Archive for October, 2012

This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 9, 2006, after the first day of a two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news business, Breaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I removed outdated links.

At a recent meeting of well-meaning newspaper executives, somebody suggested convening a reader panel for an upcoming conference. I suggested including some non-readers. A colleague dismissed the suggestion as a waste of time.

I wasn’t feeling particularly feisty, so I didn’t pursue the issue, but I thought the statement, and the lack of a challenge to it from other colleagues, said a lot about our business and where we are.

Wednesday I heard a lot about our business and where we could be. We could be important to those non-readers (non-users or non-consumers might be a better way to describe them).

I spent Wednesday at the Newspaper Next Symposium at the National Press Club. The symposium, which continues Thursday, presents the initial work of API’s project to develop a new business model for the newspaper industry. The project won’t be finished until later this year, but I was excited about what I heard. (more…)

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When it comes to language choices, I try to decide matters based on accuracy.

This is why I want to call on all journalists and news organizations to stop using the term “alleged victim,” especially in stories about sexual abuse (almost the only type of stories where it appears).

It’s a blame-the-victim term we should banish forever from the journalism lexicon. You want to know why? Here’s the second definition of “alleged” at Dictionary.com:

doubtful; suspect; supposed

And here’s a fact about victims of sexual abuse: Their stories are almost always credible. So, in most cases, alleged victim is not only insensitive, but inaccurate.

(The first definition for alleged, “declared or stated to be as described; asserted,” is accurate, but if people could read a second definition as the meaning, we should look for a more accurate word.)


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It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, when I saw that Clayton Christensen was offering the news business advice on dealing with disruptive innovation.

I look back with a mix of pride, gratitude and anger on my experience with Christensen’s partnership with the American Press Institute in the Newspaper Next project. We offered the newspaper business a strategy and process for changing our business model to adapt to the digital earthquake that was destroying our foundations.

If someone had embraced and fully pursued that approach, instead of merely dabbling with it, I think that company would be dramatically better off today than the rest of the news business (it would be so different that we certainly wouldn’t call it a newspaper company, even if it still produced newspapers). I could be wrong, but I’d like that company’s chances. And it could hardly be worse off than its peers are.

And, of course, we’re such a copycat industry that other companies would have followed that company and they would be better off as well. Instead, the newspaper industry copied each other in acting timidly and protectively.

We published the first N2 report in September 2006. That year newspaper ad revenues would decline by 1.7 percent from 2005’s peak level of $47 billionmillion. In my lifetime, newspapers’ print ad revenues had fallen in only seven years, according to Newspaper Association of America data. Only two of those declines were more than 3 percent, none larger than 9 percent. On the other hand, 10 times during my life, we saw double-digit growth in ad revenues.

The newspaper business was used to the gravy train and it wasn’t ready to change. (more…)

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The next time you read the hosannas about the success of the New York Times paywall, remember these two three pieces:

  • Doc Searls’ detailed account of trying to find the actual cost of a Times digital subscription, a situation he describes as “bait and switch.”
  • Jeff Bercovici’s report on the “shockingly weak” advertising results of the Times’ print and digital products, causing a 60 percent drop in third-quarter operating profits.
  • Mathew Ingram’s analysis of the Times’ Q3 results, including the possible impact the paywall has had on ad revenue. (I added this third link after originally posting this.)

I admit that I might be wrong in my view that paywalls are a misguided strategy and that the Times is pursuing a backward-looking strategy. I admit that I don’t have all the answers about the right path to prosperity in digital journalism. But I know I am right about this: The Times doesn’t have this figured out either.

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Twitter is a lousy promotional tool. If you use it to promote an event, you probably will be disappointed. But it’s a great place for conversation. Start a conversation about your event on Twitter, and you should get some promotional value.

A friend planning a journalism event recently asked my advice about promoting the event on Twitter, because he doesn’t use Twitter much. I responded first with some general advice about getting a new Twitter account rolling.

Here I’m going to address the specific question about promoting the event.

I’m not saying my friend shouldn’t send out some promotional tweets. You should and they will help. Twitter should be part of your promotional toolbox. Send out promotional messages on Twitter, just as you do on your website, Facebook, email, snail mail and any other communication means you use.

