Friday, January 30, 2004
French weblogs to cover the US presidential campaign
They are French, the first based in Washington, the second in New York, but both correspondents for Libération. They opened this week their own weblogs entirely dedicated to the US presidential campaign. With a French touch and also, their so particular Libération tone. To the French daily newspaper, "it's a first in the online history of the French press". Maybe, or maybe not. But for sure, it's only for French speaking readers.
Go to the Pascal Riché weblog, "La course à la Maison Blanche".
Go to the Fabrice Rousselot weblog, "Campagne toute !".
Virtual common newsroom for three regional Mexican newspapers
To open the "Alliances and Partnerships" section, we have asked Carles Gardeta, Director for Organizational Culture Projects at Cases I Associats (Spain) to feature his two-year work within the Milenio Group in Mexico. Globally, three regional newspapers were involved in a fascinating editorial and management process including: newsroom organization of each one of the titles; formal homogenization of the different dailies; organization of administrative areas; common commercial strategies; and the coordination between the different newsrooms to allow the sharing of the production of common pages.
Carles Gardeta, Director for Organizational Culture Projects at Cases I Associats answers to nine key questions...
1) What is the Milenio group and what was the Cases I Associats mission?
Editorial Milenio is a division of Multimedios Estrellas de Oro group, one of the most important entertainment and communication groups in Mexico, most of all in the northeast states, thanks to cooperation between its divisions. The most important titles among the 11 publications that make up the group are the newspapers Milenio Diario (D.F.), Milenio Diario de Monterrey, Publico Milenio (Guadalajara) and the magazine Milenio Semanal.
The editorial concept for Milenio was defined in the midst of the drastic process of political change experienced in Mexico, and reflects a new relation between media and society. In the year 2000, Vincent Fox took the opposition to power, thus beginning a new chapter in Mexican History. The group appeared at that moment, when 71 years of continuous political regimen from the PRI (revolutionary institutional party) come to an end. The PRI period was marked by a strict and corrupt relationship between government and media.
In that scenario, Milenio positions itself as an irreverent medium, with serious and reliable information and, most of all, which is concerned about the reader instead of the political power.
Other titles that integrate the group, formed with its own newspapers and associated ones, include: La Opinion de Vallarta Milenio, Milenio Nayarit, Milenio El Portal (Veracruz), Milenio Tabasco, Diario de Tampico, La Opinion y Milenio San Luis.
Besides the print division, the movie division stands out, with a chain of movie theatres that add 120 thousand seats. Also notable are its radio chains, operating in more than 40 frequencies, TV channels (free and cable) and leading businesses in other mediums, like Internet.
The group entrusted Cases i Associats with the analysis of production and organizational conditions in different titles that formed the press division. The task included proposing actions aimed at modernizing, optimizing resources and improving quality.
2) When have you worked on it and how many people were involved within your company?
The first work stage, to analyze structural and productive characteristics, took place between May and June 2002, and was conducted by five people, among them, Milenio professionals in charge of implementing the change process and Cases i Associats specialists.
The second phase consisted of an overhaul of three newsrooms (in the Monterrey, Mexico DF and Guadalajara dailies), optimizing resources and coordinating the newsrooms to make the most of the cooperation between the group’s divisions. This second stage was developed between September and October 2002, and was conducted by the same team, along with leaders in each newsroom and the people in charge of technology.
3) Was the main concern of the Milenio Group to cut expenses and to reduce costs?
The Milenio property needed an urgent analysis of the overall state of its products. Profitability was showing a deficit. In the beginning the only goal was to produce a diagnosis, which would provide an overview of the problem’s real dimensions.
The Cases i Associats diagnosis found that it was necessary to work in various fronts. These included: newsroom organization of each one of the titles; formal homogenization of the different dailies; organization of administrative areas; common commercial strategies; and the coordination between the different newsrooms to allow, among other things, the sharing of the production of common pages.
The result of such actions led to, for example, having a strong economy section in only one newsroom, that produces pages to be shared in a national level. The same setup has been applied to national politics, international, sports, entertainment, culture and other sectors, avoiding thus the duplication of sections on a national level. By doing so, the work model also strengthened the local sections in each newspaper.
