Monday, December 21, 2009

What's Wrong With The Magazine Business (Or, Biting The Hand That Feeds Me)

True confession: I don't really read magazines. Haven't for ages. Well, that isn't entirely true. I do read, or rather look, at magazines when they are hand-me-downs, or when there is a copy available for free at the office (that office being Condé Nast).

But it has been ages since I subscribed to a periodical, and ages more since I bought one on the newsstand; my last clear memory of doing so was four years ago, well before even the possibility of working for was real, when I bought my daughter a copy of Wired. Something on the cover grabbed her. I was horrified that the single-copy price was nearly the same as a 12-copy subscription. I mentally hemmed-and-hawed (being out of work, and all) but I didn't want to stifle her interest, so we took a copy home.

More recently I intercepted (*thanks, @MarketingVeep :) a list of magazine dreams my wife had intended to mail to Santa. And working through that list I realized that the traditional magazine fulfillment business is so archaic that the powers that be had better figure out a better way to deliver, because the cool kids won't stand for this. That means killer content will never reach an audience in print not because print is dead, but because the business of marketing and delivering that print is archaic and mean.

Let's start with a complete lack of transparency. I thought I'd take care of business just by going to which, I figured, would in the main have the best prices. Since I was going to subscribe to 10 titles paying a little less for one would mean I could pay a more for another. That plus the frictionless shopping experience would make it all worthwhile.

I got lucky fast: one magazine on the list was on sale that week — $5 for a years' subscription instead of $20. That would level lots of playing field. But at the (very) bottom of each subscription page on Amazon there were sponsored links, and the top was always from the magazine's publisher. And at the publisher's page the deals were almost invariably better. I got three years for a little more than the price of one in one instance, $5 off for paying now at another.

So, I had to shop the old fashioned way, because on one corner of the lot the dealer was selling at one price, and at another, it might be less. Also, the old model of "Come to me" simply won't fly for much longer, even when doing so is merely a couple of clicks. There has to be a marketplace and that marketplace has to have the best price available. I know that many publishers have a razor-thin margins, and that Amazon and other middle parties take their cut (and in the digital domain control the pricing by controlling the customer relationship, but that's another post). But don't make me come to your lame, proprietary, non-functioning web site if you want me to stay happy about giving you my money.

Then there is the matter of when the subscription begins. Invariably there is a health warning which tells the prospective subscriber that the first issue won't arrive for as many as two months. In that time one might forget one has subscribed, and do so again. If you are dying for content in this or the next issue, you might be compelled to buy single copies, paying the exorbitant newsstand cover price and thus diminishing any savings from subscribing.

The old model of delayed satisfaction is untenable. A single intern can probably mail a current issue to every new subscriber that signs up — with personal note of thanks from the publisher even. How many new subscribers do you get every week? Isn't the smallness of that number the problem? This is an opportunity. William Gaines, the fabled publisher of Mad Magazine, once told an interviewer that he and his entire editorial staff once went to the house of a person who had written to cancel his subscription. The guy was so shocked that he changed his mind. Cost to Gaines & Co? A half-days' work (if you can call being on the staff of Mad Magazine work).

Many publishers, even the best known, have subscription pages which don't work (I'd like to say "lie."). On one I encountered, there was an offer to get a tote bag with payment in full. Declining the inducement took me to another page which insisted on payment in full. There was no alternative to be billed later. Some customers might just say "What the heck" and pay in full. I said "What the Hell" and left.

The old model of enduring your customers rather than catering to them isn't enough anymore. You may have the only magazine in your niche worth reading, but I can lose interest in the whole thing just like that.
Finally, there is the payment scheme. It is unusual for a vendor to bill for something at the point of sale, letting you walk away without tendering payment, so that remains a lovely and quaint and (see below) necessary option. But (see above) this isn't really what's happening, since you won't get your magazine for as many as two months, and they will bill you before then.

