Are You A [shudder] Buzz-Snatcher

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Folio’s Simon Dumenco writes about something we’re all familiar with, but never had a term for. Being a “buzz-snatcher”. He conveys that the coinage actually came from his co-worker, Rachel Lehmann-Haupt, but I think it’s perfect!

I’d say the first “tip” is the definitive one, and should make you realize what the term means.

You’re an editor or writer at a women’s magazine and you build a fashion feature — say, a guide to “must-have handbags” — around paparazzi shots of whatever the hell the socialite du jour (such as Paris Hilton) happens to have been carrying recently.

You’re also a slacker, but hey, what do I know. If you want to create a trend, find something you like in a shop or on some random person’s shoulder downtown. Don’t wait until someone strolls down the red carpet with it. (whatever “it” is.)

Check this one out – it’s an amusing – yet true – piece.

Interview: Alan Abbey

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Today’s interview is Alan Abbey, Senior Features Writer at the Jerusalem Post. I happened to find Alan in the directory on LinkedIn, and he was extra gracious in getting back to me and in answering some of the questions below.

Alan has a Master’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Oregon, and has been in the media world since 1977. He’s acted in various roles between Business Editor to Internet Division Director for a variety of publications, including those in Oregon, Vermont, the New York metropolitan area, and in Washington, D.C. I thought that an interview with someone not based in the U.S. would give a unique perspective and an opportunity to see what trends might be similar between North America and the Middle Eastern region. [ed: just to clarify, this Q&A took place via email]

TMD: Alan, I see you’ve been very involved in multiple areas of the Jerusalem Post. How did you get started at the publication?

AA: After two high-tech media jobs in Israel came and went quickly after the late 1990s Internet bubble burst, I joined the Jerusalem Post as Duty Editor, where I was responsible for the night news desk and daily production of the newspaper.

TMD: For about nine months, you were running the Electronic Publishing division of the paper, and were responsible for many developments during that time. What were some of the larger projects or creations you were able to be a part of?

AA: I ran the JPost Electronic Publishing Division for a year and a half, and was reponsible for bringing us into a new content management system, new design, site registration, email marketing campaigns, SMS messaging service, paid content packages and content syndication.

TMD: Late last year, you transitioned to being a Senior Editor and Writer – tell me what your day-to-day is like now, as compared to when you were VP of the Electronic Publishing division? Do you like being on the “writing” side of the fence, or would you eventually like to have a strictly executive position?

AA: I guess I’ve always wanted to be Publisher of a newspaper, so I like the Executive position, but I am enjoying writing fulltime right now. The position of Senior Feature Writer gives me an opportunity to do in-depth stories about interesting people and projects in Israel that are usually outside the crush of daily, breaking news. I am doing my best to stay away from politics! There are enough people doing that.

TMD: A lot of people in the US are moving towards getting most of their news online, with newspaper being probably third in the rankings after television and the ‘net. Does this reflect the situation in Israel as well?

AA: Yes, nearly 1/2 of Israeli households are online, and Israelis are crazy for the latest news. Usually, unfortunately, it is difficult to hear, but the country is so small, everyone knows almost everyone else. So “bad” news has a broad impact. One of the most popular Hebrew news sites simply links to all the breaking news headlnies from all the other Israeli news sites. It posts 60+ an hour.

TMD: noticed that the Post has a subscription service, which isn’t very common in the US – only the New York Times and a few other papers have a lot of their articles in a pay-for-read format – how has that worked out for the Post?

AA: Virtually all of the content on JPost.com is free; some requires free registration. We experimented with pay-per-view content, and found some resistance, but also a degree of acceptance. The people currently running the web site have not been posting pay-per-view content for a while. [ed: we’ll see if there is any level of acceptance when this happens in the States]

TMD: What do you find your readers are most interested in reading about – either in the print or online edition? What stories evoke the most reaction?

AA: News of the terror war and attacks on Israelis and tourists always draw the highest readership. As for reaction, we have many provocative editorials and op-ed columns, and they receive significant response.

TMD: What’s a story that you’re really proud of being able to work on, anytime throughout your career? And as a followup, what was one of the toughest things you’ve covered?

AA: I spent four months in 1989 at a newspaper in New Jersey working on an investigative project about a local family that was extremely well politically connected, and was giving many New Jesey political figures “sweetheart deals” on housing loans and shares of stock in exchange for political favors. Six months after the stories appeared, the federal government announced a 60+ count indictment against the members of that family. Within the next 18 months, virtually all of the politicians we had written about either were out of office, indicted or in jail. This was also one of the most difficult stories to compile, because of the family’s power and strength. The toughest emotionally have certainly been the terror attacks in Israel and the death of the Columbia astronauts, including Israel’s Ilan Ramon. Ramon’s flight and death inspired me to write a book about him, “Journey of Hope: The Story of Ilan Ramon, Israel’s First Astronaut.”

TMD: If you can, give me a five year plan – first for what you see for major print publications like the Jerusalem Post, and second for where you see yourself – what would you like to be doing?

AA: I think the entire Internet will be different in five years, with almost all mainstream media content online being behind a subscription wall. I don’t think much content will be free. After all, how do they expect people to produce all of this material? Someone has to pay. The JPost is a unique entity with a worldwide audience and brand name, despite its small size. I would like to be heading up a major media organization in Israel.

TMD: Do you remember the first time you realized you wanted to be involved in the media? Do you have any mentors or people you credit with helping you get a head start?

