In others’ news…
It’s been a tough month for the two out-of-state companies that dominate Maine’s print media market: the Boston-based Phoenix Media and Communications Group, publishers of the Portland Phoenix and Face magazine; and the Seattle Times Co., which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel, the Community Leader, and the Maine Coastal Journal through its Blethen Maine Newspapers subsidiary.
The Phoenix Media conglomerate is losing Sam Pfeifle, the longtime managing editor of its Portland franchise paper and Face, the homegrown music monthly the conglomerate snapped up last year. Worse, Pfeifle is taking another prolificPhoenix/Face writer and photographer with him: Simon Peterson.
Peterson has no choice but to quit with Pfeifle, since he’s actually a pseudonym Pfeifle uses to make it seem like the Phoenix/Face has more local freelance contributors than it actually does. The Beantown fat cats at the PMCG will be even more screwed if foul-mouthed Phoenix listings editor Amy Martin takes a well-deserved hike, too, since she would bring two alter-egos who regularly write copy along with her: Punchy Martin and Amy Rock.
Perhaps it’s just as well that Pfeifle/Peterson is leaving, because the whole charade was getting creepy. In the latest issue of Face, “Peterson” reviews a benefit show Pfeifle played with his band, The Grassholes, and describes how “Cornfed Boy Sam Pfeifle (loser editor of this here magazine)” botched a Bruce Springsteen cover. When you’re calling yourself a loser in print, it surely is time to go.
Pfeifle is leaving to become the editor of Security Systems News, a monthly business newspaper covering the home security and business security industries. Based in Yarmouth, SSN is one of four exciting titles published by United Publications. The others are Security Director News, HME News (a monthly targeting providers of home medical equipment), and Gourmet News (a monthly read by distributors and retailers of “specialty foods and related products,” according to its Web site).
It’ll be interesting to see if Pfeifle changes the tone or content of SSN, an industry publication so deathly boring to the general public that doctors caution against reading it if you plan to operate heavy machinery within 24 hours.
Maybe he’ll offer Amy Punchy Martin Rock some freelance work: “Bosch Security Systems’ new verified code response system integrates with ATC International’s systems integrator software the way date-raping frat fuckers integrate with fat sorority whores at Diggers on a Friday night – which is to say, real good!” Or maybe the managing editor who gave Maine such hard-hitting Phoenix cover stories as last summer’s “Rock+Roll Lawncare” will tell us what numeric codes other people in bands we’ve never heard use to disarm their $15,000 home security systems: 2112, 5150, 90125, 8675309.
The Phoenix/Face also lost its graphic designer this month. Word came down from PMCG corporate headquarters that designer and “Numbers” columnist Sean Wilkinson had to choose between working full-time for the Phoenix and doing freelance work on the side for The Bollard.
Bollard Publishing LLC (a.k.a. me) is pleased to announce that Bollard Art Director Sean Wilkinson’s new column will debut in two weeks.
While the Phoenix is losing its “loser” managing editor (the editor of the paper is actually Peter Kadzis, who lives and works in Boston), the Press Herald is even worse off: it’s losing employees, revenue, readers, and whatever shred of journalistic integrity is still dangling from that self-congratulatory banner wrapped around their building like a Christo and Jeanne-Claude knock-off.
On Oct. 18, back on page seven of the business section, the daily ran a brief about publisher Chuck Cochrane’s announcement the day before that the paper is axing 21 positions throughout the company. Fifteen workers are losing their jobs, and six vacant positions will go unfilled. The brief notes that a week earlier, the paper instituted a hiring freeze “on all but critical positions, a response to declining circulation and flat advertising revenue.”
Cochrane was further quoted in the brief – which was written from “staff reports” — that the newspaper industry is undergoing “fundamental changes that may result in more jobs being added to the online site, MaineToday.com, which is growing, rather than the print edition of the newspaper.”
Curiously, readers of MaineToday.com – like me – couldn’t read this brief, because there was no mention of it, or link to it, on the site. You can find it by typing “Blethen” into the paper’s online archive, but it’ll cost you $2.95 to read all nine sentences in the brief (eleven sentences counting the correction, not published in the print edition, clarifying Cochrane’s title: he’s also president and chief executive officer of Blethen Maine Newspapers).
Now that this ball’s teed up, let’s take a swing at it, shall we?
Readers can have the entire daily paper, printed on ever-more-expensive newsprint, for 30 cents at Dunkin’ Donuts, but it costs almost three bucks to read a nine-sentence brief online? And in this case, they want three bucks from your credit card even though stories on the site that appeared in print within the past week are free (provided, of course, that they’re actually listed on the site’s main pages)!
Friends, I’m going to share a very special secret with you. Please feel free to pass it along to everyone you know. There’s a simple, easy way you can read any article published over the past 10 years in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram – or in any of over 500 other publications, from the New York Timesto the Bangkok Post — for free, without leaving your home or having to touch anything called “microfiche.”
Yes, I’m talking about the public library. More specifically, the “virtual library” called MARVEL!, and the section of this virtual library, ProQuest Newspapers, that gives you free access to the full text of articles from hundreds of papers around the world.
