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March 09 2010


US Digest: staff down at Variety; ads down at Ars Technica; sense down at FishbowlDC

It’s the end of something at Variety, and Roger Ebert isn’t happy

The biggest media news from the other side of the pond this morning was the laying off of two of Variety’s marquee critics. Chief film critic Todd McCarthy and chief theatre critic David Rooney were let go amid staff cuts that will see the magazine feature freelance reviews only.

The NYT have the full story here, and PoynterOnline have the staff memo, in which editor Tim Gray seems happy to offend exiting colleagues and readers alike with statements like: “Today’s changes won’t be noticed by readers.”

“It’s the end of something, I don’t know what” said McCarthy. The first thing that springs to mind is: your staff job at Variety, Mr. McCarthy. But he may have had Roger Ebert’s subscription to the magazine in mind:

No reprieve on death row interview policy

From Associated Press, news that the Supreme Court has decided against any changes to the federal prison policy preventing death-row inmates giving interviews to journalists.

The decision was prompted by an appeal from David Paul Hammer, an inmate in Terre Haute, Indiana. Hammer claimed that the policy, which came into effect after the Oklahoma City bombing, violated his constitutional right to free speech.

Twenty-three media organisations urged the Supreme Court to hear Hammer’s case.

Ars Technica and its readers kiss and make up after ad-blocking stand-off

An interesting development in the use of ad-blocking software was played out over the weekend by technology site Ars Technica and its not-so-faithful followers. (Nieman Journalism Lab)

After discovering that a shockingly high 40 per cent of their online readership were using ad-blocking software, which removes advertisements from web-pages, the site hit back. All of a sudden, those using the ad-blocking plug-in were unable to see the site’s content, with no explanation.

The quite amazing outcome is that, after publishing a post on the site explaining the damage that ad-blocking software meant for their revenue, and explaining why they had to take the counter-measures, editor-in-chief Ken Fisher received around 1,200 emails from people who had whitelisted the site, preventing its ads from being blocked. Furthermore, 25,000 people went on to whitelist it within 24 hours and 200 people subscribed, paying for the ad-free version.

It seems that the key in this case was communication, getting the message out to an essentially appreciative readership that using ad-blocking software can have seriously detrimental effect on content that you enjoy.

And, it seems like it worked. Good for Ars Technica.

An error within and error within and error within an..hold on what?

Finally, FishbowlDC show everyone else a clean pair of heels in the competition for today’s strangest blog post, which reports in a round about way that the blog Regret the Error made an error reporting on an error made by Wolf Blitzer.

I can’t find an error in the Fishbowl post, which they rightly point out would constitute an error within an error within an error, but as that would also constitute even less of a story than the current one, its probably for the best.

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February 25 2010


US Digest: Sally Quinn vs gossipers; Deadline vs Gawker; Kevin Smith vs the media

Starting this week, the editor’s blog will feature an afternoon roundup of all things media from over the pond. From the hugely important to the very inconsequential, check in for a choice of America’s journalistic goings on.

Public feuding seems to be flavour of the week this week, with Cheryl and Ashley Cole fighting it out on the fronts of red tops and t-shirts, and Anna Ford and Martin Amis going pound for pound in the letter pages of the broadsheets.

With no shortage of handbags stateside either, today’s digest seems, somewhat tenuously, to be all about what the media had to report on feuding.

Round One: Sally Quinn vs. those pesky gossipers

Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn, who writes a lifestyle column called “The Party”, used her most recent column to address claims amongst gossip columnists that two Quinn family weddings scheduled for the same day were evidence of some kind of family feud.

Unfortunately for Quinn, Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli didn’t take very kindly to the article. More unfortunately for Quinn still, Washington City Post editor Erik Wemple (who, lucky, lucky man, appears in US Digest for a second day running) turned all his communicative efforts to getting some information out of the Post, and quite impressively got around the Brauchli very own eponymous omerta, the Brauchli Doctrine, to get the scoop on his reaction.

That reaction was to bring a swift end to “The Party”, like two surprised parents returning from holiday early. As tragic an event as the failure of the Cole’s marriage, Quinn’s column has been cut from the print edition of the post, Brauchli has banished it to the doldrums of Washington Post online.

And who the hell reads their journalism online?

Amidst a raft of “The Party Is Over” headlines, Gawker, ever moderate in their approach, ran with this gem instead:

Sally Quinn’s Stupid Idiot Column Being Killed, at Long Last?

But very kindly let up in their opening paragraph:

The Washington Post is reportedly considering doing away with Sally Quinn’s godawful self-absorbed rich lady column from hell, which is an embarrassment to the entire institution.

Continuing on with the feuding theme, both the Washington Post and Gawker have their own scraps featured in the press today.

