On wire services and SEO

December 3, 2008

There’s been a lot of talk about CNN’s planned wire service, which will compete against the Associated Press in the syndicated news market.

CNN sees an opportunity, because the more newspapers cut staff, the more they need to rely on outside sources to fill their pages. On the surface, it sounds like a good deal for papers. But it’s not, especially for a paper that wants to have a strong online presence.

Why? Three words: search engine optimization.

For you newspaper execs who are just hearing the term for the first time, SEO is the practice of using strong keywords and story descriptions to get your content high rankings on Google and other search engines and drive more traffic to your Web site. (You should try it sometime. Really, it’s great.)

But SEO has a lot of tricks and rules that can undermine your efforts if you’re not careful. One of those is the “duplicate content” rule. Under this rule, if a story you post is too similar to a story someone else has posted, both stories will plummet in the search engine rankings.

That’s where using a wire service comes in. If you’re one of 100 (or even 10) papers that runs the same wire story in your online edition, nobody will ever find your specific page on Google. There’s just too much competition.

You’re better off, as Jeff Jarvis says, creating “an infrastructure to share and link to original journalism.” Spending money on this new CNN wire, or any syndicated content, isn’t a smart investment these days.

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Poynter to sell book of Obama front pages

December 1, 2008

Another media organization is capitalizing on Obamamania.

The Poynter Institute is preparing to sell the catchily titled “President Obama Election 2008: A Collection of Newspaper Front Pages Selected by The Poynter Institute,” according to Editor and Publisher. The book will reprint Nov. 5 front pages from several major U.S. metropolitan newspapers, as well as some international papers (The Jakarta Post and The Daily Nation of Nairobi) and even Yale’s student pub, the Daily News.

At $14.99 (paperback) and $24.99 (hardcover), seems like a good, cheap Christmas holiday gift for the newspaper lover in your life.


Roger Ebert is still wrong

December 1, 2008

Bill Wyman, former arts editor for National Public Radio and Salon.com, agrees with Swimmin’ Hole! that Roger Ebert is wrong about the demise of movie reviews in newspapers. Wyman writes on his blog, Hitsville:

Today, if I’m interested in critical takes on, say, Australia, in a click or two I have at hand the writings of Manohla Dargis, Ebert himself, Ken Turan, Ella Taylor and Todd McCarthy on that film. A click or two more and I have at my disposal the collective wisdom of the internets’ collective film writing, the intellectual equivalent of that sandworm in Dune, majestic and slightly nauseating at the same time.

What in the world is wrong with this picture?

For virtually everyone interested in film criticism, today’s state of affairs is great.

Ebert’s vista is the too-narrow one of daily newspapers. That’s an artificial construct that has no resonance to anyone with a computer.

Sure, Wyman uses words like “vista,” “resonance” and “artificial construct,” but at least Swimmin’ Hole! knows that “Internet” is capitalized.


Welcome to the 21st Century, Roger Ebert

December 1, 2008

When Roger Ebert was young, he used to walk to school, in the snow, uphill, both ways, and when he got there, he’d open the newspaper and read 5,000-word film reviews before class started. And he never complained.

Until now.

arodonnaThat’s because the lengthy, in-depth newspaper film review is dead, replaced by syndicated columnists and “news” about what A-Rodonna had for Thanksgiving dinner. So, like every other old school journalist who’s having trouble adapting to the 21st Century, Ebert is whining about it in a Chicago Sun-Times column:

The AP wants its writers on the entertainment beat to focus more on the kind of brief celebrity items its clients apparently hunger for. The AP, long considered obligatory to the task of running a North American newspaper, has been hit with some cancellations lately, and no doubt has been informed what its customers want: Affairs, divorces, addiction, disease, success, failure, death watches, tirades, arrests, hissy fits, scandals, who has been “seen with” somebody, who has been “spotted with” somebody, and “top ten” lists of the above. (Celebs “seen with” desire to be seen, celebs “spotted with” do not desire to be seen.)

The CelebCult virus is eating our culture alive, and newspapers voluntarily expose themselves to it.

Of course, he’s right. But he’s missing the point. In case you haven’t noticed, Rog, newspapers are a business, and business is bad. They’re giving readers what they want, and still nobody’s buying them. Imagine if they tried to force feed people with intellectual — or dare I say educational — news and critiques?

The good news in all of this is that there are still plenty of people interested in such content and plenty of places to get it. There are of course the good magazines like Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, but more and more of what Ebert’s looking for is found online. Unfortunately for him, he seems to treat online media as second-class, judging by this sentence:

The internationally-respected film critic of the Chicago Reader, Jonathan Rosenbaum, has retired, accepted a buy-out, will write for his blog, or something.

As Swimmin’ Hole! clearly demonstrates, blogs are the new frontier for in-depth, quality journalism. But the more important point — which Ebert seems to be missing — is that the medium is becoming less important than the actual content. With these newfangled computer thingies, we can find what we’re looking for — whether it’s a 5,000-word movie review, a 200-word article about Britney Spears or a rant about an out-of-touch film critic — wherever it happens to be.

And if you don’t realize that, you’re REALLY out of touch:


Online newspaper comment of the week, Nov. 29

December 1, 2008

The Eagle-Tribune makes it 2-for-2 thanks to this comment from “JeromeHoward08,” who weighed in on a story about Sammy Sosa donating $15,000 to a charter school:

When they opened the envelope did little cork pellets fall out?

I can just see it now: “And the winner of this year’s Sammy Sosa Cork Pellet Scholarship is …”


Swimmin’ Hole! scoops The Washington Post

November 25, 2008

The Washington Post today has a story today about layoffs at the Newseum, where 19 employees accepted buyouts and two retired, resulting in a 10% workforce reduction.

Hmm, now where have you heard that before?

Oh, that’s right.

Right here on Swimmin’ Hole!

FIVE DAYS AGO.

Sure, we just picked up the story from FishbowlDC, who had the real scoop. But hey, we still had it before the Post, whose offices are only two miles away from the Newseum. So take that, Post. You suck.


Superman the blogger?

November 25, 2008

Science fiction blog io9 has a pretty funny post about what will happen to Clark Kent/Superman when Metropolis’ biggest newspaper, the Daily Planet, starts cutting costs and offering buyouts.

He’ll suffer the “gross injustice” of becoming a blogger:

You file your post, you see your byline on the front page, you smile…and then the comments start coming in, and you think, I know I addressed that point in plain English. Hey, I didn’t say that, why are you attacking me for saying that? Seriously, do you not get that it was a joke? Hey, I didn’t say that either. I do not even know what that means. No, that’s not socialism. Hitl—really? You went there? Did you even read what I wrote? That’s what passes for logic in your world? THIS WASN’T EVEN ABOUT THE WATCHMEN MOVIE!

And that’s just if he’s lucky enough to write for io9. We commenters over here are, by and large, Pulitzer nominees compared with what they get at, say, newsweek.com. And Clark would probably end up somewhere like that; he’s not hip enough for Slate or New York.

Clark, when that fateful day comes, there’s a spot open for you at Swimmin’ Hole! And don’t worry, your secret’s safe with us.

(Via Bloggasm)