Search Results for: tissue paper

Confidently Facing Chaos

ChaosIt’s a very tough time to be in the audience business. The Great Horizontal structurally inhibits the gathering of people together at any one time for focusing on any one thing. People are now firmly in charge of their own viewing or reading schedules, and they view mass scheduling as inefficient and a waste of time. Mass media’s one-to-many paradigm is disrupted by one-to-one interactivity, which seems utterly chaotic to value propositions based on the mass.

But chaos is not the enemy here; it is, in fact, our friend, and even if it wasn’t, we’d still need to be able to face it with confidence and grace, for it is the doorway to prosperity tomorrow.

15 years ago, I read a book by theologian and historian Leonard Sweet that spoke to a lot of questions I’d been having at the time. Sweet is one of the early writers about cultural postmodernism in the West, a serious issue for some in Evangelical Christianity. It was Sweet who introduced me to the terms “postGutenberg” and “postChristian” in describing the events of the day, and while I’ve gone in a slightly different direction since then, it’s amazing how his work parallels mine. Today, Leonard Sweet is considered either a reformer to “the church” or a heretic. It all depends on your view of the faith.

Leonard Sweet

Leonard Sweet

I was making a presentation to a media group many years ago, and one fellow in the audience said, “This is the first time I’ve ever heard the term “postmodernism” outside of my church. Leonard and his work live within the confines of the circle of Evangelicals, and that’s why I think the concepts expressed in his work aren’t more widely discussed. That’s a shame, because the vibe he has ridden is pertinent to anybody concerned about life or business in the 21st Century — even and especially those who’ve prospered under the controlling mantra of modernity: “I think and reason, therefore I understand.”

Modernism is/was the era of logic, science, manufacturing, hierarchies of knowledge, the left brain, the dawn of atheism, managing versus leading, manipulation of the masses through mass media, and especially the creation of technology to make our lives easier or better. It’s important to understand, however, that wrapped around all of this is the one thing that people busy prospering during the era failed to see coming: the empowerment of the people who by now had come to be known as “the consumers.” The word “consumer” removes the humanity from humans by transforming them into groups of traits and characteristics to be studied and manipulated on behalf of the cultural haves. I’ve written plenty about the social engineering that began with Woodrow Wilson’s Creel Committee and then fanned out across the culture in the form of so-called “professional” journalism and public relations. In his book The Engineering of Consent, Edward Bernays, the “father” of professional public relations and a Creel Committee member, makes what is arguably one of the most astoundingly anti-human statements in all of history:

“If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, it is now possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing it.”

Bernays’ “group mind” concept doesn’t give the masses a voice in being manipulated, which is the key to hierarchical success. Today, however, the “group” now has abundant power to talk back and especially to each other. This connectivity signals the end of the modern era, for it overwhelms the authority of hierarchies and reveals such manipulation for what it really is, the self-centered logic of the haves. It will give way to a revolution of the people who, with technology as their weapon, will dismantle anything of the modern era that keeps them in ignorance or subservience to the ruling class. This is the essence of the postGutenberg, postChristian, postModern era. Historically, most revolutions have been bloody, and that will be what’s different about this one. Unless the ruling class can stop it (they can’t), one day in the seeming twinkling of an eye, the people will rise up connected and demand participation at the highest of levels.

In Mr. Sweet’s church, God, the Holy Spirit, will rise to precedence over God, the Father, or God, the Son. God, in a postmodern world, rides no hierarchical throne, because access to Him or Her is available to all equally. This is utterly chaotic to those whose identity is tied to the hierarchy or hierarchies in general. What we will see is Martin Luther’s 95 Theses all over again.

Modernity, the era of the plan

Modernism, the era of the plan

What troubles modernists about chaos is that their lives are dedicated to planning for a reliable tomorrow, and “the plan” either doesn’t exist in our postmodern future or it demands different rules altogether. We need a plan to know when to duck, to rehearse both the good and the bad in preparation for either, to map our way from here to there, to study the currents and conditions around us, so as to steer a steady course. And of course, we need equilibrium to manipulate in the name of gain, be it personal or otherwise. Our whole worlds in the modern era are governed by planning, or better, the idea that you CAN plan your way to a healthy and happy life. And let’s face it, in a hierarchical world, this is about as good as it gets.

A plan for education, a plan for the vacation, a financial plan, a budget plan, weekend plans, a career plan, a health plan, a business plan, a project plan, a dental plan, political plans, a legal plan, a spiritual plan, a plan for today, and one for tomorrow, and another for next year. In the news business, we plan the news, which seems oddly oxymoronic. We believe we can have success and happiness in life if only we manage well, but this is delusional thinking, for it doesn’t consider the elements of time and chance.

