Clickshare’s dynamic pricing approach now “off-patent”; could it be focus of Internet commerce?

Starting in 1994,  the founders of Clickshare Service Corp. developed a prototype for “dynamic pricing” for information commerce on the web.  Now, 17 years later, the idea is emerging as a central tenant of ecommerce. And the patent has expired.

What is “dynamic pricing”?  The ability to vary the price for a digital good in real time, depending upon the attributes of the user or the type of use the user intends.


Take a news story, for example.   Suppose a news organization breaks a big story — “hot news.”  For the first few minutes the story is out on the web, it may have great value. But soon, because you can’t copyright facts, other news organizations will pick up the raw facts and remix them into their own stories. So the ability of the first news organization that broke the story to charge for it drops quickly to zero. Later, the story goes into archives, and researchers looking for the origins of the story might be willing again to pay more for it.


Take the same story. The initial use is mass-market. But what if the story is about a topic of ongoing significance to researchers, or a topic which affects the value of investments, or moves markets? The mixing of that story with other information might add to its value. So a niche user might find it of more value than the casual, mass-market user.

The public-radio program “On the Media” covers the topic in a Dec. 17, 2010 interview with Slate online magazine reporter Annie Lowery.  Is dynamic pricing legal? Lowery says yes.  She says online retailers might use your browsing history, your purchase history and even your browser type to figure out what to charge.

Here’s Clickshare’s patent in this area, which has now expired.  The Center for the Digital Globe, at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism, is undertaking research on web content pricing in an environment where a content clearing house emerges.

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INVITATION: Learn how communities can get — and create — information we need to be self governing — May 18-21, Portland, Ore.


Elevate EngagementConsider joining us May 18-21 in Portland, Ore., for “Elevate Engagement,” a gathering to explore new ways for the public to get — and create — the information we need to be self governing.

On May 18-21, 2017, UO-SOJC’s Agora Journalism Center and Journalism That Matters will co-host “Elevate Engagement: Communities and journalism taking listening, connection and trust to the next level.” We are in a moment of opportunity to consider the role of storytelling and journalism in civic lif…
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Exeter Reunion 2022

Archive of “passion” presentation by Bill Densmore, Williamstown, Mass.

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Cable-model analogy to Clickshare cited in PEJ annual report

The online section of the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism annual report on the U.S. news media, out March 16, 2010, included a reference to Clickshare. Scroll down to the “Micropayments” section:  

“Another discussed revenue stream has been the kind of subscriber access-fee that exists for cable. Cable news networks receive about half of their revenues from fees per subscriber charged to the cable service providers. These providers then pass that fee along to the consumer on their monthly cable bills. A similar model could potentially be implemented on the Internet, where fees are built into the internet access charge that users already pay. The idea remains hypothetical at this point, though, and there would be large hurdles to implementing it.  One hurdle is that content providers would have to band together to lobby the broadband internet providers (Comcast, Verizon, etc.) to get a cut of the revenue the ISP’s get from broadband fees. Another is a myriad of legal issues that would need to be addressed involving the control of information.  In 2008, Clickshare Service Corp. received a patent  on a system for managing information transactions on the web and the company, which has been serving newspaper and other clients for more than a decade, believes it can implement a service in which consumers have an account at one service (such as a news, cable or Internet service provider site, and can be periodically billed for access to information from a plethora of other affiliated content sites.

The next section, reporting on surveyed attitudes on paying for content, also includes a reference to “microaccounting.”

“There is evidence that some kind of flat fee — a networked microaccounting system rather than a pay-per-click system — might have better success in marketplace. We asked people if they had to pay for content from their favorite site, would they prefer a subscription that would allow them to access all the content from the site or a pay-as-you-go plan where they would pay only for the articles and features they wanted to see. A substantial majority of those with a favorite site (54%) opted for the subscription model while less than half as many (24%) picked the a-la-carte option. (Footnote No. 3, below)

“One technical and business challenge here is this: If people want to pay by subscription, but information is increasingly disaggregated across the web — then how could they do so without having to have multiple, confusing, subscription relationships?”

Footnote No. 3 reads:

“3. Those with annual incomes of $75,000 or more are only slightly more likely to favor a subscription plan, while the lowest-income respondents (those earning less than $30,000 annually) are more likely to prefer a pay-as-you-go-plan.”


