April 15th

What is the future of journalism?

Writing about the future of journalism perhaps? Seriously, this must be the 150th time I’ve seen this question posed in the media over the past few years.

At least this attempt to answer the perennial question comes from a young millennial mind rather than a grizzled, cynical baby boomer.

Technology and its storytelling potential featured heavily in the vision of Rebecca Sian Wyde, the British winner of The Guardian’s inaugural International Journalism Festival student scholarship. Nothing terribly surprising there, coming from a member of the snapchat generation.

What did warm the heart of this old cynic, however, was her hope that technology will not only help journalists stick to the facts (yes, please ban all half-baked opinion from even being labeled journalism), but will also make the storytelling more globally inclusive:

Missing out huge swathes of the world’s populace because they don’t have access to content in their mother tongue seems wrong somehow. Everyone deserves to know what’s happening in our world, and thanks to incredible technological advances, we can now make this a priority.

Here’s why career websites are a waste of time

What’s the worst job you can think of? Garbage Collector perhaps? Nuclear Decontamination Technician? Nope. According to CareerCast.com, it’s Newspaper Reporter.

Readership has steadily moved from print publications, whether they be newspapers or magazines, in favor of online outlets. The resulting decline in advertising revenue has left newspapers — and thus, newspaper reporters — feeling the pinch

Well thanks for the interweb update CareerCast! Do you not think that perhaps journalists have also steadily moved to writing for online outlets, including those of newspapers?

April 14th

How much is that book you’re reading really worth?

If you download it the new online bookstore OpenBooks.com and can’t get beyond the first horribly-written chapter, you can pay exactly what you think it’s worth — nothing.

OpenBooks.com offers booklovers the freedom to discover great new reads without having to commit any money upfront

Sounds the a pitch from a used car salesman trying to unload a clunker.

There are only 266 books to choose from (as of today) so there might not be anything worth downloading, let alone paying for. And then there’s the fact that everyone is now used to getting stuff for free, so the principle of “read first then pay what you want” risks becoming “read first and after 600 pages totally forget you’re supposed to pay”. If a reader does get out the credit card, however, a generous 70% of the money goes to the authors.

April 10th

Oldest newspaper tries out newest business model

The Winnipeg Free Press, the oldest newspaper in Canada, is about to try out the newest revenue model in the North American news business — micropayments for its stories. Readers who do not have a full digital subscription will soon have to pay 27 cents to read a single article. No more freebies.

Once the micropayment system is in place, the paper could introduce dynamic pricing that would charge readers less for things like the weather report and more for an investigative piece that took months to report.

The Free Press was inspired by the Dutch news micropayment platform, Blendle, which recently signed up three major US newspapers. It charges 20 cents per story with a money back guarantee.

Is online news worth only 92p a month?

Brits are willing to spend only 4p a month more to learn what’s going on in the world than to be able to post selfies on Facebook, according to a YouGov survey conducted for the Internet Advertising Bureau.


That 92p won’t even buy you a single dead-tree edition of a quality newspaper, although with the rate of inflation of print newspaper prices that’s not really surprising. Still, that theoretical 92p spent by every adult in a country of 65 million must surely amount to a good chunk of change each month for news.

March 31st

The irony of giving up trying to make money

As legacy publications and online upstarts throw every money-making idea at the wall to see what sticks it’s refreshing when one of their peers simply gives up on the whole idea of trying to make any profit, as National Review has apparently now done.

Most similar publications — from Commentary on the right to Mother Jones on the Left — are nonprofits, a reflection of the fact that publishing a serious opinion magazine has never been a profitable business, and never will be.

OK so technically it never really tried to make money, having been run as a not-for-profit business and surviving on philanthropic handouts since it first published in 1955. Still, it’s a little ironic when a magazine that thunders “The growth of government… must be fought relentlessly” now wants to take advantage of that same government in the form of some nice tax breaks.

March 30th

Five ways BuzzFeed could get into film making

Listicle purveyor BuzzFeed is apparently planning to get into the film making business, following the likes of CNN, Vice and Newsweek that are all throwing money into “long-form visual storytelling” (better known to us layfolk as documentaries). So what might a Buzzfeed documentary look like?

