March 30, 2008

Two Announcements

Two quick announcements as we start out a new week...

First, my company has finally relaunched its website. We got rid of the Flash, added lots of content and made all of our research available for you to download directly from our site. While I like Flash for very specific projects - media players, stand-alone timelines, overlays for data-driven applications - I really don't like entire websites that launch as a single .swf file. There are too many barriers for folks on older machines, who don't understand what Flash is (or that they need a Flash player) or who simply don't want to launch the application. Call us retro, but we've decided on basic HTML.

Second, I've decided to help out a friend and veteran journalist Dan Rottenberg on his site, the Broad Street Review. For me, this is an exciting side project - I'm going to help Dan with the site, which is dedicated to arts and culture reporting around the greater Philadelphia area. What I like about BSR is that it's nearly 100% community-driven...but through a unique editing and publishing process, the content is vetted just as rigorously as it would be at, say, the Philadelphia Inquirer or Daily News. While the interactivity may not currently suggest it, BSR is very Web 2.0. It's a dialogue, not at all a monologue. The entire site is conversational - you'll find third and fourth stories on a particular opera performance, and they fold in the comments and thoughts from other writers and readers. Readers very much dictate the stories and arts coverage - and they're encouraged to participate using text, photos, audio and more. BSR may currently lack some of the bells and whistles of other sites, but I don't know of anyone else who's doing this much back-and-forth journalism with their audience.



October 12, 2007

ONA 2007 Conference

Very excited about the ONA Conference that kicks off next week in Toronto! I planned this year's Business Track sessions and helped organize the Super Panel, and I'm really excited to see what folks like Katharine Fong (Mercury News), Erik Schwartz (foneshow), Brian Gruber (, Wendy Warren (Philadelphia Daily News and, Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion and Edelman), Stuart MacDonald (founded Expedia Canada), Ian Clarke (Thoof), Anil Dash (SixApart), Dorian Benkoil (consultant),
Hosam Elkhodary (The Web Analytics Co. Ltd.) have to say. There are many, many others and more than 700 who will be in attendance.

If you plan to be at ONA, please let me know. While we're there, John Havens (BlogTalk Radio) will be recording and streaming live interviews starting next Thursday. You can call in to ask questions (347) 215-7814, too. You can listen to a 30-minute chat about some of the things we've planned for the conference here. Ongoing live coverage will be available here, and you can also subscribe via RSS.

September 05, 2007, iTunes vs. Amazon and the Race to Distribute Video Online

Here was my original theory: NBC Universal and News Corp., at long last, released the name of the video distribution service announced back in March. It's called, and it's still in private beta for now. Partners also include Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and MySpace (part of News Corp.). I'd thought that at some point, NBC would pull its content from iTunes, distribute it via the new service and match or undercut iTunes' $1.99-per-episode model.

From the original press release:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” said Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch. And for the first time, consumers will get what they want -- professionally produced video delivered on the sites where they live. We’re excited about the potential for this alliance and we’re looking forward to working with any content provider or distributor who wants to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

And today, I read that NBC Universal will sell episodes on Amazon's Unbox instead. (Hadn't heard of Unbox? You're not alone.) Same basic pricing structure ($1.99 for TV episodes, $7.99+ for movies).

So what of Hulu? Aside from the wildly bizarre, market-inappropriate name, I see another problem: Video content on Hulu will be...wait for it...monetized solely through advertising. This, after early backlash against the embedded ad overlays on YouTube videos and after developers quickly created software to block them.

Here's my new theory: Sometime in the very near future, news consumers are going to demand ad-free content. In a sense, they already are. Recent studies point to widespread ad aversion. As a consumer myself, I can tell you that last fall I decided not to visit the Philadelphia Inquirer's website,, anymore because of a horrible, inexplicable bouncing jack-o-lantern that forced me to chase it with my mouse and click on a tiny-tiny "x" in order to make the damn ad go away. And let's not forget the Free Porn ads that ran...

In the end, it is advertising that made me a paid subscriber to many of the sites I visit regularly...or permanently drove me away from the sites that didn't offer me the opportunity to pay a set price for an ad-free experience. I consume a huge amount of digital content, and I'm still spending less than $20 a month in total. If it meant I'd get an episode of South Park with absolutely no interruption or embedded ads, I'd be more than happy to contribute a buck or two to a distributor. I'd definitely pay a yearly subscription to get access to Wait Wait, Don't Tell Me and all the other NPR podcasts I download regularly. Same goes for newsprint online.

I mentioned in an earlier post that a graduate class I'm teaching now will explore alternative ways of distributing content using a model that doesn't rely solely on advertising support. I believe strongly that journalistic content can itself be monetized. If the content is compelling and seen as a public necessity, then folks will likely be willing to buy it. They still plunk down a dollar for their local newspaper, right?


August 16, 2007

Oy! The and Yahoo! Partnership will get revenue via ads and links, and Yahoo! will get content. Guess I need to update that Web 2.0 chart to include new partnership deals...

Read the official Yahoo! press release here., which includes the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, joins 18 (or 19? numbers are unclear) paper publishers of nearly 400 newspapers. Those companies include GateHouse Media, Tribune Review Publishing Company (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) and many others. prez Eric Grilly was first out of the gate to bring Yahoo! into an ad distribution partnership with print while he was with MediaNews Group Interactive.

Again, why all the hubbub over Murdoch? Someone please remind me...

Links to other blogs/ sites covering the deal: paidContent, clickZ, Yahoo! Finance, Philebrity.

April 11, 2007

Now on Free Porn!!!

I was clicking through parts of the site just now and came upon what I thought was a strange ad:

Now, I'm the last person to advocate for restriction of speech, especially online. But I was more than surprised to see a banner ad advertising for a free pass to a live show attached to the website of Philadelphia's paper of record.

(Warning: Links below contain mature, adult content.)

I clicked on the ad, and it took me to an image for a free pass to Fantasy Showbar, a club in New Jersey. Naturally, I clicked on the image and found that I'd gotten a free club pass, courtesy of, to either Fantasy Showbar or Club CanCan.

