Newspaper Asks Readers to Stop Buying Print Edition

May 16, 2010

It’s Sunday, so a good day to keep blog entries light and fun. I should save serious for weekdays.

I bought the June 2010 issue of ConsumerReports the other day. The inside back cover has a regular offering called Selling It: Goofs, Glitches, Gotchas featuring humorous reader-submitted illustrations of products and promotions that perhaps never should have come to market. Here’s one I could identify with:

sellingit-letters3

 According to the magazine: “Apparently, the Kansas City Star—a newspaper, after all—realized that the top envelope sent the wrong message. The bottom envelope, our reader said, arrived later.”

The overwrought headline for this post is inspired by David Carr’s Media Equation column in today’s New York Times. Titled “Taylor Momsen Did Not Write This Headline,” Carr offers a humorous analysis of how headline writing has radically changed from the days of print-only newspapers to today’s web. “Headlines in newspapers and magazines were once written with readers in mind, to be clever or catchy or evocative,” Carr writes. ”Now headlines are just there to get the search engines to notice.”

Indeed Carr’s piece is already #1 in Google’s search results. (If like Carr and most of my readers you’re wondering who Taylor Momsen is check Carr’s article…or just Google her [that sounds slightly obscene].)

Carr concludes with a reminder of one of the great all-time headlines: “People who worry that Web headlines dumb down public discourse are probably right. But some of the classics would still work. Remember “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” perhaps the most memorable New York Post headline ever? It’s direct, it’s descriptive, and it’s oh-so-search-engine-friendly. And not a Taylor Momsen in sight.”

(If you enjoy funny headlines as much as I do, a Google search leads to some good sites.)

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The Next Media Company

May 25, 2009

The title of this blog is the same as one appearing today on Chris Brogan’s thoughtful blog.

After a brief intro he offers the following:

The Next Media Company Manifesto

Here’s what I believe might (emphasis mine) need to be true about the next media company:

  • Stories are points in time, but won’t end at publication. (Edits, updates, extensions are next.) (10)
  • Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff. (10)
  • Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc are a flow. (10)
  • Everything must be portable and mobile-ready. (Mobile devices need to evolve here, too). (10)
  • Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly. (5)
  • Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue. (8)
  • In-line content marketing, clearly delineated/disclosed/explained is one revenue stream. One of many. (8)
  • Contributors come in many shapes: onstaff, partner (how pros like TechCrunch link to Washington Post), guest (for love and glory only), and conversational come right to mind. Who else? (7)
  • Value-add services are another revenue stream. Why not book hotels and flights from my travel magazine directly? Why not buy how-to information on marketing from AdAge or FastCompany? (6)
  • Collaboration rules. Why should I pick the next cover? Why should my picture of the car crash be the best? (5)
  • Everything is modular and linkable. Everything is fluid. Meaning, if I want the publication to be a business periodical, then I don’t want to have to read a piece about sports. (10)
  • Paper isn’t dead: it’s on demand. (9)
  • Do-it-yourself publishing is next for us all. At first. (10)
  • We will all audition for mass physical distribution. (10)
  • It won’t matter (mass physical distribution) to us, lots of the time. (8)

I rated each item in the Manifesto from 1-10 (10 being the strongest agreement), and you’ll see that I support many of Mr. Brogan’s intriguing suggestions. But not all.

First a comment on his lead sentence. A manifesto is generally defined as a “a public declaration of principles and intentions” and a call to action. I don’t think that the word “might” has any place in introducing a manifesto. With it, the more appropriate title would be, “Some Thoughts Towards the Next Media Company.”

That aside, I see the major conflict between Brogan’s second point, “Curators and editors rule,” and his tenth point, “Collaboration rules.” Are these not contradictory? One of the key debating points about the media these days is exactly who rules. While we all welcome that the Internet has opened up so many opportunities for new voices to be heard, there’s a growing recognition that no one can possibly follow all the voices available, hence the need for curators and editors to guide us and catch errors of fact or omission.

So here too I stumble on his fifth point: “Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly.” The use of the new verb “wikified” implies to me that Brogan is suggesting that I should have access to his restaurant review and be able to anonymously change or augment his content. I’m all for separate authored comments, but if I want to forge a reputation as a restaurant reviewer, I don’t want to write anonymously and give others the freedom to change what I’ve written. Takes us back to the curators and editors. They must rule.

In last week’s The Economist there’s an excellent analysis of the changes in the media business, specifically the news side of the business. The article focuses on the value of aggregators, such as the Huffington Post. Surely aggregation and curration can be used interchangeably?

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The Publishing Crisis Moves Down the Food Chain

April 16, 2009

A front page story on most North American newspapers (and certainly all Canadian ones) is that AbitibiBowater, the world’s biggest newsprint producer (40% marketshare) has filed for bankruptcy protection in the United States and plans to file for similar protection in Montreal on Friday.

According to the report in the (Toronto) Globe & Mail, “U.S. newsprint demand has been falling for more than 20 years. After peaking at 12.3 million tonnes in 1987, sales were just 6.8 million tonnes in 2008.”

A second story in the paper (which of course I read online) is: “Abitibi investors urged to run away.”

Meanwhile, over in the Wall Street Journal, the bad news report focused on Weyerhaeuser Co. which posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $1.21 billion on sales of $1.76 billion.

While Weyerhaeuser gains the bulk of its revenue on wood for building rather than on newsprint, it’s just bad news all around. A second report in the WSJ sates: “Last month Standard & Poor’s cut its long-term ratings on Weyerhaeuser one notch to right above junk status, saying the company will likely continue to post poor results.”

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