Category Archives: General Strategies

Verizon and Google Connive To Control Internet Traffic

The Social Media version of Monopoly

The Internet Protocol hit the fan today, when Verizon, one of the largest Internet Service Providers in the U.S. and that nation’s largest mobile phone network, and Google, the largest Internet company in the world, released a joint proposal about how the Federal Communications  Commission should regulate Internet traffic.

Although this Verizon-Google Pact wasn’t signed on September 27, 1940, in Berlin by Chancellor Hitler, Italian Foreign Minister Ciano, and Japanese Ambassador Kurusu, if it is implemented, it could soon be as catastrophic to worldwide neutral use of the Internet as the simultaneous attacks on Singapore, Hong Kong, and Pearl Harbor were worldwide to commerce and to consumers in 1941.

The proposal has an Orwellian ring to it. It says that Internet service providers should treat all creators of Internet content the same, and should not be able to block them or offer any of them preferential treatment (i.e., a paid ‘fast lane’ on the Internet), but it makes exceptions with wireless Internet access and for potential new services that broadband providers could offer. According to The New York Times story about the proposal, news services such as “advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options.” In other words, all Internet animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.

The decade we’re now in will see mobile phone wireless access become the primary way by which people worldwide access the Internet (i.e., all the world’s news, entertainment and information). All the world’s mobile phone handset manufacturers are now building the majority of products on the Apple iPhone or Google Android designs, equipped with the same Web browsing, email, and video downloading capabilities as desktop or laptop computers. More than four billion people worldwide now use mobile phones, meaning phones that now or soon will have full Internet access and be as powerful as today’s laptop computers.

If implemented, the wireless Internet access exception to the Verizon-Google Pact would allow Verizon and every other U.S. mobile phone network operator to delay or block content from any content creator 0r competitor and provide preferential treatment (a ‘fast lane’) to their own content or any content creator who pays them.

Likewise, the ‘advanced educational services, or new entertainment and gaming options’ exception would allow any broadband wire Internet Service Provider to to delay or block content from any content creator 0r competitor and provide preferential treatment (a ‘fast lane’) to their own content or any content creator who pays them.

Those exceptions are commercial loopholes the size of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans respectively.

Writing at GigaOm, Stacey Higginbotham notes that the proposal would also emasculate the Federal Communications Commission’s ability to ensure overall neutrality of any remaining Internet traffic, replacing it with a proposed “case-by-case enforcement” of violations.

You can be sure that whatever decision the FCC takes, its policy will be imitated by government communications agencies in many, if not most, other countries, worldwide.

Last week, the Cable News Network’s website published an opinion essay by the junior of the two United States Senators Minnesota, a long-time content creator named Al Franken. Under the headline Net neutrality is the foremost free speech issue of our time, Franken wrote:

“Net neutrality” sounds arcane, but it’s fundamental to free speech. The internet today is an open marketplace. If you have a product, you can sell it. If you have an opinion, you can blog about it. If you have an idea, you can share it with the world.

And no matter who you are — a corporation selling a new widget, a senator making a political argument or just a Minnesotan sharing a funny cat video — you have equal access to that marketplace.

An e-mail from your mom comes in just as fast as a bill notification from your bank. You’re reading this op-ed online; it’ll load just as fast as a blog post criticizing it. That’s what we mean by net neutrality.

But telecommunications companies want to be able to set up a special high-speed lane just for the corporations that can pay for it. You won’t know why the internet retail behemoth loads faster than the mom-and-pop shop, but after a while you may get frustrated and do all of your shopping at the faster site. Maybe the gatekeepers will discriminate based on who pays them more. Maybe they will discriminate based on whose political point of view conforms to their bottom line.

We don’t have to speculate. We can look to the history of the media gatekeepers for examples….

And it isn’t even strictly a political issue. The internet’s freedom and openness has made it a hotbed for innovations that change our lives. It’s been an incredible engine of job creation.

The internet was developed at taxpayer expense to benefit the public interest. If we let corporations prioritize some content over others, we’ll lose what makes it so valuable to our economy, our democracy and our daily lives.

My hope is that the Obama Administration’s FCC will resist the Verizon-Google proposal, and resist other major media or telecommunications companies’ attempts to paint the proposal as a compromise between public and corporate interests. It’s not a compromise, but a connivance to control what you get when on the Internet.

