Archive for December, 2009

‘Freemium’ Web’s hedge against reliance on ads

Friday, December 18th, 2009

To reduce their dependence on online advertising, Web site owners are attracting visitors with free content and then selling them premium services or subscriptions, a model known as “freemium,” Bloomberg says.

“LinkedIn introduced a product last month that helps recruiting agencies scour the networking site for job candidates,” Bloomberg says. “In June, ESPN merged its online magazine with its Insider service, which costs $6.95 a month. Skype has added features such as voice mail and calling plans that allow users to dial land-line phones for a monthly fee.”

“U.S. consumers will spend $8.55 billion on Web content such as games, music and dating in 2010, up 13 percent from this year, according to Forrester Research Inc. …

“Spending for online content in the U.S. will increase 9.3 percent a year on average through 2013, reaching $10.8 billion, according to Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Forrester. … Ad sales will rise 17 percent a year on average to $47.4 billion in four years, the company estimates.”

Financial move could ease McClatchy’s pain

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Efforts to refinance a portion of its debt could result in slightly better ratings for McClatchy stock by Moody’s and Standard & Poors, according to Fitz & Jen.

“McClatchy is proposing to amend its credit facility to allow it to issue about $875 million in new senior secured debt that would be used to pay down amounts in the facility, refinance public debt maturities and stretch out the credit facilities maturity to 2013 from 2011 now,” the Editor & publisher editors’ blog says.

“[T]his could result in the company’s liquidity position strengthening to a point where we may no longer believe a debt restructuring is imminent,” says an S&P analyst.

Neither service has made the final call, and both rate the publisher’s stock as junk, but “Pushing out maturities would provide McClatchy additional flexibility to manage through the advertising downturn and realize the potential de-leveraging benefits of a cyclical advertising recovery,” says a Moody’s analyst.

Fitz & Jen has both services’ full statements at the link at top.

McClatchy stock was down a penny on the day Thursday at $3.39.

Social nets spread the word, build the readership

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

American Journalism Review looks at the “distribution revolution” at newspapers reporting via Facebook, Twitter and other social networking venues.

The article focuses first on Wilmington’s  Star News, a New York Times newspaper. “[T}he Star News is putting out stories and discussion topics on 15 Twitter feeds. Meanwhile, 30 of its staffers have their own accounts, which they use to promote their work, engage the community and mine story ideas. The paper (if one can still use the term) is also pushing out stories on its own Facebook page and encouraging reporters to do the same on their own pages. Many do. Says the Web development manager, Vaughn Hagerty: ‘That conversation, that feedback, is key to a lot of the things we’re doing.'”

“What was once the province of doorsteps and homepages is now about the hustle of networking, the savvy application of technology and the dark art of promotion and marketing. And, increasingly, it’s everyone’s job,” the article continues. “The imperative for newsrooms to push stories far and wide is redefining the work of reporters and editors and prompting even more questions about the future of audiences, news brands and that standard-bearer of online journalism: the good old homepage. That the social networking scene has pushed into the news business is no surprise, but what is raising eyebrows is how quickly the famously slow-footed industry has embraced it.

“… By having newsroom staffers manage social networking accounts, they multiply the organization’s reach across the Web. Getting a story placed high on Digg — a live ranking of the Web’s most popular offerings — can, in turn, draw thousands of more hits. Twitter followers have proven to be avid and loyal readers, engaging with reporters who cover fields of interest to them. Facebook pages have become a venue for news organizations and individual reporters to post links to stories and respond directly to comments and questions.

“Readers are blushing from all the sudden attention; news organizations, meanwhile, are hoping that social networking will reduce their dependence on the unknowable algorithms of search engines to deliver traffic.”

(Thanks to Skyterrain for the heads-up.)

McClatchy wants to cut severance pay

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Unionized Sacramento Bee workers are negotiating with parent McClatchy Newspapers over concessions that include reducing severance pay from a maximum of 40 weeks to 26,  the Sacramento News & Review says.

“Among the other concessions that the company is seeking are the unlimited use of part-time and freelance workers, and the ability to assign Bee employees to do work for other McClatchy newspapers and Web sites,” the SN&R says.

“Guild representatives say the new severance rules would make it $10,000-$20,000 cheaper to lay off some veteran employees. Although Bee workers that SN&R spoke with are hopeful that major layoffs are, for now, in the past, the severance proposal has been troubling news,” the newspaper says.

Non-unionized McClatchy workers who have been laid off have typically received a maximum of 26 weeks pay as severance.

“[D]espite [CEO Gary] Pruitt’s cheerful report last week, McClatchy still plans to cut costs companywide by more than 20 percent in 2010. According to Editor & Publisher magazine (which, in another sign of the times, went out of business last week), McClatchy wants to outsource more of its production and share more editorial content between newspapers.”

McClatchy papers join Google headline service

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

McClatchy Newspapers has thrown in with Google’s Fast Flip news page, along with about 90 other titles, in an arrangement that  is to include revenue sharing, according to an Agence France-Presse report.

Fast Flip, a product of Google labs described by the Web site as “blindingly fast overviews of headline pages of top newspapers,” debuted in September. McClatchy’s Sacramento Bee, Miami Herald and Kansas City Star are among its sources that include newspapers, magazines, Web sites, newswires, and television and radio broadcasters.

