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<hr><i>DISCLOSURE: The author is part owner of a project which is promoting a network approach to news sharing. (See [http://www.ivpblueprint.org ''Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy''] You can edit and make changes/corrections to this wiki page. Click on the edit tab; when you're finish, click on the "save page" button to store your changes.</i><hr>  
<hr><i>DISCLOSURE: The author is part owner of a project which is promoting a network approach to news sharing. (See [http://www.ivpblueprint.org ''Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy''] You can edit and make changes/corrections to this wiki page. Click on the edit tab; when you're finish, click on the "save page" button to store your changes.</i><hr>  

Revision as of 14:20, 17 November 2008

With the paper in news going the way of the buggy whip,
some in news organizations eye network, cooperation for salvation

(Proceedings summarized by Bill Densmore)

DISCLOSURE: The author is part owner of a project which is promoting a network approach to news sharing. (See Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy You can edit and make changes/corrections to this wiki page. Click on the edit tab; when you're finish, click on the "save page" button to store your changes.

Within 10 years, 80-percent of newspaper readership will be gone, and the only way newspaper companies can survive the change is to band together in networks, about 35 publishers, editors, journalists gathered at the Poynter Institute have been told. They gathered Nov. 10-11 at the St. Petersburg, Fla., newspaper education and training facility.

Journalism is shifting more from a business to a social mission, observed Paul Tash, chairman, CEO and editor of the St. Petersburgh Times, which is owned by the non-profit Poynter Insitutte. Tash told partipants in the seminar, "Who Will Pay for the News?" that he believed something more than a "white paper that doesn't get read' needed ultimately to come out of their deliberations. He said Poynter is looking to understand larger parts of the journalism mission than just newspapers. "How can the Poynter Institute adapt its mission to meet the needs of journalism that is going on outside of these commercially based institutions?"

Poynter recently completed acquistion of the last piece of a 40-acre parcel of undeveloped land just south of its St. Petersburg campus building and is thinking about ways to use it to further its educational mission, Poynter President Karen Dunlap told seminar participants. One idea she broached: Establishing a “Poynter lab” in partnership with technology companies.

Acknowledging that philanthropy alone cannot sustain U.S. journalism as it presently exists, Dunlap asks seminar participants to nonetheless focus a session on new way foundations, private donors and the general public might play an increased role, as journalism begins to be thought of as a “public good” rather than merely a profitable business.

Ideas for journalistic renewal: SWAT teams and collaboration

At least two ideas were broached for journalistic renewal.

  • Fresh news that Journal-Register Corp. was saying it will close dailies in Bristol and New Britain, Conn., if they don’t find a buyer by the end of the year prompted Poynter faculty member Rick Edmonds to ask: “What if there were a SWAT team to go in and help New Britain and Bristol to create replacements for their newspaper?”
  • And Mike Philippe, of the Scripps Howard Foundation, suggested it might be time for news organizations to mount a public-awareness campaign “to promote what we do and remind people that we are at risk.”

The newspaper business model which supported – and depended upon – community journalism is a “package which doesn’t work anymore,” said Diane McFarlin, publisher of the New York Times-owned Sarasota Herald-Tribune daily. “We have to deliver it in smaller pieces . . . it really does depend upon partnerships and collaborations . . . one level of collaboration is with profit – and non-profit – worlds.”

Michael Novak, vice president of multimedia for El Nuevo Dia in San Juan, Peurto Rico, suggested the creation of a philanthropic bridge – he called it a “foundation of foundations” – to make it easier for newspapers to make a faster transition to a paperless environment. “Many papers would like to do that, but they can’t,” said Novak. “Could a foundation or the government help the newspapers or subsidize them during that process of transition?”

Novak then asked for a show of hands among 35 participants with their answer to this question, which he posed: “How many people think we will go to 80:20 paperless in the next 10 years?” Virtually every hand in the room went up, including the publishers of two good-sized daily newspapers.

Monitor will grow circulation as weekly: Yemma

Among participants in "Who Will Pay for the News," was John Yemma, new editor of The Christian Science Monitor, which in early November announced it would end daily print publication by spring. Yemma said The Monitor hopes to grow its circulation to 85,000 or 90,000 when it shifts to to weekly publication next year -- compared with 52,000 daily circulation today, Yemma said. And Yemma says the paper's international correspondents will be expected to feed a 24/7 website with breaking news -- a change from the print Monitor's historically analytical and somewhat timeless approach. "They are really going to have to be in the fray on a daily basis," Yemma says.

Toward the end of Tuesday’s session, at least two voices spoke for investing in the teaching of news literacy in schools as a way of seeding the public’s appreciation of the connection between independent journalism and participatory democracy. At least three of the foundations represented – Scripps Howard, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the Carnegie Corp. – routinely fund journalism education.