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Expecting accountability? Then Tom Price has a question to answer

Secretary Price

Earlier this week, Dan Heyman, a reporter for Public News Service, tried to ask the Trump adminstration a question about health care. Secretary of Health and Human Services Thomas E. Price did not answer.

The circumstances under which the question was asked are at issue.  Both the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the National Press Foundation have weighed in. But what should not be at issue is the obligation of our elected officials to be answerable and accountable for the public policies or proposals under their jurisdiction.

If you agree, please circulate a link to this post. If you are a member of the public, consider emailing Dr. Price at and ask the question. If you are a reporter who covers the Department of Health & Human Services, or the debate over the future of the Affordable Care Act – or if you work at a new organization in a place such as West Virginia where Secretary Price may appear, please ask him this question on behalf of PNS and the public:

“Would domestic violence be considered a pre-existing condition under proposals to change the Affordable Care Act?”


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Testing theories about Trump, religion, faith, immigration and politics at Harvard Divinity School symposium



Here are my file notes from attending a “Symposium on Religious Literacy and Journalism,” on Dec. 8-9, 2016 at the Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass.

The Religious Literacy Project

SPEAKERS/LEADERS — Who spoke and participated
CASE STUDIES — A rich trove of links

The Religious Literacy Project is directed by Diane L. Moore, senior lecturer on religious studies and education at the divinity school.  (617-496-1388) /

The symposium was one of four planned through 2018, said  Moore. The idea is to explore how to imbue professions –- journalism, humanitarian action, government and business — with a deeper sense of understanding of the impact of religions, faith and spirituality on each field.

When it comes to understanding religion, “our collective ignorance is a civic problem,” added co-convenor Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion professor and author.   The process which elected Donald Trump has created “an important moment for us to work together” across religion and professions.

Prothero datapoints: 81% of white evangelicals voted for Trump; some 30% to 40% of evangelicals are black, Latino or Asian.

White evangelical voters “thought of Hillary as Lucifer” according Jeff Sharlet, a symposium participant to teaches English at Dartmouth College and writes for national magazines.   Trump’s focus on winning fit the stories favored by the followers of “the prosperity gospel,” he added.   Said another symposium participant: “In sum, the American religion of winning (and the gospel of getting rich)   produces a lot of losers.”

The national press before Nov. 8 believed the “prophesy of the number crunchers” instead of what religion reporters in the field were hearing from voters, according to Laura Goodstein, religion writer for The New York Times, whose keynote talk opened the symposium.

KEY POINT: After each domestic mass killing, multiple Muslim groups condemn the violence, but these condemnations don’t make it into mainstream media, symposium participants said. But the condemnations are available at the “World Wide Muslims Condemn List.”



Adelle Banks, an editor at Religion News Service, said the Black Lives Matter manifesto includes a focus on economic co-operatives and alternatives. “This is a vital . . . aspect coursing through this, but we never see it in the news.”   There is a focus on BLM reaction to the latest conflict and police relationships, rather than the deeper aims of the movement. “There are sides of these movements that get through,” said Banks. “And then there are sides that don’t, which may be more important.” She adds: “How can we open up our narratives to entertain more stories?”

BLM is building food pantries to deal with “food desert” areas, said Lilly Fowler, edit of PBS Religion and Ethics Newsweekly.

The mainstream media tends to “cover most social movements for what they do,” said Diane Winston, of USC Annenberg, “not what they stand for.” The BLM movement is about healing and recognition and it has a spiritual dimension, she said. Winston said legacy media “has a bias for [covering] people who carry Bibles and say they are authorities on religion.”   She said the public can no longer look to what she called “legacy media” for religious literacy because it is in financial decline, and its mission in monetization. “They are run by market economics which have other values than humanistic concerns involved,” she said. The future help will come the nonprofit sector, she believes.

Panelist Winston talked about BLM as a spiritual movement which should be reported as such.   “Americans have a very thin image of what religion is,” said the USC-Anneberg scholar. “We have religion kind of walled off.” She also noted: “It’s very hard to get sophisticated stories that challenge the status quo into the corporate media.”

