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Essay in Columbia Journalism Review on the changing terms of authority in the press, brought on in part by the blog's individual--and interactive--style of journalism. It argues that, after Jayson Blair, authority is not the same at the New York Times, either.

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Video: Have A Look

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Recommended by PressThink:

Town square for press critics, industry observers, and participants in the news machine: Romenesko, published by the Poynter Institute.

Town square for weblogs: InstaPundit from Glenn Reynolds, who is an original. Very busy. Very good. To the Right, but not in all things. A good place to find voices in diaolgue with each other and the news.

Town square for the online Left. The Daily Kos. Huge traffic. The comments section can be highly informative. One of the most successful communities on the Net.

Rants, links, blog news, and breaking wisdom from Jeff Jarvis, former editor, magazine launcher, TV critic, now a J-professor at CUNY. Always on top of new media things. Prolific, fast, frequently dead on, and a pal of mine.

Eschaton by Atrios (pen name of Duncan B;ack) is one of the most well established political weblogs, with big traffic and very active comment threads. Left-liberal.

Terry Teachout is a cultural critic coming from the Right at his weblog, About Last Night. Elegantly written and designed. Plus he has lots to say about art and culture today.

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If someone were to ask me, "what's the right way to do a weblog?" I would point them to Doc Searls, a tech writer and sage who has been doing it right for a long time.

Ed Cone writes one of the most useful weblogs by a journalist. He keeps track of the Internet's influence on politics, as well developments in his native North Carolina. Always on top of things.

Rebecca's Pocket by Rebecca Blood is a weblog by an exemplary practitioner of the form, who has also written some critically important essays on its history and development, and a handbook on how to blog.

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Chris Nolan's Spot On is political writing at a high level from Nolan and her band of left-to-right contributors. Her notion of blogger as a "stand alone journalist" is a key concept; and Nolan is an exemplar of it.

Barista of Bloomfield Avenue is journalist Debbie Galant's nifty experiment in hyper-local blogging in several New Jersey towns. Hers is one to watch if there's to be a future for the weblog as news medium.

The Editor's Log, by John Robinson, is the only real life honest-to-goodness weblog by a newspaper's top editor. Robinson is the blogging boss of the Greensboro News-Record and he knows what he's doing.

Fishbowl DC is about the world of Washington journalism. Gossip, controversies, rituals, personalities-- and criticism. Good way to keep track of the press tribe in DC

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Novelist, columnist, NPR commentator, Iraq War vet, Colonel in the Army Reserve, with a PhD in literature. How many bloggers are there like that? One: Austin Bay.

Betsy Newmark's weblog she describes as "comments and Links from a history and civics teacher in Raleigh, NC." An intelligent and newsy guide to blogs on the Right side of the sphere. I go there to get links and comment, like the teacher said.

Rhetoric is language working to persuade. Professor Andrew Cline's Rhetorica shows what a good lens this is on politics and the press.

Davos Newbies is a "year-round Davos of the mind," written from London by Lance Knobel. He has a cosmopolitan sensibility and a sharp eye for things on the Web that are just... interesting. This is the hardest kind of weblog to do well. Knobel does it well.

Susan Crawford, a law professor, writes about democracy, technology, intellectual property and the law. She has an elegant weblog about those themes.

Kevin Roderick's LA Observed is everything a weblog about the local scene should be. And there's a lot to observe in Los Angeles.

Joe Gandelman's The Moderate Voice is by a political independent with an irrevant style and great journalistic instincts. A link-filled and consistently interesting group blog.

Ryan Sholin's Invisible Inkling is about the future of newspapers, online news and journalism education. He's the founder of and a self-taught Web developer and designer.

H20town by Lisa Williams is about the life and times of Watertown, Massachusetts, and it covers that town better than any local newspaper. Williams is funny, she has style, and she loves her town.

Dan Froomkin's White House Briefing at is a daily review of the best reporting and commentary on the presidency. Read it daily and you'll be extremely well informed.

Rebecca MacKinnon, former correspondent for CNN, has immersed herself in the world of new media and she's seen the light (great linker too.)

Micro Persuasion is Steve Rubel's weblog. It's about how blogs and participatory journalism are changing the business of persuasion. Rubel always has the latest study or article.

Susan Mernit's blog is "writing and news about digital media, ecommerce, social networks, blogs, search, online classifieds, publishing and pop culture from a consultant, writer, and sometime entrepeneur." Connected.

Group Blogs

CJR Daily is Columbia Journalism Review's weblog about the press and its problems, edited by Steve Lovelady, formerly of the Philadelpia Inquirer.

Lost Remote is a very newsy weblog about television and its future, founded by Cory Bergman, executive producer at KING-TV in Seattle. Truly on top of things, with many short posts a day that take an inside look at the industry.

Editors Weblog is from the World Editors Fourm, an international group of newspaper editors. It's about trends and challenges facing editors worldwide. keeps track of developments from the British side of the Atlantic. Very strong on online journalism.

Digests & Round-ups:

Memeorandum: Single best way I know of to keep track of both the news and the political blogosphere. Top news stories and posts that people are blogging about, automatically updated.

Daily Briefing: A categorized digest of press news from the Project on Excellence in Journalism.

Press Notes is a round-up of today's top press stories from the Society of Professional Journalists.

Richard Prince does a link-rich thrice-weekly digest called "Journalisms" (plural), sponsored by the Maynard Institute, which believes in pluralism in the press.

Newsblog is a daily digest from Online Journalism Review.

