New media buys

December 21, 2006

2006’s new media acquisitions

Who buys whom can say much about trends, and heading into 2007, it makes sense to reflect on the year nearly expired. I’ll mention just a few.

NBC is in the news today due to its posting on YouTube the uncensored version of a Saturday Night Live sketch that was bleeped on television — bleeped 16 times. Right after the broadcast almost two weeks ago, the network posted it both on NBC.com and YouTube.com. The online version had logged more than two million downloads on YouTube alone in the week following the broadcast.

NBC is embracing new media. In addition to working with YouTube.com, licensing the Google division to present NBC content, the network bought iVillage back in March. Most interesting about that buy was the primary reason why, as articulated by NBC Universal’s president of digital media, Beth Comstock: “What we are excited about here is that it is a community.” NBC Universal didn’t buy the women’s site to deliver its content, it acquired it for the same reason Google got YouTube — for the user-generated content. Crowdsourcing.

The metrics are incredible. Google bought YouTube for $1.6 billion (?!?). NBC paid $600 million for iVillage, a 10-year-old company with revenues in 2005 of $91 million and profits of just $9.5 million.

Yahoo! acquired Flickr, an agreement that led to a third-party alliance with Reuters, a deal that had Reuters using amateur or citizen submissions of photography via Flickr.  As I mentioned, Google bought YouTube in late summer, and with it a raft of litigation against YouTube for copyright infringement.

In November, Google also agreed to begin selling advertisements to run in the print versions of 50 major newspapers, running bids for print space just as it has for its own online ads. It is an important step toward Google’s goal to be able to advertise anything in any medium, and it is a recognition by Google of the nearly $50 billion spent on newspaper advertising.

New and old media will continue to converge. My question: How long before a big media company buys SecondLife? My guess: Six months.


Newspapers growing?

December 21, 2006

European report shows newspapers globally are on the rise

A new report from the World Association of Newspapers brings good tidings at Christmastime. Called “Shaping the Future of the Newspaper,” the reports a “surge of new daily newspapers” in global markets, including every continent but North America.

Calling it “a quiet revolution in the number of daily launches,” the expansion has not been talked about or even noticed as far as I can tell, other than this WAN report. Between 2001 and 2005, the total number of paid newspapers grew by 1,179, and the number of free dailies grew by 109. In fact, in 2005, the total number of paid-for daily newspaper titles worldwide passed the 10,000 threshhold for the first time in history.

Even more encouraging, not only are the numbers of newspapers on the increase but circulation figures, as well. Total free daily circulation worldwide has more than doubled from 2001 to 2005, from 12 million copies in 2001 to 28 million in 2005. How can this be?

The report posits that a proliferation of new genres of newspapers has fueled growth, identifying new audience segments. The growth in free papers also has grown readership, but it has forced many papers to re-think their revenue models. The trend to tabloid size from the broadsheets, in full force in the United Kingdom, also is credited with increasing readerships.

Here at home, the Wall Street Journal has gone to a smaller format, and free newspapers also are on the rise, particularly those aimed at younger, mobile readers. Niche readerships flourish here, as well, but the rush of readers online coupled with the aging of America has meant a long-term circulation decline. Since the high point in the mid-1980s, circulation for U.S. newspapers is down more than a third.

What is WAN? “The global organisation for the newspaper industry,” representing 18,000 newspapers and 76 national newspaperassociations, newspaper companies and individual newspaper executives.


Folksbloggin’: Reuters CEO Tom Glocer

December 20, 2006

Transparency & Trust 

Add to the growing list of CEOs who blog Tom Glocer, the top dog at Reuters. The British wire service assigned a reporter to or in the online Second Life environment last month, and more recently agreed with Yahoo to use crowdsourced photos via Yahoo’s Flickr, so Reuters is proving nimble in new media.

The Glocer post I am interested in here is actually an article he wrote, “Trust in the Age of Citizen Journalism.” And the article is actually the text of his speech to the Globes Media Conference in Tel Aviv, Israel on Dec. 11.

He asks important questions, to which I think all of us in journalism are seeking meaningful answers. One of Glocer’s questions: Is trust the victim in a world of millions of news sources, or will we live in a world where truth is passed through a sieve of opinion and commentary? The question hints at the cost of crowdsourcing, but Glocer welcomes the benefits. Among them: the return of the conversation, “something we lost with the advent of mass broadcast communication,” he writes (and said).

Perhaps the most compelling segment of his speech is where he trumpets “transparency and trust” as cornerstones of the “new” Reuters. Now trust is something old media has always traded on; without credibility, mainstream media have nothing. But their credibility has been unders such sustained, withering attack, with a lot of damage self-inflicted. Think of Jayson Blair and Jack Kelley, Memogate and Judith Miller.

