This Week in Review: Remembering Steve Jobs, and a new-old media partnership

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

A man who thought different: The tech, media, and business worlds lost one of their brightest minds this week: Steve Jobs, the visionary who co-founded Apple and helped transform virtually every industry this site touches on, died Wednesday at age 56. Thousands of people have been pouring out their thanks and remembrances online over the past couple of days; I’ll try to highlight some of the most insightful reflections here.

First, the obituaries: The New York Times and Wall Street Journal memorialized Jobs in their formal, definitive style, while Wired’s Steven Levy took a more interpretive angle on Jobs’ life and work. The Times offered a fantastic interactive guide to Jobs’ 317 patents, and All Things Digital remembered Jobs with a collection of his own words. One of his most well-known public statements is a 2005 commencement speech that included some profound thoughts about death, including the statement, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

The New York Times and the Lab’s Megan Garber have good summaries of the ways people remembered and honored Jobs on Wednesday. Several pieces on Jobs’ legacy, by the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik, Slate’s Farhad Manjoo, and Reuters’ Kevin Kelleher, centered on a similar point: Jobs’ expertise wasn’t in technical advancements so much as it was in his uncanny ability to recognize what made technologies frustrating for people to use and then to develop brilliant solution after brilliant solution. As the AP’s Ted Anthony put it, “He realized what we wanted before we understood it ourselves.”

Others remembered Jobs for what tech blogger Dave Winer called “the integrity of his vision.” For the Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal, that vision meant a distinctive devotion to work for pure self-fulfillment, and that devotion led to, as Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb pointed out, a corporate culture uniquely predicated on accountability and direct responsibility. Berkman Center fellow Doc Searls brought up some old insights about Jobs’ dedication to innovation, and at the Guardian, Dan Gillmor wrote on the juxtaposition between his awe of Jobs’ genius and his concern about Apple’s growing control. Horace Dediu gave the contrarian’s remembrance, challenging the idea of Jobs as an otherworldly visionary and coming up with some poetic insight in the process.

A few people looked specifically at Steve Jobs’ impact on the media industry — GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram looked at the ways Apple has continued to disrupt media, especially with the iPhone, which definitively turned the phone into a media consumption device. Jeff Sonderman of Poynter republished a piece on Jobs’ relationship with the news industry, and the New York Times’ David Carr said Jobs made business journalism cool for the first time.

Then there were the personal stories: Fast Company collected bunches of accounts of tech execs, writers, and students’ first meetings with Jobs, and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg shared several Jobs stories of his own. Tech blogger John Gruber wrote on the grass-stained sneakers Jobs wore to his keynote address at a conference in June — “the product of limited time, well spent.” And former Gizmodo writer Brian Lam, who had a notorious run-in with Apple last year over a lost iPhone prototype, reflected on Jobs’ kindness and forgiveness amid that incident.

My favorite takeaway came from journalism professor Jeremy Littau’s summary of his lecture on Jobs to his students: “Go create stuff. Lots of stuff. Don’t wait for me to tell you to do it and —  for the love of God — don’t wait for it to be assigned in a class or be for credit on the student newspaper. The great ones are never off the clock. They create stuff because it matters, not because they’re told to.”

Two media giants jump in together: ABC News and Yahoo announced a major partnership for online news, agreeing to share web content, count traffic together, and produce web video series. It’s not a full-fledged merger: The two organizations will remain independent, but they’ll share news bureaus and sell ads together as ABC produces web series for Yahoo and Yahoo maintains the web operations of shows like Good Morning America.

These two companies have done something like this before — as Poynter noted, their announcement this week was strikingly similar to an announcement between the two orgs back in 2000. Still, The New York Times said it’s the deepest partnership of its kind since NBC and Microsoft in the mid-’90s. The basic reasons for the move seem to make sense: As the Times and TV Newser pointed out, ABC News has plenty of corporate muscle behind it via Disney, but has lagged behind its competitors in web traffic. Yahoo, on the other hand, is swimming in traffic but has had some serious difficulty figuring where to go from there.

