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Teemu Henriksson

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Poynter's Damon Kiesow presented some convincing arguments why the publishing industry should consider following Amazon's example and look into selling subsidised tablet devices. Amazon announced this week that it would start selling a new version of Kindle for $114, which is $25 less than the cheapest Kindle currently available. (There is no word when the new version will arrive in Europe or what its price will be.) The catch is that the new Kindle displays ads as screensavers and as banners on the home screen.

The general opinion seems to be that the $25 reduction is not enough to justify the ads, as CNN reported, but Kiesow believes that the model of selling subsidised tablets could nevertheless work for newspapers. He argued that the average newspaper gets its profit from advertising revenues anyway, as production and circulation costs are usually higher than the subscription revenues. Thus, selling tablet devices below costs with long-term subscriptions would not differ considerably from the current revenue model of most newspapers.

Kiesow wrote that if a newspaper could sell two-year subscriptions with a tablet, for example, the deal would benefit both the paper and the client: the newspaper would get committed subscribers with names and demographic information to sell advertising against while customers would get quality tablets, along with subscription to the newspaper.

What would be the best-suited tablet device for the purpose? The iPad would certainly be the most appealing from the consumer's perspective, but Kieslow noted that Apple's opposition to price discounts makes it an unlikely partner for such a venture. Instead, publishers would do better to look into the Motorola Xoom, or some other Android tablet in the market.

Such a move would not be the first time newspapers turned to using portable reading devices as part of marketing. In 2009, The New York Times, Boston Globe and Washington Post all offered subsidised Kindles in return for long-term subscriptions. According to Kieslow, all of the newspapers have since ended their subsidy programmes. Today, as newspapers are using more and more video and other multimedia content, Android tablets would seem better suited for the purpose than Kindle and other e-ink readers, which cannot properly display videos.

As the news industry is increasingly embracing portable media devices and the multimedia opportunities they offer, could selling tablets with long-term subscriptions prove to be a profitable model?

Sources: Poynter (1), (2), CNN


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-14 18:06

The Associated Press published a story based on a fake press release yesterday, Business Insider reported, claiming that General Electric would repay its entire $3.2 billion tax refunds to the US Treasury. Thirty-five minutes later, after some news outlets had already picked up the story, AP withdrew the article and advised its customers that it was a hoax. "The AP did not follow its own standards in this case for verifying the authenticity of a news release," said AP Business Editor Hal Ritter, according to ABC News.

A grassroots movement called US Uncut, working together with the notorious activist-prankster group the Yes Men, soon took credit for the hoax. The collective's spokesperson said that the intention was to bring more public attention to corporations that avoid paying taxes. "For a brief moment people believed that the biggest corporate tax dodger had a change of heart and actually did the right thing," the spokesperson said in a statement published on the Yes Men's website.

The hoax comes at an embarrassing time for the GE as last month The New York Times ran an extensive article about the corporation, concentrating on its tax-avoidance strategy in particular. Understandably, this resulted in plenty of bad publicity for GE. However, even though the prank momentarily affected GE's shares, as the ABC noted, Forbes's Giovanni Rodrigues speculated that the biggest victims of the media stunt were in fact AP and other news outlets that fell for the hoax.

Poynter's Jim Romenesko presented examples of earlier similar pranks, remarking that this is not the first time that news outlets are fooled by hoaxers. It has been pointed out that too often news agencies rely on press releases, failing to carry out sufficient fact-checking. This case serves to remind news outlets of the importance of a thorough source verification process.

Sources: Business Insider, ABC News, the Yes Men, The New York Times, ABC, Forbes, Poynter


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-14 14:40

Outsourcing can save editors time and money, reported Editor and Publisher. The article adds that outsourcing also allows newspapers to focus on the core business of the newspaper. The full article can be read here.

News articles are accessed more and more through social media, blogs and other sites, but an unexpected paywall on the target site can scare the potential reader away. Mashable looks into social media strategies of The Dallas Morning News, The Economist and Honolulu Civil Beat, each with a different kind of digital subscription model.

José Luis Sainz has been named as the executive chairman of the print division of PRISA and CEO of El Paí­s. In his new role, Sainz will help form the business model for the press division and help with its integrations into digital technology.

Switzerland-based company Ringier announced that it was launching the collection yesterday: the company's first ever global app for tablets. the collection comes in three languages: Chinese, English, and German, and is a mono-thematic magazine.

For more industry news please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-13 19:30

Al Jazeera's extensive coverage of the unrest in the Arab world has helped the news agency become something of an authority on issues relating to the region. Riyaad Minty, Al Jazeera's head of social media, recently took part in the Media140 conference in Barcelona. One of the discussed topics, Journalism.co.uk reported, was the network's approach of making use of on-location sources.

A key strategy for Al Jazeera, Minty said, was to get in early and make contact with important bloggers and sources. The idea was to identify key bloggers before protests broke out, so they could help verify information later on and act as citizen reporters.

"The key to getting in early is verifying information before the noise gets out," Minty said. "We had peoples' phone numbers, we could call them up and get things verified by them."