A big tool in the rebuilding? Transparency, which is what blogs do best, and not something for which old media traditionally has been known. The imperative has been filter, then publish. The imperative in the blogosphere is publish, then filter. This beg’s Glocer’s question about how to make sense in a sea of opinion and not-yet-corroborated citizen reporting.

Transparency is possible when the voice is an individual’s rather than a huge media company. It is helped when mistakes are acknowledged, corrected and even expected. This is the postmodern reality: stuff happens. So we (bloggers) rely on each other to help, to find error, to perceive imbalance or identify what is missing from the frame or conversation. Transparency + immediacy.

Dialogue and conversation. Trust and transparency. Interactivity and connectivity. These are a part of the new paradigm for journalism.


Crowds are TIME’s “person” of the year

December 19, 2006

Crowdsourced, networked, distributed media

TIME Magazine used its “Person of the Year” to celebrate “the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter,” a phenomenon explained by a combination of emergence and “dumb” networks theory, and an awareness of the ubiquity of media generation and publishing tools.

The magazine article is woefully superficial, but it does provide a colorful parade of characters selected to represent some of the larger sites and avenues for crowdsourcing and collaboration (MySpace, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon.com, OhMyNews, digital vidcams and podcasting, to name most of the big ones).

Implications for journalism? That news sites should continue exploring and enabling community and collaboration. Think of the relatively new verbs in our vernacular: to FaceBook, to podcast, to blog, to camcord.

That people want raw feeds in addition to edited content, and the ability to edit themselves. They want immediacy, and they want to be able to react to what they are seeing and reading. To the pre-filters (desk and page editors, copyeditors), media must enable post-filters (a place to post, to discuss, to question and correct).

The impression the lead TIME story leaves is that “Great Man” theory is dead. Where once we hailed great man inventions like Edison’s light bulb or Bell’s telephone or Ford’s car, in 2007, can anyone tell me who invented the iPod? No “one” did; many collaborated to pull it off. Who checkmated CBS into admitting the Memogate story had gaping holes? No “one”; many blogged the network into submission.

Exciting times.


Hyperlocal hyperlocal journalism

December 17, 2006

No, I’m not stuttering. Hyperlocal just arrived here, right here.
Several posts in this space have discussed the notion of hyperlocal journalism as practiced by Rob Curley and his Naples-based “Nerdery.” Around the time of the Fast Company article on Curley’s efforts, the Nerdery experienced a sort of diaspora. Curley and his partner in crime, Deryck Hodge, left Naples Daily News to join the Washington Post.

Most recently, another Nerdery notable, Jim Alred, has left the Naples nest for Rome, Ga., and the Rome News-Tribune.  He has been hired to bring hyperlocal interactive to the Rome  newspaper’s Web site.  His first project: deep, rich media coverage of the Rome N-T Holiday Festival basketball tournament, a 10-team basketball buffet that a broad swath of this community will attend. It’s the perfect hyperlocal event from which to build.

Alred plans streamed video, podcasts, photo galleries and online presentations of the coverage all the print folks normally do. Deep drill-downs. Ten teams with approximately 10 players each, their coaches, friends, families. No local TV channel in existence. Yes, the RN-T will make hay with this.

Now if only the print version of the paper could write just one non-rule-breaking AP style headline!


Crowdsourced Fresno Famous goes mainstream

December 16, 2006

A crowdsourced news site covering Fresno, Calif., was purchased this week by McClatchy Newspapers, which owns the Fresno Bee, representing the latest in a flurry of moves by old media to leverage the new.

FresnoFamous.com started up in 2004 to “catalog, explore and discover life” in Fresno. Its visitors share opinions, news, photos and information. Founder Jarah Euston promises that the site hasn’t given up its independence. Judging by the comments left on the site’s announcement of the acquisition, not everyone is buying it.

Will the Fresno Bee truly allow FresnoFamous its independence, as News Corp. has done with MySpace, or will it find the eyeballs and froth of engagement too enticing?

McClatchy also bought ModestoFamous, and in that combination I think is the genius. The pair provide a template for citizen journalism that I think would work in a lot of cities and communities. Look for Famous sites throughout California.


A baby is born

December 15, 2006

BC’s book on baseball hitting bookstores

I promise this is my last bit of shameless promotion for a long, long time, but I have to trumpet the release this week of my book, When to Stop the Cheering: The black press, the black community and the integration of professional baseball. (I know, a long title.) It’s from Routledge, a division of Taylor & Francis, and it straddles the fence between scholarly and general interest reading.

