News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Newspapers

March 16, 2010

Hunger in the Golden State: New multimedia investigative series

Thoughout California and across the US, hunger is rising at an unprecedented rate, even in affluent areas. Beginning March 19, a special multimedia series from the USC Annenberg School for Journalism & Communication and California Watch (a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting) will spotlight this often invisible problem.

Hunger in the Golden State” will explore food waste, nutrition in schools, and ways to help Californians fighting to ward off hunger. The project reveals that nearly one in eight Californians has asked for food assistance in the last year.

The three-week series will run in CA newspapers, on radio stations, and in online news outlets.

...Coincidentally, last May a USC Annenberg student video series, “Staving Off Hunger,” focused on this same topic.

June 28, 2010

Crowdsourcing your business: Financial Times idea contest to boost subscriptions

Here’s an intriguing notion—ask the crowd you’d like to have pay for your product for ideas on how to get more of them to pay for it. That’s the approach legendary pink business broadsheet Financial Times has taken by using a “social think tank” called Idea Bounty to help find digital marketing ideas to boost new subscriptions to

The crowdsourcing contest has an actual bounty—it carries a top prize of $5,000 and offers 10 short-listers full-year subscriptions to the paper. It’s a pretty simple process: register, submit an idea, then wait to hear back. In this case, you’d know after the July 25 deadline if yours was the plan to win the paper gobs of new online readers.

Idea Bounty, part of Cape Town, South Africa-based Quirk eMarketing, has run such crowd-sourcing contests since late 2008 for Levi’s, Red Bull, BMW, Unilever and others, but this appears to be its first news project. Winning ideas end up belonging to the client, so it’s not so apparent what they are or how well they worked. But the site is reported by technology site Memeburn to have generated 6,000 ideas for 11 projects so far.

Financial Times, meanwhile, already has 140,000 digital subscribers using the site via metered paywall, and according to a long writeup in the Los Angeles Times, has been seeing subscription revenues grow, with 15% more subscribers than a year ago.

Hat tip to Matt Buckland of Creative Spark, which runs the Memeburn site that reported the contest.

July 06, 2010

News (and Newsrooms) in the Networking Age

If you’re trying to wrap your head around the transformation of the media industry, a good place to start might be the idea of “perestroika”—the old Soviet term that described the dramatic restructuring of its most mature institutions. That, in fact, is the theme for an industry gathering in Philadelphia later this month that explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society in the Network Age, while asking the question: After everything is connected, “what’s next?”

The July 29-30 Supernova forum, co-hosted by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is produced by Kevin Werbach, a former FCC technology official and organizer of the PC Forum with Esther Dyson. Technologists, entrepreneurs, business executives, investors, and policymakers will come together to discuss three overarching themes.—evolving digital infrastructure and platforms, models for networked business innovation, and transforming or replacing established institutions.

Tech policy forum participants include White House official Beth Noveck, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen, Google’s Washington counsel Richard Whitt and BuzzMachine’s Jeff Jarvis. And other participants will also lead discussion at afternoon unconferences and “challenge sessions.”

Check out the agenda and register here.

If, on the other hand, you’re just trying to figure out the restructuring of your own newsroom, the gathering for you might be the International Newsroom Summit in London, Sept. 8-9.

Speakers and attendees include many European newspaper publishers, but Editor & Publisher reports The New York Time’s Arthur Sulzberger Jr., will be on the program, along with top Washington Post newsroom exec Raju Narisetti.

The key question: what does the new generation newsroom look like, and how does it operate? Discussions are around topics like newsroom synergies, smartphone publishing, innovative storytelling and paid content.  Register here.

September 15, 2010

Pew survey: Digital, traditional platforms combine to increase overall news consumption

Good news for news—Americans are spending more time with it than they have since the mid-1990s, and new technologies are not so much replacing traditional news platforms as supplementing them.

That’s per a newly released biennial news consumption survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. The survey found while Americans are consuming more news digitally, they’re integrating the new sources into their regular diet, leaving news consumption from traditional platforms stable.

For instance, in 2000 those surveyed spent 57 minutes a day on average getting news from TV, radio or newspapers. Now, they’re spending 70 minutes—and that doesn’t even count time spent getting news on cell phones or other digital devices.

Traditional sources remain the sole source of news for 39% of those surveyed, but nearly as many, 36%  got their news from both online and traditional sources. About 9% got their news via online and mobile and didn’t use traditional sources at all.