And then I went to the club website. The homepage offers three naked women, and I'm apparently one click away from watching what looks like a teenager masturbate on her bed. Clicking anywhere else on the site will take you directly to extremely explicit photos and videos.

I'm not going to make any judgment on the good or bad of sex sites. Like I said, I believe that speech should be free and that a reasonable forum should be provided for that kind of content.

But I am going to address the way that newspapers are offering content online. I believe what is offering to its users as an advertisement represents a real problem in mainstream journalism.

Here's why: Would the Philadelphia Inquirer, on A-1 or even inside the paper, display an advertisement of three women actively using sex toys? Would NPR run underwriting for a sex club with audio of a couple in action? Yes, editorial and advertising departments are meant to be separate, but there's an obvious reason that you don't see these kinds of ads in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune and so on.

Why is it that a second standard appears to apply to the online sites for major news organizations? If the Inquirer or Daily News wouldn't run an ad like this in the print edition, why is it suddenly okay to run it online...where, in just three clicks, I can get explicit (and I mean hard-core, explicit) adult photos and videos?

When I work with my clients, especially those who are larger media companies, I advise them that they can't just think of online content in terms of an article. Content under that company's banner includes everything on the site. Links (internal and external). Photos. YouTube videos. GoogleAds. Comments left by users.

Publishers have a responsibility to monitor the content not just in their print or broadcast products, but also on their websites. If you ask me, allowing a news site to continue playing second fiddle to the print product is irresponsible. I would venture to say that in the case of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, many more people are using the brand via its website than the newspaper. And we all know that the future of journalism rests within our ability to harness the web.

I hear these arguments all the time from publishers: We shouldn't link externally to sources (even primary sources) because we can't control the content on that website. We don't want to allow unmoderated user commenting because of what someone might say. We can't just allow anyone to upload photos or video to our websites! We have a brand image to protect!

And yet the ad sales department can do what it wants?

I'd seriously like to know what, if any, standards newsrooms are applying to advertisements on their websites, blogs and core print/ broadcast products. What does everyone think? You can also email me your thoughts.

Seed Newsvine

RIP: blinq

I just heard that a colleague in digital journalism has been relegated to writing a column in the newspaper that once had him on the forefront of Web 2.0 media.

Dan Rubin, who's written the blinq blog at the Philly Inquirer for more than a year, just posted his last entry:

Tie a toe-tag on Blinq. I'm getting ready to start another assignment here at the Inquirer...What I'm moving on to is the metro desk, taking a crack at being a local columnist. Talk about your old media. I am ending on a high; since the beginning of the year, Blinq's had more than a quarter million visits. It took a long time to build that trust. It will be interesting to see how what I've learned on this blog works in print...

I liked Dan's blog - I liked it a lot. I was one of the quarter million hits he's tracked since January.

There've been 19 comments posted so far:

From Mac: Crap. I'll miss this place. Why in the world, Dan, is the Inquirer killing an on-line resource? Oh well. You'll be a great columnist.

From Will T: You did a terrific job everyday with Blinq. I’m sorry to see it go. Not exactly sure why it’s going since you generated a quarter million hits this year, but you are probably not real sure either.

From Citizen Mom Amy (not me): Well, crap. Dan, I'm actually at a loss. Toss in another beer or seven, on me. Thank you for everything you did here, and for all the help.

Lets hope that whatever the dot-com side of Philadelphia Media Holdings, the Inky's owners, has planned as it retools the site isn't exemplified by what's just happened to blinq.

March 29, 2007

Weather Or Not: How to increase your web traffic

A report this morning from Nielsen//NetRatings shows that 15.4 million unique visitors came to TV station sites hosted by Internet Broadcasting last month, setting a new record for the company. This is a 12% increase from January, which held the previous high.

Internet Broadcasting is the largest publisher of local news for broadcast affiliates and serves such sites as in Philadelphia, in D.C. and in New York. This company provides both a content management system and content to populate local TV web sites. I know that in many cases, sites are populated by an IB employee and not a journalist hired by the local affiliate.

What's behind the spike? IB says the weather. Users are visiting these TV sites for meterologist blogs, where they can get immediate, interactive information from their local weatherpeople and comment directly back to them. As part of the weather blog microsites, many of IB's stations also solicit and publish user-generated photos and videos during storms.

This absolutely dumbfounds me. I lived in Philadelphia for three years and was always surprised at the amount of local air time devoted to storm coverage. I'm from Chicago. We're no strangers to snow storms, tornados and record heat -- sometimes all in the same week. And yet in Philly, I remember watching a nightly newscast devoted almost entierly to Glenn "Hurricane" Schwartz's announcement of the impending weather apocalypse.

On the site, the weather plays a very prominent role: forecase, news, media, features, blogs, and plenty of user generated content.

Now here's the kicker. I think that a lot of publishers and editors think they know what users want: lengthy, heady stories about political corruption, videos of community events. More white space. Less clutter.

The top-ranked websites in terms of traffic continue to be search engines/ aggregators and social networking sites. Of the top 25, only four differ: Microsoft (#15), (#16), Mapquest (#24) and...wait for (#23).

Maybe all we really want is a good search platform and the ability to know what it's like outside while we sit in our windowless offices.

More on this issue:
WeatherBug from Steve Rubel's Micro Persuasion
Weather-o-Rama from the American Press Institute

Seed Newsvine

March 15, 2007 names Eric Grilly as online prez

If you haven't yet heard...

Erick Grilly has left MediaNews Group, where he was the top online executive and a senior vice president, to become the president of, which publishes content from the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

Grilly had been vp for interactive media at the Denver Post, one of MediaNews Group's papers, and had previously worked for McClatchy's online group. In his most recent position, Grilly had been earning roughly $350k a year.

He'll oversee what's left of's site overhaul, which is costing $2 million and is expected to launch early summer.

I'll be very interested to see what Grilly does with, which has contracted with Clickability for its site architecture and new cms.

One of the major problems facing newspapers owned by corporate chains is the inflexibility of a corporate cms that must fit the needs of all its properties. In the case of Tribune Co., which is in the process of streamlining all of the newspaper websites within the chain, I can't imagine that a template that's been customized to work for the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Newsday or the Baltimore Sun will also work for the Hartford Courant, Morning Call and Hoy.

