Archive for ‘Apocalypse Series’

Apocalypse 7: Stealing Barack’s Thunder

By , 24 August, 2008, 1 Comment

Unless you lived under a rock last week, you probably heard some chatter about the Obama campaign’s plan to announce a runningmate (it’s Biden, by the way) via text message The young faithful Obama-ites would be in the know before the media pundits; the news would be all over the blogs before it hit the evening broadcast.

It didn’t work out that way. Late on Friday night, CNN had enough material to break the Biden news on air, followed within minutes by the other networks and the websites of all the major newspapers. Panicked, the campaign sent out their text to supporters at about 3 am (AFTER the news was out for the general public) instead of the 8 am time they had planned. Oops.

Now my anecdotal reporting suggests a certain correlation between the Obamamaniacs and the free culture radicals who are waiting for blogs and citizen journalists–camera phones in hand–to obliterate the CNN’s of the world. Both groups are young, urban lefties, after all.

So fittingly, when the Obama cell phone campaign got scooped, the free culture argument lost out too: the threat of new technologies didn’t kill the old media hounds, it just made them work harder to get the story first.

By raising the bar, might the Internet actually be good for the news industry?

Apocalypse, the spinoff

By , 9 June, 2008, No Comment

In two previous posts, I’ve blogged about the news media in the digital age. Based on parallel movements at CondeNast and at the Washington Post, I predicted that in the future, major “old” brands will aggregate the expertise of various niche bloggers to produce a product that is mostly digital, with occasional print specials. But Sam Zell’s approach to the Tribune Company’s papers suggests a different response to the threat from Google news et. al: a smaller, slimmer, all-print, all-local product that capitalizes on the fact that internet news sources have an edge in fast breaking headlines, but don’t have the time for local color coverage.

In all frankness, I think the future holds a combination of those two models, but if I were trading in media futures (do those exist?) I’d guess that the Washington Post/CondeNast approach is likely to be more lucrative. There are way more places to monetize on that food chain (the daily website, the affiliated blogs, the print specials, advertising in each of the above) than there are in single local dailies. Then again, Sam Zell has done okay for himself so far, so maybe he knows something I don’t?

The Friendly Face of the Newspaper Apocalypse

By , 8 May, 2008, 3 Comments

Pundits have been predicting the downfall of the newspaper for a long time. And while I agree that the news market is changing rapidly, I’m not convinced that the printed press is a thing of a past. Instead, an announcement by the Washington Post today suggests the direction other news media outlets might take.

The Post has essentially outsourced a chunk of its technology reporting to the bloggers at TechCrunch. All the blog posts from TechCrunch.com will appear on the Post’s technology page and according to TechCrunch, the next step is a comment feature that will allow reader discussion to take place simultaneously on both websites.

Imagine, for a moment, that the Post were to turn over all its breaking tech news to TechCrunch, all its breaking political tidbits to Politico, and all its entertainment research to the folks at PerezHilton. Each section of their website would become a mini-blog, which is effectively what the New York Times has done. Except the Times model requires a full staff of bloggers for every subject; for most print newspapers, the key now is to streamline staff and save cash.

The genius of the Post deal is that it gives readers the insider news of the experts at TechCrunch with the brand credibility of the Washington Post. For the Post, it’s a way to get around the fact that little guys in the blogosphere often know more about their small niches than big news outlet reporters. For TechCrunch, it’s a way to monetize and attract ad dollars, something internet news sites still struggle with.

See, the brand of The Washington Post still means a lot, even if according to some pessimists, the daily paper is a goner. Instead, I predict more deals like this, where blog-style news aggregates under the name of a big media brand. Meanwhile, I think a lot of readers still like getting things in print, but will be more likely to pay for print magazines, feature stories and in-depth pieces than daily breaking news. With more blog deals like this, the Post could devote a small in-house staff to the investigative and longer pieces, and put out a bi-weekly print edition, or a weekend ‘zine.

I’m not alone, in seems, in voicing this theory: Businessweek’s media guru Jon Fine was predicting last year that a big paper like the San Francisco Chronicle would do well to go all-online. This week, he writes that daily papers should downsize to publishing 3 times a week. The New York Times already offers a weekend-only subscription. What do you guys think?