Not to evoke the connotation of the long-forgotten (or, perhaps, never-experienced) 1967 novel and 1976 film “Logan’s Run,” today (May 7) is “Last Day,” and as such we have some finishing up to do — our last few reports on readings, a followup on the Ebertfest idea mentioned when News-Gazette editors visited and a discussion of your confidential reactions to the graduate program. Some of the book reviews we haven’t discussed are listed below. Two reports (1 and 2) on the NGEbertfest project are posted online. And your confidential reactions, per your request, will not be posted anywhere. We’ll also be completing our feedback forms and will be asking each student to produce a note to be turned in, evaluating his or her own performance in the class over the course of this semester. The self-evaluation, including its candor and accuracy, will be a factor in the final course grade, as will all of the postings, comments and in-class discussions, evaluated as a whole. Meanwhile, here’s a fervent hope, especially if you were thoughtful enough to check out my obscure reference, that today isn’t “Last Day” in the sense of “Logan’s Run” for any of you.
I chose to focus on Chicago Magazine. Chicago Mag is a Tribune Media Group publication. The print copy is available to people for a subscription fee. The magazine is released each month and primarily focuses on lifestyle and human interest pieces. The website offers free content that sometimes differs from what is included in print. The magazine can also be viewed online or on tablets if the user utilizes a log-in.
The tablet version can be purchased in combination with the print version for the duration of one year at a cost of $12. If one only wants the tablet version it is $9.99. A single issue can be purchased for $5.99.
From the tribune company website:
The largest city monthly magazine in the country, this award-winning magazine is a combination of smart journalism and provocative narrative, knit together with colorful and elegant design.
• Circulation: 150,000 (Monthly)
Print Portfolio Source: AAM Snapshot, September 2013; 2013 Scarborough Release 2; Tribune Circulation Department
The magazine also has:
Image from the Tribune Media Group
-localized content for local audience
-advertising for local companies can help boost local economy
-free content on website and content in print differs in some cases
-covers a variety of areas such as politics & city life, dining & drinking, arts & culture, real estate & neighborhoods, style & shopping, home & garden, travel & visiting, and the best of Chicago
“I think Chicago Magazine has developed a niche certainly in the entertainment arena. They do a lot of restaurant listings and that’s become something that people go to Chicago Magazine for, and it’s probably created a solid base of readers and advertisers as a result.”
-Dennis Culloton; CEO Culloton Strategies
-first monthly city magazine to win National Magazine Award for general excellence in 2004
-in 2013 recognized by NMA for excellence in reporting. The NMA is associated with the American Society of Magazine Editors
-2013 winner in Civic Journalism from the City and Regional Marketing Association
-content may not be relevant to other markets
-lack of fluidity between content across platforms
-some articles in the print copy are offered in their entirety, free of charge, online
- Example from the May issue being this lengthy feature regarding crime in Chicago
- Feature about Chicago billionaire Ty Warner; man behind Beanie Babies
-content may not resonate with everyone
- take a look at their subscriber demographics and you may come to your own conclusions as to why:
Image from the Tribune Media Group
-social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow them to connect to audience in different ways
-sharing content on these platforms help reach a broader audience than just through localized print circulation
-content is different on each platform
-can boost local economy & bring awareness and attention to local talent (influencers) otherwise unknown to the public
-rise in digital technology and media can threaten print circulation
– the media industry’s shifting focus to digital resulted in substantial cuts in all newsrooms, including this one (laying off fact checkers who were necessary in verifying pertinent article content )
“I worked with a Chicago Magazine writer, a very good writer, who had a couple little things go wrong in a story [on which I worked with him] and that’s because traditionally the fact checkers at magazines have been all laid off. So like most media outlets, they’re struggling to do more with less.”
An Insider’s Analysis
I talked to the publication’s digital designer and developer Luke Seeman about a number of things.
I tend to most of the technical and visual components of our various digital efforts. Primarily that means the Website: Keeping it running and running well, tinkering with it to serve our readers better, making sure my colleagues have the best tools to do their jobs, and then stepping in to design the stories that need special treatment. But I also help manage our email newsletters and app products, and I also serve the sales and marketing side of the building and helping them deliver digital products to our advertisers and other clients.
I touch just about every department. We have a small team of editors and producers that are Web-only, but I’m also coordinating with the print editors and designers. I’m working with the sales department to manage ad delivery and ad products. I work with our events people to create Web pages and manage online tickets for our events. And I work with our circulation department to help them address the digital needs of our subscribers. Indeed, I report directly to the publisher, which drives home that I exist to serve all of the magazine’s interests and not just one single department.
Most of my work is developing content for the Website, but I worked on the tablet, too. We contracted the development to a vendor, but I designed the comps that they used to create the final product, and I worked on our back-end to produce the feeds that send content from our CMS to the tablet.
I believe we last redesigned in 2007. The Web had changed a lot since then, both socially and technologically, and we’d developed some bad practices ourselves along the way. It was time to clean house, start from scratch and re-evaluate everything, including type, color and editorial organization.
Most important was the need to become responsive, so that our pages were usable on phones. As NPR’s digital guru Brian Boyer like to say, “If it doesn’t work on phones, it doesn’t work.” I think we made the switch just in time, and since the redesign we’ve seen a surge in phone usage. It’s sometimes up to 60% at a given time, especially in the evenings and with stories that are more popular on social media. We want to be accessible to 100% of our visitors. And needless to say, our advertisers want to reach 100% of our visitors, too.
