Roger Cohen, The Quest to Belong
Next year’s Thanksgiving grace.
More on the death of newspapers:
Following an unexpectedly sharp decline in advertising demand in the first three months of this year, newspapers now appear to be entering the sixth year of an unprecedented collapse that has vaporized half of their principal revenues since 2006.
The Newspaper Association of America, the industry’s trade association, reported yesterday that print sales fell by a steep 9.5% in the first three months of the year, dropping industry-wide print sales to $4.7 billion, a level not seen since 1983.
Print sales in the first quarter of 2011 were only 45% of the $10.5 billion in revenues produced by the industry in the first quarter of 2006, the last three-month period in which newspapers collectively showed positive year-to-year growth. As illustrated in the chart below, print sales have been falling relentlessly since April 1, 2006.
In the first quarter of 2011, real estate classified advertising slid by 19.3% from the prior year, while national tumbled 11%, retail fell 9.5% and auto classified was down 4.7%. Only employment classified gained by 4.3%.
With publishers reporting anecdotally that these negative trends are continuing in the current quarter, it is all but certain that the revenue crisis has entered its sixth year.
Headed for the ‘dead cat bounce’?
Ben Huh makes some prescient observations about what’s wrong with our outmoded notions about news creation, delivery, and use:
1) Editors Don’t Know What We Already Know
Having read the last 10 updates on the efforts to cool Japanese spent fuel storage pools, I’ve noticed a very annoying problem. After the initial 3 paragraphs that contain the latest update, the rest of the article is just a regurgitation of the previous 24-hours worth of stories that I’ve ready 9 times before. Why can’t the reporters just write a short update on the latest news? If you don’t understand what’s happening, the update makes no sense. But if you’re like me and are following the news closely, I feel like I wasted my time. This update-the-last-story practice is a leftover from the days of printed newspapers and wire updates. There’s no need for this today.
2) News, Not Front Pages The front-page of a newspaper is an iconic symbol. One that sums up a generation’s influences and chronicle life-defining events. But more than ever, those front pages, ported to the web, don’t fit the way we use the web.
Walking through the hallowed halls of the New York Times, the front pages of the Gray Lady on historic days call out like a collective social memory. Unfortunately, news site front pages have lost the cultural benefit of archiving our collective memories — I have no easy way of knowing what the homepage of CNN.com looked like on September 11, 2001. And at the same time have become less influential due to the rise of social media — we’re much more likely to dive directly into the story from a friend’s Tweet as I rely more and more on social filters to tell me what’s worth reading.
3) One Front Page For All The News That Fit’s to Print
6 billion people can’t agree on a single perspective — let alone fit an entire world of news on one homepage. Talking to news editors, it’s clear that their job performance is more and more tied to generating traffic and news front pages are their drug of choice. The more traffic you can draw off a homepage, the better you are at your job. That’s a very poor way to use very talented editors.
The web can do much than this. Techmeme is a great example of a front page for mainstream tech news. Hacker News is a great example for a developer community front page. The list of examples can go on and on. By curating the news that appears on the front page, editors and curators set a powerful tone and setting for future coverage.
News producers need to change how they throw based on how we can catch.
Three. A shift in power. The tools of the modern media have been distributed to the people formerly known as the audience.
Four: A new pattern of information flow, in which “stuff” moves horizontally, peer to peer, as effectively as it moves vertically, from producer to consumer. Audience atomization overcome, I call it.
Read the whole thing.
Lincoln Steffens, cited by Jay Rosen in The Twisted Psychology of Bloggers vs. Journalists: My Talk at South By Southwest
Julie DiCaro, Dear John Kass, Where’s The Love?
Robert Scoble responds to a question by Dare Obasanjo, who apparently just heard the term “social media” the other day. Others, like Frank Shaw at Waggener Edstrom, are apparently uneasy with the term, too.
Just to set context: I find 14,571 blog posts have been tagged “social media”, starting back years ago, and its being tagged around 100 times a day. Who knows how many posts use the term and don’t tag it.
Robert gamely tries to define social media by examples, and then closes weakly:
[from What is social media?.
When I say “social media” or “new media” I’m talking about Internet media that has the ability to interact with it in some way. IE, not a press release like over on PR Newswire, but something like what we did over on Channel 9 where you could say “Microsoft sucks” right underneath one of my videos.
I don’t really care what you call this “new media” but you’ve got to admit that something different is happening here than happens on other media above.
The fundamental distinctions between social media and the things that preceded are these:
Aside from my diatribe about Social Media, in capitals, I also want to make a distinction with social media, in lower case. In the latter form, I am speaking of the tools that are used — blogs, wikis, whatever — to create Social Media. It is blogging that has become the most formidible platform for Social Media, and much of my ranting and hopes is directed toward the future of blogging as a force for change in the world.
The societal phenomenon of Social Media (supported by the nuts and bolts of social media tools) has been a profound one, over the past decade. I predict that the impact in the next decade will be even more sweeping, and much more widespread. As an additional billion or two of the world’s population finds its way onto the web, our only hope may be that the web finds its way into the world: that the principles of openness, transparency, diversity, and egalitarianism that engender web culture remake the world, one conversation at a time. Political parties, multinationals, the corner dress shop, your county government — everything will be influenced by the infectious openness of the web, because the edglings will simply not settle for less.
That’s another way of defining Social Media: it is the way that we are organizing ourselves to communicate, to learn, and to understand the world and our place in it. And we just won’t accept any models for that that aren’t intensely social: we won’t put up with large organizations telling us what is right, or true, or necessary. We will now have those conversations among ourselves, here, at the edge. Social Media has released us, freed us: and we won’t go back.
So, a formula: Social Media = what the edglings use to communicate.
Congratulations to John Furrier, whose podcasting obsession has grown to be something much more than a hobby:
“PodTech has become the definitive source of quality, content-rich podcasts dedicated to innovating and extending the benefits of podcasting to mainstream users,” said John Furrier, Founder and CEO of PodTech. “As a company, we were present at the creation of podcasting. We know it is time for a company to provide a professional environment and high quality filtered original content of fresh technology and business voices to the world of podcast listeners. With this financing we are now poised to deliver on our content development goals and to play a big role in the evolving ecosystem of this new media.”
The company has raised $5.5M from Venrock Associates, US Venture Partners (USVP), and Silicon Valley angel investors.
This is another indicator of the internetting of media, where knowledge and insight at the edge will slowly dissolve the center of the media world, the networks, studios, and mainstream publications.