Old media and new media: aggregation and quality

This posting is part of my series of Journalism and media postings that try to cover the changing field of media business.

Aggregation economy

Business Insider vs. Digiday: One man’s aggregation is another man’s traffic hijacking article talks on practices some call it aggregation, while others call it copyright infringement or even theft. Plagiarism. Copyright infringement. Traffic hijacking. These are all terms publishers like to use when someone excerpts their content without permission. Some digital publishers have different words for it, however: they prefer to call it curation, or aggregation, or just old-fashioned blogging.

In his post at Digiday, entitled “Surviving the Media Aggregation Economy,” Morrissey argues that we are trapped in a digital-media environment based on boosting pageviews to draw more advertising, and that this has “taken publishers hostage.” Some publishers have taken this approach to its logical conclusion and generate a lot of their revenue by repurposing content created by others.

Why publishers should follow the Verge-HuffPost aggregation dustup article tells that anything that pushes its piece down the page for someone searching for the article could arguably erode the value of that investment. It’s less a matter of aggressive aggregation than a stone-cold exploitation of how Google works. Assemble enough of those sorts of links, the argument goes, and you’ll vacuum up pageviews in numbers that will increase your own value to advertisers.

There are companies that try concentrate on aggregation. Searching for Relevance: Yahoo Aiming to Be the “Google of Content” article says that Yahoo aims to become the “Google of content.” While one might argue that Google is already the Google of content, the plan is to make Yahoo more relevant by tailoring it to the individual and make the site a “trusted destination to get them to where they want to go and keep going back.” That means more partnership deals from third-party sources, with an additional social component layer and synced across a number of devices and platforms, especially video. If it all sounds a bit like a turbocharged Twitter, you’re right. The Google-of-content effort is all part of Mayer’s recent statement to make Yahoo one of the “world’s daily habits.”

On quality and value of journalism in the future

Another blog post that won’t make any money article tells that it’s been a strange and daunting decade for print journalism — it’s now an even stranger time for web journalism. Evangelists have long held up the web as the savior of the news business, but all that digital triumphalism ignores web media’s basic economic dilemma: we’re simply producing far too much of it than is economically justified.

Journalists need also to look at the mirror for the quality of their work. Copy-paste journalism wants to be free article tells that Google News is a depressing read for a journalist. It shows you how many news outlets depend on copy-and-paste reporting, regurgitating the same press releases and quotes in an infinite loop. Who needs all these clones of the same story, with the same basic facts and sources? For PR departments in technology companies, this is a dream come true: In the end you have hundreds of copies of the same press release, slightly tweaked.

The downside of this approach is that the more you have copies, the less value a single copy has. In the old days, when all the publications had their own, small print market, readers did not realize they were reading copies. Neither did advertisers. But the Internet made all this transparent, and this is the main reason why traditional publishers are losing audiences, especially paying ones. Readers will not pay for stories they have already read elsewhere. What is even worse, advertisers realize this as well. They are not willing to pay a premium for a product that is a duplicate. If you notice yourself writing the same stories as everyone else, or even worse, using copy-paste more than before, run. Your job will become extinct.

A Day in the Life of a Freelance Journalist—2013 article talks about situation where magazines can’t pay you for freelance journalists, just tell that they reach millions of readers. The article talks about the deteriorating condition of journalism as profession and the difficulty for serious journalists to make a living through their work resulting in the decline of the quality of news in general. The article comments also tell that TV news is also looking for content for free. State Media Rushing Into Coverage Void Left By Dying Newspapers article says that As newspaper budgets shrink, state-sponsored media outlets like RT, China Daily, and Al Jazeera have grown, hired more writers and offered more (free) coverage. The new economics of media: If you want free content, there’s an almost infinite supply article tells that the reality is that the economics of content have changed forever, and the supply of free content is almost infinite. Can an Algorithm Write a Better News Story Than a Human Reporter? article mentions that Narrative Science is a company that trains computers to write news stories: the universe of newswriting will expand dramatically, as computers mine vast troves of data to produce ultracheap, totally readable accounts of events, trends, and developments that no journalist is currently covering. This was the state of journalism in 2013.

Niemanlab twitter comment “The dirty secret about the web media business is that there’s a massive oversupply problem.” has a point. It points to blog posting Another blog post that won’t make any money says that we’re simply producing far too much of it than is economically justified. The dirty secret about the web media business is that there’s a massive oversupply problem. All of that is being distributed via more channels on more devices. This creates more supply for display ads, that however, drags down ad prices.

