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Ouch: Canadian ‘Community-Powered News Organization’ Has Its Bank Accounts Frozen, Owes Freelancers

Luckily, the individual amounts in question are only a few hundred bucks in most cases, but even a hunsky owed is an annoyance at best and a hardship at worst for the unpaid freelancer.

The startup in question is called OpenFile, and it operated in six Canadian cities before it stopped publication in September. Readers would suggest story ideas, and then OpenFile would assign reporters to them. But on Sept. 28, the company went “on pause.” It’s now November and not only is OpenFile not unpaused, but freelancers still haven’t been paid, the editor-in-chief has found a new job, and auditors have physically removed the company’s books so the founder doesn’t even know the extent of how many people are owed money, MediaShift reported.

Founder Wilf Dinnick still says the company will return in 2013 and that everyone will get paid. He also said that “running a startup is like being punched in the face every day.”

The below video shows how OpenFile should work on a good day. Here’s hoping that blue skies and sunny days are indeed in the future for this as-of-now beleaguered organization.

About OpenFile from OpenFile on Vimeo.

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The Atlantic Expected To Be Profitable Third Year Running

Say what you will about the death of media (we know you will whether we give you the opening or not), The Atlantic is one property that has seemingly cracked the code on digital.

Minonline reports that the company is expected to be profitable for the third year running, thanks to increased digital revenues (up 33 percent!) from TheAtlantic.com and the company’s spinoffs.

TheAtlantic.com’s traffic rose 45 percent over the year, the company said, and Atlantic Wire’s more than doubled to 4 million uniques in October. The smaller Atlantic Cities saw a 197 percent traffic increase, for 917,000 unique visitors.

Year-to-date digital sales are up 34 percent, the company said, and in October alone, The Atlantic ran nine custom projects for big brands like Bank of America, Fidelity, IBM and Mercedes-Benz.

The company turned a profit in 2010 for the first time in a decade by “pretending it was a Silicon Valley start-up that needed to kill itself to survive,” a New York Times article said back then. At the time, the company employed about 100 business and editorial folks, and hitting 4.8 million monthly uniques was considered a coup.

This October, the site registered 12.5 million visitors.

Next Issue Media So Happy With Its Numbers, It’s Expanding

Next Issue Media is signing up enough customers to make it feel like expanding its catalog even further, reports Folio:.

NIM is a subscription service/app for all-you-can-read monthly digital magazines, created by a partnership between the five biggest U.S. magazine publishers: Hearst, Conde Nast, Time Inc, Meredith, and News Corp. Last month, the service doubled the number of magazines it offers to 72. Now, a new announcement is coming, Folio: says, that will name the first magazines to be added to the catalog from outside the five main publishers.

NIM has 70,000 paying customers, and about 70 percent of the readers who sign up for the free trial convert to paying customers, Folio: said. And this is only after being available on iOS for three months. (The app has, of course, been available on Android for longer, but the tablet market is still dominated by Apple.)

Publishers are also thrilled because NIM is helping them reach new audiences. Only 3 percent of the paying customers reading a certain magazine are also print subscribers. Another 13 percent were former subscribers who’d let their print subscription expire but came back for the digital edition, and 60 percent weren’t in the publisher’s database at all.

“These are the most established brands in the world and we’re reaching new people,” NIM CEO Morgan Guenther told Folio:.

No word yet on what new titles NIM is adding to its library, but Guenther hinted to Folio: that they would be titles that appeal to men and younger readers, since the catalog skews female for now.

It’s Contract Negotiation Time At The SF Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle unit of the Pacific Media Workers Guild is negotiating a new contract with corporate owner Hearst. It doesn’t look, so far, like the two parties are anywhere near the same page.

Last Thursday, the company offered a proposal that called for raises of 1.5 percent each year; it withdrew that proposal on Friday, the Guild reported. The Guild had asked for 4 percent annual raises and a contribution of $1 million to the employees’ health care trust. On Monday, the Guild scaled back its demand, asking now for 3 percent raises over the next three years and $800,000 for the health care plan. It also asked for the restoration of the 37.5-hour workweek, paid internships, and more.

Back in 2009, 24/7 Wall Street put the Chronicle on “deathwatch” after Hearst promised to shutter the paper if it failed to turn a profit.

