January 2005 Archives

Update on NY Times Online considers subscription fee from Newsday -- Times may charge fee on Web site. "(I)t doesn't immediately plan to charge a subscription fee for access to its Web site, but an online survey hinted at moves in that direction."

Also: "The survey outlined pricing options from $13.49 to $15.99 a month for full access. Daily access might be obtained for $1 a day."

This comes just days after NY Times runs piece on day Dow Jones completes purchase of Marketwatch about news sites having an inventory shortage as demand to advertise online runs ahead of their ability to deliver page views. With MarketWatch now, Dow Jones hopes to capture more advertising than it had available with wsj.com

Wal-Mart, newspapers still squabble

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Two weeks ago, Wal-Mart ran full-page ads in more than 100 daily newspapers to help counter the negative publicity it has received over the past years on things from overtime pay to supplier relations. When the ads ran, many newspapers did stories about the PR effort and its new web site, walmartfacts.com.

Last Friday, the National Newspaper Association blasted the strategy: NNA President says community newspapers insulted by Wal-Mart PR strategy. Romenesko has the story and other stories on how Wal-Mart is a threat to newspapers and ad spending.

Good reading from ACBJ -- Jan. 21

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How do you measure up?

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Blog power

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Two recent articles:

Wired News: Like It or Not, Blogs Have Legs

Fortune: Why There's No Escaping the Blog

But there's also downsides:

Wired News: Heartaches of Journalist Bloggers and Blogs May Be a Wealth Hazard

BoingBoing:

I came across this nice calculator at the Economic History Services site. The thing I learned is that there isn't one answer to the question "How much is $100 from 1960 worth today?" From the site:

In 2003, $100.00 from 1960 is worth:

$621.65 using the Consumer Price Index

$502.09 using the GDP deflator

$761.26 using the unskilled wage

$1,297.73 using the GDP per capita

$2,086.61 using the relative share of GDP

The life of two stories

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Two stories from ACBJ's print editions this week lived on across the web. "N&R looks to break tradition with Web changes" in The Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area reported on changes to the daily newspapers to allow more interaction between the newsroom and readers. The story drew was noted by Greensboro, N.C. bloggers, including Ed Cone. Greensboro bloggers are gaining a reputation as a developing city for citizen journalism. No surprise that the bloggers did not like that the Friday print-edition story was not posted on the web until Monday.

Rainforest founder plots big return in The Business Journal (Minneapolis/St. Paul) was a big hit on sites such mugglenet.com, The Leaky Cauldron with the mention that a restaurant chain based on the Harry Potter character was being considered. It was big news for a few hours, but then the story was debunked and others by Rawlings agency. The main source of The Business Journal's story retracted his earlier statements that he had spoken with J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, about opening a theme restaurant based on the character. He also said he does not hold rights to use the character's name.

Looking at the numbers

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The Wall Street Journal launched a new column The Numbers Guy -- "a new column on the way numbers and statistics are used – and abused – in the news, business and politics." First column was about how deadly is bird flu?

I couldn't help wondering if Crichton's State of Fear served to help launch the column. Here's a NY Times profile of Crichton and the book. Crichton's web site has speeches he's given in recent years.

Eat your vegetables and lose weight

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NY Times: U.S. Diet Guide Puts Emphasis on Weight Loss. More ammunition for my doctor.

Good reading from ACBJ -- Jan. 10

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What ACBJ readers liked in Dec.

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BusinessWeek reports this week that NY Times Online is considering a subscription fee. Stories by Reuters and ComputerWorld. NY Times had 18.5 million unique visitors in November. If NY Times charges, will others follow or try to boost their page views from viewers who decide to not charge.

The model of newspapers charging for online content is Wall Street Journal. From Reuters: "The Journal had about 701,000 paid subscribers for its Web edition as of the third quarter." Since it first began charging, the WSJ has slowly let a few pieces from behind the wall.

It was interesting that in November, the WSJ had a free week, like the old free HBO or Showtime weekends.

Comments from Terry Heaton: "The real conundrum for any publication taking this risk is the loss of influence — the ability to set and maintain the editorial agenda of the community it serves" and rexblog: "For the past ten years, the NY Times has been mulling that over. Unless they actually DO announce they are going to charge, IT IS NOT NEWS."

Do red light cameras work?

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NY Times: With Cameras on the Corner, Your Ticket Is in the Mail

While Baltimore reports that violations for running red lights have gone down 60 percent at the 47 intersections with such cameras, several studies in recent years - in places like San Diego, Charlotte, N.C., and Australia - have offered a fuzzier picture. The studies have shown that the reduction in side-angle collisions at the intersections has been wholly or largely offset by an increase in rear-end accidents like Ms. Correa's.

In addition, there has been criticism of the cameras' use to generate revenue from fines - in some cases exceeding $300 per violation, with points on a driver's record - and of revenue-sharing arrangements with providers of the technology. Those arrangements, critics contend, have led to the placement of cameras not necessarily where they would best promote safety, but where they will rack up the most violations.