Quality coverage still requires money, which means finding funding from somewhere. You see the effects of this ever day: If your revenue is based mostly off of pay-per-click banner ads, a lowest-common denominator post, like a cheap roundup of cat pictures, is quite possibly going to pull in way more views for less money than a nuanced, deeply reported, and expensive dispatch from Syria.

And, yeah, ads can be a bummer, especially when they’re executed poorly, and paywalls aren’t great. But when the alternatives are either fluffy, thin reporting; or worse, blatantly biased coverage sponsored by governments, we have to find a palatable way to fund good reporting.

Personalized newspapers?

Are personalized newspapers the answer to publishers or new competitor?

‘DNP: the first newspaper with personal subscriptions to journalists article tells that Dutch based Digital Second and imgZine has announced the launch of an innovative newspaper app: DNP (De Nieuwe Pers). The app has an unique business model. It is the first newspaper in the world that allows personal subscriptions to journalists. DNP, which ceased to exist as a printed free daily last year, offers quality journalism from specialized journalists. DNP is starting with 12 journalists.

Facebook Is Making The World’s ‘Best Personalized Newspaper’ article tells that Facebook is making it’s News Feed to more like a “personalized newspaper”. There will be bolder images and special sections for friends, photos, and music, saying the activity stream will become more like a “personalized newspaper”.

Flipboard Opens Curation Platform: Now Anyone Can Create And Share Their Own Magazines article tells that the plan is to give an easy for people to collect, save and share amazing stories, inspiring videos and beautiful photos on Flipboard. Flipboard 2.0 refreshes app’s look, now lets everyone run their own magazine (hands-on) gives some details on this. Flipboard Adds 3 Million Users Since Launch Of Personalized Magazines, Over 500,000 Magazines Created To Date article says that Flipboard says that now over 50 percent of its users are reading these personalized ‘zines daily. Apparently, the magazine is transitioning to become a morning news paper of sorts, with users doing the most reading around 9:00 AM, while magazine creation takes place in the afternoon (1:00 PM) and sharing peaks in the evening (7:00 PM).


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    The Look Of Funny: How The Onion’s Art Department Works
    The absurd scenes and photos that look like bad stock art? They’re all designed from scratch.

    At The Onion, a fake news website and one of the great satirical outposts of the past 50 years, nearly every image is original: either a graphic created in-house, a photograph taken in-house, or an image so manipulated by Photoshop as to not represent any real event that has ever happened. The tiny graphics team at The Onion pumps out about 50 original pieces of art per week at a time when your average Internet publication arts stories as quickly as possible: with images the subject provided, or photographs from stock agencies and wire services. Nobody sits down and creates original art for a two-sentence post. Yet The Onion does, over and over again. Why bother?

    As Stephen Colbert or any great satirist will tell you, a key to satire is to always stay in character. In The Onion’s case, that “character” is an absurd, alternative world invented to comment on the real one. Every aspect of the fake world has to ring true for the trick to work. That includes the visuals. When nothing you publish is real, every single image has to be made from scratch.

    There is a real history of The Onion–started by two college students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison in 1988, eventually moved to New York and then, recently, back west to Chicago–but there’s also a fake history created by the writers of The Onion itself.

    The Onion’s strange editorial approach–a combination of fake New York Times and fake cheeseball local paper–along with a few other publications taking on other media types.

    Today, The Onion has, according to its press site, about 11 million unique visitors a month, and Alexa, the moderately reliable site ranking system, puts it in the top 600 sites in America.

    Everything at The Onion starts with the headline.

    there are plenty of stories where the image is the entirety of the story: All you see are a headline and an image.

    What The Onion does is more difficult than it seems; just look at less successful copycats

  2. Tomi Engdahl says:

    6 Obvious Reasons Why Facebook Will Ban This Article (Thank God)
    Clampdown on clickbait … and El Reg is OK with this

    Facebook has declared war on “click-baiting headlines”, slamming them as “spammy”.

