31 July 2007

Keys to Success Suggested for Local Online Papers

A comprehensive local events calendar, extensive local video coverage and a string of paid freelance contributors are keys to online success for local newspapers, Internet journalist and entrepreneur Robin Miller writes in a recent Online Journalism Review article.

Miller warns that newspapers can’t rely only on their local brand recognition to dominate online news in their communities. Anyone with a good idea and basic technical savvy can compete successfully. ‘The real question is not whether we will see the development of dominant local online news operations run by Web-hip publishers and editors,’ he says, ‘but whether those Web-hip publishers and editors will work for existing local newspapers or for new, Web-only publications that eventually replace newspapers as the dominant source of local news.’

However, he predicts, a newspaper that is savvy about its online offering and that puts ‘the same amount of energy and budget into promoting it as it does into drumming up print subscribers,’ should not only be profitable but ‘may eventually be able to make its website replace profits lost as its print edition loses steam.’

More suggestions and details are available at www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/070724miller/

29 July 2007

Online Newspaper Visits Up

The Newspaper Association of America reports that more people visited newspaper Web sites in the second quarter of 2007 than ever before, according to an article in the trade journal Editor & Publisher.

About 37 percent of all active Internet users, a total of 59 million people, visited newspapers online from April to June, a 7.7 percent jump compared to the same period last year. Page views inched up during the quarter, to about 2.7 billion page views per month compared with 2.5 billion page views for the same period a year ago. And the average monthly time spent per person increased slightly to 40 minutes and 44 seconds, up from 39 minutes and 29 seconds in the 2006 period.

The month of May was also a record breaker, with more than 60 million people visiting online newspapers, up 6.7 percent compared to May 2006.

The NAA press release contains additional data.

21 July 2007

Surviving and Thriving

A ‘digital literacy guide for the information age’ has just been released by the US-based Knight Citizen News Network and is available for free download.

In his introduction, whose title borrows the English proverb ‘A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor,’ Mark Briggs writes: `As journalists, we need to change our practices to adapt, but not our values. ... No amount of wishing for a return to smooth seas will calm the water around us.’

He adds that it is now ‘time to tack,’ using best practices as a guide. `This product in all its forms - journalism - is worth saving. It creates community on so many levels. And it creates marketplaces that are essential to the continuing viability of entire companies. Newspapers had a virtual monopoly on their marketplaces for decades. That’s ending now so the trick is to create new marketplaces before old ones completely disappear. Not necessarily to replace them right away, but to complement and support them.’

There's much more here. Check out this excellent new resource at www.kcnn.org/resources/journalism_20.

20 July 2007

Experience and Passion

The hyperlocal site Backfence.com may have failed as a business, but a network of grassroots sites could still tap into a very lucrative advertising market for a low investment relative to the potential gain, long-time journalist and current online editor Tom Grubisich writes for Online Journalism Review.

That investment would include both editorial and technical staff, as well as a fund for paying citizen contributors more than a pittance.

Success, he suggests, would hinge on whether the sites succeeded in connecting with their communities and producing content that users found `generally interesting, sometimes significant and occasionally indispensable.’ To that end, sites would need ‘above all, experienced and passionate editors collaborating with experienced and passionate citizens.’

Details and additional suggestions are available at www.ojr.org/ojr/stories/070719grubisich.

19 July 2007

Online Readers Count, Too

The U.S. Audit Bureau of Circulations has decided to count readers who log on to a newspaper website toward the paper’s official circulation, according to a Press-Gazette report and the ABC website.

The combination of print and online readership figures should please publishers, who have complained that print-only circulation figures present a false picture and discourage advertisers. The decline in newspaper advertising has accelerated in 2007, particularly in classifieds, putting some American newspaper stocks into a tailspin even at high-profile companies such as The New York Times and Gannett.

Beginning this fall, newspapers will be able to report in-market print, online and net combined readership as measured by Scarborough Research. Monthly Web site unique visitors also will be reported from sources such as Nielsen//NetRatings and comScore Inc. Information will be available to ABC members in a customizable online database.

More information is available from the Press-Gazette and the ABC.

12 July 2007

Sound Advice for Visual Storytellers

Television editors asked to provide feedback on the audio slideshows produced by news organizations highlighted pacing as one of the key areas for improvement, according to a recent report from PoynterOnline.

Award-winning NBC News editor John Hyjek said the slideshows often were too slowly paced. He says he uses his ‘Rule of Waldo,’ named for the comic in which Waldo is a figure hidden in a visually busy illustration. ‘What happens when you find Waldo? You turn the page, of course. You move on to the next illustration. In the same vein in video editing, the moment you glean the important information, it's time to move on to the next shot,’ Hyjek said.

