Monday, November 27, 2006

Gannett, Alan English, digital site building, you and the future of local media

Bill Joyce, Alan English
Originally uploaded by trudeau.

Gannett Co, the nation's largest newspaper chain, is opening its news space to bloggers. Why?

Across America, newspapers are losing circulation and profit. As the media morphs, even as news staffs are cut, the papers are suffering. Gannett has decided to see whether bloggers can add value and vitality to their online package.

Accordingly, Alan English, Times executive editor, and Scott Anderson, new media editor, have signed me as a *community blogger.* There's a link to SptFaces on the online front page. Expect to see a link to ShreveportBlog on the online Times front page in December, says English. It's an arrangement that I proposed to them in June of 05.

English has long been intrigued by the idea of linking to blogs because he's a tech-minded editor. He was the first to publicly recognize the value of SptBlog (Feb 13, 05).

In the meantime has been striving for readability and building an audience. It remains a jumbly site but seems to have a cleaner look each month. So far it has a weak search engine. But the number of daily hits the front page earns is impressive, according to English.

Bloggers are mosquitos. We can do the easy stuff, the hit & runs. And bloggers like me revel in posting images with every story. Newspapers are ponderous, armed tanks. They may be slow and image-poor but the thing is, they make money. Few bloggers have been able to monetize, as we call it.

Somewhere between us lies the cash for both readers and journalists. Managers like English and the Gannett honchos need to rebuild the tank as an all-terrain hybrid. I think a continually updated web site could - somehow - pump up their print product.

So the Times is exploring digital options. Staffers are being given videocams. Cool. Video is not an easy skill to acquire, but it's worthy in a world that gets much of its news from YouTube.

Why isn't each reporter using a blog for quick updates on the stories they're assembling and composing? So far the Times uses staff blogs as a sort of add-on. My favorite Times staffer blog is Alex Kent's Louisiana Movies Blog.

Reporters probably see podcasts as an untenable burden. In the future savvy newsprint reporters will piggyback aural interviews almost as second nature. The online paper is moving in that direction: the Times multimedia production on the Space Center at SciPort is effective.

How much brainpower can Shreveport muster in an effort to renew the news model? A lively and varied media is essential if the quality of life here is to improve. But can we create a sustainable series of digital sites that will both stimulate the public and generate money? We shall see.


Noma said...

You've been the best source for art news for quite a while now. I am a little afraid of the link in The Times, though. Have you read what their readers write in response to their stories? It's a bloodbath of hate. I hope they don't come spew on you, Trudeau! It's warm and comfy here at your blog.

Anonymous said...

Noma's got a point. This blog is blessedly bereft of the idiot-stick, juvenile attempts at flaming that so often clot up other posting sites. Part of that could be the subject matter, but at least part of it is the moderator's own tone (which I agree is very "warm and comfy").

Gannett, and to a lesser extent the Shreveport Times, sees the future, and it aint print media. Since they're in the business of selling advertising (based on putative market responses), they gotta connect with said market, and it will be (if not has already been for some time) via da net. Hence, their "outreach" to The Blogs.

Cynical? Perhaps. True? No doubt.

As long as the majority of posters can simply avoid trying to be clever, cute or cruel (when they ain't), this or any other blog can keep a direction that make the site seem alive.

If this can happen anywhere, it would certainly be here.

Anonymous said...

Noma is right. I think it is great that you are connected with our local media outlet, but be prepared for the crazy hayseeds to come out of the woodwork to complain about the arts.The user posted comments on The Time's site are insanely hateful, small-minded, and a sad reminder of why so many young men and women get out of Shreveport as soon as they can.

Expect a never-ending diatribe about what a waste of money the neon bridge is.

Just a warning! ;)

Crazy In Shreveport said...

True. But nothing says we have to put up with it. Art supporters can write witty and erudite posts.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the links from The Times. (I'm sure if The Times could invent reverse-links to my blog, they on the link and the blog self-destructs!)

Something I've wondered about for a while now: why do you say your blog's location is in "LouisiAfrica" rather than Shreveport? What does that mean?

-- Marshall Fannin

trudeau said...

Thanks, Noma, Anons and Crazy, and MF.

On LouisiAfrica: in the course of my infotainment on Bayou State musicial history it occurred to me that our state's jazz, Cajun & zydeco musics, Creole cooking, festivals, etc. were the product of an unusual ethnic gumbo. I coined the term to put an emphasis on the contributions of West African peoples.

Anonymous said...

The Times has several excellent multimedia slideshows on the photo galleries page in addition to the Sci-Port show, and some decent video, but I usually have problems viewing it in one fashion or another. They should stay away from trying to compete with broadcast media and try to work on making moving slideshows if you will. More artsy video rather than reports.