Category Archives: Newspapers

Intro to eBooks for Journalists and News Publishers

“ebook” is shorthand for at least 3 different file formats:

  • PDF (you’re likely familiar with this one), it’s been around for 10+ years and almost all devices and browsers can render a PDF. Publishers have a great deal of presentation control in a PDF but PDF renderers on mobile devices aren’t very sophisticated – making the readability questionable.
  • ePub – that’s essentially a compressed folder of HTML and CSS files. It’s preferred by Apple, Barnes & Noble, and most everyone else except Amazon.
  • .mobi – Amazon’s file format that previously was an non-human-readable binary file – but in the latest version ‘Kindle Format 8‘ is a very comparable to ePub 3.

In may ways you can think of ePub and .mobi files as an offline archive of a webpage. Like a webpage, ebooks can support video, complex styling, links, scripting for complex interactions. Everything you would expect of a modern web experience – but all without a persistent internet connection.

You can think of PDF as, um, well, a frozen Word doc.

Technical publishers like The Pragmatic Programmers and O’Reilly Media (and essentially any publisher that doesn’t have a line of ebook readers) make their publications available in all 3 file formats as a way to serve all their customers.

The annoying thing is each ebook reader (whether a device or a software application) has it’s own presentation and functionality constraints. Some support color – others don’t. Some support tables of data or code samples or embedded fonts well – others completely not at all. In many ways – this is very analogous to publishing a website where, despite the publisher’s intentions and technical potential – presentation & experience is still completely up to the reader’s choice of vendor.

In many ways, the ebook retail space feels identical to the mobile application space. Each ebook retailer takes substantial cut of the purchase price and may or may not have a completely opaque approval process that you may or may not be able to coordinate a market launch against. Thankfully, generating ebooks is very inexpensive compared to app development. There are number of tools that can generate ebooks from pre-existing content – InDesign, Pages, as well as many open-source toolchains like Adobe InDesign, Apple’s Pages, as well as many open-source toolchains like eBook Export for WordPress, Booktype, easybook, bookshop, Bookie, and likely more.

Content that’s primarily text will render fairly well across all ebook readers with these converter tools – some more manual/detailed tweaking may be required to really polish it. Again, similar to web development in this regard.

Unlike the web space, people are accustomed to paying some, how ever paltry, amount for ebooks (and mobile apps).

I see two opportunities for news publishers relative to ebooks:

The first is repackaging existing content into focused, collections on a topic that serve a niche audience in a fuller, more comprehensive manner. A couple examples of this are Neiman Lab’s “The Future of News As We Know It” series of epubs and locally StarTribunes The Cookie Book: 10 Years of Winning Recipes from our Holiday Baking Contest.

The second is longer form work that may not fit in a larger, more general audience print publication. These are articles that really go in-depth and highlight journalistic expertise. Something so good that I’ll want to re-read it again and again. The definitive telling of an issue – that will likely take multiple sittings to finish. Recent examples include the Star Tribune’s In the Footsteps of Little Crow and the New York Times’ Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.

The thing is, web browsers are now technically sophisticated enough that they elegantly support offline access. In fact, in 2012 O’Reilly acquired the browser-based epub reader ibisreader.com and the company behind it – merging them into Safari Books Online, their on-demand content service.

This just leaves the bigger challenge of getting fans and customers comfortable with paying a meaningful amount for content.

“How long before Twitter carries exclusive content.”

Dave Winer asks “…how long before the money jumps the gap and Twitter buys a struggling news organization.

If we say Facebook needs to buy Sony for the entertainment capture, promotion, and distribution synergies.

Then who’s a likely acquisition target for Twitter?

How about a small and medium market newspaper company like Media General? Makes Buffet’s purchase so much more interesting.

