Monthly Archives: March 2014

To do for April 3: Take Personality Test

Hi all,

In addition to doing the readings for next week – for fun and possibly for some insight into how you can best work together with others on your team – take this version of the Myers-Briggs test and note your results in the comments of this post. Obviously you can take it with a grain of salt, but at least for me the results are always dead on.

Thanks to Dr. Lurene Kelley for the link.

I’m an ENFJ.




PolitiFact’s Growth

By Aidan Galasso

In 2008, the St. Petersburg Times made a bold decision to launch a new online fact-checking feature called PolitiFact. Five years and one Pulitzer Prize later, fact checking is now a major part of political journalism. PolitiFact takes statements from anyone in the political “game,” whether they are speaking as part of a press conference, advertisement, legislative session or television program, and determines how true they are. According to their website, they examine the original statement and then check relevant government reports and interview impartial experts to determine how the statement rates on their Truth-O-Meter. Matt Waite, the original developer of PolitiFact who now is a  journalism professor at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, says the idea came from an unique combination of fact checking, a traditional journalistic practice, and the power of the Internet to create databases that allow people to look at a politician’s record over time. On his blog, Waite said the site bucked the “local” trend  in the sense that it is seeking to reach a national audience  instead of only the Tampa Bay/ St. Petersburg area. If coverage the 2012 election was any indicator, then this was a successful gamble. Media companies from MTV to the New York Times fact-checked  the debates or candidates’ statements via the Internet.

Part of the reason PolitiFact is so successful is that it holds politicians accountable, which newspapers aspire to do but don’t always succeed. . Attempting to stay objective often causes journalists to write a “he said, she said” article but not verify if what was said was true or not. The site goes beyond just telling people what a candidate said. Furthermore, the site publishes explanations as to why they rated a statement a certain way and provides documentation for those who want to research the judgment further. This transparency helps make their judgments more neutral and separates them from on the opinions often shared on cable news channels. Those two factors make PolitiFact a unique product built from traditional journalistic values.

Bill Adair, the site’s founding editor, took advantage of PolitiFact winning a Pulitzer prize in 2009 and decided to expand his operation to newspapers in other states in order to create a more localized brand. Memphis’ own Commercial Appeal was a member of the PolitiFact network. This was an example of the Tampa Bay Times monetizing content originally designed to be a public service. New PolitiFact journalists were trained and monitored by Adair, but the content and research was ultimately up to them. Adair said the St. Petersburg Times collected some revenue from licensing, but also got exposure from these new deals; the state sites, in return, could get exposure on PolitiFact’s homepage. In addition to the newspapers it licenses itself out to, PolitiFact works with ABC News to fact-check guests on This Week, and they worked with NPR on the 2012 election. PolitiFact has also gone mobile and has two apps (one free) and RSS feeds available. It is also planning on expanding internationally where there is less competition.

While PolitiFact is perhaps the most famous fact-checking news outlet, it has not cornered the market. The Washington Post has a fact-checking column that gives out Pinocchios, covers much of the same material, and even small papers like The News Journal in Delaware have developed their own fact-checking system. However, The Pulitzer Prize gives Politifact special credibility, and its move into television and radio has put it ahead of competitors in terms of name recognition. This helps because it will attract partners who want to be part of a well-known and respected news product.

The site’s reputation is important because the access to documents for fact-checking is free, which on one hand means the cost of the product is low, but on the other means anyone can become a competitor. Having better name recognition means having a leg-up on the competition in terms of ability to create ad revenue. However, keeping the brand’s reputation at a high-level is a major challenge PolitiFact has when attempting to justify why newspapers across the country should pay to use its Truth-o-Meter.

Bill Adair’s answer to quality control is making sure partners devote substantial newsroom resources to PolitiFact. This is necessary because one drawback to PolitiFact’s well-known Truth-o-Meter is that if legislators get a bad rating, they are less likely to talk to the paper in the future. This means that PolitiFact must either generate enough income to pay for additional reporters to run the fact-checking division, or take reporters from another beat and put them on the PolitiFact desk. If a reporter is too stretched, the accuracy of the fact checking can be called into question, because they don’t have time to do adequate research. Dan Kennedy of Northeastern’s Journalism school believes that fact-checkers may use their opinion because it can be hard to tell if a politician is actually lying, and they often don’t have enough time to determine the truth.

PolitiFact has had to deal with plenty of accusations of bias and inaccuracy during the last election season. In 2012, legislators from across the aisle as well as pundits attacked several of PolitiFact’s truth-o-meter articles. For the most part the website has stayed the course and continued to pass judgment in the face of criticism. However, Adair revealed in an interview that in response to complaints of bias he and his team made a new set of questions to ask when assigning a Truth-o-Meter score that led to more accuracy. For every judgment they make, three or four editors look at the facts surrounding the statement as well as how they have ruled on other statements to make a Truth-o-Meter determination. He also lets reporters listen in on how the Truth-o-Meter decisions are made. By listening and responding to criticisms, PolitiFact is getting fewer judgments wrong and quieting criticism, albeit only a little.

