In hibernation.


This post is by Andrew Nusca from The Editorialiste


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Nearly two years in deep freeze prompts me to publish one last post to confirm the obvious: this publication has gone into hibernation and will remain there until further notice. (Never say never.)

I've very much enjoyed keeping up The Editorialiste since 2006, but I find myself unable to keep up a traditional blog, what with the rapid proliferation of "publish" buttons in our lives.

If it's thoughts on the publishing industry you seek, I certainly haven't given those up; please follow me on Twitter for off-the-cuff discourse and on Tumblr for my "inspiration board," which often serves as a personal collection of media bookmarks to revisit.

Finally: Thank you for your support for so many years. I've very much enjoyed using this as a platform for media industry discourse, and I look forward to continuing the conversation in other venues. Things are just getting interesting; I can feel it.

Andrew Nusca
"The Editorialiste"

What is a media startup ‘success,’ anyway?


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I'm having some trouble understanding what "success" is as it pertains to a new publication. It's a term we in the press freely lob around to describe our peers' efforts, but we don't really define what the benchmark really is.

A recent PBS MediaShift article about Business Insider, Henry Blodget's sprawling enterprise, pushed the topic to the front of my mind.

In it, Dan Reimold writes:
A bit more than four years after its launch (and six years after the launch of its smaller predecessor Silicon Alley Insider), BI has become one of the boldest business news sites in the world. Its coverage base has expanded from tech and Wall Street to areas such as politics, retail, advertising, sports, science, and military and defense. It boasts roughly 100 staffers and 25 million monthly unique visitors (though Compete.com pegs uniques at 3.8 million last October). Amid jabs at its editorial and aggregation practices, it is regularly held up as a digital news success story -- with hopes its profits will match its web hits in the years to come. 
It's that "digital news success story" bit that I get hung up on. What does that mean, exactly?

I've been critical of the publication's editorial practices in the past, though I understand how they play into its business model. Still, that's not the issue at hand here.

We call BI a success. Here's what we know:

Traffic. It has captured a great deal of attention -- broad attention, not just by media pontificators -- through its search- and social-favoring editorial tactics. Its "readership," to use the print definition of the term, is large. (The size of its subscription base -- loyal, regular readers -- is unclear.) If more is better, BI is a success.

Employment. The company hires dozens of writers each year. From an economic and industry perspective, that's definitely a success. That means more money is flowing into the hands of those who make the publishing business what it is.

Credibility. The more people, notable and not, that BI hires, the more that others in the press -- tastemakers, in other words -- discuss and watch its actions. And because of key hires, e.g. Joe Weisenthal, the site has the attention of certain groups, such as those who work in financial services.

Lifespan. BI has managed to scale to these dizzying heights in the span of six years, a relatively short time.

All of the above are good reason to call BI a success. But there are several aspects of its operations that contradict this.

The balance sheet. Despite millions in revenue, the company has turned a profit just barely -- a couple thousand dollars in 2010. (Perhaps it made more last year.) That number will have to increase for the company to make up the money it has lost since late 2007, and increase further still for the company to start generating enough money to pay back the $13.6 million hole it dug in venture funding.

Readership. BI has a lot of traffic, sure -- but how much are those drive-by eyeballs worth, really, when they can't easily be sold against as a cohesive audience? There will always be mass media platforms, but right now the site's success is more a function of its distribution tactics -- which is at the whims of Google, Facebook et al -- than its actual content.

Employment. If you hired 100 people full-time, would you too enjoy such an audience? (How much success can be attributed to sheer brute force?)

Credibility. The established press tends to turn its nose up at gossipy rag sheets, and Business Insider is no exception with its desperate headlines and rudimentary prose. (Vanity Fair it is not.) While that doesn't impact the profit question -- someone's got to address the low end of the market, always; nothing wrong with that -- does this color how the average person defines success?

Lifespan. Is it subpar, average or over-achieving for BI to have reached profitability in three years? Most publishers give a print magazine the same window to turn a profit.

There are certainly other elements to consider, and to be fair, BI isn't alone in this space -- BuzzFeed, NowThisNews, the Huffington Post and -- for a time -- Gawker have all dabbled in this. (There are many less successful sites that have also done the same.) Meanwhile, there are plenty of smaller, niche websites that are narrow in scope, read loyally by a few, and profitable. And there are plenty of publications that straddle the line: Bloomberg Businessweek has high-quality content and a subscriber base, but is famously subsidized by a wildly profitable financial terminal business; the New York Times commands the most authority of any news organization in the U.S. and is considered a temple of quality journalism, but barely ekes out a profit.

