Category Archives: Media

We are way behind

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When I made my presentation last week at the NAA’s MediaXChange, many commented that our C3 effort was way too far ahead of the newspaper industry.

In fact, we are too far behind in our C3 effort to be able to participate successfully in the relationship economy.

For the best overview of the intellectual framework, activities and technical infrastructure needed to make C3 work, see Dan Conover‘s wonderful piece at Xark on 2020 Vision.

As Mark Potts says, let’s bring these ideas to life.  We, and our communities, will be stronger for it.

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Powerful Communities

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As you know, I am a fan of Neil Perkin‘s slide shows.  As anyone in our company can attest, building a C3 – Complete Community Connection is challenging and disconcerting, particularly in this time of economic contraction.  When pressed about the purpose of such an effort, I commented:
a bigger goal of C3 is strengthened communities.  If each individual in the community has exactly the information they need, when and where they want it, and can develop stronger relationships with those in their defined communities, each of those communities will be stronger.
So when I heard Neil was developing a slide show about strengthening communities, sourced from the community, I was eager to see what developed.  In order to get the full flavor of this presentation, it is best to visit Neil’s site, where he gives the context of this effort and the outline of his presentation of the slides.
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Earlier View

Neil Perkin shared his thoughts on the future of media in this slide show seven months ago.  I just saw it yesterday.  I wish I had seen it last June.  Very succinctly, he outlines the need for, and concepts behind, our efforts here at C3.

What do you think?

Transparency and Engagement

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Starting the new year with new energy to make C3 happen.  Why C3?  While covered before, the essence is:

If each individual in the community has exactly the information they need, when and where they want it, and can develop stronger relationships with those in their defined communities, each of those communities will be stronger.

“Exactly” means relevance and context.  And, the particular community of interest to an individual, whether geographical, relationship or affinity, has to be expressed by the individual, not packaged by a committee.

So, when I saw Valeria Maltoni‘s recent post on Real Collaboration, I was struck by passages such as :

With collaboration we can make that change more expansive and at the same time better focused; more responsive and less cumbersome. Collaboration also leads to community. To build a community we need to be willing to educate and connect individuals, and have the desire to take action at the appropriate times. …

Can there be mass collaboration? Only when each individual self-interest is served through making that very same choice.

She reminded me of Roy Greenslade’s blog of last year, where he also call for a new mindset among journalists:

When we journalists talk about integration we generally mean, integrating print and online activities. But the true integration comes online itself. The integration between journalists and citizens. Of course, there should be no distinction between them. But journalists still wish to see themselves as a class apart.

We have to open ourselves up to a new thought process. There is no us and them. I had a sudden thought to end this posting with a Marxist-style call to arms: “Bloggers of the world unite”. But it is the lack of unity that makes blogging so vibrant, so critical and also so self-critical. And, of course, so revolutionary.

So, we need a new mindset, characterized by open, transparent, collaboration; a new organization, focused on creating information in the first instance with a set of social media tools; and engagement from those people involved, both within and without the media company.  As Seth Godin puts it:

It’s more important that you be passionate about what you do all day than it is to be passionate about the product that is being sold.

Give me someone with domain expertise and the passion to do great work any time. Belief in the mission matters (a lot!), but it doesn’t replace skill.

Best of both worlds: someone who has passion (and skill and insight) about their task and passion about the mission. The latter can never replace the former.

As Jay Rosen has noted, this has created a tremendous cultural turning point for professional journalists:

The professional news tribe is in the midst of a great survival drama. It has over the last few years begun to realize that it cannot live any more on the ground it settled so successfully as the industrial purveyors of one-to-many, consensus-is-ours news. The land that newsroom people have been living on—also called their business model—no long supports their best work. So they have come to a reluctant point of realization: that to continue on, to keep the professional press going, the news tribe will have to migrate across the digital divide and re-settle itself on terra nova, new ground. Or as we sometimes call it, a new platform.

While the platform may be new, and the changes significant for traditional media companies, we are talking about enduring human relationships, the fundamentals of which do not change, as noted by Sue Murphy:

My point is – social networks have existed as far back as we can imagine. Today, we are fortunate to have this new, amazing layer of technology to help us scale it from our tiny communities to the entire world. This global scale means that we hold a great deal potential in our hands. We now have the power to do great things not only for the success of our communities, but ultimately for the success of humankind.

