A Message (and lesson) to Old Media

For a while now I have been ranting within the company I work for that we throw away too much data – with particular emphasis on throwing away the data we have about our customers.

As I listened to the TWIST #38 (This Week In Start Ups with Jason Calacanis) Jason absolutely nailed this point to the wall.  He was warning publishers not to give apple complete control over their customer.  By using the Apple store to deliver the media product – you are giving the customer away to Apple to nurture and harvest for ever and ever more.  You have no idea who they are, where they live or other super important demographics.

Media companies have so many opportunities to harvest information about their customers – and many times i is just wasted.  I’m not speaking of the kind of creepy, stalker type way of getting information – but the smart, collective, long-term collection like Amazon does.

Amazon knows so much about me and what I have bought from them – it is crazy.  Crazy good!

Check out this screen shot of what Amazon has for me right now…all I did was go to

As you can see – it knows who I am right away and displays that at the top.  I have outline a few sections with numbers sowe cna look at the dffernt things Amazon is doing.

  1. Section 1 is called “Amazon Remembers” – this data is straight from my iPhone. Amazon’s iPhone app will allow you to take a picture of something and ‘remember’ it.  As you can see – it doesn’t want me to forgot – so it shows me when I came back to the site.Very cool.  Don’t get excited about the bottle of Miller Light.  It seems like I am always showing off my favorite apps and this time I happened to be at a bar with some people – but the tin beer sign is recommended for $15 isn’t a bad deal.
  2. Shameless promotion in my opinion.  This is where they push (way too much IMO)  the Kindle. This was OK when it first came out – but I’d like to say no-thanks now.
  3. Under the heading “More Items to Consider” we get helmets and tools.  Why?  I’ve searched for both recently.  I was simply looking for pictures of tools – but I “need” a new helmet before it gets warmed up.
  4. This is what Jason is ranting about – and me too.  Section 4 “it is” – this is why Amazon is the best.  They listen and look for you.  These are all things based on things I have looked at, reviewed and purchased in the past.
  5. Wow – #5 is great too.  I use Amazon’s wish lists because they are easy.  Oh – and Amazon doesn’t mind.  In fact – they help me remember what I want to buy.

That is pretty much it – but it explains exactly the point.  The more you know about your customer – the better. This goes for car sale people, it goes for laundry detergent and it goes for media – and media is WAY behind.

And customer service can benefit here too – customers do not want to have to tell you everything about them every time they call in.  They like that you know their information – as long as we’re not creepy about it.

It’s not too late.  Media companies have the data people in place, in fact the circulation departments of many media companies have been working with some of this kind of data for a long time…we just need to start collecting the new data and then do something with it.

The new divide: Walled v. open

The walled garden at the demolished Bellfield ...
Image via Wikipedia

I have not been paying a lot of attention to Jeff Jarvis lately – but his recent post hit home.  Maybe it was the friendly objection via a co-workers tweet to my re-tweet, but either way – this is a good read.

Here are a few of the better quotes IMO:

The momentum is toward including ever more data. But now come Murdoch and Microsoft, threatening to take their balls and go home.

But I would hate to see walls go up just as we are tearing them down.

Rusbridger reminds us that advertising freed newspapers from ownership and control by political parties and special interests who exercised that control via patronage. Advertising gave journalism independence. Advertising also subsidized news and reduced its cost so more people could get it.

There are many more – check it out, and good news.  It’s free to read and free to be commented on!  :)

The new divide: Walled v. open

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The TenXFactor: He who owns the Data Wins

Emergency Exit: Semantic Web (White on Green)
Image by semanticwebcompany via Flickr

The TenXFactor: He who owns the Data Wins.

This is a great blog post which backs up what Jason and I have been trying to get across at our company – The Gazette.  Please – some read this and decide that it is true, great post.


As I had discussed in a post last year, He who owns the data Wins. What is critical with any media company whose primary asset is content is to leverage the deep silos of content. But this is NOT happening. What is happening is that the industry is turning all reporters into bloggers and/or targeting vertical market segments to increase the advertising reach. Lets stop there. There is no intrinsic value. You are reducing your assets to the lowest common denominator. Very few blog posts have a long shelf life. Stickiness (which drives market reach) is driven by the community, not by the merits of journalism and as the universe as demonstrated, anyone can run a blog.

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DigiDave | Communication is Key

DigiDave | Communication is Key: Collaboration is Queen…..

DigiDave does it again.  I really like Dave’s articles, but this one really hit home.  He brings up some brilliant points.

Scoops have the half-life of a link.

  • No website is an island.
  • The best things happen when you freely reveal your ideas.
  • How do you expect to grow a community if you don’t include them in the planning of how they will be reported?
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Notes from #RJI Talkfest

Jason and I headed down to Mizzou on Tuesday evening to make it for the RJI Talkfest.  (You can review the live blog here.)

I really enjoyed this seminar…which, coming from a web geek was in limited numbers.  With working in the media industry, it was very good for me to hear what the journalist were struggling with to be and think different that I do no.  Here are my notes.

RJI Talkfest at University of Missouri - 01/2009

Notes from Intro

Brian Boyer, one of the newsmixer team had a good comment when discussing “In talking about development and building new things” – half-not half assed.

building community requires all on participation – being part of the deal…not watching.

writing stories “serially” instead of update.  Gives the real time development of a story – in an “agile” way.  – this brought up interesting conversation throughout the day, without a mindset change, journalist are uncomfortable with releasing stories early.

What can we do now, that we couldn’t do before. That is one question going to be answered today at #rji

journalism is becoming more and more intertwined with the “inch-wide”, “inch-deep” #rji

West Seattle ( – good example of a good start for entrepreneurial journalism.  Good stuff.  – this is a site which 2 people are running as a local media company.  They are doing pretty good, but very, very busy trying to keep up.

