Newspaper Death Watch: Trib Goes to 11, NYT Mortgages the Farm

Newspaper insiders for the most part weren’t all that surprised to see the  Tribune Company file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday.  The Trib has been in trouble for some time, and it hasn’t been helped by high profile fights of the past two years by owner Sam Zell, who purchased the company in April of 2007, which saw him take the company private.   Since then his fights with the leadership of the Los Angeles Times  have achieved near legendary status.  

The problem is that bankruptcy isn’t a complete answer for the Tribune Company.    Perhaps they’d do best to do as Sam Zell suggested just a short time ago when the mortgage crisis was at the top of the news:

“…this country needs a cleansing. We need to clean out all those people who never should have been in houses in the first place.”

Perhaps indeed the newspaper industry also needs a cleansing, and all those who should never have owned newspapers should be cleaned out.  For example, Sam Zell. Continue reading “Newspaper Death Watch: Trib Goes to 11, NYT Mortgages the Farm”

How Technorati Gave Away Their Special Sauce

I used to use Technorati to find compelling blog posts to share and comments.  It was rather convenient to be able to go to one spot and find out what people were saying in blogs around the globe and to easily search.  One of the most compelling features, for me, was that it was an application designed with blogs only in mind.

This morning I was looking a set of compelling blog posts on the anniversary of 9/11.  So I fired up my Google Chrome browser and headed over to Techorati.  Strangely, the homepage was infested with non-blog newsources such as cnn.com, time,com, etc.  The ration of mainstream media to blog posts on the homepage was around 3 to 1, with blogs drawing the short stick.

So I did a search on my topic, and once again, tons of mainstream media results, although they were at least clearly identified, once again my results bore lots of topics from big media.

Part of the problem is that lots of big media is now using blogs as a part of the content strategy.  The New York Times is blogging using WordPress MU and many other papers and news channels are as well.  Hence they get submitted along with the rest of the unwashed masses.  And since they’re big media with big readership, they jump to the top of the authority heap. Authority is one of the measures that Technorati uses to rate your blog – in my case, an authority of 9, which used to be 40+ when I blogged at Vario, and a rating of 705,000 or so, vs. the Vario rating somewhere under 100,000k when I was active there.

I guess blogging has come to the big time and media’s realized it finally.  I just wonder if there’s going to be any room for the rest of us when all is said and done.

Resources:

Technorati. Old Tools Don’t Die. They Gather Dust.  – Global Neighbourhoods

What’s wrong with Technorati – Neville Hobson

Technorati and Me – Thornley Fallis

Newspaper Deathwatch: Attacks from Without, Attacks from Within

Another really bad week in which to be a lover of print media. Yesterday came the stunning announcement that The New York Times Company ad revenues for all papers had declined 18% in July when compared with last years numbers. Even worse, especially if you’re a member for the Boston Globe or Worcester Telegram staff, the ad numbers for the Time’s New England Media Group dropped 24% vs. last year. Keep that in mind for a couple minutes…we’ll come back to that shortly.

Chicago Sun-Times Columnist Quits – Says Papers Can’t Compete with Web

Jay Marriotti, who many of us may know from ESPN, quit yesterday. Cbs2chicago.com reports:

Mariotti told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, but I’m going to be honest with you, the profession is dying,” Mariotti said, “I don’t think either paper [Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune] is going to survive.

Meanwhile, Back in Boston:

Radio Station WEEI recently relaunched its website with the expressed goal of becoming the authoritiative source for information on Boston sports, directly competing with the Boston Globe, and in fact, hiring several former print journalists. Hence, we can reasonably infer that they’ve seen the weakness of the print media, and they’ve decided to attack.

For those who don’t know, WEEI is the local sports radio station, who for years has literally given a voice to many of the cities sports columnists whom we’d only otherwise know through their 5 column inches a day. A few years back, The Boston Globe tweaked them hard, by banning appearances by any of their sports staff on WEEI airwaves.

This means that exactly at the time when print media in Boston is reeling, specifically The Boston Globe with a 24% ad revenue loss , they’ve now got to step up their competition.

If WEEI pulls this off, it’s a model that we can expect to see repeated across the country. The recipe is clear and one wonders if we’re going to see it in Chicago next.  Columnists like Jay Marriotti will be taking their personal brands, brands which were built at great expense in the print world, and taking them to compete directly against their former task masters via the web.    There are rumors that WEEI has been courting high level columnists at both print newspapers around Boston to join them.  And they could easily end up with a bigger stable of top names than both the print rags combined.

Choose your own analogy:

The barbarians are at the gate…

Like a wounded mastondon…

The Dark Side of Cloud Computing

We’ve all done it. Try to email something to a friend and Outlook, or whatever mail client we use accidentally selects a different contact to send to. It’s not such a big problem when you’re sending pictures of the baby, or directions to the weekend barbeque, but what happens when you accidentally send sensitive information to the wrong person, like a journalist.

The problem is utterly compounded when you give accidentally give access to your information sitting out in the cloud. Things like sharing a Google Doc with the wrong person, or giving access to sensitive Google Analytics info with a journalist. Especially one who works for a competing media giant.

That’s exactly what happened at Community Newspaper Holdings recently. Apparently someone meant to share Google Analytics access for all their sites with a staffer named Denise Gallagher but instead shared access with David F. Gallagher, who writes the tech blog for The New York Times. If you were the person who gave access to the Times, I can sum up your thoughts on seeing this headline: “I’m in Your Google Docs, Reading Your Spreadsheets.” That thought has got to be “my career is over.”