NYT Guild Walks Out Of Negotiations

Yesterday morning the New York Times and the New York Newspaper Guild convened to work on ongoing contract negotiations.

It didn’t go so well.

According to the Guild’s blog, the Times had “changed not a detail of its insulting wage proposal, offered not a dime more toward our pension and raised by just a few hairs its offer on health care.”

So the Guild representatives walked out.

The offer included an increase of $100,000 to the health care fund that the company contributes to, which the Guild called “some slight, stumbling progress, but…far behind that of most private employers its size.”

In exchange, the attorney who represents the Times in the negotiations told the Guild that the offer was “proportional to the disappointing” proposal the Guild put forth at the last negotiation session.

The drama is scheduled to resume next Wednesday when the next negotiation session takes place.

Folio Editorial Salary Survey: Salaries Stay The Same While Workload Goes Up

According to Folio:’s 2012 Editorial Salary Survey, most positions saw only modest increases in salary, but 72 percent of respondents said that they had taken on additional responsibilities, and at least one person said that there was “absolutely not enough time to accomplish all my acquired tasks or the resources to help.”

That is a downer for your Wednesday.

The good news: editors-in-chief can still net six figures, with New York-based editorial directors bringing home $137,200. Editors at consumer and association publications saw their pay rise in 2012 compared to 2011, while b-to-b top editors saw only a modest pay decrease.

Editors/executive editors (which Folio: defines as one step below editors-in-chief) pulled in around $70,000 a year–though consumer magazine editors saw average pay fall a bit while b-to-b and association editors got modest raises. And managing editor pay remained roughly flat, Folio: said. Meanwhile, as we said, job responsibilities have increased–survey respondents reported taking on business planning and conference programming duties, as well as digital work and social media.

Folio:’s publisher, Red 7 Media, and Readex Research conducted the survey in April and May with a representative sample of 2,000 editors.

Garden & Guns Blazing

Just three years since the title nearly went under, Garden & Gun magazine is making a great recovery, according to a recent NYTimes article.

Circulation is up 20,000, to a quarter-million, and publisher Barbara Bing thinks that number can double. Meanwhile, 3,000 subscribers are paying premiums of up to $500 a year for access to special events.

It’s a far cry from where the magazine was in 2009, when employees were let go and told they could work as freelancers. Advertisers pulled out, leery of a magazine that had “Gun” in the name. And the articles were so long. Who had time for that?

“You didn’t know if you would be there the next week,” editor-in-chief David DiBenedetto told the Times. When the magazine’s color printer broke, they couldn’t afford to replace it for two months and instead used a nearby Kinko’s.

Since then, cofounder Rebecca Darwin has brought back most of the staff (and replaced the printer, we presume). The magazine may have its first profitable year ever.

We wish the once-scrappy little magazine the best of success.

The Daily Meal’s Winning Recipe

The Daily Meal recently hit 5 million unique visitors monthly—not bad for a site that officially launched in December 2010. In fact, its traffic places it as the #8 food website.

What’s the secret? According to Folio and Daily Meal CEO Jim Spanfeller, the secret is massive amounts of content—up to 120 stories a day.

Folio says that The Daily Meal is following a “strategy of going wide as well as deep with the content…while The Daily Meal features recipe content, it also goes big on content about industry news, entertaining and epicurian travel, for example.” The site’s traffic goals are 10 million uniques by the end of the year and ultimately to 20 million.

That may be why Spanfeller Media Group has just launched its second site: The Active Times, for fitness enthusiasts. “There are lots of sites out there, but none of them have any scale,” Spanfeller told Folio earlier this summer. “And none of them have what we’re trying to do, which is go broad and deep.”

Spanfeller Media Group plans to launch even more verticals at an unspecified time in the future, so for people hoping to move into this space over the next year, it wouldn’t be a bad company to watch.

The Breakup, Part Three: Who ‘Wins’ The Media Coverage Game?

This is the third and final part of our week-long look at Poynter.org’s Mediawire and JimRomenesko.com, and the differences in traffic, coverage, etc., that they have from one another.

After putting both sites under pretty intense scrutiny for a week, we thought we’d be able to come away with a firm answer of who was doing media criticism better.