Background on Aug. 11 Poynter news-literacy session ... / ... The Philadelphia "Rebooting the News" event

Millstein: Network collaboration required

There are multiple challenges facing legacy newspaper publishers as they move to the web, according to Lincoln Millstein, senior vp for digital media at Hearst Corp.'s newspapers. First, publishers need to learn how to "be at the end of the user's intent" for information. While a site like nytimes.com has 22 million unique users, he said, Yahoo has 170 million. "Online, we become nothing but niche publishers. We haven't achieved scale," he says. Newspapers need to achieve something of scale, says Millstein, and that will only be possible if set aside differences sand learn how to collaborate in networks. "We need to get away from the silo mentality," he said. "Single siloed newspaper publishers can't achieve scale without participating in someone else's network."

"We need to figure out a way quickly to take down the silos," added Joe Bergantino, an award-winning veteran investigative reporter for WBZ-TV, Channel 4 in Boston who left earlier this year to develop a non-profit investigative operation for New England.

Millstein illustrated why the partnership between Yahoo and 700 newspaper websites called the Newspaper Consortium makes advertising sense. Boston.com, the popular site owned by The Boston Globe, only reaches about 20 percent of the total Internet audiences in Boston in a given day. Yahoo, by contrast, reaches about 80 percent. That means there are lots of opportunities to put Boston-area advertisers on Yahoo pages to reach Boston-area consumers. But Yahoo doesn't have a Boston sales force. By partnering with Boston.com, Yahoo provides audiences, and Boston.com provides sales feet on the ground.

Now, says Millstein, the Yahoo newspaper partners are trying to figure out how to share content. "I think that a network of quality publishers banding together -- that I think is sustainable." Millstein also said he was "not dismissing" a revenue stream from users, perhaps relayed via wireless carriers, who could offer high-quality premium content. "There's a huge play for a network of quality publishers," he said again.

Hearst will roll out in 2009 a portable reading device, Millstein says. The company is also going to "proactively" manage down the circulation size of its metro daily papers, and increasingly focus on the days when editions are profitable -- Thursday, Friday and Sunday.

Near consensus on the need to charge via a network

Through two days, Poynter seminar participants returned repeatedly to the question of whether, or how, the public might be expected to pay for informaion.

The Christian Science Monitor intends to rely on web advertising -- and advertising in the weekly print addition -- as it gradually weans itself of a multi-million dollar annual subsidy from the Christian Science church, Yemma said. There are no plans to charge for web content, says Yemma, because "the evidence is that pay walls don't work in the news business."

Not everyone agreed that paid content won't work, however. "There is a likelihood that people may pay for specialized content," said Marty Petty, publisher and executive vp of the St. Petersburg Times. "And I think that may be more true of the millenials, because they have a passion about things."

"One of the biggest mistakes that we made is to not charge for news on the Internet," said Ginger Gadsden, morning anchor at WTSP-TV, Channel 10 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Yet she said she surveys interns and young adults at the station and none of them say they would be willing to pay for news online.

"I think we will be heading toward that model," replied Darius Walker, New York bureau chief of CNN. "I don't know how it is going to work . . . I think in the future there will be pay Internet for news." Walker said CNN expects a downturn in advertising revenues in 2009, but noted that the cable network is slightly cushioned from that by the licensing revenues it receive from cable-TV systems which pay a per-subscriber fee to carry CNN.

"Are we too far down the road to free?" asked Amy Mitchell, deputy director of the Pew-funded Project for Excellence in Journalism. "What about subscriptions?" She continued later in the day: "How can we start to demand some money for this journalism that we are producing . . . you would have to have some big brands that carry influence nationwide.” At a third point in the day, Mitchell wondered if foundations could be a catalyst to fund some sort of new infrastructure for journalism.

"There should be some national organization to create a model for how to pay for news," MinnPost's Joel Kramer said at another point in the discussion.

"How do you build a network?" asked Mike Phillipe, CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation, and most recently editor of the new-defunct Cincinnati Post. "How do you convince a very independent-minded group of newspaper publishers that they have to get together?" Phillipe said he'd like to see foundations get together and fund "a piece of software that allows for a universal kind of sharing of resources . . . maybe we could pay for it and then give it to the community . . . a time of crisis is a great time to get things accomplished." While philanthropy might seed the sharing network, said Phillipe, the result has to serve a market. "How do you create incentives for a market-based solution?" he asked.

