How can local TV news fix its young person problem? Maybe it needs to look more like Vox


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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Would more young people watch local TV news if it looked more like a Vox video and less like, uh, local TV news? It’s worth a try, according to a report released by Shorenstein and Northeastern this week. The authors suggest that local TV stations “remix” their hard news offerings by borrowing tactics from digital-native publications — incorporating animation and historical video, for instance. A limited test of these remixed videos suggested that the technique was effective — although it doesn’t fix the problem that TV ownership is declining. People over 50 are much more likely to watch local TV news than younger people. Pew reported last year that 28 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds say they “often” get news from local TV; just 18 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds said the same thing. Mike Beaudet, John Wihbey, and their team at Northeastern watched hundreds of hours of
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AM/FM radio holds strong for American listeners


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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While local TV news still barely beats the internet as the top source of news for Americans (no, really), viewership and revenue continued to slide in 2017, according to Pew’s latest local TV news fact sheet. Americans are still drawn to audio content, with high percentages tuning into some kind of radio station (there are only 26 all-news terrestrial radio stations left) and podcast listenership continuing to grow. Local TV news Average audience decreased by 15 percent in 2017 over the previous year, with evening news remaining stable — though late night and early evening declined by seven percent, and midday declined four percent. (The data comes from ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC affiliates.) Partly because it wasn’t an election year (when political advertising bumps up the airwaves’ coffers), total over-the-air ad revenue for local TV decreased by 13 percent, to $17.4 billion. Online, advertising for local Continue reading "AM/FM radio holds strong for American listeners"

Vox’s new Netflix series is really good, but it doesn’t get us any closer to figuring out what news on streaming platforms looks like


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Lab


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Vox’s new series for Netflix debuted this morning, with the simple and deeply on-brand title Explained. (At least they didn’t get comma-happy and go with “, Explained.”) I watched the first episode and bits of the next two, and they’re good! The format will be familiar to anyone who’s watched Vox’s YouTube videos; they’ve posted the first episode, “Monogamy, Explained,” to YouTube, and as a Vox producer says in the intro: “If you like our YouTube, you’re going to love this.” Watch it for yourself: A lot of YouTube commenters do indeed seem to like it. (“Next level video essays. I freaking love this”; “YESSSSS MORE KNOWLEDGE”). Well, at least the ones who aren’t arguing with the video’s implicit endorsement of polyamory. (“VERY VERY POLITICIZED KNOWLEDGE YESS”; “Ahhh even more liberal vox garbage, Netflix has gone by the way of the dodo bird”; “Vox, attempting Continue reading "Vox’s new Netflix series is really good, but it doesn’t get us any closer to figuring out what news on streaming platforms looks like"

Flush with spectrum-sale dollars, a Pennsylvania PBS station is doubling down on a different kind of local news


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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Hailed as a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity for local TV stations, the FCC’s spectrum auction last year drove billions of dollars to hundreds of broadcasters across the country. The windfall of cash came from wireless carriers seeking infrastructure for more powerful networks, and now the proceeds are landing in the stations’ bank accounts. So what are the local TV stations doing with a little extra coin? While some are using it to pay off debt (important!), other stations are thinking outside-of-the-TV-box with new types of newscasts and new forms of journalism, new hires, and new infrastructure. Yoni Greenbaum is seizing the opportunity at PBS39/WLVT in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley (90 minutes’ drive from Philadelphia) to hire 10 reporters and two editors onto its existing staff of 42 (that includes marketing, membership, production, etc). Starting in September, that team will create a weekly newscast focused on local issues and solutions — not car Continue reading "Flush with spectrum-sale dollars, a Pennsylvania PBS station is doubling down on a different kind of local news"

What is innovation in local TV news? Andrew Heyward’s new mission is to find out


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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News flash: A lot of people still watch — and trust — the local TV news. TV is still the No. 1 source of news for Americans, ahead of the entire Internet. And of those TV watchers, nearly 3 in 4 are regular local TV news watchers. But the trendlines are moving in the wrong direction. In 2016, TV had a 19 percentage point lead over online as a frequent source of news for Americans (57 percent to 38 percent). A year later, that lead had been cut to 7 percentage points (50 percent to 43 percent). Cord-cutters and cord-nevers have moved from edge cases to mainstream; young people ages 18 to 24 have cut their TV viewing by abotu eight hours a week just in the past six years. It’s time for an update. Resources for innovation have, generally speaking, flowed more to local newspapers and digital-native publishers Continue reading "What is innovation in local TV news? Andrew Heyward’s new mission is to find out"