So back to the fundamental question: is Business Insider a success? With consideration to all of the above, I'm not so quick to answer in the affirmative.

The impact of the Internet on quality in the publishing business.


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A common refrain today is something along the lines of this:

"There's so much crap on the Internet right now. Newspapers, magazines, even websites -- they used to publish good stuff. Now, it's all bloggy snarky untrusted crap."

I don't disagree with the preponderance of low-quality content online. But we don't give the Internet credit for heightening competition between writers, editors, publications (and their parent companies) like never before.

It has never before been this difficult to be in publishing. No, I'm not talking about low salaries or staff cuts or demands for hamster-wheel content and clicks, though all those things exist. I'm talking about the fact that your competitors are a click away, and you can see them executing at every point.

It used to be that you had to wait until publications hit the newsstand before you knew where you or your publication stood. (Unless you had the inside line on a rival. Some do.) Now, this occasion occurs every minute, and it cuts across demographics -- you're no longer just competing within your publication type (consumer national, consumer regional, trade?) or industry (sci-tech? business? women's interest? sports? celebrities?). You're competing with everyone.

That architecture spread you ran? Dwell's was better. The fashion shoot? Harper's Bazaar has your number. The deep dive into a political figure's past? New York did it better -- or was it the New Yorker, New Republic or New York Times Magazine? Nevermind Politico, the Huffington Post or Ben Smith at BuzzFeed.

It can be absolutely paralyzing.

One result of this has been a lot of mission creep. Another has been the low-quality, reader acquisition editorial that I mentioned above -- when the walls break down between customers, they also break down between publications. But yet another? The formidable task of competing with the best, at all times.

It makes the old days of the Washington Post vs. the New York Times look antiquated. One on one? Now it comes from all sides, including from the very bottom.

Sure, you don't have to look. You don't have to click through. You don't have to read that tweet about that great story another publication did -- the one you thought to assign two weeks ago but never got around to it. But it's easy to do.

This can be scary for some. At times, paralyzing, as I mentioned. But it is also encouraging, because there has never been more of an impetus to compete. It is a burden, but also an immense driver. And it's driving your publication to heights never before attempted.

Reversing a slide into irrelevance.


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I used to not read the Philadelphia Inquirer because I didn't have the time or patience to have the paper edition delivered to my door. For years, that option wasn't even available to me because I lived elsewhere. And until recently, its website Philly.com was too difficult (and later impossible!) to navigate for digital-native newsreading. So I simply didn't read my hometown paper.

Philly.com's desktop and mobile web editions have relaunched with a somewhat cleaner look and more comprehensive content offering, and that's great. But the company's decision to improve its Philly.com mobile app, keep it un-gated (for now) and make it free -- perplexingly and counter to every peer paper in the U.S., it wasn't before -- has made it much easier for me to share content from the Inquirer (and occasionally, Daily News).

One thing I've noticed working in the media industry is that the Inquirer -- and thus Philadelphia -- didn't really have a seat at the table where the national conversation takes place. This is partly due to the paper's insistence on ceding its national and international coverage to the Associated Press and focusing on its home region, and it's also because of Philadelphia's place in the modern pecking order of national importance. But it's also because of a fundamental technological oversight: its online presence was so poor that you couldn't share the paper's articles with others.

The problem: online is precisely where much of the conversation now takes place. What good is a newspaper without a platform?

That's changing. I find myself sharing Inga Saffron's architecture columns and Craig LaBan's restaurant reviews with a lot less friction these days -- a nice touch for local friends on social networks who may have missed the stories, but far more valuable for friends in other places, particularly if they're part of the Philadelphian diaspora. Now, my New York friends can see what's going on 100 miles south of them (or Washington friends 140 miles north of them) and perhaps be interested in what the city has to offer. Similarly, former Philadelphians across the pond can now keep up with a region in which they already have an interest.

Before this, it took enormous patience and desire to read, much less share, a Philadelphia news story online.

This is something New York has done magnificently well, of course, thanks to the Times and the myriad global-local media outlets headquartered there: the nation and world cares about New York, even though it doesn't live there. (I don't mean to downplay the importance of that city's position in finance, media, fashion and other industries, only to emphasize that you can't engage an audience without distribution to them. Until recently, Philadelphia has stumbled here.)

