Funding journalism: the way it is, the way it will be

Mark Glaser asked his audience to imagine “a Future Tense for Newspapers”, back in February 2007, inspired by a post by Jeff Jarvis. Among many great responses, I added my own two bits:

The way it is:: Newspapers judge readership size/demographics via subscription numbers and use these numbers to make themselves attractive to classified advertisers

The way it will be: A combination of metrics that combine traffic with online relationships/connectivity statistics will become the new way news sites make themselves attractive to advertisers.

The way it is: Newspapers finance the cost of in-depth journalism via the selling of classifieds.

The way it will be: I have no idea.

This is a problem because newspapers provide the financial, legal, organizational and attention driving infrastructure that acts of journalism largely require.

To lend credence to how much this is a problem, consider the results of Pew’s News IQ Quiz (take it – I dare you – it is short and fun!). Do you think a community so ill-informed can drive its government effectively? Try driving with one eye closed (no don’t do that!).

And it is getting worst.

But hey, don’t listen to me, listen to Google’s Eric Schmidt:

Newspaper demand has never been higher. The problem is revenues have never been lower. So people are reading the newspaper they’re just not reading it in a way where the newspapers can make money on it. This is a shared problem. We have to solve it. There’s no obviously good solution right now.”

As indicated by Bethany Anderson in a conversation Leonard Witt:

strictly speaking, the American public does not pay for its journalism – nor has it ever, really.

Advertising and Classifieds subsidized journalism as a side-effect – not directly.

So I tend to disagree with Leonard Witt when he says that “if advertising and journalism are forever linked, we will not have a problem.”

Advertising never directly paid for journalism. Acts of journalism bolstered the reputations and influence of newspapers, that drew demographics, that advertisers wanted to reach. It was the audience that advertisers were paying for.

Attention driving influence is flowing elsewhere now. Like Twitter (yes, I’m on Twitter now).

Read Jack Shafer in “What’s Really Killing Newspapers”:

You no longer need to rely on a paper for the social currency that a weather report, movie listings, classified ads, shopping bargains, sports info, stock listings, television listings, gossip, or entertainment news provide. As falling circulation indicates, fewer do. And the newspaper isn’t the only media hub suffering in the new era. Radio, which once served a similar social role with its menu of music, news, and talk, is plummeting.

One of the more interesting research exercises in all this is examining how we got here.

Christopher Anderson is doing a terrific job of that working on his dissertation, “Networking the News: Work, Knowledge and Occupational Authority in the New Metropolitan Journalism” in the Philadelphia area.

His latest posts (from oldest to newest) “Paying For Reporting, Paying For Conversation … a Thought Experiment.”, “Adding Nuance to the Journalist / Blogger Relationship”, “Philly Newspapers Under Knight-Ridder: By the Numbers”, “Philly Newspapers Under Knight-Ridder: Beyond the Numbers” are must reads.

I say this as a former employee of Philadelphia Newspapers and Knight Ridder.

So if you are interested in the topic, and want to read the thoughts of a non-insider who is doing considerable research in the trenches, go forth and read.

Nice tutorial: “How To: Live the Cloud Life”

Paul Stamatiou: How To: Live the Cloud Life.

What it takes – it’s not praise and neither is it born-with talent

Fellow Comcaster Arpit Mathur: shared some thoughts about 37Signal’s piece “Don’t be so quick to embrace your own ignorance” and reflects on confidence in the workplace.

This made me reflect on a set of material I’ve read over the past few months on what it takes to be “a success” (we’ll skip that word’s definition for now). Much of these pieces apply to the workplace, our sense of self, our belief in what is possible, with more than a few drops of advice for parents in how to inspire the right mindset in those we love.

Fortune: What it takes to be great: The secret? Painful and demanding practice and hard work

NYTimes: If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow : Those who believe they were born with all the smarts and gifts they’re ever going to have approach life with what she calls a “fixed mind-set.” Those who believe that their own abilities can expand over time, however, live with a “growth mind-set.” Guess which ones prove to be most innovative over time.