Back in Sept., Ed Cone pointed to a report by two profs from N.C. A&T Urban Transit Institute. Their conclusion: "The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes."

There wasn't much pick-up of the Sept. study, but now that it's in the NY Times where more journalists can see it...

Email, blogs and English

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NY Times: What Corporate America Can't Build: A Sentence

A recent survey of 120 American corporations reached a similar conclusion. The study, by the National Commission on Writing, a panel established by the College Board, concluded that a third of employees in the nation's blue-chip companies wrote poorly and that businesses were spending as much as $3.1 billion annually on remedial training.

Recalled from last summer just as resolutions are tested.

NY Times: The Fat Epidemic: He Says It's an Illusion.

Dr. Jeffrey Friedman, an obesity researcher at Rockefeller University, argues that contrary to popular opinion, national data do not show Americans growing uniformly fatter.

Instead, he says, the statistics demonstrate clearly that while the very fat are getting fatter, thinner people have remained pretty much the same.

Learning Moveable Type's birthday

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Learning Moveable Type is a good, self-paced site on the details of using Moveable Type with lots of tutorials ranging from controlling spam to converting to PHP. Today the blog is 1-year-old.

More fodder for bloggers

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Pew memo released today: "By the end of 2004 blogs had established themselves as a key part of online culture."

Highlights:

Blog readership shoots up 58% in 2004
6 million Americans get news and information fed to them through RSS aggregators
But 62% of online Americans do not know what a blog is

Dan Gillmor's decision last month to leave the San Jose Mercury News to work on a citizens-journalism project and the increasing roll of blogs (ABC News: People of the Year: Bloggers -- Internet Phenomenon Provides Unique Insight Into People's Thoughts)
in the news media has many writing about the evolving roll of "traditional" or "mainstream" media. Even today's Opus was about blogs.

Steve Outing: What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers says news organizations need to recognize that the news cycle is shorter and that publishing a story is just the beginning of "news as conversation", and not the end as too many organizations follow. Outing notes that bloggers may becoming more traditional as they deal with business plans and growing staffs.

A few days later, Outing wrote What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists advocating the role of the editor (as a second set of eyes), the value of original reporting, the evolving issue of blogger ethics, accuracy and tight headline writing. Outing also raises a risk solo journalists face of the costs of defending themselves from libel.

Jay Rosen writing in PressThink has Top Ten Ideas for 2004. He's still publishing details of the 10, but "The Legacy Media", "He said, she said, we said", Open Source Journalism, or "My readers know more than I do", and "News turns from a lecture to a conversation" gives strong encouragement for citizen journalists.

Philip Meyer wrote in "Saving Journalism" Columbia Journalism Review that the business model of newspapers has been irreversibly changed.

If we are to preserve journalism and its social-service functions, maybe we would be wise not to focus too much on traditional media. The death spiral might be irreversible. We should look for ways to keep the spirit and tradition of socially responsible journalism alive until it finds a home in some new media form whose nature we can only guess at today.

He suggests a foundation-supported, nonprofit model, such as NPR.

The financial pain traditional media feels grows. (ClickZ -- Study: Craigslist Costs Bay Area Newspapers $50M/Year). I haven't seen any recent estimates on revenue newspapers are losing to eBay, online car-buying sites, job posting sites, etc.

Jeff Jarvis in BuzzMachine touches on the various suggestions of how the citizen media can make money including vertical search, content distribution, hosting.

The bottom line to all this is: You can see why I'm not a VC. But that's why I enjoy this discussion happening in public, for we all get to see the thought process -- the betting process -- VCs and entrepreneurs must go through (and I hope more join in).

There's no question that there are big, society-changing things here and that people will make and lose big money on their bets. But which bets will win? Well, your guess is as good as mine. So guess, please....

Gillmor has a new blog about citizen journalism. Gillmor's trigger for leaving was his book, published in the second half of 2004 We the Media declaration>We the Media, which will reports on the citizens media.

NY Times: Boston Mayor Wants Vehicles, Not Cans, in Parking Spaces. Talk about taking on a no-win issue. In Boston, St. Louis and elsewhere, the rule is if you shovel out the space it's yours until the snow melts. I've seen people use traffic cones, milk jugs and lawn chairs to preserve those spots.

Good reading from ACBJ -- Jan. 3

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Books -- Jan. 2

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Current: "Pattern Recognition" by William Gibson

Finished:

"Knoppix Hacks: 100 Industrial-Strength Tips & Tools by Kyle Rankin.

"The Burglar in the Library" by Lawrence Block.

"State of Fear" by Michael Crichton. Crichton includes a bibliography with many of his novels, which increases the credibility of his position. It tells readers: "Go ahead, check it out for yourself. See if I'm right."

Audio Books

Current: "A short history of nearly everything" by Bill Bryson

Finished: "There must be a pony in here somewhere: the AOL Time Warner debacle and the quest for a digital future" by Kara Swisher.