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Archives: March 2013

Kickstarting Journalism and Climate Change Reporting

I never thought Veronica Mars and long form reporting on climate change had anything in common, but it turns out, they both have the same business model. You want it? You’ll have to pony up for it.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has been reporting on nuclear weapons, power, disarmament and general military issues surrounding it since 1945, sustains itself with a combination of digital subscriptions, individual donations, and foundational philanthropy. This spring, William and Eleanor Revelle, who’ve led the clean energy cause and have supported The Bulletin with donations and insight on their editorial board, are offering a Challenge Gift. They’ll grant $50,000 and match every donation made to the Bulletin until May 31, 2013 in the hope of raising $100,000 to be used toward reporting on climate change. A week after announcing the challenge, $10,000 has already been raised and Bulletin publisher Kennette Benedict is hopeful that they’ll meet their goal.

It’s a good example of what news organizations need to do to thrive. Here’s why it works:

1) Diversity is Key

According to Benedict, donations and grants like this make her journal work. Individual donations makes up about 20% of their revenues. Ten percent is from subscriptions to digital content and the rest is from philanthropy. When the Post announced its paywall yesterday, the internet was already lamenting its ‘leaks.’

But that is sort of the point. When advertising just doesn’t work, subscription and membership models have to be dynamic. We’ll see how the Post works out this summer. But for niche news, like the Bulletin, there should be options. The Bulletin offers some content, like roundtables and short articles for free. You can buy single articles. Or you can subscribe to the full digital version, as an individual or as an organization. Since their news is, well, news-worthy, they offer free subscriptions for media personnel. So a journalist reporting on climate change or nuclear power can get research from the Bulletin experts.

2) Stay on Your Beat

But to depend on donations from readers, you have to offer good content. Veronica Mars’ Kickstarter campaign worked because they had not just a fan base, but a script ready for pre-production and the big name stars to offer. You can’t start from scratch. Likewise with news. Read more

3 Micropublishing Platforms to Start Your Publication

The world of publishing is treacherous. Today, coming up with enough capital to fully staff, produce and publish a magazine is a daunting task — and making a profit off of it is almost impossible.

But, it turns out, a new trend is rising that could help startup magazines produce, and even monetize, new and interesting digital content. Although micropublishing is not new — its roots date back into the book industry, when small Print On Demand books would get published — it has been an increasingly lucrative concept as more of the general public owns eReaders and tablets.  And, while its become popular among authors to produce micro-stories on platforms such as Kindle Singles, journalists now have the opportunity to ride micropublishing’s wave. Startups are scrambling to create proprietary CMS and publishing platforms that encourage anyone to produce a magazine.

Here is just a sampling of some of the different ways you can bring a digital edition of your startup publication to the hands of readers. They have different prices and limitations, but they should help you get thinking about whether micropublishing is right for you.

What do you think of micropublishing as a concept? Let us know in the comments.

1.  Zeen: Micro-Micro Publishing

If your work is less of a magazine and more of a one-off long read or a compendium of short articles with a single, then Zeen is the right choice for your micropublishing needs. Currently in Beta, Zeen is a free micropublishing website that enables users to input their own content, enrich it with multimedia (including pictures, video and maps), and lay it out in a “zine-like” digital format for publish to social media accounts or a personal blog. Read more

Feel Good Friday: When Gaffes Happen to ‘Good’ Journalists

The New York Post is one of those papers that you should only read with a grain of salt. It’s pretty much a place where frat boys with a communications degree go to make ridiculous puns and silly headlines. It’s the kind of pick me up, like a GIF ridden Tumblr blog, you can turn to when you want to have a chuckle and get a lesson in how not to report the news.

That’s why it’s no surprise that they made a Photoshop composite on their cover this week. You should just assume that they all are. It’s the News Corp way.

But doesn’t it sort of make you feel good about what you do?

Show and Tell

Unless you’re job is to be funny, like the Post or Gawker, making composites for your homepage photo is not a practice you should partake in. The only thing you should be doing with photo editing software is adjusting levels or image sizes. Even the most innocent offenses, like getting rid of a fly away hair or removing something distracting from the background, can lead you down a dark and uneasy road. If the picture needs work, you need to go out and retake it. Or find another one to use.

The same rule applies when it comes to video. The FOX CT debacle of too much cleavage  in a Women’s History Month segment could easily happen online, too. We’re all busy, but take the time to edit and review content. What’s ‘funny’ to bored overnight editors amongst themselves will hardly be as well received in the real world. Just because we live in an onslaught of media doesn’t mean things can slip through the cracks.

Clicks and Engagement

Some have said that the new layout for the New York Times isn’t any good. Too much focus on making it readable, when other newspapers like The Daily Mail have been surviving with their completely unreadable homepage.

That’s because the Mail is a tabloid. Their strategy is to get clicks, and the more you have to click to get to the photos of someone doing something bad, the more “money” they make. Clicks and SEO are important. It’s all ingrained in our consciousness when we publish, but it should be left out of the planning and writing phase. The new layout for the Times is simply good strategy. As mobile and news pubs evolve, a focus on being readable should be at the heart of any good strategy, because that’s the business of news. Don’t get caught up in the hype. If the content is good, and accessible, they will come. You don’t need bad puns to get them. A good pun? That’s an entirely different story.

Have you spotted any other good fails on the web this week?

The Boston Phoenix Is Ceasing Publication

After an attempt in September of last year to stay relevant in the changing media landscape, The Boston Phoenix is shuttering for good. Executive editor Peter Kadzis, who has been with the pub for 25 years, said in a press release, “It was the decline of national advertising dollars over the years that made the Boston Phoenix economically unviable.”

The alt-weekly’s publisher, Phoenix Media, will continue to publish Portland Phoenix and Providence Phoenix, as those publications do not rely on national advertising to stay afloat. “The local advertising market is sufficient to support those publications. You can see why Warren Buffett favors small market papers over their big city brothers and sisters,” said Kadzis.

Publisher Stephen Mindich announced the news in a staff memo – read it at Romenesko.

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