Tuesday, March 24, 2009

And then I put a band-aid on his severed neck [The press is falling]

A friend posted a link on Facebook tonight to the Reuters article about the senate bill introduced today that would allow newspapers to restructure as nonprofits.

Pause.

Now, I clearly work for a nonprofit news source, so I believe in the concept.

But riddle me this: says the article "Cardin's office said his bill was aimed at preserving local and community newspapers, not conglomerates which may also own radio and TV stations."

Oh, really?

The Reuters report later lists the papers that have ceased or reduced publication -

Seattle P-I - owned by Hearst (28 TV stations)

Rocky Mountain News - E.W. Scripps (10 TV stations)

Baltimore Examiner - part of a media group of newspapers, but the owner also owns stakes in a number of professional sports teams, movie theatres, radio stations

SF Chronicle - see Hearst

He then mentions Gannett, Advance and Tribune.

Seriously?

Community newspapers, according to the National Newspaper Association's 4th quarter 2008 results, are outperforming the industry at large by 14%. Larger metros were down 20%, the industry 21% and community papers - 6.6% (Full NNA report >).

Forest, meet trees, trees, meet kettle, kettle, meet - oh, nevermind.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer goes online only [The press is falling]

It was announced today that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer will print its last edition tomorrow, March 17 and shift to online only publication. This leaves Seattle with one daily newspaper, The Seattle Times.

While many saw this coming, it will be interesting to see it actually play out - how will seattlepi.com change and grow and will it truly embrace the medium it now calls home? Will it innovate and problem solve, or continue to try the same old tricks?

Here's hoping that having the staff of this large and this prominent of a publication fully focused on an online model will uncover a thing or two. Or ten. And help illustrate the common sense that many are missing.

Because, really.

In Denver Times [Striking while the iron is hot]

Former Rocky Mountain News staffers announce online venture called In Denver Times based partially on subscriptions.

Now, while I thoroughly believe that unless you have highly specialized content, subscription models don't work, I'm going to go ahead and say that I think they have a pretty good chance of reaching their goal (50,000 pledged subscribers by April 23rd). Why? Because their business model has little to do with the circumstances under which they're kicking it off: the perfect storm of passion, drama, incessant "death of newspapers" coverage (oh wait, is that the same as drama?) and a city that just lost an institution. It's very Mickey and Judy "let's put on a show" and that is never to be underestimated.

And the logo design is good.

Now, whether its sustainable or not will have to do with a whole different set of details - how good is the subscription-only content? How is the business structured internally? See all previous questions regarding seattlepi.com.

But I personally think we'll get to the place where these questions get the chance to be answered. This, in itself, is almost more a viral campaign than the launch of a new form of journalism. 'Twill be interesting to watch indeed...

Update: I like the logo, less so this video, but in general the right idea...

iTunes SchmiTunes [This thing isn't that thing]

Why bother breaking down why you can't compare micro-payments for news to iTunes (duh) Clay Shirky has done it so well?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Aggregated realtime keyword search results = local news? [Getting there from here]

In an interview, Twitter CEO, Even Williams said (translated by Google from German): "We are currently thinking about an extension that notifies the user what is happening in its immediate vicinity is happening. Depending on where I am staying, I could then learn about that a few streets away a fire is burning."

TechCruch writes an article titled Twitter To Start Serving Local News To Users?

*Sigh*

This morning, there was a fatal and shocking shooting incident at a church near my hometown. More specifically, the church is 2 small towns over, the victim is from my hometown and the perpetrator is from 3 small towns over. The shooting happened around 8:30am. I heard about it for the first time around 11:30am via Facebook. Once it was brought up, my mom mentioned that it had been announced in church - probably around 9:30. By the time I checked Twitter around 12:30pm, Maryville (the name of the town where the shooting happened) was the 3rd trending topic (popular keyword). The first appearance was around 9:30am.

All this to say that as much as I am still mostly annoyed by most things surrounding the existence of Twitter, at its core it has its uses - and if understood and harnessed correctly, maybe even the majority of the press wouldn't be able to miss them.

If Twitter had a tool that "notifies the user what is happening in its immediate vicinity," I would have known about the national news that happened a few miles from my hometown within an hour of it happening instead of 3 hours later. A good number of the early tweets in the Twitter search string link to CNN, the local CBS station (KMOV), etc. - actual news outlets. So I'd get to the local news via Twitter, and I guess I'd technically have received "news" of it from Twitter, but the actual reporting come from where I'd expect it to.

Am I arguing semantics? Some may say yes, but in this environment of the constant overblown discussion of whether or not bloggers will replace reporters, the TechCrunch headline is worth calling out, the semantics are worth being understood.

Within 3-5 hours after the shooting, the tweets started to get less helpful. Tweethounds were using the keyword with truncated urls that would appear to be to a news story but really led to their Twitter profile. Aggregators got in on the keyword by reporting its rank in hopes of newbies deciding their feed is "the place" to keep up with what's trending. Random people were using the keyword just so their account would show up in the search string. Basic Twitter uselessness.

But now, some 12+ hours later, interesting links are starting to show up in tweets - pastor responses, personal accounts, etc. Takes a little more mining to get to the interesting stuff, but it's there for the seeker.

And there you have the data rainbow of Twitter. Harness the first hour or so of that into an alert and that's a service I would find useful. Would I want it to serve as my "local news?" No. Would the alert be as useful without the links to local news stories? Maybe not? Would local news reports get more (free) play if there was an alert system like that? Likely.

See kids? Appropriate usage and teamwork. Fabulous concepts.

Monday, March 2, 2009

That's sooooo nine days ago [Questionable allocation of resources]

Over a week ago (Saturday, February 21st, to be exact) Michael Ian Black declared the first ever Twitter war on none other than LeVar Burton. Hilarity and odds on BetUS.com ensued. Many tweets later, it was all over by Wednesday, February 25th (truce was called, everyone won).

Today, I repeat TODAY Michael Ian Black tweets that he "just got off the phone with the AP who [is] doing a story on LeWar."

There are two possibilities here:

1. AP is doing (yet another) story about Twitter in general (because OMG there aren't enough of these ill-informed missives clogging up our news day already) and referring to LeWar as an illustration of something or other.

2. AP is doing an actual story on the actual LeWar a full NINE DAYS (and counting) LATER proving that it isn't that journalism is dead, but that, well, I don't even know what to say.

Perhaps some questions will help me verbalize:

- Given the immediate and viral nature of Twitter, is there a point to a traditional one-to-many story covering something that you kind of have to experience to get and a full NINE DAYS (and counting) LATER at that?

- Would not a shorter story, during the event be more relevant? Maybe even some sort of app that tracks progress, or a mock-serious blow by blow (in the same spirit as the BetUS post)?

- In the midst of, oh, I dunno, lots of real drama going on in the world, is LeWar truly worthy of an actual thought out story NINE DAYS (and counting) LATER?

I hope I'm wrong and jumping on my soapbox too quickly. I hope that the AP is working on a story about actual effective uses of Twitter, and using LeWar as an example.

I hope. Because, really.

Michael Ian Black on Twitter
LeVar Burton on Twitter