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Aspiring local news publishers: Just Launch | Howard Owens

If you still want to do this, you need to figure out a couple of basic data points about the community you want to cover: Is the population of your proposed market area at least 60,000 people? And are there at least 300 locally owned businesses in that community? Your market research doesn’t need to go much beyond answering those basic questions. The Playbook talks about interviewing potential consumers, ensuring there is a need to be met, etc. Forget it. Don’t bother. Every community loves local news. The question has already been answered by the couple of hundred LION members who are successfully serving their communities.

News by the ton: 75 years of US advertising — Benedict Evans

Newspapers are, yes, a content business, but they were also a light manufacturing business, and it was the replacement of light manufacturing and trucking with bits that removed the barrier to entry and unbundled their attention. So, here’s what that business looks like. In 2018, the US newspaper industry shipped ~2.5m tons of newspaper, down from 12.5m tons at its peak.

A Journal of the Plague Year, by Daniel Defoe

We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private. Hence it was that this rumour died off again, and people began to forget it as a thing we were very little concerned in, and that we hoped was not true; till the latter end of November or the beginning of December 1664 when two men, said to be Frenchmen, died of the plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper end of Drury Lane.

This hyperlocal news site in San Francisco is reinventing itself with an automated local news wire » Nieman Journalism Lab

“There are so many stories news organizations could potentially do, that nobody can afford to, because it’s expensive and time-consuming to have that many people on the ground,” Eldon sad. “We’re starting with the simple stuff right now: New business openings, rental price trends — simple story types that we can produce using data sets that cover a lot of geographical places and then distribute to a lot of people. Over time, we’ll want to get more sophisticated with how we analyze the data we have.”

Facebook and The Innovator’s Dilemma - Columbia Journalism Review

Anyone who worked in newspaper publishing over the past twenty years will at some point have found themselves metaphorically beaten about the head with the 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms To Fail, by Harvard Business Professor Clayton Christensen. The book’s premise, wrapped up in plenty of talk about value creation and S curves, is that companies with big businesses cannot change the basic, successful core functions of those businesses quickly enough to innovate against their coming obsolescence. Newspapers, too, were becoming obsolete, but the grand publishing houses that produced them would not be able to meet the speed required by new technologies (the internet and social media) to adapt.

What is the future of news? Bleak, probably. - Vox

I really think that what we're seeing now with this influx of fake news is the end result of the systemic defunding of media entities for the past 10 years, if not more. We could see this happening in slow motion. We all knew that as trusted media entities began producing less investigative stories, less hard news stories, an information vacuum would emerge into which bullshit and propaganda would drop. This was inevitable.

Mo Pageviews, Mo Problems

In 2006, the New York Times boasted that its website drew an average of 12 million unique visitors a month. Today, it has 78 million. Salon, which had a mere 3 million unique visitors back then, now has 17 million. During the same time, the Guardian’s readership skyrocketed from 15.7 million to 120 million. Fat lot of good it did them.

An old-school reply to an advertiser’s retro threat

And most troubling of all, as head of marketing, you are likely to have an interest in ensuring that the company’s advertising message reaches the right audience. Assuming the decision to advertise in the FT was right in the first place, it would seem crazy — and not in shareholders’ best interests — to change course based on pique.

Laptops 'ain't gonna happen!' -- NYT columnist in 1985

Was the laptop dream an illusion, then? Or was the problem merely that the right combination of features for such lightweight computers had not yet materialized? The answer probably is a combination of both views. For the most part, the portable computer is a dream machine for the few. The limitations come from what people actually do with computers, as opposed to what the marketers expect them to do. On the whole, people don't want to lug a computer with them to the beach or on a train to while away hours they would rather spend reading the sports or business section of the newspaper. Somehow, the microcomputer industry has assumed that everyone would love to have a keyboard grafted on as an extension of their fingers. It just is not so.

Ads are the id

For journalists, it can be easy to overlook advertising as the thing that helps pay the bills and adds a little color to a daily sea of black and white. But ads can also provide context and meaning around the news, telling us just as much about the past. “The news gives us that real narrative about what’s happening in the world, and the editorial judgment and control that goes into creating an objective and reliable narrative in that,” Lloyd said. “Advertising is content, but freer from those constraints and gives a look at history and what was happening at the time.”