Still, the deal got a lukewarm reception from many online media analysts. One of them told Ad Age that for ABC News, Yahoo was “the last life vest on the Titanic.” Wired’s Tim Carmody said ABC and Yahoo could have some quite interesting opportunities for cooperation, but instead, they’re “both left chasing The Huffington Post — a fast-growing, web-native and increasingly multimedia-savvy and professional-journalism-driven site.” Mathew Ingram of GigaOM described the move as a doomed, retrograde portal strategy: What these organizations need, he said, is not more eyeballs, but more targeted audiences and well-produced niche content.

But here at the Lab, media professor Josh Braun said that while the partnership is far from a slam dunk, it’s still an ambitious move with the potential to give ABC News a foothold into round-the-clock content and some demographic niches highly coveted by advertisers. On Yahoo’s side, Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici wondered whether they’re moving away from producing original content.

Apple drops the next iPhone: The news of Steve Jobs’ death dwarfed what had been a significant development for Apple-philes: the unveiling, earlier this week, of the next iteration of the iPhone, the iPhone 4S. As the New York Times explained, the new iPhone doesn’t look much different from the current one, but most of its improvements are below the surface, most notably the addition of a voice-activated personal assistant named Siri.

This was not what everyone was expecting; for weeks, the tech press had wrongly predicted an iPhone 5, only to see upgrades that were smaller and more incremental than they expected. The result was disappointment for many, summed up well by Henry Blodget of Business Insider and Farhad Manjoo of Slate. Others, like tech writer Dan Frommer and The New York Times’ Nick Bilton, said there was plenty to like about the iPhone 4S, including faster download speeds and a more powerful camera.

Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman looked at several aspects of the new iPhone of interest to journalists, focusing specifically on Apple’s new Newsstand section for newspaper and magazine apps. He expressed some concern that the Newsstand locks publishers into Apple’s 30-percent-cut pay system while duplicating the old print news-buying experience, rather than creating something new.

Reading roundup: This week was a busy one outside of the big stories, too. Here’s what else people were talking about:

— Some conversation that continues to trickle out about Facebook’s overhaul: GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram argued that Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” is where the web is headed next, the Lab’s Ken Doctor and Gina Chen looked at what’s in this for news orgs, and at The Atlantic, Ben Zimmer looked at what Facebook has done to the way we use language.

— Commentary about last week’s Kindle announcement also continued this week, with Frederic Filloux explaining why he’s excited about the Kindle Fire’s potential for news media and magazine publishers, saying the Fire could help spark some big revenue in tablets. Meanwhile, Nate Hoffelder noted that there’s a lot that you can’t do with the Kindle and its apps, and Mathew Ingram wondered what will happen to the book industry when Kindle prices drop to zero.

— Jonathan Stray’s thoughtful post a couple of weeks ago about journalism for makers has led to a slow-burning discussion: Grad student Blair Hickman proposed a model for solution-based journalism, while journalism professor C.W. Anderson questioned whether journalists have the authority for such an approach. Meanwhile, Josh Stearns of Free Press mused on applying “systems thinking” to journalism.

— This month’s Carnival of Journalism produced a solid set of posts that examined a variety of aspects of online video, from technique to philosophy to business. Here’s the roundup.

— Two useful pieces of advice from Poynter: a guide for news sites to partnering with local blogs, and for journalists to get started with data journalism.

— Former New York Times editor Bill Keller offered a (surprisingly) bullish take on the potential for a sustainable business model in online news, and the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Robert Rosenthal gave a thorough, up-close look at what that means for a single news org in his four-part report on making CIR and California Watch sustainable. Here’s part one and the bullet-point version.

Blackout in Italy: “The first time Wikipedia worldwide has done anything of this kind”

For the past two days, Italian Wikipedia replaced its site’s standard content with a message:

Dear reader,
at this time, the Italian language Wikipedia may be no longer able to continue providing the service that over the years was useful to you, and that you expected to have right now. As things stand, the page you want still exists and is only hidden, but the risk is that soon we will be forced by Law to actually delete it.