Notes from the live chat with the couple:

  • using freelances a handfull of times each month
  • to cover when everyone is busy
  • crime is a hot topic
  • marketing:  adwords, freespace (twitter, facebook), sponsor community events, viral – people are talking about them, businesses customers are talking about them and businesses are calling them
  • try to get on media – public access, public radio (they didn’t call)
  • lots of people linking to them – local paper
  • do they pay for content?  they really try for photo credits – but the only thing they have compensated for are meetings and thening they ask people to do
  • likes to leverage local databases to verify information
  • don’t underestimate the idea of “feet on the street” in each area.  tons of stuff gets lost if you are not focused on an area
  • RJIcollab:  Mitch Ratcliffe argues great journalism costs $180k a year. But he suggests a model for subscriber-supported journalism, in which a beat reporter can make $130k a year with 15,000 subscribers paying $1/month.
  • Adam Glenn: It’s OK to be afraid, but we do need people who feel the fear if it motivates, not paralyzes them. If it pushes them to try new things
    we have nothing to fear – but fear itself…and spiders”

Mike McKean – mobile

  • 2008 was the first year people’s technology they wouldn’t give up was cell phone.
  • Problem with mobile development: lots of different platforms, display characteristics. They’ve been doing iPhone development.
  • All mobile talk is about iPhone

Bob –

  • started site after he got fired from TV station
  • got some extra coverage during floods and it went down – but higher than pre-flood
  • doing some “watch dog” reporting
  • shares info with AM radio station
  • first 9 months – $55K…doing OK.
  • $250/450 side ads – $600 for top (per month)
  • coupons are working very well
  • Bob has investors – but no one has spoke about return on dollars.  They invested because they felt the news/investigative news was not being covered.
  • Amy Gahran:  People read & support because “They want their sunshine,” says the publisher.
  • Amy Gahran: founder says that sometimes official sources ignore him, won’t answer his questions. So sometimes he has to eun quotes from MSM, but not for lack of trying to get answers.
  • sales is derived by face-to-face sales
  • how can the community help?  how do they do qn 2.0 inthe most effcient way possible.
  • RJIcollab:  What can Collaboratory community do to help at site like Quincy News: Help understand ramp-up, and what should new staffers do? How to handle logistical issues like benefits? How to go 2.0 in most cost-effective, efficient way possible?

The next thing was a big brainstorm – trying to figure out the boundries we have and need to break through – the heading tell the subject, bullets are the ideas.

Working on figuring out what we can do (before social media)…

  • UGC – user gen content
  • tighter collab between public and “offical”/traditional journalist
  • the before – is before social media
  • databases
  • dicussion, discussion forums
  • changes time and space contraints
  • cost is low

Cool Stuff we’re missing

  • video
  • crime, births and deaths


  • blogs, groups, email, comments, wiki, forums
  • maslow – everyone sleeps somewhere.  by helping with security, home, food and shelter…we can ptu focus here and help
  • hyper-local, citizen watch
  • AK: What can we do? New media development encourages the participation of citizens.
  • RJIcollab: Jane suggests: Video in the hands of everyone. Embed a player – put video whereever.
  • RJIcollab: Maurreen Skowran suggests: Mashing among stories and data.
  • AK: What can we do? Tom: the ability of people to tell their stories on the daily basis helps building communities.
  • Min: in terms of communicty building, the local news sites can help us meet the fundamental needs of people (Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs) by providing news that directly relates with people’s security and well being in the community
  • Don’t assume we “know how” to communicate


  • relevance matching – matching content to ads
  • mobile ads and pushing ads based on location
  • facebook apps
  • let’s talk about making revenue too – not just ads and marketing
  • [Comment From Tom Warhover]
    Why is this category marketing/advertising and not “revenue”? Are we confining ourselves too narrowly
  • Amy Gahran: Just asked your question for you, tom. Folks seem to agree
  • RJIcollab: Other ideas drawn from the Talkfest Connect room: partner with other groups in the community that are working to build community, User produced ads, Micropayment


  • distributed reporting
  • serious UGC
  • designing sites which work for all platforms

Breakout 1 – mobile

  • We had lively discussion in a very bright room.  aka – no lappy.
  • much talk about what will “work” for mobile
  • 2 camps – basic SMS and full blown app action

My biggest issue here is we really cannot only develop for the top end phone platofrms…there is so much we can do with SMS and twoway communicado.

Breakout 2 – community and community building

  • what is a community?  is it geo or is it topic based?
  • what exactly is it –
  • good conversation about community.  journalism vs.  internet

Wow was this one spirited.  I hit a vein when I suggested “we” (the media) are no different that the “underlings”.  We need to imurse ourselves in the community.  Well, I was “put in my place” by some old media folks who were bound and determine to convince me that we need “The Media” to protect the democracy of the US.

Breakout 3 – marketing and advertising

  • what needs to be done
  • an agile approach to business plans

It was hard to keep up woth notes and participate.  We spoke alot about what could an organization like RHI @ Columbia do to help and the consensus was it would be good for RJI to lead a common resource database of sorts to bounce ideas against.

Breakout 4 – entrepreneurial journalism

This was an interesting breakout.  Most of the talk was Brian Boyer and myself talking about our thoughts.  We spoke about platforms and how they can help.

Brain had some great points about how small,agile teams are good – especially when they ahve a common mindset.  He recommend a book from 37signals called “Getting Real“.  he likes to use it to start a baseline for team members.


Now what?

Check out the RJI ning site to read more and join the conversation.

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