Monday’s Note: The shift in communications

Monday’s Note by Frédéric Filloux nails the issues news organizations face and the results of journalism’s changing business model.

Highlights are:

  1. The public’s appetite for information has never been greater.
  2. At the same time, due to crumbling business models, editorial resources within news organizations are depleting fast.
  3. Opinion makers have changed.
  4. Today, a large chunk of the news cycle is controlled by legions of digital serfs …
  5. Contents are now tailored for the needs of digital media.
  6. Tools are morphing in the same fashion.

Filloux notes that most journalists are not able to evaluate the news giving increasing control over the message by corporations. For example, content prepared by corporations is being re-published by news organizations as is.

Since distribution channels are the same by companies to both news organizations, consumers, bloggers, etc., many news organizations no longer see a role as being the first group to clarify the message.

The clarification role has greater value, but the demand for that is lower, and the cost of producing it higher, so the ability or willingness to supply it is less too.

A bleak report for news media

The outlook for the news media has yet to find a clear path, concludes today’s release of the State of the News Media. The title says it all State of the News Media 2011: New revenues have not arrived, but new challenges have.

The industry still hopes to find a four-lane highway or yellow brick road leading to a financially stable future. Instead, the quest continues to be more like chopping through a dense jungle with a machete. — Rick Edmonds

The list of problems ranges from the threat by Groupon to continued dwindling of ad revenues for newspapers — online ad revenue was not enough to overcome lost print revenue.

Good pieces to read from the report

> Newspapers: Missed the 2010 Media Rally

(T)he destination that newspaper organizations are trying to reach is pretty clear now — more robust digital enterprises to pick up the slack as print advertising and circulation fall. The path from here to there, unfortunately, once again is not clear at all.

2011 State of the News Media print and online advertising revenues 2003-2010

> Seattle: A New Media Case Study

In the last few years, it has experienced both a sharp loss of traditional news resources and an exciting rise in new journalistic enterprises and inventive collaborations between traditional and emerging media … A new, vibrant media scene is emerging. But it also may not take hold.


Will Apple Tablet disconnect publishers from readers and revenue?

New local tech-business web ventures

GeekWire logoThe two journalists most identified with TechFlash in Seattle, Todd Bishop and John Cook, have left to start a competing site, GeekWire.

The site launched over the weekend of March 5. Their goals for the site are in the post  Welcome to GeekWire, from John Cook and Todd Bishop, including a video of their goals.

TechFlash logoTechFlash plans to fill the positions and plans other changes, says Emory Thomas, publisher of TechFlash and Puget Sound Business Journal. Both sites are part of The Business Journals Digital network, where I work.

Another recent start-up focuses on general business news and was founded by a master’s student at Louisiana State University. Baton Rouge Business Journal, was founded by Ariel Hammond, who wants to be a business journalist.  The site competes against Baton Rouge Business Report, which is owned by Louisiana Business Inc.

Both sites are WordPress sites. The tools and equipment needed to start an online news site are low. The biggest cost is human costs. The biggest challenge is finding revenue to cover those costs.

Previous posts:

What digital dimes from print dollars looks like

From Monday Note byFrédéric Filloux: The Publisher’s Dilemma

Let’s face it: the online advertising business model, when applied to the transformation of the newspaper industry, is largely failure. The reasons are well known:
– The profusion of free, news-related contents diluted the perceived value of editorial-rich “trusted brands”.
– More agile competitors, quite adept at using sophisticated audience-catching techniques (that are implemented at a fraction of the cost of a modern printing plant).
– The endless stream of pages with hundreds of URLs added each day ended up destroying any balance in the supply vs. demand mechanism.
– The resulting pressure on prices, as “premium” ad formats slowly yielded to bulk fire sales.
– An unreliable audience measurement system that rewards cheating instead of editorial quality or relevance.
– The advertising community’s inability to base their purchases on solid market analyses.


And on GigaOm by Mathew Ingram: Memo to Newspapers: Incremental Change is Not Helping, which buils on Filloux’s article:

Washington Post print and online revenue 2004-2010




That should keep both journalists and the business side of newspapers awake at night.

NY Times examines black-hat SEO by JC Penney

The New York Times story “The Dirty Little Secrets of Search” is describes the various ways JC Penney employed through a hired SEO company to get itself to prime places in Google search for phrases ranging “area rugs” to “dresses”.

Now that the results have been disclosed, Penney will pay a penalty. Google is not amused when its system has been tricked. Google seems more regal when portrayed in articles like Wired’s “Exclusive: How Google’s Algorithm Rules the Web“, which was awe-inspiring in the attention given to search results and to make them as useful as it could. Oh to see Google’s results compared to its competitors. it’s easy to see why it continues to dominate over Yahoo and Bing.

But black-hat SEO companies mock Google. The techniques they use take Google’s efforts and ridicule them and use them against Google itself. The methods have been around for years, but it’s been mostly discussed in the tech circles. The NY Times articles just brought it to the general public and embarrasses Google more publicly.

Since the NY Times story, Penney has dismissed the SEO company, SearchDex, and other companies are expected to look over the SEO practices they use and hire. The reward of prominent Google listings is too much for some companies to rely on the vague and uncertainty of white-hat SEO efforts.


Scene from "Angel and the Badman"

Two tools I used — Vox and Bloglines headed for the dead pool

bloglines logoBloglines announced today that they are closing Oct. 1. I’ve used them since 2004, and while it’s trailed Google Reader for several years, it’s remained my favorite. Also I still have some marked items since 2004, I haven’t gotten around to reading.

So I’ll switch to Google Reader, but even that’s a twindling market.


But people no longer seem to be abandoning certain readers for others—or for other ways to access those same feeds. Instead, they appear to be abandoning RSS readers as a way to read the news altogether. Hitwise, for instance, tells us that visits to Google Reader are down 27 percent year-over-year, while visits to Bloglines are down 71 percent year-over-year. comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) figures show that traffic to Bloglines has largely stagnated:

TechCrunch summarized Bloglines’ demise this way:

Bought by IAC’s in February 2005 for around $10 million, the site has been in jeopardy ever since the launch of Google Reader long ago, compounded by the shift from RSS  to realtime news streams. Over the past few years, the site hasn’t launched any new or innovative features to boost usage. While we’ve heard in the past that IAC was considering shutting down the site, the company held off on killing the site permanently and was looking for ways to refurbish Bloglines.

vox logoLast week, the blogging service Vox, owned by Six Apart announced it was closing Sept. 30. I’m still preparing for that close. Vox launched at a time when blogging was hot, but people were concerned about privacy. It’s strength was a family-friendly blogging system where posts could be shared either to anyone on the web, to family, or to friends. That concerned seems to have passed, or it’s such a small group that it cannot be success as a business.

Both products launched with lots of promise, but being mildly successful compared with wildly successful means eventually they ended up in the dead pool.

Talking Biz News reports business journalist salary study

Talking Biz News: SABEW releases salary study results

The median salary for a business reporter was between $60,000 and $65,000, while the median salary for a business section editor was between $75,000 to $80,000. An editor of a business print publication makes a median salary between $95,000 and $100,000.

Salaries are about 75 percent of the actual cost to the employer. Benefit costs and employer taxes add to salary expense.