    The social network has noticed that lazy, poorly written headlines that lure in readers with an ultimately unfilled promise are almost universally hated

    BuzzFeed and Upworthy-style ‘you won’t believe this’ garbage is drowning out posts on people’s news feeds

    Facebook will measure how much time you spend reading a story

    “A small set of publishers who are frequently posting links with click-bait headlines that many people don’t spend time reading after they click through may see their distribution decrease in the next few months,”

  3. Tomi Engdahl says:

    This Story About a Wounded Veteran’s Prosthetic Hand Is Too Crazy to Be True

    A fascinating and troubling story about a wounded Army veteran has been circulating on the Web this week.

    A U.S. Army staff sergeant named Ben Eberle lost his right hand and two legs when he was hit by a makeshift explosive in Afghanistan a few years ago. Through one of the miracles of modern technology, he was able to regain dexterity with a prosthetic hand, which he controlled with the help of an iPod Touch app called i-Limb. But in another terrible misfortune, Eberle lost control of that hand again on Aug. 22 when a thief broke into his pickup and swiped his iPod.

    The story, if true, would be galling and poignant on a personal level—a careless thief robbing a brave veteran of his hand for a second time. But it would be even more troubling on a technological level, which is why the story has circulated far beyond San Antonio to outlets like Fox News, the Daily Mail, the Houston Chronicle, Military.com, and the influential tech-news hub Slashdot.

    Why on Earth would Touch Bionics’ $75,000 prosthetic limb be locked to a single mobile device?

    Somehow, it seems that hardly any of the dozens of national and international outlets that have run with this story bothered to confirm it with Touch Bionics.

    “We offer the my i-Limb app for free on the App Store, which can be downloaded to several compatible devices to help program and change settings within the hand’s firmware”

    While he can keep the same hand, it’s possible that he’ll have to reprogram some specific settings on his new device

    How did almost everyone get this story wrong?

    “ecollection was that it was Eberle who thought at the time of the crime that he would need a new prosthetic. Perhaps Eberle himself misunderstood the ramifications of losing his device or was understandably caught up in the frustration of the theft”

  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another

    Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.

    Online media is made of clicks.

    Readers click from one article to the next. Advertising revenue is based on the number of unique visitors for each site. Editors always keep in mind their traffic targets to secure the survival of their publications. Writers and bloggers interpret clicks as a signal of popularity.

    The economic realities underpinning the click-based web are well documented. Yet much work remains to be done on the cultural consequences of the growing importance of Internet metrics.

  5. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Scribble and the Failings of Tech Journalism

    The Scribble Pen, you may remember, is a project by bay area startup Scribble Technology that puts a color sensor and multiple ink reservoirs in a pen. We’ve talked about it before, right after they cancelled their Kickstarter campaign after netting 366% of their original goal.

    Yes, they cancelled their campaign after being successfully funded. To Kickstarter’s credit, the Scribble team was asked to provide a better video of the pen demonstrating its capabilities. The team pulled the plug on the campaign

    Here is the new campaign. The attentive reader will notice the new campaign is not a Kickstarter project; instead, it is a Tilt campaign.

    With more than $200,000 in the bank, you would think the questions asked in many comments on the old Kickstarter would be answered.

    We know what happened with the Scribble pen, but very little about the who, why, and how this huge, glaringly obvious fraud occurred.

    From the outside, Scribble appears to be a finely tuned corporate organism; official statements are only made through the Scribble Facebook account, Twitter account, and as comments on the now defunct Kickstarter. It’s an honestly stunning display of staying on message, but something that does not lead to any points of contact within Scribble.

    The People
    In all the media coverage Scribble has gotten from dozens of tech blogs, we know of only three people who are officially part of the Scribble team.

    A Registered Company
    Not being able to identify the founders and employees of a company is one thing, but not being able to identify the company itself is another matter entirely.

    With any sort of business that is developing something new and novel, it’s a good idea to have a trademark for your business and your product.

    The failings of tech journalism

    The last time we mentioned the Scribble pen, I noticed something strange about their campaign. They used the Hackaday logo when the only thing ever published here was a single paragraph in a links post calling the entire project ridiculous.

    Like many Kickstarters, they had a few logos of blogs and other media outlets below the fold, put there a statement of legitimacy. “These are trusted members of the fourth estate,” the creators of Scribble must have told themselves, “surely telling the world we have the approval of these fine upstanding establishments will lend us an air of credibility and legitimacy.”

    There’s a problem with this. When the only thing tech bloggers and journalists have to go on are a few videos, a media kit, and a Kickstarter campaign, the only information available comes directly from the project creators. This inevitably leads to a deafening echo chamber where the same facts are repeated ad nauseam.

