These are some of the things I’ve been reading. I don’t agree with them all. And it’s a more eclectic mix than just the news business, but then so’s life:
- Alan Meckler, WebMediaBrands Inc. Fire 60 (Memo) | BusinessInsider — A CEO writes: “Specifics on our business: we have witnessed firsthand the huge decline in revenue with the Mediabistro job board numbers. This powerful and vibrant business used to run paid listings for 200 plus jobs a day. Presently the number is significantly lower. Advertising, the lifeblood of Internet.com, has declined markedly in the recent quarter. Event registrations have been weakening.”
- Survival: Something a former Soviet propagandist can believe in | Los Angeles Times — A voice from my childhood: “In the shadowy and mutually suspicious realm of today’s Russia, Pozner draws criticism from both extremes of the political spectrum. Hard-liners look askance at his liberal leanings and foreign upbringing; opposition figures scoff that he’s the journalistic equivalent of political parties set up by the Kremlin to create the appearance of robust opposition.
“For [the government] he plays this role: ‘Look, we have this person and he’s a liberal and you can see him on our TV,’ ” said Sergei Muratov, a television critic and journalism professor at Moscow State University. “I don’t think they’re particularly happy having him on the First Channel, but he’s a very famous journalist and they don’t want to lose him.”
- Secrecy that is in the public interest | John Robinson — One thing that newspapers do: “We the people do put a lot of faith in the wisdom of our leaders. Or, at least, our leaders seem to think that we do. Examples: * The City Council fired the city’s top executive last night, without public discussion, and some of the council members seemed to think it was OK not to explain the action. * A group of county commissioners continues on its road of firing whomever without public discussion or even board discussion, as noted quite well by Doug Clark. * And, of course, the departure of the chancellor of A&T remains basically unexplained. In many ways this is a good thing for the news business, with all the controversy being stirred up. So, hooray. But I’m interested in hearing the case that this much secrecy on the part of the county’s leadership is in the public interest.”
- Yahoo Consortium moves into second phase | PoMo Blog — From Terry Heaton: [S]ome observers, including usability guru Jakob Nielsen, strongly believe that the long-term viability of any kind of banner strategy is a losing proposition. In an email about The Times article, Nielsen told me that the problem isn’t targeting; it’s banners.
“Targeted is probably *slightly* better than non-targeted, but not by much. The main problem is that users ignore the banners. When you never see a banner, it doesn’t matter whether it’s targeted or not.
As a separate question, it’s not clear how quickly users’ intent and interest decay after they have conducted a search. In the moment of a search, we know that users are fairly likely to click on an ad that’s advertising the thing they searched for, as indicated by a keyword match between the query and the advertiser’s specification of the campaign. But how useful is the same keyword match for predicting users’ willingness to click 10 minutes later, let alone 10 days later?”
- 389 Years Ago | Wallstats — Whatever your politics, it’s a fantastic poster: “This poster is not a tally of African-American achievements, rather it is a record of progress and setbacks. While Obama’s election is not the endgame of equality, it is a magnificent example of what is truly possible.”
- Lex: ITV | FT.com — “A man is not old until regrets displace ambition. This ageing process is accelerating for Michael Grade, who jumped ship from the BBC two years ago to make his fortune with a promised turnround of ITV. That has moved into reverse. The executive chairman, who turns 66 on Sunday, on Wednesday announced a further 11.5 per cent of the broadcaster’s staff would lose their jobs and shredded the “content-led growth plan” he announced in September 2007.”
- Thriller king Forsyth stumbles into Africa mayhem | The Associated Press — Forsyth said he came here for “the flavor, the odor, of a pretty washed up, impoverished, failed West African mangrove swamp.“
“I thought, what is the most disastrous part of West Africa, and by a mile, it’s Guinea-Bissau,” he said. “If you drive around you’ll see why: one wrecked building after another, one mountain of garbage after another. A navy with no ships, an air force with no airplanes. No infrastructure, no electricity. Everything is purchasable.”
- Intelligence Lapses: The Risks of Relying on ‘Chatter’ | TIME — [A]lmost anyone who reads the news today knows that any phone conversation can be monitored, by the U.S. or another competent intelligence service. An operative recently back from Iraq tells me that Kurdish political leaders systematically script telephone conversations among themselves in order to mislead the Americans, Iranians and Turks, who the Kurds know are listening to their phone calls. Since transcripts of these calls carry the weight of scripture in Washington, we risk being led into another intelligence failure in Iraq. For that matter, how do we know that al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas is not transmitting spoofed messages as disinformation, causing our Predators to strike innocent targets with the purpose of turning the locals against us? (See pictures of the battle against the Taliban.)
