Posts about cuny
Last month, I went to Europe for a session at the Guardian’s management offsite. They were just about finished converting the Guardian and the Observer print editions to the Berliner format (halfway between a broadsheet and a tabloid) at great effort and expense and at no small risk. It has been a success so far, but this meeting was not a celebration. Instead, wisely, they came together to start figuring out what their products and businesses would have to become next, now that we have crossed over into the digital age. I won’t recount what happened; this was their meeting. I’ll just say that they had me in — as a few other media companies and organizations have done lately — as the scary guy: Blogboy does his bugga-bugga about the distributed, post-scarcity, small-is-the-new-big, paperless, unplatform era of citizen control of media. I apparently have found my proper role in life: frightening people. But in this case, I was the one who was intimidated, because the Guardian is the most forward-thinking print organization I know and I was all the more impressed after watching their culture in action. And I was all the more cowed when, over drinks the night before meeting, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger went years past where I planned to time-travel the next day. Talking about the presses they’d just spent tens of millions of pounds buying, he shrugged and said:
“They may be the last presses we ever own.”
Presses are good for only a few decades.
That same day, I picked up the International Herald Tribune and read Thomas Crampton’s interview with another forward-thinking publisher, Germany’s Hubert Burda, who created one of my favorite print properties, the newsmagazine Focus. Crampton (of Joi.Ito.com fame) wrote:
…Burda has spent the past few years zealously pushing his media company into everything digital, even insisting that he will never open a printing plant again….
The grease and machinery of the printing press have almost become a sideline to the tool that Burda sees as central to the next generation of publication: social software. This encompasses everything from Web logs to community-building Web sites that let readers create their own content through reviews and comments.
“Printing will not go away, but I do not plan to open a single new printing plant,” Burda said. “We now concentrate on using social software to build closer relations with the communities of readers around our magazines.”
On the way home, I picked up Business Week and read about Random House, owned by another German media company, Bertelsmann, under the headline, “Digital Is Our Destiny.”
Then I landed back home in the U.S., where too many of the newspaper editors and publishers I know of still hold dear to their identities as publishers — proprietors of presses, printers on paper, owners of content, controllers of distribution, beneficiaries of monopolies. Publishers, damnit. Newspaper publishers.
The contrast struck me as deadly.
Today, the news about newspapers in America is not good: more layoffs (despite MoveOn’s whining), more competition, more fear, less revenue, lower stocks. The time that many hoped was a long way off may be upon us already. Newspapers are going to start to die.
Look at Knight Ridder: There’s talk that there may be buyers for the old gray gals — namely, private equity firms. David Sanderson of Bain said at the Reuters media summit that buyers could finance the purchases on cash flow … and then hope they will get the same multiples in five years. Yeah, sure. What’s unsaid is that these cash cows will have been milked dry and that there is no growth left in them. That makes me wonder whether these buyout firms will really want to buy papers now, knowing that they will have to put in tremendous strategic work to utterly change the nature of the companies. So what if no one will buy them?
Well, some papers will die sooner or later. Papers like the Philadelphia Daily News may die sooner. There are efforts to save that paper and I’m really looking forward to discussions scheduled to begin early next year in Philadelphia about the right strategy to do that … if the paper survives that long. But I have to ask whether that is the right crusade at all. Save the paper? No, it’s not about saving paper. Sorry, but it’s not even about saving jobs.
It’s not about saving anything. Instead, this is about seizing the opportunity of the internet and whatever that brings.
The people here who are trying to save papers are concentrating on the wrong assets. Listen to Dr. Burda again: He’s not saving paper and presses or even content and creators. He’s growing in new spheres:
We now concentrate on using social software to build closer relations with the communities of readers around our magazines.
I’ll say it again: Distribution is not king. Content is not king. Conversation is the kingdom. It’s about relationships. Burda gets it. That’s what my conversations in Europe were about.
This means changing the very essence of what a newspaper is. It’s not about scarcity. It’s not even about news as mere news. Dr. Burda again (echoing VC Vinod Khosla at Web 2.0):
News has now become a commodity, thanks to the Internet, so we must differentiate ourselves in other ways. Content alone can no longer win. You must build and interact with audiences.
