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‘OREGONIAN’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Apr 10th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

via charlesapple.com

The Seattle Times hasn’t shrunk much more lately, so we haven’t used our “Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch” meme much lately.

The same can’t be said for the monopoly daily in Portland, the Advance Publications (S.I. Newhouse family)-owned Oregonian.

Like Advance’s New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Oregonian has cut back on home delivery (to four days a week).

Like the T-P and other Advance papers, it’s been corporately reorganized as a “digital first” operation.

Its shrunken newsroom staff has faced a series of management dictates to post at least three online news items per day, to participate in (and start) comment threads for each item, and to eternally chase the Almighty Pageview Count. (As if standard “content site” target analytics from circa 2008 were still valid and could still lead to profits.)

And, as of last week, the print Oregonian is now a tabloid.

They officially call it a “compact” format, but it’s the same approximate page size as the Stranger. (That’s about three-quarters the current page size of the Seattle Times.)

It has (or is capable of having) color on every page. Each section is stapled (though management vows it’s all still fully recyclable).

The acres of national/international wire stories that used to dominate the front section have been slashed into a few stories and digests at the section’s back. Local coverage is still around (including, this week, a series on workplace sexual harassment), but is far more tightly edited.

However, the paper seems to have only dropped one comic strip (Rex Morgan M.D.).

These aren’t the final changes coming to the once-venerable “Big O.”

Like many shrunken daily papers, it’s moving out of its historic headquarters building, into smaller rented office quarters.

And management has told the remaining reporters they’ll soon be judged, and incentivized, for their stories’ online pageview counts and “engagement” statistics.

Expect a lot less boring but important local-paper-of-record stuff and a lot more cute cat pictures.

FIVE YEARS AFTER
Mar 17th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

Classic P-I building from my book 'seattle's belltown;' museum of history and industry collection

I left the Missy James post up as this blog’s top item for a month, both to remember her and because I’ve been laser focused on finding paying work.

But it’s time for me to get back to the “writing” thang.

And there’s no more appropriate day to do so than on the fifth anniversary of the last printed Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The city lost a huge chunk of its soul and its collective memory when the Hearst Corp., awash in losses here and in its other print-media operations, pulled the plug on our town’s “second” yet superior daily paper.

There’s been a P-I sized hole in the local media-scape ever since.

Yeah, we’ve got the Seattle Times, albeit a shrunken one (though it’s apparently stopped shrinking any further, at least for now).

We’ve got the StrangerSeattle Weekly, CrosscutPublicola, and SportsPress NW.

We’ve got four local TV news stations (plus NorthWest Cable News), four local radio news stations, and all their respective websites.

We’ve got Seattle magazine, Seattle Met, and CityArts.

We’ve got the Daily Journal of Commerce, the Puget Sound Business Journal, and assorted tech-biz news sites.

We’ve got Horse’sAssSeattlishThe Seattle Star, and dozens of other (mostly volunteer-run) blogs covering local politics, sports, and arts.

And, oh yeah, we’ve got SeattlePI.com.

It’s still run by Hearst. It still has Joel Connelly’s acerbic political commentary, Josh Trujillo’s dramatic photojournalism, and the occasional excellent news story.

But its staff has shrunk to 14 reporters, photographers, and “producers,” down from the 20 it had at its stand-alone start in ’09. That, in turn, was a small fraction of the team the print P-I had.

That’s still a full-time payroll comparable to that of any newsroom in town, except those of the Times and the TV stations.

But it’s stretched thin by the requirement to post dozens of “click bait” and “listicle” stories every day.

Hearst is running PI.com according to the 2009 rules of a “content” web business.

Those rules, which nationally gave us the likes of BuzzFeed and Elite Daily, have proven profitable only among the most sensationalistic and most cheaply run operations that feed either on gossip, noise, or national niche audiences.

It’s no way to run a local general-news operation.

And it’s no way to pay for professional local journalism on a sustainable basis.

But neither Hearst nor any of America’s other old-media giants has figured out a better way.

