At first, the notion of a paywall seemed silly. Better to take it down and get the traffic.
But when the traffic didn't turn into profit readily, the notion took on new seriousness. For some time now, publishers have been weighing the benefits of reconstructing a paywall to bring revenue.
In his latest post, veteran media and tech executive Alan Mutter notes the arrival
of new, well-heeled local players in the game (Yahoo, AOL, Huffington Post), all willing to give away content others contemplate placing in behind the paywall.
Mutter's conclusion: "For anyone other than publishers of mission-critical business or government news like the Wall Street Journal and possibly the New York Times, pay walls will not fly. It is time for everyone else to move on to more productive pursuits."
Those pursuits? Unique products for print, online and mobile, valued by customers and advertisers alike. Charging for day-to-day coverage is not likely "fruitful," he argues on his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog.
The New York Times writes about the increasing number of ads online that follow users
from site to site.
The persistent "retargeting" takes advantage of tracking technology and is now a strategy for several companies in their campaigns that understand a first encounter with a product isn't necessarily the point of decision on a sale.
The relevant ads aren't merely related to categories users have followed. They're personalized to the point of serving ads about products or services someone has at one point perused. They follow someone around.
The response has been generally positive, the Times reports, although some feel stalked by products they didn't particularly want but had evaluated --- or were sharing a computer and didn't want others to know about what they were perusing.
Critics are also wondering about whether privacy is being breached and regulation needs to be introduced to moderate the phenomenon.
John Hartigan, the chairman of the News Ltd. chain of Australian papers, believes the new era of digital journalism offers immense opportunities. The challenge is for journalists to find a way to do the work and for management to build an optimal environment for them, "then get out of the way."Hartigan's speech
to the Pacific Area Newspaper Publishers Association was brimming with optimism about a new era of tablet and smartphone news consumption. "The demand for news is greater than ever, and rising rapidly," he said.
Rather than own the news agenda in the morning with the newspaper, publishers need to think about owning it all day, he argued.
"I wish I was starting out all over again," said Hartigan, whose company is a subsidiary of News Corp., run by Rupert Murdoch.
Arthur Brisbane, in his first column
as public editor of The New York Times, lays out his principles nicely and raises one interesting issue for news organizations in the digital age:
"If The Times is going to publish more and faster, it will have to react faster to rectify more mistakes. The speed and volume of correction or response has to try to equal the speed and volume of error."
That's a thought we haven't heard before. Newspapers tend to correct in their next edition, and unless there are legal reasons to strip online content or correct it, usually make the correction in a convenient way online without any proscribed standard of service.
Brisbane promises to see if this idea of a speedy fix is practical in the Times, but he's introduced an intriguing notion.
The New York Times reviews the declaration last week that the Web is dead by contending with media history. Its conclusion
: Media adapt to newcomers and rarely die just because of them.
"Today, traditional media companies face the adaptive challenge posed by the Internet. That challenge is not just the technology itself, but how it has altered people’s habits of media consumption," writes Steve Lohr.
But Lohr notes that history shows evolution, not dissolution, is the order of the day when media are threatened by new forms of communication. What is different this time is the speed of change and the disruption of consumption patterns. As one academic tells him, change has changed.
College students don't wear watches, they carry cellphones as time pieces. They don't email, they text. People don't talk as much on phones; they text and arrange calls for important matters. People aren't blogging as much; instead, they're using social networks to tell their stories.
A few weeks ago the Digital Media Test Kitchen at University of Colorado unfurled some impressive work on the early stages of mobile applications from newsrooms. It's worth taking another look at one element of its work on the specific challenges for news organizations as they embrace --- or don't --- mobile.
Author Lauren Seaton concludes
that the initial apps coming into the market are tepid, far less innovative than non-news organizations are producing, and she wonders why.
"While templates and layouts are similar from app to app, they generally lack originality and creativity," she writes. The smartphone offers opportunities for news organizations to reach audiences, but "most of the news applications that have been created by single news brands do not do enough to encourage interactivity, customization, or creativity."
In another chapter
on the far-reaching report, author Jordan Wirfs-Brock notes the new uses emerging with smartphones and suggests opportunities exist for news organizations in such areas as geo-location, augmented reality, voice-to-text, financial transactions, push reminders, social incentives, multi-touch, and gesture.
Dan Gillmor, the digital journalism veteran, is finishing a book (Mediactive) that encourages people to participate and not just consume media. But he's stymied in finding a term to describe this participation.
"We are all creating media. Any one of us can, and many of us will, commit an act of journalism. We may contribute to the journalism ecosystem once, rarely, frequently or constantly. How we deal with these contributions -- deciding to try one, what we do with what we’ve created, and how the rest of us use what’s been created -- is going to be complex and evolving. But it’s the future."
Are those people journalists? Creators? Collaborators? Participators? And, does it really matter?
Gillmor, in a post on Salon.com
, suggests it does. In an era of mass social production, he believes we need a term to fit those who choose to play. Trouble is, he doesn't have one. Do you?
A report today from the Pew Internet & American Life Project
suggests social media is fast becoming the communication format of choice among older Americans.
The report surveyed Internet-connected adults in May and found 42 per cent of those aged 50 and older were using social media, up from 22 per cent a year earlier. Among those aged 50 to 64 growth was 88 per cent (47 per cent, compared to 25 per cent a year ago), and among those 65 and older it was 100 per cent (26 per cent, compared to 13 per cent a year ago).
Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social networking tools, but the report found that one in five older adults use them daily. Email continues to be the strongest form of communication digitally for older adults --- it is no longer so for younger adults --- but in the last year Pew found that one in 10 Internet users aged 50 and older now use Twitter or another service to update their networks, double the number of a year ago.
The study also found that online news consumption remains high among older adults. Three-quarters of older adults look to the Internet for news and 42 per cent do so daily. Among those aged 65 and older, 62 per cent use the Internet to consume news and 34 per cent do so daily.
There is an important caveat in the study: It is, like all such studies, a survey of Internet-connected older adults. But it does suggest a swiftly emerging demographic of interest for the news business.
The term "hyperlocal" suggests several things: Very granular content on specific places, aggregated content that depicts a new local picture, or subject matter or content that deals with geographic organization, among them. Sarah Hartley, who runs the city blogs for The Guardian, thinks we need to reconsider the
She thinks it's more about an attitude than about geography. She's identified 10 features of hyperlocal:
1. The author's participation.
2. The blurring of opinion and fact.
3. The community's participation.
4. Small in scale but large in impact.
10. Frugal and economically fledgling.
Are there others? What do you think?
Futurist Ross Dawson spoke this week
at the Newspaper Publishers Association conference in his native Australia and delivered a new timeline
for the point-of-no-return-to-glory newspaper: 2022. By that time, he expects most media companies will have transformed into thriving new media businesses.
Note that Dawson doesn't say newspapers will die/disappear/dissolve by then, only that their relevance will diminish to the point of irrelevance.
Dawson believes that within a dozen years e-reading tablets won't cost much more than pharmaceutical tablets --- about $10 --- and they will be the primary form of news consumption. He thinks news will be increasingly crowdsourced and that individual reputations of journalists will drive the size of audiences.
Meantime, news companies will need to transform into firms emphasizing social connection.
As for revenue, it will grow but disperse, Dawson predicts.