It will be interesting to see how social sharing impacts the way newspapers distribute -- and eventually create -- their content. Faced with falling revenues over the last decade and a half, city newspapers refocused on their core audiences; now, with a relatively even playing field online, it will be interesting to see how these publications rethink their readers: not as a group bound only by geography, but common interest. (See: college newspapers.) It's a subtle difference in many cases, but the opportunity for incremental revenue is enormous. Because it's hard to believe that a Philadelphia newspaper would have half the number of paying readers it did in 1968 when the population of its metropolitan area -- the area in which it has a virtual monopoly over coverage -- has only grown.

The first step in reversing the trend? A simple, sharing-equipped mobile app.

NYT’s ‘Snow Fall’: The future of journalism? Wrong question.


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The New York Times recently published a stimulating -- there's no better way to describe this sensory experience, believe me -- feature story/package. And everyone's talking about it.

'Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek' is brilliant for a number of reasons. It demonstrates one way to lay out a feature story online. It demonstrates the Times' leadership in this regard, certainly among newspapers, and its dedication to R&D. And it demonstrates the "multimedia journalism" that so many j-schools have been trying to figure out for so long. (Turns out there's a better way to do it than writing a print story and tacking on a related audio slideshow.)

But along with the praise -- and it was considerable; NYU's Jay Rosen called it "a break point in online journalism" -- came the criticism. "This is why American journalism is failing," tweeted a curmudgeonly Milo Yiannopoulos. It "isn't the future of journalism," wrote The Atlantic's Derek Thompson, setting up a straw argument he would quickly debunk with more nuance.

But nuance is sorely missing in all of this. Let's be clear: 'Snow Fall' is the future of digital storytelling, not the future of digital news. And that's a key distinction.

I'm tired of the word "journalism." What does it mean? It's the act of informing an audience about goings-on, as best as I can define it. It's not publishing (or broadcasting or...); no, that's the mechanism and business around it. And it's not reporting, though that's a key component of good journalism. Journalism is not monolithic.

To assert or deride the suggestion that 'Snow Fall' is the future of journalism, then, is to make a false argument. The he said, she said backlash to the issue is rife precisely because everyone is taking a narrower definition to the concept and running with it. How frustrating!

(It's precisely why criticism of "bad journalism" for blogging and "conflicts of interest" when lobbied at magazine editors rings just as hollow. Blogging? Not necessarily reporting! Magazines? Not necessarily news organizations!)

So let's embrace 'Snow Fall' for what it really is: an exceedingly interesting and discussion-provoking way to tell a story. It's not about the money, and it's not about the business model.

It's about the story.

Do magazines still channel the Zeitgeist?


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Matt Haber has a bit of analysis in Capital New York today about Tina Brown's inability to channel the spirit of the times after she took control of a faltering Newsweek.

In it, he suggests that Tina Brown couldn't channel the Zeitgeist in print because it has moved to a different venue: social media.

He writes, quoting Buzzfeed's Ben Smith:
"This social conversation has always driven what used to be called the Zeitgeist," Smith continues. "You couldn't always see its component parts. It required these big, clear statements to make it visible. Now that conversation is always visible. What we're talking about is an elite conversation. Zeitgeist is an elevated word for it. Now it's on Twitter."
He cites Brown's time at Vanity Fair and other magazines as an example of how she dominated the conversation then, but doesn't now. I'm not so sure it's that simple, particularly since Haber leaves out one glaring example that doesn't fit his thesis: The Daily Beast, which until Newsweek distracted Brown did a fine job keeping up with, and occasionally starting, conversation online.

But it's the inferred point that Smith makes above -- a magazine can't channel or steer the Zeitgeist -- that I find most troublesome. Because that's not exactly true: Vanity Fair continues to dominate its category; the Esquires and Vogues of the world dominate theirs; even The Atlantic is seeing a resurgence. ("Why Women Still Can't Have It All," arguably this year's most talked-about story, began in print.) In many ways, increased competition online thanks to a proliferation of competitors has provided the spark for each of these very old brands to reassert (or in the Atlantic's case, further claim) dominance.

In other words, I'm just not buying the "It's the medium, stupid" message this piece offers.

