Housekeeping

Folks, sorry for the hiatus. I’m thinking and working a lot, so the spam management of this blog has made it less inviting to me.

On Tuesday, I finally shut off non-authenticated commenting on this blog. Consequently, the commenting system will remain available to anyone who registers with TypeKey. Previously, I was deleting 300 spams every day or two and, most often, my server was simply shutting off comments because the flow of spam. You can still use trackbacks to RatcliffeBlog—and I get spam there, too, but not so much—but this was a necessary step to making the blog a useful thing rather than a time-suck that took 15 minutes to clean up every day.

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News is growing laterally

Dispelling the Myth of Readership Decline:

The industry has touted the notion of readership — a metric that takes into account how many people read the paper whether they buy it or not — for years, but has often taken halfhearted steps toward giving it true legitimacy.

Then there’s the confounding, if promising, online angle. If you count Web traffic, newspapers are actually more popular than ever.

More thoughtful confirmation of the point I’ve been making: The crisis is not in the business of publishing, but in the resistance of the publishing industry to changing delivery mechanisms. Then, there’s the potential in bringing new contributors into the news gathering and production process.

Folks like to talk crisis, because it is good business to declare change is afoot. The reality is that there is nothing but opportunity in change.

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News gathering in transition

MediaPost Publications – Papers Turn In Worst Print Ad Quarter Yet, Online Fuels ’05 Growth – 11/23/2005:

THE GOOD NEWS ACCORDING TO official newspaper industry estimates released Tuesday is that ad spending climbed 2.4 percent in the third quarter. The bad news for the still primarily print medium is that print ad sales rose just 1.6 percent, while sales for online editions soared 26.7 percent. The third quarter’s modest gain is the medium’s worst advertising performance in what has been a decidedly negative year for most papers. In addition to slackening ad demand, major publishers have had to contend with rising costs, declining circulation and several rounds of job cuts at major papers.

However, the silver lining comes from newspapers’ online properties, which will continue to grow its share of newspaper revenues. Online readership is growing at a healthy pace, and more and more advertisers will shift their budgets online in pursuit of greater targeting and reporting capabilities.

Following up on the “newspapers are dying” noise of a few weeks back, the newspapers may not deliver so much paper anymore, but they are in a position to be solid players in local news. The problem will be costs, which no publisher is comfortable undertaking to win readers’ confidence (since only ads bring in the Real Money, as far as publishers are concerned), which is why local citizen journalist networks are likely to ignite the local news scene. The papers will have all these salespeople seeking new inventories—and the CJ sites will have it. The exit strategy for all those citizen journalism companies, however, will be a return to the news organizations through acquisition. That’s when we’ll see if the spirit of citizen journalism will survive the assault of mammon.

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Filling the Crap Gap

MediaPost Publications – CBS Seeks Video Search, On-Demand Deals – 11/23/2005:

On the heels of a report that CBS is in talks with Google for video search and on-demand video deals–and others including DirecTV for on-demand video–now comes word that

CBS is also in talks about expanding its deal with Comcast. “We are talking with our affiliates right now,” said a CBS spokesman.

On November 8, CBS and Comcast made a deal that enabled viewers to buy some CBS shows for 99 cents through Comcast’s on-demand service. Those shows include commercials.

CBS’ Chairman Les Moonves said CBS shows would be available only in those Comcast markets where CBS affiliates are owned by CBS Corp., and where Comcast systems existed.

The beautiful irony of broadcast network television is that, unlike pay TV, it needs reach to make its advertising business work. Yet, here we see CBS balancing its affiliate relationships with the opportunity to provide VOD through Comcast systems. What happens to the affiliates when the company goes with Google to search and sell downloads of shows? Does anyone really expect people will pay for gameshows, for example? No, they’ll exist on product placement fees.

