Wednesday, April 29, 2015

State of the News 2015 & Magazines

Mr. Magazine is happy happy

He points us at Raw Bike

He points us at Old Port

He points us at Reserved Magazine

He point us at Hoop-la

He points us at All Things Sports

He points us at Peppa Pig

He points us at Art on Cuba

He points us at No Tofu

He points us at Lei

He points us at Mantra

If you want more more more, try his launchmonitor blog

The sober Guardian chimes in on "beautiful magazines"

* no ads
* tiny print runs
* "partly as personal passion, partly as calling cards for young designers and would-be          journalists, keeping production costs low"

A dose of reality. Here's the link

But there's oh-so-much online that calls itself a magazine

plus a 360 audience report 

And a final word from Felix Salmon

Similarly, there’s no particular reason to believe that the advice I’d give five or six years ago, which was basically “start a blog and get discovered” still works. With the death of RSS, blogs are quaint artifacts at this point, and I can’t remember the last time I discovered a really good new one.
I have every faith that great journalism will continue to appear online, and reach a large and grateful audience. For news consumers, that’s fantastic news. But I have no faith that the individuals creating that great journalism are going to end up getting paid anything near what they deserve — or even that most of them will be able to build a career out of it.
If all you care about is the great journalism, then, well, go out and find great stories to tell, and tell those stories in a compelling manner. You’ll always be able to find somewhere willing to publish them, even if they pay little or nothing for the privilege of doing so.
On the other hand, if you’re more career-oriented, and want a good chance at a well-paid middle-class lifestyle down the road, I don’t really know what to tell you. Except that the chances of getting there, if you enter the journalism profession today, have probably never been lower.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Build a Magazine

English: Neuttro Page (not online) from the Ma...
English: Neuttro Page (not online) from the Magazine (not in circulatrion anymore) Frecuenciarock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In-class exercise/Build a Magazine

You have been divided into two teams by a group of deep-pockets entrepreneurs who wants to create an online product for college students, age 18-24. They believe in group competition, group intelligence and in brain storming, that is, in tossing ideas around in an uncritical environment before forcing a decision. Your aim is to come up with a concept for an online magazine that has both news and entertainment value.

 Near the end of this process, you will choose among the stories the class has written this semester to illustrate in a concrete way what the content of your publication will look like. It may also be useful in explaining the nature of your publication to point out why something written this semester – even though written by someone in your target demo – is not suitable for your publication.

One possible way to begin is by Thinking Big, coming up with what you think is a fresh concept, and only then looking about you to compare it to existing products. What you may discover, of course, is that you have reinvented the wheel, that such a publication already exists and that your ‘fresh’ idea adds no nuance, no value to an existing product already in the market. Happily, often our new ideas are not identical to old ones; there are, in fact, differences. The question is whether or not these differences are significant enough to provide the wedge that will enable us to compete.

 It is not meaningless to assert that we want to do the same thing but do it better. However, some supposed distinctions do not foretell competitive success, as in the case of “Seven-Minute Abs.”

A second way to come up with a product is at once to look at existing publications you find useful and appealing, but all of which fall short in some way. That is, you conclude that an existing concept can be tweaked or altered or reimagined in such a way that your variation on an existing product will steal eyes away from the existing product – though keep in mind the lesson of Seven-Minute Abs. Take the historical perspective. When does variation become failed imitation? Worst movie remakes are an amusing example.

Or you may choose to start small, with small questions rather than large assumptions. At some point in this process – whether you start large or small - you will ask these questions. (The advantage you have is that - more or less – you are your audience.)

1.    What does your potential audience care about?
2.    What are they reading/watching/listening/doing?
3.    What are their problems/issues/challenges?
4.    What are your potential audience’s/demographic/psychographic/geographic characteristics?
5.    How many people are in your target group or groups?
6.    How much do they spend on a news/entertainment product of the kind you have imagined?
7.    How much time do they spend online enjoying products of the kind you are proposing?

The answers to NONE of these questions are matters of opinion. All can be explored through consumer research. But for this brief exercise, we will proceed on the basis of ‘best guess.’

At some point in this process - possibly early on - you will identify your ‘key competitors,’ your rivals in the media marketplace. You will ask:

1)   What are they doing well?
2)   What are they missing?
3)   What elements of what others are doing can you use as a model or models? What elements can you learn from?

Later in the process, you will begin to build content,

1.    Preparing such basic elements as a mission statement, an ‘about’ page, a series of initial blog posts heralding your arrival on the scene.
2.    Developing key multimedia assets – a set of photos, a short video trailer, a slideshow.
3.    Developing pitch materials for potential partners/investors/advertisers. Such materials will be short, one pagers and ‘elevator’ pitches.
4.    Reaching out to your potential audience by building a social media presences on key networks relevant to your ‘community.’
5.    Listening to and learning from your community.
6.    Developing a rapport with key community members/influencers.

Now things get serious, as you begin the tough task of balancing costs with potential revenues,

1.    Considering six proven revenue approaches – ads, memberships/subscriptions, expertise/services, events, products, donations.
2.    Identifying revenue approaches that seem to be working for competitors, particularly those in related coverage areas.
3.    Testing the water with potential paying customers/audience members.
4.    Working with ‘first customers,’ perhaps on a trial or ‘alpha’ basis.
5.    Working up hard numbers for production and build a preliminary budget.

Creative is fun, but now you must begin to think like a manager,

1.    Assessing your own strengths and weaknesses with the help of friends, colleagues and mentors to determine what gaps you need to fill and what gaps you should focus your immediate energies on, while never forgetting your big picture and your long-term goals.
2.    Finding colleagues to work with, and developing community collaborators.