Seems to Work for You

“By selling access to potentially market-moving stories — some of which would theoretically also have a public-policy element or some other broader social value to them — the NYT would be sacrificing (in some sense at least) its commitment to readers and public journalism in return for subscription revenue from stock traders.” – Matthew Ingram, GigaOm

What makes it OK for one publication with a research & analysis arm to poo-poo the notion that another publications might want to also consider spinning up a research and analysis arm?

Oh, right – potential competition.

Source Material

The following brought great joy, optimism, and purpose to my morning:

“Journalism itself is becoming obsolete….I happen to think journalism was a response to publishing being expensive. It cost a lot of money to push bits around the net before there was a net. They had to have huge capital-intensive printing plants, fleets of trucks and delivery boys with paper routes. Now we can hear directly from the sources and build our own news networks. It’s still early days for this, and it wasn’t that long ago that we depended on journalists for the news. But in a generation or two we won’t be employing people to gather news for us. It’ll work differently.” – Dave Winer

“I tried to solve the problem by leaving Silicon Valley, and writing software I believe in, and doing the best I can. For me it’s never been primarily about money. I like money, up to a point — but I’m really in it for the wonderful things you can do with the tech.” – Dave Winer

Adpaper Subscriptions Hold Steady

This morning, staring at the messed up stack of folded broadsheets, I felt bold and broached the subject.

“Honey, I’d like to rethink our subscription to the Sunday paper.”

After an expectedly tense moment, she replies.

“What’s the problem with me perusing a few weekly ads maybe reading the comics. It’s not an extravagant expense.”

Well, she’s got me there.

RE: Blogger Sees Red Over StarTribune's Lack of Citation

As if I didn’t have enough reasons to grumble at the STrib – a reporter doesn’t credit their sources. Coincidentally, on a story covering questionable ethics.

“Come on, Jackie. You called me about this on Thursday afternoon. We discussed the story, I pointed you to sources where you could find more info, including the email of one of the sources you quote. You told me you’d mention The Deets in the article.”- Ed Kohler

BTW – Ed’s story hit my radar first.

ELSEWHERE:
The Wege hauls everyone back to their own corner:

“Just to be clear, the Strib clearly screwed over Ed Kohler at The Deets, and he has every right to complain. My issue is with the piling on. Bloggers steal. Period. I try to attribute but I also have a two and out rule: anytime I give credit to a blog twice in one day, I’m entitled to steal any other links I like from them without giving credit. Others have different rules, but hardly anyone gives credit for EVERY link every day. If nothing else you don’t plug Atrios because you chose to read his take on today’s Krugman before going to the NYTimes and reading it for yourself.” – The Wege

Strib: Off-Topic, Uncredited, Fear-fanning, Ads

Reading the Strib’s Business section yesterday, I was reminded of Sesame Street’s “One of these things is not like the other” sketch. Here’s the story, can you guess which one doesn’t belong?

“Grounds for worry: Trouble’s brewing in the economy, if the news from the nation’s biggest coffee chains is any indication.

No. 2 player Caribou Coffee Co. Inc., based in Brooklyn Center, announced the unexpected departure of CEO Michael Coles, who spent the past two years overseeing an aggressive expansion that has yet to show results on the bottom line. Caribou is expected to see red ink of $1.01 per share this year and lose 63 cents per share next year.

More worrying, market leader Starbucks disclosed negative same-store traffic later in the week and took down its projections for ’08.

People don’t give up their high-end java for Maxwell House unless they’re feeling light in the wallet.”

That’s right, it’s the last sentence. Aside from free advertising for Kraft Foods there’s no reason to include it. It’s off-topic, uncredited, and simply continues to fan the ‘hell-in-a-handbasket’ attitude.

In addition, if these 5 sentences were actually news reporting, we’d see that Starbucks’ issues have little to do with people buying less coffee and more to do with the over-saturation.

“The concern is that the company has been adding locations so quickly that the new stores are cannibalizing the old ones…” – Janet Adamy, Wall Street Journal

Lastly, even if the dip in bottom-line growth in the Starbucks and Caribou wasn’t due to build-out, “Trading Up” could just as easily explain fewer sales as reaching for the lower quality coffee. Personally, I don’t remember the last time I stepped into a Starbucks, because I’ve found far-tastier and higher-priced coffee at Kopplin’s.