Haber:
Put another way, all of our "likes" and retweets set the country's agenda more than a powerful editor's feature selection could.
So what is it, then? I suspect it's a lack of differentiation. Newsweek's challenge is that it covers everything and nothing at the same time; it's a dentist's office read for some and an edgy global read for others. Brown's problem is that she tried to go after TIME and The Atlantic in the same breath -- similar content meant for very different readerships. Broad as it is, even The New York Times has a distinctly common readership -- and a particular tone with which to address them. Newsweek is print's CNN, torn between multiple audiences and fading fast.

It's not this simple, of course; the fact that no one in the press took the Newsweek project seriously played a part, too. The most accolades I saw for the revamped brand were for Brian Reis' bold efforts managing its social accounts. Newsweek in many ways failed to get buy-in from the industry before it attempted to right the ship. Which means only a surprise could have turned industry perception around -- and reincarnated Princess Diana is not the surprise industry likes.

My point here is this: the Zeitgeist is made of people. And the brand Newsweek, for myriad reasons, failed to address them. It's not the medium; it's the message.

During crises, Twitter a ‘pop-up town square’


This post is by Andrew Nusca from The Editorialiste


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The New York Times' David Carr was kind enough to include my response in his latest column on how the tenor of Twitter changed from snark to sobriety as Hurricane Sandy began damaging the eastern U.S.

I'm in great company, joined by Kurt Andersen, Peter Kafka, Margaret Sullivan, John Herrman, Choire Sicha and Jay Rosen.

Calling it a “pop-up town square” for the affected area, @editorialiste said in a message on Twitter, it was “a great place to laugh, cry, argue, sympathize together.”

It's a nice look at how a platform can move from entertainment to public service in an instant, and a good read, too. (And not just because I'm in it.)

Making money and doing journalism are not mutually exclusive.


This post is by Andrew Nusca from The Editorialiste


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I'm a journalist by training but I'm always cognizant of the fact that I'm in the publishing business. There's a big difference there.

My Philly (but soon to be New York) friend Sean Blanda has a great post on his personal blog about why there's not enough focus on the money-making aspect of publishing.

He writes:
Journalism students are hitting the job market without the skills that are most in demand. Many students I talk to still have ambitions of being a sports reporter or a fashion columnist and are just hoping that a publication picks them out of the hundreds of other grads just like them.
A laser focus on profits and nothing else is always a major hazard with any business, but he's got a point about balancing it out a bit better.

If we tossed all the classes dedicated to social media and blogging and useless tech that will be obsolete before graduation day, and focused on this instead, the industry would be better for it.

Sean agrees: "I’d rather keep the class focused on making money and not on the tools or technology." Amen.

The era of corrections.


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Not every online publication runs corrections as a policy, but many do. If they all did, we'd be awash in a stream of them, every day.

(For clarity: a "correction" meaning the note describing the change, rather than the change itself.)

When I started my publishing career -- I say "publishing" and not "journalism" because we often write in this capacity but we very often do not report on anything -- I was very proud to have never had one of my published pieces require a correction.

This all changed when I started blogging.

(For clarity: I'm using "blogging" as shorthand for an all-day, aggregation-based, multiple-post publishing assignment, whether fact or opinion or both. You can also "blog" once a week, called a "column" elsewhere, because let's face it, a blog is a publishing mechanism, not a style, format or assignment.)

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton's recent column about this issue -- in his example, a young blogger for his newspaper named Elizabeth Flock made enough aggregation errors to warrant a resignation -- resonated with many people in this industry. Print dinosaurs saw it as evidence that their religion was better; web denizens saw it as an unfortunate incident that wouldn't happen to them; media critics used the incident to continue clucking about how aggregation is ruining the industry.

I read it as a warning, but also a reflection of the truth. Mistakes -- from typos to misattribution to straight-up factual errors -- are made often and with regularity. Web-savvy types pride themselves on correcting things swiftly, but that often doesn't happen. (On to the next one.)

Who's to blame for all of this? You can blame the person, as the Post did; you can blame the publication, as Pexton and other media critics did. I'd like to add another entity to shoulder a portion of the responsibility: the industry as a whole.

I've read several instances of pushback to this phenomenon, saying that it's a matter of education, or editorial support, or whatever.

Here's Post digital news executive director Katharine Zaleski's take:
We're deeply conscious of the imperatives our bloggers face and go to great lengths to ensure they have the editorial support they need. We tell bloggers that their first and central priority is accuracy, not speed, not buzziness. The Washington Post's standards apply every bit as much to our digital work as they do to our print edition. And our bloggers honor that.
With all due respect to her -- I'm sure she's just fabulous -- this is nonsense.

