Mobile platforms offer newspaper publishers a ‘do over’

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We've all heard — more than enough — that newspapers sealed their fate when they began giving their content away for free online in the ’90s. Our industry has also endured endless “barn door/horse” analogies about efforts to rein that content back in by instituting paywalls.

Now we’re well into 2015, and with our Internet atrocities in the rearview, the mobile era has fully taken root. There’s no question mobile represents a “do-over” for newspapers, and publishers are admittedly using the platform to right the wrongs they committed on the Web.

With mobile devices outnumbering the world’s population (there are some 7.2 billion smartphones and tablets in use currently) the platform certainly can’t be ignored. And while newspapers’ first priority seemed like a repeat of Internet mania as they clamored to filter print content to mobile and tablet apps with the launch of the iPhone and iPad, the majority have now adopted more strategic approaches.

The publishers that are successfully growing mobile engagement with readers are doing so because they’ve offered them something very different from their print and online products. They’ve capitalized on smartphones and tablet features that accentuate their best assets to foster reader engagement and grow ad revenue.

Our page-5 story details the Toronto Star’s efforts to maximize and monetize the platform.

Torstar nixed its online paywall in March, after some short-term success. Now, taking a cue from La Presse+, it is set to launch Star Touch in September. The iPad app will be completely distinct from the print and online versions of the Star, in hopes of growing its audience and advertising. In the case of La Presse+, the tablet news app currently accounts for 60 percent of that paper’s total ad revenues and claims a 45 percent increase in readership since it launched two years ago. We’d call that success. And we have a hunch Torstar will see similar results. That’s because, according to Torstar’s Joe Genautis, staff has focused solely on content that will lend well to an engaging interactive experience for readers. The publisher will leverage audio, video and all of the bells and whistles that keep readers in front of their iPads at night. Furthermore, Torstar has created a team that will work with advertisers to develop campaigns that get the most out of the platform. The publisher will also provide feedback on how ads are performing. That’s inventive and it’s the kind of approach that will yield revenue streams that run long and deep into the future.

On other pages of this issue you’ll also learn what publishers, including the Erie (Pa.) Times-News, GateHouse Media, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times are doing to grow revenues.

Without investment in journalism, GateHouse model won’t yield long-term success

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One billion dollars in acquisitions in a three-year period seemed like a lofty goal when New Media Investment Group CEO Mike Reed made the proclamation earlier this year, but it appears the company will hit its mark.

In just the past year, the GateHouse Media parent has shelled out approximately $476 million for Stephens Media LLC and its flagship Las Vegas Review-Journal, Halifax Media, the Providence (R.I.) Journal and, most recently, The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch and its Dispatch Printing Co. It’s funded the deals through a mix of new debt, stock sales and operating cash flow.

Buying The Dispatch may prove to be its best move yet. Aside from its market position and size, the paper solidified its future three years ago when it became the first in the world to commit to a three-around printing platform. The move transformed the daily into a fully sectioned compact broadsheet, shaving some 33 percent off of its newsprint bill and landing it a contract with Gannett Co. Inc. to print The Cincinnati Inquirer and Kentucky Enquirer. All of that considered, the purchase price of $47 million certainly appears to be a steal.

In this era where we talk endlessly about digital and mobile growth GateHouse, has positioned itself for success by snapping up papers with little market competition, whose digital profits have nowhere to go but up and whose print products are still strong.

What remains to be seen, however, is whether or not GateHouse will change its pattern of handing down layoffs at the papers it buys. The company continues to make major cuts in copy-editing and design across titles since it shifted those functions to its Center for News and Design in Austin in 2013. Despite all of GateHouse’s recent successes, disregarding the core business of newspapers — journalism — won’t foster any real success long term.

Be sure to check out our page-6 story for more on GateHouse’s recent purchases and an in-depth look at the changing face of newspaper ownership.

This issue also takes a look at how newspapers’ paywall initiatives have evolved since N&T first began covering digital subscriptions nearly a decade ago. It was fascinating to take a look back at newspapers early strategies, the lessons they’ve learned and what’s working now.

Meeting the future of news with excitement, anticipation

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When we asked newspapers to talk to us about the steps they’re taking to modernize their newsroom infrastructures, we got a lot of feedback — too much, in fact, to fit into the pages of this issue. But we think that’s a good thing.

It’s a good thing because publishers are excited about what they’re doing and, for the first time in awhile, they have a renewed sense of energy about their jobs. The fear of new platforms that’s prevailed over the past five years, is being replaced with excitement as editors rise to the challenge to learn about and capitalize on new platforms and media.

Newspapers now have a solid handle on streamlining their editorial and pagination operations, and can focus more heavily on how to get the most out of new and emerging platforms and devices.

Newsrooms are also taking different approaches to storytelling as competition from sites like Buzzfeed mounts. On page 48 of our digital edition, which you can find online at www.newsandtech. com, we share some tips newspapers take from Buzzfeed in an article by Italian journalist Valerio Bassan. Be sure to check it out. And as we wrap up this issue, stories about the Apple Watch are everywhere, and other smartwatches and wearables are gaining steam.

As with any new platform, newspapers must arm themselves with information and look to the early adopters to help them find their footing. In our page 10 story on wearable technologies, we’ve shared some information from WAN-Ifra’s report on wearables, released during Digital Media Europe in April, as well as the latest on newspapers that have released apps for the Apple Watch.

Only time will tell what the most effective content models will be for these devices, but out of the gate, newspapers including The New York Times and The Guardian of the U.K. have already launched apps and are gauging what audiences want. In NYT’s case, the paper rolled out one-sentence story alerts that seem well suited to the small screen size of the watch. The Guardian, meantime, is targeting readers with different features at different times of the day in an effort to capitalize on its readers’ news consumption behaviors.

We will certainly continue to see a host of new releases from publishers around the world, and it will take some time before the most successful models rise to the surface. As always, News & Tech will keep you updated on the latest developments on smartwatches, wearables and all of the latest platforms and devices.

An industry pushing ahead

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In this special issue we’ve taken a look at some of the most efficient newspaper printing operations in North America. Printers are rising to the challenge and pushing ahead. They’re growing their operations and newspapers are thriving as a result — a fitting theme as we enter spring.

Growing efficiency also means printers are looking at new technologies and the potential benefits those techs could have on their operation — and that’s good news for both newspaper production and the vendors that support it.

John Jenkins of Print Innovators, for example, said his plant has been keeping an eye on digital printing as more newspapers show interest in smaller print runs to fit the new economy (see our Page One story for more on Print Innovators).

The start of spring also ushered in the call from Associated Press President and CEO Gary Pruitt to make the killing of journalists a war crime. Indeed, we wholeheartedly agree as journalism continues to endure its deadliest period in history. More than 370 journalists have been slain since 2009, and the AP lost four of its own in 2014 alone. Sixty-one journalists were killed globally last year. Staggering statistics, to say the least.

“It used to be that when media wore “press” emblazoned on their vest, or “press” or “media” was on their vehicle, it gave them a degree of protection,” Pruitt said. “But guess what: That labeling now is more likely to make them a target.”

While the threat of a war-crime conviction will likely leave extremist groups unfazed, it will certainly go a long way to show solidarity with a group that is more threatened than ever.

