Rumour of the week

Grazia magazine is going completely, 100 per cent online. The weekly “high-end” fashion publication, which launched with much fanfare (and at much great expense) has failed to set the world on fire since it hit the stands in July last year. Granted it’s timing was pretty poor, but it can’t be a cheap mag to run, what with its roster of very expensive journos, many of whom were poached from newspapers (newspapers generally pay better than mags, meaning they would have had to at least match those salaries). And with fashion advertising tanking in the last six months, methinks it’s loss-making time.

Moving online, of course, doesn’t mean Grazia will instantly become a super, profit-making success, but it’s a cheaper medium and online advertising should bounce back quicker than print. Of course, they’ll have to do some work on the site. Like most hosted by the travesty that is ninemsn, it’s a miserable, unwieldy shambles. Good luck!

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The SMH is increasingly irrelevant. Obviously.

It’s probably beneath me to take aim at gossip columns, whose barrels are positively bursting with fish, but The Sydney Morning Herald‘s Stay In Touch page is now the most ironically named section of any newspaper anywhere in the world. It’s very likely that by reading this poor man’s Sydney Confidential you are likely to be rendered instantly less in touch with Sydney and indeed the rest of the world. It’s gone the way of all bad gossip columns, becoming little more than a clearing house for entertainment stories that didn’t quite make the cut in the news pages.

Yawn.

Survival strategy #438: sharing content?

A story on foliomag.com says rival US newspapers have begun sharing stories to cut costs. There’s some logic to this. News stories are pretty portable. In their purest, unvarnished form they should be free of editorialising and bias; merely a logical presentation of raw facts: something happened; this is the result; this is what one side side; this is what the other side said. Pretty simple really.

But the story goes one step further, suggesting that magazines could also share content. I’m less convinced about this, although it does depend on the type of magazine. The example they use is Time and Newsweek – two weekly news magazines. Again, we’re talking about news content, and again, I don’t really see a problem. But can you imagine, for example, Marie Claire and Madison running the same story in the same on-sale? Or Men’s Style and GQ just agreeing to run the same fashion shoot?

The difference between monthly mags and daily newspapers is the level of craft that goes into each. Newspapers are all about file and forget; magazine staff – from writers, to designers, to sub editors – will agonise over every word and every page, tweaking, adjusting, second-guessing over a period of weeks and sometimes months. It’s that process that gives each magazine its originality; that makes people choose one title over another very similar title.

Content sharing? I just don’t see it.

Facebook will eat your soul

In addition to miserable bankers and panicky retirees, the global financial crisismeltdowndisaster thingy also means that the Web 2.0 revolution is probably over. No money means no entrepreneurial appetite on the investment front, so don’t expect another Twitter or YouTube in 2009. Besides, did any of these user-driven, social networking sites actually make any money? Nope. MySpace was snapped up by News Limited and made its creators a wad of dough, but has the media behemoth managed to actually generate revenue from it? Not so much.

Facebook also only generates a few hundred mil a year in banner ad revenue but has yet to turn its enormous database of consumer info into an income stream, despite the obvious appeal of such info to marketers. But all that looks set to change with Facebook Connect, a “content network” that allows you to carry your Facebook profile with you as you search the web. In otherwords, if you go to, say, Amazon, and buy a book, that purchase is recorded on your profile so that your friends can learn of your purchase. But even more powerfully, because the website you’re browsing actually knows who you are (your Facebook profile, silly!) it can target ads directly to you. Wow. There’s money in that. Billions of monies.

Here’s a pretty switched on blog by a pretty switched on blogger on the subject.

Biting the hand that fed you (mmm… yummy!)

Check out this bitter, snarky editorial by former Sydney Confidential gossip aggregator Fiona Connolly. In it she describes Sydney’s party set as “lazy, vacant, hedonistic, self-indulgent, boring people with nothing to talk about but their own dull selves”. And she’s right! But these are the same people Fiona – once a party scene regular, now a moany, “kids these days, grumble, grumble” housewife and occasional op-ed scribbler for The Daily Tele – used to spend hours hanging out with, doubtless helping them hoover the cocaine their fanastically plastic boobs helped pay for. Without these vacuous fuckheads, Syd Con wouldn’t exist and Fiona would have had to settle for a far less glamorous news round – and a far lower profile.

So I now present Fiona Connolly with the inaugural Forgetting Which Side Her Bread’s Buttered On Award for dumping a steaming load of invective on the very people that made her career. Nice work Fi!

2009 resolutions

Yep, things sure do suck for print journalists at the moment. Our medium is “evolving” – dying, perhaps. No one wants to pay money for news anymore and those of us in the magazine world, where news value is less important, are watching circ plummet and ad revenues dry up.

Now, I’m a glass-half-empty kinda guy most of the time, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to sit back and wait for my position to be downsized. 2009 is the year that every journalist, in every medium, should be broadening their skills base, working their contacts like mad and making themselves invaluable.

How do you do that? Personally, I’m going to embrace new communications technology. And I mean really embrace it. Facebook, Twitter, blogging, online video – all these things are real and happening. And it’s not just kids posting status updates and videos of themselves lip-synching to Kanye West. In the US, these are bona fide business tools. People – journalists – actually make good livings in the online world in the States, and use their online success to spin-off into lucrative print-world gigs. Not the other way around.

So, my plan this year is to blog like mad. Create a range of blogs on different topics and see what works. Some may take off, others may wither and die. It would be nice to think that by the end of 2009 at least one of my blogs builds a regular audience and that I can perhaps use that to generate some kind of ad revenue.

Here’s an excellent post by Suzanne Yada summarising what she thinks journalism students – yes, that’s you, regardless of your experience – should be doing in 2009. It’s spot on.

2008: The year of stuff happening

Here’s a really great story from PBS’s Mediashift, summarising the 10 biggest media stories and developments of 2008. Something that kind of passed me by was the emergence of fact-checking sites – independent sites holding news organisations to account and, in some cases, breaking their own stories. Everyone thinks they’re a bloody journalist…