From Newsplex at the University of South Carolina
Vol. IV No. 2 (August 1, 2006)
Commenting on Convergence
By Jordan Storm, editor of The Convergence Newsletter
Tasked with sharing their perspectives of convergence and new media from their respective countries, in this issue Juan Carlos Camus reports from Chile and Vincent Maher from South Africa. A review of their pieces provides the opportunity to contextualize convergence in the global arena. David Hazinski of the University of Georgia also shares a piece critiquing convergent broadcast journalism perspectives.
This issue marks the end of my tenure as the editor of The Convergence Newsletter. Thank you for allowing me to participate in this ongoing conversation on convergence. I would also like to thank those of you who have contributed to the newsletter or e-mailed me with comments, suggestions and/or questions — your input was invaluable. My work with this newsletter has been a constant pleasure.
Please welcome Melissa McGill, the next editor of The Convergence Newsletter. Melissa is working toward a Master of Mass Communications degree at the University of South Carolina. She will resume coverage of international issues in the October issue of the newsletter; the September issue of the newsletter will explore convergence and community journalism.
If you would like to highlight your country’s convergence and new media practices in the newsletter, contact Melissa McGill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
View past newsletters at http://www.jour.sc.edu/news/convergence/.
Jordan Storm recently finished her thesis and is set to receive her Master of Arts degree on August 5, 2006 from the University of South Carolina. She will begin her doctoral studies at Syracuse University this fall.
Multimedia, Web-phone convergence taking off in South Africa
Advances in online journalism in Chile: New trends in online journalism are changing the way people consume news
Emerge, Don’t Converge
Announcements: Ethics, Religion and New Media to Converge in Newsplex Conference
SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference
Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media
Multimedia, Web-phone convergence taking off in South Africa
By Vincent Maher, Director, New Media Lab, Rhodes University School of Journalism & Media Studies
The South African news media are currently experiencing a period of rapid growth and internal investment, in terms of both money and faith from business managers. This growth, which started in late 2005, can be attributed to a steady increase in advertising revenues and, in some cases, profits.
Matthew Buckland, publisher of the Mail & Guardian Online, says its advertising revenues have grown 600 percent since 2003 as a result of internal restructuring particular to his site, increased readership and stronger online advertising market conditions. This has led to improved investment in internal staff and resources and the ability to expand into new areas like blogging, podcasting and the launch of their paid-content mobile delivery system.
"Many online media operations in South Africa are profitable, or near to profitability, for the first time since the crash. Ironically, many are now faced with a need for re-investment to take advantage of the growing, changing online environment, which will again put pressure on the bottom line," he says.
The Sunday Times, South Africa's largest weekend newspaper, has recently introduced video journalism onto its Web site, following the success of its citizen journalism product, reporter.co.za, which has gathered a loyal following in the six months it has been operating.
"It's opened up the media house to the interactivity of the Web and its audience has noticed. Multi-media stories and reader interactive forums are topping the 'most read' list on the Sunday Times Web site each week. A consequence is that print reporters are increasingly embracing the medium and filing reports exclusively for online that go beyond traditional text reports," said Editor Juliette Saunders.
Current construction of a multi-media production studio shows the group's content to push digital initiatives and further online/mobile convergence is set to be launched within months.
This week has also seen the launch of 24.com, a multimedia portal for the largest player in the South African media market, Media24 Digital. The portal mixes traditional news media with new media formats like blogs, photo galleries and instant messaging. The launch of 3G mobile broadband has brought with it myriad new converged online services like the recent availability of 14 television channels, including Sky News, available via Vodafone Live, a 3G mobile service.
In a recent presentation to the South African national Editors' Forum, Rachel Stewart from the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) told an audience of editors that mobile is increasingly becoming the key area of focus for their online operations.
The topic of debate at that meeting was media convergence and the future of multimedia journalism in the country and, while it seems that the commitment is there to begin expanding the job descriptions of online and traditional media journalists, there is also a shortage in terms of multimedia production skills.
