Tuesday, August 30, 2005


BLOGS: In Denver, publishers say YourHub no threat to 'burb papers

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Publishers say YourHub no threat to 'burb papers

By Amy Bryer
The Denver Business Journal

Updated: 8:00 p.m. ET Aug. 28, 2005

Suburban newspaper publishers have a few cheers but mostly jeers for the
Denver Newspaper Agency's (DNA) new YourHub.com publications and Web sites
for more than 40 metro-area communities.

Rocky Mountain News publisher John Temple has been touting YourHub in his
columns and even on National Public Radio as the newest form of community
journalism -- where Average Joes and Janes can post neighborhood news,
pictures of their pet's birthday party or even their golf score.

But area newspaper publishers call it bad for journalism and a vehicle for
free advertising. Some say it's just plain bad.

"It's the biggest joke I've ever seen," said Bob Sweeney, owner of the
Villager in Greenwood Village and recent past president of the National
Newspaper Association. "It's the worst piece of journalism. I'd be
embarrassed to publish it."

Temple has written that Your Hub is supposed to be a platform where
citizens can share stories, calling it a "virtual town square."

But on a recent YourHub Web site, readers found "news" items promoting car
wash services, a networking event and a college investment service.

Temple, whose staff directs the editorial operations of YourHub, tells
detractors that the beauty of YourHub is that everyone is welcome to post
anything as long as it isn't obscene or violent.

"I believe advertising is a form of free speech," he said.

He likened the Web site to a bulletin board at the gym.

The Denver Newspaper Agency, which publishes the Rocky Mountain News and
The Denver Post, explains on the YourHub.com Web site that it doesn't
monitor content that's posted by users and can't be held responsible.

YourHub staffers do edit the content that's taken from the Web site
submissions and placed in the weekly print edition that goes to Post and
News subscribers in 15 communities.

But newspaper publishers around town say the Web sites and their print
counterparts are being misused by public relations agencies looking to
plug their clients.

"They call it news, but it's not journalism," said David Lewis, publisher
of Mile High Newspapers Inc., which publishes the Golden Transcript,
Lakewood Sentinel, Arvada Press and Wheat Ridge Transcript.

Public relations agencies admit they use YourHub to promote their clients,
but some say they have tried not to overuse the Web sites.

"You can cynically look at it as another venue for advertising, but we've
tried not to abuse it and tried to be a good citizen," said Gwinavere
Johnston, CEO of JohnstonWells Public Relations.

Temple said it should be obvious to consumers where the message is coming
from. "I don't think the First Amendment says it protects free speech,
except for people we don't like or PR agencies."

But PR agencies admit that they don't always include the source of the
information when they submit a story on behalf of their client.

Although some PR agencies have said they don't see the value in using the
YourHub sites.

"We don't think it gets a serious read because it looks like a throwaway,"
said Peter Webb, president of Webb PR.

The publishers said they haven't lost any advertising to YourHub.com, but
Lewis said he did lose his advertising sales manager to the DNA. Some
advertisers are talking with the DNA about advertising with YourHub.com,
Lewis said, but his staff is monitoring the situation.

What YourHub is passing off as news is insulting to professionals who are
in the field, said Scott Perriman, publisher of MetroNorth Newspapers,
which prints the Northglenn-Thornton Sentinel and the Westminster Window.

"The only [readers] who will stick with it are the people who consistently
write angry letters to the editor," he said.

And with a political season approaching, YourHub may be exposing itself to
a libel suit if it doesn't filter submissions that claim "Joe Schmo
politician is a thief and a crook," the publisher said.

Sweeney believes YourHub is destructive to an industry that's already
teetering on the brink of total distrust by readers. If the Web site posts
enough incorrect, inaccurate or misleading stories, it will give readers
one more reason not to trust the media, he said.

"People are already angry with inaccuracies in the media; this concept
encourages that," Sweeney said.

But Temple said YourHub.com is better for the journalism industry because
it involves more people in the product.

Readership of metro daily newspapers is slipping across the country, and
this concept of community journalism is a response to a fear that free
dailies -- such as those proposed by Denver billionaire Philip Anschutz --
will beat traditional paid subscription papers, Sweeney said.

Anschutz bought the San Francisco Examiner in February 2004 and turned it
into a free daily paper. Circulation jumped from 76,000 to 160,000 after
the switch. This past February, he did it again in the suburbs of
Washington, D.C., delivering the Washington Examiner free to 260,000 homes
and newsstands -- and he's trademarked the Examiner name in 70 U.S.
cities, including Denver.

"[The DNA] would be much better off spending their time and money to
improve their daily newspapers' product," Sweeney said.

All of the suburban publishers interviewed by the Denver Business Journal
didn't view YourHub.com as a competitor in their markets, but Harrison
Cochran at the Aurora Sentinel called the publication the "boldest
experiment" he's seen.

"Everything that competes for a minute of eyeball time is competition," he
said. "We'll know in a year if it's worked out."

© 2005 Denver Business Journal


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