The [Monday] Papers
I'm still a little funky but I think I can string together a few coherent sentences.
First, from an interesting post from Nathan Richardson, the CEO of ContentNext Media, which owns paidContent.org, called "How Silicon Valley Can Help Save Newspapers:"
"One day I was invited to a meeting to brainstorm about, of all things, the width of the Wall Street Journal. After I made a suggestion that was somewhere between novel and off the wall, the then-publisher leaned on the table, looked at me and said: 'How old are you, young man?' The suggestion was clear: If you're under 40, you can't possibly understand the newspaper business. I still wish my response, though impolitic, had been: 'How old is your thinking?'"
As I've written ad nauseum, problems inside newspapers and oldstream media organizations aren't just technological, but cultural. I rarely watch the network news, but every time I do I'm struck by how the broadcasts are essentially the same as they were 20 years ago - and how nearly identical they are on each of the networks. The same for local news. And for all their redesigns and change committees and inner bravado - "I want new ideas! I crave new ideas!" former Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski once bellowed to me during an interview - newspapers are essentially the same as they've been for decades. (I know because my apartment has about 20 years' of newspapers piled up in stacks and files and boxes and other stacks; and no, I didn't believe for a second that Ann Marie wanted new ideas, just slightly new versions of the same old ideas.)
It's not just about figuring out the Internet (ugh, are we still trying to do that?) it's about figuring out how to do your jobs differently - and better. And that doesn't mean finding just the right mix of feature stories or straining to be "hip" (but not too hip) or obsessing over click rates of celebrity stories, but about strategies and approaches to reporting the news. And that means massive cultural change in our newsrooms, because I can assure you (and so can many Beachwood readers) that this - from Richardson - does not describe newsroom culture in even the slightest way:
"Companies in Silicon Valley depend on having a fast-paced culture of innovation where no ideas are bad ideas, all voices are heard, technology is embraced not feared, and you are irrelevant if you aren't open to change. To achieve aggressive goals in competitive environments, teams have to work together without hidden agendas or obsessive attention to where in the chain of command a new idea originates."
Sound familiar? I didn't think so.
"The very companies that are ensuring newspapers' online traffic/existence should be leading the dialogue on their survival," Richardson writes. "Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and AOL - not the editors, journalists and cadre of analysts who have led the newspapers to the brink - should be put in charge of identifying ways to keep a select number of news outlets viable. There are three reasons why the tech leaders should be driving this bus: their culture of innovation; their dependence on newspapers; and their track record of creating and growing sources of online revenue."
I would say that journalists cannot be left out of the discussion, but before entering the discussion journalists need a little bit of remedial education to get them up to speed.
"[R]ather than wait for papers to reinvent themselves, fresh thinking from Silicon Valley should be a big part of the solution. I was 35 when the Wall Street Journal publisher asked me my age. The reality is that even then, I was old in digital terms, and I now look to 25-year-olds for ideas and innovation. Silicon Valley gets that - but I'm not sure the newspaper business does."
Richardson also has some specific ideas on revenue, so go read the whole thing - and then come back.
"They allege that Yelp representatives have offered to rearrange positive and negative reviews for companies that advertise on the site or sponsor Yelp Elite parties."
The San Francisco allegations appeared a week ago in the New York Times. Yelpers have already responded to the Trib piece by calling it "shoddy journalism," which is ironic and laughable on at least three levels.
Yelp is entertaining and even occasionally useful, but it could do everyone a huge favor by instituting some quality control over both its sales agents and its writers.
Paging Jerry Angelo
* The Five Dumbest Ideas of the Week. And who had them.
* Fantasy Fix: Get Shaq. Plus, the sleeper Cub and the sleeper Sock in your baseball draft.
* Track Notes: The Harlem Ave. Exit. Introducing the Reality Show Alert system.
The Beachwood Tip Line: Nothing at all.
Posted on March 9, 2009
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