Meanwhile, the ironic synchronicity of someone inventing an Internet version (above) the capitalism board game Monopoly must be noted. Timing indeed.

The Media Academic Research Treadmill

Several hundred media professors will converge on Denver, Colorado, this week for the annual conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. I won’t be among them (I’ll be at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, where my fiancé is undergoing treatment).

I teach New Media at a leading school, so probably should (were not my fiancé ill) go to the AEJMC conference. I’d learn more about my profession, meet my peers, and probably learn how to teach better.

However, I’ve no interest in attending AEJMC. The reason was best described by Earl Wilkinson, executive director of the International Newspaper Marketing Association (now the International News Marketing Association) who attended the 2002 and 2003 AEJMC conferences. One of his motives for attending was to tap “into the academic research that is largely unknown by newspapers executives. I was a very strong motive.” While attending, Wilkinson found AEJMC to be an organization of academics with passion for what they teach, with a sense of fraternity that he wished newspaper executives could emulate.

“Yet my original selfish motive missed the target. What I found in the piles of academic papers laid out … was a lot of well-intentioned research that had little applicability to the realities of the newspaper industry. During the past year, we have gone through literally thousands of AEJMC abstracts at the Michigan State University archive and found a similar result.

“What we found, to put it bluntly, is academics talking to other academics — which is a noble form of communications, unless division after division, committee after committee didn’t also express to me their profound desire to help the realities of the newspaper industry. As I reported to the INMA Board of Directors last year, about 2 percent of of the research being done is applicable to the business of newspapers and you must have incredible patiences finding “leads” to the stories in that 2 percent.”

The words I quoted Wilkinson spoke in a presentation to the 2003 AEJMC conference. In that presentation, he mentioned the newspaper industry had just survived the toughest recession since the Great Depression and greatly needed practical research.

Seven years later, the news industries have just survived an even greater recession and greater declines and challenges. The media industries are screaming for practical research. Yet I’ve found nothing has changed from what Wilkinson found in 2002 and 2003. The vast majority of academic research has no value to the media industries.

Some academics might reply that much of their research is aimed at better teaching students to work in media, not helping the media industries themselves. My retort is that those students might not have industries to work in unless someone performs practical research to solve those industries’ problems. No one is more able than academics to do that research.

Medical schools, engineering schools, and law schools do research that solves their industries’ problems and advances the practices of those industries. If not 98 percent of media schools’ research should do that, then at least the majority of the research should. Not a mere 2 percent.

Singaporean TV News Coverage


The Singapore Press Holdings Foundation each year hosts a media lecture in the Drama Centre of the National Library. This year’s theme was Media in Transition: Social & Economic Impact. I gave the lecture. Here is TV news coverage of that speech, delivered on July 14, 2010. To see the entire lecture.

Reinventing Your Local Newspaper

I’m spending much of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter (Northern Hemisphere’s summer) in the Republic of South Africa where I’m helping that country’s leading journalism school in what I hope will be a notable advance in how journalism and news publishing are practiced in the 21st Century. I’ve not previously written about this project, and am a bit constrained doing so no simply because my Internet connectivity here 500 miles east of Capetown is severely limited (but if you want to bump into wild rhinos, I can help you). Nevertheless, my most recent digital publishing biweekly column at ClickZ.com describes some of the project.

I’ve been in the SA since mid-April and will return to the US on May 10th. I’ll then spend a week in Syracuse teaching the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication’s Social Media course in its Executive Education in Public Relations master’s degree program, then a week in Los Angeles, co-teaching the Knight Digital Media Center’s Digital Media Entrepreneurship Boot Camp. After a June vacation, I’ll then return to the SA and this main project in July.

Training Journalists for the 21st Century

Ryan Sholin guest-lecturing in my New Media Business class at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications
Ryan Scholin guest-lecturing in my New Media Business class at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communicatinos

My biweekly Digital Publishing column at ClickZ.com is about the skills that journalism schools need to teach their students to prepare them for this century. The advice in it is true for retraining professional journalists, too.

