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger removed most members of the state nursing board. Newspapers in several other states have picked up on ProPublica’s work and run their own versions.

It took Ornstein and Weber over a year to research their series, but by making the state-based data available and building a guide on how to do the reporting, they say it should be much simpler and less time-consuming for another reporter to follow in their footsteps. The data alone should at least help “find the smoke” in federal reporting-requirement lapses quickly, so a reporter knows where to invest her time, Weber said. They’re both eager to talk to interested reporters, too. (You can contact them directly, or join in on a conference call that will be scheduled soon.)

“When you called all these different states, you realized you were talking to folks who had never talked to journalists before,” Weber told me. “It made me think it was so ripe for local reporters to take a look at this because, frankly, everyone is touched by a nurse.” The guide lays out seven broad steps for reporting out a regulatory board story, with details under each section, including relevant federal law. It also includes relevant links for certain states.

She added the guide’s methods could be applied to any regulatory board, not just those that govern nurses. “This gives them a map to say, ‘Okay, let’s go take a look at this’…They could maybe change the way these boards are overseen in their state if they find, for instance, they never disciplined anyone, which we found, and that just seems impossible.”

Ornstein told me he hopes this experiment, specifically pointing to the online database of disclosure data, creates real change — and impact. “If somebody has to pay $20 to get a copy of a disciplinary order against a nurse, if they’re looking for a home health nurse, is that something they’re really going to do? Is the state really helping them make a smart choice to protect them? I don’t think so. By pointing this out, we’re really doing a service.”

January 22 2010

15:06

This Week in Review: The New York Times’ paywall plans, and what’s behind MediaNews’ bankruptcy

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s news about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

The Times’ paywall proposal: No question about media and journalism’s biggest story this week: The New York Times announced it plans to begin charging readers for access to its website in 2011. Here’s how it’ll work: you can view an as-yet-unidentified number of articles for free each month before the Times requires you to pay a flat, unlimited-access fee to see more; this is known as a metered system. (If you subscribe to the print edition, it’ll be free.) Two Times execs answered questions about the plan, including whether you can still email and link to articles (you can) and why it’s different from TimesSelect, the abandoned paid-content experiment it tried from 2005-07. Gabriel Sherman of New York’s Daily Intel, who broke the rumor on Sunday, has some details of the paywall debate within the Times.

There’s been a ton of reaction to the Times’ plan online, so I’ll tackle it in three parts: First, the essential reading, then some other worthwhile opinions, and finally the interesting ephemera.

Four must-reads: It makes sense to start with New York Times media critic David Carr’s take on the plan, because it’s the most the thorough, cogent defense of the Times’ paywall you’ll find. He argues that Times execs “have installed a dial on the huge, heaving content machine of The New York Times,” giving the site another flexible revenue stream outside of advertising. If you’re up for a little algebra, Reuters’ Felix Salmon has a sharp economic analysis of the paywall, arguing that the value of each article will become much greater for subscribers than nonsubscribers. For the more theoretical-minded, CUNY prof C.W. Anderson has some fascinating thoughts here at the Lab on how the paywall turns the Times into a niche product and what it means for our concept of the “public.” And as usual, Ken Doctor thoughtfully answers many of the practical questions you’re asking right now.

Other thoughtful opinions: Poynter’s Bill Mitchell poses a lot of great business questions and wonders how the Times will handle putting the burden on its most loyal online-only users. Steve Yelvington reminds us that we’re not going to learn much here that we can apply to other papers, because “the Times is fundamentally in a different business than regional dailies” and “a single experiment with a single price point by a single newspaper is just a stab in the dark.” Before the announcement, former Editor & Publisher columnist Steve Outing, Forrester Research’s James McQuivey, and Reuters’ Felix Salmon gave the Times advice on constructing its paywall, almost none of which showed up in the Times’ plans. Two massive tech blogs, TechCrunch and Mashable, think the paywall won’t amount to much. Slate’s Jack Shafer says people will find ways to get around it, NYU’s Jay Rosen echoes C.W. Anderson’s thoughts on niche vs. public, and CUNY’s Jeff Jarvis doesn’t like the Times’ sense of entitlement.

The ephemera: The best stuff on Twitter about the announcement was collected at E&P In Exile and the new site MediaCritic. Steve Outing and Jason Fry don’t like the wait ’til 2011, and Cory Doctorow is skeptical that that’s even true. Former E&Pers Fitz & Jen interview a few newspaper execs and find that (surprise, surprise) the like the Times’ idea. So does Steven Brill of Journalism Online, who plans to roll out a few paywalls of his own soon. Dan Gillmor wants the Times to find out from readers what new features they’d pay for, and Jeff Sonderman makes two good points: “The major casualty of NYT paywall is sharing,” and “Knowing the ‘meter is running’ creates cautious viewing of the free articles.”