On a similar note, News & Tech in March attended the Inter American Press Association’s Midyear meeting in Panama where much of the agenda was dedicated to press freedom — IAPA’s core mission. With struggles worldwide and conflicts in Latin American countries including Venezuela at a critical point, IAPA is poised to affect change. You can find our complete coverage of the event on page 18.

Finally, as we wrapped up this issue, featuring an exclusive with some of the most influential women in our industry (see page 13), we learned of the passing of industry veteran Marge Boatright. Marge was a pioneer for women in this industry and her legacy will not be forgotten.

NT blog: Halting of El Paso real estate deal could signify that DFM sale is near

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The El Paso (Texas) Times today reported that there is more speculation of a sale looming for its parent.

Following reports in January that major asset managers Cerberus Capital Management and Apollo Global Management were bidding for DFM, an El Paso commercial broker told the Times that the nixing of a major real estate deal may be proof of a bigger move on the horizon.

Stan Okies with CORE Counselors of Real Estate has spent four months in negotiations, working with a buyer to acquire the 63,000-square-foot building behind City Hall that houses the Times’ printing press, he told the Times.

“Then, last Friday (Feb. 20) we received a communication at a very late hour that the deal we’d been working on and thought was going into contract that day or soon was terminated,” Okies said. “No reason was given.

“In addition, we were informed that the property was being removed from the market.”

Read the Times’ complete story here.

Digital finds newspaper pulse once more

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It’s been awhile since we’ve seen any significant movement in newspaper adoption of digital inkjet printing. Some seven years have elapsed since vendors first wooed us with digital technologies at drupa 2008 and yet reports of newspaper adoption are still few and far between.

Enter Swiss printer Mengis Druck, which is transitioning to digital for production of its daily Walliser Bote this summer with an HP T400 color inkjet web press. The move is no doubt significant — mainly because it seems the publisher’s move to digital was made primarily with its flagship daily in mind.

As our page 5 story reports, Mengis Druck selected the technology in response to an aging newspaper press, but also to react to increasing demand for regionalization of Walliser Bote. All of us who have been keeping an eye on digital inkjet for the past seven years know that’s where proponents of the technology claim that it shines. In the case of Mengis Druck, the publisher also cited declining circulation — always a doomsday harbinger for publishers — as a factor in moving to digital. But Walliser Bote is arming itself to get more out of the newspaper subscriptions it’s still got with more targeted and regionalized content. We’ll be anxiously waiting to see how the initiative progresses.

In the U.S., meantime, it’s been a year since Topweb LLC in Chicago — which perhaps represents the most successful digital newspaper printing model in the U.S. to date — ramped up its second TKS (USA) JetLeader digital press.

Here at News & Tech, we’re curious about industry sentiment when it comes to digital. Top decision makers on the production side of most major newspaper companies have no doubt familiarized themselves with digital by now. But what about the rest of the folks that ensure papers get printed each day? Are newspapers at large ready for digital? If not, is it a case of too little information? Too high of a cost? Or is it simply that good old-fashioned fear of change for which newspapers are so often criticized? Send us an email and tell us what you think.

Finally, with Spring just around the corner, N&T will take to sunny Panama City, Panama, in early March to participate in the Inter American Press Association’s Midyear Meeting. We’ll host a session on March 6, where we’ll share technology insights from North America with the Latin American market, and get a pulse on what’s working well for the newspapers in that region.

We’re looking forward to being part of an event sponsored by an association that so strongly advocates press freedom and safety. To our readers in Latin America and worldwide, we look forward to seeing you there.

New year brings victories, challenges

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It’s a New Year and as we put this issue of News & Tech together, we enjoyed talking to newspaper executives who are bullish about the future of print. As an industry, we love to prove the naysayers wrong, and our Page 1 story on newspapers’ various approaches to ensuring print’s bright future proves once more that we’re far from done.

We’re emerging from the doldrums of years past stronger and better poised for an exciting — and changing — future.

On a more somber note, 2015 also began with the bloodiest mass rebellion against freedom of the press in recent memory when the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo were terrorized on Jan. 7. The attack left 10 journalists and two police officers dead. And a list of numbers compiled by WAN-Ifra on journalism deaths are staggering — 370 journalists have been killed in the past six years alone.

We in the media should be the last to need reminding of the imperative mission we serve in the name of liberty and democracy. Yet we do need reminding occasionally.

So often focused on layoffs, cutbacks, and newspapers closing their doors, the tragedy of Charlie Hedbo serves as a stark reminder of just how crucial our societal mission is. It is more important than ever, and we must not ever lose sight of it. To that end, we invite you to check out the insightful column penned by WAN-Ifra’s Andrew Heslop on page 61 of our online digital pages.

And as we enter 2015, let’s heed the call of WAN-Ifra and other newspaper-industry champions to defend liberty and display visible unity.

In the words of WAN-Ifra World Editor’s Forum President Erik Bjerager, “Stand in solidarity with your colleagues around the world in defense of common ideals. Show no fear.”

Indeed.

Elections epitomize newspapers' strengths

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We’ve come to the end of another year, and once again our industry will be holding its collective breath as it determines whether or not advertisers will renew contracts. That coupled with another poor financial quarter for the majority of publishers and more declines in readership (see the latest figures from the Alliance of Audited Media in our page 18 story) could certainly make for an anxiety-ridden holiday season.

In spite of that, though, we’re reminded of the invaluable attributes of newspapers that are rarely reflected in the numbers. Quarterly reports and circ stats don’t show the entire picture. So, in the spirit of the season, let’s put the numbers aside for a moment and reflect on some positives.

The Midterm Elections were a reminder of newspapers’ significance as online and print coverage intersected to illustrate the best of each medium. Readers tuned into publisher’s websites and Twitter feeds for up-to-the-minute results late into the night on Nov. 4, and snapped up print editions on Nov. 5, to learn about election outcomes in their regions and nationwide. The front pages of The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post told the stories of the GOP’s surge to Senate control, while other publishers’ front pages focused on election results that hit closer to home. (The Newseum has put together a collection of the Nov. 5 front pages of daily newspapers around the country where you can see how various publishers covered the election. Check it out at http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/.)

Political coverage may best epitomize newspapers’ strengths, and often reminds journalists why they became journalists in the first place: It’s exciting. It matters. It allows us to be a part of chronicling our nation’s history. And newspapers should be proud of the role they continue to play in covering our nation’s democratic process.

So as our industry gears up for what will no doubt be another challenging year, it’s imperative that we not lose sight of our strengths.

And, as the year draws to a close, News & Tech would like to extend a sincere thank-you to all of our readers, advertisers and fans for your continued support. In 2015, we’ll mark our 27th year in publication — and we wouldn’t be here without you.

We also invite you to tell us about your plans and initiatives for the New Year, whether that be upgrading your production infrastructure or launching a new product or app. Drop me an e-mail at tmcmeekin@newsandtech.com.

We wish you all a joyous and safe holiday season!

NT blog: Remember the Univac?

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Here’s a little history lesson I’m not sure our kiddos are learning is Social Studies these days: On Nov. 4, 1952, CBS News commissioned a Remington Rand Univac Mainframe I computer to help with predictions during its presidential election coverage. That computer correctly forecast the victory of Dwight D. Eisenhower over Adlai Stevenson.