The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, from both inside and outside the building. But I think that has a lot to do with how much improvement was needed. On a scale of 1-10, I think we went from 2 to 7. 7 isn’t all that great, but 2 is pretty bad!
But now the exciting part is, OK, we’ve been live for six months. The dust has settled and we have data on what’s worked and what hasn’t. What changes can we make to make ourselves even better? That’s the current challenge.
Engaging with publications used to be a much more immersive experience. You sat down in front of the TV and watch 30 minutes of news, or you sat down with a magazine and flipped through it and forgot the world for a little bit. That has changed radically with the Web. Visitors are much more transitory. They’re not immersing themselves in your publication. They’re immersing themselves in the entire Internet, and you’re just a small part of that. Or they’re immersing themselves in Facebook, and while they may leave briefly to follow a link their friend recommended, they’re really still in the Facebook experience, and they’re going to go back to Facebook as soon as they’re done.
There’s pressure to coax visitors into staying longer, but I think there’s only so much designers can or should do. We can’t bully or trick readers into reading more. The best we can do is to make as good an experience as possible with the hopes that the reader will share it with her friends or will remember that quality the next time she sees a link to your publication.
I certainly think it’s more user friendly. The fact that you can read it on your phone is a major stride in itself, but I believe for desktop users too the site is more legible and engaging. We’re definitely seeing a lot more sharing with Twitter and especially Facebook. And while not every big story has been a home run, we’ve had several big stories blow away our expectations, and I’m happy to argue that design has a lot to do with it.
It’s tough. There are a lot of stakeholders, and I’m tasked with making everyone happy. My friends in advertising think ads are the most important part of a page. The editors think the story is. Meanwhile, the photo editors think the photos need to be bigger and circulation wants the subscriber call-to-action to be bigger and more prominent.
And none of them are wrong. There’s a lot that’s important, and we as a magazine have a lot of needs. The reader has needs, too, so it’s a further challenge to balance what a reader wants and what I like to call “the things we want the reader to want.” And frankly, my bias will always be with the reader. I’m always trying to anticipate her desires. She’s the ultimate stakeholder. If she’s not happy, nobody should be happy.
We had outside help with the redesign and one of the first things they did was interview all the major stakeholders. That was important. It gave everyone a chance to have their voices heard and on the record. It also guided the designers: They knew what elements at a minimum needed to be included on the page. And everything had to be defended. One of the problems with the previous design is that each page was larded down with … stuff. Something would be added to the template then never taken off. So the redesign gave us a chance to say, “Hey, does anyone ever actually use this widget? No? Great, let’s ditch it.”
And then there are times when I like to blow it all up. A couple of times a month we give certain stories the “super article” treatment. Really it’s just a matter of making the lead photo big and striking and then stripping away everything that’s not part of the story. That includes the various calls to action, refers to other stories, and newsletter invitations. The only non-story elements I keep are a few ads sprinkled through a story. The special treatment tells the reader, “Hey, this is a special story. It’s worth your time.” And happily enough, we’re find that they’re responding, at least more than I believe they would if the stories were given a more conventional treatment.
Additional Commentary from Dennis Culloton
“They have spent a lot of time trying to break news and have had some really good writers across the years that have done some good investigative reporting. With this digital era now, they’re a little more aggressive about pushing that info out there. It remains to be seen whether or not they can equate that to more news stand sales or subscriptions. I think they’ve struggled with that.”
Sports ‘N Spokes magazine in a subscription-based publication dedicated to covering wheelchair sports and recreational activities since 1975. It is published by Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) bi-monthly, and has readers in 40 counties. PVA is a non-profit organization, and funding for Sports ‘N Spokes is from this PVA as well as subscribers and advertisers.
I was in contact with was Christopher Di Vigilio, who is the Web Content Manager of S’NS as well as a staff writer. I also contacted a couple of people who have read the magazine, Maggie Frederick (former UIUC wheelchair track team member) and Amanda McGrory (Paralympian and UIUC wheelchair track team member).
I coined the phrase, “We’re the Sports Illustrated for wheelchair sports,” when I first came on board as it best sums up our mission, goals and objectives to those not familiar with our publication. SNS has been in circulation since 1975 and is the product of founding editor Cliff Crase and wife Nancy. Cliff, a wheelchair athlete himself, wanted a medium to promote and highlight the athletes and organizations of wheelchair sports and provide a voice for their accomplishments, challenges and stories. —Christopher Di Vigilio
-No other magazines are solely dedicated to covering sports and recreation for those with spinal chord injuries and disease (SCI/D).
-There are a lot of stories that truly have a human face (very feature-like).
-Provides information on things outside of sports and rec like nutrition and physical exercises.
-Coverage of competitions, games, etc are at times very detailed.
-It is well connected with the Paralympic sport community.
Unlike a Sports Illustrated or ESPN, SPORTS N SPOKES has a very close relationship to the readership and a long history built on a foundation of trust that could only be achieved through one-on-one interactions with the readers, athletes and myriad participating organizations. We are personable and quick to respond to our audience – We are small but well known, and I believe that has been a contributing factor in building and maintaining our credibility. —Christopher Di Vigilio
Their connection to the Paralympic sport community is definitely a strength. When I was just beginning as a wheelchair athlete, it was my connection to other athletes around the country, as well as a great source of information. —Amanda McGrory
-It is relatively low budget.
