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May 13 2011

16:45

Mediatwits #7: Skype Gets Microsoft-ed; 'Street Fight' Returns Fire

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Welcome to the seventh episode of "The Mediatwits," the new revamped longer form weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser along with PaidContent founder Rafat Ali. This week's show looks at Microsoft's massive payout, $8.5 billion, for Skype, a popular communication service that still loses money.

Our guest this week is Laura Rich, the co-founder of the new Street Fight site covering the business of hyper-local and geo-location. She responds to our earlier criticism of the site on a past episode. Plus, Google announces its new Chromebook netbook computers that don't have any software beyond a web browser, and will be out next month.

Check it out!

mediatwits7.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

NEW! 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:

Rafat's allergies and Mark's allergic to cable

1:20: Mark decides to cut the cord to cable TV

3:30: Rafat cut the cord when he moved to New York

4:50: Rundown of stories on the podcast

Microsoft bets big on Skype

6:45: Don't ruin it, Microsoft

8:40: Could it upset the cell carriers?

10:50: Rafat pays to use Skype when traveling

Interview with Laura Rich of Street Fight

13:10: $150 billion in local advertising market

15:40: Street Fight will have events and do original research

17:45: AOL uses Patch as wire service to cover Bin Laden news

20:55: Rafat says PaidContent succeeded by being a must-read daily

22:50: No deja-vu for Internet bubble

Google unveils Chromebooks

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23:40: Basics on the Chromebook

25:30: Rafat says netbooks have their place, but being replaced by tablets

28:30: Long-lasting battery-charge miracles

More Reading

Microsoft's gamble: A big phone bill at The Economist

Microsoft's Skype-high price

Will Microsoft Inject Trademark Mediocrity Into Promise Of Skype? at Forbes

Microsoft Will Screw Up Skype at Daily Beast

Skype Deal Is Unlikely to Pay Off for Microsoft at Reuters Breakingviews

Skype's long history of owners and also-rans: At an end? at Fortune

Street Fight

HuffPo Harnesses Patch Hyperlocals for Bin Laden News at Street Fight

Google Chromebook Could Struggle Against Windows, iPad at eWeek

Three Big Questions for the Samsung Chromebook at PC Mag

Hands On With Samsung's Chrome OS-Powered Series S at Huffington Post

Hands On With Google's Chromebook: Nice, but Unnecessary at The Atlantic

Google tries to remake the laptop at CNET

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about Microsoft buying Skype:




Microsoft + Skype = ?Market Research

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 ».

January 22 2010

17:01

A new convert to nonprofit journalism out west?

The start-up Bay Area News Project announced its new leadership team yesterday, as reported by the New York Times and paidContent, and it’s unfortunate that the most eye-catching bit of the news was CEO Lisa Frazier’s $400,000 salary. Yes, that’s a lot of money, and, like the news about Paul Steiger getting $570,000 to run ProPublica, it invites questions about what are appropriate salaries for a nonprofit.

But let’s set those aside for now, and let’s appreciate the news about the hiring of NewWest.net founder Jonathan Weber as editor-in-chief of BANP.

A year ago, Weber authored a thoughtful and well-argued, if withering, critique of the nonprofit model as a solution to the financial problems plaguing newspapers and journalism more generally.

Weber’s essay, entitled “The Trouble with Nonprofit Journalism,” dismisses the nonprofit model as an ill-suited to define what is newsworthy and unlikely to be sustainable. Here’s a passage:

[W]hen I started NewWest.Net in 2005 I considered going the non-profit route, but decided against it for what I still think are good reasons. I had to raise investment capital, which was arduous and way, way more time-consuming than I anticipated, but with luck I won’t have to do it again. Even more importantly, we are held to the brutal discipline of the market, which is very unpleasant a lot of the time but I think is ultimately a healthy thing. For the core problem that non-profit journalism will never be able to solve properly is deciding what is worthy. In a business, the customers ultimately decide what is worthy, for better and for worse. Managers at good companies can think for the long term and the greater good — and in fact there is clearly a market for thoughtful journalism — but as the VCs like to say, eventually the dogs have to eat the dog food. It keeps you honest. In a non-profit, either the board or the employees decide what is worthy — and why them?

Think Weber included the essay when he sent his resume to BANP founder Warren Hellman? Me, neither.

But this is not the place or time for told-you-so’s or questions about how much Weber’s being paid to run BANP. Rather, I take Weber’s conversion as validation of the nonprofit model as a place “to keep the spirit and tradition of socially responsible journalism alive,” as University of North Carolina professor Philip Meyer said in 2004.

In his own way, Weber said as much in the paidContent article when asked how a nonprofit differs from his work at NewWest:

In terms of profit versus non-profit, I’ve certainly been an advocate of the for-profit model. I do think there are for-profit models that work, but at the same time, the reality these days is that investment capital is not going into for-profit companies where the primary use of proceeds of that capital is to pay journalists. For whatever reasons, investors have not seen that as a big opportunity to date. There may be a few exceptions in narrow niches but certainly for general news there’s been very little investment of that type.

But I think there’s more to it than where the capital is flowing.

Since Weber wrote his essay just a year ago, the nonprofit model in journalism has undergone a full generation of transformation and growth. It used to be that nonprofits were oddities and one-offs, however successful financially or journalistically. ProPublica was really the only grand experiment anybody could name. But now, there are any number of start-ups that are using nonprofit status and the IRS 501(c)3 tax designation as a tool to create new business models that can sustain socially responsible journalism. In addition to BANP, we now have examples in Texas Tribune and the Chicago News Cooperative. And some of the early, community-based experiments such as MinnPost and Voice of San Diego seem to have held their own through the downturn in the economy while finding new ways to attract readers and donors.

It is said that converts become evangelists. I’m looking forward to seeing what Weber will do at BANP — and what role he will play within the nonprofit sector. As a co-founder of the now-defunct magazine The Industry Standard, Weber has a distinguished track record as an innovator, and I think he’ll find his new environs will be a hospitable place for his creativity.

Welcome aboard, Jonathan.

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