Having this amount power a the click of a mouse is huge. But, it doesn’t mean we have to act any differently or be anything else other than what we already are as human beings. Success in a small town not dependent on the latest tools, tricks, or techy toys, and success in social media is not any different. Like in small towns, it’s only really dependent on two things – strong leadership and a thriving network.

As 2008 comes to a close, and so many of us are eagerly anticipating all the amazing possibilities that the new year will bring, considering how we are operating in our social networks and where all this social media stuff is headed is vitally important to our progress.

All of this has major implications on how we create the “elegant organization” called for by Jeff Jarvis to create the information in the first instance with mulitple authors, commentators and platforms in mind, and how we present that information in context.  More on that later.

What do you think?

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Relationship = Attention x Trust

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As I talk with many of you about the new mindset and business model for local information, you often say something like “There is just too much.  How do I use my limited time on information that is truly meaningful to me?”

Blogs, tweets, links, flashes, facebook, myspace, linkedin – it all becomes a blur, a cacophony, sometimes disorientating, or even nauseating.

A reaction of many is to avoid the cacophony, and retreat to the one-way, broadcast it to me, world of traditional newspapers, websites, and television stations.

However, many people are trying to drive through the cacophony, and figure out a way to create a new model, whereby any individual can develop a relationship with a network of information, to get what they want, when they want it, and be shown what might interest them, with a high likelihood of success.

As Clay Shirky said:

By the time that the publishing industries spun up in Venice in the early- to mid-1500s, the ability to have access to more reading material than you could finish in a lifetime is now starting to become a general problem of the educated classes. And by the 1800s, it’s a general problem of the middle class. So there is no such thing as information overload, there’s only filter failure, right? Which is to say the normal case of modern life is information overload for all educated members of society.

If you took the contents of an average Barnes and Noble, and you dumped it into the streets and said to someone, “You know what’s in there? There’s some works of Auden in there, there’s some Plato in there. Wade on in and you’ll find what you like.” And if you wade on in, you know what you’d get? You’d get Chicken Soup for the Soul. Or, you’d get Love’s Tender Fear. You’d get all this junk. The reason we think that there’s not an information overload problem in a Barnes and Noble or a library is that we’re actually used to the cataloging system. On the Web, we’re just not used to the filters yet, and so it seems like “Oh, there’s so much more information.” But, in fact, from the 1500s on, that’s been the normal case.

So, the real question is, how do we design filters that let us find our way through this particular abundance of information? And, you know, my answer to that question has been: the only group that can catalog everything is everybody. One of the reasons you see this enormous move towards social filters, as with Digg, as with del.icio.us, as with Google Reader, in a way, is simply that the scale of the problem has exceeded what professional catalogers can do. But, you know, you never hear twenty-year-olds talking about information overload because they understand the filters they’re given. You only hear, you know, forty- and fifty-year-olds taking about it, sixty-year-olds talking about because we grew up in the world of card catalogs and TV Guide. And now, all the filters we’re used to are broken and we’d like to blame it on the environment instead of admitting that we’re just, you know, we just don’t understand what’s going on.  (Emphasis in bold, underline and italics added by Chuck Peters on 12/21/08)

The ideas on this are not new.  As mentioned earlier, Bruno Giusanni noted many of the ideas over 11 years ago.  Tom Ratkovich outlined the role of the trusted “infomediary” over 6 years ago:

There are three essential qualities of the infomediary:

  1. Trust. As stated by Hagel and Singer, “Trust
    is the infomediary’s lifeblood.” Without trust, consumers
    will not share their personal information. Any doubt concerning
    the integrity and credibility of the infomediary will entirely
    undermine its ability to serve it that capacity.
  2. Existing relationships with consumers and
    merchants
    . While today’s newspaper is the logical entity to
    evolve into tomorrow’s infomediary, it is not the given entity.
    The Internet opens the door to numerous other institutions to
    usurp that role. The window of opportunity is not a large one,
    and those posturing to serve as the dominant infomediary will
    be disadvantaged if they must build these relationships from scratch.
  3. Channel integration. The ability to integrate
    the distribution of marketing communications across multiple channels
    is vital for two reasons. First, it allows for communication utilizing
    the preferred medium of the consumer. Second, it contributes to
    the optimization of merchant ROI by minimizing redundancy. (This
    is the primary impediment to companies like Amazon.com and Yahoo!
    in assuming the infomediary role.)

