The New Republic devotes 3,400 words to an examination of The Politico, a beltway publishing phenomenon that is upending the balance of media power on Capitol Hill. The piece implies that the Politico is not a place where aging reporters go to live off their reputations. It’s a pressure-cooker environment fueled by the constant drive to be first with everything and to win the attention of broadcast outlets. Witness its Politico44 diary, which documents the activities of the Obama administration literally minute by minute.

Politico’s 60 reporters file their first stories of the day by 8 a.m. and carry tech gear that makes it possible for them to post from anywhere, including a city bus. Stories are written and formatted to be read on a BlackBerry. Speed is essential. Politico aims to be first with every story and it has scored some notable exclusives, including last fall’s scandal about the price of Sarah Palin’s wardrobe.

Worked to Exhaustion

Reporters are handsomely paid but worked to exhaustion. The piece relates the story of one Politico staffer starting his daily column as other reporters covering the Hillary Clinton campaign where shuffling off to bed after a long day. Journalists are encouraged to promote their own stories. A staff of three publicists spend their days sending links to political bloggers to do just that.

The goal is not just to be first, but also to the influence of the media.  Political strategy is to be the number one source of breaking news for the cable networks that cover Washington on almost a 24/7 basis.  It is making rapid gains against the Washington Post, which initially offered to incubate the startup before alternative funding sources emerged.

Started by two ex-Washington Post editors and funded by media mogul-to-be Robert Albritton, The Politico is upsetting the applecart in Beltway journalism. On Capitol Hill, it’s considered a must-read. However, it’s earned its share of critics among mainstream media, who sniff that The Politico is too quick to go with gossip in the absence of facts.

The Politico makes most of its revenue from a print edition that recently expanded to five days a week, but Allbritton says he’s preparing for the day when print is out of the picture and The Politico makes its money online. Those preparations are going pretty well; Allbritton said the operation could turn a profit in six months. “We’re way ahead of budget…It wouldn’t surprise me if the profit this year would count in the millions of dollars.”

Blogger’s Growing Influence Doesn’t Faze Gannett

Gannett Blog's Hopkins

Gannett Blog's Hopkins

Dow Jones profiles Jim Hopkins, the man behind the popular Gannett Blog. Hopkins took a buyout from Gannett a little more than a year ago and has been living on severance, savings and the kindness of visitors ever since. He hopes to generate about $6,000 per quarter in advertising and donations revenue. At 100,000 page views a month, the site has impressive traffic for one about such a specific topic.

Gannett Blog is a great example of how blogs have changed corporate communications. In this case, the chief source of information about a company is outside its own walls, yet Gannett continues to ignore Hopkins. That only magnifies curiosity about the blog and boosts its visibility, not to mention its word-of-mouth popularity among disenfranchised employees. Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell is quoted as saying that Hopkins doesn’t want to hear the company’s side of the story. “Since that’s a frustrating process with him, we try to keep it to a minimum.”

But Gannett doesn’t have to engage with Hopkins. Blogs have a feature called comments that enables visitors to state their opinions directly, without a media filter. If Gannett would start engaging with readers through comments, it would win sympathy just for listening, regardless of whether Hopkins agreed or not.

There’s plenty of evidence that engagement works.  About 18 months ago, Dell Computer reversed its practice of ignoring blogger commentary and adopted a new policy of responding to each and every post, whether positive or negative. The initiative reduced negative commentary from 50% to 20% in a little less than a year. For businesses have good reasons for doing what they do, engagement is always a better strategy than avoidance. Gannett still doesn’t get it.

Miscellany

It’s the middle of winter and nerves are fraying up in Canada. Quebecor Media has locked out 253 employees at its flagship paper, the Journal de Montréal. Employees there “have refused to accept cuts to benefits, a longer workweek for no extra pay and a loss of journalistic independence over the paper’s content,” writes Lyle Stewart, who admits that he is affiliated with the newspaper’s union. And he thinks the Montreal Gazette may not be far behind. “Unionized workers there recently rejected a contract offer that would have eliminated several positions and offloaded the editing of the paper to a centralized office in Hamilton, Ontario.”

