Newsweek being resurrected

Jim Impoco, editor-in-chief of Newsweek, revealed to The New York Times today that the magazine will return to producing a print edition. The news is a positive sign at a time when the magazine business is declining. Just days ago, New York magazine reduced publication from weekly to biweekly.

However, subscribers will have to pay more than in the past, according to Impoco. The magazine’s goal is to rely on subscriber revenue more than advertising.

Last year, Newsweek ceased its print edition under the ownership of Tina Brown, formerly of the Daily Beast. Newsweek is now owned by IBT Media, whose first issue was released in early October.

Impoco is quite optimistic about the decision, saying that negotiations with printers and distributors are underway to bring the costs of print publication down. He states the cost will be lower than when the magazine was previously printed. Impoco hopes for the circulation to be at least 100,000 in the first year.

Since taking over the failing publication, Impoco has hired over two dozen employees and is looking to produce more international coverage.

After years on a downward slope, it appears Newsweek will be making a comeback under its new ownership.

Bloomberg News self-censors; cuts staff

Bloomberg News has come under fire for killing an investigative report that exposed financial ties between one of China’s wealthiest men and top Chinese leaders. Four Bloomberg reporters anonymously told the New York Times that editor-in-chief Matthew Winkler decided against publishing the report for the potential tension it may cause with Chinese officials. Winkler allegedly said “If we run the story, we’ll be kicked out of China.” The company has an office in Hong Kong.

The New York Times piece revealed that the two reporters on the story were Michael Forsythe and Shai Oster. On Friday, New York Post reported that Forsythe was suspended and may be fired, and today, Forsythe tweeted:

“I can confirm that I have left Bloomberg News. That’s all I’m going to say for now.”

It is speculated that Forsythe was suspended for leaking the news to the Times, but it is mysterious why Shai Oster was not also targeted. Four Bloomberg employees anonymously spoke with the Times, so Forsythe couldn’t be the lone whistleblower.

Bloomberg News angered the Chinese government last year when they reported about the wealth of top leaders, which the government considers a red line. Those articles were also reported by Forsythe and Oster. As a result of that report, China restricted new journalists from obtaining residency visas.

In other news, Bloomberg News laid off 11 employees this week, and more are expected to be let go soon. The names and positions of those employees can be found at Talking Biz News.

NPR

My first experience listening to NPR News undoubtedly gave me a new perspective on news radio. They stand out significantly from many others. It is long-form, uninterrupted, first-hand reporting that doesn’t rely completely on newswires or competitors to gather news.

I heard All Things Considered and Morning Edition, and was impressed by the programs’ style of reading original scripts in a steady pace, with sound bites of informed sources. It was the first time I’ve heard reporters  producing radio news on the scene. NRP had reporters in the Philippines, Washington, and Afghanistan to give fresh facts, rather than reiteration, on important news.

The independence of NPR is unmatched. It is the only news organization I can think of that has no advertisers, which makes the focus 100 percent on news. Their choice of news is superior to many other contemporary news outlets of all mediums.

NPR’s method of having a textual story in addition to the radio segments is genius. They also have really great photos. It seems a lot of the photos come from the AP or public domain, but the selection is always high quality and adds so much to understanding the story. One photo slideshow included with the story of the Philippines typhoon displayed the magnitude of that catastrophe better than any other news source I follow. NPR is going to become a  new addition to my news consumption.

 

Vice: the fastest growing name in news

Vice Media, which grew from an alternative culture magazine in Canada to an international cult hit  among the 18-34 age range, is growing faster than most other news companies, according to co-founder and CEO Shane Smith. In a recent discussion with Fortune, Smith said “We are growing at 100% a year without our big windfall deals that we are going to be announcing in Q4 or early Q1.”  Reuters says the company is worth more than $1.4 billion.

Other than recently earning a newsmagazine show on HBO, Smith attributes most of the success to online. Through their own advertising department, they sign deals with major brands, recently Intel and North Face, to sponsor their video content. Their website has 23 international editions and has about 15 million monthly visitors (in between CNN and NY Times, who have 13 and 18 million monthly uniques, respectively). Their YouTube channel has 3.5 million subscribers and 288.9 million total views.

Rupert Murdoch recently invested $70 million for a 5 percent interest in Vice. The company is going to use Murdoch’s cash and international assets to create TV channels in Asia and Europe, starting in India specifically.

