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craigslist musings

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Tucsondriver, May 26, 2008.

  1. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    This is a spinoff on WriteThinking's thread questioning why everyone's so obsessed with putting video on the web. It was just a thought, and I'm kinda curious to see if anyone's going to respond. Like most posters, I agree video offers minimal value. My thought is that instead of whining like schoolgirls about how craigslist has killed their classified cash cows, publishers (usually so out of touch they spell it ``craig's list''), really all of us can learn from why everyone loves craigslist. My experience with craigslist (got my last two jobs, sold a car, made some focus group $ etc., all on craigslist) I assume is told over and over by countless others in all walks of life. The business model is based on simplest principle : Give me something I can use.
    So while that obvious lesson blinding business-side and newsrooms, what's our best answer: Video.
    Is that something that anybody can really use?
    I wonder if those who developed this half-baked idea of sticking reporters with video cameras ever even asked.
    And we wonder why our business is dying...
  2. PeteyPirate

    PeteyPirate Guest

    A free Swiss Army knife with subscription?
  3. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    The answer: More ISOFWB ads in the paper.
  4. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    Hey FirstDown,
    I was thinking more along the lines of gearing the core product towards something that there's actaully demand for - like content. Swiss Army knives are pretty useful, though.
  5. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Tucson: I actually see what you're saying, but the problem is, it's (inadvertently) the kind of thinking that was part of getting newspapers in trouble in the first place.

    Video is still pretty new, relatively speaking. And maybe people aren't accessing it that much on newspaper sites yet. But 10 years ago, newspapers didn't think there was much worthwhile about sinking a lot into the web, either.

    I accessed two news videos in the past few days on my local newspaper site, not to prove a point, but because I was interested in the news in them. One, a 79-year-old man I've known for a few years now and who bought me a drink every time I saw him, was arrested for bookmaking, loan-sharking and racketeering -- and running the enterprise out of the restaurant where he used to buy me the drinks. That was of interest to me.

    But even if you don't find much value in watching newspaper news video on a webpage, your ability to do so on portable devices -- cellphones at the forefront, of course -- is going to be growing by leaps and bounds in the next few years. And when it's convenient as flipping open your cellphone, wherever you are, to do so, more and more people are going to do it.

    At my website, mobile content is by far the fastest growth area, and it's the same at other places. And that's not going to include just webpages -- it's going to include a lot of video. Snippets, updates or whatever.

    It's also another venue to display ads -- so another revenue stream.

    I'm not saying that video is huge yet -- but I think not going down that road now would be a big mistake.
  6. Tucsondriver

    Tucsondriver Member

    SF: Time will tell if video takes off as some say it will. I don't think anybody really knows. I still think the craigslist model shows that the demand for simple, useful, information is timeless. Craiglist thrived in web 1.0, is thriving in 2.0, and will do just fine in 3.0. The more resources we put into video, the less we have for content. There are many reasons why the industry's dying, and I don't claim to be an expert, but I think it's possible beancounters have underestimated the value of content. Although the fact that industry content leaders (NYTimes, Wash. Post) are bleeding badly too probably undercuts my argument...
  7. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    Those pictures Neyer sends you do not count.
  8. TheHacker

    TheHacker Member

    I think Tucsondriver's point is valid. Usefulness and interactivity are the keys to getting people to keep coming back to Web content. The problem is coming up with a formula. We agree, video isn't all that useful. So what is? I don't have an answer ... and I hate to say this, but the Web almost feels like a losing battle for smaller and mid-sized papers.

    At my place, some of the management doesn't want to go to blogs with reader comments because they feel like it's a small number of people who do all of the commenting. And I think they're probably right. If you read fan message boards (which essentially is all reader comment sections are) I'm sure you see that it's same dozen idiots with nothing better to do that make the bulk of the posts.

    If you're talking about community papers that spend their time covering preps and local school boards, city councils, etc., how do you find something useful and engaging enough to keep your readers coming back? To me, that's a really tough question and I don't think there's a good answer. Ever look at the voter turnout for the municipal elections in your area? It's a very small percentage unless you're talking about a national or statewide office. People are interested, but it's a small number who are truly engaged in that stuff.

    You can get reader comments (hence the page views that drive Web ad sales) on national stories, but they can do that on any number of sites. That's why I think making plays on the Web is an uphill battle for a lot of papers. We still have to try, but there's no easy answer.
  9. pressmurphy

    pressmurphy Member

    Newspapers may eventually cash in on video, but they've already had too many mis-steps in that area.

    Mistake No. 1 - Partnerships with TV stations: There are some affiliations that have actually worked quite well, but I suspect a lot of those were the result of strong relationships that already existed -- for instance, news orgs that combined forces for pre-election coverage and in-depth work on major community issues. Too many times, though, newspapers struck partnerships with TV stations because they thought it was going to lead to being able to stream professionally reported and edited clips from the 6 o'clock news on their site by 7 o'clock. In reality, the actual timetable is closer to this: Clip appears on TV at 6 p.m. and on the TV station site at 7 p.m., then is made available to the newspaper a day or two later.

    Some papers have made their reporters, columnists and critics available for live shots on newscasts to varying degrees of success. My big hang up there is that the bits seldom end with a tagline along the lines of "Our thanks to Joe Schmoo for take time out to update this story. You can read his update on the story online at www.newspapernamegoeshere.com and in tomorrow morning's newspaper.

    In short, newsspapers have not gotten the proper bang for their buck in these arrangements.

    Mistake No. 2 - D-I-Y video: Actually, doing it yourself **is** the way to go for newspapers. My quibble is with the way they've elected o do it -- training existing staff to handle the job. There absolutely is a certain percentage of the newsroom population that can make the transition from still photography, reporting and editing to shooting and editing video. But the dropoff after the top two or three candidates gets steep.

    The result is there a lot of inferior video, which took too long to shoot and edit, ends up getting posted. It erodes the newspaper's reputation over the long haul.

    The better solution is to cash in some existing bodies and replacing them with people with a background in video. J schools pump out enough of them that newspapers shouldn't have to overpay to acquire talent.

    It's really no different than the process behind launching a web site. My former shop launched its site in the mid-1990s with a staff of a half dozen or so that was plucked directly from the newsroom. "Web developers" did not exist in those days and 28.8 modems were more or less standard at the time, so it's not as though they were easily able to go outside the company to find help. But as time went on, there was a pool of talent on the outside that could have been tapped. Our paper stuck with its original crew, though, and development of the site was unnecessarily slow because of it.

    Mistake No. 3 - The revenue model: Slapping a 30-second commercial at the front of the video and another 30-second spot at the end of it just doesn't cut it. Users don't have the patience for that much advertising just to see a typical 90-second clip. Embed the video player into a page surrounded by the advertiser's branding and forget about the video commercials. Save those for long-form podcasts/vodcasts, where you can get away with breaking up five-minute segments with 30-second spots.
  10. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    How about we start charging for content?
  11. STLIrish

    STLIrish Active Member

    A little late for that, isn't it?
  12. fremont

    fremont Member

    It became too late for that as soon as papers started putting their stories for free online. That train pulled out of the station years ago.
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