The Budget Showdown, Food Stamps, A Full Accounting at UA & More on ‘Arkansas Week’

Arkansas Week on AETN
8 p.m. Friday.

After an unusually long hiatus, I’m pleased to be back on AETN’s “Arkansas Week” tonight along with host Steve Barnes and fellow panelists Steve Brawner and Doug Thompson. Tonight, we assess the continuing budget/debt ceiling/Obamacare standoff in Washington D.C., the latest Mark Pryor/Tom Cotton skirmish, what’s next in the University of Arkansas Advancement Division deficit snafu, the continuing adventures of Paul Bookout/Mark Darr, the economy, bank mergers and more.

You can tune in at 8 p.m. tonight or catch the replay online right here once it’s posted.

Update: Here’s the full show, embedded after the jump.

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What Acxiom Knows About Me

Me today, over at the day job, assessing data miner Acxiom Corp.’s, a website designed to allow people to see what information the company has collected about them:

Best I can tell, Acxiom has a fairly good picture of me except for two key things: my birthdate and my family situation.

For some reason, Acxiom thinks I was born in 1955, which would put me at 58 years old — 22 years old than I actually am. A little icon next to that data says the source for that information is “self reported.” So maybe I gave bad info on a survey once? My parents are about that age, so I also wonder if some of their data got mixed up with mine. But there’s no way of knowing, and of course I can correct it.

Acxiom also thinks my wife and I have exactly “1 Child.” We have exactly zero. I can correct that information, too.

Otherwise, the data Acxiom has amassed about me and my household is very nearly on the money, albeit in a very general way.

More on Acxiom’s motives for setting up the site in my interview with THV 11 News here and, of course, this interview with company CEO Scott Howe in the New York Times here. In short, Acxiom is striving for transparency to allay public fears about data privacy and head off a regulatory push in Congress.

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post

Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post
The Washington Post’s front page.

A couple of days after the New York Times unloaded the Boston Globe for a song, Jeff Bezos of all people comes along and buys The Washington Post from the Grahams for $250 million:

Bezos, in an interview, called The Post “an important institution” and expressed optimism about its future. “I don’t want to imply that I have a worked-out plan,” he said. “This will be uncharted terrain, and it will require experimentation.”

This might very well be a good idea. If Bezos is willing to run the Post like he runs Amazon — that is, on razor-thin margins or outright losses for years — this could be a match made in heaven. By all means, experiment like hell and play the long game. Maybe we’ll all learn something.

More: Jeff Bezos’ statement on buying The Washington Post.

‘Flying and Thriving’ at the Fayetteville Flyer

The Fayetteville Flyer
The Fayetteville Flyer

Congratulations to Dustin Bartholomew and Todd Gill, who are approaching the five-year anniversary of their hyperlocal news site The Fayetteville Flyer. They talk to Paul Gatling of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal for this cover story on the business, which began in 2007 as a niche site about local music and bands and exists today as the go-to news site for everything that’s going on Fayetteville.

Bartholomew and Gill, former ad executives of Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods, say the site is generating 190,000 page views and between 50,000 to 60,000 unique visitors per month. And they are determined to keep the site free to readers, relying completely on advertisers to support the business:

Today, there are about 45 businesses who advertise on the website.

Those sponsors sign a one-year renewable contract to place ads on the site. The cost? $300 per month, or $3,600 per year.

There are another 10 or so regular advertisers who purchase banner ads through other, short-term advertising options.

“The 45 [sponsors] are what we rely on to keep the business stable; to keep the paychecks coming in,” Gill said. “We know that we can continue going out and bringing in news without wondering if we’re going to be able to sell banner ads this month.”

Those sponsors have been particularly loyal. Gill says it’s rare that one doesn’t renew. And there’s this anecdote, which should send a chill down the spine of the newspaper guys:

Fayetteville-based restaurant chain Slim Chickens is one of the Flyer’s longtime advertisers.