Religion plays a role in almost every story newspapers report, said symposium participant Cristela Guerra, a Boston Globe general-assignment reporter. “There is a spiritual string and a religious string through almost everything we do,” she said. “We are there already, we just have to find a different way to tell the narrative.”

SECOND PANEL TOPIC: Donald Trump and Evengelicals

NPR reporter Jason DeRose theorizes that evangelicals may be in the first instance political conservatives who take take on evangelical qualities to support their point of view on abortion, gay rights and other issues. This would be in contrast to thinking of them as evangelicals first. Which comes first, political ideology or religious/spiritual orientation?

Eddie S. Glaude Jr., magazine columnist and Princeton University religion and AfroAm Studies professor, thinks the Trump election was a consequence of rising economic insecurity “and moral panic – white panic.” White evangelicals were 22% of the electorate in 1988, 21% in 2008 and are only 17% today.   Only three in 10 white adults are Christian. “This may be white Christian America’s last gasp,” he said.

Dartmouth’s Jeff Sharlet said multiple “rightist” movements converged around Trump. His expertise is in narrative journalism and he thinks part of the reason Trump won is “because he told good stories.”   Actually, he said, they were terrible stories in that they played loose with facts. But a good story with flawed facts still motivates believers. “The crookedness of his story becomes an amenity,” he said. “You believe it and you don’t believe it at the same time . . . Moses really didn’t part the Red Sea either. But it works.”

Symposium participant Bruce McEver. a divinity-school graduate, poet and Wall Street mergers-and-acquisitions specialist, asked this question: “It’s ironic that Trump’s victory is because of the media – so much free publicity. We built him up and we’re now tearing him down.   How do we change our system that allows this to happen?”

Princeton’s Glaude, in a partial answer to McEver’s question, seemed to say that the media had failed to tell the complex stories of the election in forms simple enough – like Trump’s speeches – to be heard by the public. The media shouldn’t avoid complex stories, he implied, but should work harder at them. “Use simple sentences to tell complex stories,” he said.   “People like simple stories, but they also love Game of Thrones.”

Glaude’s analysis of the November results: Voting among minorities was depressed, and some millenials voted for third parties after Bernie Sanders lost the Democratic nomination to Clinton. His idea for a post-election story: “What happened to Bernie Sanders? He didn’t cause anything; he was the result of something.”

The media has never had the authority to control the message, said Sharlet. “What we do have is the authority to expand the noise of democracy.”

In retrospect, said NPR’s DeRose, Trump voters heard and liked his message, and understood it, whether fully truthful or not. But those people were not the people newsrooms were talking to pre-election.

THIRD PANEL: Refugees, Immigration and National Security

Washington Post religion reporter (now on a Nieman Fellowship year) Michelle Boorstein asked: “Why isn’t immigration seen as a religion story?”   She also speaks later in the panel about confusion over what we mean by journalism. “We’re all journalists now,” she said of bloggers, tweeters as well as people wo work in the daily news business.

Immigration crosses boundaries, said Angela Zito, co-founder of the Center for Religion and Media at New York University. “Why are we OK with corporations crossing boundaries, but not OK with immigrants crossing boundaries?”   She called religion “an aspect of the assemblage of anxiety and desire.”

Diane Moore, of the divinity school, wonders, “Is religion the same as morality?” She asked: If it is, then why don’t churches mobilize around issues of refugees, immigration and national security? The befriending of immigrants strengthens pluralist communities, she feels. But at present, she concluded, insecurity trumps pluralism.

“Secular liberals have been historically tone deaf about religion,” said panelist Stewart Hoover of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Center for Media, Religion and Culture.

WRAPUP PANEL: Roundtable ideas for further exploration for journalists to promote religious literacy:

  • Can we challenge the idea that whoever wins is automatically “good”?
  • Laurie Goodstein of the NYTimes wonders whether it is time to ask people in faith communitiesi: What does your God require (around justice)?
  • Focus more on the “why” rather than the “what” – Jason DeRose, NPR
  • Steve Prothero of BU said “we have a Twitter president.” He agreed with Glaude that it is time to take up the challenge of telling complex stories simply – “It’s a interesting intellectual challenge to do so.”
  • IDEA: Better storytelling – Goodstein / partner with artists as storytellers
  • Question terminology – does it inhibit meaning?
  • No monoliths – find diverse voices
  • Seek more partnerships between corporate and nonprofit media
  • When reporting stories, ask, what is the religious motivator?
  • Academia should learn to talk to the press better
  • AAR should hold workshops on talking to the press
  • Institutions should emphasize scholarly outreach
  • Get Religion Writers Association and News Service better funded by philanthropy
  • Fund the World Religion Database at Boston University (Prothero)


Bruce McEver observes that the day had revealed some intellectual baggage . . . and political bias. “I think we’ve got to bury the hatchet and get on here.”