In The Education of Henry Adams, while staring in awe at the twin electric turbines at the Paris World’s Fair in 1900 and feeling more than a little bit left behind by technology, Mr. Adams lamented a life that had permitted (encouraged) him to miss what was really taking place around him. “Chaos,” he wrote, “(is) the law of nature; Order (is) the dream of man.”

So this idea of a well-planned existence is nothing but a dream, and, in the end, one that favors the ruling class, those who provide the means for a life purported to be well-planned. This is the arcane reality of life in the West and why it has to change. It doesn’t work anymore. Look around. We’re drowning in debt trying to plan our way to a great life. Something has to give.

The verb form of the word plan means “decide on and arrange in advance.” It is the “in advance” aspect of the word that gives it meaning. Planning always refers to the future. A roadmap is just a layout of the land, but charting a course from here to there turns it into a plan. Chaos is the trip without the map, or more precisely, without the knowledge of navigating one’s way safely across the terrain.

Today’s media companies are facing the twin turbines of tomorrow, chaos and an archaic plan. It’s the wall of chaos that leads to the second, for a plan that “works” in modernist thinking doesn’t stand a chance in a postmodern world. Real time, for example, is chaos to the one who has a production deadline a few hours hence. Henry Adams saw this chaos as he faced his own reckoning that day in Paris.

“From cradle to grave this problem of running order through chaos, direction through space, discipline through freedom, unity through multiplicity, has always been, and must always be, the task of education, as it is the moral of religion, philosophy, science, art, politics and economy; but a boy’s will is his life, and he dies when it is broken, as the colt dies in harness, taking a new nature in becoming tame.”

Nobody wants to die, yet that’s exactly the path to resurrection in our growing networked and increasingly postmodern world.

And so we come full circle to today. Local media companies think they can plan their way to a prosperous future, believing with all their hearts that chaos doesn’t stand a chance against a tried and true business model. And so we stick to what we’ve always known, even though the signs around us say we should do otherwise.

Create the vision first, then move in its direction

Create the vision first, then move in its direction

The substitute for a plan in our postmodern tomorrow is a business vision, that which we can and perhaps even “should” become. We need to prepare for a season of being constantly in flux, for this is the new reality of doing business in the 21st Century. This vision-based endpoint drives strategy and tactics so as to enable arrival at some future date, although that may or may not be known. In the meantime, we must be nimble, fleet of foot, flexible and adaptive, for that is what will carry us when our steps run us into a wall (as they likely will). We must constantly monitor our progress and make corrections, all without forecasting, for the easiest way to miss the path is to try and force things to occur. Chaos isn’t inherently disorganized; it simply appears as such to the mind soaked in the brine of one-potato, two-potato, three-potato, four. There is something fascinatingly sweet to me about organization within chaos. It demands my constant attention, because the ground literally moves beneath me, as I move myself toward the vision that stands before me. Like in a gigantic maze, I move this way and that, confident that I will set foot at my destination. It requires a certain faith in your own ability to see the future, something that is scarce in the modernist business world of financial projections, forecasts and especially control. It is the world of leaders, not managers, as I’ve written many times before.

A thorough understanding of the movements of the network guides the vision. As the great Wayne Gretzky noted, “You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going.” But how do you know where it’s going? By paying attention to what’s happening, whether it agrees with your business model or not. That requires close monitoring of technological advances and especially for media, what’s happening in the fragile world of advertising today. For example, if we wish a seat at the table of content marketing, we must have a user-interface on our websites that cater to native advertising or sponsored posts. Switching to such a model won’t hurt our current strategy, but it does prepare us for participation in the new world of advertising.

I call this driving the car and fixing it at the same time.

Most of all, we need not to be afraid of chaos. Fear is tissue paper designed as a brick wall. Chaos is the natural order of things, and change is what it’s all about. Adapt and thrive in the tomorrow of tomorrows; fight it, ignore it, or look down on it, and you’ll find yourself dispatched almost overnight to the place that Henry Adams found himself those many years ago.

 

An open letter to newsroom employees everywhere

The business of media has been a part of my life for over 41 years. I care deeply about it and especially the people who are in it for reasons of journalism. It is to you that this open letter is addressed:

    To Whom It May Concern:

The time to prepare for the collapse of the institution that employs you is at hand, and I thought it would be useful to lay out a scenario in which you come out on top when it happens. You may think I’m nuts or overly negative or a doomsayer or whatever, and that’s all right. I claim no special vision of tomorrow; I only follow the bigger trends as they relate to culture and our profession, and frankly, there’s just not a place for specialist newsrooms that pay living wages in the world into which we’re heading. You don’t have to believe that for it to be true, but it would be wise to at least consider the road ahead.

