News Leadership 3.0

December 03, 2009

Más fuertes juntos

In a guest post, Craig Matsuda describes a new alliance between two Spanish-language media companies - and how it started at a Knight Digital Media Center training session

Craig Matsuda, a longtime editor at The Los Angeles Times and now a consultant, coordinated Knight Digital Media Center’s June conference, “Transforming Ethnic News Organizations for the Digital Now,” in partnership with New America Media, the McCormick Foundation and the Knight Foundation. I have asked Craig to follow up with program participants in a series of guest posts. Today’s post: Stronger together

By Craig Matsuda

Ethnic media organizations, like many start ups, may struggle with the twin challenges of getting the business to that next level of success and overcoming a sense of professional isolation.
But a fortuitous meeting at a recent Knight Digital Media Center program has resulted in a new deal that will give Atlanta Latino, an up-and-coming,  Spanish-language multimedia company, a big boost in a partnership with Impremedia, a top U.S. national Spanish-language news and information company.

The two organizations will share share content and business resources in what executives of both call a “model” and a “win-win” arrangement that will benefit not only the two businesses but also their audiences.

For the thousands of relatively affluent, educated and youthful Spanish-speakers who read the Atlanta Latino in print, online and on mobile devices or who follow its television programming on YouTube and Telemundo, the new deal gives them deep, rich news coverage of Hispanic communities nationwide in places like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

For the millions of Spanish-speakers who get their news and information online, in print and through mobile devices from ImpreMedia and its 27 properties, such as La Opinion in Los Angeles or El Diario La Prensa in New York, the new deal gives them unprecedented coverage of one of the fastest growing Latino areas in the nation - Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast.

“This is a win-win deal because it gives ImpreMedia a new footprint in an important market they weren’t in before, and for us, well, it gives our audience the national perspective on issues key to them - everything from immigration to sports—in a way we couldn’t offer before,” says Atlanta Latino publisher Farid Sadri. “Plus, for us, we’ll now have access to new resources, such as national advertisers, that we couldn’t tap.”

Arturo Duran, CEO of ImpreMedia Digital, hailed the partnership with Atlanta Latino, saying it provides a model for his company’s evolving strategy to work with others to increase the flow of news and information while keeping costs low and the returns for all parties high.

“We see ourselves helping to build and bring together communities,” Duran said. “We’re getting excellent coverage of one of the fastest growing Latino markets in the country and we’re not having to build it ourselves. Meantime, we think we can help Atlanta Latino with our national footprint, our advertising, business and technology resources. It’s a sharing relationship that benefits everybody and it’s something we’re expanding elsewhere. “

Both parties emphasize that they’ve entered into an alliance, not an acquisition.

In concrete terms, the recently redesigned Atlanta Latino web site home page, for example, carries a sizable, interactive box with tabs that can be clicked to link to headlines, stories and other content from ImpreMedia’s New York, Chicago and Los Angeles coverage; in print, Atlanta Latino can carry any stories in Spanish from ImpreMedia publications.

ImpreMedia, meantime, links to Atlanta Latino and its content, just as it does with its own properties and those of its McClatchy partners. Duran said his company will be selling to advertisers its expanded reach, especially into burgeoning markets like Atlanta; he says ImpreMedia is scouting for similar alliances with other Spanish-language outlets in fast-growing markets with the savvy demonstrated by Sadri and his editor-wife, Judith Martinez.

Duran was a speaker at the KDMC session last June and Sadri and Martinez were invited participants. Building on what they learned in KDMC sessions, the couple say they have in some hectic months: redesigned their web site to make it easier to view and navigate, as well as to increase opportunities for advertisers; added new technologies to reach their audiences via cell phones and other mobile devices; launched a presence on social media with both Facebook and Twitter; and improved their site video, both with YouTube and with partner Telemundo, so that Martinez’s Spanish language television show can be more easily and widely seen online.

They’re also keeping firmly in mind the strategic plan they developed for Atlanta Latino in the KDMC sessions - and they’re carefully measuring, analyzing and reassessing their efforts.
“These still are tough times, economically,” Sadri said. “But, even with the natural ups and downs, we know that our analytics tell us that our web traffic was up 3.9% last month over the previous month. So we think our hard work is just beginning to pay off. We’re trying a lot of new things. But we’re excited because we can see that they’re starting to really work.” 

September 21, 2009

Navajo Times employs social media to reconnect scattered young with a traditional community

In a guest post, Craig Matsuda revisits a recent KDMC program participant to learn how the ethnic media organization has found across the globe a new, enthusiastic, young online audience with Facebook, Twitter.

Craig 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 the process, Craig worked closely with editors from about a dozen ethnic media outlets as they worked to improve their online offerings. I have asked Craig to follow up with program participants in a series of guest posts.

