Tag Archives | Newspapers

Another Print Publisher Turns to Tablets

In the latest news of print media companies turning to tablets,CNN reports that its sources say media conglomerate Tribune Co. plans to develop its own tablet device that would in turn be offered to subscribers.

Tribune publishes several major dailies, including the Chicago TribuneLos Angeles Times, and the Baltimore Sun, as well as several smaller papers, plus a host of television and radio outlets.

The plan sounds to me to be a lot like a similar pilot program. soon to be underway in Philadelphia. There, local papers plan to sell devices at a discounted rate to support digital editions.

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Daily Downward?

How many people are reading The Daily, News Corp.’s new iPad-only, for-pay newspaper? Only Rupert Murdoch and company (and Apple) know for sure. It is, however, possible to determine how many Daily readers are tweeting from within it–and that number is going down, not up.

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Google’s Bloggy New Approach to News

At Google’s unveiling of its new real-time search yesterday, a questioner in the audience asked Marissa Mayer and other Google honchos whether the launch signaled the end of journalism. Um, no. Actually, Google is in multiple ways a force for good when it comes to the news. And here’s one small but interesting example: It’s working with both the New York Times and the Washington Post on something called Living Stories. It’s an experimental new way to organize multiple articles on one news topic–here’s Google’s video explanation.

What strikes me about Living Stories isn’t what’s new about the idea, but what’s (relatively) old about it: It takes reverse-chronological display and other presentation concepts from the world of blogs, and applies them to a specific ongoing news story. Here are the Living Stories currently available in Google Labs.

Makes perfect sense to me: Every news story worth paying attention to is an ongoing news story, and putting everything in one place with the newest stuff up top and older items summarized below makes enormous sense.

It’s jarring when you think about it: We’re a decade and a half into the online news era, and most online news sites still feel more like newspapers than unlike them–they’ve got a home page that feels like a front page, and sections that feels like…sections. Projects such as Living Stories (and the NYT’s Skimmer view, which officially debuted last week) are interesting takes on one of the many challenges that faces news organizations: Bringing all the goodness of newspapers online, then remixing it in ways to go far beyond what dead trees could ever do.

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Craigslist is Newspapers’ Silent Killer

craigslistpeaceWith all of the newspaper industry’s huffing and puffing over Google and other news aggregators, you’d hardly suspect that print journalism has another major problem on its hands.

New research (PDF) from the Pew Internet and American Life Project solidifies what I’ve been hearing for a long time: It’s the classifieds, silly.

Over the last four years, use of online classified services such as Craigslist has more than doubled, Pew’s research found. Almost half of Internet users go online for classifieds now, compared to 22 percent in 2005. Every day, 9 percent of Internet users hit up Craigslist and other online classifieds, compared to four percent in 2005.

The cost to newspapers is immense. After reaching peak revenues of $19.5 billion in 2000, classifieds in American newspapers pulled in less than $10 billion last year. In other words, newspapers have lost half their classified revenue in the last eight years, while online classified use has doubled in half that time.

This begs the question of whether there’s any way for newspapers to stop the bleeding. Last month, I read a stirring essay by Jeff Jarvis about how the industry blew its chance to become a major player in the Internet age. Even if newspaper companies could somehow find a way to keep practicing journalism — Jarvis argues that it’s too late for that, even — I’m not sure the same could be said for classifieds. What could a newspaper offer that Craigslist cannot?

Missing from Pew’s research is any explanation for why online classifieds seem to be cannibalizing newspapers’ business, but it’s got to be that deadly mixture of (mostly) free and immediate. Want to get rid of that dresser today? No need to wait for tomorrow’s paper, and no one else will ask for a cut of the sales. Maybe hyperlocal papers could offer robust classifieds in markets too small for Craigslist to cover, but for cities, the opportunity was lost years ago.


Times Reader 2.0: Beautiful, and Beautifully Done. But is It a Dead End?

New York TimesHaving begun my day by sniping at the New York Times, I wanted to end it by complimenting it: The company released version 2.0 of its Times Reader application today. The new version–which dumps Microsoft’s Silverlight platform for Adobe’s AIR–runs on Windows, OS X, and Linux, and in many ways it’s an impressive piece of work.

The basic idea remains the same. Reader is a piece of software optimized for one task: Reading the New York Times. It downloads fresh content silently in the background every five minutes (which, unlike NYTimes.com, remains available even if you’re disconnected). The typography is beautiful, and beautifully Times-like; everything’s divided into newspaper-like section; there’s some use of video, as well as lots of photoraphs; and there’s an interactive crossword. You can search, rummage through sections, read each story one by one, or use a Browse feature that looks a bit like a less visually splendiferous version of Apple’s Cover Flow.

