The problem with newspaper people (and I can say this as a recovering newspaper junkie), is that they’re too much in love with newspapers.
BostonNOW is launching this week with some half-assed business model where much of the content will be lifted from blogs and “citizen journalists.” And, according to Boing Boing, some of that content is being lifted without permission:
Update: Jon sez, “They ripped off content from Bostonist.com – while they gave the URL we certainly didn’t give them permission to put the clips into print. BostonNOW is still in their inagural week and there has been little to no blogger contributed content thus far. From what’s been reported to me the system they’d announced for “submitting” content wasn’t even fully functional by press time of the first issue (and possibly later than that). I really want to like a print paper that is looking to use content from willing bloggers – but yesterday they straight lifted content from bostonist.com without permission.”
That, however, is another topic for another post (I had to fail a student for plagiarism last week and he will be the first one to tell you I take the offense very seriously).
I see several, rather significant problems with BostonNOW’s business model:
1) They’re competing themselves after Boston metro, the free commuter tabloid that everyone loves to hate. But from the early reports I’ve heard, it looks more like they’re modeling themselves after Metro instead of competing against Metro. For anyone to succeed in launching a new print publication, you’re going to have think so much further out of the box and offer something so extraordinarily different.
2) Why anyone in their right mind would want to launch a new print publication when we’re all just a few years away from 24/7 connectivity is beyond me. I still maintain that print — be it newspapers, magazines or books — will soon become the stomping ground for long-form journalists and writers, while all the short, newsy content will continue to dominate the Web.
3) Granted, it hard to get existing publications to publicize the launch of a competitor, but BostonNOW’s publicity campaign is either awful or nonexistent, because it seems like the only people who know about it are regular readers of Boston blogs.
4) That may have to do something with the budget. Apparently, they couldn’t find anyone to back them, as their compensation structure for contributors is “the kind of exposure that can help jump-start their careers.” That’s from the response of BostonNOW’s John Wilpers on BoingBoing, as well as dozens of ads posted on Craigslist’s “writers wanted” section from publications that never go anywhere.
The whole response, actually, is laughable and telling, and really worth a complete read:
Let me apologize for our unauthorized lifting of copy from bostonist. I am embarrassed and chagrined. I did not authorize or clear it, nor was I even aware of it. I will certainly find out how it happened and make sure it never happens again. That (unauthorized lifting) is definitely NOT our model. We hadn’t planned on doing that and we don’t plan on doing that in the future…
And we hope we can give aspiring writers, reporters, photographers, videographers, etc. the kind of exposure that can help jump-start their careers. And, ultimately, we hope to develop a compensation system to reward them for their work with something beyond fame and massive exposure, and to offer consultation on optimizing their own sites for making money (if that’s their interest).
Based on that philosophy, unauthorized lifting of content is antithetical and will not happen again. At the risk of over-doing it, I apologize again for this instance.
Antithetical? Those types of 50-cent words kind of prove they don;t really know who their target audience is.
But the bottom line — pun intended — is if you can do good journalism, your publication can succeed and sometimes even thrive, regardless of its format. It’s doubtful “journalists” working for “exposure” will be motivated, talented, ethical and/or dedicated journalists. It’s the old “you get what you pay for” theory.
6) But perhaps the best reason why the project seems doomed to failure is from a different update at BoingBoing:
“I overheard Sean Bonner from Metroblogging respond to this news at the Web2Expo earlier this week. His quote was ‘Print versions of blogs – their slogan should be ‘Bringing you yesterday’s news tomorrow”.’”
Hire a good publicist, kids. You’re going to need it.