NewsPay: Bill Mitchell describes what it takes to sustain entrepreneurial journalism.

Getting Paid the British Ways: Pay Walls, Syndication, Meters

July is looking like a big month for pay walls, with The Times and Sunday Times erecting on Friday even bigger barriers than Gannett installed Thursday on three of its newspapers sites

Steve Outing minces no words in his critique of Rupert Murdoch’s strategy for his London papers (“uber-dumb,” declares his headline), but what I appreciate more is Outing’s hands-on reporting about The Times’ pay wall and the WordPress plug-in introduced by The Guardian.

Outing tested the hardness of the Times’ pay wall and found it very hard, indeed. So much so that only the homepage is visible to non-subscribers. Even Times headlines have disappeared from Google, and content appearing on the paper’s interior sections — Money, Sport, Life, etc. — is all but dead to the rest of us.

Outing’s reporting prompted me to check Google’s treatment of headlines from the three Gannett papers that installed pay walls Thursday. Read more


Thursday, July 01, 2010

Pay Walls Debut at Three Gannett Papers Testing ‘Journalism as a Service’

Gannett stepped into the world of paid content today with what it termed “a small-scale test” at the Tallahassee Democrat, The Greenville (S.C.) News and The (St. George, Utah) Spectrum.

The fee for online-only is $9.95 a month; Web access bundled with a print subscription varies by market. In Tallahassee, seven-day home delivery (with Web access) costs $20. An online day pass costs $2.

Kate Marymont, vice president of news for Gannett’s Community Publishing Division, told me in a brief phone chat that “we know this is not the model, this is a small-scale test.”

Marymont acknowledged that others in the company have been more directly involved in the details of the pay wall initiative than she has been, but said “we weighed a lot of factors” in selecting the three sites from the division’s 81 papers, including “what’s at risk.” She added: “We didn’t want to start at our very largest properties.”

She also said the company wants to test the power of niche content to support online fees (think Clemson football coverage in Greenville; Florida State in Tallahassee) as well as the consequence of a pay wall in a smaller market like St. Read more


Friday, June 25, 2010

How Loyalty Programs are Retaining Subscribers from Baltimore to Copenhagen

As some news organizations prepare to kick off their much-anticipated experiments with paid content, others are focused on ways of hanging onto revenue they’re already collecting.

A new report sponsored by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN-IFRA) tracks a range of initiatives in the areas of advertising, subscription marketing, outsourcing and cost-cutting.

Satisfying advertisers, the report points out, will require a shift from simply selling them products to providing them the help they need with such challenges as figuring out search engine marketing/optimization and navigating their way into ad networks well beyond the boundaries of the local paper.

WAN says that serving readers will demand delivering a lot more value for their subscription dollars, noting by way of example Journal Register Co.’s expansion from “nine products on two platforms” in 2006 to “97 products on 7 platforms.” It also highlights the folly of twinning price hikes with cutbacks that gut the news report and fail to stir real innovation. Read more


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Milkshake Mistakes and Cheezburger Lolcats: Shirky’s Latest Lessons for News

I’ve just started digging into Clay Shirky’s latest book, “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age,” published Thursday by The Penguin Press.

Shirky’s thesis: Social media enables and encourages us to make much more creative and generous use of the 200 billion hours that Americans spend watching TV each year.

As someone who doesn’t account for a very big slice of that TV time — and who experiences more of a cognitive deficit than surplus by the end of most days — I began the book a skeptic despite my huge regard for Shirky.

But Shirky makes his case: Americans are making the transition from couch potatoes to couch contributors and more.

“…For the first time in the history of television,” he writes, “some cohorts of young people are watching TV less than their elders.

“Several population studies — of high school students, broadband users, YouTube users — have noticed the change, and their basic observation is always the same: young populations with access to fast, interactive media are shifting their behavior away from media that presupposed pure consumption. Read more


Sunday, June 06, 2010

Locals Pitch: We Want Time’s ‘Assignment Detroit’ House

The Journalism that Matters conference handed TIME magazine the sort of kicker to its “Assignment Detroit Project” Sunday that newsmagazines usually can only dream of.

Three conference participants — Detroiters Juanita Anderson, Alicia Buggs and Arthur Leggett — proposed that TIME turn over the house it bought on the city’s east side to locals committed to pursuing the story of “the real Detroit.”

The group, which acknowledged that it came up with the idea only 24 hours before, has no track record in producing community news. (Monday update: In an e-mail exchange with Anderson, I learned that she served as executive producer of Detroit Black Journal 1982-1988 for public television in Detroit and as series producer for Say Brother 1988-1993 for WGBH in Boston, winning seven Emmys in the process.)