Vice magazine was created in 1994, but the company perhaps gained the most recognition in 2006 with The Vice Guide to Travel, a documentary DVD funded by MTV that features Vice writers exploring dangerous and unusual locations to expose the bizarre living conditions, such as North Korea, Liberia, Pakistan, and many more. The resulting video shows shocking images of absurd cultural practices, namely genocide and enslavement, which couldn’t be adequately depicted in print and wouldn’t ever be accepted from a conglomerate news company.

The videos reflect Vice’s brand of immersion, or gonzo, journalism where the audience is experiencing the story from the reporter’s point  of view. They also show a dedication to realism and an indifference toward what is taboo.  The same approach is used in the HBO program, which premiered in April and will return next year.

Vice built an audience with their indie magazine, expanded their following online, entered the mainstream through HBO, and now with the help of Rupert Murdoch will try to broaden their presence in Asia and Europe. Legacy media companies have some things to learn from Vice’s way of business.

Digital audience makes USA Today #1

The Alliance for Audited Media (AAM), the non-profit group that calculates the circulation of news publications for advertisers, released the latest numbers for the country’s top newspapers today.

Gannett-owned USA Today surpassed the Wall Street Journal as the number one most circulated daily newspaper, according to Capital New York and Poynter. The Monday to Friday circulation for USA Today jumped from 1.7 to 2.8 million in the last year.

However, according to Poynter, the reason for the extreme increase is because figures for mobile apps just started being reported by USA Today, even though digital readership has been factored into the calculations for other publications for some time.

Readers of USA Today’s digital versions increased from 86,307 to 1.5 million in the last year, according to the AAM, more than the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. However, USA Today’s digital content is completely free. It is one of the few newspapers without a paywall.

Wall Street Journal, now number two in circulation, has had a paywall since 1997. Their readership remained almost the same in the last year. The New York Times circulation, including digital increased nearly 18 percent in the last year.

The success for USA Today and NYT is all thanks to digital gain. The percentage of print subscribers has fallen between 6 to 14 percent year-over-year.

As Poynter points out, the findings by the AAM do not represent what they used to in this age of multiple methods of consuming news. What does and does not count in the numbers may vary, which doesn’t provide a concrete portrait of who has the biggest readership. As for USA Today, the only thing they did in the last year to skyrocket their circulation numbers is begin to count all their readers.

Not-so local news

Those familiar with the media know of newswires, organizations such as the Associated Press and Reuters that supply news content for newspapers, TV broadcasters, and radio stations across the country. Newswires come in handy for companies who can’t afford travel expenses, but still want to provide news beyond their proximity.

Newspapers typically publish articles from wires with the byline crediting whatever agency it comes from. It is trickier for broadcast news, however, to provide such transparency.

Conan O’ Brien does a recurring bit on his show that compiles clips of anchors from local news stations around the country saying the exact same line. Below are five examples, more can be found on YouTube.

 

 

There is nothing wrong with using newswires, but stations could modify the script for some sake of originality. These videos demonstrate the control a handful of entities possess over the news we consume, and the laziness of certain media groups.

Fire or Get Fired

The publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Bob Hall, is being sued by two of the six owners of the paper over last week’s firing of editor-in-chief Bill Marimow.

Lewis Katz and H.F. Lenfest, who together own 42 percent of the Philadelphia Media Network, say they should have been consulted about the firing. They accuse Hall of going beyond his jurisdiction. The lawsuit calls for Marimow’s return.

The Philadelphia Media Network was bought by six investors in April 2012 for $55 million. Katz paid $16 million for 26 percent, and Lenfest bought 16 percent for $10 million. The private equity company includes The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com.

The cause of Marimow’s termination is reportedly his refusal to fire five senior staff members, as required by Hall. One of the people on the firing list was Dan Biddle, who won a Pulitzer for Investigative Reporting in 1987. Bill Marimow also earned the paper a Pulitzer in 1985.

In an editorial on Newsworks,  blogger Dave Davies says: “Since none of the people targeted for dismissal have been fired since Marimow left, one might conclude those orders were given with the knowledge Marimow would refuse, giving the publisher cause to sack Marimow.”

Whether that is valid or not, Marimow’s firing seemingly has nothing to do with his journalistic choices as editor. Marimow served as editor from 2006 to 2010, when he was demoted to reporter for not having enough knowledge in digital media to advance the paper, according to Poynter. Marimow quit to teach at Arizona State University. He was replaced by Stan Wischnowski, and then in April 2012 was asked to come back as editor. He returned as editor from April 2012 to last week, when he was replaced by Wischnowski again.