E-Media Tidbits from the Poynter Institute is group blog by some of the sharper writers about online journalism and publishing. A good way to keep up

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April 14, 2005

Q & A with Bill Grueskin, Managing Editor of the Wall Street Journal Online

"Many mainstream media blogs serve as repositories for the journalistic detritus that wasn’t good enough for the print edition. Hemmed in by tradition, they lack the candor and point of view that distinguishes good blogs. Bereft of good material, they lack the depth and quality of print journalism."

The rumblings are growing louder. They suggest that the New York Times will soon start charging for its online edition, or at least for parts of the site. (Background.) Every time I hear one of these reports—and I get them a lot—it is accompanied by news of an internal struggle at the New York Times Company over the future of the online edition, which is also about the soul of the journalism-to-come: free or paid or a mixed republic?

A major factor in those debates is the success the Wall Street Journal has had with its paying-customers-only policy for the online service. Figures released today show that subscribers are at 731,000, or 5.2% above the same quarter last year. That means the Journal’s online edition has a paid list larger than paid print circulation at all but six newspapers in the U.S. (A subscription costs $79 a year, or $39 if you already subscribe to the Journal on paper.) Meanwhile, traffic keeps growing. Total usage this quarter—the number of subscribers coming to the site each day—is up 20 percent over last year.

These numbers can be argued other ways, but there’s no argument that the Journal seems to be alright in getting across The Great Divide. If anyone’s made it over, they have. But this may be due to what’s different about the Journal, as compared to the rest of journalism. Rich customers who write off the expense of subscribing are not the same customers the Kanasas City Star has been losing. Still, if the Journal made it across by charging that means we now know one way to make it across, with your subscribers.

Staci Kramer, executive editor of Paid Content, introduced me to Bill Grueskin at the Online News Association meeting last year. Grueskin is Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal Online, where he directs a staff of more than 60 editors, reporters and artists in New York and Brussels. (Fuller bio below.) Here is our exchange, covering the economics of online news, the future of the business, recent deals in the industry and the pace of change.

Q & A with Bill Grueskin, Managing Editor, Wall Street Journal Online

Jay Rosen: The Wall Street Journal is a paid site. You have 700,000+ subscribers and you are making money at a time when everyone is saying, “Yeah, but how do you make any money?” So it has to be judged a success. And I doubt we’ll be seeing a free Journal site very soon. But in addition to charging for access to the daily newspaper content, you also charge for the archives. This I want to ask you about.

Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing has written: “why not charge money for the news (which lots of people want to pay for!) and give away the history (which relatively few people want to buy)?” He quotes Dan Gillmor:

One of these days, a newspaper currently charging a premium for access to its article archives will do something bold: It will open the archives to the public — free of charge but with keyword-based advertising at the margins.

I predict that the result will pleasantly surprise the bean-counters. There’ll be a huge increase in traffic at first, once people realize they can read their local history without paying a fee. Eventually, though not instantly, the revenues will greatly exceed what the paper had been earning under the old system. Meanwhile, the expenses to run it will drop.

And, perhaps most important, the newspaper will have boosted its long-term place in the community. It will be seen, more than ever, as the authoritative place to go for some kinds of news and information — because it will have become an information bedrock in this too-transient culture. (See also PressThink, Jan 28.)

Seems to me the Journal could do this. Instead of “for one week the news is free, then you have to pay” (the current model of many big newspapers) it would be, “for the first week you have to pay, then it’s free.” You would still be able to “monetize” the value of fresh news, but you would also build more authority online, and it might help you become a force in Google, where you are weak now.

Have you given any thought to this argument? Does it even make sense?

Bill Grueskin: Well, information wants to be free, as the saying goes. But the saying goes further than that, it turns out.

Here’s the whole quote, from Stewart Brand’s book, The Media Lab: Inventing the Future at MIT :

Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy, and recombine—-too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright, ‘intellectual property’, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.

It’s hard to believe those words were published nearly two decades ago, because they so closely capture the essence of today’s argument. (Those seeking a fuller historiography of the quote can go here.)

Now, when my middle-school daughter is Googling “water pollution” for a term paper, she wants information to be free. So does her old man. But when a lawyer wants to check out the bona fides of a prospective client, or an investor wants to know the track record of a company’s new CFO, price isn’t the issue — quality of content is. (You might even argue that paid content is a plus for them, since it puts up a barrier to others for information that is beneficial to them, but I’ll leave that to the economists and sociologists.)

You can see why this free-archive argument is so appealing. Journalists love impact, and the wider the distribution, the idea goes, the broader the impact. But it’s worth parsing out some of the economics.

Given the cost-per-thousand readers at your average metro-newspaper site, an online publisher may get a penny or two every time someone clicks on a story. (I’m talking about rough industry averages, and I’m not including in this group.) On the other hand, that same publisher gets $3 or $4 every time someone pays for an archive version of the story. Do the math, and you’ll see it can take a few hundred free page views to equal the revenue for a single archive payment.

I’ve also seen arguments that we should have a tiered-pricing scheme for our archives, so middle-school students, say, would pay nothing or next to nothing for articles, while professional investors would pay full price. Alas, we’ve seen how well that has worked for the airlines.

Jay Rosen: Can we just stipulate that no one really knows what pricing scheme works yet?

Bill Grueskin: I would say that the search for a single answer—paid vs. free—is as fruitless as a blogger vs journalist argument. You can be successful either way. Ultimately, it comes down to how you see your role in the media universe.

The Wall Street Journal is blessed with a huge world-wide circulation base in print, and the largest subscription news site, by far, on the Internet. That leads some—including many of those urging us to open our archive, or the entire site—to believe we’re a mass-market publication.

But the Journal and Dow Jones are defined by our ability to deliver timely, accurate, thoughtful coverage of business and financial news. That is a huge sector, as evidenced by our circulation. But it does serve to separate us from the CNNs and USA Todays of the world.