As the message continued, it became a manifesto: The Italian Wikipedia website had gone (voluntarily) dark as a protest against DDL intercettazioni, an anti-wiretapping bill being proposed in Italy’s Parliament. The law (its title loosely translates to “Wiretapping Bill”) is apparently a reaction to recent wiretapping escapades that have caused trouble for, among other Italian officials, prime minister Silvio Berlusconi — who’s been caught both dismissing Italy as “a shit country” and making some rather crass comments about Angela Merkel.

The bill’s most contentious section is paragraph 29, which stipulates that, should any blogger publish information deemed to be defamatory — deemed to be so not by a process of judicial review, but by the subject of the alleged defamation — then the blogger will be forced to print a correction within 48 hours of publishing the offending post. Or else pay a fine of €12,000 (nearly $16,000).

Arbitrary/reckless/dangerous/ridiculous/a further blow to press freedom in Italy — insert your preferred objection here.

The outrage over the proposed law has been brewing for a while now, but it gained force this week, as the bill’s being debated in the Italian Parliament. And Wikipedia’s blackout of all its entries in Italian — around 800,000 of them — brought the protests to a head. The Wikimedia Foundation itself voiced its support for the protest, couching its argument in the idea that Wikipedia is self-policing, and therefore beyond the auspices of government regulation:

The Wikimedia Foundation stands with our volunteers in Italy who are challenging the recently drafted “DDL intercettazioni” (or Wiretapping Bill) bill in Italy. This bill would hinder the work of projects like Wikipedia: open, volunteer-driven, and collaborative spaces dedicated to sharing high-quality knowledge, not to mention the ability for all users of the internet to engage in democratic, free speech opportunities.

Wikipedians the world over pride themselves on their ability to rapidly remove false information from their project. Wikipedia has established methods to receive complaints or concerns from individuals or organizations and a strong system exists to remove incorrect or false information, and if necessary to remove complete articles in an effort to prevent vandalism. For Wikipedians, there is no value nor need for this proposed legislation.

Jimmy Wales put it more bluntly: “Wikipedia Italy is on strike against an idiotic proposed law.”

As Wales explained to Chris Potter, the Perugia-based director of the International Journalism Festival, “Italy already has perfectly fine laws against defamation, and this proposed law overreaches dramatically. I have never heard of any law like it anywhere else in the world.” The decision for this week’s blackout, he continued, “was taken by the Italian community in part because they felt that there was no genuine avenue for protest in the mainstream media without a bold action.”

And it looks like the protest may have worked — sort of. Yesterday, the Italian government announced that it will be modifying the proposed law to include only large online news sites — meaning that any information outlets that don’t fall into that category, Wikipedia among them, will be excluded from the law’s reach.

So: good news? The hashtag #graziewikipedia, which popped up in response to the development, would suggest so. But while the update, and today’s return to a blackout-free site, may represent a superficial victory for Wikipedia — and a nod to the encyclopedia’s network-effects-rooted power as, yep, a political lobbying force — the bill still holds. And the episode overall is a good reminder of the generally dismal status of press freedom in Italy. Berlusconi owns the influential private media company Mediaset; he exercises direct control over state television. Italy’s 100,000 professional journalists, to get work, must belong to the Ordine dei Giornalisti — a group that is, in effect, a modern-day guild. This year’s Freedom House survey of global press freedom, citing “heavy media concentration and official interference in state-owned outlets,” ranked Italy as only “partly free.”

It’s a worrisome state of affairs — one that Italian journalists are both keenly aware of and, as the DDL intercettazioni episode suggests, largely powerless to fight. As La Repubblica’s Vittorio Zambardino, the paper’s “Scene Digitali” blogger, told me when I met him in Perugia last year, over-regulation of journalism and the online space is a constant threat in Italy. And, for that matter, in Europe (and elsewhere) more broadly. “There’s a wide array of social processes that are produced by the Internet that are also endangering the virtue and the value of the Internet,” Zambardino said. He continued:

Freedom is going to be killed by strict regulation taken by governments. In Italy, we are very worried about this. But it’s not only Italy: the European Union has very strict views about privacy, about anonymity, about what they call “the freedom of the Internet.” In an ironic way — because they don’t believe in the freedom of the Internet.

