Tag Archives: legacy media case studies

Legacy Media Case Study: The Washington Post

By Cheryl Hayes


The Washington Post existed as far back as 1877. The Meyer-Graham family owned the news organization from 1933 until 2013, which is when it was acquired for $250 million by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. As of 2012, The Washington Post was the 8th largest newspaper in the US. As of 2011, it was the 2nd largest online newspaper website. In addition to being a local newspaper for the Washington, DC area, The Washington Post is a nationally-recognized brand for its political news coverage.

What has this organization’s response been to the changing media landscape?

  • Launched website in 1996
  • Jeff Bezos purchased The Washington Post from the Graham family in 2013.
  • Started a living laboratory of business model experimentation.
  • Staff has been given a “runway” for experimentation.
  • Started an initiative to build the reach of Post journalism through digital initiative. The goal was to carry the newspaper into a new era marked by expanded ambitions online and a determination to build a larger national and international audience.
  • Funding efforts to expand online readership.

What lessons they have learned as they work to adapt to digital landscape

  • The changing media landscape is not a death warrant for legacy news organizations, but instead is a means to innovation and growth.
  • Paying attention to their customers:readers, viewers and listeners.
  • If they don’t engage their customers with journalism they can connect with, the competition will.


What kinds of opportunities did they take?

  • Selling The Washington Post in 2013 after seven years of declining revenues versus cutting additional staff, which would have adversely hurt its news reporting.
  • Investment of $250 million cash to implement initiatives aimed at growth and digital transformation.
  • Hired 36 people with the goal of digital transformation.
  • Learned new skills from young journalists who already have the skills, knowledge, enthusiasm, energy and love for journalism.
  • Acquired Slate online magazine in 2005 from Microsoft.
  • Invested in R&D.
  • Issued a set of social media guidelines in 2009.
  • Partnered with The New York Times and Mozilla in 2014 to create tools to improve online commenting systems, which was funded by a $3.89M grant from the Knight Foundation.
  • Launched a blog called Story Lab in 2009, which experiments with new narrative forms in reporting and presentation.
  • Directly compete with Politico by launching a redesigned politics section that emphasized social sharing and interactivity.
  • Utilized Facebook via Trove, a news aggregator that mines users’ FB data to deliver personalized content.
  • First to launch social media app on Facebook.
  • Developed Truth Teller, a live fact-checking tool for audio and video content.
  • Created partnerships with the Texas Tribune and Medill School of Northwestern and the Knight Foundation to fund programmer-journalist scholarships.


What kinds of opportunities did they miss?

  • A new publisher with a background in Republican politics could have been used as an opportunity to impose new editorial policies at The Washington Post.
  • Not using paywalls for online content as a revenue stream.


What kinds of opportunities did they take to grow audience?

  • Offer an enhanced reader experience with new article formats that engage the reader.
  • Launched Washington Post Live in 2011, which hosts 20 – 30 discussion events per year that are free and open to the public.
  • Started a network of user-created political blogs called PostEverything in 2014.
  • Offer a division called PostTV that produces several web shows.
  • Partnered with Watchup, an online newscast that reinvents how news is watched, in 2014.
  • Released an iPhone app in 2010.
  • Released an iPad app in 2012.
  • Launched main app to include a replica of the print newspaper in 2013.
  • Launched social media app on Facebook which draw in 3.5M users in first two months as well as an Android app.

What kinds of opportunities did they take to build new revenue?

  • Initially charged $1.99 for iPhone app.
  • Charged $2.99 per month for full access to politics iPad app.
  • Launched a metered pay plan in 2013 with a digital subscription price of $9.99 and $14.99 per month.
  • Launched Sponsored Views in 2013 where people had to pay to post commentaries.

What specific challenges did they face?

  • Financial challenges due to the decline in revenues; especially from Kaplan Education.
  • The departure of several journalists to form their own online journalism ventures funded by Vox Media.
  • Downsizing of staff
  • Competition from new online media ventures
  • Competition from other internet news media


Baron, Marty. 2014. Optimism is the only option: The Washington Post’s Marty Baron on the state of the news media. April 7. http://www.niemanlab.org/2014/04/optimism-is-the-only-option-the-washington-posts-marty-baron-on-the-state-of-the-news-media/.

Coddington, Mark. 2014. Nieman Lab Encyclopedia. July 31. Accessed September 12, 2014. http://www.niemanlab.org/encyclo/washington-post/.

Craig Timberg, Chico Harlan and Peter Whoriskey. 2014. The Washington Post. September 2. http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/post-names-frederick-j-ryan-jr-as-new-publisher/2014/09/02/78f65bf2-329d-11e4-8f02-03c644b2d7d0_story.html.