The nature of PolitiFact’s work means they are always going to come under fire for making judgments. According to its founder, the website exists to be a resource that helps people make decisions. Its rise in popularity and awards show that fact checking is probably here to stay, especially with confusing political commercials and increasingly ominous stump speeches from candidates. In an interview Adair gave before leaving PolitiFact to teach at Duke University, he discussed expanding to different countries, more newspapers and connecting PolitiFact with new technology. One such idea was using voice recognition technology to allow a PolitiFact truth-o-meter to appear on screen if a politician said a phrase that had already been fact-checked. While the business model is working great, Adair claims that he never wanted to separate from the St. Petersburg/ Tampa Times. Another recent addition to PolitiFact is PunditFact, which checks the statements of news personalities. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert frequently make fun of the ridiculous statements that news anchors sometimes make, so this expansion should help enhance PolitiFact’s image as an alternative to partisan punditry and sound-bite news coverage.

If the brand continues to do well, it can expand to more newspapers and countries, but it still doesn’t show potential for bringing in large amounts of revenue. Furthermore, its database is accessible to the public, so a non-subscriber could use what PolitiFact said about a candidate in their reporting. Although Adair seems to be satisfied with the progress PolitiFact has made, it has the potential to become more prominent and more lucrative if they take further steps to monetize their content. Some potential ideas could include looking for a contract to do a weekly or daily show on a news network with someone from the organization, or requiring a subscription fee to access old content. This would deviate from PolitiFact’s stated purpose of being a public resource, and would allow competitors to undercut them. However, if the product is good enough could possibly work.



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Legacy Media Case Study Revisions

I gave many of you an option of revising your legacy media case study for publishing on the blog/higher grade. If you would like to do that, please do so by next Monday, March 31.
These case studies will count double since I figure they were more work than just leaving a comment on the readings 🙂
I never got one from Jennifer, Darius, or Kelle by the way. Let me know if I missed something.

Class Reminders 3/20

For next week:

Be sure you’ve thought through and jotted down your findings/research on channels and customer relationships. (see the PowerPoint I sent)
Continue customer discovery and honing your pitch.
Starting thinking about the points of differentiation with your competition – and being sure you know who all of your competitors are.
Start working on some basic prototyping and wireframing. Balsamiq and Cacoo are two options for creating wireframes you might want to check out.
I sent a link to a post to comment on re: the readings already.
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Reading Reflections for Week 10 March 27

See syllabus for the readings. This week’s readings have a number of important concepts about different kinds of funding models for media-related startups.

Before class begins on March 27, respond to the following questions:

  • Based on what you’ve read here and learned in class so far, what do you think is the most promising funding model for the future of news and/or other types of media content?
  • Share one additional thing you found useful or interesting from the readings.
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Guests from local startups coming to class tomorrow

Hi all,

We will be very lucky to have guests from four local startups in class tomorrow 3/20:
  • ScrewPulp
  • MentorMe
  • Musistic
  • Wedding Worthy

They will pitch to you to give you some new examples, help you think through your prototypes and if it is possible to build, and offer some mentoring and guidance to each of the groups.
If you have questions, bring them!
Don’t forget I also gave you a blog post to comment on for tomorrow as well, and hopefully that pitch is going to be sounding good for these folks 🙂

Television, disrupted: Cord cutting and more

On his own blog, Barry Parks writes about the many ways the web and mobile are disrupting television. He specifically looks at some of the moves by network ABC.


While as much as 99% of in-home news and entertainment viewing has been done via television, this trend is changing. Internet use has changed the way consumers access their entertainment needs. Streaming sources online such as Netflix and Hulu have changed the ways consumers are viewing television programming, putting control of when programming is viewed in the hands of the viewer.

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FOX: A Media Frontrunner Despite Disruption

In a post on her own blog, Robin Spielberger discusses how the Fox Broadcasting Company coped with disruption by eventually embracing rather than resisting new technology such as the DVR and by “being one of the first networks to honestly address the issue of diversity in television programming.” As she notes:

Fox’s outright lack of resistance to DVR technology really is sort of radical: Networks really want you to watch their shows live, and until recently, they’ve been reluctant to do anything that might encourage delayed viewing, much less encourage it.

Be sure to read it!

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Case Study of German Regional Daily Newspaper “Rhein-Zeitung”

by Marion Ziegler

For my case study, I chose a traditional regional daily newspaper in Germany – “Rhein-Zeitung”, which is distributed in an area along the river Rhein in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate near the city of Koblenz.

 Why “Rhein-Zeitung” is a typical example of a traditional media company

“Rhein-Zeitung”has been printed since 1946, when it was given a print permit during the allied occupation period in postwar Germany. Since 1948  it has been  published by the printing house Mittelrhein-Verlag.

Today, the print edition is published in 14 different local editions which share a collective “umbrella desk.” Whereas the joint desk provides national, international, political and economic content, the local desks are supplying local news targeted for readers only in their area of distribution. This is common practice in the German newspaper landscape, as this (German) weblink will show. The second chart lists all German newspaper companies. The first digit indicates the number of local editions, and the second digit indicates the number of shared desks.

