Anthony Moor

Exploring Media in Transformation | Transforming in Media Exploration

/ˌtrænsfərˈmeɪʃən/ n. 1: a process of change from one form to another.

ChicagoNow: Coherent execution of coherent strategy

By now you've probably seen the spiffy video produced by the Chicago Tribune about its soon-to-be-launched blogging/aggregation site ChicagoNow.  They're dealing with the foray of Huffington Post and ESPN into their market, plus the drip drip of social networking sites like facebook eating into their core franchise.

It's only a matter of time before this happens here in Dallas too.

So give the Trib staff credit:  They dreamed this up in December and have clearly executed in a coordinated fashion across the entire company toward a defined goal.  They have taken the time to create the business plan, hone the editorial concept, build the technology, design the Web 2.0 interface, aggregate the voices and develop a marketing pitch.  So it's a good play, well executed, by the way it looks from the outside.

That's how news organizations need to act if they've got a prayer of survival.

Know any companies which could use a dose of that kind of business discipline?

Topical verticals seek revenue beyond the banner ad

Steve Buttry of Gazette Communications, which is embarking on one of the bolder experiments in reinvention, posts a followup to his company's decision to separate content production from product production.

They're aggressively chasing new sources of revenue, specifically transactional opportunities around content (such as selling tickets next to movie reviews etc.) and specialized topical verticals that address the spaces in between the obvious consumer moments.

What if we developed a vertical for the everyday tasks of driving? This would provide a traffic map, gas-price map, pothole map, databases of bridge inspections, parking meter citations and gas-pump inspections. We would provide discussion groups for classic-car fans, parents of teen drivers and other automotive interests. We'd offer a place for sharing photos of souped-up cars and stories about first cars. We'd provide text alerts about traffic problems and road closures. (Many newspaper sites already provide some of these services, but not grouped together. The auto-focused databases are grouped with other databases, as though we want to appeal to some imaginary broad segment of the population interested in data.)

We're working on similar projects.  The challenge is how to engage a newsroom focused on daily journalism in providing this kind of content.  Not to mention the obvious elephant in the room:  Is this journalism at all?

The BBC, Wikipedia, accuracy, speed and me

I had an interesting exchange with someone from the BBC at the RTNDA conference I attended last week. I was on a panel devoted to ethics in digital journalism, and much of the discussion and concern among the audience surrounded user-generated content, specifically user comments. Toward the end of the discussion, I made the point that people in the audience who were expressing disdain for the practice of inviting in user commenary should realize that this is about more than just controlling trolls. Wikipedia and Google, I said, were built on user input -- small acts of creation by millions of users. It's the 'collective intelligence' meme that has built powerful, new information tools, fundamentally transformed business and made billions of dollars for some on the Web.
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The junta in charge of the Internet Google, for search; Facebook for social and Twitter for realtime socializing.  So says Mr. Jarvis, explaining that content is not king.  Newspapers should take heed, he contends:

I think they should follow the advice of Mark Zuckerberg, member of the ruling junta, that their job is to bring communities elegant organization. In a sense, they always have done that; they helped communities organize their knowledge so they could organize themselves; that’s the essence of an informed democracy.

We're trying a measure of that elegant organization on a shoestring with our new communities pages.  Yes, I know others have done this before, but we're hoping we can build on their attempts.  This is our Plano page, which attempts to organize in an elegant way our listings and other event databases, plus put a blend of internal and external news feeds from selected sources front and center via Yahoo! Pipes.  We're also manually choosing good content from sources that don't have reliable feeds, using Publish2.

At the same time we're launching a series of beat blogs for about 18 of those communities, with dedicated reporters whose mandate is to reach out to the community in a virtual and real way.  We'll bring our scores of citizen opinion contributors in on the project and our NeighborsGo community editors (who solicit conent from users).

This is an exciting project.


NewBizNews: Paid content models

Jeff Jarvis kicks off his CUNY new business models inquiry. In typical fashion, he's doing it all in the open. This should be of great interest to those of us working in traditional newsrooms. Key point here, well articulated by Mr. Jarvis:

At the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is make hard, unemotional business judgments. The question is not whether content should be free or whether readers should pay; “should” is an irrelevant verb. The question, very simply, is how more money can be made. What will the market support?

Running the numbers on pay-for-content models

More grist for the mill regarding pay-for-content. Martin Langveld at the Nieman lab runs the numbers and determines they don't support just putting up a wall and charging a fee:

A simple tollbooth approach at any price cuts out the vast majority of the audience, and would mean that newspapers were retrenching to print — saying in effect, “If you want our news online, it’s there, just pay the fee, but we’re no longer investing much energy in developing our sites, because there’s no money on that side of the fence.”

A more rigorous look at the potential for pay walls was done by the folks at Media Cafe. They've even got a spreadsheet you can look at. Bottom line: Still doesn't work.

Google and newspapers

I'm quoted in an article on regarding Rupert Murdoch's musings at a cable industry confab. Murdoch asked "Should we be allowing Google to steal all our copyrights?" Just to clarify, I'm not one of those who think Google is the death of newspapers. What I expressed to the reporter was more nuanced than what made it into the article.
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You need a strategy for these digital trends

IBM's clearly seeking to drum up consulting business, but a new study they have released gives a good case for what needs to be done in the content industry.