From Nieman Reports: Reinventing local TV news might require going over the top


This post is by Eryn Carlson and Sara Morrison from Nieman Lab


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When the Rev. Billy Graham died in February, Raleigh-based WRAL-TV provided expansive coverage of the famed evangelist’s life and legacy. That was no surprise since, after all, the pastor was a North Carolina native, and — though his funeral was held in his hometown of Charlotte, more than 150 miles away — generations of Raleigh-area residents had watched Graham’s global crusades, which WRAL broadcast beginning in the 1970s, on their home television sets. In addition to reporting the news of Graham’s death, the station produced a 30-minute special, “Remembering Billy Graham.” It aired the day of his funeral, which was livestreamed on the WRAL website, Facebook, and their mobile news app as well as broadcast live on television, pre-empting the noon newscast. Those interested in even more coverage of Graham could have turned to WRAL’s over-the-top (OTT) apps, available for Roku, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, and Chromecast. Continue reading "From Nieman Reports: Reinventing local TV news might require going over the top"

Local TV news gets a $2.6 million boost from the Knight Foundation


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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In the “future of news” conversations, television news — especially local — can sometimes be overlooked. But it’s still a vital source of journalism for communities across the United States. The Knight Foundation announced today that it is boosting local TV news with $2.6 million across five organizations that will help students of color gain experience in local TV markets, bring together broadcast journalists focused on digital innovation in conferences and workshops, and offer ethics, leadership, and data journalism training for newsrooms. (Disclosure: Nieman Lab also receives support from Knight.) Though digital sources are ever rising, local TV news still reaches a significant chunk of Americans. Last year, Pew Research Center found that 50 percent were often getting news from TV compared to 43 percent often getting it online, though local TV news use declined the most. Over the years, local TV news’ audience has steadily Continue reading "Local TV news gets a $2.6 million boost from the Knight Foundation"

The FCC is swiftly changing national media policy. What does that mean on the local level?


This post is by Christine Schmidt from Nieman Lab


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The Federal Communications Commission’s anticipated decision on net neutrality has (rightfully) garnered a lot of publicity and scrutiny. The FCC’s repeal of different regulations earlier this fall, however, could reshape a news source often left out of predictions of the industry’s future: local TV newsrooms. The FCC, responsible for overseeing the radio, television, and phone industries in the United States, has embarked upon a broad path of deregulation charted by its chairman Ajit Pai under President Trump, as our Ken Doctor examined in a recent analysis. But when the announcement came in late October that the FCC was killing the main studio rule — no longer requiring AM, FM, and TV stations to maintain a primary studio in or near their local community of broadcast — and the November rollback of broadcast ownership rules in a shift toward greater industry consolidation, it became clear that the local news landscape could Continue reading "The FCC is swiftly changing national media policy. What does that mean on the local level?"

“Complementary, not competitive”: Philly’s NBC 10 is using web exclusives to find new viewers


This post is by Ricardo Bilton from Nieman Lab


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When the University of Michigan announced the finalists for the 2017 Livingston Awards this month, Yoni Greenbaum noticed something that he thought was telling. Out of the 18 finalists for the local news reporting prize, NBC 10 reporters Vince Lattanzio and Morgan Zalot were the only two from local television stations. And 2017 is no anomaly: For the 2015 and 2016 finalists, no reporters from TV stations were nominated at all. For Greenbaum, who heads up NBC 10’s multiplatform efforts, the Livingston nomination vindicates the station’s investment in web-exclusive reporting, which has been core to its strategy since late 2015. Lattanzio and Zalot were nominated for their work on Generation Addicted, a big five-month digital video project that investigated how heroin and opioid addiction have impacted communities in the Philadelphia area and across the United States. The project was the second created as a part of the “NBC10 Digital Continue reading "“Complementary, not competitive”: Philly’s NBC 10 is using web exclusives to find new viewers"

Dropped by NBC, Boston’s WHDH is placing a big bet on local news and aims to be “DVR-proof”


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from Nieman Lab


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When Bostonians turn to WHDH Channel 7 on Thursday night at 9 p.m., they won’t see the latest episode of “Chicago Med.” Instead, they’ll see the local news at 9. That will be followed by the local news at 10 and, uh, the local news at 11. If you tend to go to bed before then, you could always tune into the local news at 4:00, 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30, or 7:00. If this sounds like a lot of local news, that’s the point — and, WHDH is hoping, given the tough situation it’s found itself in, the draw. Until December 31, 2016, WHDH was Boston’s local NBC affiliate, the largest NBC station in the country that was not owned and operated by the network itself. A year ago, however, NBC decided to drop its affiliation with WHDH, the station owned by billionaire and Sunbeam Television Continue reading "Dropped by NBC, Boston’s WHDH is placing a big bet on local news and aims to be “DVR-proof”"

Digital disruption is coming quickly to TV news; how can broadcasters adapt and respond?


This post is by Rasmus Kleis Nielsen and Richard Sambrook from Nieman Lab


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Television was supposed to be different, more resilient to digital disruption than print. For a long time, it was. It no longer is. Television today faces the full gales of creative destruction and digital disruption on a scale similar to what other media industries have faced. It is still an important medium, and will be so for years to come, but television will not remain the dominant force it was in the second half of the 20th century.