It doesn’t look like the classic 110-page script

Hardly surprising considering very little of BuzzFeed’s current output resembles classic news reporting (which is not necessarily a bad thing). So in in the interests of furthering the art of alternative-documentary making, here are five ideas BuzzFeed might want to consider:

March 13th

The ‘iTunes for journalism’ will get some American compositions

Blendle, the Dutch digital newsstand that once touted itself as the iTunes for journalism, will soon offer stories from The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Washington Post alongside its current Dutch-dominated catalog of publications. You’ll have to live in Holland to take advantage of the pay-per-article access to the three newspapers, but not for long.

Blendle will expand internationally this year

March 11th

Capitalism killed the tech media star

In a world of me-too tech blogs chasing cheap clicks with pointless non-stories and half-baked opinion, GigaOm stood out as one of the few tech-related sites that was worth reading. It even bought one of my favorite media-gazing sites, PaidContent. But, alas, it is no more, a victim of a sort of hyper-capitalism that demands rapid growth at any cost.

Investors started questioning its potential for growth or more of a return than we were able to produce.

Call me a cynic, but there seems to be a pattern here that goes something like this: awesome, well-respected company starts to gain business traction with a model unlike any before… greedy investors take notice and dream of the next Facebook or Buzzfeed… cash is injected ($8 million in the case of GigaOm) along with business plan that requires scaling the business 1000% in the blink of an eye… company discovers it cannot defy the laws of economic gravity and desperately offers up its soul to the content devil… the devil either agrees to buy and add the company to the steaming pile of similarly soulless entities, or the hapless company goes down in flames.

[UPDATE: former GigaOm writer and analyst, Michael Wolf, gives a fascinating analysis of GigaOm’s demise]

February 27th

Nonchalent native ad corporate doublespeak

Some advertising strategy run through the management jargonizer, courtesy Quartz’s vice president of global marketing. This from a slightly fawning Folio feature on the digital publication’s native ad strategy:

We wanted to find a way to create an ad experience for users that fit in while also standing out. Our entire advertising strategy is to come up with really unique placements that work for the users.

Erm… and with 250% ad growth since last year, presumably “unique placements” that work for the advertisers, too.

OK, so I’m not the biggest fan of this native advertising malarkey. But in this case I can’t decide which is worse — the fact that Quartz is stuffing more and more native ads into its editorial products, or the fact that the publisher’s head of global marketing is apparently more focused on doing the advertisers’ bidding.

Journalism has a new graveyard

“The death of journalism” has been has been the despairing cry of disaffected (and unemployed) journalists for years. This week a new graveyard was apparently identified.

A very disgruntled-sounding Ken Silverstein quit from First Look Media’s The Intercept and vented his frustration in a tirade in Politico that was so fierce it makes one wonder what really went on there and why he didn’t get out earlier. The journalist doth protest too much, methinks (even on Facebook).

First Look became a slowly unfolding disaster, not because of editorial meddling from the top, but because of what I came to believe was epic managerial incompetence.

February 3rd

Monotype wants to monetize millennials

When it comes to controlling the symbols that humanity uses to communicate, few companies surpass Monotype. It owns just about every font you’ve ever heard of and hundreds more you haven’t. Not surprising then that it just bought one of the leading purveyors of emoji, the more entertaining, pictorial symbols that younger members of humanity increasingly use to communicate within messaging apps.

Judging by the number of times the words “millennials” and “monetize” appear in the press release about the $12 million acquisition of Swyft Media, it’s clear what’s on Monotype’s corporate mind. A report in Fast Company sheds a bit more more light on how millennials might now be monetized:

At Monotype, we always dreamed of a day when people could text in customized typefaces. But we didn’t have the relationships with messaging platforms to make it happen

December 9th

Turn on, tune in, get annoyed, drop out

A study published in the Journal of Marketing Research confirms what many probably already knew — annoying display ads on websites drive away readers. What it also found, however, is that those garish, loud or aggravating ads are a zero-sum financial proposition, ultimately costing a publisher as much as it made from selling the ad in the first place. Moreover, any readers who do stick around are less likely to remember what they read.