Nevertheless, it fosters precisely the tension Brand predicted back in 1987. Yes, the marginal cost of each new online user of our journalism is low, much lower than the marginal cost in print. But the base cost of our journalism is extremely high. So the task for is to ensure that the value of the site to our readers is aligned with the cost. That is, our content is so much better and that our brand is so powerful that price tag—$79 a year, or $2.95 for an archived article—doesn’t get out of kilter with what we offer or with the market.

And now for the coda. I went to Amazon to see if I could search inside Brand’s book and find the exact quote. I couldn’t (it’s too old), but I did notice that sellers hosted by Amazon are offering the book for $.01. Yes, one penny, for the entire book. Shipping is around $3.50, though.

Jay Rosen: Maybe we need a new “law” of information. Lola’s law. It states that information gets what information wants. I like what the great Viennese critic Karl Kraus said about maxims like “information wants to be free.” He said they were either half truths, or one-and-a-half truths. Think about it. (Some of Kraus’s own maxims.)

Meanwhile, I don’t expect you to criticize the big deals that other firms have made lately in online content, but I am interested in your take on Marketwatch, Slate, About, Topix and others. (My post on About.) Particularly what you see as the logic of these various transactions. In each case it’s old media buying new or newish. Why are we seeing this happen? What is it we should grasp about these deals?

Bill Grueskin: I can think of three ways to answer that question.

Jay Rosen: PressThink prefers three answers to one. It’s part of our long-form charm.

Bill Grueskin: The glib way is to paraphrase Mr. Robinson speaking to Benjamin in The Graduate: I just want to say one word to you, one word. “Traffic.”

No publisher wants to leave an advertising dollar on the table. And the online-ad boom of recent years sent publishers of all stripes to crank up their Extrapolation Machines, where they projected demand for advertising, mapped that against expected inventory of page views, and concluded that the they had to move quickly to ensure tomorrow’s traffic could accommodate tomorrow’s advertisers.

So that’s one reason, but there’s more.

Second answer: As recently as a year or two ago, editors at various newspaper companies would tell me they saw the trends going this way: Over the years, print revenue would grow more slowly. But by the time things got really dire, online would compensate for the shortfall.

Put another way, print and online would work like a family, with gently aging parents and striving college-age kids. Mom and Dad would support the kids for a while, then the kids would get jobs and chip in a few bucks every year, and finally, as the parents got older and earned less, their kids would contribute more from their quickly expanding incomes. And over time, the family would stay happy.

This theorizing took several forms.

For example, my counterpart at proudly told me a year ago that his website hadn’t cannibalized the print edition, and in fact, was responsible for sending about 300,000 new subscribers to the print edition since 2001. Sounds great, although during those years, print circulation at the Times has been up or down about 15,000 (a little over 1%), depending on which months you examine. So if the web site was responsible for adding 300,000 new subscribers, what happened to those 300,000 old subscribers?

As you’ve seen and written yourself, Jay, things are moving both too fast and too slow. Circulation, particularly, got hammered at many papers, while online ad growth, tremendous as it is, stems from a relatively small base. Or, to stretch the analogy a bit further, these smart kids with such great income potential are being asked to pick up the pace when it comes to helping Mom and Dad pay the rent.

Which brings us to …

My third answer: Each deal shows that we are rethinking what it means to be a media company, with a strong newspaper component, in a digital age. Now, I think this comes more naturally for Dow Jones than for most other companies, because electronic publishing has been core to DJ for years. Fundamentally—

Jay Rosen: Wait, let’s go through them:

  • Fundamentally, why did Dow Jones wind up buying CBSMarketWatch?
  • The Washington Post bought Slate from Microsoft. What do you think that was about?
  • Every deal is a bet. The New York Times acquired What kind of bet was that?
  • I know it’s a much smaller transaction, but how do you understand the recent deal by three newspaper companies for Topix?

Bill Grueskin: While these four deals share a lot, they’re also quite different.

Of the four, Dow Jones/Marketwatch and Washingt Post/Slate appear to have the most in common. In each case, a company is acquiring a site with an established brand and impressive usage. Both DJ and the Washington Post plan to let the editorial operations of Marketwatch and Slate work independently from the sibling web sites, while seeking to use the added scale for advertising and other opportunities on the business side.

In each, there is a sense of editorial fit; Marketwatch provides a superb report on market and other business trends, while Slate is a provocative and thoughtful site that focuses closely on politics and government, directly in the Post’s back yard. And, yet, for all the similarities between acquirer and acquiree, Marketwatch’s audience has little overlap with’s, and I’ve read the same about Slate’s audience and the Washington Post’s. So the opportunity for advertising, and brand extension, is great.

As for the other two deals, well, most of what I know is what I’ve read on Our reporters looked at the Topix deal and noted the mixed blessing such traffic drivers represent for newspaper-branded sites. As for the About deal, it’s interesting to see how others, in this case Jimmy Wales’ nascent Wiki empire, are entering into the same space.

Jay Rosen: But surely these deals, completed in the same time interval, say that something has shifted in “online press think” at these companies.

Bill Grueskin: What I think is changing is that for years, the debate was largely about distribution of content; that is, how do we get our stories in front of readers and do it in a way that brings in money and doesn’t upset traditional revenue models? With these deals in hand, I think we are going to see the debate go beyond distribution and on to the content itself — how do we report the news so it works online?

Jay Rosen: Well, on that one the challenge has been stated for news people. Tom Curley, CEO of the AP, said at the Online News Association convention last year, “When the Web was born as a commercial content enterprise back in the mid-’90s, we thought it was about replicating — that is, ‘repurposing’ — our news and information franchises online.”