Here’s how you do it. Say, for example, you’re reading this editorial and you think, “Wasn’t Chris Busby the editor of Casco Bay Weekly, the one who was fired along with most of the rest of his staff when the paper’s owner demanded deep cuts to the newsroom and Busby resisted?” CBW and its online archive are long gone, but the Portland Press Herald covered that story.
So you go to the daily’s Web site, http://www.pressherald.com, and search their news archive for any articles containing the name “Busby” going back to March, 1994. Skipping over the District Court listings (trust me, I’m not in there) and the obits of people I’m not related to, you’ll find it: “Losing money, owner fires staff at Casco Bay Weekly,” published on March 7, 2002. Remember that date.
The Blethens want $2.95 for the complete article, but you follow these steps….
1. Laugh maniacally and shout something like, “You bastards ain’t gettin’ a penny!”
2. Go to www.portlandlibrary.com.
3. Click on the link under Research Tools (in the upper-right-hand part of the home page) that says “MARVEL! Articles & more.”
4. Scroll down to the MARVEL! databases that begin with the letter P, and click on ProQuest Newspapers.
5. If you don’t already have a free account, take a minute to register for one. You’ll need to enter your name, address and e-mail, and pick a user name and password, but that’s about it (no credit card number or other personal info required, and this minimal data is not shared with any third party).
6. Do the “Basic Search” by entering the headline of the article you want (or even a single word in the headline or in the story’s text, like “Casco” or “Busby”). Make this even easier for yourself by searching the specific date on which the article was published, “03/07/2002.”
7. Click on the first article that comes up, which is Josh Weinstein’s article for thePPH – the same one you would have spent three bucks on a minute before.
8. Read the entire article and continue laughing maniacally. It makes me feel better, anyway.
The other funny thing about the Press Herald‘s struggles this month is the news that beginning Oct. 31, people who visit MaineToday.com with any regularity will be required to register in order to read the online editions of the Herald and its sister papers. Cochrane and Co. just need a few intimate personal details from you that they can use to try to sell more online ads — details like your name, your home address, your e-mail address, your gender, your age, how much money you make, how much college you sat through, what newspapers and Web sites you read and look at, and how often you masturbate to Internet porn (OK, I made up this last one, but you can’t tell me they wouldn’t love to have this info if they could).
This new demand has produced both good news and bad news for the daily.
The bad news: MaineToday readers are, to use a phrase the paper is afraid to print, pissed off about the registration requirement and vowing to either stop reading the online edition Mr. Cochrane is firing his print staff to support, or to register using bogus information, which is the virtual way to say “fuck you and the secure server you rode in on.”
The good news: People are finally posting comments on a MaineToday blog – the blog of MaineToday editor Scott Hersey, who has the unenviable task of trying to explain this new demand and coax angry readers to accept it.
This has put Hersey in a truly ridiculous position (get ready to laugh maniacally again). On Oct. 21, Hersey tried to downplay the growing uproar over mandatory registration by pointing out that of the 500,000 unique monthly visitors to the site, over 3,000 had already registered voluntarily compared to “maybe 30 complaints.
“I’d say the market is speaking pretty clearly,” he added.
Here’s another number Mr. Hersey might consider: Of the 500,000 monthly visitors to his site, how many posted a comment to his Oct. 12 entry, “Never enough dining coverage,” or his Oct. 11 effort, “Teen communities on MaineToday.com,” or his Oct. 10 posting, “Outdoors with Kids,” or the one before that, Oct. 6’s “Uncorking our ‘Cellar Dweller?'”
Hint: It’s a round number that rhymes with Nero.
Of course, that’s just the editor’s blog. There’s another one on MaineToday called “Internet Marketing,” and one called “Making It Happen,” and another called “Paddle ME,” and one called “Kid Tracks.” Total comments in response to all these blogs so far this month: Nero strikes again.
I’d say the market is speaking pretty clearly, Mr. Hersey, but not to you or, really, anyone else writing for MaineToday.com. (I qualify this with “really” because a couple blogs have gotten a few responses, like “Geek Speak.” There were five “Geek Speak” blog entries this month and one inspired a single reader comment, by “e,” who wrote, and I quote: “minga!”)
Who wouldn’t take 10 minutes out of their one-shot, precious life to give you their personal marketing data if that’s what it takes to join conversations with deep thinkers like e.
Today, as the Phoenix slides further down the toilet and the daily digs its own grave even deeper, The Bollard has an announcement to make: We’re going daily!
That’s right. This site will henceforth be updated every day, with new content added to each of the seven sections of our site on each of the seven days of the week. Breaking news stories and updates on previous articles, as well as our arts and entertainment listings, will be added to the site in as timely a fashion as possible, but otherwise the schedule is as follows…
Friday: Food & Booze
Here at The Bollard, there’s no $2.95 fee for past articles. They’re all free and always will be. And there’ll be no required registration, ever. I couldn’t approach a reader on the street and ask him or her face-to-face what their household income is, so we won’t be doing that through the virtual shield of a Web site, either. MazineToday readers should tell Mr. Hersey they’ll gladly entertain his request for personal info, provided he come to their house and ask them for it in person.
I’m listening to the market speak, too, and I like what I’m hearing so far. Thanks for continuing to read and support this little, local, upstart publication, whose editor has now gleefully burned pretty much every journalistic bridge he’s crossed in this city. Resurgam!
— Chris Busby
Chris Busby is editor and publisher of The Bollard.