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Philosophies

Do We Need Open Interviews?

redcurtainI realize that I may have harped a bit on Vox.com recently, but that’s because it’s new and doing work worth noticing. This week, via a tweet from Jay Rosen, I noticed that they had a toggle feature on an article. You can read the story and then toggle over to see where the pull quotes came from.

It’s a cool feature and one that I think many journo professors and media navel gazers think is necessary. We used to edit because we were limited to column inches. You can fit everything and anything on your website — so why not go for full disclosure? I get it. Open interviews are good for transparency, add value and all of that.

But is everything really fit to print? Read more

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Vidahlia Press, Pubsoft Partner Up for Prison Writing Contest

vidahlia press pic postDigital publishing software maker Pubsoft has teamed up with independent publisher Vidahlia Press to show that inmates can use their creativity for more than just making license plates.

Pubsoft, which is touting the partnership as its entry into the nonprofit sector, recently announced that its software will help promote a unique prison writing contest, dubbed INK, sponsored by Vidahlia Press. The contest, which will feature categories including Poetry, Fiction and Graphic Novel is open to anyone who has served time within the last year. Read more

What’s In A Name? For New Media Companies, It’s Everything

opendictionaryThis week, First Look Media launched their inaugural “digital magazine” The Intercept. As Matthew Ingram points out here, it’s a term that doesn’t quite fit what they’re aiming to do. It’s not a targeted vertical on a larger site, it’s not a niche blog, it’s something else, something new

Jay Rosen, an advisor to First Look, has classified The Intercept, along with Re/Code or Grantland, under “the personal franchise model.” He writes:

By “personal franchise” I mean something more: a central figure or personality has given birth to a newsroom, a larger operation. But the larger operation still feels like an individual’s site.

In practice, this means that First Look’s design, according to Rosen’s post on the company:

…accepts and incorporates the personal franchise style, treating it as no threat to the editorial ambitions that First Look has for itself. In fact, the hope is to attract others who can launch sites like The Intercept, and to offer a common core of services — data skills, design help, good publishing tools, strong legal advice, marketing muscle — that the founders will need to succeed…Under this model, the diverse paths that such sites may take are not a “distraction” from the core business or a subtraction from the editorial brand but a vital part of both.

What I find exciting is not just that there are so many examples of this personal franchise model, but that so many founders are completely rethinking how we produce, distribute, and consume journalism. Think about Ezra Klein under Vox Media with Project X: they’re thinking about doing something so differently, it doesn’t even have a name yet.

I think the culture demands that we describe our ventures in an ‘elevator pitch,’ or worse, 140 characters or less. But maybe that doesn’t have to be the case. Whether you call it a magazine or a blog, it doesn’t change the editorial mission behind The Intercept, or saying that Project X is a “news site/encyclopedia” doesn’t make it less of an undertaking.

What’s more important — defining the shift in business models or focusing on the shift? What do you think about the term ‘digital magazine?’

Steve Buttry Wants to Change How You Work (It Will Be Better, We Promise)

project unboltMost of our newsrooms, if we’re honest, are print organizations with the digital initiative “bolted on.” Or so admitted Digital First Media CEO John Paton. I can’t decide whether I’m jealous of or pity the man, Steve Buttry, who has been tasked with unbolting four test newsrooms as DFM’s digital transformation editor.

He obviously knew what he was getting into. More than just refocusing attention to mobile reporting, engaging with audiences over social media or creating new ways to play with and use data, Project Unbolt is about actually changing how newsrooms think and act. Buttry elaborated on his blog this week about what it will actually entail and look like to ‘wrench’ newsrooms away from thinking for print. Here are some highlights:

  • Everything is live, all the time. He writes:

Virtually all event coverage and breaking news coverage are handled as live coverage, with ScribbleLive, livetweeting, livestreaming, etc. This includes sports events, government meetings, trials, community festivals, etc….Live coverage is routine for the unbolted newsroom. Reporters and/or visual journalists covering events plan for live coverage unless they have a good reason not to (a judge won’t allow phones or computers in a courtroom; a family would rather not have you livetweet a funeral; connectivity at a site is poor).

  • In the unbolted newsroom, you post content when you have an audience. Digital content is fresh every morning, you aren’t planning for morning editions, and those ‘Sunday magazine’ style features go up during the week. Read more

What You Can Learn From Profitable New Media Companies

It ain’t easy being in the media business these days, or so they say.  There are in fact lots of people allegedly, or actually, raking in digital dollars, according to this article from Fortune. They’re all content producers with a journalistic twist. They are all different in their own ways, but you can parse out some ingredients for financial success in the industry. 

Not surprisingly the top, profitable companies are: The Huffington Post, Gawker Media, The Awl, Business Insider, SAY Media, Vox Media, and BuzzFeed. 

So what sets them apart?

 1. Niche, Niche, Niche

Choire Sicha of The Awl says they only want to be read by ‘smart people,’ and as it’s grown, it’s added other niche sites to its cache, like the female focused The Hairpin. Business Insider lives off of business and technology news and gossip, straight from the mouth of editor ‘Wall Street bad boy’ Henry Blodget. Gawker peddles snark, and BuzzFeed caters to culturally in-tune Millenials and their parents. HuffPo is grandfather of all of them — they have the verticals and dedicated, SEO hungry, writing staff for everything. By dabbling in it all, they essentially cater to segmented, yet focused, audiences. All of these organizations are like the good old magazines of the paper days: each site has a distinct look, feel and tone, reminiscent of say, Sassy or even Spin. It’s no wonder that Jane Pratt is part of the profitable crew under SAY Media. All of this ties into the next thing profitable companies have in common…  Read more

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