-There are gaps in coverage of events, games, etc.
-There isn’t a balance between what sports and rec activities are covered. Some are featured more often and in more detail than others.
-At the allowable limit of staff (which is a whopping nine people).
-There is not an international edition despite covering international events (like world championships and the Paralympic Games) and doing extensive work with the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
-Many writers are those within the disability community (whether the writers are disabled or not). This helps to bring forward the smaller, lesser known stories outside of the sports realm and educate readers.
-Planning to launch a digital version of the printed magazine.
-Offer more interactive ways to readers for receiving information through the website and social media like Facebook and Twitter.
-A lot of the publication’s stories is by freelance writers and photographers because the staff cannot be at every event across the nation.
-Fewer people are subscribing than before.
-There isn’t really another publication like this, so the demand for this kind of journalism isn’t high.
SPORTS `N SPOKES is not immune from the fallout of the digital world and printed media, and unlike a Sports Illustrated or ESPN, we have been slow to adapt to the ever-changing ways in which people receive their information. —Christopher Di Vigilio
Al Jazeera is owned by Al Jazeera Media Network and was established in 1996. It is the first independent news channel in the Arab world and was launched as an Arabic news and current affairs channel. Now it has expanded into a huge network with several outlets around the world. Al Jazeera claims to cover and uncover stories which are often overlooked by global mainstream media. The network has gained popularity due to its global coverage, especially from underreported regions. Al Jazeera English was launched in 2007 and Al Jazeera America in 2013.
- Headquarter Doha, Qatar
- Bureaus 65
- Staff Over 3,000 staff members across the world (more than 400 journalists from over 60 countries)
- Diversity Al Jazeera English has over 1,000 highly experienced staff from more than 50 nationalities
- Countries Al Jazeera is broadcasted in over 100 countries
- Range It caters over 220 million households around the globe
The Al Jazeera Network consists of
1. Al Jazeera Satellite channel (Arabic)
2. Al Jazeera English
3. Al Jazeera Documentary
4. Al Jazeera Sport
5. Al Jazeera Mubasher (Live)
6. Al Jazeera Media Training and Development Center
7. Al Jazeera Centre for Studies
8. Al Jazeera Mobile
9. Al Jazeera.net (the Arabic web site)
10. Al Jazeera English Online (the English web site)
Turning points for Al Jazeera
War in Afghanistan was the turning point for Al Jazeera. After September 11 the channel aired videos it received from Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Al Jazeera has often been criticized for giving voice to extremist organizations.
Coverage of Iraq War also proved to be a golden opportunity for Al Jazeera to demand its stronghold in the area. Al Jazeera had a presence in Iraq since 1997 and the footage it released during war highly sorted by international networks.
Arab Spring reporting of Al Jazeera was both praised and criticized. Its reporters have been abducted, killed and beaten during the coverage. The investigative stories aired and published by the organization have gained Al Jazeera popularity.
- The network has deep pockets of Qatar providing financial support. For Al Jazeera commercial success is not a primary concern. The network can afford low ratings unlike majority of commercial channels, in return for having a presence in the broadcast market.
Wadah Khanfar served as director general of the main Al Jazeera network and he said in an interview to BuzzFeed
“For Al Jazeera America, if its editorial vision is right and correct, ratings are not important.”
I interviewed Pakistani journalist Mohammad Noshad. He said although the network has a strong backbone, it needs to find loyal audience because at the end of the day just having presence in the broadcast world is not enough.
- The network has its stronghold in the Middle East. Al Jazeera is always at advantage when it comes to covering international stories and in the past couple of decades Middle East is the part of the world that is making headlines.
I interviewed an Indian journalist Pawan Durrani. He said that Al Jazeera has expanded tremendously in last few years and internationally is a strong competitor for all mainstream channels.
“Today across world it is alternative to CNN and BBC. It is being watched everywhere and has huge international recognition.”
- Investigative reporting is what has brought the channel to the limelight. Al Jazeera claims to report stories from underreported regions and that is its selling point.
- The network has tremendous online presence and huge social network. They tweet all latest news and update their website very quickly. Moreover they also have mobile app and they manage it very well. They engage the audience by quoting their tweets and Facebook messages during shows.
- Multimedia presentation and advancement in technology is strength of Al Jazeera. May it be news production or live shows they present a complicated issue in a way that is understandable to the audience. They make use of graphics, green screen and pretty cool methods to produce a story.
- Al Jazeera has contributor writers for its website around the globe. They give voice to people to tell their stories by writing blogs posts and sending their pictures.
- Al Jazeera has a huge network around the globe. They have reporters, writers, contributors and presenters around the globe which makes it reachable to many communities.
- The network focuses highly on the quality of content it produces.
- Al Jazeera enjoys political power in the Arab world (at least). As it has strong Qatari backbone it has a very stable channel in the area that is highly important to the world.
- Al Jazeera focuses on training and human development of its employees which make them loyal to the company. I talked to some staff members of Al Jazeera and they that the network gives them liberty to work and grow.
- I interviewed Shaukat Hamdani who is Production Assistant for Consider This show broadcasted on the Al Jazeera America. He says that Ajam (l Jazeera America) hasn’t succeeded to make a name in the U.S.
“A lot of people don’t know about it and the mother company is based in Doha so a lot of people have the misconception that Ajam is the same. So the biggest weaknesses are lack of name and a misplaced reputation.”