Apple’s tablet to go public: Apple announced that it will unveil its “latest creation” (read: its new tablet) next Wednesday. Since the announcement came a day after word of the Times’ paywall plans broke, it was only natural that the rumors would merge. The Daily Intel’s Gabriel Sherman, who broke the story of those Times plans, quoted Times officials putting the Times-tablet-deal rumors to rest. The Wall Street Journal detailed Apple’s plans for the tablet to do to newspapers, magazines and TV what the iPod did to music. Meanwhile, Columbia j-student Vadim Lavrusik and TechCrunch’s Paul Carr got tired of the tablet hype — Lavrusik for the print industry and Carr for tech geeks. (The Week also has a great timeline of the rumors.)

MediaNews goes bankrupt: Last Friday, MediaNews Group — a newspaper chain that publishes the Denver Post and San Jose Mercury-News, among others — announced it would file for bankruptcy protection. (A smaller chain, Morris Publishing Group, made the same announcement the day before.) For the facts and background of the filing, we’ve got a few sources: At the Lab, MediaNews veteran Martin Langeveld has a whole lot of history and insight on MediaNews chief Dean Singleton. News business analyst Alan Mutter tells us about the amazing fact that Singleton will come out of the filing unscathed but Hearst, which invested in MediaNews to save the San Francisco Chronicle, stands to lose $317 million in the deal. And MinnPost reports that the St. Paul Pioneer Press was the only MediaNews paper losing money.

Looking at the big picture, Ken Doctor says that bankruptcies like these are just a chance for newspapers to buy time while adjusting their strategy in “the fog of media war.” Steve Outing takes a glass-half-full approach, arguing that the downfall of old-media chains like MediaNews are a great opportunity for journalism startups to build a new news ecosystem.

How much do Google News users read?: An annual study by research firm Outsell and Ken Doctor on online and offline news preferences made waves by reporting that 44 percent of Google News users scan headlines without clicking through to the original articles. PaidContent noted that Outsell has a dog in this fight; it openly advocates that news organizations should get more money from Google. Search engine guru Danny Sullivan was not impressed, giving a thorough critique of the study and its perceived implications. Syracuse j-prof Vin Crosbie also wondered whether the same pattern might be true with print headlines.

In a similar vein, BNET’s David Weir used comScore numbers to argue that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft support big newspapers, and Jeff Jarvis made one of his favorite arguments — in defense of the link.

Heartbreak in Haiti: I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the journalism and media connections to the largest news story in the world for the past two weeks — the devastating earthquake in Haiti. Several sites noted that Twitter led the way in breaking news of the quake and in raising money for relief. The money aspect is new, but as Columbia j-prof Sree Sreenivasan noted last June, Twitter came of age a long time ago as a medium for breaking global news. That’s what it does. The coverage also provided an opportunity for discussion about the ethics of giving aid while reporting.

Reading roundup: In addition to being out in front of the whole New York Times paywall story, Gabriel Sherman authored a nice, long think piece for The New Republic on the difficulties of one of America’s other great newspapers, The Washington Post. For what it’s worth, Post patriarch Donald Graham thought it was “not even a molehill.”

Over at Snarkmarket, Robin Sloan uses the economic concept of stock and flow to describe the delicate balance between timeliness and permanence the world of online media. It’s a brilliant idea — a must-read.

Finally, a promising new site named MediaCritic, run by Salon veteran Scott Rosenberg, citizen journalism advocate Dan Gillmor, and Lucasfilm’s Bill Gannon, had its soft launch this week. It looks like it’s going to include some nifty features, like Rosenberg’s regular curation of Twitter commentary on big media subjects.

December 21 2009

19:45

Media Mavens Wish for More Collaboration, Less Talk in 2010

Layoffs, buyouts, furloughs, and more than a few shuttered newspapers and magazines. That's definitely part of the story of 2009. Yet, at the same time, many established news organizations pushed online with impressive results, and online-only organizations continued to grow and innovate.

Now, with 2009 ending, we have a new year of media to ponder. I contacted a selection of media people and asked them to name their biggest media wish for 2010.

New Year's Wishes from Media Folks

David Carr, Media Equation columnist, New York Times: "I'd like old/new media to put away the squirt guns and start exploring the venn diagram where interests intersect and collaboration can take place. A more sustainable model of news production is evolving as we speak: the whining and blaming is just delaying a practical discussion about how we all move forward."