“This is not a joke or a trick, it’s an experiment.” CBS Reporter Charles Collingwood told viewers. “We think it’ll work. We hope it’ll work.”

Despite predictions of a close race between the two, the Univac predicted Eisenhower’s win after just 3 million votes had been tallied.

Collingwood was instructed to downplay the landslide the computer predicted because his boss believed the prediction was so skewed that it couldn’t possibly be accurate. So instead of telling viewers the computer’s actual prediction of 100 to 1, Collingwood said the computer was predicting 8 to 7 odds in favor of Eisenhower.

When the landslide win proved to be true, Collingwood announced that CBS had initially covered up the accurate prediction.

I learned about the Univac in the 4th grade and, along with several of my classmates, built what we interpreted the computer to look like. It was a big box, spray-painted silver and strung with Christmas lights. It was such an eyesore, in fact, that our school janitor, Bernie, mistakenly cut it apart with a box cutter and piled it up with the trash (I also recall a fair amount of 9-year-old tears when that happened). I later discovered that the actual Univac computer was only slightly more attractive than our rendering.

Trivia buffs out there may also know that Univac stood for “universal automatic computer,” and that the machine was also used in predicting the weather. This evening we’ll watch election results pour in, predicted from far more sophisticated computers, but I’m not convinced they’ll be any more accurate than those of the Univac 62 years ago.

—Tara McMeekin

Exploiting the newspaper production dichotomy

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A strange dichotomy exists in newspapers today: For every publisher that ramps up new equipment, several more shutter production plants or are forced make the choice to outsource their printing. We all know the mantra well by now: “Print or be printed.”

That dichotomy was keenly illustrated at Block Communications’ daily newspapers on Sept. 8: While the first issue of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette rolled off the publisher’s new Goss Uniliner press at its new 245,000-square-foot facility in Clinton Commercial Park, the first issue of The Toledo Blade rolled off a press owned by the Detroit Media Partnership in Sterling Heights, Mich.

For Block Communications, the silencing of flexo presses at The Blade’s Superior Street production facility meant huge savings vs. the alternative of a printing infrastructure upgrade (see our Page 1 story). It also meant the elimination of 131 jobs.

And the contract is a coup for Detroit Media Partnership, which because of its advanced press and mailroom infrastructure was able to land a commercial printing gig from a newspaper some 80 miles away.

In Block’s case, the publisher will benefit from both printing and being printed. The much-anticipated ramp up of its new Post-Gazette facility will not only net the publisher savings in terms of insourcing jobs it previously farmed out, but will also position it to take on commercial work (although it hasn’t outlined specific plans to do so). And while Block Communications shelled out severance packages to hundreds of employees when it farmed out its printing to DMP, the move also spared the 179-year-old daily billions of dollars in new equipment expenses — to the tune of $30 million, according to Blade President and General Manager Joe Zerbey.

If you’d have picked up an issue of News & Tech 10 years ago and seen a story on The Toledo Blade being printed in Michigan, you probably would have thought you were looking at an April Fool’s edition. Today though, nothing is out of the question when it comes to adjusting in order to survive. Newspaper production certainly looks very different than it did 10 years ago, but the industry’s greatest strength going forward will continue to be its ability to adapt; to recognize where there are opportunities to right-size its way to survival, and ultimately (fingers crossed) profitability.

With this issue, we welcome back former N&T columnist Ray Marcano. Ray has more than 30 years of traditional and digital newsroom experience, mostly with Cox Media Group. He is now president and CEO of Canis Digital, a firm that helps publishers implement digital newsroom strategies. Our readers will no doubt benefit from his expertise.

Can spinoff trend help our industry?

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We wrapped up this issue on unconventional revenue streams amidst the completion of the spinoff of Tribune Publishing, and the news of Gannett’s decision to make the same move sometime next year. Journal Communications Inc. also decided to separate its newspaper and broadcast interests this summer, announcing plans that include merging its broadcasting operations with E.W. Scripps Co.

It’s become a common move for media companies, and one primarily intended to lighten the drag newspaper publishing puts on the more-profitable broadcasting segment. It remains to be seen if there might also be some financial recovery down the road for newspapers as they strike out on their own.

Gannett will no doubt fare better than others since it won't carry any debt into the spinoff of its 81 U.S. dailies. Still, its second-quarter results are a clear indication of the weight of its newspaper division on the company. Those results showed 88 percent growth in Gannett’s broadcasting revenues — to $398.3 million — compared with the second quarter last year; while publishing revenues dropped 4.1 percent — to $867 million — over last year.

Tribune Publishing, meantime, acquired $350 million worth of debt as part of its spinoff from Tribune Co., and in its first reporting period since going solo showed a 3.8 percent slide in income, to $429.9 million from $446.9 million in Q2 of 2013. And News Corp.’s split of newspaper and entertainment assets last year cost the company $2 billion, while Time Warner saddled print spinoff Time with $1.3 billion worth of debt when it fractured its businesses.

We can only wait and see what will shake out as some newspapers lose the security net of losses being absorbed by other business units and others free themselves from being saddled with the debt of other business segments.

Still, newspapers have become experts when it comes to finding new and innovative ways to grow and diversify their businesses — and having to stand on their own may further bolster their drive. Yes, print advertising remains a bleeding wound, but publishers continue to reinvent themselves and their profits, as evidenced on the pages of this issue of N&T. Take a look at our page-5 story on the Los Angeles Times’ addition of glossy ads, or our page-8 feature on publishers benefitting from crowdfunding initiatives. While none of these moves alone are likely to be a boon, they all represent growth — and that’s a good thing.

We hope you’ll find some ideas and inspiration for your own operation here, and we look forward to seeing you at Graph Expo later this fall.

NT Blog: NYT highlights groups rallying around Salt Lake Tribune

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The New York Times this week reported on groups rallying behind The Salt Lake Tribune in light of recent changes to its JOA with the Deseret News. Among them, minority and gay groups who say the changes, include cutting The Tribune’s profits in half in exchange for cash and other benefits, may likely lead to The Tribune’s demise.

Check out the full article here. 

NT Blog: Times-Pic severs ties with La. Press Association

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The Baton Rouge Business Report last week reported that Advance Publications Inc.’s (New Orleans) Times-Picayune pulled out of the Louisiana Press Association and David Francis, associate publisher of the paper and the NOLA Media Group, resigned his position on the association’s board of directors.

The newspaper notified the LPA in a letter dated July 2.

Francis declined to comment the resns why, although LPA board members assime the move has its roots, at least in part, in the controversy that took place earlier this year when The Advocate successfully lobbied the Legislature to change state law so that it could compete to publish lucrative classified legal ads and public notices in Orleans and Jefferson parishes.

Read the full story from Business Report here.

NT Blog: Taylor tells readers why he bought Star Tribune

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Glen Taylor penned and editorial in Sunday's (Minnesota) Star Tribune on his reasons for buying the newspaper.

The Minnesota Timberwolves owner paid a still-undisclosed amount of cash for the paper at the end of June.

In case you missed it, take a look at his editorial here.

