Wednesday, 29 April 2009

The Press

Cornering the market

TV Newser:

How’s this for cable news domination - Fox News beat CNN and MSNBC combined in every hour from 6amET to MidnightET in both Total Viewers and the A25-54 demo for April 2009.

FNC had the top 11 cable news programs in Total Viewers and 12 of the top 15 in the demo. FNC is the #2 network in Total Viewers on all of cable...
And from 9am, every program was up by 60% or more in that demo.

Well, if all the other restaurants in town will only serve tofu, and you’re the one serving steak...

Via:  Say Anything

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Monday, 27 April 2009

The Press

Charge more? For what?

Alan Mutter has a plan:

Instead of fretting about the all-time record dive in newspaper circulation the last six months, publishers should focus as never before on the quality, not the quantity, of their audience.

That means, among other things, proving the passion and loyalty of their readers by raising the single-copy and home-delivery prices of their daily papers to at least the cost of a venti, double-shot, half-caf soy latte.  They go for $3.90 apiece at the local Starbuck’s.

Serious newspaper readers will be glad to pay the price, especially now that nearly all of them have gotten the message that the industry needs their support to continue producing the product they value.

And advertisers of many premium products and services will gain new respect for a medium capable of attracting affluent, well-informed and passionate individuals willing to spare the price of a venti latte for a newspaper...
The idea of moving upmarket isn’t new, and it could possibly be an antidote to falling circulations.  But to make it work, newspapers will have to re-think their relationship with their readers, and just what they are offering to them.

My fear is that newspaper managers will take the “raise the price” part of Mutter’s suggestion and run with it, while disregarding the (implied) second part: Deliver a premium product, to justify the premium price.  Most newspapers are the generic “cuppa coffee,” but that will no longer do: If I’m to be charged a “venti, double-shot, half-caf soy latte” price, then a “venti, double-shot, half-caf soy latte,” had better be what I’m going to get.  And if you want to charge me $3.90 for your newspaper, that paper had better be worth $3.90 to me.[1]

Mutter cites The Economist as a successful premium-circulation publication.  I would note that The Economist’s article-to-advertising ratio is one of the highest among the newsweeklys.  Its stories are detailed, accurate, and well-written.[2]  Its “interests” are eclectic and wide-ranging, and go beyond those of its competitors.  In short, it commands a premium subscription price because it is a premium product.

But do newspaper managements have the vision, the stamina, and the guts to do what’s needed to deliver Economist-like quality?  With stock prices at record lows, are they prepared to tell their investors that the time has come to improve the product, improvement which is going to take money?  Are they willing to give up several-quarters-worth of bonuses, in the interest of turning things around?  Are they secure enough to step back, admit they were wrong, and then do what it takes re-hire the experienced reporters who they just finished laying off?

And after all that, are they wise enough to take the last step:  To realize that, for the “serious newspaper reader,”[3] the facts come before the opinon, the information comes before the spin, and that an important part of “premium” value is to be seen to be making an effort to report honestly and accurately.  And, based on that understanding, to make the editorial decisions necessary to keep spin and slant out of the news columns, and to really report “without fear or favor,” regardless of agenda, political friendships, or civic boosterism?

Can they do all of these?  Are any willing to try?

Elsewhere (via IP):
[1] Appeals to charity or duty (as, “the industry needs their support to continue producing the product they value.”) only work for a limited time. Sooner or later, value must be delivered.

[2] The Economist does have a point-of-view, but IMO they also make an effort to keep it from affecting the accuracy of their reporting.

[3] at least, for this reader

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Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The Press

“If the Times closed... they would have to think for themselves.”

Mark Steyn on the trouble with American newspapers:

The Times is the template for the entire industry: Its ethos dominates the journalism schools; it’s the model for a zillion other mini-me wannabe-Timeses across the continent...  Its priorities determine the agenda of the three nightly network newscasts, also (not coincidentally) flailing badly.  The net result of the industry’s craven abasement before the Times is that American newspapering is dead as dead can be — and certainly far deader than its cousins in Britain, Australia, India, or even Canada.

Via:  “Mætenloch,” in a comment at Ace

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Monday, 20 April 2009

The Press

So: The economy is in bad shape, the deficit’s gonna sextuple, North Korea is restarting its nuclear program, Pakistan is close to chaos...

...and Gannett is still playing the race card.

USA Today:
Three months after taking office, President Obama will convene... a Cabinet that experts say is the most diverse in history. It will have seven women and nine racial and ethnic minorities among its 21 members — and only eight white men. Average age: 54.

“He has a majority-minority Cabinet,” says Paul Light, an expert on presidential appointments at New York University. “In terms of white males, they're in the minority now.”
And I though that the election of Barak Obama as President meant that the country had “moved beyond” race, that the ethnic scorekeeping would be over, and that we could finally begin tackling the more “important” stuff.

