Tag Archives: Newspapers

Newspaper Says: “Prez Loves Us!

burningnewspaperYou know it’s bad when the newspapers are saying that the president’s afraid. A WashPo column on Sunday claims that President Obama, a “big newspaper junkie” is afraid he might not have the printed word at his disposal any more. If the big nationals and locals go where they’re expected to go, he’ll have to seek his news from the blogs.

The story quotes the prez:

“I am concerned that if the direction of the news is all blogosphere, all opinions, with no serious fact-checking, no serious attempts to put stories in context, that what you will end up getting is people shouting at each other across the void but not a lot of mutual understanding.”

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French newspapers gives up on revenue under new bailout

dsc04623Okay, we all know that the print industry is completely and totally screwed. Circulation is plummeting around the world … leaving ink jockeys little hope of keeping their jobs for the rest of their lives (which is really their only goal anyway). They may have hope, however, thanks to an unusual French bailout plan. Leave it to French job protectionism to set a model for the rest of the world. The folks at the NY Timeswhich rain this story – must be salivating right now.

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Blood flows at Condé Nast

graydon carterWhen the world around you is falling apart, there’s only one thing to do: find a new world.

While Condé Nast’s Vanity Fair was in the grip of severe layoffs, the editor decided not to be the bearer of bad news, taking a vacation instead. The NY Post didn’t say if he used Gadling to choose a destination, but we’re all hoping he did. The total discharged from Condé Nast is believed to be greater than 450 this year, and there are likely to be more to come among the contributing editors. The sizeable cut at Vanity Fair is largely the result of Carter’s decision to generally ignore the order to cut 5% of the crew late last year.

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Shots from the financial crisis

dsc_0491editedI just saw on Silicon Alley Insider that the Boston Globe is laying off 42 people. A friend of mine from my (few) days at Ottaway Newspapers works for Boston.com, the newspaper’s website, at last I heard. I hope he still has a job. When I dug into the article on SAI, I was shocked at the numbers I saw. I had no idea that the Globe’s circulation had fallen into the shitter. I know that Boston is a fairly small market, but the Globe is its major paper (or was).

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My thoughts on citizen journalism

Unlike a lot of people in my line of work, I suspect, I’m a big fan of citizen journalism. I read it, and I participate in it. Perhaps I could be a bit more active, but I write something when the mood hits me. My recent stories have been on private equity investment trends in China and the manufacture of phthalate-free dildos. So, why do I do it?

Honestly, I don’t have to. I have gained some decent traction as a freelance writer this year, with articles in Penthouse and Boston magazine, not to mention some high-profile rejections. And, my work is picked up routinely by Fleshbot and ValleyWag … and from time to time by Gawker. So, I shouldn’t have to “stoop so low,” right?

Wrong.

I find that citizen journalism does a few things right. First, it is a great way to communicate as much news as possible. Quite frankly, the publishing business is designed to let good stories fall through the cracks. You have to pitch the mag, hope our idea aligns well enough with its editorial calendar and finally write and publish. This means that several good stories fall away. I had one pitch go out to several high-profile magazines. All said it was a great story, just not right for them. This wasn’t a line of shit. If they didn’t care, they would have ignored me (which has happened in the past).

So, a lot of good stuff is never communicated. I think that’s a damned shame.

Next, citizen journalism makes it easy to get news out quickly. When I get a story, I can go right to “press.” Normal, mainstream publications don’t work that way. Even if you have a good relationship with an editor and publish online instead of in print (which I prefer), it can still take a few days to get a story out. It’s easy to get scooped (happened to me by a day with the Zivity story I wrote for AVN Online in January 2008).

Finally, citizen journalism empowers the people closest to the news. If you seen news happen, you can get the story out. Fast. Easy. The way it’s supposed to be done.

Sure, most citizen journalism websites lack the writing panache of major publications, but they make up for it with breadth of coverage. If nothing else, the readers get to decide … resulting in a market-driven solution. Since newspapers and magazines are not non-profits, it should be the readers who decide winners and losers. This is a great formula.

Citizen journalism seems to be gaining steam. Popular website OhmyNews.com, which is mostly non-United States, continues to get copious amounts of press coverage. I noticed today that art market blogger Nick Forrest, of ArtMarketBlog.com, has begun to write art market opinion pieces for my current citizen journalism fave, DigitalJournal.com. Whether he is just looking to drive traffic to his blog or has become a citizen journalism convert, the fact that he is writing at all– let alone voluminously– tells the whole story. He is investing his time in citizen journalism.

“Real” journalists may feel that citizen journalism is beneath them, but I don’t think they realize that this is yet another threat to the old way of doing business that they seek to defend. The old school journalists are losing. They tried to stay in print, and the web has gained momentum. They tried to rely on “proper” journalism, but the blogs have encroached on their market. Now, there is yet another threat, and it is developing a readership.

The old way of doing journalism continues to lose ground.

If nothing else, I like citizen journalism for the instant gratification. When I come upon a story, I can write it and post it immediately. I get feedback quickly. Further, the major blogs evaluate the story on its merits rather than where it was published. Both Fleshbot and ValleyWag have picked up my stories for Digital Journal and OhmyNews. They are looking at the information rather than the masthead. This shows me that the world is changing.

I vote for citizen journalism with my time. You should, too.

ValleyWag gets it right on NYT and print

As everyone should know by now, the Migrant Blogger hates print. It still tends to pay the bills better than online journalism, and the prestige factor is probably a big part of that. After all, to be in a publication that has limited space, you have to be pretty damned good. This thinking is what holds reporters back.