The operative back from Iraq says the room for exploiting our gullibility when it comes to chatter is wide. “There is little understanding of deception in the agency anymore.”
- The Good, the Bad and the Consumer | Columbia Biz School — “Holbrook compared the opinions of professional critics with those of regular moviegoers but controlled for market-related phenomena such as advertising, trailers, number of opening screens and promotional appearances by the stars of the film.
Holbrook found that, absent of the influence of marketing and promotional campaigns, moviegoers expressed views similar to those of professional critics. In fact, they were five times more likely to exercise “good taste” than Holbrook suspected.
People will always flock to theaters to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster regardless of what critics have to say, but according to Holbrook, “If you take away the contaminating influence of the marketplace — advertising dollars, promotional budgets and putting a movie on every screen in every shopping mall — you find that people actually do like what’s good.”
- A Voucher System for Investigative Reporting | Balkinization — Analysis correct, remedy problematic: “There’s no guarantee that private demand will produce the socially optimal quantity of investigative political reporting. Muckraking is a public good, and rational consumers would rather benefit from having the other guy pay for it. The same impulse that underlies the “rational ignorance” of voters may undercut the private market’s provision of political information.
Investigative reporting in the old days seemed like it was a loss-leader in the information bundle to which we subscribed.
The bottom line is that we may need to publicly subsidize investigative reporting if we’re going to get enough of it.”
- Google’s Schmidt: Twitter is poor man’s email | MediaFile — Beware rational product-functionality analyses: “Google CEO Eric Schmidt thinks Twitter’s success is wonderful, but he’s not particularly impressed with the product’s usefulness.
In fact, Schmidt deems Twitter and products of its ilk “poor man’s email systems,’ as he told the crowd at the Morgan Stanley Technology conference in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Twitter’s text-based messaging service, which limits messages to 140 characters, can’t compare to all the features and storage capabilities of a full-fledged email product, Schmidt said.”
- Doused in acid | The Hoot — From India: “[S]hould media eschew reporting and commentary on religious subjects because somebody somewhere will be offended in a volatile society, or should it persist with being a space where religion in all its manifestations can be discussed? Should M F Hussain’s paintings continue to be denied public exhibition because they offend Hindu sensibilities or should civil society defend an artist’s right of expression? And above all, should the administrative and legal system uphold free speech and free expression that is within the law, or should it capitulate to the mob by pacifying them with arrests?
The simplest and most eloquent defence came from actress Nandita Das who pointed out that the last ten years have seen a steady decline in tolerance and a steady rise in fear. Surely, she said, there should be some scope for nuanced conversation in a democratic society?”
- What An Antitrust Case Against Google Might Look Like | Techcrunch — “[T]he argument that Google has monopoly power and that it abuses it does not require demonstrating that Google’s search is superior or inferior. It does not require establishing that Google could do a better job with organic search, or even that it deliberately does not do a better job with organic search. It does not require showing that consumers are harmed directly by lower quality organic search, if indeed lower quality organic search exists. It surely does not require establishing that Google got its market share illegally. It merely requires establishing that Google has monopoly power in a market that is not contestable, and that it is abusing that power to overcharge corporations and deter market entry in other businesses.”
- ‘You can have politicians without democracy, but not democracy without independent journalism’: MacShane tells HoC | Jon Slattery — MacShane, a former president of the NUJ, said: “We all have problems with journalists but whereas it is possible to have politicians without democracy, I do not believe that it is possible to have democracy without independent journalism, and print media are essential: digital media could never replace them.
“However, we are seeing a massive erosion of our print media. Journalists are going out of the door regionally, locally and nationally. Lord Carter may be twittering away on the digital problems, but we need more urgent examination now of how we are to keep our print newspapers and trained journalists alive and in business.”
- Former WSJ editor talks about investigative reporting online | montanakaimin.com — Paul Steiger: “It’s difficult for many newspapers to charge their readers for online viewing, and advertisements on online newspaper pages generate very little revenue because bigger search sites like Google buy up most of the available ads, he said. Instead of relying solely on these two means of funding, limited government subsidies and non-profit support can help news organizations survive down the road, he said. Cross-subsidies, such as companies that own different businesses as well as a newspaper or magazine, may also be an answer to future print journalism funding problems, he said.”