What comes after newspapers?

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Hi Paul,

Agreed wholeheartedly with your editorial in the WSJ — and I’m speaking as someone who has had quite a lot of experience building, staffing and just generally sorting out new media (especially blogs, web video and the like).

One thing that occurs to me again and again — isn’t it possible that whatever comes after newspapers won’t arise until the newspapers themselves have disappeared? That is, if their business model is truly untenable — to the point that no amount of transformation can make it sustainable — then as long as they provide the (much needed) service that they do, doesn’t a kind of competitive exclusion prevent their successors from arising?

I realize this is no comfort to anyone currently in the news business, but perhaps the appropriate analogy can be found in the history of life on earth — in every ecosystem there are herbivores, keystone predators, etc., and as individual species or even whole classes of animal go extinct, they are, inevitably, replaced by something that occupies the same niche but may be quite different in nature (as in the replacement of dinosaurs by mammals).

I’m sure this will sound either naive or cold-hearted, but it is, perhaps, the truth: isn’t it the case that the solution to the problem “who will deliver the local news?” cannot be found out until the institution that currently does so has finally gone extinct?

Hopefully that’s just a worst-case scenario – it would truly be a tragedy to lose all the institutional and tribal knowledge embodied in the newsrooms of today’s city papers.

Best,

Christopher

Jason Calacanis on why freelancers are cheaper

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From the newsletter Calacanis now sends out in lieu of blogging:

When we “peeled back the onion” of our editorial spending, it became very clear that our most efficient work force was not the group of editors we had in our office, nor the remote workers we have in Manila (doing data entry type work), but rather the $10-12 an hour “remote guides” we have working from home. These editors cost us, all in, less than half of the folks in our office due to things like overhead, benefits, lunch, and equipment. The workers in Manila are half the cost of our “remote guides,” but they are 1/2 to 1/4 as effective (depending on the task).

Really, I don’t know why every media organization out there doesn’t have a fleet of piece-working, $15-a-post bloggers like, say, WIRED: precisely because so much blogging is, at base, churnalism, or filtering, or aggregating, or whatever you want to call it, it’s simply overkill to pay someone with a j-school degree to do it when an eager part-timer will do just as well. (Not that having a j-school degree disqualifies you.)

This also raises the point that many people would prefer to work at home, or at least come and go as they please. Granted, managing people who work from home requires managers who are completely at ease with IM, twitter, email, skype, remote project management apps like basecamp, work sharing apps like Google Docs, etc. — and when was the last time you met one of those?

A good thing: news-gathering being outsourced to India

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Some Western publishers do their outsourcing in-house—Thomson Reuters (TRI), for instance, has moved basic Wall Street reporting on U.S., European, and Gulf equities to a new bureau in Bangalore. But other media companies prefer to outsource to the Indians directly. On June 24, Mindworks made global headlines when the Associated Press reported that the company had taken on copyediting and layout work for a couple of publications owned by the California media publishing group Orange County Register Communications.

Copyediting? Ship the Work Out to India

Reason #5,326 to stop relying on in-house reporting staff, or even freelancers, to do commodity news. Get some bloggers, do some outsourcing, sign up for the AP: whatever it takes, shunt the commodity news to commodity providers, and get your reporters actually writing about something that maybe, just maybe, no one has heard about / reported on yet (radical, I know).

A deceptive headline

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a deceptive headline from businessweek

One of the first rules of writing web-friendly headlines is extracting the most unique or compelling detail from a piece and making that the headline. It’s the difference between getting dugg and being ignored.

But this is just annoying.

This is like following the headline “STDs Rampant in 5th Graders” with the dek “More 10 year olds have herpetitis than at any point except for two years ago, oh and all the years before 2000 when there was a frakking epidemic (you moron).”

EIC of Wired says magazines aren’t changing for at least 10 years

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This is why magazines aren’t nearly as threatened by the internet as newspapers:

Unlike newspapers, there is nothing on the internet that reproduces the magazine experience and is also better than magazines.

Magazines look good and, unlike awkward broadsheets, provide an excellent user experience. It doesn’t matter that (if they’re a monthly) they were written two months ago, because they’re about things that have a longer shelf-life. They’re where we go for insight and reportage, not news.

Some day there will be a device that at least mimics the magazine reading experience. However:

“In a decade time frame?” asked Chris Anderson, editor of Wired. “No. Technology adoption happens slowly. This is the editor of Wired telling you no. Obviously, newspapers are going to be changing dramatically over the next few years, but magazines are not newspapers. And I think magazines 10 years from now are going to look something like they do now.”

Where Will Magazines Be Ten Years From Now? | New York Observer

When syndication goes horribly awry

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Jeff Jarvis may be all about “do what you do best and link to the rest,” but if he were actually, you know, working for an online news organization he’d know that the real traffic building these days is in “do what you do best and syndicate the rest.”

Except that sometimes that goes horribly awry, as in CBS’s decision to start syndicating content from National Review, thus turning the website of the most-watched television network into a bullhorn for climate change deniers.