So it’s become the job of us “street level” bloggers to find new rules, new concepts, to forge a new path beyond the ugly web pages stuff with worthless banner ads. To create the New-New News.

My personal bottom line:

I want a local news organization, staffed by folks who know what they’re doing and who are paid living wages.

I want it to attract an audience at least as loyal (and as willing to help support it) as KUOW’s audience.

I want it to be the first place this audience looks to to learn what’s been going on around here, in the last day or the last hour.

I want it to reach out across subcultures and social strata.

I have collected a few ideas in this regard, a few potential pieces of this puzzle.

And I’d love to hear some of yours.

WHAT’S HIGHER AND LOWER IN TWENTY ONE FO-UR
Jan 4th, 2014 by Clark Humphrey

For the 28th consecutive year (really!), we proudly present the MISCmedia In/Out List, the most venerable (and only accurate) list of its kind in this and all other known solar systems. As always, this is a prediction of what will become hot and not-so-hot in the coming year, not necessarily what’s hot and not-so-hot now. If you believe everything hot now will just keep getting hotter, I’ve got some BlackBerry stock to sell you.

INSVILLE OUTSKI
Da Vinci’s Inquest Da Vinci’s Demons
Lorde Lard
Mead Gin
Tapatio Sriracha
“Fewer” “Less”
WordPress Flash
CBS This Morning 60 Minutes
Alex Trebek retirement Jay Leno retirement
Baltimore Miami
“Relevant” “Viral”
Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) Kristen Stewart
Kacey Musgraves Brad Paisley
Formica Granite
Plum Silver frost
Oscar Isaac Johnny Depp
Mini-tacos Chicken wings
Fly Moon Royalty Robin Thicke
Saving Scarecrow Video Saving the Seattle Times
DailyKos.com Upworthy.com
Bare midriffs “Designer grunge” revival
Voting-rights defenders White people who claim “racism is over”
Elizabeth Warren “Politics by hashtag”
Venice Paris
Burien Bainbridge
Worker rights Working for “the exposure”
End of movies shown on film End of incandescent light bulbs
Games for all ages/sexes/races Macho-asshole “gamer culture”
“You better WORK!” “Because (noun)”
Erin Morgenstern Charlaine Harris
Raising the minimum wage Cutting corporate taxes
NHL in Seattle NBA back in Seattle
Binge viewing Crash dieting
Bolt Bus Airline mergers
Single-payer HMOs
Seahawks 49ers
Girls (still) Dads
Misfits Kardashians
Lovers “Winners”
“-esque” “-ski”
FORMERLY THE SEATTLE TIMES ‘NW HOMES’ SECTION
Nov 22nd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/19/13
Aug 19th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

imagined audio-book listeners on a train, 1894

Back in the early days of telephones and phonograph records (1894 to be precise), essayist Octave Uzanne claimed “The End of Books” would soon be at hand. Uzanne predicted people would much rather listen to storytellers (with what are now called audio books) than read:

Our eyes are made to see and reflect the beauties of nature, and not to wear themselves out in the reading of texts; they have been too long abused, and I like to fancy that some one will soon discover the need there is that they should be relieved by laying a greater burden upon our ears. This will be to establish an equitable compensation in our general physical economy.

Elsewhere in randomosity:

