By Paul Gillin | October 12, 2011 - 10:29 am - Posted in Best/Worst, Business News, Journalism, Layoffs, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, Paywalls

Craig DubowGannett CEO Craig Dubow (right)  resigned last week for health reasons, saying that back and hip problems prevent him for fulfilling his duties. He leaves a job that could pay him as much as $9.4 million this year, but don’t feel too bad for Dubow: He’s eligible for severance pay of up to $37 million.

The irony of this kind of executive compensation for a company that has laid off nearly 40% of its workforce over the last six years isn’t lost on former New York Times columnist Peter Lewis, who posts a savage send-up of Gannett’s extravagance on his blog. Lewis is particularly brutal in contrasting Dubow’s performance to that of Steve Jobs, who died last week:

Annual base pay: Steve Jobs $1. Craig Dubow $1.2 million.

Stock price during CEO tenure: Apple, up 4,000+ percent. Gannett, down 85 percent.

Job creation during CEO tenure: Apple, plus 28,000. Gannett: minus 20,000.

Notable new products as CEO of Apple: Macintosh, iMac, MacBook, iPod, iTunes, Apple Stores, iPhone, iPad, etc., etc.

Notable new products as CEO of Gannett: ?

Executive pay has been out of control at US companies for decades now, but the practice is particularly offensive at companies in dying industries that are downsizing their way out of existence. Is it conceivable that a talented and motivated executive could be found to lead Gannett at a salary of less than $9 million? How does a company look its employees in the eye and ask them to accept yet another layoff or salary freeze when it nearly doubled the salary of the head of its US newspaper division?

We might just go occupy Wall Street over this.

Open Source Journalism

Make MagazineNikki Usher and Seth C. Lewis dig into the application of open source software principles to journalism and find some parallels. “The news industry is one of the last great industrial hold-overs, akin to the car industry,” they write. “Newsrooms are top-heavy, and built on a factory-based model of production.” In contrast open source software and the so-called “maker” culture exemplified by Make magazine encourage collaboration, sharing and continuous experimentation.

Rethinking journalism requires time and open-mindedness that a lot of journalists might not have, but the power of the open source model can’t be denied. Usher and Lewis imagine a new role for journalists as creators of “the building blocks for the story. And while they write this code, it can be commented on, shared, fact-checked, or augmented with additional information such as photos, tweets, and the like.” Seems to work OK for Wikipedia. The Knight-Mozilla News Technology Partnership is working on ways to make this model viable. We hope they succeed.

Quality at 5¢ a Word

Demand Media, whose mission is to erase the distinction between journalism and typing, says it doesn’t need freelancers so much any more.  That’s because Google changed its search algorithm, and that means Demand’s editorial mission has shifted.

In case you’re not familiar, Demand Media employs freelance writers to churn out search-optimized content for posting on enormously popular websites like Cracked.com, LiveStrong.com and eHow.com. The company assigns stories based upon search popularity, meaning that it favors how-to and top-10 formats. A perfect Demand story would be “10 Ways to Remove Coffee Stains.”

Demand is noted for paying freelancers next to nothing while touting the benefits of brand-building and flexibility. “No matter where you end up, you have the potential to influence millions of people with your articles,” says its Writing Jobs page. Writers can make up to $25 an article, or even more! With so many journalists out of work, Demand has succeeded in a recruiting a large pool of contributors, despite its starvation wages.

But apparently not so much now. Google is on a campaign to remove the stuff that these content farms churn out, so the company is shifting to slide shows and videos. Demand says it has eliminated 300,000 low-quality articles from eHow and is focusing on going upscale. “It’s all about quality for us,” said Chief Revenue Officer Joanne Bradford. At a nickel a word.

It’s Not a Paywall, It’s…

Paywalls continue to sprout like crabgrass, but publishers are beginning to show some creative thinking. The Day of New London, Conn. will now charge between $9.99 and $22.99 per month for access to its online content, archives and mobile versions, but subscribers will also become part of a brand loyalty program called The Day Passport, “which features rewards, events and giveaways to local businesses, entertainment venues and cultural institutions.” We were pushing this idea two years ago. Publishers need to expand their revenue base beyond advertising and subscription fees. Affinity programs for local businesses are a natural extension.

We also like what the Richmond Times-Dispatch is doing: Instead of firewalling its content, it’s creating premium content packages such as this one on the Civil War sesquicentennial. The Civil War feature combines historic pages from the newspaper archive with original new material. Pricing begins at $1.99/month, though it’s not clear what other premium packages are planned. We like the concept the concept of charging for added value, and we’re particularly glad to have the chance to use the word “sesquicentennial” in a sentence.

Comments

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 at 10:29 am and is filed under Best/Worst, Business News, Journalism, Layoffs, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, Paywalls. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments

  1. October 20, 2011 @ 1:25 pm



    That kind of greedy, unjustifiable compensation package is exactly what Occupy Wall Street is fighting against.

    Craig Dubow is the kind of corporate raider who contributes nothing and yet expects a sweet-heart severance deal, the kind he did not extend to all of his employees.

    Throw him out on his sorry and sore ass with two weeks severance and a firm goodbye.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. October 27, 2011 @ 4:46 pm



    [...] quality content from crap. We noted recently that Demand Media, which specializes in crap, has had to remove 300,000 articles from its website because Google won’t pay attention to them anymore. And the world hardly [...]

  3. December 19, 2011 @ 4:20 pm



    Do we really need to point out to you that Jobs is dead, too…

    So, by any present-tense assessment, Dubow is doing much better.

    And with regard to the first comment, “Occupy Wall Street” has at its core the individuals who ARE the problem with today’s U.S. economy.

    The 99% of society who overspent on things they could not afford are now seemingly banding together to somehow ‘protest’ against the 1% of society who never did arrange mortgages they could not afford, who never did purchase boats and cars they could not afford, and who never did have children they could not afford.

    Why don’t you bums instead go back to the old way – which was theft and other lucrative lives of crime?

    Or you could ad-lib as most in our society have been doing for hundreds of years, and, oh, I don’t know, maybe, say, GET A JOB.

    “Occupy Wall Street” just gave license for those in society who are downtrodden as the result of THEIR OWN DOING to loiter around in public and private locations where to do so is illegal.

    And for God’s sake, stop making purchases which you cannot afford until you take the above advice and GET A JOB.

    Posted by DingleBarry
  4. February 7, 2012 @ 7:49 pm



    [...] search algorithms that penalized so-called “content farms” like Demand Media, which pay freelancers pennies to produce crap in the name of driving search traffic. About.com used to top Google search results for a lot of [...]