Most media companies are publicly-owned. In such cases, management has a fiduciary responsibility to the company’s shareholders. This is as old as the stock market, but a sweet return on investment for those shareholders is getting harder and harder to provide. That’s because it isn’t about revenue with these companies; it’s about growth, and in a fragmenting, disintermediated marketplace, the lack of growth is a real killer. Privately-held companies can absorb stymied growth somewhat better, but even the people who own these companies would like to see their compensation growing instead of shrinking. There are only two ways to produce growth: either increase revenue or reduce expenses, and these two challenges are not going away. Ask anybody who’s been in media management for very long, and they’ll tell you the growth is gone. Political advertising produces gold every other year, but there’s no guarantee this will continue and it’s a poor model to begin with.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s still a TON of money being made in the media world, but the industry has matured and the ROIs just aren’t what they used to be. There’s no sign either that things will ever be what they once were.

This reality exists in the background, as we go about our daily lives holding our collective breath. The TV upfront season is upon us, and there’ll be increases announced. The illusion will be that everything is fine. The NAB conference in Las Vegas next month will be filled with positive statements and sessions about how to capitalize on this innovation or that one. The NAA’s mediaXchange conference in Washington, D.C. next month promises that “media thought leaders” will “provoke and inspire attendees.” But managers in the industries of media know well that these are challenging times, and that the background threatens to become the foreground with each passing day.

So how does this impact you, and what should you be doing about it?

If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to begin building and refining your personal brand. The good thing about this is that you’re in charge, so you get to pick and choose how and how much you are promoted in the world of personal media. It’s not necessarily the size of the fish in the pond that will succeed tomorrow, although that’s always a nice advantage. What will be important is your niche and how valuable you are within that niche. This will produce value to the people who will want exclusive or first crack at the content you’ll create, regardless of the financial structure available. If aggregation and curation are the filters for media consumption downstream (they are), your place in the queue matters much more than which corporate brand you represent. You control this through the quality of your work and attending to the marketing of yourself. You can’t blame anybody else for success or failure here.

For lots of excellent and practical advice on personal branding, I highly recommend tuning in to The Personal Branding Blog. It’s a wonderful resource for the hows and what-to-dos of personal branding. Spending a few hours here will shortcut your learning.

This is incredibly important for you, because, like it or not, we’re moving to a scenario where you very likely won’t be employed directly by a media company. You’ll work as an independent contractor and sell your work in a variety of ways. It’s simply more cost effective for media companies to hire independent contractors than it is to carry the burdensome costs of employees, but that’s not the only reason you should be thinking this way. Telecommuting is one of the big trends in employment in 2012, and people who play in this world really, really like it. You — the currently employed — will be able to live a happy and successful life outside the bonds (that’s right) of employment. Absent the old, colonialist practice of “owning the help” through a paycheck and benefits, you’ll do better, more important work, because you’re doing it for yourself. You’ll enjoy working from your home. You’ll enjoy the growing tax benefits of the independence, and I’m convinced that insurance companies will happily create umbrella options that will work better for everybody. The whole world is drifting in this direction, and the benefits vastly outweigh the negatives, the chief of which is simply fear. Fear is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall. Never forget that.

Don’t get caught up in the details, because they can and will all be worked out. Don’t judge tomorrow’s opportunities by today’s seeming reality. Even if I’m wrong (I’m not), you can still benefit from the advice to hone your personal brand. Remember that in the world of work, the only person who really cares about you is you. Technology has given you the opportunity to better yourself through personal branding, and I strongly recommend you get busy. Don’t fall for the illusion that you just need to hang on for a few more years and everything will work itself out.

  • Internally insist that you do nothing for pay that doesn’t directly or indirectly promote you and your brand. Nothing. Don’t be a fool here and get yourself into hot water over this, so let it be an internal driver only. Don’t worry; you’ll find ways to accommodate your mandate. It simply needs to be top-of-mind.
  • Pick a niche, something for which you have a deep passion, because passion can literally take over when everything else fails.
  • The days of a mile wide and an inch deep are over. You must become a/the valued expert in the information niche of your choosing.
  • Deliver the goods. Be the best you can be at news and information (or whatever) for that beat. Let no one best you. You’ll establish yourself through your work, not what you say about your work. Spend the hours up front that it’ll take to relentlessly pursue the promotion of you, your work, and your brand, but above all, be known by and for your work.
  • Get off the market-hopping merry-go-round. Seriously. Put down roots somewhere you want to live, and start living! Roots are an enormous asset even today, but tomorrow their value will be incalculable. A part of owning your niche is geographic, for parochial attitudes and beliefs govern many issues.

Blossom where you’re planted, and Life will show you the rest. Knowing that your brand’s value will increase over time, plan accordingly. But do plan! Take a really hard look at what you want and what you need. If your needed level of compensation is above what the market will pay (be realistic here), give serious consideration to doing something else, but also weigh that against the possibilities you have as an independent contractor. Is your niche such that you can find additional compensation elsewhere? Take your time with this, for your future is at stake.