What Grilly is inheriting is a website that hasn't taken advantage of new web tools and a company that hasn't even begun to coax its reporters into thinking as multimedia reporters rather than newspapermen and women. On the other hand, he need only worry about two newspaper properties. And that means that if all the money spent to redesign results in a website that enables platform-agnostic sharing, user generated content, true multimedia features, a site architecture that makes sense and smartly-used advertising (read: no more floating pumpkin ads!)...then I think Grilly may be poised to challenge the traditional way in which newspapers are serving content on the web.

Now I'll leave you with a gripe: This is one more top-level position in digital journalism that went to a man. At a paper that ushered out Amanda Bennett, one of the only female Executive Editors in the country, and the woman who initiated blinq and the Inky's other blogs. I'd be very keen to learn how many women were brought in to interview with Brian Tierney for this job...methinks zero.

Seed Newsvine

March 10, 2007

Morning Call's Pet Widget: Finally, a newspaper site enables sharing

Congrats to Chris Krewson (the just-named Online Editor at the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, PA.) and staff for launching some neat digital tools to accompany an investigative project that's scheduled to run in tomorrow's paper.

Here's what Krewson had to say about the widget in a recent email:

On Sunday we're following in the Inquirer's footsteps and investigating the state's puppy mill reputation. To do that, we used the Right to Know Law and obtained 20,000 inspection reports from the state, and assembled them into a database.

Today we launched that database on our Web site for users to search, days before the story's running.

But that's not the coolest part.

At the bottom of that search widget on our homepage, there's a link that encourages users to put our database search tool on their own Web pages, in the same way YouTube lets people embed videos on their pages or blogs.

What I like best about this project is that the Morning Call has enabled users to replicate and share it on virtually any other website.

Terriffic, I'd like to see this model applied beyond pets (which are cute, yes) to more serious subjects like housing and wage disparities, public employee compensation, etc.

More coverage on the project at: E-Media Tidbits

Seed Newsvine

February 28, 2007

Data Universe: In case you haven't seen it...

I've been chatting, via email, with Dmitry Dimov, who's the Product Chief & Cofounder of Swivel. Yesterday, he put this question to me:

You have a good point on data sourcing: even if it has the source citation (which we require on upload), no one can guarantee that the data actually came from there unchanged. On the other hand, when you see a graph in a magazine you trust that the data source is in fact where the data came from, but it's impossible to verify it unless you request the source data from the publication and check out the sources on your own.

Dimitry's camp is embracing the crowdsourcing model, which banks on the wisdom of the crowd to correct mistakes of the few. I'm eager to see how Swivel evolves and to see how, and if, journalists start to embrace tools like this.

At least one newspaper has already moved in that direction. And while the data isn't user-generated, the ability to search its homespun databases is easy enough for anyone to get involved. I'm talking about the Asbury Park Press' Data Universe tool, and if you haven't yet seen it, I suggest you do asap.

Data Universe, developed and innovated by Investigations Editor Paul D'Ambrosio, launched back on Dec. 3rd and essentially offers its readers a variety of searchable databases ranging from campaign finance to public employee salaries.

I'll be the first to say that the user interface isn't that sexy. The service has been up for three months now, enough time to enhance and put a better skin over the basic template. And there's a lengthy disclaimer at the bottom of each database explaining that the datasets may not be complete or even completely accurate.

That said, Data Universe couldn't be easier to use. I gave the SAT scores and property sales databases a spin and got exactly what I was looking for within seconds.

The APP is owned by Gannett, and corporate says that in the two weeks after Data Universe launched, that part of the site's traffic grew by 500k page views. And the databases carry banner ads. (Data Universe is embedded within the main site, so I'm assuming that ads are served via a central cms.)

My point is this: As newspapers and other media websites start using new online tools, I think it's a good bet to innovate projects similar to Swivel and Data Universe. Users aren't just interested in video and photo slideshows. At the heart of the Internet's ubiquitous popularity is our desire to harness and distribute information without much hassle. Reporters are already culling public databases for the same information - why not aggregate it on your own news site? If you do it well, and if the content makes sense, you can eventually monetize it.

Ed Goppalt's site in Philadelphia is a perfect example of why it's a smart move to aggregate public data with an easy interface.

Seed Newsvine


February 22, 2007

Found! Bill Marimow watch officially over!

Philadelphia Media Holdings has, after a lengthy 84 days, finally changed its masthead. And while Amanda Bennett is no longer listed among its Senior Executives, I also noticed a glaring, deeply troubling omission: Why is the head of not recognized as part of the executive publishing staff? This makes me think that PMH doesn't value the online side of its operations as much as it should, especially given the pervasive changes facing our industry right now.

Think I'm making a big deal out of nothing? Have a look at the staff bio pages for the Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, and hell, even the Times of Northwest Indiana (my hometown newspaper). They all list at least one executive staff who's in charge of digital operations.

I'm happy that PMH has updated its staff page, but leaving off the head of the company's interactive division seems like a digital slap in the face. A newspaper's website simply can't be an afterthought. When publishers work out budgets, think about strategic growth and staff placement, the digital side must be a part of that discussion. other PMH news: Exec. Producer Kevin Donahue posted a comment last night to talk about other new changes coming at

...yes, there is a redesign in the offing. Your list, and ideas like those, are certainly on our radar. Expect to see that come to fruition when the weather is warmer.

Certainly, I'd be interested what you and your readers think of these changes over time. My email's below.

Kevin Donahue
Executive Producer,

This is fantastic news, and I'm eager to learn more about how the site will take advantage of Web 2.0 technology now that it's powered by a new content management system, Clickability. I have high hopes for Kevin and his team and wish them well...


Seed Newsvine

February 21, 2007

Philly Inquirer decides on Clickability CMS

It's official: Philadelphia Media Holdings, the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and, is using Clickability cmPublish as its new cms.