NT Blog: Seattle Times' columnist goes analog

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Great article by Benjamin Mullin on Seattle Times’ columnist Monica Guzman’s experiment to see just how much “writing” she does when she endeavored to hand write everything over a two-day period.

Mullin writes: “She hand wrote everything. Tweets. Texts. Emails. Everything was scrawled on a piece of paper and photographed on her cellphone. Guzman wrote about 130 handwritten notes over two days, a feat that cramped her hands and reminded her of the convenience of typing.”

News & Tech readers may remember Mullin from our May/June 2014 issue in which we covered the evolving rules of newspaper internships. He writes for Poynter.org as one of its first Google Journalism Fellows. Mullin was previously editor-in-chief of his college newspaper, The Orion, and has held a number of internships at publications throughout Northern California as well as freelancing for USA Today.

Great story, Ben!

NAA's Little talks data, mobile and more

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The Newspaper Association of America's CEO Caroline H. Little talks about the role of data, the importance of employing a mobile-first strategy, rather than approaching it as an afterthought, the role of the free press and the forecast for the industry's next 12 months.

Read her full column here.

Don’t believe the naysayers

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It never fails when I’m traveling to an industry event and someone I encounter in a hotel or airport asks me what I do, that I hear some version of “No one reads the paper anymore — everyone gets their news on their computer or phone.”

My response to these never-ending predictions of print’s demise is generally a comment on the resiliency and inventiveness of this industry and the people in it.

At News & Tech, we have the unique vantage point of talking to the people behind the scenes of newspaper’s survival — the ones that come up with the ideas that ultimately give their products new life. Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of the faces and shaken the hands of a lot of the people that walk that walk every day — from digital and new media department heads, to press and mailroom operators. And the air of positivity that’s returned to this industry, particularly over the past year or so, is nothing short of awesome. The mindset has shifted from negative to positive and, more and more we’re seeing that positivity reinforced by numbers and data. The NAA recently reported that 137 million, or 53 percent of adults in the U.S. read a printed newspaper each week.

Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times Vice President of Sales and Marketing Bruce Faulmann in May, told Metro Users Group Conference attendees that newspaper readership still exceeds nightly news viewership of all three major television networks. Now, there are some statistics you can throw out the next time you’re sitting next to Mr. Print Naysayer on the airplane.

Rising attendance at industry conferences is another positive sign for newspapers. More than 375 people turned out for INMA’s World Congress this year, and MUG attendance grew 6 percent from last year, according to President Alvin Nesmith (see our complete wrap-ups of MUG and INMA on pages 8 and 22, respectively).

Collaboration via industry events will continue to play a crucial role in our industry’s innovation and survival. To that end, News & Tech is working to bring industry execs together to talk about technologies and innovations that are generating revenue for their newspapers through our series of webinars leading up to Graph Expo in partnership with the Graphic Arts Show Co. Our next event, “High performance prepress and workflow,” takes place Aug. 5, and we hope you’ll join us.

NT Blog: Check out RJI mobile tips

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For many publishers, the realm of mobile reporting apps and methods can seem overwhelming and daunting. Today. the Reynolds Journalism Institute published some useful tips and information on the topic, including ideas for micro video content and examples of ways to use the Vine platform.

Check it out here.

Spring brings renewed focus to industry

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Spring has arrived, and with it, renewed signs of life in the newspaper industry.

In the past two months News & Tech has reported on plans by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Free-Press to upgrade their printing infrastructures with new press equipment. The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune, meantime, will launch a new print product this summer to fill the gap left by its move to scaled-back print days for the flagship paper. (You can find the full story on The Times-Pic’s forthcoming TPStreet on page 5.)

Beyond the core print product, publishers are also making major investments in online and digital ventures. Among them, The Dallas Morning News and DigitalFirst Media, with the launch of digital service businesses from which they’re beginning to see significant profits. Tribune Co. and The Tampa (Fla.) Tribune have recently signed on with Hearst’s LocalEdge unit to roll out similar services (see our story on page 10.)

And publishers around the world are also beginning to identify the right mix of offerings – including video — to drive online readership (see our story on page 8).

If you attended INMA’s 83rd Word Congress in New York at the end of April, I don’t have to tell you that the vibe was decidedly positive — a nice change for an industry that’s been reeling since the Great Recession hit.

“If you came here for gloom and doom, you picked the wrong group,” INMA CEO Earl Wilkinson told INMA attendees. And he was certainly right. There was no room for negativity amidst the exchange of ideas and strategies taking place between newspaper execs from around the globe.

Among the takeaways from the three-day conference: After much noise and distraction in the industry over the past several years, newspapers are refocusing on, and reinvesting in their core mission: journalism. And that will lead to quality content, no matter the platform.

For many publishers, including The Dallas Morning News and The Financial Times, that means having the freedom to invest in new revenue streams without being paralyzed by the fear of failure. No doubt new endeavors — if they aim to be successful and sustainable — must be an all-in proposition in terms of support that starts at the top of the ranks. In any business, finding the recipe for success begins with a commitment from the highest level.

But it’s only when publishers realize that the commitment to quality journalism and quality products offers the straightest path back to profitability that they’ll ultimately succeed in this industry’s ever-changing landscape.

Regionalizing or outsourcing?

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Missoula News reported some significant cuts in design staff at Lee papers in Montana.

There’s a big difference between regionalizing design and outsourcing it to India. News & Tech will be watching to see how this one shakes out. At any rate, it looks like it’s a bad day to be a graphic designer in Big Sky Country.

NT blog: What's credibility worth?

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Who was actually surprised to discover that Journatic was supplying bogus bylines that ended up in print and online editions of the Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and a handful of other major dailies? Somehow, “I told you so,” doesn’t quite say it.

We’ve already seen many of the ramifications of cutting newspaper editorial staffs to the bone and outsourcing content creation. But none have been quite as embarrassing as what went down over the weekend when Journatic writer Ryan Smith admitted on a Chicago radio show to the firm’s use of aliases in articles composed by Filipino writers working for low wages.

It’s time for publishers to think about what they’re really losing with every cut they make and decide how much their credibility is worth.

The best outcome would be that this is the catalyst for newspapers to begin reinvesting in their most-valuable asset — journalism. But, I won’t hold my breath.

—Tara McMeekin

NT Blog: We Advance, but do we progress?

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I am sure I am not the only one who was stunned by what happened today at The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune.

Yes, I know that the digital transformation is upon us, and I know that consumption of digital information continues to grow (even if the hoped-for increase in digital advertising has somehow not accompanied it).

But I also know that the value of newspapers is the content they produce, and if the very people who create that content are dismissed, then what kind of value proposition is left?

No matter how you want to sugarcoat it, Advance Publications decimated The Times-Picayune’s newsroom today. Almost 50 percent of the 169-person staff was notified that their employment would end Sept. 30.

Nola Media Group, the entity that will oversee the retooled Times-Pic, will refill some of those 84 slots, but how many, and whether those jobs will include editorial positions, is unknown.

The news out of Advance’s Alabama properties, meantime, is no better, with The Birmingham News’ editorial department slashed by almost 60 percent. Across The News, The Huntsville Times and Press-Register in Mobile, some 400 positions will be eliminated, encompassing reporters, editors, production workers and advertising personnel.

