Rolling Stone's 'Print First' Mindset Shows How They Lost The Community

from the they've-gone-elsewhere dept

Last week, my brief remarks at the Techdirt Saves* Journalism event focused on the fact that the news business has always really been the "community" business. The point was that the way the journalism business used to work was that they built up a community of folks around the local news, and then sold their attention to advertisers. The problem that many in the industry are facing is that there were many competing ways to build community, and most of the "business model" ideas coming out of certain publications seemed to work against community building. Doing things like making it difficult to view or read stories, and even more difficult to comment -- such as putting up paywalls -- do exactly the opposite of what you need to do if you want to build community.

To some extent, part of this discussion is recognizing whether a publication is taking a digital-first strategy or a paper-first strategy. We've seen some publications really working hard to embrace a digital mindset, but others still appear to think that their entire purpose is to sell more paper copies, even if that hurts the digital community. A great example of this appears to be Rolling Stone magazine, which has the "big story" of the week, in doing a profile on General Stanley McChrystal, which resulted in him getting fired.

Whatever your opinion is of the story itself, an interesting sidenote is how Rolling Stone promoted the story. It apparently hoped this story would sell a lot more copies of the magazine, so it held off posting the digital copy, but instead, sent it around to other publications, allowing all those other publications to get the "scoop" and the traffic:
Rolling Stone didn't even bother putting it online before they rolled it out [to other publications]. In fact, despite the fact that everyone else's website led the profile, Rolling Stone's site led with Lady Gaga's (admittedly impressive) machine gun jumblies all day and didn't even put the story online until 11:00 ET.
On top of that, when Rolling Stone finally got around to putting up the story, it didn't actually get much community action. Nieman Labs notes that a day later, the story that kicked off this whole thing only had 16 comments. Stories on other sites had thousands of comments. Partly this was because RS was late. But, as Nieman points out, RS makes it incredibly difficult to comment on the site. Numbers of comments are certainly not the only factor in judging the popularity of a story (and, in our experience comment numbers and traffic numbers do not correlate well), but you would think that the biggest story of the week, from the publication that supposedly "broke" the story, could get a few more comments.

Basically, in an attempt to push people to the paper edition, it looks like Rolling Stone missed out on a huge internet opportunity.

On a separate note, since we were just talking about the Associated Press vigorously defending the whole "hot news" doctrine, it is worth noting that the AP was one of the first publications to run a story about the whole McChrystal situation -- well before Rolling Stone put the article online. Under the AP's interpretation of hot news, it certainly sounds like it it "freeloaded" off of Rolling Stone, making it more difficult for Rolling Stone to make money... doesn't it?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:23am

    in the end, comment counts are for those who need the egos stroked (right mike?). you have not indicated how many have or will read the rolling stone article, and look at it as the definitive piece that caused the whole uproar.

    "community" is website owner masturbation at its finest, but it does not truly measure impact or importance. the average post on perez hiltons celeb dump gets hundreds of comments. does that make him more relevant than techdirt, or more important? do tell mike!

     

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      R. Miles (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:42am

      Re:

      "in the end, comment counts are for those who need the egos stroked"
      As well as people who post asinine comments. Regardless, this statement isn't in lieu of the article's intent.

      Read it again, if you can. It stated by blocking the users ability to comment, they're only hurting themselves.

      Imagine you read a byline at another site and were interested in reading the actual article. You'd be boned, because it didn't exist on their website until well after the "news" broke.

      "'community' is website owner masturbation at its finest"
      Do you really think people buy websites? They don't. They buy communities, just as Google did when buying YouTube for $1B. They could have easily built their own video hosting site, so what do you supposed the money was spent on? Drinks?

      I'll grant you the remark comments don't measure impact of a site, but they most certainly do measure importance. People love to express their opinions, and when they're told they have to pay or can't do it, they'll go elsewhere to do so.

      Pretty risky thing to do if a site's relying on ad revenues to help offset the costs of producing the content.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:53am

        Re: Re:

        "People love to express their opinions, and when they're told they have to pay or can't do it, they'll go elsewhere to do so." - and which one of these it rolling stone doing, exactly?

         

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          R. Miles (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:55am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "and which one of these it rolling stone doing, exactly?"
          The "But we didn't post our article to our own website, so you can't comment" option, silly.

          Of course, you can now (without paying). Little good that does once everyone's read the article somewhere else.

          Oh, and for the record, advertisers most certainly look at both traffic data and comments before investing in a site. ;)

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:14am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "The "But we didn't post our article to our own website, so you can't comment" option, silly." - so you have a problem with the speed they put the article online (and in print) and not on their comment system, right? just trying to get your to focus so you can see the difference.

             

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:00am

        Re: Re:

        > They could have easily built their own video hosting site

        They did. It was called Google Video.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      e e trollings said: "the average post on perez hiltons celeb dump gets hundreds of comments. does that make him more relevant than techdirt, or more important?"

      Mike said: "Numbers of comments are certainly not the only factor in judging the popularity of a story . . ."

