Friday, February 27, 2009

R.M.N - R.I.P. -- Rocky Mountain News

Sad news from Denver. The Rocky Mountain News, which would have celebrated its 150th anniversary in April, published its last issue today.

Denver was one of the few remaining two-paper markets. Now it has the Denver Post, which should break-even, experts said, although it will have higher operating costs (since it had split back office costs with the RMN, not be confused with Richard Milhouse Nixon).

For now, other two-paper markets include New York, Los Angles, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle, Detroit, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

But the Los Angeles Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and both Detroit papers are owned by holding companies that have declared bankruptcy, have declared bankrupty itself, had the parent company announce a deadline to sell or close the paper, or cut back its publishing schedule.

That doesn't include buyouts at the Boston Globe, financial machinations at the New York Times.

Meanwhile, here's a very moving look at the final edition of the Rocky: Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Newspaper Death Watch

The list of the near-dead newspapers continues to grow.

The latest is the San Francisco Chronicle, the country's 12th largest paper serving the 5th largest media market. Publisher Hearst Corp. says it needs major concessions from its unions to survive -- but even with concessions, its future is in doubt.

Others newspapers in trouble include:
  1. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, also owned by the Hearst Corp.
  2. Tribune Co., parent of Chicago Tribune & Los Angeles Tribune -- filed for bankruptcy.
  3. Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- filed for bankruptcy.
  4. Parent company of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News -- filed for bankruptcy.
  5. Parent company of the New Haven Register and 19 other dailies -- filed for bankruptcy.
  6. Rocky Mountain News -- put up for auction or will be closed.
  7. Austin American-Statesman -- put up for auction or will be closed.
  8. San Diego Union-Tribune -- put up for auction or will be closed.
  9. Detroit News -- scaled back home delivery days.
If the Hearst can't get the concessions it needs, count on the Chronicle to close.

And expect other publishers to follow suite by shutting down their papers, too.

One thing is certain, by the end of the summer, this list will have grown.

PR and advertising functions/agencies will need to be creative in how they add value -- while developing metrics for success in this new media environment.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Another Day, Another Newspaper Files for Bankruptcy

It was a tough weekend for East Coast newspapers.

Both the holding company of Philadelphia's two newspapers -- Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia News -- as well as the holding company of the New Haven Register and 19 other dailies filed for bankruptcy.

Three other newspapers companies have filed for bankruptcy since Dec. 2008.

And more are in precarious positions. The New York Times recently cut its dividend again to save capital for the business.

As a side note, what's interesting is that yesterday's Journal article took aim at its midtown rival, reporting: "Newspaper companies have been pounded by spiraling advertising declines, but many of their wounds are self-inflicted," and then mentioned the New York Times.

At the same time, the New York Times took a bigger potshot against the Journal in an article,
"Murdoch’s Soft Spot for Print Slows News Corp." Of course, by saying that News Corp's dependence on its newspaper business is dragging down its revenues, is not a great point for the Times to make -- since the Times is suffering from the same trends.

But at least they get to bash the Journal.

As for PR functions, there are two lessons from this:
  1. Look for more layoffs and cutbacks at large metro papers. Which means: we need to find alternative ways to communicate information to key audiences.
  2. Don't try to buy newspapers -- which is what Brian Tierney, a Philadelphia public-relations executive, did. The deal has not worked so well for him.

Friday, February 20, 2009

More Consolidation in the Newspaper Sector

The New York Times reports "5 Big Papers to Share Articles and Photos."

Five New Jersey and New York newspapers announced they will share articles and photographs as a way to deal with fewer reporters and photographers.

The papers include the New York Daily News, Newark Star-Ledger, the Buffalo News; the Hackensack Record, and the Albany Times Union.

This is a growing to the articles, "similar alliances were formed in the last year among groups of papers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Texas."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Good Article by David Pogue on Twitter

Check out "Twitter? It’s What You Make It" by the New York Times' David Pogue.

Here are some tips:
  • YOU DON’T HAVE TO READ ALL THE TWEETS It’s common to check out someone’s Twitter profile and read, “Following: 900 people.” Baloney. Nobody has the time to read all the tweets from more than about 30 people — at least, nobody with a life.
  • IF YOU’RE CONFUSED ABOUT REPLYING, YOU’RE NOT ALONE If you reply to one of my tweets, I can write back in either of two ways. I can reply as another public tweet, but of course nobody but you will have any idea what I’m talking about. (“@puppydog: Maybe in Montana!!! LOL”).

    Or I can send you a private Direct Message — but then our dialogue may end. You can’t reply to my Direct Message unless I’m also following you (it’s an antispam measure, according to Twitter). Get it? Me either. Twitter Inc. says it’s working on fixing this and a host of other confusing elements.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Living in the Age of Too Much Information (TMI): Boston Herald runs my humorous op-ed

Here's an excerpt from the article, "Virtual world of trouble," which ran Feb. 14, 2009:

If the 1990s were the Information Age, this decade has become the Too Much Information Age (TMI).