I’ve commented many times about the danger publishers risk by cutting reporters and editors at a time when consumers want more, and not less, professionally written, edited and curated information and content.

Unfortunately, it’s becoming distressingly clear the industry’s digital future — at least as it’s currently funded — threatens to provide readers with less. Much, much less.

--Chuck Moozakis

NT blog: Facebook IPO and digidimes

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The fallout following Facebook’s IPO appears to mirror the digital struggles newspapers have contended with over the past five years or so. Simply, it’s still far from certain that standalone digital advertising can pay the entire freight charges of any news or information-based operation.

As Facebook and Morgan Stanley executives steamed ahead with their due diligence, and assiduously collected the consequential hype for the IPO along the way, they neglected to study the history of the newspaper industry and its efforts to understand the true value of digital advertising.

For better or worse, the newspaper industry has become very schooled in the realm of overhyped digital advertising.

Yes, as an industry we moved too slowly to embrace online classifieds and then Craig Newmark came along. And we continue to overlook the value of our printed products, in the process reducing folio size and content.

Fortunately, we are finally finding ways to protect our digital content through paywalls and other initiatives aimed at preventing Internet thieves from taking newspapers’ hard work and repurposing it as their own.

Our printed newspapers can still be the central focus of a community, as long as we provide strong, insightful and locally focused editorial content. We cannot continue to eliminate valuable reporters, editors and copyeditors if we seek to have the local community embrace our products.

Facebook’s IPO should embolden us to continue to provide strong, colorful and focused newspapers that are targeted to our communities’ local demographic and psychographic profiles. You must continue to evolve your printed product.

Newspapers sit on a treasure trove of archived material, photos and other exclusive, and unduplicated, content. Think about creating special printed sections or a digital companion that can repurpose that valuable information.

Continue to take an active position in your community. Drop off newspapers at strategic and important locations such as language learning centers and local schools. The charity we provide within our communities will come back into our operations.

Take heart newspaper industry....

Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, reaffirmed his belief in the newspaper industry last week when he purchased more than 60 papers from Media General.

In a memo he issued to editors and publishers, Buffet challenged his newspapers to make their products indispensable in their respective cities and towns. 

The financial markets are now watching and hopefully the confidence in the value of a newspaper will continue to grow.

For decades, newspapers have been the glue that binds communities. Now is not the time for publishers to relinquish that responsibility. Instead, the industry must step up its efforts to provide the news our towns and cities need.--Mary L. Van Meter

NT blog: Should news coverage ‘play it safe’?’

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I read an interesting piece today about newspapers suffering as much for their propensity to offer a “view from nowhere” as they are from crippled ad revenues.

GigaOM’s Matthew Ingram’s post, “Why newspapers need to lose the ‘view from nowhere,’ cites reasons why it may be in newspapers’ best interest to start taking a position or side.

In it, he quotes “Friday Night Lights” author and reporter Buzz Bissinger, who contends that it’s the traditional editing process that’s to blame for the loss of voice, and thus of newspaper readership.

So should newspapers still be playing it safe considering all the other sources that have emerged?

We all learned in J school — or at least those of us that graduated before Y2K — that if we landed a job on a newsdesk it was our role and obligation to remain neutral and unbiased. (Whether or not we believe straight news stories are ever exempt from bias is another matter, of course.) But many professors are teaching different lessons these days. With burgeoning social media and the evolving blogosphere, readers seek out what they like, and tend to read the articles or publications that speak to them and their position on a wide variety of topics. If you can’t draw them in to your story in an equally engaging manner as the other sources they frequent, it won’t be long before they stop reading.

The conundrum for newspapers, though, is that they’re trying to be more broadly appealing to advertisers than ever. This isn’t a time they’re willing to risk closing any doors.

So although publishers may want to rise to the challenge, let’s face it: Until they uncover the mystery of targeted advertising, their approach to news isn’t likely to change much.

Unfortunately, they may risk losing more eyeballs to tweets and blogs while they continue trying to solve that equation. — Tara McMeekin

Has your newspaper implemented strategies to help bridge the gap between being a reliable news source and competing with social media and bloggers? If so, we’d love to hear about them. Send an email to editors@newsandtech.

NT blog: Pubs worry about USPS changes

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The United States Postal Service this week said it is moving forward with its proposal to change the first-class delivery times from one to three days, up to a two- or three-day delivery across most of the U.S. It's also proposed to shutter more than half of the 461 facilities that process first-class mail.

Depending on how the changes are implemented, newspaper and magazine publishers stand to be among the most negatively impacted - particularly smaller publications and those that produce weeklies.

One such newspaper, the Oologah (Okla.) Lake-Leader, expressed its concern to Channel 6 News in Tulsa yesterday about the way changes will affect its 10,000 subscribers.

The Lake-Ledger is delivered to Oologah via the local post office, but subscribers in outlying areas have their papers delivered from a Tulsa post office that faces possible closure at the end of December. If that happens, those subscribers' copies would have to be delivered from Oklahoma City, meaning the newspaper would have to first get papers to the Oklahoma City post office before they could be mailed to subscribers, potentially adding significantly to delivery time.

"If it has to go to Oklahoma City and back, I'm afraid they aren't going to get Thursday's paper until the next Monday or Tuesday," Faith Wylie, co-publisher of the paper told Channel 6 News in Tulsa.

Hiring delivery people is not a practical option for the paper for a variety of reasons, Wylie said, and she worries about the impact of longer delivery times on subscriber and advertiser numbers.

"If you lose 10 percent of your readers and 10 percent of your revenue, that's a serious hit in this economy."

The USPS is looking to reduce operating costs by some $20 billion by 2015, according to David Williams, vice president of Network Operations for the USPS.

"The proposed changes to service standards will allow for significant consolidation of the postal network in terms of facilities, processing equipment, vehicles and employee workforce and will generate projected net annual savings of approximately $2.1 billion," he said in a statement.

The USPS ended its 2011 fiscal year on Sept. 30 with a loss of more than $5 billion.

Williams said the standards would not change until at least April 2012.

NT blog: Talking tablets with Garcia

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Famed newspaper designer Mario Garcia has seen a lot of changes in the 18 months since the iPad hit the market. In fact, more than half of the work he is doing currently is in tablet design.

One of those projects is for The New Straits Times in Malaysia, which will launch its tablet edition Nov. 11.

"We will launch in Malaysia on 11-11-11," he told News & Tech in an interview. "That is a very special date."

After 40 years in the business, Garcia has recently gone from the most sought-after newspaper print designer to the most sought-after tablet designer. And he has some strong advice for newspapers as they make the transition.

"The tablet is a very unique medium, and you simply do not dump content from the newspaper into it," he said. "Print is designed for the brain and the eye - the tablet is designed for the brain, eye and finger."

To get it right, he said, newspapers must devote the proper manpower to tablet development, including a content editor, photo editor and videographer.

Garcia raised some caution flags about the distractions newspapers should avoid in tablet design.

"You don't want this to be Christmas morning, the 4th of July and Disneyworld all at once."

For News & Tech's complete interview with Garcia, see the January/February 2012 issue.

 

NT blog: Next for FB: World domination?