Whether these individuals or a larger or different group ends up with the house strikes me as less important than the opportunity they’ve presented to TIME. Read more


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

McClatchy, Others Use PlaceLocal to Help Advertisers Reach Small Audiences

The biggest hurdle facing local online advertising, as Mark Potts and others have framed the problem, is the challenge of keeping rates low enough to attract advertisers pursuing small audiences — but high enough to generate sufficient return.

This particular slice of the news revenue picture is becoming all the more contested as competition heats up at the local level, with AOL, Yahoo and others entering the market along with established news organizations and community-based initiatives.

Partly because margins are so small on the revenue side, controlling costs is becoming ever more critical.

And that’s what makes PlaceLocal from PaperG — along with other initiatives in this sector — especially interesting: the potential to slash costs of production and sales by automating the ad-building process and saving time and money for advertisers and publisher alike.

McClatchy, the nation’s third largest newspaper publisher, is among more than 30 clients that have signed on to use PlaceLocal — not just to cut costs but to change the way its newspapers match up potential advertisers with small chunks of their audiences. Read more


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Spot.Us Experiments with User-Directed Sponsorship Revenue

In some ways, it seems like a no-brainer: Encourage consumer engagement with advertising by giving users a stake in deciding how the revenue gets spent.

As far as I can tell, though, Spot.Us is breaking some new ground with the “community-centered advertising” feature it rolled out Tuesday.

In brief, here’s how it works: Answer three questions posed by a Spot.Us sponsor, and you’ll earn a $5 credit that you can assign to any one of the site’s user-funded stories.

In fact, the arrangement doesn’t look much like online advertising — no banners, no tiles, just a simple three-question survey. Implicit in the approach is that a relatively small number of engaged users — engaged enough to answer a few questions about the advertiser’s product or cause — can be more valuable than many more users who may or may not notice whatever message the advertiser delivers via a traditional ad.

The new feature adds a fourth choice to the Spot.Us navigation. Read more

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Sunday, May 02, 2010

Freelance Group Hopes to Become an “a la Carte News Service”

If you’re freelancing these days by choice or by circumstance, there’s a matchmaker looking for you in L.A.

The Journalism Shop, launched last summer by two former L.A. Times staffers as a service for former colleagues at the paper, has opened its doors to other journalists seeking work around the country.

Brett Levy, who co-founded the initiative with Scott Martelle, says The Journalism Shop may evolve into “a kind of a la carte news service.”

With fewer than 30 active writers today, the operation would need significant growth to step into the role Levy envisions. But he says the need for such a service is real.

“When you consider current news services,” Levy explained by e-mail, “they push stories to publishers whether they want them or not. With The Journalism Shop, news organizations only pay for articles requested from our members. Nothing gets written by The Journalism Shop until a commitment is made. Read more


Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2010

Deconstructing Allen’s Playbook as a Model of Entrepreneurial Journalism

In the days since the New York Times crowned Politico reporter Mike Allen “THE MAN THE WHITE HOUSE WAKES UP TO,” there’s been endless debate about just how much influence he wields or whether his considerable talents might be better deployed on other journalistic pursuits.

From the point of view of entrepreneurial journalism, I find myself more interested in what it takes to satisfy the audience described by that headline. It’s a community not limited to the White House staff, obviously, and includes anyone whose job or personal passion is linked to the issues, personalities and quirks of Beltway politics, government and media. 

Scan the “Playbook” daily briefing that Allen sends out to more than 30,000 e-mail subscribers, and you’ll get a sense of how he caters to those constituencies.

It’s hardly a new concept. The Hotline, owned since 1996 by National Journal, has served that market for more than 20 years. Read more


Sunday, Apr. 11, 2010

Xconomy Detroit Tracks Innovative Ventures with Innovative Journalism

Xconomy is a journalism startup with a look and feel that’s part trade pub, part community blog and part old-fashioned news wire.

Focused on coverage of high-tech innovation, the site was launched in Boston in 2007 and has added editions and staff in Seattle and San Diego. All three cities are natural targets for a niche full of venture capital, angel funds and reinvention of the world as we know it.

On Tuesday, Xconomy launched in Detroit, a city that co-founder, CEO and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi acknowledges “would not be on our list” were it not for special circumstances.

Among them: the Michigan roots of Xconomy Chief Correspondent Wade Roush and Co-founder, COO and Executive Editor Rebecca Zacks. Says Roush: “Nobody thinks of Detroit as a hub of innovation, but it’s going to have to become one if it has any hope of rebuilding its economy.”

Buderi, a former technology editor at BusinessWeek and former editor in chief of MIT’s Technology Review, described Detroit’s situation as “an American story that will play out as a story of challenge and innovation — a city that’s down but not giving up.”

A launch-day post by the site’s Detroit correspondent, Howard Lovy, reflects much more of “stake in the place” than is often exhibited in traditional journalism. Read more