Annoying ads are interesting because they both make and cost money for publishers. They make money because advertisers pay publishers to run ads. They cost money when annoyed users abandon a site, leaving the publisher with less advertising revenue

Annoying ads are at least manageable (thanks Adblock). My personal pet peeve is the auto-start video that blasts into action when you’re already halfway down the page and least expecting it.

How much traffic does Buzzfeed get from Google News? The answer might surprise you

Some fascinating data from SEO specialist Adam Sherk highlighting just how much traffic Google News generates for publishers — something Axel Springer recently learned the hard way.

I’d also like to point out that this is free traffic (hello Germany). I’d think a thank you is more appropriate than a lawsuit or legislation.

December 2nd

The shifting power dynamic between hacks and flacks

Here’s a thought provoking panel discussion on the shifting balance of power between two traditional antagonists, journalists and PR flacks. It used to be that the flacks needed the journalists to survive and prosper. In the reputation-obsessed world of social media, however, the hacks are becoming less and less important to the flacks who increasingly control the discourse, according to a new book from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

PR still needs journalism, which has always acted as a ‘third-party endorsement’ of its claims. But now it has other, often more powerful allies.

December 1st

Mobe-La-Di, Mobe-La-Da

When the poster publication for successful newspaper paywalls seeks more exposure in the mobile space, you know the small screen’s time has arrived.

Finally getting The Wall Street Journal on board was a bit like getting The Beatles. It’s a really big deal.

You win some, you lose a lot

Journalism is alive and well online, according to some, but the jobs created by by the likes of Huffington Post, Buzzfeed et al pale into insignificance when compared to the staggering losses in traditional newsrooms.

The number of full-time U.S. daily newspaper journalists has plunged to 36,700, according to the American Society of News Editors, down from around 55,000 before the 2008 economic downturn

Of course, the net loss or gain depends on how one defines what a journalist actually is. One fact almost everyone can agree on is that journalism is having an existential crisis. Or maybe it’s better defined as creative destruction.

November 25th

Digital subscriptions join the mile-high club

Airlines and digital magazine subscriptions are no strangers, as those desperate to use up air miles before they expire well know (miles have long been my favored currency to pay for The Economist). Ebooks joined the mileage laundering schemes a few years ago and starting this month you can get access to digital newspapers, magazines and e-books before you even bank the air miles from your flight.

JetBlue Airways is now rolling out its Fly-Fi Hub service, offering access to various Time Inc. monthly magazines and excerpts from 20 HarperCollins ebooks to anyone using the in-flight wi-fi (you’ll have to pony up and buy the whole book if the teaser leaves you wanting more). Next year, The Wall Street Journal and some literary content from Random House will also be available. If free digital subscriptions are not enough to entice flyers away from countless Direct TV channels already available on JetBlue flights, the Fly-Fi Hub will also offer 10 e-learning videos from Coursera. What better way to get through a trans-continental flight than to doze off watching An Introduction to Marketing.

Sports and sex still power The Sun

British tabloid The Sun says it has more than doubled its digital subscribers since the end of last year to 225,000, offsetting much of the 10% decline in print sales during that period. Patting itself the back, publisher News UK highlighted sports content as a big contributor:

Dream Team, which offers armchair football managers the chance to build fantasy line-ups, proved instrumental in the latest digital surge and the numbers can be expected to vary as the season progresses.

No word on the digital contribution provided by the newspaper’s other unique subscription content — photos of topless women. The “Page 3 girls” were a big factor in The Sun’s rise in the 1970s to become one of the UK’s top selling newspapers and might well be helping buoy digital subscriptions now, but with pressure mounting for the newspaper to scrap such anachronistic content I doubt News UK will be willing to reveal the extent to which sex still sells.

From iPad to iRobot

Humanity is doomed, according to research comparing the effectiveness of robots versus computer tablets in delivering healthcare.

Results showed participants had more positive interactions with the robot compared to the computer tablet, including increased speech and positive emotion (smiling), and participation in the relaxation exercise.

OK, so it’s not that surprising that most people would rather play with a robot than an iPad. Heck, it would be nice to get robots to read us books instead of having to use tablets and e-readers. But surely putting robots in charge of our healthcare gives them the potential to wipe us out even faster should they one day become sentient.