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

JO540 Multimedia Journalism Words

Image by stevegarfield via Flickr

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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16 responses to “New Mindset for New Game Highlights New Tasks Performed in New Organization Which Develops New Shared Mindset

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  2. Chuck, in a rather interesting coincidence, Mark Potts was also writing Nov. 30 about the tasks/titles that newspapers should be doing. See his post at

    P.S. This post’s headline IS too long and not exactly optimized for a search engine. I’m just saying …

  3. Thanks for the link to Mark Potts’ post. I know the headline is too long, but I was trying to show how all these concepts are linked, and are only going to be realized by performing new tasks in a new organization.

  4. Don’t forget a position from Steve Outing’s article:

    8. Hire a social VP

    Most newspapers have a vice president of circulation in charge of print distribution. Today, you need a “circulation VP” for the Internet. A more appropriate title: vice president for social media.

  5. How I wish my health hadn’t yanked me from the online revolution at the Gazette. I would love to be a more active participant. I hope you’re sharing your thoughts face-to-face with the newsroom and advertising departments. Online blogging is great, but there’s still nothing like face-to-face leadership.
    Kathy Alter

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  9. A collective newspaper industry plan properly executed could make a very positive statement to the media world in this time of industry crisis. And at it’s core is clear and continued editorial focus. Thus said………

    • Newspapers need to create a bold plan addressing secular market factors, acting with industry consensus, keeping the plan simple, inform the marketplace what the plan is while it is being constructed, with a goal of launching it within 90 to 120 days, be specifically focused short term yet have the ability to be expanded to similar areas of specific focus using the same infrastructure
    • The plan should center around the Sunday web sites and print editions of the newspaper industry. Although Sunday circ is shrinking, the combined Sunday market reach of web/print consumer use is significant. Sunday is a special day for media consumption.
    • The focus of the plan is to initiate and maintain a simultaneous national and local editorial discourse on the subject of Healthcare. Everyone is involved in some way with the Healthcare industry. A small group of Editors would be assembled to frame the 3 or 4 most current Healthcare issues at the national level. This same group of editors would invoke all US editors to identify the 3 or 4 Healthcare issues in their local markets
    • Given the dynamic interactive discussion taking place on the web on virtually any subject along with the myriad navigational tools available to web users it is difficult for users to focus with the precision of editors. Editors in setting the Healthcare agenda nationally and locally maintains clear focus yet invites all publics involved in the Healthcare industry to participate and then edits and repackages all pertinent content coming from such broad discussion on all digital and print platforms.
    • Another reason to launch this plan employing the Healthcare industry is that advertising nationally and locally supporting it is not in a recessionary mode. A newspaper sales/marketing team would lead existing newspaper national sales networks to create and sell the national Healthcare prospects. Local publishers might create new commissioned only sales forces to sell the myriad of local Healthcare ad prospects
    • A web development team would be assembled to design the National Healthcare format that would bolt on to the local web site. The local web site would mirror the design of the National web design. The discourse from all levels of the public is entered digitally and then moved into a niche print section that summarizes the best of national and local input
    • A technology team along with the sale/marketing team would interface with national portals, national sales networks, ad serving and BT vendors and with manufacturers of mobile, e-readers and other PDA devices and create alliances to monetize the Healthcare content that builds and matures week to week. The tech team also creates a “quick start guide” like consumers get when they purchase products that show how easy they are to use. PDF conversion from web, ease of RSS, Twittering etc become simple tasks for any age
    • As the Healthcare project grows, it is followed by Education, Economy etc. Current low margin publishing days ie Mon/Tues/Wed may well be replaced by highly productive new niches.
    • All the elements are in place….it is time to connect the dots.

  10. Iowakitkat, believe me, Chuck’s leading face to face on this issue (at the senior management level today; leading in the newsroom, or whatever that will become, is my job for now, though I know Chuck will meet with employees directly soon). Questions that occur on rereading Chuck’s blog after today’s meeting about making this happen:
    1. Many of today’s jobs involve tasks of both content creation and product management. How do we separate them and do some instances justify the flexibility of leaving them together?
    2. If the print edition is multiple products rather than a single product, how do we assign responsibilities for production of each product and which responsibilities apply to multiple products?
    3. The ethics of journalism evolved in a time-honored structure where silo walls separated the generation of information content from the generation of revenue. What are the ethical boundaries, guidelines, prohibitions and imperatives of the C3?
    4. (Acknowledging the self-interest here), Admittedly, Editor is a product-focused title, but Information Content (or Community) Moderator or Facilitator sound more passive than the leadership role that I envision. What’s the most accurate, appropriate title? Conductor? Wrangler? Coach? Czar?
    Lots more questions, but that’s plenty for now. On the one hand, I’m pleased to be the first manager in the room today to comment on this blog after Chuck noted our lack of comments. On the other hand, I shouldn’t be able to be first eight-plus hours after the meeting.

  11. Steve, regarding question #1, there is a pragmatic issue of how are we tooled (mentioned in an earlier comment from a parochial IT vantage point:, . Information gathering and content creation must utilize tools for that purpose, not tools that are product-specific and heavily laden with packaging activities. That is the realm of the product manager. The question of flexibility is, at this point, 99% related to roles, responsibilities and processes defined at the organizational level.

    By the way, Content Czar sounds too much like something the beltway gang would dream up. We are, in an odd sense, moving towards a more democratic form of information provisioning…”czar” runs counter to that. How about “Content Concierge?”

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