June 23, 2017

Technology Industry Extends a Hand to Struggling Print Media

But more frequently — and with a boom last week, when Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, bought The Washington Post — the tycoons who have led the digital revolution are giving traditional print outlets a hand.

Call it a sense of obligation. Or responsibility. Or maybe there is even a twinge of guilt. Helping print journalism adapt to a changed era is becoming a cause de jour among the technology elite.

Google, which has been criticized for profiting from news content created by others, began financing journalism fellowships for eight people this year. The founder of Craigslist, the free listing service that helped ruin newspapers’ classified advertising, helped finance a book on ethics for journalists.

A co-founder of Facebook, the social network many young people rely on for news, recently bought New Republic magazine, and the founder of eBay, another classified ad killer, started an online news service in Hawaii. Steven P. Jobs, the former Apple chief executive, went out of his way to advise newspapers how to adapt their products for the tablet era.

“So ironic,” Les Hinton, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, wrote in a Twitter post last week about Mr. Bezos, that The Washington Post “should be consumed by a pioneer of the industry that almost destroyed it.”

Technology industry leaders, who “deal in fact and code,” are supporting the press because they value it, said Merrill Brown, director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University and the former editor in chief of MSNBC.com.

“They’re concerned about where the country is going and share a commonly held point of view that what we do is important for democracy,” said Mr. Brown, who is also a partner at the venture capital firm DFJ Frontier.

This union of the press and digital patrons is sometimes awkward. For starters, tech moguls seem to do their best to stay as far away as possible from the news media’s prying questions. Mr. Jobs was famously prickly around the press, while Mr. Bezos has shunned all interviews about his purchase of The Washington Post except for one — with The Washington Post.

Technology’s helping hand has mostly been extended to newspapers and magazines. And some tech-focused companies, like Yahoo, have long been involved in the news business, hiring their own reporters and editors, setting themselves up as direct competitors to traditional news outlets.

On the business side of newspapers, executives have done little to hide their suspicions about the technology companies that are reaching out. Several years ago, while Mr. Hinton was publisher of The Wall Street Journal, he described Google as a “vampire” sucking the blood from newspapers because of how it aggregated news articles on its Google News site.

Frank A. Blethen, the publisher and chief executive of The Seattle Times, scoffed last week at the overtures Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, had made to journalism causes. “He clearly disrupted classified advertising,” Mr. Blethen said. He added dismissively about Mr. Newmark’s efforts in journalism ethics, “and now he’s portraying himself in this public policy realm.”

Many critics of the newspaper industry say its predicament is its own fault for allowing upstarts like Craigslist to outflank it with better methods for advertising automobiles, rental apartments and other merchandise.

Mr. Newmark declined to comment on why newspaper officials blamed him. He said he supported journalism initiatives — media ethics and fact-checking are two pet causes — because he valued news he could trust. He said he was not even convinced that Craigslist had hurt newspaper classified advertising.

“I’m still waiting to see any hard evidence for cause-and-effect,” Mr. Newmark said. “I’ve been paying attention for a long time.”

Mr. Newmark said he donated $42,000 to the Poynter Institute, a journalism school in St. Petersburg, Fla., to host a seminar related to a book Poynter recently published on journalism ethics and for the development of a related Web site.

Brian Stelter contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/12/business/media/technology-industry-extends-a-hand-to-struggling-print-media.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Axel Springer’s New Focus on Digital Draws Cries of Betrayal

BERLIN — The publisher Axel Springer’s role in Germany’s postwar history — from building its high-rise headquarters close to the Berlin Wall to antagonize the Communist authorities on the other side to denouncing the student movement in 1968 — has earned it respect and disdain in equal turns.

What has never been disputed since the company’s namesake, Axel Springer, founded the company in 1946 with a daily newspaper and a program guide, is the publisher’s role as a bastion of print media in Germany, and more recently, Europe.

So when the publisher announced on July 25 that it was selling off two regional newspapers and several magazines to focus on digital products, the news was met with howls of outrage and accusations of betrayal from German commentators and reporters.

“The company is in the process of transforming itself from one of Europe’s most renowned publishers to a conglomerate concentrated on digital media,” the German Journalists’ Association said in a statement.

“Journalism? Not with us,” the left-leaning daily Taz, a longstanding rival of the more conservative Springer publications, wrote in a headline about the sale.

The print media in Germany have been largely immune to the upheavals that have racked the newspaper industry in much of the world, retaining more than 45.5 million readers, or slightly more than half of the population in 2012, according to the Frankfurt-based group Media Analysis.

So that a leading publisher could divest itself of several of its most traditional printed publications in the name of an electronic future was as shocking for many here as the Graham family’s decision to sell The Washington Post to Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, the online retail behemoth.

Springer said its decision to sell the regional newspapers Hamburger Abendblatt and Berliner Morgenpost, the popular Hörzu TV program guide and several women’s magazines was very different from the Grahams’ decision to sell The Washington Post.

“We sold moneymaking publications to a traditional publisher,” said Tobias Fröhlich, a spokesman for Axel Springer. “For us, it was a question of where we saw the potential for growth.”

The sale of the Springer publications to the Funke MedienGruppe, previously the WAZ Gruppe, for about 920 million euros, or $1.2 billion, still requires approval from Germany’s antitrust authorities.

For Springer, the growth lies in digital media. The company operates several online portals, including the real estate site ImmoNet.de, the StepStone online employment market and a shopping site.