Even if the Post has all of these measures in place, Flock was averaging about six posts per day -- not one-paragraph briefs, as Pexton points out, but "often 500-word summaries of complicated news events." This kind of assignment is rampant on the web. Even if they are the most basic of summaries -- just the facts, and on average 300 words -- that still requires the Post or anyone else to vet, in real-time and every day, 1,800 words on six completely different topics. Who else but The New Yorker has the ranks of fact-checkers to handle that task?

The answer is no one. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the blogger. For any other assignment, it's not an unreasonable expectation -- features writers are responsible for the accuracy of their copy, even if they benefit from fact-checking. But features writers don't write 1,500 words per day and own their same-day publish button, too. (Could you even imagine?)

When a writer gets stuck mid-story, a popular editor's refrain is to "go take a walk." It helps to clear the mind, with the hope of returning to the story later with perspective. You can't see the forest for the trees when you're in it. The problem is that rebloggers are always deep in that forest, their minds racing from one story to the next, their days a cascading crush of RSS feeds and tweets and news headlines from elsewhere. They careen through their workday like pinballs. If you can get them to remember to eat lunch on time -- at all, really -- it is a management triumph. Nevermind the chance to clear their head and get perspective on a blog post or six.

I'd know. I do it for a living. Perversely, I ask writers to do the same.

So let's call a spade a spade: the problem with reblogging isn't the format (the brevity of which some appreciate), the very nature of aggregation (which has been done for centuries in print), the writer (who is no more or less talented than a traditional reporter) or even the intentions of the publication (who sees the need to engage its readers on a daily basis). It's the assignment; that is, the frequency requirements that we place on a single creator. Whatever the format, it's a recipe for disaster. There is no room for perspective. 

Echoes get distorted as they bounce around. "Whisper down the lane" wouldn't progress if everyone checked out the facts. And we know how that game is designed to end.

(As amusing as The Awl's take is on this subject, it's too focused on ethics. Anyone who covers business knows that market forces, not ethics, are more likely to dictate actions.)

Now hold on, you might say. The assignment comes from the publication; the editor. That's true, but it's mirrored off an industry standard. The Post likely designed Flock's assignment in imitation of what it saw elsewhere on the Web -- perhaps Wonkette, perhaps Politico, perhaps Fishbowl DC. This was, and is, the going norm. (You might argue that if the Post had to come up with its own rules on this, it would have never embraced such an aggressive mission -- it would have thought it reckless. Uh, yeah.)

Online-only publications began this practice because they are, by their nature, lean startups that must maximize their output. It's not unusual to hear about insane work hours coming out of Silicon Valley's newest projects; the same goes for the young website. With a very limited budget and no advertising/marketing/buzz underscored by advertisers' insistence on volume, websites launch at full-tilt. They ease on the gas, per capita, as they get older and bigger.

If you were launching a newspaper, you wouldn't try to publish morning, noon and evening editions all seven days of the week immediately, would you? If you were launching a magazine, you wouldn't try to push for 12 issues in a year right away, would you? If you were launching a radio or television station, you wouldn't try to fill 24 hours of airtime immediately, would you? But websites try to do this, because there is very little cost to the mechanism of publishing and generating copy is so much cheaper than buying the syndication rights to Seinfeld.

(Still, they try. CNN.com has had more partners than Warren Beatty, from Mashable to The Frisky, as it tries to publish as much content as possible, compressing the news cycle to the point of infinity. Ditto Business Insider.)

The only true sin the Post committed was starting this venture in the first place. Unlike many online-only publications, it benefits from a steady stream of mulled-over, edited, fact-checked content. (Us online-only publications, even the big ones, should all be so lucky.) The Post already has the ability to capture your attention each and every day; it really didn't need another person trying to fill a 24-hour news cycle by herself.

Professionally, I'm trying to do my part to ease this burden. But, somewhat like the U.S. vs. overseas manufacturing battle, the market forces are often at odds with this -- sure, I can pull back on that frequency, but I risk getting run over by everyone else out there in the industry in terms of capturing readers' limited attention. (To continue the metaphor, sure, I can manufacture in the U.S. for higher rates -- a.k.a. pay writers better to produce less -- but I lose the volume, and thus reach, and in the end my global competitiveness. Even if it's really just a race to the bottom.) It's a big gamble, one I'm willing to take, but a gamble nonetheless. It's always hard to justify hanging a left when everyone else is turning hard to the right.

