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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Learnings from API Summit

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Many have asked about the significance of last week’s API Summit.  As a participant, I was greatly informed by sitting in the room, and seeing what messages API was trying to send to the industry, after years of their Newspaper Next work.   In addition, I was overwhelmed by the response to my first attempt at live blogging, using the just introduced tool of adding Twitter feeds to CoverItLive, which worked very well.

However, the transcript of the live blog, which is linked in full to the right at this site, covers seven hours.  As Amy Gahran noted, I am trying to distill that, as the whole transcript is more volume and clutter than most want to spend time on gleaning the essence of the conversation.  So, I have edited the transcript, and offer that edit for download below, with the following learnings referenced to the time stamped conversation from which I gathered that particular perspective:
1.    Our fellow employees have ideas to pursue alternative strategies – 8:40 on
2.    Our co-workers in media are frustrated as they try to act – 9:39-9:49
3.    Live blogging and using Twitter gives tremendous access to ideas – 9:50
4.    We need to stand traditional news gathering on its head, and engage the community from the very beginning, capture each essence, (whether text, video or audio) and link back to the essence as we package the story – 9:51-10:06
5.    Even without the packaging into print, broadcast or online stories, the essences could be gathered with semantic technology to provide more efficient answers or commercial messages to user generated information requests, or flows of content around concepts – 10:06-10:20
6.    It is not about change, or turnaround, it is about starting with a blank slate – 10:24-10:32
7.    We need to start NOW – 10:33-10:42
8.    Jeff Jarvis provides Davos perspective: we are not approaching the opportunities we have in front of us to start over – 11:04-11:11
9.    Mark Potts begins conversation about why API participants aren’t linked into online conversation – 11:25
10.    Michele McClellan notes that the power of the network is unseen until you start using the network through blogging and Twitter – 11:26
11.    Twitter identities – 12:02-12:03
12.    Top questions for API participants – 12:07-12:14
13.    What we would do if we owned media – 12:14-12:52
14.    Comments on social media tools – 12:58-1:02
15.    Focus on revenue – 1:02-1:21
16.    Video discussion – 1:21-1:37
17.    Why don’t we act, NOW? – 1:48-2:09
api-summit-liveblog-summary1

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Congruent Thoughts

Warning re limited inbound Twitter txts

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For some time, I have been saying that the problem with the media industry is that we are stuck on stories, or packages, whether they be articles with photos in print or online, or video packages.  I have limited time, and limited brainpower, and I want to see current, relevant information, in context, anywhere and anytime.  I don’t think we can get there until we create our content, in the first instance, as a “post” or “tweet”, and organize from there.  It is nice to see others expressing the same thoughts.  We need all the conceptual clarity we can muster to tackle the Three Gorillas.

Jeff Jarvis says the “article” can no longer be the building block, and that we have to build, from the “post” to a new organization:

Instead, I want a page, a site, a thing that is created, curated, edited, and discussed. It’s a blog that treats a topic as an ongoing and cumulative process of learning, digging, correcting, asking, answering. It’s also a wiki that keeps a snapshot of the latest knowledge and background. It’s an aggregator that provides annotated links to experts, coverage, opinion, perspective, source material. It’s a discussion that doesn’t just blather but that tries to accomplish something (an extension of an article like this one that asks what options there are to bailout a bailout). It’s collaborative and distributed and open but organized.

Steve Outing explores the value of Twitter:

The (fast-)growing number of people who use Twitter find it to be an easy and fast way to share their lives, thoughts, opinions, links, stuff they have for sale, recommendations — their personal newsfeed — just with the people who care. They can do so whether sitting in front of a computer or out in the world via their cell phones. By also “following” Twitter feeds of news organizations, you can even get a pretty good overall view of the big-picture events of the day. Ergo, Twitter already can, to a degree, serve the expanded version of “the news” that I’m describing — from the globally significant to the micro-personal

As a subscriber to a news Web site, you’ll be able to configure your account to the type of news you wish to receive. The content will come from a variety of sources (listed here from global sources at the top down to micro-personal ones at the bottom):

* Wire services and syndicates with which the newspaper already has contractual agreements.
* Unaffiliated news Web sites. (Bring in their feeds; think Google News or Topix-like functionality.)
* Unaffiliated blogs. (Ditto; think Technorati or Google Blogsearch-like functionality.)
* Newspaper staff and freelance content. (Local and national. Text, photos, audio, video, multimedia.)
* Staff and freelance blogs.
* Citizen-/user-contributed content.
* User comments and interaction on all content.
* Discussion forums.
* Personalized news based on user preference. (Topic selection and/or keyword searches.)
* Micro-personal news from a user’s social networks, filtered from external sites by capturing user’s log-in data for those services.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see anyone who offers this range of news. News aggregators (Google News, Yahoo! News, Topix, et al) bring us the world via hundreds or thousands of sources; but they omit the micro-personal, leaving that to the social networks. Sites like FriendFeed can tap into multiple social networks and bring you micro-personal news from your social circle; but they don’t work well (if at all) at providing conventional news.

Perhaps the opportunity for newspaper companies is to evolve into the one source for ALL of an individual’s news needs.

Amy Gahran, who was most gracious as I spied her on the street in Boulder, expresses the urgency for us to act now:

What if the core of a news org wasn’t only a staff of trained journalists and editors gathering information primarily to produce packaged stories based on just a small fraction of available info? What if librarians and technologists also were on the job, getting as much info as possible into useful, modular, searchable formats that could be easily searched and mixed according to relevance to particular communities, interest groups, or even individuals?

What if news orgs’ core offering was not a basically one-size-fits-all newspaper, but rather a statewide or regional “relevance window” service that could be tailored to meet the needs of lawyers, businesses, property owners, schools, activists, healthcare providers, parents, teens, etc.? What if news orgs became very, very structured and flexible about how they collect, collate, and distribute information? What if, as a result, citizens, organizations, and communities could easily stay better informed than was ever before possible?

This isn’t just my bright idea, of course. Remember Robin Sloan’s classic prediction EPIC 2014? My Tidbits colleague Barbara Iverson observed, “Today, when you look at Epic 2014 or the update, you can hardly tell the imagined fictions from actual fact. …And look at the list of activities of a ‘newsmaster’ in Bill French’s 2004 post From WebMaster to NewsMaster, because it is more specific than what Jarvis says, but certainly calling for the same kind of changes in how we pull together information.”

Seems to me there’s a huge potential window of business opportunity here. Temporarily.

It is not just a business opportunity, it is an opportunity to create a new way of interacting with information that is relevant to us.  Our current packaged articles and products just won’t do.

What do you think?

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Why build C3?

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The Content Ninja asks today about the “big goal” behind online communities.  It is true that we as media companies want to build relationships, and want to be that preferred information provider of choice.

But to me, 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.

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