Everybody’s Talking Heads

I’ve seen David Byrne’s blog post about a visit to the New York Times in too many places today to figure out where I saw it first.

Here’s my favorite graf:

“At present, it is mostly the ads in the Style section, and the glossy Sunday and T magazines that pay for a disproportionate amount of the newspaper’s running costs. Without the income from Gucci and Rolex, there probably wouldn’t be a Baghdad bureau. (That’s an exaggeration, but that’s the idea.)”

This would make great fodder for any number of grad classes I took at SJSU, especially Bill Briggs’ International Communications class.

Such a hard question. In theory, advertising for the luxury goods at the heart of the darkest corners of the American Dream is what’s paying for the continued survival of some of the most influential pieces of free press in the world.

Interesting little cycle.

Seven notes, six links

Dooce is (still) one of the best things on the Interweb.

Jay Rosen has the beatblogging with a social network thing worked up pretty clearly at this point, but if the project doesn’t leave behind tools (a WordPress theme, a Drupal module, a useful set of forms — something more tangible than good ideas that other news organizations can use), it’s just twelve more reporters with a blog and a bunch of know-it-all commenters. [UPDATE: Wow, that sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? I’ll write something more practical about it later and add a link here.]

The NYTimes.com tech aggregator thing is cute, but first of all, isn’t this space a little crowded? And second of all, can’t you just use the frigging Blogrunner algorithm to add headlines to your stories from blogs that link to them? It was doing that when you bought it.

Why did my house get two calls in one day from circulation salesfolk from the Mercury News? Could it be because there was an earthquake on their front page for the last two days and someone thought it was a good time to blitz Santa Cruz? Or because the local paper moves out of downtown this weekend? Or do they just hate children and want to wake up sleeping babies every chance they get?

I have worked in a newsroom where the circulation employees (not their fault – I blame the software) would call newsroom employees — at their desks in the same building — trying to sell them a subscription.

Scott Adams is a wonderful, wonderful man.

To Rex for the clue about Hype Machine when he blogged (or twittered?) its redesign launch. If all I got from it was the song stuck in my head right now, that would have been enough.

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re an editor

On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Try as you might to control the home page of a news site, to set the agenda, to drive readers to the stories you think are most important, readers can find what they want on the Web without your help.

They don’t need you, editor.

What they need is news. And by news, I mean useful information about the neighborhood and/or town and/or state and/or country and/or world they live in or care about.

Yesterday’s news is not as useful as today’s news. Take that as a given.

Enter the River of News, stage left:

That’s the New York Times, stripped of all ornamentation and visual framing, spit back out in a form that screens and phones and devices can easily understand and display as best suits them, at a reader’s request.

You can thank Dave Winer for that.

Doc Searls periodically reminds newspapers that the first part of that compound word is news not olds, and he’s done so again today:

“News is a river, not a lake. It is active, not static. It’s what’s happening, not what happened. Or not only what happened. But what happened — news as olds — is how we’ve understood news for as long as we’ve had newspapers. The happening kind of news came along with radio, and then television. Then we called it ‘live’. Still, even on the nightly news, what’s live is talking heads and reports from the field. The rest is finished stuff.”

So how can newspapers move from dead trees to the live web?

If we can take the simple steps of stepping away from the automated nightly feed and make it someone’s job to handle, edit, and post breaking news as it happens, live, then like Doc says, “This distinction is what will have us soon talking about the life of newspapers, rather than the death of them.”

Bonus link: Patrick Beeson says newspapers can learn from Twitter’s simplicity.

Digg the New York Times

A few familiar social bookmarking icons can now be spotted on stories at NYTimes.com. Just look for the Share heading in the Article Tools box. Click on it, and Digg, Facebook, and Newsvine buttons drop down, along with an all-important Permalink option that issues a linkrot-proof way to blog about the story in question, no trip to the RSS feed or old Link Generator page necessary.

NYTimes.com sharing options

via TechCrunch

Still wondering which online journalism skills to learn first? Glad you asked.


A great study by Northwestern master’s student C. Max Magee surveys Online News Association members and other online journalists to find out which skills are most important for aspiring Web-native producers and managers.

Some of the findings are pretty standard: Attention to detail, multitasking ability, and communication skills are high on the list. That should go for any reporter or editor.

When it comes to technical skills, HTML, CMS use, and Photoshop are the big three, with Web usability in fourth place. I’m not sure if we’re talking about accessibility or UI, but I’m glad to see that folks think it’s important, either way.

At the bottom of the list? Javascript, database administration, and Flash.

Hmm. I’d like to see those last two a bit higher, but perhaps the majority of papers take a walk-then-run approach, which makes sense in many, many ways.

Skills that aren’t mentioned at all? RSS and blogs.


via pretty much every blog I read, but here’s a link out to online news squared, the source of this bonus link:

The video editor at the New York Times answers questions from readers:

“…we don’t consider video journalism to be a ‘cyber-fad,’ or ‘an after-thought.’ Nor would we concede that television stations’ journalism is better produced than our own; in fact we have an advantage in being able to create a new form without being constrained by time limits or Nielsen ratings.”

Take that, broadcasters. Note to self: Production values are crucial…

Job: Develop WordPress blogs for the New York Times

[Ed. note: I normally stuff interesting job postings into the del.icio.us feed that runs down the right rail of this blog, or in your feed reader, but this one is too interesting not to point to from here.]

The New York Times is hiring a WordPress developer.

The job is posted on the PaidContent new media list, and I imagine it’s elsewhere as well. This is pretty high up there on the list of jobs I want, in about a year or two.

I don’t read the NYT blogs – I think some of them are behind the TimesSelect paywall, but I never stick around long enough to figure it out.

But still, there must be a dozen highly qualified WordPress developers out there who would drool at a gig like this.

Oh – note to J-School students – learning this stuff does, in fact, get you hired.

It was the best of MyTimes…

I haven’t seen it for myself yet, apparently not being one of the chosen 5,000 beta testers, but the New York Times aggregator/personalized news page called MyTimes is live.

Reviews, analysis, and gripes are up at TechCrunch and PaidContent, including screenshots for the curious.

It looks like a flawed but good effort from what I can see. The best part, or at least the most pleasant bit of functionality might be the sharing of your list of feeds with other users. Of course, their angle is more like “Read what our journalists read,” but the potential should be there to have a list of “friends” and be able to see their list of sources and easily add them to your own page, sort of Netflix-ish. Does Rojo do this? I think it might, but I don’t have any personal friends who use it, so it’s not something I’ve pursued.

What I know I like about this is that it’s a newspaper rolling their own RSS and social networking play, without hooking themselves to a MySpace or a NewsGator (Ed. Note: both of which I use with great frequency and abandon).

If more newspapers can make more of their own plays in the send-the-users-away-so-they-come-back-for-more department, they’ll be one step closer to becoming a destination for information rather than just one source of many.