The Media Oxpecker

Every week we round up industry news you may have missed while you were busy trying to reach us.

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The Media Oxpecker: 

Every Friday we round up media & tech industry news you may have missed while you were busy avoiding the use of the word “homosexual,” except in direct quotes.

  • The obvious lead this week is the death of Apple’s Steve Jobs, which prompted an outpouring of personal remembrances, regrets, and some criticisms. The Atlantic‘s Alexis Madrigal, Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo, and The New York Times‘ David Carr each had smart pieces worth checking out.

    Also making the rounds is the video from a 2005 commencement speech he gave at Stanford University, in which he told the assembled grads, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”:

    For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

    Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

  • “Your industry is on the verge of a massive double dip,” warned NYU Professor Scott Galloway at the annual American Magazine Conference this week:

    Magazine publishers have bounced back somewhat from the dark days of 2008 and 2009, Mr. Galloway told them, but they remain lodged in the teeth of a secular shift being driven by in large part by Facebook. As Facebook consumes increasing swaths of consumers’ time, it is giving magazines new channels to reach consumers but also opening them up to disintermediation.

  • The understatement of the week belongs to the New York Times, which said of Groupon, “Contrary to what the company had maintained, it was not profitable in the traditional sense.” Also not profiting in the traditional sense are merchants:

    The long-term reputation of the merchant may be at risk, according to a new study by researchers at Boston University and Harvard that analyzed thousands of Groupon and Living Social deals. The researchers found that fans of daily deals were on average hard to please. After they ate at the restaurant or visited the spa, they went on Yelp and grumbled about it. This pulled down the average Yelp rating by as much as half a point.

    And in another amendment to its IPO filing today, Groupon acknowledged that another one of its accounting metrics — gross billings — should not be interpreted as revenue, in the traditional sense.

  • The Huffington Post Media Group’s combined websites had over one billion page views in the month of August. The flagship Huffington Post site also launched four new sections this week: Huff/Post50; HuffPost Gay Voices; HuffPost Weddings; and HuffPost High School.

    In addition, the Huffington Post will launch local sites in Detroit and Miami next month, raising questions about the future of Patch, which is losing money in the traditional sense:

    AOL will spend about $160 million on Patch this year, and it has already lost both its director of sales and its senior vice president of local ad sales . . . but the topic page model, which is based on aggregation rather than original content that AOL must spend at least some money on, offers the company a more cost-efficient route into local markets.

    In other Patch news, a new yet-to-be-named trade group for hyperlocal news sites has decided that Patch will not be allowed as a member.

  • Google is testing new web ads designed to look like circulars:

    “Retail in general is a large category for us,” Nick Fox, vice president of product management at Google, said in an interview. “They’re trying to understand what the answer is in the digital age to the offline print circular. They’re trying to understand how to get their online visitors into their stores. And this is our answer to that.”

  • Facebook fan pages will now display a new “People Talking About This” metric to give page owners a better understanding of how users are engaging with their content.
  • In an effort to curb “inappropriate and hateful speech” the Orange County Register has converted to Facebook’s commenting system.
  • The use of mobile devices (which includes tablets) to access media content is reaching a “critical mass,” with almost half of Americans now using a device to connect to media.
  • Ricky Gervais on Twitter: Of course there are idiots on Twitter. But there are idiots on the high street and I still go there. People say awful idiotic things all the time, but I don’t give up language because of it.
  • And finally, the way we engage now:

    A snippet of Rachel’s media consumption showed her in her home toggling between her smartphone, her television and a copy of Time magazine, but her highest emotional engagement level occurred when she called her friend to leave a message apologizing for missing her birthday.

  • Previously: Are You a ‘Standout’ on Google News?

    The Media Oxpecker

    Every Friday we round up media & tech industry news you may have missed while you were busy conspiring to convince Bill Keller of his significance.

    First, some housekeeping. At a recent lunch, I may have been caught on tape making statements which were in no way representative of AAN or its values. AAN refutes those statements in the strongest terms, and I sincerely apologize to the organization for my imprudence.

