Thursday, April 23, 2009

To be continued..

As I have maintained this blog purely for my grade in MMC2100 (Writing for Mass Communication) and the class has ended, I have decided that I will continue blogging on media-related issues.  This isn't a particular post in itself other than to assert that my blog will continue.

As a brief snippet, in media-related news, at the University of California - Los Angeles, the Daily Bruin has been completely screwed by an advertisement.  

I happened to meet the editor-in-chief, as well as other members of the staff, at a journalism conference last Fall, and I remember remarking on their layout.  They had one of the few front-page layouts that I liked by a college daily newspaper.

However, it seems an advertisement decided to use the front-page design in a deceptive manner.  An advertisement was run about honey-flavored ice cream that copied the exact design of the front-page design for the Daily Bruin (minus a few words under the flag that says "paid advertisement").  Check it for yourself.

Here’s the real Bruin front page:


And here’s the advertisement:

fake front

The Daily Bruin's staff is fuming mad over the advertisement, especially because it is a "wrap advertisement", which means that it covered the real front-page so that when students saw the newspaper they thought the whole issue was about stinking honey bees.

Many of the staff offered to forfeit their paycheck, but because not all of them could forfeit their paycheck and because of the dire financial crisis that the Daily Bruin, like other college newspapers (see Middle Tennessee State University's $100,000 budget cut to their newspaper, The Sidelines), is facing, it could not afford to reject the advertisement.

I think the advertisement was pretty ridiculous, by fooling readers into thinking that your advertisement is the actual newspaper copy, you are undermining the newspaper's quality.  I think that wrap advertising is a good source of income, but I think all wrap advertising must be smaller than the actual newspaper size.  For example, The New York Times ran their first wrap advertisement, which was only a third of the size of the newspaper.

I think the Daily Bruin should work hard to find new advertisements and then cease doing business with this "honey ice cream" business.  What do y'all think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

As print media dwindles, magazines raise prices

The New York Times recently reported on the way magazine prices are affecting the magazine industry.

"Fifty-eight cents.

For that, you could get one-eighth of a Starbucks latte.

It is also what subscribers paid, on average, for each issue of Time magazine last year. This is the Time magazine that sends foreign correspondents into Zimbabwe, assigns photographers to capture the war in Afghanistan, and fact-checks and edits every word before issues are printed. And that is before its costs for ink, paper and postage," wrote Stephanie Clifford in her article.

The New York Times article also mentioned that most magazines are under a dollar per issue for the subscribed rate.
"In the last six months of 2008, subscribers paid an average of 47 cents an issue for Newsweek, 77 cents an issue for BusinessWeek and 89 cents an issue for Fortune, according to an analysis of their filings with the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Even Condé Nast's magazines, filled with luxury ads and dispatches from far-flung locations, are cheap: 87 cents an issue for The New Yorker, 89 cents for Allure and just over a dollar each for Condé Nast Traveler and Bon Appétit."
However, the main focus of the article was about how magazines can get more money despite the decline in advertising revenue.  Interestingly enough, magazines that have higher prices are more succesful than lower-priced magazines.

Apparently, many magazines set the costs of the magazine subscription lower than the production costs because they were banking on the advertisment revenue.  The cost of mailing alone is over 80 cents, higher than the price of a subscription.

Magazines that raise their prices don't receive a sharp decline in subscriptions, and they are usually using less agents to sell their subscriptions, which means they get to keep more of the money from the subscriptions.

“Think about the cost of a movie ticket. Think about the cost of your subscription for cable television. Think about the cost of going to a sporting event,” Mr. Clinton, the Hearst marketing chief, said. Those industries, he said, “have kept pace in passing on more of the cost to the consumer, and the consumer’s willing to pay for it.”
My favorite magazine is The Economist.  I love everything about the paper: the high academic quality of the writing, the 100% editorialized content, the openness of bias, and the lack of a byline (believing the quality of the writing should be judged before the quality of the writer).  The Economist is doing the best of all of the magazines right now.  If you buy The Economist at cover price, it costs $6.99.  If you buy The Economist at subscription price, then it costs $1.96.

