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.
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.
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.
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.
That’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:
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.
November 24, 2008
Boston is a notoriously tough town for athletes to play in, and the media plays a huge part in that. Some athletes thrive under the proverbial microscope, while others are driven to the brink of insanity.
Mostly, the obsessive media coverage stems from the fans’ own obsessions with their hometown players and teams. But with so many outlets covering every team’s every move, it can be tough for any one writer to stick out. And so occasionally we get things like Bill Burt’s column in today’s Eagle-Tribune, the provocatively — and obnoxiously — titled “Brady Who?”
Sure, Patriots backup quarterback Matt Cassel is exceeding everyone’s expectations as he fills in for Tom Brady. He gets better every week, he’s putting up ridiculous numbers, and his teammates are looking to him for leadership. And the fact that, before this season, he hadn’t started a game since high school, makes his feats even more impressive.
But the fact is the Patriots are still 7-4 and in second place. Will they make the playoffs? Likely. Will they win the Super Bowl? Highly doubtful. And will Cassell start dating a Brazilian supermodel? Nuh uh. So to call his emergence “one of the greatest stories in NFL history,” as Burt does, is pure hyperbole.
Brady came off the bench seven years ago to lead the Pats to three Super Bowl wins. Now THAT is one of the greatest stories in NFL history. Cassell’s just the latest in a long line of athletes who have taken advantage of special opportunities.
And “Brady Who?” is just the latest in a long line of columns that give the Boston sports media such a bad image.