Kennedy, Dan. 2014. Why is THe Washington Post holding a live event in Boston? May 12. http://www.niemanlab.org/2014/05/why-is-the-washington-post-holding-a-live-event-in-boston/.

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Legacy Media Case Study: Two Interviews

By Kimberly Exford

For this case study, I was able to interview two young women, one that previously worked in radio and broadcasting, and another who currently works at public relations agency. Both women were able to give thorough details and insight into the changing media landscape within each of their media respective organizations.

Candace Ledbetter (former Promotions PR Manager for V-103, a local radio station in Atlanta, GA)

Candace held this role from 2008-2014. As such, she was responsible for overseeing all media outlets that her company used, including social media. Not only was she in charge of giving the company a “voice” throughout the city and other surrounding areas, but she would also provide platforms for others seeking to  spread the word about themselves. When I asked Candace what she felt the biggest impact or change was on this company, she immediately said social media.

Though she is a member of several social media sites in her personal life (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), her company was not so willing to join. This was a problem for Candace initially because she knew how much the Internet and social media impacted the way people received information, and it was crucial that V-103 “catch up” to everyone else that was rapidly joining these sites. For example, the social site Twitter gives users a way to quickly share their thoughts with others.

For companies, she said that “it allows them to be everywhere!”

According to a social networking study conducted by Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, 19% of all online adults use Twitter.

Another benefit is radio stations can get more personal with their listeners and bring about brand loyalty. Though this company was slow to make the change over to more digital media outlets, Candace doesn’t feel that there were any missed opportunities.

She said, “I know that we were late to the show so to speak, but we still got there in enough time and didn’t miss too much.”

Another role that Candace held was the director of operations and senior publisher for 135th Street Agency. According to their company Facebook page, “founded in 2005, the 135th Street Agency is an experiential marketing and communications company based in New York City and Atlanta that specializes in campaigns targeting Youth Consumers and Business Professionals.” Candace mentioned that her role with this agency was virtually identical to the one at the radio station.

When asked about social media’s impact on newspapers, radio, and other forms of media overall, Candace specifically mentioned newspapers, and the fact that readers sometimes used to have to spend money to get the information they desired. However, with the Internet (i.e. social media) there is no cost. A Twitter follower of a FOX news station can get the basically the same information that someone who purchases a newspaper gets, she argued.

Social media and the Internet took over from some forms of traditional media because of their convenience. Though the radio is easily available in the car and also, at times, online, someone with access to a social media site (i.e. via their phone) might be able to access this information even faster. And, they can do it from the middle of the mall while shopping or while standing in line purchasing groceries. Also, with the radio, you may have to sit through boring advertisements and commercials before getting to listen to your desired news. Though there are some ads found on the internet and social media, unlike the radio, typically you can click through them and get to what you are looking for much quicker.

Eugenia Johnson (PR Director at Garner Circle PR in Atlanta, GA)

Eugenia describes her employer as a “boutique PR firm,” one that offers media outreach and planning or marketing or special communications services for a variety of businesses. According to this article, “public relations boutiques specialize in raising the overall awareness of a brand, product or image of a company or person.”

Eugenia mentioned that though her company currently uses a variety of media outlets, the digital ones account for about 80% of their pitches. Some of the most popular digital outlets they use are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By joining these networks, her company hopes to “build relationships and use ‘promotional stalkers’ to help gain additional information. Promotional stalkers are people whose job is to join various social media networks and develop a relationship with as many of their followers and friends on a particular site as possible. This helps to put users at ease before springing a pitch on them.

More specifically, one of her responsibilities is to look for bloggers with higher response rates and number of followers to hopefully help influence other people. Eugenia mentions a few pros to using this form of media. She can build relationships with her followers and, and she can also see what their competitors are doing. As far as opportunities are concerned, she doesn’t feel that any opportunities have been missed since her firm is very active on social media.

Final takeaways

Though each of these women work for different companies, they both provided me with the same key take-away items when I talked to them: A company must be able to adapt to the changing media environment and they have to be willing to make changes as needed to help keep up with their users.

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Legacy Media Case Study: The Tennessean

By Lori Shull

As the bottom began to fall out from the print journalism world thanks to the internet in the 1990s, Gannett was one of the early adopters of change. It adopted what it called News 2000, an initiative to focus on community interest stories, watchdog journalism and diversity. At the time, it seems that more than one journalism expert hated the idea. It was formula and numbers-based, and editors had to report data to executives who then gave the papers scores and orders to change what they were doing if deemed necessary. Despite the protests, others came around and eventually agreed that the company had it right. Since then, Gannett and other news organizations have tried to do essentially the same thing—reinvigorate the business model by refocusing on community initiatives—again and again.