Finally, you are ready to begin, but from the beginning you will be measuring your progress,

1.    Having determined what your key indicators are, what metrics you need to track and how you will define success. (External metrics)
2.    Having put in place a system to measure progress regularly toward internal project goals. (Internal metrics)
3.    Already thinking about what you may need to change, what to do even more of and how best to pivot and what to fix at each stage of your progress.

We do not have the time to work through to the end of this process. However, we should be able to get far enough for each team will submit to me the answers to these questions:

·      Generally speaking, you are going after the 18-24 demo. Specifically, who inside that group is going to be your audience?
·      To the best of your knowledge, who is your competition? Where are the ‘eyes’ of your intended audience now directed?
·      What are you going to do that is not currently being done?
·      Express that intention as a 50-word mission statement.
·      Brainstorm some possible names for this new publication.
·      Choose, or reject, for publication stories the class has written this semester.

As you get into this, you can “play.” That is, you may assign tasks, one group member thinking about overall design, one about art, one about the big stories that anchor each issue, one about the smaller stories in continuing divisions of the magazine like People or Music or Dining – or far more inventive and focused divisions than that.

These comments are based in part on the ideas of Dr. Ed Lenert, USF adjunct professor, and on a presentation by Jeremy Caplan, professor of interactive and entrepreneurial journalism at the City University of New York, “7 Steps to Success: Entrepreneurial Journalism” (2011).

Next Two Weeks

Week Thirteen/April 27

A working outline of your profile, plus a scene - can be a sketch and not in finished form - from your profile that can stand by itself is due Tuesday 5/5. Ideally, this scene will be a draft of either your introduction or your conclusion, though this may too early to be sure how you are going to organize your story. However, even though this is a tentative decision that may be reversed, tell me why this scene might serve as intro or conclusion. Refer to Jon Franklin’s ideas in these comments.

Your profile is due Tuesday 5/12.

You need to put all your stories online so that we can "build a magazine" in class.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Slippery Slope....



- From the Penn State release
– From the Penn State release
Arthur Raney (Florida State University), Mary Beth Oliver (Penn State), Sophie Janicke(University of Arkansas) and Robert Jones (Public Religion Research Institute) will spend the next three years researching whether good news can help make us better people.
The proposal that got them $1.95 million from the John Templeton Foundation was titled, “Your Daily Dose of Inspiration: Exploring How People Use and Are Impacted by Media Content that Elicits Self-Transcendent Emotions.”
From the Penn State release:
Inspirational media can take many forms: viral videos, social media, television and films, and even newspaper stories.
The research team will take a deeper look at what makes media inspiring, who seeks out such content and why, and how people use it to stimulate positive emotions. It will also explore how those emotional experiences might build character and promote greater care and concern for other people.
I’ve asked lead researcher Raney if he’ll share his proposal with us. Update - “The proposal is actually quite long and (at times) technical/jargony,” Raney writes in an email. “So, we have no plans to post it. However, we will launch a website this Fall for the project (which officially begins in August). It will contain information that might prove interesting to you and your readers.”

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Assignment for Tuesday, April 28

Profiles in Folly
Profiles in Folly (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
* Find a profile you like - or dislike.

* Share with class, either hard copy or link that I can project.

* Talk about it for 10 minutes or so in class. Why do you like or dislike it? In what ways is it an example for your own writing? What are its reasons for existing?

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pulitzer for Feature Writing 2015


plus what's up with another winner

Jim Sheeler and the Death Story

Image of scene from Grimm Brothers story Godfa...
Image of scene from Grimm Brothers story Godfather Death. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jim Sheeler talking about obit writing

Photos from Jim Sheeler's Pultizer winner, the Final Salute

Here's an interview he did with an 'amateur'

What finally are the implications of our stories? Do they prompt action or discourage it? Do they change our attitudes or threaten them? Here's a link to quote/counterquote.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Place that Publishes the Kind of Things We Do

We’re looking for 800-1500 word stories for our SHORTS department to run in June, July, and August issues of The California Sunday Magazine
We’ll be making assignments for June by early next week, so if you have a June idea to propose, you’ll hear back from us very quickly. 
As you’ve probably noticed, most SHORTS are one-scene stories. A brief encounter with someone fascinating. A dispatch from the site of a surprising phenomenon. A conversation-rich afternoon spent with someone relevant in the culture right now. A narrative that explores or explains some timely idea. 
Tips: All SHORTS must be based on a reported scene — observed, or reconstructed through interviews. You should give us a sense in your proposal what that scene might be. Pieces must be set in California, the West, Asia, or Latin America. Timeliness isn’t necessary but we do really like timely proposals. We’re a general interest magazine, so we’re interested in all topics. Funny is always good. All stories must be written for a national audience. 
Things to avoid: We don’t really assign history pieces. We're not into anniversaries as news pegs. We enjoy a distinctive first-person voice in reported pieces but we generally don’t publish memoirs or personal essays. We can’t consider fiction at this time. We don’t assign service journalism: articles about where to travel, how to learn some skill, where to eat, where to shop. All of these genres can be great. They’re just better suited to other outlets. 
Please send your ideas to
I'd love to hear from you. 
Doug (@dougmcgray
Editor in Chief

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Assignment for Thursday: CJR Reporting on the Rolling Stone Rape Story

Erdely and her editors had hoped their investigation would sound an alarm about campus sexual assault and would challenge Virginia and other universities to do better. Instead, the magazine's failure may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations. (Social scientists analyzing crime records report that the rate of false rape allegations is 2 to 8 percent.) At the University of Virginia, "It's going to be more difficult now to engage some people … because they have a preconceived notion that women lie about sexual assault," said Alex Pinkleton, a UVA student and rape survivor who was one of Erdely's sources.

Read more:
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