Facebook is the path to Krypton

Will Richardson posted an interesting link today. The link tells us that Facebook is growing by 600,000 users a day and that a lot of those user are over 25. Many are over 55.

Thinking about how many people are jumping into social networking — which is, in a way, a substitute for real world networking — got me thinking about the planet Krypton, Superman’s homeworld.

If I’m remembering my lore correctly (and recent plot lines in the comic series may have changed this), Krypton was a barren and cold place whose inhabitants isolated themselves in their homes, eschewing physical contact with other people. Physical contact and even meeting in person was distasteful and only done when necessary. (See also E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops”)

Is Facebook a gateway to this? Will we become so distanced from our natural world, so lost in the virtual one that we forget our connection with the world around us and eventually let mad scientist/dictators destroy our planet, leaving only a single survivor rocketing toward safety on some distant, habitable world where he will grow up to become a champion for truth and justice?

I’m just saying it’s possible. That’s all.

Optimism for a change

Jim Stovall at JProf is an optimist when it comes to the decline of newspapers and the rise of new news media.

His recent post tells us that we can expect the new crop of editors and publishers to recognize that news is decentralized and that it will have to respect its audience more if it wants to attract an audience in the digital age.

He also writes that journalism will improve, as the need for quality reporting and writing will only improve when the market become saturated with thousands of competing news sites.

It’s refreshing to hear an optimist, but then again, Stovall doesn’t even approach the topic of money in this particular post. How a news organization will pay for itself remains a question firmly up in the air, if that can even be a phrase.

The 24/7 newsroom in a small city

I’ve been reading articles lately, especially one by Steve Yelvington, that say that once a Web-focused newsroom wakes up to the idea that news happens day and night, there’s no going back.

But I wonder whether that is true for newspapers in small cities. I know for a fact that my local 18,000-circulation paper is starting to think about the Web as its primary source of news; the newsroom is taking its first steps anyhow.

Say that my paper does become Web-centric, posting stories online as they are done and using the print version as a digest of all the online work done the previous day. Can this work in a city of this size, where offices actually close at 5 p.m. and there just aren’t any sources to talk to much after nightfall?

In other words, can the 24/7 newsroom operate in a small city that doesn’t really operate 24/7? Is there any point to a 24/7 newsroom in that city? Is there any point to a Web-centric newsroom — the benefit of which is quick dissemination of news — in such a city?

“Coraline” review dust-up

The “Sunday Paper,” a weekly paper based in Atlanta, Ga., likely didn’t expect the Web traffic that its site has received this weekend. It’s all thanks to a movie review by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Moreau, in which Moreau draws a few too many connections between the movie “Coraline” and director Tim Burton. The problem is this: Tim Burton isn’t connected to “Coraline,” not at all.

Neil Gaiman, the author of the book “Coraline,” noted Moreau’s review in his Twitter feed, which has been filled with “Coraline” release notes lately — basically Gaiman writing about how tired he is from all the promotions and parties and premiere events he’s had to attend. Gaiman’s Twitter fans took one look at Moreau’s review and started filling its comments section with “uh… FAIL” messages and jokes at the expense of Moreau’s writing experience and the paper’s fact-checking thoroughness. Continue reading

bbPress experiment

Well, you know, I’m a sucker for anything that’s related to WordPress, so when I found out that they’re working on forum software, bbPress, I had to try it out.

I’m playing with theming a bbPress site right now, though if anybody has toyed with it in the past and can offer any tips, don’t hesitate.

Oh, and don’t think this has anything to do with adding forums to this site. I don’t think my dozens of fans readers are clamoring for a place to air their opinions on Hypercrit.net. This is just for fun.

Don’t stop the presses just yet

Alan Mutter has written an excellent post about why most newspapers cannot afford to shut down their presses and go all-digital.

Mutter proceeds from two premises: that it would be “suicidal for any reasonably profitable publisher to stop its presses in perpetuity” and that a paper going all-digital will have to lay off about half its editorial staff to stay profitable.

Newspapers, he points out, earn about 90 percent of their profits from print ads, and a paper moving to an all-digital format can expect to earn only about 10 percent of the money it did when it produced both a hard copy and an online edition.

He takes a closer look at the famous article by Jeff Jarvis from a few weeks ago, the one in which Jarvis revealed that the Los Angeles Times makes enough from Web advertising to pay the salaries of its 660 newsroom staff members.

Mutter points out that salaries aren’t all the costs that go into building even an all-digital newspaper. You have to pay for health insurance, taxes, IT concerns and myriad other costs, not to mention all the debt that the paper has already incurred.

In other words, the LA Times needs its print division to help pay the bills. Shutting off its presses would mean cutting the newsroom staff by about half or more.

But Mutter is not going around throwing wooden shoes into the all-digital camp’s machinery:

[T]his is not to say that publishing won’t, or shouldn’t, migrate to all-digital media in the future. Before that happens, however, the economics of the business would have to change far more radically than they have to date.