Round Two: The Washington Post vs. New York Times

Michael Calderone from Politico reports on the Post and the NYT trying to pinch each other’s staff. The Times are apparently in the lead at the moment, having raided the Post newsroom consistently for the past few years, but the Post, with a couple of fresh vacancies on the Politics desk, are eyeing up staff at the Times.

Still, it seems that the Times, a full 26 years older than the Post, is keeping the upstart down.

Both papers have long sought out top journalists in Washington and elsewhere, but in recent years, The Times has been able to grab more talent from the Post than vice versa.

Gawker doesn’t seem to think America’s top journos are too well off at either paper right now:

What are those slick bastards at the Washington Post trying now? They are trying―and failing―to hire a bunch of good reporters away from the NYT [...] And that looks even worse for the Washington Post, since all the New York Times can offer its own staffers now are fake sideways promotions, like, why don’t you go from editing this one thing, to writing about this other thing? Because there are no new jobs there, you see. But hey, at least it’s not the Washington Post!

The NYT - not to be poached from

As promised, news of Gawker’s very own new spat:

Round Three: Deadline Hollywood vs. Gawker

The Deadline Hollywood blog’s Nikki Finke claimed yesterday that she had bested Gawker’s stats for the month and, not only that folks, she had done so without having to “bottomfeed about celebrities just to increase web traffic”.

Well, in hindsight, that was probably a mistake. Actually it definitely was a mistake, and Gawker came out of their corner with irrefutable stats to prove it and, more importantly, another great sucker punch of a headline:

Nikki Finke Beats Gawker In Traffic, In Her Own Mind

Finke’s very begrudging correction can be found appended to her post, with a suitable shift of blame.

Gawker - not to be messed with

Enough of media feuding now? Me too. But it’s the theme of today’s post so, the show must go on. In the case of Keven Smith much-publicised set-to with SouthWest Airlines, the show goes on, and on, and on, and…. on.

Round Four: Kevin Smith vs. the media

Having been ejected from a SouthWest airlines flight just prior to take-off because staff were worried his weight was a safety issue, the film director Kevin Smith used his Twitter account, followed by 1,669,611 people, to launch a seemingly interminable campaign against the airline. Clever Southwest.

That bit is old news.

But in a new interview with Patrick Goldstein of the LA Times, Smith has dragged the media into the feud, claiming their reaction left a lot to be desired:

It really sickened me that after all the years I’ve been so open with the press that they didn’t bother to dig at all. I was unfairly bounced and discriminated against, but they never bothered to tell that story. They just went with the easy fat jokes. Every TV show imaginable asked me to go on, from Oprah to Larry King, but I turned them all down because I didn’t want to turn into Octomom.

So Kevin Smith is peeved with the media now too, but still kindly giving them material for their ‘easy fat jokes’ with talk of bouncing and the Octomom. Which, obviously, we are not going to exploit here at J.co.uk, because I’m no good at puns.

Kevin Smith - not too big to get on tiptoes

For more airplane related tales of less-than-respectable reporting, follow this link

Having shamelessly cast aside everything really newsworthy in today’s digest in favour of stories that tenuously serve my feuding theme, I am running short on material. So, finally, and most tenuously of all, the social media story du jour, which sees Conan O’Brien amass way more followers with one tweet than Jesus fed with five loaves.

Round Five: Conan O’Brien vs. Jay Leno

Conan O’Brien took over NBC’s Tonight Show from Jay Leno back in June 2009, but walked out on the show over a proposed scheduling change that would see it moved it from 11:35pm to 12:05am.

Retired, probably at a loose end, O’Brien did what any self-respecting man would do and joined Twitter, getting off to a pretty funny start:

Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me.

O’Brien’s followers started to stack up at a mind-bending rate. At the time of writing he as 257,328, but by later this afternoon it could easily be 1040.

This fairly innocuous story soon grew into an infant media feud, with headlines uniformly reading something like this:

Conan O’Brien joins Twitter, outdoes Leno again.

Jay Leno’s followers, at the time of writing: a paltry 30,371.

Conan O'Brien - not too busy to tweet

Image of the New York Times building courtesy of ReservasdeCoches

Image of Kevin Smith courtesy of Shane Kaye

Image of Conan O’Brien courtesy of VDTA Info

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February 24 2010


US Digest: ABC announce cuts; Washington Post announce profits; Yahoo! mess about on Twitter

ABC president soft-peddles what look like substantial cuts

Do you want the bad news or just the news first? Bad? OK.

The bad news today comes from the Los Angeles Times in the form of an announcement by ABC that it is to make a “fundamental transformation” to its news division. “Fundamental transformation” being bad-newsspeak, of course, for ’streamlining’, or ‘workforce optimisation’, or ‘force shaping’, or, even, ‘mass redundancies’.

Reports suggest the company may be ’smart-sizing’ its ‘force’ to the tune of a 20 per cent reduction. The news arm currently employs 1,400 staff. The maths, or ‘math’ in this case, produces bad news whichever way you phrase it.