Agence France-Presse, the BBC, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Newsweek, and online news sites TechCrunch, Salon and Slate are among the original participants in Fast Flip. Tribune Co. newspapers, including  the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, along with Popular Science, Reuters, Public Radio International and US News and World Report are, with McClatchy’s papers, among the newly announced partners.

“The Mountain View, California-based Google has had a strained relationship with U.S. newspaper owners and its news aggregator Web site Google News has drawn fire from some for linking to articles without sharing advertising revenue,” AFP says.

“Unlike Google News, Google shares advertising revenue from Fast Flip with its media partners.”

Earlier this month, Google introduced Living Stories, a Google Labs product that bundles newspaper articles about specific topics on a single page. Google said it plans to offer the Living Stories software to newspapers free of charge.

Listeners look different in automated ratings

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Electronic measurement of radio listening habits is changing the perceived popularity of programming formats, The New York Times says.

More men listen to soft rock than radio executives thought, and fewer people listen to classical music stations. Mainstream formats like oldies, news and country have larger audiences, but smooth jazz really is a bore.

“Talk radio, a largely conservative format, turns out to have fewer fans than previously thought,” the newspaper says.

The radio industry’s conversion over the past year from measuring ratings through surveys to monitoring listeners electronically has resulted in stations changing their formats and advertisers shifting their money, the report says.

The television industry switched from diary entries to metered ratings in 1987 and saw similarly surprising changes.

Dignity, shmingnity: Herald puts its hand out

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

McClatchy Newspapers’ Miami Herald has begun soliciting donations at the end of its online articles.

“Support ongoing news coverage on Miamiherald.com,” says an interactive message at the end of articles at the site. The click-through goes to a page with a credit card form and a message that says in part, “If you value The Miami Herald’s local news reporting and investigations, but prefer the convenience of the Internet, please consider a voluntary payment for the web news that matters to you.”

They’ll take Visa, MasterCard or American Express.

“We’re trying something new, we’re putting it out there to see if it works, to see what the response is,” Elissa Vanaver, Herald vice president/assistant to the publisher, told NBC Miami. She said there are currently no plans to start charging for content.

Though McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said just last week that all of the firm’s newspapers are profitable, the Herald announced the elimination of 24 jobs and a cutback in hours at the beginning of December. This followed elimination of more than 370 jobs in 2008, 175 more in March and 16 more in August, according to one count, a pattern followed at each of McClatchy’s 30 daily newspapers.

E&P keeps hope – and January issue – alive

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Editor & Publisher has announced that it will publish a January issue and refutes claims that its demise, reported last week, was caused by the Romenesko news media blog. A report on the magazine’s Web site attributed to “E&P Staff” adds, “a number of outside companies and individuals have expressed interest in possibly keeping E&P going, so stay tuned for updates.”

“[T]he outpouring of support for E&P from within and outside the newspaper industry, and from readers and advertisers alike, led to a decision by staffers to go forward with the January issue, and continuing to post stories at E&P Online until January 1 when, under current plans, the end of the line will arrive,” E&P says.

Elsewhere on the site, Editor-at-Large Mark Fitzgerald says, “E&P was wounded … by a newspaper industry that continues to contract its production footprint. Newspapers are consolidating printing and distribution plants and centers for back office and copyflow. Publishers and production executives are not greenlighting equipment purchases. They are outsourcing work, and mothballing or selling the machines they already have.

“Those decisions — and the decision-makers who sit in the executive suites and not in the newsroom — have made for a brutal advertising and marketing environment for E&P’s advertisers.”

‘Old fashion journalism’ at core of success

Monday, December 14th, 2009

We were skeptical when we saw that TV Week had named TMZ.com its Internet Site of the Year but, regardless of the subject matter, it’s hard to argue once founder Harvey Levin explains what the celebrity gossip and entertainment news sites does.

“We do old fashion journalism. With Tiger Woods, we came in during the Thanksgiving weekend. I don’t know how many other reporters were working, but we were working 18-hour days. And we were working the telephones. We were basically assembling a lot of information that ultimately led to a lot of stories. We did that with Michael Jackson, we did it with Mel Gibson, we did it with Anna Nicole Smith. At its core, we try and develop sources who will trust us, and who will talk to us. I think the business has been based on trust and on just beating the bushes as in old fashioned journalism. I’ve done this for many years. I’ve been a journalist for decades. And that’s the core of it.

“… I’ve been in this town for almost 30 years working as a journalist. And I’ve got a lot of contacts. And I use them. And other people on my staff have developed them too. We work really hard. At five o’clock, everybody doesn’t say, oh I’m going home. And I think, whether you want to believe it or not, it makes all the difference in the world.”

Broadcasters, legislators say ‘turn that down’

Monday, December 14th, 2009

Spurred by legislation making its way through Congress, broadcasters are working to modulate the volume of television commercials, which too often are much louder than the programs they interrupt, the San Jose Mercury News said Sunday.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from Palo Alto, has introduced  a bill, which could come to the House floor for a vote as soon as this week, that would force broadcasters to modulate the volume of ads, the newspaper said. Last week, Democrats Sheldon Whitehouse  of Rhode Island and Chuck Schumer of New York introduced companion legislation in the Senate.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee, a body that sets technical standards for digital television, has devised a set of guidelines, and Eshoo recently amended her bill to effectively make them law and direct the FCC to enforce them.