Years ago I stopped paying for magazines with a credit card for one simple reason, even though I pay for everything with credit cards: by doing so, I accepted automatic renewal and the often difficult onus of stopping a subscription and getting refunded for issues not sent. This is the wrong dynamic, and an approach used mostly these days by scammers and online pornographers. Not exactly the best company.

The old model, which assumes you must hook a customer you have baited, is simply wrong. Sure, chasing down people to pay you every year is a hassle. Sending reminders is expensive, even to ask permission to charge for another year or so, although e-mil makes this much cheaper.

But it can be done, and it is the right thing to do. That intern you hired to send out crisp current copies to new subscribers? Add this to the job description.

I am among the few that believe both that print periodicals are far from dead (and perhaps even on the verge of a renaissance) and that tablets have a fighting chance to capture an audience in a way that high-end advertisers will continue to pay premium prices to reach.

But as publishers try to manage success in a new medium, they have some housekeeping to do in the old one. It amounts to this: Don't make me angry reading you in print.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's A Bird! It's A Plane! It's ... The Cloud!!

This week's Digital Life. Shelly Palmer and I talk about cloud computing, Chrome and all that, at about 3:50.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Digital Life with Shelly Palmer

I'm making regular appearances on a new TV show on "Digital Life with Shelly Palmer," a program on WNBC's (New York) NYNonStop, their digital channel (and off course, online).

This is the premiere program, which ran last Tursday, though we've taped a few others.

Fake AP Stylebook Steers You Completely Wrong — With Style

Like many proper news organizations, we at use the venerable Associated Press Stylebook as an arbiter to determine whether we write “one” or “1″ or whether it’s “Calif.” or “CA.” But the trouble with venerable is that it gets old and boring.

So we were delighted to learn of a disruptive newcomer to the writing style game. And the best part is that it’s on Twitter.

The Fake AP Stylebook (I can just see the AP lawyers falling out of their Aero chairs) tells us that we should “Precede basic statements of fact with ‘allegedly’ to avoid accusations of bias: ‘the allegedly wet water,’ ‘the allegedly poisonous poison’” — well, that rule tracks pretty good (or is it “well?”) with that other style guide.

Full story on's Epicenter Blog

Turning Audiences Into Advocates

Power Lunch appearance as part of a discussion on social media and the enterprise.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wired-o-Nomics: Is E-Mail Dead, Dying or Here to Stay?

In an article in Monday's Wall Street Journal Jessica Vascellaro argues that the tipping point has arrived for the heirs apparent of e-mail, one of the internet's first, most defining — and most abused — applications. Can this be? In an appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch today I got the chance to bat this idea around a bit, but not enough, so the conversation continues here.

Vascellaro has it just about right, i think, and although reports of the death of e-mail are obviously premature it's fun to look for signs of a paradigm shift within a paradigm a mere 38 years after the first e-mail was sent. After all, haven't many of the other original internet protocols already been shown the door, like Usenet, WAIS, Gopher and Archie? What makes e-mail so invincible?

Continue reading on Epicenter

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Milestone for Facebook

Facebook blogged that it had gone "cash flow positive" in the previous quarter, achieving a target it had set for itself sometime next year.

We didn't touch upon it in this CNBC Power Lunch interview, but I wonder what all the public companies that have a $10 billion market cap (Facebook's imputed value) think of the strict SEC rules about disclosure they must abide by, when a guy who is basically a grad student can get away with doing a post and no analyst telecons?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Brief Remembrance of Ted Kennedy

Back in '91 or '92, when I was in Boston for Reuters, I got to participate in an annual event that was legendary among journalists in the area: The Kennedys threw open up their Hyannisport compound to reporters and their families for a summer day of eating, playing and casual schmoozing.

And when I say "threw open," I do not exaggerate: We had the run of the place. When Ethel Kennedy's front door is ajar and you wander in and she looks up from her paper to tell you a story or two about Bobby and point out John's favorite chair in her house, well, that says something about the manner of this remarkably gifted political family.