She focuses on story telling as necessary art. “Storytelling allows us to make complicated points.”

The Divinity School continues to study how it should be training its graduates for “this new time.” The religion, politics and ethics major is the most popular major at the moment.

She asks: “What would it mean for us to really say ‘let’s collaborate’ . . . to get our of our silos?”

“How do we take seriously our civic responsibility – a larger responsibility to shore up the foundations of democracy?


  • While religion scholars may think of “religion” broadly, the public thinks of its as denomination focused. Elevate more words like faith, ethics, spirituality, community, justice and peace studies – things which ARE part of divinity education now, and should be part of religion reporting, but may not be perceived to be.
  • See if there is a need to fund additional religion/faith writing/media prizes
  • Consider Journalism That Matters followup convening of religion writers, scholars and policy folks
  • More focus on what inspires political, and business actors – spirituality, faith, whatever
  • Use Harvard convening power to start to build cross-sector coalitions




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Journalism That Matters sets Oct. 1-4 gathering in Portland focused on community engagement

You’re invited to . . .

Experience Engagement

A national conference and practice workshop: How can communities and journalism thrive together?
Oct. 1-4, 2015, Portland, Oregon


Presented by Journalism That Matters
and the Agora Journalism Center of the University of Oregon



Technology has made us all creators as well as consumers of news and information. And yet, the structures of many of our journalism institutions and practices have fallen behind in their ability to engage with these “new pamphleteers” — to invite them to join and shape a community’s news Pdx-chess.jpgecosystem.

Journalism has created news of the people and news for the people . . . will it abide news BY the people?  

Pdx-cycling.jpgFrom Oct. 1-4, come to Portland, Ore., to learn how to shape a news ecosystem for a Participatory Age. This open-space gathering is for journalists, active citizens, students, educators, researchers, funders, social entrepreneurs, librarians, information technologists, urban designers, sustainability experts — and alumni of Journalism That Matters gatherings.

Over three days in Portland we’ll:

    • Tell stories of engagement and community building from acrPdx-vanagon.jpgoss the country
    • Explore one of the nation’s most liveable cities, meeting with some of its diverse communities
    • Create a “digital playbook” for observing, celebrating and assessing communities
    • Start a learning community to spotlight and foster ideas, connections and projects beyond Oct. 1-4



We want to bring Pdx-train.jpgtogether the best practitioners who are on the leading edge of engaging with communities and re-imagining the future of journalism to identify principles and practices that work.

Join us in a lively and productive exchange around challenging questions with a diverse group of peers who care about journalism with civic impact — the capacity to address shared public challenges. Together, we’ll generate actionable tools, illuminate best practices and develop a strategy for strengthening the information strengths needs of communities.

This is a workshop-style gathering for people already passionate about civic engagement and journalism. So be prepared to roll up your sleeves and participate as a sage off the stage! During the gathering, we’ll model key concepts by engaging community and evaluating impact as part of the meeting. At the heart of the conference is Open Space Technology, a process that enables groups of any size to self-organize and take responsibility for what they love as a means to address complex, important issues.


Space is limited to 125 people, so you should signup now to be on our mailing list for updates. Signing up now will guarantee you a seat once we begin registration and you pay.

We start at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 1, and end at noon on Sunday, Oct. 4. We understand that your schedule may permit only partial attendance. Indicate that when you register, and we’ll work with you to make the experience — and your participation — valuable to all.


Agora Journalism Center
George S. Turnbull Portland Center
University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication
70 NW Couch Street
Portland, OR 97209-4038



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ITEGA provenance: The “four-party model” — choice, control for consumers, opportunity for publishers

The open Internet has shifted access and control of digital information largely from publishers to consumers.  Many publishers are struggling to make money. Consumers have access to ubiquitous information, but have trouble sorting it or acquiring the most trustworthy knowledge. They worry about their privacy.