Steve Jobs: 1955-2011

We don’t have much decoration in the Nieman Lab office. One of the few pieces we have, though, is a framed picture of a famed quote: “Real artists ship.”

Steve Jobs had been sick for a long time, and today’s news shouldn’t come as a shock — but, still. “I never expected to be this affected,” Gizmodo’s Joe Brown put it. Jobs’ loss is a loss to technology that seems, also, intensely personal — ironic, maybe, for a man as private as Jobs, but fitting for a visionary who’s done more than anyone else to bring the words “personal” and “computer” together.

With that in mind, here are some of the thoughts shared, this evening, by the people whose worlds Jobs changed — thoughts shared, we’d bet, through devices he brought to fruition.

Questions for the big bird: Gary Knell on digital expansion at NPR

NPR’s incoming president and CEO, Gary Knell, inherits challenges that are well-reported elsewhere: repairing the network’s image after scandals forced three executives to resign this spring; fighting to salvage federal funding and looking for new funding models; and maintaing good relations with 268 member stations.

Gary Knell

At the Lab, we’re most curious about Knell’s vision for NPR’s digital future. He comes to NPR by way of Sesame Street, a multi-platform franchise by all accounts. During 10 years as CEO of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved show, the program has expanded into most of the countries on earth and to virtually every digital platform.

“Some reporter asked me, ‘Are you in agreement about the digital direction of NPR? And the answer was 110 percent,” Knell told me. “If we’re not doing the Wayne Gretzky thing, of skating to where the puck is going on the distribution side, where our audience wants to find our content, we’re going to be out of business.”

Knell’s predecessor, Vivian Schiller, accomplished much in her two years at NPR: During her tenure, the network launched its new, newsy website, released a hugely popular iPad app and tablet site, significantly expanded its social-media footprint, and, under digital media GM Kinsey Wilson, expanded its team of developers, designers, and product managers to about 50 people, and the total digital staff, including journalists and members of its Digital Services division, to 200. The organization even dropped the “radio” from its name.

Knell referred to himself as “nudger in chief” when it came to expanding Sesame Street’s digital presence. The Sesame Street website receives millions of unique visitors per month, he said, and more people watch Big Bird online than on television. There are more than 20 Sesame Street iOS apps in the App Store. Sesame Street is even on Wii and Xbox. He founded the Joan Ganz Cooney Center (named for Sesame Street’s creator) and raised $15 million to fund digital-media projects that promote literacy.

“I think the relevancy for these local stations has gotten heightened, not lessened, as we enter the 21st century.”

Knell said his goal is bringing public radio to all the places listeners are. “We live now in a world that’s highly complex, and people have choices.” So, while “public radio needs to be serving its local markets in local radio,” he said, “it also needs to have people be able to access that content on mobile devices and iPads and everything else.”

Knell is one of those people: He’s a radio listener, himself. “Even before I got this job,” he told me, “I’d sit in my kitchen in New York and listen to KPLU in Tacoma, because I love their jazz format. And that’s all on the NPR iPad app — and it made me become a member of KPLU.”

For the record, Knell is also a dues-paying member of WNYC and of WFUV, where he serves on the advisory board.

He continued: “I remember being on a road trip 30 years ago and driving across America — and just having the ability to listen to NPR wherever you were, it was an amazing treasure.” And that hasn’t changed, he said, “especially as we’ve seen the news business morph and serious investigative journalism on a local basis come under economic uncertainty.”

In fact, “I think the relevancy for these local stations has gotten heightened, not lessened, as we enter the 21st century.”

sesame-street-computer-caper

And that’s why NPR’s digital expansion is not without tension. Many local stations, particularly smaller ones, fret about something called “digital bypass,” the idea that consumers will ditch their local stations because they can get NPR programming from NPR.org, mobile apps, satellite radio, and podcasts. Before the web, FM stations were the sole outlets for programs like Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

It remains to be seen how will Knell address that concern. “I need to know a lot more,” he said. “I was sort of appointed to the job about seven minutes ago. But, look, I know it’s a big issue. Obviously it’s an economic issue for the stations if the national provider just blows out everything and buries the localism — that’s not a good thing. So we have to figure out what the right balance is, and I’ve got a lot of learning to do. And I plan to visit a bunch of stations and listen to them in the first hundred days.”