Clickability issued a press release (HT: PRWeb) this morning with the details:

Philadelphia Media Holdings, the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and, has selected Clickability cmPublish to provide its software technology for content creation, publishing and hosting for, the newspapers' web site, Clickability announced today. is the Philadelphia region's #1 web site with over one million page views daily. Following the installation of Clickability cmPublish this quarter, will redesign the site, taking advantage of cmPublish to augment successful sections and add new Web 2.0 interactive features for readers. These enhancements will provide advertisers with unique opportunities to connect with readers online.

" is the #1 website in the greater Philadelphia area for online readers and advertisers who engage with them," said Brian Tierney, publisher and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings. "Adopting innovative technology such as Clickability cmPublish is a key part of our strategy to lead our market with new forms of online media that readers and advertisers embrace."

From what I can tell, Clickability is a hosted environment cms solution, which means that the company will likely host in addition to providing its platform. Clickability is behind, the WSJ, CNN Interactive and Time.

This means that -- at long last -- a site redesign is afoot at I can only hope that special attention will be paid to forward-thinking interactive strategies: mapping, smart databases, realistic blogging, shared content, and for God's sake better ad placement...

PS: Official Bill Marimow Watch is now at 83 days!

Seed Newsvine

February 14, 2007

Bill Marimow / PMH Watch: Have you seen this editor?

PS: PMH still hasn't managed to take outsted exec editor Amanda Bennett off its site. I'm officially starting a Bill Marimow Watch. It's been 16 days since I first wrote about it and 72 since I first noticed it back in November 2006. (Click image to see the PMH page.)

Seriously - how can innovate if its parent company can't even get it together to change its masthead?



February 13, 2007

Radio Free Internet



Here's an interesting concept: Live radio-style talkshows produced entirely by regular folks and offered as free Podcasts (sortof) online.

BlogTalkRadio launched recently, and the service enables users to record a live show - even allows listeners to call in - with minimal knowledge of audio recording.

From the site's FAQ:

What is BlogTalkRadio?
BlogTalkRadio is a platform that extends the blog, allowing any individual to host a live blogshow online. Our service is free to all users, whether you host a blogshow or listen in. Plus hosts earn half of all revenue generated by their blogshow and Host Channel page.

Where do I get my call in phone number?
As a host, we will provide you with your own dedicated phone number. We will also assign a separate phone number for your callers, which will appear on your host channel page. We provide these numbers free of charge. When you are ready to host your blogshow, you simply call in, dial your host pin (which is automatically generated when you sign up) and begin talking...

So I've spent the past few weeks listening to a handful of recent shows. One problem stands out immediately: Hosts can't edit anything, since shows are recorded live and then archived for everyone to hear. And editing, as we all know, can be a beautiful thing. I heard everything from mucked-up intro music to a host complaining that they couldn't get their computer to work properly.

I've mostly heard bloggers and professional marketers hosting shows on behalf of their products or organizations so far. But some well-knowns have been showing up - Sen. John Kerry was featured yesterday and earlier Congressmen Duncan Hunter (Republican presidential candidate from California) appeared live. And I'm not sure where the ad revenue is coming in - I keep waiting to hear ad placement during the blogcast, but haven't so far. I'm also not seeing any banners on the site.

The concept is certainly interesting. Technology has made it easy enough for anybody to host and promote a call-in talkshow and distribute it to an infinitely large audience. Programs featuring news a la the Daily Show are popping up all over YouTube - and if you ask me, I seem to get more context and content out of a short segment online than I do watching my local broadcast affiliate.

It's not just that more people have computers and know how to use them. We need to keep in mind that innovative companies are capitalizing on our hunger for reaching out to others. Fifty years ago, only a few had access and the means to produce a newspaper, magazine, television or radio broadcast. And without that medium, there wasn't getting any news.

Today, we're not wholly depended on the old news distribution model. Makes sense for the big, traditional media companies to start beta testing completely new ideas right now, doesn't it?



February 12, 2007

Newspapers: Meet Barack Obama's web design tea

By now, you should know that the single greatest way to increase web traffic is virally. Say something interesting, deliver your message in a compelling way,'s the most important part...make it damn easy for other people to share your content with others.

And so I present to you the newest features on Presidential hopeful Barack Obama's website. They went live yesterday: BarackTV and

ObamaTV offers an archive of videos - stump speeches, citizen testimonials - the standard campaign hoo-ha that we've all come to expect. But it also makes it achingly easy for an Obama supporter (or detractor, even) to embed that video within his or her personal website. A toolbar below the video allows you to email the clip, link it, or get the code to copy and paste:

This is very, very smart. And I've tried it out below. [NOTE: The Obama site isn't feeding the original video I had posted anymore, so I've removed it.]
I also like the, which is a newly-constructed social network based only on his campaign. Users can create a profile (a la MySpace and Facebook), raise money (hints of, plan and attend events (Google calendar), blog about Obama and even hook up with other supporters (O-Date anyone?).

I would love to see traditional media get out of the business of just blogging. On the norgs listserv over the weekend, we've been discussing the fallout from the Inquirer yanking the blinq blog and what that indicates for the future of Carl Lavin, one of the deputy managing editors wrote that, to the contrary, the Inquirer actually launched two new blogs:

"For example, let's look at two blogs that started this month: and Are these blogs perfect? No. But it's more evidence that the Inquirer newsroom is moving forward, not backward, to embrace the possibilities available in 2007. We have expertise in many areas, including weather and transportation, and we are determined to make the most of that expertise in every format possible."

I guess that what I'd really like to know is why so many newspapers are forging ahead to develop new blogs or even Podcasts. Who's even more desperately competing for an audience than newspapers? Politicians! Even they realize that the best way to build a constituency and to engender support among an audience is to take charge of the technology that's currently available - and to make it simple as hell to get others involved.

I'd really love to see a newspaper develop a widget or stand-alone app on its website that helps users to find headlines that they're interested in, connect and share with others, blog about featured stories, share their own personal histories, publish video and photos on their personal sites...

MyObama definitely has my vote for targeted content delivery and design.

February 08, 2007

Newspapers: One way to save your audiences

According to the Center for the Digital Future at USC: Non-Internet users watch an average of 9.1 more hours of television per week than Internet users. I can tell you that I'm not included in that group. I watch as much television as I can during the week - but I watch via TiVo or downloads onto my computer.

