Daily Archives: January 11, 2009

Is This the Inevitable Answer: A Steve Jobs for Local Newsers, and iTunes for News?

One of the first comments to come my way after the debut of localtvnews was the idea that the “here’s your news, we picked the stories for you, and we’re feeding it to you at 6″ mentality just had to die.  Cable news proved that, largely spelling the end of the once mighty nightly network newscast.  Local news continues with the formula of morning, noon, evening and night as it fumbles around on the web searching for a winning formula.

David Carr may have the ultimate “a la carte” solution:  iTunes for news.  In a Monday morning post on nytimes.com, Carr devotes his The Media Equation column to the idea that beyond picking and choosing one’s own news stories, according to what you are truly interested in (perhaps it’s city hall, yes;  convenience store shootings, no–or, maybe, the other way around), the even more important solution to struggling local news operations is the business model:  you’re going to have to pay for it.  “Free is not a business model,” Carr quotes Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research.

As Steve Jobs revolutionized the world of music, perhaps someone will do the same for information–providing a platform for consumers to pick and choose exactly those stories they want to see, and are willing to pay for.  As local advertising giants like car dealers and department stores drastically scale back their spot TV spending, stations are suffering, cutting costs, and sending journalists packing.

Where’s our Steve Jobs?

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We’re All in This Together

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Whether traditional television stations recover from the advertising setbacks that have forced layoffs for tv newsers from coast to coast, or some of those stations instead decide to eliminate their newsrooms, and send even more good people out of work, I know this much: we’re in this together.

Since I started this blog all of a week ago tonight, I’ve been jokingly called a “harbinger of doom” for noting the names of the reporters, anchors and other tv newsers who’ve been directly affected by the cost-cutting that’s having such a dramatic impact on the work we do and love. Many of my friends are among those who’ve lost jobs through no fault of their own. When it came right down to it, talent wasn’t the deciding factor. It was money.

At the same time, I remain exceptionally hopeful about our business. I believe that there will always be a market for a person who can tell a story, either with a microphone and a pad, a camera, or, yes, both. I’m curious to know what local tv news will look like in just five years. I want to talk to the smart people and share their insights right here on this blog.

And I guess I’m not the only one. In 7 days, this out-of-nowhere blog got nearly 2,000 page views, and I heard from a lot of folks, some good friends, others just people with an interest in television news, and the news in their town most of all. I hope to make this site a resource, not just to talk about “doom,” but to brainstorm about what might be, for all of us, an exciting future, telling stories in ways we never imagined.

Thanks for reading the blog, and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I can’t tell you how happy it made me to read a Facebook message from Brendan Keefe, who wrote, “I had no idea this website was new! It’s great. Suddenly I’m the most informed guy in the newsroom when it comes to what’s happening in the business.”

Doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks, everybody. (Now I’ve really gotta bolt… “24” is on and I gotta watch me some Jack.

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News 2.0: Can Traditional Newsers Reinvent Reporting Online?

If you wonder where, aside from the local tv station and the cable network, you might find yourself working in the next few years, look no further than Boston-based GlobalPost, the new international news site that officially launches tomorrow, but since you know me, I can get you in for a look around during the pre-launch party:  Just click here and tell ‘em standupkid sent ya.  (And see if you don’t agree the site looks clean, visually arresting, and unique)

The site’s run by Phil Balboni, a guy who knows a lot about seeing the “next news idea” a few steps before the rest of us know what’s happening.  The former head of traditional Boston news station WCVB, Balboni created NECN (New England Cable News) when few would give a snowball’s chance to a 24 hour regional news channel.  Now he thinks he’s got a winning idea online with GlobalPost, which has attracted nearly 70top-name journalists, and placed them in 45 countries around the world.

Phil Balboni/Global Post

Phil Balboni/Global Post

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Balboni describes GP this way in an interview with PBS’s MediaShift:  “In my previous venture, we launched NECN.com as the first all-video website in 1997, and [it remained] an all-video website for the last 11 years,” Balboni said. “We were way ahead of our time, but it’s still evolving. [At GlobalPost] we can provide a full suite of content — well-told stories in text that are not too long, use of video. We want to do a lot of great photography and narrated slide shows. We will invite comments and interaction with our users.”

You won’t get rich working for GlobalPost, at least not right now, with correspondents signing long-term contracts (and in many cases keeping their day jobs) for a monthly stipend of about $1,000.00, according to Forbes.  Reporters are expected to file 800 word text stories, with photos and/or video, and to blog.

But Balboni’s had no shortage of blue chippers signing up.  Steve Safran, a VP at AR&D, told MediaShift, “(Balboni) founded NECN when the idea of a 24-hour local cable news channel was unproven and even derided.  He showed that he was willing to ride it out until it became a profitable venture.”  

If it means more places for talented journalists to tell stories, I say Rock On, Phil.

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