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The Gazette just jumped in – with both feet

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The whole reason I started blogging was to “conversate” about the web, media and how they were (and many time were not) coming together.  The company I work for (Gazette Communication) has been in the “oh crap, people are not reading newspapers like they used to – what do we do now” boat with a lot of other old media companies for a while, realizing the world is changing and it is time to change or be trampled by new media outlets.

I was so glad, and nervous, to hear of the bold moves we have made over the last week or so.  (The process has been going on for over a year – so I was very glad to see the outward push.)  The Gazette has made the decision that it is time to change – or, hopefully, transform.  A part of this transformation is explained in our editor’s (Steve Buttry) post from Saturday:

The changes we are making are no surprise: Chuck Peters, our CEO, began discussing them with the staff about two years ago, long before I showed up last June. He began blogging last April about the need to change.

For all of those 126 years, our success has been tied to a packaged product, a newspaper. Even though our customers like that packaged product and many even love it, they aren’t buying it because of the package but because of the content: stories, photographs, columns, graphics, editorials, obituaries, calendars, box scores, lists of information, advertisements.

We’re moving to a way which will allow the content to be much more portable than is has ever been before – and that is hard.  Hard because not only have we personally been doing this for 126 years, but there are not a lot of road maps on making it work.  So we’re traveling in uncharted territory.

And even though all eyes are on the news room – you can rest assured this message is clear throughout the entire organization.  My job is in technical services, in web development.  So although we’re no where near the front line, you can bet our service is something which will be so important and we want to be the best we can be too.

Read more about how and what technical services is thinking here at Mike Coleman’s (my boss):

As we continue as a company to close in on target models for information content gathering and packaged product delivery, one thing is very clear. We still have some distance to cover before a clear path is laid for gathering or packaging content.

This is the first of many very scary, but positives, moves into the direction of content creation for a new media world.  I applaud the Gazette for being aggressive in a time where the easy road leads directly into passive town, but the dirt road leads over aggressive mountain.

We’re building new roads and albeit I am very nervous, most of all overwhelmingly excited to be a part of it.  This is one of those times when you day – yup, I was a part of that.

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NYT Clutters Homepage w/Links From Elsewhere

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Erick Schonfeld at TechCrunch posted “The New York Times Clutters Up Its Homepage With Links From Elsewhere (In Beta)” today – makes a good point.

The concept here is that if readers can find the best news and opinion from around the Web right from the homepage, they will keep coming back to it as a starting point, just like they do with Digg or Techmeme. Where this breaks down is that the reason I still have the New York Times as my homepage is that I want to see at a glance what is going on in the world…I don’t need three more headlines on the same story. That clutters the page, and leaves less room for other headlines. I want that page to maximize the number of different stories I can explore about different subjects, not different points of view on the same subject.

I think Erick is giving the NYT an “A” for effort – but NYT is failing to see the point.  The links others is great – but we don’t need another Google News – we have a Google News.

When I first read this article I thought he was critizing – but after further review, Erick is right on!

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WordPress is the platform

I really like WordPress.  I think it is the platform many people are looking for to kind of solve the “platform” problem.  My personal issue is I’m tired of doing the same thing overs and over again – I want a place I can start that is a head start.

I really think WordPress fits the bill.  When Matt Mullenwag adds his tag line that “code is poetry” they are for real with this one.  They have done such a good job of building in form and function with things like easy swapable themes and widgets.

The key is to not worry about the platform…but to spend time merging your “stuff” into cool widgets and plugins.  Let the WordPress nerds worry about the platform.

newer media

State seal of IowaImage via Wikipedia

I have worked in and around media for all but a few years since a part-time radio job in 1992.  “Back then” traditional media had the bull by the horns and managed news and information and how it flowed to it “customers”. Then came the late 90’s.  THe internet was young and people were trying to figure out to use it.

Fast forward to now – traditional media is choking on the machine they built and people are innovating new ways to get the “news” out.