The group that showed the largest rise in time spent with the news in the last few years are the highly educated (up to 96 minutes). The survey noted a smaller rise in consumption for those ages 30-64, while older and younger age groups showed no increase. The 30-somethings were the only group to get the majority of their news digitally.

Among the other major findings of the extensive report:

  • Print newspaper decline is only partially offset by online readership. Even counting all online newspaper readership (although not news aggregators or search engines), 37% of Americans report getting news from newspapers the day before, down from 43% in 2006.
  • Cable news audiences are in flux, with the proportions watching CNN, MSNBC and CNBC slipping substantially from two years ago.
  • Ideology continues to be closely associated with people’s choice of certain news sources, and partisan gaps in media credibility continue to grow.
  • Half of men get news on digital platforms, compared to just 39% of women.
  • The percentage of so-called news grazers—those who get news only “from time to time”—jumped from 48% to 57% since 2006.
  • Search engines are increasingly key. A third use them regularly to get news, up from 19% just two years ago.

Read the full report here (PDF).

January 04, 2011

Google heats up digital newsstand competition

As print publishers seek new ways to make money, they’re getting more interested in turning to digital newsstands for distribution. New options may be opening in that market in 2011…

Apple already sells digital editions of many major newspapers and magazines through the iTunes store, and Amazon and Barnes & Noble also sells newspaper and magazines subscriptions for users of their e-reader devices and apps.

But on Jan. 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Google is planning to launch its own digital newsstand, targeted at smartphones and tablet computers running the Android operating system…

“The e-newsstand would include apps from media companies offering versions of their publications for smartphones or tablets running Android, say people familiar with the matter. Google hopes to launch it in part to provide a more consistent experience for consumers who want to read periodicals on Android devices, and to help publishers collect payment for their apps, these people say.”

“...Apple, meanwhile, is readying several changes in iTunes to address publishers’ frustrations with the online store, according to people familiar with the matter. Among the changes, Apple would make it easier for publishers to sell subscriptions on iTunes, in addition to single issues, with Apple keeping 30% of the tab.”

It’s uncertain when and how Google’s digital newsstand might launch—and indeed, it might never materialize. But it’s creating considerable buzz.

The CBS Business Network noted: “This isn’t about a war between Google and Apple, even if it looks that way. It’s about a market that is far more complex than the online market for music was when iTunes launched… The magazine industry comes to the marketplace with the wisdom of history—and a slew of tablets to rewrite it on. Everyone, from Barnes & Noble to Vizio and Lenovo, is launching one. So, while the iPad poses a formidable challenge to any comer, it is not the only game in town.”

This is an interesting market for news organizations to watch, and perhaps to experiment in as a premium service. However, don’t expect that a digital newsstand could be used as an absolute paywall to protect all of a news organization’s content. Free web-based publishing will probably always be necessary to attract a mass audience online, and to support much-needed shareability and search visibility.

But if digital newsstands can offer not just more convenient content delivery (you pay for it once, and it keeps coming to you), but also a superior reading experience (a la Flipboard), that might be a value-add that more readers would be willing to pay for.

January 06, 2011

Net now top news source for under-30s, per Pew

The Internet has now become the main source of news for under-30s, according to a survey conducted in December by The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. And it’s closing the gap for all Americans, partly because of the ongoing decline of TV news and newspaper audiences, the December survey found.

Two-thirds of 18-29-year-olds call the Internet their news home, almost double the percent from just three years before. For this generation, TV has dropped as primary news vehicle from 68% to 52% (respondents volunteered up to two news sources, so totals can add up to over 100%). Pew also said that Internet news is on track within a few years to bump TV news from the top spot for 30-49-year-olds. And its use has grown to the same level as newspapers for those ages 50 to 64.

Among all Americans, 41% said the Internet was where they got their national and international news, unchanged from two years ago. That leaves TV in the No. 1 spot, but its audience decline is steep. As recently as 2002, TV was the go-to news source for 82% of Americans. In the most recent poll, it’s down to 66%. Newspapers, meanwhile, have dropped from 50% in 2003 to just 31% in 2010. Radio remains relatively stable at 16%.

The study also details how demographics, education and wealth affect the news blend for Americans. For instance, those living in the West of the country are most likely to turn to the Internet, while college grads and those with higher household incomes are about as likely to get their news from the Internet as from TV.