Cohen photo.jpg

Josh Cohen, senior business product manager, Google News: You know that feeling in your stomach on New Year's Day? Part trepidation, part excitement, part hangover? Right now, the news industry seems struck with a mix of fear over what changes might yet come and excitement over the many paths available to it. The Internet is offering more and more opportunities for getting great journalism in front of eager consumers. A ton of ideas are swirling around -- exciting ways to distribute news, tap into citizen reporting and generate revenue. No one quite knows which ones are going to work. It's both terrifying and thrilling.

So my wish for 2010 is that the parties that have an interest in this -- news organizations, technology companies and others -- just dive in and start trying everything. Whether they do it on their own or through partnerships with Google or our competitors, news publishers need to keep innovating. Let's spend less time discussing, more time launching and iterating. I know we're a bunch of optimists at Google, but I'm really hopeful that 2010 is the year that journalism really hits its stride on the Internet."

David Cohn, founder of Spot.us: "My wish for 2010 is that it be a year of doing. I hope the larger media industry continues the ongoing conversation about the state of journalism, but not unless it means taking action. Next year should be the year we stop writing/reading the white papers and start being the change we wish to see."

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Megan Garber, staff writer, Columbia Journalism Review: "Assuming we can't wish for 1,000 more wishes -- and/or for some billionaire oil baron to take a sudden interest in funding journalism -- I'd hope, broadly, for more collaboration. Among individual journalists, among news organizations, among individual journalists and news organizations. One silver lining in all our current gloom is that the media industry now has the opportunity to reinvent itself -- to imagine what journalism might be when freed from the constraints of historical accident. As we take advantage of that opportunity, I hope we'll be willing -- and eager -- to overcome outdated notions of reflexive competition, and to embrace instead a much more contemporary sensibility: 'We're all in this together.' "

Seth Godin, author, blogger, speaker and marketing expert: "A wish? That media companies would stop whining and start building. This is the chance of a lifetime."

Tara Hunt, blogger, speaker and author of "The Whuffie Factor": "My media-related wish is that all the websites out there that we use daily would start to work together more effectively, alleviating me from the pain of having to update my address in a gabillion different places. I moved to Montreal this summer and have been finding places all over the web that require updating."

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Craig Kanalley, founder of Breaking Tweets and now with the Huffington Post: "My media wish for 2010 is for news companies of all kinds to put aside differences of the past, egotism and self interests to work together. News organizations in 2010 should link to each other (yes, the competition), collaborate with each other, and get aggressive in implementing new media strategies and models that fit this web-first media world. It's time to put an end to archaic practices of the past and to think about how to do good journalism with the tools available to journalists today."

Hamilton Nolan, contributing editor, Gawker: "Jobs! I would wish for media jobs. Jobs for young people just coming up, jobs for everyone who got laid off, jobs for people who'd like to move up in the industry, dream jobs for people to aim for. Paying media jobs that people can live on and realistically hope to get. Although I'm not optimistic!"

Jolie O'Dell, community manager and writer, ReadWriteWeb: "My wish is twofold: First, I'd like for everyone to stop bemoaning the 'death of newspapers,' 'the demise of old media,' and 'the murder of journalism (subtext: by bloggers).'

jolie.jpeg

"And second, I'd like to see web applications and social media integrated into every journalism class in America. J-school kids ought to be taught SEO principles, such as metadata and tagging. They should be taught what constitutes a good Digg headline and how to get retweets. They should know about page views, clickthroughs, and conversion rates.

"Because these are all the things I wish I knew when I graduated and found myself working at a digital publication. It happened to me, and I'd wager it's going to happen to around 75 percent of the graduating class of 2010, as well. If those graduates are as unprepared for the Internet as I was, then we can really start to weep and wail for the passing of journalism."

Jack Shafer, Press Box columnist, Slate: "I have no wishes, no desires, no passion. I am a lukewarm mud-puddle. Sorry."

Rachel Sklar, editor at large, Mediaite: "My 2010 wish is for quality. I have no problem with page-view bait -- Megan Fox, anyone? -- but I do worry about gunning for traffic at the expense of quality. The good stuff takes time. It always has and it always will, but the payoff is so much more important than just another 'Twilight' slideshow. I love 'Twilight' slideshows (Team Edward!) -- that stuff is fun, and I never want to lose the fun stuff. But the flip side of the mini-wheat has to be there, too.

"That's not only the reason they give out Pulitzers, but also the reason corruption is uncovered and injustices exposed and hypocrisies revealed, and that's important. More and more, looking around the media space, I worry about losing that -- about the bosses losing that as the highest goal, and the newbies losing that as a goal in the first place. So my wish in 2010 is for quality time spent on quality content that matters, and makes a difference. Heck, it might even get page views."

Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author, and an associate editor at MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is the founder and editor of Regret The Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a weekly columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

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