There are several arguments against newspaper expansion into the multimedia field right now. The first is that multimedia production will place additional strain on production teams who currently seem overworked. Secondly, what remains to be seen is whether or not multimedia formats can be monetized as easily as current online media forms.
The obvious solution is to develop fully integrated multimedia advertising but this is largely based on the skill-sets available at advertising agencies. It has taken several years for South African online publishers to establish credibility with media buyers. They have done this largely through the formation of the local Online Publishers' Association and the implementation of a standardized traffic auditing system across all member products, via Nielsen/Netratings.
This standardization, which will be particularly difficult to implement in multimedia formats where each implementation is potentially different, has enabled publishers to standardize the shape and size of advertising so that advertisers can develop a single ad for multiple sites.
The mood, however, is buoyant within the industry and many an online unit is about to take on more staff, and multi-skilling and multimedia are at the top of the list of requirements as the country comes closer to hosting the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
Vincent Maher’s Blog can be accessed at
Advances in online journalism in Chile: New trends in online journalism are changing the way people consume news
By Juan Carlos Camus, new media consultant for usando.info in Santiago, Chile and contributor to Poynter Online
While working as a researcher at a documentation center, Claudia used to keep her cell phone on for the purpose of making and receiving phone calls. Today, as a journalist for new media, she uses her mobile in a different way, as a newspaper, as well as to look how her own work has been transmitted.
Claudia is part of a group of journalists in Chile working in new media outlets that are quickly becoming established media. The reason behind the growing importance of this market is the critical mass reached by cell phones in the country. With 15 million residents, there are 11 million active cell phones in Chile, translating to a lot of people able to receive news, messages, photos and videos.
For television networks such as Televisión Nacional (a public television network) and TVUC (the most important private television network), radio broadcasters such as Cooperativa, and newspapers, the idea of delivering content feeds through mobile phones is becoming commonplace, but it needs more than a little push to become reality.
Rodrigo Guaiquil, a well known local consultant responsible for digital content at local media networks including La Tercera, said when the popular newspaper La Tercera began offering multimedia messages through the mobile network this year, they didn’t expect what happened. “We at the company and the phone operator were surprised because of the good results of the whole operation.”
Surpassing all expectations, La Tercera’s experiment quickly became profitable. “From the first month of operations it has been a success,” explains Guaiquil.
The root of their surprise may be the changing business model: customers are used to paying for everything they get on their little screens. For journalists who made their first steps as Web site content creators, this is very different from delivering free news content.
Oscar Pasten is content manager for Cooperativa, a radio network covering almost the entire 3,000-mile-long Chilean territory. He says multimedia messages through mobile networks have created strong new revenue streams. “This is a new business model and we are just getting used to doing the things that return money from the very first minute.”
Successful Chilean media experiments
It all began with contests related to soccer matches. Using cell phones, audience members could send text messages trying to guess who would be the winner or the best performer at a game. To participate audience members had to pay; in return, they got a chance to win money. For example, during the recent soccer World Cup, there were many contests related to guessing the final results of important matches broadcast locally.
But as those contests have become a routine convergence between phone and TV stations, media outlets in Chile have continued to move beyond using the mobile platform. One example is TVUC’s morning new broadcast. On the “3 by 3” news morning show, which is broadcast from 6 to 7:30 a.m., audience members can send text messages that show immediately as a text strip on the bottom of the television screen. And if their phones (and their wallets) allow them, audience members can send photos from their mobile phones that appear on the television screen as a part of the TV program.
Changing the way journalists work
Guaiquil said La Tercera is trying to produce content once and then reuse it many times. “You can transfer the same contents from the Web to other platforms.”
In other organizations, content needs to be adapted before it can be repurposed. An example of this is El Mercurio, the most traditional newspaper in the country. El Mercurio now enables audience members to post comments on its site, from editorial letters to comments about the passing of a bill in the Chilean Congress.