It’s not easy being green.

Knell was not yet familiar with the Public Media Platform, the planned “super API” that will centralize content from NPR, PBS, American Public Media, Public Radio International, and PRX. (We didn’t have time to talk about Argo, the pilot project that launched a dozen blogs last September at member stations around the country.)

He does blog, as Megan pointed out. And he created a Twitter account almost as soon as the CEO news emerged on Sunday.

“Yeah, aren’t I hip?” he said.

The fact that more than a thousand people (1,328 as of Monday night) are now following Knell on Twitter “shows you not so much how powerful Gary Knell is,” he said, “but it shows you the power of NPR — and how interested people are in learning about what this new guy has to say.”

“It’s a way of connecting with the public in a very direct way that you can get input and feedback, which is the fabulous part about social media. And it’s also, I think, a message to our staff and the stations that we want to be players in this, as well.”

Open Sesame: Gary Knell, NPR’s soon-to-be CEO, is also a blogger

Starting December 1, NPR will have a new CEO: Gary Knell, currently the chief executive of Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street.” [Insert your favorite Kermit/Elmo/Oscar joke here. Or just savor Gawker's headline: "Muppet Slavedriver Named Head of NPR."]

The selection, announced yesterday evening, came as a surprise to many — partly because, just this Friday, we heard how long and labor-intensive NPR’s CEO search has been, and partly because, Sesame Street not being journalism in any traditional sense, Knell wasn’t on most media watchers’ radar prior to the big announcement.

Things we know so far: Knell has a background in journalism and legislative affairs. He wants to “depoliticize” public radio. He shuns the serial comma. What we know less about, though — for the moment, at least — is Knell as a digital leader, as the person who will oversee NPR’s digital initiatives: among other things, its mobile efforts, its Digital Services unit, its Public Media Platform. NPR, as former CEO Vivian Schiller told me last year, is becoming a truly “multiplatform” organization.

Sesame Workshop, though it’s most commonly associated with television, is another multiplatform endeavor. And Knell has made a point, it seems, of applying the opportunities of the digital world — YouTube, Twitter, Hulu, Facebook, podcasts, tablets, smartphones — to the cause of early childhood education. (“Despite the fact that it may appear that I’m a guy who’s doing puppet shows, that’s not really true,” Knell told the AP, noting that Sesame Workshop is “a complex media organization that’s global in size.”) Knell has also made a point of developing Sesame Street as a TV product, expanding it, via co-production collaboration efforts, to other countries — some 140 in all, among them Egypt, India, Israel, Northern Ireland, and South Africa.

We’ve asked for an interview on how that work will translate to NPR’s particular — very particular — set of journalistic and technological challenges. Meanwhile, though, I was interested to find that, since last year, Knell has also kept a blog: “Gary’s World: On the Road with Big Bird’s Boss.”

Though I quibble with the title — Big Bird is a subservient employee to nobody — and though the blog has a distinct good news from the PR department! tone, it also provides a glimpse into Knell as a leader and as a navigator of the digital world. In education, in particular…but the line between education and journalism has always been a paper-thin one. “Media content — whether it’s delivered through the television screen, a hand-held device or in a video game — can play a powerful role in children’s education,” Knell writes in his introductory blog post, listing Sesame Workshop’s digital outreach efforts. “All of these endeavors share a common goal: to bring the engaging Sesame Street content and its educational benefits to parents and children, wherever they may be — virtually and physically.”

Also included in the blog:

The blog peters off somewhat — though Knell was (relatively) prolific in 2010, he’s posted only three entries so far in 2011.