You and I were there. Curley didn’t put it exactly this way, but he strongly suggested that this mental picture—re-purposing content—no longer made sense, and a new picture was called for.

Since then Silicon Valley columnist Mark Malone has challenged newspaper people to “accept reality and metamorphize into real Web presences rather than merely online downloads of their print copy,” which is essentially the same idea Curley voiced at ONA.

Now in a new report for the Carnegie Corporation, Merrill Brown, who knows a thing or three about the business as the founding editor-in-chief of, writes: “News executives need to quickly mobilize around what are today their secondary platforms, at least measured in terms of where, currently, their largest revenue opportunities exist. In other words, even if the daily newspaper industry’s advertising revenue dwarfs its Internet business, the future of the American newspaper will be defined online.”

Finally, I wrote myself recently, “The big decision today is to go back and fix that error from the mid-90s, to junk ‘re-purposing of content’ as an organizing idea, and organize Web efforts around a new purpose, a new idea.”

What do you think? Do you agree with these arguments? Or find them lacking?

Bill Grueskin: Any newspaper Web site that limits itself to repurposing content from the paper is in serious trouble. Any newspaper site that fails to recognize the value of the paper’s brand and content is in serious trouble. So there you have it. I’m firmly and unequivocally ambivalent about this.

The first step is, you have to figure out who your readers ought to be. Not who your readers are; anyone can figure out, in rough terms, who’s reading your site. But who should be reading your site, and how should they be reading it?

If all you want is readers who are interested in the content from your paper or magazine, you’re done before you start. Buy some shovelware, flip on the switch, and go home. Literally, go home, because your site is going to wither.

But if you are so in love with your online offerings that you overemphasize those and diminish the great work your print reporters are (or should be) doing, you’re kidding yourself.

So is the trick balancing the two? Not really. The trick, again, is figuring out what works for your readers — those you have, and those you ought to have.

Jay Rosen: I’m glad you said that. “It’s a balancing act” is such a lame notion. We say that when we don’t really know how the new mix is found. But you must have figured out what works for the readers you ought to have at the Journal site. So how does it work?

Bill Grueskin: You’re right. The “balancing act” approach disappoints new online readers and fails to excite print readers making the transition. So you have to come up with a new language of journalism, with traditional roots in our standards, but that treats online like the revolutionary medium that it is. And then you have to hammer it home with your staff.

Here’s a real-time example. I’m writing this response at 2 pm on a Friday, April 8th. The best-read story on at the moment is an exclusive Page One Journal piece about how Warren Buffett provided a key tip in the AIG investigation. Down the list a bit is the Online Journal’s latest survey of nearly 60 economists; it includes an interactive graphic and tons of downloadable data. Next is a richly reported story from the paper about a Wal-Mart executive fired for allgedly defrauding his firm. Then comes an online-only column by Carl Bialik,’s “Numbers Guy” who looks at how US News’ new law-school rankings could affect minority admissions.

That, to me, is a perfect most-popular list. Our readers are clicking back and forth between print stories that showcase the best of the Journal and online columns and graphics that make the most of the medium.

Jay Rosen: It almost sounds like you’re talking about just-in-time journalism.

Bill Grueskin: Here’s another example, this one from a Wednesday morning last February: Hewlett-Packard announces that it has asked CEO Carly Fiorina to resign. This is a huge story for H-P is high-tech, Fiorina is high-profile, and most importantly, the news breaks after the morning’s paper. Our newsroom goes all out, blending reporting from Journal reporters, Dow Jones newswire staff and our own people, updating the main story 15 to 20 times that day before the paper’s final Page One piece comes in late that night.

A few days later, I looked at the total traffic to the main story, from Wednesday morning until Thursday night. It turns out that about 75% of the traffic came during Wednesday. By Thursday, when the paper’s story appeared in its full form, most of our readers had moved on.

Jay Rosen: So it’s a more nuanced picture than: “Web demands constant updates,” which is what passed for wisdom when I started blogging in Fall ‘03. (Along with you have to write short!) To use your word, it’s trickier than that. Demand is a fluid, unstable, and context-bound thing. The “map” of it keeps changing.

Bill Grueskin: It’s hard to believe how quickly readers’ habits changed. When I looked at data for similarly big stories in 2002, the dropoff from the first day to the second was about half what it was in February 2005.

Now, we’ve been hearing this in some form or other for years. In the ’80s, we were told that TV and radio were changing the rules, so if we didn’t have a second-day angle in the next day’s paper, we were dead.

But here’s the truth: Almost no one in the print world really believed it. We knew the electronic media had small staffs and often strange news judgment (ever watch local news during sweeps week?). And maybe we were right: Newspaper circulation had relatively modest slippage in those years.

Now, though, the Internet is doing to print what TV and radio threatened to do, but could never pull off. And journalists who fail to see this ought to be writing their career obituaries rather than their stories, because their readers are changing faster than newspapers are.

Which gets back to the first point. What sort of readers do you want? There are millions of people who will not and cannot replace their print reading with an online news source. Supplement, yes; replace, no.

Then there is the online audience that brings a different set of expectations. It is not entirely different; if so, the AIG and Wal-Mart stories wouldn’t have been at or near the top of our most-read list that Friday. But it’s different enough so you have to understand their needs and anticipate their desires.

Lots of sites try to do this. Lately, a number of newsmagazine and newspaper sites have started blogs. The results, especially in bigger publications, are often dreadful. Many mainstream-media blogs serve as repositories for the journalistic detritus that wasn’t good enough for the print edition. They manage to combine the worst of both worlds: Hemmed in by tradition, they lack the candor and point of view that distinguishes good blogs. Bereft of good material, they lack the depth and quality of print journalism.