Thank goodness Black Monday is coming, the additional ad flyers should distract me from the paper itself.

RE: Pioneer Press to Launch 'e-paper'

Every couple of years, the idea of delivering a frozen PDF instead of a living, breathing website hits my radar 1. This is the first time it hit’s this close to home.

“Presumably, you’ll now be able to pay a premium to have a format that less searchable, doesn’t get corrected or updated the same way a normal paper doesn’t and ultimately cannot be linked to or aggregated.”- Aaron Landry

At best, this effort is a distraction from their two other delivery channels – paper, pioneerpress.com. This middle ground is just silly.For everyone over at the Pioneer Press, could you something, anything by Jeff Jarvis or Doc Searls. Oh, and maybe you’ve heard that NYTimes has dropped their paywall.1. I remember an HP project that would automatically print out your newspaper on your home inkjet every morning.

Fishwrap Fear

First off, I commend law enforcement officials for their efforts over the past year to diffuse this movie-plot threat while it was still in the planning stage. This is proof investment in investigation pays off more than in airport screenings.

“Several law enforcement officials said, however, there have been no direct threat[s] to the airport and that the suspects had yet to obtain financing or explosives.”

That quote* – buried on A18 of today’s Sunday Strib – proves the story doesn’t belong on the front page. Especially since – also on A18 – a much shorter story (“A Snag in the Plot…”) confirms:

“…the level of catastrophe that may be created is much more limited that most people would expect..” –

Why?

“…jet fuel doesn’t easily explode.”

At startribune.com, the JFK movie-plot threat is the second headline (and falling) in the second section a couple screenviews down. In terms of priority, importance, and relevance, this is where the story belongs.

The asymmetry between the placement as lead story in the print edition and insignificance placement online betrays the actual news-worthiness of the story (none) and the differences between fishwrap news editors and online news editors (apparently, the easily frightened buy fishwrap while the more thoughtful read online).

Lastly, this is the second time in as many days and with as many newspapers where I’ve struggled to find a print-edition story in on a newspaper’s website. Just as I expect retail stores to have symmetrical catalogs between their online and offline offerings, I expect the same from publishers.

*Oddly, I couldn’t find this quote in the online version.

I'm trying to find the online version of…

I’m trying to find the online version of an article in Today’s PiPress. This is really hard.

Searching for the author’s name doesn’t work. Copying the headline from the PDF version of the front page and pasting it into search doesn’t work.

Found it.

I Googled for the headline, the only result – Chuck’s posting of the article.

Here it is: On vacation, but still in the loop. Hi, I’m Garrick and I take my laptop on vacation. Especially to places I love.

Thanks to Julio, Chuck, and Google.

I forgot to mention all the blogging I did on that trip.

Re-reading those posts, looks like we’re just now flirting with the low end of the gas prices I saw in Europe 6 months ago.

A First Step

“…take 100 great journalists, give them small HD camcorders and laptops and say ‘here’s your camera, there’s the door….They could upload their stories and feed them to a web site, 24 hours a day…..and it would not cost all that much…say we paid each of our 100 reporters, $140,000 a year. Where would you get the money from?… take the $14 million you’re paying Katie Couric and guess what… you’re there.” – Jeff Jarvis

Ad Standards for Newspapers?

“Several wondered if the ad met the Star Tribune’s standards for acceptable advertising or if it was a mistake.” – Kate Parry, Star Tribune’s ombudsman

Here’s our panel’s reaction to the issue:

  • Snarky Garrick: “Until readers directly provide the Strib with enough revenue that advertising isn’t needed, their complaints should go in the recycling bin with the paper itself.”
  • Intrigued Garrick: “I doubt either answer will satisfy those that asked.”
  • Media Mogul Garrick: “Send me the names and contact info of the people with complaints, I have a few other brands I’d like to expose them to.”