Still, though, it’s interesting to see a CEO blogging in the first place. (Very Patonesque.) And the blog’s press-release-y overtones notwithstanding, its copy seems to be written by Knell himself: Yep, it contains lots of here’s why Sesame Workshop is awesome news items, but it also includes ultra-earnest and seemingly personal nuggets like this: “The gala is always fantastic, but this year was truly beyond special,” Knell wrote of the 2010 version of Sesame’s annual gala. And, on Sesame’s Pentagon visit, this: “I am so proud of this organization for pulling this together. It confirms my belief that dedicated people with good ideas and a spirit of optimism and enthusiasm can pretty much do anything in this crazy world — especially when we can build upon the special place we hold in people’s hearts already.”

Community news sites band together to create the Chicago Independent Advertising Network

At last year’s Block by Block conference, the first of the maybe-annual confab of community news site editors and publishers, one of the big themes that emerged was a simple one: solitude. Lots of local news publishers — many of whom work both on the business and editorial sides, and with no permanent staff — labor in relative isolation as they go about covering the news, coordinating logistics, and, in many cases, selling the ads that kept the other work sustainable.

So it’s noteworthy that a group of fifteen Chicago community news sites have joined together to overcome the isolation, launching, this week, the Chicago Independent Advertising Network. The network, which will begin running ads on November 1, is an effort to bring the benefits of scale — and the complementary ideas of “safety in numbers,” “misery loves company,” etc. — to the business side of community news.

ChiAd isn’t the first to try the network approach — see the Seattle Indie Ad Network and the Boston Blogs network, for example — but it’s notable not only given that it’s situated in Chicago, which offers a rich ecosystem for community news sites, but also given that it’s a collaboration between for-profit sites and foundations: ChiAd’s efforts (including the hiring of a full-time ad salesperson) are being funded by the Chicago Community Trust, which both suggested the initial idea of the network and convened its current participants, and by the Knight Community Information Challenge, which put up matching funds for the project.

“The truth is that the vast majority of large digital advertising is done by much larger organizations,” says Mike Fourcher, business manager of the new network. (As the publisher of both CenterSquareJournal.com and RoscoeViewJournal.com, Fourcher knows of what he speaks.) The network is an effort to merge the intimacy of local sales efforts with the size that local sites need to make those efforts financially viable.

The deal: Ad placements are sold in blocks, currently priced at $2,400 each, with five new blocks available each month. (Every ad placement will be evenly rotated across all member sites.) And that all means that the network will have, Fourcher noted, “no more than five ads running across our network at one time.” (Advertisers can also purchase a “roadblock” — an arrangement that guarantees that a single ad will be seen across the network for a full day. A roadblock goes for for $1,000.)

The pitch: again, scale. For both the sites and the businesses that advertise on them. Businesses get reach (Fourcher is promising to serve over 1 million pageviews a month through the network) and sites get efficient ad sales — one of the most time-consuming aspects of site sustainability — in addition to the sales-pitch benefits of size. They get recognition where, previously, they may have been ignored. There are, for example, several theater companies in his coverage area, Fourcher told me. Theater companies and local news sites would seem an obvious marketing match; previously, though, the companies wouldn’t do business with his sites because they rely on external agencies to make their ad buys. And the agencies, for their part, wouldn’t do business with Fourcher’s sites because they considered the sites to be — you guessed it — too small to be worth their attention. “In their mind, we’re nobody,” Fourcher says.

As a group, though, they’re somebody. “Together, we’re now 1 million monthly pageviews,” Fourcher says. “That’s really something. And that’s worth a lot of people taking notice of.”

This Week in Review: Amazon’s challenge to the iPad, and Facebook’s ‘frictionless sharing’

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

A heavyweight enters the tablet ring: Amazon became the latest company to jump into the tablet market this week, unveiling the Kindle Fire, a $199 tablet that will run on Google’s Android system. It’s a 7″ touch-screen tablet that’s essentially a knockoff of the BlackBerry Playbook — much smaller and, in the Fire’s case, much cheaper than Apple’s iPad. Amazon also revealed three new Kindle models ranging from $79 to $149, two of them touch-screen, as well as a new Kindle Fire-only web browser, Silk (more on that at the LA Times).