Social media obviously had a significant role to play in keeping in touch with the citizen reporters on the ground, and Al Jazeera's efficient and accomplished ways of using Twitter have already been acknowledged. But utilising new media alone would not have been enough - one has to also know what to do with it. What the use of new media permits is a more integral way of involving regular citizens in the news reporting process.

Al Jazeera is not alone in embracing the resource of citizen journalists, rather online news services are increasingly engaging with their audience, actively encouraging them to take part in news reporting. France 24, for example, features a section on its website called The Observers, in which eyewitnesses can submit text, video and images from current events. Many professional media sites also host blogs in addition to news reporting. There used to be a clear separation between professional and citizen journalism, but the two ways of reporting are now approaching each other in many ways.

Al Jazeera's success would suggest that professional news media can benefit greatly from people on the ground, at the heart of world-changing events. What other ways are there for news agencies to make use of citizen journalists?

Sources: Journalism.co.uk, France 24


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-13 18:34

According to a recent online survey by the University of British Columbia, 81% of Canadian adults would not pay to read news online and 90% would find free alternatives if their preferred news services started charging for content.

"These results should give pause to any news corporations in Canada or abroad that are considering erecting paywalls around their content," said Donna Logan, a professor emerita of UBC's Graduate School of Journalism and the lead author of the study Canadian Consumers Unwilling to Pay for News Online. Almost 1,700 adults took part in the survey.

What is perhaps the most striking number in the report is that only 30% of participants said they would be willing to pay for news online if no free alternative news websites were available. When compared with people in the U.S and UK, Canadians are slightly more reluctant to pay for news online.

The report found that of those willing to pay for news, the majority (34%) would prefer a flat-fee subscription model.

The results come not long after The New York Times launched its paywall in Canada on March 17th. The report suggests that even if The New York Times's attempt to charge for news turns out successful, other news providers might be wise to be cautious in following its example. "The New York Times is revered by many readers for its quality," said Logan, "so if its paywall system defies the odds and succeeds, these findings suggest it would be an exception, rather than a model to follow."

"Paywalls might work for selective publications, such as The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London but given current public attitudes, most publishers had better start looking elsewhere for revenue solutions," the report concluded.

A related survey showed that Canadians value their Internet connection over other news media. 42% of respondents said they would be "least willing to give up" their Internet connection, while 24% felt the same way about television cable subscription. The survey concluded that the Internet is the main source for news for Canadians. Its sample, however, does not include Canadians not online, so the numbers for the general population may be somewhat lower.

Sources: The University of British Columbia, Reportr.net (1), (2)


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-13 13:50

The Guardian's Roy Greenslade discussed a new book that highlights a hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) tendency in the British press to approach matters relating to Islam from a prejudiced standpoint. Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British Media, edited by Julian Petley and Robin Richardson, presents examples of misleading news reporting on Islam-related matters. "Few topics are as controversial as the media treatment of Muslims, and too few journalists take it seriously," Greenslade wrote.

Greensdale acknowledges that the press has a strong influence when it comes to shaping views on minorities and encourages all journalists to read the book. "It is press-generated myths about Islam that fuel misunderstandings and feed prejudice, and thus bedevil rational discussion," Greenslade asserted.

Greenslade singled out Daily Express as one of the newspapers that release stories with an anti-Muslim slant. Last month, a former reporter of Daily Star criticised the paper for having an anti-Muslim agenda. One does not have to look far to find one possible reason why papers might resort to advocating such views. Earlier this year, Baroness Warsi, a senior Conservative, said that Muslim prejudice had become socially acceptable in the UK and that media had a played role in this development, BBC reported. According to her, attacking the Muslim community in the media sold papers and was seen as appropriate.

Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in the British Media was published this week, coinciding closely with the French law that bans the burqa and niqab taking effect this Monday.

Sources: The Guardian, BBC


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-12 18:57

Poynter recounted Shawna Malvin Redden's first-hand experience on how quickly the press can pick up material from social media websites and use it in news reporting. When her plane emergency landed in Yuma, Arizona, because of a hole in the fuselage, Redden updated her Twitter account with pictures of the damaged plane. During the two hours the passengers waited for another plane to arrive, her photos started circulating in the Internet, ending up on sites such as CNN. At least two other passengers had their photos picked up by the news media as well.

Redden's case not only illustrates how the press can get material from social media quickly and easily but also raises pertinent questions about copyrights\. According to Redden, some news organisations used her images without asking permission, and only one, Reuters, offered to pay her.

Poynter's article points out that there is little consensus in the news business on how copyright laws should be understood when dealing with photos on content-sharing websites. In an urge to get material published as quickly as possible, many online news services are willing to gamble by using photographs without permission and hoping that the photographers either will not notice or not understand that their copyright has been violated.

In general, photographers maintain the copyright to images they post on social networking sites. This copyright was confirmed in court last year as photographer Daniel Morel made a copyright claim against AFP, who had used his photos of the Haiti earthquake that he had posted on Twitter without permission. AFP defended itself by arguing that photos posted on Twitter are essentially free for the taking, but the court ruled that Morel could move ahead with his copyright claims, PaidContent reported.

