Searching for business with the Financial Times

The Financial Times is not the first place that anyone thinks of to search for things, at least in the Internet sense. That’s not to say that the FT isn’t interested in changing a few perceptions. The Pearson-owned paper, or more specifically, its Web operation Rather: The Pearson-owned FT Group is launching a business news search engine designed to get past the idea of relying on keywords to search for important infomation. The idea, boiled down, is that a business search engine is more likely to give you the results that you want than a massive search engine that yields results for people in every walk of life.

Here is a quick excerpt from the press release. It explains in pretty plain English what the search engine does, though it veers into press-speak territory — that twilight zone of marketing that assigns biblical proportions to earthly things:

The Financial Times Group is announcing the BETA launch of – a next generation search tool that, for the first time will allow business professionals the opportunity to execute a “qualitative” business news search – think a more sophisticated business search equivalent to Google. This one of a kind search tool will provide comprehensive results that contextualize the trends, opinions, and qualitative events that shape business decisions and impact corporate reputations. The groundbreaking semantic technology, aims to create a user-friendly and meaning-based platform that easily locates and compares business news in a qualitative not quantitative fashion. Think of a traditional search as delivering results in buckets, while offers results that passed through a magnifying glass or prism; moving search beyond traditional results and towards refinement.

Here’s TechCrunch, which wrote at length about Newssift:

A search for “Sun Microsystems” brings up further suggestions for refinement, including “IBM,” “Jonathan Schwartz,” and “market share.” You sort of graze around, adding new keywords as they are presented to you. Each keyword you select is added to your string, and corresponding article results appear below. A sentiment pie chart indicates what percentage of the stories are positive, negative, or neutral. Another one breaks the results down by source (Online News, Magazines, Newspapers, Blogs, Research). Clicking on any shaded area filters the results further. …

… I am not sure I would use Newssift every day to stay on top of the latest news, but I can see it as a useful research tool when I have to really dig deep into a topic. It does better with business news than technology. Still, it is worth checking out in that it employs several subtle navigational techniques that make it more of a discovery engine than a search engine.

Newspaper ad sales down? Fire ad staff!

The Boston Globe, the revenue-challenged sibling of The New York Times, is laying off employees as it copes with a decline in advertising revenue made only worse by the recession. The thing is, it’s laying off advertising staff.

From the Globe:

The Boston Globe said yesterday it reduced by half the sales force that takes classified advertising over the telephone. Thirty classified employees, including two managers and 13 part-time employees, lost jobs. In addition, the positions of two other advertising managers were eliminated, said Robert Powers, the Globe’s spokesman.

The reason? There are fewer classified ads coming in because everyone does it for free at Craigslist and other free classified sites. Some papers have lost more than half of their classies.

Good news for Madison Ave: WPP will only be slightly down

Slightly down is the new up.

At least judging from the reception that advertising giant WPP received today after it predicted like-for-like revenue would drop 2 percent this year.

Shares were up about 5 percent after the report from WPP, the last of the big three advertising holdings to post quarterly results. For all the worry about the advertising recession — and no doubt advertising is bad right now — WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic also showed some bright spots in their numbers.

WPP, in fact, said the in the ”long-term” the outlook for the advertising and marketing services business “appears favorable.” “Long-term” isn’t a particularly well-defined timeframe, but nonetheless those are pretty upbeat comments coming from an industry that has seen auto, retail and financial services spending drop like a stone.

Warning: Reporting on reporting is hazardous to your health

Covering the decline of the U.S. newspaper business is the extreme sport of journalism. Ask American Journalism Review, which is pleading for funds to help it survive. Here’s an excerpt from a letter I got in the mail this morning (haha. Letter. Paper.):

The many daunting challenges facing the news media today, coupled with the nation’s economic crisis, have worsened the ongoing financial pressures on American Journalism Review.

That’s why we have formed “The Friends of AJR,” bringing together those who believe in the need for deeply reported, non-ideological media criticism, in an effort to ensure the magazine’s future. While AJR has been a critical success, keeping it going has never been easy. No journalism review has ever been self-sustaining. No exception. AJR is dependent on fundraising.