But overall, it’s much harder to declare a “winner” than we thought it would be. With the sites so divergent, we’re (almost) glad the separation happened as it did. Romenesko’s focus seems squarely on short items that will get clicks–some of them simply hilarious, though, to be fair, some are yawners. He also receives many more internal memos and other exclusive documents (due to his long track record as the media industry one-man watchdog, no doubt). Romenesko seems to be focusing on speed and scoops, and supplementing those items with fluff here and there; on the other hand, we get the impression that Mediawire is trying to post more items and more thoughtful items, even at the expense of speed. Poynter’s Julie Moos and I didn’t discuss the speed of breaking news during our call, but she did say (as previously mentioned) that Mediawire was trying to do more analysis–and that this was a change put into motion even before Romenesko’s resignation. “Before Jim left, we were making changes to the blog and to the site, and after that [we] continued to make changes,” she said.

The new Mediawire is clearly going in a new direction, with fewer short items and more in-depth pieces. This has gotta be expensive, however, since the site displays bylines from not just Andrew Beaujon but other Poynter staffers as well. Seen from that light, Romenesko’s one-man site is certainly coming out ahead. But the people who follow media industry news would be well-served to subscribe to both sites. The people who vowed never to visit Poynter.org after Romenesko’s resignation (“I’m sure there are some of those,” Moos said) are only doing themselves a disservice. Bottom line: if you’re a journalist, you need both.

The Breakup: Six Months In, How Are Poynter.org and JimRomenesko.com Changing?

Late last year, Jim Romenesko, considered by many to be the Poynter Institute’s star employee, left Poynter in a dramatic and widely-discussed breakup.

Shortly after, he launched his own blog, JimRomenesko.com, where he covers pretty much the same beat (media news and criticism) he had at Poynter. Meanwhile, Poynter hired Andrew Beaujon* to keep up the media beat there (along with other Poynter staffers) on Romenesko’s blog, now renamed MediaWire.

Now, more than half a year in, how are the two sites faring? Many predicted when Romenesko left Poynter that the nonprofit had signed its own death sentence. “Poynter has just Qwikstered itself in under 24 hours,” wrote a commenter going by Kevin Allman on the Columbia Journalism Review story about the debacle. (It’s the Internet, so no way to tell for sure, but that commenter is likely alt-weekly editor Kevin Allman.)

“Frankly, I have never read anything in Poynter other than Romenesko,” another commenter said on Poynter’s own post about the “mess” the departure had become. “I deleted Poynter from my favorites list,” another said.

But we wondered whether the outrage held up–whether people truly did stop visiting Poynter.org after Jim Romenesko’s departure, and whether the visitors flocked to JimRomenesko.com. We also wondered how the two sites’ reporting held up. After all, Romenesko is one man with diverse interests (he said at the time that he planned to add some stories about topics other than journalism) and MediaWire now boasts multiple bylines from four Poynter staffers besides Beaujon (soon to be three, as Steve Myers recently announced he was moving to The Lens in New Orleans). So how does the media coverage on Romenesko and on Poynter differ these days? And who’s reading?

First, we’d hoped to have an analysis of the two sites’ web traffic stats, based on information gleaned from Alexa and Compete.com. But it turns out, thanks to data provided to us by Poynter’s Julie Moos, that said analysis is going to have to be a bit less in-depth than we’d liked, because the data you can get from free online tools is pretty inaccurate (who’d have thought?).

What we can say is that the relative trends seem to be accurate, so it’s fair to say that Jimromenesko.com is on an upward trajectory since its launch last year:

(Except April. A measurement error? Again, free tools–low expectations.)

Poynter had a great April after a relatively slow first quarter:

Moos went on to tell us that unique visitors to Poynter.org are up 20% over the year, partly thanks to an effort to “diversify our audience,” Moos said. “Our traditional journalism audience was really rapidly declining between 2009-2010….we’re combining the news and realtime analysis at the same time. That’s helped us reach outside of our traditional audience.”

What sort of changes? What’s Jim doing in response? (Maybe nothing. He told us over email: “I’m just trying to have fun on my new site — using a lot of visuals, reader contributions, insider memos, and the like. I rarely look at Poynter so I can’t compare what I do with what they’re up to.” ) We’ll take a look at the coverage in the next post.

*Disclaimer: Beaujon edited the few stories I contributed as a freelancer to the Washington City Paper and employed me as a contract copy editor for about 6 months.

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