Wednesday, May 17, 2006

THE VALUE OF DEAD TREES

If Im going to give blogs their props at the expense of mainstream media, then I have to be fair (ok, i dont have to be, this is a blog :) and give newspapers their props when appropriate.

This is how Dallas Mavericks owner and billionaire Mark Cuban's blog starts about the newspapers. He goes on to explain how the news feeds such as Associated Press provide stories that are picked up by a wide variety of sources:

About 1pm Dallas time, got on the PC, and checked out ESPN. What a waste of time. AP story. A nice story by Marc Stein, the same kind of sportscenter highlights they have for every game, and that if you watch TV, you already saw. The same stats they have for every game, ok, but nothing unique. Bottom line, not worth the trip. It reminded me why I hardly ever check out the site any more.

The world wide leader in sports, for the NBA semi finals, basically did nothing more than it did for every game of the regular season. Its recap is the same AP recap that the tiniest of tiny newspapers users to fill its sports section. Its stats, the same available to any website from multiple sources. You would think that they could find some value to add beyond the usual.

Cuban goes on to note that local newspapers actually will have better and more unique content than many blogs and websites will offer:

During the playoffs, I make sure to read the local newspapers because they have made the decision to differentiate their coverage to include depth and in some cases differentiated information, far beyond what is available online. If they invested the same effort during the season, I would be sure to read it every day. Im sure fans of other sports and topics would feel the same way.

Its interesting to me how my online reading habits have changed over the past 2 years. It used to be that i had a series of sports sites bookmarked and I would check them out to see if there was anything of relevance. Now, they are all either live bookmarks in mozilla or in an RSS reader and I just glance at the headlines. Which makes it painfully obvious how much they all just reuse the AP feeds. I also use RSS feeds of searches from icerocket.com that I can just glance at to see if there is anything being published from news, blogs or other RSS enabled sites. No need to visit ESPN, Sportsline, etc. If they cover a topic im interested in, and they match the keywords ive chosen, I see it.

I have found that he is very right, many blogs will simply regurgitate the same news bits with a short comment on them (similar to what I do here before the comments start), using the same news wire feeds for all their information. Blogs can offer a great deal to news, at their best (such as what happened with Rathergate when actual reporting was not covering the story. Its the comments I try to use on this site to expand on the stories reported, as well as to add new information, link to things others may have forgotten or missed, and increase the depth of coverage. Mr. Cuban concludes with this thought:

Which is all the more reason that rather than focusing on speed and breaking stories, I personally think newspapers and websites need to define their brands to heavy readers like myself through depth and differentiation. Brand yourself as the home of unique stories, not for breaking news. We have been trained that the net has all news 15 milliseconds after its “broken ” elsewhere. But if i know that you are the sole home of in depth coverage on things I care about, you got me.

And while Im on the subject, one last suggestion for newspapers. I think internet readers have started to understand news sources. We know that a story with Ap as a source in the paper is going to be the same AP story online. Rather than wasting money on newsprint for a story thats available 20k places on the net as every AP story is, could you please just print a list of the stories you think would be interesting that are sourced outside your paper. In fact, just use any of the memeorandums as a template for each section of the newspaper. That hopefully will open resources for the paper to gives us the depth and differentiation we crave. Syndicated stories dont help you, they hurt you. It kills your brand. It makes you look like an outlet that puts regurgitation over origination. Not the way a paper or website for that matter, wants to be branded

And the commenters at his site carried on:

I havn't read the newspapers in awhile but occasionally I peek through it. Mostly because I work and live online 24/7. I own a ton of websites and so does my business partner. It is hard to do anything else really. I live on Yahoo news that I see on their homepage. Also news is easier to publish faster on the internet. Sometimes I see something on Yahoo that I wouldnt see on the news or a newspaper until the next day or two.
-by Brandon Connell


i am surprised the large papers printing their little block of generic information about the game (or any story for that matter) havent found a profitable way to link to a local source for much more in-depth coverage.

btw, the officiating last night sucked.
-by blb


Hello,

personally I find the news on ESPN or CNN/SI quite interesting.

Alas I am from Germany. Our paper may, or not, give a brief (very brief) note about some mavs games: the final score and Dirks numbers.
So a website that provides basic informations is quite nice...

Right now the hype about LBJ can be a little bit frustrating, seeing those sites, you would never know the defending champions are battling the nr. 3.

See you
-by Robert


ESPN is garbage. For years they owned the "instant" sports reporting. Now with internet, the competition has increased significantly, and ESPN is now scrambling to figure out how to provide us with unique, relevant content. Hearing about Barry Bonds every 14 seconds is not unique to me. Actually, I refuse to watch SportsCenter just so I can get away from all of that. Shows like Real Sports on HBO are so much more worthwhile IMO, because like you said, it's indepth reporting, not merely jazzing up box scores.
-by Clark G


I've got to give some props to the USA Today - a paper I used to dismiss as eye-candy. I too subscribe to the RSS feeds from the major sports sites and USA Today has the most original content, hands down.

