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Meet the Press move to rotating hosts avoids unfavorable comparisons to Russert 9/30/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.

NBC is apparently giving up on the idea of a one-for-one replacement of Tim Russert as Meet the Press host. According to a well-placed source, instead they will rotate through an ensemble of hosts that will include NBC political director Chuck Todd and correspondent David Gregory.

Brilliant. Chances are, any single individual selected for this role would have been scrupulously compared to Tim Russert as the gold standard, with any deviation holding potential to be seen as a flaw. Use of an ensemble blurs these “follow-in-the-footstep” comparisons. Moreover, it even gives one ensemble member the opportunity to develop his/her own image and room to rise sufficiently to be an individual replacement some day.

CBS shows why we may be shifting from newspapers to news conglomerates 9/24/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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CBS’ CEO Leslie Moonves says his network is becoming a “one stop shop” for news and information that is now competing effectively against newspapers. Of all the recent bad news for newspapers, this may be among the worst.

To survive in a world without paper editions, online newspapers will need high rates for online ads, but news sites of network conglomerates will not. The conglomerates can spread their news production costs across all of their media platforms and properties, including their sports and entertainment divisions. In many cases they will not even care whether or not they recoup their news production costs, since much will have advertising value for their other properties. The network news conglomerate in the end may be what keeps rates down and newspapers out.

News going hyperlocal or hyperglobal? 9/18/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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Should the metro newspaper industry survive, which at this point is looking increasingly doubtful, it might only be because of its unique ability to create original content that directly affects our lives.

But the media industry is going the other way, toward global brands. In the Hollywood Reporter in regards to video, Times Warner chair Jeffrey Bewkes said, “I remember the old 80-20 rule, where 80 per cent of the money was coming from 20 per cent of the activity. Well, now it’s going to be more like 90-10, where more of the money is going to an ever more world accessible giant brands and hits.” Translating that to the news sector, if 90% of our news stories will be global stories, is it that we are no longer most interested in news that most directly affects our lives? More likely, it is that global stories are now seen as directly affecting our lives. Not a good sign for a hyperlocal news future.

GoogleCreep: From News Aggregator to News Channel? 9/5/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in GoogleNews.

News outlets were told they had nothing to fear from GoogleNews. Google would simply aggregate their stories and drive traffic to their sites — not create its own, competitive, original news content. But this convention season, that line is becoming a blur.

When GoogleNews provided live streaming coverage of the Republican convention this week, wasn’t that original content that competed directly for viewers who might have otherwise turned to TV news outlets? Or was that not considered competitive because it was offered in CSPAN style, sans reporters? In any event, each GoogleNews step away from being a news aggregator is a step toward becoming a news competitor. And, there are no steps news outlets can take to stop it.

Pregnant Palin stories point to a future of more salacious political stories 9/1/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.

The future vetting process for salacious political rumors is taking shape. Those most beyond-the-pale will often start with partisan blogs, which are unteathered by journalism standards and motivated to find the worst in their adversaries. For example, liberal bloggers reported that VP candidate Sarah Palin faked a pregnancy for a fifth child to cover up for a pregnant daughter.

Traditional outlets will stand back and wait for permission to publish, which can be easily granted by a comment from a public spokesperson. In the Palin episode, this permission came when a McCain aide commented that he had no evidence the story was being pushed by the Obama camp.

With partisan blogs motivated to generate such rumors, and public figures providing permission to publish simply by acknowledging them, we can expect a bawdier future of news.

Will Local TV News Survive Web-TV Convergence? 8/29/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Convergence.

Forrester Research reports that in the next decade your TV will deliver most programming on-demand, and ads will be targeted based on your location and your behavior. Which begs the question of whether networks will continue to support a local affiliate structure with primetime programming when their content can be delivered direct-to-consumer. Perhaps networks would rather have their programming appear at local affilitates’ portals, too, increasing their audience size. It’s not necessarily an either/or question.

