Monday, November 30, 2009

Age probabilities

How to tap into all the probabilities that we confront increasingly as we age, as the numbers keep getting stacked against us, more each day. How to turn that into a "pays" proposition??

Global Post posts

It's really a shame that - the experiment in US-focused content from overseas freelancers - does not allow those who register to see a listing of any and all comments they have posted on the site.

"Journalism jobs and news from"

I think this is headed in the right direction, but for important issues and stories, I'd sure substitute a human being.

"New London freesheet planned" -

I don't think anyone has yet stumbled upon the motherlode of free newspaper business models.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

"Washington Post to Shut Last 3 U.S. Bureaus" -

This reflects so much of what is happening today in the newspaper world, including the uniqueness of the Washington Post, often considered another national newspaper. It never was, never really tried to be, is not, and likely will not be - for better or for worse.

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Sifting Web Chat for Marketing Inspiration" -

An opportunity for newspapers, too?

"Volunteers Log Off as Wikipedia Ages" -

As valuable as Wikipedia often is, I have always harbored concerns that it may not be sustainable. In fact, the whole world of free may ulitimately find that it is not either.

"GlobalPost: A New Experiment In Foreign Coverage" - NPR

"Noble experiment" is exactly the right label!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

"Send Out Cards"

What if newspapers started sending us a lot of personalized messages in addition to the daily or weekly newspaper?

"Citizen journalist, pick your beat" -

Are we getting to the point where individuals might actually bid for specific beats? Or, God forbid, actually apply for the "job" and get selected on merit?

Friday, November 20, 2009

The newspaper as a social network

Sometimes, we get all wrapped up in old words applied to new things and we overlook the real meaning of those words and how they might apply to other things as well.

Social network is a good example. We have come to believe that this means largely a page on Facebook with a bunch of fans and when taken together, this is thought to be a social network.

There are others, of course. For most people, the neighbors who live on either side of them make up a social network. So, too, we each have social networks of people whom we know in different contexts.

A social network, I would argue, is also the entire relationship between a newspaper and the market it serves. We all play a role in that network whether we own a newspaper or not. The core idea is that the newspaper reports on the community and keeps it informed about itself and all of the people who live there. Any one of us could wind up in tomorrow's newspaper as a result of happenstance, planning, position, etc.

Ideally, the newspaper tells us enough our social network to keep us well posted on everything important and interesting. Of course, most newspapers fall far short of satisfying that test.

But my point is that newspapers confront a huge opportunity to expand their historic roles as social network organizers for their geographic communities and make the it the best, the most valuable, the most comprehensive in that place. It's not a question of forsaking journalism for volunteer writers of questionable content. Rather, it's a matter of deploying more tools to reinforce the core life of the newspaper and the market it serves.

If newspapers would only think hard about what they are supposed to do, and how far short of that they now fall, and then how much closer they could get by combining all of their strengths and capabilities by interconnecting more dynamically readers, advertisers and quality information of all kinds.

I don't know of a single newspaper so far that has done this. It seems to me that's its inevitable if newspapers are to survive. The time it takes to happen determines how viable a solution it turns out to be.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Individual advertising

One of the categories of advertising that gets either no or only occasional attention is what I would call "personal" advertising. This could be display, is most often classified, but which could be so much more.

Imagine if each of us was offered a chance to have an advertising account at our local newspaper. This would be the place where we would buy "space" of all different kinds. It might be space to advertise a political point of view. It might be space to sell an old car.

What could be really different about this approach would be the notion that you could freely mix and match print and electronic. If you wanted to sell your house, you'd get x amount of space in the printed paper of your choosing and you'd get y amount of space and features in the web and via e-mail. Each component could be separately priced and yet bundled offerings of all kinds could be offered as well.

I'd stress the opportunities for self-expression, especially on the web. Got something to say, we'll help you do it even better than you can do it on your own.

If newspapers cannot make the pitch successfully for the latter, what good are they when it comes to servicing the needs of their customers?

A lot of this new business might be driven by pure ego. Somebody wants to show off the new addition to their house or photos of a wedding. Nothing wrong with that. Digital space is nearly limitless and why should newspapers give it away if they can present it better than the customer can do it on his or her own?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The most underdeveloped newspaper resource

Newspapers have many resources that are either unique for them, or at least better than many others who pretend to compete. Some of those resources are well developed and well-utilized. Most are not.