The two most comprehensive early looks at the Fire came from Wired’s Steven Levy and Bloomberg’s Brad Stone. Levy looked more at the device itself, describing it as a way for Amazon to spotlight its non-book media library and saying that the biggest challenge it presents is to Netflix. Stone looked more at the corporate strategy behind the Fire, noting that it “funnels users into Amazon’s meticulously constructed world of content, commerce, and cloud computing.” (Sounds like a certain other tablet we know.)

By the end of launch day, several tech sites like TechCrunch and ZDNet had already declared the Fire the winner of the hypercompetitive Android tablet market, and Ad Age said it would soon have tablet consumption taking off. The bigger question, then, was whether the Fire would present the first real threat to Apple’s iPad. The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal summed up the Fire’s challenge to the iPad — smaller, cheaper, and the first media experience as thoroughly integrated as Apple’s App Store. As the Atlantic’s Alesh Houdek put it, the Fire may do most everything tablet owners really want, only for a lot less than the iPad.

But ReadWriteWeb’s John Paul Titlow said the Fire can’t match up to the iPad, and the Guardian’s Dan Gillmor and paidContent’s Tom Krazit both said it’s not even directly competing with the iPad — it’s in a more utilitarian market, where the iPad is more about luxury. Mathew Ingram of GigaOM argued that to content producers, Amazon and Apple are going to look very similar: They both see their devices as ways to sell their own content, which puts them in competition with the content providers themselves.

The Fire also launched with a newsstand, with big magazine publishers Conde Nast, Hearst, and Meredith among the first to sign deals with Amazon, under similar terms to Apple’s 30-percent cut of revenue. (News Corp. also signed a deal to put Fox TV shows on the Fire.) The New York Observer’s Emily Witt noted that the Fire could be the mobile-content Apple competitor publishers have been looking for, and the Lab’s Martin Langeveld said the Fire will present a fresh disruption for content providers, furthering the growth of direct-to-consumer marketing and eliminating the need for third-party advertising. Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman posed several questions journalists should be asking about the Fire, looking at things like paid content, customer data, and app development.

Objections to ‘frictionless sharing’: Reactions continued to pour in about Facebook’s latest overhaul, announced late last week. Many of those concerns centered around the same theme: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s brave new world of ubiquitous, “frictionless” sharing. The New York Times’ Somini Sengupta and the LA Times’ Jessica Guynn gave us a picture of what this world might look like, and Slate’s Farhad Manjoo explained why sharing should still be a choice.

Needless to say, this brought up another round of complaints about privacy on Facebook: Tech pioneer Dave Winer said Facebook has crossed the privacy Rubicon by seeking out information about you to post to others, rather than just using information you’ve chosen to share. Entrepreneur Nik Cubrilovic pointed out that Facebook can track every page you visit even when you’re logged out. Jeff Sonderman of Poynter argued that this type of involuntary sharing should be a concern for every news organization that works with Facebook, and former New York Times developer Michael Donohoe said the Times refused to implement that kind of sharing via Facebook. There was one (non-Facebook) voice countering that the passive sharing isn’t that big of a deal: Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici.

A couple of deeper thoughts on the issue: The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal wrote on Facebook as “the Meaning Machine,” and media prof Mark Deuze argued that living our lives inside of a mediated environment (like Facebook encourages to) can actually help us to see ourselves as deeply connected to others, if we’re willing to let go of our self-absorption.

As I touched on a bit earlier, there’s also the question of what news organizations should do with Facebook: Gawker’s Ryan Tate explained why many media companies are so eager to be part of Facebook’s plans (huge audiences, huge amounts of data), and Facebook’s Vadim Lavrusik explained at the Lab and at the Online News Association conference how journalists can take advantage of these changes. But Jeff Sonderman was a bit more skeptical, urging news organizations to weigh the costs as well as the benefits, and Mathew Ingram of GigaOM said news orgs shouldn’t consider a Facebook app particularly innovative, as it’s still bound to someone else’s platform.

