Jacet Utko, the Polish architect-turned-newspaper designer, believes there is no particular reason technologically for the print edition to endure. To make it relevant, it has to capitalize on its design advantages.
Utko has a basic message: Give the designer more power inside the paper and the audience will come. His track record is impressive. Utko has taken some of the dullest-looking eastern European papers and turned them into Society for News Design winners.
He spoke recently to a TED gathering. His eight-minute presentation is attached.
Techcrunch is reporting today the launch of Tinker, a service from Glam Media that will provide micropayments for Facebook and Twitter microbloggers.
The aim is to aggregate content from particular themes or events in associated widgets and support it with advertising (Tinker intends to make sure obscenities don't creep into the mix to alienate those advertisers, when they wish). It will split revenue with the creators in its new Tinker Micro-Bloggers Network.
It's an interesting development in the micropayment/link economy. Undoubtedly others will arrive in the time ahead as the blogosphere/Twitterverse looks for models to sustain content creation.
If you haven't had a chance to absorb Jeff Jarvis' What Would Google Do?, take a moment and go through the attached PowerPoint presentation as a taste of the book.
I reviewed the book recently for The Vancouver Sun and some of our chain's newspapers distributed the review, but I recently re-read parts of it and came away further impressed with its foresight.
While Jarvis can be a bit over-certain of his position on the newspaper industry --- I just don't think things are as grim as he portrays --- many of his approaches to open-sourcing content and the link economy are vital elements of any discussion today on digital media. All of us can learn from him.
Jarvis has been taking a bit of a ribbing on charging for the book and not making a free version available. He's been pulling bits of it into his Buzzmachine blog, but this is a better representation of the ideas. Essentially here he's doing what Google would do.
Internet advertising grew in 2008, even though the U.S. economy slowed. A new report from PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Interactive Advertising Bureau indicates online ad revenue grew 10.6 per cent to $23.4 billion US.
Search advertising is the principal area of growth within the online sector. It increased 19.8 per cent to more than $10.5 billion. Display advertising, meanwhile, was relatively flat --- $7.6 billion, up from $7.07 billion a year earlier --- an indication that advertisers are not finding it the best choice at the moment.
Digital video advertising, relatively small in the overall total, more than doubled in the year to $734 million from $324 million.
But an indication of challenging times is in the data: a mere 2.6-per-cent growth rate in the fourth quarter.
A Slideshare presentation of the IAB report is attached.
The State of the Media report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism has published a special report today from a survey of 300 Online Journalism Association (ONA) members (me included).
It examined attitudes and practices in the craft and drew some conclusions based on the large sampling. Among the findings from online journalists:
- More optimism than their legacy counterparts and a strong belief journalism is headed in the right direction.
- Support for the rich-media attributes of digital journalism as positive developments for the craft.
- Concern that standards were loosening, journalists' power was weakening, and speed was subsuming accuracy.
- Predictions that advertising support will be the prime revenue stream in the years to come.
The survey determined a majority of online sites were profitable but had been cross-subsidized by legacy media.
Jack Shafer's latest column for Slate pokes at the assertion that the decline of the newspaper is by implication a dimmed democracy.
Unlike many print-averse commentators who have taken on this topic in recent months, Shafer comes at it from a more positive place --- he loves papers and buys four each day out of his own pocket.
He sifts through the paper and sees precious little that equates with a furtherence of democracy.
"Even an excellent newspaper carries only a few articles each day that could honestly be said to nurture the democratic way. Car bomb in Pakistan? Drug war in Mexico? Flood in North Dakota? Murder in the suburbs? Great places to get Thai food after midnight? A review of the Britney Spears concert? New ideas on how to serve leftover turkey? The sports scores? The stock report? Few of these stories are likely to supercharge the democratic impulse."
Indeed, to suggest so is to place too much pressure on the paper as a cheat-sheet for democracy, he asserts. 'On those occasions that newspapers do produce the sort of work that the worshippers of democracy crave, only rarely does the population flex its democratic might."
