Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: March 6, 2007
When I heard Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose a few months ago, he seemed pretty bullish on well run newspapers, particularly the Washington Post.
This week, he has struck a decidedly pessimistic tone.
We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: Thereâ€™s no rule that says a newspaperâ€™s revenues canâ€™t fall below its expenses and that losses canâ€™t mushroom. Fixed costs are high in the newspaper business, and thatâ€™s bad news when unit volume heads south. As the importance of newspapers diminishes, moreover, the â€œpsychicâ€? value of possessing one will wane, whereas owning a sports franchise will likely retain its cachet.
Me, I remain quite optimistic about the future of newspaper journalism. We have our challenges and along way to go, but I think we’re finally moving in the right direction online. And Buffett isn’t really giving up either. He’s just saying the future will be very different for investors.
Unless we face an irreversible cash drain, we will stick with the News, just as weâ€™ve said that we would. (Read economic principle 11, on page 76.) Charlie and I love newspapers â€“ we each read five a day â€“ and believe that a free and energetic press is a key ingredient for maintaining a great democracy. We hope that some combination of print and online will ward off economic doomsday for newspapers, and we will work hard in Buffalo to develop a sustainable business model. I think we will be successful. But the days of lush profits from our newspaper are over.
“The category itself is in its infancy, and it showed,” judge Erica Simpson, a photojournalist from KGTV San Diego, said. “It is obvious these were people who came mostly from newspapers and were trying to learn a craft. They were making basic mistakes in telling stories with pictures. Since we have no bar set, since this is the first year NPPA has offered these categories, we didn’t want to set the bar too low and say this is what national award-winning online video looks like. We chose the best of the lot, but this is not where the bar of excellence should be.” The judges said the most common mistakes they saw were backlit interviews, sound bites that lasted far too long, jump cuts that were jarring to the eye and stories that were overwritten. The judges also said some stories used too many special effects. The best surprises were sometimes buried deep in the story, and while many of the entries were heavy on useful facts and information, they lacked memorable central characters. The judges also are put off by natural sound “pops” that constantly and unnecessarily interrupt the storytelling.
In the absence of specific examples, it’s hard to respond with Simpon’s remarks. Obviously, online video that is marred by basic mistakes, such as backlighting, jarring cuts, etc. should not win awards. But online video is different from TV. Online, long sound bites might actually be a feature not a bug. Whether something is overwritten is in the ear of the listener. It’s hard to believe that all the entries in a national contest were so fatally flawed by basic shooting and editing mistakes that they weren’t worthy of honor. I suspect, more to the point, is that the judges were unwilling or unable to come to terms with the changing face of video news. The flaws were not necessarily in frames of the video, but in the eyes of the judges. Continue reading
Lisa Snedeker writes in MediaLife about newspaper audience metrics and near the end hits on a key point:
… the other problem newspapers face is coming up with a metric to replace circulation that combines print and online readership in a manner that advertisers can understand and work with.
That raises fundamental questions. Is the online visitor of the same value as the print reader?
One approach has been to weight a month of web traffic to a week’s worth of print circulation, according to Philip Meyer, the Knight chair of Journalism at the University of North Carolina and author of “The Vanishing Newspaper: Saving Journalism in the Information Age.”
But Meyer sees this as an apple-and-oranges formula. “I don’t see any logical reason to do it that way.”
Meo agrees that comparing the past seven days in print to the past 30-day internet traffic is goofy. “You wouldnâ€™t do that with any other media,” he says. “We think comparing the past seven days’ print audience to the past seven days internet audience makes sense.”
The visited-in-last-30 day metric makes no sense to me. It never has. It tells you nothing about an engaged, loyal audience. Continue reading