Analysis of media outlets in the 29th District.

Facebook Killed the Blog Star?

A new Pew report showing that young people aren't blogging as much is getting headlines like "Study: Blogging is so 2006" and "Adults Ruined Blogs for Kids Study Shows".

This spin is just stupid. Blogs are one mode of self-publication on the Internet. Four years ago, blogs were used for personal diaries as well as sites like this one, even though blogs make poor personal diaries because everyone can read a blog. When Facebook and Twitter came along, those who wanted to keep a personal diary online, or stay in good touch with friends, moved there.

Facebook and Twitter, like Blogger and Typepad, are just further perfection of software used to communicate on the Internet. As time goes forward, Internet software will continue to be perfected. Every time a new Internet platform comes on-line, bloggers who like the new platform better than a blog will move there. This has nothing to do with "Adults killing blogging", and everything to do with the way that technology works.

Morning News

Anyone who's wondering whether Gannett's recent cuts are affecting their coverage of local issues can take a look at today's web coverage of Massa's Mendon town hall. Politico has a report from the meeting. It's about 30 paragraphs long. The Democrat and Chronicle devoted three paragraphs, each containing one sentence, to the event.

The Politico reporter thought that healthcare opponents outnumbered supporters. That wasn't clear to me. The crowd was large, so it was hard to judge.

WHEC's video of the meeting includes a clip of the guy who was so upset about abortion. 13 WHAM also has a report on the event.

Update: Actually, the D&C has more on the meeting, but it's buried in their editorial board blog. The title is "Civility Rules at Massa Town Hall Meeting". Compared to some other meetings, where arrests were made, I guess this meeting was civil. But it sure wasn't the calmest town hall I've ever attended.

Smugtown Followup

The Smugtown Beacon's Aaron Wicks has responded publicly to the City Newspaper story mentioned in the last post.

Aaron gives reasons why he doesn't think there's a conspiracy afoot by Republicans in petition gathering in LD-21. While doing so, he reports the facts left out of his last LD-21 story, which were reported by City and Moonbat over Monroe, and repeated by me: Wicks did circulate petitions himself, and Republicans were active in circulating petitions in LD-21.

It's a good thing whenever someone responds to criticism. In addition to his recent post, I had a cordial email exchange with Aaron, who seems like a reasonable person. But I still think my main point from the last post stands: revealing your real name and some biographical facts is no guarantee by itself that what you report is more accurate than what can be found in an anonymous blog.

It's What You Do, Not Who You Are

A couple of days ago, I wrote a post critical of the Smugtown Beacon. Philip at Stop the Cap wrote a takedown of the same post. I contacted the publisher of the Beacon to see if he had a response to either of us, but he refused to engage on the issue on the grounds that I'm an anonymous blogger.

Smugtown's position on anonymity is detailed in this post by Aaron Wicks. Wicks says that "we find most blogs (the anonymous ones, at least) to be accountable to no one", and that "we always strive to be as blunt and honest about what we observe and conclude". Wicks argues in that post that Smugtown is more trustworthy because it's possible to contact the authors of the post in real life. He says that efforts of anonymous bloggers are "akin to a whispering campaign by Klan members or Nazis".

I disagree, but instead of giving an abstract argument, I'll use a couple of Wicks' posts from the Beacon to illustrate that, despite using his real name, he's been less than transparent with his readers. Begin with this Wicks post, titled "As Summer Approaches, The Grassroots Grow ... Angrier". Wicks says that he has a "personal bias toward more political competition rather than less" and warns that "it does appear that there is objective evidence that the leadership of the Democratic party in Rochester is in for a bumpy ride over the next several weeks."

In a post this month, Wicks' prediction of a bumpy ride seems to have come true. Titled "With Friends Like These ... Dems Implode in LD21", the post details a primary challenge filed by Jan Bowers in Monroe County LD-21. Wicks makes fun of Democratic leadership for having to scramble to get some petitions filled. He ends his post on this note:

The good news? Someone who is willing to work hard and who has a handful of solid supporters can still compete with an established political party. Competition is a wonderful thing in a democracy. Democrats in LD21 learnt this recently (and may yet learn more such lessons).

Wicks is clearly trying to establish a narrative of a grassroots Democratic uprising in Rochester, and his posts make it sound like he was simply a witness to these events. The truth of the matter is that Wicks was a participant in the LD-21 petition drive, and it wasn't a Democratic uprising. According to City Newspaper, "There's one aspect of Janice Bowers' candidacy and campaign that Democrats have been quick to draw attention to: the majority of her petitions were passed by Republican operatives." According to Moonbat over Monroe, Wicks himself circulated petitions for Jan Bowers in LD-21. I contacted John Locke, who writes Moonbat, to confirm his story. Though he's clearly a partisan, he seems to get his facts straight, and he confirms that he saw those petitions himself.

None of this was disclosed by Wicks in his posts. In an earlier post on the site, Wicks does reveal that he worked for Jan Bowers' husband on a 2007 campaign, but there's no mention of his earlier relationship with the Bowers in his current work.