It’s also not about power anymore. After Murdoch gave a rare interview Murdoch gave to the UK Press Gazette, Emily Bell, editor of Guardian Unlimited (note well the name of that site; it’s about the Guardian no longer being limited), noted that one man, Murdoch, is no longer in the position to singlehandedly change the industry of news and media in Great Britain. That power is now distributed, just like content. Bell writes:
But what we once took from Murdoch, as an industry and as media journalists, was his ability to provide a shockingly radical lead: he was the disruptive technology which now is itself being disrupted. [Bill] Gates, who is arguably Murdoch’s only peer in terms of original insight and business success, has, it seems, stepped away from his business too, accepting that the next wave of thinking will inevitably come from elsewhere….
As a media journalist it is impossible to study the evolution of News Corp and not admire the sheer brilliance of vision and the perfection of execution….
A lengthy interview with Rupert Murdoch feels like an obituary for an era – the sound of a nail being put into a coffin. And just as Murdoch symbolised the mainstream media industry at the peak of its power and used its influence so deftly, so his decline in relevance is a sharp reminder that the media establishment is all in the same boat. The only difference being that Murdoch’s boat is considerably bigger.
I think Murdoch would agree. Listen to him from that interview:
Does he feel now that his internet strategy is fully formed? “It’ll never be fully formed. The internet is changing, very disruptive technology and there are new inventions coming along every month. One has to stay awake and race to stay up with it, or if you get enough brilliant people around maybe you can get ahead of it.”
“The point is the ease of entry. If someone has a good idea on the net the cost of entry is zero. We’re going to have many, many more voices….”
There’s vision left in the old guy yet.
Now hear Murdoch on the state of journalism and newspapers… in America:
Given all this activity, how fearful does he think traditional journalists have to be for their futures?
“Not at all,” he says. “Just become better journalists. Great journalism will always be needed, but the product of their work may not always be on paper – it may ultimately just be electronically transmitted. But for many, many, many years to come it will be disseminated on both.
“There will always be room for good journalism and good reporting. And a need for it, to get the truth out.”
In Britain he thinks journalism is in as healthy a state as it has ever been. “Maybe better, there’s some great writing taking place, certainly in our newspapers – Times, Sun, Sunday Times – and we don’t have a monopoly on it. There is good writing all over the place….
“And it doesn’t matter because there are so many to choose from. I think the people of Britain are uniquely lucky to have such a great choice of newspapers and news, whereas in America you don’t.
“Outside New York, it’s all monopoly newspapers.
“Some have good work in them, but it tends to be overwritten, boring and elitist, not a reflection of the general mood in the public. And I think you’re going to find their circulations falling more than they already have. With their business models, because they’ve already stripped all the costs out, now they have to depend on advertising. And that is certainly under threat.”
I doubt he’ll be buying Knight Ridder. Too bad. He might be the one guy who’d know how to save the Philly Daily News as a tab, as a paper. But I don’t want to fall back into that trap again: the trap of thinking that our task is to save something from the past, to look back when we should be looking forward.
Our task is to stop seeing old failings everywhere and start seeing all the new opportunities before us, to exploit the future and expand news — to exhibit a passion about the possibilities, as Rafat Ali told the Online News Association. And we must accept the reality of the marketplace and stop wishing it wouldn’t change.
To summarize some of my own pontification on the topic from this blog…
From an editorial perspective, this means we can’t start with a goal of saving the newsrooms we now have. We have to find new efficiencies (how much do we spend on commodity news?) and new ways to help the public gather and share news (see hyperlocal citizens media) and concentrate on our real value: reporting. We need to think in terms of relationships, sharing training, information, promotion, and trust. How can we use online and the join with our public to grow bigger and share more information more quickly? That must be our goal.
From a business perspective, we need to stop whining about readers moving online. If that’s what they want to do, then go with them, damnit! The biggest challenge is to train advertisers that online is more valuable than print because more people are there and they are more engaged in getting what they want, and so advertising there is more efficient and should be worth more. The Online Publishers Association is taking steps to do that nationally; local sites need help, too (oh, for NCN). The next challenge is to find new ways to serve new advertisers, and maybe that’s not on content we own but on much larger and more targeted networks of citizens’ media. I believe we will, sooner than we know, start seeing print as an added cost burden maintained primarily becuase advertisers value it more than readers . I also believe that print will shift to become value added to online. It only stands to reason: If the people are online, that is where the advertisers will be. The publisher with balls will drive toward that inevitability, killing stock tables and even whole sections to encourage readers to go online. As for arguments that newspapers have high profit margins today: Well, yes. But once again, they’re not going to grow as papers. And once again, beware the cash cow in the coal mine that can blind you to your strategic imperitive to change.