Get the full details on the study (PDF), along with graphs charting main news sources by age.

June 03, 2011

Small dailies more likely to charge for digital content

Paid digital content strategies generally work best in niche markets—and small newspapers may be one relatively viable niche, according to new research from the Reynolds Journalism Institute...

In more than 300 phone interviews with publishers at a random sample of US daily newspapers, RJI found that 46% of dailies with circulation under 25,000 now require payment for at least some of their digital content. For dailies with circulation greater than 25,000, only 24% now charge.

The RJI report did not speculate on why more small dailies are charging for some content, nor did it specify which types of content they are charging for. But in smaller communities, generally there are fewer outlets for local news and information—which could make paying for some local news, or for archive access, more appealing than might be the case in larger cities or regions.

RJI researcher Mike Jenner wrote: “Underlying the move to begin charging is a strong belief that audiences will pay to consume quality news content. Two-thirds of the publishers believe customers will pay. Only 14% agreed with the statement, ‘I don’t believe we’ll ever be able to get customers to pay for online content.’”

Are these paid content strategies bringing in much revenue? Not so far. “In the coming 12 months, one-third believe the revenue from their pay models will count for up to 20% of their companies’ digital revenue. Only one in 10 expect revenue from content to make up more than 20% of their digital revenue. Half expect a negligible contribution to the bottom line.”

But looking ahead three years, that return might improve: “60% of publishers expect digital revenue to represent more than 15% of their papers’ overall revenue stream—with nearly one quarter expecting digital revenue to represent more than 25% of all revenues.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 08, 2011

beta620: New York Times goes experimental

For the most part, traditional newsroom culture strenuously resists experimentation. But this week, the venerable “Gray Lady” herself has gone beta. The New York Times unveiled beta620, “a new home for experimental projects from Times developers—and a place for anyone to suggest and collaborate on new ideas and new products…”

Here Times developers are showing off working prototype features such as TimesInstant (which borrows heavily from the Google Instant search engine feature), Longitude (which leverages metadata to geographically map NYT news), and much more.

The site’s name is an homage to the Times’ headquarters: 620 8th Ave., New York, NY.

Think of beta620 as a kind of sandbox, test bed, and showcase for what Times digital media might offer in the future. In a blog post, NYT staffer Joe Fiore explained: “Many of these projects will live only on beta620. But a few, like the innovative Times Skimmer, which started out as an entry in one of our internal technology contests, will ‘graduate’ to become full-fledged products on our main site or our mobile apps.

Writing for Nieman Journalism Lab, Megan Garber observes: “The whole beta620 site has a distinctively Kickstarter-y feel to it: Not only are projects presented with a whimsy not entirely typical of the Gray Lady—quirky illustrations, friendly explanations, a design that employs an unapologetic amount of pink—but they’re also presented as, basically, pitches. Developers are selling their ideas to the public, hoping they’ll catch on. Instead of funding, though, they’re asking for something that can be much more valuable: plain old feedback. Beta620 is primarily a social space where developers and users can collaborate and experiment, without disrupting the consumption experiences on proper.”

It makes sense to segregate experimental features from the Times’ core digital offerings. You don’t want to confuse or alienate the core NYT readership by putting out too many things that the news organization is not committed to, and that maybe don’t function well yet. (There’s a reason why Google Labs never appeared on the Google home page. Also, the Times might take note that in late July Google announced that it’s phasing out Google Labs, in order to hone the company’s focus.)

That said, there’s a pitfall with the totally segregated approach to experimentation with the news: Feedback is a big goal for beta620, but whose feedback will they attract?

Digital news insiders, developers, designers, data visualization and geodata professionals, and other “geeky” types will almost certainly pore over beta620 in great numbers and in great detail. No doubt they’ll kick the tires, push the envelope, and offer lots of suggestions. This kind of input is very useful.

But what about the more typical Times audience? What about the rank-and-file visitors to its web site, readers of its print products, and users of its mobile apps? Ultimately these are the people the Times must please. So what they think matters, even at the early experimental phase. Because if a new feature or service fails to engage a large part of the Times’ core audience, it will simply fail—no matter how much the technophiles adore it.

So far, the Times doesn’t seem to be doing much to encourage its core audience to check out its experimental side. A quick search of just now revealed just one result for the search term “beta620”—the introductory post on the beta620 site by Joe Fiore noted above.