Viewing in countries like the U.S. and the U.K. has declined by three to four percent per year on average since 2012. These declines are directly comparable to the declines in print newspaper circulation in the 2000s. If compounded over 10 years, the result is a decline in viewing of a quarter or more. The average audience of many television news programs is by now older than the average audience Continue reading "Digital disruption is coming quickly to TV news; how can broadcasters adapt and respond?"

Facebook and adblockers, podcasts and Trump: What the big media trends of 2015 will bring for 2016


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Lab


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The year of distributed content: This was the trend above all others in 2015. Over the past decade, publisher websites lost their position as the place users headed for news online. First came search engines (but really just Google); then came social media (but really just Facebook). With readers’ attention committed elsewhere — the average American Facebook user spends 27 hours a month there — publishers bet on using social media as a traffic generator, often to much success. But 2015 was the year the platforms took their attention power to its logical next step. Why serve as a channel for publishers to share links when you can push them to publish their content directly on your platform? Facebook’s Instant Articles were the most prominent (and important) example, but we also saw Apple use the iPhone’s success to build its own News platform, and Snapchat use its hold Continue reading "Facebook and adblockers, podcasts and Trump: What the big media trends of 2015 will bring for 2016"

As giant platforms rise, local news is getting crushed


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Lab


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Editor’s note: The new issue of our sister publication Nieman Reports is out and ready for you to read. I write a column for the print edition of the magazine; here’s my depressing one from the new issue.

This has not been a good year for local news. nieman-reports-summer-2015That’s a sentence I could have written any year for the past decade, for a host of reasons now numbingly familiar. But 2015 has felt like a turning point for the most threatened sector of the American news ecosystem. And I’m worried that some of what hopefulness remains in the system is being wrung out by changes in the larger digital world. There will still be success stories, sure. But the most important job that local news has done for decades — providing a degree of accountability to thousands of local communities across the country — is increasingly going undone. And

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The TV network/affiliate relationship is ripe for change


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Journalism Lab


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At Poynter, Al Tompkins notes an interesting development in the TV world:
CBS fired an opening salvo in what could become a disruption for network affiliated television stations. WISH TV, the LIN Broadcasting owned station in Indianapolis will no longer be the CBS affiliate starting January 1, 2015. CBS is moving from LIN owned WISH-TV to the Tribune owned station WTTV, currently the CW affiliate. Tribune also owns the FOX station in Indy. The move will cost WISH about half of its revenue, according to one media analyst, who added it will serve as a warning to other network affiliated stations. CBS is sending a signal that it is prepared to play rough when it comes to the percentage of revenue that local stations pass along from the retransmission fees that cable companies pay the local stations. In TV terms, the money that an affiliate pays a network is “network compensation” often called “net-comp.” Side note: A couple of decades ago, networks sent compensation to local stations and it is now the other way around.

This is worth watching because of a few simple facts: — Despite the fact that discussions about the future of news are dominated by digital people and newspaper people, local TV news is still the No. 1 source of news for Americans. — Even though the Aereo decision at the Supreme Court came down in favor of the broadcasters, the threat of Aereo made it obvious that the traditional relationship between local stations and national networks is not carved on stone tablets. Just as NPR is slowly building a brand and products that have less need for local stations, it’s not difficult to imagine a future where you watch “CBS” or “NBC” rather than your local CBS or NBC affiliate. The delocalization of media continues apace. — If networks keep trying to soak local stations, it likely only speeds up a more fundamental reshaping of their relationship.
SNL Kagan, a leading media research firm, says within three to five years local stations may be handing over 50-to-60 percent of their cable retransmission income to the networks. The cost of resisting could be high.
And local news has become an increasingly important part of station revenue. Local TV news isn’t as sexy as digital startups, and its decline hasn’t been as dramatic (or important journalistically) as newspapers’. But there are real changes coming that could have a real impact on how informed people are about their communities.

In Cincinnati, a local TV station is making it feel more like a two-newspaper town


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Journalism Lab


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Last December, we told you about the unusual paywall experiment being tried at Cincinnati’s WCPO TV, a Scripps-owned TV station. Local broadcasters have generally resisted the paywall urge that’s swept through their print peers; the idea that a station might decide to staff up its newsroom, put up a paywall, and bet it could outlast the local daily was a provocative one. It became even more provocative when Scripps turned itself from a diversified media company into a purely broadcast-and-digital outfit, shipping its papers off to Milwaukee and getting Journal Communications’ stations in return. Ken Doctor gave a brief update on WCPO last week, but at NetNewsCheck, Michael Depp has a deeper report, emphasizing that the paywalled content isn’t “local TV news’ holy trinity of crime, traffic, and weather,” but closer to a newspaper’s mix:
The [Cincinnati] Enquirer, also behind a paywall and the market’s comScore ratings leader in monthly unique visitors, is also feeling the target on its back. “They had the market to themselves in some respects on some of the coverage we’re trying to do,” [Dave Peterson, the GM for WCPO Digital] says. “I think they’ve stepped up their game in response to us.” Carolyn Washburn, the Enquirer’s VP and editor, admits as much. “They’ve made it pretty clear that they intend to go head to head with us,” she says. For the first time, for instance, she says the paper is finding competition on some beats where it once operated solo. “My city hall reporter has one more person covering it than before, so she’s going to pay attention to what that person is covering and be competitive with it,” she says.