  • Our ol’ friend (and onetime print MISC zine contributor) Jenniffer Velasco is now designing clothes in NYC, and making a name for herself.
  • The Seattle Timesvendetta against Mayor McGinn just gets more petty.
  • Sadly, criminal attacks in and near Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill just keep occurring.
  • If you ever get a text from a number you’ve never heard of, claiming to be from a woman “naked and waiting” for you to arrive with a pizza at a UW dorm, it’s best to not believe it.
  • The UW, meanwhile, ranks #27 in some list of the world’s top 100 universities. Just think what could happen if it got the state funding it deserves.
  • Seattle is #2 in some list of top world cities for “economic development.” Number one: Ottawa.
  • Could Puget Sound’s seaports finally stop competing against one another, thus driving down revenues to all?
  • Would-be neo-Sonics owner Chris Hansen gave money to a political campaign that’s essentially trying to stop a new arena in Sacramento. His admission of this might or might not diminish his chances of eventually landing a franchise.
  • Is Forever 21 demoting full-time workers to part-time as a sick revenge against Obamacare, or just to be mean?
  • Is Walmart doing badly this year because it treats its workers badly, or just because downscale customers still haven’t got their past spending power back?
  • Would Obama’s proposed student-loan “reforms” just make ‘em more usurious?
  • Blogger Allen Clifton makes the simple, provocative claim that today’s “Republicans aren’t Christians.”
  • Orson Scott Card, the Ender’s Game novelist who wants you to be tolerant of his anti-gay intolerance, also wrote a little essay fantasizing about Obama hiring “urban gangs” into a personal army to make him dictator.
  • Sophia McDougall at the UK mag New Statesman says she hates the stereotype of the “Strong Female Character,” particularly in big-budget action movies. She’d much rather see more, more believable, and more different female characters (i.e., different from one another).
  • Vice magazine, onetime would-be darling of the fashionably decadent, is now partly owned by Fox.
  • Anti-sex-trafficking advocate Rachel Lloyd would really like all of you to cease using the terms “pimp” or “pimping” in any admiration-type context.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 7/11/13
Jul 10th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • Nostalgia Alert: M.J. McDermott, KCPQ’s morning weatherperson, was “Ronnie” on Roscoe and Ronnie, the last local kids’ show on commercial TV. It was axed in ’95, when KSTW’s out-of-state owners killed all that station’s local programming. Now she’s petitioning the FCC, to encourage shows like that to be brought back.
  • Roberta Byrd Barr, recently deceased at age 74, was Seattle’s first female high-school principal, and the first African-American to host local TV public-affairs shows.
  • Seattle without the original Ivar’s Acres of Clams? It could happen, for as long as nine months. It’s one of 15 waterfront businesses the City wants to pay to keep closed during tunnel construction.
  • Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch: Executive editor David Boardman’s quitting after 30 years, to work at Temple U in Philly.
  • Seattle Central Community College’s health-ed programs could move into part of the old Beacon Hill hospital tower that was once Amazon’s HQ.
  • Amazon’s getting into comix publishing, specializing (at least at first) in adaptations of Nerderati-favorite novelists.
  • Edward Snowden: Courageous whistleblower or right-Libertarian Obama-basher?
  • The Beats: Daring nonconformists or sexist dweebs?
  • UK publisher Felix Dennis sold the U.S. edition of Maxim and two other “lad mags” for $250 million. Six years later, Maxim is for sale again, for a mere $20 million.
  • A federal judge has ruled against Apple and the big book publishers in that e-book price-fixing suit.
  • Health Scare of the Week: Fish oil capsules could give men cancer.
  • Just because most people who believe themselves to be MSG- or gluten-intolerant probably aren’t, it doesn’t mean they don’t get real symptoms.
  • Take away the “hipster”-bashing headline and there’s still a potential real problem with people who decide they can’t run their backyard chicken coops anymore, and who just drop off the critters at animal shelters.
  • The Quebec oil-train disaster was caused by plain ol’ crude catching on fire, just like in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The Next Big (Televised) Thing, according to the Norwegians: “Slow TV.” Long-attention-span (or simply hypnotic) umpteen-hour, real-time explorations of train trips, knitting demonstrations, and salmon fishing.
  • After 40 years as everybody’s favorite “obscure music” band, the Residents deserve better than for have Ke$ha’s backup dancers to steal their trademark eyeballs-and-tuxedos look.
  • Back in the mid-’90s, Penn and Teller set out to create the world’s dullest and most infuriating video game. They probably succeeded.

the new yorker

LOU GUZZO, 1917-2013
Jul 3rd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

kiro-tv

Known for decades as a cranky reactionary political commentator, you might find it hard to believe he’d started as a Seattle Times art and theater reviewer.