AH Belo’s bonus bummer

Found on Romenesko on Wednesday: The Dallas Observer reports that AH Belo Corp paid out manager bonuses at the same time that the newspaper publisher said it would get rid of 500 employees. An accident of timing, especially as other U.S. newspaper publishers cut bonuses?  Here’s AH Belo Executive Vice President and Dallas Morning News chief Jim Moroney, quoted in an interview with the Observer:

Did you think the timing — announcing layoffs and handing out bonuses — was, to put it mildly, bad?

Yeah. Obviously, the bonus thing gets put into to the sequence based on approval by the board and getting it into the payroll cycle, and once you decide to make announcements, you don’t want to sit on that either. I would say it was unfortunate coincidence. If you could have control over all these things better and see father into the future, yeah, you could have tried to separate them. But I don’t think the fundamental question would change: They’d still say, ‘Should they have been paid?’ and ‘Why were they paid?’ even if we’d waited two weeks.

Dark days in Hollywood

 If that notion of a recession-resistant entertainment industry hasn’t already been debunked, just get in touch with one of your pals out in Hollywood. They’ll tell you how bad it is — how jobs are disappearing.

Warner Brothers Entertainment is the latest to cut staff, announcing 800 jobs would be lost, or 10 percent of its worldwide staff.  NBC Universal and Viacom have already cut jobs, and industry watchers expect more job cuts to be announced by Walt Disney and Sony Pictures.

Perhaps more than other layoffs, the Warner Bros cuts send a signal of just how bad business look, The New York Times points out.

Newspaper websites snare more viewers

newspapers.jpgThe Newspaper Association of America released numbers on Tuesday showing how ever more people are turning to the Internet to get news.

That’s good news in the sense that it presents an ever-more convincing case to advertisers that they should be working with their friendly neighborhood newspapers, ie, giving them lots of money and helping them survive. On the other hand, those online readers used to help those papers a lot more when they bought them in print… But that’s another story.

Here’s the release, which includes some links to the NAA’s latest pitch to advertisers on why newspapers are the right place to buy ad space:

Murdoch: We’re not investing in newspapers!

murdoch-press.jpgFor a mogul who’s spent a lifetime snatching up newspapers across the globe — and who spent the better part of his time talking about them on Wednesday’s quarterly earnings conference call — we found it surprising that he insists he’s not spending more money on the dying print business.

Murdoch: “From day one, the financial press has been fixated on portraying this move as a change in strategic direction; the company is now focused on allocating more of its capital on print businesses. That is not our intent, nor is it factually correct. We have not changed our playbook.”

Murdoch argued that Dow Jones, the splashiest of his newspaper buys yet, is barely a newspaper publisher at all. To lay out that argument, Murdoch appears to have abandoned his earlier argument that a free Wall Street Journal online would be better than a subscription-based site.

Cablevision sweet on Newsday; suitors circling

madison-square-garden.jpgWho says the newspaper business is doomed? Circulation and advertising may be in the dumps, sure, but judging from the bidders lining up to buy Newsday there are plenty of moguls still keen on newspapers.

The latest development: The Wall Street Journal reports that Cablevision is planning to bid as much as $650 million for the Long Island daily, which likely catapults it ahead of other bidders like News Corp, which owns the New York Post, and Mortimer Zuckerman, who owns the Daily News.

Cablevision’s bid could come within two days, the report said, adding that it was unclear whether whether Cablevision is working with New York Observer owner Jared Kushner in its offer. Beyond Cablevision’s cable assets, it owns the New York Knicks, the New York Rangers, Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall.

Circulation up at some newspapers (seriously)

Newspaper circulation: It’s rising! Well, at some papers it is. That’s according to figures that came out from the Audit Bureau of Circulations on Monday morning. Most papers, as everyone knows, are reporting falling circulation in all their editions, whether during the week or on the weekends. Still, out of the more than 500 papers that reported, there were some more positive stories to tell. Here’s a list of the top circulation gainers, according to the ABC.

The big gainer? El Diario La Prensa , in Spanish, serving a growing part of the U.S. population. The Miami Herald has published El Nuevo Herald for years. Is it time for more big-city dailies to consider a Spanish edition?