In order to engage and strengthen our communities, we need to engage and inform each individual.  We, as the local media company, cannot know what each individual is truly interested in.  The individual does not want to tell the whole world exactly what their interests are, for fear of loss of privacy, or being abused.

Yet, we are moving to a Relationship Economy, in which how we act will depend not only on the information we receive, but how those in trusted relationships with us inform and guide us.

The formula I have been testing lately is Relationship = Attention x Trust.  I am sure that others, at other points in time, have come up with this, but I could not find a direct citation.

In order to have a long relationship with a local information organization, I want to know that I will find everything happening in the community relating to those people, places, events or topics in which I have expressed an interest, without wading through lots of articles and content in which I am not interested.  I also want to be aware of other information which a trusted “conductor” thinks someone in my community should know, or someone with my particular interests should know.

Despite the running commentary on whether print newspapers or broadcast news can survive, I think Tom Ratkovich had it exactly right in his expression of complementarity in channel integration.  I want those broadcast sources to act like they know that I have the option to be plugged into a relevant network of information.  So, in those broadcasted, print media, provide overview, context and promotion of the network.

Those interested in the Semantic Web, including e-Me Ventures, recognize that machines reading code, tags and text can only do so much to serve relevant information.  Each individual needs to declare interests, pretty specifically.  They are not likely to do so without trust.

People working on the trust side of the equation include the Information Valet Project and Attention Trust.  What I think we need for C3 is a plug-in, widget, or service that will allow individuals to clearly express their interests, in exchange for our promise to only use that information to serve information of value to that individual, in a long term relationship.

That information of value can be information created without an agenda ( what we ideally think “news”  currently is) and information with an agenda (advertising and commercial content).

That relationship has to be built over time, with lots of conversation.   If something is no longer of interest, we need to know, and react quickly.

Without replaying the rest of this blog, we cannot actually serve as the trusted infomediary without the right mindset, tasks, organization, technology and persistence.  If we break trust, by failing to provide accurate, timely and relevant information, the game is over

With the daily bemoaning of the fate of local media, and the general economy, the time to act is now, with urgency, as this is our time of greatest opportunity to actually implement these old ideas.

What do you think?

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On the road, no time to rest

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Two weeks ago, I outlined the new mindset, tasks and organization necessary to create C3.  The week following, our senior managers met, and determined that we needed to really work hard to make sure that at least the top couple dozen managers in our company deeply understand the issues, so that we can divide up all the work that needs to be accomplished, and move faster.

Last week, a dismal week for our industry, I thought we made real progress in having our management team see what needs to be done, and to sign up for the task.  Others played off the dismal/hope dichotomy.  Steve Buttry summed up the dismal week and his hope for the future in his review of the week.  Clay Shirky, the guru of hope, love and community, started quite a conversation by saying that this dismal week was predictable a decade ago.  The Crunchberry team visited, and gave us not only a very hopeful prototype of a new organization of local news, but gave us recommendations for journalists which C3 embraces, and a list of what drove the prototype.  ContentBlogger foreshadowed the dismal week, then echoed much of our C3 approach as the way to go.

The Harvard Business Review noted this week how hard it is to adapt a new business model:

Why is it so difficult to pull off the new growth that business model innovation can bring? Our research suggests two problems. The first is a lack of definition: Very little formal study has been done into the dynamics and processes of business model development. Second, few companies understand their existing business model well enough—the premise behind its development, its natural interdependencies, and its strengths and limitations. So they don’t know when they can leverage their core business and when success requires a new business model.

We have acknowledged that we need a new model, mindset, tasks and organization to move from the franchise megaphones of newspaper and television to an interconnected ecosystem of local information, available on all platforms, created “with and by” the communities we serve.  We know that we have to separate content creation from product creation.  We know that we need to develop a network of people creating blogs and wikis on key topics and communities.  We know that we need to develop a common technical framework for that creation of content.  Commercial content likewise must created in a more atomized and fluid way.

Entrepreneurial journalists will lead the way.  Without them, we have nothing to offer.  We need to create the systems to support them.  In order to do so, we need to focus not only on the tasks at hand, but why we do them, in order to have the energy and patience to persevere through this great change.

I have written before on this subject.  I am not sure it was sufficient.  I believe that we can be better people, living in better communities, if we can make this happen.  We will be better people because we will be better informed, on whatever issue we need to be informed, wherever we are.  We will be better communities because we will be able to develop relationships within micro-geographic communities or communities of interest.  Those relationships will make us stronger, and our communities stronger.

