Monday, June 18, 2007

Find me at Technorati

Pardon me while I sign up for the revolution: Technorati Profile

Gray Lady robs cradle, hires TVNewser

At one of the most productive intersections of old media and new, the dead tree version will try and rejuvenate itself by eating babies.

The New York Times' hiring of 21-year-old Brian Stelter, the writer of MediaBistro's popular TVNewser blog, has set the blogosphere a twitter, if not, indeed, started it twittering.

Gawker proclaims that the wunderkind (so described by virtually every reference to Stelter in both old and new media) is set to become a thorn in the side of New York Times media reporter Bill Carter

Things will undoubtedly get very interesting very quickly. Stelter has a ton of sources in the industry, and is just the kind of hungry fellow who could show up his older colleagues. Unless he gets stabbed in the back!
Meanwhile, Jeff Jarivs at Buzz Machine writes that Stelter's hiring should be an inspiration to writers.
The reason that’s good news — besides Brian’s energy and talents now adding to the paper of record — is that it shows how anyone can take on a beat, do it on their own, make it their own, and rise up to the top of the field. Nobody covered TV news as well and completely as Brian. That’s why TV news execs read (and fed) him. That’s why the Times hired him. He did this without a journalism degree or any degree, actually — or even the legal ability to drink beer. On a blog, nobody knows you’re a dog. They just knew that he knew his stuff.

One takeaway is that while Stelter uniquely defined the beat on his blog - note the old world term applied in new world way - the old fashioned way: He reported, worked sources and wrote interesting tales. The hiring reinforces the mantra that content is king. As he told the New York Observer, "It was time to stop reporting on reporters and start being a reporter,” Mr. Stelter said by phone on June 12, shortly after The Times, in an internal memo, announced he had done just that."

This is less about technology, more about talent. Strip away the bits and bytes and what you're left with are the ideas. It makes you wonder whether all the noise about social networking amounts to an evolution or revolution.

At any rate, good for Stelter - and media of all vintages.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

MSM burns - but all is not lost

Todd Defren of PR-Squared writes about the flaming wildfire that is mainstream media.

He notes shake-ups at the Wall Street Journal and the "massacre" at tech publisher CMP.

Among others, there are also changes at the Orlando Sentinel and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The mainstream media landscape is smoldering - with more explosions to come. Defren sugguest that with ...

[f]ewer publications and more competition for the table scraps could mean that the media we deal with become increasingly focused on edgy, cool stuff; celebrity-related crapola; leaks; controversy … it could even happen at the InformationWeek level

Longer-term, less pubs = less opportunities for coverage. Our jobs just got a bit harder.

Less mainstream pubs could also mean that it’s time for some clients to take a harder look at opportunities in the blogosphere.
However, while there are significant changes in how messages and news are transmitted to audiences - he points out that it's time for clients to take even harder looks at blogosphere opportunities - I disagree that there is less opportunity for coverage.

On the contrary: if clients and their counselors (or even readers) will be smart about their offerings, there is even more opportunity to appear in MSM publications.

News outlets, especially dead tree publications, are diverging into distinct elements: Digital and print. Some messages rely on words, some are more effectively delivered through multimedia.

Some are rich narratives that demand the intimacy of paper; you're mesmerized on the train and clutch the paper. You're enraptured by the back story so you take it with you and read it in bed. It's the same reason gravitate toward fine novels: Rich story telling is captivating.

The same story can be told in pithy, snarky bursts. Maybe, to fall on the cliche, a picture is worth a thousand words. Or in the age of YouTube or the video iPod, maybe a moving image is priceless. Mainstream publications are ramping up their digital capabilities, but many newsrooms still lack the technological sophistication to make things happen. This is a time when careful spoonfeeding can take place.

The MSM has been slow in sensing the sea change. But with Darwinian and free market principles in play, journalists will be moving more quickly to adapt - less they get stuck in the La Brea tar pit of yesteryear's information model.

More plainly, it means they'll likely be receptive to user-generated content. Or, if it makes sense and is smart, they'll take third-party digital offerings if it doesn't compromise their journalistic ethics.

Yes, the playing field is different. But there's no reason to think that there can't be ways to get on the scoreboard.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Technology wows, but ideas rule

At Social Computing Magazine, Brian Solis, a Principal of FutureWorks, a PR agency in Silicon Valley, writes about the intersection of sociology and marketing.

The concept of social media drastically altering mainstream media or even public discourse seems like a radical departure from the status quo. In some places it is. Witness the decline of newspaper circulation, magazine revenue and the reliability of the 30-second TV ad to deliver name recognition to a mass audience.