New Media Business Syllabus for Spring 2009

I continue to teach New Media Business classes at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Tuesday will be the first day of a new semster and new students. In September, the school opened this graduate school course to upperclassmen, too. It was oversubscribed last semester, with students turned away. So, this semester I have agreed to teach two classes of it, a total of 39 students. In generally, I’ve collected the students whose majors are newspapers, magazines, broadcast journalism, television, radio, film, public relations, or public diplomacy into one class and the majors in advertising or media management in the other. The weeky-by-week topical agenda will be the same for each class, but my emphases during each topic will be different for the ‘content producers’ than for the ‘revenue producers’. Each 90-minute class meets twice weekly.

I’m introducing each classes by telling students:

Not only do you live during the greatest change in the history of media but you’re about to graduate as it crests the barricades and overthrows many traditional media theories, practices, companies, plus a lot of what the Newhouse School and other media schools have traditionally taught.

This three credit-hour course teaches the new theories and practices of journalism, entertainment, and persuasive communications that arise directly from New Media, and the modes of online, interactive, and mobile media – even including new forms of print and broadcast – that are now supplementing or supplanting traditional forms of media. The course will explain, as best as humanly possible, the dynamics that underlie New Media; the history of it; how and why New Media fundamentally differs from traditional forms (hint: multimedia and convergence aren’t the differences); how it varies around the world; and how to operate and support media businesses from it.

Because the course’s students come from the full spectrum of Newhouse majors, plus some from other SU schools, it will not focus on any one media discipline or major. Rather the class as a multi-discipline group, similar to a company, will study the theory of New Media; the industrial changes, crises, and opportunities that New Media spawns; its revenue and business models and their technologies and practices; and its evolving future. The course aims to give students the conceptual and basic business knowledge they’ll need to work in 21st Century media.

Here is my planned topical schedule for the class. No 13-week course can possible teach students everything they need to know about the New Media Business for media practioners. I therefore teach just the basics.

  • January 13 – Course Introduction and Syllabus: We’ll discuss our backgrounds, the students’ expectations, and the instructor’s requirements for this course, its grading, assignments, etc.
  • January 15 – Embracing Change: Why this is an exceptional time in millennia of media. Why you’ll almost certainly not do what this school trains you to do. What do confederate widows, Eddie Rickenbacker, the instructor, and the class’s students have in common. What is the one skill that students will need to learn?
  • January 20 – Crisis: Put the students in the shoes of media companies’ executives today. General Trends & Creative Destruction in the media industry. What are the challenges that media companies face? What, if anything, can be done? If you have to think ‘Outside the Box’…?
  • January 22 -The Future is Here; It’s Just Unevenly Distributed: Change is neither smooth nor contemporaneous. How to discern between fads and trends? What are the long-term trends in media?
  • January 27 -A World Tour: Cultural and Geographic Variations in New Media worldwide. That there actually are New Media outside the U.S. and what can be learned from them? Who has the best Web sites in the world and why? Who has the best mobile media and why? Who uses what parts, where, and why?
  • January 29 – Internet Timelines & Versions: A brief history of the Internet, its parts, who invented it, and how it works. What are Web 1.0 and Web 2.0, and Web 3.0? Why each is significant and what effects they have.
  • February 3 – How New Media Differ Legally from Traditional Media: How laws governing publishing, broadcasting, marketing, and advertising in New Media differ from those governing traditional media. COPA. CAN-SPAM. Spyware. Cybersquatting. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, Webcast royalties. Digital Rights Management. Personal jurisdiction/foreign jurisdiction. ‘Safe harbors’, etc.
  • February 5 — How New Media Differ Economically from Traditional Media: Conflations of daily and monthly. Behavior versus Demographics. Eyeballs versus Actions. Why it takes 50 to 100 online users to make up for the revenue lost losing one traditional media user?
  • February 10 -Paid Content, Permission, and Personalization: Why information doesn’t necessarily want to be free. What will people pay for online content, when, and why? The three criteria for paid content. ‘Personalization’ & Individualization of content and advertising. Permission Marketing.
  • February 12 — Digital and Interactive: Why the true definitions of those terms matter in a world of hype. What is digital and how do its technologies work? What characteristics and capabilities make it different than traditional forms of media? What is interactive and why true use of that term matters?
  • February 17 — What is/are New Media? (Part A): The four common characteristics of successful New Media business plans. ‘Bits not atoms.’ Digital addressability. A quantum shift in control over media. Why Open triumphs over Proprietary systems.
  • February 19 — What is/are New Media? (Part B): The Theories of New Media. Is it anything put online? Is it only things that are not associated with traditional media? What new dimensions, if any, does New Media give to media? Potentials & Opportunities.
  • February 24 — Social Media & Virtual Words: How to publish and broadcast and manage in Social Media. How to market and advertise in Social Media. A tour of text, chat, and virtual world sites.
  • February 26 — Streaming Media: Webcasting, podcasting, vodcasting, peer-to-peer, BitTorrent, YouTube, etc. Why Blue-Ray’s victory over HD DVD will be moot. New forms of broadcast that are unique to New Media.
  • March 17 — Alphabet Soup & Metadata: How not to sound stupid in discussions of New Media: What is XML, Exif, NewsML, AdML, Mash-ups, etc.? How and why metadata controls content distribution in the 21st Century?
  • March 19 — Metrics & RSS: Server logs, clickstreams, analytics, new Phorms, Really Simply Syndication, and the gaps in the world’s most accountable form of media.
  • March 24 — Banners & ‘Rich Media’ Advertising: Clickthroughs and banners. Landing pages. What is ‘Rich Media’ advertising. Targeting by demographics, context, behaviors, geography, affinity, or purchases. Dayparting. CPM versus CPC versus CPA.
  • March 26 & 31 — Search Engines Marketing & Optimization: Why more than half of all online advertising today is about Search Engine Marketing. How does SEM marketing work? How to optimize content for search engines?
  • April 2 — E-Mail Marketing: Why electronic mail is still the ‘killer application’ despite spam. How e-mail publishing/marketing works and what are its metrics.
  • April 7 – Mobile & Wireless: Publishing or broadcasting to mobile phones, game consoles, and other mobile devices. WiFi, WiMax, 2.5G, 3G, 4G, and 5G.
  • April 9 — E-Paper & Print: Portable Document File editions, electronic paper, Kindles, OLEDs, and digital presses. The 21st Century revenge of paper.
  • April 14 – The Future: Change and Resolution. Future New Media.

