Ann Grimes (Stanford) about online news

Newstools gave me an opportunity to interview Ann Grimes, Acting Director, Graduate Program in Journalism at Stanford.

a. What are the things in online news that you see are changing the dynamics and logistics of journalism. And what is the future of online news?

Big declines in print readership and advertising. Little innovation and investment, industry-wide – with key exceptions (Dow Jones under Murdoch and Washington Post, for example). Cost-cutting and layoffs are hitting newspapers hard. Meanwhile, big upswing in online readership. News sites are among the most popular and trafficked. The problem: Online ads still command only 10 cents to the $1 of print ads, so the revenues aren’t keeping up and online growth is projected to slow to single digits. While lots of innovation is happening on the content side, little innovation is happening on the ad/revenue side. That is where the conversation needs to go.

b. We have seen a tremendous use of online tools and portals in the elections this year. People have campaigned, raised money, criticized other candidates, asked questions, participated in debates online and the list goes on. How do you think the new online face of campaigns affects the politics – in good and bad ways? Also, do you plan to write your book “Running Mates” again with the new trends on online campaigns?

Online activity both by campaigns and from citizens is a very positive development, in my view. We are seeing more citizen participation (example: Moveon.org) and the blogger who leaked the Obama “bitter” comment, which has certainly impacted the national Democratic campaign. We’re seeing mainstream media opening up, allowing citizens to actively participate in TV debates – several moderators have taken online questions live throughout the primary season. While many people think the primary campaigns have lasted too long, I actually think it’s positive. Voters – whether Democrat or Republican – are demonstrating that they believe this election matters. “Running Mates” is on the shelf, for the time being.

c. You seem to have covered technology and business for big media houses? What are your thoughts about the new online technology hubs – techcrunch, gigaom, scobleizer and this list of online tech and biz bloggers keeps going on.

These blogs feed you instant news but a lot of times I think these sites are great – they regularly beat the print media and are giving local newspapers (Mercury News and SF Chronicle) a run. NYTimes had an interesting story a few weeks ago about the tough pace of blogging. Here’s the link: In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop – New

d.What is the biggest story that you have done – in print or media?

I’ve written hundreds of stories. While covering the Venture Capital beat for the Wall Street Journal I wrote several about the lack of transparency in the venture captial industry that got some attention. Here’s a page one story.

WSJ.com – Venture Capitalists Scramble To Keep Their Numbers Secret
By ANN GRIMES Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL …. In general, that amount of disclosure is legal: Venture-capital funds are only lightly …

e. What do you think about “citizen journalism”?

While I think that citizens have expertise in many areas and often can add a lot to news reports, I don’t think it is likely that “citizen journalists” will replace the professional press – simply because people have lives and they are too busy to do the job of professional journalists.
However, we are seeing a rise in hyperlocal sites run by a small staffs with citizen contributors. Whether those contributors ultimately are paid or not, remains to be seen. (To survive, I suspect they will be. We used to call them freelancers).

f. Finally, what for are you attending the Newstools conference?

I teach a class at Stanford called New Media Entrepreneurship, in which my students (from journalism, business and computer science) come up with ideas for new digital media ventures. I want to better understand the NewsTool methods. Students will attend the conference, too.

Thanks Ann for taking the time to answer these.
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