Erick Schonfeld’s recent column on old media letting go of control really hits a point of frustration for those of us trying to move the media mountain.

I keep going back to former WSJ publisher Gordon Crovitz’s axiom “The medium is no longer the message and, if not careful, can block the message.” The YouTubes, Facebooks, Flickrs and Twitters of the world have broken down the fence old media used to filter the message to the readers. Old media will drown in the flood of information conduits if it refuses to come out of the ivory tower and join the herd.

Yet, I hear lots of talk from newspapers, but little action from most. And what action comes still remains focused on the old print strategies. Granted, in today’s climate there not much incentive for taking risk with something dramatically new. But continuing to chase “low-lying fruit” to meet budget goals does nothing for the long-term. Risk must be taken, initiatives must be done. Those in the field ready for the new battle need to see a commitment from the top. Many are not seeing it.

To break the cycle, the old business model mold must be broken and a new one forged. That’s a risk too many publishers seem unwilling to take.

One side note: In Schonfeld’s column, he mentions a suggestion from Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, of tiering the presentation and monetization of content. He mentions a pyramid approach, with true journalism (staff-generated content) at the top; reader comments, twittering and blog posts linking to traditional media; and the center beign a mingling of the two, where the best reader comments join with reporter and group blogs.

From this, Anderson says, high-CPM ads would be sold by staff sales on the top tier, while the bottom tier would be sold through Adsense and other networks. As stories move up the pyramid, they would be sold as higher-CPMs.

I’d add one more level to this: database. I still think a good, robust and easily searchable local can be monetized as the community gets a griop of just how useful it can be. Again, this can be monetized through advertisers who buy into certain topics or levels.

But, no matter what, if newspapers was to maintain in the new world, they must learn the no longer are in control.


The wunderkind is on the move again. After a little more than a seven months at Washington Post Interactive, online genius Rob Curley and his entourage are on the move to Las Vegas.

Now I am a fan of Curley’s. His Red Bull-charged mind has created a number of wonderful things, from Lawrence’s Kansas uber-interactive sports site to Naples Studio 55, an online video program that, even though I’ve never set foot Naples, I do enjoy viewing from time to time.

I also share Curley’s vision that hyperlocal is the way newspapers need to develop to survive. I’ve been part of audiences to his presentations, and it’s easy to get caught up in his infectious enthusiasm for what he does and what he’s developed.

But of all the seeds Curley has planted at his previous employers, very few seem to take root. And that has me wondering if ever Curly has not been able to figure out a way to monetize his creations. For example, while Studio 55 continues in Naples, Curley’s wonderful PrepZone prep sports website is a mere shadow of its former self. Even the Post’s Deborah Howell hints that Curley’s hyperlocal projects there will be under the scrutiny of the financial wizards.

I don’t think it’s Curley’s fault, mainly because many of his projects involves cheap labor in the form of interns. And after you have a dozen interns build a site, you’re still going to need a number to people to maintain it. Many of his flowers may have wilted from neglect caused by the unwillingness of the paper to commit the level of manpower that Curley’s crew put into it.

But could it also be that while Curley’s innovations wow us an an industry, they’re met with yawns by the audience? Of all the cool apps Curley has developed, has anyone done any measurments to see if they actually net more viewers … that is, beyond the discovery period? Could it be that after the flashbang of a new Curley product, web visitors walk away to something else?

Or could it be that his former employers been too impatient with the 18-month window Curley estimates visitors need to realize things have changed, and simply cut flower before it bloomed?

This is no dig on Curley, who is a creative genuius and passionate about his work and the future for newspapers. I have a feeling he’ll be more in his element in Las Vegas than Washington, and we’ll be seeing some really cool new things blooming in the desert!

Good luck, Rob, and don’t stop belivin’!

A bit off topic today:

David Kaplan’s essay in this week’s Newsweek hits to the heart as to why I’ll be in line for the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend.

It’s not so much of the swashbuckling adventurer Indy, but to see just how Marion Ravenwood had held up after all these years. Yes, I am also a Karen Allen-ophile. Allen’s piercing blue eyes and angelic face won my heart long before her role as Marion. In fact, she roped me in when I was a senior in college, watching Allen as the loyal girlfriend Katy to the mischievous Boone in “Animal House.” Those looks and loyalty to her man made her the girl I wanted living next door.

She reinforced my infatuation in “Starman,” especially in the early scenes as she tearfully mourned the passing of her husband dressed in a flannel shirt, and little else.

But it’s was Marion, that tough but vulnerable barkeeper in Nepal, that made me say “Oh yeah, she is the one!” Face it, any woman that can drink Sherpas under the table, then moments later take on a group of Nazis has to be every man’s fantasy. Marion Ravenwood’s appeal to men easily ranks up there with the appeal Sean Connery’s James Bond has with women.

I think the only fatal flaw Spielberg made in the “Jones” was not bringing her back for the other two sequels. OK, I understand the Kate Capshaw bit, but her screaming got a bit old after a while. At least Marion would stand up and fight when the need arose!

So, yes, I’ll be cheerfully welcoming Karen Allen back to the big screen this weekend.

And, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I eventaully married a woman named Karen.