The Center just released its 2007 Digital Future Project Report, which focuses on how we use and interact with technology. Among the key findings:

  • 43% of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they “feel as strongly” about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities.
  • Almost two-thirds of online community members who participate in social causes through the Internet (64.9%)
    say they are involved in causes that were new to them when they began participating on the Internet.
  • The number of Internet users in America who keep a blog has more than doubled in three
    years (now 7.4% of users, up from 3.2% in 2003).

Here's how this information can help inform those in the newspaper business. If more folks are going online for social reasons - if they're seeking both information and a subject-focused community to discuss and disseminate that information, wouldn't it make sense for newspaper companies to revisit the zone edition model from the late 1980s and 1990s and possibly reapply it to a new online model today?

To wit: the Daily Bugle newspaper in Metropolis might consider changing the structure of its site to a porthole system with different channels. There might be a high school sports channel, where the Bugle's sports reporters and photogs would contribute content just as they would in the newspaper. But there would be an area for parent contributions. Maybe that section would share content with Metropolis' high school newspapers and carry student commentary. Citizens at games would edit and upload their own video (parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and grandparents are doing it anyways - why not capitalize on content that's already available??). On the discussion boards, there'd be gossip about coaches and alternative commentary about what happened at last night's game.

And there'd be plenty to monetize in this model, too. Advertising would come from very targeted vendors - sports retailers, college athletic programs and new movie releases. Game and season stats would be available up until a certain point, and then they'd be available via a database for a minimal fee, either subscription or pay-per-use. It'd be one part news, one part library, and one part must-visit digital social scene for all high school sports fans in Metropolis.

Think of the most successful sites and blogs on the web. Their focus is very specific and targeted. Getting married? Who hasn't heard of Want to know about new tech? Technorati. Celebrity doings?

They're popular because of their content, yes...but because they've effectively captured their market. And in an age of information overload, where thousands of groups are competing for just a fraction of your attention, the ones that succeed capitalize on your personal relationship to a subject matter.

So to newspapers, I ask this: Just how emotionally tied to (fill in your city here) are your readers? Might you capture more of their attention if you started specializing content? You already have an easy place to start: high school sports. Then, move to public schools. Local politics. Hyper-local real estate. The daily commute.

Innovate online products that will compel users to visit and stay on your site...not because you're the local newspaper, but because they feel a social connection to your brand, your reporters and to others who contribute to the site via blogs, discussion forums or multimedia. That's how you'll win back your dwindling audience.

Hell, it'd be a start.

February 05, 2007

Hyperaggregate This!

About two years ago, I was meeting with a group of journalists and bloggers at an unconference in Philadelphia. The group, norgs, got together to try and envision ways to engineer an ideal newsgathering organization of the future.

At the conference, I talked about the role aggregators will play in how and when we get content. Some of that is playing out and has been for some time. Bloglines, for example, is a popular RSS aggregator that delivers me cherry picked headlines throughout the day - and unless I'm moved to click, I rarely visit that feed's website.

Since then, the amount of new content on the web has grown exponentially. It's not enough for me to type a search into Google, even if I do know some nifty tricks to circumvent all the information that I don't want.

What's the Web 2.0 solution? Hyperaggregators -- aggregators that aggregate the aggregators.

Meet SideKlick, an aggregator that combs YouTube and Google for video you specifically request. Popurls crawls through, digg, flickr, newsvine, ifilm (remember ifilm?),,, fark, odeo, furl and a whole bunch of other aggregators to deliver what you want. Other hyperaggregators to watch include Original Signal and Spokeo (slick landing page w/ cute Firefox-esque mascot).

How might this apply to traditional media? Reporters, start using hyperaggregators to cover your beats. Covering city hall? Configure Popurls to search aggregators for you. And to publishers, I say this: find a way to make your content easily tagged, easily crawled and easily viewed either on or off your site.


January 25, 2007

What's the Opposite of Innovation?

Yesterday, LAT Editor Jim O'Shea announced a broad new initiative to shift focus from the LAT print publication to its website. He's just created an "editor for innovation" position.

(Hell, every newsroom is bestowing that made-up title on one of its top suits these days. Why should a three-hour time difference delay what's now ubiquitous on the East Coast from taking a strong hold in Cali?)

Biz Editor Russ Stanton is the new digital guy in town. Here's part of a memo sent from the LAT top brass to its staff when Stanton was named to his most recent role as chief of the business desk:

To: The Staff
From: John Carroll and Dean Baquet

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Russ Stanton as business editor of The Times.

Russ has done a terrific job as deputy editor of the section and as Orange County business editor before that. He is respected by the staff - and by us -- for his deep knowledge of the business world, his commitment to quality journalism and his integrity in dealing with people.

Russ has been a business journalist from the start of his career at the Visalia Times-Delta. He has covered agriculture, aerospace, real estate and manufacturing. Before joining The Times as a reporter in 1997, he was business editor of the Orange County Register.

Russ has a vast knowledge of business and the region, and a clear sense of the stories this paper should dominate in the coming years. But what really drew us to Russ were some other attributes that emerged from conversations with The Times business staff over the last few weeks: He is a leader who commands trust, respect and affection from his colleagues...

Anyone else catch what's missing from this memo? Where's the section about how Russ innovated new, clean multimedia templates to help increase user stickiness? Or the part about how Russ developed relationships with outside bloggers so that he's engendered interest and trust in online communities? So much so that they'll create symbiotic information sharing projects?

From the Times' own story about the move:

O'Shea named Business Editor Russ Stanton to the innovation post and said the "Internet 101" course would teach reporters, editors and photographers to become "savvy multimedia journalists," able to enhance their writing with audio and video reports. He emphasized the need for speed in reforming an operation that he called "woefully behind" the competition.

The Times has just made the same mistake that Philadelphia Media Holdings, Inc., the company that now owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, has been making for the past two years. (I'd have linked the Inky and DN, but neither paper has its own website. Instead, houses content from both and remains a wholly separate entity. Want more? The PMH site isn't even updated and still lists ousted Inky editor Amanda Bennett as the person in charge. Innovative!)

