Monthly Archives: July 2009

Maybe the problem for New York Daily News is in the pictures

NY_DN0619-thumbAt least, that’s what Mort Zuckerman, chairman of Boston Properties Inc. and publisher of the Daily News, is thinking.

In an unusual step towards saving print media, Mark Zuckerman, chairman of Boston Properties Inc., said he intends to use cash he is raising from the sale of his own company stock to invest in printing presses for the New York Daily News. Using the 50.8 million dollars he plans to raise by selling 1 million shares, Zuckerman said he is hoping to print color pictures throughout the tabloid in an effort to draw advertisers and increase readership, revamping the country’s fifth-most widely circulated paper:

Wait till you see the way this paper is going to look four or five months from now. We are going to once again be able to be the picture newspaper in a way that nobody could have imagined.

While many newspapers are looking to entice online advertisers and generate revenue through customized advertising and ad configurations, Zuckerman’s efforts to increase the paper’s revenue through its print edition seems almost like an outdated vision. Even in color, newspaper ads can’t track a consumer’s shopping history and flash eerily personalized images in the styles section.

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AnnArbor.com experiences technical difficulties in first week

Ann ArborWhen AnnArbor.com replaced Ann Arbor News as the Michigan town’s news source, the Web site offered readers a new way to view their news: visitors to the free site can submit comments and vote on articles, propelling them higher on the page and increasing their visibility in a blog-like responsive forum.

But the interactive Web site has experienced technological problems in the first week after its launch. On Thursday, the site announced it had resumed regular posting after a server problem suspended news updates from 2:30 am to 10 am, and on Wednesday, the site apologized for broken and mislabeled links. Staff members posting updates on the issues referred to them as “growing pains” and “hiccups,” but they promised readers they would improve:

We know that’s not acceptable. We’re now working as hard as possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But as other newspapers look to AnnArbor.com to assess online-only news coverage, the recent problems could provide a deterrence if technology proves untrustworthy. Or newspapers could harness the Internet and adapt to new media so they can deliver the news to their frustrated, tech-savvy readers.

Washington Post Co. reports second-quarter profit

More than a week after other major newspaper companies announced second-quarter earnings, The Washington Post Co. reported Friday morning that they, too, had managed to turn a profit. The New York Times Co., McClatchy, Gannett and Media General all posted second quarter gains last week, sparking optimism among an industry mired in debt and suffering from decreased ad revenue.

But the Post, unlike the other companies, has not increased their profit at the expense of staff cuts — instead, the company has been buoyed by their other business investments, including Newsweek Magazine and Kaplan education services, which has recorded a 13 percent revenue increase.

Unless the Post puts their web content behind a pay wall, these confident students should easily be able to read online news when the paper disappears.

Daily Gazette will charge for online content

Schenectady’s Daily Gazette announced on Tuesday they will begin charging for web content starting Aug. 3. As many larger daily newspapers toy with the idea of putting their content behind a pay wall — sources close to The New York Times confirmed last week they planned to charge readers for web access, and The Washington Post has indicated they intend to follow a similar path — the Gazette’s decision will allow papers distributed in larger cities to assess the effects of limited web access.

The Gazette’s editor, Judy Patrick, said the editorial and business staff were at odds in the past over charging readers for content, with reporters wanting their stories readily available, and business staff looking to make a profit from online articles. But she said decreased ad revenue and a downward trend in newspaper readership has made reporters more receptive to the idea of putting their content behind a pay wall if it means they will remain on staff. In the editor’s blog, Patrick writes:

We’re proud of our Web site, which reflects what we are: a small, family-owned newspaper serving the Capital Region. With that in mind, we’ve decided to change the structure of our Web site in a way that offers more information to the people who pay for our paper — our subscribers — but less information to those people who do not.

But as of Thursday night, the New York community has not embraced the decision to limit access to articles and prevent non-paying readers from posting comments: the paper is conducting an online poll asking readers if newspapers should charge for online content that shows only 10 percent supports the idea.

And given that only 168 people have participated in the poll as of Thursday night, subscriptions for interactive content don’t look promising.

Bucking trend, some international newspapers post increasing readership

The Star Tribune is slated to emerge from bankruptcy as soon as September after a US bankruptcy judge cleared the way for creditors to vote on the news organization’s restructuring plan. And though news organizations like the Star Tribune in the US and the Daily Mail in the UK are suffering from financial strain and declining readership, some international newspapers industries seem to be defying this downward trend.

A recent study conducted in Australia reported newspaper readership is increasing despite declining ad revenue. According to the Australian study, no newspapers in the country have closed in the past year, and the number of regional daily papers has held steady. The three major papers have increased sales by 0.2 percent, which, though minor, still represents a positive break from weakening markets.

Newspaper readership in the Philippines is also increasing in the more affluent sectors of the population, according to recent analysis by Synovate, a global market research company. Steve Garton, global executive director of media at the research company, attributed the increase to a push by the newspaper companies to distribute their papers to offices, increasing readership among the higher socio-economic classes. The educated, economically secure sector should give advertisers incentive to place their products in a financially favorable location, he said.

Garton also offered this optimistic declaration:

It’s time to debunk the myth that newspapers are dying [here]. They are not.

This is a sharp contrast to the oft-pessimistic take by media moguls in the US.

Wired Magazine’s editor-in-chief Chris Anderson said in an interview on Tuesday, “Newspapers are not important. It may be that their physical, printed form no longer works,” and last month, Rupert Murdoch told Neil Cuvato of Fox News this:

I can see the day — and it may be 20 years away — where you don’t actually have paper and ink and printing presses.

Maybe the more positive international trend is a product of persistence and confidence. Or maybe their Internet connections are just slower than ours.

Another one bites the dust: Independent Voice ceases print edition

Another town is losing its local newspaper, as Tipp City’s Independent Voice becomes the latest to fold. The Ohio weekly is just another victim of the economic slump and decreasing ad revenue, though the publisher also cited organizations in town that encouraged out of town businesses and “past employee drug problems” for the paper’s demise, according to the Dayton Daily News.

The town’s residents are not only losing their newspaper, but are also losing the self-described “best source for local news around.” And though the paper was completely independent and never part of a news conglomeration, its disappearance again proved the news is never free from economic stress.

The newspaper’s permanent staff of two intends to update their Web site “as best they can,” the publisher said, but that all depends on whether they stay in Tipp City and stay away from illegal forms of chemically addicting mood modifiers. Although maybe if the town is promoting non-local businesses, it could also support a non-local paper with non-local advertisements, making the paper truly independent from the community it was intended to serve.

New media adaptation: could celebrity columnists save newspapers?

According to the Associated Press, Madonna has written an article for the front page of Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s most prominent daily newspaper. A portion of her column appeared in today’s print edition, with the full version to be published on Friday.

Madonna is only the latest celebrity to pen a column for a major newspaper — Bono has written op-ed columns for the New York Times about Frank Sinatra and Obama’s visit to Ghana earlier this summer, and Quincy Jones recently wrote an article about Michael Jackson in the Chicago Tribune. Sean Penn wrote an article about meeting Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro for The Nation in 2008 and an article about traveling in Iran for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2005.
Celebrity columnists could revive newspaper sales by providing a recognizable byline on the front pages. But when professional journalists are losing their jobs to cutbacks, celebrities should stick to Twitter. Or newspapers could adapt to new media journalism, give up, and just become blogs.