In 2003, Gannett launched the Real Life, Real News initiative, which again focused on community conversation and added an emphasis on breaking news, rather than operating the newsroom exclusively for print deadlines.

Three years later, Gannett launched Information Centers, which seem to have been intended to destroy the traditional news desks—metro, sports, state, city and so on—in favor of more nebulous terms like community conversation, digital, local, data and multimedia to name a few. The goals were to publish more user-generated content, expand local coverage and continue developing into a 24/7 news organization instead of saving breaking news for print deadlines. Every three years, it seems that the corporation tried to reinvent itself using the same ideas but wrapping them up in a different name.

Since News 2000 launched, the company appears to have floundered, along with many other newspapers. It is well-known for its highly paid executives, several of whom earn more than $2 million a year, and frequent lay-offs.

This year is no different, with the corporation recently announcing that it was divesting the print side of its holdings into a separate company from its broadcast and digital side. The end result is that the most profitable pieces of the company, including its recent purchase of the nearly three-quarters of Cars.com it did not already own for $1.8 billion, will no longer have to bail out their less-profitable print counterparts. Gannett is not the first media corporation to do this. Like the others, the company tried to explain that everyone would win because the print side of the company would be debt-free and be able to purchase other newspapers that previously were unavailable to it because of federal regulations.

At the same time, they announced that every newspaper would have to cut 15 percent to help the new company remain profitable and keep shareholders happy in spite of industry expectations that revenues would continue to decline. Many editors would lose their jobs, though some newspapers said they would be able to add back some of the reporter positions that had been lost in previous cuts.

Though the latest announcement heralding the rise of the “newsroom of the future” has overtones of messages from years before, this one seems to be the biggest change yet.

“I haven’t felt like there’s been one as vigorous and broad as this one. This one seems to be more serious than the ones in the past,” said Michael Cass, the Tennessean’s metro reporter and 15-year veteran of its newsroom. “I would guess they feel it’s time to really attack the revenue problems we have, to finally get on top of that and create a product that people are going to feel compelled to read all the time.”

The Nashville Tennessean, which has occasionally served as a testing ground for some of the corporation’s initiatives, is one of Gannett’s largest papers. Earlier this year, it was one of about 35 test sites for daily national content additions from USA Today, which are now corporation-wide. The effort was devised mostly as a way to boost USA Today’s circulation numbers and make it more attractive to advertisers, but it was also probably a smart way to get national coverage into smaller papers operating without the staff to cover national issues and, perhaps, to cut down on the cost of subscriptions to the Associated Press or other wire services.

Despite the use of more national stories from the parent company, reporters at the Tennessean are by no means doing less reporting. Where Cass used to be able to focus on writing five or six solid stories every week, he estimates that he now writes between eight and 12. When I talked to him in the early afternoon, he had already written one web story and was in the middle of a second, a brief follow-up of a piece of political news from the day before. He was writing the second knowing that it would not make the paper; not everything that appears online appears in print and the focus of the newsroom has definitively shifted from the paper product to keeping the website and mobile fresh to try to compel people to read and check back in daily.

Cass was quick to say that the company is not going after “click bait,” but that it is very focused on giving readers what they will be interested in. Learning what readers want, Cass said, is a process.

“Sometimes we get it wrong and we’re learning,” he said. “There are certain kinds of government stories that I think are interesting and that people should be interested in, that we’re discovering they won’t read. I hope that doesn’t mean that we’ll stop covering them entirely, but we may do them differently.”

He did say that he has never been told by an editor not to write a story that he believes is important because the management thought it would not be interesting enough to the readership.

The Tennessean has redesigned its website and looks like every other Gannett publication. It has also expanded its multimedia coverage, with a section for video. Not only is there video that would be considered “news,” but also there is footage of interviews with various officials and sports content. The sports video seems to dominate, perhaps because it is football season.

The Tennessean has had a few misses in its efforts to meet the changing media climate, and not all of them are to due with its parent corporation cutting its newsroom staff. Several years ago, it attempted to launch what it called Brainstorm Nashville, which was yet another way to connect with the community and crowdsource coverage. It was developed in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and was intended to cover a different large issue every month, beginning with childhood obesity. I can find no evidence that Brainstorm Nashville ever got out of beta or indeed covered a second issue. It’s URL, brainstormnashville.com, is for sale.

