Calling all NU journalism majors

If you are a journalism major at a university other than Northeastern, please look the other way for a moment.

Placeblogger is looking for two interns at its office in Cambridge. Headed by Lisa Williams, the project tracks local blogs across the country and around the world. It’s cutting-edge stuff, and you’ll learn a lot about the future of journalism.

Check out the slideshow. And just do it.

GlobeReader makes a quiet debut

With little fanfare, the Boston Globe has unveiled a “preview” edition of GlobeReader, an attempt to produce an online newspaper that offers a better experience than the Web version. GlobeReader is slick and highly readable. Save for subtle differences in the fonts that are used, it looks exactly like Times Reader 2.0, which the New York Times unveiled last month. Both are built on the Adobe Air platform, which allows developers to build applications outside the context of the Web.

Unlike Times Reader, which you can subscribe to as a standalone product for $14.95 a month, GlobeReader is free but available only to print subscribers. You do not, however, have to be a seven-day subscriber — a Thursday-through-Sunday or Sunday-only subscription is sufficient.

That’s probably a smart move. Knowledgeable people have told me that more than half of the Globe’s advertising revenue comes from the Sunday paper. Still, Globe spokesman Bob Powers says that could change.

As for what we can expect once GlobeReader has moved beyond the “preview” stage, Powers writes:

We’ve chosen the term preview edition to reflect that GlobeReader is a brand new product for us, and to a large degree the industry, which we will continually improve based upon reader feedback. We want to make sure the customers help shape future editions. We are also opening GlobeReader Preview Edition only to subscribers because we do want to hear from our most loyal readers.

We also expect to add features such as crosswords, ‘news in video’, a ‘latest news’ update, and ’email to a friend’ in the upcoming weeks/months, as they become available.

[F]or formatting reasons we are not including features such as comics, TV grids, weather, and sports box scores. We will look to add these features to a large degree based on reader’s priorities.

A friend who works at the Globe told me recently that GlobeReader is actually a bigger technical challenge than Times Reader because of some peculiarities in the way the Globe is assembled. So I’d give it some settling-down time.

So what’s the business strategy? It seems to me that it’s a hedge against people canceling home delivery of the Globe altogether, especially now that prices have gone up quite a bit. The Globe benefits if people at least hold on to Sunday delivery; it may also benefit from not having to pay the printing and distribution costs of the considerably less lucrative Monday-through-Saturday editions.

It’s an interesting strategy and, combined with other delivery platforms, such as the $9.99-a-month Kindle edition, may help chart a path out of the current mess in which the newspaper business finds itself. Such projects are not going to be nearly enough, but they could help.

Globe gets ready to unveil GlobeReader

Thanks to rozzie02131, who discovered that an e-version of the Boston Globe will become available next month. Called GlobeReader, it will presumably be based on the same Adobe Air platform as Times Reader 2.0, which was unveiled earlier this week.

No word on pricing. The come-on says that it will be available with “all Boston Globe home delivery subscriptions.” If that means Sunday-only print customers can get it for free, that would represent quite a savings.

But being able to buy a separate GlobeReader subscription for $10 or $15 a month, as you can with Times Reader, would be better.

Quality control (or not)

If you click here, you’ll see that New York Times columnist Ross Douthat is in the paper today.* But he doesn’t show up if you choose the “Today’s Paper” feature. Nor will you find him if you read the paper using Times Reader — which, after all, is a paid product.

Even before the new version of Times Reader came out, I noticed that David Pogue’s Thursday technology column, “State of the Art,” was generally missing.

If the Times is serious about charging people for certain types of enhanced online access, it’s going to have to do better.

*Correction: Well, this is really stupid of me. Several readers have written in to point out at Douthat simply wasn’t in the print edition today. D’oh! Looks like Media Nation is experiencing some quality-control problems.

Times Reader 2.0 is a big step up

I’m trying out the new Times Reader software. It’s based on the Adobe Air platform, so there are no longer separate Windows and Mac versions. I was ambivalent about the previous version, but Times Reader 2.0 is faster and more attractive.

The new version abandons the Times print-edition font — too fussy for the computer screen — with what appears to be Cambria, an excellent choice. Photos are better integrated. Videos are part of the mix. Scrolling is smoother. You can even do the crossword puzzle on your computer — something you were supposed to be able to do on the previous version, though I couldn’t get it to work on my Mac.

