News Leadership 3.0

July 07, 2009

Among ethnic groups, the digital divide narrows

In a guest post, Craig Matsuda says that among Asian Americans and English-speaking Latinos, Internet access is as high as that of whites in the United States. It’s important to think about different usage among ethnic and age groups.

imageCraig Matsuda, a longtime editor at The Los Angeles Times and now a consultant, coordinated Knight Digital Media Center’s recent conference, “Transforming Ethnic News Organizations for the Digital Now,” in partnership with New America Media and the McCormick Foundation, in Atlanta last month. In the process, Craig learned a lot about media usage by different ethnic and age groups. I have asked Craig to share what he learned in a series of guest posts that starts today.

By Craig Matsuda

Don’t underestimate the online presence of communities of color.

While concerns about the digital divide are justified, the gap is narrowing, especially among Asian Americans and English-speaking Latinos, whose Internet access at least matches that of whites in the United States.

Age, economics and geography, of course, still play huge roles in determining - and often limiting—the online participation of ethnic groups and communities of color. That means there’s a lag in net access for African Americans and Latinos whose chief language is Spanish. It’s also true for poor, rural or older people in ethnic or minority communities.

But changes in technology, particularly advances in mobile devices and Wi-Fi connectivity, are combining with other factors to give new energy and a boost to communities of color online.

I researched this issue for a presentation to ethnic media leaders last month at “Transforming Ethnic News Organizations for the Digital Now.”

My sources include Arbitron, the Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, the National Ad Council, the Pew Internet and American Life Project and Scarborough. (For links to research articles, see below.)

For starters, it’s key to know that, in general:

- African Americans are a big population with a growing gray segment and with age- and economic-differences in technology use

- Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups, one which skews young and in which economics, language (mostly English- or Spanish-speaking) and assimilation are key tech considerations.
- Asian Americans are a fast growing group, which also skews young and which works particularly well with technology

More than 70 percent of English speaking Latinos, Asians and African Americans told FSU researchers in 2008 that they have higher-cost high-speed access; just under 50 percent of Spanish-speaking Latinos said they do. Those rates match those of majority populations surveyed.

Meantime, Latinos, as group, have turned to cell phones and rely on them very heavily to: surf the web for information, text message, download and find and listen to music and watch videos, studies show.

Asian Americans, who also are heavy cell phone users, are on-the-go online folks, too, in a different way: They rely more than other ethnic groups on laptops and Wi-Fi for cyber connection.

While two-thirds of African Americans asked said they own a cell phone, they don’t use them as much as Latinos or Asians do for web connection, text messaging and downloading.

Latinos, both those who speak mostly English and those whose principle language is Spanish, have become enthusiastic web site owners and bloggers, as have Asian Americans. More than 35% of Spanish-speaking Latinos said in one study that they own a web site; one in five Asians and Latinos said they blog. Those of the immigrant generation, researchers say, likely are using these tools to share lives online with distant families.

Asian Americans, Latinos and African Americans also are big buyers and users of digital cameras and video cameras, especially when those tools come aboard cell phones.

All three groups, at rates higher even than majority populations, participate regularly on social media.

As mentioned, there are not only differences in technology use among members of the various group by language facility, economics and degree of assimilation, age also is a discernible factor: more than half of the Latinos on the net are younger than 35 (versus 35% of the general population; in African Americans, lower net access and application occurs among the older and poorer.

Still, to get a clue about the potential of these groups, which are often ignored if not shunned by traditional media, consider this: In an elite marketing segment of those with high affluence and highest tech savvy—a niche of young, urban, educated young men—there’s a disproportionate representation of Asians and English-speaking Latinos.

Part 2: Ethnic news leaders embrace online media.
Part 3: Ethnic media organizations face formidable challenges

To read more and to see where elements of this post came from, here are research links:

- “Online Technology Ownership 2008,” Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University

- “The Brave New World of an Emerging Diverse Online Majority,” Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University

- “The Multicultural World of Social Media Marketing,”

- “Internet Usage Among Minorities and Low-income Communities,” (See Lee Rainey, Gretchen Livingston presentations for National Ad Council)

- “Home Broadband Adoption 2008,” Pew Internet

- “Mobile Access to Data and Information,” March 2008, Pew Internet

- “Adults and social network websites,” Pew Internet

- “Hispanic Fact Pack: 2008 Annual Guide to Hispanic Marketing and Media,” Ad Age

- “Hispanic Radio Today (2008),” “Black Radio Today (2008),”Urban Radio (2007),” “Black Consumer Study (2006),” Abritron

- “The Power of the Hispanic Consumer Online (2008),” Scarborough

- “Understanding the Digital Savvy Consumer (2008),” Scarborough

March 09, 2009

New role: Conducting an information orchestra

Changes at Gazette Communications separate content creation from production may enable the organization to focus on the Web

I have said in this space that news organizations need to downsize their print newspapers. I’m not talking about the number of pages in the newspaper. I am talking about the space the print newspaper takes up in the collective psyche of the newsroom and why may be holding organizations back.