The first step is to change the way we think. We have to stop thinking of ourselves on paper. Stop thinking one-way and start thinking two-way. Stop thinking centralized and start thinking distributed. Stop thinking about holding trust and power and start thinking about earning and sharing both. Stop thinking we make money by creating friction and owning scarcity and start thinking about how we can make and share money by enabling people to do what they want to do. Stop thinking of what we produce as paper. We need to stop thinking of newspapers as things.
So how do we think? This weekend, I quoted a blogger about owning media and came away thinking that life and the internet are about verbs and so should media be: What do people want to do?
I also love quoting Hugh MacLeod, who told me to share this wisdom with the Online News Association two years ago: Hugh said that rather than thinking of a newspaper as a thing, we should start thinking of it as a place, “a point on the map where wonderful people cluster together to do wonderful things.” Whatever we do, we have to break out of our old assumptions and old ways of looking at newspapers and journalism.
And that is what struck me so much about the contrast I saw between Europe and America. Here, we are talking about saving newspapers and hanging onto the past for dear life. There, they are talking about what comes next and they’re in a mad dash to get there.
The idea that the presses we own may be our last is not cause for mourning but for invention and investment. We have no choice.
: Here are a few ways to break out of the old ways of thinking. Robin Miller has a great piece on lessons for newspapers he has gained from working at Slashdot’s parent company. Here is Dave Winer’s prescription.
: Full disclosures: I write a column for Media Guardian. They paid my way to the meeting but not a fee (who flunked that business test?). I agreed that the meeting was off-the-record but I did ask Rusbridger whether I could blog his quote. And I want to disclose that I’m sorry for writing such a long post.
Bill Thompson, a commentator on the BBC and journalism teacher, explains why he has his students blog. Nothing earthshattering here but it’s a good summary of the reasons why. I hope and assume my students at CUNY will be blogging before they get to class…. and podcasting and vlogging and tagging and…. [via BloggersBlog]
Every time we hear about another cutback in newspapers — and there are plenty of them these days — we automatically hear the notion that journalism jobs must be saved to save journalism. I’m afraid it’s time to challenge that assumption.
Saving journalism isn’t about saving jobs or even newspapers. In fact, the goal shouldn’t be just to save journalism but to grow it, expand it, explode it, taking advantage of all the amazing new means to gather and share news we have today.
Start with the real goals, which are informing society, keeping power in check, improving people’s lives, making connections (right?) and then ask what the best ways are to do that today. After that, you can ask what the role of journalists and newspapers should be.
Maybe we need fewer people in newsrooms and need to take money to hire a lot more people outside newsrooms to gather more news. Maybe we need to put resources into training those people or vetting their work. Maybe we simply need to recognize that news is no longer a monopoly business that can operate at monopoly margins and we need to prioritize where we put our resources. Maybe we need to look at online as a primary source of current news and at newspapers as a source of analysis and perspective and unique reporting. Maybe we can’t support daily newspapers everywhere. Maybe some of those journalists will become independent publishers (see: Debbie Galant at Baristanet) and newspaper companies will run ad networks.
: There’s a great discussion going on in Philadelphia about saving the Daily News and that’s why I’m asking these questions: What does it mean to save it?
It started with Will Bunch writing on the Daily News blog Attytood. Philly blog king Karl Martino picked this up and sent email to folks he knows — bloggers, journalists, educators — suggesting that we get together to help explore this with Bunch. And the Philadelphia Inquirer’s blog prince, Dan Rubin, weighed in just as cutbacks were going on in his newsroom. Bunch’s opener was wonderful. Yes, he starts lamenting the loss of journalists’ jobs — of course; they are his friends and his colleagues and the people who produce his paper — but then he goes on to see the necessity of a different, a bigger future:
As I write this, the Daily News – where even before this fall the newsroom, with its depopulated desks, looked like a neutron bomb had struck, and where management chose to not even replace three staffers who died in 2004 – is nevertheless losing another 25 journalists, or 19 percent of the total….