Our company might not be as big as when it was primarily a newspaper franchise, or worth as much money.  But if we achieve our objectives, we will have succeeded.

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Information in the First Instance

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Being with Bill Densmore and the group he assembled at Missouri this week was a refreshing introduction to new people and ideas.  We were gathered to create the “blueprint” for the Information Valet Project, which we tentatively described as:

A permission-based ecosystem assuring privacy that allows you, in a trustworthy way, to share personal information so that content providers and partners can create a structure to provide you with content, applications and incentives tailored to you and your needs.

This “ecosystem” assumes that an individual, by giving secure personal information and desires for specific information, will be able to access that information in an elegant way.  As I participated in the discussions, I kept coming back to the need for a whole new structure to create the Complete Community Connection (C3). So, with a nod to Steve Outing, I am trying to be as transparent as I can be, both to our employees and the industry, about the issues in creating this new entity.

In looking for discussions on changing the way we create information in the first instance, I was struck by the conversation between Jeff Jarvis and Dave Winer on the Ecology of News.  They both break down news into the essential elements, and then discuss the best way to package and distribute those elements.  I would propose that the elements are Sources; Quotes; Factual Statements about people, places or events; Ideas; Data; and Opinions.
The Complete Community Connection would expand the current reliance on packaged stories in both directions – back toward the original elements, offering transparency, and forward toward a summary of local knowledge in a local wiki.

So, how do we do that?

We have to start with the creation of the “elements” in the first instance.  By starting with each source, quote, factual statement, picture, graphic, audio clip or video clip as an isolated element, or “tweet”, properly tagged with automatic tagging engines, those elements can be packaged or searched directly, allowing the most transparent view of local information.  Sometimes that could be done by reporting on scheduled events by live blogging, using Twitter tweets for participant comments, with the resulting “record” time stamped.  All audio and video clips could also be tagged to the time, place, event and people.  From those elements, packaged stories could be written, but any reader could go “through” the story to the original elements.

For investigative pieces, getting at those issues harder to pry out of the community, the reporter could still keep track of the elements in a similar system, but without the initial public input.

Patrick Thornton, with his BeatBlogging posts, is trying to highlight the best efforts to learn what can be done in this area.  I believe that the transformation necessary from “for and to” to “with and by” will not take place until we engage our communities in the first instance of information creation.

To take it another step, what if the community could suggest what needs to be investigated?  Leonard Witt arranged funding for a representative journalism project in Northfield, MN that Bonnie Obremski is carrying out at Locally Grown.  Listening to Bonnie describe what she has accomplished in her six months in Northfield makes me think that local community bloggers, both employees of media organizations and organizers of particular micro-communities, can be the key collecting forces of the elements of local information for C3.

Those community organizers, with their blogs, would be operating under Alfred Hermida’s Three Principles for social media:

  1. Be human: Mass media was based on the notion of reaching millions of people with one message. As a result, that message often came across in an impersonal, corporate voice. Social media provides an opportunity to be more personal, informal and conversational.
  2. Be honest: Be transparent and open about what you are doing. Social media is about genuine relationships and anyone trying to fake it is likely to be found out very quickly.
  3. Be involved: Journalists should not approach social media by thinking, “how can I use this for a story”. Social media should be part of your job, not an add-on or something to be used for a story and then abandoned.

What do you think?

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New Mindset for New Game Highlights New Tasks Performed in New Organization Which Develops New Shared Mindset

JO540 Multimedia Journalism Words

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It really felt like a turning point when I read that thoughtful industry veteran Buzz Wurzer’s first item on his 16 Point Checklist for Newspaper Publishers was:

I would fire myself as Publisher and rehire myself as CEO, Local (Your Market) Information Utility

It was nice to see this coming from a respected industry veteran, which shows that not only renegades are proposing fundamental change.  I would add one warning though.  If you haven’t completely changed your mindset, don’t rehire yourself!  When I started this blog, I used LIU, or Local Information Utility, because American Press Institute was using it, and the last thing we needed was another acronym.  However, after great feedback, I was persuaded that LIU was too constricting, with Utility conjuring up those entities that do things for you, or to you, and are not very responsive.  So, I switched to Complete Community Connection, and it has stuck with our team.