Finally, these changes probably aren’t good news for Google and its own network Google+, as Facebook begins collecting loads of valuable personal data that Google can’t touch, Mathew Ingram explained. Twitter does its own thing (real-time news) too well to be too worried, Ingram said, but The New York Times’ Nick Bilton wrote that Twitter isn’t user-friendly enough to be for everyone, as Facebook is.

Media trust and the new local news: The Pew Research Center released two surveys over the past week or so: The first was the latest in a regular series of looks at the American public’s views of the press, and results weren’t pretty. The press hit record lows in the public’s mind in terms of fairness, accuracy, bias, morality, professionalism, and impact on democracy. (Poynter has a good, quick summary.)

Reuters’ Jack Shafer noted that many of the poll respondents get most of their news from TV, which he said isn’t a particularly substantive media diet. “The media assessments of the TV-favoring Pew respondents are about as valuable as the restaurant advice of that guy who has eaten 25,000 Big Macs,” he wrote. One other nugget: Journalism professor Alfred Hermida pointed out that many people who use social media say they get the same news there as on traditional news.

The second study examined the platforms on which people get their local news. There were a few different takeaways from this one: The New York Times focused on the fact that a broad range of platforms have joined TV as predominant local news sources, while the LA Times and Poynter’s Rick Edmonds centered on the paradox that many people were very dependent on their local newspaper but still wouldn’t care much if it were gone.

O’Reilly Radar’s Alex Howard had a fine analysis of the study, using it as a jumping-off point for a piece on the Internet as the future of local news. Other notes from the data: Broadcasting & Cable looked at the areas where local TV did well, Poynter’s Julie Moos noticed that many people follow local news even when nothing big is going on, and paidContent focused on the role of mobile media in local news consumption.

More over-aggregation accusations: The business news site Business Insider announced some happy news late last week: that it had recently raised $7 million in funding. But that announcement prompted a wave of criticism about the ethics of their aggregation efforts. Reuters’ Ryan McCarthy laid out the basic accusation: Business Insider, he said, routinely lifts large chunks of stories from other outlets while only providing scant attribution or links. Others, like former Business Insider employee Ben Popper of BetaBeat, echoed the complaint. So did Instapaper founder Marco Arment, who noted how little traffic he gets from Business Insider republishing his stories.

Business Insider’s Henry Blodget responded twice to Arment, the second time in a massively long, detailed post essentially blaming the aggregation problems on some weird content management system glitches. Based on that post, Reuters’ Felix Salmon said Business Insider still falls on the wrong side of “over-aggregation,” drawing a distinction between human-edited and automatically driven aggregation pages.

There was some praise for Business Insider in light of their funding, though — CNBC.com and the Guardian both looked at what makes the site work so well.

Reading roundup: Other stuff to keep an eye on this week:

— The Wall Street Journal changed its website’s privacy policy to connect personally identifiable data with browsing history without user permission. Yeah, people weren’t crazy about that, especially since the Journal has been one of the big crusaders in reporting on corporate violations of privacy online. Here are New York magazine’s and Dan Gillmor’s takes.

— Google launched Google News Standout, which allows news organizations to flag their top work. The Lab’s Megan Garber examined the way it rewards generosity, and Wired’s Tim Carmody looked at the increasing integration between Google News and Google+.

— This Week in Patch: Patch’s local site editors are reportedly being asked to drum up sales leads, and the Batavian’s Howard Owens said if you’re going to work that hard on local news, you might as well start your own site. Patch President Warren Webster pushed back against the criticism.

— The Financial Times said its web-based app has been a higher seller than the Apple App Store version, and ReadWriteWeb called it a big early victory for HTML5-based app developers in their battle against Apple.

— An update on News Corp.’s daily tablet publication, The Daily: It has about 120,000 weekly readers, well below Rupert Murdoch’s targets for it.

— Finally, a trio of super helpful/valuable posts for journalists: Journalism professor Paul Bradshaw wrote on what should make up journalists’ network infrastructure online, the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s Jon Whiten gave a guide to making longform writing work online, and Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman urged news organizations to start building apps that solve problems.