But I have to ask, does anybody who's not staying in a hotel actually read a physical copy of the USA Today?
-by MattyP


I have always felt quality was better than quantity. I used to read espn.com almost exclusively, but now I have all my different smaller websites that thoroughly cover each area of sports. ESPN isn't as appealing to me as it used to be. I only read Bill Simmons and Scoop Jackson on a regualr basis anymore, but thats only like one article or so a week.
-by Ron Jumper


I am a MAVS fan that lives in NC and lets just say that I am definetly left wanting for MAVS coverage. DallasNews.com has always been one of my favorite sites to view to check on any type of in depth coverage. ESPN just seems to be stretching so broad they cant cover everything, unless your the NY Yankees or Boston Redsox. Ok so what to do? What about a "wikipedia" type website for sports, But using those who are paid to analyze games, the scouts, to write for it. i dont know if its feasable but maybe we could get a good anaylsis for every game.
-by DormanG


yep, investigative reporting - that's what I still get from a paper that I can't get anywhere else. Whether it's Sports or courts or business, that kind work takes both expertise and cash - things that newspapers have and most bloggers don't.

I love the idea of segregating the segregating syndication coverage to one area of the page. I disagree, however, that carrying syndicated news dilutes your brand. I want my news outlets to provide me with those stories - I want to be able to read the paper's analysis, and then quickly get caught up on the facts by reading the ap story.
-by Adam Elend


I worked many years ago for a newspaper. I found it very interesting how a simple news story would come in, and then over the next few days propagate through the different news channels (TV, radio, paper, internet, current affairs, etc).

Often the initial news story was a short paragraph that was then spun, re-written, and retold over and over. Usually with the expected 'Chinese whispers' effect.

Unfortunately, most Internet news sites are run as a store and forward fact repository. In the news comes, and out it goes, unmodified. Papers still employ journalists, commentators, and other experts to comment on the facts, rather than just hand out the facts.

For me, if I want to know what the various commentators are saying, or just the facts, I know where to go...
-by Michael Vanderdonk


Mark,
You make a good point with the regurgitation factor of the internet. I was at the game (which was probably one of the best games I've ever seen) and came home and wanted to read some unique perspectives from the "experts" about the game, just to hear someone else's opinion. I go and check yahoo, espn, and nba.com and, sure enough, all 3 have the exact same AP feed.
It's sad, but it seems like espn is getting worse and worse about this, as well as the rest of the internet. Maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, but I really don't want to spend the time to find the right places anymore. I kinda got off on a tangent, but it seems to me like search engines tend to funnel users to a few hundred websites (depending on the topic you are searching for), many of which either use the exact same article or a regurgitation of it. Because of this, the internet is now a boring place to me, so I see myself spending less and less time browsing it. Where is the unique content? I guess it's just too easy to copycat something quickly than to spend a few mintues and come up with something new and original.
Beau, good point about page 2 on espn. Those are really the only articles I spend time reading as they are at least people's opinions. Many times they are quite humorous, too.
Nonetheless, go mavs and I'll be at game 4 loud and proud (assuming I get my voice back after screaming for the entirety of game 3!)
-by Austen Holmes


Online journalism is still in its infancy (sort of like TV news in the 1930s and newspapers centuries ago), but as Web staffs grow and a more cohesive bond is formed between them and the news organization the site is associated with, more original content will be made available to the news consumer.

Right now, it is not uncommon for a local news site in the Dallas area to have only four staffers, whose schedules are divided among an 18-hour news coverage day and weekend coverage so that there is only a short time span -- maybe two hours in the middle of the day, three days a week -- in which there are three people working together. This is on top of the fact that those staffers are not assigned to a particular beat to cover.

It would be interesting to find out how many journalists ESPN, The Sports Network, and other sports media organizations have covering Dallas sports, along with the number of Web editors they have updating the organization's associated Web site. The number of editors is probably relatively small compared to the number of in-the-field reporters ... and the bulk of their job, as of now, is probably to repurpose what was broadcast or printed by their associated media organization.

On a related note, Google's News search is a great way of finding stories you might not find anywhere else. However, at the same time, it reaffirms your point that online news stories, for the most part, are regurgitated and unoriginal (the take on headlines can be rather unique though … Yahoo! News usually does a decent job).
-by Andrea


ESPN is a joke as far as "covering" a story. They lowered the bar for coverage on a national level. They grab a couple clips from the game and maybe a local media outlet's post game chat - but why even bother with that. And then they rerun the same SportsCenter package a dozen times during the day.

And now they just run columnists shouting on shows to make up for its barely there journalism. But that's the nature of the beast. Look at Fox News or even CNN. They'd rather run the same few clips and then have "pundits" go over talking points. It's not about the story. it's about the personality of the reporters - as discovered by FoxNews.

And the lazy nature of the AP wire must be addressed. Especially when they post a report that has a lot of mistakes. And since a majority of newspapers have cut back on staffers that might know facts, they just paste up these articles without any sort of double checking.

News now is all about cutting production costs to the bottom line. And the best way to save is to not actually report anything on your own. Just take the feed and insert your reporter.
-by Joe Corey



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