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A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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May 29, 2014, 6:24 p.m.
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LINK: www.nytimes.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 29, 2014

If you want to do something newsworthy at The New York Times and not have people notice, I guess the best thing to do is to put it on Times Insider. That’s the special newsroom-backstory blog available only to those who’ve been upsold to Times Premier, the ten-bucks-more-than-normal premium tier the paper debuted this spring.

I say that because I haven’t seen anyone tweet or otherwise mention this post that went up a couple hours ago on a very newsworthy topic: how the Times’ new top editor, Dean Baquet, is responding to the leaked Times innovation report in his early days in the job.

That report held particular ire for the print-centric nature of the Times’ daily meeting schedule, which is largely structured around picking the stories that will make Page 1 of the print edition. Apologies for the long blockquote:

The habits and traditions built over a century and a half of putting out the paper are a powerful, conservative force as we transition to digital — none more so than the gravitational pull of Page One.

nytimes-page-oneSome of our traditional competitors have aggressively reorganized around a digital-first rather than a print-first schedule. The health and profitability of our print paper means we don’t yet need to follow them down this path. But it is essential to begin the work of questioning our print-centric traditions, conducting a comprehensive assessment of our digital needs, and imagining the newsroom of the future. This means reassessing everything from our roster of talent to our organizational structure to what we do and how we do it.

[...]

The newsroom is unanimous: We are focusing too much time and energy on Page One. This concern — which we heard in virtually every interview we conducted, including with reporters, desk heads, and masthead editors — has long been a concern for the leadership.

And yet it persists. Page One sets the daily rhythms, consumes our focus, and provides the newsroom’s defining metric for success. The recent announcement from Tom Jolly to focus the Page One meeting more on the web report is a great step in the right direction, but many people have voiced their skepticism that it will truly change our focus.

Here is a typical complaint from a Washington reporter who frequently appears on A1:

“Our internal fixation on it can be unhealthy, disproportionate and ultimately counterproductive. Just think about how many points in our day are still oriented around A1 — from the 10 a.m. meeting to the summaries that reporters file in the early afternoon to the editing time that goes into those summaries to the moment the verdict is rendered at 4:30. In Washington, there’s even an email that goes out to the entire bureau alerting everyone which six stories made it. That doesn’t sound to me like a newsroom that’s thinking enough about the web.”

The Times Insider post (thanks to eagle-eyed Joseph Lichterman for spotting it) says that a staff memo sent Wednesday takes a step in that direction. From the memo, from Baquet and Karron Skog, head of the news desk and home page during the day:

We are shifting the focus of the 10 a.m. meeting, away from the next day’s A1 to a more lively discussion about how to create a robust, comprehensive digital report for the day. To accomplish this, we will run the meeting with a keen eye across all of our nonprint platforms — NYTimes.com, NYT Now, mobile, social and INYT — bearing in mind that our aim is to get our best content in front of the most readers.

Karron will start the meeting with a quick overview of the morning home page, and share any interesting/pertinent analytics. She will discuss our lede options and photo plan for the morning.

We will identify the day’s main news targets and start the discussion with that desk. We will quickly brainstorm how we can build those stories out during the day, including input from photo, graphics, video, social, Upshot, etc.

[...]

Desk editors will then pitch their entire day’s digital report — news and enterprise — and include an idea of when stories will be ready to post (this will require short pitches, slugs and lengths). We will need to make some strategic decisions about when we roll out these offerings on the home page, mobile, NYT Now and to the INYT.

[...]

This is a work in progress and suggestions are welcome. We consider this a fresh start, and we hope you are as excited about this new direction as we are.

The memo says that, after the meeting, top editors will meet separately to “pick A1 targets so space can be ordered.”

The Times Insider post also features a Q&A with Skog about the change. I won’t just copy/paste the whole thing — if you like this stuff, pay the ten bucks a month! free trial! — but a few highlights:

[Is this being done because of the report?] The report, headed up by A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher’s son, repeated emphatically our need to keep moving toward being “digital first.” So it certainly played a role. But we’ve been trying to get here for a long time. The report was an exclamation mark.

[Was the old meeting setup holding the paper back?] “Holding us back” is maybe too strong. But it is true that many editors — though fewer and fewer — have felt as if the measure of their desks’ success rested primarily on whether their stories made the front page. This is the latest signal that it simply isn’t the case: Giving good play to an article on the home page and in our mobile feeds is just as important. Half our digital readers, by the way, are on mobile.

