New CEO at PAM and Testing the Pay Model in Pine Bluff in This Week’s Arkansas Business

It’s Monday already. And that means a new edition of Arkansas Business newspaper, available now. Among the highlights:

Stephens Media will test a locked down model for online news with its Pine Bluff Commercial, Stephens President Sherman Frederick says. He says ArkansasNews.com, which aggregates news from the Stephens papers in Arkansas, might also go behind the pay wall. And — what the heck — same goes for The Morning News and the Southwest Times Record!

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette General Manager Paul Smith likes to say that “all media companies supported by advertising are struggling.” But he’s wrong! Arkansas Business Publisher Jeff Hankins says ABPG is doing just fine, thank you. Don’t lump niche publishers in with struggling daily newspapers.

A conversation with Daniel A. Cushman, the new CEO of PAM Transportation Services Inc. of Tontitown. First steps to turning around the struggling trucking firm include fixing its fractured brand, restructuring some of its internal functions and diversifying its revenue stream.

And speaking of trucking, in case you haven’t heard, the recession hasn’t been kind.

Don’t believe everything you read in the paper! Gwen Moritz doesn’t. She picks apart a recent Arkansas Democrat-Gazette story on mortgage holders in Arkansas who are underwater and finds there’s much more to it than first meets the eye.

Two northwest Arkansas firms have developed applications for Apple’s iPhone: IFWorld Inc. of Fayetteville and Rockfish Interactive of Rogers.

Our cousin, the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal, announces its latest 40 Under 40 class.

Adding to the lending turmoil in northwest Arkansas: the increased comings and goings of banking executives in the region. Some job changes were amicable, while others were anything but. George Waldon watches the revolving doors.

Here’s An Idea: The Harvard Business Review on the ‘Nichepaper’

Big ups to Robb Montgomery on Twitter for a link to this article on the “nichepaper manifesto.” I’m not big on buzzwords, nor am I big on manifestos, but I like the ideas described in this piece on the future of newspapers by the Harvard Business Review.

What does it boil down to? The future of newspapers lies in so-called “nichepapers,” news organizations built around “a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain — finance, politics, even entertainment” — and offering “deep, unwavering knowledge of it.”

Some examples: Talking Points Memo, Perez Hilton, Business Insider, Huffington Post. As a classic niche publication, Arkansas Business could also fit this model.

The article goes further to say that, “The 21st century news organization is a portfolio of the different kinds of nichepapers.” Here’s why:

Nichepapers are the future of news because their economics are superior. All the Nichepapers above are “real” enterprises, with staff, offices, and fixed and variable costs. Nichepapers offer more bang for the buck: greater benefits for far less cost. Readers get more, better, and faster content — while publishers realize lower capital intensity, lower distribution, marketing, and production costs, and less risk. What is different about them is that they are finding new paths to growth, and rediscovering the lost art of profitability by awesomeness.

Not a fan of phrases like “profitability by awesomeness,” either. But you get the point.

If you care about newspapers, you should read the whole thing right here, then tell me what you think. This is of course but one possible model of how news organizations might look in the near future.

More

Of course, “niche” is nothing new. Arkansas Business is a niche newspaper and part of a company that produces a host of niche products. And in November, Arkansas Business media writer Mark Hengel wrote about how “niche” is becoming an important part of the business plan for general circulation daily newspapers.

Sour Grapes: TMZ and the Michael Jackson Scoop of the Decade

Thirty-mile zone

Thirty-mile zone

After Hollywood gossip Web site TMZ first broke news of Michael Jackson’s death last week (beating the LA Times by about an hour), there’s been lots of analysis and criticism and hand-wringing about what this says about new media versus the traditional mainstream press.

Min Online rounds up recent thought on the matter:

This weekend the L.A. Times mused that the Jackson death would be a “turning point for TMZ” in getting more journalistic credibility. The New York Times took it as an occasion to give back-handed credit to the “carnivorous celebrity news Web site” for being ahead of the story but perhaps practicing questionable tactics in getting the scoop. Likewise, ABCNews frames this story as a debate over tabloid tactics. One British news organization went to the trouble of assembling a timeline and other reporting to deduce that TMZ had “guessed” Jackson’s death.