The fundamental nature of the change required, the different tasks to be performed, and the switch in “concept” was noted over 11 years ago by Bruno Giussani in a First Monday piece when he was the founding editor of Webdo:

We knew on the onset that an online information service would have to be based on a different concept than the traditional printed one, that simply repackaging editorial content would not do.

It was obvious to us also that in order to respond to this challenge, the only way would be to take full advantage of what characterizes this new medium – interactivity, hypertext, and multimedia capability. With this in mind as a starting point, everything was to be created. A logic of production, consumption, and commercialization. A language, a rhythm, a new kind of connection with our readership.

I am going to position myself here as a journalist and an editor. Because it’s my original profession. Because it’s also the profession I am trying to re-invent (or more accurately, to learn again from scratch) since I have been doing it online. And mostly, because I firmly believe that journalists have an essential role to play in tomorrow’s interactive society and that they are quite wrong in fearing to become obsolete with the advance of the new media.

I will tackle three concepts which I believe outline the contours of this new journalism: diversity, community, and movement.

As George Gilder wrote, by establishing the existence of a mass audience, therefore necessarily a homogeneous one, the media in fact negate the individuality of their readers, their generous diversity, the real scope of their interests and passions, their multiple lifestyles and ambitions. In a way, the papers we publish today are contradictory to human nature.

The second concept I would like to bring up is community. Though there is much said about interactivity it is my feeling that it’s not fully understood by the press and everyone in the publishing field yet. The concept of interactivity is not about the user clicking on an icon to unlatch a reaction from his computer: it is above all about connecting people.

With this in mind, facts and information can circulate without interference and without the journalist acting as a filter. He will have to give up part of the power he used to have – based on his competence as well as on his position. The role of the journalist is changing into a more central figure, a mediator. He directs traffic, explores, becomes a facilitator of discussions. His new power will depend on his ability to animate a group of people, to develop methods and means to enliven the community, to organize information-gathering and use with the participation of the members of the community.

A journalist with little online experience tends to think in terms of stories, news value, public service, and things that are good to read, points out Melinda McAdams in her excellent account of the making of the Washington Post online venture. But a person with a lot of online experience thinks more about connections, organization, movement within and among sets of information, and communication among different people.

By redefining the way we think and write, this new structure redefines all of our culture. I agree with New York sociologist Neil Postman that

New technologies alter the structure of our interests: the things we think about. They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with. And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop.

They also alter our relationship to time. As an insider we know the newspaper as a succession of deadlines: lead time for articles, editing, printing, distribution. If one of these deadlines is not met, the paper will lose most of its value if not all of it. Consequently, information must fit into this schedule and it grows old with the paper it is printed on (today’s breaking news, tomorrow’s fish wrap).

Online content on the other hand is fluid, moving. It doesn’t know deadlines – actually, every moment is a potential deadline. There is no set chronological order, you can change original content, update it, correct it, complete it and re-use it, anytime. An article becomes a story in progress, enriched by other stories thanks to hypertext, and allowing for constant re-composition.

[some bold and italics added by Chuck Peters to highlight flow of concepts, others in original article]

Giussani’s First Monday article of 11 years ago is worth reading in its entirety, if for nothing else than to show that the game to be played has been defined for some time.  We need to get on with it.  As a matter of interest, Bruno has gone on to be the European Director of the Ted Conference and recently blogged about Charles Leadbeater‘s presentation at the Picnic 08 Conference on The Power of Mass Creativity:

the future is all gonna be about our activity to collaborate, to pull together the diversity of knowledge and insight that we need to make that possible”. What does that mean? “For most of my life, we have worked and being served by organizations that should do things for you but often actually do things to you. The logic of the Web is “with”, how to work with people, how to learn together. If you want a very simple way to think of the current shift, it’s that difference: from the world of “to” and “for” to the world of “with” and “by”.” “Is this just a passing moment, a fleeting fad? Or is it a possible permanent change in how we organize ourselves? And if it is, can we use that possibility or are we going to screw it up?” “Somebody recently asked to Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the Web: are we asking too much of the Internet, are we loading too much onto it, bearing the weight of this social transformation? Tim answered: the danger is that we will ask too little from it, that we will reduce it to just another tool”.

[bold and italics in original article]

Note the “to and for” becoming “with and by”, another confirmation of the difficulties of using the name Local Information Utility to describe the new enterprise!  Names are important.  A Publisher publishes a product, which is why the first item Wurzer suggest is firing the “Publisher”.  An Editor is product focused.  A Community Manager, or Facilitator or Mediator suggests the more appropriate roles.

