2012 Previews and 2011 Reviews

At year’s end and the new year’s beginning, I suppose it is inevitable to look back to forge ahead. Here are some interesting takes on the past, present and future. Expect longer blog posts about some of those trends throughout the next months. Let me know which topics interest you most.

  • Here is Time Magazine’s list of the 50 Best Websites of 2011.
  • A list of The Best of TedGlobal 2011.
  • Poynter discusses 3 trends from 2011 that will reshape digital news in 2012: “Storytelling is more than an author’s words; Facebook means news and e-readers and tablets go mainstream.”
    …Now, if impoverished editors and writers only could afford those…
  • The Nieman Journalism Lab‘s Predictions for Journalism 2012: Numerous renowned authors and media analysts predict that social media will get boring and its bubble will burst, the dawn of “appification media,”  the control of free-flow information, credibility will be back, pay walls will increase, streaming home pages will be the norm, the rise of the tablets will bring about personalized platforms, mobile payments and big data will be the next big thing and the focus will return to the writer (!!). Good times.
  • Some good news about the future of news in 2011 offers the Canadian Journalism Project: “It’s possible that 2011 will come to be seen as a watershed year; the year that saw the emergence of a business model that might actually allow risky, time-consuming and expensive journalism to be pursued, allow journalists to get paid a living wage, and allow media companies to make a reasonable return on their investment.”
    …Pinch me, I’m dreaming…
  • CNET‘s 2012 predictions: “News readers” — “It’s a long way from 3D printers and Kinects to tablet and smartphone-based news readers, but in the world of tech culture, aggregators [and apps] like Flipboard, Zite, and Pulse are growing in importance every day.”
More to come.

Quickshots: October

A great example why print still works: The Occupy Wall Street Journal is a 4-page broadsheet that is widely distributed among protesters downtown.

“Forgive an old newspaper hack a moment of sentimentality, but it is somehow reassuring that a newspaper still has traction in an environment preoccupied by social media. It makes sense when you think about it: Newspapers convey a sense of place, of actually being there, that digital media can’t. When is the last time somebody handed you a Web site?” (David Carr, “A Protest’s Ink-Stained Fingers“, New York Times).

 ♦

In Is Journalism As We Know It Becoming Obsolete?”, Mathew Ingram debates the question that Dave Winer (Scripting) raised in his blog post, where he argued that it is obsolete “because everyone can do it”. Winer writes, “Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It’s still early days for this, and it wasn’t that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won’t be employing people to gather news for us. It’ll work differently.”

You should know my point of view by now. And if you agree with the notion that journalism is an old hat, why are you reading this blog? Ingram (and I happen to agree with him) argues that everyone has their own definition what journalism is, “but I think it’s fundamentally about a spirit of inquiry, of curiosity, of wanting to make sense of things. It’s something like the spirit of scientific inquiry, as Matt Thompson noted recently in a post at the Poynter Institute. It has very little to do with specific tools or specific methods of publishing.”

Yes, anybody can access sources and write. But we still need those of us who can curate the flow of information, put it in historic and political perspective and digest the findings. We are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Journalism, says Ingram, “is a state of mind.” Yes, indeed.

“A new generation of web entrepreneurs has discovered the joys of charging users cold, hard cash. […] If we’re lucky, this trend will save the Internet from one of the most corrosive forces affecting it — the bloodless logic of advertising,” writes Clive Thompson on Online Ads in Wired Magazine. “I predict that in 2050, we’ll look back at the first 20 years of the web and shake our heads. The craptacular design! The hallucinogenic business models! The privacy nightmares! All because entrepreneurs convinced themselves that they couldn’t do what inventors have done for centuries: Charge people a fair price for things they want.”

I agree! Thanks, Clive. But what took you so long to discover this? And do you pay for what you read online?

  ♦

Very sound advice:

“Online publishing has made it deceptively easy to become a publisher. That’s not necessarily a good thing. Back when editors and publishers were gatekeepers, there was someone who was reviewing your writing. Content creation, like any other art form, generally improves with practice. If you haven’t ever written for the web or you’re just a bit rusty, you should consider practicing more in private. Working out your routine in private is far less damaging to your brand than producing sub-par content.” (Buddy Scalera, “Content Strategy Tip: Write Awful Content”) 

World press trends: Newspapers still reach more than internet. “Circulation is like the sun. It continues to rise in the East and decline in the West,” said Christoph Riess, CEO of WAN-IFRA, who presented an annual survey at the World Newspaper Congress and World Editors Forum in Vienna, Austria. Nicely put.