In an old language that some fear soon might be lost, a small ethnic publication has been greeting a surprising, new, youthful audience every morning for a few weeks now in a 21st-Century location.

Ya’at’eeh Nihidine’e, the Navajo Times tells its young cyberspace friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter. That hearty, “Good morning, Navajo people!” then is followed in English by headlines from the Times’ latest edition or a circulation promo or maybe a tease to an online video or photo gallery.

The content and contact clearly matter, as the Window Rock, Ariz., paper - which says it has a weekly circulation of 22,000 - has signed up a robust 1,600 fans on its Facebook page, which has been up only since August.

“We’ve been surprised and pleased how things turned out,” publisher Tom Arviso says of his organization’s leap into social media. “We were eager to get to young readers and we thought this might be a way. But our Facebook and Twitter experiments have far exceeded our early expectations.”

When he and reporter-editor Jason Begay attended the KDMC program in Atlanta for ethnic media leaders, they envisioned improvements to the Times’ online presence, especially its web site. They said they hoped the Navajo Times site would be the home for videos that would play a key role in preserving their people’s language, traditions and culture. They took in the social media presentation by Peoples Software Co. CEO Susan Mernit. It just wasn’t their chief focus.

But on their return home, they looked and learned to their displeasure that an unauthorized Facebook page was posted for the Times with bad, bogus content, Arviso said. They contacted the company, got it pulled down and decided, what the heck, maybe it was the time to put up a proper Navajo Times page.

The timing was impeccable. The newsroom staff had started breaking stories about a tribal deficit and suspect spending by leaders. It was peak season for big reservation events like the summer fair, a beauty pageant and even a metal rock concert. The Times talked it all up on Facebook. And from spots as far away as Iraq and Afghanistan, young Navajos eager to reconnect with family and happenings back home flocked to the Times’ new, social media information sources.

Read their enthusiastic, energetic postings and what emerges is just how the diasporan young - in California, the East Coast, overseas - have coalesced around the Times and formed what ethnic media outlets long have sought to create and foster: a community.  Its members talk about traditional foods they hunger for but can’t find; they swap information about jobs and learning their traditional language; they’ve grieved over the loss of a young soldier in Afghanistan; they cajole and argue with each about everything from tribal government to the merits of various kinds of music, including opera.

Yes, opera.  The plans by Arviso and Begay for more video haven’t disappeared. With the tools provided by YouTube and Facebook, the Times is putting up more video online.  A much-discussed Facebook posting even featured a video of an opera company’s performance at a reservation high school of a modified La Boheme.

Both the Times’ web site and its Facebook pages reflect greater attention to not only video but also photography. “We have so many great pictures that we couldn’t publish in the paper,” Arviso said. “Now we can put them online and our audience really responds to them.” Indeed, the web site spotlights several online slide shows, and on Facebook, the Times has 18 photo galleries, which have prompted more than 200 comments.

Because Begay has just begun to build the Times’ Twitter presence, it isn’t showing the results the Facebook page has, Arviso noted. Still, it has a solid rate of one follower per tweet (159 tweets posted, 159 followers).

In concrete terms, the publisher says he’ll soon see metrics as to whether the social media have driven traffic to the Times’ web site, which the organization says gets more than 230,000 page views monthly. But Arviso notes that he has made a point already with advertisers about their greater reach, exposure and cross-promotion to the Times’ burgeoning, young Facebook and Twitter audience, many of whom are away earning college degrees and headed to higher incomes. That’s good news in the grim economy, in which Arviso says the Times is holding up and holding its own.

Next steps? Arviso said he knows his staff is working hard, learning a lot of covering as much as it can. “We still have to get better, though,” he says. He wants more audio and video of interviews in Navajo; the paper publishes a page now in the traditional language and he’d like a weekly video with a lesson and reading in Navajo from it.  “We need to get folks some equipment - video and digital cameras, digital tape recorders,” he added. “We need to put that stuff in our people’s hands and train them more. We’re going to put up even more stuff online soon.”

July 13, 2009

Small, independent ethnic media organizations face formidable challenges

In a guest post, Craig Matsuda says ethnic organizations often labor with poor digital platforms and little communication with peer organizations

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 worked closely with editors from about a dozen ethnic media outlets as they worked to improve their online offerings. I have asked Craig to share what he learned in a series of guest posts. This is the last of three parts.
Part 1: Among ethnic groups, the digital divide narrows
Part 2: Ethnic news editors embrace online media

Antoine Faisal, the self-deprecating and often hugely funny publisher of Aramica, an Arabic language newspaper, is asking a serious question these days: With the entrepreneurial skill and resources it takes to run an ethnic media organization, why bother? Why not take those assets and put them into some other venture with less risk, greater profit opportunity and lower levels of industry volatility?

