Cable Sees Its Worst Subscriber Loss, Which Makes Perfect Sense

Cable suffered its worst video loss, shedding 711,000 video subscribers in the second quarter, as six of the eight biggest cable firms reported their most dismal three-month period. Overall, cable, satellite TV and telecom providers shed 216,000 video customers in Q2 compared with a 378,000 gain in the same period a year earlier.

SNL Kagan estimates that almost 3 million U.S. households will use Hulu and other Web TV options as their primary video solution by the end of the year, up from 1.5 million in 2009. For 2011, the company expects that figure to hit 4.3 million. (There are about 115 million TV households in the States.)

– Cable’s decline an incentive for Yahoo, Hulu deal

This has been a long time coming, of course. People can only put with with subpar customer service and expensive, overstuffed channel packages for so long. Add to that the rise of Web-enabled TVs with apps that allow streaming from Netflex, Vudu, YouTube and Hulu and you’ve got all kinds of reason to dump traditional cable.

Mad Men on iTunes

No AMC? We've decided 'Mad Men' is worth paying for, so we get new episodes via iTunes.

Here’s how it’s been working at my house this summer after a move necessitated dumping Comcast. Now we get the four major networks, in HD, and any of their secondary digital channels over-the-air via digital antenna for free. We supplement  that with an $11 per month Netflix subscription, which gets us one DVD or Blu-ray at a time, plus unlimited streaming of Netflix’s Watch Instantly library.

We access streaming content via our Samsung Blu-ray player, which comes equipped with a Netflix app, along with other services like Wal-Mart’s Vudu, Blockbuster, Pandora and YouTube. It’s connected to the Web with our $35 per month SuddenLink high-speed Internet access.

Any other shows we’re missing, we can always connect the MacBook Pro to the TV to access iTunes content or, really, anything else out there for free on Web.

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Rolling Stone, the McChrystal Story and the Web

Rolling Stone

The McChrystal piece, as it finally appeared on RS' Web site.

For the first time in maybe a generation, Rolling Stone has published a series of relevant, well-reported news stories and gripping analysis pieces. Matt Taibbi’s searing series on the Wall Street bailout and Goldman Sachs comes to mind, as well as Tim Dickinson’s recent report on the Obama administration and the BP oil spill.

And of course the latest is Michael Hastings’ profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, which is focusing new (and necessary) attention on the war in Afghanistan and might very well cost the general his job. (We’ll know the outcome of that storyline later today. Now we know: McChrystal out, Petraeus in.)

Too bad RS doesn’t know how to handle all this newfound relevance on the Web!

As I noted on the comments board today at Blake’s Think Tank:

The bigger story here? Rolling Stone, relevant again! The latest in a string of stories — including Matt Taibbi’s series on Wall Street and Goldman Sachs — that has made real waves.

Interestingly, RS appeared unprepared for the type of attention the story would generate. The feature wasn’t on its Web site until today (or maybe late yesterday), and only after Politico posted a PDF of the spread, which has yet to hit newsstands. (Politico eventually took it down after RS complained.)

That’s right: When the “story about the story” broke early Tuesday morning, you couldn’t find the RS piece on its Web site. In fact, most people read about it first in accounts by The Washington Post (linked to by Drudge) or — amazingly — in a PDF of the RS spread hosted and tweeted by Politico.

Like many legacy media companies, Jann Wenner’s Rolling Stone has had an awkward go of it in the transition to digital. Primarily a music magazine, Rolling Stone’s Web site hasn’t kept up with how music has flourished online — sites like Pitchfork, Idolator, Stereogum and dozens of others have become the go-to destinations for music news, reviews and downloads. The latest iteration of its Web site, RollingStone.com, doesn’t get it much closer.

And this week, RS and its staff missed a huge opportunity to capitalize on the buzz its editors should have known the McChrystal piece would generate. By the time RS finally posted the story to its site late yesterday, most people had likely read the Politico PDF or, worse, felt they had gotten enough about it in the countless summaries and news reports.

And now that the story is posted, the press and readers have moved on to the next part of the narrative: McChrystal’s meeting with Obama and his fate as general. Will RS follow up on what its story hath wrought? They say they will. But they haven’t yet. Clock’s ticking!

Meanwhile, writer Michael Hastings has been making the media rounds, answer all kinds of questions about the story — how he reported it, the access he had, what he thinks about its reception. Why hasn’t Rolling Stone done this? Why haven’t they owned all parts of this story?

As Talking Points Memo notes, Rolling Stone squandered a huge opportunity with this story. Hopefully its editors learn from their mistakes, and we’ll refrain from using the “gathers no moss” cliché.

More

Michael Calderone, now writing for Yahoo!, has an assessment of RS and the news cycle here.

The Nieman Journalism Lab on how Rolling Stone’s late start on its own story cost it comments, reader interaction. (Thanks Emily!)

Making Online News Work in Small-town Arkansas

It’s happening. Someone people are doing it. We’ve noted the Fayetteville Flyer, Ozarks Unbound, the CityWire and others. And this week, Arkansas Business media writer Sam Eifling checks in with two other online-only news sites: the MagnoliaReporter.com and MonticelloLive.com,

which has received 1.7 million page views during the past year. Its growth tickles Joe Burgess, who has owned and run the site since October 2007.

After three years on MonticelloLive.com, Burgess is convinced his style of coverage is sustainable, and here to remain as a competitor to the local paper (the Advance Monticellonian, in this case). “Convenience stores, instant coffee and faster information,” he says. “It’s all the same concept.

Right now, they’re small operations. But they’ve got the right idea: covering intensely local news intensely, offering readers news they can’t find anywhere else, even in the competing print paper.

