By Paul Gillin | January 6, 2013 - 10:59 am - Posted in blogging, Blogroll, BusinessModel, Newspapers

We were just added to the 100 Best Sites for Journalists in 2012 list put together by JournalismDegree.org. Yay. Seriously, thanks for the recognition, and thanks for pointing us to some useful sites we weren’t aware of. We’ll add them to our blogroll at the lower left, which you can add to your own RSS reader by clicking “subscribe.”

List of good journalism sitesThe point of this post isn’t to toot our own horn, though, but rather to point out why JournalismDegree.org undertakes this occasional exercise (they did it before in 2009). Lists like these are all about search engine optimization (SEO), and they’re a smart way to raise visibility quickly.

JournalismDegree.org is basically a lead generation site. It lists colleges and professional development providers that offer communications-related courses. When you click through to a listed institution, you’re taken to a page on eLearners.com, where you can fill out a form requesting more information. Sponsors pay eLearners.com for each inquiry that comes in this way, and eLearners.com pays affiliates like JournalismDegree.org a commission for referring the lead.

It’s a perfectly legitimate business. Those Amazon banners you see all over the Web (including on this site) are the same basic idea. Anyone who contributes to the sale gets a small cut of the revenue.

JournalismDegree.org – and many sites like it – are very dependent on search engine visibility. It wants to be the number one or two search result for “journalism degrees” on Google, and it’s been successful in that respect. A big reason is lists like the this one. A representative sent the owner of each site on the list a congratulatory e-mail with a snippet of HTML code that easily adds a badge to the site. The code includes the alt tag “Best Site for Journalists – 2012,” which basically tells Google that JournalismDegree.org is a great place for journalists to visit.

The strategy works. JournalismDegree.org is number seven in our search results on “best site for journalists” and will no doubt move higher as more sites display its badge. Which we just did (although we changed the alt tag to something more descriptive). The more reputable the sites displaying the badge, the better it is for JournalismDegree.org.

This is smart search marketing, and any blogger or news site can benefit from its example.  Half of the equation for search engine success is in factors that you control, such as domain name, page titles, headlines and keywords. JournalismDegree.org does all of these things well. The tough part is the other half, which is getting reputable sites to link to you. One quickly way to do that is to hand out awards like this one. At least a half dozen of the sites we visited are already displaying the logo above, and more will probably follow. Which all adds up to high-quality links that fuel search success.

There are flaws in JournalismDegree.org’s list. The numbering scheme implies a hierarchy, which we hope isn’t the case because there’s no way we deserve to rank higher than Neiman or Poynter. Several of the sites on the list haven’t been updated in months and one – EatSleepPublish - has been dormant for nearly two years. Still, there’s value in the list and a lot of time and thought was put into it. We’re flattered, even though we know what the publisher’s true agenda is.

Enhanced by Zemanta

micropaymentsYou can skip roughly the first 1,500 words of Jon Austin’s lengthy essay on The Rowdy Crowd and jump right to the nut graph about micropayments. This otherwise rambling opinion piece makes a persuasive case that the news business can create a viable economic model by charging small amounts for each item of content a reader consumes. We’re not talking 25 cents here; we’re talking ¼ of a cent. The technology actually exists to charge very small amounts for very focused transactions, Austin writes, and the newspaper industry could be the first with sufficient motivation to make the system work.

Micropayments were an idea that came out of the early Internet. The idea was that electronic networks removed so much cost from a transaction that it was theoretically possible to conduct profitable exchanges at prices of as little as a few cents. The cell phone companies have been doing this for years by debiting transactions against a buyer’s phone bill. Now Apple is selling iPhone software applications for as little as 99 cents. It’s not a big step from there to ask readers to pay a few pennies to get an article they can’t find anywhere else. People are already comfortable with carrying around their Starbucks and McDonald’s cards and charging small transactions against them. Why can’t the same thing work for information?

The Economist suggests a similar idea in a short column that suggests that consumers may be more willing to pay than one would think I they didn’t have a choice. “Few people would have guessed how much British viewers would be prepared to pay to watch televised football matches—which used to be on free-to-view channels—before Mr Murdoch’s satellite television bought up the rights and began charging,” says the unnamed editorialist. The piece also quotes Los Angeles Times editor Russ Stanton, saying that the paper’s online revenues now pay for the entire print and online editorial staff, a claim we hadn’t seen before. This makes print officially a loss leader at the LA Times.