Indeed. If the digital transformation has proven daunting for mainstream media, it’s an even more formidable challenge for smaller, disparate, independent and often isolated ethnic organizations.

As I prepared for a recent KDMC program for ethnic media leaders, I heard a lot about their challenges online. These are not insurmountable. And one of the biggest got tackled head on in Atlanta: Call it the knowledge gap.

Because many ethnic media organizations are family run or even mom-and-pop enterprises, they’re lean, harried and frugal - even more so than their mainstream counterparts. They don’t have corporate headquarters or sister papers to share ideas with. With exceptions, they aren’t tied well to industry groups or educational institutions. So how do they learn about the latest stuff and best practices online? Where to send staff members to educate themselves on the how-tos of the web?

This matters, a lot. Many of the organizations, for example, labor with legacy technology that works poorly and can’t be upgraded easily. These old systems can’t take on new kinds of content or applications so they cough up web sites that aren’t visually appealing,  user friendly or loaded with interesting material.

While many of the organizations now post photos, fewer display more complex slide shows, especially with sound. Without Flash or Java, advertising and editorial materials are static. Video and podcasts require hardware and software that can seem difficult to them. Even blogs, while more common, often don’t square up well with the systems in place. And have we talked about what it would take for mobile? 

In Atlanta, KDMC-invited experts urged ethnic leaders not to be cowed by technology. Susan Mernit and Arturo Duran told them to concentrate on content and to educate themselves, swiftly, about newer, better, cheaper and easier technologies. Social media, like Facebook and YouTube, can help them build online from the “edges” inward; blogs can add more and different voices easily, inexpensively and with little technology. Dana Chinn advised them how to plan and track better their online efforts.

Will this new information, ideas and options make even a small difference?

Sure hope so. Though groups like New America Media have polls showing ethnic organizations are increasing audience and penetration, the economy has slammed them hard, the leaders in Atlanta said. This makes their online growth both more difficult for resource reasons—and more vital for their survival.

Much is at stake. Ethnic media serve and define unique, vital communities. They offer vital information to their own and to a larger society. Mainstream media gave short shrift to these communities in the best of times and have withdrawn further now.

Meantime, costs are only rising. And, as I pointed out in another post, the audiences that ethnic media have relied on are changing, rapidly. They’re getting younger, assimilating quickly in language and culture into the mainstream and adapting to technology faster than are the media organizations that hope to reach them.

So will the obstacles be too great for ethnic media leaders? Will we be left only with fond memories of defunct ethnic papers read by grandma and grandpa?

After Antoine Faisal asked his piercing question of survival to his peers in Atlanta, not one talked of quitting. Instead, the idea of losing their roles or failing their communities seemed to push the leaders to redouble their efforts. Each began to figure just how to make this new stuff work.

“What keeps us going?” Cora Oriel, publisher of the Asian Journal, asked in a recent interview. She said she hears tons from her audience that they’re proud, pleased and engaged with the Journal’s news and advertising targeted for them. “We hear that all the time - people want and need us because we’re a part of the Filipino community and there’s nothing like us.”

That loyalty transfers, too, to advertisers, some of whom, Oriel said, “we’re helping to keep afloat in these tough economic times. They say that sticking with us has made a difference because our audience is supporting them as they do us. You just do whatever you have to when you hear how you’re helping people and making a difference.”

That’s also true for Paulette Brown, publisher of the Black Voice News. She said in an e-mail interview that she struggles to maintain her family’s legacy in running a quality organization “dedicated to engaging our diverse communities.”

To her, that means providing timely, accurate news and information; sometimes acting as a community advocate; and always ``educating our community.” She said she has given great thought, and though her parents may disagree, it’s not printing a paper but employing the most effective means available to fulfill a “core mission” of public service. 

As for Faisal, he admits he experiences “great frustrations ... If I spent 40% of the energy that I do on my operations on another business, I’d be a millionaire,” he said recently. “But I still have a passion for what I do and what Aramica accomplishes.”

Like Brown and Oriel, he hears from his community, especially on how these aren’t easy times for Arab-speaking Americans. Who would tell their stories - for them to share as a community and for the larger society to understand them? Who would be a watchdog when they’re discriminated against or worse? With much of the Arab-speaking world living in more repressive conditions than his U.S. audience, doesn’t Aramica also offer something key internationally, he asks?

Sure, Faisal said, he misses his posher days working for an advertising agency with elite clients. But he has, in fact, recommitted himself to Aramica in the midst of this deep recession. He’s on the brink of expanding its print footprint. And he’s pressing for its web site to leap ahead, not soon but “yesterday!”

That kind of enthusiasm can be infections.  And we’ll be telling you more about what progress we see from it.



