Adam T. Vaccaro

Occasional musings on journalism and media

Posts Tagged ‘news

Out With the New

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Having posted disappointing October revenue, the Providence Journal will cut jobs — 16 of them, to be precise.

Which jobs will go? The most recently occupied. From the link:

Layoffs will be determined by seniority within job classifications and employees will once again have the option of taking a buyout, Hill said. Executives will decide how many employees they want to cut in different positions and then eliminate the newest hires first in each position, he said. More senior employees can “bump” newer ones out of a lower-ranking job if they can demonstrate they have the skills to do that job instead, he said.

My italics.

That doesn’t say tenure will be a factor in making a decision based on who’s most valuable to the organization. It says seniority will be the deciding factor. And it’s not just that the longest-tenured get to keep their jobs within the departments the paper intends to cut from. That last sentence above says that your position might be safe, but if a more senior employee from a different “job classification” was told they would be let go from that gig they could conceivably just take yours. I’d be curious to know if any jobs are lost in that manner, and which ones.

I’m a 24-year-old reporter, so I’m obviously biased. And there’s union issues at play here, so to some extent I’m sure hands are tied. But…who does it benefit to keep the folks who have been in place while the paper has gotten into financial troubles? If the longest-tenured employees presumably got the paper into this mess, what makes them so qualified to get them out? This reads to me like a system that will incubate old thinking. I don’t see how that can be good for business.

Coming out of today’s journalism schools, we’re encouraged to think entrepreneurial, to think innovative, because the nature of the industry is changing. The news went digital a long time ago. Most newspapers famously took too long to get there, and are stuck playing catch-up.

Because we grew up online, the thinking goes, my generation of journalists is supposedly well-suited to help institute these necessary changes. But all the same, as the Journal apparently sees it, we’re the most expendable.

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Written by Adam T. Vaccaro

October 28, 2012 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Commentary

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Denying Google

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Last week:

Brazil’s National Association of Newspapers says all 154 members had followed its recommendation to ban the search engine aggregator from using their content.

The papers say Google News refused to pay for content and was driving traffic away from their websites.

This week:

According to the National Association of Newspapers in Brazil (or ANJ in Portuguese), members that followed the association’s recommendation to abandon Google News have seen a decrease in web traffic of only 5 percent.

“The (newspapers) themselves believed that the 5-percent loss was a price worth paying to defend our authors’ rights and our brands,” said Ricardo Pedreira, ANJ’s executive director in a phone interview with the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas.

The papers apparently see the small loss of traffic — 5 percent — as encouraging, but I don’t see how a loss of any traffic can be considered a good thing. But they said lost traffic was the reason they were making the change in the first place and are now saying a minimal loss of traffic is a success. I’m confused. What exactly was the point?

If Google News hurt journalism, it happened years ago and we’re not going back. I don’t see how this is a winning proposition unless traffic were to somehow go up. If it’s going down, then the publishers were wrong. I fail to see the value of the principle the papers are standing on — that by getting off Google News they’re protecting their claim to their work. If it means less people ultimately see the work, then what’s the point?

Imagine a football team losing by seven with 15 seconds left, and it’s fourth down. The team punts because it is against going for fourth down conversions on principle. Okay, they stood up for what they believed in. But they still lose. (And are open to bloggers’ criticisms as a result.) It’s not just a lost game, either. It’s hard to see any longterm benefit to punting there — except possibly to realize the futility of the decision and not make it again.

Small sample size, though. We’ll need a lot more data before anyone can say what the decision to scorn the almighty Church of Search means or accomplishes. Perhaps the benefits of dropping Google News, if there are any, will be seen down the road.

I guess the intention might be to ultimately leverage Google into having to pay to list the headline and summary, but I have a hard time believing Google values Google News as a portal to the point that they’d put a lot of money into it.

Written by Adam T. Vaccaro

October 28, 2012 at 8:51 pm

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Why Are Social Media Accounts Used Only for Editorial Purposes?

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Here’s a question for the media-types.

Why do news organizations only treat their social media accounts for editorial purposes?

Social is the buzzword in advertising, and most every news organization has itself at least a Twitter and a Facebook page, with a decent number of followers.

Why shouldn’t advertisers pay to have links to their websites or products or what have you blasted via those accounts? Newspapers, magazines have always been editorial and ads. If a Facebook feed and a Twitter stream are going to be considered a vessel for news organizations to spread their content, why can’t they equally be seen as an advertising source?

Without having done any kind of study, but I bet advertising services as disbursed via social media would be a hell of a lot more effective than simple banner or display ads. Or popup ads. It is shocking to me that some sites are still employing popups. Seriously. If I see a product advertised via popup, there’s a decent chance I’ll go out of my way to not buy it.

Two things. First, you would not put your editorial staff in charge of these advertising blasts. You would most indeed want to keep that line between editorial and advertising steadfast, for the same reason you don’t want your editorial staff writing ads — it comes as a threat of credibility, etc. So you’d need to make sure your advertising staff has access to post those ads. And there would likely need to be some agreed to quota between advertiser and organization as to the amount of times an ad can run per day, as well as an internal agreement at the organization about the ratio of ads posted to news content. The editorial content should probably be posted at a much higher ratio, so as to not irritate readers and risk the dreaded unfollow.

Second, also in keeping with the traditions of news organizations, I imagine you’d need to make it clear that a social ad is indeed an ad. I don’t know if that’s as simple as writing AD: (You’re only losing 4 of your 140 Twitter characters that way if you include the space bar) ahead of the Tweet, but I feel like this could be easily worked around.

It just strikes me as obvious. News sites are being accessed via social media. Readers ignore display ads. Advertising is the lifeblood of the industry. And editorial and advertising have always shared the page and the airwaves. Why can’t they share a newsfeed? Who says a news organization’s social networking account should be purely editorial?

I’ve never run a business and have never attempted to sell an ad, so I may be missing something. If so, please tell me why this wouldn’t work. Or are there places it’s already being done? I haven’t seen it, and I have a hard time understanding why not.

Written by Adam T. Vaccaro

October 25, 2012 at 7:55 pm

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