[What are peak hours on web and mobile?] Our web traffic starts to rise around 6 a.m. and peaks between noon and 1 p.m. Mobile peaks much earlier, around 8. For several years now, we’ve been much more attuned to publishing our best stories when we have the most readers. That does not mean other times are not good: We find our readers enjoy longer stories in the evening when they have more time. We get an uptick in traffic on Sunday night when people are disengaging from the weekend and getting ready to plow back into work. Some international stories might be best published in the time zone of that particular country or region. We try to think about all the ways we can get the stories most relevant to our readers posted when they want them.

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The Economist offers an interesting perspective today on the flip side of the wonky data journalism craze. While traditional newsrooms and media startups sift through spreadsheets and build interactive graphics and apps, think tanks — they of the traditionally dry, analytical white paper — have increasingly come to resemble digital news sites themselves. From the magazine:

Foreign Policy, a magazine, now runs “Democracy Lab”, a website paid for by the Legatum Institute, a think-tank based in London. It has a modest budget for freelancers. In June the Centre for Policy Studies, a think-tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher, launched “CapX”, which publishes daily news and comment on its website and by e-mail. The Centre for European Reform, a think-tank founded by Charles Grant (formerly of The Economist), publishes pieces with gripping headlines such as: “Twelve things everyone should know about the European Court of Justice”.

It’s not especially surprising that think tanks and NGOs have begun to realize the value of producing fresh Takes. It’s the best way to remain a part of the conversation, which is essential if what you’re trying to do is shape opinion and influence policy. But not all the work these organizations are producing is mere content — in fact, think tank employees can fill some of the void left by ever-shrinking international reportage.

Human Rights Watch, which investigates abusive governments, recently published a series of articles on the plight of the Yazidis in Iraq. [,..] Nathan Thrall, the ICG’s Middle East analyst, based in Jerusalem, has written about the conflict in Gaza for, among others, the New York Times and the London Review of Books.

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LINK: comicsalliance.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   September 17, 2014

The Guardian is giving new life to the traditional newspaper comic strip with The Last Saturday. Instead of Marmaduke or the ongoing exotic adventures of Mark Trail, The Last Saturday is a weekly graphic novella made to be read in print and online.

Created by the Eisner Award and Harvey Award winner Chris Ware, the episodic comic is blown out in vivid color and rich detail, with stories following the daily lives of people in the town of Sandy Port, Michigan. Ware is no stranger to collaborating with newspapers; part of his graphic novel “Building Stories” was serialized in The New York Times Magazine.

chris-ware-guardian-comic

As Comics Alliance notes, the Guardian may be trying to find better ways to make Ware’s work more tactile and engaging in digital formats:

‘The Last Saturday’ is an interesting format experiment. The first page doesn’t offer much more than a digital magnifier (primarily for mobile readers) and some unorthodox panel orientations, as is standard for Ware’s work, but considering that The Guardian’s “interactive team” is developing functionality for the comic, there’s a possibility that the comic could take advantage of the online format in all sorts of interesting ways.

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LINK: bbcpopup.tumblr.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   September 11, 2014

The business of journalism looks a lot like a game of Risk right now, as media companies are angling for position with new sites and bureaus around the globe. Quartz and The Huffington Post have both recently set up shop in India. BuzzFeed plans to use its new funding to expand its overseas reporting footprint, and this week Politico announced it was partnering with Axel Springer to launch a Europe-focused politics site.

bbcnewsWith so much globetrotting it only makes sense that foreign news outlets would turn their eyes to the United States. The BBC set off on one adventure this week with BBC Pop Up, a mobile (in the on-the-move sense, not the iPhone 6 sense) reporting project where journalists will report from a series of U.S. cities over the next six months. Like any good pop up restaurant, the BBC’s plans are simultaneously ambitious but also limited: the BBC team will file stories for online, shoot video for broadcast, and work with locals to uncover unreported stories. It’ll do all of that in one month before moving on to the next town. The first stop is Boulder, Colo. The Ringling Brothers would be proud.