- The common perception of Americans is that Ajam is anti-American channel which somehow raises questions about its editorial policy. The channel has failed to attract local population.
- Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt have become the targets of an ongoing campaign of harassment and abuse while covering important stories.
- Al Jazeera is often criticized of “Qatarisation” which means that the Qatari government owns Al Jazeera through Qatar Media Corporation. They say that Qatari government influence reporting of network. Al Jazeera made Qatar famous it isn’t other way round.
- Al Jazeera is first “go to” channel when anyone has to read story about the Middle East. The network has huge potential to expand to other markets like Al Jazeera America if they cater the audience right.
“Ajam claims no biases and offers multiple perceptions and there is a potential that it can make its brand name for hard news and proper journalism in America. Its financial security allows it to not care about ratings in the short term,” Shaukat Hamdani.
- As the network has huge visibility in the Middle East, it has huge potential to promote tourism and attract advertisers. Also, the network can boost Qatar’s investment.
- The network has many opportunities for the contributor writers, especially the diverse groups.
- For Al Jazeera America, many mainstream channels are CNN, CBS, Fox News, etc can be potential threat because they are established brands whereas Ajam is new in business.
- Low visibility and less recognition of Ajam in the U.S.
- Shaukat Hamdani says that low sensationalism approach of Al Jazeera is a threat for itself.
“Threat is that they (Al Jazeera) are betting on people wanting hard news and no sensationalism. The fact that people say they don’t like sensationalism doesn’t mean it’s true. An example is CNNs wall to wall coverage of the missing plane. People make fun of it but still watched it. So Ajam has tossed the dice let’s see if it works.”
- Regional resistance for Al Jazeera is great. Many journalists of the network have been threatened, beaten and killed because of their coverage.
For this project I interviewed some staff members of Al Jazeera, consumers (local and international), journalists from India and Pakistan and a few contributors who write for Al Jazeera English. Ali Abbas is a contributing writer from Pakistan and he says that the network provides opportunities to people in developing countries to tell their stories.
“Al Jazeera gives opportunities to write about social taboos which mainstream media from Pakistan wouldn’t cover. It is important that less talked topics are discussed in the media.”
After talking to some of the consumers of Al Jazeera from different parts of the world I realized that the network is most important to those who keep keen interest in international news because that’s the selling point of the network. Its audience in U.S. is pretty limited because the brand is not recognized among people who want to follow local stories. Shuakat Hamdani suggested that marketing Ajam to the local audience can help recognize it as a brand in the U.S. market.
“Maybe some community outreach to create goodwill and brand awareness because a lot of people still really don’t know a lot about it.”
Awards won by Al Jazeera
- International Emmys
- The Royal Television Society
- The Monte Carlo Film Festival
- The Foreign Press Association
- The Association of International Broadcasters
- Amnesty International
- Columbia Journalism Award
What once was an extension of the Chicago Board of Education, WBEZ was born in 1943. For many years, the exclusively broadcasted educational content during the Chicago school year. In 1970, it became an NPR affiliate, and in 1990 it was acquired by Chicago Public Media.
Today, WBEZ broadcasts about culture, criminal justice, economy, education, music and politics.
WBEZ is listener supported and does not rely on advertisers to air its content. I find this to be a major strength in WBEZ has more freedom to publish what it wishes, instead of having to warm up to advertisers. The downside is that listener support is not the most consistent means of funding, and can be hard to accelerate the radio station if there is not 100% certainty in what your next fiscal year will look like.
In terms of government funding, WBEZ does not rely on federal funding at all for its operating costs. Here is a link that outlines federal funding and Chicago Public Media: http://www.wbez.org/funding. That isn’t to say that WBEZ has not and cannot win small grants from the government, but the funding is not built into the budget.
Some weaknesses, are that I think WBEZ sometimes tries to stretch itself too thin by covering a broad range of categories. Sometimes series can take a long time to complete, which will end up losing the listener. I also think that adding more to the webpage could be another avenue to pursue, even with a limited staff. So more online stuff, specifically an archives section would be helpful.
The station is currently in a transition than began last summer to increase more audience participation, instead of just having a sea of experts come in and talk about issues.
This is what one of their critics had to say about the ‘traditional WBEZ’
“The traditional WBEZ format is that lots of highly educated people talked about their specialties. That’s over. That was my understanding of the meeting.” – Jonathan Abarbanel, critic.
Executive producer, Justin Kaufmann acknowledged the change, “The idea where we present a piece of journalism—15 minutes with the mayor, and the host would act like Charlie Rose or John Callaway—we’re trying to change that. The mayor comes on and you ask the questions. You have to train your audience to do that. My first goal is to get audience interaction, so everyone knows it’s a show you call in to. We’re just about there. Every local show has to have the audience involved in some way. They call in, or it’s ‘Ray left this comment on Facebook.’ The goal is audience interaction on every single show.”
That is where I see the greatest opportunities with WBEZ, is that the station is dynamic enough to change its layout and adapt to a different format of broadcasting, where it’s not just super smart people talking about exclusive areas of expertise. They have literally reached out to their audience by scheduling regular Off-air events where they meet listeners for coffee tastings, Global Activisim expos, and every Thursday night at the Chase Bank Auditorium.
