Media Oxpecker: Paywall Spring

Every week we round up media news you may have missed while you were busy not being toast.

  • With the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, and The Telegraph (U.K.) all jumping on the paywall bandwagon recently, Felix Salmon says, “It’s paywall season right now”:

    There are three big drivers of these decisions. The first is that there’s no hope that online ad revenues will ever grow to replace print ad revenues. They’re barely growing any more, even as they’re still only a small fraction of total ad revenues. The second is that for various reasons, newspapers need to “cling to the mantle of quality at near insane costs”, as Sarah Lacy puts it. If costs are stubbornly high while revenues are shrinking, then the only possible solution is to try to raise new revenues by any means necessary — or go bust.

    Lacy adds, “What the groups on either side of [the old/new media] line share is a tacit admission that online ads simply don’t work when it comes to journalism, at least in the current incarnation.”

  • What’s it look like when a news outlet goes all in on online ads? Ernie Smith points to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which went online-only in 2009 and has “taken its sizable legacy as a West Coast hub of great journalism and turned itself into the West Coast version of the Daily Mail — a news outlet in service to the internet.”

    Here’s a company that had a four-year head start to reinvent its model, its journalism, and its overall mission. And here’s what the business side has apparently been doing the whole time — figuring out new ways to run advertising on top of advertising on top of advertising. You want to root for them — for their mission, for their potential status as a trailblazer — but, this is what they’ve spent the past four years doing. To put it simply, it’s a bummer. It disrespects the journalists who lost their jobs and the ones that have barely skated by. It shows how bereft of ideas the business side is for making money from journalism on the Internet.

  • Remember when Matthew Yglesias tried to convince us that we’re living in the “glory days” of American journalism because consumers have access to more information even as the number of people employed in the news industry shrinks? Increased productivity is great and all, but when it comes to state and local reporting, doing more with less isn’t always in the best interests of the public, says Steven Waldman:

    Consider: The number of people covering state legislatures has declined by at least a third, and most of these have not been replaced by reporting-oriented bloggers. In 2003, 39 people covered New Jersey government; in 2009, 15 did. Georgia had 14 full-time statehouse reporters in 2003; in 2009 it had five. In Pennsylvania, 40 correspondents covered the legislature in 1987. In 2011 there were 19 and Matthew Brouillette, president of the Harrisburg-based Commonwealth Foundation, says “You can swing a dead cat and not hit anybody in the state Capitol newsroom.” It’s hard to say what exactly is not being reported, and surely some of those correspondents were doing duplicative or frivolous work. But do we really think such a drop has improved matters?

  • What can news websites learn the success of Business Insider? Here’s what you need to know.

  • Mathew Ingram says there’s a “barbell problem” in media: the largest and smallest players are succeeding, but the middle is getting squeezed.

  • Online banner ad rates continue to sink, prompting more websites to explore ad-free business models.

  • You’re more likely to survive a plane crash than click on a banner ad. This and other facts about banner ads.

  • What the future of advertising on Google Glass might look like.

  • How not to use social media for your reporting: A San Jose Mercury News reporter based a story on a fake Obama quote, from a joke tweet, without verifying the quote or even attributing the tweet as the source. Embarrassment ensued.

  • Georgia Tech assistant professor Eric Gilbert on Reddit and other online communities: “I think it’s important to understand … the root motivation of why people spend hours a day on Reddit or YouTube or Wikipedia. I think that’s especially important for people in media and in journalism. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. They want to be part of the story.”

  • Why media sites should adopt responsive design.

  • Think twice before using that hashtag. New York Times social media editor Daniel Victor says they don’t attract audiences and could even turn off followers.

  • Please don’t go: Robert Hernandez on why you should not leave journalism.

  • Former Washington City Paper reporter Mike Riggs shares five tips for landing your dream journalism internship.

  • And finally, a counterpoint in the hashtag debate: “Every tweet should have, at minimum, eight hashtags,” says the Village Voice’s Nick Greene in his groundbreaking analysis of Time magazine’s 140 Best Twitter Feeds. (“#Jesus counts for 12”) Taking lessons from #Power #Tweeters such as Tyra Banks and Marco Rubio, he says, “All these tweets are examples of #social #media inspiring #change through #disruption and #interaction.”