My point? The fundamental issue with all-day, aggregation-heavy blogging not singularly a matter of ethics or support or writer or editor or publication or advertiser or even reader. It is all of these things together, an industry problem, and it will take a lot of things moving in concert to change in a meaningful way. We humans are just not built for this level of productivity -- whatever the quality.

Until then, let the corrections flow forth.

Running a publication is like running a public company


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Dan Hesse, the chief executive of the U.S. telecommunications company Sprint, said the following to Bloomberg when describing the challenges of convincing investors (by way of his company's board of directors) that the long-term view is worthwhile:

“There is a disconnect with Wall Street because if you’re building a brand, it does take a long time. It’s hard to quantify.”

His frustration: that investors clamored for the iPhone, putting the company in a commitment with "punishing" terms. Short-term desires bested long-term decisions.

A publication, especially an online one, is very much the same. The editor must convince investors -- by way of his publisher, or his general manager, and always his CFO -- that some expenses (certain writers, events, photography, investigative journalism) just won't immediately pay off in a given metric, e.g. pageviews or unique users.

What's your iPhone?

The Huffington Post Pulitzer win: 7 feelings


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1.) Pride that an online-only outlet won. This is a trend that will continue.

2.) Frustration that online-only peer publications refuse to swing for these fences, because short-term ROI dominates planning meetings.

3.) Understanding, despite my ceaseless criticism about them, that those awful posts and shameless slideshows pay the bills.

4.) Anger that advertisers continue to think that sheer reach, not true engagement, is the mark of a successful online campaign. They're the ones driving this runaway train of endless verticals and volume.

5.) Impatience that Arianna Huffington won't publicly acknowledge this tension. Lots of talk about influence and good journalism, not a lot of talk about 98% of what she publishes.

6.) Disappointment that a 24-year-old still needs to go to a local paper to do hard-hitting journalism. At HuffPo, they're doing slideshows.

7.) Jealousy, because I wish I had architected such quality journalism for my own publication.

Philly.com hates news. So what?


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A blaring headline on Romenesko today: "Philly.com doesn't much like news."

So what?

The problem is not that Philly.com has a penchant for Naked Bike Ride photo galleries or sports coverage. The real issue is that Philly.com is trying to serve three audiences with one site.

Philly.com is one of three brands offered by its parent company, but each has been mismanaged online. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News websites have been scuttled in favor of a locked-down online experience, so most Delaware Valley readers expect Philly.com to have their daily news.

And it does. But it's conflicting at every turn.

A Philly.com reader wants the slideshow of historic Philadelphia photos, but hates the crime coverage.

A Philadelphia Inquirer reader wants the Inga Saffron or Craig LaBan column, but not the effusive Eagles coverage.

A Philadelphia Daily News reader wants Phillies spring training coverage, but could do without the suburban home prices feature.

But each reader goes to the same place: Philly.com. Each reader hates what he or she sees.

This is Philly.com's real problem. It's not what it does or doesn't cover; it's brand mismanagement.

Five steps to a better Philly.com:

1.) Give the Inquirer its own grand, fusty website. If you want things behind a wall, put them there. See: WSJ.

2.) Give the Daily News its own vibrant website. Again, if you want things behind a wall, put them there.

3.) Let Philly.com develop its own content as a standalone property, and stop relying so much on Inquirer and Daily News coverage. It should be at least 60-40, not 10-90. And based on its history, it should embrace things like "Philly's Hottest Chefs."

4.) Let subscribers pay for what they want. I want to read the Inquirer, I don't care about the latter two, and I don't want a paper copy. What's my option? Currently, awful PDF-like reading. It's like the company built a moat and flooded the castle in the process. (In turn, I read the New York Times. In Philadelphia.)

5.) Allow marketing to separate the three. To use a typographical metaphor, the Inquirer is Baskerville, Daily News is Impact and Philly.com is Helvetica Neue. Allow them to appeal to their particular demographics, and stop mixing the message.

The painful truth about unpaid media internships.


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In an earlier era, most big newsrooms and magazines had transcribers or used transcription services. You don’t see a lot of that anymore. On the rare occasion I can wrangle an intern to transcribe a long interview for me, I jump at the chance. Does that intern learn something from the experience of listening to me conduct an interview? The first few times, probably yes. The fiftieth time, not so much.
Jeff Bercovici speaks the unspeakable.

