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Posts Tagged ‘Peter Kafka’

Unpaid HuffPo Bloggers File Class-Action Lawsuit

The Huffington Post’s unpaid bloggers now want a chunk of the site’s $315 million sale to AOL, and today they’re angling for it in the form of a class-action lawsuit.

Led by blogger and union organizer Jonathan Tasini (pictured), the bloggers announced the suit today, Forbes reports. Tasini’s name might sound familiar — as in “New York Times Co. vs. Tasini,” a lawsuit which sought compensation for freelancers whose Times articles had been included in electronic databases. That case was successful.

Tasini’s suit asks for $105 million for the bloggers. Peter Kafka of All Things Digital makes a good point about this effort: How can bloggers who willingly gave HuffPo their work for free now backtrack by claiming that they deserve to be paid?

As someone who makes digital content myself (I’ll let you guys judge its quality and engagement levels) I’m sympathetic to this kind of thinking. But only in a tears-in-beers kind of way, not a file-a-suit-in-federal-court kind of way.

Because I don’t understand where any of this is illegal. Just (arguably) unpleasant.

HuffPo argued that it was compensating its contributors with exposure. That’s always been the deal, and the contributors have already reaped whatever rewards that brings. Beyond that, it’s unclear what they can legitimately claim a stake in. Looks like we’ll find out soon enough.

Photo via Wikipedia: Thomas Good / NLN

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Associated Content Isn’t For Sale…But If It Was, Here’s Who To Call

associatedcontent_logo.pngAssociated Content has hired media bankers Allen & Company to perhaps help sell the low-cost content site, Allthingsd’s Peter Kafka reports. (Actually, he goes as far as calling it a “content mill”—quotes his, not ours.

This is because Associated Content was “left at the altar” by AOL, which looked set to buy the company for $90 million over the summer until AOL’s then-parent company nixed the deal, saying that AOL should spend its own money, not Time Warner’s. Now that AOL is separate, it doesn’t have the budget to buy Associated Content.

Allen & Co. is known more for oldschool media deals: it’s the company that connected Sony and Columbia Pictures, and counts Walt Disney and Viacom among its past clients. But it was also Allen and Company that took public in 1998.

So…who wants to buy a content mill?

What’s The Future For E-mail E-Commerce?

thrillist.pngE-mail newsletter company Thrillist has more than doubled its revenue, to almost $10 million, and expects to double it again next year, Silicon Alley Insider reports. Staff is up to 45 full-timers. And is now operating in 13 cities.

Meanwhile, DailyCandy, the perhaps iconic e-mail newsletter company, just announced that it’s eliminating local editions for seven of its twelve cities and laying off five people starting January 1, 2010.

DailyCandy’s revenue last year was expected to hit $25 million. Ridiculous, 500% growth from 2003-2007. And now the company is “operating under substantial resource constraints.”

Last, Disney’s “Ideal Bite” newsletter and website is on “indefinite hiatus,” reports Peter Kafka at MediaMemo. The company’s employees will all be out of work by Wednesday, Dec. 9, except for co-founders Heather Stephenson and Jennifer Boulden, who will remain employed until March.

There was a time when sending out an e-mail was seen as easy money. Earlier this year, when Elina Furman launched, she told Folio: “If we have the same success [as DailyCandy], this equates to $10 of revenue and $4 of profit per subscriber. While we know that the relationship is probably not linear, it is nevertheless a very profitable market.”

Maybe not anymore.

BW And Bloomberg Marriage Not So Bad, Relatively

If you’re a BusinessWeek staffer, you’re on tenterhooks right now as you wait to see whether you’ll still have a job after new owners Bloomberg take over.

But, as Peter Kafka reports, it could have been much, much worse.

If rival bidder ZelnickMedia had taken control of the mag (which it thought McGraw-Hill would pay it to do), the magazine would have been gutted, which we knew. What nobody knew was the extent of the damage.

ZelnickMedia planned to:

  • Wind down BusinessWeek’s print business “as profitably as possible”–the company would have to honor existing subscriptions and could still sell ads in the magazine. But the focus would be on building up BusinessWeek’s Web site, which has a decent-sized footprint, though not a huge one.
  • Dump almost all of the company’s newsgathering staff and outsource most of that work to Thomson Reuters (TRI).
  • Employ a small handful of editorial employees–perhaps 20, down from the 200-plus who are there now. Some of them would run a Huffington Post-style aggregation site that produces no original content, and some more expensive hires would produce a smattering of high-quality reporting and writing designed to burnish/sustain the BusinessWeek brand. “Just to give it uniqueness and sizzle,” my source tells me.
  • Dump most of the existing business side, as well, but overhaul and bulk up the sales force.

Check out Kafka’s story of near-averted media tragedy here.

Balloon Boy And Checkbook Journalism: Is It All Bad?

King-of-the-blogosphere Nick Denton paid a 25-year-old student an undisclosed sum for his story about unwittingly helping father Richard Heene plan the hoax, which involved pretending that 6-year-old Falcon Heene was trapped inside a shiny, UFO-shaped balloon. How much did the student receive? “Much less” than $5,000-$8,000, which is what Robert Thomas was originally asking, but this isn’t the first time Denton’s opened his wallet.