I found one of these news ways today via Twitter – it is called “iowastatefair.me” and is a journalism experiment which is pretty cool.  It seems to be gaining some traction.

Now figure out how to twitter me some of the Iowa Stat Fair’s beef-on-a-stick.

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Analyzing Publishing 2.0’s post called: “Five Guiding Principles For The Transformation Of Media Companies”

This is a great post from Publishing 2.0 called “Five Guiding Principles For The Transformation Of Media Companies” – I liked what they have…but I thought I would add my comments to it. Here we go:


Networks are the new distribution channels
Media used to be about controlling monopoly distribution channels. On the web, the network is the new distribution channel, and it can’t be controlled in the same way by a single media company. But there is huge power in networks. Just ask Google, the first media company to harness the network.

The most successful media companies will be those that learn to how build networks and harness network effects. This requires a mindset that completely contradicts traditional media business practices. Remember, Google doesn’t own the web. It doesn’t control the web. Google harnesses the power of the web by analyzing how websites link to each other.

Tom’s Comments:
Yes, yes and give me second helpings please. Wow – how accurate is that? I say again: “The most successful media companies will be those that learn to how build networks and harness network effects.” That may be the best sentence of the whole article.

People are more powerful than institutions
Media used to be about institutions — nameless, faceless brands. But on the web, people are empowered. Individuals matter more — but they matter most when connected as a network. Networks of individuals will transcended traditional media company and media brand divisions. (The last bit is a combo of principles #1 and #2)

The most successful media companies in 2008 will be those that empower and create networks of individuals — both outside and inside their corporate walls.

Tom’s Comments:
I like this as well. With an emphasis on the “empower and create networks of individuals — both outside and inside their corporate walls” I think media has to embrace this concept. We have to understand that this is global and mobile. Lots of people “get it”.

The best content comes from many sources
So many people use search engines on the web because they understand intuitively that search gives them access to ALL the content on the web. Most media companies are still limited on the web to delivering their own content. In the age of limited distribution channels, this made sense.

But on the web, where consumers can access any content from any source, and where high-quality content sources continue to proliferate (on top of all the garbage), media companies cannot serve consumers well just by delivering their own content.

The most success media companies will be those that offer consumers links to the best content on the web, not just their own content (and also those media companies that harness the “power of the link” — related to #1 and #2).

If media companies don’t do this, Google and other web-native aggregators will (and already do).

Tom’s Comments:
This is a close second as to best concept. Content does come from many sources and I think media companies are having a hard time figuring this out. Media needs to realize that we USED to be the information provider of choice…why? Because we were the only way to get some information.

Now, information has much more reach and flow. Anyone who has access to the internet can be a publisher. Take blogs, podcasts and numerous video sharing sites…people are the sources of content. This is about the relationship…not the content.

Search still rules
Search is currently the most powerful force on the web. Any media company that fails to embrace search, does so at their own peril. Search is, at least for now, the new newsstand.

The most successful media companies will be those that harness the power of search. The New York Times made perhaps the most striking acknowledgment of this reality by basing the decision to kill TimesSelect on the need to increase search traffic by exposing all of their content to search engines.

Tom’s Comments:
This is my only point of contention. I don’t think search is king. I think community is king. I would bet most people do not find a lions share of their content consumption via search…I think they find it from others recommendations.

This would backup my “community is king” statement. People want to do what the cool kids are doing. It’s our nature.

Advertising must create value
Google turned search advertising into the most profitable media business on the web by following the basic principle that advertising must create value for consumers. Search advertising is so powerful because the ads are relevant and USEFUL.

The most successful new advertising models will be those that create huge value for consumers, not those that manipulate users or violate their privacy (i.e. be like Google, not Facebook)

Tom’s Comments:
This is pretty good. And as far as facebook is concerned…wow. If you have not been part of that – you need to check it out. They ads on facebook are a train wreck. If this doesn’t kill them, Google’s open social may.

So we shall see – thank you Scott for sparking my interests on this one!