I believe that a Great Winnowing is at hand, when those who’ve chosen journalism as a way to make a difference are separated from those who view it as a channel to be a big shot. Humility is a wonderful human attribute, but one that’s increasingly absent in the people who’ve chosen this career path. This winnowing will relieve us of many of the ego-driven personalities found in those who are using their employers to see their names in lights. Again, it’s your work, not you, that matters in a meritocracy. Embrace that or find a different way to make a living. You will not get paid in media just by showing up, not in any capacity.

Be smart and begin to disassociate yourself with the industrial age concepts associated with modernity. Don’t put yourself in a position where you function as a virtual slave to the one who signs your paycheck. Put your dependence where it belongs and move it away from your “employer.” You want to be self-reliant? You can do it, and there’s no time like now to get started.

And to the managers who work in newsrooms, it’s in the best interests of your company to assist in promoting the personal brands of your employees. You know and understand the marketing value of the mass. You know that it works. You also know that there’s a commensurate value that comes back to you in promoting the people who work under your brand. Moreover, your reputation as one who advances the personal brands of those who work for you will get around. Don’t you want the top of the class working for you? Don’t you want the real experts in the community working for you? Don’t you want those people free to grow their own followers beyond the reach of your signal or your circulation? Of course you do, so do what you can to puff your own, for it’s the smart — although initially counterintuitive — business path to tomorrow.

Understand that there are personal brands with “media” minds already growing in your community, and that some of them (even one) might provide very useful content as an independent contractor already. Begin looking at systems and compensation programs that will benefit everyone.

Also to the managers, begin studying and examining the processes and systems you’ll need to create a genuinely virtual newsroom. Embedding journalists in the community makes much more sense today, because the need to work from a centralized location is increasingly unnecessary. The cloud is the center today. More time in the field produces results, from both quantity and quality perspectives. Time is, after all, the new currency.

To managers in sales departments everywhere, personal branding applies profoundly to you and your team as well, and the same rules, responsibilities and opportunities that exist for news people are also there for sales people. People buy from people, and the net provides a unique connective thread that we didn’t have just a few years ago. We’re seeing some areas where car sales people, for example, are buying ads at the hyperlocal level in order to raise their profiles in the community. We should be doing the same things — and more — with and for our people.

When is all of this going down? Gradually, at first, perhaps in the next 3-4 years. Unless something positive and dramatic happens with the economy, 2013 is going to be an absolutely brutal year for the industry (again), and all of this will accelerate. Don’t wait for somebody else to do it; YOU do it, regardless of your position within the whole.

Again, you don’t have to believe any of this, but my money’s on the folks who take advantage of what’s at their fingertips in building for themselves a better chance when the winnowing accelerates. Others will sit back and wait for more obvious signs that they’ll have to do something. By then, however, it’ll be too late. Nobody can rest on their laurels. Nobody.

Please accept this in the spirit with which it’s intended, and good luck.

Terry

   

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

IN THIS ISSUE:

DATA OWNERSHIP WAR HEATS UP: ADVERTISERS CLAIM YOUR DATA IS THEIRS
THE ONLINE AUDIENCE MATURES, SEEKS NEWS
MEDIA’S NEW ADVERTISING MISSION IS TO ENABLE COMMERCE
NEWSPAPER GROUP BUILDS WEBSITE, BUT NEEDS TO FOCUS ON FUTURE
UNEMPLOYMENT ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE
WHAT IF TV ADS WERE SOLD THE WAY WEB ADS ARE SOLD?

DATA OWNERSHIP WAR HEATS UP: ADVERTISERS CLAIM YOUR DATA IS THEIRS (Terry)
tug of war between advertisers and publishers over dataWPP’s GroupM, the biggest buyer of media in the world, took the unusual (and quiet) step this week of updating the Terms and Conditions (T&Cs) it requires of media companies who run the ads it serves. The most important change involves the data that its advertisers gather in the serving of ads. GroupM claims that the data belongs to them and their clients, not the media company sites on which the ads run. This is a bold challenge to media companies, and a pre-emptive strike against anybody wishing to run a business based on that data. Online Media Daily broke the story.

The wording in GroupM’s new T&Cs, which are attached to all the insertion orders and contracts it submits to online publishers beginning this year, amends the current industry standard by adding, the following: “Notwithstanding the foregoing or any other provision herein to the contrary, it is expressly agreed that all data generated or collected by Media Company in performing under this Agreement shall be deemed ‘Confidential Information’ of Agency/Advertiser.”

Experts familiar with online advertising contracts say the term is a smoking gun, because it raises a broader industry debate over who actually owns the data generated when an advertiser serves an ad on a publisher’s page. Is it the advertiser’s data? Is it the agency’s data? Is it the publisher’s data?