The threat is obviously not being able to cover every major issue or be involved with in-depth investigative coverage, etc. These things cost money, and while being listener supported gives you nearly complete creative control, it is also limiting in what stories you can afford to pull off. I applaud WBEZ for hiring enterprising reporters who seem to pull this off on a regular basis, but I’m not sure how it will be sustainable in the future. I spoke to Legal and Criminal Affairs beat reporter, Rob Wildeboer, who broke the Illinois Prison Press Ban, which was later picked up by the Associated Press. Rob says, “Radio may be in trouble, but audio will never die. It’s the most crucial piece to telling the story. People always want to hear what’s going on. So the medium may change, but people crave the content.”
AP’s commitment to independent, comprehensive journalism has deep roots. Founded in 1846, AP has covered all the major news events of the past 165 years, providing high-quality, informed reporting of everything from wars and elections to championship games and royal weddings.
The Associated Press is an American nonprofit news agency that was founded in 1846. It employees a staff of over 3,400 people and, as a news cooperative, is owned by its newspaper and broadcast members, which total nearly 1,400 newspapers and includes thousands of television and radio broadcast member. Two-thirds of its employees are journalists.
The members of the Associated Press contribute stories to the AP than can then be used by fellow members throughout the country. The AP also generates its own news stories, which are distributed amongst its member newspapers and broadcast networks. Most member news outlets grant the AP permission to use and distribute their original news reports.
I guess you could say I’ve looked at AP from both sides now. And what has struck me is the depth of AP’s relationship with you, its members. It’s not just business. It’s an abiding partnership. Not without its ups and downs, of course, but enduring nonetheless.
– Gary Pruitt, president and CEO of the Associated Press (2012)
When the AP reporters create their own content, they use the Inverted Pyramid writing style so that their member organization may easily cut and add material to fit their respective audiences across the world.
The Associated Press, according to Gary Pruitt in 2013, collects 85% of its revenue through their news licensing business. Following the AP’s 2013 Annual Meeting, Pruitt convincingly described the AP and its member news outlets as a collective entity. The AP began their own tracking technology in October 201, known as News Registry, to help members track and license their content online.
According to Pruitt, the Associated Press has reduced its membership rates by 40-50% in the past five years, in correlation with the 40-50% that newspaper revenue has fallen.
This is what it means to be part of AP.
He also acknowledged the consequences of using AP material without becoming a member.
In a victory for all of us, last month, AP won summary judgment in our lawsuit against Meltwater News, a subscription service that provided its customers verbatim excerpts of stories by AP without paying us a cent.
– Gary Pruitt
I don’t believe this is a major threat. I would imagine that most, if not all, acts of plagiarism are noticed and, if it results in a lawsuit, the risks are high and the reward is slim. Without going into detail, Pruitt acknowledged that the lawsuit spanned years and cost millions of dollars. At the same time, they generate the bulk of their income through news licensing, so maybe this is a strength.
All in all, it seems that the AP greatly values its member news outlets, as well as the employees of those news outlets.
We’ve stepped in when members needed physical – not just fiscal – help. The tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, killed a staff member of the Joplin Globe and wreaked havoc on the homes of two dozen other Globe employees. AP loaned the Globe reporters to supplement the paper’s own tornado coverage. We helped the Globe produce a special section on the storm, and provided hot meals and supplies. AP staffers contributed their own money to a fund for journalists affected by the disaster.
Perks of being a member:
– Contributed money to member journalists affected by disasters, such as: Hurricane Sandy, and the tornado in Joplin, Missouri.
– Filed over 50 FOIA’s for member news outlets (Why couldn’t they do that themselves?)
– Fights legal battles, on behalf of all member news outlets, against sports, entertainment, and political organizations that attempt to limit press access. This saves time and legal fees.
– Helps members increase revenue by allowing them to sell advertising space on AP Mobile and AP Sports Extra.
– Helps members understand complex federal issues. The AP named a reporter in every state to help member news organization better understand the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” so that they could properly inform readers.
The Associated Press was originally created to reduce the costs of transmitting news, through both the telegraph and physical delivery, in 1846. During this time, the Mexican-American War meant that news had to travel from the Southwestern edge of the country to the Northeast before it cloud be distributed to readers. The five original members were the New York Sun, the Herald, the Courier and Enquirer, the Journal of Commerce and the Express.
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale and, according to their website, delivered news by pigeon, pony express, railroad, steamship, telegraph and teletype following its inception.
– In 1935 began sending photographs through telegraph
– In 1973 formed a radio network
– In 1994 added an international video division
Today, the Associated Press utilizes a digital database that contains all AP content and allows for instantaneous access by all member organizations on every available platform.
The Associated Press operates in over 280 locations worldwide, including all 50 U.S. states, and broadcasts in 120 countries.
Here is an example of the benefit of having a single news agency that stretches the globe, connecting seemingly distant stories to consumers on the opposite side of the world.
A few months ago (from April 2012), 122 clothing workers died in a firetrap clothing factory in Bangladesh. AP’s reporter there, Julhas Alam, spent two hours going through the wreckage, where he found clothing with labels sold at American brand-name companies like Wal-Mart.
His reporting forced some major U.S. companies to explain their connection to the plant and evaluate profits against lives. It was a story that touched consumers at every Wal-Mart in the country, which means nearly every AP member.
The Associated Press also has a news bureau in Myanmar and North Korea.
– The Associated Press Radio Network provides newscast twice hourly for broadcast and satellite.
– The AP publishes a blog that includes information about the culture of the organization.
– The AP has received 51 Pulitzer, including 31 Pulitzers for photography.
– AP Mobile, the AP’s news app, has been downloaded over 9 million times.