With the proliferation of social networking sites that include Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Ning, LinkedIn, Plaxo along with others too numerous and odd to name, millions of people are going online to talk about themselves.


BusinessWeek reporter (and Facebook friend) Steve Hamm once commented that most of his online “friends” were people he had never met, and none had attended his wedding. I’ve met him once and have spoken with him over the years, but the point is valid. (Problem is I can’t remember where I read that comment of his: On Twitter? On Facebook? On his blog?)

Like Hamm, I’ve got “friends” I’ve never met before, and their friends. And those people’s friends. And they’ve got me.

It’s overwhelming, if not exhausting. It’s enough to give me social networking fatigue (SNF).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

"Going Viral" Isn't as Easy as it Looks

Dove soap and the "Will it Blend" videos have convinced marketers that going viral can be very effective.

But going viral is very difficult, as an excellent article in the Wall St. Journal.

The headline pretty much sums it up: "Trident Finds It Hard to Go Viral: Campaign Based on Fake TV Show Fails to Catch On With the Web-Savvy."

One of the challenges is defining criteria for success. The article discusses some metrics while people involved in the Trident video say it's been successful and others in the industry saying they were not.

That's been one of the problem I've been pointing out for the past year.

Friday, February 13, 2009

WSJ Article Validates Another of Our Media Predictions for 2009: rocky time for local broadcast

The Wall St. Journal ran a fascinating look at the impact of the current media environment -- declining ad dollars and users (formerly known as viewers) fleeing to the Internet.

Check out "Local TV Stations Face a Fuzzy Future as Revenue Declines" by Sam Schechner and Rebecca Dana.

The TV/broadcast environment is changing, just as mainstream media everywhere is. One difference is that the business model for TV is the same as news on the web: it's been free, supported by advertising. So for users stuck in front of the laptops, why not just access TV shows online?

But that move is having a big impact local broadcasters. If you can get network shows online, why tune in with your TV?

The article suggests that some on-air networks will switch to cable because they can get a piece of the subscriber fees even during a drop in advertising. Since most of use already use cable boxes and since the rest will have to get digital converters, users may not feel much impact -- except to see their cable bills increase. Which is not a surprise.

Still, the impact on local market TV is that there won't be much local programing.

Check out the article; it's worth reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New York Times & Time Mag Look at the Newspaper Industry -- and provide some of the insights we've been talking about all last year

Both the New York Times and Time Magazine have published articles this week about the fate of the newspaper sector. Much of the discussion will be familiar to readers of the blog.

Writing on the NY Times' op-ed page, Michael Kinsley's article, You Can’t Sell News by the Slice, makes an interesting point about the economics of traditional newspapers:
Newspaper readers have never paid for the content (words and photos). What they have paid for is the paper that content is printed on. A week of The Washington Post weighs about eight pounds and costs $1.81 for new subscribers, home-delivered. With newsprint (that’s the paper, not the ink) costing around $750 a metric ton, or 34 cents a pound, Post subscribers are getting almost a dollar’s worth of paper free every week — not to mention the ink, the delivery, etc. The Times is more svelte and more expensive. It might even have a viable business model if it could sell the paper with nothing written on it.
In Time Magazine, Walter Isaacson wrote a couple of articles, including "How to Save Your Newspaper,"which discussed micropayments at length. Micropayments have worked with music, he notes, then offers a suggestion of how it might work for newspapers, magazines, blogs, etc.

But there's a difference between paying for music you download and paying for articles you download: you generally want to listen to music again and again -- but how many times can you re-read a newspaper article? Like it or not, often refered to as the first draft of history, journalism is disposable, generally having a short shelflife. Music does not. I can justify paying for music downloads (though I often prefer to have the CD as a backup in case of a technical snafu with my iPod), but it might be difficult to justify paying each time I rent an article -- because I usually don't need to read them again (unless for work).

That, anyway, is a hurdle content owners need to overcome.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We Got Another Prediction Right

On Jan. 9, we issued a list of media predictions for 2009, mostly covering mainstream media's transition to online-only business model.

But we also made a prediction about Amazon's Kindle: that a new version should offer more colorful screens, easier ways to share articles to other users, even a text-to-speech or audio book option so you can throw your book in the car.

Well, Amazon just announced the 2.0 version of the Kindle, and among its features are an improved ability to share articles and text-to-speech.

We were optimistic about a color screen, so we're 2 for 3.

With longer battery lifer -- always an important feature in portable electronics -- the Kindle is looking better, and may beat our prediction of 2010 as the year that ebooks become mainstream. I think it will certainly well, but the $359 price during a recession may be steep for the average reader.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Can't Get That Song Out of My Head

Even if I wanted to -- and I do -- I can't get these songs out of my head. No -- this post has nothing to do with last night's Grammy Awards.

During high school and college, I used to go to the clubs in Manhattan -- ok, not a lot of them, not constantly. I wasn't a club kid and I don't believe I used the term as a verb -- clubbing -- but that's because I also didn't like the word partying (which had come on the scene around the time I did) -- but only from a grammar perspective.