The upshot is that a lot of the redundant crap that fills the network and affiliate airwaves will vanish from the scene. Both sides of that distribution equation will be seeking new programming to fill the “Crap Gap,” meaning that, like the 1950s when television was new and programming just invented at the local and national levels independently, a huge opportunity for producers will open up. In the 1950s, every region had a clown who introduced cartoons, something like that will return (though I don’t think this means a new career for J.P. Patches and Brakeman Bill, the Seattle-area renditions of this kind of programming).

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Young writers: A job to apply for….

TPM Media LLC | Announcement:

TPM Media LLC, publisher of Talkingpointsmemo.com and TPMCafe.com) is looking for two enterprising and energetic journalists to staff a new blog focused on wall-to-wall coverage of corruption, self-dealing and betrayals of the public trust in today’s Washington.

With a format and style similar to Talkingpointsmemo.com, the two reporter-bloggers will break stories with original reporting, in addition to digging into public records and published reports to bring together the context, impact and significance of evolving stories covered only episodically in the daily press.

Both jobs offer the opportunity to be involved at the forefront of a new kind of journalism, combining original reporting with the free-wheeling tone, style and accessibility of blogs.

Applicants must be able to write well and write fast, as well as have a knack for distilling complex stories into clear and meticulously factual prose. Journalism experience is a big plus. A deep familiarity with the world of blogging and national politics are both a necessity.

This is the kind of dream posting I’d have been looking for as a young writer, so don’t pass it by. At my “advanced” age, I don’t want to move to Washington or New York, but if there is a cooler job listing on the Internet today, I’d be surprised.

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Paying for a piece of the pie that’s already been served

MediaPost Publications – WPP Courts Bollore, Frenchman Now Controls 12.7% Of World Media Market – 11/21/2005:

WITH WPP FACING A DEADLINE of Friday to make a formal bid to acquire Aegis Group, French financier Vincent Bollore had emerged as the new power broker in the media services world. At presstime, WPP Chairman-CEO Martin Sorrell and his partners at U.S. private equity firm Hellman & Friedman reportedly were in talks with Bollore to make a joint bid to acquire Aegis, the parent of Carat, Vizeum, Isobar and Posterscope, as well as some prized marketing research assets. Bollore already controls nearly 25 percent of Aegis shares, and has taken control of French rival Havas, and according to a new report now has interests representing 12.7 percent of the global media services marketplace.

Worldwide Media Network Market Shares 2005 Market Share Billings Vs. 2004

WPP (Group M) 22.3% +13.0%

Publicis (Publicis Groupe Media) 16.0% +11.0%

Omnicom (Omnicom Media Group) 11.7% +5.0%

Interpublic 10.9% -3.0%

Aegis 9.0% +5.0%

Havas 3.7% +2.4%

Bollore Group 12.7% +4.0%

Source: RECMA. Billings as of November 2005.

The interesting thing here is that there will be a premium price paid for a 12.7 percent share of the shrinking traditional media market. As more metrics become available, so that the nontraditional media can be counted and accounted for, this 12.7 percent is going to turn out to be one percent or so, maybe even less, of a radically expanded media environment.

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Cisco on your settop

FT.com / By industry / Media & internet – Cisco buys set-top box maker for $6.9bn

Cisco Systems, the networking equipment and technology group, said on Friday it would buy Scientific Atlanta, a maker of video and other content distribution technology for about $6.9bn in a bid to access the fast-growing market for converged television, telephone and internet services over broadband networks.

About time. But the big question is whether Cisco will go toward open IP to the settop or embrace the carriers’ agenda, who will be their “customer” (that is, they sell to the carriers, even if the device has to please people at home).

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One for the good guys

Bloggers 1, Campaign Regulators 0:

Some great news out of the Federal Election Commission today. In a unanimous 5-0 vote, the Commission voted to approve an Advisory Opinion for FiredUp, agreeing that the partisan Democratic sites were entitled to the “press exemption” from campaign finance regulations.

People get to talk, without declaring they have donated to the campaigns they talk about.

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