Change from various isolated and autonomous newsrooms to only one decentralized newsroom, coordinated from Mexico DF, meant an important shift in the production philosophy. That led to an intimate collaboration between the different titles and provoked an internal debate in each of the newspapers about the local-national dichotomy.
4) What were the main difficulties in this mission? Editors? Journalists?
Collaboration from the Milenio professionals in charge of the change process was fundamental to overcome the consequent difficulties of working with a team that had just suffered a major staff reduction. The journalists and all personnel involved in the production processes adapted very rapidly to a new production circuit, radically different from the previous one.
It was also easy for the directives of the different dailies to understand the new production philosophy and accept the disappearance of some of their sections. The reduction in staff didn’t affect the information quality, once the internal production processes were rationalized.
5) Is it time for a first “status report” or assessment or is it too early?
Cases i Associats has been working non-stop with Milenio on this project as well as other ones. Therefore, continuous evaluation is an imperative part of the work between Cases and Milenio. The scope of change implemented by Cases in the Milenio group is large, and now the first stage of newsroom organization has been completed. In terms of optimizing production, the positive result of this first stage made itself evident a few weeks after implementing the new organization.
6) Concretely, what is working better after your mission... And possibly, what is worse?
At this point it can be said that the improvements are centered on the rationalization of technological and human resources that improve business viability for the group of newspapers that comprise Milenio. Production and quality levels are higher, and fewer resources are required.
Another aspect has been the creation of a central desk in each of the newsrooms, which integrates members of different journalistic areas. The Central Desk is in charge of decision making, production control, quality control and coordinating with other newsrooms. This tool has enabled the directives of each newsroom to better control information quality and has enforced the internal coordination of each newsroom, as well as the coordination between different newsrooms.
But technological aspects could still be improved, namely: the absence of a newsroom managing editorial system; poor infrastructure for the communication net between different newsrooms, color print quality…
7) Have you modified anything between your first recommendations and the final process?
The truth is that distortions between Cases i Associats project and its materialization are irrelevant. Of course, after some time, each newsroom has adapted small details to suit its own unique necessities. But those adaptations don’t affect the general proposal, because they are aligned with the aims proposed from the beginning.
8) If you had to work on the same kind of mission, would you approach the issue in a different way?
No. The implementation of a new work culture took place without major problems, keeping up with a calendar of complex actions. I insist that the collaboration found by Cases i Associats among Milenio executives made the success of this project possible.
9) Cases I Associats is very well-known for design issues. How the company has handled management questions?
It is impossible to conduct design works without addressing more global questions like the publication’s concept or means to provide a workflow and organization that enable the constant maintenance of a quality design. Aspects like newsroom organization, information products concepts, commercial strategies, technological consultancy, staff evaluation, and others are natural areas of action in Cases I Associats work. Each project has a different level of action, according to the specific necessities of different clients.
New in the US: the presidential candidate selectors
"One of the best uses of the Internet so far in the presidential campaign coverage has been the various candidate selector quizzes news sites have created. These tools engage the users, help them to better understand the issues in an interactive way, and best of all, help readers figure out which candidates are right for them." Have a look at some of the best ones online...
See the Jonathan Dube's article on CyberJournalist.net website.
Entertainment easier to make mobile than information?
Bad news for information providers? Or a model to follow? Endemol, the production company behind Big Brother, has revealed plans to provide mobile video content for any new programming format launched in the UK. It seems that entertainment is easier to make mobile than information... Now, it's up to news provider to follow their lead.
Thanks to Justin Pearse, New Media Age, for his report.
Excerpts of the Justin Pearse's article.
"The Endemol strategy could play a major role in pushing mobile video into the mainstream, following the company's success in using its brands to drive take-up of interactive content like online streaming video.
Endemol has previously experimented with mobile video, but has now launched its first full service accompanying a programme, for reality show The Salon.
'We've dabbled with mobile video for a couple of other programmes and territories,' said Endemol head of interactive media Chris Short. 'But this is the first time all the pieces have come together - the right players and the right formats - to get to the mass market.'
The production giant has tied up with Microsoft, mobile video firm Oplayo and mobile video distributor Flix for The Salon service. The results have been so successful that Endemol plans to introduce mobile video to all future formats.
'I think it's very unlikely we'd do another show along the lines of Big Brother or The Salon without mobile video,' said Short.