I mean, type and typing made sense to me; both were real words. But at the time, neither party or club appeared in the dictionary as a verb (partying and clubbing, that is). I've long since accepted that, and don't have a problem with texting. Except when someone is texting while driving (TWD).

Back to the main point: I didn't always like clubbing perhaps because it's hard to tell jokes in loud places.

But one thing that kept me going was the thought that disco music was a passing fad, and that it would quickly fade just as so much else in the 70s & 80s seemed disposable...such as so-called TV entertainment like "Brady Bunch," "Fantasy Island" & "Love Boat."

Now, when I go to Spinning class at the gym, most of the songs they play are disco. I can't escape. This morning, I've got a choice of "Mamma Mia" or "Turn the Beat Around" (the original version). Having that beat in my head is making it difficult to type accurately.

And, for the record, the Spinning class is not PR-related.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Boston Globe to Kill -- um, Transition -- Health/Science Section

Months after the Boston Globe reduced the status of its business section as a bundled section within the Metro section, the Globe has announced plans to kill its health/science section, which had appeared on Mondays.

The Boston Phoenix reported that the Boston Globe plans to -- well, not eliminate the coverage, but transition it to its popular g section. Launched recently, the g section is very popular, and includes entertainment, TV listings, arts, comics, etc. And now, health news.

Science coverage will be included in the business section.

The Globe's Caleb Solomon, managing editor, told the Phoenix, Roughly speaking, the paper will have about as much personal-health coverage as it did before. And the same goes for science coverage. "We do a Monday business and innovation section, and as you know, a significant portion of the innovation economy is science driven," he says. "Is coverage of a biotech company business coverage or science coverage?... There will probably be increased science content inside the Monday business section, because that seems to be a natural alignment with the innovation economy of Boston."

However, since the number of pages in the g section will not increase, it's safe to say that health coverage in the Globe will decline -- which is interesting given the importance of biotech is to the Boston economy.

"Blue Book of Advertising" Has Some Good Ideas for PR

While the media & PR worlds are changing, The Little Blue Book of Advertising: 52 Small Ideas That Can Make a Big Difference provides some useful insight and tips -- whether you work in PR or advertising.

Written by agency veterans by Steve Lance & Jeff Woll, some of the ideas are not new for those who have been in the agency business for a while, but too often people forget them, like:
  • Be expert on the benefits of your client's product or service.
  • Know who your customers are.
  • Read what your customers reads, watch what they watch.
  • Quality is the absence of non/quality signals )like misspellings."
  • Attention spans will get shorter. Need to make the point/message shorter.
There are some good points on branding:
  • Know where you want to take the brand.
  • Map a clear route of how you'll take your brand to the destination.
    = make sure to communicate that map.
    = establish benchmarks against which progress will be made.
    =establish measures w/client/agency.
    = agree how to resolve issues.
    = establish criteria w/client.
The book is a quick read, and worth picking up as a refresher.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

NY Times Reports on "Mostly Gloom for Glossies"

According to the New York Times: "Another day, another closure. Magazines are becoming thinner as advertising pages fall, and publishers are grimly cutting underperforming titles."

But the article, "Mostly Gloom for Glossies," is interesting not because it reports market conditions already well known to the readers of this blog. But because the print version is a static chart that highlights the plights of six glossy magazines while showing lines marking two dozen other magazines.

It's that the online version is much more useful for being interactive. You can click on each magazine, and more clearly see the trend of its advertising pages -- many more were flat than were apparent in the print version of the chart, and flat during this economy is actually good news.
It's an example of what online can do much better than print.

It's also an example of reporting that requires far less actual writing. (This post contains more copy than the Times article.) Even as the article compiles a lot of data.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ready for Web 3.0?

Fortune's Jessi Hempel thinks Web 2.0 is so last big thing because no "new game-changing companies have emerged since Twitter burst on the scene in 2007."

But the main reasons is that Web 2.0 sites have "failed to deliver new ways to cash in the way their Web 1.0 predecessors, such as Amazon and Yahoo"

Interesting article. Check it out: "Web 2.0 is so over. Welcome to Web 3.0: Facebook and Twitter may be more popular than ever among users, but what are they worth?"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Chris Anderson writes about the Freemium business model

Wired's Chris Anderson wrote an interesting article about online business model, The Economics of Giving It Away: In a battered economy, free goods and services online are more attractive than ever. So how can the suppliers make a business model out of nothing?

Here's an excerpt from the article:
Digital economics have spurred entirely new business models, such as "Freemium," a free version supported by a paid premium version. This model uses free as a form of marketing to put the product in the hands of the maximum number of people, converting just a small fraction to paying customers. It's an inversion of the old free sample promotion: Rather than giving away one brownie to sell 99 others, you give away 99 virtual penguins to sell one virtual igloo. (Confused? Ask a child: This is the business model for the phenomenally successful Club Penguin.)