However, the issue of copyright in the context of social media is a complicated matter for several interrelated reasons. One of them is the fact that the social media sites are themselves blurring the line between their functions as means of sharing personal information and real-time events. For example, Facebook launched a new site dedicated particularly to journalists last week, and during its five-year history Twitter has become inextricably linked with news reporting - a role the site has heartily embraced.

Different people are using services such as Twitter with increasingly varying intentions. On the one hand, Daniel Morel's case shows that professional photographers may use Twitter to distribute photographs professionally. On the other, Twitter played a significant role in the recent uprisings in the Arab world, as it is a powerful tool for spreading real-time information. Unlike professionals such as Morel, Rami Nakhle and Malath Aumran, who strive to tell the world of what is going on in their home country Syria, surely want their material to be as widely published as possible, free of charge.

Can social media sites find a way to satisfactorily meet both of these aims, ensuring both a free flow of information and a solid way of protecting copyright?

Sources: Poynter, PaidContent, Al Jazeera, The Christian Science Monitor


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-12 16:55

The News of the World published an apology last Sunday, admitting liability in accessing voicemail messages. In addition to apologising "unreservedly," the paper announced that it was going to pay compensation to phone-hacking victims and set up a compensation scheme. "What happened to [the victims] should not have happened. It was and remains unacceptable," the apology said.

The confession marks a shift in the paper's attitude: instead of distancing itself from the arrested journalists by labeling them "rogue reporters" - a claim that was immediately challenged - the News of the World now accepts some degree of responsibility over the events. However, according to The Independent, some critics have said that the apology is more a "damage limitation exercise" than a genuine admission of wrongdoings. The careful wording of the apology (it does not discuss the extent of phone-hacking, for example) and lack of real new information would suggest this.

The chances are that the newspaper's apology is not going to bring the long-running issue to closure but only a beginning of a new chapter. Following the NOTW's apology, The Independent published a lawyer's estimate, according to which it is possible that up to 7000 people have had their voicemail intercepted. This would mean that the practice of phone-hacking has been far more extensive than previously thought as currently only 24 people have started civil proceedings for breach of privacy against the paper. Moreover, The Guardian reported that some of the known victims have already rejected the newspaper's apology.

The latest development in the phone-hacking scandal has erupted at an extremely inconvenient time for News International, the newspaper's owner, as the corporation is preparing a controversial takeover of BSkyB. The merger has been criticised as undermining media plurality in the UK significantly but has already been approved by the UK culture secretary and the European Commission. MP John Prescott said that the decision on whether to allow the takeover should be delayed while the phone-hacking inquiry is underway, Journalism.co.uk reported.

So far the News of the World is the only newspaper that has been shown to be involved in phone-hacking, but there have been calls for a more widespread inquiry to determine how common the practice is in the press in general. The mayor of London Boris Johnson - who is one of the people whose voicemail was hacked - suggested in his column on The Telegraph that the whole of Fleet Street could be involved in "doing very much the same sort of thing".

Sources: News of the World, The Independent, The Guardian, Journalism.co.uk, The Telegraph


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-11 19:09

Last month AOL announced that it will be letting go 900 employees - 20 percent of its workforce - as a measure to weed out redundancies after the acquisition of The Huffington Post in February. The merger and the layoffs that followed sparked fear also among AOL's freelance contributors about their future with the media company. These fears were confirmed true earlier this week, as Business Insider reported that AOL's business-and-finance freelancers and contractors had been fired and that AOL is replacing them with a team of full-time employees.

AOL, however, was quick to defend itself, as its business-and-finance editor Peter Goodman sent a note to Business Insider the very same day, claiming that no mass termination of AOL freelancers was taking place. In fact, AOL has been hiring many of its freelances to work for the company full-time, Goodman wrote, adding that the company intends to continue hiring freelancers in the weeks to come.

Goodman confirmed in his note that the move of letting freelancers and contactors go reflects AOL's general shift from paying writers under freelance contracts to investing in full-time staff. The company is turning to a more traditional newspaper newsroom model, with dedicated full-time employees. Goodman stressed that the shift is not motivated by cost savings but by an emphasis on quality: in many instances the freelance budget is directed in its entirety to hiring people.

It seems, however, that most AOL freelancers will be let go. The Awl published yesterday an account of the recent events within the company by Carter Maness, who wrote as a freelancer for AOL Music until he, together with "pretty much everyone" left after earlier layoffs, was let go this week. What certainly contributes to the bitter aftertaste is the fact that the freelancers were informed of the termination in an impersonal email.

According to a story by the Wall Street Journal, laying off freelancers is far from being the only recent change in AOL's operations, as Arianna Huffington starts as the new editor-in-chief of AOL's 56 content sites. The changes initiated by Huffington include discarding parts of AOL's old content strategy and closing or merging of about 30 sites, resulting in two hundred lost jobs. The article goes on to point out that whereas Huffington used to oversee an editorial staff of 148, in her new function she manages one of almost 1300, and the number is only growing because of the move to hire more full-time staff.

Sources: Business Insider (1), (2), The Awl, Wall Street Journal


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-08 18:43

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