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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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.
Newspapers losing the advantage of a medium consumers will invest in, making aggregation more viable than original reporting 8/5/08Posted 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.
No question, Arianna Huffington’s “The Huffington Post” is a big success, ranked as the most visited or most linked-to blog, depending on which service you check. Before it was launched, I would have thought the market was already saturated for left-of-center positions of celebrities, but apparently not. In retrospect, it seems like there is also a market for ordinary people who want to feel like they are part of this club.
Historically, the Huffington Post reminds me of 18th century Paris, where some of the city’s finest hostesses held formal news groups called “salons,” named after the elegant reception rooms in which they were held. The best, brightest, and most connected were invited to share the most important news with other elites. One can imagine Arianna as a hostess, sporting an enormous and elaborate wig. And one can also imagine a few extra chairs in back where today’s HuffPo visitors might sit, gawk, and feel like they were part of an elite and superior in-crowd.
But now, the Huffington Post is talking about expanding into Chicago and perhaps other cities with skeletal staffs operating outside this formula. Encouraged by the work of a remarkable and unique “citizen-journalist” involved in a joint experiment with NYU Professor Jay Rosen, Arianna is looking to build a franchise out of breaking news using amateurs. Given that she was right and I was wrong last time, I would not count her idea out. But I do think her audience would much rather hang with celebrity know-it-alls than amateur gumshoes.
Yakety yak, politicians are talking back, driving us to a news future with alternative voices 5/26/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
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Have you noticed that politicians are giving the press a lot more lip lately? Fox reports that President Bush is trading blows with the NY Times on the GI Bill. CBS reports that “attacking the media has now become a Clinton campaign talking point.” And Roger Simon points out that even McCain, who has traditionally enjoyed a positive relationship with the press, has been grumbling about them recently.
It must be either that: 1) politicians have always criticized the press this much, but we are finally hearing them via New Media, or 2) politicians are deliberately stepping-up the assaults knowing they can finally circumvent mainstream media’s “national conversation.” And if the latter is true, this may be the first time in history Washington has been ahead of the rest of the country. These politicians are creating an alternative stream of news stories to feed alternative news outlets, setting the stage for a more partisan and more fragmented press. They are transforming news from a national conversation to a multitude of voices competing in a marketplace of ideas. Journalism’s authoritative voice will be out, and “yakety yak” will be in.
Wall Street Journal is webifying its front page, while the NY Times is not. One reason the WSJ is performing better? 4/28/08Posted by Steve Boriss in NYTimes, Uncategorized, Wall Street Journal.
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With NY Times weekday circulation down 4% and the WSJ’s flat-to-up, it begs the question “why?” There’s no better place to start seeking an answer than by examining the front pages of the two papers above the fold. That’s where readers get their first impression and potential newsstand buyers get their final sales pitch. The contrast between the two papers could not be more stark.
Today’s WSJ front page above the fold resembles a web site’s home page. There are more than 20 headlines to choose from, all with page numbers that resemble links, directing the reader to jump back and forth between the front page and articles within. This is a paper that wants to spare the reader the trouble of turning through every page hoping to find articles of interest.
On the other hand, today’s NY Times front page above the fold features only 3 stories, and what a bunch of yawners they are! If you don’t happen to be interested in Zimbabwe, stricter rules on mortgages, or a female Muslim educator, you will not be engaged. The way we read news is changing. The WSJ is trying to keep up with it, while the Gray Lady is not. Perhaps the circulation numbers simply tell the tale.
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This week at Pajamas Media I explore whether “fair and balanced” news is a good idea or just sounds good. Why is it not found in history? Could it be because nobody ever really wanted it? And, why do we need middlemen-journalists to tell us what the “straight-down-the-middle” position is, and where to place the fulcrum to deliver “balance”? Wouldn’t we be better off listening to a multitude of voices competing in a freewheeling marketplace of ideas, then deciding for ourselves? Check it out at Pajamas Media.