There, and later as managing editor at the P-I, he regularly advocated for the “fine arts” as a civilizing force, a means toward furthering the region’s progress from frontier outpost to respectable conservative community.

When the Seattle World’s Fair ended, Guzzo famously editorialized that the fair grounds (to become Seattle Center) should be devoted entirely toward arts/cultural pursuits. He specifically did not want any amusement-park rides there. He lived to see them finally removed.

One of Guzzo’s closest allies in this education-and-uplifting ideology was Dixy Lee Ray, who ran the Pacific Science Center. He later worked for Ray at the Atomic Energy Commission and during her one term as Washington Governor.

After Ray was primaried out of a re-election bid in 1980, Guzzo became a regular commentator on KIRO-TV. That’s where, in 1986, he delivered a blistering attack against greasy-haired, anti-social punk rockers. (The motivation was the infamous Teen Dance Ordinance, which Guzzo supported.)

In response, a local hardcore combo called the Dehumanizers released a blistering attack on him, in the form of a 45 entitled “Kill Lou Guzzo” (which began with a sample of Guzzo’s original commentary). Guzzo sued the band and its record-label owner David Portnow. Portnow responded by pressing more copies.

After retiring from KIRO at the end of the 1980s, Guzzo started a “voice of reason” website and self-published several books.

‘OREGONIAN’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Jun 25th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

1950 front page via portland.daveknows.com

Imagine a Portlandia sketch about people desperately seeking newspapers.

For dog training and bird cage lining. For papier-maché school crafts projects. For kinetic art pieces and retro fashion ensembles. For Wm. Burroughs-style “cut up” wordplay. For packing objets d’art and eBay shipments.

But there aren’t any newspapers to be had.

Not in the vending boxes. Not in the stores. Not in the attics.

Not even in the landfills—they’ve been picked clean of ‘em.

The citizens are outraged. They form support groups. They exchange tips on where the rare newsprint can still be had.

Of course, they do all of this online.

That’s the scenario I imagined when I heard of the Newhouse/Advance Media chain’s latest cost-cutting spree.

You remember how Advance’s newspapers in Ann Arbor MI, Birmingham AL, and (most famously) New Orleans cut back their print issues to two or three days a week.

The New Orleans operation backtracked. This week it launched a tabloid called T-P Street on the regular Times-Picayune‘s off days (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday). The Street papers will be sold in stores and vending boxes, but won’t be home-delivered.

That’s the tactic Advance is taking in Portland.

First, they registered a new corporate name, “Oregonian Media Group,” replacing “Oregonian Publishing Co.”

Then they immediately posted an announcement that claimed the new entity would “expand news and information products in Oregon and Southwest Washington.”

Of course, that “expansion” is really a contraction dressed up in corporate buzz-speak.

The print Oregonian is going newsstand-only three days a week this October, with home delivery offered four days a week. (Home-delivery subscribers will get full digital access to all editions.)

And at least 45 newsroom employees are losing their jobs. That’s about 22 percent of the paper’s current editorial workforce, which in turn is a little over half of its 1990s newsroom strength. Some 50 workers are being canned in other departments.

That reduction might not be the final total; at least a few new hires will replace high-senority people taking severance packages.

If you ask whether the Seattle Times could join the trend of papers only home-delivering part of the time, the answer is “maybe but it’s complicated.”

The Times took over the Everett Herald‘s home-delivery operation. If the now Sound Publishing-owned Herald wants to keep delivering every day, the Times is contractually obligated to do that delivering.

