Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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links for 2009-05-05

L3C: New Type of Company Might be Good Fit for Journalism

News organizations might benefit from new ways to handle money. (Image by Tracy O via Flickr)

Fundamentally, journalism is a community service. That mission, and the values associated with it, typically are what make journalists passionate about journalism — and also often wary of the business side of news (advertising, market research, etc.). And as smart as most journalists are, most of them also don’t really seem to have the mindset or skills to manage the business side of a news operation.

So why not figure out a new way to conduct the business of news? Especially, new ways to handle the money?

Last Friday, at the Journalism Innovations II conference (held at the University of San Francisco), I learned about an interesting effort to create a new kind of business structure that could provide a way to support journalism and news.

In the morning plenary, Hollie Kernan (news director of San Francisco public radio KALW-FM) mentioned that she’s been taking a close look at the Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) model proposed by Robert Lang, CEO of the Mary Elizabeth and Gordon B. Mannweiler Foundation…

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links for 2009-05-03

  • "I’m told by a Dow Joneser familiar with the matter that the reason the Journal isn’t charging for the app is simple: It can’t. The technological platform to do so isn’t up to speed yet.

    "This person says Rupert Murdoch himself said he was “displeased” that his company’s valuable content is being given away free on the iPhone and BlackBerry and that his displeasure has been made clear more than once to those responsible for mobile.

    "Dow Jones did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

    "The platform to charge won’t be ready until early fall, by which time the Journal app’s user base will have gotten good and used to getting it for free. Meanwhile, any potential incremental revenue from mobile subscriptions is being left on the table. It’s probably not much, but hey—anything helps right now!"

links for 2009-05-02

links for 2009-05-01

  • "The investors, Ben Ray, Kevin Preblud, and Brad Gray, are pressing on, but with a smaller staff and narrowed news focus. "We haven't changed anything, we've got the name, the brand, the platform, and people from the Rocky are still contributing," Ray said. "We're not really trying to change the model at all."

    "Ray admits there is some confusion over the venture's future, especially since the announcement regarding last week's split came from writers, not the investment team. "Our message probably was confused, but as time went on we realized we do have something and we are moving forward."

    "An announcement regarding the site's future is expected today or tomorrow, but the next phase of the project will focus more on local business and sports coverage and employ a staff of 15 or fewer reporters. Ray and his team also continue to employ two ad salespeople, hired during the initial development of INDT, whom he says have already found success in securing advertisers."