1. Will the Post-Intelligencer Flip the Switch in Seattle? You know, go online-only. (Is online the onliest medium?) With Hearst's Ken Riddick and the PI's Michelle Nicolosi working through the what-ifs, we may have a new, great test to watch. We’d be able to compare the online PI to the Seattle start-ups. Those include two of the best sites of their kind, the metro-oriented Crosscut and the neighborhood site West Seattle Blog, among dozens more as we see in Placeblogger. Then, of course, a renewed battle -- likely a David of a few dozen staff of SeattlePI.com vs. SeattleTimes.com.
In the PI's favor: It starts out with an above-average site, a strong reader base (about four million monthly unique visitors), some well-known bylines and (maybe, depending on the JOA settlement) strong ad relationships. The negatives: It will have the cultural adjustment, for its newsroom and its readers, of seeming less than it was. It may consequently lack the passion of the start-ups and have a harder time fully adjusting to the realities of more community-oriented, blog-forward local web.
2. If bad data keeps coming out about newspapers, isn't good data part of the solution? Take SacBee's innovative -- and quick -- application of database technology to the news. Amy Pyle and Philip Reese have been ramping up databases on the SacBee site for a year, using Caspio's technology. They are now up to 32 databases, all collected nicely here on an Investigations Center page. The two newest, off of California's ridiculous budget straits, include how to figure out the personal impact of the proposed new budget and the fastest growing and disappearing job sectors in the Sacramento area. They say the databases now supply 7% of the site's traffic, up from essentially zero at the end of 2007. (Tip to Jen & Fitz & Jen podcast for the SacBee pointer.) And this is pre-EveryBlock big rollout, though it's nice to see the Times moving forward with it.
3. Do we need another "best practices" journalism transformation site? That's one of the bets of The Newspaper Project. Randy Siegel tells me that newspaperproject.org has surpassed 30,000 unique visitors and 50,000 page views since launching on Feb. 2. That would tell us there are a lot of quick lookie lous, at least. In this age of information overload on information overload, though, the site's got a tough proposition of being Facebooked, Linked In and Twitterized into oblivion.
4. How much is the USA talking? I hear that USAToday.com is now producing about 10,000 comments a day on its site, in what's becoming a new venue for cooler conversation.
5. If most American cities can hardly support one daily newspaper, how long can New York support four of them? Sure, the New York Times is a global/local hybrid and Newsday serves the Long Island niche, but still there are four of 'em. Alan Mutter's rightly suggested that it's good timing for Rupert Murdoch to scoop up the remains of Newsday (recently devalued by 70% by its new owner Cablevision). Even with the $100 million or so cost savings that a New York Post/Newsday combo might allow, times are still tough for News Corp. Its revenues are way down; newspaper, broadcast and movies are going the wrong way, and we see that even cable ad revenues are flagging. As Michael Wolff laid out so memorably in his Murdoch bio, Rupert does what he wants to do, independent of shareholder sentiment. The Newsday opportunity will be a good, updated test of that; can even Rupert ride above these awful times and do what he pleases? My betting is that there will be no more than three companies owning dailies in New York soon.
6. Won't broadband to the rural reaches and masses mean new trouble for the smaller press? As Clyde Bentley, who teaches at Missouri, cites Tuesday: "The National Newspaper Association and the Suburban Newspapers of America recently reported that revenues for papers with less than 100,000 circulation are down nearly 2 percent." That's been true for awhile: metros have borne the greatest brunt of the internet ruin. For them, a 2% decline would be a cause for celebration. Now with the web reaching into far corners, look for more disintermediation of local brands by big, global ones, even with those locals' unique, local content. (For more on this, "Broadband Stimulus Offers Newspaper Portents".)
7. Can newspapers re-kindle women readers? Over at TechNerd, Glenn Fleishman has some interesting extrapolation that about 300,000 Kindles have been sold, and notes that "thirty-one newspapers, 1,100 blogs, and 22 magazines currently participate in Amazon’s subscription service". So can the Kindle be a meaningful part of reviving the news biz, he asks? I'm with the camp, including Joshua Benton at Nieman's Journalism Lab who believe that the Kindle won't become e-appliance #4 (after computers, cell phones and TVs).
I do think it's interesting to think about who may be buying the Kindle. Jeff Bezos won't say, but I recall this excellent Eric Weiner piece on NPR showing how much more women read books than men. What an opportunity for an old-fashioned newspaper, uh digital news, book supplement aimed at baby boomer book (and I'm thinking) Kindle buyers. Kindle can be as much about niche as mass. As simply a newspaper e-editon presenting device, it may make the mistake of the Newsstand (now Libre Digital) and Newspaper Direct consumer products: If you like reading on something electronic, you may as well read the latest news, not yesterday's edition. If you like reading on paper, you'd still rather have that (and pay more for it) than read on a computer.
8) Are you a deviant? Would you give a microphone to one? Take the quiz, by diagram over at Jay Rosen's PressThink site. Jay got a national audience with Bill Moyers to talk about his much-discussed post on Audience Atomization Overcome (Why the Internet Weakens the Authority of the Press), and his account is worth a think.
9) At this dark(est?) hour, isn't it good to keep the good works lists alive? Fresh kudos to Mark Potts ("Who's Doing Good Work in Online News", part one and two) and to Robert Ivan ("Top 5 News Destinations Not in Danger of Going Bankrupt in 2009). Good work, and its recognition, lights a candle.
Nine Questions archive