As in the case of Claudia — who is working now for the next generation of readers who prefer getting their news on the little screen of a mobile phone — journalism is changing, enabling audiences to get the news whenever and wherever they are.
Emerge, Don’t Converge
By David Hazinski, Head, Broadcast News, Grady College, University of Georgia
Principal, Intelligent Media Consultants, LLC
At a wedding reception a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that our school, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia, was considering “convergence” to a high ranking CNN executive. He replied, “Doesn’t that word just make you sick? You’d think they’d understand that was yesterday’s trend.”
I’ve heard similar reactions from many industry folks. To them, “convergence” is putting together print, broadcast and Web operations into one newsgathering engine. In academia, many administrators believe it is teaching students everything through new departments that combine all three distributions. There are several reasons in particular that broadcast managers dislike the word and the idea:
=There is no industry model. Years after we began talking about the concept, there are only a half dozen examples of attempts at convergence, none successful enough to convince other companies to take the plunge. On the academic side, it means “preparing” students for “everything media” but with no tight set of specific skills, an oxymoron for professional education.
=There is a lingering cultural issue. Many newspaper people simply don’t like broadcast news. They think it is cheap and theatrical and don’t want to be part of it. Cooperation is only grudgingly given. The Web is an unattractive, geeky second cousin they don’t understand.
=While both print and broadcast gain advantages from Web-based expansion, broadcasters really get little out of a marriage with print. Broadcast folks don’t end up working in print very much, so it is basically a one-way street, not a partnership. This, despite broadcast news’ position at the top of the technological food chain. A broadcast story can be made into a print, Web or radio story quite easily. The same can’t be said for a Web or print story.
=The issue isn’t “print and broadcast and the Web,” The issue is the Web or, more specifically, Internet-based distribution. Print and broadcast are both rapidly losing audience to online journalism. Dozens of studies say this isn’t just about distribution but a migration to a different kind of journalism, one that addresses smaller, more discreet rather then mass audiences. Convergence doesn’t address that trend.
=And, it is a “bean counter” issue, not a journalistic one. It really doesn’t improve coverage or attract viewers or readers; it just cuts expenses and may actually reduce quality and drive the audience further away. Dick Moore, former vice president of the News Division at Cleveland’s WKYC, now on the broadcast journalism faculty at the University of South Carolina, put it well. Writing about the multi-tasking needed for “convergence” in the May Convergence Newsletter, Moore wrote, “In spite of best efforts, there are only so many tasks that can be accomplished at one time.”
=I have some intimate knowledge of what Moore is talking about. In the last seven years, our consulting company, Intelligent Media Consultants (intelligentmc.com), has helped train journalists and assist with the design of six national television network launches overseas. Four of them are majority owned by print companies. The owners and executives are very smart media managers who run major organizations and study the business. None are “converged.” All these news networks are not just successful, but very successful, both economically and journalistically.
There is a great deal to be learned from these launches that speaks to the issue of convergence or perhaps against it if it is narrowly defined. Here are the top lessons:
=Multi-tasking, a cornerstone of convergence, has its limits. For years, I was one of the advocates of the “one-man band” approach to news coverage. Not any more. While my company continues to train journalists in all aspects of news production, we no longer advocate the concept alone. The “one-person orchestra” as I like to call it, because it now involves women and other “instruments,” has its place. There are many stories that one person can cover for print, TV, radio and the Web, but not all stories and often not well. The real key is the one Dick Moore pointed out: one person can’t do all of those jobs for all of those outlets in the same amount of time. They need more time to perform more tasks. It’s a simple point many plans miss.
=There is no real advantage to “convergence,” but there are some areas that can be leveraged. HR and business functions, ad sales, graphics and some asset management like archives can work across media within an organization. Consolidating coverage on major stories across media can result in better content. But jamming every news operational function together hasn’t shown itself to be a trend worth following, particularly because of newsroom culture.