Ben Bradlee didn't know how to fire people

Confronted with a staff that included reporters he considered mediocre but who all enjoyed job security, Mr. Bradlee felt he had to encourage some people to leave — by “abusing people,” as he put it in 2000. “That’s what it was — mistreating people, not treating them the way you treated the people you really cared about.” He did it with no pleasure, his words and his body language made clear, but “I did it, to try to get rid of people, to try to persuade people to leave.”

Wapo pre-Watergate

In 1965, The Post had a relatively small staff that included no more than a dozen distinguished reporters. Its most famous writer was Shirley Povich, a sports columnist. Its Pentagon correspondent was on the Navy payroll as a reserve captain. The newspaper had a half-dozen foreign correspondents and no reporter based outside the Washington area in the United States. The paper had no real feature section and provided little serious cultural coverage, but it did carry a daily page called “For and About Women.” Apart from its famous editorial page (including the renowned cartoonist, Herblock), which had challenged Sen. Joseph McCarthy and vigorously promoted civil rights for African Americans, and which remained Wiggins’s domain after Mr. Bradlee’s arrival, the paper generally had modest expectations for itself, and it calmly fulfilled them.

Ben Bradlee tripped into his job

But the Sunday News couldn’t make money, and it failed. Family friends offered to help Mr. Bradlee find a new job. Edward A. Weeks, the editor of the Atlantic Monthly, wrote a friend at the Baltimore Sun about Mr. Bradlee; Christian A. Herter, the congressman and former governor of Massachusetts, wrote to The Post. In November 1948, Mr. Bradlee set out on a train trip, bound from Boston to Baltimore to Washington to Salt Lake City to Santa Barbara. When his overnight train reached Baltimore, a heavy rainstorm discouraged him from getting off, so he decided to go first to Washington. The day before he arrived for an interview, a Post reporter had quit unexpectedly, creating a vacancy. Mr. Bradlee charmed The Post’s editors, who offered him a job for $80 a week, starting on Christmas Eve.

Ben Bradlee's early years

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was born into the old aristocracy of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Boston on Aug. 26, 1921. His father, Frederick Josiah Bradlee Jr., known as “B,” could trace his American ancestry back through 10 generations of Bradlees. B was an all-American football star at Harvard who became an investment banker in the booming 1920s. He married Josephine deGersdorff, daughter of a prominent New York lawyer and a New England aristocrat named Helen Crowninshield. Benjamin was the second of three children. At first, he was surrounded by domestic staff and other signs of wealth, but the stock market crash of 1929 ended all that. During the Great Depression, his father had to improvise a living for many years, keeping the books for various clubs and institutions and supervising the janitors at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (for $3,000 a year). The family had free use of a summer house in Beverly, Mass., whose owners couldn’t find a buyer for it. Rich relations paid the Bradlee children’s tuition to private schools.

Ben Bradlee had trouble focusing

Mr. Bradlee had a notoriously short attention span. He rarely dug into the details of an issue himself, leaving that to the people he had hired. He managed The Post newsroom with a combination of viscera and intellect, often judging people by his personal reaction to them. He or she “makes me laugh” was perhaps Mr. Bradlee’s greatest compliment. He never enjoyed the minutiae of management and spent as little time on administrative work as he could get away with.

Disaster old skool -- charge admission and hyperbolate!