And if the Times has drivers and paperboys/girls in Snohomish and north King counties working every morning, it might as well have them in the rest of King County.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 6/25/13
Jun 24th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

animalnewyork.com

  • We already told you about the elderly Japanese man who makes landscape art using Excel spreadsheet documents. In another example of Microsoft products and their unintended creative uses, a couple of Spanish video artists made a motion-capture erotic art clip using the XBox 360′s Kinect camera.
  • It’s boom time for chickpea farmers in Wash. state, as hummus mania takes over as America’s new snack-O-choice. Even more fun, it turns out the market for the bland beige spread’s controlled by a joint venture of Pepsi and an Israeli company. (As for myself, I have declared my body to be a hummus-free zone.)
  • Sick of the Sims? Then experience a fictionalized version of working class street-vendor existence in the locally made video game Cart Life.
  • A pair of Seattle Times guest opinionators remind you that Wash. state can’t, or at least shouldn’t, rely on importing educated workers instead of educating our own folk.
  • Some Seattle neighborhoods are getting wowzers-fast Internet service next year.
  • Eric Alterman asserts that the American populace is “much less conservative than the mainstream media believes.”
  • Arrogant, elitist, crooked mega-bankers: Ireland’s got ‘em too.
  • White House economist Alan Krueger spoke at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. His topic: how today’s winner-take-all economy resembles the old superstar-dominated rock scene.
  • Meanwhile, author George Packer claims the “Decline and Fall of American Society” began in the pre-Reagan late ’70s. But Packer blames it, in part, on the Reaganist “self-interested elites.”
  • We’ve linked previously to Camper Van Beethoven/Cracker frontman David Lowery’s blog calling for “an ethical and sustainable Internet.” Now, Lowery has posted his Pandora songwriting royalties for one of his biggest hits. It got played a million times and he got less than $17.
  • New carbon-fiber cables could lead to longer-distance elevators, which in turn could lead to mile-tall skyscrapers.
  • Mia Steinberg at XOJane offers advice on “How Not to Be a Dick to Someone With Depression“:

When you tell someone with depression that they should maybe try harder to be happy, it’s essentially like telling a diabetic that they could totally make an adequate amount of insulin if they just concentrated a little harder.

  • Finally, some pathos combined with memories of commercialized “fun,” in the form of the world’s abandoned amusement parks.

chris luckhardt via seriouslyforreal.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 5/20/13
May 20th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

capitolhillseattle.com

  • Initial designs are now out for the mixed-use megaproject that will replace (while preserving the facades of) the Bauhaus coffeehouse block on East Pine Street. Damn, that looks ugly.
  • Dominic Holden thoroughly skewers the regional political meme that roads-only transportation advocates, corporate-welfare boosters, and blockers of affordable housing somehow constitute “the adults in the room.”
  • Last Sunday’s Seattle Times depicted south King County as the region’s new nexus of “diversity.” Monday’s Times depicted the same spot as the region’s new nexus of poverty. (Note: This post originally, incorrectly, said both articles had run in Sunday’s paper.)
  • SeattlePI.com Shrinkage Watch: The thin gruel of the ex-newspaper site just got thinner with the disappearance of Casey McNerthney, who just got poached by KIRO-TV.
  • Whatever happened to the great Seattle tradition of quasi-illegal “guerrilla art”? Terror paranoia, among other things.
  • Seattle’s next best hope for a neo-Sonics basketball team: the notion that the NBA might consider an expansion team, once commissioner and not-so-covert Seattle enemy David Stern is finally gone.
  • You know the mini-scandal that Disney marketeers were transforming the heroine from Brave into the sexy princess type that, in the film, she overtly refused to be? They’re backing off from that now.
  • In The Office (US version), Staples was often name-dropped as Dunder Mifflin Paper’s biggest Goliath-esque rival. Turns out that was paid product placement. And a Staples subsidiary is now selling official Dunder Mifflin branded office products.
  • If you’ve followed the Silvio Berlusconi sex and corruption scandals, you can expect there’s a lot of colorful Italian political slang.
  • Timothy Noah insists economic inequality is as much a matter of a “skills-based gap” (i.e., the “educated class” pulling away from the traditional working class) as it is a matter of 1-percenters’ greed.
  • Earl Ofari Hutchinson invites you to continue to “yawn” at the newest batch of trumped-up pseudo-scandals attacking Obama.
  • In this digital era, one analog institution has curiously survived. I speak of shortwave radio stations broadcasting coded messages interspersed with strange musical “signature” sounds, a.k.a. “numbers stations.”
  • Creepy, kitschy Japanese pop culture continues to forge new ground with “human doll cloning,” dolls with 3-D printed scans of real people’s faces.
  • Data analysis meets film nerd-dom in a 2-D chart of which film sequels outperformed their predecessors, in terms of Rotten Tomatoes fan approval.