It seems to us that micropayments are worth another look. If a consortium of publishers could agree to share the costs and to firewall some of their content this way, the technology just might have a chance to generate a meaningful revenue stream for publishers whose local content is truly exclusive.

Le Lockout

“Photographers and journalists at the paper make an average salary of $88,000 for a 30-hour week. Editors make an annual average salary of $125,000. Employees are entitled to four to six weeks of annual vacation paid at time-and-a-half.” Sound like paradise? Actually, the union is pretty unhappy with the state of affairs at Le Journal de Montreal and a contract dispute with management led to a lockout over the weekend. Management charges that the union refuses to negotiate a contract in good faith,  and this has frustrated modernization efforts. Union leaders charge that parent company Quebecor Media’s plans to merge Le Journal’s online presence with the media conglomerate’s other holdings will debase the quality of journalism. We can’t remember a newspaper union ever making that a bargaining issue before, particularly at a time of crisis.

Miscellany

Writing on the Knight Digital Media Center, David Westphal suggests that newspapers could tap into foundation grants to shore up their investigative journalism practices. Noting that the Knight Foundation recently gave $5 million to 21 civic foundations for projects that sounded strikingly like local news operations, Westphal suggests that public/private partnerships could enable newspapers to tap in to grants made to local civic organizations and fund projects that would be otherwise unsustainable. It turns out that philanthropies aren’t as resistant to the idea as you might think. Westphal quotes sources at the J-Lab at American University saying the lab has already funded 120 pilot projects with mainstream news organizations. He also quotes the president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors saying the idea deserves discussion.


nyt_buildingA couple of big asset deals may be about to go down. PaidContent.org reports that The New York Times Co. is close to selling 19 of the 25 floors of its new headquarters building in Manhattan to an investment management firm. We weren’t even aware that there were any investment management firms left. The deal would reportedly have W.P. Carey & Co. buying the space and leasing them back to the Times. In a sign of how screwy the real estate business is, the Times Co. would retain ownership of the six floors it doesn’t occupy. PaidContent also says Tribune Co. is mulling a $900 million offer for the Chicago Cubs from the Ricketts family. The offer is the best of the three Tribune has received. Even if it’s successful, approvals and financing could take months.


Tim Windsor, who’s newly blogging at Nieman Journalism Lab, points us to a veteran journalist with the delightfully ethnic name of Gina Chen who’s got a terrific how-to blog called Save the Media. Gina exhorts journalists to dive in and start using tools like Facebook and Twitter. She also offers advice to make those tools a little less intimidating. Her plain-talk style is easy to read and she understands the journalist’s perspective. She joins our blog roll and we recommend you bookmark her site.


The Port of Belfast, Northern Ireland, is bullish on newspapers. Or at least bullish on newsprint. It will spend £4.5 million (about $6.1) expanding its paper and newsprint handling facilities. “From nothing just ten years ago, paper imports are now an important part of the port’s diversified trade base,” said the port’s chief executive.


Terence Walsh of the Frederick (Md.) News-Post gets caught up in Obamania, asserting that the new president “has inspired more people, especially young people, to pay attention to the world around them and serve their communities than any politician in recent memory.” He believes this is a rare opportunity for newspapers to reassert their value to young people who are newly energized to learn about the world around them. We hope he’s right, thought ungluing young people’s eyes from their Facebook news feed might be a bigger task than editors imagine.


Class act: The weekly Town Meeting of Elk Rapids (Mich.) shut down after more than 30 years last week. It announced its closure in a two-sentence ad on page 2 of its final edition: “Today marks the final issue of the Town Meeting. We appreciate your loyalty over the 30-plus years the Town Meeting has served your community.”

And Finally…

Chris Freiberg started a Facebook group asking people to buy a newspaper on Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) as a way of showing support for the industry. He invited 600 friends and word-of-mouth has since swelled acceptance to more than 14,000 people. It’s a nice endorsement for a beleaguered industry, but you do have to read some of the raw and funny wall posts.

Comments Off