– How the AP generates income:
30% United States newspapers
37% global broadcast customers
15% online ventures
18% international newspapers
– The AP is a household name. It provides and updates the international standard for news editing with the Associated Press Style Book and supplies power rankings in all four major sports.
– 3.19 million followers on Twitter and 78, 500 posts that all link to stories written by the AP or its members.
– Almost 100,000 people like the AP Facebook page, but it doesn’t seem very interactive
– AP iPhone App
– Strong international presence
– The AP’s video division is the world’s leading video news agency
– Widespread distribution base
– Published a blog that contains material relevant to the culture of the AP, but that could also be found beneficial by independent journalists
– Has the industry’s most sophisticated digital photo network
– First global news organization to shoot all video in high definition
– Because the AP received funds through the members that own it, the organization thrives when its members continue to succeed. And succeed holds a loose definition. Are they prepared if their members completely fail?
– The Inverted Pyramid writing style limits the creativity and emotional pull of content
– Apparent lack of long-term and more interactive projects?
– Membership subscriptions once accounted for 100% of AP’s revenue. It was down to 40% in 2000. It is now down to 25%.
- Many people believe that most of the AP news report consists of member copy. In fact, only 1% of national wires originate from member news outlets. 99% comes from AP’s own journalists. Similarly, member content averages about 25% of state wires.
- Many people believe that the AP sells member stories to Internet portals
– What if nonmember news outlets simply stop using their material?
Fast Company Chinese Version
In spring 2013, Fast Company released its Chinese version monthly magazine in mainland China.
Here is the introduction of Fast Company on its American website.
“Fast Company is the world’s leading progressive business media brand, with a unique editorial focus on innovation in technology, ethonomics (ethical economics), leadership, and design. Written for, by, and about the most progressive business leaders, Fast Company and FastCompany.com inspire readers and users to think beyond traditional boundaries, lead conversations, and create the future of business.”
Fast Company US: http://www.fastcompany.com/
Fast Company China: http://www.fastcompany.cn/
Current potential consumers:
Raising middle-class readers, comparatively young people who are interested in business and innovation but don’t have much background in the field, whose English may be not good enough or may not have enough patience to read English version. Younger entrepreneurs. Many of the readers may not earn a lot and they may spend a lot of time online browsing for quick information than reading a print version magazine or a book.
– Multi-media & social media promotion
(Official site; Has accounts in China’s most influential social network: Sina Weibo (11,381 followers)– 46 million active users by the end of 2012 & Tencent Weibo (26,574 followers)- 100 million online users per day at the end of 2012, Wechat – 270 million active users in and outside China, )
– Sharing content with influential portal websites such as Sina and Tencent.
– Partnering with Southern Media Group (the most influential media group in Southern China based in Guangzhou).They have established system and resources to manage publication and promotion to mainstream audiences in mainland China. They are also more familiar with local laws and have a closer relationship with related governors. Guangzhou is closer to HongKong and Macau, which share a similar Cantonese multi-cultural background. And is far away from Beijing, which faces less pressure in censorship.
– Editor in Chief is experienced in business reporting and is also a column writer and the Chinese version editor and interview director for Bloomberg Business Week.
– Abundant resources of information and stories from American version
– Few similar competitors
(Business Weekly, Bloomberg Business Week Chinses version – highly professional, less entertaining,
The Outlook Magazine – innovation, creativity, art, more entertaining but mainly about fashion and lifestyle)
– Benefiting the US version by sharing information
(Basically don’t have foreign correspondents)
– Online purchase
– Copycat & Indifference in copyright
– High similarity in content with US version saves costs.
– Different image in China and in the US prevents the Chinese version to decrease the original American version subscribers in China.
– PDF version for Ipad & computer and promotion via social network iphone application also save costs.
– Unnatural translation
– Not localized enough (Most of the content is translated from American version)
– Poor web design (Not creative and interactive enough, compared with American version)
– Don’t have an application for Iphone. Have PDF version for Ipad and on computer.
(But has updates via social media applications: Wechat, Sina and Tencent Weibo – 100 million online users per day at the end of 2012 )
PDF instead of apps. Not very convenient for readers to share content. They have to go to the official site. And they
– Ignoring the differences between Chinese and American market
(Not localized enough)
– Unclear of target audience.
(Content- comparatively high-end. Promotional methods (phrasing & wording of slogans, graphic design)– more targeted to lower-end customers)
– New image of Chinese version seems to be unprofessional.
– Not different enough from some high-end lifestyle magazines.
– Middle class readers are raising with their consumption capability
– These readers’ growing willingness to buy this kind of magazine.
The magazine’s new image in China may be able to utilize Chinese middle-class readers’ psychology to boost consumption.
– The potential readers’ tastes and demand for more high-end content may increase, the resources provided by the American version will strengthen the uniqueness of the Chinese version.
These audience has been aware of and may be educated by the magazine. As they grow more sophisticated, they may be more capable
– Growing development and demand for multi-media and social media.
– Long-time detachment from local market environment may decrease readers’ interests
– Target audience’s buying behavior – may visit social media and website instead of spending 15 RMB per month to buy a magazine.
Used to getting information for free or for a very long price. Download a song for free or for less than a quarter.
– Censorship from government may make it hard to publish sensitive local stories
– The middle class in China is still developing and not stable enough, which makes the reader’s psychology more unpredictable.