So I was happy to see this comment from Steve Buttry, a friend and former colleague in the journalism training trenches, in a blog post about the reorganization of his news organization, Gazette Communications:

“As newspapers started publishing content online, we had to change some of our work in the newsroom. We added new positions specializing in operations of the web site. We started publishing breaking news online. We published new kinds of content, such as videos, blogs and slide shows. We started covering some events live as they happened and interacting live with the public. We also started niche products such as Edge Business Magazine, Hoopla and

“But our organization remained structured and focused primarily on the newspaper product.

“We have decided that we can best meet the challenges of the future by changing our company completely. We will have an independent organization which I lead focused exclusively on developing content from our professional journalists as well as from the community. We will publish this content digitally without editing and without the limitations of products. Another organization will plan and edit products, such as The Gazette and GazetteOnline, using content from my organization as well as others.”

Buttry moves from being editor of The Gazette in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to a new job called “Information Content Conductor.” The Gazette newspaper has a new top editor in Lyle Muller. Here’s the rub: All of the reporters and photographers (not all of the journalists as I initially stated - see clarification below) of the journalists on staff report to Buttry, which opens wide the likelihood of a nimble, Web first and Web savvy culture will emerge.

“Steve Buttry, Information Content Conductor, is responsible for creating another C3 - Content Creation & Collaboration, a networked set of blogs and information organized around topics or micro-geographical areas,” says Charles Peters, CEO of Gazette Communications. Peters offers additional explanation (with graphics) into the strategy on his blog.

Reorganizing does more than just change the way the jobs get done. It communicates priorities. It redefines culture - “The way we do things here.”

Key concepts in a reorganization like Gazette Communications is undertaking:

- Separates content creation from the production of a newspaper or other products. Print and other products can graze this content and remake it for their publications but the journalists do not have to feed a print beast.

- Information may be produced in small pieces and organized as a network of information around a geographic area or topic. It won’t necessarily be a story in the traditional news sense; perhaps it hardly ever will be.

- The digital network can include community content and content will not be edited. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. One possibility is that a self-editing community will form and participants will link, amplify and correct one another, much like Wikipedia.

- The online effort will use the Newsgarden a social news mapping platform that enables intensely local news and advertising. Mark Briggs, of “Journalism 2.0,” is CEO of Serra Media, the company that has produced Newsgarden.

- Gazette Communications is being transparent about the changes. Peters, Buttry and Muller all write blogs. This should help their users (and interested journalists around the country) to follow their progress.

I’ve been playing with possible explanations of the choice of the term “conductor.” The notion I like the most so far is the idea of the symphony conductor, taking disparate voices and forms and weaving them into a melody that makes sense and engages and encourages others to play along.

Buttry says it’s that and more:

“... editor didn’t send the message that we’re serious about thorough fundamental change. But many of the things an editor traditionally does: direct news coverage, edit, etc. really aren’t part of this new gig. So I came up with conductor, which I explained in this post. Yes, the meaning of orchestrating creative people in a unified effort is part of the meaning. But the train conductor interacts with the public to give them an orderly, satisfying experience and community interaction is going to be a huge part of our content operation. And in the electrical sense, a conductor carries energy and I think that will be a huge part of my job both in the staff and in the community.”

Conductor. Now that’s a role for an editor in the digital age.

Clarification: Steve Buttry sent me this note after I incorrectly stated that all of the journalists would report to him:
“The journalists don’t all work for me. The journalists formerly known as reporters and photographers work for me, as well as a few others. But we have some editors working with Lyle in an operation called Product Planning and Development, which handles the planning and editing of products, and will have some others in an operation called Production Services, which will handle copy editing and design. So the journalists in what used to be the newsroom will now work in three different operations. Thanks for the thoughtful post and for the support.”


February 17, 2009

LA Times embraces, chases social media

Chris O’Brien returns with a guest post about Andrew Nystrom and The Los Angeles Times’ initiatives in social media

I’m pleased to welcome Chris O’Brien back to this blog. Chris, business columnist for the San Jose Mercury-News and leader of The Next Newsroom Project, has written about new roles and practices for newsrooms. Today, he interviews Andrew Nystrom, the new senior producer, social media, at the LA Times.

By Chris O’Brien

There’s been a lot written on this blog about the new jobs needed in the newsroom. Given the opportunities and challenges confronted by news organizations, it’s time to rethink the roles and types of people who work in a newsroom. Granted, in the current economic environment, that’s not easy to do. But it’s still a necessary investment.

And that’s why I was excited when I stumbled across Andrew Nystrom on Twitter. In late November, the Los Angeles Times announced that Nystrom had been appointed “senior producer, social media.” Nystrom had already been working at the for two years, most recently as Senior Producer of Travel.

The Times’ official announcement described the thinking behind his new role this way:

“We are using “social media” to describe sites and services outside of we can use to engage new readers, spread the word about some of our best work, and do a better job of listening to the larger conversation on the Web. Think about Digg, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube and other sites that provide opportunities for us to share what we do and better connect with readers.”