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:26am

        Re: Re:

        he still feels it is a factor, and pretty much the story turns on the count of the comments. qualifying statements after the fact dont really change the meaning of the story, just perhaps that mike realized after a pretty good rant that he wasnt exactly right.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 11:12am

      Re:

      Oh. Capitalization challenged troll, you so random.

       

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      AC & Your Sunshine's Banned, Jun 25th, 2010 @ 9:00am

      Re: Ignorant

      Rolling Stone's online comments are strenuously moderated. If you post a comment it will go up, but *very* soon after a Snark Patrol cop will come along and delete it if they don't like it.

      The are cultural fascists, haven't been hip or relevant since 1968, and are stooopidly ignorant to boot (just like TAM).

      They can't crash, burn and fade away fast enough, IMO.

      Just like TAM.

       

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    john denver, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 8:29am

    i love RS and I've subscribed for years. but their website is a huge piece of shit. they may as well not even have it. It's frustrating beyond belief. I've learned not to even bother.

     

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    WammerJammer (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:41am

    Baby I'm Amazed

    I'm amazed that they are still in business. With my generation from the 60's Rolling Stone hasn't been hip since about 1969. Someone still buys this commercial crap? I equate Rolling Stone with Inquirer.

     

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    Danny, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 9:45am

    Ummmm...

    "Basically, in an attempt to push people to the paper edition, it looks like Rolling Stone missed out on a huge internet opportunity. "

    Yeah. They quite literally decided, "Okay what we'll do is let the story get out on the net first, then publish it on our site and wait for the hits to come."

    Phase 1 - Wait for story to get out across the net.
    Phase 2 - Release the story on paper.
    Phase 3 - ???
    Phase 4 - ??Profit??

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:07am

    Rolling Stones is an appropriate name for a dinosaur :)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    "hether or not copyright protection is "essential to the survival of creative industries" (and recent research has shown that statement to be false)" - sounds of furious bootstrapping. holy crap mike, i cant believe you have the nuts to do something like that. the study you link was at best incomplete, and at worse entirely misleading, as was discussed on that post. yet you use it to "show that statement to be false" when it isnt really a great study.

    a sad day on techdirt.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:09am

      Re:

      If by "discussed on that post," you mean that your arguments were shredded, TAM, then sure.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:54am

        Re: Re:

        oh look, a troll. go back under your techdirt paid bridge. you lost that argument (tried to shout me down) and you will lose again. stop trying to protect your boss. get a life.

         

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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:18am

    "Rolling Stone" isn't journalism; it's entertainment.

    Wide line there, which I'll get to.

    "The point was that the way the journalism business used to work was that they built up a community of folks around the local news, and then sold their attention to advertisers." -- Mmm, sure, but that's a by-gone era of *local* news, long irrelevant to *mass* media, where the goal is to amuse the largest audience with lowest-common-denominator fare, exact content hardly matters.

    Now to magazines in the entertainment field: the targets -- I wouldn't use "community" here -- are fairly well defined by their psychological *needs* and *income*. For "Rolling Stone", off top of my head, that'd be: musicians, other kinds of performers, their fans, and all having drug culture in common. I think it fair to say that "Rolling Stone" looms large with those who style themselves as hip, revolutionary, anti-establishment, and so on, and *particularly* -- perhaps therefore -- is regarded by journalists as more important than it really is to Joe Six-Pack, even though Joe reads it. Easy riches from mere entertaining is one of its underlying premises, and lures; it plays up an abnormal sub-culture, and thereby promotes parasites upon the rest of society. I can't recall hearing of "Rolling Stone" other than from journalists or media types; it's one of the few sources that cue lesser lights to "cultural" trends, at least among those of *that* culture, who fancy themselves among the elite.

    So perhaps you misunderstand their views of their web-site.

     

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      Chronno S. Trigger (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 10:58am

      Re: "Rolling Stone" isn't journalism; it's entertainment.

      In this case, it doesn't matter what is defined as journalism or entertainment. Ignoring the question of articles about musicians performers and other famous people being journalism, in this case, not providing what your clients want in a timely fashion will push them to people who will.

       

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    Paul Colford, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 12:07pm

    Your claim about AP and Rolling Stone article

    E-mail sent to Mike Masnick: As reported by Yahoo! News’ Newsroom blog (link below) -- and, I believe, others -- Rolling Stone made clear that it GAVE US the McChrystal story. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ynews/20100622/ts_ynews/ynews_ts2759 Check your facts. Paul Colford AP Director of Media Relations

     

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      Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 24th, 2010 @ 4:27pm

      Re: Your claim about AP and Rolling Stone article

      E-mail sent to Mike Masnick: As reported by Yahoo! News’ Newsroom blog (link below) -- and, I believe, others -- Rolling Stone made clear that it GAVE US the McChrystal story.

      Yes, I said in the post that they sent it around. Doesn't change the fact that you published something based on their reporting, and did so before they published, effectively taking away some of their ability to profit -- at least according to your own argument in recent briefing. Right?

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jun 24th, 2010 @ 7:11pm

      Re: Your claim about AP and Rolling Stone article

      Bigger news: The AP has an employee that knows how to use the internet.

       

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