RELATED:

“What confuses people is that ABC News logo screaming “official journalism!” – Chuck Olsen

Nope. Didn’t confuse me.

Of all the parties involved, the only person I might sometimes expect hard-question-asking “official journalism” from is…not Amanda Congdon, not ABC News, and not DuPont…but Chuck Olsen himself.

Advertising on the other hand is a completely different topic. I expect it from everyone I’ve listed above and I prefer Chuck’s.

The News Block by Block

“The future of media is to stop boring us with news that doesn’t relate to our lives. I’ll start reading my ‘local’ newspaper again when it covers my block.” – Chris Anderson

Chris nails the idea I’ve talked about on this blog (1, 2, 3) and in numerous lunches: the blog-on-every-corner news.

St. Anthony Village is a pretty small town geographically, 3 square miles. Imagine if just the houses on the corners published something community-related every other day. That’s 1/3 of your neighbors writing about what’s happening on their block – regularly. More frequently than any of the papers – all without an ‘Associated Press’ byline.

Sure, the same topics will be covered…but the importance (relevance + intimacy + community) will be so much greater. Plus, far greater comprehensiveness on any given subject whether High School Ice Hockey or City Council proceedings. Overlap verifies.

Later 11 Apr 2007
I just picked up blogbyblock.com.

'Surrender' Has Such a Negative Connotation

“What is killing newspapers, as I’ve written before, is…their antiquated distribution system…Dropping newspapers on driveways and putting them in corner boxes is cumbersome, compared with internet distribution.” – Shel Israel

Not to mention theft-prone:

“I didn’t want to cancel the paper because that would mean a complete surrender to the Internet and admittance of the fact that a printed newspaper is no longer necessary.” – Dmitry Kiper

Stop the Presses – Save the Journalism

NickelNuts pointed me to an article by media lawyer, Steven P. Aggergaard article via instant messaging, I read it in my web browser, and then posted this to a weblog.

Aggergaard is arguing we need to keep paper in newspaper – because that equals journalism and full-time jobs. Despite all the costs and overhead he lists out. In addition, the quality of information delivered online for free (versus $0.50 for a daily paper – Huh?) is some how not as valuable.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have a huge need for a hyper-local citizen (not consumer) journalism form. Something closer to what the smaller papers (St. Anthony Bulletin, Northeaster, Downtown Journal) are doing – but without the paper.

NickelNuts and I have talked about this, and in fact, yesterday over lunch I blurted out: “What would it take to make this happen?”

One website – or news paper – or television channel – or radio station – does not a well informed citizen make. But, what about 350 blogs written by your neighbors?

LATER:
Dave has some great comments. I’m less concerned about an overarching editorial voice, and more interested in relevance delivered for and by local voices.

ELSEWHERE:
A great point and a wonderful tie back to Aggergaard’s original post.

“…readers don’t care. They just want the most complete, accurate and engaging coverage possible. They don’t how we make the sausage, or even who makes it. They just want to eat.” – Robert Niles

EVEN LATER
Aggergaard responds and corrects in the comments. I follow-up.

The Widing Space Between News and Paper

Earlier this year – for about 3 months – McClatchy owned both the St. Paul Pioneer Press and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Now…they own neither. After selling the PP to MediaNewsGroup in August, the Strib is now owned by a holding company with stakes in the Weekly Reader, yearbook publisher Jostens, and real estate marketing materials publisher Merrill Corp.

Here’s the reaction from the pundits:
Snarky Garrick: “Now there is in fact, no difference between the Weekly Reader and the Star Tribune.”

Intrigued Garrick: “Broadsheet newspapers are now considered a specialty publication, like yearbooks and home-for-sale brochures. Huh. Looks like Avista doesn’t have a lot of holdings in internet technology. Why’d they buy more printing presses?”