Stanford Magazine: The Effort Effect : Dweck found that people who believe personality can change were more likely than others to bring up concerns and deal with problems in a constructive way. Dweck thinks a fixed mind-set fosters a categorical, all-or-nothing view of people’s qualities; this view tends to make you ignore festering problems or, at the other extreme, give up on a relationship at the first sign of trouble. (The growth mind-set, though, can be taken too far if someone stays in an abusive relationship hoping her partner will change; as always, the person has to want to change.)

Malcolm Gladwell: The Talent Myth: On Enron: They were there looking for people who had the talent to think outside the box. It never occurred to them that, if everyone had to think outside the box, maybe it was the box that needed fixing.

NYMag.com: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The inverse power of praise.: Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.

Harvard Business Publishing: Scott Berkun: How to Win by Studying Culture: An Interview with Grant McCracken: The point is not to dismantle ideas unless they stand in the way of what the new idea is. We don’t want to forget what it is we know, the knowledge we have build up of our markets and our industries over many years of expensive trial and error.

James Carr: How To Not Fit In On A Development Team: Good advice on being part of any team.

Dare Obasanjo: “Don’t fight the Web, embrace it”

A must read: Dare Obasanjo: Explaining REST to Damien Katz:

There are other practical things to be mindful of as well to ensure that your service is being a good participant in the Web ecosystem. These include using GET instead of POST when retrieving a resource and properly utilizing the caching related headers as needed (If-Modified-Since/Last-Modified, If-None-Match/ETag, Cache-Control), learning to utilize HTTP status codes correctly (i.e. errors shouldn’t return HTTP 200 OK), keeping your design stateless to enable it to scale more cheaply and so on. The increased costs, scalability concerns and complexity that developers face when they ignore these principles is captured in blog posts and articles all over the Web such as Session State is Evil and Cache SOAP services on the client side. You don’t have to look hard to find them. What most developers don’t realize is that the problems they are facing are because they aren’t keeping RESTful principles in mind.

Great intro to Getting Things Done with Emacs and org-mode

Sacha Chua: Emacs: Getting Things Done with Org – Basic.

NYTimes on Jon Stewart

NYTimes: Is Jon Stewart the Most Trusted Man in America?:

Most important, at a time when Fox, MSNBC and CNN routinely mix news and entertainment, larding their 24-hour schedules with bloviation fests and marathon coverage of sexual predators and dead celebrities, it’s been “The Daily Show” that has tenaciously tracked big, “super depressing” issues like the cherry-picking of prewar intelligence, the politicization of the Department of Justice and the efforts of the Bush White House to augment its executive power.

For that matter, the Comedy Central program — which is not above using silly sight gags and sophomoric sex jokes to get a laugh — has earned a devoted following that regards the broadcast as both the smartest, funniest show on television and a provocative and substantive source of news. “The Daily Show” resonates not only because it is wickedly funny but also because its keen sense of the absurd is perfectly attuned to an era in which cognitive dissonance has become a national epidemic. Indeed, Mr. Stewart’s frequent exclamation “Are you insane?!” seems a fitting refrain for a post-M*A*S*H, post-“Catch-22” reality, where the surreal and outrageous have become commonplace — an era kicked off by the wacko 2000 election standoff in Florida, rocked by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and haunted by the fallout of a costly war waged on the premise of weapons of mass destruction that did not exist.

SEO Advice Not Followed Often Enough

Aaron Wall: Emotionally Engage or Enrage:

Market research, site structure, and on page optimization are important. Doing them well can double or triple the earnings of a site, but when you get into the big fields where people are deeply passionate or interested links are needed to win. And those links are often a reflection of our emotions.

When you look at your site do you find anything that is emotionally engaging? enraging?

As the web gets more efficient and search engines gather more data, those who evoke emotional responses will keep gaining marketshare while bland webmasters fall quietly into the abyss.

If you aren’t linked to by others, you have no chance of being seen or heard.

Of course, there is a chicken and the egg here.

And as Aaron Wall suggests, it pushes us to post content that shouts out to be heard.

“Measure, don’t guess”

java.net: Java Performance Tuning: A Conversation With Java Champion Kirk Pepperdine:

While I’m all for performance planning, I’m dead set against premature optimizations. When is a plan a plan, and when is it premature? I guess it’s a little like the difference between art and porn: You’ll know it when you see it.