Despite the high prices, subs
criptions are up 60 percent since 2004, and newsstand sales have risen 50 percent, according to the audit bureau.

“We get more money out of our readers than advertisers, and that’s a very different model,” said Alan Press, senior vice president for marketing in the Americas at the Economist Group. “We’ll never discount the kind of content we have.”
This is all a very interesting concept; however, I have to agree with Alan Press from The Economist and Michael Clinton of Hearst Magazines that the magazine should be written FOR the reader, with quality assurance geared TOWARDS the reader, and paid for BY the reader, rather than for, towards, and by the advertisers.  I know The Economist is more expensive, just like The Wall Street Journal; however, both are the top quality print media and I believe they are worth the higher expenses.

What do y'all think?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Google CEO demands that newspapers change model

Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, spoke at the Newspaper Association of America's convention in San Diego about the need for newspapers to work with Google.

Schmidt believes that the future of newspapers is for the newspapers to accept aggregators, like Google News.  He believes that the only way for newspapers to survive is for them to become more like Wikipedia and blogs.  This all came partially as a response to the Associated Press making statements about protecting "news content from misappropriation" by aggregators like Google News.

"In that model, newspapers become platforms for the technology to use their services," Schmidt said, "to build businesses on top of them, and also to interlink -- hyperlink -- all of the different information sources that end-users will take."

He also feels one of the keys to saving newspapers is breaking into the internet phone. Schmidt said that newspapers should be taking advantage of mobile technology as a distribution mechanism, beginning to think of stories not as happening on a given day, but as continuous and "living," and, of course, improving the experience of reading online.

"We need to reinvent the way the Web delivers this content," he said, "so that you can have the kind of experience, when people are wandering around with their phone and so forth, that you can have with a printed magazine.

Schmidt also indicated that it is more important for newspapers to make money from advertisers than consumers because newspapers are a "consumer business."

Meanwhile, AP is not the only newspaper-related business upset with Google.  Guardian Media Group, which publishes The Guardian in the UK, is asking the British government to investigate Google News and other news aggregators. In its written response to the preliminary Digital Britain report, The Guardian argues Google reaps the benefit of content from news sites without contributing anything towards their costs.

The AP is also preparing a lawsuit against Google News.

I think this is a bad business model for the AP and for The Guardian.  They need the advertising money that comes from Google News linking to their websites.  I disagree with Google News that newspapers should depend on advertisements for their primary source of income.  Advertising is to subjective to the economy, and the best newspapers (like The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times) depend on subscriptions not advertisements.  However, news aggregators is a big help to giving more advertising money to newspapers.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Facebook tweaks new design

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder, CEO, and president of Facebook, once again struck Facebook users with a drastic do-over of the homepage.

This time Facebook was modeled very similarly to Twitter.  Facebook focused on an updated 'feed' that would keep users informed of the latest happenings going on in their friends lives.  The feed would focus on random, current status updates and wall-to-wall conversations between friends.  Before, the user had more control over the content on his homepage.

Overwhelmingly, Facebook users opposed the new design.  Facebook groups, fan pages, and petitions were created to protest the new design.

In one Facebook application, it gave users the opportunity to vote and comment on the new layout.  The current result (as of March 24) has 80,031 supporting the new layout and 1,230,078 opposing it.

In response to some of the major complaints, Facebook made some minor changes to accomodate users who want to personalize the homepage.   In the past, Facebook has ignored the reponse from users.  When Facebook began changing the overall layout in September, they were met with enormous opposition.  Some groups that protested the change received more than a million members, but Facebook ignored those complaints.

Facebook is now allowing users to filter some of what is on the feed page and to take some control over the content that appears.  While most critics appreciate the change, one writer said that the only way progress can come is for companies to ignore their customer's wants.  The writer made an interesting point by quoting Robert Scobel, a self-professed 'technical evangelist, "if you asked a group of Porsche owners what they wanted they'd tell you things like "smoother ride, more trunk space, more leg room, etc." He'd then say well, they just designed a Volvo."

