Friday picks

Newsecon: Newspapers better hope Nick Denton’s wrong on advertising in ’09 — Zachary Seward infriday NiemanJournalismLab. The best part is his review of Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker’s analysis of where online advertising’s going.

A Gavin O’Malley article in Online Media Daily about research by tech firm Attributor: Nearly 60% of views of publishers’ content takes place off their destination sites.

Nichification: HealthCentral Expands Potential Partner List, an Online Media Daily news brief, notable because HealthCentral shows the continuing trend of nichification and networking as it buys TheBody.com, an HIV/AIDS resource/news/info site, and partners with others to develop an ad network.

Social networking: Gannett bought Ripple6, which powers the social networking engine of the Moms sites. RIpple6 also provides social networking for General Mills and Proctor & Gamble, and will soon launch MixingBowl.com for Better Homes & Gardens.

Meebo’s partnering with Hearst Corp. to set up Meebo Rooms in the Stars Style 2008 section of Seventeen.com. This is interesting because the chat rooms are surrounded by videos and other content, part of the continuing move to integrate elements (stories, data, resources, social networking) into one page. A little klutzy, because some of the content takes you to a new page, away from the chat. Also, not much activity in there yet.

Everybody’s getting into social networking, even the Financial Times. They’re setting up a spot on the Alphaville blog for market professionals to discuss the day’s news, says Portfolio.com’s blogger Jeff Berkovici. But how to keep out rumor-mongers? The editors of FT.com will approve the people who want to participate.

Noncitizen journalism: Okay, this is a week old, but that’s my modus operandi these days…catching up. In interviews with NowPublic founders Leonard Brody and Michael Tippitt, Seattle Post Intelligencer’s Brian Chin discovered that they really don’t like the term “citizen journalist”. On NowPublic, they practice “participatory journalism”.

Brody, in fact, is famously quoted in Jeff Howe’s book “Crowdsourcing” as saying that “Citizen journalism makes about as much sense as citizen dentistry.”

“I think that the term ‘citizen journalism’ sounds like you’re a nut or something,” Brody explained. “It’s not particularly engaging. It sounds like work.” It’s also a barrier to participation, he said, “because it doesn’t mean anything. This is about people’s experiences and sharing those.”

NowPublic is a combo — aggregation, commenting, and original news — from folks all over the world. But, to continue the mantra…..Citizen dentistry. Citizen plumbing. Citizen surgery. Citizen pilot. Citizen construction worker. Citizen flight attendant. Yep. I agree.

Magazine madness?

Check out Lesley M. M. Blume’s article in Slate’s The Big Money about Condé Nast pulling back from the Webconde1 by firing many of its staffers from CondéNet, which oversees such sites as epicurious.com and style.com:

What is behind Condé Nast’s bellicose approach to the Web? Other traditional media outlets properly regard the Internet as both destroyer and savior and have gone into overdrive to translate themselves into online brands. By axing its online properties, Condé Nast is revealing its apparent online strategy: looking the other way while Jaws devours the back of your boat.

Magazines, as a whole, are four or five years behind newspapers in their transition to the Web, mainly because advertising is just starting to erode in magazines. Blume points an exception — People (8.7m uniques, 733m page views a month) — but notes how People’s Web traffic still pales in comparison to CNN.com and ESPN.com.

Condé Nast’s move reminds me of the dotcom bust of 2000, when many newspapers pulled back from the Web. (btw, that move spawned, among others, MaxPreps.com, which is taking over high school sports coverage nationwide.) In hindsight, we know that wasn’t the best strategy.

Condé Nast owns some wonderful sites. It remains to be seen what impact the Web layoffs will have. Mansueto Ventures (Fast Company and Inc.) cut its digital division in October, and shifted online responsibilities to the print publications, which is a better solution. Having a centralized digital division that controls the Web sites for individual publications doesn’t work, as Knight Ridder found out.

This transition to Webworld is a challenge made in heaven…for the brave, not the faint of heart; for those who like wobbling along on a tightrope for a few years (e.g., magazines’ online revenues are still tiny — in the low single digits), who like exploring new territory and leading others into it, who tolerate making mistakes, because they know that mistakes provide very useful information.

These folks can’t fathom how erudite people can ignore the massive changes happening around them, and make decisions that are the absolute opposite of what’s in their best long-term interests. For some insight, check out Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. It taught me that the best strategy is to focus on the people and organizations who are willing to learn to ride the big waves, instead of those who are comfortable wading in the shallows.