Media Mogul Garrick: “The separation between news and paper is nearly complete. Avista just needs to divest themselves of the writing staff.”

Thanks to Matt @ MNPublius.com for the tip.

Elsewhere:

“But half the price of the original purchase? And no interest from other newspaper companies? Those are signs of deepening malaise, or worse, in the newspaper business.” – Dan Gillmor

“…if Avista behaves like most private equity investors, they’ll come in to the Star Tribune with their knives sharpened, ready to slash costs. That could mean cutting staff in the newsroom…” – John Morton in MPR’s report on the sale.

Where Theory and Practice in Publishing Differ

“…a newspaper blog, for example, has higher standards to maintain than a teenager’s rant blog…” – Mark Gisleson

While I expect a higher standard of reporting from anything run through a printing press and sent over the FM dial (between 88.3 and 91.1) it’s a rare occasion the higher standard is delivered.

In fact, I’m pretty sure, these publishers are actually structured to deliver a lower standard than the random teenager’s MySpace page; supported by big ad dollars, needing to support expensive infrastructure (equipment, full-time staff, benefits), writing at or below a 4th-grade level, artificially restricted newshole, etc.

This weekend, paging through the Sunday paper, I gave some thought to how I might change newspapers;

  • Day 1: End all print publications.
  • Day 2: Install a multi-blog network engine for all staff and community leaders.
  • Day 3: Schedule free journalism courses in every neighborhood.
  • Day 4: Use staff to curate and develop the larger stories – tying neighborhood reports together. With lots and lots of links, pictures, audio, and video.

ELSEWHERE:

“I look forward to the day when Time and other traditional magazines fully embrace us when it comes to the journalism.” – Dan Gillmor

“….Time is, separating themselves where there is no separation.” – Dave Winer

“So if Time were doing its job properly, it would highlight a million people of the year. But, of course, it can’t. The form doesn’t allow it. And the form is what led to massthink. But mass is over.” – Jeff Jarvis

“At its best news informs and enlightens the citizens of a free society and thereby safeguards and strengthens our democracy. At its worst–dishonest, unfair, irresponsible–the media has potential to erode the public trust on which its own success depends and to corrode the democratic system of which it is so indispensably a part. So, let me touch on 10 current trends in the mass media that ought to disturb us.” – Peter R. Kann

Mr. Kann’s 10 trends are dead on – though, I think they are all different shades of his first:
“The blurring of the lines between journalism and entertainment”.

Back in October, Doc Searls listed his 10 ways to improve newspapers. I suspect unconsciously percolated in my head for 2 months.

Maybe My Star Tribune Subscription Is Paying For Itself

Came back from vacation with 2 Sunday papers on my doorstep. Inspiring a real good conversation Sunday afternoon with my sister, Kari. She’s just that bit younger than me that newspapers don’t exist in her world. She doesn’t read them and she was nice enough to listen to me vent.

As always, the writing in the Strib isn’t fantastic – I even read this week’s cover story (laws destroying local meth production encouraged importation from Mexico), though not much more. If the stories don’t read like simplistic editorial they read like thinly veiled advertisements – wrapped in obvious advertisements.

For all the effort it takes to publish and deliver the paper to me on a weekly basis – sure seems like it’d have a much higher cover price than $1.75 – (it costs me that to move the paper from the front step to the recycling bin).

What if the Strib wasn’t 99.9% ad subsidized? Would I pay $10-20 / week to have the Star Tribune delivered with amazing writing? Writing you’d pick up on a Wednesday to re-read, or continue reading. Writing that provided complexity, calls to action, analysis, and recognized that the newspaper itself is simply one piece of my information resources.

As I’m imagining this world where the Minneapolis Star Tribune is more like the Harvard Business Review, Kari picks up a stack of coupons Jen clipped earlier.

$0.55 here, $0.60 there, another $0.20, eventually enough to cover the paltry cover price.