I hate the changes Facebook has undergoing, starting with the change in September.  I believe the changes have not been progressive and instead are regressive.  However, I think that Michael Arrington (the writer who supports Facebook's changes) does have an interesting point.  What do all of you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Despitie economic downturn across the globe, Europe sees spike in reading

The New York Times recently reported that despite the economy ruining other print media, such as newspapers, periodicals, and magazines, book sales are increasing around Europe.

In France, rose 2 percent in December from the amount of books sold the year before.  In January, it had increased by 2.4 percent.

Germany showed a 2.3 percent increase in January.

While Britain and America have shown a slight decline (about less than a percent), in comparison to the sharp decline of the other print media it is still showing that it is holding its own.

Commentators have said that with unemployed people having an increased 'leisure time' and decreased funds reading provides a cheap entertainment.

I think this was a pretty fun article by the New York Times, and I thought it was rather interesting that reading is still on the rise.  The article also discussed how e-readers, such as Amazon's Kindle, have not affected the traditional book industry.  I believe that books, if nothing else, will continue to thrive in the future.  However, I do see the Kindle as being a complement to the print industry but nothing more.

What do you all think?  Will the digital age continue spreading to the print media?  Will books soon become obsolete?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Candidate for city council exposed as chronic liar

To all of you who don't see the worthiness of a student newspaper: stuff it.

College newspapers are doing the work that professional newspapers ought to be doing.

In Minneapolis, an openly gay 23-year-old University of Minnesota student, Charles Carlson, ran for a city council seat.

All was fine and dandy until the student newspaper found out that Carlson had fabricated his entire biography, and he suffered from severe mental illnesses.

Carlson, who had received a large amount of support from the gay community in Minneapolis, claimed to have been born in England, attended Princeton University, officiated a tennis match at the Summer Olympics in Beijing, and a number of other falsehoods.  Carlson went to the extent of falsifying documents for each of these claims.

Briana Bierschbach, a junior at the University of Minnesota, began an investigative journalism piece on Carlson after comments on an earlier article about Carlson made interesting claims.  In her investigative work, she faxed over Carlson's fake transcripts from Princeton and his 'supposed' high school.  She called his 'supposed' relatives.  And she even called up the Obama and Clinton campaigns, both of which he claimed to have a higher-up position in.

After all of this work, the local newsstation and newspaper immediately picked up the story and Ms. Bierschbach got little attention.

Many believed that Carlson, with his superior funding, higher-tech website, and corporate sponsorships, would have won the election.  This just goes to show the power of the student press and the laziness of the professional media.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Commercials targeted towards audience

Targetting a commercial advertisement to a specific audience isn't anything new.  Taking information about each demographic to give different advertisements to different houses is.

Cablevision Systems, a well-known cable company based out of New York, is beginning to analyze data about income, ethnicity, gender or whether the homeowner has children or pets in 500,000 homes in Brooklyn, the Bronx and some New Jersey areas.

According to Cablevision, they will market specific ads to different households but the advertisers will not know the names of the customers.  Some of the ways that different advertisements could surface includes having a Cadillac Escalade ad given to a high-class person, while giving a Chevrolet to lower class incomes.

Other possibilities include giving advertisements in Spanish to Hispanic people groups and marketing video games to households with children.

Cablevision's goal is to expand the project to 3.1 million subscribers.

I think this is a genius idea of Cablevision.  This is the dream of every advertiser, giving your advertisement directly to the people who are most likely to buy your product.

On the other hand, Cablevision has not informed their consumers that they are invading their privacy and selling their demographical information, which is very sneaky.  Still, the information (such as ethnicity, children in household, income, gender, and other data) being provided is all in the public records anyways, by means of tax returns, a census, and any other number of government forms.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out, I would much prefer to only see advertisements on TV that relate to me.  I know that I will not buy a flat-screen TV or a nice car, but I would probably buy cheap food or clothes from JC Penney.