The big media monopoly on scoops is over

Big News Forges Its Own Path:

Traditional news organizations used to be free to break news — or not — in their backyard and on their chosen beats. Now they have to be looking over their shoulder — at everyone. And in virtually every aspect of culture, from business to technology to fashion, the big guys now compete with a range of Web sites that break their share of news through obsessiveness and hyperfocus.

The big news that Rupert Murdoch was getting a divorce after a 14-year marriage to Wendi Murdoch did not come from tabloid newspapers, gossip magazines or E!, but from Deadline Hollywood, the business entertainment site run by Nikki Finke.

The business disruption in the media world caused by the Internet has been well documented. But a monopoly on scoops, long a cherished franchise for established and muscular news organizations, is disappearing. Big news will now carve its own route to the ocean, and no one feels the need to work with the traditional power players to make it happen.

Being a big organization with sources at all the major players in every industry isn’t so valuable when other sites can take your big scoop and get as many or more page views by giving a more eye-catching headline and some photos or extra context.

For instance, yesterday the Wall Street Journal broke the story that Google is making an Android-powered game console. Here’s a Google search for “Google game console”.

80,500,000 results and the WSJ article doesn’t even get the top spot.

The New York Times brings metered paywall to mobile

The New York Times plans to limit non-subscribers to just 3 articles per day on mobile:

The restrictions mean that non-subscribers will have access to just three stories per day from across all sections of the site including blogs and slideshows, the company said, although video content remains free within the app. While in some ways it’s a reduction in the number of articles that people can read per day (currently, mobile readers can only view news from the ‘Top News’ section) it does at least provide a better choice of which three articles or sections those can come from. Subscribers get unlimited access to all the content from a mobile.

I’m glad that The New York Times is bringing its metered paywall to mobile. What with the relative success of its paywall on the web and its struggle to sell ad space, I’m hoping the company will do what it takes to keep its wonderful newsroom afloat (as long as quality doesn’t suffer for it, of course).

No, we don’t live in ‘1984’

Sorry, We’re Not Living in Orwell’s ‘1984’:

The information leaked by Snowden should cause alarm as should the loose legal oversight governing the NSA’s massive data-mining campaign. Nevertheless, the invocations of Orwell are not unlike Bush-era claims of an emerging strain of American fascism, or the Tea Party’s frequent panting that Obama is indistinguishable from Fidel Castro. A few points of similarity, like the monitoring of huge amounts of data without sufficient congressional or legal oversight, do not establish the literary analogy. The rule here is simple: If you are invoking 1984 in a country in which 1984 is available for purchase and can be freely deployed as a rhetorical device, you likely don’t understand the point of 1984.

[…]

In his 1941 essay “England Your England,” Orwell took pains to highlight this distinction. While identifying the United Kingdom’s numerous “barbarities and anachronisms”—and even declaring the country not a “genuine democracy”—he argued that these defects meant that ideas like “democracy is ‘just the same as’ or ‘just as bad as’ totalitarianism” were colossally wrong, employing fallacious “arguments [that] boil down to saying that half a loaf is the same as no bread.”

Yes, the NSA is collecting a lot of data about our communications. That doesn’t mean we live under a totalitarian state. To claim that we do is overly reactionary and keeps us from looking at realistic reforms.

The New York Times is struggling to sell all of its ad space

The New York Times is making ads for the future — but where’s the money right now?:

According to Haskell, the New York Times‘ digital story-telling machinery is appealing to companies as a way to convey heritage and complicated brand stories. He adds that clients like Prudential say they have had tremendous response to their campaigns, including huge lifts from social media.

But despite the promise of such ad tools — and clever platform tools like Ricochet and Sparking Stories – the Times’ overall ad performance is limping. Recent earnings results show that digital ad sales are not just flat but actually declining — a troubling development at a time when digital revenue is supposed to stabilize the company as it faces a permanent decline in its print business.

Haskell says the company has been unable to pre-sell all its inventory, and attributes the overall ad challenges to two factors — “an explosion of inventory from social channels” (read Facebook) and the rise of automated or “programmatic” buying which lets advertisers purchase digital ads on real time exchanges.

Why isn’t The New York Times using programmatic ad buying? Haskell, the company’s VP of advertising, thinks that their reader data and performance metrics can woo companies over from more automatic ad placement options. Why not give advertisers access to those metrics as part of a programmatic buying toolset?

Dan Harmon likens Community‘s fourth season to rape

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Pajiba:

He also relayed a story about how he called Bill Murray afterwards (Murray, famously, doesn’t have an agent; he has a 1-800 number where people leave their pitches). Harmon basically just called to say, “I just watched season four. Call me back.” Harmon had wanted Murray to play Jeff Winger’s Dad. (He named Jeff Winger after Murray’s character in Stripes), and he was disappointed that the opportunity had been taken away from him.

It’s like “being held down and watching your family be raped at a beach. It’s liberating! It makes you focus on what’s important.”

Harmon has since expressed regret for the comment.

This is no new tale to tell in the Hollywood pantheon, of course. Daniel Tosh is a recent, inflammatory example; Chris Brown and Sean Penn briefly came under scrutiny for far worse. What continues to boggle my mind, however, is the lack of recrimination for their misdeeds. All three of these men have continued and will continue to enjoy careers of considerable richness, as Dan Harmon surely will now that Sony’s plans for a fifth season of Community are firmly rooted. The entertainment industry is singular in that you can be as foul a person as you want and, short of murder or actual rape, you’ll usually be able to keep your job as long as your work remains profitable and/or quality.

