Tuesday, December 22, 2009

How is the Post-Print Mindset Changing Journalism?

In his compelling column, "After a Year of Ruin, Some Hope," New York Times "The Media Equation" columnist David Carr wrote about some of the positive changes impacting the media.

For one, Carr points out that some "old-school magazines...are moving very aggressively to refashion their brands for a tablet world and rightly so" -- that is, they're embracing new platforms. The key is for publishers to to move out of the nomenclature of 'subscriptions' for content and into the universe of 'applications,' there may be some gold in those hills."

Carr also points to changes in journalism as a result of new technologies and platforms:
  • "On the subject of Twitter, we should point out that new generations of consumers are now guided to important news by the recommendations of trusted friends, and increasingly, they point to great reporting in sources that didn’t exist just a few years ago."
  • "The founder of Gawker, Nick Denton, told me in a note that The Huffington Post and TMZ have demonstrated that news scoops are the coin of the realm and that Gawker will be heading in that direction. He suggested that the Web was further atomizing into sites that create original content and break news, and others that alter photos, float wild speculation or just gin up any old thing that will draw traffic."
  • "And just as new media have absorbed the enduring values of traditional media — developing sources, making phone calls — so more established players are adopting the tools of the insurgency."
  • "Meanwhile, journalism schools are no longer content just to teach the inverted pyramid. A few weeks ago, I was at CUNY’s graduate school of journalism to help judge presentations from more than a dozen teams of young media entrepreneurs. There were some clunkers, as there always are, but there were also some scary good, real-world proposals from students who don’t have to think out of the box because they were never in one to begin with."
My question: how are you seeing journalism change to adapt to social media and new platforms? I'm not interested in a debate of whether the evolution is good or bad -- that's irrelevant because it's happening regardless. What will be different about how journalism is practiced in 2010? Will traditional media focus more on breaking news -- before it can be validated by two or more sources? Let us know.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gotta Flip about the Flip Marketing Deal with 30 Rock

In addition to advertising on NBC's "30 Rock," Flip has embarked on a very clever campaign. It is shooting behind-the-scenes look at "30 Rock" episodes, and then making them available online.

We see side-by-side shots of the real scene and, from a different angle, the same scene as shot by a flip camera.

Very clever way of demonstrating the quality of the Flip. It's no match to expensive network cameras, but the quality isn't bad.

Additionally, Flip and the cast and probably the writers, too, have created web-only episodes of the characters using a Flip camera. These are funny, and promote both the show and the camera.

I'd be interested in how much Flip is spending with "30 Rock," but the promotion work for both brands. It's TV marketing that's clever and fun to watch.

The Difference between BusinessWeek and Bloomberg BusinessWeek -- Part II

The other aspect of the deal was that Bloomberg said the acquisition was to extend the brand and reach an audience beyond subscribers to the wildly successful Bloomberg terminal.

This makes the firing of popular and well-known columnists like Maria Bartiromo, Jack & Suzy Welch and Stephen Wildstrom all the more perplexing. The personnel changes will help the bottom line, but won't necessarily help accomplish Bloomberg's stated goal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Difference between BusinessWeek and Bloomberg BusinessWeek

I read through the first Bloomberg BusinessWeek issue -- the one after most of the columnists and longtime reporters had either left on their own or had been pushed.

I'm sure I'll get used to the new bylines, but if the magazine were a real estate property, Bloomberg basically bought the magazine for the prestigious address. The new magazine has similar columns to the McGraw Hill BusinessWeek, but this new version is clearly different.

I'm sure most former BizWeek reporters will do ok. Steve Hamm has already started working at IBM. But there are a lot of reporters who still haven't figured out what they'll be doing. I wish them all the best of luck, and look forward to reading the articles in some other format and some other outlet.

Friday, December 11, 2009

In a Web 2.0 World, It's Important to Define "Credibility"

I've been thinking a lot about credibility lately. Rupert Murdoch makes the point in a recent Wall St. Journal op-ed that there's more competition than ever for people interested in news -- and that's a good thing for consumers.

I don't necessarily agree with more competition is good when it comes to journalism. (That said, I don't think it's good when there's only one source for news, either.)

In his article, "Journalism and Freedom: Government assistance is a greater threat to the press than any new technology,"Murdoch says, "Media companies need to give people the news they want." And that seems to explain Fox News and most of News Corp. properties.

That doesn't always translate into accuracy.

Which leads me back to credibility.

I'm concerned that there are a lot of sites available now that post articles that provide some take on the news, many of them catering to a particular audience's belief systems. And that they don't provide objective perspectives, just self-reinforcing content.

The Boston Globe's Ellen Goodman recently wrote about the topic, "Facts and figures, myths and mantras." Interestingly, the response to her column was a mixed bag of polarized thought, some blaming MSM. (Hint: most times when you hear someone refer to "mainstream media" or especially as MSM, that person will tend to be a conservative and they will have been criticizing the media. You can out the responses to Goodman's column here: May fact-checkers not just endure but prevail.)

So the question becomes: what's credible? How can sites ensure they provide credible news and opinion? And what can organizations do to ensure that their social media programs are credible and engage their constituencies?

CNN launched a new ad campaign that features three CNN anchors with the words "Truth," "Facts" and "News" followed by an ad that says "First."

The problem is that truth, facts and news can be subjective. Facts can be emphasized or de-emphasized to make a particular point.

For example, I'm reading "Perfect Pitch" by Jon Steel about winning new business, and he makes the point that facts alone aren't enough. Citing the criminal trial of OJ Simpson, Steel points out that the prosecution focused a lot of attention on the bloody glove that linked (in their opinion) Simpson to the double murder. Yet Johnnie Cochran said if the glove "does not fit, you must acquit."