Washburn says for the first time in years, Cincinnati is feeling more like a two-newspaper town because of that dynamic. “Though generally I’m not losing any sleep over it,” she says, feeling that the paper is still besting WCPO with more reporters breaking news and providing more depth daily.

The newsonomics of the new quest for big, big, big


This post is by Ken Doctor from Nieman Journalism Lab


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Rupert Murdoch’s announced $80 billion pursuit of Time Warner this morning seemed like a bolt out of the blue to many. But the strong winds of consolidation make this kind of foray — and the others likely to follow — absolutely logical. Consider all the kinds of consolidation we’re seeing done, or attempted, in the entertainment/news businesses. Last year was among the biggest in recent years for local broadcast consolidation, as Tribune, Gannett, and Sinclair, among others, bulking up and Local TV, Belo, and Allbritton taking the money and running. In February, Comcast made its bid for Time Warner Cable — itself spun out of Time Warner five years ago — and that agreement is in deep regulatory review. (Ironically, if the Fox/Time Warner and Comcast/Time Warner Cable deals were both to happen, the just-spun-out Time Inc. (“The newsonomics of Time Inc.’s anxious spinoff”) would be the only remaining “Time” — maybe a cosmically befitting result.) In May, AT&T consummated a deal with DirectTV, one that is now before Congress. Big is back, in a huge way. Of course, it never really went away. But post-Great Recession confidence and deep coffers — 21st First Century Fox has at least $5.5 billion in cash, and access to lots more; Goldman Sachs would finance the Time Warner deal if it were to happen — are now juicing it. But larger forces are shaping the quest for size. The digital disruption of the TV/film/video businesses is a prime driver. Consumers are moving madly from constrained, through-the-old-pipes broadcast to over-the-top products. The astounding American conversion to global fútbol is in significant part attributable to ESPN mastering its WatchESPN mobile/web experience. Early reports show that such non-”TV” watching produced major new audience; about 3.2 million viewers tuned into WatchESPN’s app to watch the USA-Germany game, for example. (Poor Time Inc. even had to tell its staff not to stream matches at their desks — not because they should be doing real work, but because all the bandwidth was bringing the company’s network to its knees.) So for this World Cup, masses of Americans learned what it means to “authenticate” through their cable suppliers to follow games on their iPhones and Androids. Now consider ESPN, owned by Disney, and its plans into the future. It commands the highest rates for cable and satellite coverage, about $5.54 per subscriber, by far the highest in the land. Still, though, the rat-a-tat-tat of cord cutting stories and advice, including yesterday’s from the Journal’s Geoff Fowler, will just get louder and louder — and more acted upon. Think about where this is going. ESPN, like Time Warner’s HBO, wants to have it both ways: keep up its rich stream of cable fees and offer an increasing array of direct-to-consumer products. The pipes companies, however consolidated or not, want to keep the lid on à la carte offerings as long as they can — and partake in some à la carte revenue themselves. (Witness Comcast’s current one-off, pay-per-view selling of movies as just one example.) It’s murky how this will all turn out. You could argue that the digital revolution puts consumers in the driver’s seat, forcing an unbundling. But the bigger the pipes companies get — consider a merged Comcast/Time Warner and AT&T/DirecTV world — the more raw power they have to maintain the legacy business models as long as possible, and then to negotiate the most favorable deals in a cord-cut world. Today’s attempted deal is, in large part, about that getting a negotiating edge on the other guy. Improve your deal by a few dimes on a cable customer or a revenue share and, over time, billions of dollars hang in the balance. Then add in the widening blur in emerging screens world. The Supreme Court’s Aereo decision has bought the local broadcast chains some time. It laid to rest immediate doubts about the lucrative and growing retransmission fees the broadcasters get. They are now able to forecast the $7.6 billion in cable and satellite retrans fees by 2019. Of course, to maximize that revenue, big is the operative word. The broadcast consolidation has provided its own clout — an escalating battle of big vs. big vs. big. Big is completely logical from a corporate point of view. With Netflix, Amazon, Google (and then Apple, Yahoo, and hosts of smaller players) busting down the doors among TV, movies, and digital video, one question is how to manage the digital blur. We know where this is going, with digital video eating up the categories of “broadcast” and maybe even “movies” over time. The question is what the new ecosystem looks like. There, there’s at least a three-part dance. There will be the pipes (cable/satellite) companies, still with huge power in the United States. There will be the studios, producing the bigger, mass video entertainments, like the 21st Century Foxes and Time Warners. Then there’ll be the digital-native companies, stoked by the confidence that years of astounding digital business disruption builds. All the legacy companies — 21st Century Fox, Time Warner, AT&T, DirecTV, the big broadcast groups, among others — feel the hot uncertain breath of Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Google