They key is figuring out content that connects with readers, that breaks some conventions, that is clearly on top of the news cycle, yet is still congruent with the kind of journalism the mother ship is doing. It’s a constant challenge and no one has fully figured it out. But the trends show that some of us are getting closer.

Jay Rosen: A lot of people are wondering whether the newspaper industry is going to “make it across” to the new platform, and develop a new model for sustaining the journalism.

Certainly the challenges are immense. To take one example, new products are going to have to be invented, but what experience do most newsrooms have in product development? None!

But my question isn’t whether newspapers will live or die. You’re a keen observer. I’d rather know what are some of the vital signs or inflection points you will be watching in the next several years, as you try to assess the industry’s prospects. What should we look for, in other words?

Bill Grueskin: I’d keep my eye on these points:

1.) When online readers start engaging with their content the way print readers have for decades. At some point, online editors need to enable people to find the act of reading their sites as pleasurable, serendipitous and essential as they do (or did) with the paper. Taking that one step further, look for when news sites learn to deal with change in distribution models, so people coming to the site via RSS, blogs and other third parties are enticed by the brand, not just the link — that is, that they read the story and then explore the site, rather than return directly to the aggregator.

2.) When the online business model starts generating the volume of revenue the legacy parts of the business do (or did). It’s great to have 30 percent growth rates, but if your site is getting only a few percentage points of the overall revenue picture, it’s going to take more than a decade to catch up, even if growth continues unimpeded. (For one analysis, go to this Borrell analysis of a mid-sized metro paper, from the Poynter site.)

3.) When newspapers get serious about finding ways to charge for content online. This sounds predictable, coming from’s editor, and I don’t mean to overdraw the point. For most papers, the game’s over; their audiences are fully inculcated in this expectation of free content. But at some point sites need to figure out how to establish premium areas of content that are capable of generating subscriptions, and that would enable the sites to wean themselves off total dependence on ad revenue. There are a few scattered examples (the $35 premium service in Green Bay), but for now, most papers are unwilling or unable to provide the kind of content that an online reader would pay for.

Jay Rosen: Final question. Here’s what Tim Porter reported from yesterday’s American Society of Newspaper Editors convention. The scene was a panel on the future of newspapers:

One of the most telling moments of the hour occurred just as the meeting opened when Nachison and Peskin put a slide up of Craig Newmark and asked how many people in the room of several hundred recognized him or his name. Only a smattering of hands rose. A few more hands went up at the mention of Craigslist and its free classifieds.

What does that tell you?

Bill Grueskin: It tells me those editors need better optometrists. Or it restates the warning from your car’s side view mirror: Objects may be closer than they appear.

Jay Rosen: Good enough. Bill, thanks for doing this. (To comment click here.)

After Matter: Notes, reactions & links…

Bill Grueskin will be checking in with the comment thread if and when discussion warrants, so feel free to oh-PINE as Bill O’Reilly says…

Bio as promised. Bill Grueskin is Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal Online. He joined the Journal in 1995 as an editor on the Page One desk, where he assigned stories on major business developments, the stock market, racial issues and other subjects. He was named Deputy Page One Editor in 1998. Before joining WSJ, Grueskin worked at The Miami Herald as an editor, and as a reporter and editor at The Tampa Tribune, the Baltimore News-American and the Daily American in Rome, Italy.

Drudge Report headline, April 15: WSJDOWJONES INTERNET EARNS MORE THAN NEWSPAPER. Pointing at this article on earnings.

In a bit of unrelated news: researchers with the Daily Kos say they have determined that “Jeff Gannon” never served in the military. He had claimed he was in the Marines.

“No ideas and the ability to express them— that’s a journalist.” Karl Kraus (1874-1936) said that. Austrian Writer, satirist, quasi-journalist sort of like Jon Stewart is today. More young writers should know about Kraus. Fascinating character. His spirit lives in a site like The Daily Howler.

Every day citizen’s media gets a little bit less abstract. (Via Rebecca Blood.)

Over at Buzzmachine, which is buzzing today (April 14), Andrew Nachison of the Media Center reports on the ASNE session where he asked editors: heard of Craig Newmark? It wasn’t a gotcha question, he says.

The bigger point was trust - and that there’s someone “out there” who has built a business at the expense of newspapers not by trying to compete against anyone, but by trying to help others.

The business followed Craig’s authentic devotion to helping people find each other in a trusted environment…

Don’t worry about competing against Craig. Think of something else, something new. Be the next Craig.

Then he followed it up with Show of Hands: Better World, Anybody?

That is an important statement Nachison made. It’s similar to a point in my last post: Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat? “The business model is not the reality check,” I wrote. People are. Nachison’s messsage: trust in built form is the reality check. Editors should seek to understand it, and Craigslist is an example. To grasp what the fuss is about… Steve Outing Test Drives Craigslist as an ad vehicle.

Previously: Mark Glaser on Online Journalism Review: ‘Nerd Values’ Help Propel Tiny Craigslist Into Classifieds Threat. (June ‘04.)

In another post, Jarvis proposes a radical solution for the local newspaper: drop everything but truly local news: “Imagine a newspaper that is only local news — no sports, no business, little or no entertainment, and commodity national and international news treated as the I-saw-that-already commodity it is: only local news.”

See also Tim Porter’s list of six things that should have been on the American Society of Newspaper Editors’ agenda but weren’t. His list is dead on. My conclusion is that nothing will ever change that organization— it’s the Rotary club for newspaper editors. Porter: “ASNE members are journalists who became managers without learning how to lead.”