Is this all I should be expecting from the Strib? Cause, even the St. Anthony Bulletin‘s writer makes the police log an entertaining read…and that’s a free paper…free like public radio is free.

That Giant Buzzing Sound You Hear is Me-dia Filtering and Aggregating

Fellow local me-dia mogul Chuck Olsen got some nice press in the Sunday Strib this week.

A nice write up, and I’m glad Chuck got the press – he deserves it. Afterwards though, I had the distinct feeling that the Strib, in their haste to cover every base, actually missed the interesting bits (that you can and should do this too). I’ve had this feeling (completely missing the story) frequently as of late with traditional media (their-dia?). Enough that Jen’s tired of me commenting on it.

Thankfully, Jeff Jarvis is more articulate in describing this emptiness than I. Here’s some choice quotes from his latest must-read post, Not Quite, Times;

“The problem is that [traditional media publishers] still think the internet is something the powerful use to affect the rest of us. Wrong. It’s what the rest of us use to affect the powerful.”

“…politicians never owned politics and the businesses never owned the market and journalists never owned the news. The people do.”

The Strib delivers readers to advertisers in exchange for a printing and distribution. There are no ads on this site (either that, or it’s full of ads). This post is as much ‘note to self’ as ‘something interesting to share’.

Existing media outlets, like the Strib and the Utne, are in the same business I am – filtering and aggregation. I aggregate my filters and redistribute, my filters aggregate theirs and redistribute. Same for them. How about you?

Tasteless Art Affecting the Tastebuds at Holy Land Deli

I was introduced to the Doner (Gyro or Kabob) during my time in Germany. The Turkish immigrants brought it with them. Aside from the thinly-sliced lamb, the rest of the ingredients were German; cabbage inside stuffed in a quarter of the circular flatenbrot.

In Minneapolis, there’s only one place to get a good gyro – Holy Land Deli over at 2513 Central Avenue NE. They stuff the pitas to their breaking point as they should. My personal favorite is their lamb kabob with hummus. While you wait, admire their grocery – great selection of olives, teas, and meats you won’t find at Cub or Rainbow.

Via this week’s Sunday Strib, I read Holy Land’s owner Majdi Wadi has banned all products made in Denmark until the Danish government apologizes for something tasteless the Danish free press published months ago.

I’ve seen the cartoons. If you haven’t, just ask some angst-ridden teenager to draw some up for you. Cliché-ridden, cheap, and heavy-handed.

From what I glean from On the Media, the newspapers in the Middle East are controlled by their respective governments. In that environment, putting the blame on a national government makes complete sense. I’m not sure what editorial control the Danish government exerts over the press, but I suspect it’s nil. It’d be convenient if the US Government could simply apologize for Fox News or insipid letters to the editor. But that’s not how things work here in the US or in northern Europe.

I’m not sure what Danish-made products the Holy Land sold, I haven’t purchased anything other than lunch and olive oil from them, and the Strib article didn’t list them by name.

Is that list offensive?

Wadi’s decision to ban Danish-made products would seem better directed if the Danish manufacturers had advertising or in some other way financed the newspaper in question.

Since that’s most likely not the case, the Strib article – just like this post – is an advertisement for the Holy Land Deli (mmmm tasty gyros). Would you like a Carlsberg to wash it down?

What To Do with 10 Sears Ads?

Sunday Star Tribune seemed a little heavy for a boring, post-holiday, January weekend. As I culled out the handful of things I actually care about;

  • comics
  • big box electronics ads
  • “signature” – maybe there’s something interesting this week
  • “money + business” – maybe there’s something interesting this week
  • the Satellite radio article in “arts & entertainment” – complete fluff piece. Aside from reading like an ad for Howard Stern. I hope the Strib got some ad dollars for the article. More on that at the Work Better blog.