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I'll admit that, like much of the world, I've become quite Facebook-dependent. But the latest changes and recent partnerships with news sites including The Washington Post and Yahoo News have given me pause to consider that Zuckerberg might just be out for world domination.

The Social Reader pact with The Post, announced during f8, will allow members to stay on Facebook's site when they read a trending story from the paper. That, instead of taking them to The Post's website.

I don't understand why any publisher would want that. Perhaps the branding on the world's most popular social networking site is enough for them? Maybe, but imagine for a minute that all of your readers start accessing your paper solely through Facebook. I don't know any publisher that would view that as a good thing.

And seriously, can't we do anything independent of Facebook anymore? I don't know about you, but I don't need or want all of my Facebook contacts knowing every article I read or page I look at. That's what the "like" and "link" functions are for.

Equally supporting the Facebook world-domination theory is Facebook's reduced email notifications, seemingly aimed at forcing people - who could have otherwise seen emails and posts from friends on their smartphone's email feed - to actually log into the site if they want to keep up with their Facebook goings on. I mean, imagine the consequences of a delayed notification that someone tagged a photo of you? Possibly disastrous!

Ok, I'm exaggerating a tad, but could it be that in the not-too-distant future, Facebook will be the only website we're logging on to? On one hand, I doubt it - largely based on the fact that Facebook fails miserably at targeting ads to its users despite the plethora of their personal information it possesses. On the other hand - for newspapers' sake and our own - it would be a pretty bleak reality should that day come. I, for one, don't want to be influenced to read something because my "friends" read it. I'd much prefer to get my news through the combination of sources upon which I currently rely - the printed paper, local and national news websites, and yes, occasionally from friends' links or likes on Facebook.    

— Tara McMeekin

 

 

 

NT blog: Much app-do about nothing?

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Minor changes to Apple's subscription terms have caused a major media frenzy in the past 24 hours. But, then again, when does Apple do anything without a major media frenzy ensuing?

So, here's the gist of the implications for newspaper and magazine publishers.

Prior to the changes, publishers could sell their app through their own website as long as it was also made available in the App Store, and as along as it was not offered at a price lower than that for which it was available through iTunes.

With the recent changes, publishers can now sell their app elsewhere at a price of their discretion so long as it is also for sale in the App Store; and there can be no link or prompt within the App Store to purchase outside of iTunes.

Here's what's not new: Publishers being able to sell their apps outside of the App Store. That's always been the case, so long as it was also available through iTunes, and - up until Tuesday - so long as it was priced the same or lower at the alternate point of purchase.

In typical Apple fashion, there has been no press release and as is also typical, Apple did not immediately return requests for comment.

News & Tech will update this story as necessary.     -Tara McMeekin

NT blog: Harmony of print, instant news

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The images the world carries away from the death of Osama bin Laden won't come from the Web, iPads or BlackBerries, but from the printed pages of newspapers across the world that dedicated today's front pages to marking the terrorist leader's demise.

Today, print reigns supreme as people worldwide visit newsstands and other single-copy outlets en masse to grab a tangible piece of history.

Newspapers including The New York Times, (New York) Daily News, Chicago Tribune and the Washington Post churned out thousands of extra copies of today's papers in anticipation of huge single-copy demand (see our related story in today's Dateline).

Last night though, it was the Internet, television and Twitter that told the tale. So, it seems, we've got the news at our fingertips, both figuratively and literally. For better or worse, we live in the most connected era of all time, and what a time it is for the news business. But for today, I am happy to let print shine, and do what it does best: leave an indelible mark in history. -Tara McMeekin

NT blog: Tragedy again underscores papers’ value

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We are so used to instant gratification in this wired age that most of us have little patience to wait for our news. If a story doesn't immediately load in our browser, we either look for it in a different website, or move on to the next one that's caught our 5-second attention span.

Most of us can't fathom what it would be like to be cut off from that free flow of news and information. But for those in many parts of Japan, that scenario quickly became reality following the earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country.

Those obstacles didn't stop one city's newspaper from doing its job, to the best of its ability in light of the circumstances. Left without Internet service or even power to operate its printing presses, afternoon daily the Ishinomaki Hibi Shinbun began delivering news to surviving residents the old, old-fashioned way - via pen and paper - at the time when they needed it most.

For more on Hibi Shinbun's efforts to deliver the news in the wake of Japan's disaster, see yesterday's article in The Washington Post

Tragic events take people back to their most basic needs, and one of those needs is news. With or without the technology that drives our industry and seems to be propelling it ever digitally forward, people still need newspapers in their most basic form.

That was underscored this week in Japan, in 2005 in New Orleans, and will undoubtedly happen again the next time a natural disaster transforms a region's way of life.             -Tara McMeekin

NT blog: Should pubs work with or against Apple?

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The launch of News Corp.'s iPad newspaper The Daily was overshadowed not only by the paper's glitchy beginning, but equally by the subscription model that went along with it.

Apple today announced that the subscription model under which The Daily launched would be the company's new model for all publishers rolling out apps on its iPad and iPhone platforms going forward (see Dateline/Breaking News, Feb. 15, 2011).

Some publishers have taken issue with Apple's 30 percent cut of their subscriptions, and the new model will no doubt see a number of apps rejected from the App Store if publishers don't comply with new requirements to include an in-app purchasing option in their tablet and mobile editions.

Amidst the moans, one digital publishing vendor, Yudu, has voiced its agreement with Apple.

CEO Richard Stephenson told News & Tech he believes publishers will get further working with Apple than against them.

"Ethically, Apple's position is a reasonable one," he said. "Publishers may have a valid argument over the amount they're taking, but you can't argue that Apple shouldn't see any revenue from selling apps for its own product."

Stephenson said that publishers will lose fewer potential subscribers with an in-app purchase model than they will by requiring users to navigate away from iTunes to purchase a subscription.

"The number of clicks involved to get to the purchase point can have a very high dropout rate," he said.

Look for details on Stephenson's opinion about Apple's subscription model in the next issue of News & Tech.   - Tara McMeekin

News & Tech wants to hear what you think. What effects will Apple's new subscription model have on your newspaper or magazine's current iPad or iPhone edition initiatives?

NT blog: Ted Williams and power of papers

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No question that the tale of Ted Williams, the Columbus, Ohio, panhandler who is winning new-found fame and fortune for his voice, is the feel-good story of a still nascent 2011.

After The Columbus Dispatch posted a video of the vocally-gifted Williams doing sample voiceovers, he found himself a Web darling, which was quickly followed by stories in all the major media, including a spot on the Today show.

The upshot? The NBA Cleveland Cavaliers gave Williams a gig, and Kraft decreed him the voice of Macaroni & Cheese.

We're all happy for Williams, who definitely deserved a break. But let's also give a toast to The Dispatch, which got the whole ball rolling.

So here's a shout-out to you, Old Media. After all, without paper-and-ink newspapers like the Dispatch, where would New Media be?

 

NT blog: Patton versus Paton

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Patton, as in Gen. George S., was the U.S. Army officer who was idolized for his success as a battlefield commander in World War II. He's remembered as much for his leadership as he was for bucking conventional wisdom and the political agenda.