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Cory Bergman directs our attention to the “Going Local…in a New Direction” panel at the NAB conference, where TV stations are urged to take a broader view of their local websites, given this category’s flat to down growth. They are being encouraged to launch products outside their core competencies, such as local ad networks, content aggregators, and hyperlocal communities.
But, you know something’s wrong when they’re encouraging businesses to do something they instinctively know not to do — get outside of their “core competencies.” And the good news is that one of those options is not — it’s just a stretch. Who says local TV can’t do a good job handling hyperlocal news? They have reporters, equipment, and tech skills. And, as I’ve written many times, hyperlocal news done right should be even more interesting to viewers — it more directly affects their lives than metro level news, which was always a choice forced upon consumers by technology, not something consumers ever chose on their own. But, there’s an even better reason for local TV to pounce on hyperlocal — when networks have cut-out local broadcasters as unnecessary middlemen in the supply chain, and all media has converged on the Internet, they will be competing head-to-head against former newspapers, online. And the only original content left, with an Internet full of the same stories at metro, national, and international levels is hyperlocal news. Go hyperlocal, young man!
An innocent comment by Rupert Murdoch suggests a far from innocent future of news. In a speech at Georgetown University, he predicted that as a result of increased competition, news will be available even to those who traditionally could not afford it. The history of news clearly tells us the result when that happens — news goes “low class.” That is, a larger percentage of news content caters to the less cultured tastes of the downscale. It means less politics and business, and more sex. violence, crime, and human interest. More titillation, less deliberation. More sensationalism, less restrained-ism. More T&A, less S&P.
We first saw this phenomenon in the early 1800’s, when the efficiencies of new steam-engine-driven presses allowed papers to drop their prices from 14% of a daily farm worker’s wages to a penny. Papers began running all sorts of material appealing to emotion and prurient interests. This trend stalled at the turn of the century, when the upscale seized the news industry back from the excesses of Yellow Journalism, and rallied behind the New York Times, which featured “all the news that’s fit to print.” Shut out of the mainstream news business, the downscale over time found other media to satisfy their cravings, including supermarket tabloids and TV talk shows like Jerry Springer. But as all news converges onto the Internet, much of it free, the high- and low-brow will be side-by-side, just one mouse-click away. Many journalists will have to cover stories they previously thought were beneath them in ways they thought were beneath them. Once journalists fantasized about changing the world. Soon, many will be happy just to supply the world with fantasies. Oh, how the mighty will have fallen.
This week at Pajamas Media I explore the future of reporters. One of journalists’ recurring put-downs of bloggers is that they are simply recycling someone else’s news — that there will always be a need for reporters to produce it. But, that’s just because they have lost perspective on what a reporter actually is – a middleman. On one side are news events, and on the other are audiences who want to know about them. A reporter’s job is to move “the truth” from Point A to Point B as accurately as possible. Can’t the Internet eliminate this middleman? In fact, America had a reporterless past and will likely have a reporterless future. Read all about it at Pajamas Media.
Shouldn’t Old Media be concerned that Matt Drudge, the world’s most powerful journalist, bears no resemblance to traditional journalists? 3/2/08Posted by Steve Boriss in Uncategorized.
Here’s a headline you will never see in Old Media: “Matt Drudge: world’s most powerful journalist.” For that, you’d have to read London’s Telegraph, even though many American journalists know it is true. He broke the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he has been driving coverage in the Presidential primaries, and he just revealed Prince Harry’s frontline service in Afghanistan. The DrudgeReport is consistently among the top 10 news sites, a ranking he shares with only one newspaper — the NY Times.
The reason Old Media cannot admit he is the best among them is that he defies just about everything they believe in. He is fearless, in part because he is an outsider who requires no favors from those in power. He is an editor/aggregator, not a reporter. He is totally independent, publishing without review by others. When he breaks stories, his verification processes are unknown and he often publishes rumors. He gives equal billing to entertainment news and stories that are sensational or satisfy prurient interests. He is a conservative populist, not a Beltway liberal. He lacks a college degree, much less one in journalism.