The Wall Street Journal reports today on Yahoo News seizing the initiative online. (Grueskin’s policy for bloggers is to choose a few features a day that are free. This is one. Ooops, was one. Now available only to subscribers.)

Yahoo’s rise comes as some traditional news organizations rethink their online strategies. Some that have offered free content are now considering charging for some items. The Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., for example, last September imposed monthly fees for nonprint subscribers to access some of its content online. At the same time, New York Times Co., Dow Jones & Co. (publisher of The Wall Street Journal) and others are acquiring Internet companies to broaden their Web offerings, and audiences.

Earlier @ PressThink: Simon Waldman, Director of Digital Publishing, The Guardian, writes The Importance of Being Permanent (Jan. 7). It’s the archives argument, but Waldman knows it’s really about authority online.

Bill Grueskin on his blog reading habits: “I’ll rattle off a few from my favorites list:, Buzzmachine, Instapundit, Brad DeLong (the Berkeley economist), RealClearPolitics,, Kausfiles, Talking Points Memo, and yes, PressThink. “More and more, though, I wind up on Technorati doing keyword searches for certain terms, authors, issues and so on. That expands the playing field and enables me to read material I’d miss otherwise. Oh, and of course I read’s econoblog—where guest economist bloggers duel on big issues of the day.”

Critic of the arts (for WSJ, among others) and “About Last Night” blogger Terry Teachout, a cosmopolitan man, e-mails: “I’ve been trying to apply the kind of thinking found on your site to a very different context.” He means let’s get it right with the Web thinking— new media for artists rather than journalists. And he means PressThink but also Buzzmachine and others.

The result: Teachout’s Memo From Cassandra. “It seems to me highly unlikely that whatever eventually replaces newspapers—and they will be replaced, sooner rather than later—is going to be invented by the same people who are currently publishing newspapers.” The turn:

But if you’re an artist, ask yourself this: how are you using the new media to interact with your audience and spread the word about your work?

…If you’re looking to big-city newspapers to start reviewing more literary fiction, or to PBS to telecast more ballet and modern dance, or to your local radio station to continue carrying the Metropolitan Opera’s Saturday broadcasts, you’re kidding yourself. They don’t care. Which leaves you with two options. You can sit around complaining about their indifference—or you can do an end run around them and use the new media to reach out directly to your audience, both existing and potential.

There is more to his plea, itself a response to Rupert Murdoch’s big speech yesterday to the same ASNE conference, which was also a get-with-the-Web warning.

After the Memo was posted, a Hollywood agent e-mailed Teachout:

Funny how it’s just as difficult to sell the “reinvention” concept in ‘05 as it was in ‘95, especially to actors. It’s odd too that the artists who portray characters that represent and sometimes even create cultural shifts wouldn’t know a cultural shift if they fell over it.

Jeff Jarvis is all over the Murdoch speech and its message. He should be. He influenced some of it. Dan Gillmor: “essential reading for anyone in the news business.”

Murdoch to America’s newspaper editors: “I venture to say that not one newspaper represented in this room lacks a website. Yet how many of us can honestly say that we are taking maximum advantage of those websites to serve our readers, to strengthen our businesses, or to meet head-on what readers increasingly say is important to them in receiving their news?”

Murdoch joins the chorus: “We have to refashion what our web presence is. It can’t just be what it too often is today: a bland repurposing of our print content.”

Steve Outing of Poynter reacts: “The big need within the news industry, I believe, is to shift significant amounts of money into research and development of digital-media products and services, in order to compete with deep-pocket Internet competitors who increasingly are aiming their focus on local markets and stealing some of newspapers’ role in the community (and thus, profits). When executives like Murdoch start singing that tune, perhaps that will actually happen.”

Stealing some of newspapers’ role in the community? I would say establishing that role in the online space ahead of more lethargic operations. See also PressThink (March 29), Laying the Newspaper Gently Down to Die.

Ken Sands at Morph explains: It can be tough to train journalists how to be bloggers. Candid advice and practical lessons from the Spokesman-Review’s point man for online ventures. The good news is more people from the business are calling about “blogging advice,” says Sands. “The bad news is that many of their plans are ill-conceived and undoubtedly will fail to meet the unrealistic expectations of the writers, editors and publishers, and will be largely ignored by the readers.” Read more; he knows whereof he speaks.

UPDATE, April 16: Leonard Witt of the Public Journalism Network telegrams in:

Hey, Jay: If the news people reading your post want to find out who Craig Newmark of Craigslist is, tell them to come to our A Wake Up Call conference on August 9 in San Antonio. I got word that along with you, and Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor, Craig Newmark will be a panelist.

Go here for more details. It’s part of the annual convention of journalism professors. Jesse Oxfeld of Editor and Publisher: get your travel agent on the line. This will not be Blah, Blah, Blog. That’s a vow. interviews PressThink contributor Lisa Stone (who blogs as Surfette) about BlogHer, the upcoming conference on women and blogging.

More circulation troubles at the Los Angeles Times, expected to be down 5.5 percent for the quarter.

Comment at Buzzmachine:

To properly paraphrase Lola’s line from Damn Yankees

“What information wants, information gets.”
Posted by Alan Kellogg at April 17, 2005 05:32 AM

Posted by Jay Rosen at April 14, 2005 11:04 AM   Print


Ron Brynaert e-mails:

Maybe I think of things a little too conspiratorially sometimes...but I don't believe at all that the archives at the Times and elsewhere are the way they are just because of profit motivations.

I believe it's all about limiting the access to bloggers, researchers or anyone else. It's the same way with the AP and Reuters and everyone else.