"On the Web it's difficult for us to find exclusive content that's not already handled by the digital channels,' said Short. 'The next obvious target is mobile, especially as most of our formats are 24-hour content.'
The whole story on the New Media Age website.
Confidence grows in paid content
Yesterday, Editors and Publishers were optimistic at the "the paid content forum" organised by the Association of Online Publishers in London. The UK's web publishers are riding high on a new wave of confidence in paid content, encouraged by significant take-up of web subscriptions and more flexible payment technologies.Thanks to Jemina Kiss from dotjournalism.uk for this refreshing report.
Excerpts from Jemina Kiss's article in dotjournalism.uk.
Introducing the paid content forum at the Association of Online Publishers in London, PaidContent.org founder Rafat Ali said that the success of micropayments in the entertainment industry has increased consumer confidence in online spending.
Richard Withey, global director of interactive media for UK broadsheet the Independent, told the forum that around 20 per cent of revenue from Independent.co.uk is now generated by paid content.
"The Independent's news has a value in print, so why give it away if people are already prepared to pay?" said Mr Withey.
"Newspapers are made up of a number of services and sub-brands, and it is the quality of our content that allows us to charge."
For broadsheet newspapers, the cover price accounts for around 40 per cent of revenue with advertising acounting for the other 60 per cent.
"I think it would be very healthy if web newspapers could achieve the same ratio," he said...
The whole article on dotjournalism.co.uk.
"Times on the Trail": first New York Times blog
The New York Times launched its first Weblog today. "Times on the Trail" is a new "continuously updated report from the campaign trail reported and edited by the Washington bureau of The Times and produced by NYTimes.com."
A New York Times editor's note on the first Political Points post says, "This is the first edition of a new web-exclusive feature by Carl Hulse and other Times reporters that will be added to and updated throughout the day. "
"On the Trail" includes links in the right column, with "a selective guide to today's campaign coverage on the Web".
The Times has already been experimenting with the format in "Kristoff Responds", a Webloggish forum in which Nicholas D. Kristof, Op-Ed columnist for The Times, answers reader e-mail and gives "the story behind the column.
Formerly, NYTimes.com editor-in-chief Len Apcar said that Weblogs on the Times' site would be part of the organization's coverage of the presidential campaign. Apcar added it could be "some kind of running journal that looks at the feel, the texture, the personalities, the tensions and some of the drama of the campaign, the smells and bells of a particular story. In the right hands it could be compelling reading."
Access to the "Times on the Trail" weblog.
Will Chinese become the Web’s dominant language?
Internet use, particularly in China but across the rest of Asia as well, is exploding, making it geographically the world's largest market, altering consumer spending patterns and perhaps even the Internet's dominant language, according to an exhaustive new report on Asian online use by the New York-based market research firm eMarketer. Thanks to Stephen Green from the Asia Times for this very helpful synthesis.
Excerpts of the article written by Stephen Green, Asia Times.
« By the time 2003 is out, according to the report, "Asia-Pacific Online", Internet use in China will have nearly doubled to 114 million people online. In just two more years, 250 million Chinese are expected to be accessing the Internet. In South Korea, nearly 59 percent of the population is to be using the Internet by the end of this year. India's cellular telephone industry is adding 120,000 subscribers monthly and passed the 3 million mark in June. While in a country of 1 billion people that represents scant penetration, it indicates vast potential.
Those are all nuggets from eMarketer's 196-page assessment of the state and potential for e-business in the Asia-Pacific market, which was made public last week.
Given that growth, eMarketer's mountain of data on the Asia-Pacific online market takes on greatly enhanced value. Ross Rubin, senior analyst for eMarketer, said his researchers drew on original forecasts, research from government and international statistical agencies and dozens of firms such as Morgan Stanley, Gartner, Point Topic, IDC and the Yankee Group…
…On a per-capita usage basis, Asians are fast catching up with the rest of the world, or surpassing it. By November, according to the report, the US had fallen out of the top 10 of prominent online countries. South Korea by contrast had climbed to fourth place, with Hong Kong ranking seventh and Taiwan ninth.
What is particularly striking is the pace at which Asia is switching to broadband, which allows for much more extensive graphics use, and which enhances commercial appeal for online advertisers. By the end of the year, broadband usage is expected to grow by 25 percent, to 18 million subscribers. A startling 94 percent of Korean Internet users will have broadband connections by that time.