Well, it seems as though I have a kindred spirit at the NY Times. Technology editor Damon Darlin is looking to beef up his online team, ValleyWag reports. NYT staffer David Carr predicts that the “horizon line for when a newspaper on the street is serving as a kind of brochure of a rich online product does not seem far off” (also in the ValleyWag article).

It’s about fucking time.

You can tell a better story online than in print, and you can do it in real-time, as the story unfolds. Being first to market matters, as the reporter will not be constrained by a production process. This is where real journalism will happen … hopefully not too long in the future.

I, for one, am sick of waiting for printers to finish printing.

Ottaway (Dow Jones Sub) Wakes Up

Could it be? A newspaper CEO is not a newspaperman?

I was shocked when I saw the Google News Alert on my Blackberry this evening. A MarketWatch story announced that Andrew Langhoff is becoming the new CEO of Dow Jones subsidiary Ottaway Newspapers. While Langhoff is no stranger to the media space– and has been with Ottaway for five years– he isn’t the traditional choice for CEO.

His predecessor, John Wilcox, started as a reporter and worked his way up the editorial and business ladders of the old print world. Before taking the helm of Ottaway, he had been and old school print guy, spending the past 40 years working his way up the newspaper ranks. Wilcox did do a lot to pull Ottaway into the present, but it was clear after the turn of the century that fresh blood would be needed soon.

Langhoff is an interesting cat. He served as SVP of the internet publishing division (the first leader of the then new group) while also the firm’s general counsel (the role into which he was first hired). He hired me back in 2004, and I lasted all of six months before finding a culture that suited me better (I spent the next year chillin’ as a freelance writer and loved it).

He was one of the few people there who actually had a vision for the internet, though Ottaway (like most newspapers) was rather late to the party. But, it was decidedly 1999. At times, though, it did seem forward-looking. I remember discussing Web 2.0 ideas with him, back when the movement was in its infancy. But, it came out in ways that were a bit dated. The notion of communicating and leaving comments on stories, for example, did sound a lot like some famous flameouts. Remember TheGlobe.com, anyone?

He did have a less-than-charming expression for using the whiteboard– “Langhoffing.” Apparently, this term arose during his stint with a dotcom-era startup where he held a business development position. I suspect that few, aside from the Chief Langhoffer himself actually used it.

I’m being a bit to harsh, here. He was thinking the right way, and many of his ideas were downright revolutionary in the newspaper space. Clearly, there was a cultural shift. The Medford Mail-Tribune, an Ottaway property, now uses Twitter to announce the availability of new stories online. Before Langhoff arrived at Ottaway, that would not have been possible.

It’s hard to say where this will take Ottaway. This is a pretty radical move for a newspaper company, and the industry is in dire need of original thinking. If anyone is fit for the task, it is Langhoff. Before things soured for me at Ottaway (and my attitude with it), I was quite happy working with him. But, I wonder if the industry is too far gone. Also, I think is web-savviness is about half what the newspaper chain needs to get back on its feet.

So, best of luck, Andrew. I hope you are able to find the right combination to keep print newspapers relevant.

Check out Langhoff’s bio >>

Murdoch not tipping his hand, insanity?

Rupert Murdoch must have a hell of a strategy, because what he’s doing doesn’t seem to make a damned bit of sense. Yesterday, word got out that he is taking the Ottaway Newspaper chain off the market. With declining newspaper valuations– not to mention that Ottaway is one of the most profitable pieces of the Dow Jones empire (at least before they chopped it with a divestiture in late 2006)– this is probably not stupid. But, ValleyWag suggests that Murdoch is interested in picking up a piece of former internet giant Yahoo!.

Didn’t the Aussie learn something about new media when he bought MySpace, only to have it eclipsed almost immediately by Facebook? Yeah, smart. That was $500 million well-spent. So, now he’ll go after a Web 1.0 has-been, for some purpose that only he can understand. He’s either a genius or a complete moron. Buying MySpace and Yahoo! (which trail Facebook and Google) is like rooting for the Chicago Cubs or the Boston Bruins. You have to know that you’ll never hit the top.

But, Murdoch’s the rich one, not me. So, grain of salt and all that.

New Corp to Keep Ottaway Papers

I worked for Ottaway Newspapers for about 10 minutes a million years ago. Actually, it was exactly six months and 20 days, ending in March 2005. I left Ottaway to become a freelance writer, one of the better decisions I have made. But, I left some friends there, and I have been interested in the newspaper chain’s developments over the past few years. For those not in the know, Ottaway is the community news division of Dow Jones, which was acquired by News Corp last year.

When I worked for Ottaway, it was responsible for 40 percent of Dow Jones’ profits– while the Wall Street Journal was pretty much a break-even enterprise. Since then, of course, Ottaway’s margins have been squeezed. Hell, whose haven’t? The print business is in the crapper, and no amount of wishful thinking is going to change that. But, if News Corp was interested in putting some money into Dow Jones (by which I mean WSJ), selling Ottaway would be a pretty good way to do it. After all, Ottaway has been a pawn on its parent company’s board for quite a while. Shortly after I left, Dow Jones divested itself of several Ottaway newspapers so that the parent could take advantage of a substantial capital loss carryover.

Well, imaginge my surprise today. In my Google News Alert for Ottaway, I saw that the News Corp has taken Ottaway off the market, in an article published by the Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror. I can’t say I’m surprised. First, with print in decline, this can’t be a great time to sell a newspaper. Further, Ottaway has been a major money-maker for Dow Jones. So, why the hell would they sell it? Hey, I’ve always maintained that they should sell WSJ.

The bad news for Ottaway: continued dealings with the world according to Rupert.