Shafer asserts it's time to stop equating the loss of newspaper might with a loss of democratWithout the newspaper, he says, voters will still find enough information to make their institutions accountable and pick the right candidates.
I caught up over the weekend with a lovely essay written by former Atlanta Journal-Constitution executive editor John Walter, discovered posthumously by his family on his computer and reprinted by Poynter in recent days.
It's a sentimental look at the newspaper and it blames three people for their decline: essayist A.J. Liebling, who first raised the notion of newspaper monopolies; a designer in Louisville who brought about modern newspaper design; and Al Neuharth, the Gannett execuive who convinced public markets that newspapers could perennially achieve high returns.
That precis hardly does justice to the elegant tone of Walter's essay, which is a worthwhile read.
Huffington Post has created a $1.75-million fund for the coming year to hire 10 journalists and freelancers to develop stories concerning the U.S. economy. It is the latest entry into journalism through the philanthropic route.
This is being extolled as an investigative journalism initiative, which is always a bit of a danger entering an exercise because it raises expectations. It might be better for HuffPo to simply say it's going to establish a fund for journalism, period. It is, after all, a site with tens of millions of page views each month that depends almost entirely on free submissions. This fund more than doubles its workforce.
The initiative is a partnership with The Atlantic Philanthropies, which focuses on health, aging, population, reconciliation, human rights and youth. Other donors are involved, too.
A strong feature of the fund is that all Web sites will be permitted to carry the results of the journalists' work simultaneously.
It is getting to be a familiar refrain. Week after week essay after essay appears on what is being lost and what might not be retrieved as the American newspaper diminishes in capacity and connection.
The latest comes from Philadephia Inquirer political columnist Dick Poleman, who posts a lament on what a newspaper provides and what will go missing as cuts ensue and endure in an industry once more populous and explorative.
Poleman notes the proposed Newspaper Revitalization Act has about as much chance as any of the thousands of bills before Congress in getting passed. But he makes an interesting point: Why not support newspapers when the chief reason for their decline is the much-publicly-supported Internet? After all, the Defence Department and other agencies ensured the Internet got on its feet and grew.
Then he moves into all-too-familiar terrain. He cites a years-long investigation of Vince Fumo, a corrupt local politician, by an Inquirer reporter and asks those who seem to take glee in the decline of the paper --- even its death: "If local newspapers die, who's going to be around to root out the next Fumo? You?"
It is easy to understand the emotion inside many print journalists who feel their good deeds underappreciated and their frustration as the business model shifts underfoot. Been there, done that.
Personally, and not speaking for my associates or my employer, I just wish we would move from that stage of frustration into a phase of applying our talent to what we do best: navigate and act intelligently in degrees of stress and crisis. The laments have their place, but that place is getting crowded and not necessarily more interesting.
What is more interesting is the work being done in places like Revenue Two Point Zero or the many digital enterprises looking for innovative ways to support good journalism in the time ahead. We won't get out of our challenges by identifying what we're losing for those who don't see it or don't much care about it.
I've spent a bit of time today learning as much as I can about Hunch, the new social media application from the co-founder of Flickr, Caterina Fake. (My official invite is en route.)
Hunch is a decision-tree-meets-Wikipedia. It enables you to search expert advice to help arrive at a decision (beyond a hunch, if you will). What new computer should I get? Do I need to move? All told it will ask you a pile of questions and then give you a considered answer.
I'm going to call it a new form of journalism, because it involves interrogation and research (the data it collects could very well have further applications in that realm).
Fake's blog suggests the business model will involve products and services creeping into the adjacent space when certain topics are explored. For the time being, it's clear that monetization is less important than experience.
At the moment there are 500 topics, but the framework of the site will permit users to widen that (a la Wikipedia) and find new uses for the intelligent agents that lurk inside the software.
I'll be interested to try it.