MediaFile

Selling the news: Reuters, the AP and Tribune

We and others reported Monday night that our parent company Thomson Reuters Corp is starting a U.S. general news service for U.S. publishers and broadcasters. Though my employer, Reuters News, has been providing general and business/financial/economic news for more than a century, we didn’t have a service before that would rely on a big group of hired journalists and stringers to get busy covering U.S. news in a large way.

You can see our story here, as well as the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal and paidContent.org stories, for more information. One of the interesting aspects that we didn’t get into in our story is one of the reasons that Tribune Co, Reuters America’s first client, decided to work with our parent company.

Here’s Russell Adams’s explanation, taken from The Wall Street Journal:

In a cost-cutting move this past spring, Tribune began producing modules, or ready-made pages, that are filled with news from wires services and its various properties, and printed in multiple papers. Gerould Kern, editor of the Chicago Tribune, said Tribune expects to begin selling the pages to other publishing companies—something Reuters was open to.

“Clients want to be a syndicator of our content,” said Chris Ahearn, president of media for Thomson Reuters.

Layoffs hit The Washington Post after BusinessWeek, AP

Several media reporters wrote on Twitter on Thursday that this was one of the worst weeks in journalism, and it’s hard to argue with them. BusinessWeek is canning a third of its staff as Bloomberg gets ready to buy the magazine. The Associated Press is laying off 90 people as part of its effort to cut payroll costs by 10 percent this year.

And now The Washington Post is laying off staff, sources told me on Friday, and a spokeswoman confirmed.

The Post has cut an unknown number of washingtonpost.com workers, the website folks who until now have worked separately at the dot-com headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, across the river from the Post’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. One source told me up to 10 are going. That’s not as big a number as other places you’ve read about lately, but it’s still a painful cut. (Disclosure: I worked for The Washington Post Co. from 1998 to 2005)

Audience and the media: a shaky marriage

How can mainstream news organizations retain (or regain) their audience’s trust in skeptical world where almost anyone with an Internet connection can be a publisher? That’s the topic a panel of industry experts will address tonight at the Thomson Reuters heaquarters in Times Square. We’ll be live blogging the event here from 7pm ET.

The panel comprises: Andrew Alexander, ombudsman, The Washington Post; Michael Oreskes, senior managing editor, The Associated Press; Lisa Shepard, ombudsman, National Public Radio; and Dean Wright, global editor of ethics, innovation & news standards, Reuters. Jack Shafer, editor-at-large for Slate, is the moderator.

If you’d like to put a question to the panel, leave it in the comments box below and we’ll ask a selection on your behalf.

Friday media highlights

Here are some of the day’s top stories in the media industry:

TV Networks Fight Drug-Ad Measure (WSJ)
“Advertising costs are deductible to any company as a business expense. The plan being considered by Rep. Rangel’s Ways and Means committee would eliminate the deduction with respect to prescription drug advertising,” writes Martin Vaughan.

Big media seek 21st century business models (Reuters)
“Media moguls at this week’s Sun Valley conference have spent as much time discussing how to reconfigure business models disrupted by the Web as they have worrying about the weak economy,” reports Yinka Adegoke.

Zucker Says Marketplace Has Reached Bottom (B&C)
Ben Grossman writes: “NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker said Thursday that while the overall marketplace is still challenged, he thinks it may have bottomed out. ‘It’s still quite uncertain and we don’t really see the full recovery we are all hoping for,’ he said.  ’It’s still tough out there, but I think we have seen a bottom.’”

Sniper-blogger grills Taiwan reporters

“Even Reuters’ Ralph Jennings — of whom I’ve been extremely critical for getting the story very wrong when it comes to Taiwan — tells us that ‘half a million’ attended the protest,” a blogger wrote in October after seeing the Reuters’s write-up of an opposition-led demonstration in Taipei against President Ma Ying-jeou.

China claims sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. Ma, Taiwan’s president, likes China. The opposition and the blogger don’t like either.

I poured a beer to celebrate because I had it right, up from a score of “lies” that the same blogger gave me on a story earlier that year.