It’s human nature, I guess, but the first inclination is to blame somebody, and there’s plenty of blame to go around….
But assigning blame won’t save the Philadelphia Daily News. Besides, much of the blame really lies with us, as journalists. We have, for the most part, allowed our product to become humorless and dull. In an era when it seems most people truly will be famous for 15 minutes, newspapers have stubbornly avoided creating personalities…or having a personality, for that matter. In a pathologically obsessive quest for two false goddesses – named Objectivity and Balance – we have completely ceded the great American political debate to talk radio, cable TV and the Internet, where people have learned that politics is actually interesting and even fun when people are allowed to take sides.
We prefer to talk down to the public rather than talk to them. Even at our very best – and there are many, many talented newspaper journalists in America – we are more likely to aim at wooing contest judges than at wooing new readers. And we have a knee-jerk tendency to defend our narrow world of messy ink printed on dead trees, when instead the time is here to redefine who we are and what we do.
We are, and can continue to be, the front-line warriors of information — serving up the most valuable commodity in a media-driven era. But that means we must be the message, not the medium, and so we must adjust to give consumers news in the high-tech ways that they are asking for, not the old-tech way that we are confortable with.
If we don’t change, we will die – and it will be our fault.
It defies all the conventional wisdom, but I believe that the Philadelphia Daily News can be an agent of that change – and not a victim. In fact, in seeking to destroy the Daily News in a death of a thousand cuts, our corporate masters in San Jose have, unintentionally, liberated us – because having nothing left to lose is another term for freedom.
Because with a staff that is now too small to cover every news story, we can learn how to cover just the stories that truly matter to people, and cover the heck out of them….
Hence, the “norg.” “Norg” because we need to lose our old identity with one dying medium, newspapers, and stress our most valuable commodity, the one that we truly own, and that is news…without the paper. Thus, we must now be news organizations, or “norgs.” …
Everybody up off your feet and give Bunch a standing O. That is exactly the kind of attitude and imagination and determination that will, indeed, save journalism.
This isn’t about circling wagons defensively anymore. Nor is it about cutbacks. Nor denial. Nor resenting the new guys. This is about invention.
: Meanwhile the shock therapy goes on.
A major stockholder wants Knight Ridder to put itself up for sale.
Goldman Sachs says it’s a crappy year for newspapers:
I’s official: 2005 will be the newspaper industry’s worst year since the last ad industry recession. And things aren’t looking much better for next year either, according to a top Wall Street firm’s report on newspaper publishing. “Sadly, 2005 is shaping up as the industry’s worst year from a revenue growth perspective since the recession impacted 2001-2002 period,” says the report from Goldman Sachs, adding a warning that meaningful growth in 2006 is “very unlikely.”
The Wall Street Journal says the failing newspaper industry will see consolidation (free link):
Along with steel, autos and airlines, daily newspapers would seem to be yet another mature U.S. industry that is prime for consolidation. Analysts are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for growth as advertising revenue continues to move online. Stocks of many newspaper companies now trade near multiyear lows….
Newspapers still dominate local news and advertising in many markets. That could attract a company such as Yahoo, which has moved increasingly into original content and would like to develop its local reach. Meanwhile, Google Inc. has expressed interest in entering the classified-ad market, where newspapers have deep relationships and continue to play a dominant role. Knight Ridder is part-owner of CareerBuilder Inc., the online classified Web site that competes with Monster.com….
But Knight Ridder’s larger papers are the ones buyers are most likely to balk at. These papers, like those at many newspaper companies, are dragging down the company. Big-city papers have taken it on the chin as urban advertisers and readers have defected to the Internet. Knight Ridder has distressed papers in Philadelphia, Miami and San Jose, Calif. Circulation in those markets is falling, and big advertisers such as department stores are consolidating.
Lately, some of the most successful newspaper companies have stayed in the newspaper business by getting out of it. Washington Post Co. and E.W. Scripps Co., for instance, have both diversified into other industries….
If I owned a newspaper, I’d sell it, wouldn’t you? If I were Yahoo, would I buy it? Maybe only Yahoo and Google could consolidate the advertising marketplace to make big media work still.