But even before Twitter came along, one of your best means of communication was word of mouth. And Twitter is the modern word of mouth (or thumb perhaps) for many of its users. While Twitter users may be a minority of your target audience for most organizations, they are a talkative minority, and every promoter wants to be part of the conversation among talkative slices of your target audience. And in a journalism group, the Twitter use will be high because it is such an important tool for journalists. (more…)

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I’ve seen two excellent blog posts recently about livetweeting funerals:

Mathew is a journalist but was livetweeting as a tribute to his friend. But the anger you can read in the comments on his post underscores the sensitivity of this practice for journalists (who usually aren’t tweeting about our friends’ funerals). Someone named Rich commented: (more…)

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I was privileged to participate today in the symposium Journalistic Ethics in the Digital Age at the Paley Center for Media in New York, presented by the Poynter Institute and craigconnects.

The symposium was part of an effort to update the Guiding Principles for the Journalist, developed 25 years ago, when Bob Steele was Poynter’s ethics leader. After I argued unsuccessfully that the Society of Professional Journalists should update its Code of Ethics, I was pleased to join Poynter’s effort to update the guiding principles (which overlap closely with the SPJ code). (more…)

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I led a full-day workshop on digital journalism Friday for the University of Colorado at the invitation of Steve Outing.

Rob Denton storified tweets from the workshop (thanks, Rob!).

I referred during the workshop to various blog posts of mine as well as examples from some other journalists: (more…)

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If I were a dad or mom serving in Afghanistan, and my son was playing in his biggest high school football game of the year, I would love to watch that game online.

If my child played for unbeaten Ridley High School in Pennsylvania, I would be really steamed at the controlling administrators of that school, who won’t allow the Delaware County Times to livestream Ridley’s game with 6-1 Springfield.

Delco Editor Phil Heron explains the matter in his blog this morning.

Apparently the Ridley administrators don’t understand the excitement of a live high school football game. They imagine that if the game is livestreamed, some fans would choose watching at home on a computer to attending and high-fiving each touchdown with the fans around you.

That is nonsense. The livestream takes the game to parents, students and other fans who work evening shifts, travel for a living or are serving our nation abroad. If you’re such a parent, you can find the athletic director’s phone number here and the principal’s phone number here to demand that he approve the livestream.

Shame on the Ridley administrators for keeping tonight’s big game from those parents and fans.

Phil and I have started a #streamridley hashtag to seek support for changing this misguided decision:



