Monthly Archives: June 2011

Twitter launches guide for journos

Recognizing its role as an indispensable tool for journalists, Twitter just launched an online guide for journalists called Twitter for Newsrooms. The guide, announced via @twittermedia about an hour ago and already hashtagged #TfN, promises to be a “living document,” that will, according to the site, help journalists “focus” on their jobs: “finding sources, verifying facts, publishing stories, promoting your work and yourself—and doing all of it faster and faster all the time.”

At launch time, there were links to guides on how to #Report, #Engage, and #Publish. So far, no link on how to #Getpeopletoreadstoriesinprint.

Gannett layoffs hit nationwide

The axe at Gannett has already struck its first victims after the publisher of more than 80 daily newspapers announced plans on Tuesday to cut 700 employees. Cuts have hit papers from New Jersey to Iowa, from Florida to Ohio.

The greatest cuts appear to have occurred at the Indiana Star, which is reportedly cutting 62 jobs and eliminating 19 unfilled positions. The Westchester Journal News is also cutting 47 staff members, a particular blow considering the paper is no stranger to monstrous cuts ─ in 2009, the Journal News cut 70 newsroom positions and made all 288 of its news and advertising employees reapply for their jobs.

Other papers that are being bludgeoned by the axe: the Louisville Courier-Journal, which is axing 36 employees, and the Arizona Republic, which is losing 30 employees.

The only thing shakier than Gannett jobs might be the outcome of gay marriage legislation in New York. Or an earthquake.

Gannett to axe 700 jobs

Gannett announced this afternoon it would be cutting 700 jobs, adding to an ever-growing list of problems for the publisher of 82 daily newspapers. As revenue continues to decline, the company has been forced to cut jobs across the board, downsizing its workforce by 20,000 in the last five years, according to an April column in the New York Times. The company said cuts would be made in its community newspapers division. Said Robin Pence, the company’s vice president for corporate communications, “While we are seeing improved circulation results and audience growth, the economy remains challenged in many sectors, particularly in real estate, job growth and softer auto demand.”

The latest round of cuts follows Gannett’s announcement last fall that it would eliminate 130 jobs from the USA Today staff. USA Today is Gannett’s largest newspaper. In August 2009, the company eliminated 70 jobs at the Journal News in Westchester, N.Y., and told all of the paper’s 288 news and advertising employees that they would have to reapply for their jobs within a week. And at the beginning of this year, Gannett announced it would require all nonunion employees to take one-week furloughs.

And yet, despite firing employees willy-nilly and forcing employees to take a week of unpaid vacation, its top executives still earned hefty cash bonuses at the end of 2010 and could have potentially earned more than $28 million in compensation packages, according to the New York Times column. Alas, maybe this is just the way media companies do it nowadays. But be warned, Gannett, if you choose this route, bankruptcy is expensive.

HuffPo pay wall a possibility

Tim Armstrong, the CEO of AOL, said in an interview yesterday at the Cannes Lions media conference that he is “open in the future to strategies that will help create great content and monetize it properly,” according to Bloomberg News, including offering digital subscriptions for premium content on its websites. N.B. AOL acquired the Huffington Post for $315 million in February.

“I think content subscriptions on the Internet can be a very viable business,” he said. During the interview, Armstrong said the subscriptions may at first be limited to business-to-business content offerings.

It doesn’t seem like HuffPo’s content will go behind a pay wall anytime soon, but it’s still a possibility. Especially considering AOL’s profit fell 86 percent in its first quarter. But maybe that’s just what happens when you hire more journalists and no longer force them to lie.

McClatchy revenue still falling, just more slowly

Like other newspaper publishers, McClatchy continues to post declining revenue ─ but a glimmer of optimism may be shining through the gloom. The publisher of 30 daily papers including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee, and the Anchorage Daily News said today it recorded an 8 percent revenue decline in April and May compared to last year, which it said is better than the 9.5 percent decline in the first three months of the year. Advertising revenue declined 9 percent in April and May, which the company also said is also better than the first three months of the year.

Though McClatchy is putting a positive spin on an otherwise fairly depressing report, the publisher is still faring worse than its competitors. The Times Company, which publishes the New York Times, recorded a 3.6 percent revenue drop last quarter, with advertising revenue falling 4.4 percent. Gannett, which publishes 82 daily papers in the U.S., saw its revenue fall 6.2 percent last quarter, with advertising revenue dropping 7.3 percent. News Corporation, Rupert Murdoch’s media conglomerate, posted a 6 percent drop in revenue for its last quarter.

Despite the apparently slowing decline, McClatchy still might be feeling some pressure to keep whatever ad revenue it can and not fall too far behind these other publishers. Which could explain why the Miami Herald printed this last week.

Finding a way to save local news, but is it by plagiarizing?

GoLocalProv.com, a local website based in Providence, R.I., claims to have found a way to save local news, and indeed, the numbers do seem to tell a promising tale. According to an article written by Josh Fenton, the site’s founder, in Business Insider, the site, which launched in May 2010, has increased its traffic more than 100 percent in the last four months. And according to the article, the site attracted 410,000 “absolute unique visitors” in its first year, which, in a state with a population that hovers slightly above 1 million, is particularly impressive considering the report released by the FCC on June 9 citing a decline in the creation of online local news.

Fenton credits the site’s original reporting and “high-quality” videos as the reasons behind GoLocal’s success.

“For GoLocal the focus has been on content ─ as it is truly king. By breaking the biggest investigative pieces, covering core elements of the community, and integrating these stories into social media, GoLocalProv has been able to set the news cycle ahead of other news organizations over and over again,” Fenton wrote. “Unlike other new models for media, GoLocal doesn’t use third-party content aggregators or other news organizations like Associated Press to scrape stories.”

But are people really reading original content when they visit GoLocal?

In February, GoLocal published an article, with the byline GoLocalProv Features Team, about a new master’s degree program at Brown University. The story begins “Brown University has partnered with the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to establish a new opportunity for students interested in international study. The ‘Brown Plus One’ international program, which begins this year, allows Brown students to spend one or two semesters at a partnering university during their junior year.” Earlier that day, Brown had posted a press release, which began, “Brown University has partnered with the University of Edinburgh and the Chinese University of Hong Kong to establish a new opportunity for students interested in international study. The ‘Brown Plus One’ international program, which begins this year, allows Brown students to spend one or two semesters at a partnering university during their junior year.”

GoLocal’s story goes on to include a quote from the university’s dean of the college, without citing the release, which is identical to the one that appeared in the press release. In fact, GoLocal’s story is the press release almost word-for-word ─ yet there is no mention at all that any of the information came from the release.

Fenton asserts GoLocal’s success is a testament to the over 8,500 “original stories” on the site, but if copying and pasting a press release is “original” reporting and the key to GoLocal’s success, then it’s unclear how his site could ─ and should ─ be a model for saving local news.

(Thanks to Talia Kagan)

Monday jolt: NY Times limits length of comments

On the homepage of the New York Times this morning:

A Note to Readers:
Starting today, the character limit on comments will be reduced from 5,000 to 2,000 characters. The shorter length will allow for an improved experience for commenters and readers alike. As always, we encourage you to share your opinions and reactions.

For longer comments, head to the blogs.