David Westin, president of ABC News, went with a memo that all sounded like this:

The time has come to anticipate change, rather than respond to it. We have a rare opportunity to get in front of what’s coming, to ensure that ABC News has a sound journalistic and financial footing for many years to come, and to serve our audiences even better. But we must move boldly and promptly.

Redundancies have been offered, but it seems likely that if staff don’t move as ‘boldly and promptly’ and Westin intends to, they’ll be pushed.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not all about contraction though:

In newsgathering, we intend to dramatically expand our use of digital journalists [...] In production, we will take the example set by Nightline of editorial staff who shoot and edit their own material and follow it throughout all of our programs…

So, listen up: if you can write copy, sub-edit, shoot and edit video, write code, produce an outside broadcast by yourself, mend a broken server, and all the while keep time on the big drum strapped to your back, now is the time to show your face at ABC.

Westin’s memo reprinted at the Los Angeles Times.

Washington Post Co. and A.H. Belo Corp announce Q4 profits against backdrop of newspaper arm losses

Just in from Editor & Publisher, news that the Washington Post Co. and A.H. Belo Corp (parent company to the Dallas Morning News) both had a profitable fourth quarter 2009. The Washington Post Co. reported a Q4 profit $82.2 million, or $8.71 a share, in comparison with $18.8 million, or $2.01 a share in Q4 2008. A.H. Belo recorded a much more moderate $5.6 million, or $0.27 per share, its first quarterly profit since it was spun off from Belo Corp. two years ago.

The figures behind the figures at the Washington Post Co. make for fairly grim reading on the newspaper side of things though, with advertising revenue still in decline. From E&P:

Newspaper revenue declined four per cent in the fourth quarter to $193.3 million. Print ad revenue was down 9 per cent to $92.6 million, with declines in classified, zones and retail advertising offset by an increase in general advertising.

And whilst the overall figures seem to be going in the right direction, they are nonetheless sobering:

For the full year 2009, the newspaper division reported an operating loss of $163.5 million, compared to an operating loss of $192.7 million in 2008.

Similarly, at A.H. Belo:

Advertising revenue continued to fall substantially in the quarter, with the retail down 30.9 per cent, and print classified down 31.1 per cent. Internet revenue fell 8.5 per cent, to $10.1, which accounted for 7.5 per cent, of total revenue for the quarter.

Washington City Paper editor’s second attempt to leave proves successful

From E&P again, news that Erik Wemple is leaving the Washington City Paper, where he has been editor for eight years. He will join Allbritton Communications’ new local start-up in Washington D.C.

Wemple accepted a position as editor of Village Voice in New York during his editorship of the Washington City Paper, but changed his mind before his first day, deciding instead to stay put.

Yahoo late to the Twitter party, but may have come best dressed

Today’s big social media news is a Yahoo/Twitter partnership.

TechCrunch takes an irreverent look at the embargo politics surrounding the announcement, and a sideswipe at Yahoo for being late to the party:

Yahoo and Twitter have reached an agreement to share data between their properties. That’s great. Yahoo is only a few months behind Google and Microsoft (Bing) doing the same thing.

It seems Yahoo! got so over excited at the news themselves that they toyed with their Twitter followers over the course of the day, hyping the announcement by tweeting clues, and possibly confusing its importance with your Moon landings and presidential race winners.

  • Clue #1/5: Who has approx 29,000 followers as of this morning? #ybignews
  • Clue #2/5: What kind of “moon” had teen moviegoers swooning last fall? #ybignews
  • Clue #3/5: Who might you greet with a friendly “howdy”? #ybignews (use hashtag for previous clues)
  • Clue #4/5:What’s both a sugar substitute & a mathematical symbol? #ybignews (use hashtag for previous clues-forms a phrase)
  • Final clue: A little birdie told us to find them @twitter #ybignews Thanks for following us (winners notified soon)

What fun.

Mashable goes into more detail about the partnership, claiming that despite its tardyness it is more comprehensive, and a better all round deal than Twitter’s search partnerships with Google and Bing.

“This is a local blog, for local people…” Erm, I think you mean hyperlocal there love

Following on from yesterday’s US Digest coverage of the NYT’s new East Village hyperlocal venture, a small, but useful post from Lost Remote today outlines its take on some key new terms:

There is a difference between the terms “local”, “hyperlocal” and “niche” and I want to outline our editorial policy regarding the three. We see the three used interchangeably some times, and I think it’s important we all recognise the differences. ‘Hyperlocal’ covers neighborhoods, while ‘local’ covers towns and cities. We get some press releases here about how stations or newspapers are starting new ‘hyperlocal’ websites that cover their city or a given topic in their city (say, ‘moms’). A mum blog is a niche site. A neighbourhood blog is hyperlocal. A city blog is local. Disagree? Let us know.

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