There's absolutely no excuse to charge to look at archived articles. Damn it! The press is supposed to be about more than just making money. It's disgusting that I'm blocked from doing research (unless I go to the library and look at the microfiches) on the Internet.

I seriously doubt that any of them make much money for charging to look at their archives. The archives are strictly needed for historical purposes. And it's disgusting that they get away with this.

At the very least....they could all easily adapt some kind of formula for a week and charge for a month to a year...and open the archives so that no one has to pay to see what's been written in the past.

That can't see articles like this.

But I'm sure as hell not out-and-out saying that 2001 has anything to do with that... but the reason why that article (and one other front pager by Ralph Blumenthal on the same subject) is forgotten and wasn't brought up at all in the last 4 years is because the archives are locked... and the old articles by the times, the ap, reuters and everywhere else are not even available on Google searches unless someone else writes about them or copy-and-pastes the articles.

Ron Brynaert

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 14, 2005 11:42 PM | Permalink

Ron: Do you know about this site, the New York Times Link Generator?

See, for example, this analysis on New Year's Day, '04. It's a perma-link made with the generator. It won't expire. It exists because the Times digital operation worked it out with Dave Winer. The problem for your thesis is: why would the NYT do that?

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 14, 2005 11:52 PM | Permalink

Who Will Be The National Online Newspaper of Record?

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I will be a huge mistake when The New York Times starts charging for access to its Web site. The Times company has made some bad decisions in the past.

How it handled the National Writer's Union lawsuit comes to mind for starters, but this would be colossal. How will the subscription price offset the loss of advertising revenue after the massive loss of eyeballs?

The Washington Post could be the major beneficiary, however, since its recent redesign makes it more competitive already. The Post's links are much shorter and stay up in a free long-term archive, where those of us who publish Web sites can link to their stories and know the links will remain up.

If only the Post would spend as much on news gathering as the Times. The Post has one person covering the entire Deep South, for example, and he does it from Miami with no stringer help.

Hey, I'll work for the Times, the Post, The Wall Street Journal - whoever pays the most and wants to get the story right.

Meanwhile, if they all become irrelevant, perhaps we can get readers to embrace The Locust Fork blog and news, better than Drudge already.

And let's face it, few bloggers can match 25 years of education and all kinds of news reporting and writing experience.

I love the newspaper business, but recognize its most recent limitations. I've also embraced the blogosphere for what it can do for us. Local monopoly TV news is not going to do anything to save democracy. It's up to us.


Posted by: Glynn Wilson at April 15, 2005 1:07 AM | Permalink

Another example of a periodical that charges for access is Variety. And, like WSJ, they can do it because they offer unique, high quality content.

If NYT charges to access a story about, say, Hillary Clinton, so what? You can find pretty much the same story through just about any other major newspaper or wire service. That's the problem the NYT faces: their content really isn't unique in an important way (people won't pay for editorial).

There is no solution to how you charge for something that everyone else hands out for free.

Rosen will probably link to this article about the dimming prospects of the paper journal--the online business is making more money. A lot more money.

Posted by: Brian at April 15, 2005 9:08 AM | Permalink

I think the irony of is that it's nominally a "newspaper site," yet it probably has more in common with the $35 Green Bay Packer fan site than it does with the average U.S. daily. And this represents one of the mental hurdles that will be so difficult for so many of us to clear.

Maybe most daily newspapers are a little bit like Sears in the 1970s, back before the department store took a dive. The traditional downtown department store offered a little bit of verything at a reasonable price, but there were also bits of Old School charm: carpet and furnishings; well-dressed, courteous sales people; helpful advice from employees who knew their merchandise.

By the 1980s the no-frills discount retailers could beat them on price and the specialty retailers could beat them on quality and cache. Plus, downtown parking was a hassle. People wanted easy parking closer to their homes in the suburbs.

If you were part of the department store culture, you didn't want to confront the new realities: You knew you offered good, solid value; you didn't want to stop offering good service, but you didn't want to raise prices and cut back on selection, either.

I think the WSJ works online because it serves a niche market of readers for whom quality information offers a tangible benefit. Football sites (particularly fantasy football sites) are in the same boat. They focus on something their readers care passionately about, and they can charge because they offer insights that fans can't get elsewhere. These are the high-end
speciality shops, and they succeed because they can focus on a narrow market. The Packer site isn't going to attract Chicago Bears fans, but on the other hand, it doesn't have to pretend to care about them in order to be "legitimate."

But most of the information that newspapers publish is discount retail, "too cheap to meter," stuff that you can get elsewhere for free. I can foresee a continuing (though limited) market for "department store" print aggregators, but I think the Internet is forcing us to chose a new identity. Either we find the niches that people will buy, or we consign ourselves to a future as
an information K-Mart.

The worst outcome: Misguided management that tries to market its paper's cheap-quality general merchandise at a premium online. Just because the WSJ has a broadsheet doesn't instantly make its web plan a model for the rest of us.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 15, 2005 9:09 AM | Permalink

Daniel: You're making a lot of sense to me. I think your examination of fantasy football is an apt one. But your description is too loose. It's not just that participants care passionately about their leagues and players; it's that better information means doing better in the game, in what you care passionately about.

Having decisions to make makes you hungry for better information. Informed participation makes for a richer outcome, people can feel that flow: widening choices, informing decisions. Generals and traders have always used news this way. But what I mean is they've always grooved on it.

Having to make decisions when there is only partial information makes people interested in how to get more informed. Fantasy football is a human context we know about that tends to make people informable and keep them in that groove. This is the key to succeeding in the information business. But everyone looks at the content, which has to come second.

