Monday, March 30, 2009


As they taught us in grad school, always question your own assumptions.

A fine example from today. In our Local section, our center piece was a 'blog scrape' from our CEO’s blog where he reports that he found a Facebook page where local college kids posted things they missed about Bakersfield. Actually kind of fun and tied into our sister-products version of March-Madness where local icons went head to head in brackets.

The problem is, how many of our readers took their paper over to their computer, logged on and typed in the log address to take a look. I wonder... My educated guess is that we have two distinct audiences: a digital one and a print one. DO WE assume that there is crossover, do we have proof that readers do this?

Let’s suppose that a reader, me, for example went and did this. Sadly, the center piece could not be found on, I could go to our CEO’s blog, but the post the packages referred to I could not find on this quickly, and if you know anything about Facebook, you have to be a member to log in and then search for this page.

So, what have we done today?

We assumed print readers care about Facebook and social networks (which they might), we have assumed people will use their paper to visit the internet, and if we really did believe that, we have now frustrated them because they can’t get to the original content/posting easily.

good news:

The Huff-post announced plans to fund long-form and investigative journalism on the web.

of interest:

One of our former staffers has started a blog where she discusses in detail many of the decisions TBC made in migrating to the web.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


This was originally going to be a discussion of's interesting post on 'There is only us,' until I read Nicholas D. Kristof’s 'The Daily Me.'

Newless argues that news is becoming unbundled from the traditional mode(s) of distribution. I prefer democratization, but it is not my post. The argument is that the power of packaging news and advertising is diminishing. The role of journalist has been released from the monopoly of newspapers and news television; anyone can be a journalist now. This is both an exhilarating and scary concept.

Kristoff points out that we as thinking animals like to read opinions that we agree with. We also, to a smaller extent, like to read opinions that are caricatures of the people we disagree with. So if we are now the editors of 'The Daily Me' as he calls it, society will become more confined to its mental bunkers that people will not have to leave.

If you contrast these two articles I start wondering about the future. To me the future of journalism is to play referee and point people to good, well-founded content and illustrate how badly thought out other content is. I think it will also be to aggregate content that people should consider fro0m multiple perspectives.

The bad news is that we just want to read the perspectives we agree with. One of the advantages of the newspaper is that it tried being all things to all people, and that was problematic. But having fielded a few angry reader calls, I know that the newspaper made you think, made you experience emotions and made you call to express your opinion, and that will be lost.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

sad day

Today the Seattle PI stops the presses and goes digital. A sad day for the paper product industry but I wonder how well the digital/information experiment will go.

Michael Wolff of does not think it will go well in his piece 'old-news-becomes-new.'

There are a number of things I agree with him about and other I do not.

Out of the gate, the current web site appears to be the result of the web having a print master or repacking the the print version. It is not easy to navigate, it makes you think and I just click off of it. The web programs or designers are not talking to the designers or graphic people.

Web sites for news organization are in the tech curve by going digital, print really hasn’t had any major upheavals until digital photography and that didn’t change too much ultimately. So the reality hits, the people who know anything about tech are on the second floor in IT and not on the newsroom floor, guess what has to change.

Finally Wolff disparages that reporters have given up reporting local news. There I will disagree with him. I think they need to leave their chairs and get out of the building, but I think many still know how to do their jobs, it just hasn’t been valued at their own paper product.

There is hope, we are just in a transition period that looks like it is going faster than anyone imagined.

Internet passes newspapers

According to the latest Pew Research Center survey: more people, 40 percent, get their news from the internet rather than newspapers, 35 percent. Teevee news still leads the way with 70 percent, but that is down from a high of 82 percent.

So what does this mean?

For starters I wonder why so many newspapers are pulling back from the web and focusing their efforts on the print side, or as I now like to call it, the paper product. Why? Because that is where the advertising dollars are coming from. Because this is what they know.

So now we have a business model that is content to let its market share get smaller, ie. die off, knows where the audience is heading (clearly) and doesn’t want to change. Hmmmm.

So Mike, you are going to give us your big idea, right? The short-term answer is not what we are doing right now. The competitive advantage of a newspaper is that it can provide depth, analysis and perspective. So why make the paper product more like the web?

The major problem moving ahead for news organizations is how to market/fund/pay for local news that is comprehensive. Niche marketing and advertising is doing some amazing work around the country and globe, BUT, that depends on smaller slivers of the market that are highly energized or focused on something. So, depth comes from breadth. For local news the problem is that there is no depth to support breadth.

Moving away from monetization, the core problem is that society and what customers want have moved away from newspapers and their paper product. So what are news organizations going to do? They could and it looks like they will milk the cash cow until it is dry OR they might actually start to think about how to innovate and change to embrace the new platform for information delivery. Only time will tell.