Paton, as in John, is the CEO of Journal Register Co. While it's too early for history to judge Paton as leader of the formerly bankrupt newspaper publisher, it's clear - even though it's only been 10 months since he's been on the job - that he's ready to buck conventional wisdom.

Paton has taken JRC from a company whose reputation was as shabby as some of the facilities it operated to one that now sports a $40 million profit. And he's not afraid to make changes as he exhorts his fellow newspaper executives to follow suit.

"Start stacking the dimes," Paton advises his colleagues. And if a digital ad yields only 10 cents of the dollar a print ad generates, then you better begin to align your business to operate in an environment of dimes not dollars. "Find an effective way to attack those dimes. And if the newspaper industry has a (growing) digital audience that's worth only dimes, then you better find a cost-effective way to create and deliver content to that audience."

And if you're a publisher who remains to stubbornly wed to a print-centric business strategy? Paton says he'll take that person out to lunch and tell him the day and date that operation will go out of business.

One thing about Paton, John. He has strong ideas and strong opinions.

Just like that other Patton, George S.

See the next issue of News & Tech to read our One-on-One interview with Paton to find out what other steps he's taking to reinvent JRC.

 

 

 

NT Blog: 'Of' the Internet

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Interesting thought from blogger Judy Sims, who, in her post last week, admonished newspaper publishers to be "of" the Internet rather than being "on" the Internet.

Her point: The Web is a platform, it's collaborative, it's social and publishers should do everything they can to embrace that model.

Except.....

Well, except the Internet doesn't yet generate nearly enough ad revenues to support the operation of a large, talented multifaceted news operation.

And the Internet has serious — and growing — privacy concerns. Additionally, if legislators have their way, do-not-call lists might soon be supplanted by do-not-track, and then what happens to marketers who believe contextual advertising is the Web's greatest advantage?

Finally, the Web ain't cheap. Collaboration is nice, but it certainly isn't free. Remember that the next time you get your monthly bill for cell phone, data and Internet access service (not to mention the hundreds of dollars it costs to buy smart phones, iPads and other gadgets you need to do all that collaboration).

Here's the bottom line.

For the newspaper industry to truly be "of" the Internet there must be some way to ensure that's a sustainable goal worth achieving.

 

 

NT blog: Moody's downgrade

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Well, the economy does appear to be improving, Graph Expo and Ifra Expo did indicate that the newspaper industry still has a pulse, and here comes Moody's Investor's Service to snuff out that nascent dose of optimism.

The ratings organization, which by the way did such an awesome job rating securities involved with 2008's financial meltdown, today downgraded the U.S. newspaper segment, changing its outlook from stable to negative.

Why? The same old story. Ad revenues are dropping, circulation is dropping and consumers are getting all the news they need from the Internet.

Haven't we heard this all before?

Here's the truth: Without newspapers, there wouldn't be any news on the Internet. Without newspapers, there wouldn't be any insightful coverage of government, industry and local civic affairs.

Oh. One more thing: Without newspapers, there wouldn't be any of that irksome coverage of government panels investigating why agencies like Moody's completely dropped the ball in the months leading up to The Great Recession.

 

 

NT blog: Signs of life

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A stronger pulse echoed through the newspaper industry over the past week with a flurry of announcements and new products coming out of Ifra Expo in Hamburg, Germany, and Graph Expo in Chicago.

WAN-Ifra reported a 50 percent increase in Ifra Expo attendance, with some 10,000 visitors, while Graph Expo saw an impressive turnout to the News & Tech-sponsored News Print Pavilion.

Is the worst over for newspapers? Probably not, (as evidenced by the layoff of 35 newsroom slots at USA Today this week and similar cutbacks at McClatchy papers in Kansas City, Mo.; Miami and Charlotte, N.C.) but these signs of life in an industry that has too long been counted for dead prove newspapers and vendors still believe in investing in the industry. And that's half the battle.

You'll see our in-depth coverage of Ifra Expo and Graph Expo, as well as the MPA's annual American Magazine Conference, which also took place in Chicago earlier this week, in the October issue.

 

EB: Good news on ad spending? Yes, please

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A report from Kantar Media today stated that advertising spending rose 5.7 percent in the first half of 2010. Second quarter ad spending was up 5.4 percent, and the third quarter is on track to maintain the momentum, said Jon Swallen, the firm's senior VP of research.

National newspaper ad spending increased 7.1 percent, which Kantar attributed to gains at The Wall Street Journal; while consumer magazine ad revs began a slow ascent from their rock-bottom in March, to realize an increase of 1.5 percent.

We all know it's going to be a long, hard battle back — particularly for print media — but we'll happily look to the positive data to keep moving forward.

NT blog: The newsstand's return

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Did something today that I haven't been able to do in downtown Denver for years: I bought a paper.

Don't misunderstand. Of course, newspapers are easily available in downtown Denver.

The difference today? I didn't go to a bookstore, a hotel lobby or a drug store. Nor did I deposit coins into a news rack. Instead, I walked to an honest-to-goodness, freestanding outdoor newsstand that was fully stocked with newspapers, magazines and other reading materials.

The NewsCube, as it's called, stocks more than 400 magazines and 15 newspapers. It opened this weekend and it's plopped right in the heart of downtown Denver, two blocks from the convention center and across the street from a visitors' center.

Alas, the Cube didn't have the aroma of cheap cigar smoke that I remember from the newsstands of Chicago, where I grew up. And the mechanical cash register had been replaced by a laptop computer. But do you want to know something? The Cube will do.

 

 

NT blog: 64 magazine title launches in July

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Mr. Magazine, Samir Husni, blogged this week that 68 new magazine titles were launched in the month of July. That's twice the number of titles launched this time three years ago and 21 the 64 plan on publishing at least four issues a year. 

Read more here.

 

 

NT blog: Trib's blockbuster report

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Wow. That's about all you can say about an examiner's report, released by a U.S. bankruptcy court judge, that details events surrounding the sale of Tribune Co.

 

In a nutshell, the examiner's report that was unsealed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey shows "intentional fraud" by two top Trib execs as they tried to make sure the $$8.2 billion sale of the company was completed, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The report didn't blame Tribune purchaser Sam Zell or any of his associates, but it does indicate the length the officials, identified by the  Sun-Times as Chandler Bigelow and former senior vice president of finance, Donald Grenesko, traveled in order to get the deal done.

In hindsight, it's easy to see the transaction was doomed from the start. Zell took over the publisher at the same time the economy began to crater, and by late 2008, when Tribune was forced to declare bankruptcy, the damage was done.

Today, the hundreds of Tribune workers, from reporters to pressroom operators, who have lost their jobs as a result of the company's implosion, can see for the first time the machinations that surrounded the purchase of their former company.

Cold comfort indeed. To see the Sun-Times' article on the examiner's report, click here.

 

 

NT blog: Watchdog at work

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Take a bow, Jeff Gottlieb and Ruben Vives. Good for you, Los Angeles Times. Gottlieb and Vives last week broke the story that revealed that a group of top administrators in the blue-collar city of Bell, Calif., were making in excess of $800,000 to run the small city. In the days after the story broke, three officials resigned while angry residents asked, and quite rightly, how these runaway salaries got out of control and why it took so long for the facts to get out.