For most audiences, moving past matters like this is a question of separating the art from the artist, a fraught but generally easy process. Likewise, this quote will probably be viewed by the majority as a typical case of verbal runoff from a notorious showbiz grouch. Harmon bleeds inextricably into his work, however, and Community has soured further with each report of behind-the-scenes drama. Can anyone enjoy Chevy Chase in the show’s recent seasons, aware of the tension between him and Harmon during shooting? When a creative project is so informed by the demeanor and nature of its creator, incidents like this only become harder to ignore.

Community‘s fourth season was awful, by and large, but it doesn’t merit a lighthearted treatment of rape to describe something as silly as a bad season of television. Likewise, Harmon has the right to say whatever he pleases in the confines of a personal podcast (as does Tosh, to the chagrin of any parties with good taste). In doing so, he should also recognize that as a public figure, his words and actions reflect upon both himself and, if only for a time, the work he produces. There is a way for him to draw his point against the soulless Sony machine without dragging a traumatic issue into a comedic forum. A melodramatic, off-base proclamation is not the way, and it is unfortunate that such comments will continue to be roundly ignored by Harmon’s fanbase. Unstable artists will be unstable artists, no matter who they hurt.

Drew Byrd-Smith – drewbyrd.blogspot.com

Surprise: LinkedIn doing well as a publishing platform

Sharing Business Insights, LinkedIn Builds Its Publishing Presence:

But Daniel Roth, the executive editor of LinkedIn, said that Influencers is catnip to executive-suite aspirants and is transforming viewer engagement on the site. Visitors viewed 63 percent more pages in the first quarter of 2013, ending in May, than they did in the quarter a year earlier, according to the earnings report. Mr. Roth said traffic to all its news products had increased eightfold since Influencers was introduced, although he would not say from what base it was measured. Top posts routinely record more than 100,000 views, according to the site’s own accounting.

People want to read what Richard Branson and Bill Gates have to say, even if their posts are little more than fluff pieces. Go figure.

The pros and cons of having an opinion as a journalist

Politics: some / Politics: none. Two ways to excel in political journalism. Neither dominates.:

“None” journalists have certain advantages over their “some” colleagues, but the reverse is also true. If you want to appear equally sympathetic to all potential sources, politics: none is the way to go. If you want to avoid pissing off the maximum number of users, politics: none gets it done. (This has commercial implications. They are obvious.) But: if you’re persuaded that transparency is the better route to trust, politics: some is the better choice. And if you want to attract sources who themselves have a political commitment or have come to a conclusion about matters contested within the political community, being open about your politics can be an advantage. That is the lesson that Glenn Greenwald has been teaching the profession of journalism for the last week. Edward Snowden went to him because of his commitments. This has implications for reporters committed to the “no commitments” style.

The key is to not go too far in either direction.

Being detached and objective is fine, but you don’t want to be so removed from the reality of what you’re reporting on that you go into what Paul Krugman calls “shape of planet blogging” – being so committed to reporting both sides of a story that you’re willing to spread points of view that are wrong or outright lies.

On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be Fox News or MSNBC.

The Obama administration’s close ties to the media

Media, administration deal with conflicts:

The list of prominent news people with close White House relations includes ABC News President Ben Sherwood, who is the brother of Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, a top national-security adviser to President Obama. His counterpart at CBS, news division president David Rhodes, is the brother of Benjamin Rhodes, a key foreign-policy specialist. CNN’s deputy Washington bureau chief, Virginia Moseley, is married to Tom Nides, who until earlier this year was deputy secretary of state under Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Further, White House press secretary Jay Carney’s wife is Claire Shipman, a veteran reporter for ABC. And NPR’s White House correspondent, Ari Shapiro, is married to a lawyer, Michael Gottlieb, who joined the White House counsel’s office in April.

That must lead to some interesting dinner table conversations.

Journalists leaving media to work for start-ups

The Journalist’s New Escape Plan: Start-Ups:

Others, like former Wired editor Evan Hansen, who recently joined Ev Williams’ blogging start-up Medium as an editor, dismiss the idea that the switch has anything to do with job security. “This is not about finding a safe place to keep doing the same old same old, but about inventing something new and having a place at the table with tech innovators who have the capacity to actually build it,” he said.

And then there’s the money. While leaving a traditional newsroom for a younger tech company is still risky, there’s at least the promise of stock options and the lure of a grand exit, which are both exciting as well as rare opportunities in media, a field not known for its exorbitant salaries. In the not-so-distant past, a successful tenure as a reporter or editor could mean a corner office or a cushy columnist job at an elite publication — or perhaps an offer to “sell out” to a more lucrative job at a codependent PR firm. Today, it could very well mean a modest buyout as the company clears room for younger reporters with lower salaries.

I think that in the next five-to-ten years the news media is going to reach some kind of equilibrium, either through the use of paywalls or through better forms of advertising. What I’m hoping – for my own career’s sake – is that once that point is reached, sites will be able to slowly expand and we can go back to the days of stable careers at institutions that aren’t on the verge of failing.

Mostly because freelancing sounds incredibly stressful. 

You can’t make it as a freelance writer

As someone just getting his journalism career off the ground, this Medium post was a bit of a punch to the gut:

You almost certainly can’t make it as a freelance writer. I’m not trying to be a jerk. I’m saying: you almost certainly can’t make it as a freelance writer. I think the essential thing to understand is that the next level, the really lucrative stuff that you get after you “get your name out there,” doesn’t exist. The little publications can’t pay and the medium publications want to con you into thinking that publishing for them for next to nothing will get you a piece in one of the big ones and the big ones figure just giving you the platform is payment enough. You can’t live on publishing in the New York Times and The Atlantic three times a year. Look: a lot of the supposed freelance writers you know of either come from money or work as shills on the side. Everybody’s gotta eat, I’m not judging. But many or most freelance writers aren’t. Ask other writers, preferably after a couple drinks. They’ll tell you.