I’m not going to complain about media consolidation when all this happens (though I know plenty of others will). What we’re seeing, I’ll say again, is just the dinosaurs huddling against the cold of the internet ice age. The poor, old, lumbering beasts have to stick together.
For the growth isn’t going to be on the big side. The growth is going to be on the small side, in new, ad hoc networks of content, promotion, advertising, and trust…. networks that could spring out of the one that is swarming around Bunch’s post, networks that care about news.
The goal is to save daily news, whether or not you save the Daily News.
When I chose not to go to law school and into politics (insert punchline here) but instead headed toward journalism, I knew I wasn’t doing it to get rich (though I was paid well, once I put on a suit).
Connie Schultz, a Plain Dealer columnist, acts as if journalists take a vow of poverty, which is an extension of another popular perspective inside the news nunnery: the belief that journalism isn’t or shouldn’t be a business (a canon brought out every time a newspaper lays off journalists or points out that classified, retail, and circulation revenue are frittering fast). Says Schultz:
Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time with journalism students whose hand-wringing professors still believe something other than salary should be the divining rod for choosing a career.
They are professors who’ve dedicated their lives to training future journalists. They are increasingly alarmed by what they see and don’t want to become targets for saying so.
“We’re losing so many hard-news students to public relations, advertising and marketing,” one professor told me. “They just want to make money.”
His concern echoes through the hallways of other colleges I’ve visited.
“They want to keep the baby-boomer lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed,” said a professor at a school that boasts a boatload of Pulitzer Prize winners among its alumni. “The thought of starting out at $25,000 or $30,000 to expose corruption and champion the underdog just doesn’t do it for them. They have no interest.”
One journalism professor told me that hordes of women are opting for the softer — and more lucrative — career in public relations.
“A lot of them want to be event planners,’ ” she said. She nodded at my raised eyebrows.
“Seriously,” she said. “They want to plan parties.”
These are professors at large and not-so-large schools who care deeply about the mission of journalism at a time when our critics far outnumber our champions. Too many of their students neither love newspapers nor even read them. They worry that the values we old poops hold dear in this profession hold little appeal for the many budding journalists who’d rather shill than grill.
“I don’t mean to overstate this, but I worry about the future of democracy,” one retired professor told me. “If our journalists don’t challenge the abuse of power, who will?”
Oh, come now. Don’t blame the students’ lack of enthusiasm for newspapers on their greed. Blame it instead, perhaps, on the growing irrelevance of newspapers to the students…. that and growing distrust for newspapers in the public… that and growing opportunities outside the shackles of old media.
Let’s also not continue to treat journalism as a high priesthood in the too-honored tradition of Murrow-worshipers. That haughty separation is just what has gotten the business in trouble… that and refusing to acknowledge it is a business, which damned well should be under the market pressures of serving its public or going out of business.
One of the courses I plan to teach at CUNY’s new Graduate School of Journalism will invite students to invent and reinvent the products of journalism — perhaps even helping them to start businesses when they graduate — and make more than they could as starting reporters.
Or they can help develop new products inside companies. At the recent Museum of Television & Radio Media Center confab with bloggers and mogulmen, everyone complained that there is no product development inside their companies. The work on the future is happening outside. Well, one way to make it happen within is to start thinking — and rewarding — entrepreneurially. That means investing in the future by stopping the inefficiencies of the past. So perhaps we shouldn’t have so many cheap reporters and editors and executives whose job it is to recreate the same news everyone else has. Perhaps we should have fewer such people who do unique work well. And perhaps we should be starting new products and new, yes, businesses to invest in the future. From the curriculum I wrote. The class has many goals:
â€¢ It demonstrates to students that, for the first time since William Randolph Hearst, young journalists can think and act like entrepreneurs. Thanks to the tools and distribution of online, they can start their own products and businesses today.
â€¢ It readies them to work in new-product development for any media company: a skill that is ever-more in demand.
â€¢ It encourages them to think out side the box – the newspaper box or TV box – to take a leadership role in reinventing and reinvigorating news for their generation.
â€¢ It helps them to recognize and work with the business realities of journalism today.
The students will be expected to develop an idea for a new property with one key requirement: It must be journalistic. The product may involve reporting by professionals or citizens; it may involve packaging and editing; it may involve interactivity; it may involve print or broadcast components.
All of which is better than going into PR, which I never understood anyway.