Springer insisted that journalism would remain at the heart of its business. The sale, the company said, would allow its two main publications, Bild and Die Welt, to grow, partly by expanding its presence online through multimedia and digital storytelling. Together, those publications made 514 million euros in profit for the company in 2012 and accounted for about 15 percent of total sales.

The company’s actions increasingly reflect the shifting focus on the digital world.

Last year, Bild sent its editor in chief, Kai Diekmann, to Silicon Valley to make contacts with the heads of major digital media firms. He even exchanged his tie and slicked-backed hair for a much more tech-friendly look, complete with hoodie and a beard.

The company announced its plans in May to build a Media Campus near its Berlin headquarters to house its digital subsidiaries and to attract and train young reporters in digital media.

Last week, several Springer publications allowed Google to display parts of articles on its news search pages, despite a new copyright law that took effect Aug. 1.

But the bankruptcies of the news service DAPD and the daily Frankfurter Rundschau last year, as well as the closure of The Financial Times Deutschland, has raised concerns among the German news media.

“They are worried about their own future,” The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote about journalists in an article that explained the hopes that had been pinned on Axel Springer’s chief executive. “With Springer’s split from its newspapers and print magazines, an illusion has also burst: the illusion that Mathias Döpfner and his company could show the industry the way in how to bring old newspapers and print magazines successfully into the digital era.”

On Tuesday, while German publications were more muted in their lamentation over the sale of The Washington Post, Die Welt lauded the move. In an editorial published online, it compared Mr. Bezos to the leaders from the Industrial Revolution.

“Today customers want to be participants, they want to have control and make decisions for themselves,” Die Welt wrote. “Now, Bezos is beginning to review structures in the news business that date from the 19th century. The decision is not premature.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/07/business/media/axel-springers-new-focus-on-digital-draws-cries-of-betrayal.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Amazon’s Tablet, Kindle Fire, Undercuts iPad’s Price

But Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chief executive, has another word for it.

“I think of it as a service,” he said in an interview on Wednesday. “Part of the Kindle Fire is of course the hardware, but really, it’s the software, the content, it’s the seamless integration of those things.”

Amazon is counting on its vast online warehouse of more than 18 million e-books, songs, movies and television shows, as well as access to a selection of Android applications, to help it beat competitors like the iPad and the Nook from Barnes Noble. Previous Kindles were only e-book readers with black-and-white screens.

The access to content is important as Amazon transforms its business into a digital retailer and responds to consumer demands for mobile devices, lest it wind up in a retail graveyard like Borders, a former peer.

“It will appeal to a different set of customers who are magazine readers and cinema fans,” Mr. Bezos said.

The other advantage Mr. Bezos is counting on is price: the Fire will sell for $199 while the cheapest iPad sells for $499. Amazon began taking orders for the Fire on its Web site on Wednesday; it will start shipping them Nov. 15.

Mr. Bezos took the stage on Wednesday at a news conference held in Manhattan to show off the Kindle Fire. The tablet, which weighs less than a pound and can fit comfortably in the palm of a hand, builds on the company’s popular line of e-readers.

Amazon is hoping it appeals to a broader audience that also wants to browse the Web and stream music, movies and video from a mobile device. The Kindle Fire also has access to a virtual newsstand that includes content from magazines like Wired, Vanity Fair and Cosmopolitan.

Amazon custom-built the Fire’s mobile Web browser, called Amazon Silk, so that it loads media-rich Web pages faster by shifting some of the work onto Amazon’s cloud computing engine, called EC2. “It’s truly a technical achievement,” Mr. Bezos said.

The Kindle Fire’s 8-gigabytes of memory is capable of storing 80 apps and either 10 movies, 800 songs or 6,000 books. The tablet also includes a free cloud-based storage system, meaning that no syncing with cables is necessary.

The Kindle Fire is missing some things the iPad 2 has — most notably, a camera and a microphone for video calls. The Fire can send and receive data only over Wi-Fi, not cellular networks.

The device’s $199 price tag is less than half that of many tablet computers on the market, including the HTC Flyer, which also features a 7-inch screen but sells for $499 at Best Buy. The Kindle Fire will also compete with the Color Nook e-reader, developed by Barnes Noble, which has enjoyed healthy sales at $249.

Amazon can afford to charge less because it hopes to make up the difference by selling books, movies and popular television shows. Customers may also be more inclined to pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime, which gives them access to Amazon’s movie streaming service and free shipping, which in turn, encourages more shopping at Amazon.com.

Because Amazon sells its family of Kindle devices through its own Web site, it does not need to share revenue with another retailer. And in most states, customers do not have to pay sales tax on those devices.

“If you price your products in such a way that no one can compete with you, that has to be a good thing in the end,” said Scott Devitt, an analyst at Morgan Stanley.

On Wednesday, Mr. Bezos also introduced two new touch-screen Kindles, and a slimmer monochrome-screen Kindle, that range in price from $79 to $149.

Apple has secured a strong lead in tablets, selling more than 29 million iPads in the product’s first 15 months on the market. Mr. Bezos says that he expects shoppers will put both Kindles and iPads in their carts.

By entering the magazine-selling business, Amazon has also planted a flag in a digital marketplace that has so far been dominated by Apple.

With another player — particularly one that is as large and influential with consumers as Amazon — magazine companies could suddenly find that they have a useful bargaining chip when it comes to negotiating with Apple.

The price of magazine subscriptions on the Fire are higher than what readers would pay in print. Condé Nast, publisher of magazines like GQ, Vanity Fair and Glamour, is selling most of its publications for $20 a year, nearly twice what it charges in print.

Jeremy W. Peters contributed reporting.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f45297928cdbe6f6901a7e013d447f0c