In 2009, management told reporters to get on Twitter and many had already been active on Facebook. Since then, no new social networks have been mandated by the management, though some reporters, including Cass, are beginning to dabble in Reddit.

“I saw some of my co-workers getting results using Reddit,” he said. “Twitter has become a huge part of my work and i like it a lot. I enjoy the way it can share stories but also create conversation.”

In keeping with the recent announcement that all newsrooms had to cut staff by 15 percent, an initiative called Picasso, the Tennessean decided to make all of its 89 staff members reapply for 76 positions. Several of the position descriptions have been standardized across Gannett and illustrate that reporters can no longer simply report the news.

The biggest challenge that the Tennessean, and all Gannett papers, faces is keeping its shareholders happy and the organization’s profits up.

“What a family paper doesn’t have to worry about is reporting to its shareholders every quarter,” Cass said. “It’s not always ideal, but it comes with the territory.”

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Book publishing, disrupted

by Amelia Ables

Given the rise of  e-book sales, it’s interesting to see what’s going on with the major book publishers. Analyst firm PwC estimates that e-book sales will reach $8.2 billion by 2017.

This shows that not only are people using e-books, but that they will more than likely continue to choose them over traditional paper books. “The advantages of e-books are clear,” says New York Times writer Moshin Hamid. “E-books are immediate. While traveling…I can bring along several volumes, weightless and indeed without volume…” Hamid says.

This ease of access shows that books are easier to obtain than ever before, considering that readers can effortlessly download a book onto their e-reader of choice. The challenge that book publishers and brick-and-mortar bookstores face is how to compete in the digital marketplace.

Amazon has done a lot to disrupt the book publishing industry. The greatest way it did, of course, was with the Kindle, which is the best-selling e-reader out there. Furthermore, while book-publishing companies need their best sellers to offset their less successful books, Amazon does not. This ties in with the idea of the long tail. Chris Anderson states that best sellers are not the only books that make money, but that the “misses” make money too. “And because there are so many more of them, that money can add up quickly to a huge new market,” Anderson explains. E-readers give customers more opportunities to happen upon these “misses” or more obscure books that they otherwise would not know about. Anderson’s example of this is Rhapsody adding tracks to its library and each of these tracks finding an audience somewhere.

This same concept can be applied to why Amazon does not need best sellers to offset all the non-best sellers out there.

Non e-book publishers have to worry about things such as distribution and printing costs, which results in e-readers being cheaper than physical books. Another thing Amazon does that greatly affects the brick-and-mortar stores is their price check app. Customers can scan the price of a book in a bookstore and find it cheaper on Amazon’s site. Amazon even decided to take on the Big Six publishers in 2011 by creating a general-interest imprint.

How do the brick-and-mortar stores react to this? Many refuse to carry the titles that Amazon publishes. This is true of Barnes and Noble and of many independent stores. When Amazon created their general-interest imprint, these stores chose not to stock some of the titles, which resulted in the books flopping. That was one victory for other publishers and for physical bookstores. However, the article “How Amazon is disrupting the book business” explains that Amazon customers don’t necessarily browse the site for new book titles, printed or e-book versions. This is mostly done in physical bookstores, after which consumers will purchase the titles through Amazon on their e-reader. But what happens if physical bookstores cease to exist because of digital books? This causes worry that all book sales, physical and digital copies, will drop significantly.

Barnes and Noble came up with a response to Kindle, which was to create Nook. The Nook failed to compete in the realm of e-readers.  Brain Sozzi, chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, attributed its failure to Barnes and Noble not illustrating the full value of the Nook. Apple and Amazon advertised their tablets not only as readers, but also as browsers, movie streamers, etc., while the Nook was only advertised as a reader. Furthermore, Sozzi states the Nook did not have a place because people saw the Kindle as a less expensive iPad, leaving the Nook “with no foundation to stand on to speak to consumer.,”

In fact, Nook hardware is no longer being made, and they are instead focusing on Nook apps for other types of tablets. Kindle, and Amazon, won this category.

One thing that the Big Six publishers did to combat the e-book problem is work with Apple to create a new model in order to allow them to remain competitive with Amazon. Essentially, they created a scheme that would allow them to set the price everywhere. Amazon eventually gave in and accepted the plan, but the publishers and Apple were sued for collusion by the DOJ, allowing Amazon and Kindle to come out on top.

Another thing publishers have to worry about is that authors, especially big ones with already established careers, will leave them and begin to self-publish. But not just well-known authors are taking this route. Hugh Howey did this with his series Wool after he decided he didn’t want to take on an agent. He self-published and his series became wildly successful on Amazon, both in digital and physical form.