Rhein-Zeitung has about 200,000 subscribers and approximately 580,000 readers per issue. Its market share in its area is about 85 percent, as it has few competitors. That too is common in the German media landscape as more than half of all German counties are provided with one unrivaled newspaper.

Therefore, Rhein-Zeitung can be seen as a typical regional daily newspaper in Germany.

Rhein-Zeitung is facing the same problems as all the other newspapers

The last years have not been good years in newspaper business around the world. Germany too has to face the vicious circle of decreasing circulation and, consequently, decreasing advertising revenues. 2012 was an exceptionally bad year when it comes to journalistic diversity. Within only a few weeks, several big media companies went bankrupt – including Germany’s second biggest news agency DAPD and the popular daily newspapers Frankfurter Rundschau and Financial Times Deutschland, leaving hundreds of journalists jobless.

Rhein-Zeitung was affected too. On September 19, 2013 chief editor Christian Lindner declared the end of Rhein-Zeitung’s edition in the state capital Mainz on Twitter – thus making Mainz another city with only one daily newspaper left. Lindner’s bottom line: “Popular, but not profitable.”

What makes “Rhein-Zeitung” atypical

Rhein-Zeitung is a typical German daily newspaper struggling with the typical problems in a changing news landscape. But Rhein-Zeitung is also very atypical.

It has always been known for its progressiveness and boldness in trying out new devices and in experimenting with new possibilities. In 1995, Rhein-Zeitung was the first German daily newspaper to provide an online edition with its  own desk. Since 1996, all of the content has filed in a full-text database. In 2001, Rhein-Zeitung developed an e-paper: It was the first newspaper worldwide (!) to offer a one-to-one-copy of its printed edition online on the basis of HTML (demo version accessible here). In 2004 it integrated a disk mirror of Wikipedia into its e-paper and online edition.

Activities in Social Media

Being present in social media cannot count as modern or progressive anymore, but nevertheless, Rhein-Zeitung’s activities should not be forgotten in this case study.  Its Facebook profile has about 14,000 likes. In addition, the newspaper is present in  more local social networks. In 2009, it hired a social media editor, responsible for social media only. Again, Rhein-Zeitung is said to be the first local newspaper to have a social media editor.

On Twitter, Rhein-Zeitung has a main account with about 36,000 followers and 50,000 tweets. In addition, it has several other accounts focused on different editions or particular desks, such as the politics desk. In comparison to other local dailies in Germany, that is not bad. Furthermore, as mentioned, chief editor Christian Lindner is a very well-versed Twitter user.

Rhein-Zeitung’s readers use Twitter as a first feedback channel and also point out local events to journalists. Thus, Rhein-Zeitung also sources information over Twitter. An example is #rheinstagram (play on   words Rhein and Instagram). Readers are called upon to upload images of local events that may be used online or (with consent) even in the print edition.

(In this video, an editor presents the online and especially Twitter activities of Rhein-Zeitung – but only in German, I’m sorry.)

Rhein-Zeitung’s online performance today

Digital share in the company lies around only 4 percent of Rhein-Zeitung’s whole business.

In 2013, Rhein-Zeitung explicitly decided not to allow Google to provide its content on Google News. In an interview (German link again!), chief editor Lindner defends this decision.  As only 1 percent of the paper’s traffic comes from Google News, it can pass on those readers.

“We have made a fundamental decision and we do not want to comp our content anymore,” Lindner argues. Shortly after that, in November 2013, Rhein-Zeitung set up a paywall for its local online content. “A paywall would not go together with the fact that we are giving away our precious content for free elsewhere.”

In another statement (German), Rhein-Zeitung gives more reasons for its paywall: print readership decreases, online readership increases, and: “After 17 years of online experience, we want to enter the adult era.” Admittedly, this statement sounds as though it was written to protect the corporate image.

Local news – the core business of Rhein-Zeitung

The paywall only applies to local content. Ten articles and pictures per month will be free. International or national content will be free and content linked on social media will be free. Thus, Rhein-Zeitung really defines local news as its core business.

I suppose the focus on local news is the main reason for Rhein-Zeitung’s ability to withstand big changes as imposed by Google News. Their readers do not need to Google for content on Rhein-Zeitung, as they already are on the website or the e-paper.

For now, Rhein-Zeitung seems to be doing well with that.

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Readings Etc. – Respond to this post by 3/20

Hopefully you are keeping up with your reading even when I’m not quizzing you or asking you questions about it (cough, cough).

Two things:

1. Share what you found most interesting and relevant for the readings for this week.

As the syllabus says, they are: Briggs Chapter 6 and 7 and sample business plan in the appendix, Jarvis, What Would Google Do? “Media” thru “Manufacturing”

2. Please watch this Seed Hatchery Investor day pitch by local entrepreneur Richard Billings of Screwpulp. Remember, what we are building toward at the end of the semester is a pitch just like this. Watch this and everybody share one thing you observe that’s notable about the pitch that you think could be persuasive to potential investors or customers of the product.

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