GroupM Interaction COO John Montgomery said that the move is designed to protect the confidentiality of the data, so that competitors can’t learn the strategies and tactics its clients are using. This explanation is not likely to satisfy media companies, and it’s one they would be wise to challenge. Of course, GroupM holds the purse strings for hundreds of millions of dollars in online advertising, so challenging these Terms and Services is problematic, to say the least, for companies that need any dollars they can find. GroupM knows this, and it’s using the current seller’s market to force a change that will have long range ramifications for media.

To restate something I wrote a few weeks ago for this newsletter, the IP address records and cookie data obtained by ads that are served on media company sites rightly belongs to the media company. Until this move by GroupM, the industry generally recognized that data ownership was shared three ways – the agency, the advertiser and the media company. GroupM is now saying it rejects the ownership claim of the property upon which the ads are served.

ESPN, Forbes, Martha Stewart and others abandoned third-party ad serving last year, because they felt their properties were being undervalued. Make no mistake, however, this issue of data ownership was a factor. They’re serving their own ads now, which allows them to claim ownership of the data.

This is the biggest issue facing media companies today, although most aren’t even aware of it. It’s a case of understanding how the back end of the Web works instead of concentrating all our efforts on the front end. The Web is not TV or newspapers, and nowhere is that more evident than here.   <Link>

<<< >>>

THE ONLINE AUDIENCE MATURES, SEEKS NEWS (Steve)
We tend to picture online users as predominantly young, even very young. But a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project shows us that older generations are online in much bigger numbers now.

The first thing to note about the study is that the internet audience is pretty even among all age groups. The mix of the total adult population now very closely parallels that of the internet-using audience:

Pew explains generations

Why is this important? The study found even numbers among the demand for news.

Pew explains generational differences

So one quick conclusion we can draw is that the traditional news audience is, indeed, looking online. The second, perhaps more encouraging conclusion is that the 18-32s are looking for news just as much as the older audience. Across the board, around 90% of the audience uses search (until you get to the 73+ group) which is one reason Terry and I are bullish on local search and advertising.

I’ll spare you another chart, and just let you know that the broadband penetration is around 80-90% in every age group (the 90% group being 18-49), which are very encouraging numbers for those in the streaming video business.

If there’s anything discouraging here, it’s probably in the email category: young people use it the least. They prefer IMs and social network messages. If you use email, you’re old, at least as far as they’re concerned. That’s right – email isn’t fast enough for 17-year-olds. Sigh.

There are a lot of juicy numbers here that make the study well worth your time. You’ll find stats on Web use of travel planning, job search, social networking (stronger than you may think among boomers) and bloggers (fewer than I guessed among Gen Xers.) Overall, the numbers are very encouraging for those in the online news biz. Check it out.   <Link>

<<< >>>

MEDIA’S NEW ADVERTISING MISSION IS TO ENABLE COMMERCE (Terry)
In today’s changing media environment, the simple serving of ads is no longer sufficient to sustain business growth. We have to do more, and it begins with taking responsibility for the effectiveness of the advertising we provide to an audience. We intuitively know this is true, because we recognize that our own content can’t simply stand still the way it used to. If we have to jump through technological hoops to “help” our content be more engaging, imagine what our advertisers want and need.

This is one of the reasons we say that “advertising is content” in the Media 2.0 world. Advertisers know all too well what’s happening and, absent efforts from media companies to help them, they’re taking matters into their own hands in attempts to find and engage audiences with their messages.

Local television stations, for example, have sustained double-digit revenue losses from the automotive category, because the best we can provide is image or brand advertising. We’re very good at that, but automobile dealers have discovered better ways to move inventory, and we’re not a part of that. In today’s economy especially, lead generation is the only thing that matters to automobile dealers, and that happens most efficiently (and cost-effectively) from non-media sites like autotrader.com. Moreover, dealers are increasingly relying on used-car inventory to stay afloat, and the used car business is driven by inventory-based advertising, which is why dealers will likely always pay for such ads with newspapers.

Used car ads are inventory-driven

With the Web, TV stations have a tool that can help auto dealers conduct commerce, but such efforts have been generally limited to special sections for paying dealers or image and special deal awareness ads for new cars. TV station websites simply are not in the used car advertising business, despite the fact that it would be a relatively simple task to do so.

An auto dealer’s inventory is its heart and soul. Each night, dealers transmit a simple data file of their updated inventory to companies like HomeNet. HomeNet serves the online and mobile inventory needs of perhaps a dozen dealers in a medium-sized market. The point is this data stream contains everything any media company would need to provide inventory-based ads for local dealers. A widget, for example, with updatable content would do nicely, and this is what we mean when we say that web advertising is about enabling commerce.

The usefulness of any action-based online ad depends entirely on whether visitors to the site will heed the call to action and click on the ad. As media companies, our tendency is to avoid responsibility for such action, believing that our role ends at the serving of the ad. This is Media 1.0 thinking, however, and the assumptions of enabling commerce include “helping” users click on ads.

