American Journalism Review Examines The Faith and Hope in Online

Hope and faith aren’t business plans.

In an article entitled Online Salvation, American Journal Review, examines the continuing delusion among American newspaper executives that their industry’s troubles are somehow ‘cyclical,’ that because newspapers were people’s major source of news for centuries then newspapers will somehow continue to be that major source, that double-digit annual increases in the industry’s relatively small online advertising revenues will ever compensate for the single-digit annaul decreases in the industry’s relatively gargantuan print advertising revenues, and that perhaps fedoras will return in men’s fashions. (OK, I made up that part about hats).

The article quotes Harvard University’s Thomas Patterson as seeing a two-tier news system developing, in which national sites continue to see online traffic increase but online traffic falling at mid-sized and smaller newspaper sites.

I don’t know what data Patterson is seeing, but traffic isn’t falling at smaller sites, though it is at mid-sized newspapers. The reason that traffic is slowly increasing at national and small newspapers is but not at mid-sized newspapers is that people are visiting the sites of national and small newspapers to use those newspapers respective core competencies of national and local news. Mid-sized newspapers have core competency in neither national nor local news (national newspaper do far better at national and the small newspapers that surround the mid-sized ones do far better at local).

I’ve always been amazed by one other article of faith among American newspaper executives, which wasn’t mentioned in this AJR article. That article of faith is American newspaper executives’ belief that the woes of their industry can be reversed at any time. They failed to reverse those woes years ago, but they believe they can reverse them today. And if they fail to reverse those woes today, they believe they can somehow reverse them in the future. Those newspaper executives apparently don’t live in the temporal world. Their faith is like that of perennial sinners who believe they can still go to heaven if they repent in the very last seconds before their deaths. A very convenient belief.

Unfortunately, the reality-based world doesn’t permit ‘eleventh hour’ redemptions and eternal salvation. ‘Windows of opportunity’ are stay open only temporarily, not eternally. Had American newspapers cooperated online years ago, they would have been today’s Google Newes, CraigsLists, and Ebays. But their windows of opportunities to do those things have closed years ago. To do great things now at all, they must work with Google, Yahoo!, CraigsList, Ebay, etc.

In another article, American Journalism Review assesses U.S. newspaper websites’ use of online video:

News organizations are embracing video on their Web sites in a big way. The quality ranges from bad to basic to superb. And for some journalists, the advent of video is a terrific new career opportunity.

On another topic, ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol) is the newspaper industry’s latest attempt to control how the online search engines access and index newspaper content. It’s online coding that aims to replace the antiquated robots.txt protocol that still controls how the search engines’ access and index websites.

A driving force behind ACAP is the World Association of Newspapers, which not long ago wanted to prohibit and sue the search engines from accessing and indexing newspapers’ contents. WAN apparently now realizes that that strategy wouldn’t be successful, hence its backing of development of ACAP.

Unfortunately, Google, Yahoo!, and other major search engines aren’t involved or cooperating with the ACAP effort. They would need to be for ACAP to be successful, otherwise their search engines will just ignored the new protocol. Moreover, some of the preliminary reviews of ACAP, even within the newspaper industry, see no benefits in it for consumers.

The Times of London is the first major newspaper to use ACAP.

The Financial Times last week reported that the ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox television networks earned approximately $120 million from video advertising on their websites. That sounds like a lot, but the FT article happened to mention in passing that an estimated $1.3 billion was spent on video advertising on U.S. web sites last year. So, it seems to me that those traditional networks have been losing the lion’s share of it. Meanwhile, the BBC has apparently underestimated the growth of its online revenues.

It’s been a very dangerous year in which to be a journalists. Roy Greenslade of The Guardian noted last week that:

At least 171 journalists and other news media staff have died as a result of their work around the world so far this year, making 2007 the bloodiest year on record for the industry.

With more than a month still to go before the end of the year, the all-time high of 168 deaths recorded in 2006 was exceeded on Tuesday when at least three editorial staff were killed in Sri Lanka during a military air strike on a radio station.

“This horrible statistic should be regarded as a low point in the safety and welfare of the media profession. We need better protection for media workers worldwide,” said the president of the International News Safety Institute (INSI), Chris Cramer.

Last month, I met numerous journalists who’ve been beaten, shot, and almost blown to bits. Here’s what I was doing in Guatemala for the Media Development Loan fund, an organizationt that funds freedom of the press in countries with repressive regimes.

Hey, if anything we produce is now automatically copyrighted when we produce it, tell the copyright lawyers that everytime they sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to their kids, every time they include a full text of a correspondent’s e-mail when they reply to it, and every time they snap a family photo that happens to have an artwork, poster, or advertisement in the background, they are infringing on someone’s else copyright. University of Utah law professor John Tehranian estimates that he himself infringes to the tune of $12.45 million in liabilities each day. What’s your own total?

Totals? Math? Oh, yes, In case you care, the Internet is growing sigmoidally,not exponentially. What would Sigmoid Froid say?

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