Silly me!

Looks like we’ll have to wait for the legacy media to complete its crash-and-burn. Which, IMO, can’t come any too soon.

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 19:09:36 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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Friday, 10 April 2009

The Press

Some press-related linkage

Weekend reading on the Establishment Media and its relationship to the web...

Via NoWhitewash, via Michael Silence, Business Week’s Sarah Lacy offers an apology to the Internet:

...on behalf of reasonable members of the traditional media.

It is not your fault that our business models are slowly dying, that we resisted the Web for so long, and that we then did a mediocre job of adapting our products to it.  Your large portals and search engines..., aggregation services..., and your countless blogs have been very kind in sending us so much traffic at no charge over the years.  We know well that traffic is currency online.  That's why we spend so much time squeezing any remotely relevant ticker into a story, appending “Digg this” buttons to pages, and doing whatever we can to optimize our stories to get the most search traffic possible.

You've done your part to help save us, Internet, and we appreciate it...  It’s not your fault we haven't yet found a way to monetize it or the gumption to cut our costly print operations sufficiently to make new business models viable... - “AP and News Corp.: Wrong About Google”
Online journalist Danny Sullivan (found by following a link in Sarah’s column... amazing how that works, innit?) is a bit more confrontational:  After calling out the Wall Street Journal’s Robert Thomson over Thomson’s contention that the web is an echo chamber,[1] lacks original content and “exploits” traditional media...
Robert, I’ve been creating original content on the internet for about 12 years longer than you've been editor of the WSJ.  Shut up.  Seriously, shut up.  To say something like that simply indicates you really do not understand that all blogs are not echo chambers.

I mean echo chamber?  Sorry, that’s the mainstream media, too.[1 (yes, that’s a duplicate, also snark!]  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen stories emerge on the internet only to later appear in a mainstream publication.  The mainstream papers read what the web publishes, then write their own stories, then all the mainstream pubs do their own versions of echoing each other.
...he plays “Call My Bluff” with Rupert Murdoch over Murdoch’s claim that Google “steals” copyright material by indexing it:
Let me help you with that, Rupert.  I’m going to save you all those potential legal fees plus needing to even speak further about the evil of the Big G with two simple lines.  Get your tech person to change your robots.txt file to say this:
User-agent: *
Disallow: /
Done.  Do that, you’re outta Google.  All your pages will be removed, and you needn’t worry about Google listing the Wall Street Journal at all. - “Google’s Love for Newspapers, and How Little They Appreciate It”

In one of the comments to Sullivan’s post, “Anders” makes the conventional argument:
What’s that?  Oh, the local alderman in your town was busted for taking kickbacks from a paving company in his district, because of a reporter from your local paper sifting through the state sales taxes and incorporation papers and happened to notice a link?

Awesome.  Now when that newspaper folds because of twits like you who receive that content for free off of some fucking google twit feed, and when that alderman’s son comes to power in five years and loots the shit out of your town’s tax coffers for him and his buddies, don't come whining to me.
To which I’ll say, “Yeah, right- you wish!”  (For example, I wish my local newspaper had bothered to tell me that my city’s Capital Improvements Board was signing stadium contracts that would make it lose $42 million a year- before they were finalized.  But never let a Discouraging Word be heard about keeping the football team in town, and, oh, look, diversity!)

Which sort of leads to this (week old, but still worth it!) post, by Joanna:
Objectivity: Fail

It says something about the state of the newspaper industry that when I read about allegations that the most respected newspaper in the world spiked a story because it screwed with their candidate's chances, it doesn’t surprise me at all...

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, and read ’em all.

[1]  I’m sorry. When I saw Thomson’s “echo chamber,” I just had to link this, just in case you missed it: The Curious Case of 200 nearly identical MSM headlines (via IP).

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Thursday, 09 April 2009

The Press


Just days after declaring that they were mad as hell[1] and weren’t going to take any more websites and aggregators quoting or linking their stories without paying for them (and one day after issuing a takedown to one of their own affiliates over linking to a YouTube service it didn’t even know it was running),[2] the Associated Press (well, actually, Yahoo!) puts up this article debunking the conventional wisdom about smokers’ health care costs.

Now why do you suppose the AP would suddenly publish such an atypical-MSM story, one almost guaranteed to provoke comment, especially in the rightosphere?



Props to Trace Sharp and Michael Silence for breaking the WNTQ story.

[1] link to New York Times story, hosted at (requires cookies, sorry). Hey AP, bite me.

[2]comment to the TechCrunch story:
That would make a great slogan: “You can’t spell “EPIC FAIL” without A.P.”

Posted by: Old Grouch in The Press at 18:19:17 GMT | No Comments | Add Comment
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