Indeed, paying inflated salaries had apparently gone on for some time in the city of 40,000. Nobody had disclosed the outrageous compensation — even city councilors were paid almost $100,000 — because, in part, there wasn't anyone around to reveal the situation. The local paper had all but given up covering local news, according to a former California Newspaper Publishers Association general counsel and other major media outlets had more to worry about than finding out what is happening in Bell.

Fortunately, the Times, whose own reporting capabilities have been decimated over the past 18 months, was on the case.

Its coverage fueled the aforementioned resignations and also embarrassed the city council enough that it agreed to cut member salaries by more than 90 percent.

Bell is just another example of why newspapers matter. And why the power of print still eclipses most of what you may, or may not, see on your computer screen.

 

 

 

NT blog: $ 4 Twitter? NIAMY

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Not that Twitter's asking, but in case you wondered, no one is willing to pay for the microblogging service.

This, according to the University of Southern California Annenberg School For Communication And Journalism's Digital Future Study, released last week, which reported that zero percent of those surveyed would pay to tweet.

"Twitter has no plans to charge its users, but this result illustrates, beyond any doubt, the tremendous problem of transforming free users into paying users," said Center for the Digital Future director Jeffrey I. Cole in a statement. "Online providers face major challenges to get customers to pay for services they now receive for free."

Other study findings: Only 56 percent of participants said that newspapers are an important information source, compared with 78 percent that said the Internet was an important source.

Be careful not to equate importance with value, however, considering the vast amount of information consumers now must access from their Web browsers (banking accounts, etc.

 

And here's a somewhat surprising study finding: the number of 36- to 55-year-old participants who claimed they are not Internet users in this Web-inundated era — as many as 19 percent of 46- to 55-year-olds and 15 percent of 36- to 45-year-olds.

The study is part of the Annenberg School's continuing Digital Future Project, which has been surveying Americans on Internet-related views and behavior for 10 years.

Read the report highlights or purchase it here. http://www.digitalcenter.org/pages/current_report.asp?intGlobalId=19.

 

 

NT blog: SND critical of Gannett design hubs

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The Society for News Design yesterday criticized Gannett's decision to deploy design hubs at five of its newspapers.

The design hubs - at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press, (Nashville) Tennessean, Des Moines (Iowa) Register and (Phoenix) Republic - will paginate content for sister Gannett papers (see N&T Dateline, July 13, 2010).

Gannett said it will spend $15 million on software, including a CMS anchored by CCI Europe's NewsGate. Gannett in 2007 took a similar approach to photo toning, centralizing those operations at the Des Moines Register and Indianapolis Star.

Read SND's open letter here.

 

NT blog: Citizen j-sites not cutting it

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Here's today's "duh" news of the day.

Bloggers and citizen-journalism websites aren't getting the job done when it comes to delivering comprehensive news and information.

The latest research from the University of Missouri School of Journalism and two other schools found that even the top 60 citizen websites and bloggers aren't filling the information gap left by cutbacks from traditional media.

"While many of the blogs and citizen journalism sites have done very interesting and positive things, they are not even close to providing the level of coverage that even financially stressed news organizations do today," said Margaret Duffy, an associate professor at the school. "Not only do these blogs and websites lack the staff to adequately cover stories, but most citizen journalism managers do not have the financial resources and business experience to make their websites viable over time."

Surprised? Don't be. There's no question that while the volume of information posted on the Web has risen exponentially, its value has not kept pace. The continual hemorrhaging within U.S. newspapers' newsrooms has created a vacuum that the Web is not filling. Information wants to be free? How's that working out for you.....

Click here for more information about the study.

— Chuck Moozakis

NT blog: Holiday proves print value

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We're coming up on one of the biggest advertising weekends of the summer, and if you're questioning the value of print, consider how much time you'll spend over the next few days thumbing through (heck, maybe even enjoying) ads and inserts in your weekend papers.

It's unlikely that the pop-ups and banner ads you see on the Internet over the next few days will get as much of your time and attention. They won't be much help in fueling your campfire either. 

That's not to say there is no value in advertising online, but on big advertising weekends like this, there's just no substitute for print.

Last weekend was the first in longer than I'd like to admit that I've sat down to devour a Sunday paper. But as I suspected, it's still a great way to spend a couple of hours. And for me, a third of that time was spent looking at ads. Advertisers aren't going to get that kind of reader attention span online, no matter how spectacular their Fourth of July sale.

Wishing all of you N&T readers a safe and happy Independence Day.

-Tara McMeekin

 

NT blog: Google News gets new look

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Read all about it, Google News came out with a new look that includes several design changes. According to the Official Google Blog, the heart of the new site is what the company calls "News for you," a stream of headlines customized for each Google user based on their interests.

For more about the changes, click here.

NT blog: Spry good for what ails papers?

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Samir Husni, the director of the University of Mississippi's Magazine Innovation Center, is known as Mr. Magazine for his tracking and analysis of the magazine publishing industry.

Husni just recently posted his opinion on what he believes are the 25 most notable magazine launches in the past 25 years. Occupying the 2008 slot is Spry, the newspaper supplement that covers health and well being. Spry, Husni writes, "is a great addition to America's hurting newspapers."

"Maybe the Spry visit will be what the doctor's prescribed for a healthy newspaper," he said.

Read more here.

 

NT blog: Smart phones the new rock stars?

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Are mobile devices the new rock stars?

 

If you were to ask the multitude of people waiting in lines for their new Apple iPhones today, they would most likely say yes.

And it's not just Apple. Research in Motion and Google are also touting their smart phones as the next Big Thing.

Still, when it comes to generating buzz, few can do it like Apple.

Just look at the way consumers are eating up Apple products. The company sold 3 million iPads in the first 80 days following their April introduction. And with an iPhone 4 pre-order in excess of 600,000 units, it's clear that consumers are keen to buy the latest and greatest from Apple, regardless of how paranoid Steve Jobs might be.

But if mobile is the new rock star, does that make newspapers the technology's roadies? The ones who set up the stage for the stars so they can shine for the adoring crowds?

Will there ever be Droidheads? It seems unlikely but if Steve Jobs went on tour there would undoubtedly  be more than a few people following him around.

— Marcelo Duran

 

 

 

NT blog: Privacy conundrum

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One of the topics generating the most buzz this year at INC4 is how to get audiences to create personas that facilitate the type of individuation and personalization from which publishers and advertisers can benefit at a time when users are seriously re-evaluating online privacy.

Facebook's latest privacy debacle (in May) seemed to leave social media and online media consumers reeling, spawning a mass exodus not only from Facebook, but causing users to begin pulling back the reins on the amount of information they release onto the Web at large.

Perhaps navigating this conundrum won't be such a daunting challenge for newspapers, considering how far ahead of the game they are already in terms of customer knowledge. It's how they choose to leverage those relationships and that knowledge that will be key in gaining their readers' trust to move these personalized, or individuated initiatives forward.

-Tara McMeekin 

 

 

NT Blog: Tablet sales set to take off

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The Washington Post reported that tablet computer sales are expected to reach 60 million units by 2015. But the paper warned there could be some obstacles for publishers looking to cash in on digital content. Click here for more.

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