News organizations take facts and weave a narrative around them to make sense of the facts. To provide context. That's how you can have the New York Times and Wall St. Journal look at the same topic, reported similarly in their news pages, and take such different, opposing stances on their editorial pages.

That's not saying one paper is right and the other wrong. Just that interpretation of those facts is clearly important these days.

So how should we define what's credible? Is credibility in the eye of the beholder? Is it how the Supreme Court defined porn as you know it when you see it?

Organizations that seek to leverage social media will have to figure out how they can be credible, how they can engage their audiences, without turning them off.

The FTC has issued new rules that bloggers must comply with in terms of disclosing gifts or payments from companies. Will that ensure credibility?

People can now get paid for tweeting paid-for messages.

I think we've got to be very careful about being accurate and credible or else you'll turn off the very people you're trying to reach.

That's one of the challenges to leverage social media.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rupert Murdoch on Journalism and Freedom

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch gave an interesting speech to the FTC last week that was reprinted in the Wall St. Journal (which he owns, of course). Entitled, "Journalism and Freedom: Government assistance is a greater threat to the press than any new technology," the speech makes the point that technology allows us to represent readers' interest and give them the news that's important to them" on a much greater scale.

Nothing new there, but Murdoch makes several interesting points:
  • "Media companies need to give people the news they want. I can't tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes—and a rapidly declining circulation. This tells me the editors are producing news for themselves—instead of news that is relevant to their customers. A news organization's most important asset is the trust it has with its readers, a bond that reflects the readers' confidence that editors are looking out for their needs and interests."
  • "Quality content is not free. In the future, good journalism will depend on the ability of a news organization to attract customers by providing news and information they are willing to pay for."
  • "In the new business model, we will be charging consumers for the news we provide on our Internet sites. The critics say people won't pay. I believe they will, but only if we give them something of good and useful value. Our customers are smart enough to know that you don't get something for nothing."
The rest of the article basically argues that the government should not step in and help newspapers, as it did with the auto industry and banking sector. That seems to be self-serving, and I'm not going to address that.

But the points about business models and delivery methods (cross-platform, not the old fashioned paper route) are worthwhile. It will be a difficult transition, I think, to get people to pay for content.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Importance of Little Things to Help Differentiate Companies

I had a lunch meeting at the Olive Garden on Rte 9 in Framingham yesterday, the first time I ever met someone at that restaurant and location.

I drove by the Shoppers World mall, in which it's located, but did not see a sign for Olive Garden. I drove past a big building that matched the architecture of the rest of the mall, but there was no sign at all on the side of the building. The side visible from Rte 9.

So I drove on.

Of course, the plain building without a sign on the side turned out to be the Olive Garden.

Eventually, I turned around, and saw that the sign on the front of the building (which does not face Rte 9) for Olive Garden is visible only when driving West. If you're driving East on Rte 9 as I was, you'll see the sign only in your rear view mirror.

When I got to the restaurant, the other people I was meeting laughed. Because they already knew what I had just learned (not that they had told me in advance). So here's some quick advice on how to differentiate Olive Garden on Rte 9: put up a sign on the large otherwise blank side that faces Rte 9, the road most people take out there.

Monday, December 7, 2009

BusinessWeek Warns about Social Media Snake Oil

It was his final article for BusinessWeek, Stephen Baker wrote an important article, "Beware Social Media Snake Oil: Hordes of marketing "experts" are promoting the value of wikis, social networks, and blogs. All the hype may obscure the real potential of these online tools."

After five or more years writing about why businesses must embrace social media, BusinessWeek has finally written an article showing that it can be a difficult environment. It's worth checking out the article.

There's more from Baker's blog, "My experiment with FastFollowers on Twitter," which provides an interesting look into the editing process.

So let's be clear: social media can be a great tool, but it has to be approached for each client on that client's terms, understanding their culture, their customers, etc. Organizations should evaluate social media, but shouldn't jump in just because everyone else has.

One final point: the article also points out that people will make mistakes using social media, and that it is possible to turn mistakes. As a case study, Baker cites James Andrews, the former Ketchum social media executive who tweeted negatively about Nashville, and incurred the wrath of a FedEx executive. According to Andrews, the embarrassing situation raised his visibility enough be able to launch his own practice.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Verizon v. ATT -- Is that the new cola war? And what does it mean to consumers they're trying to reach?

Verizon and ATT have declared war -- against each other.

Not only do the ads from each company take shots at each other's claims -- taking a tone almost from political ads -- but they're also suing and counter-suing other other, too.

In the '80s, Coke and Pepsi fought the Cola Wars, with each company spending tons of advertising money. Coke won, but at least until recently, Pepsi was doing better, if only because it has a diversified portfolio of products beyond Pepsi Cola.

I generally think voters lose out when politicians wage attack ads, and I tend to think the same, here, for consumers.

The money's going into ads, not into services or lower fees or anything else that really helps consumers. Instead, while making claims and counter-claims, Verizon and ATT are trying to attract customers basically on the message that "We're not them," with the underlying message of "help us beat the competition."

But as Guy Kawasaki says, consumers generally don't buy a product or service to help a company beat its competition. (The exception may be in so-called religious wars such as the fanatics on both sides of Windows v. Macs.)

I'm looking at getting a new phone. And as a Verizon customer, I'm actually considering a move to ATT since it has the iPhone. None of the recent ads from either company is giving me a reason to stay or swith.

Which means that Verizon and ATT are both losing the carrier wars, as far as I'm concerned. At least the Verizon v. Comcast ads, in the cable wars, are funnier, less negative.

What if they took a portion of their advertising budgets and spent it actually improving the stuff that consumers don't like? That may be a heretical concept from someone in PR, but I don't think so.

In an age in which consumer egagement is important, the Carrier Wars are fighting a battle consumers don't care about.