NetHui 2013: The real trouble with journalism

TLDNR – too long, did not read.

It’s the kind of comment you might expect to hear in an online forum, not from a senior news executive at the nation’s largest newspaper. And certainly not in the context where it was used in front of former New Zealand Herald feature writer Chris Barton.

That snide comment tells you the real trouble with journalism – the people running the industry simply don’t get it. There’s a lot they just don’t get.

Depth and prestige

For the best part of a decade Barton worked on the kind of long-form, in-depth feature stories which win prizes and readers for newspapers. They add depth to the paper and prestige to the masthead.

Perhaps they weren’t read by everyone, but many readers would buy the Weekend Herald especially to get the more expansive, intelligent features.

By the time Barton left the Herald last year, the feature department was effectively finished. In depth features are no longer part of the paper’s mix.

Read on

And anyway, Too long, didn’t read is nonsense. People do read long form stories. They read them online and they continue to read them in magazines.

They read even longer stories. There’s a special name we give to those even longer stories, we call them books, They can be printed, although increasingly they are digital.

The Scoop Foundation

Barton was speaking at a session run by The Scoop Foundation, a public interest journalism organisation set up by Alison McCulloch and Alistair Thompson to fund journalism projects.

Also at the presentation was The Science Media Centre’s Peter Griffin who talked of his experiences looking at how similar organisations in the USA have stepped into to cover some of the issues journalists might have covered for large newspapers. He says there’s potential to raise money in New Zealand from philanthropic trusts.



Computerworld NZ, Reseller, PC World: It may not be all over yet

Fairfax’s decision to close the technology titles it licences from IDG Communications is sad but hardly comes as a surprise.

The Australian media giant never knew what to do with the publications. I know because I worked for IDG as the associate publisher of Reseller News when Fairfax Business Media acquired the titles in 2006.

At the time the business had strong sales and a healthy profit.

Despite a new competitor, Reseller News had a stellar year. We shot past targets and IDG paid me a full bonus.

Within a year the business was in trouble.

In 2008 control moved from Sydney-based Fairfax Business Media to Fairfax New Zealand. By then I was no longer with the company.

For me it is all water under the bridge. However, I feel for the people who may have lost their jobs. I know how painful it is.

Fairfax says it is closing three titles. It plans to keep a fourth one – CIO magazine.

CIO is valuable because of the lucrative, annual CIO Summit. Fairfax wants to hang on to the title and the summit revenue.

While this appears to make sense, it doesn’t for two reasons.

First, CIO magazine and the Summit don’t exist in a vacuum. CIO needs its connection to the other titles to be viable. It’s an awful word, but there really are synergies between technology publications. CIO magazine and the Summit will struggle to thrive without the other titles.

And anyway, tech publishing moves in cycles. CIO may be profitable today, but it hasn’t always been. All of the other titles have had their day in the sun.

The second reason Fairfax’s decision to keep CIO doesn’t make sense is that it devalues the other titles in the group. The whole is worth more than the sum of parts.

Fairfax may not want them, but other publishers may.

Fairfax and IDG could strike a better deal with these parties if CIO was part of the offer.

Perhaps that wouldn’t save every job. It does mean some those people facing redundancy would have somewhere to go. Given the need to pay redundant workers and the likely reduced future return from CIO and the Summit, Fairfax is putting those employee’s livelihoods on the block for what, ultimately, doesn’t add up to much money.

Of course IDG gets a say in what happens to the titles. Fairfax is breaking a contract, it’s possible IDG can find another licensee if the four titles can move as a block. I suspect it will at least put this idea on the table in any negotiation.

So, it’s possible it isn’t game over for these titles. Not yet.

Why fewer publishers support Android


Slide from Benedict Evans presentation to Google’s ‘Mobile on the Go’ event

If you’re in the publishing business you have two options to reach mobile readers. You can publish direct to the web using HTML or you can build smartphone and tablet apps.

Both approaches allow you to charge for content and to publish advertising.

If you choose the app route, the next step is deciding which devices to support. That’s where it gets tricky.

You’d think raw numbers would decide matters. Yet while Android devices outsell Apple iOS gadgets by two to one, most publishers’ first choice is to build iOS apps.

That’s because Apple users buy stuff, Android users don’t. Or more accurately, Apple users spend so much more on buying apps and content compared with Android users.

It would be madness to adopt an Android-first strategy.

The decision to publish for Android is usually a distant second.

Martin Belam quotes Benedict Evans of Enders Analysis who explains the economics of this.

Most of the Android devices making up that huge market share are low cost phones or tablets. Often Android owners take whatever their phone company offers them in a deal. They don’t care about operating systems – they probably can’t tell you which OS their device is running and they probably barely use any of the functionality.

Only a fraction ever make it to the Google Play app store. If they do get there, they are more likely to choose free apps than paid ones.

Android users typically have a different, less intense relationship with their device than iOS users. This extends to the way they consume content.

Paul Spain adds digital podcast

Paul Spain of NZ Digital Podcast

Paul Spain of NZ Digital Podcast

NZ Tech Podcast producer and presenter Paul Spain has launched a new podcast which he says is for the “broader digital community”. That’s the people who use technology in areas like marketing, media, online publishing, social media and so on.

The idea is to reach a wider audience than the technology professionals and self-proclaimed geeks who listen to the weekly NZ Tech Podcast.

Although the target audience is, by definition, a keen consumer of media and well versed in creating content, there’s not much local programming aimed specifically at this niche.

I’m a fan of the podcast format – and a regular guest on the NZ Tech Podcast. Podcasts fill the same niche as talk radio – they are perfect for listing to on public transport or in the car.

NZ Digital Podcast

News media: Everything in decline but digital

A pessimistic view of America’s news media shows declining revenues leading to repeated cost-cutting has hurt readership and audience loyalty. Is anyone surprised by this?

New Zealand is a little behind the US on the trends shown in the story, but we’re catching up fast. Do you think the informal media, sites like mine but also those like Kiwiblog, Whaleoil and Scoop are filling the gap?

State Of The News Media: Everything In Decline But Digital.


Subscriptions, not paywalls

Karen Fratti thinks publishers need to stop using the word ‘paywall’ to describe ways online sites charge readers. She prefers we talk about subscriptions.

Fratti writes:

 let’s stop talking about putting up walls to keep people out. The paywall has only led to griping from consumers who’ve reached their monthly article limit, and unique ways to get around them. We’re wordsmiths, we know words matter, and ‘paywall’ is another relic of the old media-new media debate. Knock it off.

I agree with Fratti on this, rightly or wrongly paywall makes me think of the watch towers and armed guard that patrolled central Berlin during the Cold War. The paywall is the new media’s equivalent of Cold War thinking.

Can’t We All Just Subscribe? Why ‘Paywalls’ Won’t Get Us Anywhere – 10,000 Words.