I hope that over time, the Times begins to regularly season its main site with references and links to its beta620 experimental projects. This more balanced approach will provide even more useful feedback that can help a news organization reality-check its product development decisions, and also leverage the kind of creativity and insight that non-geeks can provide.

Beta620 is an intriguing, promising project. Hopefully it won’t remain a geeky ghetto.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

September 20, 2011

AP launches iCircular weekly ad service for mobile news sites

Although many journalists hate to admit it, advertising circulars are a big reason why many people buy newspapers. This week the AP stepped beyond its core content mission to debut a new service that delivers weekly circular-style digital ads from top national consumer brands to the mobile presences of 40 partner newspaper…

According to an AP press release, the new iCircular service is a “mobile advertising service that appears under a ‘deals’ section on each of these newspapers’ apps and mobile sites.”

Initially, the service features weekly ads for 20 national retailers such as Kohl’s and Kmart.

The service is at least nominally localized and personalized. AP says the iCircular “automatically delivers geo-located deals and special offers nearest to the consumer. For smartphone users, iCircular also provides tools to create shopping lists, to connect to social media and to store loyalty card information.”

Such ad delivery services may be a good idea for newspapers, since—as U.K. researchers noted at a recent journalism conference, most newspapers are messing up their mobile strategies by failing to consider the business model and consumer value proposition in that environment.

The AP release did not disclose how revenues for iCircular mobile ads are handled.

For all partner papers, iCircular is integrated as a section within their mobile web site—a smart place to start if you want to reach the largest possible mobile audience, since feature phones still outnumber smartphones two to one, and since many feature phones and BlackBerry devices include web browsers. Some papers also are offering iCircular within their iPhone or Android apps.

It appears that some bugs may need to be worked out, both with how the service works on mobile phones and how its value is communicated to users.

On the technical side, I tested the San Francisco Chronicle’s mobile web implementation of iCircular. It had difficulty accepting my location data, and also generated an error when I tried to get information on local specials from Macy’s. But technical bugs can generally be solved.

Perhaps the larger challenge is that right now mobile visitors to a participating news site simply see a section heading called “iCircular” somewhere near the middle or bottom of the mobile news site’s home page. How are they supposed to know what this is? It might make more sense to label this “weekly coupons” or something similarly intuitive to consumers.

Also, clicking that section link in your mobile web browser yields a page that lists store brand names and logos, but no immediate examples of the kind of deals on offer that week. This might make it difficult for consumers to decide which store to check out first—and anything that makes clicking decisions harder means more mobile users are likely to give up.

Of course, this project is just beginning its pilot phase, so bugs are to be expected. It’ll be interesting to see this effort develop—and which other mobile advertising solutions emerge for newspaper sites and apps.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

October 24, 2011

Crowdsourcing R&D: USA Today starts licensing data for commercial use

News organizations generate lots of stories, and this body of work represents a database with value for reuse. USA Today had offered this data only for personal and noncommercial use, but now they’re open to selling it for use in some commercial projects.

The point may not be to make money directly off licenses, but rather to indirectly expand their business opportunities via crowdsourced R&D…

On Oct. 13 the USA Today developer team announced new commercial terms of use for their articles, reviews and census via its application programming interfaces (APIs).

Nieman Journalism Lab explains that this means USA Today is “offering commercial licensing of its data on a case-by-case basis. Premium licenses would remove rate limits and caps for data-hungry programs, too. That means USA Today can make money selling its data and app developers can make money using it.”

So far, commercial licenses will be granted on a case-by-case basis. No pricing has been announce yet.

In the U.K., the Guardian has been offering a similar “freemium” model for access to content via its Open Platform services since last year. They also recently hosted a two-day internal hackathon to spur development ideas by their staff.

How much revenue can this bring in? In a GigaOm post, Mathew Ingram observed that direct licensing revenues may not be significant, but “it allows for experimentation outside the traditional confines of the publication itself—and that can generate valuable ideas and feedback.”

In other words, commercial licensing of a news organization’s content via an API is a way of outsourcing R&D creativity, to take advantage of expertise and perspectives that are hard to find within most news organizations. Also, developers are more likely to do their best work when they stand to earn a profit. Of course, many news organizations lack the internal tech capabilities to develop their own APIs. But perhaps that represents a market opportunity for developers to assess content databases and develop APIs on behalf of news organizations?

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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