Click-through rates on ads are generally horrible, less that two-tenths of one percent. There is also data suggesting that two of every three clicks is a mistake. Anything we can do to enhance those rates will reflect well on our sites and give us a competitive advantage with advertisers seeking clicks.

One thing we could do without compromising integrity is to put a very simple application/page between the ad and the URL of its link. We call this an “anchor interstitial.”

Anchor Interstitial

The page only appears for about four seconds, but it does two things. One, it thanks the user for “helping us serve you better by supporting our sponsors,” and, two, it encourages users to stay with the click. It violates no ethical standards, because it doesn’t endorse any product or service. It’s a generic, “thank you” response to a click. To the advertiser, however, it demonstrates a willingness on the part of the media company to enable commerce in the market.

In order to move our businesses back into a growth mode, we’re going to have to go beyond the simple serving of advertising and the belief that our scarce content alone is sufficient to drive business. It isn’t and won’t ever be again, and, as Steve and I have written often, the enabling of commerce was the original role of advertising anyway. The 19th Century newspaper enabled commerce through classifieds, and it did so beautifully.

The Web is the new newspaper, and we’re just beginning to understand how to use it.   <Link>

<<< >>>

NEWSPAPER GROUP BUILDS WEBSITE, BUT NEEDS TO FOCUS ON FUTURE (Steve)
Newspaper Project logoBefore you read any further, check out NewspaperProject.org. I mean it. You need to check out the site and form your own opinion. Then come back. (I’m a big fan of sending people away so they’ll come back, so I’ll wait.)

Now then, what do you think?

NewspaperProject.org writes it was:

“… launched in 2009 by a small group of newspaper executives to support a constructive exchange of information and ideas about the future of newspapers. While we acknowledge the challenges facing the newspaper industry in today’s rapidly changing media world, we reject the notion that newspapers—and the valuable content that newspaper journalists provide—have no future.”

First off, the ideals of journalism throughout the site are noble. We need journalism. You will never find Terry and I taking shots at journalism or those that practice its craft. AR&D is, in fact, dedicated to finding new ways for journalists to get their message out. We’re journalists and we want journalism to thrive.

But this site’s focus on “being newspaper” here is troubling. The site and its authors need to consider their skills and not their platform as the valuable commodity. And here is where they need to let go. There is a little irony here worth pointing out: NewspaperProject.org is run on a blog software program. I’m not going to dwell on the irony. You get it.

There’s no other business in which so many articles have been written and so many meetings have been held dedicated to insulting the people who consume (or used to consume) your product. And that’s really what it is when the writers get defensive about newspapers and the need for “newspaper journalists.”

The notion that there are “newspaper journalists” is, in fact, the problem. We need to get to a place where we stop talking about “TV journalists,” “newspaper journalists,” “Web journalists,” “Blog journalists,” etc. We’re journalists. Everything else continues old notions of snobbery. Great journalism and great journalists will always be in demand. What we need to do, in fact, is invest in our future and find ways to support journalism, not “woe is me” the past.

And that’s the disservice NewspaperProject.org does to its audience. Check out this story it ran from Editor and Publisher. It’s called “Time for Newspaper Folks to Fight Back! Here’s How:”

“Newspapers can increase their revenues and reach by investing in more content creation for different audiences, not less. The more compelling articles and information a newspaper and its website can offer, the longer readers and online users will be engaged. The longer consumers are engaged, the more exposure they will have to ads in print and online.”

That’s a tempting idea, but it’s old-school thinking and it has not worked. In fact, the idea that “we need to create more content” is dead wrong. Terry addressed this recently in his essay, that’s right, “More Content is Not the Answer”:

“Remember that advertising is our business, not content. We need to be spending more time, energy and resources in local advertising than in shuffling the deck to produce more content. The Media 2.0 game is about enabling commerce in our communities, not multi-platform distribution of scarce content. Scarcity is a trap in a world of abundance… So my advice (is this): Do the multi-platform thing. But don’t be fooled into thinking that this is your revenue salvation. Identify the local web. Organize it. Put ads all over it. In other words, be Google in your market. ”

(I realize it doesn’t exactly take a brave man to quote his partner, but I couldn’t put it any better.)

Then there’s this defensive article by Jay Smith, 37-year veteran and former CEO of Cox Newspapers:

“If nobody reads newspapers anymore, I wonder, why did the governor of Illinois try to silence the Chicago Tribune’s editorial writers? And the morning after our historic presidential election, what were people lining up to buy?”

The answer to the first question is: Because nobody likes to see their name written about negatively. Witness a TV station’s news director having fits about one blogger writing something negative about the station and you’ll know what I mean. And the answer to the second question? Because people like souvenirs.