The people leading the digital revolution aren't the business editors, the deputy managing editors for sports or the photogs with a bit of HTML training. They're not the yes men.

They're the code monkeys hacking away in their spare time. They're the true digital journalists, who maybe have less experience reporting the news but a deep knowledge about how and why our Internet works. They understand why you can't just offer an Internet 101 class, send reporters out into the street with a digicam and audio recorder, throw that content on the web and call it a night.

O'Shea has missed a great opportunity here. From what I'm observing, PMH doesn't seem to care about its future or about truly embracing digital journalism and adapting as the Internet continues to change. Why, oh why, are newspapers grasping at video straws? Video is what NBC does. Audio is what NPR does. Newspapers have, at least in theory, the capability of telling all area stories with lots of details and rich analysis. Why not take that concept and digitize it? Vast databases with sleek UIs. Rich historical timelines and an internally-linked bio file for people mentioned in stories. Inviting participation by users - uploading their video feed to accompany a thoughtful reporter's work.

You want innovation? And I mean real innovation -- not some cobbled-together photo slideshow? Visit the BBC site. Have a look at BuzzTracker, a project developed by a student at Penn. Hell, even the guy behind gahooyoogle is changing the way I perceive and hunger for information.

It's those kinds of folks newspapers should be hiring. Why is this concept so alien to the editors & publishers?

December 13, 2006 - Above the Fold?!?

Get this: In today's Philadelphia Inquirer (print edition), there was a banner ad on A1, above the fold. Way above the fold.

Philadelphia Media Holdings' CEO, Brian Tierney, has promised to significantly raise the paper's profile and to pour more resources into, the site for both the Inquirer and the Daily News.

Here's my advice to PMH: Devise a solid training plan for all staffers, invest in better equipment, hire software engineers before bringing on more journalists and create a new in-house cms.


KCRW Receives $600k Grant: Now, how will it monetize streaming audio?

Fast Company's expert blog features an entry about whether Public Radio can monetize its web content.

KCRW, based in Santa Monica, has a massive web constituency - and I count myself among its regular listeners. Been streaming KCRW online since I moved back to the U.S.

According to FC: KCRW generates more than 1.6 million streaming hours per month via partnerships with Real Networks, AOL Radio, Shoutcast, Windows Media and Apple’s iTunes and QuickTime. In January, nearly one million KCRW podcasts were downloaded, and the station’s own website received more than 470,000 connections to its streaming audio service.

So the question is, as it is for everyone, how to you turn those listeners into revenue? KCRW's problem isn't audience size, but catalyzing all those folks to donate and fund all station operations isn't a sustainable option. Because of the regulations governing public radio, the station can't solicit standard advertising.

Annenberg gave KCRW a $600,000 grant to develop a brand-new business model to support its webcasting and online music service.

It isn't going to be easy, though. Where else might money come from? This is the fundamental problem we're facing in journalism right now. If not from ads, and if not from donations (or at least not completely)...then from where? What do you think?

Seed Newsvine

Strike Out!

This just in: Ongoing strike threat adverted here in Philadelphia. The Newspaper Guild and Philadelphia Media Holdings, which now own the Inquirer and Daily News, have agreed on a new contract.

From the Inquirer (via Will Bunch on Attytood):

... Negotiators for The Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News and their largest labor union initialed a tentative labor agreement late last night, capping months of often acrimonious contract talks.

"It's a very difficult agreement" that will force the union to make tough choices about the future extent of medical coverage for advertising, news, circulation and finance workers and retirees at the papers, union president Henry J. Holcomb warned...

See posts by Steve Volk at the Philadelphia Weekly, Karl Martino at Philly Future. Have a look, too, at the website staffers planned to launch had the strike have gone ahead.

October 22, 2006

Check out the Larry Kane show...

It's all about how the media covers (or doesn't) international news. The show airs tonight (Sunday) at 9:30pm EST on Comcast's CN8 channel. From Larry's site:

In a roundtable debate on the subject on CN 8’s VOICE OF REASON, taped for tonight at 9:30 P.M., the verdict was unanimous: Americans are not getting the information they need to make proper judgments.

Chris Harper, former network and news magazine bureau chief in the Middle East blames declining overseas coverage for the fact that most Americans have limited knowledge of the forces in Iraq that are fighting each other. He calls it a real crisis of information. That view is shared by Robert Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University, who has strong words about the lack of foreign news events that are often overshadowed by fluff and puff on local news.

Bob Zelnick, former ABC correspondent told me that he finds it ironic that most young Americans are getting their news from Comedy Central when they should be reading more. And Michael Days, Editor of the Philadelphia Daily News, was candid enough to admit that readers are not coming to his paper for overseas coverage and that there are plenty of outlets for it.

Perhaps the voice of the future on this show is MyDigiMedia, editor in chief at Dragonfire, a most unusual and in depth news and information website. Amy thinks that the web with its platform and space will eventually be the premiere news site of the future.

I checked Dragonfire out. If you want depth and a special level of reporting expertise, I highly recommend it.

My view on the overseas coverage debate? If you look had enough you’ll find the information you need, but most Americans don’t have the time. Aside from the cable news networks, the major news organizations of this country are doing little to explain the real nature of our foreign challenges in a time when we need it most — when challenges overseas threaten us at home.

Beyond superficial headline summaries, American newspapers and TV outlets must do more to make things clear.

Amy may be right. In a vacuum of in-depth coverage, the internet may be the place to go for news that counts.

October 09, 2006

"National Tribune" ... Consolidating the Trib Co.

A very compelling essay from Michael Kinsley.

"These days, on the one hand, thanks to the Internet, any newspaper can be a national newspaper. On the other hand, near universal availability of the New York Times print edition makes the traditional role of a regional paper like the Los Angeles Times superfluous.