It was like a company picnic and the entire management team was there to make us feel like family. We were greeted with a receiving line, with every hand shaken by every single Kennedy, even those whose ages were in the single digits, because it's never too early to learn about the family business. There was no pressure or spin but there was one particular Kennedy, driven by her life-long cause, who was on the prowl in this target-rich environment: a beleaguered PR person begged me to listen to Eunice Shriver's spiel about the Special Olympics and visibly sighed with relief with gratitude after I had.

Sen. Edward Kennedy — "Ted" to many there but not me — was our official host. The de facto Kennedy patriarch both loomed large, and mingled. I was flabbergasted at the ease with which he and the family dealt with so many strangers, so many whose job it was to not exactly paint him in the most favorable light.

There were probably no enemies in the press there, however, and it is also astonishing at how few enemies Sen. Kennedy actually had. His best friend in the Senate (perhaps anywhere) was the very conservative Orrin Hatch. Like the hospitality Kennedy showed the guests on his lawn we have all heard stories of his ability to reach across the aisle and really any divide in a sincere way.

Joe Scarborough, a rather rapid right-winger when he was in Congress and now a morning show host on MSNBC, recently told a story about a personal tragedy involving a child. "The first person who called was Ted Kennedy," Scarborough said, seeming still to wonder how the senior senator from Massachusetts could possible know so much about the family situation of this junior representative from Florida, and relate to it on so personal a level, and offer whatever sort of medical or any support he could. And stay on the phone for a long time. And mean it all.

I had no close encounter with Sen. Kennedy that lovely summer day, but he and my wife ate his food — and covered up an enormous, tabloid-esque scandal: there was broken glass in one of the cakes. No harm done as we made this discovery. I went to the catering table and asked for the person in charge and quietly told him the situation. He was grateful, and quietly pulled it off the table. Later on he came by to sort of take our temperature and I am sure our manner convinced him that his secret was safe with us. Even he had the grace that seems to be in the family's DNA by not seeking to take any formal steps to see to it we wouldn't give this scoop to the Boston Herald.

And how does a gracious Kennedy see to it that you do not overstay your welcome? One of the activities listed on the invitation was a boat ride in the bay. It was the last activity of the day. We were asked to gather our belongings. You know where this is going: it was a one-way ride to the parking lot that was our staging area, with the Kennedy's all along the shore, waving us goodbye.

I covered Sen. Kennedy once or twice when he was in his home district. As my brief was national and international in nature there wasn't too much story in him for me. But there was a big issue at the time that was national in scope and in which Sen. Kennedy had a personal stake: Health care reform. Then, it was an initiative of President Bill Clinton who had First Lady and now Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to get it done.

Here we are nearly a generation later with Sen. Kennedy's life work yet undone. He was ever the optimist; back then, at an event, the money quote from him was that he was sure health care reform would get done because the president had put his wife in charge. It was a fabulous line, both for a cheer and a laugh, typically conversation-ending and inarguable while being entirely playful. That is how you get things done without pissing off your opponents.

Weeks before his death Sen. Kennedy was quoted as saying that he would "walk on broken glass" to vote on health reform bill and, sadly, he will not get that chance. I don't think it is disrespectful — and doubt Kennedy would not have done some political calculation himself: how are health reform's chances with its greatest evangelist in public service now an object of such sympathy?

Photo: Ted Kennedy on his Hyanniport home porch, Sept. 28, 2008 by Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Social Media Restrictions at Sporting Events?

An 'Instant Panel' discussion on CNBC's Power Lunch about recent attempts to restrict what fans can do with the pictures and videos they take at sporting events, by event organizers.

Good luck with that, guys.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Social Media Account Security on NBC Nightly News

A hit on the NBC Nightly News, pegged to an uptick in attacks on social media sites.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Big Game Hacking on CNBC

I was the convenient time-zone mouthpiece, but the work on this story has been done the inestimable Kim Zetter on's Threat Level blog.

So, guys, hope you liked it. Please don't drain my bank account.

Monday, August 17, 2009

August 17, 2000: Internet Crosses 50-Yard Line in U.S.


2000: Half of United States households have internet access, according to Nielsen/NetRatings.

