Archive for August, 2009

Chicago paper adds cartoonist

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

As newspapers across the country drop political cartoonists from their staffs, the Chicago Tribune has filled the vacancy left by the death of Pulitzer-Prize winner Jeff MacNelly in 2000. The paper has hired Scott Stantis, currently the staff cartoonist for The Birmingham News.

The Birmingham News has said that it intends to fill the vacancy left by Stantis, according to cartoonist Rob Tornoe’s blog.

Locally, News & Observer editorial cartoonist Dwayne Powell left the paper in November (shortly after online animator Grey Blackwell was among dozens laid off) and has not been replaced. Powell, who had already been working part-time, drew for The N&O for more than 30 years, and the paper still regularly runs his cartoons.

Flickering light ahead for local TV

Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Revenue for television stations, most of which is from advertising, will grow 5.2 percent to $18.5 billion in 2010, thanks in part to political advertising and the Olympics, says the L.A. Times’ Company Town blog, quoting industry research firm SNL Kagan. Local TV stations are also collecting more money from cable re-broadcast fees.

But in the long run, the Times says, they’ll need to counter falling revenue as programs and viewers move online by developing their own programs and by exploiting digital-spectrum channels.

McClatchy Web sites gain readership

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Three McClatchy newspaper Web sites in  Nielsen Online’s top 30 for July show double-digit readership growth, according to Editor & Publisher, which commissions the rankings.

The Sacramento Bee, at 18th with 2,426,000 unique users, is up 84 percent over July 2008. The Miami Herald, at 24th with 1,829,000 unique users, is up  36 percent. The Kansas City Star, with 1,708,000 unique users, is up 59 percent.

The list’s top five are: The New York Times, 14,277,000, (-27 percent); The Washington Post, 11,565,000, 29 percent; USA Today, 9,761,000, (-6 percent); (New York) Daily News, 9,131,000, 112 percent;  Los Angeles Times, 8,938,000, 2 percent.

More layoffs expected, despite profits

Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Poynter Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds counts six newspapers that have announced layoffs this month alone – “once-proud, top-ranked regionals, three of them owned by McClatchy” – despite a return to profitability in the second quarter.

But profits have come from cutting expenses, not increasing revenue. Ad revenue continues to drop by 25 to 30 percent over last year, according to Edmonds.

“(S)taying profitable will require continued vigilance on expenses,” he says. “A little of that takes care of itself – reduced paper use since so much less advertising and news is being printed. But companies targeting above-average profit levels – like Gannett – or forced to keep profits up to handle a high level of debt – like McClatchy – will continue to work the outsourcing and down-sizing option.

“Still, I fret that many newspapers are flirting with the tipping point of seeming expendable to discerning readers who can see the gaps and flaws caused by cutting too much too fast.”

(Note: the author of this site was among 10 people laid off from The News & Observer in Raleigh, a McClatchy newspaper, this month.)

AOL new home for journalists

Monday, August 17th, 2009

The New York Times finds that the latest incarnation of AOL offers more than 80 Web sites that are employing journalists who formerly worked at such top publications as The New York Times, National Journal, The Washington Post, Portfolio, The Dallas Morning News and The Chicago Sun-Times.

There are 300 working content producers in AOL’s New York headquarters, backed by hundreds of freelancers and programmers at other sites, the NYT says. AOL owns such sites as TMZ, a celebrity news and gossip site; Politics Daily, which began in April and already has 3.6 million unique users a month; Engadget, a suite of consumer technology blogs; and FanHouse, a sports site. In the aggregate, the media properties at AOL have about 76 million unique visitors.

AOL has had several identities, beginning as perhaps the top Web portal in the dial-up days, and moving through a failed merger with Time Warner (Time Warner announced plans to spin the enterprise out on its own by the end of this year), a try as an entertainment channel and as a free e-mail provider.

Smaller N&O due Monday

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

The already-thin Monday News & Observer will be even smaller next week as the paper’s move to a 44-inch width debuts. Executive Editor John Drescher noted the change from the current 48-inch web in a Saturday column about additional changes coming next week.

The smaller size, which many newspapers are moving to,  saves money on newsprint, one of newspapers’ biggest expenses.  In 2004, The N&O was the first paper in the U.S. to move from a 50-inch web to 48 inches.

