Monthly Archives: June 2010

Foursquare set to expand

An article published on the Wall Street Journal’s website on Sunday (and mentioned in a Reuters report released late Sunday night) claims that Foursquare, a social networking site that allows users to share their location, is about to receive funding that will allow it to expand. According to the article, the investment deal is led by the venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz and could be formally announced this week.

The social networking service lets users “check in” to various venues including restaurants and other businesses in cities worldwide, providing a way to alert friends about their whereabouts. The site is frequently used in conjunction with other networking sites like Twitter and Facebook and gives users the opportunity to earn badges and prestigious titles (i.e. “Mayor”) based on the number of times they frequent establishments.

Last March, Foursquare introduced an analytical feature that allowed businesses to gain access to information about their customers. And according to a February New York Times article, the founders of the networking site are also hoping to haul in profits that could (should) result from sharing information with businesses that use the service. (N.B. the Times is one of those businesses).

But the details of this “funding” seem to be shrouded in mist: not only were the specifics of the deal kept secret, but the WSJ article about the deal itself requires interested readers to subscribe for further viewing.

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For UK government, Facebook is better medium

Gone are the days when the government used pamphlets, newspapers, radio, and television to communicate with its constituents. At least, according to the British government. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, was invited to advise the UK government on more effective communication.

The decision to pick Zuckerberg’s brain for communication is perhaps the Coalition Government’s acknowledgment that social networking sites — Facebook, Twitter et al. — are the most successful media for disseminating information and maintaining support. Given Zuckerberg’s recent prediction that his site would reach one billion users in the next few years — “it is almost a guarantee that it will happen,” he told the Guardian last week — the UK government seems to be on the right track.

And with signs that UK papers may be intending to put up paywalls (The Times is asking its readers to register an account, indicating possible plans to charge readers for access to content in the future), networking sites look like a good alternative to traditional media communication. At least these networking sites are still free, even if they have always required users to register accounts.

With only six sponsors, WSJ’s iPad app hauls in millions

Though many media companies are aggressively attempting to attract advertisers who are increasingly turning away from the print platform, the Wall Street Journal is trying a different strategy. According to an internal memo sent to Dow Jones employees by Brian Quinn, vice president and general manager for digital ad sales for the WSJ digital network, the WSJ signed six “launch sponsors” when it created its new iPad app last March. The company charged the six advertisers $400,000 for a two-page ad spread during the app’s four month “launch phase,” which began when Apple released the iPad on April 3 and ends July 31.

Despite advertisers’ enthusiasm — in the memo, Quinn states that the company signed all the sponsors in less than one week — the WSJ apparently decided to limit its initial number of advertisers. Quinn wrote this: “To be honest, we could have sold a lot more but we limited the number of advertisers to six as we didn’t want to have too many advertisers trying to share the page impressions on a device that hadn’t even been introduced yet, and we wanted to create scarcity.”

Apple just released download numbers for apps last week, so advertisers only received information about possible views on Friday. But it seems like the WSJ is feeling pretty good. Not only does the memo take a stab at the New York Times (“Our main competitors such as the New York Times didn’t take advantage of the early opportunity of the iPads and ads, from product development to how they sold it in the market place”), but, according to Business Insider, the app has already earned the WSJ $2.4 million in ad revenue.

Rock & Roll

Last September, President Obama told the Toledo Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was a “big newspaper junkie” and that he would consider any Congressional bill that would aid the ailing industry. But magazines, the industry’s glossier, more time-delayed kin, got no such love — at least, not then. And after an article in Rolling Stone managed to destroy Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, magazines may never hope to receive governmental love.

According to an article in the Washington Post, officials in the McChrystal camp have accused Michael Hastings, the reporter behind the Rolling Stone article, of publishing off-the-record conversations. Though McChrystal supporters, many of whom refused to speak on the record (admittedly, pretty understandable now), are claiming that the Rolling Stone reporter did not abide by the “ground rules” set forth by the McChrystal contingency, no one has denied actually making any of the off-color remarks. Including McChrsytal. It was only at the end of the week that sources began complaining — not about the (disparaging) content, but about the (drunken) context. And as the magazine’s executive editor Eric Bates told the Post: “None of those objections were raised during the critical few days in which this became a national issue.”

Regardless of whether journalism ethics were violated, Rolling Stone reinvigorated political reporting by exposing the U.S. military and forcing McChrystal to resign in disgrace. (For “Lady Gaga Tells All,” see page 37).

The Fold: U.S. newspapers that stopped printing from February to May

Art Review & Preview (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Berkeley Daily Planet (Berkeley, Calif.)
California Real Estate Journal (Los Angeles, Calif.)
Chicago Free Press (Chicago, Ill.)
District Weekly (Long Beach, Calif.)
Pinellas News (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Post-Crescent East (Appleton, Wis.)
Selah Independent (Selah, Wash.)
Sun Tribune (Kansas City, Mo.)
Western Tribune (Bessemer, Ala.)
Whitehorse Community News (Darrington, Wash.)