Nielsen is best known for measuring the popularity of a certain other mass medium that went viral a half-century earlier. How fitting that this paradigm shift came with fin-de-siècle serendipity to a millennium that had already witnessed staggering technological advancement.

Not since television transformed the world in the early 1950s had anything entered the collective consciousness as quickly or pervasively as the internet, which began its life 40 years earlier as "Arpanet," a relatively humble military experiment. (In style, BTW, "internet" — even "the internet" — is lower case.)

Like television, experiencing the internet initially required the procurement of expensive, finicky equipment. And as in TV's earliest days there wasn't much to see. One internet service provider (ISP) even playfully reminded us of the limits of the net in a TV ad during which a menacing voice told a web surfer: "You have reached the end of the internet. Please go back."

Continue Reading on Epicenter.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Text Etiquette On Today — Or, How I Survived 5 Minutes Without My iPhone

I've become quite the mouthpiece on digital etiquette lately — specifically the rights and wrongs of messaging when you are with people. It's all tied to Wired magazine's August issue dedicated to the subject, and I am standing in for Brad Pitt, as usual.

In a recent appearance on CNBC's Power Lunch I argued that there was no sensible rationale for regulating texting from the boardroom. Not too much controversy there. But an impending hit on the Today show about texting from every place other than the boardroom spurred a good-natured mini intervention at home, where I was reminded that I'm addicted to love for my iPhone.

Yes, my name is John A., and I use my iPhone all the time. And, I am not alone, I do not think: With every new mobile means of communication comes a new opportunity to shut out people in the world that's right around us and engage in some sort of conversation with others who are not.

Some of this is business, of course, and some of it social. Some, perhaps most, is in that in-between world of burnishing the personal brand that has become absolutely essential to networking.

If that sounds a little too much like "my fans expect it," it is.

Continue reading on Epicenter

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ode to Noodle Soup

For sniffles and snuffles
Here's the straight poop
There's no better tonic
Than hot noodle soup

Try apples, you’re thinking
Or nice canteloop
No no, that won’t do it
Just hot noodle soup

I know you’d like liquor
Imbibed on the stoop
But don’t let that blind you
To hot noodle soup

The brain cells are mushy
You might have the croup
No matter. There’s nothing
Like hot noodle soup

Away, I could sail now
Aboard my own sloop
If only my first mate
Was hot noodle soup

This isn’t their problem
That helpful friend group
But blessed are they who
Bring hot noodle soup

I’d like to perk up now
I do hate to droop
I know! I will find me
Some hot noodle soup!

The dreams are subsiding
Now there’s a big whoop
The rantings are waning
Thank you, noodle soup

Friday, August 14, 2009

Twitter TMI

A brief appearance on a CNN piece about Tweeting TMI. Don't blink!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Contessa Brewer: All is Forgiven

It took a year, very nearly the end of the world as we know it, and perhaps pity for some sincere remorse. But if every dog has his day mine came Thursday as I finally got face time with Contessa Brewer.

She would certainly have no idea of my embarrassment for having failed to recognize her in our first interview in the same studio back in September 2008 — a faux pas she handled with grace and self-deprecating humor.

This time we were soul mates, mourning even a brief interuptus with Twitter, the emotional impact of which we each implicitly understood. Ms. Brewer is an avid Tweeter as @contessabrewer, which she casually mentioned. When I told her that I followed her, she offered to reciprocate, and I am sure I blushed.

On air, it was more of the same. Near the end of the interview, when I allowed as I had "misted" when Twitter failed this morning, she offered me a tissue and laughed when I told her friends had immediately e-mailed me to ask how I would be spending my "Twitter vacation."

It's good to be able to walk in the sun again.

Next Monday I'm slated to do a live hit on "Today," in the 4th hour with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Now that I have made peace with Ms. Brewer, the sky is the limit, evidently.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Financial Times iPhone App Worse Than Trialware

The Financial Times released its iPhone app Tuesday, touting it as free. But the not-so-small print reveals that this is severely crippled trialware app that could very well be useless in first few minutes you use it.