In any event, even without primetime programming, local TV seems to have a profitable franchise remaining in local news. Metro papers are beginning to fail, and their online publications have not generated ad rates that can support large newsrooms, much less the video capabilities of TV stations. At this point, it looks like local news is going video.

Will the ad-revenue-generating power of TV vs. online advertising increase Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the national conversation? 8/24/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in AP, Murdoch, NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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We have another indication, as if we needed another, that online ads do not attract ad revenues like their counterparts in television. Based on Olympics ad spending, TV video ads may be 100x more valued by advertisers than online video ads. Video ad spending on NBCOlympics.com was only $5.75 million, just 1.1% of the $505 million total for video ad spending. A crude comparison, but still…

In the national news supply chain, original content driving the national conversation has originated from the newspaper side — AP, NY Times, and Washington Post — which are converging to the low revenue world of online advertising. On the other hand, Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, unlike those venerable institutions, can draw upon the resources of News Corporation’s high revenue-generating TV properties. More revenues, more original reporting, more control over the national conversation. Look for Murdoch’s influence over our top stories to increase.

Google replacing mainstream media with bloggers? 8/21/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Multitude of voices.
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The Motley Fool reports that Google is sponsoring a headquarters for about 500 bloggers at the Democratic convention, and will do the same for the Republican convention. This is about the opposite of the traditional news model, in which a proprietary outlet pays for the facilities and the reporters, and controls the content.

For a long time, this blog has been predicting that news in America would transform — moving from a monolithic, establishment point-of-view to a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. Google’s news room may be a step toward fulfilling that prophesy.

Is porn the answer to newspapers’ woes? 8/15/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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Business Week reports that German papers are doing well despite the web, in sharp contrast to the U.S. The article quickly dismisses the fact that one of Berlin’s dailies shows nude women on the first page, before giving a host of seemingly more legitimate reasons they have avoided the U.S.’ slump. For example, a crisis in 2001 that forced changes that are bolstering German papers against the Internet.

But, did Business Week dismiss the nude pictures too quickly? Nudity has been one of the few, sure fire ways to monetize the web in the U.S. Perhaps it’s the old Playboy Magazine formula — readers who claim to buy it for the articles, but really don’t. It is not out of the question that a U.S. newspaper in desperation might try full frontal-page nudity, which one can imagine would be a milestone in the evaporation of journalism culture.

NBC Olympics coverage changes the rules — mass media to fragmented media 8/13/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.

In Olympic games prior to the Internet, America was riveted to a handful of big events selected by the TV networks. But NBC, presenting its 11th Olympics, is changing all the rules by taking advantage of the fragmenting power of cable and the Internet.

Summing it up is 22-year-old Jonathan Mays who notes, “NBC has a dedicated soccer channel [on cable] and live stuff on NBCOlympics.com.” He likes the fact that he can follow the progress of the teams as they move from the group stage through quarterfinals and finals. In effect, he is creating customized Olympic coverage for himself.

Will the same thing happen to news? Will Americans follow the news that interests them most and only share an interest in a handful of big stories — Michael Phelps-sized stories? That seems to be where we are headling.

Philly Inquirer’s pullback of online content just a slower form of suicide 8/10/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in PhilInquirer.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s decision to protect its print newspaper franchise by holding all but breaking news from its web site is getting the scorn it deserves. One can understand the impulse to give readers more reasons to buy the paper. And, perhaps it might have been a good idea to implement this policy years ago, before it became a decided issue that virtually all newspaper content should also be available online.

The problem is that just at the time the Inquirer needs to step into the future, recognizing that its online versions are the future, they are making their online product worse. As Jeff Jarvis said, “They know that the internet is the present and the future and the paper is the past. Protecting the past is no strategy for the future. It is suicide.” The leap to online is scary and challenging, but it is preferable to suicide at a slower speed.