The future of marketing integrates traditional and social media elements. The new mix will include what you know along with the tools to succeed in social media and customer relations. They can include blogs, social networks, wikis, lifestreams ala Twitter and Jaiku, video, livecasts such as Veodia and, news aggregators such as Digg and Reddit, social media releases, videos, and podcasts. There are also opportunities for companies to participate in virtual worlds, such as Second Life.

However, Solis' take, and others like it, are less revolutionary than evolutionary. The idea of a mass conscious or the existence of a social ether that could be tweaked and manipulated spun from the mind of Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud and father of modern day public relations.

I agree with Solis on this point: Technology is technology, which means it's the form, not the message.

Technology is not the end-all, be-all. Content remains king and always will be. Whether you're using a chisel and stone or keyboard and Internet, the quality of the idea and the clarity of the message is what the audience receives - and ultimately will affirm or reject.

Remember, the future of communications introduces sociology into the marketing strategy. The technology is just that, technology. The tools will change. The networks will evolve. Mediums for distributing content will grow.

What Solis effectively points out - in sort of a primer for companies or their consultants just now discovering the possibilities of social networking technology - are the options available. Some will work for you as an individual or group, some won't. Some of us like the written words of blogs, some of us gravitate toward the visual appeal of YouTube.

Again, whether you chisel or type, power isn't determined by volume. Ideas rule - and always will.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

MSM digital divide

Edelman public relations recently hosted a fascinating summit that highlighted the intersection of the MSM and social networking.

Richard Edelman, CEO of the PR agency, quoted Gordon Crovitz, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, who gave a snapshot of digital's influence on print:

Crovitz—Digital changes the print product. Newspapers have been great repositories of events that occurred the day before but this cannot work in the digital world. Our readers of the print product want more understanding and interpretation. They want what were second day stories on the first day. Commodity news will be reported by our news service, Dow Jones, and taken up by our on-line reporters. Our reporters have a better chance than ever to tell the full story because we have no space constraints on-line. We are trying to become more vertically targeted. Our blogs in specific industries such as health give us a chance to target the younger readers who are more specialized. We are now doing co-ventures with certain journalists, such as the D conference with Walt Mossberg. There is tremendous value in established brands such as the Wall Street Journal. The most popular recent piece of video on was from Toyota; it was a Lexus that parallel parks itself.

Whether you practice PR or write for traditional media, it's clear that "stories" in the old sense need to be conceived of in multiple platforms. What works in print may need reworking to reach the digital audience. While not exact, the tranformation is something like converting a novel to the big screen. Books achieve deep character development because the writer can demonstrate motivation to the reader. Movies show action and captivate the senses.

The same dicotomy is in play for those who use MSM for communication: Digitial display and print are different beasts with different weakness and strengths.

CNN 'Tubes debate

This is the kind of conversation made for social media. It's the town square - not on steroids, but electrons.

It's this kind of interaction that will allow both users and the MSM to flourish.

Done smartly, there can be a true exchange of ideas.

Done badly, it's democracy as ruled by "American Idol."

CNN's Anderson Cooper will host: "I'm going to host it but basically it's going to be your questions and your YouTube videos," he said.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

NCAA boots baseball blogger

Louisville Courier-Journal sports writer Brian Bennett was ejected from an NCAA baseball tournament game because he was blogging the event live.

Louisville circulated a memo on the issue from Jeramy Michiaels, the NCAA's manager of broadcasting, before Friday's first super-regional game. It said blogs are considered a "live representation of the game" and that any blog containing action photos or game reports would be prohibited.
The paper claims its First Amendment rights were violated.

What next, the NCAA bans cell phone conversations about its games?

UPDATE: The New York Times says a First Amendment rights case is brewing.

The eviction of a newspaper reporter from a baseball press box for blogging about a game while it was in progress has stirred a debate about First Amendment rights, intellectual property rights and contract law.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association, which on Sunday ejected Brian Bennett of The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., during the Louisville-Oklahoma State game at Jim Patterson Stadium in Louisville, contends it is merely enforcing long-established principles as they apply to a new technology.

But the newspaper is weighing a legal challenge on First Amendment grounds — the right to free speech as it applies to reporting news in a public place.

Jon Fleischaker, a lawyer representing The Courier-Journal, said yesterday that such a challenge might be made, within the next 10 days, because the event took place at a public facility and because the eviction was enforced by the University of Louisville, a public institution that was the host university.

“We’re just not sure whether there is enough official state action to properly be able to say there’s a First Amendment claim,” Fleischaker said in a telephone interview. “We’re doing some work to see who’s on first.”