    The idea of a color picking pen has been around for years, with thousands of people ready to throw their money into a hole in the hopes of getting their hands on one. It makes for great blog fodder and grabs eyeballs, but plugging a Kickstarter simply by repeating what a press release says does the public a grave disservice. Even the more respectable media outlets failed in this regard; the longest articles on Scribble added a little to their page length simply by interviewing the inventors who I’m not sure actually exist.

    Given the vast number of tech and design blogs in the last month reporting on the Scribble pen, someone must be held responsible for correcting these grave errors. This responsibility falls on us and other excellent blogs like Drop Kicker.

  6. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Scribble Pen video more deceiving than originally thought

    new information provided by a hawk-eyed backer reveals that the video has more to it than just crappy camera cuts.

    Unable to produce a better video, Scribble ditches Kickstarter entirely for Crowdtilt

    After a bizarre decision to completely shut down their Kickstarter campaign rather than simply produce a better product video, the team behind the Scribble Pen went virtually radio silent for over a week despite repeatedly broken promises to relaunch their campaign. They finally broke that silence today revealing some unsettling changes to their project.

    The team seems to have abandoned the Kickstarter platform entirely opting instead for CrowdTilt. Considering the huge mass of enthusiastic backers eagerly awaiting the return of the campaign to Kickstarter, this decision can only be explained by the team’s inability to satisfy Kickstarter’s demands.

  7. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Reddit Raising a Big Round, and Some Y Combinator Players Are in the Mix

    Reddit, the social news site with a big Web footprint, is raising a big funding round — with help from some of the people who helped launch the site nine years ago, including co-founder Alexis Ohanian and other people associated closely with startup incubator Y Combinator.

    Sources said the almost-anything-goes site has reached a preliminary agreement to sell less than 10 percent of the company for more than $50 million. That could give the company a valuation of upwards of $500 million.

    Given investors’ new-found appetite for content companies — see: BuzzFeed, Twitch — Reddit’s valuation may swell significantly by the time the deal is done, well above the $400 million it was looking for in 2013.

  8. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Google’s “In The News” Box Now Lists More Than Traditional News Sites

    Change broadens sources of news but also means unexpected surprises, such as today’s F-bomb appearing in Google Search

    Google has confirmed that new “In The News” box appearing in some of its search results now lists content from more than just the traditional news sites. Discussions at Reddit, blog posts, videos and more from non-news sites may turn up.

    Earlier, Search Engine Land reported how content from Reddit was showing up in the “In The News” box. A Google spokesperson has now told us that it’s not just Reddit that’s being included. Virtually any content might show up in the box, if it’s deemed newsworthy

  9. Tomi Engdahl says:

    German Publishers Bow To Google’s Market Power In Ongoing Text Snippets Fight

    A tug of war between Google and German publishers over how online news content is displayed in search results has ended in surrender (for now) for the publishers — who have grudgingly agreed the search giant can display snippets of their content without paying them for the privilege of doing so.

    The backstory here is that the German publishing industry lobbied for a copyright law extension at the start of last year to cover so-called news snippets — as they were unhappy that Google’s business was benefiting from free use of their content.

    That ancillary copyright law, catchily known as ‘Leistungsschutzrecht für Presseverleger‘ in German, ended up being watered down to excuse Google from a requirement to pay for using snippets.

    When the ancillary copyright law came into force in Germany in summer 2013 several major German publishers initially opted not to pull their snippets from Google, presumably fearing the impact of doing so on their traffic — given that other publishers’ snippets would inevitably become more visible in search results.

  10. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Why Millennials &%#@! Love Science
    Today’s young adults see new discoveries both as a source of awe and a means for innovation.

    The wildly successful web publication “I F*cking Love Science” currently has over 18 million likes on Facebook. For context, Popular Science has 2.8 million likes, and Scientific American magazine has about 2 million. The publication’s founder, 25-year-old Elise Andrew, has never been affiliated with any mainstream media outlet. She launched her page in 2012, filling it with beautiful scientific images, web comics, and even original articles about the latest scientific news. “IFLS declared, with no hint of irony, that science was amazing,” wrote Alexis Sobel Fitts in a recent profile in the Columbia Journalism Review,” and in desperate need of a digital-age evangelist to spread the word.” Andrew describes her role in a lower-key way: “I’m just telling people things I think are cool.”


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