Inside baseball on the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News sales talks


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(But not the inside scoop, I'm afraid. I'm merely a spectator.)

News arrived this morning that the chief executive of the Philadelphia Media Network, publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com, may have massaged stories about its own sale to buyers.

He denies it, of course, but the obvious interest is to play down bad news (it's been a rough decade for the beleaguered company; 37 layoffs occurred only yesterday) until the sale goes through. The potential for pressure is there.

I've complained before about the problem of Philadelphia being a one-newspaper-company town, and here we are confronting it head-on: there are few broad-interest news outlets willing to cover the sale of a major employer in the city, because most of the bootstrap reporting on such topics is done by the company in question. (Which is why the New York Times and Washington Post have stepped in to fill the void.)

It was bad when the company's products began to degrade in terms of quality.

It was worse when the company hit bankruptcy.

It was even worse when the company continued to lay off whatever value it had lying around, from its building to its talent.

And it was even worse when the company's only interested suitors are the major city power players who have, for much of their careers, been the subject to critical coverage by the paper. (As Erik Wemple wrote this morning in the Washington Post, "How could the reporters at these Philadelphia papers cover anything aside from Halloween without crossing this ownership group? How could the papers avoid becoming a factory line of conflict-of-interest disclosures?")

Now, this: a potential violation of the very ethical core to a newsgathering organization.

However hellish the business, the PMN should have taken steps to avoid all this.

It should have walled off a reporting group to report on the company, with zero intervention. Placed barriers where they needed to be, for the benefit of both parties. Explained, publicly, what it was going to do ahead of time. And, for the reporters' sake, made sure that every word that went live in those reports was perfect, because any edits to the published product would be immediately suspect.

You say you didn't intervene? Release email conversations to the public. Let us decide, instead of leaving it he said, she said. (A journalistic no-no, as any editor with his head screwed on straight will tell you.)

For a company that has been troubled for so long, it's amazing that there is still confusion when it comes to managing internal reportage around its activity.

Like General Motors, this company's going to have to fail, and fail hard, before it ever has the chance of succeeding again. It's just too bad it came from its own mismanagement, and not stiff competition.

Poor user experience: no one’s fault but yours.


This post is by Andrew Nusca from The Editorialiste


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post





"We can't. That's how we've always done it."
"We can't. We would be giving up revenue."
"We can't. [Insert internal group here] won't let us."

The bigger a company gets, the more frequent excuses become a form of social currency. Eighty percent of the time, they directly hinder innovation. Somewhere along the way, breaking the rules turned from a business model to a business stigma.

But here's the thing:
  • There is no excuse for pop-up or pop-under advertisements.
  • There is no excuse for rollover links that trigger ads littering the copy of your publication.
  • There is no excuse for that useless "social engagement" bar that runs on every page of your publication's website. Look at the data -- no one uses it. Just get rid of it.
  • There is absolutely no excuse for autoplaying talking advertisements hiding somewhere on the page. Minus double points for processor-sucking video ads.
How much is reader satisfaction worth to your organization? Quality control for your publication starts with you. The bottom line can't be ignored; that's true. But for every user-hostile experience you allow on your publication's website, you effectively wager that the money is worth more than the reader. And that, my friend, is a race to the bottom.

(Who's waiting at the bottom, you ask? The great Google monster, with a massive bat, ready to bludgeon your publication's SEO with a results-destroying swing.)

That social engagement bar? That autoplaying video ad? Those entirely irrelevant sponsored links? Those horrific Google advertisements that roadblock articles? A daily reminder to all of your readers that you can't say no.

You wouldn't do such things to the front page of your printed product, would you? Why do you allow it online? Find a better business model, before you lose all of the readers who attracted those advertisers in the first place.

The squishiness of digital reader satisfaction.


This post is by Andrew Nusca from The Editorialiste


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




For some reason, when a product goes digital, we quickly forget that real people use it.

We become focused instead on traffic metrics: how many pageviews did we get? Did we increase our unique users? What's our average duration?

And then we use these as a proxy for how satisfied our readers are.

Instead of running the numbers, two questions we should ask ourselves:

1.) Would I be happy with this publication? (What would I fix?)

2.) Are my readers happy with this publication? (What would they change?)

Don't try to read the data tea leaves for emotion. Just ask.