The Weekly Illumination — Issue 6

Welcome to the the Weekly Illumination, a JTM newsletter offering a quick look at the week in journalism with a focus on what’s working in today’s news ecology. The Illumination is a curated collection of stories about journalism innovation, notable job opportunities, grants and updates about Journalism that Matters.

The newsletter is distributed to e-mail subscribers, through the JTM Google Group, and posted to the Illuminations blog. In this week’s Illumination we’ll look at native advertising, changes to the law governing how start-ups are allowed to raise money, and further explore how to cultivate an engaged audience committed to civility.

The engagement principle

In the latest installment of her series on the emerging news and information ecosystem, Board Member Peggy Holman looks at how journalism is more powerful as a two-way conversation and presents a list of tips that anyone can use to improve engagement on their Web site. 

New York Times repeats same mistake after 25 years

In 1988, the New York Times reported that Mario and Luigi, the beloved Nintendo characters, were employed as janitors. Somehow the Times managed to make the same mistake when it published its obituary for Hirsohi Yamauchi, the former president of Nintendo when it quoted the 1988 article. While the person responsible for the first mistake was likely unfamiliar with the Super Mario Brothers, whoever made the mistake last week probably grew up playing the games.

The search for civil comments

Online comments have become a part of almost every news site and with online comments comes trolls and other abusive behavior that can make meaningful conversation impossible. In this week’s column for The Illuminations Project, I look at how Popular Science has abandoned comments and examine research into creating a more civil space for users to participate in journalism.

Is “branded journalism” an oxymoron?

More and more ad copy is being written by working journalists employed by news organizations. It’s often referred to as native advertising or branded content, but a story on this week is using the term “branded journalism” to describe Ideas Lab, a Web site owned by GE but populated with content from Atlantic Media.

But with branded content increasingly meaning a path of survival for failing news publications, the burgeoning form is pushing to encroach further into the rest of the editorial content, as Michael Sebastian reports in Ad Age.

The newspaper business through the eyes of Google

During a presentation in Italy, Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, described the realities of the newspaper business with such clarity that Matthew Ingram headlined his story: Google’s Chief economist understands media better than some industry executives do.

“What sorts of ads can a newspaper show next to a “pure” news story on an earthquake in Haiti or a bombing in Baghdad? “Pure news” has very high social value to interested readers, but has low commercial value due to the difficulty of showing contextual relevant ads,” said Varian. “Traditionally, newspapers made money from ads in the finance section, home and garden, automotive, entertainment, travel, classified and fashion sections. Why? Because that’s where advertisers could target readers interested in those subjects.”

The more you sell the more you make

There are two ways to make a profit as a business with products to sell. You can sell a lot of the same product, or you can sell a few of many many different products. Traditionally newspapers have essentially had only one thing to sell, but the New York Times and the Washington Post are about to lead a charge of news outlets offering more things for people to buy, says Ken Doctor at Nieman Lab.

The events business has helped a number of publications to thrive. The Texas Tribune stands to bring in more than $1 million this year from events alone, reports Justin Ellis for Nieman Lab.

The new journalism site Beacon has an interesting business model that rewards writers’ entrepreneurial efforts while hopefully creating enough money to help the 23 well known writers on the site make their rent each month. To learn more check out Caroline O’Donovan’s article at Nieman Lab.

New rules allow startups to beg for change

Until now, it’s been illegal for startups to ask investors to bankroll them, and companies were limited in how they are allowed to discuss their fundraising activity. Now the rules have changed and startups can actively solicit investors through the Web or other public channels.

Job(s) of the Week

Nate Silver’s, which is now owned by ESPN, is looking for a managing editor.

For the past 75 years, the Nieman Foundation has offered one-year fellowships. Applications are still available.

Each week, The Illumination will include links to jobs, grants and fellowship opportunities. If you are hiring or know someone who is, send me an e-mail and I’ll gladly list it here. If you’re looking for a job, let me know what kind of work you are looking for and I’ll try to post anything I come across that could be a good fit.