Quickshots: September

“It was computer technology (particularly Apple) that put typography into the hands of all of us. And it’s computer technology that is relentlessly picking it apart, devaluing expression in a misguided attempt to demonstrate that you’re too busy coding to make anything look trustworthy or delightful.” (Seth Godin in “The web leaders hate typography (but not for long)”

I agree wholeheartedly. In case you are interested in typography, this is a must read: “Why do the points on Futura in letters like A and N rise slightly above and below the heights of other capital letters? Purely a design decision? Residual choice from old printing techniques?”

New and old meet.

According to a 2010 Project for Excellence in Journalism study, aptly named “The Blogosphere: New Media, Old Media,” 99 percent of news links on blogs came from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast networks. “Despite the unconventional agenda of bloggers, traditional media still provide the vast majority of their information. More than 99% of the stories linked to came from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast networks. American legacy outlets made up 75% of all items. […] Web-only sites, on the other hand, made up less than 1% of the links in the blogosphere.”

Shut those down and what have you got? Kittens on YouTube.

What, The Byliner and The Atavist both pay for original written content, aka the labor of a writer, who worked on a story that will bring in ad revenues, clicks, eyeballs and…readers (ahem, unique visitors)?

Shocking.

“Like The Atavist, The Byliner’s business model offers its writers an initial fee (reportedly topping out in the low five figures for the biggest names) and then splits revenues 50/50. “

Isn’t that a given for a good business model, one that values its workers? And you need a pat on your back for that? 

Oh, that reminds me: How can an online journalists work when the Internet is full of unpaid blogs? Join the National Writers Union, NYC, on Oct. 11 for a panel discussion. The panel will also be streamed live at PayTheWriter.org.

Facebook, Facebook, Facebook

Americans spent a total of 53.5 billion minutes on Facebook in May, according to a new Nielsen study. “As long as Facebook and its new partners are still motivated by their bottom lines, coming changes are […] kind of scary. As Facebook marches toward its inevitable IPO, the social network walks a very fine line between being a profit-generator and a protector of 750 million users’ privacy preferences. It will be interesting to see how Facebook’s users (and its competitors) feel about all of this.” (Forbes Magazine, “Facebook’s Makeover Is A Little Scary“) .

Facebook execs say that Timeline will be “like meeting a friend for drinks and spilling your soul until the bar lights flicker for closing time.”

Is this a joke? To me, Facebook feels like a trendy nightclub, where everyone that you know — or barely know, or have already forgotten that you know or have tried to tune out — lounges around in their PJs and watches your every move. Cozy, huh? Here’s more on Facebook: CNet: “Facebook changes creeping out some customers” and via All Things D: “Facebook Boldly Annexes the Web

I am on Facebook, but I don’t “spill my soul” there. Are you, Zuckerberg? Wait, don’t answer that…

Interesting article in the New York Times, “All The News You Want, When You Want It,” on how apps help create customized magazines, leaving out what we don’t want. But, admits the author, he goes back to the newsprint version often to seek in-depth reporting that he has possibly missed. “[T]he news app experience is different from reading a newspaper section by section, page by page. I feel informed, but I always have the nagging feeling that I missed something important or that I am reading the news superficially. I go back to the newsprint version during the day to seek in-depth reporting that I may have missed by skimming. Sure, I saved longer articles to read later on my apps, but I don’t always do that. At least gathering the newspapers for recycling is a reminder to glance through them to be sure I did not miss something important.”

New needs old.

 ♦

Computer-generated content is on the rise: “The leaders of Narrative Science emphasize that their technology would be primarily a low-cost tool for publications to expand and enrich coverage when editorial budgets are under pressure.”  (The New York Times, “In Case You Wondered, a Real Human Wrote This Column“)

Is that supposed to make us feel better?

The Onion’s editorial department will be relocated from New York to Chicago next summer.

I doubt that it will find as much satirical material there. I guess, the fiscal bottom line is more important. I feel for you. 

Remember this one: “8.4 Million New Yorkers Suddenly Realize New York City A Horrible Place To Live“? “At 4:32 p.m. Tuesday, every single resident of New York City decided to evacuate the famed metropolis, having realized it was nothing more than a massive, trash-ridden hell hole that slowly sucks the life out of every one of its inhabitants.”

We’ll miss you, Onion.

Quote from the movie Contagion: “Blogging is not writing; it’s graffiti with punctuation”. Except mine, of course.