I also found:

  • 2 duplicate Office Depot ads
  • 2 duplicate PartyAmerica ads
  • 5 duplicate CompUSA ads
  • and yes, 10 duplicate Sears ads
  • I don’t know how advertisers pay the Strib and measure its usefulness, but this can’t be helpful. Plus, I didn’t page through any of them. So, doubly un-helpful.

MNSpeak is the New City Pages

The Star Tribune’s Jon Trevlin writes a FUD-mongering piece on “the City Pages’ parent’s possible merger“. In his first 2 sentences there’s; an ‘if’, a ‘may’, and two ‘mights’.

As a sign of things to come, Rex at MNSpeak pointed me to the online article. I read MNSpeak 2-3 times a day, during my regular NetNewsWire skimming. Don’t remember the last time I picked up a City Pages. I do remember that the last time I did, the entire second half was page after page of phone sex ads. Didn’t inspire me to pick it up again – no matter the investigative cover articles.

We went to a movie this weekend – historically, we would have gone to Citypages.com to check their listings. This time we decided their site was far to difficult to navigate and we hit imdb.com instead. Ended up at the Hopkins $2 theater for the Wedding Crashers. BTW – It’s one of the best movie theater-going experiences I’ve had in a long long time. The staff was friendly, the seats comfortable, the audience quiet, the tickets reasonably priced.

If my current habits are any indication, as long as the City Pages is a printed publication – it doesn’t matter who owns them. As long as they have a printing press, MNSpeak.com will eat their lunch, and review it.

Star Tribune Re-arranging Deck Chairs

This week the Star Tribune launches their much (internally) debated redesign. It’s been previously dissed by City Pages and MNSpeak.

This morning, I read the special 8 page pullout outlining the “new features” and the editor’s comments on it. I’m less than impressed and – even with 3 cups of coffee – still un-enthused.

Here’s a short list of the major innovations we’ll see next week and my view on them:

  • Lileks off Sunday, moved to every other day. A good thing. Since I don’t think he’s very good and I get the Sunday paper, this is perfect
  • “Variety” renamed “Source”, “Signature”, “Stupid”, “Sucks”
  • Masthead, now with more serifs, wider columns, more bullets, easier to skim. As an ex-graphic designer I can confidently say they spent too much money on the logo redesign and their new skin.
  • Oh, and something about writers having the same stories online as in the printed piece. That’s a good thing. Hopefully this will give reporters the opportunity to publish more interesting articles, in varying degrees of depth. You know, the whole ‘go niche’ / ‘long tail’ thing.

Now that I’m done shredding the redesign, here’s a couple of actual innovations I’d like to see from newspaper land:

  • Customized dead-tree edition: only the sections I want from the columnists I like. In my world, I’d be without the Sports, Travel, and Classifieds. This means fewer pages printed, fewer pages delivered, and fewer pages recycled.
  • Provide access to archives for free online.
  • Write above a 4th grade level. I’d like that very much.
  • Include URLs in the newspaper edition to continue the story online. Links to the story itself, the reporter’s sources, and competitive coverage. This means embracing and acknowledging the internet exists. (That’s where younger – and older – readers are going)

Until then, the Star Tribune is simply re-arranging the deck chairs of a sinking industry. Giving someone with a few dollars a huge opportunity to redesign the industry…not just the paper.

What I Read in the Sunday Paper – Sept 11, 2005

I started ignoring the Star Tribune’s OpEx section almost immediately after we signed up for the Sunday home delivery. I was expecting well thought through logical arguments rather than the ‘look-a-shiny-thing-that-supports-my-position’ ignorance so popular on television “news”. But, like I said, I don’t read it.

Today, I started reading the headline. Half way into the article, I realized I read this before. Of course, it’s the Thomas Friedman piece I read 4 days ago online. Yeah, it’s a good piece. But um, this is the Minneapolis Star Tribune not the New York Times. If I wanted to read the New York Times, I’d read the New York Times. Christ. I’m looking to the Strib for a local take on events, not a repeat of what I’ve already read from East Coasters.