Some N&O sections and, in particular, Wednesday’s community newspapers will be printed on the wider paper next week, giving readers a clear picture of the latest size reduction.

Advertisers were notified weeks ago of the changes, and some even started prematurely sending ads to fit the smaller column widths. Behind the scenes, in addition to re-configuring the presses, staffers have been adjusting hundreds of templates for the narrower paper.

Among other changes coming Monday, the daily weather page will return to its half-page size and include international cities and other additional information, TV listings will move to page 2A, and the Classsifieds section will be run in six columns instead of 10.

New group to challenge Nielsen

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Some of the nation’s biggest advertisers, media agencies, and broadcast and cable TV networks are joining to compete against the Nielsen ratings service, Financial Times reports. Nielsen Media Research controls the measurement of U.S. TV audiences through the polling of some 18,000 homes and, based on those measurements, influences billions of dollars of advertising revenue.

The group  includes networks owned by NBC Universal, Time Warner, News Corp, Viacom, CBS, Discovery and Disney, advertisers Procter & Gamble, AT&T and Unilever, and media agencies such as Group M and the Starcom MediaVest Group.

“The involvement of such big names highlights how urgently advertisers feel the need for better information to justify their returns on investments from ads that run across multiple media platforms,” Financial Times says.

The consortium appears to be focused on getting single-source data that measures cross-platform TV and digital viewing, says TV Week. It is expected to be up and running next month and commissioning data by the fourth quarter.

Would-be competitors to Nielsen in the 1980s and 1990s ultimately failed because they didn’t get enough financial support from the media community, TV Week says.

WRAL drops N&O from show

Friday, August 14th, 2009

Raleigh TV Station WRAL has kicked The News & Observer and its executive editor, John Drescher, off of its “Headline Saturday” public affairs show, Drescher reports in The Editor’s Blog on the N&O site.

“This week, Steve Hammel, WRAL’s general manager, called to say he was changing the format of the show. (WRAL anchor  David) Crabtree will host alone and the show won’t be affiliated with The N&O, although N&O reporters could be invited to appear from time to time,” Drescher writes. The move is to speed the pace of the show; since Drescher and other N&O staffers who appear are not paid, it’s not about cost, he adds.

The 30-minute show has been on the air since 2002, originally on Sunday and hosted by Crabtree and Melanie Sill, then The N&O’s executive editor. Drescher took over in 2007.

Drescher got a two-week notice – his last show will air August 22.

Gannett paper cutting advertising, news positions

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

Gannett’s Journal News, of Westchester, New York, plans to eliminate 20 positions in advertising and 50 in news, says the New York Times, reducing the newsroom staff (which includes Web employees) by more than a quarter.

All 288 news and advertising sales employees were told on Wednesday that their jobs were being eliminated and they would need to apply for redefined positions by the end of the week.

The cuts include some midlevel managers, Michael J. Fisch, publisher and president of the newspaper, told the NYT. “Within the news and advertising departments, there are some managerial positions that have been eliminated in this structuring,” he said. “We had a number of high-level executive positions eliminated last year.”

Last week, the paper laid off 57 employees in areas like production, finance, and information technology.

AP refiguring how it shares

Thursday, August 13th, 2009

The Associated Press is considering withholding some of its material from members’ Web sites, instead allowing members to link to it on a central AP site, says an AP memo obtained by Neiman Journalism Lab. The idea fundamentally changes the consortium’s 150-year-old operating principle of sharing content among the membership.

The plan separates news stories into two categories: “utility” content, or stories other organizations are covering, such as a natural disaster, and “unique” content that only AP has.

“The AP would essentially be relying on its vast network of members to provide search engine optimization for its most unique content,” Zachary M. Seward says in the first of a promised series based on the memo.

He quotes Srinandan Kasi, the AP’s general counsel: “(There is) the ability now to be able to make a decision that says, this is not something we want to generically put on the wire and send to everyone to publish everywhere. We instead think this would be useful for people to use as supplemental, to enrich their storytelling. But it’s available for them [newspapers’ Web sites ] to be able to point to. And the reason to do that is, then you have a bunch of links that point to a particular piece of content. You have better search outcomes. You have better exploitation of the link value, if you will, to that piece of content. So there’s an ability to think of that piece of content differently because you’re trying to maximize traffic as compared to other content where the benefit is really about getting the initial engagement.”