Chief marketing officer Greg Smart said the company’s advertising with the Flyer tend to be more specific to products or promotions.

Slim Chickens no longer advertises with daily newspapers.

“It’s just not cost effective,” he said. “This is really a more affordable option and it’s been a way for us to stay relevant on a hyperlocal basis. I wish there were other [websites] like the Fayetteville Flyer in our other [restaurant] markets.”

That’s a pretty high compliment from an advertiser. Also noted: Bartholomew and Gill say the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette paywall is a great equalizer as the Flyer, with a fraction of the daily paper’s resources, competes for local news readers.

You can read the complete Northwest Arkansas Business Journal story on the Fayetteville Flyer right here. And of course, the Fayetteville Flyer is always online here.


Allbritton Sells KATV, Other Affiliates to Sinclair Broadcasting Group

My piece on today:

Allbritton Communications of Arlington, Va., which owns KATV-TV, Channel 7, in Little Rock and other ABC affiliates, said Monday that it is selling those television stations to Sinclair Broadcast Group of Hunt Valley, Md., the country’s largest television station owner.

According to Politico, which is also owned by Allbritton, the deal is worth $985 million. An Allbritton news release said the sale is scheduled to close in the fourth quarter.

I’d said back in June that Sinclair was the likely buyer, although there’s been no shortage of candidates, many of which have been scooping up other local TV properties all year. Some considered Nexstar Broadcasting Group as a probable buyer, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they kicked the tires. But in Little Rock, Nexstar controls four — count ’em four — affiliates in Little Rock alone, pretty much maxing out their ownership here in the eyes of the feds.

The next question is, how much will this change operations at KATV? Does Sinclair bring in its own management team? How many (if any) newsroom contracts get dropped?

And to what extent does Little Rock feel Sinclair’s sympathy for the GOP? In Seattle, where Sinclair just snapped up KOMO-TV, some are bracing for the “Fox News equivalent in a local news channel.” Admittedly, this might not be as big a deal in the Little Rock DMA as it is in Seattle. Still, KATV is telling viewers that this is strictly a “behind-the-scenes business deal.” “KATV will continue to bring you the best local news, weather and sports coverage you have counted on us to provide for more than 50 years,” the station said.

Also: 5 Things to Know About Sinclair

And: Here Are Some People Unhappy About Allbritton’s Sale to Sinclair

Google Glass in Health Care, Education in This Week’s Arkansas Business

Arkansas Business
Arkansas Business

In this week’s edition of Arkansas Business, I expand on my Google Glass video with this story on how a Little Rock cardiologist, Dr. Christian Assad, and the director of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences & the Arts in Hot Springs, Corey Alderdice, are using Glass in their respective fields.

Assad is envisioning how Glass could help with medical training, and he’s also developing an app that guides people through CPR. Alderdice is thinking through several potential Glass projects for his students at the math and science school, including narrative film and advanced programming.

You can read the full story right here. It’s part of Arkansas Business’ issue focusing on the wireless and technology industry, which also includes a great piece from Chris Bahn on how Arkansas sports venues are dealing with an overload of mobile traffic during games, and this story by Mark Friedman on how wireless tech is helping Arkansas farmers.

Metered Access Model Comes to the Arkansas Times

In what’s said to be a first for alternative weekly newspapers in the country, the Arkansas Times today announced plans to install a metered access model on its now-free website, including its popular Arkansas Blog. Above, a slick video announcing the plan, which limits access to blog content to 10 views per month unless you pay a monthly fee of $9.99.

I write more about the plan here, and talk to Times Editor Lindsey Millar about his expectations for the new model. Moving from a free to paid model is challenging for any news organization on the web these days, but it could be particularly tough for the Times, whose print edition is free.* Will enough core readers decide to pony up $120 a year when most of them have never paid the Times a dime for anything ever? Millar says yes.

(*This isn’t to say there aren’t print subscribers. It’s just that the print subscription base isn’t very large. The Times is primarily a free-pickup distribution paper.)