AA: I wrote in my sixth-grade autograph book that I wanted to be a TV reporter, but I never really made it into the broadcast world. I gave up the track team to work on my High School newspaper, and I have never really done anything else. Mentors include the novelist (and former journalist) William Kennedy (“Ironweed“), who was a college professor of mine, and Harry Rosenfeld, the former Editor in Chief of the Albany Times Union, where I worked for a decade. Harry was also Woodward and Bernstein’s editor when he was Metro Editor of The Washington Post.

TMD: I also noticed that you have a book upcoming – can you tell us a little bit about it, without giving away too much?

AA: A friend and I are writing a humorous book about management, but we feel it has useful lessons for managers. It is called, “The Manager’s Guide to the Bible: Everything You Want to Learn About Business is in the Five Books of Moses.”

TMD: And finally, what advice would you give to the folks who might be interested in getting into writing, editing, and involvement in the mass media world, in three sentences or less?

AA: Do it only if you love it. Be fair. Be accurate.

I’m very pleased Alan was able to answer a few of my questions for the site, and think he brings a wealth of experience which the Jerusalem Post is really lucky to have. Many people are familiar with the JPost, and I’ve often been curious if it’s run in a similar fashion to American publications – but I realize that in the “Internet Age,” many things are quite the same – no matter where you call home.

I hope you enjoyed the interview, and feel free to send in any suggestions for people you might like to hear more about to tom@themediadrop.com.

EchoStar Dumps Viacom Channels – For Now

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Last night I was flipping channels and was spending some time on BET and MTV2 watching some videos for a bit, and a crawl came across a couple times saying that some channels, including those I was watching “might” be removed from the air. It began “Attention EchoStar and DISH Network customers…”

I didn’t really think anything of it, and thought it was one of those things that comes about when there is a contract dispute going on, but never really comes to fruition.

Then I read this article a few minutes ago about how EchoStar has dropped its local CBS channels, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon channels from its broadcast. Ugh.

Only a week and one day from the first game of the NCAA tournament, and no CBS for these customers. Will it be enough to get people to drop DISH and move to DirecTV and cable? Let’s see how long it lasts. Cablevision had issues with the New York Yankee-owned YES network a couple years back, and left Yankee fans unable to watch their team for quite some time. Reportedly Cablevision lost quite a few customers to satellite providers at that time. Could the reverse happen here – or at the very least, defection to DirecTV?

[update 10:14pm 3/9/04] The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Viacom and EchoStar “are pretty close to an agreement in principle,” as per EchoStar’s Chairman Charles Ergen earlier today.

Baseball Blogs

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

USA Today picked up an article by Peter Abraham of Westchester’s Journal News about baseball blogs, including Bronx Banter and Futility Infielder. The last paragraph says it all, when the Banter’s Alex Belth says “We’re having an impact on the discussion and that has to be taken seriously.” Ain’t that the truth. When we live in a world where Curt Schilling is showing up on message boards and after seeing the vim and vigor that Red Sox fans have for the game, he decides that that factors into him ending up in Boston, we need to pay attention.

Looking for an answer about why people blog? I’d say this is a perfect example. Someone’s “hobby” turns out to be a lot bigger of a deal than originally planned – that sums it up.

Britney Spears Still Tops

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Just read a news release from Jive Records stating that not only is Britney Spears’ “Toxic” the number one song with regard to airplay in the US, but also in the U.K., Canada, Mexico, and Belgium.

But some quick looking shows that on the 3/13 chart on Billboard, “Toxic” is dropping from #1 to #3 on the “Dance Radio Airplay(TM)”, and jumps way up from #18 to #9 on the “Hot Dance Music/Club Play(TM)” chart. The release says that “Toxic” is the first #1 that Spears has had in four years, last time around with “… Oops I Did It Again” – so for those who thought the young lady was not going to top the charts, try again.

Does Yahoo!’s Plan Make Sense?

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Yahoo! announced this week that it would be adding a cost structure and cost-per-click setup for companies that pay to be indexed in the site’s search results. By paying into this system, you would be able to be re-indexed more regularly by the system, and would, in turn, “move up” in the rankings because of you relevance.

Has this turned Yahoo! into a pay for play getup? Some people think so, and it seems that small businesses aren’t happy.

But the last paragraph is the tale of the tape, for me at least… Piper Jaffray analyst Safa Rashtchy says that while Yahoo! would lose users, it could mean 100 million a year in revenues. So again, the question is – what’s more important – loyalty to your customers or loyalty to the dollar? When you’re a publicly held company, the latter is the primary focus, as making money for shareholders is the goal. But at risk of what? This only makes Yahoo!’s results more “relevant” in the eye of the beholder. If you choose not to pay, you in turn become “not relevant”, which, in my opinion, invalidates their search results as on par with a high quality result engine.

Non-“American Idol” Gets A Shot

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Remember William Hung, the candidate on “American Idol” that was made famous by his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs”? Of course you do – he’s been made on Saturday Night Live and other shows for weeks now.

Well, thanks to fuse music network and KOCH Records, William is getting a second chance at stardom. He’ll be releasing an album entitled “The True Idol” that will include the aforementioned “She Bangs,” as well as Elton John’s “Rocket Man.” The press release also notes that Fuse will “exclusively” show the music video for “She Bangs.”

PR Newswire: 50 Years

[This item was originally posted to The Media Drop]

Fifty years ago today, PR Newswire sent the first electronic version of a news release to (a whopping!) 12 news mediums in New York. Today, PR Newswire is distributing news to a global audience in 135 countries, translated into 30 languages.

Be sure and check out this release and some interesting video spots about the service. Happy 50th PR Newswire!