In August the Gawker owner paid for the “McSteamy” video and he told MediaMemo’s Peter Kafka that he paid $10,000 for Jezebel’s “nominate the worst example of magazine cover Photoshoppery” contest in ’07. “Not really a new thing,” he added. “A story is a story. We’re not squeamish about the means.”

Kafka asks: “Does paying for this stuff make sense?…If you want, you can check out Gawker’s rate card, make some assumptions, and conclude that Denton can’t afford to pay his story-sellers that much and still end up in the black, even at one million page views. And I’m reasonably confident that Denton is very interested in measuring profitability and has worked out an equation that pays his story-sellers in proportion to traffic, but without breaking his bank.”

We wonder: is this really all that new?

When we were a wee freelancer we were told that three things sell stories: either you’re a talented writer/you have an interesting voice/you have something interesting to say; you have information that nobody else has; or you have access to someone or something that nobody else has.

We’re not surprised that Denton is willing to pay tipsters who have access or knowledge, even if they’re not “traditional” writers or journalists.

When the lines get crossed and it looks more like Gawker is paying sources rather than contributors is where things get tricky. Where’s that line? You tell us.

Who To Follow On Twitter

twitter-logo.pngHaving a great Twitter network can lead to great things. Assuming that social media isn’t a giant fad, that is. (We assume so! But sometimes we wonder.)

Anyway, if you’re looking to inject some media class into your followed, try AdAge’s list of 25 Media People You Should Follow and 25 More Media People You Should Follow.

Who made the list? Not li’l ol’ us, sadly, but:

Jason Calacanis (@JasonCalacanis), founder of Weblogs, TechCrunch50 and Maholo[sic]

Peter Kafka (@pkafka), Media Memo blogger at All Things Digital

Nieman Lab (@NiemanLab), The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard — “Trying to figure out the future of news.”

David Berkowitz (@dberkowitz), emerging-media director at 360i

And many (46, to be exact) more.

If that doesn’t satiate your Twitterlust, don’t forget about Muck Rack, which aggregates tweets from journalists, and ExecTweets’ Media section, which compiles messages from executives in our industries. (The weird thing is ExecTweets leaves it up to the reader to figure out WHO THE HECK THESE PEOPLE ARE.)

Now, whether you can successfully keep tabs on all these folks is another question. And the real question is, how do you get them to follow you back— assuming that’s the ultimate goal?

The Business Model Of An Online-Only Newspaper

flickr: Annie Mole

The Seattle P-I may have it right.

Peter Kafka at Mediamemo posts a spreadsheet he got from Mark Josephson, the founder of, who figures that the online-only newspaper of tomorrow will support about 20 staff. Six of those are reporters, or “news gatherers” or “content creators” or what have you.

The “paper” then has to get 40 million page views a month, plus another 40 million from a third party network. This results—if the ad folk can sell high enough CPMs—in a profit margin of 43 percent. (Yikes!)

Kafka writes:

If you think his assumptions about ad rates are too aggressive (and some local publishers I’ve talked have given me that feedback), you could knock them down. Same thing with page view goals. Or if you decided you wanted to run the business at break-even instead of trying to make a profit, you could do that too, and see how many more people you could afford to hire.

But no matter how you fiddle with the numbers, there’s no way that Josephson’s model gets you anywhere close to old newspaper staffing levels, where a paper like the Seattle Post-Intelligencer employed 150 people on the editorial side alone.

Play with your own numbers at this spreadsheet:

MediaMemo: Google Didn’t Kill Newspapers, Craigslist Did

Here’s a chart, via MediaMemo at allthingsd, showing the precipitous drop in newspaper classified ad revenue over the past few years. Peter Kafka theorizes that the drop coincides with craigslist’s becoming mainstream. It looks like the first drop came in 2000-2001, right after expanded into 13 cities. By 2005, when the second drop came, craigslist had a presence in 187 cities/metro areas. Hmmmm.

Decline of newspaper classified advertising
Decline of newspaper classified advertising – mediamemo

Martha Stewart Omnimedia Co CEO ‘Stepping Down’

Wenda Millard, co-CEO of MSLO and “President of Media,” is stepping down. The company has no plans to replace her; instead giving her workload to three other MSLO execs—Martha included.

Peter Kafka at MediaMemo says it’s been a long-standing rumor that Millard was unhappy at her position. No word on what she’ll do next.

Release after the jump.

Read more

comCast Looking For New Deals

They bought Fandango, Daily Candy and Plaxo. And while every other media company is currently crying poor, Comcast told MediaMemo, it was actually still looking to acquire companies (cautiously of course). So out of a job? Have a great business you’ve been dying to get off the ground. This maybe the perfect opportunity.

Sam Schwartz, head of M&A for Comcast’s digital group talks with reporter Peter Kafka about his acquisitions as well as Comcast’s current interests in expansion. A lot has to do with the web!