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  1. stevebuttry
    What’s the difference between a columnist & a blogger? Are the differences diminishing? @tschmedding asks. I answer: http://wp.me/poqp6-2AM
  2. As I’m editing this Storify, I realize with a little bit of horror that this could have a small echo of the tired old discussion of whether bloggers are journalists. I don’t mean it that way. Bloggers certainly include a lot of journalists. I view this question as an effort to understand the differences and similarities between columnists and blogging journalists.
  3. BoraZ
    What’s the difference between a columnist and a blogger? http://bit.ly/RE4CpA by @stevebuttry I struggle with this all the time. #sci4hels
  4. BoraZ
    @jayrosen_nyu @stevebuttry that is my usual answer – posts are links in a chain (or nodes in a web), columns are stand-alone.
  5. TomLevenson
    RT @jayrosen_nyu: @BoraZ @stevebuttry Flow.<-Format too. Also, often, familiarity w. the concept of “data.”
  6. Gurdur
    @jayrosen_nyu Brevity. @BoraZ @stevebuttry
  7. BoraZ
    Yes, blog posts often go very long. No word-limit. RT @Gurdur: @jayrosen_nyu Brevity. @BoraZ @stevebuttry
  8. This point from my post drew some response: “For the best columns, the relationship with readers is what makes them most special. The relationship with readers may be the greatest strength of a good column. I know that some blogs achieve a strong relationship with readers, but I doubt many people open their computers in the morning, planning to turn to their favorite blogger first, the way that newspaper readers might turn first to a great columnist. If I’m right about this, I think that reflects the vastness of the content available and the sporadic times that blogs appear. I am an early riser and post often in the morning, but I might post in the afternoon and I don’t post every morning. I think people find my blog through Twitter, Facebook, RSS and occasional visits, rather than looking for me in the paper every Sunday and Wednesday.”
  9. rocza
    @BoraZ @stevebuttry Strongly disagree w/ #1- I don’t have a morning columnist I run to. I have several bloggers I read 1st thing every AM
  10. BoraZ
    @rocza @stevebuttry likewise, never cared about any columnist ever. Religiously read some/many bloggers.
  11. rocza
    @BoraZ @stevebuttry yep. Mornings I have to see what @edyong209 @docfreeride @FearLoathingBTX & Bora have written. Other ppl multiple x/week
  12. I stand corrected, though I will note that I said the relationship with readers was a similarity between bloggers and columnists. 
  13. johnmcquaid
    Columnists should blog, but column-writing and blogging aren’t (yet) the same thing http://bit.ly/RE4CpA by @stevebuttry
  14. notscientific
    @BoraZ @stevebuttry If it’s not online, it’s not a blog. If it’s online it is.
  15. edyong209
    The spelling. Seriously, that’s it. RT @BoraZ: What’s the difference between a columnist and a blogger? http://bit.ly/RE4CpA by @stevebuttry
  16. This is an excellent point, one which came up in the comments on my blog:
  17. rocza
    @edyong209 @boraz @stevebuttry to be fair- & speaking as someone who writes & edits- a column tends to be edited, too. It tightens things up
  18. I may have misunderstood this tweet, but it seemed to me like a gratuitous shot at bloggers. I have edited some sloppy columnists and I think many blogs are as precise and accountable as anything published by newspapers (which, I agree, prize precision and accountability).
  19. trafficstatic
    @BoraZ @stevebuttry What’s the difference between a columnist and a blogger? Precision. Accountability.
  20. stevebuttry
    .@trafficstatic @BoraZ Yes, bloggers held accountable by quick feedback from community.
  21. BoraZ
    Correct. RT @stevebuttry: .@trafficstatic @BoraZ Yes, bloggers held accountable by quick feedback from community.
  22. lindseywiebe
    @stevebuttry I think there are often differences in tone/approach, but mainly, it’s the medium that dictates those things.
  23. edyong209
    @BoraZ @stevebuttry @jayrosen_nyu To my mind, smart money has always been about fusing best of diff cultures/approaches. Blogumnists 😉
  24. BoraZ
    @edyong209 the main problem is when columnists-turn-bloggers still want to be called columnists 😉 @stevebuttry @jayrosen_nyu
  25. BrendaTNYC
    @stevebuttry “Blog” is too general a term. Wish we were at a specificity stage.Blogs as diary aren’t the same as editorial essays.

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I won’t be blogging for a few more days about Clayton Christensen‘s Nieman Reports piece Breaking News, but I want to acknowledge it and encourage reading it. (I’ve been too busy to dig into it, but plan to do so this weekend.)

Mark Potts, one of the smartest voices about digital journalism, calls it “maybe the most insightful, important article on the future of the news business since Clay Shirky’s legendary ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable‘.” (I blogged about the Shirky piece when it was published in 2009.)

When I was at the American Press Institute from 2005-8, we partnered with Christensen on the Newspaper Next project. I came to respect his insights about business and disruptive innovation greatly. I wish the newspaper business had followed the Newspaper Next recommendations more aggressively. I encourage people in the business to read Christensen’s latest piece (co-authored by David Skok and James Allworth). And I’ll have more to say on it soon.

Update. I have now blogged some thoughts on Christensen’s Breaking News.

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I had an email exchange about the difference between a columnist and a blogger with Teresa Schmedding.

Teresa is Assistant Managing Editor-Content Systems for the Daily Herald in the Chicago area and president of the American Copy Editors Society. She sent me the following email (used here with her consent):

I’m having a conversation in my head about blogs v. columns.We’re getting ready to revamp our article page templates, pull our old blogs into our current CMS, which gives me an opportunity to re-train the staff on the purpose of a blog v. a column or an article. And, as I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking there really shouldn’t be much of a difference between a column and a blog. I started mapping out elements of a blog and here’s what I came up with:

Key elements of blogs: (more…)

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