But now imagine the Tribune chain as a single newspaper with separate editions in each of its cities. Call it the National Tribune. Or the papers could keep their separate identities, but carry a "Tribune" insert or wraparound with national and international news. This paper would start out with towering dominance in two of the nation's top three markets (Los Angeles and Chicago) and a solid position, via Newsday, in the largest (New York). It would even have a toehold in Washington (thanks to the Baltimore Sun). All this, and Orlando too..."

August 21, 2006

Listen to the Interview...

Listen to my interview on today's Talk of the Nation. If you want to continue the discussion, or if you have questions I didn't answer, please use the comments section here or shoot me an email.

Tune In to Talk of the Nation...

I'm a guest on today's Talk of the Nation (NPR), which begins airing at 2:00 p.m. EST. Please tune in - more information is available on the NPR site.

August 18, 2006

My Digital Diet: A month without print or broadcast media

In June, I embarked upon a Great Experiment: I went on a strict digital diet, spending 30 days without any form of traditional media. I wanted to know which was more important _ the medium (television, newspaper, magazine, radio) or the information itself. I kept a daily journal of my successes, irritations and failures. The story ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, April 20th.

The Rules:

  • No reading magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • No listening to the radio or watching television. Listening to a broadcast online is OK, as is downloading previously aired television shows.
  • No looking at newspaper stands or boxes.
  • Also, no looking at flyers or copies of print stories.
  • No books, unless they can be read or listened to online.

My story is featred in this Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Below, I've listed some of the tools that I used, websites that I visited and a handful of pictures... NOTE: Please read my disclaimer about my use of Apple products.

The Equipment:

  • Fifteen-inch PowerBook G4 (Mac).
  • G5 with 20-inch cinema display (Mac).
  • BlackBerry 7105t.
  • iPod Photo (30 gigabytes of memory).
  • Canary Wi-Fi Digital Hotspotter (to find open wireless networks).
  • DSL connection at home.
  • T-1 connection at the office.


I read most of my news using an RSS aggregator called Bloglines. It delivers headlines and summaries throughout the day from the 27 feeds I subscribe to. I'm also able to access all of my feeds on my BlackBerry, which means that I'm able to stay on top of the news 24 hours a day... or as long as my batteries are powered. Here's what my "digital newspaper" looks like:

Even before the experiment, I typically work on multiple projects at once so I toggle between Bloglines, various websites and Word documents I'm using for work:

Because I was relying primarily on digital sources for information, I was always on the watch for useful sites. Here are some that I continue to use today...

Web 2.0 Search Engines:

Search blogs:
Search for specific feeds:
Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one:
Search Google and Yahoo at the same time:

Fantastic News Sites:


How I Watched TV...

First, a word of caution: There are laws against distributing copyrighted material. I'm not advocating that you start burning copies of your favorite television shows to share them with all of your friends on the Internet.

That said, there are plenty of ways to download or stream broadcast content -- some legal, some questionable.

Legal TV: I downloaded copies of The Office from the iTunes store.

Questionable TV: YouTube is an easy site to search for video files. Sites offering downloadable torrents are also good resources for video files. I've used BitTorrent as my client.

A note to Mac users: I would suggest downloading a copy of VLC, a cross-platform media player that will allow you to view files intended for PC-only applications.




August 17, 2006

Macy's Pulls Advertising...

I read in AdAge this morning that Macy's is planning to pull about $425m in newspaper-side advertising. Clearly this stands to affect several papers around the country -- including my local newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

What will be the next frontier of print-side revenue? Product placement? Paid advertorial sections?

My concern is that print is inextricably tied to advertising and commerce. If I was at the helm of a big newspaper or chain, I'd monetize certain reporting projects to create pay-per-use data packages and I'd create new digital products that could be turned into profit centers. There are embedded markets for this in every American city, ones with sports teams, high crime rates, blossoming real estate markets... the information that a reporter might get during the course of his or her daily work might be fed into a database that could become a profit center. Hallwatch is a good bare-bones approach.

The market is in mashups, and I believe there is strong potential at newspapers to get creative.

August 14, 2006

Pundit Probs...

My colleague, Alex Koppelman, just posted an entry about how and why media outlets select their pundits...

July 31, 2006

List Institutional Information...Please?

A personal irritation:

I don't understand why more newspapers don't post their institutional information online. We're working on a newspaper project at Dragonfire, and this involves us verifying circulation rates, date of launch and cost per issue. We're survaying a dozen newspapers, and I was only able to get the information I needed on, believe it or not...

Are publishers trying to hide something??

Journalism Salaries...

A new survey by Inland Press explains that journalism salaries are increasing online, but not on the print-side...

"The position of online editor recorded an 8.1 percent increase in base pay from 2005 to 2006, according to the NICS. The position also posted an 8.8 percent increase in total direct pay, which consists of salary and incentives."

June 30, 2006

Video Feed - norgs + Media Giraffe Project

I was at a really interesting conference yesterday with my colleagues from Philadelphia. The Media Giraffe Project is currently hosting "Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Information in a Connected World," the first summit conference of The Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

From the site:

"Traditional and citizen journalists, political strategists, educators, bloggers, developers, technology and media researchers convenedJune 28-July 1, 2006 at University of Massachusetts Amherst for the first Media Giraffe Project conference. The Media Giraffe Project, a non-partisan, interdisplinary research effort of the UMass journalism program, is hosting the roundtable summit and how-to sessions designed to:

1. Consider and recommend answers to changes to the financing and practice of journalism
2. Bridge the gap between new and traditional media
3. Show and consider the impact of new media technologies on journalism and the "public sphere"
4. Spotlight emerging business models
5. Create new networks of media innovators which bridge traditional carriers among journalism, education, politics and technology
6. Watch and share innovations in media-literacy education."

Part of this conference included a virtual panel discussion by norgs, a Philly-based group of journalists, engineers, programmers and bloggers who are trying to envision what Will Bunch originally called a "news organization of the future."

On our panel were: Wendy Warren (Daily News), Paul Socolar (Philadelphia Public School Notebook), Karl Martino ( and Comcast), Carl Lavin (Inquirer), Chris Krewson (Allentown Morning Call) and me.

We talked a lot about the fate of Philadelphia's newspapers and about how to implement multimedia strategies in the newsroom. Here's the Quicktime video (click right to download). You'll see the Philly group and our colleagues at the conference.


