Required Reading on the Future of Journalism

May 10, 2011

With little fanfare the Columbia Journalism Review yesterday released the most intelligent and insightful report I’ve yet read on the business of digital journalism. The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism is the understated title of the must-read new report on the news business. Implicit in the report is a call to action: as Thich Nhat Hanh has observed, “Once there is seeing, there must be acting. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?”

I’ve only read three chapters and if that’s all there was I’d still be crowing: start reading, NOW. (The full 143-page report is available for free download. What a gift.) (more…)

Tags: , , ,

Printing from Periodicals Can Now Add Revenue Opportunities

August 20, 2009

Printing an article this afternoon from Canada’s The Globe and Mail, I encountered an unexpected print dialog box that I thought was pretty nifty.


Instead of just offering the standard print dialog box from the OS, and printing a copy to paper or PDF, suddenly there are additional options which may be handy for you, and can earn the publisher a little cash in exchange for the value you receive. But it doesn’t stop there. To get to the print option you click on the “Print or License” and see the two options


Licensing is where the real fun begins. The main dialog box offers these options:


Print we’ve already seen. I don’t think that many folks would email an article to more than five people, and regardless, most just provide a link. But posting all or (more often) parts of articles happens probably several million times a day. Here are your options if you want to post the whole thing:


As you’ll see here…


…the pricing plan is based on how long you want to post it (non-profits are charged half the price).

If you choose PDF, you pay a little more but have another nifty feature available…


…you can create a proof of the page and preview that. (By the way, the last two screen shots are partials. What they don’t show is a key feature: you can continue down the page, fill in the details of your order, pay by credit card and confirm the permissions immediately. A very smooth process!

Finally you reach “Other Services”:


The interesting one is “Excerpt Article for Print” (note that it des not say “for Print or Online”.)


Nifty little bit of technology once again: paste in the text you want to reprint, the words are counted, a price rendered and down the page you can enter your credit information and the deal is done! (And presumably the text to be quoted is also saved as part of the transaction, so that it can later be monitored.)

But something doesn’t quite add up here (apart from paying $11.20 for 32 words). I wonder why this applies only to print excerpting and not to online. I also wonder what happened to the Doctrine of Fair Use? Like everything related to copyright the doctrine is complex. The most important issue it covers is how much of original material can you use in another publication (song, movie, etc.) before you’re considered to have infringed copyright. The original article that I quote from in the screen shot above contains 1,463 words. I’m proposing to use 2% of them. Not a large percentage, but other factors weigh in in determining fair use. Nonetheless, I’d be interested to hear in the comments section below what people think about this part of the service.

The company providing this SaaS (Software as a Service) is iCopyright. I’m a big believer that a central tenet for all Web publishers must be to seek revenue from all available sources, and this simple service would be a real boon if it became a standard practice among periodical publishers. Lots are apparently using it, but I don’t run into it often.

I’m sufficiently impressed that I’ve written to Mike O’Donnell, the president and CEO of iCopyright (who provides a personal email address on the company’s “About Us” page — a class act), and requested an interview so that I can learn more about the company and its customers. Expect the results in a later blog entry.

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Return of “Pay for Play” and “Checkbook Journalism”

July 14, 2009

We’ve seen it all before in the long-forgotten days of print journalism. One minute you’re reading a story about a great new restaurant in a newspaper or city magazine and then you turn the page and, oh-my-gosh, there’s an advertisement from the very same restaurant. What a coincidence! Publishers have struggled with paid “journalism” since the beginning of (publishing) time. Mostly they’ve accommodated it. Some even specialize in it. The purest form is the most unabashed, such as those magazines and glossy hardcovers you discover in your hotel room. You learn to suspect that “Bob’s World-Famous Steakhouse” may be world-famous only because they named it so and because they advertise it as such to the ill-informed and the unsuspecting visitor. This practice is generally called “pay for play”. (When the publisher discloses the financial relationship it’s then clearly noted as “advertorial” or just as “advertisement”.)

Well, Nick Denton, proprietor of Gawker Media, has updated the practice for the online world.


According to a report at the reputable Nieman Journalism Lab, Gawker has internally re-introduced the practice of paying bonuses to writers based on pageviews.

Nieman quotes from an internal memo to staffers from Denton:

Each writer on a site will have a (pretty demanding) individual pageview target…That target will be proportional to a writer’s base compensation. i.e. the more your monthly pay, the more people you’re expected to reach. If you go 10% over target, you get a 10% bump in pay. The target will rise as the traffic of the site as a whole increases. Your site’s editor-in-chief will be in touch to discuss the details later this week.

Gawker also follows the practice of the sleaziest tabloid newspapers by paying for photos and video that can generate pageviews. This is a version of another much-maligned practice known as “checkbook journalism” (defined by as “the practice of paying for a news story or an interview, or for exclusive broadcasting or publishing rights”). Gawker has no shame, and posts the policy publicly, offering “$5.00 for every thousand views, with payment made to the charity or liquor store of your choice.”

The Nieman article concludes by noting that Denton recently explained to The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz: “‘We don’t seek to do good. We may inadvertently do good. We may inadvertently commit journalism. That is not the institutional intention.'”

How admirable!

Tags: , , ,

Please Free Me from Reading More About “Free”

July 12, 2009

If, like me, you check in frequently for the “hot” topics floating around the Internet, you’ll have run into a near-nauseating avalanche of articles, reviews, blog postings, interviews and tweets about Chis Anderson’s new book “Free: The Future of a Radical Price.” (Curiously the publisher lists the title as “Free: The Past and (emphasis mine) Future of a Radical Price,” while the past has been dropped from the published title). The book was officially published on July 7th, and is #82 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

The book originated as an article in Wired magazine (where Anderson is Editor-in-Chief) in February, 2008.

The theory of “Free” has been attacked by the bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. (The link is still live today, but may not be for free tomorrow!). This has been rebutted by Anderson on ad-supported, and defended by Seth Godin in a blog entry called “Malcolm is Wrong.”

The book itself may be read for free on, but only for a few more weeks. As notes, Anderson:

“is offering the full text of the book online at Scribd until August 10. But if readers want to download the contents or hold it in their hands, they’ll have to shell out for the ($27) hardcover. Anderson has also recorded two audio versions of “Free.” The full-length, six-hour version is free. But listeners will have to pay for the three-hour abridged recording.

“‘If I can give you 90% of the book in half the time, I’m giving you back three hours of your life,’ says Anderson. ‘Time is money.'”

Enough! Basta! Finito!


The point of this blog entry was to draw you to Virgina Postrel’s excellent, concise and non-inflammatory review of the book in the July 10th New York Times.

 After all the bafflegab I’ve encountered in the last few weeks, Postrel’s review is an oasis of non-rhetorical and balanced calm, and reveals all you need to know about this small flash-in-the-pan.

Tags: , , , , , ,