Monday, March 21, 2005

Stupid publisher tricks

While the new media companies are busily building their bulging content portfolios, legacy publishers are going around shooting themselves in the feet.

It's only Monday, but we already have three great contenders in this week's Stupid Publisher Tricks Competition.

Stupid Publisher Trick No. 1

Agence France Presse is suing Google for $17.5 million for unauthorized use of its stories and photos in Google News. While everyone else in the world is desperate for higher rankings on Google, AFP has goaded Google into removing direct references to its service from its news listings.

The lawsuit, it should be noted, occurred nine years earlier than predicted in the terrific Googlezon video described earlier in this space. Steve Martin once noted that the French have a different word for everything. Wonder what they call "fair use"?

Stupid Publisher Trick No. 2

The Jersey Journal is hoping to solve its circulation slide by moving to a tabloid format from a broadsheet. Circulation of the 138-year-old newspaper today is barely a quarter of the 100,000 copies sold 30 years ago.

We hope it works, but, as we learned long ago at the Chicago Daily News, makeovers -- even extreme ones -- won't change the demographic and economic forces bearing down on traditional newspapers. Arguably, the people most devoted to the newspaper are the least likely to be impressed by the switch to a tab format.

Before the Journal runs out of readers altogether, management would be wiser to focus on developing relevant new products and services that can be delivered efficiently via new media.

Stupid Publisher Trick No. 3

The Wisconsin State Journal is selling access to its top editors to advertisers of a new monthly business journal that will start publishing in April in Madison.

Advertisers who pony up an additional $5,000 will get six guaranteed audiences per year with the publisher, senior managing editor, editor and business editor of the Wisconsin State Journal, according to the rival Capital Times.

"Doesn't smell right to me," said Jim Baughman, the chairman of the journalism department at the University of Wisconsin. "One wonders, where's the separation of church and state?"

Enough said.


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