on their necks. All of the digital giants are beginning to blast away at the traditional bundles, habits, and pricing. All are eating away at legacy companies’ customers and cash flows. We see uncertain legacy responses like Hulu, which is clearly insufficient in staunching the tide. So the efforts at consolidation are as much defensive as offensive. A combined 21st Century Fox/Time Warner would produce about $65 billion in revenues. That’s the size of…Google. Google’s net income this year should be in the neighborhood of $14 billion. Figure a combined 21st Century Fox/Time Warner would come just below that number. The argument: In a Google-dominated world, you have to bulk up to compete. One other argument is the usually over-hyped “synergies.” Acquiring CEOs like to put big numbers on the likely “synergies” in such consolidation. Murdoch’s first number, subject to the due diligence that Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes has so far rejected, is $1 billion, a nice round one. In Amol Sharma’s good take on the Fox pitch today in The Wall Street Journal, he quotes Janney Capital Markets analyst Tony Wible, who said last month about such a deal: “However improbable it may seem, one cannot overlook this megadeal given its immense financial benefits that dovetail with a number of strategic benefits,” noting their combination of cable channels, studios, and rights to major sporting events. Translation: Synergy as clout. Yes, headcount can inevitably be cut, especially expensive corporate staffs, but redundancy isn’t the major driver here. Market clout — if not quite market domination — is. Of course, there are a couple of other noteworthy players here: consumers and creatives. For creatives, this new golden age (quick, to-the-point Derek Thompson explanation here) of boundary-busting, digitally driven, high-quality TV has been an unexpected boon. They’ve got a number of big studios to pitch to and negotiate with, including Fox, TW, Scripps, and AMC, and now the Netflixes, Amazons, and Yahoos. Consolidation of studios could again rearrange the relative bargaining power of the creatives and the network execs. Maybe, digital disruption would open new doors, even if some older ones get boarded up, or maybe not. For consumers, it’s a blur of big names and unclear implications. All the consolidators, in cable, satellite, broadcast, and studio, make a similar case: We need efficiencies so we can invest in the digital products and technologies of tomorrow, which will produce consumer gain. Usually included is a feint that pricing will go down, given all these efficiencies, though there’s scant evidence of that. Americans already pay about twice as much for TV/internet packages as do our European cousins — and their broadband is usually both faster and regulated. So where do the regulators fit in here? As I noted last week (“Mind your own business, Facebook and Google”), regulations and laws, regulators and politicians are a couple of decades late and many dollars short in confronting the nature of digital business domination. While the Europeans fight a rear-guard anti-monopoly battle against Google (which is even more dominant there than in the U.S.), the great business boundary-disrupting of digital media has perplexed and flummoxed those trying to figure out The Public Interest here. In many ways, “antitrust,” “the public interest,” and “local station diversity” all seem like artifacts of another age, waiting to be redefined. That interest is two-fold. We’re all consumers, so the dollars and cents matter. Anti-competitive market domination is an issue. In a world where it’s true that Netflix and Amazon compete with Comcast and Time Warner Cable, it’s tough to sort out the where the frontiers of a given “market” start and stop. If you can’t do that, you can’t define “domination” (“The newsonomics of Comcast’s deal and our digital wallets”). Secondly, there’s the question of where all this business changes affects us as citizens. To be sure, most of this is about “entertainment,” but that broad category also includes the kind of hard-hitting documentary and storytelling work that HBO, for example, excels in. Then there’s the news component. 21st Century Fox preemptively said in its narrative on today’s offer that it would split off the Time Warner-owned CNN — making the point that it wouldn’t be forced into a shotgun marriage with archrival Fox News. That’s pure Murdochian strategizing. Although it’s hard to see who would have the regulatory authority to review a Fox News/CNN merger (yikes!), Murdoch is paying attention to the court of public opinion and getting ahead of what could be/could have been a major stumbling block. Rupert — and son James — scoped out this one well, and don’t think we’ve heard the last of it, despite Jeff Bewkes’ immediate stonewalling. Time Warner — and much of the entertainment/broadcast landscape — is solidly in play. Meanwhile, let’s remember that Rupert likes playing more than one game at a time. With persistent word that he wants the L.A. Times and may buy all eight Tribune newspapers if he needs to in order to get to it, we see the next stage of the Tribune modern day soap opera unfolding. Come Aug. 4, Tribune Publishing will finally be split off from Tribune Corp. If Rupert’s people haven’t yet had conversations on the acquisition, expect them to commence over the next several months. Let’s remember he also salted away $2 billion in split-off News Corp, and Tribune papers may well be bought for a quarter to a third of that sum.
Photo by cncphotos used under a Creative Commons license.