The questions remain: Where does this fit in the hierarchy of news products the Times offers, and does it point the way for other papers? Times Reader costs $3.45 a week. It’s definitely a faster, smoother read than the regular, free Web edition, and, once you’ve downloaded the paper, you don’t need a WiFi connection to read it.

But free is free. In addition, the Times Web edition is a livelier place, with more ads (perhaps that will change as Times Reader gains in acceptance), blogs and other extra content. In addition, if you’re a blogger and you want to post something you see in Times Reader, you have to leave, access the Web edition and find the story again in order to grab the URL.

On the other hand, Times Reader really does offer a superior online reading experience. You’re more likely actually to read the paper rather than just skip around. And it’s a lot cheaper (we get the Sunday print edition delivered, so there’s no extra charge for us) — not to mention more environmentally friendly — than the print edition.

Might there come a day when the Times and other papers can dump their print editions and instead offer various paid electronic versions via Times Reader, the Kindle and the like? I don’t know. But I do know that Times Reader 2.0 is a huge improvement over its predecessor.

Platform angst

I’m seriously thinking of switching to WordPress.org so that I can bring my various Web sites under one roof — Media Nation, “Little People” and DanKennedy.net.

Pros:

  • WordPress has nicer templates than Blogger, so I should easily be able to come up with a better look than I’ve got now.
  • I’ll be able to use my own domain name.
  • I can set up static pages so that each of my different online projects will be in one spot.

Cons:

  • I’ll have to pay $6 to $10 a month for Web hosting. Not bad, but free is free. (I can’t use the free WordPress.com service because it forbids advertising.)
  • I can use dankennedy.net or media-nation.org as my main domain name, but the one I really want — medianation.org — is already taken.
  • I’ll need to put in some time getting up to speed technologically, and I really could put that time to better use.

So I don’t know. If you were me, what would you do?

Re-Kindling the Globe (II)

Recently I threw some numbers around regarding the possibility that the Boston Globe could give away the Amazon Kindle to its home subscribers and shut down its presses.

Today, Media Nation reader M.G. points to this Time magazine story about a new, bigger Kindle that’s in the works and that might be ideal for displaying newspaper and magazine content. Yesterday, the New York Times reported on other e-readers that are being developed.

The challenge, needless to say, is to come up with an experience so compelling that people will be willing to pay for it rather than click around the free Web edition. For it to work, you need a critical mass who really want to read the paper, as opposed to spending 10 minutes grazing the headlines during their lunch hour.

Gmail and its discontents (II)

Problem solved, although not the way I would have liked. I’m now using Apple Mail to pull in my Northeastern mail (via POP) and Gmail (via IMAP) separately. I’m able to use Northeastern’s SMTP server off-campus as well as on. So all of my outgoing NU mail contains official-looking header information, and will thus not be intercepted by anyone’s spam filter.

Oh, well. Apple Mail’s not so bad, I suppose.

Gmail and its discontents

It must be the season of technical difficulties.

I use Gmail for everything. I’ve set it up to pull in my Northeastern e-mail, and I have an alias that allows me to send mail via Gmail as if it were coming from my Northeastern address. Gmail isn’t perfect, but it’s better than anything else.

Today, though, I sent an e-mail to a colleague at Northeastern. It never arrived. I tried again. No luck. Finally, I sent the same message using my Gmail address. Bingo — she got it immediately.

What I had run into, I strongly suspect, was a hyperactive spam filter at her end. The filter saw that my incoming e-mail address did not match the underlying Gmail information in the header and flagged it as spam. (The theory is that I must have been faking my outgoing e-mail address, and so therefore was up to no good.) I’ve run into this very occasionally before, but not quite so directly.

Now, of course, I’m wondering how many other e-mails I’ve sent to people at Northeastern that never arrived. I’ve contacted the IT folks to see if there might be a solution that doesn’t force me either to stop using my NU address (unprofessional) or abandon Gmail for NU business (undesirable). But I’m not holding out a whole lot of hope.

Any thoughts?

NewsTrust J-hunt: The final five

My stint as host of NewsTrust’s journalism topic area comes to an end today. Here are five stories I submitted this morning:

I could write an entire post on the last item, but I’ll just say this: Stewart is perhaps the best and most important media critic we’ve had since A.J. Liebling.

His dissection of CNBC’s Jim Cramer last night — as well as his two eight-minute pieces lampooning the so-called experts of CNBC (here and here) — will have, I predict, a major and well-deserved negative effect on the network.