Until the clock starts again in 30 days, that is.

(Continue reading on's Epicenter blog)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I Want My Mmmmm ... TV

Update, Feb. 19, 2010: I review the Slingbox iPhone 3G app on Epicenter: "Hands On With the Slingbox 3G iPhone App: Ahhhhhhhhh…"

For me Independence Day came a day late but not a day too soon: like my forefathers I have exercised my right, my duty to throw off the shackles of terrestrial television.

That is to say, I finally got my Slingbox iPhone app working. It took a long holiday weekend to get to this task, even though I was among the first to buy this shamelessly overpriced bit of software.

My love affair with the Slingbox and all that it represents began at the discount table of a Staples many years ago, where I scored what is now an ancient device which seemed to offer greater freedom than proprietary alternatives which were in great numbers then, particularly one from Sony. My model SB220-100 has served me well, as has the company (in the main); last year, when the device was well out of warranty (even if it ever was for me) they sent me a replacement power supply that went missing in a move, no questions asked.

Slingbox tells me when I fire it up on the iPhone for the first time that the device is "unsupported," but it does work, and we knew this. The company's poor handling of the rollout of the app is well documented, but in brief registered owners were told a few weeks before the app was available that they would have to upgrade their hardware to the latest and greatest they had to offer, and they offered a $50 discount. That, to put it gently, was less than truthful.

I have always been fascinated by and addicted to television, an genuinely disruptive media which continues to disrupt as what we now have to describe as live streaming video. Our first family TV occupied a full cubic yard, received seven channels (a relatively large number; we lived in New York City), took time to warm up (um, just like HD ...), was black & white only, and was actually worth repairing when a tube blew.

When I was a kid, I marveled at the Sinclair portable TV — I never got one, but you can still find them I think, and it remains an engineering marvel even in a world which is no longer impressed by the Sony Watchman (which I do have).

But what a world we live in when a single device can be the platform for what was impossible, difficult and certainly required bespoke hardware. If everything can be normalized through software and connectivity, really, what are the limits?

I'm now set up for remote viewing, and with a jailbreak app which fools the Slingbox into thinking it's in a hotspot and not just a 3G network, can watch live TV just about anywhere, with no recurring fees.

If this is not freedom worth celebrating, then what is, I ask you?

(Photo: CNN on the Slingbox iPhone App)

Friday, July 3, 2009

Three Cheers for the Lori Drew Acquittal, But Not for Drew

The directed acquittal of Lori Drew is the only sensible disposition of a depressingly sad case in which the suicide of a 13-year-old girl was linked to the bad behavior of a grown woman, the mother herself to a teenage daughter.

Drew could be ostracized, she can be sued for damages in a civil proceeding, she can become a pariah. I would not like to know her.

I am not a lawyer, but for the state to deny her liberty for lying when she created an account on a social network would be excessive and chilling and imperil hundreds of thousands of people who, while doing the TOS version of jaywalking, set themselves up for selective prosecution if some chain of evidence or events can associate them to someone else’s tragedy.

(Continue reading on Epicenter)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We Drive the BMW Mini E

WHITE PLAINS, NY — The BMW Mini E is a solid little electric ride that provides a comfortable, effortless driving experience with all of the usual small-car perks, plus an ultra cheap operating cost and a carbon footprint approaching zero. But as a $50,000 two-seater with no head-turning quotient, the pitch for this first cousin of the Mini Cooper won’t be so much to our inner rock star as our inner Al Gore.

Tooling around a busy interstate and the city streets of White Plains, it is easy to forget this is a pure electric vehicle, and something of a prototype at that: There are only about 450 Mini E’s on the road, driven by an unusually generous band of volunteer beta testers who pay $850 a month for the privilege of helping BMW work out the kinks before the car’s anticipated launch in 2012. They have no dibs on their cars and will not be allowed to buy them when the lease ends. All maintenance, and car insurance, is paid by BMW.

And, of course, nobody pays for the gas.