How might we create a new playing field that affords increased choice and control for consumers, and new business opportunity for publishers as well?

Here’s a scenario, which we’ll call the “four-party model.”


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Does local newspaper ownership matter? These experts found more than 30 of nation’s 50 “most successful” newspapers were locally owned

Three years ago,  a former news manager and news-management consultant — a married couple just retired from teaching journalism in Oregon — set out on a 50-state journey to spotlight some of the most successful U.S. daily newspapers.  They stopped and visited one in each state, and documented their findings in an online resource and book.  (See: “Retired journalists put $40K of own money into documenting the real changing story of America’s best newspapers,” at the Media Giraffe Project website.)

Brown and Steinle

Brown and Steinle

Paul Steinle and Dr. Sara Brown created an extensive website for their project, which they called “Who Needs Newspapers?” And they followed that up with a new book, “Practicing Journalism: The Power and Purpose of the Fourth Estate” (Marion Street Press 2014).

In a column requested by Densmore Associates, Steinle and Brown relate below their work to Worcester, Mass., where The Telegram & Gazette may soon be sold by new owner John Henry, publisher of The Boston Globe and principal owner of the Boston Red Sox.

By Paul Steinle and Sara Brown, PhD.

Based on our research and our experience, Worcester would be well served by some sort of local newspaper ownership – assuming that ownership is professional, connected to the community’s interests through residence or some strong regional connection, and funded well enough to ride the waves of various business cycles.


More than 30 of the 50 successful newspapers we visited in compiling our research were locally (or regionally) owned or controlled. Those newspapers — as large as the Seattle Times and the Tampa Bay Times and as small as the Aurora (Neb.) News and Register — reflected certain key characteristics.


1.) Locus of control/local peer pressure — The decision-makers in these transformational newspapers (Internet-connected, multi-platform, multimedia news organizations) all were tied to the local communities in which they operated.


Owners and or publishers attended local Rotary club meetings, or local churches or they had kids in local schools. And, of course, they had a stake in the local economy.


As a result they cared about their communities. And the communities, through these interactions, held the owners responsible for the content of their newspapers.


2.) Independence/Financial Flexibility — Since the ownership is locally (or regionally held) and the ownership is often private and or family or institutional.
This kind of ownership is not beholden to the stock market. As a result, the ownership has greater flexibility in managing its budget and its expenditures. That can make them more vulnerable when local economies tank, but in normal or good times, they can decide where to invest their funds more quickly and make adjustments more swiftly if they need to.


(When we were visiting the St.Cloud [Minn.] Times — a Gannett Newspaper – that newspaper was  directed to reduce its staff to decrease overhead, despite the fact The Times was doing well locally. The reduction was needed to shore up the Gannett financial picture, nationwide, for its stockholders.)


Needless to say, a local owner can decide, independently, what is a fair profit (operating margin) for a given period.


Newspapers in past years (up until the mid 2,000s) often enjoyed profits of 25-30%. The newspapers we visited (2010-11) were experiencing profits in the 5-10% range. That’s still a viable margin, but when you have a board of directors and stockholders expecting 25-30% returns, they often demand cuts in staff and reduce reporting power to maintain historic profit margins.


3.) Independence/ Operating Flexibility – When local needs arise – a local catastrophe occurs or a local opportunity emerges — a locally-managed news organization can act more quickly without consultation from “headquarters.”



Those are a few of the advantages of local ownership versus corporate and or public, market-driven ownership.


Having said all that, newspapers (and especially transformational newspapers because they are exploring new territory) require a complex balance between commerce and community service to operate successfully. So, intelligent, seasoned journalism/business management leadership is critical to the formula.


But the enterprise is worth the stakes required for  a community.


As one local editor/publisher/ owner told us, his family’s newspaper is “the glue” that holds his community together — the local newspaper is the community’s bulletin board, the local marketplace of ideas,  and “the mirror that reflects each community” back to itself.


These are exalted metaphors, but they are apt. Communities are served by local, professionally trained, ethically-centered journalists, and newspapers — a unique news and information medium — hire these people and keep them serving those communities by keeping local citizens informed about where they live.