Other issues identified by the video professionals were overuse of transitional special effects such as dissolves, fades and zooms; and excessive reliance on an interview or narrator rather than on environmental sound.

`The importance of sound is to bring the viewer a much more intimate sense of reality, to take the viewer where we went,’ said Jim Douglas, a former national photographer of the year. His recommendation: `Listen, listen and listen some more. Close your eyes and hold your breath and hear.’

More tips, reactions and advice are available from the PoyterOnline site at www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=125795

Growing Pains

Online growth will not offset traditional print losses for at least four years, a Goldman Sachs market analyst said this month in rating two U.S. media companies – including the owner of online usage-leader The New York Times – as ‘sells.’

Analyst Peter Appert said the transition from a print focus to one that blends print and online outlets presents difficulties for newspaper publishers. He anticipates the companies will face falling revenue, margin pressure and reduced free cash flow over the next several years as they acclimate to the transition.

`Ultimately, we believe newspaper publishers will re-emerge as very healthy and dominant players in the local media marketplace, but with margins that will not likely match the more than 20 percent levels the industry has historically enjoyed,’ Appert wrote in a client note.

A more complete version of the story is available from several online sources, including Forbes.

11 July 2007

Quality Time

Influential U.S. market research firm Nielsen//NetRatings has announced that its website comparisons will begin emphasizing how long visitors spend on websites, rather than how many times they view a page, according to a story in the Los Angeles Times.

Until now, website popularity rankings have favoured sites such as AoL that attract heavy users of e-mail and instant messaging. The move is likely to benefit sites such as MySpace that emphasize user engagement.

The new form of measurement is not anticipated to change where advertisers are putting their dollars online. But it might change the way websites are structured. For example, there would be less incentive to spread newspaper stories across multiple pages in order to increase page views.

More varied online content, including the growth in video, as well as technological changes in how pages are constructed and updated, have lessened the utility of page views as a usage indicator, industry observers say.

An Associated Press version of this story is available through Yahoo! News.

10 July 2007

Hyperlocal Ghost Towns

The U.S.-based site backfence.com, heralded as a virtual town square for communities too small for local media to bother with, is shutting down two years after its launch after burning through its $3 million in venture capital.

American Journalism Review suggests that as mainstream media become more savvy about, and interested in, hyperlocal content, independent businesses are becoming harder to sustain. Only a few claim to show a profit; the overwhelming majority of an estimated 500 such sites lose money, according to a survey by J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism.

Perhaps the hottest hyperlocal site in America today, Baristanet.com, is a snarky local-news-and-commentary offering that covers two upscale New York suburbs. It attracts about 80,000 unique visitors a month, as well as local advertisers. But even this success reportedly translated to only about $60,000 (£30,000) in revenue last year.

In the meantime, very large media companies -- including Gannett, the Washington Post Company, and the Tribune company -- are offering their own hyperlocal content, in print and/or online.

‘What we're struggling with, and every major paper is struggling with, is how to reach our audience on a granular level, in a way we've never reached them before,’ says the editor in charge of the Post’s hyperlocal efforts in suburban Loudoun. ‘No one thing is going to change [the newspaper industry's] future. But a lot of things might. That's why we have to do this, even if we can't say for certain what kind of business success we might have. It's part of our mission. It has to be part of our mission in serving our readers and our communities.’

The full AJR article is available online at www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4343

09 July 2007

What’s the Buzz?

A couple of recent additions to the tools available for tracking user-generated content can help journalists make sense of the chatter clutter, Cyberjournalist.net’s Jonathan Dube suggests in the Web Tips section of poynter.org.

The first is Omgili, which scans millions of online discussions on more than 100,000 message boards and forums. Each search page also offers an online buzz graph showing how many posts were made daily for the past month. There’s also Omgili Buzz, which gives a daily overview of the most popular discussion topics in areas such as videos, movies, news, games, DVDs and books; and Omgili Graphs, which lets you compare the amount of buzz on topics of your choice. These can then be embedded on your site.

The second is popurls.com, which taps into the increasing popularity of sites that let users submit, save and vote for Web pages they find online. The site lists the top stories and Web pages that have been highlighted by users on a range of social bookmarking and citizen media sites, including digg.com, del.icio.us, newsvine.com, fark.com and more. Top headlines from Google News, Wired News and other sites also are provided.

More Web Tips are available at: poynter.org/column.asp?id=32

05 July 2007

Incentives for 'Citizen Stringers'

In his latest ‘Stop the Presses’ column, long-time digital media practitioner and observer Steve Outing considers the idea of offering small incentives to citizen journalists who can write about the hyperlocal events that newspaper do not have the staff resources to cover.