Also

TolbertReport.com teams with InsideSaline.com and MySaline.com to present a day of debates by candidates in local elections.

Killing the Pass-along: Slate’s Jack Shafer on the New York Times Imminent Paywall

Slate media writer Jack Shafer assess what little we now know about the New York Times’ plan to install a metered paywall on its hugely popular Web site, NYTimes.com.

According to a memo from Times publishers, the site will allow nonsubscribers a certain amount of free article views per month before shutting off access to full articles and asking for some sort of payment or subscription.

The plan is similar to once in practice at the Financial Times. And like the Financial Times paywall, there’s likely to be lots of ways around the New York Times’ paywall and — take note amateur hackers — Shafer spells out most of them in his Slate article.

But whatever the Times does, the question all publisher must ask themselves is this:

… [I]s deterring readers in the New York Times Co.’s best interest? Newspaper publishers have traditionally encouraged free riders. Every newspaper or magazine rate sheet I’ve ever seen crows to advertisers about the phenomenal pass-along rate of their paid circulation. One paying customer, they’ll boast, equals three or four or even five readers! Now comes the Web era and the publishers suddenly want to exile “pass-along” readers?

Journalism doesn’t have an access crisis. It has, like Shafer points out, an advertising crisis. Hm. That sounds familiar.

More on the Paywall

Felix Salmon thinks NYT will offer 15-20 free stories per month, with subscriptions of between $15/month, $99/year [Reuters]

A metered system allows the Times to “maintain not only visibility on the Web, but also still participate in selling a mass audience to advertisers.” [NYTimes’ Media Decoder Blog]

Washington Post Publisher: No paywall for us [NPR]

Newspaper Survey Shows Online Subscriber Numbers for Democrat-Gazette, other Wehco Papers

After the jump, some top-level stats rounded up in survey by ITZ/Belden Interactive, out now and available here for purchase.

The survey, billed as the first of its kind, took a look at daily newspapers that have some kind of paywall around newspaper content. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, of course, is among newspapers in the country to put most of its content — and all of its daily print content — behind a wall to subscribers only.

First some random notes, then the full chart after the jump:

Online subscriber numbers – Back in May, we noted Mark Potts’ reporting of DG Publisher Walter Hussman’s comments at the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association. At the time, Hussman claimed, according to Potts, that the DG had signed up about 3,400 subscribers in about seven years of its locked-down model. The latest numbers from ITZ/Belden now put that number at about 3,500. Growth? It depends … on stuff we don’t know about!*

Other Wehco newspapers – This is first time I’ve seen any online subscriber numbers for other newspapers under the Wehco umbrella. According to the survey chart after the jump, the online sub numbers for DG sister papers are: El Dorado News-Times: 292; Camden News: 110; Banner-News: 89. (Wehco’s Hot Springs and Texarkana newspapers weren’t included in the report.) In terms of percentage of print readers subscribing to the online product, all those smaller papers perform better than the Democrat-Gazette, according to the chart.

That whole northwest alliance/joint venture thing – Probably isn’t reflected in this study, with the online news merger of the northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Stephens Media papers only taking place just recently.

Whey ITZ/Belden included these newspapers in their survey – I have no idea.

Now, on to What It All Means:

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Molding Young Minds at UALR High School Journalism Day

Much thanks to the Sonny Rhodes and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for inviting me to speak during two sessions of UALR’s annual Journalism Day event, which took place Thursday.

Andrew DeMillo of The Associated Press gave the event’s keynote address on “Why Journalism Matters,” and other session leaders included Frank Fellone of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Kelly Kissel of the AP and Malcolm Glover of KUAR-FM, 89. 1, the Little Rock NPR affiliate.

I spoke in two sessions, the first on “Why Your High School Newspaper Needs to Be Online,” and the second on ” … So You’re Online, Now What?” The students were great and asked some solid questions.

I also took the opportunity to ask some questions about teen media habits. And needless to say, everything you’ve heard about how teens engage (or don’t engage) with media is probably pretty close to true.

  • Most of them don’t read newspapers — less than half of the 20 in my first session said they read the local daily on a weekly basis, and none of them read it daily.
  • Many of them said they spend at least 4 hours a day online. One student said he’ll often spend half a Saturday online.
  • They text message one another like crazy. When I told them about a study that showed the average teen sends 2,000 texts a month, many told of numbers double that. And because they’re heavy texters, their parents are, too. One student said his Mom sent 5,000 messages one month.
  • Facebook is the hotness, but MySpace is dunzo.
  • They watch TV, but usually while surfing the Web.
  • Many of them say they read magazines.
  • Oh — and none of them Twitter.

None of their high school papers were online, but a couple of schools seemed poised to invest in the Web soon. One of the big concerns for students and their advisers was finding a way to fairly moderate reader comments.

In all, it was an enjoyable session. Despite the turmoil that traditional media (newspapers, TV, radio) find themselves in, I still believe it’s an exciting time to be a journalism student. The possibilities the Web offers young reporters and editors are boundless. No longer are students defined by the medium for which they work. On the Web, the lines have blurred, and they can each be involved in writing, video, photography, audio production, Web programming and more. And given the current state of media, with all the economic and organizational challenges that exist, they have a chance to help reshape the profession as it asserts itself on mobile and online platforms.

It’s a thrilling time for those kids, and 14 years out of high school, I’m a little envious.

Video: Google News Offers Tips, Best Practices for Editors, Publishers

This 15-minute video is totally worth your time if you’re a publisher, editor or Webmaster looking to optimize your news content for Google News. In it, Maile Ohye of Google talks about best practices and answers frequently asked questions about how Google News crawls, indexes and ranks news stories in Google News, an important (and controversial) hub of breaking news content and a significant driver of traffic to news sites.