If the people of Worcester are interested in keeping control of their newspaper locally, they need look no farther than The Day in New London, Conn. (or the N.E. Mississippi Daily News in Tupelo, Miss., or the Tampa Bay Times) to see how a non-profit, foundation-controlled newspaper can operate. And these are great examples.


Paul Steinle & Sara Brown
Ashland, Oregon


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Another voice explains why newspapers must move beyond the news

We’ve written about the need for newspapers to stop thinking about they physical product  and start acting like “information valets” for their users in an age where attention is at a premium — helping users to manage their “personas.”   We’ve co-authored a piece about efforts at the New London, Conn. Day newspaper. Now another voice is now explaining why newspapers must move beyond the news, too.

Stephen Gray sold his family’s southern Michigan daily newspaper to his employees, and embarked on an intellectual journey that has reached an apocryphal conclusion – he now thinks newspapers are doomed if they confine themselves to the news.

Stephen Gray

Stephen Gray

Gray’s newspaper career began as a newsboy at his family’s Monroe [Mich.] Evening News (circ. 23,000) extended through the ranks to CEO. In 1995, the family began turning over ownership of the paper to its employees in an innovative Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) buyout completed in 2000. From 1997 to about 2004, he was at the Christian Science Monitor, ultimately as managing publisher.

Gray was managing director from 2005 to 2008 of the American Press Institute’s $2-million, deep-dive research project, “Newspaper Next.” In collaboration with a consultancy headed by then-Harvard Business School Prof. Clayton Christiansen, Gray and others barnstormed the nation, warning publishers about the dicey history of industries subjected to technological innovation and disruption.

The Newspaper Next initiative wrapped up in 2008 with a report: “Making the Leap Beyond ‘Newspaper Companies.’  Here’s a link to the PDF. You can also watch an archived video of Gray’s “Newspaper Next” presentation at the June 29, 2006 Media Giraffe Project conference in Amherst, Mass., or read Oliver Luft’s 2006 account of Gray’s talk at

After a stint in a publisher-level role at The Christian Science Monitor, Gray wound up at Morris Communications, the Augusta, Ga.-based small newspaper and book publishing company – also owned by a family.

Now, Gray is speaking out again, on a new personal blog – and he’s still warning newspapers that they need to change, and change fast.

“I’m not talking about mobile, which others have often cited as the next disruption,” he writes, adding: “I’m talking about the hyper targeting of Web advertising through exchanges and machine-based buying.”

The result, says, Gray, is that newspaper websites are now in competition with national players like Google and Facebook for targeting of local advertising to local readers. But here’s the big change, according to Gray: The ads don’t have to be on the newspaper’s own website. They can be anywhere on the web, because tracking technology allows ad networks and big players to follow users as they move above the web.

“We’ve got three big jobs ahead of us,” says Gray. “Become potent sellers of hyper-targeted local audiences wherever they may roam; multiply our own audiences so they can capture bigger shares of targeting’s exploding revenue, and figure out how to drive huge local audiences at much lower cost so we can make money at commodity rates.”

In another post, Grey says that Facebook has almost 20 times as many visits by people in a typical Morris newspaper market as the Morris paper’s website. And he says that is pretty typical of most newspaper markets.

“Digital audiences for local mass media websites are dwarfed by those of national digital players that meet more individualized needs and interests,” writes Grey. “Most  newspaper companies are ignoring this, at their great peril. “The national/global giants are trouncing us. And they are working harder and harder to sell advertising to local businesses in direct competition with local media.”

Finally in a third post, Grey says newspapers have to stop thinking of communities as places where news happens and needs to be reported. In a third post, he says news organizations have to think of communities as places where people lead their lives and “we help them do it.”

“News has its place in this, but it’s a far bigger assignment than news,” Grey says, adding later: “s local media companies, we need to be all about community — about the place where you live. Fortunately for us, Facebook is not, and nobody else has arrived yet with great local platforms that enable people in communities to connect and share and get the kind of information their lives demand every day. Neither have we, and we must. And fast. We’re losing the audience race in our markets, and every day counts.”


“From Paper to Persona” – a Reynolds Journalism Instititute white paper

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