April 5, 2017 Last Updated 10:25 am

Newspaper publisher expands effort to improve, monetize reader comments; CBC series criticized for ‘alternative facts’

Morning Brief: The digital newsstand Texture is about to start a new $1 million ad campaign to boost digital subscriptions, but marketing and promotions remain digital publishing’s weakness

The two publishers tronc and Time Inc. have been the focus of much of the industry, less for any actually actions the newspaper and magazine companies have announced, but for possible actions. While one company, Time Inc., is evaluating bids from suitors, the other is having a bit of a shareholder battle for ownership. Still, nothing much has actually been decided and we are left still wondering if both companies will simply continue on as they are.

Still, the publisher formerly known as Tribune Publishing, tronc, remains in the news.

The story from The Street isn’t actually based on anything new, just a run down of the company’s woes, which are not very different than any other newspaper company, really. tronc just remains a good target of ridicule because, well, it’s called tronc.

AdWeek’s story is a bit better as it actually is about something new, a new reader comment system is being adopted by the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The system, from SolidOpinion, is an attempt to monetize the comment section, but there are a couple things about the system that make it better than the one being used by the WaPo – at least one can track a readers comment history to see if they are simply trolling or truly believe that the paper is a communist rag designed to bring socialism to the world through journalism (a common theme of newspaper reader comments), there tools that allow one to ignore or falg an author, and one needs to register which forces at least a minimum amount of information to be publicly available. The new system may not stop trolls, but it might control bots, and it will at least help identify trolls that are commenting solely to disrupt a conversation.

Also, kudos to Michelle Maltais, deputy director of audience engagement, for responding to so many of the reader comments on the original LA Times story on the comment system change. Hopefully she had find solutions to many of the issues readers have with the new system.

But the problem with tronc websites remain the pop-ups which rival only Gannett in their obnoxiousness.

Oh, by the way, neither the AdWeek nor The Street story is willing to use a lower case “t” on the name “tronc” – something that any marketer would have told CEO Michael Ferro had he asked. Best not to get too cute with capitalization or spelling when coming up with a brand name.

The Street, Leon Lazaroff:

Tronc’s Newspapers Have It Hard Enough Without a Messy Ownership Fight

Things aren’t easy at newspaper publishers, but Tronc may be its own worst enemy…

…The chief culprits are well known. Newspapers lost much of their classified advertising to free services such as Craigslist, and then lost even more ad dollars when marketers pulled back on full-page and half-page print ads for lower-cost and more easily-measured online alternatives.

Like other newspaper owners, Tronc, which officially uses a lower-case ‘t,’ has felt its share of shock from these overarching trends. Ad sales at the company once known as Tribune Publishing dropped 16% in the fourth quarter as revenue for 2016 showed almost no growth compared with a year earlier.

AdWeek, Richard Horgan:

Tronc Newspapers Expand Use of Points-Based Reader Comments Platform

The braintrust at Tronc must have liked what they saw over the past year after the San Diego Union-Tribune switched to third-party reader comments platform SolidOpinion. Because this month, both the L.A. Times and Chicago Tribune have followed suit.

The Times adopted the platform April 1, while the Tribune is switched to SolidOpinion today. All prior published comments disappear with the change. SolidOpinion was founded by San Diego entrepreneur Michael Robertson, formerly a founder of MP3.com.

I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this story in The Globe and Mail about criticism of the new CBC series Canada: The Story of Us. The ten-part series is getting negative feedback after just a couple episodes have been aired.

“Over 10 hours, the drama-documentary tells the extraordinary tale of some of the people, places and events that shaped Canada — stories of change makers and rule breakers, dreamers and visionaries, scientists and entrepreneurs who forged a nation in a vast and harsh land,” the CBC says.

The problem, as you can imagine, involves interpretation. Politics, politics, politics.

The Globe and Mail, Ingrid Peritz:

Maritimers, Quebeckers denounce CBC series as historically inaccurate

Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly declined on Tuesday to comment on the CBC series, Canada: The Story of Us, which was introduced on the air March 26 by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and meant as a way to celebrate the country’s 150th birthday.

Instead, the CBC has waded into a bog of controversy over its depictions of historical events and omissions in Canadian history.

“They’re presenting alternative history based on alternative facts,” says Laurent Turcot, a history professor from Quebec who has criticized the series. “It’s biased.”

The CBC has broadcast only two of the 10 episodes of the docudrama, and has already managed to offend large parts of the country.

It was good to read this morning that the digital newsstand Texture would be starting an advertising campaign as a lack of marketing is something I have accused the various vendors trying to make a go of it in digital publishing of failing to do. One simply never sees many ads targeting either publishers from vendors, or consumers from publishers or digital newsstands. It is as if the move from an ad based existence to a reader based model has effected the marketing departments, as well.

Then, reading further, however, one sees that this year’s $1M campaign is compared to last year’s $4.5M and one becomes a little concerned. Further, why didn’t I hear about this directly from Texture? It may be that the last time the company issued a press release was March of last year. In fact, since Next Issue Media changed the name of the digital newsstand to Texture in October of 2015, it has been the only press release sent out.

Marketing, guys – I mean you, publishing professionals – is not just something others do.

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Texture launches $1M ad campaign for digital newsstand

Texture is about to unleash a $1 million print and digital campaign that for the first time will highlight news and political magazines among the 200 titles offered by the electronic newsstand company through Apple and Android products.

“We’ve seen a 20 percent spike in new subscriptions since the presidential election,” said John Loughlin, CEO of Texture.

“This campaign is called Read Better and covers everything from the National Review to Mother Jones,” said Loughlin. It follows last year’s $4.5 million campaign for fashion, beauty and entertainment titles called “Something Amazing,” which is still running on broadcast and cable outlets.

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