(Continue reading on Epicenter)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Facebook, shmacebook: What’s the next great thing?

Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the social media space, with some 200 million members, a valuation of perhaps $5 billion and a base that has expanded well beyond its early roots as a private hangout for bored Ivy League students.

But, like the ad says, life comes at you fast — and there is nothing more unforgiving than internet time. So, are the best years ahead for Facebook, or is the finicky mob of cool kids — and now their parents and grandparents — already peering down the road for another Next Great Thing?

One thing is for sure: Nothing lasts forever.

Continue reading 'Facebook, shmacebook: What’s the next great thing?' on the Reuters 'Great Debate' Blog.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Waiting for Steve

First, the good news: I got to do this interview from a studio-for-hire a couple of blocks from my office, on a workday, so no long trip on a day that I would otherwise have been off (still — not complaining MSNBC!). But these things always seem to end in a 10th of the time you think you'll have.

Still, as @samerfarha advised, I said nothing to draw fire from John Gruber.

Also, you'll see I have much longer hair than my profile picture, which was taken a year ago almost to the day. My last haircut? Sept. 30, 2008.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Things Aren't Tough All Over: Hedge Fund Elites Reap Billions in '08

Despite a year-long global economic meltdown that only got worse as the year wore on, the world's 25 most successful hedge fund managers raked in a total of $11.6 billion in 2008 — their third best haul this decade. The secret to their success? Well, some of it is a secret. But if you guessed big bets against banks and the housing market you'd be on the right track.

Topping the list is former math professor James Simons, won’t discuss his strategy (really?) except to say that it is based on "rapid-fire trading across almost every possible market and that it relies on computer-driven programs designed by an army of more than 100 PhDs," according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine, which has kept this score for eight years.

Simons, who runs Renaissance Technologies Corp., made $2.5 billion in '08, a year in which even most hedge funds lost money. Forget about trying to get in now; it's been closed to new investors since 2002.

(Continue Reading at Epicenter)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Test Ride: Even in New York, the Aptera Stops Traffic

If the Tesla Roadster is sex on wheels, the Aptera 2e is like making out with the cute woman down the hall: It's a lot of fun and you want to do it again soon.

Tooling around New York in the funky three-wheeled EV is an odd experience where everything on the road slows down to check you out, when cab drivers not only obey traffic laws, they let you violate them at their expense, and New Yorkers — who pride themselves on being nonchalant about everything — stop dead in their tracks and ask, "Does it fly?"

No, the 2e does not fly. But it might as well for all the attention it draws.

The thing is, everybody knows the dirty little secret about cars: The real test isn’t how much tech it has or how fast it goes or how green it is or how many cup holders there are. The real test, especially for something so outlandish as an EV with three wheels and two seats, is this: Is it really a car, would you be caught dead parking it at work and what is the head-turning quotient?

My answers for the 2e are: "Yes," "yes" and "off the charts."

(Continued reading at Autopia)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Media Death March: Seattle P-I Stops Printing, Goes All-In Online

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer publishes its last dead-tree edition Tuesday, the latest newspaper to succumb to the harsh realities of an internet economy where delivering bits is an increasingly inefficient way of delivering the news.

News of the P-I's decision to publish online only was telegraphed for weeks, and it follows the decision of the Rocky Mountain News to shutter completely, the Christian Science Monitor to publish online only starting next month and deep concessions by staff at another Hearst newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, to keep that newspaper afloat.

The owners put the newspaper up for sale on Jan. 9 and said they would shut it down if a buyer did not step forward. With a daily circulation of 117,000 the Seattle P-I is the largest daily to cease paper publication. The Christian Science Monitor is in 50k territory.

"Tonight we'll be putting the paper to bed for the last time," editor and publisher Roger Oglesby told a silent newsroom Monday morning. "But the bloodline will live on."

(continue reading on Epicenter)

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Monday, March 9, 2009

What's Your Name Again, Fella?

Another cruel reminder.

Via TweepRoll.