The book grew out of my dissertation at UNC, a project that was guided and informed by so many wonderful people, chief among them the late, very great Margaret Blanchard. My happiness in seeing this project through to completion is tempered by her absence. (She passed away in September 2004). Her fingerprints are all over the book, which seeks to include in the narrative of baseball’s integration the black sportswriters who labored so hard and for so long to take Negro leaguers to the promised land of the big leagues.

Oprah hasn’t called yet, so I don’t know how well the book will sell, but I know I gave it everything I had and that it indeed breaks new ground in primary source research on the sport and on the black press. It’s convenient that the release comes on the eve of the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s big breakthrough in Brooklyn. Let’s play ball!


Blog privacy

December 15, 2006

Vox blogs offer privacy settings post by post

I have not yet tried the blogging service Vox, but I am intrigued by its unique selling proposition: the ability to determine who can view a post and, therefore, who cannot.

From Six Apart, Vox allows bloggers to choose among “the world,” “friends and family,” “friends,” “family,” and “you only” on each and every post. Just as FaceBook replaced Friendster as the social network du jour by building in exclusivity (and recently threatened its own vitality by removing it), Vox is adding this seemingly obvious feature. If FaceBook is in some ways the antidote to MySpace’s exhibitionish, a tool for managing relationships, Vox seems positioned to counterpose Blogger.com, the Google-owned, Google-searched everyman blogware.

I did bounce around Vox and noted that it requires no HTML coding knowledge to post video, audio or photos. That is another big advantage. I’ve been frustrated this semester by WordPress’s browser-by-browser idiosyncracies in formatting and its resistance to HTML code tweaks. It just ignores most of them.

Vox’s drawbacks? Do we want this level of control over all our posts? And to see any post restricted in any way, a visitor has to be registered with Vox. Signups always reduce participation by quite a bit. Vox will be worth a watch though, particularly because of its rich media capabilities.


BC and Dr. Bob in a new book on blogging

December 5, 2006

Book looks at blogging and the law

An exciting day in scholarship: Blogging, Citizenship and the Future of Media just rolled off the presses from Routledge, an imprint of Taylor & Francis. My department chair, Dr. Bob Frank, and I teamed up for the chapter, “Blogs Without Borders: International Legal Jurisdiction Issues Facing Bloggers”. We’re excited.

the listing on Amazon

The book, edited by Mark Tremayne at UT-Austin, has diverse contributions on blog research and citizen journalism. Dr. Frank and I looked at the jurisdictional mess created by a global medium and 140 countries’ systems of jurisprudence. Let us know what you think.


The future of journalism education

December 5, 2006

Back to the future! 

Back to a topic that really inspired this blog, which is the question, “What should I as a journalism educator be teaching to prepare my students not for the job market in 2007 or 2008, but for their 30 years of productive work, their careers?”

Many universities and J-schools are considering this question or variations of it, tweaking and in some cases overhauling their curricula. We here at Berry, too, are asking these questions and looking at our course offerings and program of study.

With limited resources, human and otherwise, they are difficult questions, because whatever empases we choose, the cost of keeping up on merely technology are imposting to say the least.  And a challenge with new technology is its potential to distract from what still are the building blocks of a successful journalism education: writing and editing. We have to continue to major on those fundamentals.

So it was more than gratifying to see in a recent study on the “Roles of Journalists in Online Newsrooms” that these fundamentals are still indeed the most needed, the most valued skill sets in online. About 450 online news workers were surveyed about what kinds of skills they needed in their new hires. They overwhelmingly favored the journalistic fundamentals, a willingness to learn, multi-tasking and teamwork over technological proficiency or, for example, an expertise in action scripting. Attention to detail, editing and copyediting skills, working under time pressure — these still are the defining characteristics of successful journalists, now in online environments.

In other words, it would not serve our students to make them jacks of many trades but masters of none. To cram convergence down their throats at the expense of a grounding in the fundamentals might help them in 2007, but not for their careers. In fact, the convergent aspects should be almost atmospheric. We can teach and learn the fundamentals in convergent environments, like a multimedia Web site, or on blogs, using software that is easy to employ.

Change is inevitable. The only question is the rate of that change. So, what can I do as an educator to provide stability in the throes of such tremendous change, and, seemingly paradoxically, to shake up the status quo that is so wedded to the way it has been simply because it is the way it has been? Managing the change, therefore, is a big part of what I think we will be doing as educators for some time to come, that and providing a context and a narrative for the seemingly random and explosive changes detonating all over the media landscape. Media history, therefore, has never been more important than today, in the midst of this rush of new media.

Much more later….


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