As we define new tasks for the new game, or “business model“,  a few concepts are always at the forefront:

1.  We need to focus on the network of information, and bring elegant organization to it.  We cannot depend on the nauseating cacophony of tweets, blogs, comments and articles to organize themselves.  They must be moderated and organized.  That organization must in large part be automatic, through tags and links.

2.  Given our past history, and the lessons learned, we need to separate the creation of news/information networks from advertising networks, yet be able to link them, and let users know which is which.

3.  Product creation is separate from content creation, whether news/information content or advertising content.

4.  The goal is to have the products complement the network and each other, not add to the cacophony.  Time is limited.  If people want a particular piece of information they should be able to get it, where they are, on whatever device.  If they want to explore a topic, they should be able to do so within an elegant organization, perhaps introduced to them by the print product, not the mind numbing search through Google lists and tagged articles.

5. Everyone will be learning a new task,  and operating within a new organization, so patience is a virtue.

So, what are the key tasks for someone trying to create a Complete Community Connection?  I am assuming that printing and distribution functions are outsourced, so imaging, print and online ad layout, printing, inserting and physical distribution are performed cost effectively in centralized locations.  That leaves:

1.  Community Liaison – The focal point (CEO) for the local C3 organization, out in the community, attending Service Clubs, Chamber meetings, speaking to groups.  Gathers the overall sense of the defined geographical community, and has the final decision on whether the network of information is serving the community, with the right mix of products and services.  Responsible for the financial health and development of the local C3 organization, which should be creating a strengthened geographical community, consisting of mulitple communities of interest and affinity, resulting from the benefits of group collaboration in the manner noted by Bruno Giusanni covering a presentation by Charles Leadbeater :

What prompts collaborative creativity?

  1. Diversity.
  2. New and easy ways to allow people to contribute.
  3. Ways to connect people together and to build on one-another.
  4. A shared sense of purpose and some individual sense of payoff, that they’re getting something in return as they’re contributing to something larger.
  5. Usually there is a core or kernel that’s put there to begin with (the initial Linux software for ex)
  6. Structure: these communities won’t work unless they can make decisions, so they need to have some elements of structure (think Wikipedia)

2.  Information Content Creator (Moderator) – Responsible for using best practices to develop an organization of  employees (for large, sustained, efforts) and trusted sources which create tagged text snippets, photos, audio and video relating to issues or events; live blog from events to develop the richest perspective from the community on the particular event; create summarizing, contextual narratives,  with appropriate links; and contribute to the local wiki, much like the CIA’s Intellipedia.  The “soup to nuts” news service described by Steve Outing.

3.  Advertising Content Creator – Creates ecosystem of print and online ads, with text ads, SMS ads, photos, audio, video appropriately tagged and linked so that an advertiser’s message is appropriately placed, contextually relevant and properly timed.

4.  Digital Asset Manager – Manages an organization to lead numerous outside vendors, partners and collaborators to develop an ecosystem of technology that offers current best practices for the elegant organization of local information for use by content creators and product creators.

5.  Product Planning and Development –  Manages the system and organization of developing products complementary to the network, reaching audiences that do not significantly overlap, which can act as promotional flags for the network, and support the network financially.  The product managers must have access to all content, and be able to package it as they see fit to reach their audiences.

6. Audience Measurement and Marketing –  The organization that independently determines if the multiple audiences in a community are being reached, and needs served, by the portfolio of products and services.  Allows product managers to have an effective and efficient mechanism for understanding and reaching their audiences.

7.  Sales –  Selling audiences to advertisers, consultatively.  Not responsible for products, or any content creation. Can act like the local advertising agency, and sell solutions to advertisers outside of those offered by C3.

8.  Shared Services – Such as human resources, information technology, facilities, accounting.  Their primary change is recognizing and supporting the fundmentally altered business model and structure.

As we get on with this, and make the changes necessary, each participant has to answer three questions:

1.  Do I understand that I am a participant in an organization trying to create tools to be used “with and by” the communities we serve, to allow the individuals in those communities to know what they want to know so that they can have the power to do what they want to do?

2.  Do I acknowledge that I will get to participate in the creative evolution of my job, key tasks, reporting relationships and organizational mindset as we evolve into a new C3 organization?

3.  Do I want to?

Because you “gotta wanna” in order for this to happen.

