Let’s look at some recent stories about publishers who are reinventing traditional news operations and creating innovative new models. This is inspiring stuff.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports on how startup 8020 Publishing is producing two beautiful magazines consisting almost entirely of reader-contributed content. Everywhere is a travel magazine and JPG is for photo enthusiasts. People vote on the work that others submit and the best stuff goes into print. Photographers get a check for $100 and a year’s subscription. Big money apparently isn’t needed: the contents of the April/May issue of JPG was culled from photos uploaded by 16,278 submitters.

What’s especially remarkable about the model is its efficiency. The two magazines are produced by a staff of just 19 people. Both titles are expected to be profitable within a year and the company is looking to expand into other markets. “Any human interest can become a magazine,” says Halsey Minor, the CNet founder whose VC firm owns 8020.

Hartford Courant iTownsThe Hartford Courant has set up an online gathering place for citizens and is reverse-publishing in print. iTOWNS invites readers to submit news briefs, events, photos and videos to a website, with guidance from a local staff member. Every Sunday, selected content is published in six regional print editions. All the content comes from the community. “We reached over 3/4 of our ad goal before the first print edition was published. Amazingly we did all of this without a single new hire,” the Courant‘s designer tells Charles Apple.

The UK’s Press Gazette reports on ambitious plans at Guardian News & Media to overhaul its editorial operations. The company is merging the news staffs of The Guardian, The Observer and Guardian.co.uk in a platform-agnostic structure in which journalists working in specialty “pods” and feed stories to the appropriate department editors for publication in a variety of media. One radical concept: journalists will have the freedom to publish directly to their audiences on timely stories, without the intercession of an editor. Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger says, “In the newspaper world, if a bomb goes off in Burma or there’s a flood in the Philippines, suddenly your story is taken down to two paragraphs. In this world the reporter isn’t going to have to hop around on foot to speak to [national news editor] Nick Hopkins – he can just publish it.”

Writing on Publishing 2.0, Scott Karp praises a New York Times blogger for practicing good link journalism. The online story he cites is one on oil prices in Mike Nizza’s The Lede. Nizza effectively consolidates information from more than a dozen sources into a summary piece and then links to the source material like crazy. “The value for the reader here is enormous…not only do they get Times blogger Mike Nizza’s framing and perspective, they get links to all of this original reporting and analysis on this issue,” Karp writes. The link journalism model is an emerging form of reporting that makes the journalist as much filter as a reporter. As newspapers can get over their not-invented-here syndromes, they’ll come to understand the reader value this provides.

The Society of Professional Journalists has embraced citizen media. The venerable organization recently launched three regional seminars to teach anyone who’s interested how to report the news. “There are quite a few bloggers, particularly in larger cities, who do work on a par with any journalist,” SPJ President Clint Brewer told Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. Attendance at the $25-a-day sessions was underwhelming, Johnson reports, but the motivations of the attendees were an interesting mix of civic pride, activism and curiosity.

And Then There’s Also Denial, Distrust and Sneakiness

  • USA Today publisher Al Neuharth whistles past the graveyard, trumpeting miniscule circulation gains by his paper and The Wall Street Journal as evidence of the health of the industry. “That’s why newspaper-oriented media companies have a bright future,” he says. For another take on the same circ figures, see our post from that day. Gannett closed yesterday at $29.25, nearly 70% off its five-year high. (via Editors Weblog)
  • The UK’s Guardian asks ordinary citizens “How much do you trust the following [new organizations] to tell the truth?” and finds that faith in media has fallen sharply. Broadcast journalists from the country’s ITV commercial network have fallen the farthest, from 82% to 51% in five years. Trust in broadsheet papers is down 22% to 43%, and local outlets are trusted by just 18% of the population. Even the BBC is down. (via Editors Weblog)
  • Meanwhile, Editor & Publisher reports on the Audit Bureau of Circulation’s decision to reclassify copies given away in exchange for advertising consideration as part of its new “verified” circulation class. The concern is that some publishers are using free or almost-free copies to plug holes in their circulation reports. The big newsweekly magazines are especially fond of this tactic.

And Finally…

Alan Mutter reports on a free-paper war breaking out in the most unlikely place: filthy-rich Palo Alto, CA. The new entrant is the Palo Alto Daily Post, launched by two founders of the Palo Alto Daily News, a freebie that they sold to Media News Group in 2005. Mutter notes that free newspapers tend to target urban commuters, which makes this leafy San Francisco bedroom community a strange place for a showdown of this kind. Palo Alto residents are more likely to be seen reading pecking at their BlackBerries while driving 70 mph than reading a newspaper, he says.



This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 28th, 2008 at 7:24 am and is filed under Facebook, Fake News, Google, Paywalls, Solutions. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

Comments Off on Rebirth: How Innovative Publishers are Reinventing the Business


  1. May 28, 2008 @ 10:01 pm

    […] Rebirth: How Innovative Publishers are Reinventing the Business. Paul Gillin wraps up some of the moves being made by publishers to try and serve the market. What stood out in the first two examples was staffing numbers: two magazines being put out by a staff of 19 and new citizen-j filled weeklies being published without adding any staff at all. […]