Baby, You Can Drive My Carr

There's going to be plenty of pushback on Alan Carr's NYT piece about how to save the newspaper, so I'll keep this short and sweet:
  • Any industry which says it can only be saved by collusion is suspect on its face. Any decent journalist would scream bloody murder if that was suggested by, say, the financial services industry or the airlines or — closer to home — a Starbucks/Caribou cartel.
  • The excellent examples of fee-based online services Carr cites cover niche topics, not geographical communities (except for The Arkansas Gazette, which gives away aggregator-length snippets). Odd argument, since these publications are doing exactly what newspapers aren't doing, by organizing around subjects rather than territory and not making me subsidize sports coverage I don't want. (Carr left out the Financial Times, which charges more than any of his examples and has an even more narrowly-defined clientelle.)
  • Google doesn't need you. Repeat: Google doesn't need you. You, however, might need Google, or something very much like it which tells people who have never heard of you that you've done some excellent work today. What percentage of your traffic comes from the homepage, again?
  • Aggregators do more than build "audiences and brands on other people’s labors." They provide a service readers find compelling. What is that? Brevity? Greater variety? Better writing? Decent design? No registration speedbumps? Rather than bemoan the success of a competitor one might copy it. And, while we're at it, how exactly do you shut down aggregators when you can't own the facts, whatever else you do to build paywalls?
News gatherers are correct to assert that they do heavy lifting, and I, too, fear a scenario in which news gathering is divorced from news publishing, and the latter is controlled by entities with no journalistic tradition. So, news gathering has to be saved. But newspapers? The "What to do" argument is misplaced if it depends on anti-competitive behavior and taking out your frustrations on a medium. It's like arguing that gravity is bad.

There is a way out of this, but it requires a tremendous re-think and the wholesale abandonment of pet notions and even a loss of the trappings of power. Newspapers have been threatened for generations and were handed a gift in the internet — a way to increase audience and finally compete with television (a previous bogey man) on television's own terms, for one thing. But rather than capitalize on this and think different 15 years ago newspaper owners have acted more like their illusory monopoly on an audience was a birthright and all they had to do was shovel everything online because that is what they had and we liked it and where are you going to go, anyway?

Sounds like self-satisfied inertia of the Big Three automakers, who are only now acting as if they have found religion after watching their competitors prepare for the obvious, inevitable paradigm shift when times were good (or at least better). Whose fault is it that newspapers are more like Detroit than Silicon Valley, or even Bangalore?

To survive, newspapers have to organize around an entirely different set of principles rather than try to push the illogical premise that the one-to-many bits model is the only way to save journalism. That's not only bad business, it's bad reporting.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Talkin' Webcams on MSNBC

I talk about webcams with an easily-amused David Shuster.

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Saturday, February 14, 2009

Brand Panel at Social Media Week: Problem Solved.

I was delighted to moderate a panel this morning as part of Social Media Week. The topic was "Making the Brand: Social Media for the Long Haul" and the panelist were Ian Shafer, CEO of Deep Focus; Brian Morrissey of AdWeek and Gary Vanerychuck of Wine Library TV.
We trashed a few brands, challenged a few pet notions and figured out how to solve absolutely everything, in about two hours.

Don't believe me? Watch the video of the proceedings at, and then continue the conversation on Twitter at #mtb09, or comment below.

We got the ball rolling with the Powerpoint above. History will pass before your eyes in fewer than 30 seconds, or more, depending on your click rate.

Cross posted at Epicenter.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

25 Random Things on GMA

My recent appearance on GMA. No sightings of Regis, Kelly or any of the "The View" girls.

Questions for the Social Media Week Panel I'm Moderating

I'm moderating a Social Media Week panel tomorrow called "Making the Brand: Social Media for the Long Haul" and I'm trolling for questions. The panelists are:
  • Gary Vaynerchuk, Host of WineLibrary.TV
  • Ian Schafer, Founder/CEO of interactive marketing agency Deep Focus
  • AdWeek digital editor and "notorious twitterer" Brian Morrissey
Check out the link for details. And, anybody have an questions you want put to this braintrust?

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