Redundant post: The Web is your future

Terry Heaton and Jeff Jarvis at PRNDI conference in Washington D.C.I was fortunate enough to participate in a panel discussion and Q&A session over the weekend in Washington, D.C. at a conference of the country’s public radio news directors. The topic was blogging and how NPR stations can use blogging to help connect with the people formerly known as the audience (TPFKATA). Attendees represented every level of acceptance regarding the importance of the Web in their news lives, and this made for a sometimes heated give-and-take.

One man (“I’m a news director, man!”) was especially antagonistic. Jeff Jarvis, who was on the panel with me, wrote about it after the session for his blog.

Terry and I were almost through with opening tap dances when a hotheaded curmudgeon in the third row interrupted — which is fine; we like conversation — to go on the attack and save the world from these horrible blog people. He spat out all the usual lines, including how terribly busy he is being a news director (his italics) and how this is such a nonsense and a bother. My favorite sputtering: “I have a job. Do you have jobs?”

…I have decided I’m not going to waste my time anymore with lazy, rude, self-important, self-delusional, intellectually dishonest, closed-minded curmudgeons who bark against the full moon of change. It has all been said before. I see no reason to waste my time, nor that of everyone else in the room. My new policy has been that I’m going to fight curmudgeonliness with curmudgeonliness. I told this fool that if he didn’t want to see the opportunities to do things in new ways, fine.

And then we proceeded with a very nice discussion of practical questions about blogging in news organizations, a discussion that continued later in the day. Everyone else I heard wanted to explore these new opportunities and had plenty of questions and doubts to deal with — as well they should — as well as experience to share; they welcomed change or at least know they couldn’t scare it away.

Meanwhile, the curmudgeon acted like a child sent to the corner and refused to look forward at the panel for the rest of the event. My goal was to get us past the growling as soon as possible and onto a substantive discussion. That is, I think, how to deal with curmudgeons. You can always find reasons not to do things. Then fine, don’t do them. Far more interesting and useful is to explore what might happen if you do them.

Everybody loves a curmudgeonThis man was saying out loud what we’ve all felt at one time or the other, and I suspect he’ll change his tune in the seasons ahead. But it gives me a chance to repeat a theme that you’ll always hear from me — in media, the Web is your TOP priority. This statement is debated even within companies, and I’ve seen it played out in strategic decisions by media companies over the last few years. In the minds of many managers, it’s a hard position to embrace, when the overall bottom line is how they’re being graded. “I’ve got bigger problems than the Web,” one manager shared with me, which was a polite way of saying “thanks, but no thanks.” This is a very dangerous place to be.

The problem with this thinking is that we’ve crossed from a place where the Web was adjunct to our primary purpose to a place where the Web is now determining how we think and behave in the “real” media world as well. And that says nothing about how the people formerly known as the advertisers are continuing to move money to the Web.

Why has this happened? It’s the consumers, baby. The appetite for unwashed, news-as-a-process is enormous and so much so that it eats away at the foundation of our “finished” news products. Few people wait for the 6 o’clock news or the morning paper to get their news anymore, and smart managers are feeding this appetite hoping to actually drive traffic to their offline products. That’s the right strategic approach. built a TV show this way.

And I’m hearing more and more from the sales side that agencies are buying online and asking that offline be included as “value added.” Even though research clearly shows that TV is still the cat daddy in terms of advertising, a chink in that armor is revealed anecdotally in the day-to-day trenches of web sales.

As money shifts and consumers shift, what choice do we have but shift with them? None. The Web is our top priority. There is no downside to experimenting and creating online, but there is a huge downside to the opposite, for smart internet pureplay entrepreneurs are already taking nearly 60-cents of every LOCAL web advertising dollar.

A lot of experienced news people — whether broadcast or print — feel like they’ve been baited and switched, that they were trained and hired to do one thing but are now being required to do something else. That’s understandable, but it’s also completely irrelevant. We all need to just deal with it and turn the page.

(Originally posted in today’s AR&D Media 2.0 newsletter)


  1. Holy crap! Is Jarvis standing on a platform or something?? You are not a short man by any means, but he looks like freakin’ Goliath in that picture!!!

  2. i kinda like the picture of you and the girl from rocketboom past better.

    nothing against jj.

  3. Yeah, Amanda didn’t have a scruffy beard. She also wasn’t as tall. And there was something else…

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