The cost journalism needs to be reduced "by having people share what they do well," said Joel Kramer, editor/founder of MinnPost.com, a news website serving Minneapolis and the state of Minnesota. He said journalists need to come togehter to fund a solution of how to fund their work in the future including, Kramer said:

  • Getting the money from readers, whatever the model is.
  • How to get better results from advertising. Said Kramer: "The biggest problem we face is the advertisers will increasingly solve their problems without recourse to news."

Understanding the “millennial” generation”

On Tuesday morning, Poynter summit participants were treated to a short summary of research on the demographics and desires of the “millennial” generation – those U.S. adults who are now age 18-30. Poynter faculty member Kelly McBride, who regular speciality is journalistic ethics, said she had been surveying and would summarize research by the Pew Foundation and Magid Associates. The analysis is important, she said, because the age group is the first to have come of age entirely in the Internet era – and they are not big newspapers readers. So news organization who want them as users need to study them.

View excerpt of Magid Associates' Jack MacKenzie's July 11, 2008 slide show at Poynter about the millenials

Millenials are the largest marketing demographic group, McBride said. They spend several hours a day with a significant adult, rather than the 15 minutes a day spent by GenXers. They are relentlessly optimistic and positive. They think everyone’s a winner, they date and work in groups, get along with their parents, are required to volunteer and are expected to succeed. They are less religious than previous generations.

Eighty-six percent of millenials are on the Internet daily – more than baby boomers but less than GenXers. They document their lives in pictures and messages four times as often as other generations and use real-time communication twice as much. They typically have a cell phone and camera in their pocket – or one device which does both.

They grew up with reality TV, and with CNN. The defining moment of their childhood was Sept. 11, 2001. Their homework is online. The value humor, novelty, each other, entertainment, customization, the collective, the crowd, speed and outrageous behavior.

"They believe that the system is going to work,” said McBride. “They believe that the government is going to respond. They trust information – if they can manipulate it – and they want to be their own editors . . . they love to share. They want to be able to share information. They love to pass things along." Overwhelmingly, says McBride, the top destination websites for millenials are ESPN.com, WikiPedia, YouTube, iTunes, the Perez Hilton site and gaming sites. If news organizations want to reach the millenials, McBride, concludes, one way to do it is through one of those sites. “The challenge is finding the path to deliver the content,” says McBride.

“It isn’t that people aren’t interested in the news,” said Mike Orren, president and founder of PegasusNews.com, Dallas, Texas, a web news community. “They are just not interested in how we present it . . . they are interested in a world that is tailored to their interests.”

Scaling from niche specialties

Different news organizations have different specialities, observed Barbara E. Martinez, amanging editor/web for the soon-to-launch GlobalPost online international news source. Martinez's last job as at the Politico, which she noted is an example of "modular" journalism, along with a variety of speciality web sites. "If the corporations that are running media companies look for ways to tie together these successful efforts that are going on, we could start to see a model for sustaining journalism," she said.

"There has to be scale in publishing," said Arthur W. Howe, of Verve Wireless. "We have to do it together. Collectively, our contnet and our brands work better together . . . there has to be a consortium, there has to be content shared virtically." Verve is working with Associated Press and local papers to deliver news and advertising messages to consumer cell phones that is localized based on the location of the phone, Howe says. He says the service had 35 million page views last month and should have 100 million by December.

Yet Howe says mobile content and advertising is not going to save journalism. Howe said he had just spent a day with 12 people at a private meeting with a New York publisher, and there were no quick answers proposed. "It will be much tougher -- breathtaking change has to occur immediately," he said. "This is not something that can take months."

Newspapers have never built an national advertising platform, said investor Thomas Russo, because publishers have been "fiercely independent." Now, the industry "needs to somehow get the story out about itself." Russo is a principal at Gardner, Russo & Gardner, in Lancaster, Penn.

Non-profit news -- two examples

Paul Steiger spent almost two decades as a senior editor at The Wall Street Journal, which sells 2 million daily print copies. When he left THe Journal to found ProPublica, a non-profit investigative journalism operation funded for $10 million a year from a single private donor, he wasn't sure what his impact would be in the new world of web journalism. Recently, MSNBC agreed to promote a Pro Publica story on its web front page -- and it garnered 880,000 "hits."

Steiger, ProPublica's editor-in-chief, sees reason for optimism about the survival of journalism, despite the decline of U.S. newspapers. "You have great institutions sliding into the sea," he said. "And yo uhave other institutions starting up, with very different approaches . . . but they are going to get to some of the same places." For example, Steiger said he was recently told by Arianna Huffington, that she intends to set aside $1 million a year for investigative report on her Huffington Post website.

"For a guy who spent 18 years running a 2-million circulation newspaper, having one story get 880,000 hits is pretty damn good," Steiger said. "Are we going to collaborate with MSNBC again? You bet."