There was a time when it would have taken a fair amount of criminal activity to get access to this much information about a company’s internal workings and Web site performance. Now an employee can accidentally drop it into the lap of a random outsider without even knowing that anything is amiss. That’s the power of cloud computing at work.

Most of the discussion about the security of online applications revolves around whether or not you can trust Google and its competitors to protect your data. In this case, CNHI needed to be protected from its own employee. Google could help with this by, for example, flashing a warning before you share a document with a person you have not exchanged e-mail with in Gmail. But in the end, security requires careful typing — and perhaps some careful decisions about whether some documents would be better left behind the corporate firewall.

Here’s the issue, as we all make more and more use of Cloud Computing apps, like Google Docs, like Google Analytics, we’re taking huge risks with not only our company data, but our professional lives. This is the one big failing that we tend to miss, the potential for error is so great, that it’s really not a matter of if mistakes will happen, it’s a matter of how many, and how severe.

What Google has missed by forcing us to use gmail addresses as the common login parameter for these apps is that for business security reasons, we must be able to authenticate against our own internal, authoritative systems. It’s wrong to expect business to maintain customer access in potentially hundreds of cloud apps, instead they need to open a bridge to the business so that one single point of authentication can be maintained. In this manner, it’s easy to add someone, and more importantly, easy to remove them if you need to.

This is a huge problem right now in business. I know of people who have left previous employers and are still having company email, including staff only stuff and management level group email, forwarded to them at their Gmail accounts. I know of situations where a year or two later, users still have access to external systems like Webex, etc. Is it all inept management? No, the problem is that the more logins you must manage, the more likely you’re going to forget something. And once in a while, that something is going to be really, really important.

The Gray Lady Gets Trolled

In quite possibly the single most shoddy piece of journalism I’ve ever read, The New York Times has been taken on a ride by a few Internet dirt balls.

In a piece that ran in the Sunday New York Times Magazine, Mattathias Schwartz examined the phenomena of Internet Trolls, in a story entitled “The Trolls Among Us“.   Unfortunately, neither Mr. Schwartz or the copyeditors seem to really know what the definition of an Internet Troll is.  Too bad, as its been more than adequately defined and an accepted part of the online lexicon since the days of the bulletin board. From Wikipedia, who dates the term to the early 1990s:

An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial and usually irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat room, with the intention of baiting other users into an emotional response[1] or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.

Unfortunately, that which the article attributes to trolling is really no more than online stalking.  Even worse, they give play credence to the type of activity that needs to be prosecuted, not published:

Sherrod DeGrippo, a 28-year-old Atlanta native who goes by the name Girlvinyl, runs Encyclopedia Dramatica, the online troll archive. In 2006, DeGrippo received an e-mail message from a well-known band of trolls, demanding that she edit the entry about them on the Encyclopedia Dramatica site. She refused. Within hours, the aggrieved trolls hit the phones, bombarding her apartment with taxis, pizzas, escorts and threats of rape and violent death. DeGrippo, alone and terrified, sought counsel from a powerful friend. She called Weev.

Weev, the troll who thought hacking the epilepsy site was immoral, is legendary among trolls. He is said to have jammed the cellphones of daughters of C.E.O.’s and demanded ransom from their fathers; he is also said to have trashed his enemies’ credit ratings. Better documented are his repeated assaults on LiveJournal, an online diary site where he himself maintains a personal blog. Working with a group of fellow hackers and trolls, he once obtained access to thousands of user accounts.

The interesting bit is that they’ve apparently accepted a term “lulz” which is a bastardization/pluralization of “LOL” for laughing out loud, which the article says these fine folks collect as a rating on their adventures.

The only problem is, that it really isn’t true.  If you search Google you’ll find two or three vague references, which come from exactly the same folks they’ve interviewed for the article.  I’m sorry, but a handful of clowns doth not a circus make…and they certainly won’t suffice as sources for an article in the Gray Lady.

The article is utter rubbish – an attempt to create a trend where one does not really exist, and frankly, we should expect better from The New York Times.

Media Bias is Us

Read the following statement:

The media is utterly biased.  Obviously biased sources like (choose one: Fox News | The New York Times) spout a constant stream of propaganda from (choose one: the dastardly Republicans | the evil Democrats | our Alien Overlords) which is meant to deceive us from the truth.

The problem we face today is that the way in which we get our news is fundementally changing.   Instead of getting a cross section of the news that someone really smart (read news editor) thought we’d need to know, we’re as likely getting our news from heavily biased secondary sources, also known as blogs, forums, etc.  We forget that a blog like this one is roughly analagous to the content you’d get from a columnist in a newspaper.  That means it’s opinion.  Opinion is, by its very definition, biased. 

So as we decry the problem of media bias in the primary sources of media, we’re gravitating to sources that are in fact much more biased.  We move from Fox News to Drudge Report or Instapundit, from The New York Times to the Huffington Post.  And in the process we’re losing out on the local, we miss the voice telling us that something should be on our radar, not merely showing us that which is already on our radar in a way that reinforces the way we already percieve it.

The problem is that when we have start to move from a primary source to a secondary news source, we’ve got to fill in for all the other stuff.  Like the weather (okay, we add a widget for weather to our desktop) or traffic (we get an sms update to our cell phone), but there is so much else.  Do we really want to have an obituary widget so we can watch for notices on people we know?. 

We’re moving to a model where we’re only as good as our information, and our access to information is limited by our ability to find, process and filter that information.