Can Facebook help journalism?

Hitherto, to read an unpirated New York Times article online you had to click on an URL that took you to a site owned and controlled by the New York Times. Today that changed as Facebook began serving, at least to users of its iPhone app, selected content belonging to the Times and eight other A-list media properties directly from within its own walled garden.

The shift, some said, was tectonic, which may sound over the top to the average poster of cat videos and holiday selfies, but to someone with a son about to graduate from journalism school, the deal will be big if it pans out the way the Times hopes. Not everyone thinks it will.

Why would the Times — or the National Geographic or the Guardian or the BBC or Der Spiegel or any of the others who have signed up — want to participate in this “experiment”? (That, for now, is what they are calling it; the official title is Instant Articles.)
Continue reading “Can Facebook help journalism?”

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Dead dead trees

Pushed over the edge by the slump, the American newspaper industry is going the way of buggy whips. But while we know what replaced horse-drawn conveyances, there’s no agreement on what is going to take over from the hunk of highly processed dead tree that lands on our doorsteps each morning, or, more accurately, how, and if, the contents are going to be produced when the traditional container ceases to be viable.

This is not a good time to be a producer of those contents.  Denver’s Rock Mountain News closed last month. Hearst is expected to close The Seattle Post-Intelligencer any day.  Tribune Co., publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun, is in bankruptcy, along with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The McClatchy chain, whose titles include the Miami Herald and the Kansas City Star, is slashing payrolls.

The New York Times, perhaps the strongest brand in the business, saw ad revenues plummet 12 per cent last year and is battling to make a debt payment due in May. It has sold its smart new headquarters under a leaseback deal to raise $220 million and, according to the Washington Post’s media correspondent, Howard Kurtz, is borrowing $250 million from a Mexican billionaire it only recently described as having a “robber baron” reputation. Continue reading “Dead dead trees”