They identify four trends in the media business today:

  • consumer adoption of new distribution formats,
  • a shift in advertising spend,
  • digital migration of platforms and
  • the emergence of new capabilities due to moves by new entrants and existing players. says the IBM study reveals a "'growing rift' between advertisers, consumers and content owners, as media companies 'struggle to keep pace with' new demands from tech-savvy viewers and marketers."

Does that struggle sound familiar?

Local media should be compensated for exclusivity

Interesting perspective on how AP online is contributing to the demise in the value of the scoop from fellow Belo-ite Cory Bergman on Lost Remote:

The problem here is local media is paying AP to distribute our most valuable content to others who in turn pay the AP to receive it, therefore helping collapse our window of exclusivity. As this window collapses, our revenue generation goes with it. Since enterprise reporting is the most expensive to produce, in a way AP is disincentivizing local media companies from investing in original stories with national potential.

Cory's KING5 is one of the best local TV stations in the country, but let's face it, local TV rarely breaks stories of national interest that get picked up by the wires.  Metro newspapers, on the other hand, receive this treatment weekly if not daily, and to some extent have long ago thrown up their hands as to what can or should be done.

Hearst's 100 day 'strategy'

Many of the tactics enumerated in the recent Hearst memo might sound familiar to those of us working at The Dallas Morning News. Martin Langeveld details them and suggests we should applaud this effort, despite the timing.

Hearst’s change agenda is not too little, too late. Viewed in the aggregate, these steps indicate a willingness to take bold steps and to look beyond the short term. Whether the strategy is visionary is hard to say, because we’re not really hearing the strategy. The leaked memo, written for internal consumption (but, one assumes, with the anticipation that it would be leaked) enunciates a variety of tactics, but fails to express a single overarching strategy. “Fundametally change the way we do business” is not a strategy. “Transforming Hearst Newspapers into a fully digital media enterprise” might be.

Journalism’s fatal disconnect with business

Former Belo employee Cory Bergman artfully describes our challenge in doing journalism in the digital age. The recognition that we have to encompass community, journalism and technology reminds me of the 'three circles' conversation started by Steve Yelvington. Each circle is similar to one these elements: the Town Crier is the journalist, the Town Square is the community and the Town Expert is the technology overlay.

By splitting journalism and business into two buckets separated by a longstanding cultural divide, the two groups fail to collaborate on ideas that tap the strengths of both. And neither have a track record of understanding how technology enables community, the greatest opportunity of all. In fact, nearly three-quarters of local online news consumers say newspapers have failed in providing a sense of community and “connective tissue” in their local cities and neighborhoods (Forrester Research 2009). After all, most journalists want to control the conversation. So do the sales folks. So you need a third element: creative technology folks, empowered with resources, who can infuse community in content and revenue generation, providing value to both users and businesses.

Newspapers should integrate "status culture" into sites

Romanesko pulls out a highlight from a terrific editorial by the New York Observer on how newspapers need to change:

For example: What are readers reading right now? How many people have their eyes on one story? Who are they emailing it to? Where are they blogging it? How are their friends using the site? New York Observer writers note: "It's all about giving users attention, because that's mostly what people are looking for when they're online these days."




Commenting on newspaper Web sites -- in a nutshell

One of the recent commenters to summed up how comments tend to go on our site. Sadly, he's funny because he captures a measure of truth:

1.Story breaks
1a. Someone wonders why this is considered Top News
2.Ethnicity is brought up immediately
2a. If Bush or Obama are mentioned get ready for Obama is a terrorists, if Bush he is a dummy and shouldn't move to .
3. Bashing of anothers views
4. Somewhere around this time KKK is usually mentioned to all whites by black posters. At which point all blacks claim that all whites are saying they are criminals.
4a. If a mexican name is involved anywhere in the story many many folks will claim that individual as an "illegal" (look up for definition)
5. My personal favorite the Grammar Gods arise and anything and I mean anything that one types is criticized. The accusers post stating this usually has at least 3 errors of their own. Hint: add webster link to your favorites.

We require registration, we ask users to flag abuse,and do monitor our comments after the fact, but it sure is hard to keep things as civil as we would like.

How a tweet of a photo turned a social network into a news site

CNN recounts how social networks are becoming key ways in which news is distributed and discovered by digitally-active citizens.

More people are turning to social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and Flickr when news breaks to share stories and pictures.

As I have said many times before, this means news organizations, such as ours, have to get out onto social networks and become trusted friends with people, if we want to stay vital in the coming decades.

R&D at NYT

Check out the engrossing article about the NYT's newsroom Web geeks. They're engaging in R&D every day -- able to cut across the bureaucracy that slows down innovation at papers everywhere.

Key to their effort are the following ingredients:

  • Resources -- a 10 person journo-developer team plus an R&D lab
  • Mandate -- they can cut across existing lines of authority to get things done and they're empowered to take risks
  • Vision -- they understand and respect the journalistic brand of the NYT and yet know how to project that in new ways


(Thanksfor the tip, Bruce Tomaso.)