July 09, 2009

Ethnic news editors embrace online media

In a guest post, Craig Matsuda says ethnic news organization leaders avoid the EitherOr mentality that holds back many mainstream newsrooms

Craig 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 (see earlier post). Craig also worked closely with editors from about a dozen ethnic media outlets as they worked to improve their online offerings. I have asked Craig to share what he learned in a series of guest posts. This is the second of three parts.

By Craig Matsuda

When leaders of almost a dozen ethnic media organizations met recently in Atlanta to figure ways to improve their digital future, there was a notable absence in the room: Eeyore didn’t appear.

The no-show wasn’t the pessimistic, gloomy and resistant AA Milne donkey. It was his newsroom equivalent: “EitherOr.”

Supervisors know EitherOr. Arms crossed, quiet or even sullen, lips pursed, he insists in the face of change that life’s about making singular, exclusionary selections and not seeing options and opportunities. We do this one thing and nothing else - there’s nothing more, says he.

But the ethnic media leaders banished EitherOr and his myths in ways that others may find instructive:

Myth No. 1. EITHER We Serve Our Craft OR We Serve Our Community

Do audiences care as much as traditional newsrooms do about the craft that goes into journalism?  Does it matter more or even as much as the content itself?

Publisher Tom Arviso and writer-editor Jason Begay came to Atlanta to learn more about the online world, in general, but especially about web-based multimedia options like audio and video.

That’s because their Navajo Times recently posted a video of an elderly woman, telling a traditional story in Navajo, that surprised the staff with its powerful response from their audience, scattered across the nation and the world but accessing their web site, Arviso said. Speaking at first in the language of his ancestors, Arviso told the KDMC group - whom he called his brothers and sisters - that his people love the Navajo language and believe its preservation is a key to maintaining their culture in the 21st Century.

He knows his staff does excellent, hard journalistic work now - lots of it. But they all were floored by the outpouring from their audience, including far-flung troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, not at their written or posted words but by the chance to see and hear Navajo seniors speak their words.

Times staffers will need to learn new skills and they’ll add to their duties but they’re eager to do so if they soon can not only craft others’ stories but also serve their community by using online technologies to help Navajo thrive as a living tongue, Arviso and Begay said.

Myth No. 2. EITHER We’re Print OR Online

Can’t we be both - and more? Judith Martinez and Farid Sadri started their journalistic enterprise as a Web site, then added a weekly paper because of audience and advertiser demand.

But with costs rising and revenue softening in print, Martinez had an “Aha!” moment in the KDMC program: We’re not just a paper. We’re a multimedia organization dedicated to serving the Latino community in Atlanta and Georgia, she declared. She said she had too easily forgotten that, with a Web site, a broadcast partnership that includes an increasingly popular television show and Atlanta Latino in print, her organization had positioned itself for new success. They just need to think, constantly, not about each part but the whole. That way they can serve their audience and market better—in many and different ways.

Myth No. 3. EITHER We Make Money OR We Serve Our Community

You really can do both, can’t you? Publisher Tom Gitaa and Editor Julia Opoti of the Minnesota news organization Mshale have watched their print and online audience of African immigrants shift with an influx of Somalis.

They see the social and economic challenges the newcomers encounter, and for journalistic reasons, they’d love to reach deeper into this developing community to help it with key information and by telling its compelling stories. But how to do this when money is tight and traditional technologies aren’t working?

So that’s why Gitaa focused his attention in Atlanta on new ways to reach audiences with web-based content delivered on mobile devices, especially cell phones. Immigrants buy such devices early, even as dial-up or high-speed net connections are too costly for them. And, by the way, advertisers are intrigued about reaching consumers and cutting their costs, say, by providing shoppers with coupons via cell phones. Gitaa and Opoti heard enough to persuade them that for The Arrow (what Mshale means in Swahili), mobile could be a revenue and a journalistic bull’s eye. 

Myth No. 4. EITHER We Get More Help OR We Just Can’t Do Anything Else

Really? Are we talking about resources or something else, such as management and choices? Nguoi Viet‘s web site has been around for awhile now and for those who read and speak Vietnamese, it’s an online resource. But publisher Dat Phan and his net chief Quang Phan said they recognize that if their organization wants to keep its audience and market spot, it needs to jump start its use of social media to appeal to younger Vietnamese, especially English speakers.

But how, especially since a tight economy won’t permit any hiring binge? “Bandwidth,” was Quang Phan’s answer. He said he had considered the interests and workload of a young, tech-savvy colleague and he plans to rearrange his duties so he’ll be freer to build Nguoi Viet’s presence with new audiences, especially by tapping into those through Twitter and Facebook.

Part 1: Among ethnic groups, the digital divide narrows
Part 3: Small, independent ethnic media organizations face formidable challenges

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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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