Google’s Mayer on how to write online news

Just about everyone has thrown a thought or two by now into the great bubbling pot of stew that is the future of journalism. Latest in line is Marissa Mayer, Google’s vice president of search products and user experience.Mayer, one of Google’s earliest employees who gets reams of newsprint in Silicon Valley for her cupcake spreadsheets and love of Oscar de la Renta, spoke before a Senate subcommittee on a future of journalism hearing on Wednesday.Apart from defending Google, which has come under attack from the news industry — most notably the Associated Press — for profiting from content, Mayer gave some tips on how journalists should write their stories.Mayer talked about something she called the “atomic unit of consumption” — a news article rather than an entire newspaper, much like one song downloaded digitally instead of buying an entire album. Here’s an excerpt from her prepared testimony:

The atomic unit of consumption for existing media is almost always disrupted by emerging media. For example, digital music caused consumers to think about their purchases as individual songs rather than as full albums. Digital and on-demand video has caused people to view variable-length clips when it is convenient for them, rather than fixed-length programs on a fixed broadcast schedule.Similarly, the structure of the Web has caused the atomic unit of consumption for news to migrate from the full newspaper to the individual article. As with music and video, many people still consume physical newspapers in their original full-length format. But with online news, a reader is much more likely to arrive at a single article. While these individual articles could be accessed from a newspaper’s homepage, readers often click directly to a particular article via a search engine or another Website.

Mayer then went on to suggest that reporters and editors need to think differently about how they write for online:

Treating the article as the atomic unit of consumption online has several powerful consequences. When producing an article for online news, the publisher must assume that a reader may be viewing this article on its own, independent of the rest of the publication.To make an article effective in a standalone setting requires providing sufficient context for first-time readers, while clearly calling out the latest information for those following a story over time. It also requires a different approach to monetization: each individual article should be self-sustaining. These types of changes will require innovation and experimentation in how news is delivered online, and how advertising can support it.

So wait, now the big bad wolf is counseling Little Red Riding Hood before gobbling her up for dinner? Maybe Google and news publishers can be friends… or at least frenemies. Read Mayer’s full testimony here.Keep an eye on:

    Online video site Hulu signs its first international TV content deals. (Financial Times) Former CNBC host lands at MSNBC. (Associated Press) Hear it once and for all: Twitter is not for sale. (Reuters)

(Photo: Actress Brooke Shields portrays Little Red Riding Hood at a charity fundraiser/Reuters)

MySpace Music finds conductor

Meet News Corp’s latest cool dude: Courtney Holt, president of MySpace Music. They say he’s not only talented, but he’s hip as well — and reports of his arrival were, to say the least, plentiful.

Here is his history, as outlined by MySpace’s press release:

Holt previously served as Executive Vice President of Digital Music for the MTV Networks Music and Logo Group where he oversaw several initiatives for the company’s digital music group, including working with the MTV, VH1 and CMT brands… Prior to joining MTV, Holt was Senior Vice President of New Media, Creative and Strategic Marketing at Interscope Geffen A&M.

It couldn’t hurt that he used MySpace to tout new albums from well-known pop acts such as Weezer, Nine Inch Nails, Beck, Black Eyed Peas, and Audioslave.

Another gloomy week for publishing

Another dark week for the publishing business, capped by a double-barrel blow yesterday when news emerged that the New York Times was slashing its dividend and the Associated Press was slashing its workforce.

New York Times’ decision to cut its dividend is particularly noteworthy, since it could up the pressure on the Ochs-Sulzberger family to make even more dramatic moves down the road — like maybe selling parts or all of the media company.

The family has resisted any calls to sell the famous publishing company, but cutting the dividend makes it tougher for some of the younger family members who rely on that income. Check out the recent profile of family member Dave Golden in New York magazine.

Less news=good news, AP study says

brazilians-online.jpgWhat the world needs now is a little less news.

A new study by the Associated Press and “ethnographic research firm” Context-Based Research Group says people aged 18-34 are overloaded with facts and updates and have trouble connecting with more in-depth stories. At the same time, they yearn for quality and in-depth reporting while having difficulty getting immediate access to that content.

The study, which surveyed young adults in Britain, India and the United States, also helped the AP and Context develop a new model for news consumption after discovering that younger generations get their news in a dramatically different fashion from their elders.

Namely:

Participants in this study almost always consumed news as part of another set of activities and therefore were unable to give their full attention to the news. This is very different from previous news consumption models where people sat down to watch the evening news or read the morning paper. Multitasking prevented participants from becoming completely engaged with a news story and therefore interaction with the news was limited to headlines and news updates