boxofficequant.com

RANDOM LINKS FOR 5/14/13
May 14th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

factmag.com

  • Somebody thought it would be cool to try to laser-etch a phonograph record onto wood. The result sounds a bit like the early, dial-up-connection versions of RealAudio.
  • Item: Indoor pot growing uses lotsa electricity. Comment: You mean stoners aren’t the purest-O-the-pure eco-saints? Next thing, you’ll be saying electric cars and wood stoves aren’t pure-green either.
  • Oh, Those Kids Today! #1: Monica Guzman insists today’s under-30 folks aren’t entitlement-obsessed narcissists, but rather are “people waking up to their own power and not being willing to compromise it.”
  • Oh, Those Kids Today! #2: Young adults are even driving less than prior generations. How un-American can ya get?
  • The Legislature’s special session could see a Dem-controlled State Senate again. Maybe.
  • Seattle teachers who refused to administer standardized tests have achieved a partial victory.
  • Just last week, we bemoaned the idiotic prose and strained “corporate hip” attitude of KOMO’s “young skewing” local website Seattle Pulp. Now the whole site’s dead, without even leaving its old posts alive.
  • Are the Sonics Back Yet? (Day 126): No. But we should have the final, final answer (for this year at least) on Wednesday. Don’t get your hopes back up. But hold on to the love.
  • Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Plunder thought it would just be keen n’ dandy to play tracks by Sonics-purist and Seattle’s-honor-defender Macklemore in their arena. Nope, no way, uh-uh, no siree bub.
  • Might Microsoft buy Barnes & Noble’s Nook ebook hardware operation just to kill it?
  • Amazon’s fledgling in-house book publishing operations might expand to include “literary fiction,” whatever the heck that means anymore.
  • Disappeared local institution we neglected to mention earlier: the Green Lake Baskin-Robbins.
  • Weird crime story of the week: “Woman who killed ex with insecticide-laced Jågermeister pleads guilty.”
  • It’s illegal but it happens anyway: denying employment to people for the sin of being in debt due to being unemployed.
  • Katy Evans at the Tacoma group blog Post Defiance notes how indie live music has become a more complicated, bureaucratic, and problematic biz, especially in towns like hers in the shadow of bigger towns.
  • Seattle Times Shrinkage Watch: The paper’s own reporters have to pay for website subscriptions to their own work. Except they can “opt out” of it if they insist.
  • You remember how the New Orleans Times-Picayune went to only three print issues a week? No more. They’re now putting out newsstand-only editions on the four non-home-delivery days, just like the Detroit papers are.
  • Talking into computers and expecting them to understand you has always been, and apparently will continue to be, little more than a screenwriters’ conceit.
  • Anthony Galluzzo at Salon wants you to stop the hipster-bashing already. He says it’s old, tired, and becoming classist.
  • Jim Tews, who describes himself as “a decent white male comic,” insists that most white guys performing standup are not sexist boors.
  • No, Rolling Stone readers, Nirvana is not the fifth worst band of the ’90s. That would actually be Sugar Ray.
‘SEATTLE TIMES’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Mar 4th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

editorandpublisher.com

Former Seattle Times staffer Glenn Nelson has thoughts of his own about the paper’s pending online paywall (or, as he calls it, its “digital tin cup”).

Nelson mentions how, following his Times years, he served in several “subscription-model Internet startups.”

At those places, Nelson kept fretting that the Times would suddenly wake up and smell the digital coffee, then trot out online products based on the vast manpower the paper had (at the time) in sports, entertainment, food, and business coverage, and in photojournalism. (Nelson doesn’t think a better Times local-news site would have mattered, because “general news already was being rendered a commodity on the Internet.”)

