Independent news sites

Afternoon digest: Dec. 2, 2011

Some light reading for your Friday afternoon:

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If you’re running a journalism startup, you need to live in the present

The key differentiator when looking at journalism startups, Michael Meyer writes, is whether the operation is living in the present or the future. Sites that live in the present have realistic revenue goals, employ someone who knows something about business, and aggressively try to build revenue now. On the other hand, there are the sites that are “dabbling in revenue-generation but pinning their hopes on a more favorable online news environment that doesn’t currently exist, and may never exist. … They neglect their present environment and instead hope that the value of their work will lead to staying power — a fallacy that might sound familiar to many newspaper publishers.” || Related: 3 out of 10 journalism startups don’t have a business plan ( Read more


Afternoon digest: Nov. 16, 2011

A few stories to read on the train or at traffic lights:

Correction: The original version of this post misstated the name of the Stop Online Piracy Act. Read more


3 out of 10 journalism startups don’t have a business plan

Renaissance Journalism Center
A survey of people leading journalism startups finds that “the typical management team is top-heavy with journalists … Nevertheless, the respondents said that journalists can make good business people. More than 86% said journalists can adapt and apply the discipline of business to an online venture.” Having relied on grants to get off the ground, most of the respondents said they’re having trouble getting further funding and need help figuring out how to become sustainable. || Related: New Knight study identifies 3 surprising keys to nonprofit news business success ( | Tom McGeveran: “What tends to be forgotten in all the praise for the philanthropic model is that big handouts can come with a price.” (CJR) Read more


People like James O’Keefe ‘think they are acting like journalists’
“They think having a camera makes them a journalist. Instead, this is a cheap caricature of journalism,” writes Columbia journalism school Dean of Student Affairs Sree Sreenivasan, who recently became one of O’Keefe’s interview subjects. “He shows once again that ambush interviews and selective editing don’t make you into a citizen journalist.” That’s one of Sreenivasan’s five lessons from the experience. Number three: “Anyone in the media can be a target these days.” || Related: O’Keefe’s partners on NPR sting say they wanted to target other media, but he turned it into “hit job” (The Daily Beast) || Earlier: O’Keefe calls Sreenivasan a “good man” after he ambushes him at Columbia ( Read more


U.K.’s Daily Mail pays The Batavian for unauthorized use of photos
Twice this summer, the Daily Mail pulled photos from The Batavian and republished them without permission or compensation. After some effort, Howard Owens finally was paid on Friday. He got nowhere with the Daily Mail until he saw Jim Romenesko’s post in September describing how the website had rewritten a Washington Post story and then asked the Post reporter for help in getting a photo for it. Owens sent a Facebook message to Bradford Noble, the editor named in that post, who referred the matter to a photo editor in London. Owens says that he was paid $150, twice the Daily Mail’s freelance rate, for each of the three photos. “The photo [of Suzanne Corona] has shown up other places without compensation, such as WTSPMSNCBS12,Hot97 and Barstool Sports,” Owens writes. Read more


NYT partnership ‘sort of a halo & a cloud’ for independent news sites

Michael Depp examines the close, complicated relationship between The New York Times and three nonprofit news operations that provide local coverage for certain editions: Texas Tribune, The Bay Citizen and Chicago News Cooperative. While the partnerships have kickstarted the nonprofits’ operations and boosted their credibility, it’s tough to balance the Times’ need for content (they’re responsible for two pages, twice a week) with their own missions and editorial voices. The partners spend a lot more time on journalism for the Times than they get in licensing revenue, and they don’t get a cut of the money that the Times makes selling ads next to their stories. Times assistant national editor Jill Agostino sometimes has to fend off requests from within the Times for help on developing stories. Read more


Google News won’t index solo journalists

SplatF | GigaOM
Dan Frommer, who helped to launch Business Insider and now is covering technology on his own site, describes how Google News rejected his request to be indexed because he’s a one-man shop. He posts the email from Google News explaining the policy, which includes this passage:

“We don’t include sites that are written and maintained by one individual. We currently only include articles from sources that could be considered organizations, generally characterized by multiple writers and editors, availability of organizational information, and accessible contact information.”

Frommer writes, “Never mind solo shops practicing entrepreneurial journalism — Google wants news with overhead!” Frommer writes. He argues that the policy doesn’t make sense because he’s doing the same professional work he did when he worked at Forbes and Business Insider. Read more


New trade group for hyperlocal news sites won’t include Patch

Street Fight | Vouchification
A group of 20-some hyperlocal news publishers around the country decided at last week’s Block by Block conference to form a trade group to provide business services such as liability and health insurance, sales training and revenue studies. Mike Fourcher, who runs Center Square Journal in Chicago, told Street Fight’s David Hirschman that the function, members and name of the organization are still in flux, but one thing isn’t: It won’t include corporate networks like Patch. “They have a completely different set of needs, and we’re not interested in serving their needs,” Fourcher said. Hirschman’s take on the group: “While previous incarnations of hyperlocal have focused more on journalists serving their communities than on CPMs, the launch of this group seems to further indicate that publishers are thinking about their sites as revenue-generating entities.” || Related: 15 Chicago-area community news sites create an advertising network (Nieman Journalism Lab) | Michele McLellan describes ‘newspaper replacement syndrome’ and other challenges facing independent publishers (Poynter) Read more

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McLellan describes ‘newspaper replacement syndrome’ and other challenges facing independent publishers

Reynolds Journalism Institute
Michele McLellan describes the challenges journalists face as they build independent news sites. The first stage of grief, as she calls it, is “newspaper replacement syndrome,” in which people “visualize themselves creating a newspaper on the Web, ignoring the fact that this is a failed model. Instead, publishers who make it to the next stage focus early on about how to create community — and value around the content.” The other stages:

  • “Engagement stress disorder,” the feeling of being overwhelmed by everything publishers must do to connect with their audiences
  • “Sales-phobia,” as journalists deal with the reality that they must sell to survive
  • “Capacity conundrum,” the challenge of being able to expand to take advantage of opportunities
  • Growth

Related: Hyperlocal site RiverheadLocal looks for lessons in sustainability at Block by Block summit | How to: Lisa Williams lists 10 skills independent publishers should masterFollow Twitter conversation related to the Block by Block conference. Read more

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