Smith makes the mistake of confusing his product (journalism) with his platform. He also blames the audience. What good does that do? “Hey you! Without newspapers, radio and TV won’t know what the news is! So buy one!” I’m sorry – but we have to get past that, no matter how true (and it has plenty of truth to it) that may be. Smith has no answers for the crisis newspapers face, only complaints.

NewspaperProject.org needs to do journalists a service and focus on proven solutions. Otherwise, by running articles like “Network Television is Fading Fast,” it only gloats in the misfortunes of others and insists upon its old model, rather than helping the thousands who are losing their jobs. The best journalism exposes flaws in systems and offers solutions. NewspaperProject.org does neither. It needs to do both.   <Link>

<<< >>>

UNEMPLOYMENT ADVICE FROM SOMEONE WHO’S BEEN THERE (Terry)
The government reported record unemployment last week, as if anybody needed to have that validated. The economy sucks, and it’s not a fun time to be on the beach. The problem, as reported by MarketWatch, is that growth in continuing claims — a measurement of the difficulty of finding a NEW job — is even outpacing first-time claims.

Continuing jobless claims rose by 159,000 in the week ended Jan. 17 to a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the most since the government’s records began in 1967…

Meanwhile, the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits also increased, up 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 588,000 in the week ended Jan. 24. This put the number just 1,000 below the 26-year high for initial claims set a month ago…

“We see no chance of this picture changing in the foreseeable future,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for High Frequency Economics. “We expect net job losses of about 3 million through the first half of this year.”

Job losses are occurring in all sectors, including media, and my heart goes out to colleagues who lose their jobs. However, I found my new life while unemployed, and you can, too. So here’s my advice, if you get laid off:

  1. Go directly to the unemployment office. A lot of people resist this, because it’s a pain and an acknowledgment of your situation. Rise above it and get it out of the way. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll get your checks.
  2. Take a vacation. Get away. Clear your head. Rest. Read. Most people panic, but panic takes you into tomorrow, and your head needs to be in today.
  3. Make a plan. This is where a lot of people miss it, because their only concern is getting a job with enough income to sustain their lifestyle. Bad thinking. Time is your friend and your enemy, so use it wisely. What will you do the first month? In three months? Six? Your reality will change as time goes on, and you should prepare for it.
  4. Obviously, cut expenses. You cannot afford anything that doesn’t meet the criteria of basic “need.” I’d hang on to the Internet as long as possible, but there’s always the library.
  5. Open your mind and follow your heart. The worst thing about being unemployed is the waiting, and even that has been changed in the new world. In earlier times, I’d make Lego creations every day, just to keep the creative juices flowing. The last time unemployment graced my presence, however, all I did was study and write. The Web is endlessly fascinating, and if you’re going to lose yourself, do it here.
  6. Learn new skills, like basic HTML, PhotoShop and other tools of the Web. You’re taking control of your future in so doing, and you’ll amaze yourself along the way.
  7. Blossom where you’re planted. This is always good advice, but especially now. Be a blessing to yourself, your family and your friends. If you have a dog, pay attention. They’re always “in the moment” with a smile. Make a conscious effort to do the same thing. Some days will be harder than others, but no matter how bad you feel about yourself and your situation, it could always be worse. Unemployment is not a death sentence. If you choose the pity pot over Life, you’ll squander every moment that’s before you. Good luck with that.
  8. Develop and hone your brand. In a networked world, your brand is everything. Is it what you were, or will you make it something new? Make this your priority, for it will carry you far.
  9. Being employed isn’t what makes you a journalist, so if that’s your calling, keep at it. Audience building begins with one. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.
  10. Pick a charitable cause, something you’re passionate about and volunteer. If you’re busy giving of yourself, you’re much more likely to “hear” the messages that Life sends your way.
  11. Don’t be afraid to turn the page. It’s not the end of the world; it’s merely a new adventure for you and yours. Fear is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall. It will destroy you and everything you love, if you let it, so meet the future with realistic thinking, but always temper that with the truth that opportunity doesn’t always follow our plan.

Your real mission is to give Life a chance to put all the pieces in place for your next doorway. You have a big role in that, but often it’s most important to just get out of the friggin’ way. You’ll be all right. I promise.   <Link>

<<< >>>

WHAT IF TV ADS WERE SOLD THE WAY WEB ADS ARE SOLD? (Steve)
All that money spent on Super Bowl ads got me musing – what if we sold Web ads the same way we sell TV ads? Advertisers blew a ton on the Super Bowl, and all for a general audience. They got a buzz, but do you remember which ad had the monkeys? What product the ad with the black and white faces saying inspirational things is for? The ads may be cute and funny, but effective? Who knows? One thing they are not is cheap.

But what if they were sold the way we sell the Web? We still vastly undersell our Web assets, and we aren’t sure how to market them. If we sold Web the way we sell TV:

Advertisers wouldn’t pay anything unless we could guarantee them viewers would leap through the television and buy their product.