Bob Hall gave Marimow a memo of a number of things he wanted him to do, specifically “to embrace the redesign of the paper, eliminate police blotter filler, promote staff writing rather than wire service copy in the A section, strengthen suburban coverage, and improve relations between the newspaper staff and Philly.com,” according to Newsworks. Marimow apparently did everything on the memo except the five layoffs.

 

Newsweek’s next chapter

IBT Media is trying to resurrect Newsweek magazine in the unlikeliest of ways. The first issue from the new owner was just released under the same digital-only format that The Daily Beast unsuccessfully executed before. The question left unanswered is: How do they plan to turn this liability into a lucrative business again?

Newsweek’s new home, mag.newsweek.com, doesn’t have any ads or subscription model, the two major things that bring in money for news companies. The new editor-in-chief, Jim Impoco, just hired nearly two dozen new employees, and is looking for more.

Impoco told Capital New York: “We’re trying to put deep reporting in Newsweek and more news in Newsweek.” That can be seen in the new issue, which features articles exploring the level of Iran’s nuclear program, living conditions in Damascus, Syria, and Twitter’s IPO. The sign is they are moving away from the sensationalist approach that The Daily Beast’s Newsweek was criticized about.

The new management of Newsweek may have some elaborate ideas up their sleeve, but as it looks at the moment, the model of a digital-only magazine doesn’t seem fruitful. IBT may be looking for advertisers and exploring a subscription base, but if not, it is a mystery how they will survive. The new issue looks promising for its selection of real news, but it won’t matter when there is no more money to pay the growing staff.

Bloomberg TV Gets a Channel Promotion

The FCC declared this week Comcast is required to place Bloomberg TV amongst all other news channels, known as a “news neighborhood.” It is currently on channel 103 in most regions, and the decision by the FCC will put it up against it’s competitor, Comcast-owned CNBC, channel 39.

“If you are a news channel, you’d better be located in the ‘news neighborhood,’ or viewers are going to be significantly less likely to find you,” Adweek quoted of  FCC chairwoman Mignon Clyburn.

The ruling doesn’t consider any other cable company other than Comcast, so the question stands of how much impact this will have on national recognition of Bloomberg TV.

The decision will leave many people discovering a new channel as they flip the stations, but it’s far from new. Bloomberg TV has been a contender in business and finance news since 1994 and currently employs over 2,000 in New York, London, and Hong Kong. The New York headquarters houses the studio of Charlie Rose, and the channel syndicates that PBS program.

Comcast appealed the ruling last year, but this week the FCC stood by the judgement. It is said this news could result in the same happening for other lesser-known news channels, such as Al Jazeera America. The FCC’s verdict illustrates the need to prohibit corporations from hindering the opportunity of competitors.

The Magazine Industry Bundles Up

The troubled magazine industry may be salvaged with the Next Issue app, described as the “Netflix of magazines.” The app bundles over 100 titles from publishers Condé Nast, Hearst Corp, Meredith, and Time Inc. The app has existed for over a year now, but it was in the news today because it is spreading to Canada.

For ten dollars a month, users can subscribe to unlimited access to new and back issues (from 2012 on) of such popular monthly magazines as Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, Esquire, GQ, Cosmopolitan, and dozens more. An additional five dollars a month grants access to weeklies such as The New Yorker, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Entertainment Weekly, to name a few. The only down side is the only compatible devices are iPad, Android tablets, or Windows 8 devices. You’re out of luck if you use Kindle, Nook, Windows 7, or Mac.

It is not known exactly how well Next Issue has done financially so far, but it shows a promising alternative to the traditional way of enjoying magazines. Consuming magazines digitally eliminates the cost of printing and shipping them, the most significant expenses for publishers. Readers benefit for being able to conveniently access a wide selection on-demand for a single subscription price. Everybody wins. This could be the future of magazines, as long as it expands to include the bestselling e-reader Kindle Fire (which price was reduced to just $139 this week) and non-Windows 8 laptops.

Print magazines aren’t going anywhere in the near future, recent research by the Pew Research Center concluded that only 6.6 percent of revenue comes from digital, 40.5 is from print circulation, and 52.9 percent comes from advertising. A different study showed that roughly one-third of new tablet owners use the device to consume news.

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That percentage will only go up as tablets eventually become as widespread as laptops. The Next Issue app is the latest paradigm of media convergence that is hurting and helping the news industry simultaneously.