I've written an essay for our chain of newspapers and sites on the transformation into Web-first newsrooms.
The information is rather basic to those who are familiar with the themes of newsroom change. It's written for a general audience. But I've tried to make some points about how there are many successes for local newspapers as they gain experience on the Web and with social media.
The early conventional wisdom was that the irregular newspaper reader was all too pleased to get the content free online and readily left the paper behind.
The next orthodoxy was that the remaining newspaper readership was steady and loyal and used the Web site between editions to receive breaking news and several online-only features.
But a new study from the Annenberg School of Communications at USC suggests a larger body of people do give up their papers when they can get the content online.
The study was conducted last June and suggests 22 per cent of Internet users have cancelled a newspaper subscription because of the availability of the content online. What isn't clear in the study is whether these were newspaper loyalists in the first place, but the notion they were subscribers suggests they were stronger customers than many of the early departing customers.
But the numbers are interesting for online newspaper readership: An average of 53 minutes a week on the Internet, well up from previous years and 41 minutes in 2007.
The annual USC study indicates that online remains the best opportunity for newspaper success in the years ahead, but that new models will need to be built to create a sustainable operation.
It's a twist on the which-newspaper-will-die game: Predicting which Web site will survive.
It is true that many upstarts are now middle-aged media and that the culling of the herd hasn't taken hold in quite the same way online as it has in legacy media in recent years --- even if the business model is challenged.
Vanity Fair has identified certain dinosaur-sounding species and selected the possible survivors and victims in the time ahead. Media Darwinism, it calls it.
Kevin Anderson of The Guardian cites four principles of digital news development in his Corante blog post.
1. Journalists high and low on the food chain need to know about software development.
2. Newsrooms need to build reusable digital elements.
3. Thinking interactivity isn't always a technological challenge.
4. Strategic projects require long-term vision.
His post is insightful on the Guardian's approach and on guides for other newsrooms.
Speculation continues about Google's next big move, and it was interesting to read the reporting of Sharon Waxman at her blog, The Wrap, about Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt revealed to her at a party that Google's next big application will be a page that serves news to you based on your consumption patterns --- a sort of news-finds-you model --- against which it will sell premium advertising. The first two organizations that will be moved through this service will be The New York Times and Washington Post.
Schmidt reiterated non-interest in the content business.
Guest contributors Edward Wasserman writes in The Miami Herald about the challenges of financing journalism and the realization that journalism may no longer be the preserve of those paid to do it.
He sees the emergence of the op-ed model, crowdsources, contribution-fed opinionated aggregators. There are several problems to the model, not the least of which is coherence and commitment.
"In the economic crisis that's shaking journalists out of the conventional news business, we may have no choice but to trust to the zeal and generosity of volunteers to keep journalism alive -- and retain some semblance of the scrutiny and accountability that keeps public life honest," he writes.
The Audit Bureau of Circulation released data today portraying two very different pictures of newspaper distribution in the U.S. and Canada.
In the U.S. the circulation decline was seven per cent, with all but two of the top 25 papers expressing a drop in sales.
In Canada, meanwhile, there were several bright spots in Quebec, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
Overall in Canada the picture was markedly better than that of the U.S., even though the Toronto-based newspapers experienced declines.
The New York Times' Virginia Heffernan has taken a dim view of the phenomenon of reader comments attached to online posts. They disappoint, they fail to persuade, they rant and rave, they do everything but what they should set out to do, she asserts.
Heffernan's pt feels very much like the broad brush stroke she ascribes to those who take the time to comment on columns and perspectives. It's only anecdotally researched and fails to find any of the many valuable uses for the involvement of readers in the content.
Rather than explore the purpose of comments, she has chosen to decry them and spend precious little time on understanding the ways in which some outlets (like Slate.com, for instance) have modified the free-for-all to improve the quality of submissions.
Social media-savvy Umair Haque suggests in a Harvard Business post that The New York Times ought to buy Twitter. Normally this would go unnoticed, except that Haque has been connected to some of the most interesting advice in media in recent years.
1. A new distribution system.
2. A mechanism to provide context.
3. A form of building meaningful relationships with users.
4. A sheer experiment, in itself a noble idea.
Haque acknowledges pretty much that the idea is his alone in floating and that there aren't likely takers in large numbers. But he puts it out there.
In his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog, Alan Mutter chides the newspaper and publishing industries for devising plans to crack down on those unfairly/illegally using copyrighted material.
Mutter, a former print executive now in Silicon Valley, isn't one of those free-culture advocates who says anything goes.
Rather, he's making a practical observation: The time taken to crack down will not yield a decent return, largely because it's difficult to police and there are few who would be able to pay whatever you'd win in a legal action.
Those driving large traffic and revenue will be smart enough to stay within the U.S. fair use principles editorially --- using snippets of content and linking out to full sources, he predicts.
Here is one snippet as an example: "If the time, trouble and cost of policing content are likely to net only limited amounts of new revenue for print publishers, don’t they have more important things to do?"