"The increasing prevalence of Asians online has had a profound impact on the composition of the web," the report states. While English has emerged as a kind of Internet lingua franca, Mandarin is currently the world's leading language by a considerable margin and raises the possibility that Chinese will become the largest Internet language group in the world.
As a result, the report notes, a prediction that Chinese would become the web's dominant language "may come true one day". The marketing communications firm Global Reach found that Asian languages now constitute more than a fourth of the languages spoken by web users worldwide, although English still dominates. »
Thursday, January 29, 2004
Younger readers shun newspapers and get news from Net
No time to read the last survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press in Washington, D.C ? Thanks to Steve Alexander from the Star Tribune to make a synthesis and a very relevant report on where the younger readers get the news. In the survey, 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said they get most of their campaign news from the Internet, putting the Net within 10 points of newspapers, the choice of 30 percent of the people in that age group.
Article by Steve Alexander
Published January 22, 2004, the Star Tribune
« … For people under 30, the Internet now rivals newspapers as a source of political campaign news, a recent consumer survey shows.
Analysts say it appears that the Internet has permanently shifted the reading habits of young people, and they are unlikely to take up reading printed newspapers when they grow older as earlier generations did. This raises important questions about the future of daily newspapers and who will read them, analysts said.
"Young people, in particular, are turning away from traditional media sources for information about the campaign," and consuming less information from network news, local TV news and newspapers, said the authors of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for The People & The Press in Washington, D.C.
Instead, many under 30 get their news from a variety of Web sites, including those operated by traditional news media, such as CNN and the New York Times, and from non-traditional news providers such as AOL and Yahoo.
While newspapers have long had a problem attracting young readers, competition from the Internet has significance not only because it cuts into newspaper readership but because it has potentially serious implications for newspaper advertising revenue. A shift of young readers to a newspaper's own Web page might be harmful because online newspaper readers don't draw as many ad dollars as print newspaper readers do…
… But beyond the rise of the Internet as a news source is an even more important demographic trend, said Carroll Doherty, editor of the Pew Research Center. A series of surveys have shown that the current 18-to-29-year-old audience is less interested in news than previous generations.
"Each succeeding generation of under-30s seems less oriented toward newspapers. That's why pessimists foretell the long-term doom of newspapers, but we're not so quick to say that," Doherty said. "Newspapers are still a major source of news for many millions of Americans. So even if the trends are cloudy, newspapers have an enormous base of readers at a time when media fragmentation is considerable"…
… In the Pew survey, 21 percent of people aged 18 to 29 said they get most of their campaign news from the Internet, putting the Net within 10 points of newspapers, the choice of 30 percent of the people in that age group. The percentage of under-30 readers relying on the Internet more than doubled from 9 percent in January 2000. Young people are far more likely than the average person to rely on the Net for campaign news; about 13 percent of all readers in the survey said they get most of their campaign news from the Internet…
… It's not the first time newspapers have faced erosion of the youth audience. For more than 20 years TV has siphoned off young readers and advertising aimed at them, said David Card of New York-based Jupiter Research.
… "The Internet newspaper is causing less damage to newspaper audiences than TV has," Card said.
Allen Weiner of Connecticut research firm Gartner agreed that newspapers are familiar with the problem.
"Newspapers didn't need this Pew survey to tell them they've got an ongoing problem with young readers," Weiner said. "But in the last year, there has been some evidence that newspapers really understand the problem and are taking some steps to get into the game." Among the efforts have been the distribution to young commuters of free printed newspapers containing short articles. Some newspapers also offered young people alternative weekly print publications with a heavy dose of entertainment news.
"Newspapers are going to have adapt to the future by using two of the most important things that are in their favor today: Their name brand and their ability to respond to challenges with a wide array of targeted print products," Weiner said. "In addition, they have to make sure that online readers are their online readers."
But the Internet is creating new problems for newspapers that TV never posed, such as sharply undercutting newspaper ad rates. A display ad that costs $15 to $20 per thousand readers in a newspaper costs $3 or less online, Card said. Classified ads, a major money-maker for printed newspapers, typically are free online, he said.