After the accident, watchmen charged people a penny or two-pence to see the ruins of the beer vats, and visitors came in their hundreds to witness the macabre spectacle. But a report in The Times praised local people’s response to the disaster, noting how the crowd kept quiet so the cries of trapped victims could be heard.In fact, it seems like later rumours that people collected the beer in pots and pans were untrue, as Martyn Cornell, author of Amber, Gold and Black: The History of Britain’s Great Beers, explains: “None of the London newspapers report anyone trying to drink the beer after the flood, indeed, they say the crowds that gathered were pretty well behaved. Only much later did stories start being told about riots, people getting drunk and so on: these seem to have been be prompted by what people thought ought to have happened, rather than what did happen.”
In an attempt to put some lipstick on an ugly pivot, Stefanie Murray, executive editor of The Tennessean, promised readers “an ambitious project to create the newsroom of the future, right here in Nashville. We are testing an exciting new structure that is geared toward building a dynamic, responsive newsroom.” (Jim Romenesko, who blogs about the media industry, pointed out that Gannett also announced “the newsroom of the future” in 2006.)Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story The Nashville Scene noted that readers had to wait only one day to find out what the news of the future looks like: a Page 1 article in The Tennessean about Kroger, a grocery store and a major advertiser, lowering its prices. If this is the future — attention news shoppers, Hormel Chili is on sale in Aisle 5 — what is underway may be a kind of mercy killing.
Notwithstanding the professed embrace of digital publishing at most newspapers, the industry’s share of the interactive advertising market dropped by 52% in the last decade. While the industry’s collective digital ad revenues rose 181% from $1.2 billion in 2003 to $3.4 billion in 2013, the total digital ad sales in the United States soared 494% from $7.3 billion in 2003 to $42.8 billion in 2013. Accordingly, the newspaper share of the digital advertising market dropped from 16.4% in 2003 to 7.9% in 2013.
There is a complete and total blind spot in the newspaper industry that, just maybe, part of the problem is also the journalism itself.Instead, they move the problem out of the editorial room, and into separate and isolated 'innovation teams'... who are then charged with coming up with ideas for how to reformat their existing journalistic product in a digital way.But let me ask you this. If The NYT is 'winning at journalism', why is its readership falling significantly? If their daily report is smart and engaging, why are they failing to get its journalism to its readers?If its product is 'the world's best journalism', why does it have a problem growing its audience?
One start would be to tear down, or at least modify the “Chinese wall” between content and the business side. No other non-monopoly industry lets product creators off the hook on how the business works. Before the journalistic purists burst a fountain pen, consider that there are intermediate points between “holier than holy” and “hopelessly corrupt” when it comes to editorial content.
a closer examination of what people are sharing via Twitter reveals that the platform often serves as a flag alerting followers to longer form content. Rather than replacing articles and other long-form features, Twitter is often used to promote them – providing a 140-character tip of the iceberg that points to the rich content experience lurking below the surface.
What can Jeff Bezos do that the Grahams couldn’t? I personally believe there’s no magic bullet. If there were, someone would’ve found it, how to transform for the digital era. But we are in a great position. We have a credible brand, deeply engaged readers, [and we] cover Washington. And now we are owned by someone with deep pockets who cares what we do and is willing to invest for the long term.
Multi-layer hierarchy is the plague of legacy media. The org chart should be minimalist. A management team of five dedicated, experienced editors is sufficient to lead a 24/365 news structure. Add another layer for production tasks and that’s pretty much it. As for the headcount, it depends on the scope of the news coverage: My guess is a newsroom of 100-150, including a production staff (I’ll come back to that in a moment) can do a terrific  job.
If there is one thing I have learned in the world of business it is that just about everyone who predicts the future turns out to be wrong. The crystal balls of human beings are flawed because we live in an extremely dynamic world. So predictions about the future of newspapers are going to be wrong and I will not add to that. What I believe is this. TV didn’t put an end to movies or radio despite predictions to the contrary. And the free availability of news and classifieds will not put an end to newspapers. Newspapers are going to compete against an avalanche of information that should make reliability, trust, and hard work that much more valuable for audiences. Nevertheless, until revenues stabilize, newspaper resources will need to be allocated carefully, to build and sustain the economic foundations necessary to carry out the journalistic mission. I feel strongly that newspapers and their news sites are going to rely upon the support of subscribers to a large extent in order to provide what readers want. It is a newspaper’s responsibility to create enough value to cause readers to subscribe to their services and advertisers to advertise. The Globe must continue to be the best vehicle for businesses to reach customers in the region. But to do so, it must maintain the kind of strong content that Boston Globe readers demand.
The Globe and Mail made a couple of key hires from ailing Canadian firm BlackBerry, and the new recruits have "made a tremendous difference" as they have discovered new ways of using data and pulling it all into one database. The news outlet is targeting "a high-end market", Crawley said. "We are really only interested in readers who earn more than $100,000." There is a great deal of "wasted money", he explained, as 40 per cent of content produced by Globe and Mail is read by fewer than 1,000 people. "Predictive analytics helps," he said, but compelling content is the key to the success.
Graham, by comparison, is nothing if not discreet. He even kept his efforts to sell the paper a secret from his sister Lally Weymouth, a longtime Newsweek and Washington Post contributor, until shortly before the deal was announced. His sister was very upset, acquaintances say, but her work will continue to appear in Slate and The Post’s Outlook section, though the paper will no longer pay her $300,000 salary.