    I do not consider Tea Party members as “seriously racist, racist people” as has been reported. I consider Tea Party members as seriously ignorant, misinformed people whose feelings of economic insecurity cause them to behave in ways that can possibly be described as racist.

    Further, AAN would like to distance itself from the statement that it would be “better off in the long run without federal funding.” AAN’s official position is that the association will gladly accept the federal funding that NPR will eventually lose because of its cowardly inability to defend statements made by its executives in ostensibly private situations.

    In other news . . .

    On Monday it was reported that AOL closed its acquisition of Huffington Post, creating a media combo that, according to Arianna, has “over 70 percent more unique visitors” than Bill Keller’s New York Times:

    With the acquisition, AOL is buying into the new publishing model that the Huffington Post represents. [AOL CEO Tim] Armstrong has said that the the driving factors behind the deal is how well the Huffington Post fits into the content platform he is trying to build, particularly around women, influencers, and local (his 80-80-80 strategy).

    Apparently not part of that strategy, were the hundreds of AOL employees who received layoff notices yesterday, including 200 editorial staffers. AOL’s operations in India also took a huge hit.

    * * *

    AOL-owned TechCrunch recently implemented Facebook’s comment plug-in which requires readers to use their Facebook login to leave comments on the site, making it more difficult to leave anonymous comments. The result? Less “trollish nonsense” and less overall comments, but also a change in tone:

    But the other interesting thing we’re seeing is that whereas trollish garbage used to infest the comment section, now we’re seeing almost the opposite. Many people are now leaving comments that gush about the subject of the article in an overly sycophantic way. It’s quite odd. The cold pricklies have turned to warm fuzzies.

    Of course, neither is ideal. But nausea-inducing kindness is certainly better than rage-inducing assholeishness/jackassery.

    Slate‘s Farhad Manjoo reveals himself as a sympathizer of nausea-inducing kindness, arguing that while people have the right to anonymity during many online activities, commenting on a story is not one of them:

    Posting a comment is a public act. You’re responding to an author who made his identity known, and your purpose, in posting the comment, is to inform the world of your point of view. If you want to do something so public, you are naturally ceding some measure of your privacy. If you’re not happy with that trade, don’t take part—keep your views to yourself.

    * * *

    In another reminder that playing SEO tricks with our overlords at Google is a bad idea, Nieman J-Lab tackles the topic of paid links and how using them improperly is like playing with fire:

    Google frowns on paid links and similar practices as violations of its Webmaster Guidelines, and says that the practice “can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results.” It demotes sites not only for placing purchased links, but also for “excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging” and for “buying and selling links that pass PageRank.” In other words, you can lose Google Juice not only for buying the links, but for publishing them.

    And by “negatively impact your site’s ranking,” Google really means to say, “We’ll make your website disappear from the entire internet.”

    * * *

    Also released this week was The Like Log Study, a guiltily fascinating analysis of which news articles get the most “Likes” on Facebook. Among the findings, it pays to “put significant effort in your top stories” since just “one story per day can capture 70-80% of your audience reactions.”

    And another finding from the study, maybe Leonard Brody was on to something when he told AAN’s web conference attendees that we all behave like adolescents online.

    Linking Out

  • Going to (or already at) SXSW? Don’t miss AAN-pal Amy Webb’s list of “80+ Can’t Miss Things To See & Do.”
  • How do you rebrand yourself as a forward-thinking media company that’s in tune with the under-65 crowd? Naturally, with a 100-page document explaining how to use the new company logo.
  • Do news organizations understand the “job” consumers have “hired” them to do?
  • This Week’s Daily Deals Entrant: AT&T
  • Can You Re-Copyright Works That Fall Into Public Domain?
  • And finally, we’ll end this week’s Keller-inspired roundup with an ode to oxpecking: Josh Sternberg’s Why Curation Is Important to the Future of Journalism.
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