What do you think?

Note on December 1 – Mark Potts and Steve Outing were also talking about key tasks yesterday.



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New Game requires New Mindset

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When I started this blog over seven months ago, I focused on mindset, as I had the sense that a completely new game was beginning:

Newspaper executives from around the world are trying to implement new business models. However, it is hard to implement a new model with an old mindset. Many are trying to arrange the concepts for a new ecosystem of local information. What I hope to do here is share my thoughts, and connections, as we explore these new frontiers.

If we were changing games from football to baseball, we would not have as many issues, as both games are very well understood, with many participants, observers, coaches and commentators.  However, the local media game is changing so completely that we have difficulty conceptualizing the new game.  John Steinbeck understood this well:

“And now a force was in hand how much more strong, and we hadn’t had time to develop the means to think, for man has to have feelings and then words before he can come close to thought and in the past at least, that has taken a long time.”

As we work to develop this new game, or business model, within our own company, conflicts arise.  Those who see the future, but can’t articulate it, are frustrated.  Those who see the future and want to make it happen quickly are very frustrated by those who don’t even perceive the need for a new game.  Those who don’t perceive the need for a new game are frustrated by all the commotion.

These frustrations are playing out on the broader stage, summarized very well by Craig Stoltz.  The New York Observer ran a cover story highlighting the conflicts between old and new media, and Jeff Jarvis wisely noted:

We’re all trying to figure what to do about it, and we all should have different answers and experiment with those answers.

Early on, I advocated moving away from an organization designed to produce “products”:

We cannot continue to focus on products. Products are just nodes on the network, promotional flags to local intelligence, in context.

So, the game is changing from a reliable cash-generating franchise focused on broadcasting authoritative snapshots reflecting the community to an entrepreneurial “elegant organization” to:

provide platforms that enable communities to do what they want to do, share what they want to share, know what they need to know together.

And, we cannot define these communities.  As an individual, my interests are not easily discerned by my geographical location or demographics.  So, I am looking for a way to keep up with friends, neighbors, certain local organizations, and certain local issues, while getting the overview of key issues that an editor thinks I should know.  We need an elegant organization of information to make that happen.  Several commentators are giving us perspective on that.  Vickey Williams, exploring the “Six Competencies of the Next Generation News Organization” notes:

They rest heavily on the skills needed to personalize products and to build and serve communities of interest. The good news: Newspapers should be uniquely equipped to do these things.

Some other recent posts that I have appreciated are Jeff Jarvis with his “scenario for news” summary, Martin Langeveld describing his “future of journalism“, Steve Outing and his exhortation to “redefine news“, and Buzz Werzer’s “Checklist for Newspaper Publishers“.

It is my strong belief that an organization such as ours, with over 500 employees, cannot expect that we can change all the mindsets and pursue a new game by simply repeating the forces and ideas driving the change in a series of seminars or links to interesting articles.  We need to change the tasks, titles and organization so that we are doing new tasks, in new ways, and making the results of our efforts available immediately to our communities as we begin the larger task of organizing all this information elegantly.

More on the new tasks and jobs in the next post!

What do you think?

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API Summit

Interlacing twitter

Image via Wikipedia

I am still trying to decompress from a week of travel, ending in the API Summit today in Reston, VA.  I plan to offer thoughts, when rested, to put the Summit into context, but Mark Potts did not need recovery time, he just let us have it:

The liveblog of the meeting has attracted a spirited discussion among true believers about what the 50 execs should be talking about, and while that’s interesting, it’s a little pointless–the true believers in what it takes to get to the future are on the outside, and the people on the inside aren’t listening to them. The liveblogger did manage to get the discussion put on a screen at the meeting for a few minutes, but odds are few in the meeting had any idea what they were looking at–or dismissed it as the usual rantings of idealistic underlings they’ve ignored (at their peril) for years.
The concept of the liveblog did not hit me until early this morning, after I had read last night that Twitter had been integrated into Cover It Live.  Since the whole point of the conference was frank discussion, without attribution, I was not there to report on the proceedings, but to keep my notes for myself, and ask questions to those who care deeply about these issues.  I believe that many who attended will read this blog, and several will actually read the thread of the conversations in the liveblog, and the results of the polls.
As I have been saying here for some time, we have much work to do, and need a completely different mindset from the traditional packaged media to achieve our goal of a Complete Community Connection.
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