June 21, 2006

Notes for norgs

An asterisk (*) denotes sites/ areas where we’ve spent the most time and done the most research. DISCLOSURE:  I do not have any financial interest in any of the sites or companies listed below.  Dragonfire currently uses the Ingeniux cms.

Before you begin:
I strongly recommend making a laundry list of items that you absolutely want your content management system to accomplish as well as a list of things that you’ll want to do on your site.  Do you want to be able to use Flash in a variety of ways? Do you want to include blogs?  Do you want to have user input automatically display?

Reviews, ways to review cms options, ratings:

  • -- and -- *
  •  *

After doing extensive testing and research, it is my opinion that any newspaper looking for a cms solution invests in a few good programmers and creates their own, in-house system.  I have not found any cms that is designed to meet the publishing demands of a newspaper.

Open Source cms:
If you can create a list of essential tools and functions that you need out of a cms - -and this list needs to be thorough, you can then work with a developer to customize one of the many open source cms options available.  Developers would likely work on a freelance basis, but a better option would be to hire someone outright to have in the newsroom who would both customize and document the open source cms you decide to use.

There are several systems available, and it’s easy enough to work with an existing system, modify it and implement it.  Most of these open source cms require PHP, SQL and XML at a minimum.  However, I have seen cms that are coded in PERL or Python.

Free, Structured Systems
Mambo: *
A lot of people really like Mambo (it’s now called Joomla).  It’s free, more structured than most of the open source systems and there are thousands of pre-made templates.  There’s a WYSIWYG editor, support for CSS and HTML, inclusion of Flash files, popups and more. Assuming that you have a hosting package that can handle (and that you know) PHP and SQL.

We downloaded and played with Mambo, however we ultimately decided that we weren’t going to be able to modify it to meet our needs.

Drupal is a popular cms with lots of great features.  It’s emphasis is on Web 2.0 functions – lots of interactivity and community input.  On the other hand, it isn’t really designed for a robust news organization with lots of content.  Learning curve is steep.  One neat feature:  Drupal allows you to turn dynamic pages back into a static one, and it the cache process is automatic.

There is, of course, Cofax, which was designed and implemented by KR and the PNI.  I don’t have experience specifically with this system…

Pay, Licensed Systems
Expression Engine:
I would not recommend this for a newspaper.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Symphony.  It uses xslt stylesheets and templates.  It allows you to pull content from Flickr, etc. On the other hand, you have to know how to code xslt stylesheets – not impossible, but cumbersome.

Ingeniux: *
Dragonfire uses Ingeniux.  In many ways it’s a great system – all inputs are in WYSIWYG, allowing any of our editors or writers to easily create static or multimedia pages from a variety of our preset templates.

There are serious limitations, however.  In order to change parts of the site, we must edit our xslt stylesheets.  It’s very difficult to implement blogs, chats, shopping carts and newsletters.  Ingeniux offers these at very high prices, and developer training isn’t included. 

Documentum: *
Formerly Documentum, a new beta with a new name is set to be release by EMC any day now.  Documentum was widely condemned throughout the multimedia and IT communities because it was extremely cumbersome to use.  It was a very difficult system with many bugs.

PHP Cow:
This was released about a year ago.  They offer a free trial, and compared to other systems, it’s not all that expensive.  Obviously, the system is coded in PHP.  We don’t have experience using it at Dragonfire, however it was supposedly designed specifically for newsrooms.

We looked at this platform but didn’t test it.  One of the features is bringing a Word document right into the cms without weird MS formatting issues, but I never saw that in practice.

June 20, 2006

CMS and the Philadelphia Newspapers

Here's the email that prompted me to go through my cms notes again. On the listserv, we were discussing the future of online operations at the two Philadelphia daily newspapers, now that they have new owners

...I was at CNN in Atlanta over the w/e visiting an executive producer friend. Their entire online operations are in a separate side of the (massive) building, and he didn't know how or where they get their content. So I went downstairs to the online folks -- there were only two people working while I was there -- and they were separate from the CNN and Headline News newsrooms.

I seriously think the problem in our industry is one of attitude, not resources or technology. CNN has more technology than I've ever seen and they have a tremendous amount of cash. You should see one of the new production bays they're building -- that room would literally finance Dragonfire for the next decade. And yet no one seems to know what [the online news people] do. They're the abandoned puppies of the newsroom.

Why, then, are the online folks relegated to a different side of the building? Because the digital people are STILL, after all this time, an afterthought. We all know what the web can do, and most journalists now realize that there is no URL for Web 2.0. We're eager to report on technology and the last people to implement it. I was at a conference (E&P's Interactive Media con) listening to the heads of KR Digital, Disney Digital and NPR tell me about about the wonders of cell phones. I was stringing for a US news outlet in 1997, using my digital phone to buy train tickets and check headlines (in Japan) -- and 10 years later after I wrote about what was then the hot new technology, newsrooms are suddenly eager to adopt it. What gives?!?

In my heart of hearts, I believe that the Inky and DN are prime for a digital revolution. Philadelphia desperately needs databases that we can access...ways to showcase political corruption...crime data...etc. There's a tremendous amount of important investigative work that could be done just for the web. What about this city's foodie population? Sports? Environment? There are personal tragedies happening down the street that are best told combining audio, photos and pdfs. This city has top physicians, chefs, artists...PNI's audience could benefit from access to these people via the web product.

I know there are union issues and that changes happen at a horribly slow pace over there. But with some tweaking to some of the systems you're using, a handful of new staffers and some different equipment, you could reemerge as an exciting digital resource. Yes, it'd cost initially. But PNI could also monetize existing reporting and change the way it's selling online ad space to generate new profit streams. PNI's digital hub wouldn't be isolated -- it'd be very much a part of the newsroom, where coders and jurnos could conceive of projects together.

I completely agree that cranking out the daily paper is a monumental task. On the other hand, there's a lot that can be automated, and many of the current staff can be repurposed there for digital work. If they were excited about all of the possibilities and saw a bigger picture where everyone's a stakeholder, they may be eager to get on board...