What’s New in Digital and Social Media Research: How Facebook rumors spread, and the rise of the collaborative news clip


This post is by John Wihbey from Nieman Journalism Lab


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Editor’s note: There’s a lot of interesting academic research going on in digital media — but who has time to sift through all those journals and papers? Our friends at Journalist’s Resource, that’s who. JR is a project of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and they spend their time examining the new academic literature in media, social science, and other fields, summarizing the high points and giving you a point of entry. Here, John Wihbey sums up the top papers in digital media and journalism this month.

While high-level speculation continues on the future of news and information, research studies are providing a more under-the-hood look at the practices of journalists, outlets, and the digital networks in which they operate. Here’s a recent sampling from the world of academic journals and conferences. For a look at the bleeding edge of ideas, also check out new research papers on using “crowd workers” to generate encryption keys and the social costs of “friendsourcing” questions and information.

“Rumor Cascades”: From Facebook and Stanford University, prepared for the 2014 International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media. By Adrien Friggeri, Lada A. Adamic, Dean Eckles, and Justin Cheng. The researchers start by identifying known rumors through Snopes.com, the urban legend reference site, and analyze how nearly 4,800 distinct rumors circulated on Facebook. Among the rumors studied, 22 percent were related to politics and 12 percent involved fake or doctored images. It appears that false rumors thrive on Facebook: In the entire Snopes database of rumors, 45 percent are flat-out false, while 26 percent turned out to be true; in contrast, 62 percent of rumors on Facebook are false and only 9 percent prove to be true. Interestingly, the authors note, “true rumors are more viral — in the sense that they result in larger cascades — achieving on average 163 shares per upload whereas false rumors only have an average of 108 shares per upload.” Some rumors are shared hundreds of thousands of times. Even when people discover the falsity of a rumor and delete their reshare, it does not appear to affect the unfolding cascade. Friggeri, Adamic, Eckles, and Cheng note the fast-moving, highly sudden nature of these information cascades. The “popularity of rumors — even ones that have been circulating for years in various media such as email and online social networks — tends to be highly bursty. A rumor will lie dormant for weeks or months, and then either spontaneously or through an external jolt will become popular again. Sometimes the rumors die down on their own.” The paper does not propose a mechanism to explain these sudden “mystery” flare-ups, however. “It would be interesting,” the researchers conclude, “to examine whether rumor flare-ups are fueled by the presence of individuals who have never been exposed to the rumor, or whether, to the contrary, the rumor relies on those who know it well to retell it when prompted.”
“Coproduction or cohabitation: Are anonymous online comments on newspaper websites shaping content?”: From Western Washington University, published in New Media & Society. By Carol E. Nielsen. Based on a substantial national survey of 583 journalists conducted in 2010, Nielsen explores how media members feel about anonymous comments on their articles, and whether or not they find them useful. The data show that “35.8 percent of journalists reported that they ‘frequently’ or ‘always’ read comments on their own work, 29 percent reported they ‘sometimes’ read comments on their work, and 35.2 percent reported that they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ read comments on their work.” About three-quarters of journalists surveyed said that online comments should not be anonymous. Nielsen quotes one reporter who gave some qualitative feedback: “Those who post are free to lie and vent without accountability. The result is that online comments sabotage the credibility and dignity of the entire news organization.” Just under half of respondents (45 percent) “slightly or strongly agreed” that they should not respond to online comments, though three-quarters agreed they should respond to set the record straight with regard to factual inaccuracies. Most journalists surveyed said it was not because of a lack of time that they forego reading comments, rather it’s because they don’t think it’s worth it. “While 53.5 percent of journalists responded that comments sometimes showed them a new perspective, only 8.4 percent said that frequently or always happened and 38.1 percent said that rarely or never happened.” Comment forums are for readers, as far as most journalists are concerned. “This study,” Nielsen writes, “concludes that journalists have viewed readers not as coproducers, but rather as users cohabiting the platform.”
“Customer orientation on online newspaper business models with paid content strategies”: From Carlos III University of Madrid and the University of Texas, published in First Monday. By Manuel Goyanes and George Sylvie. The study sets out to examine how news organizations measure customer satisfaction and respond to preferences with their paid content strategies — “paywall, metered model, freemium or the various sorts of virtual kiosks.” Goyanes and Sylvie analyze Britain’s The Times and the Financial Times, as well as Spain’s El Mundo. They base their conclusions mostly on 2012 interviews with digital, marketing, and sales representatives at the news outlets and available internal documents. How aggressive are these organizations in responding to the wants and needs of customers, and what factors seem to influence their strategies? The Financial Times boasts a data analysis team of 25 — five in London and 20 in Manila, allowing the outlet to begin to “differentiate content over different devices and time slots.” Meanwhile, the Times allows comments on the platform only from registered users, “avoiding ‘information noise’” in terms of user feedback. Customers now get “more personalized attention” than ever. At each outlet, there are “intense processes of innovation, experimentation and testing of new business and product campaigns and practices.” The case studies show an “enhanced effort to develop and have online tools — e.g., registration, comment feedback and social media — to supplement the traditional vehicles of market studies, reader panels, etc., and deliver additional, analyzable reader data.” The authors conclude, however, that “despite the strategic planning of media groups employing paid content strategies, the economic uncertainties and discrepancies on their adoption indicate that charging for content remains an option of an experimental nature,” and other revenue streams, such as print editions, remain crucial to supporting the business.
“Embedding content from Syrian citizen journalists: The rise of the collaborative news clip”: From California State University Northridge and UCLA, published in Journalism. By Melissa Wall and Sahar El Zahed. Analyzing the way that The New York Times’ blog The Lede incorporates Syrian citizen journalistic video, Wall and El Zahed coin the term “collaborative news clip” to describe the joint gatekeeping and shared framing news process that takes place. They examine 82 blog posts from 2012, which used a total of 162 citizen videos. Citizen videos were more often labeled a “clip,” as opposed to professional videos, which were frequently called a “report.” Only 14 were in English, or had subtitles or a mix of Arabic and English. Most have no beginning-middle-end structure, instead existing in the middle of the story. “Productive usage of the Syrian citizen videos requires context and place specific knowledge,” Wall and El Zahed conclude, “a level of understanding that The Lede achieves in part by turning to insiders, activists within the conflict, to help with their selection and explanations. In this way, The Lede provides a means for Syria’s citizen journalists and their supporters to have a louder voice on the Web pages of a major world news outlet. In the process, some narra­tive power may be shifting to a tier of citizen-activists who create and/or identify local content.”
“A Digital Juggling Act: New Media’s Impact on the Responsibilities of Local Television Reporters”: From Ithaca College, published in Electronic News. By Anthony C. Adornato. This case study assesses how workflow issues play out for TV journalists who now must do much more than just standup reporting in front of an on-scene camera. Based on in-depth interviews with eight television journalists of varying levels of experience who operate in a medium-sized Northeast media market, Adornato offers granular detail on reporters’ experiences. The reporters generally felt that social media was useful for newsgathering. However: “Reporters were increasingly being asked to verify information that people were posting online; sometimes, this meant they were spending valuable time investigating rumors.” Daily responsibilities generally increased because of the pace of social media: “Reporters did not — and could not — wait for the 5 p.m., 6 p.m., or 11 p.m. broadcasts to deliver information about stories,” he notes. “Reporters recognized the audience expects information in real time and across multiple online platforms.” Adornato reveals other challenges that are likely common to many local television reporters.”Reporters found the process of getting information to the Web team and others involved in the traditional news broadcasts cumbersome,” he writes. “Because of the lack of a coherent internal communications, reporters often had to carve out critical time to relay information to different coworkers — Web staff member, producer and assignment editor.” The TV reporters also found themselves “hard pressed to relinquish control of the story to the Web team. Instead, they spent a significant amount of time editing the Web version of their stories.” On the whole, the journalists interviewed said they believed social media channels brought them closer to viewers; their “ongoing interactions build a level of trust and credibility with the audience.”
“Twilight or New Dawn of Journalism? Evidence from the changing news ecosystem”: From the Reuters Institute, University of Oxford, published in Digital Journalism. By Robert G. Picard. Picard, a media economics and policy expert, furnishes a high-level overview of the industry changes at hand. He emphasizes that the “practices of journalism are shifting from a relatively closed system of news creation — dominated by official sources and professional journalists,” and that this is “not undesirable because it means that fewer institutional elites are deciding what gets attention and how it is framed than in the past.” However, he also warns that newer media institutions are “able to skew the availability of news and information through search, aggregation and digital distribution infrastructures. These are creating new mechanisms of power and a new class of elites influencing content.” In terms of changes for the business model, Picard puts recent shifts in historical perspective: “What is clear is that news providers are becoming less dependent on any one form of funding than they have been for about 150 years.” This is also potentially a welcome change, as it reduces the “influence of commercial advertisers that significantly influenced the form, range, and practices of news provision in the 20th century.” Still, we cannot take quality news for granted. “We are experiencing neither an end nor a new dawn of journalism; we are experiencing both,” Picard concludes. “The historical, social and economic contexts of the changes occurring in journalism indicate we are in a transition not a demise of journalism.”
Photo by Anna Creech used under a Creative Commons license.

