Category Archives: Uncategorized

MOVED BLOG

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I have moved my blog to http://chuckpeters.iowa.com to have access to more tools available through our company’s new blog structure.  Please change your bookmark and visit me at the new blog.  Thanks, Chuck

NAA – MediaXChange Presentation

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I will be discussing our C3 organization, tasks and drivers on March 10 (starting with iMedia business model work at 3 PM CDT — 1 PM PDT) at the NAA MediaXChange in Las Vegas, using these slides, and will be live blogging during the presentation.  A link to the live blog is below the slides.


For link to actual slides, go to

NAA MediaXChange

For link to Live Blog

Click Here

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RIF to RIF

Image of Steve Buttry from Twitter
Image of Steve Buttry

This blog, which started with the hope of outlining the concepts which would lead to a Rich Information Format to strengthen communities, has not been updated recently because of another RIF, all too common today, the Reduction in Force.

As painful as this RIF was, we had no choice due to the abrupt decline in advertising revenues in the last three quarters, with no upturn in sight. On the same day we announced the RIF, we announced the first large step in actually creating the organization to support C3 – separating content creation from product creation.

Product is Separated from Content

In this model, Lyle Muller, Editor of The Gazette newspaper, working with Dave Storey, Publisher, is responsible for creating and maintaining the physical product of the printed newspaper, The Gazette.

Steve Buttry, Information Content Conductor, is responsible for creating another C3 – Content Creation & Collaboration, a networked set of blogs and information organized around topics or micro-geographical areas.  We are trying to create a visual description of this activity, and our current attempt is below, although we already know that we don’t like the name “Superblog”:

Information Topic Area Ecosystem

Because these announcements were made on the same day, amidst the largest Reduction in Force in the company’s history, we confused some people and aggravated others.  While we were cheered on by some, we were jeered by others.

Steve and Lyle decided that we should Live Blog about these changes, taking questions from the community.  What an hour that was!  Lyle, Steve and I were in separate rooms, on separate floors, with no way to know who was taking which questions, in what order.  You can see for yourself whether we helped our hurt ourselves.

In the coming days, I will be describing the other critical elements of our reorganization, as we put into place the foundation for C3.

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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?

Just Do It!

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If it had not happened to me recently, I might not believe it.  Despite David Cohn’s exhortations earlier this year, experienced, smart journalists, all atwitter, saying they could never Tweet or blog.  Experienced journalists interviewing me on my blog, without reading the blog.  Executives acting condescendingly toward social media.  We can’t create the Complete Community Connection if we don’t have direct experience.  By trying to “possess” the stories of our communities, we might lose them.

Virginia Heffernan provides insight in today’s New York Times Magazine that the world of content has changed fundamentally.  Much more “with and by” than “for and to” audiences:

People who work in traditional media and entertainment ought either to concentrate on the antiquarian quality of their work, cultivating the exclusive audience of TV viewers or magazine readers that might pay for craftsmanship. Or they should imagine that they are 19 again: spending a day on Twitter or following a recipe from a Mark Bittman video played on a refrigerator that automatically senses what ingredients are missing and texts an order to the grocery store (it will soon exist!). Then they should think about what content suits these new modes of distribution and could evolve in tandem with them. For old-media types, mental flexibility could be the No. 1 happiness secret we have been missing.

Several people have made this point, but John Bell made it well, and recently:

You cannot be great with social media through simple observation. Applying it to your life and committing the time to actually “do” it will help your business. It will help you understand first-hand and give you ideas. It will suck up time. But two things happen: it doesn’t suck up as much as you fear and you end up with greater rewards than you imagined.

So, how to start?  First of all, join Twitter.  Follow Steve Buttry, Amy Gahran, John McGlothlen, and Steve Outing to start, along with anyone else you know on Twitter.  A great introduction to Twitter is provided by TwiTip, including some informative Twitters to follow.  If you really want to explore Twitter, Guy Kawasaki has some detailed ideas.  Once you are up and running, try Twhirl to start, and once on your feet, perhaps Tweetdeck to sort things out.

Then, sign up for Facebook,  have your Twitter feeds automatically update your Facebook account, and search Facebook for local friends, or long lost high school classmates.  Be amazed at what you can discover.

For a more professional view, start with LinkedIn.  You should find many people from your company already there.

If you would like more motivation, check out Xark and Twitter:

Journalists are in the communications business. Shouldn’t they at least have a professional interest in the evolving state of modern communications technology? Shouldn’t journalists at least be curious about the way other people communicate?

Only they aren’t curious: They’re hostile.

I said this back in September, and it’s as true now as it was then: Newspaper companies (and many of their employees) hate modern journalism. They resent change they don’t control. They’re angry that “the people formerly known as the audience” have developed alternatives to their mass-media monopolies.

So, let’s just do it, and see what we learn!

Are you willing?

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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 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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