Will HuffPo vs. Breibart be the primordial partisan news sites of the future? 8/7/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in PartisanPress.
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First, there was the “objective” mainstream media news, allegedly news stories told straight down the middle. Then, there were alternative media on talk radio and cable, making it seem as if perhaps the mainstream media skewed to the left. Then, farther left web sites like DailyKos sprung-up, redefining the skew of mainstream media as center-left establishment. All in all, it looked like we were headed for a fragmentation of news sites on the web — a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas. But, we haven’t really seen it yet, as the big online newspaper mastheads and the AP stick with their same, less and less plausible story — that they more or less provide “objective” news.

Perhaps we are now beginning to see the beginning of this partisan news that seemed inevitable. The Huffington Post admits to skewing toward the Hollywood left, and they have plans to expand to special city additions. Now Andrew Breitbart, longtime Drudge henchman, is launching BigHollywood, a website for the L.A. non-left. Will these entertainment-oriented web sites launch the partisan web sites of the future? If the major newspaper brands won’t do it, it would have to start someplace else. So, maybe so.

Newspapers losing the advantage of a medium consumers will invest in, making aggregation more viable than original reporting 8/5/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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It looks like consumers may be paying for more and more of their media, with advertisers paying less and less, at least according to USA Today. We don’t tend to think of consumers’ investments in video games, cable, and satellite as payment for programming content, but they are, and there will be more and more of it. But, can’t it be said that consumers’ investment in newsprint has also been payment for content? What an advantage it was for newspapers that they could keep and use that entire investment for themselves. But, convergence to the Internet will bring an end to those days.

With consumer interest in buying news in print form likely to drop, and advertisers increasingly likely to shun them to market directly to consumers, will online papers suck enough money out of Internet advertising to pay for their newsrooms? More likely, they will find it much more financially viable to aggregate others’ stories more and produce original content less.

If the FCC comes to regulate the Internet, newspapers will lose their freedom of the press 8/3/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Net Neutrality.

Since the government does not regulate printing presses in any way, newspapers are free to print whatever they want without pressure from government. On the other hand, since the government does issue and reissue broadcast licenses, broadcast networks must occasionally listen to and be pressured by U.S. Senators seeking to change content that the Senators find offensive — think of the pressure to edit the not-so-Clinton-friendly TV series “Pathway to 911,” the now-auctioned letter to Rush Limbaugh’s partner Clear Channel about language he used allegedly criticizing our troops, and the pressure on Sinclair Broadcasting to avoid airing an unflattering portrait of John Kerry.

Now that newspapers are moving online, what if the FCC comes to regulate the Internet, as might begin to happen should they be given the right to enforce Net Neutrality policies? Would Senators then be able to pressure newspapers to change their content, just as they do in broadcast? Will America have fought a bloody revolution more than 2 centuries ago, in part to earn freedom of the press, only to let it slip away because of issues as complex and seemingly benign as whether Internet Service Providers: 1) can’t send video file transfers at lower priority so they do not clog the Internet, or 2) can charge content providers fees for higher speeds? Those who believe that Internet service providers must treat all packets the same should think twice about undoing the American Revolution.

Newspapers chasing small local advertisers is uneconomical. Less sales hype, more hyperlocal news needed 7/31/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Advertising revenues.
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According to the Wall Street Journal, to make-up for falling ad revenues, newspapers have nearly tripled the number of local salespeople, only to watch their share of local online ads drop by a quarter. And yet, local online ad revenues grew by 57% last year, much of it captured by Google and Local.com.

Apparently, having locally available humans press the flesh is not the advantage newspapers thought it might be. The Wall Street Journal points out several possible reasons, including papers’ past focus only on larger advertisers, low commission opportunities offered my these low cost, small size purchases, and the relative ineffectiveness of banner ads for local merchants.

The solution for newspapers is probably based more on its product than its sales force. Online papers must reestablish themselves as local must-reads. What’s needed is less sales hype and more hyperlocal news. (H/T Garry Rains)

Regional news is too big to create a big market 7/29/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Hyperlocal news.
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Mediaweek reports that ad buyers want newspapers to reinvent their business model — a pretty difficult trick to pull-off at the same time they are shrinking newsrooms and are covered in red ink.

