Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hearst going to the outsourcing card

Your local newspaper, if you live in Houston or San Francisco and take the Hearst-owned daily, has decided to save even more money by outsourcing work that once was produced by local people.

Reports Business Insider:

Demand Media is the robotic online content mill that pays freelancers paltry sums to churn out stories based on "what's hot" search algorithms. Guess who's about to start "creating articles" for your local newspapers?
Erik Sherman got hold of a memo that Demand Media just sent its contributors, telling them that "We have entered into a partnership with Hearst Newspapers to produce articles for two of their premium publications, San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle. Specifically, we are creating articles and videos for the Real Estate section of and the Small Business section of"
In short, this sounds like the first step down a very slippery slope for newspapers. Outside of the core of hard news, much regional newspaper content is crap, anyhow. Why pay a full time newspaper staffer a living wage to write real estate or small business stories, when you can contract those tasks out to a writing sweatshop whose typical "rate for an article of a few hundred words is $7.50"? You Hearst employees might want to start calling your union reps right about now.

Yeah, get on the horn right now to your union steward, Chronistas. (There is no union.)

While we're on the subject of the Houston daily, we sat upright in our chair and choked on our shredded wheat the other day while reading a Houston Business Journal blog report of a talk Chron Editor Jeff Cohen recently delivered to a public relations group.

Specifically, it was an assertion Cohen made concerning the merging of newspaper sections in the hardcopy version of Houston's Leading Information Source.

The blogger said Cohen averred, "The consolidation of the business section with the city/state section was a good thing so a better product could be put out."

If by "better product" Cohen meant a less costly product, then yes, we can't quibble with that.

But really, less news in the paper thrown on your driveway every morning (if you're lucky) isn't a "better product."

Cohen would be better served by speaking plainly about the decisions being made at 801 Texas Avenue rather than doing that ol' soft shoe shuffle and razzamatazz.

Or maybe he was tailoring his answers to comport with the sort of blather that the public relations professionals in his audience are expected to give on behalf of their clients when the news isn't good.

Oh, yeah, BizJournal blogger Christine Hall also reported that Cohen said, "That free Web site might not be free soon: The Chronicle's parent, Hearst Corp., is working on a strategy that could mean you'll have to pay for some of its online content."



Anonymous said...

Just all I know is that I haven't missed the Chronicle since I quit it, whenever that was. Quite some time ago.


bob said...

I never did it before when they employed old-time flesh-and-blood reporters, but now that Hearst has turned to Bangladesh call-center novelists and algorithm syllable robots to churn out the stuff that fills the voids between those lovely furniture ads, I've been saving up for a pay subscription to their shimmering and ever-changing Houston news web site.

Yet I can't help but wonder: Why don't they just spray-paint pretty colors in between the ads instead of filling it up with all those inky lines of meaningless prose?

Anonymous said...

The only ting worth a damn about Jeff Cohen is his luscious wife, Katie.

Mr. Moonlight