"The whole question of classified advertising is perhaps where the greater challenge lies," said Tim Ruder, marketing vice president of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the online arm of the Washington Post. "The Web has allowed national aggregation of those classified listings along with new ways of finding and connecting people. I think newspapers are working to become part of that."
Moyer believes Internet advertising prices will rise, helping to close today's large gap between printed and online advertising rates.
"Internet ad pricing is in its infancy. It will not stay at the same level as there is more demand," Moyer said. "We already have seen a steady rise in advertising pricing in all of the Internet world."
Ruder agreed, and said Washingtonpost.com has raised advertising rates in response to the growth of its Web audience.
The future of newspapers is multimedia, says Card, describing it as a so-called hybrid media strategy in which a holding company owns similarly branded newspaper, TV and Internet operations. That is a way to extend a newspaper's strengths, which are "brand name, content and relationships with advertisers," he said.
"Printed newspapers are not going away in our lifetime," Card said. "But I doubt that a lot of young people who grew up on TV and the Internet are going to retreat to the printed newspaper as they settle into middle age."
The whole article on the Star Tribune website
Editor quotation of the day
Carroll Doherty, editor of the Pew Research Center, United States.
"Each succeeding generation of under-30s seems less oriented toward newspapers. That's why pessimists foretell the long-term doom of newspapers... But newspapers are still a major source of news for many millions of Americans. So, newspapers have an enormous base of readers at a time when media fragmentation is considerable."
Newspapers must transpose online their offline networking competence
Thanks to Norbert Specker to change our minds about the newspaper business. He defines it as a "connecting people business". Now, economies of scale that for years dominated business strategies are challenged by economies of connectivity. And for the founder of Interactive Publishing Gmbh, "it is one of the great mysteries of the last 10 years that newspapers did not manage to transpose their outstanding basic networking competence in the offline world online".
Excerpts of the Norbert Specker's article "Newspapers: The connecting people business"
"You are in the business you think you are in. Perception is reality. Changing perception therefore changes reality. This is particularly interesting if the reality you look at right now is not bringing you any joy.
Professor Peter Kruse of the University of Bremen claims the economies of scale that for years dominated business strategies are challenged by economies of connectivity. Here is an example:
We all know that search ranking with Google is based strongly on connectivity: the more and the more important sites link to you, the higher up in the results you will appear. As the position on a search engine directly — and sometimes devastatingly so — determines business success on the web (there is no business beyond the first search screen), we know the importance of connectivity to be true in the realm of the Internet.
How about offline, though? In the “real world” as many still would label it? Of all the businesses in the analogue world, newspapers are the business that thrives on connectivity the most and the best. Newspapers are the best-connected businesses in any community. There is no business that connects so many people to each other. Nobody has probably ever researched this but let us look at the ways:
1. It is the connection through things that two people read. Like with TV, it is less common that you can be sure the other person has seen or read the same thing you have. But if the person did, it is a very popular way to connect. How many people do you think talk with each other each day about something your newspaper wrote?
2. The advertisements. Advertisers put them into the newspaper because they hope to connect readers with their product. How many of your readers see an ad, then connect to the company and the people working in that shop or theatre?
3. The classifieds — jobs, cars, houses, dating, and the many other areas this section entails. How many people per ad on average connect to the person who put the ad in?
You probably do not know the numbers but might agree that the more connections between people a newspaper enables, the stronger its commercial base.
So, the business you are in is the “Connecting People Business.” Feel a change of reality already?
...As for the online part of the connecting people business, it is one of the great mysteries of the last 10 years that newspapers did not manage to transpose their outstanding basic networking competence in the offline world online — into an environment that has come to represent networks of any kind and offers every imaginable tool to optimise networking. A truly amazing failure.
However, it is not too late. Once your organisation perceives itself as being in the business of connecting people, the best Internet strategy will come naturally. The same connection-oriented perception is behind every great Internet company, from eBay to Google and Amazon.
The recent solid investment of US$6.3 million by Knight Ridder and The Washington Post in the social network site Tribe.com might give you additional food for thought as it points toward a perceived weakness by those newspapers that they deemed needs rectifying. I would hold they are not the only ones.
Norbert Specker is the founder of Interactive Publishing GmbH, a service and intervention company dedicated to support the newspaper publishing industry.
The whole article on the Interactive Publishing website