Tag Archives: Steve Buttry

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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On the road, no time to rest

Non-story
Image by MotherPie via Flickr

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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Just Do It!

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...
Image by luc legay via Flickr

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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