And the battle is joined. TechCrunch is quick to argue that the mainstream offline press is having a defensive reaction to being scooped.

Defensive reaction? Sour grapes is more like it. This post, by the LA Times Comments blog, asks, “What if TMZ had been wrong about Michael Jackson?” and “Have our standards for accountability dissolved?” Both valid questions, albeit undercut by cheap shots at TMZ, Drudge Report and — heck, why not? — Fox News.

But more interesting are the comments to the post, which mostly consist of readers slamming the LA Times — a daily newspaper — for getting beat by an Internet upstart then whining about it.

Some samples:

“They were not wrong. You were late and they got the story. Print newspapers are out of date.”

“The bottom line is, they were right. Somebody who knew the facts apparently told them. They have a better source in this case than you do. Get over it. Their whole world is celeb stalking. Are you surprised they had the real scoop before ‘real’ news outlets?”

“L.A. Times….and all the rest of the dying media. Just face the fact, your time has come and gone. No longer do you corner the market on breaking news. No longer do we clamor for a newsboy standing on a street corner hollering ‘Extra, Extra! Read all about it!’

“Newspapers are a dinosaur. They are slowly going extinct and howl at the meteor that is the internet as it plummets toward the earth bringing with it their extinction. The dinosaurs were not fast enough, or smart enough, to survive the aftermath. …”

So what are the lessons for the mainstream press and this new generation of news organizations on the Web? Let’s talk it over after the jump.

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AdAge: Twitter ‘Quitters’ Make Service’s Reach Limited

AdAge this week takes a look at Twitter‘s big, buzz-worthy numbers and spike and traffic, due in part to Oprah’s and Ashton’s inane Twitter campaigns. The trade publication suggests that Twitter’s reach will remain limited, because so many of these new Twitter signees have logged on because of the hype and then … well, nothing.

… the breathless [traffic] reports have not accounted for what people do after they sign up for a Twitter account. Creating a Twitter account doesn’t equal becoming an uber-user, or even a casual user, of the micro-blogging site. Nielsen Online data released today suggest more than 60% of people who sign up for Twitter abandon the service.

“Twitter Quitters” are threatening Twitter’s very survival! (You can see Nielsen’s post on the matter here.)

Of course, there’s no doubt that folks are signing on to Twitter just to see what all this buzz is about, then leaving the quirky service because they don’t get it, don’t have the time to work with it, don’t sit on their computers or cell phones all day or (possibly?) are put off by its increasingly precious nomenclature (Tweets, tweeps, twibes? Srlsy?).

There’s also the social media arms race effect, in which people, groups and companies sign on to the service just to say they’re on it. Even SEC coaches feel as if they have to tweet, even if they don’t know what it is!

Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t know if Twittering is a recruiting advantage, but he’s not taking any chances.

Kiffin opened a Twitter account recently after learning Georgia Coach Mark Richt had one.

“To me, it’s more one of those things that you don’t want anyone doing anything that you’re not,” Kiffin said. “Reading that Coach Richt had started that and had one, we just wanted to make sure that there wasn’t anything that could possibly be a benefit that we weren’t doing.”

(What? No comment from Houston Nutt, the undisputed king of collegiate text messaging? Sigh. Moving on …)

So, yes, AdAge’s report makes absolute sense. Is this a bad thing for Twitter? Not necessarily. AdAge says that if Twitter can get users to stick, then it will remain a niche service. As the employee of a niche publisher, I know that niche audiences, no matter how small, can be prized by advertisers and content providers alike. Niche isn’t bad. But it might not be what Twitter’s creators and investors are aiming for.

Meanwhile, I want to know this, Twittersphere: As we’ve seen, Twitter has legitimate uses for work, nonprofits, marketing, customer service, internal communications, emergency communications and more. But are Twitter noobs — the disciples of Oprah and Ashton — truly ruining Twitter for its power users? Are too many folks crashing the party?

Let me know in comments.