These sites, had they been created, would have blown away any indie-startup competition.

But they never showed up.

Meanwhile, news-biz pundit Alan D. Mutter dissects why many people under the age of 45 don’t like print newspapers. It’s because they’re just too inconvenient to have around.

Mutter quotes venture-capital exec Mary Meeker as claiming…

…that young people don’t want to own CDs, haul around books, buy cars, carry cash, do their own chores, or be committed to a full-time job. Instead, they use their smartphones to buy, borrow, or steal media; rent shared cars at home and book shared rooms when they travel; hire people to buy groceries or cut the grass; and use apps from Starbucks and Target to pay for lattes and redeem coupons. Many of the digital natives even prefer short-term gigs that allow them to arrange their work around their life, rather than arrange their life around their work.

Actually, many younger (and older) adults would like full time jobs if there were any around to be gotten. But that’s beside the point here.

More important is Mutter’s observation that…

…The warmed-over digital fare offered by the typical newspaper falls well short of the expectations of two whole generations of consumers who are not only empowered by technology but also damn well sure of how to get what they want.

‘SEATTLE TIMES’ SHRINKAGE WATCH
Feb 25th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

So it has come to this. The Seattle Times, unable (just as most all metro dailies are unable) to survive on shrinking print-ad volume and meager online-ad revenue, is resorting to the “paywall.”

Starting some time in mid-March, full access to the Times website will be restricted to paid subscribers.

Print subscribers will get full online access. Online-only subscriptions will be available at $3.99 per week (following an initial discount). That’s higher than the Sunday-only print subscription price, at least within King County. This is undoubtedly devised to prop up the paper’s print numbers, particularly on ad-flyer-heavy Sunday.

In announcing the paywall on Sunday, Times executive editor David Boardman wrote that the money’s needed “to support quality journalism.” The essay’s comment thread, natch, is full of wags snarking that “quality journalism” is worth paying for but the Seattle Times isn’t.

Even more than some metro dailies, the Seattle Times has painted itself into this corner, over many years.

It’s held to a bland, institutional ethic and aesthetic; even as its average reader became older, squarer, and whiter than the metro area’s overall demographic.

Its editorials hewed as close to a GOP party line as the Blethen family dared, in a solid-Blue city.

Faced with ever-declining revenues, it chose not to “reinvent” itself. Instead it became an ever-smaller version of its same-old same-old.

One issue this past month hit a new low of 22 pages (the bare minimum under its current design).

If there’s anything I’ve learned in my many years of studying the media, it’s that if you want to be “supported,” you’ve got to make people actively want to support you.

A thin assortment of lifeless stories about the ritual dances of politicians and corporate press releases ain’t gonna accomplish that.

(Meanwhile, one national commentator claims paywalls aren’t really working so well for non-national, non-business-centric papers.)

RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/30/13
Jan 30th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

