Road Signs: October 2009

The Journal News, a Gannett-owned newspaper in White Plains, NY, has laid off its entire business staff. The paper will run The Wall Street Journal Sunday content to provide business coverage. . . . The Rocky Mountain Independent has quit posting original news. The web site started by former staffers of the shuttered Rocky Mountain News had 200 subscribers, who will get refunds. Editor Steve Foster cited the poor economy for the retreat from paid-for online news coverage, which he considers essential to the quality of news. . . .The New York Times reports that a significant non-profit web news operation is slated to begin in the San Francisco Area in 2010. Richard Perez-Pena writes that the Bay Area Project joins, “a $5 million initial grant from F. Warren Hellman, expertise and labor supplied by KQED-FM, which has a 28-person news staff, and the 120 students of the University of California, Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism.”

Google has revealed Google Wave, an experimental project which it calls “the email of the future.” Gavin O’Malley, reporting for Online Media, quotes Google software engineer Lars Rasmussen, “A ‘wave’ is equal parts conversation and document, where people can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.”. . . The Washington Post has spelled out a social media code of conduct for its staffers – be it for personal or professional use. The reasoning, as posted on’s blog, “Our online data trails reflect on our professional reputations and those of The Washington Post. Be sure that your pattern of use does not suggest, for example, that you are interested only in people with one particular view of a topic or issue.” Therefore, “Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything – including photographs or video – that could be perceived as reflecting political, racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility. This same caution should be used when joining, following or friending any person or organization online.”

As a way to monetize online magazine content, Time Inc, executive John Squires has proposed a sort of online newsstand where consumers can purchase and manage their subscriptions, which can be delivered to any device,” according to Wooden Horse News. The newsletter quotes one publishing editor’s comments on the idea, “We know that traditional magazines are going away, and that magazines on the web don’t work. But this gives us a chance to serve the reader who will pay for content, and provide advertising that really works. Can you think of a better idea?”

Also from Wooden Horse News, these quotes from speeches at a World Media Summit in Beijing by, AP’s chief executive Tom Curley and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch: “We content creators have been too slow to react to the free exploitation of news by third parties without input or permission. We content creators must quickly and decisively act to take back control of our content.” Referencing content aggregators such as search engines, and bloggers, he added, “We will no longer tolerate the disconnect between people who devote themselves – at great human and economic cost – to gathering news of public interest and those who profit from it without supporting it,” Curley said. Rupert proclaimed, “The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph.” But, 52 percent of readers polled in a recent American Press Institute survey think it would be “very easy” to “somewhat easy” to replace the information they get from newspaper web sites, a Research Brief from Media Post reports. . . . To which, Nick Saint, writing on in The Business Insider War Room on “How To Compete With Free Products”, says, “When the competition stops charging, entrepreneurs need to take an honest look at the quality of their product. If it is better than what consumers can get elsewhere, don’t compromise its quality with ads; just keep being better and charge for use. Otherwise, make it free and beat the competitor at their own game.”