If we owned a newspaper, we’d tack on the TV ad as added value.

We would run 10 ads at once all around the screen, because “there’s space.”

We would hire people who had previously sold products unrelated to TV – say, crackers.

If the client didn’t have creative, stations would ask the TV news producers to make the ads.

TV news producers would also be responsible for increasing the size of the audience, giving reports to the managers on the audience, running the operations department, fixing the equipment and directing the newscasts.

We would run a big ribbon all the way around the newscast promoting the advertiser.

Right before each package, the viewer would have to sit through a 10-second ad.

During the newscast, there would be a dancing girl promoting discount mortgages.

Of course, we don’t allow any of this. We’ve even heard how some of this would be “unethical” and “bad for journalism.” But online – we’ll sell anything. So… why?

And would you like to try to slug a few baseballs out of the park at the top of the screen during our six pm? You could save on your insurance.   <Link>

<<< >>>

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
The Internet won’t kill video. It’ll just eat it entirely, assimilate it, and turn it into a function of the web. Once television becomes an application of the web, it’ll be much, much better. I for one can’t wait. John Battelle, CEO Federated Media.

Unemployment advice, circa 2009

The government reported record unemployment today, as if anybody needed to have that validated. The economy sucks, and it’s not a fun time to be on the beach. The problem, as reported by MarketWatch, is that growth in continuing claims — a measurement of the difficulty of finding a NEW job — is even outpacing first-time claims.

Continuing jobless claims rose by 159,000 in the week ended Jan. 17 to a seasonally adjusted 4.78 million, the most since the government’s records began in 1967…

Meanwhile, the number of new claims for state unemployment benefits also increased, up 3,000 to a seasonally adjusted 588,000 in the week ended Jan. 24. This put the number just 1,000 below the 26-year high for initial claims set a month ago…

“We see no chance of this picture changing in the foreseeable future,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief economist for High Frequency Economics. “We expect net job losses of about 3 million through the first half of this year.”

Job losses are occurring in all sectors, including media, and my heart goes out to colleagues who lose their jobs. However, I found my new life while unemployed, and you can, too. So here’s my advice:

  1. Go directly to the unemployment office. A lot of people resist this, because it’s a pain and an acknowledgment of your situation. Rise above it and get it out of the way. The sooner you do, the sooner you’ll get your checks.
  2. Take a vacation. Get away. Clear your head. Rest. Read. Most people panic, but panic takes you into tomorrow, and your head needs to be in today.
  3. Make a plan. This is where a lot of people miss it, because their only concern is getting a job with enough income to sustain their lifestyle. Bad thinking. Time is your friend and your enemy, so use it wisely. What will you do the first month? In three months? Six? Your reality will change as time goes on, and you should prepare for it.
  4. Obviously, cut expenses. You cannot afford anything that doesn’t meet the criteria of basic “need.” I’d hang on to the Internet as long as possible, but there’s always the library.
  5. Open your mind and follow your heart. The worst thing about being unemployed is the waiting, and even that has been changed in the new world. In earlier times, I’d make Lego creations every day, just to keep the creative juices flowing. The last time unemployment graced by presence, however, all I did was study and write. The Web is endlessly fascinating, and if you’re going to lose yourself, do it here.
  6. Learn new skills, like basic HTML, photoshop and other tools of the Web. You’re taking control of your future in so doing, and you’ll amaze yourself along the way.
  7. Blossom where you’re planted. This is always good advice, but especially now. Be a blessing to yourself, your family and your friends. If you have a dog, pay attention. They’re always “in the moment” with a smile. Make a conscious effort to do the same thing. Some days will be harder than others, but no matter how bad you feel about yourself and your situation, it could always be worse. Unemployment is not a death sentence. If you choose the pity pot over Life, you’ll squander every moment that’s before you. Good luck with that.
  8. Develop and hone your brand. In a networked world, your brand is everything. Is it what you were, or will you make it something new? Make this your priority, for it will carry you far.
  9. Being employed isn’t what makes you a journalist, so if that’s your calling, keep at it. Audience building begins with one. Don’t despise the day of small beginnings.
  10. Pick a charitable cause, something you’re passionate about and volunteer. If you’re busy giving of yourself, you’re much more likely to “hear” the messages that Life sends your way.
  11. Don’t be afraid to turn the page. It’s not the end of the world; it’s merely a new adventure for you and yours. Fear is tissue paper disguised as a brick wall. It will destroy you and everything you love, if you let it, so meet the future with realistic thinking, but always temper that with the truth that opportunity doesn’t always follow our plan.

Your real mission is to give Life a chance to put all the pieces in place for your next doorway. You have a big role in that, but often it’s most important to just get out of the friggin’ way. You’ll be all right. I promise.