Two publishers, Random House and Penguin, had to merge in order to “double down on the digital publishing industry,” states Seth Fiegerman in an article on the merger.

Even though Random House alone was the largest book publishing company, they said, along with Penguin, that they did not see as much success as they would have liked in the e-book area. Their response to the shifting of the book industry was to come together in order to cut costs, but with the book industry still in flux, only time will tell.

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How iTunes Shaped the Music Industry

by Dominique Williams

To some, iTunes was a great element of the digital era. And it really was. The iTunes music store was a catalyst for many new things such as phones, music players, and even cars, but what it really affected was the music artist and industry. Music was transformed from  cassettes, vinyl, and disks to a single entity that you can carry anywhere and everywhere. This did, however affect the music industry. From April 2003, when iTunes music store first opened, music sales dropped from $11.8 billion to $7.1 billion in 2013 (CNN Money). Singles began to be purchased instead of full albums through iTunes. Due to this change, music label ownership has dropped, and today there are more independent artists.

Musical artists are now finding new ways to get their music to their audience without a label because they are desperate for hits to make a profit. More artists now than ever are starting a new movement to work without a label and have creative freedom, but also they have to find new ways of distributing their music. Many have gone the digital route, but they also use mix tapes or EP’s (extended play single), which are like a feelers they send out before releasing an LP’s or long play album. This helps them be more in tune with the audience and  more persona,l and they can do this purely digitally so it costs them less money than if they were with a traditional big label. This also makes it so they don’t have to pay for as much for production of physical copies. Most artists only make physical copies during a tour for merchandise table purposes.

The biggest example of this I’ve seen recently is artists like Mackelemore and Ryan Lewis. People think that with the album The Heist, he just showed up on the rap scene, but that isn’t true. Macklemore released his first mixtape at 15, and he has obviously grown as an artist, but even during the growth he had to decide which route to take: traditional or the emerging indie route. He chose indie. This took 12 years, five mix tapes, many failed label meetings (which he even discusses in his lyrics on the current album) to get to the album success he has now, without a label. He used media like Twitter and Facebook to get a following and played small gigs to create buzz. This buzz led him and Ryan Lewis to 1,269,000 in album sales by January 2014. This shows that even though digital distribution and marketing  may have hurt the music industry,  it has helped artist like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis keep their creativity and make a profit. Yes, they did have to go through a bigger company for physical album distribution, but everyone has to work the system to their favor during the rise to fame.

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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, factcheck.org 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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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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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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Traditional Media Organizations Increasingly Hiring Journalists With Multiple Skills

By Kelsey Semien

“Basically, whomever we hire next, if it’s a reporter, they have to be a multimedia journalist. Someone who is, if not skilled, at least adaptable to handle all social media that we know right now.” — Lynda Page,  the assignment editor at one of the news broadcasting stations in Memphis, FOX 13.

Like many other media outlets, FOX has redesigned their news gathering processes and distribution with the advent of the web. A few years ago, you probably wouldn’t have predicted a TV station would have a Facebook page and a Twitter handle. Now just about every station in the country has some sort of presence in social media.

As far as FOX is concerned, the content hasn’t changed, but the way they cover it has. The Facebook page plays a large role in what is covered and placed in the rundown for the 5, 9, and 10 o clock news. If something on Facebook does well, meaning if it gets a lot of likes and shares, it will more than likely go in the broadcast.

Also there are new things called “x-Pads” that FOX is introducing. Reporters are going on stories by themselves with x-Pads and shooting everything solo, even stand ups. The x-Pad is basically an iPad that has been turned into a camera with a tripod, microphone and light.  FOX still uses photogs, but they have less of them because of the x-Pad.

“The news industry is starting to condense jobs. Where you would have three people doing three different things, now you have one person doing three different things,” my dad, John Semien, City Editor for the Jackson Sun, in Jackson, Tennessee, said.

The Sun, as locals call it, is newspaper that is part of a large chain of media outlets owned by Gannet. The Sun has seen a tremendous amount of layoffs over the past six years due to disruption in the industry. They have responded to the changes in media in a similar fashion as FOX. Reporters for the Jackson Sun are required to have an iPhone and Twitter account, and the Sun’s website is updated regularly.

There is an integration in resources that is taking place now. These media outlets have tried to find a way to keep their content the same and keep their readers. They still cover the same topics and issues, they just distribute and gather it differently.  In order to follow the readers to where they are, they go to these social media sites and post the same content that would broadcast on air or be printed in the paper.