Perhaps the resource with the greatest potential at this point, and with the largest upside opportunity is made up of newspaper subscribers. These are people who spend real money to buy real newspapers.

When was the last time that you got something in e-mail, or via any other medium, that made you think that you were special because you subscribe to that newspaper? I cannot recall getting something like that in a very long time.

My own print subscriptions today are two newspapers - The New York Times and the Herald-Sun in Durham, NC.

Each occasionally sends me a note about a rate increase and the odd promotional item, but do I receive anything that calls my attention to something that the newspaper did that ought to be important to me, some reinforcement of content that I might already have seen, but would like to be told just in case I missed it inbetween the driveway and the recycling bin? No.

What a huge missed opportunity to treat us all as individuals and paying customers. Instead, we are considered simply one of all subscribers and treated as a blob.

Why aren't newspapers looking for ways to bring the newspaper relationship to people, one by one, drawing on all of the computer and communications technologies available to them. Competitors do not have us subscribers and I think we ought to be mobilized in new ways to draw more out of "our" newspapers and spread the value that we get within our community instead of primarily dumping it all into that recycling bin.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Google Trends: newspaper

This is a wonderful tool. In doing a search on how often the world "newspaper" was used in a search - if I understand how the tool works correctly - look at what this shows -- a steady and significant decline for the last 6 years.

"Magazine falls victim to glut of recipes on Web, TV" -

This applies to the situation in which newspapers find themselves today. They are no longer essential in the lives of their customers, if they ever were. At worst, they are less essential and becoming moreso every day that newspapers fail to jump into the middle of life as it is lived today not just with things that people want but with what they need and will use with dedication and commitment. What could a newspaper do for the chef in the lead of this piece? If "I don't know" is the answer, you just haven't thought creatively enough. Think harder!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Newspaper content mismatched

Newspapers generally have two parts. One part is made up of news stories, opinion pieces, and other material prepared by, or chosen specifically by, the newspaper to report on news, add perspective, further the interests of readers. The other part is made of space sold to advertiser who place in that space whatever they think serves their best interests.

For the most part, this means that the newspaper-originated space aims to inform, educate, sometimes persuade, but generally serve what the newspaper believes to be in the public interest (however the newspaper defines that interest). The advertiser-originated space is there to promote the advertiser or its interests, to market or sell a product and generally to motivate readers to take some action that results in gain for the advertiser.

These are very different missions yet newspapers have traditionally made little effort to appreciate that they all come jumbled together on most pages for the reader's consumption.

I think there needs to be some rethinking of this, whether on a printed page or in a website.

I don't mean simply better layout and design or better demarcation.

I mean focusing on the reader and figuring out how the newspaper can serve its two constituencies - the consumer customers and the advertiser customers - more effectively. Surely, digital technology allows us to do all sorts of things that can respect and even enhance editorial independence while avoiding obnoxious advertising such as Apple and UPS most recently have placed on The New York Times website.

It means adjusting a lot from, yes, layout and design, to more conversation between and among newspaper people of all departments and wide assortments of consumer customers and advertiser customers. It's a lot more than focus groups which is as far as most newspapers go, and I don't know of any that combine consumer customers, a page of the newspaper in print or online and advertiser customers from that page - and maybe even the subjects of some of the newspaper-orginated content of that or those pages in a single discussion. What a great place to begin that would be!

Thursday, November 05, 2009

"If Health Care Is Going to Change, Dr. Brent James's Ideas Will Change It" -

What a marvelous contribution to our understanding of the health care issues that confront us.

One aspect of this that eludes me is why we have let the system evovle to the point of where so much of health care is an accounting exercise between insurance companies and health care providers. At what point did we all decide that we were no longer going to be the ones to get billed first if we received health care, that we were not the ones to debate the charges and to shop around if we chose to do so? All of that seems alien to the idea of making health care both better and less expensive.

"Belgian Emerges as Favorite for New Top E.U. Post" -

I suppose we can all warm to this fellow, if he gets the nod, but I wonder how this will play outside of Europe, let alone within the EU. I don't mean simply how will it be received, but rather how useful will this person turn out to be in representing the interests of Europe? This all seems to be headed toward not amounting to much.

Monday, November 02, 2009

"Detroit Newspaper Takes Cue From Advertisers" -

I think this gets real close to the heart of the core problem that newspapers need to solve. How do they make themselves more valuable to more advertisers without losing their independence. I think there are ways to do that, but this could be the hardest thing that newspapaers have done in a very, very long time.