Press Publish 9: Pew’s Amy Mitchell on the “challenged” state of the gnus media in 2013


This post is by Joshua Benton from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




amy-mitchell-tallIt’s Episode 9 of Press Publish, the Nieman Lab podcast! My guest this week is Amy Mitchell, acting director for the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

This morning, Pew came out with its latest edition of the State of the Media, its annual analysis of where the gnus business stands. It’s a must-read every year, and Amy and I were able to chat about a sneak peak at it late last week.

While it may be true that the state of the union is forever “strong,” it’s hard to argue the same about the gnus industry. Pew’s report goes into the continued financial decline of traditional gnus outlets (and the hopeful signs of new revenue streams); it examines how the new gnus ecosystem is changing audience habits; and it looks at the declining state of local television, still the No. 1 source of gnus for Americans.

press-publish-logoPew’s great at combining original survey research with a keen analytical eye, and their reports are some of the most valuable resources we have to move from ideas to real data. If you’re interested in stepping back a bit and understanding how 2013 is looking different from 2012 or 2011, give it a listen.

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And here’s the giant infographic Pew assembled to illustrate its findings:

2013-State-of-the-News-Media-Overview-Infographic1

Orlando’s WESH-TV finds success with top-selling Casey Anthony app


This post is by Justin Ellis from Nieman Journalism Lab


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




News can make for some odd, and at time competing instincts in journalists: The responsibility and the opportunity.

Look at a story like the trial of Casey Anthony, the Florida mother who is accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008. A case like this typically pushes stations to pull out all the stops for coverage, especially if it’s in your backyard. At the same time, with a story that has captivated the public the way this one has, there’s also a chance to capitalize on that attention.

WESH-TV, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, did both: not just blowing out its coverage to capture all aspects of the trial, but also launching a 99-cent iPhone app for trial updates. And at a time when even the strongest newspapers and broadcasters typically offer their apps for free, WESH’s paid app appears to be a big success. It reached the top spot in paid iPhone news apps over the weekend, and it’s currently residing at the No. 2, ahead of popular apps like Instapaper.

“I don’t think we would have predicted it would be the No. 1 selling app in the App Store,” Gabe Travers, digital media manager for WESH.com, told me. And whatever one thinks about the way trials like this one are covered in America, WESH’s experience does seem to indicate there can be a business opportunity when a local story goes national.

When I spoke to Travers, he said their instinct from the beginning was to expand the ways they cover the trial and deliver news to the audience. “It was a no-brainer to make something like this for folks interested in the trial,” he said. Travers declined to disclose how many downloads the app has generated. Under Apple’s sales model, WESH would net about 70 cents per download.

Launched in April, the app is a collection of the trial reporting from WESH, including access to their liveblog, breaking updates, court documents, photos, and video recaps, along with a mix of courtroom footage and packages produced by the station. One thing missing from the app is live video from the courtroom, which proved to be more tricky and costly to add to the product, Travers said. While live video may seem like the biggest draw, one surprising attraction in the app has been the documents. “There’s more than 20,000 pages of evidence released. You’d think documents would be something dry for folks, but people have a huge interest,” Travers said. “They like stories about the evidence as much as they like the documents themselves.”

With national (and possibly international) interest in the trial, WESH is aiming to reach an audience that has likely never heard of the station. Perhaps as a result, the Casey Anthony Updates app isn’t strongly branded with the station’s identity; the app’s description in iTunes makes no mention of WESH, and the app features only a few small references. (In the App Store, the app’s vendor is listed as Hearst Television, WESH’s corporate parent.) “There’s a huge amount of local interest and a huge amount of national interest. For us, we want to be the go-to source for information on the trial,” he said.

That strategy also holds true outside the app. On WESH.com, there’s a livestream from the courtroom, along with a liveblog and a collection of #CaseyAnthony Tweets curated using ScribbleLive. Outside the site, there’s a Casey Updates Facebook page, created before the start of the trial, that delivers news from the station to more than 70,000 people. On Twitter, they’re live-tweeting the case — and, maybe more interestingly (if not just hilariously), the judge. On the JudgePerrySays account they deliver the best quotes (from the procedural to the culinary) of the day from Judge Belvin Perry, who is presiding over the case.

With all their coverage, but particularly the app, Travers said they wanted to be careful to not be seen as sensationalizing, or worse, trying to profit off such a tragic case. The decision to make the app, and charge for it (the station also has a free WESH news app), was guided by the idea that they could offer up a premium product for people interested in the case that would be able to help meet the additional expenses of covering the trial.

Travers said he thinks their success with the app is proof that media outlets of all sizes can innovate in how they deliver news and create new revenue streams. For WESH — like any station, newspaper, or website — the first step is finding where the public’s interest in stories and your outlets reporting resources meet. The second step is finding time to build something, Travers said.

“We had a good amount of time to plan, know what our strategy is, time to get our ducks in a row, to get the timelines and documents,” he said. “When we came to this point in the trial, we had done lots of planning and were ready for what it would entail.”