If you wonder why you haven’t read more about this, all we can say is how’s your French?


Tim Burden has assembled an impressive timeline of quotes about the micropayments debate. His discussion thread begins last Dec. 20 with a post by Joel Brinkley and goes for exactly two months. He hits all the high points we’ve seen. It’s a great running script of this tortuous debate and we hope he updates it from time to time.


The Yakima (Wa.) Herald-Republic says business isn’t bad, it’s making money and the layoff of four to six employees – or less than 3% of the workforce – is a response to general economic pressure. In fact, the company just signed a deal to print the 5,800-circulation Ellensburg Daily Record.


The Daytona Beach News-Journal laid off nine more staff members, bringing to 185 the number of employees it has furloughed in the last eight months. That’s 25% of the workforce. Commenters weigh in with the usual collection of politics-laden diatribes, making us wish they was a way to lay off them.

And Finally…

TJ Sullivan has posted an online petition calling upon newspaper companies to wall off their Web sites to non-paying subscribers for one week in July. He posts an extended explanation of his thinking on LA Observed. Lots of people have blogged about the petition over the last two weeks, yet it has garnered less than 200 signatures. It’s not such a bad idea, but maybe the sheer impracticality of it is inspiring ennui.

Comments

comments

This entry was posted on Monday, February 23rd, 2009 at 9:52 am and is filed under blogging, Business News, BusinessModel, Citizen Journalism, Future of Journalism, Journalism, Layoffs, NewMedia, Newspapers, OnlineMedia, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments

  1. February 24, 2009 @ 11:20 pm



    My French is fine thank you. The crisis that is currently cutting a swath through the ranks of papers across the planet isn’t sparing anybody.

    Web site across greater Montréal, its suburbs and the Easter Townships (L’Estrie for others who’s French is also fine :-) are also facing additional pressures on their already razor thin margins.

    Québecers are often early adopters in all kinds of enterprises so the jump to the web happened early from the major urban centers (Trois Rivières, la ville de Quebec,) specially with the distances and the desolation involved.

    Indeed some towns are reachable only by boat.

    The interior of Québec is HUGE. I can’t even imagine getting a daily or even a weekly newspaper somewhere where there are no roads, no airport (other than cuttings in the forests) and it takes weeks to order in supplies.

    Take a look at a globe (atlases usually don’t have sufficient coverage,) and you’ll be able to appreciate how friggin’ big and empty the moose and caribou tracked, wolf infested, wild fish and bird sanctuary the place really is.

    Posted by msbpodcast
  2. February 25, 2009 @ 6:19 am



    Pro bloggers work just as hard as traditional newspaper reporters and get paid far less. Most are paid $150 to $300 per week if they are lucky and the expense of travel is often their burden. Some of these guys are lucky to to make a profit of $50 at the end of the month after they take out expenses. That is why so many companies hire decent bloggers. There is no blogger union so there is no way to control the wage and most are contract workers.

    Think of it this way, a pro blogger is lucky to earn $10,000 per year from blogging and that can involve posting up to five times per day with original content. So they could be working for a New York based company and earn pay that would put them on the streets if they lived in the city itself. Last I checked a NYC reporter is apt to earn $40,000 to over $100,000 per year and most only report on one story per edition. Mind you that I’m talking about pro bloggers and reporters who have the same skill level and professionalism. With that in perspective it appears that newspaper employees will need to take a pay cut or editors would be wise to hire bloggers who are willing to write for bones compared to what they are paying other people.

    I often read how pro bloggers steal stories form the traditional press. That is not always the case. In the last year I’ve seen several stories hit the mainstream press after first being mentioned on a blog. The bloggers are normally very good about listing their sources, but in those cases I did not see the traditional reporters crediting where the idea for the story came from. I guess they don’t want to admit that sometimes a mere blogger can be first on big news?

    If the newspapers die it is because of greed just like all other business models that have been failing lately. Pro bloggers prove that many worthy writers are willing to work for lower pay. It almost makes paying someone $100,000 per year to write three or four reports per week seem insane. Thats my two cents.

    Posted by Winston