The Chinese version sees polarizing feedbacks from readers. Some readers admit that translation of original and creative stories from American version, which takes up most part of the magazine’s content, is the core advantage of the Chinese version, but they also think that this has obviously creates a detachment from the Chinese market. While some others think that the contents are satisfying and are expecting for more updated stories.
Editor’s (Zhixiong Ke) opinion:
- Fast Company in China focuses on companies that “make something happen” instead of those which are only focusing on making revenues.
- Number of relative and original stories written by local writers may not be dominating in the short term.
- Fast Company Chinese version is unique and interesting in the Chinese market.
- Localize more of the content
- Differentiating content provided online and in print.
- Keep tracking the audience’s reaction and see who are more willing to buy
Inform magazine is a publication of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, or AOCS. Inform stands for “International news on fats, oils and related materials.” The magazine has been cited as the top benefit of AOCS membership in recent surveys, according to Gloria Cook, the senior director of finance and operations at AOCS.
Founded in 1909, the AOCS is an organization that provides support to those who work in the area of fats, oils and surfactants. Half of the society’s 4,000+ members work in the U.S., while the other half is spread across the globe. Some work in industry, others in academia or for the government, and not all AOCS members are scientists.
Fats, oils and surfactants are found in a smattering of things that people encounter on a daily basis, including food, fuels and personal care products. So the topics covered in Inform magazine are extremely relevant and important to people from all walks of life.
Inform magazine is a trade publication, but the staff have been working to make it look, feel and read more like a commercial magazine. Kathy Heine, the managing editor, said that’s been one of her goals for the magazine every since she came on board several years ago.
Inform magazine publishes 10 issues a year. The magazine includes several types of stories: in-depth feature articles written by either science writers or scientists, news briefs, career profiles and updates on AOCS members, a summary of recent patents, and more.
The purpose of Inform is simple: to keep AOCS members up-to-date on news and developments in fats, oils and surfactants.
As I read through several issues that came out between January 2013 and March 2014, I noticed a handful of key improvements in the quality of writing and the design of the magazine.
In older issues, I frequently came upon stories that had buried ledes or read like a dry scientific report rather than an engaging news story. In more recent issues, the magazine has shifted toward more newsy headlines and compelling ledes, and the use of pull quotes and bullet points helps provide more visual appeal as well as “ins” for attracting readers’ attention.
Another strength is the broad coverage: since fats, oils and surfactants play a role in so many commercial products, the magazine staff have to keep tabs on a wide variety of developments in different research fields and industries.
One of the challenges with working on a print publication with a lead time of several weeks is that once the magazine arrives at the doorstep of an AOCS member, none of the news stories are really that “new.” Catherine Watkins, Inform’s associate editor, says that instead of worrying about the lack of timeliness, they focus on providing thorough coverage of the most important research, industry, and government/regulatory developments that AOCS members would want to know about.
Another area for improvement: Most of the news stories seem to be written by summarizing a press release or news coverage from another media outlet. Catherine explained that with a small staff, they simply don’t have time to schedule and perform interviews. The quality of the reporting could definitely be improved with more original reporting.
A few other areas for improvement I noticed:
- News stories often include data and numbers that could be presented more effectively in the form of a chart or graph.
- Stories about scientific developments would benefit from including comments from an expert not involved in the study, who could help put the findings into context.
- The mobile app allows members to download previous issues to their phone, an example of “shovelware” that is probably due to having a small staff without a designated person for converting content for online access.
- Some issues have feature stories written by science writers that provide a broad overview of a topic, while other issues include articles written by scientists, which tend to be more narrowly focused and not as engaging.
Inform magazine’s biggest direct competitor is the magazine from Oils and Fats International. Another competitor is Chemical & Engineering News, the magazine for the American Chemical Society, although C&EN’s coverage includes all areas of chemistry.
In my presentation on Wednesday, I will discuss several ideas I have for improving the publication, as well as share more comments from Inform staff and readers, as well as an outside expert, Valerie Faurie, who has several decades of experience working on a members’ publication for the University of Illinois Alumni Association. S
- #1 in Sports Broadcasting
- Tied with Disney/ABC-(ABC is one of the big three networks)
- First network to get the top professional sports leagues NBA,NFL, MLB, AND NHL
- #1 sports show SportsCenter is a well known brand everyone knows
- ESPN coverage can be accessed by multiple platforms (TV, Internet, Phone, etc.)
- Able to target the huge market of young male viewers
- Have many different ESPN channels for different coverage (ESPN CLASSIC, ESPN NEWS, ESPN DEPORTES, ETC.)
- Primarily just focus on the big professional leagues. Instead of having coverage on smaller leagues.
- Costly to have coverage of all the top sports professional leagues.
- Average viewer just tunes in when there is a big sporting event.
- Having the opportunity to cover other sports such as golf, tennis, bowling, etc.
- Chance to have success on international front with ESPN Deportes and the growing majority of Hispanics in America
- Competition for tv ratings from other sports networks (Fox Sports 1, Comcast SportsNet,)
- More exclusive coverage from networks such as NFL Network, NBA TV
- New sports networks take talent and staff members away from them
- Increased fees to keep coverage of NFL, NBA, MLB
- Does not have game coverage of the NHL
Chicago Tribune: Travel
-Broad range of travel locations referenced in articles.
-Occasional budget minded articles for those incapable of expensive travel.
-“Pro-Tips” articles to assist travel besides locations
-Best time to book flights.
-Good interaction with readers: Q & A articles.