=When news pioneer Ken Tiven and a group of consultants started the now defunct Orange County Newschannel, the country’s first 24/7 local news operation about 12 years ago, I worked with the excellent Orange Country Register newspaper staff on convergence, essentially trying to get them to think of broadcast as an outlet that could serve them and their audience better. My most memorable moment came when a reporter stood up in a meeting and said, “We not only don’t want to do this, we want to NOT do this. We will make you fail.” Now that’s an attitude you have to pay attention to! Newspaper colleagues tell me it hasn’t gone away.
=The best way to create a new newsgathering organization for an audience that is moving is a “foundation up” approach, not a realignment. Much of what is written about convergence is an attempt to transition traditional print or broadcast operations so that they include Web-based media. The newsroom culture issue and institutional atrophy make this far more difficult than starting from scratch. Much of the thought that has been put into convergence has been aimed at maintaining existing news organizations as they already operate while getting more out of staffs and migrating its work to other media, essentially double dipping. This does not address the reasons why we have a constantly declining number of readers and viewers. That itself needs examination. The overseas news executives our company works with know convergence isn’t the cure for these problems. That’s why they started new news organizations based on television news but including the Web.
=The solution these media executives found overseas may not work here, in Western Europe or in some other parts of the world because of the much larger bouquet of news products across media available in first world countries. So what would? An approach different from what we are doing now, one both the industry and academia need to find.
=The print and broadcast industries, or at least the major players, need to invest in creating some working models, preferably cooperating with academia to make sure conclusions are well researched. Newsplex at the University of South Carolina is a great tool, but a somewhat lonely one. The news industry has generally not invested in new ideas or ways to find them. These businesses that have traditionally made massive profits have spent little to nothing on experimentation and it is coming home to roost.
The new models can’t merely be patterned after existing Web sites or the latest trend like blogs. The models, however, do have to have some similar characteristics:
=They should be created from scratch, not grown out of existing operations. There is too much of a tendency to do things the old way, what our consulting company calls “the rubber band effect.”
=They should include all aspects of a project, not just the planning. Technology, training, advertising, staffing, promotion, sales and everything else involved with a media outlet are inter-related. For instance, we now recommend that our clients work with us to train new staffs built from new hires, and not bring in particularly broadcast veterans (except for top managers).
=The projects should be “real” commercial enterprises, i.e. they should aim at an audience and try to reach it everywhere it lives … via radio, Web, print and TV and should be run as businesses. This can be done in a college town, a target suburban county, or a region of the country but it needs to be compared to traditional outlets to gauge progress.
=They should produce a discreet, differentiated product. Our company’s biggest mantra is to offer something readers or viewers can’t get somewhere else. It has to be appreciably different and valuable to be successful. This will mean a significant advertising effort so that viewers and readers can find it.
=They should be computer server based. We are running television channels on what used to be inexpensive small business level computers. This results in much lower capital budgets, which means lower debt service, which means a quicker break-even and money spent on training staff instead of capital. Besides the economic incentives, once content is in a server, it can be directed to different media very easily. As a result, revenue and expense models are now very different.
It should be tracked from the very start by academic researchers. These folks are very, very good at research yet most often perform industry irrelevant analysis for obscure academic journals. Their great ability should be used to find the trends and issues. The research should be economic as well as social.
We’re late to the game. The research shows the audience is already well on its way to the Web and individualized news coverage. Converging print and broadcast organizations is not going to stop that trend or help us survive. What will is creating a new offering that can be delivered over multiple media outlets to specific audiences with relevant content. We need more information to help develop the information products to do that and continue to lead. Media corporations need to step up, put their money where their mouth is and create entirely new information systems that can match news and information collecting and processing systems to new audiences, commercially viable models that capture the audience’s attention and earn its respect.