Not the quality of your information product, but a certain quality of the human context into which you are publishing, such that people are regularly (and passionately) informable.

And of course the Wall Street Journal is the classic case of that: Business and Markets and Conditions Around the World that affect the people in them.... The WSJ begins there, "gentleman, this is our context."

By staying within it, they keep their information aligned enough with the routine actions that tons of people (who are in business, affected by markets) have to take. On this measure, Big Journalism is out of alignment far too much of the time.

Here's an example of a human context that tends to make people informable.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 15, 2005 2:28 PM | Permalink

Pay for View--I wrote this back in January, when the Businessweek article about NY Times thinking of going pay first came out, and I believe that some of the points I make are germane to this discussion.

First, the WSJ's ability to charge for its content is due to the fact that it meets Vin Crosbie's three criteria for paid content--one of which is mentioned in Dan's analysis (helps its readers make money). The New York Times does not meet the criteria, in my opinion. (I'm not sure if you're familiar with Vin Crosbie, since I didn't see his name come up in the post. Apologies if I'm giving eggsucking lessons to grandmas.)

Second, the WSJ isn't doing all that well at all and much of it is due to the fact that its online service is cannibalizing its paper circulation.

Third, the WSJ may have made money in its years behind the wall, but it cost itself a great deal of relevance in the online world, and that's not a tradeoff the Times can afford to make.

Posted by: Cal Lanier at April 15, 2005 7:45 PM | Permalink

Grueskin brings up a good point about the NY Times. For every new subscriber they bring in, an old one leaves. And they're probably going to the free site. This is a hard way to run a business (those new subscribers probably aren't very faithful) and especially if you're not getting much money from those customers once they start using your website. I'm not sure the Journal has all the answers, but it's pretty clear no one else is very close.

Posted by: Will Frederick at April 16, 2005 10:46 AM | Permalink

Hey, Jay:

If you the news people reading your post want to find out who Craig Newmark of Craigslist is, tell them to come to our A Wake Up Call journalism conference on August 9 in San Antonio. I got word that along with you, and Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor, Newmark will be a panelist. You have heard it here first. See for full conference details.

Posted by: Leonard Witt at April 16, 2005 12:05 PM | Permalink

Well, all I can say is that it's about time that we turned the topic of conversation around here to fantasty football!

As a 14-year fantasy football geek, I'm living proof that new interests change the way we use and value information. Example: In our league's second and third seasons, some members moved from our community newspaper newsroom to a daily newspaper. The guys at the dailies were more successful because they had the AP sports wire and could read the stuff that the public never saw in print.

In 1994 we took the league online and it became a "virtual community." By 1996 fantasy football information was everywhere online... but its general availability made it much less valuable in a competitive sense.

Today, serious fantasy geeks read all the general stuff to get the zeitgeist. But most of them will also subscribe to news and analysis services. Last year, my wife and I subscribed to two.

I think the lessons of this are obvious... but maybe a bit depressing. The stuff that local papers do well is interesting to people, but is it a passion? What would you pay for "inside" analysis of city hall? The school board?

And you know what I loved about your post, Jay? When you talked about generals and traders grooving on information. I mean, that's really the point, isn't it? There are things we need to know, things that are nice to know, things we know we need to know but have to force ourselves to learn. None of these are great places to make your living.

The best place to be is in that spot where everybody is grooving.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 18, 2005 11:19 AM | Permalink

Yes, and when people said over the years that serious news had an eat-your-spinach quality to it, they were recognizing the same fact from the other side, as it were. They were saying the news may be important, but it has no groove.

Professional journalism thought it had solved the problem of politics with its ethic of professional detachment, the Fourth Estate model and the watchdog role. (Wasn't true, but it looked solved.) But I am not aware that it ever thought it solved the greater problem of pleasure. Should the "serious" news be a kind of pleasure? Or does it have to fight the pleasure instinct to create room for itself?

By and large, our professional journalists deal with these problems by ritualizing them in dead language that is designed to go nowhere, an endless series of "where do you draw the line?" discussions and "that's a tricky balancing act" conclusions. It's a strategy many knowledge professionals adopt. They bore the problem to death, and people can go on with their work.

In communication studies, inquiry into the pleasure and user intensity side of media is called the "uses and gratifications" school. It's a valuable literature. Tends to be neglected. Why? Bottom up.

Posted by: Jay Rosen at April 18, 2005 11:19 PM | Permalink

More people might read that valuable literature if you called it "groove studies," methinks. "Uses and gratifications?" Talk about your spinach...

Thing is, what people groove on changes, and sometimes even average people groove on wonkish stuff. Remember 1992, when people were grooving on charts and graphs and econobabble?

I don't know. Now I'm nosing around something profoundly subjective, and I don't have a clue how one could possibly translate something as difficult to quantify as "groove hunting" into any kind of systematic, transportable concept.

Posted by: Daniel Conover at April 19, 2005 9:35 AM | Permalink

With seemingly everyone holding up the WSJ as the model for running a paid subscription news site, it was disappointing that Jay never asked the one crucial question - what percentage of WSJ Online's subscribers paid the subscription fee out of their own pocket?

I suspect the vast majority of subscriptions are either directly paid by corporations, or reimbursed on a corporate expense account. Neither the NY Times nor any other news site is likely to receive this kind of corporate largesse.

And, as with many other corporate expenditures, the site's quality vs the print edition may have little to do with the reason for payment. It may simply be that the executives want it, or subscriptions are bought in bulk without regard for who might actually use them. After all, this is a trivial expense for a company of any size.


Posted by: Steve at April 19, 2005 6:01 PM | Permalink

From the Intro