Matt Drudge is the primordial life form of the New Journalist, so Old Media must begin to learn from his success and copy him. Editing/aggregating is what the future of journalism is all about, as the public learns that reporters have been little more than middleman-repeaters of stories that now can be told directly by news sources themselves. The good news is that there is room to improve upon what Matt Drudge does, for example by adding opinion and creative style to the aggregated facts, or aggregating audiences of particular value to advertisers. But, for Old Media firms looking to survive, a headline like “Matt Drudge: world’s most powerful journalist” should be read as if accompanied by his trademark flashing siren.
Hitler had Joseph Goebbels, and the American political class has FCC Commissioner Michael Copps. Both are men who believe government should control our speech so that we hear what the government wants us to hear. Way harsh, you say? Just listen to his own words. “Half a trillion dollars…that’s a conservative evaluation of the airwaves that our country lets TV and radio broadcasters use for free. It’s just about the biggest chunk of change our government gives to any private industry.” Got that? He thinks that the air you breathe and the electromagnetic waves that travel through it are the property of the federal government. When we use them without a fee we have accepted welfare. So how much in federal benefits did you receive today when you used your wireless router, spoke on your cordless phone, shouted over your fence to your neighbor, or simply took a breath?
And of couse, something must be done about all that crap you are watching, he tells us. “Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV…Too much brain-numbing national playlists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue.” So, he wants to give broadcasters a full rectal exam every three years, with their licenses renewed only if their programming meets his government-loving tastes. And, did you catch that cute little thing at the end about “Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue?” In his twisted mind, “America” is the federal government, not the worthless private lives of a supposedly free people.
So, how has a kook like this become so powerful, much less why is he even walking the streets? He is President Bush’s single worst appointment, and it was to fill a Democratic seat on the FCC. If Clinton or Obama win, they will not be bothered to prevent this loyal Democrat from taking the majority’s seat, and he will become our FCC commissioner from hell. And if McCain wins, Copps will not be marginalized by a President who authored the free speech-killing McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Copps will almost certainly make a grab at regulating the Internet. So, everyone from the far-left to the far-right must now join together to fight the most dangerous man in America. For those seeking unity, you just got it. The two sides will no longer be left vs. right, but the Political Class against the rest of us.
Newsweek’s Robert Samuelson chides his magazine for engaging in a questionable “moral crusade” against global warming. Personally, he believes the problem may not be solvable using available technology. But what particularly concerns him is Newsweek’s characterization of opponents as a “well-coordinated, well-funded campaign by contrarian scientists, free-market think tanks and industry [that] has created a paralyzing fog of doubt around climate change.” And, he resents the way an individual like himself, who has doubts about manmade solutions, is “ridiculed as a fool, a crank or an industry stooge” by his own magazine.
Samuelson is onto something, but he fails to recognize why Newsweek ridicules ideas like his. He is paying the price for deviating from the center-left tilt of a magazine whose current problems are less about global warming than its sunblindness to the harmful effects of its own worldview. The implicit view in Newsweek’s coverage of global warming – that man caused global warming and bad people are keeping us from fixing it – is a classic fit with Left thought. Left ideology includes the implicit belief that Man has unlimited potential to solve all problems (which is where Samuelson wandered off the plantation). And since Man can solve all problems, the Left also implicitly believes that Man is the cause of all problems. All of which leads to an impolite accusation: unless opponents are too ignorant or stupid to understand the problem, they must be benefiting from the problem, which means their opposition is at best selfish, and at worst mean or evil.
So, where does that leave the majority of Americans who, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, do not believe that manmade global warming is a real problem? Will they continue to read a magazine that not-so-subtly insults them by suggesting they are ignorant, stupid, selfish, mean, or evil? If, like Samuelson says, Newsweek is indeed engaged in a moral crusade on global warming, at least they cannot be accused of acting in their own self-interests.