Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category
Reuters reporter Julie Steenhuysen gets the quote of the year out of Peter Martin of the University of Utah’s Traffic Lab. He’s talking about the slowing effect that cell phone users have on the flow of traffic.
“It’s a bit like breaking wind in the elevator. Everyone suffers,” Peter Martin of the University of Utah’s Traffic Lab said in a telephone interview.
The full story is here, until it expires.
Every once in a while (see here and here), someone will comment on how the Mercury News let its most popular blog, SiliconBeat, slip away. SiliconBeat was a popular and well-respected technology and venture capital blog that colleague Matt Marshall and I founded in 2004. We published it, day-in and day-out for about two years, until Matt left the Merc and launched a very similar VentureBeat blog. SiliconBeat’s archives live on, but the blog is defunct.
There is a long story about how SiliconBeat died. No one wants to hear that, I’m sure. The short story is this: Matt passionately wanted to become an entrepreneur and start his own news web site. He was set on leaving the Merc. And the Mercury News and Knight Ridder, then the Merc’c parent company, couldn’t think creatively about how to take a stake in that venture and keep SiliconBeat in the family.
We tried. Matt and I met with Knight Ridder and Merc executives many times over the course of a year to try to convince them to invest in a new, bigger and better SiliconBeat. We had a detailed business plan. We had revenue-sharing ideas. The works. But Knight Ridder was in the midst of imploding, and couldn’t make a move. And the Merc…well, investing in a start-up just wasn’t a concept that publisher George Riggs could wrap his mind around.
It’s too bad for the Merc. SiliconBeat is still a top-10 blog for the Merc just from Google searches alone. It could have been so much more. Instead, the credibility that we built in the Silicon Valley start-up community largely went out the door with Matt when he launched VentureBeat, in my view.
But I’m also not surprised it worked out this way. Blogging is often a second full-time job for newspaper reporters (it often felt that way for Matt and me), but rarely do they get paid extra or otherwise compensated when their workload doubles overnight, or when they cultivate a new niche audience for their employers. The temptation to strike out on your own and go independent is strong, particularly when companies such as Federated Media are standing in the wings waiting to help. There’s money out there, if you’re smart and lucky.
I’m quite sure we’ll see other high-profile, popular newspaper bloggers go independent, taking their audiences with them. I have no inside knowledge about what’s happening with TV writer/blogger Tim Goodman at the San Francisco Chronicle. But I find it interesting that in his most recent post on SFGate, he says he going on vacation, but that he’ll be blogging on his new, personal TV blog. “I’m working out what role The Bastard Machine will play for me in the future,” he says cryptically. His new blog, meanwhile, is humming along, with many comments per post.
What’s a newspaper to do when a blogger gets too big for his britches? I don’t have all the answers, but acknowledging that he might need new pants is probably a good place to start.
Can we just stop writing headlines like this, please?
Local public radio talk show host Michaek Krasny came to the law school last week for a media training for faculty. Krasny was funny and smart. And at one point, he asked the audience to pitch him story ideas for his morning show. One of the professors hit home for me with his story idea. He told Kransy that he lamenetd the state of the newspaper business, noting the layoffs industry-wide. Then he ripped into to the Mercury News - where I worked for a decade until last month - complaining that a paper once known for investigative reporting had lost its way. The tone was angry, as if he’d been betrayed. All the Merc cared about nowadays was the financial bottom line, not good journalism. Krasny lamely tried to defend newspapers, but there was little he could say.
Even though my Merc days are behind me now, I felt a sting. I could have spoken up and said that there are still good journalists at the Merc who are passionate about good journalism. But we all know that the truth is more nuanced than that. That money problems do loom large for papers these days. And that newspapers are making hard choices - not always the right ones - about the content they produce. Good, revealing investigative reporting will get harder and harder with each passing day.
But what struck me most was the anger and the disappointment in the voice of the professor. Some people do still care about newspapers - a lot. To some people - an older generation, perhaps - neswspapers are like a public trust. And they hate what they’re seeing.
Google has egg on its face today after an employee for the company’s health advertising team ripped Michael Moore’s new film “Sicko” on a corporate blog — and then had to apologize. “Moore’s film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare’s interest in patient well-being and care,” wrote Lauren Turner in the first blog post. Turner went on to tout Google AdWords as a great tool for companies to manage their reputations through “issue management campaigns.”
What struck me most, though, was not the first ill-conceived blog post, but Turner’s follow-up, “oops” post. There Turner argued that advertising is a perfect place for companies and advocates to debate issues. “Whether the healthcare industry wants to rebut charges in Mr. Moore’s movie, or whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue.”
Three years ago, Google seemed to be singing a slightly different tune. Then, the environmental group Oceana bought Google search engine ads criticizing the environmental practices of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. One of the ads did not even mention Royal Caribbean by name. But Google pulled the ads because they violated an unpublished policy prohibiting ads that “advocate against other individuals, groups, or organizations.” The line from Google back then was that you can’t use AdWords to go negative on someone.
Now we have an advertising account planner suggesting that ads be used for public debate. Great idea. But are we really to believe that Michael Moore can “challenge the healthcare industry” without advocating against some person or entity? And vice versa. It seems inconsistent. And gray. And muddied. (See this email thread to see how Google’s own employees struggle with this policy.) As search engine expert Danny Sullivan noted in this Nation article in 2004, “Advocacy groups are going to be by their nature anti-something.”
Google is free to accept or reject any ads it wants. And it should aggressively police its ads for hateful speech. But maybe now - as we head into what will surely be a contentious presidential campaign - the company should clarify the type of advocacy ads that are and are not allowed.
Anyone have a Joost invite they can toss my way? If so, send it to email@example.com, and you’ll have my undying gratitude. Merci.
UPDATE: Got the Joost access. Now all I need, it turns out, is an Intel Mac to run it on. Grumble, grumble.
UPDATE2: I don’t have Joost invites to hand out, so please do not ask.
Lazarus uses Viacom’s lawsuit Tuesday against GooTube as a hook to talk about what ails newspapers, and suggests that charging readers for content might be one path forward.
There are several false premises here:
1. Newspapers are “giving away the store” online. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this misconception, often from fellow journalists who should know better. Yes, most newspapers do not charge people to view their content online. No, that is not the same as giving it away for free. I’m assuming the Chronicle is getting some money for those BMW and Zipcar ads that run alongside Lazarus’ column. Online news sites are no more giving away their content than the many free weeklies (some of them profitable) that crowd for sidewalk space in many cities. Subscriptions have never accounted for a majority of a newspaper’s income. The money’s been in the ad dollars, and the same holds true online.
UPDATED: New craigslist link and full text of job listing.
We have a fun job opening at the Mercury News. We’re looking for an online graphic designer who will play a key role in shaping our online visual presence. We’re actually asking for the person to be unusually versatile, in that we want them to know Flash, HTML and CSS, how to draw, have some print experience and most of all, have a nice design sense. We have lots of cool projects in the pipeline, and the day-to-day multimedia stuff we do isn’t too shabby either.
The craigslist job posting is here. And the full job listing is below.
If you’re interested, shoot me an email ASAP at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll connect you with the right people.
Yes, Omniture, Hitbox, Urchin and all the other web analytics tools do a fine job. But tapefailure looks like it could add another valuable and fascinating layer of user data.