In the article, many of those quoted have interesting insights, including Anne Gordon, one-time managing editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and now a partner at Dubilier & Co., a private equity firm. She says that the strategy of large regional papers to serve the whole of their sprawling markets with local news sections has been a bust. Instead, she suggests that “papers should leverage their depth of coverage by, for example, publishing e-newsletters on single topics like business or the arts.”

While I agree with Ms. Gordon that there may not be a market for regional news, why drop the idea altogether for business and the arts? Perhaps regional is just not small enough for people to see news that directly affects their lives. Hyperlocal news may be smaller, but its market is much bigger.

If partisanship doesn’t kill the AP, it will just make them stronger 7/27/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in AP.
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My most recent article on PajamasMedia is a cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for — you just might get it. For all those who have been concerned that the AP has not been fulfilling its mission to provide “unbiased news,” be assured they have heard you, and you will now instead be reading something it calls “accountability journalism.” But it’s not about politicians being accountable to you — just accountable to the personal conclusions of reporters. Read more about it at PajamasMedia.

Video for radio web sites another giant leap toward convergence 7/23/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Convergence.
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The artificial boundaries among traditional news media are coming to an end. For text and graphics the choice was newspapers. For audio it was radio. For video it was TV. But let’s say, as Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has, that in 10 years all media will converge onto the Internet. For delivering news, do newspapers simply transfer text and graphics onto web sites, radio stations provide only live streams and podcasts, and TV stations simply deliver video? No, they will all offer text, audio, and video and in the process become indistinguishable.

For years, we have also seen video on online newspaper sites and text/graphics on online TV sites. But now, radio is joining in on the action. Lost Remote reports that CBS Radio is launching WorldNow video, allowing their stations to offer video quite competitive with local TV stations. Actually, WorldNow is also available for newspaper and TV sites, so the blur among the media is that much greater. So ultimately, will we ever again be able to tell the difference among the media once the convergence to the Internet is done? Only those that distinguish themselves with original content, most likely hyperlocal. Newspapers are best positioned to pull that off, but only those with sufficient foresight to do it before they are totally consumed with cutting their newsroom staffs.

NY Times finally showing some life, reacting to threat by WSJ 7/21/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Wall Street Journal.
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It has been months since the Wall Street Journal starting turning its ship in the direction of the New York Times for a direct confrontation. The Journal has been adding Times-like political and lifestyle coverage at a rapid clip, while the Times has seemed to be dead in the water. But perhaps, that’s all about to change.

Advertising Age reports that now the Times is adding Journal-like coverage of the “economy, energy, small business, personal finance and enterprise technology.” Moreover, the Times seems to be upping the ante online by including news aggregated from competitors, a step into the future that the Journal has not yet taken. It’s good for news consumers finally to see some healthy competition — a word that has been relatively absent from the news industry in the last century.

Journalism either ought to explain how 3-anchor foreign Obama coverage can be balanced, or admit objectivity is an illusion 7/19/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Objectivity.
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So, all three network anchors are tagging along on Obama’s overseas trip. Obviously, this is unprecedented. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer notes that when McCain visited Iraq, the media was so caught-up in the Democratic Primary that they virtually ignored it. They continue, “For them to follow him across the ocean on his get-acquainted tour is a bit too fawning. It’s a pure violation of the rapidly disappearing rule that the media is at least supposed to try to appear fair and balanced.”

There is no denying that this world tour is bound to be interesting for viewers and the networks are making sound business decisions by covering it. But there is also no denying that it’s impossible to square this coverage with “objectivity.” Do they intend to provide McCain with equivalent positive coverage? If so, by covering what equivalent events? It seems obvious that they have no intention of doing so, and even if they did it is hard to quantify what an equivalent event would be. Is there anyone out there who is willing to stand-up for the principle of objectivity during this time when media credibility is on the line? Let’s either hear the voices of journalists who will tell us that, no, in fact this can be balanced and here’s how — or let’s move to a more honest period in which we admit that objectivity has never been the commitment that it has been claimed to be.