If I started reading the Smugtown Beacon in June and trusted that Aaron Wicks to give me the facts on the Democratic primaries, I'd have been completely misled. I'd have mistaken what appears to be an effort by Wicks and the Republicans to embarrass the MCDC for a real grassroots uprising.

So what does it matter if I know Wicks' real name and bio if he decides to mislead me? That's my point on anonymity.

(By the way, anyone who's been reading this blog for a while knows that I have a low opinion of the MCDC, so this has nothing to do with the politics in LD-21. )

Another D&C Gem

Couldn't resist posting this one:

In this age of e-everything, the thank-you note is the unicorn of communication — a rarity.

Apparently the D&C's cost cuts have prompted them to start hiring six-year-old girls as staff writers, because that's the only group that thinks unicorns are "rare" rather than "nonexistent".

Typo of the Day

I opened up my D&C RSS feed this morning and found the following:

The story doesn't repeat the claim about the character of the shooters.

D&C Publisher''s Letter

Ali Zoibi, the publisher of the Democrat & Chronicle, has an item in today's edition describing the cuts and challenges facing the D&C.

It contains this ominous line:

Look to this page tomorrow for more information on the impact of these cuts on the opinion section.

Reading between the lines, the 680 headcount that is used for the D&C is apparently total Gannett headcount in Rochester. In other words, the Insider, Conxion, MetroMix, HerRochester, RocMen, RocPets and all the other ancillary publications are part of that count.

Zoibi is also proud of the 87% "reach" of Gannett publications in the area. That means that 87 of 100 Rochesterians look at some Gannett publication online or in print at least once per week. While impressive, the number is meaningless unless Gannett is making money from that reach.

Take a look at the front pages of most of Gannett's online publications, and you'll find that much of the space is occupied by cross-promotion of other Gannett publications. Also in the mix are some local ads, yet Gannett often features national ads that are completely irrelevant to the section content, and a lot of the ad load today was charitable ads. After a decade on the Internet, Gannett's online local ad inventory is still poorly stocked, and that they haven't figured out how to target advertising on different pages.

Gannett has also built uses "Pulse 360", which is an attempt to replicate Google text ads. Google allows advertisers to purchase ads that are pushed to specific types of sites or matched to different search keywords. Google makes big money when it pushes an ad relevant to what the user is searching for, because it's only then that a user will bother to look at the ads on a page. Google also has low overhead because the advertiser uses a self-service web page to enter and purchase the ad.

Judging from the Pulse360 ads pushed on the D&C today, either Gannett has few advertisers in Pulse360 or they're unable to correlate the Pulse360 ad with the content of the page. On sports, I see the usual generic Internet junk: "teeth whitening", "lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks - no diets", and "Laser back surgery alternative".

Gannett can have 100% of our eyeballs every day but, like the rest of the newspaper industry, they're just burning electrons if they don't figure out how to deliver relevant, useful ads to their readers.

Update: Pulse 360 is not a Gannett operation. They have a major deal with Gannett, but they're an independent company. Sorry for the confusion.

More on the Gannett Layoffs

Gannettblog's count of Gannett Layoffs pegs the count at the combined Elmira/Binghamton operation at 40.

Also, WXXI says that the D&C's cut of 59 positions hit 12 in the newsroom (via Rochesterturning).

Yesterday, one of the sports reporters laid off at Gannett's Courier-Post property, which covers South Jersey, revealed in his last blog post that the newsroom there had shrunk to 107 70 people. That newspaper now employs about 425, according to Gannettblog. That means that the D&C newsroom has about 160 106 employees, if staffing patterns at both papers are comparable.

I'd link to that blog post, but it's been removed from the Courier-Post's site.

Update: But Google never forgets. I used the wrong number, and fixed the post.

Huge D&C Layoffs

Reader Elmer sends a Gannettblog item on today's D&C layoff announcement. Fifty-nine jobs were eliminated today.

What's more interesting is that the D&C still employs 690 in Rochester. It's not clear if other Gannett properties such as The Insider, RocMoms, etc. are included in that count.

What is clear is that maintaining a print plant while trying to grow an Internet site is a tall order when you're laying off 8% of your staff. The Rochester market is ripe for a TV station or a startup to hire 69 people, or even 39 people, and take a big run at the D&C online.

Gannett Sidelight

The recent layoffs at Gannett seem to be showing at the Star-Gazette. Every other media outlet covering yesterday's press conference led or featured the Kuhl/Massa confrontation. Yet, reading the Star-Gazette story, one gets the impression that it was a run-of-the-mill press conference.

Comparing that story with Kuhl's press release, it's pretty clear that the S-G story was just a re-write of the release. That's pretty common practice.

What's strange is that nobody at the S-G reacted to the television coverage of the early afternoon, or even to the campaign press releases. No editor tacked on another paragraph acknowledging that the press conference didn't go as planned. I wonder if that would have happened before Gannett's recent layoffs.

Because the S-G allows comments, the commenters are now filling in the gaps in the story. Well, somebody has to do it.

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