I gotta like this memo to Tribune Company staff from Lee Abrams, their new chief innovation officer (as purloined by Poynter’s Jim Romenesko).

Some great ideas, but most of all, making sure the message is short and sweet (unlike the memo). If Abrams’ words follow through with actions, we could be seeing a resurgence of the Tribune as a force to reckon with in the Chicago market.

For the Trib’s sake, let’s hope they’re listening. If not, Abrams could simply become become the Col. Kurtz of the Tribune empire. A sad fate.

A follow-up to my April posting on the idea of eliminating TV news anchors. Apparently it’s an idea that’s catching on. Cory Bergman’s lostremote blog suggests j-schools downplay anchor careers.

Granted, not all anchors are overpaid TelePrompter readers (just those in the major markets), and — as a few readers noted — many in smaller markets do more than just sit in the studio. But it does seem that the path TV news will follow will include the elimination of anchors for electronic packaging of local and network news reports in some sort of package.

Continuing on with the concept of “Media 2.0.” I’ve talked about what newspaper companies need to focus on. Now it’s my turn to go out on a limb and suggest a process of doing it.

Here’s how the Media 2.0 news organization would be set up:

1. Content: The content department would develop the product — news, information, and advertising. Yes, ad salespeople would be in the same department as reporters and editors. Why? Because they are both working for the same result — content. Certainly we can maintain the same editorial/advertising integrity,but as long as the two groups are going into the same area for content, they should have easy access to each other to share intel, develop and pass along leads, etc.

2. Development: Once the content is developed, this group is develops the product into the words and visuals that will be read and viewed by our readers. These are the copy editors and ad proofers, page and ad designers, photo and multimedia producers and graphic artists. Again, why advertising and editorial together? Currently, there are redundancies in the process … mainly ad proofers and copy editors performing the same role … that could be combined. (This comment, I’m sure, will put me on ACES’ hit list).

3. Production: This is the department that creates and delivers the product. This department includes all prepress-related function, the pressroom and packaging functions for the print version. It also includes web designers and programmers, and IT specialists. Here is where the website is developed, e-mail blasts are grouped and sent, smart phone editions are produced and sent. It also includes delivery managers and drivers.

4. Customer Service: This is an area that many newspapers have cut back on, but it is probably one of the most important links to your readership. In addition to answering the phone, CS handles reader e-mails and web chats as well and should be empowered to solve problems.

5. Research: Another currently neglected area. This is the department that will assure newspapers do not find themselves in this situation again. These are the marketing and research crews working with the company braintrust to watch trends and technology. They will develop new products and modify current methods so the company can continue to operate a step ahead of the curve. If newspapers publishers had an R&D in the 90s, they would have recognized the potential of the Internet and the potential for new readership and revenue.

Throw in an administration and HR department and you’re in business.

It’s a radical idea and one that breaks down many taboos in the current structure. But, to achieve Media 2.0, transitions must be made. Taboos must be broken, Silos must fall. Collaboration and partnerships are vital.

It’s our survival at stake.

Let’s look more at “Media 2.0”

A quick recap, in Media 2.0, newspapers will need to focus more on news, less on paper. And, to success they must own the local market on news and information.

When I say “local,” that goes far beyond the happenings of government, people and crimes in my community. “Local” means being the local resource of information in the area … and being so indispensable to my readers that other sources become irrelevant.

As a local news reader, I’ll expect a home page that welcomes me by name, has news that I want, and suggestions that fit my personality. Yes, it’ll be an for information.

If I want to find out what my son’s little league team did, I can find it on my home page. If I need to know what happened at the local zoning board, it’ll be there. If my neighbor’s home was burglarized, it’ll be there.

But, if I want to order a pizza, I should be able to call up pizza places within a reasonable radius of my house. I should be able to find names, addresses, phone numbers. I should be able to call up a menu … with current prices … to review. If the business is online, I should be able to place my order in a few clicks. If it’s robust, I should be able to review the food and service, and read other reviews that were posted as well.

In order words, the news org with the deepest and most robust local database will own the market.

This database could be the potential gold mine for monetization. For example, If I owned a pizza shop, I should be able to get a listing and a link to my website for nothing. If I want to link a menu to my listing, that’ll cost some. If I want to partner up with the news org to handle online ordering, that’ll cost a bit. If I want to place an online ad that will come up when someone seeks a query from the ZIP codes I serve, that’ll cost some. Add an online coupon? A bit more. In time, as I get lots of favorable feedback from customers on my online site, I could pay a bit more for some sort of premium placement, maybe placing my business at the top of any relevant queries, maybe in bolder or larger type.

It worked for the yellow pages all these years. It’s time the local news orgs took a cue from them and build upon what they probably already have in their possession.

If the news org’s brand is well established in the marketplace as a trusted source for news, it’s logical that that trust will transfer over to other data as well.

Sure, the “chicken dinner” news is one that is looked at with disdain by “traditional” journalists, but knowing where to get a good pizza in town is just as important to our readers as what town leaders are doing with tax money. We should recognize that and capitalize in our abilities to disseminate that information in a way that readers can easily obtain that.

And if we can make it personal … which we are establishing on the web … it’ll reinforce that relationship between reader and news org.