You don’t have to hit the Web to read each story, so content loads briskly, and pages lack the NASCAR-like clutter of ads and gegaws all over the place. (There are some ads, but they don’t overwhelm the experience.) If you want to read an electronic version of the Times when Internet access is unavailable or unreliable, this is the way to go, and I could certainly imagine folks preferring it to the Times Web site even if bandwidth is plentiful.

In short, Times Reader 2.0 does a terrific job of accomplishing what it sets out to do: create an experience that feels like it’s somewhere between a paper newspaper and the Web. The Times is asking $3.45 a week for the paper in this format–it’s free if you subscribe to the dead-tree incarnation–and on a theoretical, abstract plane it’s a perfectly reasonable sum to pay. (Which doesn’t mean that enough people will do so in an an era when the Internet conditions us all to assume that any content that’s digital should be gratis; some stories, including the front page ones, are readable even if you don’t subscribe.)

But as good as Times Reader is, I wonder if it’s ultimately a dead end. It’s the very definition of a walled garden–an application that provides access to one and only one information source. (Article do have hyperlinks to other sources, but when you click on them, Times Reader launches your Web browser.) You don’t even get all of the Times in its online glory–David Pogue’s weekly State of the Art column is present, for instance, but not his Pogue’s Posts blog, with its higher frequency and reader comments. I like the Reader, but if the Times could bring some of its design philosophy to its Web site–and maybe use something like Google Gears to enable offline reading–I’d be even more enthusiastic.

Or here’s an idea I can’t imagine the Times embracing, though it’s surely come up as a pie-in-the-sky notion: What if it licensed the Reader technology to any newspaper that wanted to use it? If Times Reader turned into Times, Post, Tribune, Herald, and Chronicle Reader, it wouldn’t feel quite so much like a proprietary island with little connecting it to the rest of the world.

Side note: The Times also makes itself available as a free iPhone app that feels a bit like a shrunken version of Times Reader. It, too, is a class act–although I’d love it even more if it could download the whole day’s paper for offline reading. (It does cache individual articles once you’ve tappd on them.)

After the jump, some images from Times Reader 2.0. Pretty, no?

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Is The Web The Solution for America's Troubled Newspaper Industry?

With the sudden news that the country is about to lose another high-circulation paper, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, it is becoming increasingly clear that in an attempt to stay relevant, these companies are betting on the web for their salvation.

The P-I will move to a online only source a la the Huffington Post, but it will come at a high cost: the 165-person newsroom would likely shrink to less than 20. In addition, its likely that much of the reporting would be outsourced.

What’s worse, the closure of the P-I, and the earlier shuttering of the Rocky Mountain News, could threaten other papers. Both operated what are called “joint operating agreements,” where competing papers sign agreements to pool operating costs. The Seattle Times and The Denver Post were the other halves of each respective agreement.

Neither were doing well beforehand, and now are faced to pony up for their expenses on their own.

Besides the P-I, other papers are going online. The Christian Science Monitor, which has published in print for 100 years, will go online only in the spring. But some are still trying to stick it out.

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Get the Latest News! On Your TRS-80! Via a Dial-Up Modem!

When and if the Internet kills off the daily newspaper, it’ll hardly be a crime of passion. Actually, it may be the most premeditated murder in the history of premeditated murders–it all started decades ago, and the dirty deed hasn’t been completed yet. Here’s proof in the form of a wonderful 1981 San Francisco local TV news report on bleeding-edge Bay Area newshounds who were dialing into CompuServe and downloading online newspapers–which took, according to the report, a couple of hours to do.

If you were using computers back in 1981, this clip is extraordinarily nostalgic, from the TRS-80 Model 1 with cassette player to the TRS-80 Color Computer hooked up to a TV to the rotary-dial phone and acoustic coupler to the reference to $5 an hour access fees to the vintage newspaper office equipped with green-screen terminals. I love the PC owner (“Owns Home Computer”) and the anchorwoman’s arched-eyebrow skepticism about the whole idea. And the misleading newspaper ad that shows a highly graphical online newspaper was simply a few years ahead of where newspapers would eventually get.

If you didn’t use computers back in 1981–maybe because you hadn’t been born yet–the clip is a great short course on what those of us who did went through. I miss many things about the old days, but not monochrome text-only screens, tape decks, or 300-baud modems.

I’m skeptical, incidentally, about the report’s statement that only two or three thousand folks in the Bay Area had home PCs. Especially given that the Bay Area was the epicenter of the home computer revolution and PCs of various sorts had been around for six years by then.

Twenty-eight years later, the daily newspaper is still with us, but it’s in extraordinarily fragile condition. It’s hardly making a daring prediction to say that we’ll end 2009 with fewer major newspapers than we started it with (actually, predicting that we won’t would be the gutsy guess). Anyone want to speculate on whether newspapers will exist in any form at all in, say, 2037? (My guess: Probably not. But magazines will still be with us, at least sorta.)

(Thanks to Charles Forsythe–with whom I spent much of my waking hours using TRS-80s at high school in 1981–for finding this on DailyKos…)