ap via nwcn.com

  • Just like at the Ballard Locks, Oregon’s Willamette Falls is plagued by salmon-hungry sea lions. Local officials’ answer? “A boat crew armed with seal bombs and shotguns loaded with firecrackers.”
  • Seattle Times headline labels “art” as a waste of state taxpayer money, right up there with legislators’ dry-cleaning bills. This is not the sort of objective reporting of which the Times claims to be a last bastion.
  • You want real spending waste, in a project about, well, waste? Then look no further than Seattle Public Utilities’ new south end transfer station, still not ready months after its ribbon cutting.
  • Another stupid shooting in another local nightspot. How utterly gross. (Here’s news of the benefit for the bar bouncer’s recovery.)
  • I seem to have found out about this story in progress, but the UW’s Women’s Action Commission has created its own theater piece in the tradition of The Vagina Monologues. Only this all-new work is called The ___ Monologues. The title is apparently an attempt to make the work “more trans-friendly.”
  • The Yankees don’t like A-Rod anymore.
  • Marijuana industry trade associations are now a thing.
  • The Wall St. Journal says Microsoft wouldn’t have to take a majority stake in Dell in order to have  a pivotal degree of influence in the beleagured PC maker.
  • The newest version of MS Office comes in a “cloud based” subscription version, which seems to essentially require you to have a never-interrupted Net connection (and, of course, to keep paying).
  • Boeing’s global-outsourcing craze is now, more or less officially, a “disaster.”
  • We must say goodbye to Regretsy, the site that pokes gentle fun at kooky craft products. Its operator April Winchell (yes, Dick Dastardly’s daughter) said the site’s concept had run its course (“now we’re just Bedazzling a dead horse”).
  • Last week, Twitter launched a new streaming-video site called Vine. The premise is people posting six-second, repeating GIF videos. Yes, it’s already been used for porn, and for people taping themselves taking bong hits.
  • Barnes & Noble plans to close perhaps 20 percent of its stores over the next decade. So much for the guys who were supposed to be taking over the industry and driving all the indie quirkiness out of the book biz.
  • Someone’s written a long, detailed critique of the cinematography in Les Miserables—in the character of the Incredible Hulk.
  • “Rei” at Daily Kos wants you to reconsider the Fox News story from last week about Iceland’s official baby-names list.
  • Speaking of which, while my masses-bashing “radical” leftist friends like to imagine Fox News as “the most popular TV channel,” its ratings among adults under 55 are the lowest they’ve been in more than a decade.
  • Jeb Boniakowski at The Awl would like a mega-McDonald’s in NYC’s Times Square, that would serve everything the chain serves everywhere else but not in this country.
  • Public radio’s idea of “humor,” at once bland and cloying, reaches a new nadir in a Chicago station’s make-believe plea for its listeners to breed more public-radio-listening babies.
  • Headline: “Ex-NFL player charged with beating boyfriend.” Comment: Yes, this is still what it takes to acknowledge the existence of gay athletes.
  • Jim Nabors had been rumored to be gay ever since his days of sitcom stardom. Now he’s finally publicly proclaimed it, by getting married in Seattle.
  • The NY Times has discovered something that’s been going on around here for some time—the “permanent temp” economy.
  • One of the last of its kind in the region, the Valley 6 Drive-In Theater in Auburn, will not reopen after its most recent seasonal shutdown. Even sadder, its longtime manager Kieth Kiehl passed on shortly after the decision to close was made. Both will be missed.

beth dorenkamp via grindhouse theater tacoma

I WANT TO RUN THE ‘WEEKLY’ AND SAVE NEWSPAPERS
Jan 29th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

chris lynch, seattlest (2010)

Seattle Weekly now has new owners and a new office in Pioneer Square, not far from where the paper had begun way back in ’75.

And it’s going to have a new publisher and a new editor. Those guys announced their respective departures just after Sound Publishing took over the title.

I’ve sent in my application to be the Weekly‘s next editor.

I told them they shouldn’t consider me if they just wanted someone to supervise more shrinkage, with the occasional formal nod to “social media” and online platforms.

But if they wanted someone who would fight to make the Weekly matter to this city again, I’d be their person.

David Brewster’s original Weekly team vowed to bring us, as one of their ad slogans put it, “the news that actually matters.”

That goal can be revived.

The Weekly can be a lot more than just another freebie collection of entertainment listings and medical-pot ads.

It can be the “grownup” alternative to the Stranger; the seriously progressive alternative to the Seattle Times; the street-wise alternative to KUOW.

Think of the pre-cutback versions of Willamette Week and the NY Observer. Papers that treated their entire cities, and everything that occurred within them, as their “beat.”

Imagine a news/opinion organization that makes the right kind of noise, that afflicts the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, that answers the questions and questions the answers.

Not just another formulaic “alt weekly” but a full service forum where anything can be discussed and there’s always something new.

That’s what I want to help create.

It would be far easier to create that entity from the Weekly‘s existing staff, circulation, and ad accounts.

But if not, then a startup.

People ask what I want to really do with my life. That’s it.

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