Academia has an even more precarious balancing act to perform. Teaching the next generation of journalists to report in all media will result in them having little market value. Students must be equipped with professional skills that will allow them to walk into a specific industry newsroom and perform a job. A broad-based liberal arts type communication education won’t deliver those skills nor meet the requirements of professional education. It would be like training a doctor to know a lot about different kinds of health but not equip him or her with the skills to cure anyone.
Journalism schools have to change their programs so that they include two tiers: core journalism knowledge including such subjects as law, ethics, basic reporting and newsgathering, media business, and technology taught without industry bias, and then a second tier where students can specialize in one form of media or another. This second tier must include “hands on” training, the best way to learn anything. Only a combination of these two tiers will allow them to know about the various forms of media and also get a job in journalism and do well.
The challenge is greater in academia because there are more factors opposing change. All professional education focuses on socializing students as well as teaching job skills or root knowledge. This would have to change in the first tier. In addition, academia’s own faculty would have to adjust to the new market by major realignments, something they will be reluctant to do. And finally, this new kind of journalism education will mean more time learning the skills and more money on equipment, always a problem for colleges.
Neither academia nor the news industry has a choice though. We both have to change now. The handwriting on the wall is in six-foot-high day-glow letters outlined in neon. If we don’t create the engines that deliver news and information the way the audience wants it and values it and train the professional journalists to staff the collection and distribution of that information, we will make ourselves irrelevant.
Ethics, Religion, and New Media to Converge in Newsplex Conference
Theme sessions on convergent journalism, ethics and new media highlight the agenda for the University of South Carolina's annual convergence conference, which will take place October 19-21, 2006 in Columbia, S.C. A sampling of paper titles demonstrates the range of issues explored in the conference: "Is Religion the New Sex?," "Comparing Ethical Models of Mass Media Content to Blogs and Mobile Media Ethics," "Creating Cyberfaith: The Interpretation of American Buddhism Via New Media," "Lost in MySpace: The negative news about social networking sites like Myspace, Friendster and Facebook in Mainstream Media," "What Editors Want From New Journalists: Converging Skills or Old School Standards?," and "A Feminist Approach to Convergence."
The theme of the conference, "Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media" was reflected in the wide range of submissions accepted for the conference. As in previous years, the conference features multiple sessions addressing trends in media convergence and convergent journalism, including sessions on technologies, community journalism and contemporary issues.
The conference kicks off Thursday afternoon, October 19, with a theme session that includes presentations exploring issues surrounding ethics, new media and education. Friday’s sessions explore religion and convergence, including one full session of papers addressing the relationship between blogs and religion. The conference closes at noon Saturday, October 21 with a session combining papers related to teaching convergence and new technologies. The preliminary conference agenda has been posted on the conference Web site: http://newsplex.sc.edu/newsplex_con06.html.
A pre-conference Newsplex training seminar will provide an introduction to simple software for creating Flash presentations for Web sites. Registration is available at no cost to conference attendees, but registration is limited to the first 15 individuals requesting the workshop. (E-mail Augie Grant: email@example.com for more information on the workshop.)
The conference keynote speaker will be announced in late August. The conference is open to any academic or industry professional. Registration for the full conference is $125 and full information on registration and the conference hotel can be found on the conference Web site: http://newsplex.sc.edu/newsplex_con06.html. For more information about the conference, contact Augie Grant via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803.777.4464.
SPJ Convention & National Journalism Conference
August 24-26, 2006
Chicago, IL USA
University of South Carolina College of Mass Communication and Information Science and Newsplex
Convergence and Society: Ethics, Religion and New Media Conference
October 19-21, 2006
Columbia, SC USA
(Editor’s Note: Please forgive me for my blatant puffery, but this is my last issue so I feel a bit bold)
Called “a driving force behind important questions regarding journalistic integrity driving multi-platform news delivery,” The Convergence Newsletter was recently mentioned by Sam Ford on the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium’s Web site.
---------------Publisher and Editorial Staff
The Convergence Newsletter is free and published by The College of Mass Communications and Information Studies at the University of South Carolina.
Augie Grant, Ph.D.
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