News Leadership 3.0

July 05, 2009

For journalism: More learning, less protectionism

Links: Three recommended posts to help journalists get up to speed on where the Web is going and why they’re really at risk of being left behind

It’s been one of those weeks when the gap between Old Journalism and New Internet seemed to widen by the hour
I empathize with people in traditional newsrooms who are watching their work spin freely out over the Internet while their cash-strapped owners resort to layoffs and furloughs. I am frustrated that the self-reinforcing culture of many newsrooms prevents smart, dedicated journalists from quickly understanding and embracing a new world of news and information.
I respect new media journalists and entrepreneurs who are justifiably impatient and frustrated when they hear journalists proposing protectionist ideas that just won’t work in today’s Web economy. These folks have moved on, and that has opened the way for them to innovate.
I worry that traditional journalists spend so much time mourning their losses that they will never catch up to a dynamic Web that is changing every day.
In the interest of speeding along the education, I want to suggest three short posts that are well worth reading.
Fatal Assumptions” from Steve Yelvington knocks down a recent American Press Institute report that suggested traditional publishers have a lot more control over the marketplace that seems realistic. In “Before journalists go to far in lobbying Congress, they might want to do some research,” John Temple dissects the idea that limiting copyright laws might help save newspapers.
Yelvington and Temple, both of whom have spent their careers in the newspaper industry, explain why there’s no going back.
As Temple wrote: “... newspapers have to find ways to grow new sources of revenue, not further isolate themselves with rearguard actions designed to protect their ‘franchise.’ “
The third post also comes from a newspaper editor, Jeff Sonderman, and it looks ahead to a very different future that is almost upon us. In “Five trends that will reinvent our news system in five years,” Sonderman describes where people are going to be on the Internet, and it’s probably not to your news site. Read him and think about how your journalism is going to meet these people when they get here.

June 29, 2009

At, an advertising experiment

The Minneapolis online news start up brings a Twitter sensibility to serve small, local advertisers

As Paul Gillin pointed out, local news organizations can do much more to serve small local advertisers—a $24 billion market nationwide. So it’s exciting to see experimenting with a new service that enables small local advertisers to post short feeds on all pages of the Minneapolis news site for a modest weekly fee.

Here’s how Kramer describes the goal of the service, Real-Time Ads, in his blog:

Very simply, our goal is to create a fast-paced marketplace, full of advertisers’ messages that are newly posted and thus up-to-date, so that readers will want to keep coming back to check out what’s happening.

Imagine a restaurant that can post its daily lunch special in the morning and then its dinner special in the afternoon. Or a sports team that can keep you up-to-date on its games and other team news. Or a store that could offer a coupon good only for today. Or a performance venue that can let you know whether tickets are available for tonight. Or a publisher or blogger who gives you his or her latest headline.

Real-Time Ads looks like it offers a few things that have often been missing from the advertising portfolios of news organizations:

- It’s easy to post. Anyone who is already sending out promotional messages on Twitter or via RSS can push them out on MinnPost.
- It’s cheap. The service is free during a four-week beta test. After that, MinnPost Editor Joel Kramer expects to charge each advertiser under $100 a week for the service.
- It likely will not require a great deal of labor on the part of the news organization if it catches on.

Kramer notes that other sites are trying similar models, including Chicago’s news

The service is very Twitter-like, with the most recent ad appearing at the top of the list. It does not look like it will lend itself to comparison shopping the way a good online classified service might.

Still, it’s a promising piece of the advertising puzzle. Perhaps most importantly, the service recognizes that small is the new big. Local news organizations are unlikely to a return of anything remotely resembling the traditional advertising portfolio dominated by relatively few very large accounts. Instead, news organizations must build portfolios of small local accounts and give them diverse ways of reaching the public.

Bill Mitchell at Poynter Online discusses Real-Time Ads and Zachary Seward has a video interview with Kramer at the Nieman Journalism Lab.

Do you think this model would work for your site? How are you capturing local advertising dollars online?

June 01, 2009

Can journalism adapt?

Columbia dean suggests journalism is falling short in making (and living) the case that it’s indispensable

Journalists are frustrated and angry at the seeming unconcern of the general public as the news industry melts down. That’s understandable. But as someone who has spent a lot of time talking to citizens about journalism, I’ve come to understand the gap: What journalists think they are providing is not necessarily visible (or even present) in the eyes of the public.

Nicholas Lehman captures this idea more eloquently in a speech to Columbia Journalism School grads (posted by Clay Shirky):

“... we have been in the habit of assuming that whatever appears in a newspaper or a magazine or on a broadcast or a news organization’s Web site is available there uniquely, and represents a distinctive and irreplaceable contribution to public life. I spent a lot of my time these days talking to non-journalists about journalism, and I can tell you that we all have to learn to make a more sophisticated argument for ourselves.

“Much of the public that we believe we are serving needs to be persuaded that it cannot find out what’s going on in the world simply by looking at non-journalistic Web sites and blogs—that there is a special value to the work that news organizations do. Conversely, we need to be more precise in our thinking about exactly how we are serving that oft-mentioned cause, the public’s right to know, at a time when, thanks to the Internet, the public has more free unmediated access to information than at any time in the history of the world. It may be that the particulars of how we execute our general mission will have to change quite a lot for us to be able to make the strongest possible case for the value of our profession. We have to be willing to explore all that undefensively, with energy and enthusiasm.

(Emphasis added.)

May 17, 2009

Entrepreneurs: Be humble egomaniacs

Mary Lou Fulton offers product development ideas at KDMC boot camp

Online innovator Mary Lou Fulton describes entrepreneurship as “learning to be a humble egomaniac” because you’ve got to believe passionately in your project and be realistic in your expectations.

Fulton, the former Vice President for Audience Development at the Bakersfield Californian, offered tips for successful product development Sunday at KMDC’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp, including:

A developer may fail to make a strong case for her idea because she focuses on the “what” of the project at the expense of the “why.” “Focus on the why. When you pitch the why is what’s going to get people,” Fulton said. Ask: What problems are you trying to solve? For whom (consumers or funders)? What are the benefits of solving these problems?

—“Great products solve problems and meet emotional needs,” so it’s critical to identify those needs in developing a product and seeking funding.

Examples of practical solutions:
Saves time
Saves money
Better than current solution
Keeps me informed
Customized for me
Better customer service

Examples of emotional benefits:
Makes me feel more competent or in control
Makes me feel smarter (or seem smarter)
Lets me show off and look cool!
Affirms my identity/makes me proud of who I am

Define your target audience. Defining factors might include: geography, shared interests, life stage, demographics, economic achievement or psychographics.

Pay attention to the business side. Journalists tend to come from the “creative side rather than the business or revenue side. “This often leads to over investment in time, money and technology on the product design and presentation and underinvestment in the revenue and marketing strategies.”

“Good ideas, often fail becuase of lack of attention to the business side of things.”

Fulton’s advice: Find a partner or hire someone who knows the money side.

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Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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