He suggests establishing a program to solicit applicants – enabling editors to assess applications, with an eye for people who are passionate about the topic and, ideally, are able to communicate both in words and with visuals – and enable the paper to pay ‘citizen stringers’ small amounts to cover events. A financial reward, even a very small one, motivates people to submit content of decent quality.

‘Grassroots reporting will be a mix of good, sometimes excellent quality, and absolute crap,’ Outing writes. ‘But the latter is what editors are there to protect against, and they can keep the crap from being highlighted and position the best stuff prominently.’

Moreover, he adds: ‘There's a darn good chance that a citizen correspondent who, for example, is a serious flower hobbyist, and who you pay $5 per blog post, will do a much better job of covering a local flower show than some poor staff reporter who's assigned to cover it and provides sleepy, dull coverage.’

He also stresses the value of labelling the source of content, especially when the site offers a mix of items from professional journalists and community members. Bylines such as ‘By Jane Jones, citizen correspondent’ are appropriate, with the title linked to an explanation that this person is not a professional journalist and the newspaper does not vet or warrant her submission.

The full article (time-sensitive for non-subscribers) is available online.

04 July 2007

Police Praise JP Newspaper’s Video

Police have praised the Peterborough Evening Telegraph after the paper’s Web site featured CCTV camera footage of last month’s attack of a young boy, complementing still photos on the printed paper’s front page, according to media monitor site HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk.

More than 5,000 people viewed the video before it was withdrawn for legal reasons when an arrest was made. Dozens of visitors left comments on the story, some offering names of those allegedly involved.

A police spokesman said leads in the inquiry had been ‘drying up’ until the paper ran the video, but called reader response ‘very encouraging.’

Assistant editor Brad Barnes, who oversees the paper’s digital operations, told HoldtheFrontPage that releasing the video was an unprecedented step for Cambridgeshire police -- and running it was a first for the paper, as well. He added: ‘The huge public response shows what can be achieved when our printed product and our website are used together. It is clearly the way forward.’

More information is available at www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/news/2007/07july/070704arrest.shtml

Trans-Pond Push for National Papers

The UK’s leading newspaper sites are stepping up efforts to court American readers and advertisers, according to a recent article in The New York Times. Among recent or forthcoming online efforts:

* The Guardian is preparing to introduce a GuardianAmerica home page aimed at the roughly 2.5 million users who visit the paper’s Web site each month from America.

* Times Online has already created a separate global home page, distinct from its British edition. It is enhancing its search-engine optimization and other techniques intended to draw in American readers, who tend to arrive from aggregator sites such as Google News.

Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Unlimited, says the fact that American media have cut back on international reporting, at a time when audiences are looking for more coverage of areas such as the Middle East, has been among the factors in the site’s overseas success.

Despite their heavy usage in the States, the two newspapers have had trouble attracting American advertising. Advertising budgets generally still are allocated according to national boundaries and media format; media-buying firms as yet have no category for newly acquired American audiences of British papers.

Media analysts and blogger Jeff Jarvis told The New York Times that British papers hoping to sell ads in the United States ought to consider joining together to form a single sales operation, rather than competing against each other. He also suggested they join with the BBC and established players such as The Economist and The Financial Times for advertising.

'None of these organizations is going to be able to support individually a dedicated and robust sales staff,' he said. 'They all recognize they have a big opportunity in the United States, but they are all uncertain about how to take advantage of it.'

The full story is available free for a few more days at www.nytimes.com/2007/07/02/business/media/02bbc.html

02 July 2007

Washingtonpost.com Goes Hyperlocal

The Washington Post, best known for its coverage of national U.S. politics, recently launched Local Explorer, a hyperlocal site with information about communities in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

The site combines Google maps with detailed information on home sales, crime and schools, as well as a range of local services from grocery stores to movie theatres. Classifieds and event listings also are available.

News and some of the community information comes from the Post. Other local information is provided by such sources as local police departments, public transportation agencies and municipal databases.

The site is available at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/local-explorer. Media consultant Peter Krasilovsky offers his take on his site, The Local Onliner.

01 July 2007

High Crossover Readership Reported

Frequent newspaper Web site readers regularly also read the print edition, according to a new study from the Newspaper National Network (NNN) in the United States.

More than 80 percent of respondents to a recent phone survey were ‘crossover’ readers – adults who had read both print and online editions of the same newspaper during the previous week. Almost 90 percent said they had either maintained or increased the amount of time devoted to reading one or both products. Most also reported strong affinity for both the print and online versions, according to the study.

Among Web-only readers, 84 percent said they accessed the online paper for local news.

The NNN is a marketing partnership of the top 24 U.S. newspaper companies and the Newspaper Association of America. A press release and a PowerPoint version of the findings are available for download from the NNN’s Web site at www.nnnlp.com.

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