-Apparent lack of very-local travel destinations for those looking for something cheap/brief.
-Articles contain lots of file/stock photography, making the destinations less personal and inviting.
-Lack of diversity in the writing staff reduces likelihood of providing more “local” insight into other areas.
-Complete lack of guest writers. All of the stories were written by the four staff reporters, severely limiting the variety in the articles.
-Bring in a more diverse group of writers of varying ethnicity, geography and gender.
-Create more local “travel” destination pieces.
-Provide more personal, “rough” photography that isn’t stock or file photos
-Include more local perspectives in the stories to take them from location to destination!
-Crowd sourced travel coverage from regular individuals through social media.
-Decreases in newspaper budgets restricting expensive travel.
-International travel’s expensive cost reducing individual interest.
Response from Travel Reporters
“How does Travel Reporting plan to stay viable?”
-A lot of what’s viable depends on ad sales, like much of journalism. The travel section continues to sell ads and therefore continues to exist. People seem to continue to value travel writing and I think they will continue to.
“How Can Travel Reporting Include More Diversity?”
-[Travel Reporting] just requires an open mind and willingness to immerse in experience. Also takes an ability to synthesize that experience and be able to share it engagingly, clearly and meaningfully with the world.
“What is the greatest threat to Travel Journalism?”
-Same thing that is a threat to journalism in general, which is a lack of revenue (failing to monetize news on the internet has been an industry-wide issue).
“What is the draw of being a Travel Reporter?”
– For me, the value of travel writing is in the broad and memorable experience I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I do miss covering news sometimes, and being more in the mix for the type of urgent stories that make the front page of the newspaper. There tends not to be much urgency in travel writing. But it sure is fun.
Representatives for Rick Steves, Kevin:
“How can an Individual Prepare to be an Effective Travel Reporter?”
-[On Preparing for Travel Reporting] As for college-related classes, many associated tasks during the process of getting a formal education are almost as important as the ‘book learning.’ In college you’ll learn to get along with many people of different backgrounds; you’ll have to focus on studies, keep your budget, read, read, read and be open to new ideas. Of course, classes that stress global education, world economy, world history and languages are helpful.
“Does the Cost of Travel and Difficulty to get Published Take Away from People’s Interest in Becoming a Travel Writer?”
-The key to becoming a travel writer is to travel for the love of travel, with lots of sniffing out maximum experiences and writing while on the road. Back home, get your writing out any way you can (for free). Your publicity stunt must be your commitment to smart travel. Impress people with the quality of your work by making it available widely and for free. Eventually, people will pay for your writing. (But keep your day job if you ever want to afford another plane ticket.)
“How Can Individuals Break into Travel Reporting?”
-The more you write, the more proficient you’ll become. Carry a notebook.and use it! Rick still writes constantly-at lunch, after dinner, and often into the night. First, write for yourself. Submit short travel essays to your local newspapers. Submit them to large city papers. Submit, submit, submit. Eventually something will “break” and you’ll be on your way. In the meantime, of course, you need to earn a living. You might try to find employment with a publishing house. Surround yourself with literature!
“Why Do People Stay With Travel Reporting?”
-A career in travel is rewarding in many ways (but usually not monetarily). The process can be a long one-patience, persistence and a sense of humor help.
“How Does Travel Reporting Stay Viable with Shrinking Newspaper Budgets?”
-Learn to travel on a budget and look for interesting and unusual features with which you can hone your writing skills. Humor usually works.
Tips to Break into Travel Reporting from Lindsay Kalter (International Journalists’ Network)
- Blog, blog, blog: Illustrating writing skills and expertise on a personal blog is the best way to gain credibility and get recognized, says Hodson. Starley-Grainger suggests posting high-quality entries twice each week for about six months to show dedication and then pitching to editors.
- Find a niche: Many writers make the mistake of pitching broad ideas or city guides — big no-no, says Starley-Grainger. Develop an area of expertise — something quirky but appealing to a broad audience — and editors to commission.
- Know the publication: Before pitching, familiarize yourself with the publication, said Mathieson. Pay attention to what types of stories they publish and in what sections. Demonstrating this knowledge at the beginning of a pitch increases the chances that it’ll be read.
- Don’t just be a traveler, be a journalist: Those without journalism education or experience should learn and understand how to uncover facts, develop trustworthy sources and dig out obscure information, said Starley-Grainger.
- Don’t stress about degrees: It’s important to have good writing and reporting skills, but editors won’t pay much attention to your academic background, said Hatch, who has a degree in business studies. Once you have demonstrated your skills — be it through a personal blog or published work — your engineering degree won’t matter.
- Stand out: Do what you can to be remembered — reach out to the editor beforehand to express interest and ask about guidelines, and remind them of this correspondence when you send in your pitch, Mathieson said. Also, include a signature at the bottom of your email stating your name, location and specialty.
- Don’t over-do a destination: There’s a difference between writing an intriguing piece on a city with high tourism rates and “over-egging” a place, Mathieson said. If your interest lies in a popular location, seek out its underground appeal. Things like backpacking in Asia, as Hodson pointed out, have been done before.
- Tweet away: Twitter has become a valued resource for travel journalists, said Statham. It helps establish contacts and raises your profile and allows you to see what other travel writers are covering.
- Don’t be afraid to be critical: People want to read whimsical descriptions of far-off places, but they also want honesty, says Hatch. Include the negative so that the readers who are planning trips can prepare.