Meet the New Philly.com Brain Trust

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Mike Topel, left, and Eric Ulken of Philly.com.

Meet the new braintrust of Philly.com. These are the guys who may hold the future of Philadelphia’s two major daily newspapers in their hands.

Mike Topel, the executive editor of Philly.com, is an old hand — he worked on the print side at the Inquirer, then Philly.com, before leaving for several years. He returned this summer to lead the operation. Eric Ulken arrived shortly after from the Seattle Times to become the site’s director of digital strategy — a position that has a foot both in journalism and the business of Philly.com

With the recent announcement that the Inquirer and Daily News sites are shutting down and folding into Philly.com, this duo’s work becomes more important than ever to the future of the Interstate General Media, which owns all three organizations. It’s a fraught assignment: The three newsrooms have a spotty record, at best, of cooperation. Philly.com has had its own reputational problems. But the duo vows a renewed emphasis on journalism — and on making that journalism look good on the web.

The two sat down with Philly Mag recently to talk about the future of Philly.com, how to get three newsrooms to cooperate together on the web, what went wrong with the newspapers’ websites, and Philly.com’s advantages in the marketplace.

Oh, and we talked about comments. Of course.

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(Update) Inquirer, Daily News Continue Circulation Decline

Updated with comment from a company spokesman.

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Print circulation at the Philadelphia Inquirer continues its long slide, according to preliminary numbers from the Alliance for Audited Media.

The Inky’s average Sunday print circulation for the six month period that ended September 30th was 312,197, down 12,000 copies a week from the last report in March, and off by roughly 18,000 copies a week from the same report a year ago. (The preliminary “snapshot” numbers can be seen — along with audited reports from March 2014 and September 2013 — below.)

Circulation was down for the Inquirer’s weekday and the Daily News print editions as well.

“The trend lines for our print numbers are very much in line with other major metro newspapers, but we continue to aggressively pursue ways to improve our products,” said company spokesman Jonathan Tevis. “The significant expansion of The Inquirer’s arts and entertainment coverage and the enhancements to the real estate and health sections illustrate this point. Special reports like the Daily News’ city gentrification project also demonstrate our ongoing commitment to providing readers with the news and information they expect from their local newspaper.

“At the same time, we are very encouraged by the progress we are making on the digital content side. Our replica editions remain very popular, and our September web analytics showed more growth in the area of unique visitors from both desktop and mobile. We also saw a sharp increase in our dominance among competing local news websites in September.”

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The Inquirer Endorses Nobody for Governor

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speaks at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

And in the 2014 Pennsylvania governor’s race, the Philadelphia Inquirer endorses … nobody. Absolutely nobody.

Readers on Sunday were instead treated to a list comparing and contrasting the major positions of Gov. Tom Corbett and challenger Tom Wolf — something that mostly could and should run in the paper’s news pages — but without any kind of weigh-the-facts-and-make-a-recommendation conclusion at the end of it that you’d expect from the op-ed page of the region’s biggest news operation. (A similar grid ran in Friday’s Daily News.) Instead, we got a column from owner/publisher Gerry Lenfest explaining the effort as a kind of high-minded bit of innovation.

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Philly TV News: Lots of Campaign Ads, But No Coverage

The Sunlight Foundation recently watched a half-hour of the CBS 3 local news and found a wide disparity between the number of political commercials and the amount of time covering local political news. Specifically, during that half hour of Eyewitness News, there were 11 political commercials — and zero political stories.

“Instead of an all-news channel for news junkies, a channel for ad junkies!” Penn’s Kathleen Hall Jameson told the Foundation.

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Wendy Ruderman Is Going to City Hall

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After the last couple of years, Daily News writer Wendy Ruderman could’ve gone Hollywood: She won a Pulitzer, went to the New York Times, came back again, co-wrote a well-received book, and soon will see a TV show based on her exploits with reporting partner Barbara Laker and starring Sarah Jessica Parker.

Now she’s headed to City Hall.

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Inky, Daily News Websites Shutting Down

Soon to be no more.

Soon to be no more.

The websites for the Inquirer and Daily News will shut down in December, leaving Philly.com as the sole website distributing the journalism of the two papers.

“In December, we will fold the Inquirer.com and PhillyDailyNews.com sites back into Philly.com, our flagship digital brand,” journalists at Interstate General Media, which owns all three entities, were told in a memorandum today. “What this means is that the standalone newspaper-branded sites will no longer exist and will instead redirect readers to Philly.com, where users will find Inquirer and Daily News journalism featured more prominently and have access to branded Inquirer and Daily News section fronts that represent the editorial voice and judgment of the newspapers.”
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Journalists Back Neshaminy Editors

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A coalition of journalists and educators from across the country have sent out a letter condemning school officials at Neshaminy for their actions against the high school newspaper’s refusal to print the word “Redskins,” the school’s mascot.
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