US News & World Report reorganization

In case you missed the US News & World Report memo about its 2009 growth strategy that was sent to Romenesko last month, it’s worth taking another look — whether you’re an independent entrepreneurial journalist (or soon to be), or inside an existing news organization.usnews

…we are organizing our efforts around five key vertical content channels that will operate as self-contained editorial and business units with their own goals for development and growth, and their own dedicated teams – Nation & World/Opinion, Health, Money & Business, Education and Rankings & Reviews. This is the next phase of our brand transformation that began last spring when we announced that we were moving away from a weekly magazine with a discrete website to become a multi-platform digital publisher of news you can use and analysis.

…each channel will feature a dedicated interdisciplinary team incorporating reporting, editing, sales, marketing, business development, circulation and manufacturing. Teams will be charged with producing even more targeted consumer products, including special reports, daily news updates, blogs, newsletters, rankings, guides and videos, as well as developing lead generation businesses and partnerships.

Yep, they’re creating Web shells and integrating reporting, sales and marketing. Some journalists will moan about losing the wall between news and ads. But jurnos won’t. They operate from the point of view of their communities. They know Continue reading

Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism

So, how do we keep journalism thriving? Make sure that journalists thrive.

To help journalists thrive, the Reynolds Journalism Institute is hosting a one-day Talkfest on Jan. 21, 2009, called “Putting Feet on the Streets for Journalism.” The participants’ challenge: to develop plans for the RJI Collaboratory, a newsshoes organization incubator.

This is why: In 2008, traditional news organizations continued to shrink or close their doors. They laid off more than 15,000 journalists, resulting in a significant loss of good journalism so vital to U.S. citizens and our democracy. Dozens of communities now have little or no coverage of their local health issues, their local environment, or their local government. Some no longer have reporters, no journalism at all in their communities.

That trend is likely to accelerate in 2009.

Meanwhile, the Web continues to provide fertile ground for new social/news/information organizations, hundreds of which have appeared over the last few years and are thriving, including MaxPreps.com, MinnPost, WestSeattleblog.com, TheKnot.com, Huffington Post, BlogHer, CSTV.com (which is now part of CBSSportsline.com), the St. Louis Beacon, and Marketwatch.

There’s a need for hundreds, perhaps thousands, more

We think an RJI Collaboratory could provide resources and knowledge on how to start effective and successful Web-based news organizations. Those who could benefit from the news organization incubator are entrepreneurial journalists and existing news organizations that are undertaking the transformational strategies necessary to adapt to a Webcentric world

These are some of the things we’d like to figure out that day:

  • What does a news organization incubator do exactly? We know it should provide advertising strategies and techniques, technology services, business planning, Web shell (information architecture ) and design services, and ethics guidelines. But what else? And how does it provide this guidance and these services?
  • What roles can other colleges and departments of the University of Missouri play in a news organization incubator? Could computer science students develop online services for entrepreneurial journalists? Could business school students work with entrepreneurial journalists to develop robust organizations?
  • What could the RJI Collaboratory do in the first year? The second year? The third year?
  • What does a news organization incubator need to get started?
  • Does a news organization incubator derive funding from the organizations it nurtures? If so, how? If the news organization incubator is part of the university, what is the incubator’s intellectual property policy?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with other centers or journalism schools?
  • How does the news organization incubator develop partnerships with organizations that might be interested in funding start-ups?

If you’re interested in attending, send me an email – jstevens at mmjourno dot com. We’re limiting the in-person attendance to 60 people. It’s free. You just have to get yourself to Columbia, MO. We’ll also be running an Adobe Connect virtual room, which can handle 100 people. If you’d like to attend virtually, also let me know.

elecfoot[This is the three-foot-long “Electric Light Shoe”, part of an advertising campaign put together by FOC in Amsterdam for ASICS Onitsuka Tigers shoes. A city’s in the shoe. It seemed appropriate, as did the jumble of tiny electric light shoes in the image above. All those entrepreneurial journalists’ shoes that need filling…..]

Solution’s right under our noses

A few days ago, in “Non-Profit Model for Newspapers May Be the Answer” in Editor & Publisher, Joe Mathewson suggested that newspapers might survive if they become nonprofits:

The model is public broadcasting — or, even better, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Inc., which ownseandpbulb the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
Not-for-profit, tax-exempt. No longer dependent on commercial advertisers. A brave new world!
These not-for-profits would be supported by corporate sponsorships and by contributions from foundations and public-spirited citizens who care about the community and who understand how it would be diminished by the loss of its newspapers.

And a few days prior to that, the Journal Register Co. closed 16 weeklies in Connecticut. The buzz around that news was to look to citizen journalists to fill the gap.

But why?

Why lose all the experience and institutional memories of those journalists?

Why switch to non-profit mode?

We don’t need to do either.

The business model is right under our noses: create a place for the community to share all pertinent information. That includes the information from journalists, people who sell products and services, and members of the community. It worked for decades before the metro news organizations lost their way. Thousands of small newspapers are doing quite well with it. Even Web-based news organizations are succeeding with the approach. On top of that, journalists somehow forgot that their communities LIKE the information in local ads. It’s news, too.

What’s broken is the business model of the last 20 years or so: public newspaper chains run by non-journalists and beholden to shareholders, not their communities; cannibalizing their organizations to maintain 30 percent profit margins until collapse or bankruptcy; holding on to a print-only (or TV-only) mentality in newsrooms AND ad sales departments.

It’s simply a matter of embracing the model that’s worked for decades, and transforming it to fit the nature, the characteristics of the Web. Well, maybe not so simply, given that the newspaper industry dug its grave so efficiently and nearly took journalism down with it. But doable.

Here’s how we’re going about it: Put feet on the streets for journalism.

See the next post for details.

Jurno’s Bright Future

According to Benjamin Adair on Weekend America, the death of news is greatly exaggerated. [ReJurno: We jurnos believe thatwkendam1 wholeheartedly.] He pointed out three myths:

1. News organizations aren’t making money.

“No, that’s not true at all,” says John Morton. Morton analyzes the newspaper industry and helps newspaper publishers figure out how to make money in this new economy….

“For the first nine months of this year,” explains Morton, “the average operating profit margin was 11 percent. There are some industries that can’t ever hope to get that high of a profit margin.”

It’s the big metros and chains, with their enormous debt, that are in trouble. Small to medium newspapers and some of those chains are doing fine.

2. The Internet, and Google, wants newspapers to die. That’s ridiculous, and Google’s Josh Cohen, who’s responsible for Google News pointed out that Google News wouldn’t be Google News without news organizations. [ReJurno: However, as those large metros shrink and/or collapse, we’ll see wholesale nichification of the news, and many organizations, including Google, anticipate that.

3. Newspapers are dying, so journalism is dying.

“Journalism is very much still still alive,” says Neil Henry. He’s the dean of the journalism school at the University of California Berkeley. Not only is it still very much alive, Henry says it might be “at the dawn of a

Image of the Internet, 2005

tremendous rebirth.” Newspaper newsrooms can be very sad and depressing these days, Henry says, but he tells his students that times of great tumult have always meant really good things for journalism.

Image of the Internet, 2005

Right on, Neil! The Internet and the Web are the best inventions ever for journalism. We jurnos can serve our communities so much better, and do better storytelling. The key is to understand this new medium, and all it can do. For a handy primer (and a larger version of that cool image of the Internet), just click on the Web Traits tab at the top of this blog, or link from here.