Here’s the rest of what I paid attention to this Sunday, September 11, 2005:

  • Money & Business; skimmed the headline – on how Katrina won’t effect our economy as much as 9/11. Read the first half of the data recovery story. That was actually interesting – small local company recovering the hard drives damaged in the Lake George flood. Comment & question to the Strib M&B editor; the caption and photo in Ross Levin’s article made no sense. Should I expect a photo of last original German-made VW Beetle every time you need to quickly fill column inches?
  • Variety; Skimmed headlines, nothing seemed very interesting. Read horoscope – something about being more mature about money.
  • Arts & Entertainment; Read the callouts on Green Day and the upcoming SoundUnseen festival. Reminds me, Andrew Gruhn‘s putting together a podcast for it, keep an eye on PodcastMN for it.
  • Metro; Read the profile of mayoral candidate Farheen Hakeem. I’m glad she’s running. It’s good to have a young, Muslim, Green party, woman running against a sea of middle-age white men. Since I’m not in Mpls proper, I first heard about Farheen from Peter Idusogie on Inside Minnesota Politics.
  • Comics; Calvin & Hobbes (I agree with Mark, it’s good to have Calvin back, even in reruns), Get Fuzzy, Doonesbury, Dilbert, For Better or Worse, Close to Home, Boondocks, 9 Chickweed Lane (clever, real clever)
  • Opinion; The headline said it was going to compare Minneapolis and Vancouver, cool. It didn’t (double checked to make sure I wasn’t in the Travel section). Paged through, nothing else seemed competent.
  • Best Buy weekly ad; looks like I have all the electronics I need right now
  • Circuit City weekly ad; huh, DVD-R’s for $.25 each. Now if it only didn’t take forever to burn a DVD.

Looks like I missed this good article on Edina Rep. Ron Erhardt wanting to actually solve transportation problems. Thanks to the Minnesota Politics Guru for pointing it out. This bloggers-as-mass-media-filter seems to be working real well.

What I Read in the Sunday Paper

Jen and I have subscribed to a Sunday paper as long as I can remember. In Chicago, it was the Chicago Tribune, here in Minnesota on the west side of Highway 280, it’s the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Leisurely reading the paper over doughnuts and coffee is a tradition I’m quite fond of.

In an effort to determine what I’m getting in return for my $1.25 per week, I offer the following list of what I paid attention to this Sunday, July 31, 2005:

  • Money & Business; paged through, nothing interesting. Ironically, I’ve found it less compelling since they added Wall Street Journal articles.
  • Variety; Only read horoscope – predicts a decent day. For sure, I’m having powered doughnuts for breakfast.
  • Arts & Entertainment; Fringe Festival starts this week. Right, I added the Fringe Fest podcast to PodcastMN
  • Metro; paged through, nothing interesting
  • Comics; Opus, Get Fuzzy, Doonesbury. Looks like all the comics are larger this week. They probably pulled a couple and didn’t replace them.
  • Opinion; The headline said it was going to compare Minneapolis and Vancouver, cool. It didn’t (double checked to make sure I wasn’t in the Travel section). Paged through, nothing else seemed competent.
  • Best Buy weekly ad; Nice price on a 300GB hard drive
  • Circuit City weekly ad; Nice price on a 1GB SD card.
  • CompUSA weekly ad; Nice prices on USB flash drives
  • Office Depot weekly ad; Color laser printers are falling in price nicely.

I actually feel pretty good about the time paging through the weekly flyers. The newsprint, on the other hand, left me unfulfilled (could also be the doughnuts). Nearly all the newspaper articles I’ve read in the past year left me wondering a) where’s the story? or b) where’s the editor?

Did I get $1.25 worth. For sure, and I’ve easily ignored 50% of the paper – and most of the locally written articles. I’m even cool advertisers subsidizing the remaining costs. I make a commitment each Sunday morning to this local paper, it’d be nice if I got more out of it than hitting refresh on my RSS reader.