For an organization as large as the BBC the pop up bureaus are a relatively low risk/high reward proposition. It gets the BBC wider exposure in the United States as something other than the place that broadcasts Gordon Ramsey and Doctor Who, but also serves as a test for whether there is a broader appetite for their reporting in the states.

As far as experiments go, it’s still curious why a news organization that already has large bureaus throughout the United States, not to mention various language services around the world, would put on a roadshow. As Matt Danzico, head of the BBC innovation lab explains, the pop up project is about building a bridge to a new type of audience:

In the 21st Century, creating video for television from cities like Washington, New York and/or Los Angeles is definitely an effective way of reaching traditional media consumers in those markets. But if you’re also trying to reach younger generations in Colorado, for instance, why not create gripping video from the state that’s of interest to a global audience?

And now you’ve not only provided interesting programming to your traditional audience but you have also sparked the interest of an entirely new community as well.

Do that for one month at a time. Post your videos to local social media. Move cities. Repeat.

Yes, BBC News has 44 foreign bureaus in a heap of cities around the world. But the world has nearly 3,000 cities with a population over 150k. So why not create a mobile bureau that can embed itself in a community and then relocate easily?

Here’s a look at what they have in store:

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LINK: www.buzzfeed.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joseph Lichterman   |   September 11, 2014

Apple WatchAfter Apple unveiled its Apple Watch earlier this week most news organizations are still figuring out how — or even if — they’ll develop apps for the smart watch. Most outlets haven’t received any technical specifications from Apple about the device and are still in the very preliminary stages of thinking about how they’ll approach the smart watch, Myles Tanzer reports in BuzzFeed.

There was at least one news app that got an advance look at the Apple Watch: Yahoo News Digest. The app’s logo was visible on mock-ups of the watch during Apple’s presentation. (It’s the purple one with the colorful dots in a circle — above the Pinterest logo — in the watch that’s above.)

From BuzzFeed:

But during the Tuesday’s keynote, close observers noticed multiple quick flashes of the Apple Watch’s homescreen that showed icons for two apps from Yahoo, one of which is a version of the popular Yahoo News Digest app. Adam Cahan, Yahoo’s senior vice president of mobile and emerging products, confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the company has a working version of a Yahoo News Digest product but was wary to comment on any additional apps from Yahoo — “I wouldn’t read into every icon that you see everywhere.” He said the Yahoo team was one of a select few chosen to participate in a multi-week test of the Apple Watch’s development kit.

The Apple Watch is slated to be released sometime early next year. It seems likely more news apps will be developed for the platform.

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LINK: new.dowjones.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   September 9, 2014

The Wall Street Journal wants readers to know that being a subscriber has its perks. The Journal rolled out WSJ+ this week, a complimentary membership program for readers who have subscriptions to the paper.

What, exactly, does being a WSJ+ member get you beyond a sweet membership card to display on your digital device of choice? From the Journal’s news release:

WSJ+ members will receive special offers and be welcomed to invitation-only events designed to bring Journal content to life, while providing subscribers elevated Journal experiences specially curated to speak to their wide-ranging and ambitious interests. Events will take place across the country and will include panel discussions with top Journal editors, as well as arts performances and private film screenings.

As a WSJ+ member you could get a talk and tour of the Journal newsroom (“learn how our famous stipples are made,” the event advertises) with Editor in Chief Gerald Baker or see a conversation between Whoopi Goldberg and legendary TV producer Norman Lear.

Many of the offers through WSJ+ are either discounts or raffles seemingly attuned to the needs of the aspirational Journal reader. Tell the “Golf Concierge” you’d like a discount to play at course in Hilton Head Island, or win two tickets to the Longines Los Angeles Masters equestrian event.

The Journal is one of a growing number of media companies that wants to deepen the relationship with readers through membership programs. Both nonprofit and for-profit companies are trying to find programs to incentivize paid readership while also collecting more detailed data on their audience. One difference is that some loyalty programs, like WSJ+, are complimentary with a subscription. Others, like The Guardian’s membership plan and The New York Times’ Times Premier, are extra, which means a potential added source of revenue.

The characteristics of the programs usually fall into similar categories: special access to events, discounts, and invitations to look behind the curtain of your beloved news provider. Wine and free books seem to be a love shared by media executives and newspaper readers.

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A conversation with David Rose, little magazine veteran and publisher of Lapham’s Quarterly
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