Mediatwits #57: Tablet-Like Designs at USA Today, Quartz; Will Alt-Weeklies Survive?

    by Mark Glaser
    September 28, 2012
    The new Atlantic Media business site, Quartz, launched earlier this week with advertisers getting their own "sponsored content" stories such as this one from Boeing

    Welcome to the 57th episode of the Mediatwits podcast, with Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali as co-hosts. This week, we take a deep dive into “responsive design,” a new design philosophy that creates consistent-looking sites on the web, smartphones and tablets. It started with the Boston Globe and now is coming to the USA Today website and the new Quartz e-magazine from Atlantic Media. We talked to Fantasy Interactive’s Stephen Carpi, who worked on USAToday.com’s design, and Quartz senior editor Zach Seward about their designs, how users would react, and what it would mean for new types of ad formats.

    In the wake of managers buyout out Village Voice Media, and splitting off the Backpage.com sites, we decided to think more about alternative weekly newspapers and how they can evolve and survive in the digital age. Media critic and professor Dan Kennedy, who has written extensively for the Boston Phoenix, joined our discussion along with Tiffany Shackelford of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. What mobile initiatives are working for alt-weeklies, and can big town publications survive in an overloaded ecosystem of media outlets?

    We didn't look to build a native app that would put an 'App Store wall' in front of people to make it very hard to get to our content or make it spread." -Zach Seward, Quartz

    Guest Bios

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    Stephen Carpi

    Stephen Carpi is the global director of production at Fantasy Interactive, which helped design the new USAToday.com website. He has more than 12 years experience in digital advertising and marketing with a focus on production and operations. Stephen joined Fi in March of 2011.

    Zach Seward is senior editor of Quartz, the new Atlantic Media business news site, where he’s focused on new forms of storytelling. He also teaches digital journalism at NYU. Previously, he was editor of outreach and social media at The Wall Street Journal and assistant editor at Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab.

    Dan Kennedy is an assistant professor at the journalism school at Northeastern University. He is a regular panelist on “Beat the Press,” a weekly media roundtable on WGBH-TV. He’s a former media columnist for the Boston Phoenix, and is the 2001 recipient of the National Press Club’s Arthur Rowse Award for Press Criticism. His blog, Media Nation, tracks issues related to journalism, politics and culture.


    Tiffany Shackelford has been executive director of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia since 2010. Previously, she was the director of communications and marketing at Phase2 Technology in Virginia. She also served until recently as Executive Director of Capitolbeat, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, a group she helped create in 1999.


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    Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio’s Music Alley.

    Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

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    Zach Seward


    1:00: Report from MediaShift’s Mixer at ONA12

    2:00: Evolution of the ONA conference

    3:00: Rundown of topics on our show

    Responsive design at USAToday.com, Quartz

    4:30: Special guests Stephen Carpi and Zach Seward

    6:10: Carpi: Wanted efficient design solution that satisfies people on web, mobile

    9:00: Seward: Mobile is area of greatest growth in web traffic

    12:40: Seward: There’s an element of surprise when people see our design on web

    15:30: Carpi: We wanted to enable both the “scanners” and “browsers” on USAToday.com

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    Tiffany Shackelford

    17:30: Seward: We provide a “Top” queue of stories, and a queue with most recent stories on top

    Future for alt-weeklies?

    22:30: Special guests Dan Kennedy and Tiffany Shackelford

    24:30: Kennedy: Backpage had become an albatross for Village Voice

    26:10: Shackelford: Gen X readers still trust brands for alt-weeklies

    27:10: Shackelford: Revenues from Backpage was not so large that it isn’t replaceable


    Dan Kennedy

    30:00: Will mobile be a savior for alt-weeklies?

    33:00: Kennedy: Print ads still bring in more than digital

    34:45: Rafat: Seems difficult for alt-weeklies to compete in a big market like New York

    36:00: Shackelford: In some small communities, the daily has died and alt-weekly has become paper of record

    More Reading

    USA Today’s makeover: Can ‘America’s newspaper’ reinvent itself? at The Week

    5 things journalists should know about Quartz, Atlantic Media’s business news startup at Poynter

    First impressions of Quartz at CJR

    New USA Today website very, very influenced by iPad design at Poynter

    Phoenix New Times founders selling company at AZ Central

    Managers buy Village Voice from owners, separate publishing from sex ad-linked Backpage site at AP

    Alternative Weeklies: At Long Last, a Move Toward Digital at The State of the News Media 2012

    The Phoenix gets ready for its close-up at Media Nation

    Village Voice Media Holding’s 13 Alternative Newsweeklies Sold to Newly Formed Voice Media Group at AAN

    MediaShift Poll

    Don’t forget to vote in our poll, this time about the future for alt-weekies:

    Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian and fiancee Renee. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit. and Circle him on Google+

    Tagged: alt-weekly alternative media atlantic media boston phoenix mobile apps quartz responsive design tablets usa today village voice

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