The Media Oxpecker: When the Natives Get Restless

Every week we round up media news you may have missed while you were busy playing dress up.

  • Twitter had a collective meltdown on Monday after The Atlantic published an advertorial for the Church of Scientology on its website. It was pulled down less than 12 hours after being posted, but has been preserved in all its glory by those who had the foresight to take screenshots.

    So what’s the big deal? The Atlantic betrayed the hard-earned credibility of its writers, says David Dobbs:

    If the Church of Scientology wanted to run an ad, they’d buy an ad. But they wanted something more: they wanted some of the credibility that goes with being editorial content at the Atlantic. That’s the whole point of sponsored content or advertorials whose design mimics that of the magazine or occupies layouts that are, by design, meant to tell the reader that This Is The Magazine (or website): to pass as editorial content, or something very much like it, and thereby borrow — no, steal — some of the credibility that writers and editors have worked hard to grant that space.

    But wait, isn’t “native” advertising the Next Big Thing? AdWeek’s Charlie Warzel says the real problem was that the post was so out of character from The Atlantic‘s usual editorial fare: “Native advertising, above all else, has to feel at home in its host publication to have any chance at being successful.”

  • Magazine ad pages fell by 8.2 percent in 2012, the seventh straight year of declines.

  • Patch co-founder/president Warren Webster is still bullish on his company’s growth prospects, despite the fact that only 1 out of every 9 Patch sites is profitable:

    On the monetization front, Webster continued to stress that scaling local takes time. “We corral hundreds of salespeople in communities,” said Webster. “It takes time to win the hearts and minds — not only of the users, the residents of these communities, but small business owners” as well.

    The company is also placing a higher priority on social features, a move that does nothing but transform Patch from a “lousy local news network to [an] even worse community message board network,” writes Sarah Lacy:

    So Patch is going from a bad version of something the journalism world desperately needs to something no one needs– more community message boards. Just kill it already and make Wall Street happy. What decade is this anyway?

  • A photographer won a lawsuit against the Washington Post and Agence France-Presse for publishing his Twitter photos of the 2009 Haiti earthquake damage. BuzzFeed’s John Herrman says the media companies could have avoided penalties had they used Twitter’s “embed” feature, while paidContent’s Jeff John Roberts says the lawsuit does nothing to clear up the current “mess” of photo laws:

    This tension over photographs is only going to grow as smartphones spread and people post more pictures online. Meanwhile, social media images are becoming ever more essential to news reporting. This week, for instance, British newspapers all relied on a user’s Twitter photo to report on a London helicopter crash.

  • Digital First Media is reducing the print schedule of the Oneida Daily Dispatch to three days a week.

  • GateHouse Media will no longer provide coffee, napkins, or “general office supplies” to its newsrooms.

  • While Deadspin’s bombshell story on the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax surpassed 3.5 million pageviews in its first 24 hours, the traffic surge didn’t translate into ad dollars for parent Gawker Media:

    “Because we don’t run any networks or remnant inventory, it’s impossible for us to monetize these spikes unless we’re already oversold,” Gawker Media Chief Advertising Officer Andrew Gorenstein said in an email. Since Deadspin wasn’t oversold, Deadspin couldn’t run as many ads as it would have liked.

    But Deadspin isn’t alone. Web publishers have traditionally had trouble making money off of sudden surges in visits to their site. The rise of real-time bidding for ad space on exchanges can help publishers find buyers for unexpected supply, but the trade-off is often a much lower price for those ads.

    Meanwhile, SB Nation put together a list of news organizations and people who never bothered to check if Manti Te’o’s girlfriend Lennay Kekua really existed. First on the list? SB Nation.

  • Patrick Thornton on paywalls and journalism as a public service.

  • At this week’s Street Fight Summit in New York, Google’s head of mobile & social solutions Tim Reis urged marketers to think in terms of context, not platforms:

    “Consumers are very comfortable across [multiple] platforms; they don’t silo these activities,” Reis said. ” We as marketers need to adapt and reshape how we talk to consumers” about these habits.

  • Is location-based advertising the future of mobile marketing?

  • Choire Sicha on the way we write web headlines now:

    Headlines once were stuffed full of proper nouns. But it turns out, old-fashioned headlines don’t convey things that aren’t news well … In 2007, a popular video of a baby getting dropkicked by a breakdancer (hard to believe I just typed that) was headlined “Times Square Still Extremely Unsafe for Children” on Gawker, which is pretty so-so as a headline but still funny. There’s no way that would get that headline now. (“Breakdancing in Times Square – Baby goes flying!” was the YouTube video headline.) “Watch This Baby Get Drop-Kicked By a Subway Breakdancer” is what I’d predict for our age. You have to really tell the folks on Twitter what’s happening for your clicks ‘n’ shares, you see.

  • And finally, a groundbreaking survey by The Onion found that internet users actually prefer a less interactive web browsing experience:

    “Nobody needs to get my immediate take on everything I see online,” said Atlanta printing consultant Deirdre Levinson, questioning the merits of any site that, without knowing her level of intelligence or expertise in a particular topic, would deem her worthy enough to engage in a discussion. “And they’re sorely mistaken if they believe I could actually add something of value to the conversation. At best I’m just going to parrot back some loose approximation of what I’ve heard before, which will just prove that I never should have weighed in in the first place.”

    What’s your take? Join the discussion in the comments section below.