That’s smart. Too often, newsrooms still get stuck trying to think about how to bring people to their Web site. They need to take the next step and push content and conversations out to where the community and audience are. It should be part of everyone’s duty in the newsroom to think about how to build networks of sources and readers, and how to get their content - their photos, their stories, their blog posts - out to those networks.

But that creates two challenges. First, a lot of folks need encouragement and some training to really engage with these new tools. And second, there’s so much content to push out, it’s easily requires one person dedicated to the task full-time. .

That’s what the Times has done. It’s worth following closely what the Times is doing online these days given their phenomenal online growth over the past year. The Times reported that its online audience grew 143 percent in the past year. “I just think it’s fantastic that the organization made this commitment,” Nystrom said. “I think it plays into the larger commitment we’ve made online.”

Nystrom said his new role evolved out of a lot of informal work he was already doing around the newsroom. “Every day, questions would come up in the newsroom about social media, and the bosses kept sending them my way,” Nystrom told me. “And so this kind of made it official.”

Nystrom and the online team sit in the main Times newsroom. He said his duties had rapidly evolved over the two months he’s taken on the new social media role. But so far, they fall into three main categories.

First, Nystrom helps to train his newsroom colleagues on these new tools. “There are plenty of people who are already using social media,” Nystrom said. “And there are some who have never heard of a lot of this. I’m certainly not thinking that everyone needs to be fully immersed in social media in our newsroom. I’m trying to think about who can benefit.”

Next, Nystrom acts as an internal evangelist, constantly looking for opportunities to wrap social media in reporting and storytelling. For instance, he helped advocate internally for using the sensational photo of the Hudson River plane crash taken by a citizen journalist on the front page of the Times and several other major newspapers.

Finally, Nystrom is actively listening to and participating in conversations taking place throughout various social media channels. He’s looking for interesting threads or information that can be brought back into the newsroom. And he’s listening for conversations about the Times and its coverage. “I’m especially looking at the conversation going on beyond our outlets, our Web site,” Nystrom said. “I want to find appropriate ways for us to participate.”

It’s too early to measure any direct benefits from Nystrom’s work. The Times’ online success hasn’t made the company immune from the effects of the crumbling economy, as its recent layoff announcement shows. And it remains under the umbrella of a corporate parent that is in bankruptcy.

But rather than using these as excuses to sit still, the Times has shown a commitment to experimenting and innovating. That’s example worth following.

January 13, 2009

Turning rivalries into partnerships

Ideas for ‘09: Collaborate with the former “competition” so that fewer journalists cover the routine and more journalists develop unique and significant enterprise stories

Poynter’s Rick Edmonds says 2009 will be a time of further pooling of news coverage by major news organizations. I agree. We’ll see more former competitors working together. So here’s idea #3 for the New Year: Consolidate and collaborate to enable journalists to increase news enterprise rather than simply producing more routine copy or cutting staffs - and the journalism they produce—ever closer to the bone.
The duplication of effort across larger newspapers covering the same turf—particularly in government and politics - has been enormous. Sure, it’s important to have more than one watchdog on duty at the statehouse. But too often, the watchdogs became the herd, covering the same hearings, writing up the same turn of screw procedural votes, and capturing the same political skirmishes that never quite enlighten real motivations or inform about policy.
Smart statehouse editors learn to balance reporter time devoted to routine stories with time devoted to investigative work and other enterprise. In many cases, the contributions of the Associated Press have helped carry the routine load. But as staff numbers have declined and demand for breaking news for online have increased, many editors have found themselves wondering where their enterprise - significant, in depth stories that only their organization has discovered or been willing to take on - will come from.
That’s the idea behind The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times joining forces in Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee, in December, according to Anders Gyllenhaal, editor of The Miami Herald.
We don’t want to double the number of stories. That’s not the goal,” Gyllenhaal told me in an interview. “This helps us focus on 100 percent more enterprise.”
This merger also calls for adding a staff position in Tallahassee. Miami had two reporters there; St. Petersburg three. Gyllenhaal said Miami will add a position - clerk and database expert - to bring the total to six.
He said the staffs have divided the beats and some have ownership for local issues such as the delegation of each organization’s readership. But he anticipates about 75 percent of the coverage will focus on state issues and the more experienced reporters will focus on enterprise.
“There’s never been a time when either paper has had a six-member staff in Tallahassee,” he said.
He said the keys to pursuing the partnership was that the two organizations had similar philosophies about coverage and that their core readerships are separate.
I asked Gyllenhaal if he anticipated further sharing on coverage. “Not necessarily. These ideas sound great. A lot of work is required. We have to be careful the work isn’t greater than the returns. This is a discrete and logical move. It may not have a second act.”
News organizations in Ohio, North Carolina, and Maryland are among those sharing content.  Here’s an Associated Press roundup, “Former newspaper rivals cooperate as jobs are cut” (link via
There are lots of opportunities here. The leadership challenge is to make sure the collaboration enriches the news product - be it the print newspaper or the Web site - with more than the sum of its parts.
What ideas for collaboration is your news organization considering? What’s already working for you? Please share your ideas in the comments.

Idea #1: Newsrooms must “wind down” on print while still publishing a newspaper
Idea #2: Expand your site as a network connecting people and information

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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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