Told ya! Return of the Editor: Why Human Filters are the Future of the Web: “Before news aggregators, content curators and Google’s omnipotent algorithm, the world’s information was sorted by real human beings. In the web’s next phase, argues The IdeaLists’ Karyn Campbell, the old-fashioned editor is poised for a comeback.”

Yes, Please!

In case you’re concerned: Print is not Dead. Really.

“Last summer, Paul Steinle and Sara Brown took shoe leather journalism to its extremes. The husband and wife couple, retired journalists and academics both, set off on a 50-state trek to gauge the state of the U.S. newspaper industry in the midst of digital transition.” Their findings: “Market size matters. Local news and watchdog reporting are indispensable assets. There’s no holy grail for digital revenue models.”

Feel better? 

Gail Collins on Women Journalists

New York Times columnist Gail Collins was the keynote speaker at New York Women in Communications annual meeting on May 17, 2011. She spoke about the evolution of women journalists — from being denied entry to the National Press Club in the 1970s, where even the restrooms were off-limits to them, to covering world events today.

Collins credited her success in journalism to the trailblazing women that came before her, who paved the way so that her own fight was made easier.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-itrDSRrh0E?rel=0&hd=1]

Yes, women have indeed come far. But not far enough. As a reminder, read Mika Brzezinski’s account (“Knowing Your Value: Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth”) on why we value our work less than our male colleagues’ and how to get equal pay for equal work.

Listening to Collins’ speech was heartwarming, not only because of her wit and intellect but because of her down-to-earth, unpretentious demeanor that is lacking in too many media personalities and stars.

And I was reminded again how complacent many young journalists and almost-media-starlets are. I don’t see many who have Collins’ inner strength and determination to fight for women’s rights.

“A feminist? Me? Hell no.” Their dream jobs are working for Lifestyle or editing Cosmopolitan or Vogue — not covering Washington politics or the Pentagon. They want to work for Lucky and Us Weekly, not Wired or Foreign Affairs. At New York Women in Communications, I have met many a student and young professional who yearns to be the next Oprah and gets weak knees when coming face-to-face with senior fashion and beauty editors at NYWICI panels.

As broadcast journalists and magazine editors, they, too, will get caught up in superficiality in the hunt for the lowest common denominator, pleasing advertisers to get ratings or ads.

And as copy writers at advertising agencies, they, too, might come up with sexist ads like this one (why did the woman agree to take part in the ad, I wonder. But ladies, that is another story that you should investigate).

Soon, we’ll be back in the 1970s. Gail Collins will tell you what that was like for women journalists. You’d be surprised.

That could happen, because trailblazers like Collins, Helen Thomas or Carole Simpson can, and could, do only so much. You will have to pick up the torch someday if you want to have an impact that lasts beyond your career, even if it is just for your own dignity. Because even on a really bad hair day, there are more important things to worry about.

Remember Lara Logan? Get out there and be heard. Don’t sell yourself short.

Good Old Days?

Here is a video find “How to Be an Old School Journalist.” A real gem from the late 1930s/early 1940s that teaches kids what it’s like to be a journalist. Especially watch minute 5:06 and on. What journalism is like for women. Society pages and balls.

If only they could see us now.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I9E4xDq8IR4]

But don’t gloat. We still have a long way to go in print media, especially book publishing: According to She Writes, under the headline “Not A Balanced Breakfast: Gender Stats in Publishing for…2009?” you’ll read this:

“There are more women writing today than ever before, but what kind of recognition are they receiving? Well, not as much as you might think: in terms of prominent book awards and “best of” lists, gender equality hasn’t changed at all.”

Print to Web Transition: Where’s My Fair Pay?

NYTimes article by Michael Winerip “Keeping The Plates Spinning” (2/19/10) about the transitions from print to web — Quote: “We’re asking more of them, and frankly we’re not paying them more. But they do it, because we’re a team and they’re nice people.”

Not only that: They are looking for writers “who’d be willing to …write, unpaid, in exchange for links to their sites and mentions of their businesses in an accompanying bio.”

Here is another take from Newsosaur, “Stop the Exploitation of Journalists,” urging veteran and aspiring journalists “to stop participating in their own exploitation by working for a pittance – or, worse, giving away their valuable services for free…The reason is simple: If they don’t put a value on what they do, then no one else will either.”

People, when are we finally done with being “nice” and eager for a free byline and demand fair pay for our work?!