When GlobalPost, a Boston-based web operation focused on international news gathering, launches in early January, it will aim to earn most of its revenue from advertising and from syndication of its stories to newspapers and other publishing partners, according to Barbara Martinez, managing editor/web for GlobalPost. Although the website will be free, she says GlobalPost plans a "premium-content" portion of the site that will cost almost $199 a year to subscribers.

Joel Kramer was once publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the major-market daily. When it was sold, he collected a few million dollars of severance. Last year, he raised foundation and private-donor money -- adding $250,000 of his own cash -- to start MinnPost.com, a quality-news website for Minnesota. He says the number of people willing to pay for the print newspaper form is declining quickly. Kramer says that his quality-news site is able to charge $15-per-thousand impressions ($15 CPM) for most of its advertising positions, vs. $1.50 for mass-market news sites. In the web contest for advertising dollars, he says, the people who suffer will be those who have "undifferentiated eyeballs." He adds: "You need to create a site that is closer to a club."

Throughout the two-day gathering, Kramer sprinkled insights about what he's learned as a print editor-publisher turned web entrepreneur, where stories can be carefully measured by hits. Some tips: Detached, writing-from-Olympus style reporting gets far fewer hits than more conversational, personable style. Short stories and briefs get far more traffic than longer write ups. And frequent updating -- several times a day -- dramatically increases traffic to a given feature.

In India, Hindustani Times may barter up to 50% of 2009 advertising

HT Media Ltd., the Indian company which owns the mass-circulation New Delhi daily, the Hindustani Times, is taking a novel approach to revenue generation. This year, about 5% of its (U.S.$)300 million in revenues will come from barter arrangements – taking real estate or other items in exchange for running advertising – according to Rajiv Verma the company’s CEO. In 2009, as much of 50% of newspaper revenues may be barter, he says. The company hired investment bankers and other transaction experts who will quickly turn acquired assets for cash. Rajiv has a background in consumer-goods marketing and sales.

India’s economy is the world’s fourth largest and it includes 300 million mobile phone users – second largest in the world. There are 50 million Internet users. However, 48% of advertising spending still goes to print and 41% to television in India. So Verma sees wireless and the Internet as the only areas for real growth.

Right now, says Verma, Indian journalism is vibrant and hiring. But he assumes the trends hitting U.S. journalism now will hit India in a decade or so. And if journalism falters in India, he says, “if it begins to lose huge shareholder value, I think it will have to move to the state.”

Action ideas –- Kaiser goes direct

The Kaiser Family Foundation is launching a health news service which has already hired to journalists from former main-stream media news outlets, said Jill Braden Balderas, Kaiser’s managing editor. The decision illustrates a trend by non-government organizations with agendas – some outrightly political and some just focused on adding to the public’s knowledge on particular topics – to use the web to take their ideas directly to the public, rather than filtered through established news venues.

“I’m investing in things that will seed ideas and make a different,” said participant Ruth Ann Harnisch, a former Tennessee television news reporter and anchor who retired two decades ago and now manages a family foundation build from a Wall Street hedge-fund fortune. “My most successful philanthropy is when you never ask me again.”

Earlier this year, Harnish provide a grant to Kennesaw State University to test an idea called “RepJ.” The university is funding a fellowship for a young reporter who was dispatched to the small Minnesota city of Northfield. The goal is to see if the reporter, primarily using the web and extensive outreach to community groups and citizens, can gradually build a support community for civic journalism based on voluntary public subscription.

William Bohlen, of the German Marshall Fund, described the private foundation’s intention to fund reporting projects which specifically advance U.S.-European understanding and relationships.

What is the role of philanthropy?

Philanthropic funding of U.S. media is novel idea. It was a major foundation, the Carnegie Corp., which provided seed financing for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), the umbrella structure for the nation’s public television infrastructure, reminded Susan R. King, who now heads Carnegie’s journalism initiatives and strategy.

“One business model for philanthropic funding journalism is to just fund it,” added Don Kimelman, of the Pew Foundation, which backs Amy Mitchell’s group and a major media research organization in Washington, D.C. He said that would mean moving beyond the traditional recipients of media funding, which have been primary CPB, National Public Radio, their affiliate stations and independent producers.

Looking to philanthropy to fund or save the ongoing operations of journalism seems a stretch, said Susan King, of Carnegie. "Philanthropy ain't gonna do it,” she said. “We're an incubator, not an oxygen tank." She said funding educational efforts in journalism “funds a pipeline” of interest and expertise that has long-term benefits.

The Collins Center for Public Policy, a Florida-based foundation chartered to help the state “find solutions to its toughest problems,” is looking at how to increase “community information capacities,” said seminar participant John DeVries.