Why Should Newspapers Offer Online Video News?


If you work in New Media, the answer should be obvious. Nevertheless, there are still many newspapers that don’t understand why. Some merely offer online video as a novelty featured under the title ‘Multimedia.’

Video news should be an integral part of any newspapers online news efforts now that online is the main way that most people in developed countries utilize newspapers. People see and hear, as well as read. Paper limited many news organizations to only text and still photos. However, online liberates all news organizations to be able to satisfy people’s desire to see, hear, and read the news.

Newspapers in less developed countries have an opportunity to jump ahead of most developed countries’ newspapers. This is because newspapers in less developed countries may be relatively new and so don’t have an ingrained legacy of decades or centuries of print practices. They’re immediately able to grasp utilize the best New Media practices, which means making online video an integral practice.

I’m interested in newspapers in less developed countries. For the .past few years I’ve been doing pro bono consulting to the Media Development Loan Fund in Prague. It finances development of objective news organizations in countries that now or in the recent past have suffered under repressive regimes. In November, MDLF flew me to Podgorica, the capital of the Republic of Montenegro, to deliver the opening speech at its Broadcast Design workshop for journalist from newspapers and radio and television stations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, South Africa, Russia, and the Ukraine.

Why did this Broadcast Design workshop include journalists from radio and television stations? Because still too few of those news organizations are broadcssting online.

Montenegro’s Televizija Vijesti, the six month-old spinoff of the 11 year-old daily newspaper Vijesti, recorded a few minutes of that speech and a later interview.. You can also view this plus selections of other speakers’ speeches.

Beer Is The Better Investment Than U.S. Newspaper Companies

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(Kegs photo by Jeramey Jannene via Flickr. No endorsement by him of this posting is implied.)

Do the executives who manage America’s major daily newspaper publishing companies think they know what they’re doing? They’ll assure you the answer is yes. But how obvious does the evidence have to be before even they have to admit that the answer obviously is no?

My biweekly column at the ClickZ.com online marketing site provides sobering examples. Three years ago, if you had purchased $10,000 worth of beer and then got drunk each day ever since, the value of the deposits on the beer kegs would have given you a better Return on Investment than if you had investment that $10,000 in almost any U.S. newspaper company. Moreover, you’d have plenty of beer left and would have had a much better time!

Indeed, using today’s stock prices for those companies, buying beer and getting drunk night would on average have given you a ROI three times better.

Even worse, if you had invested in the McClatchy company, beer instead would have given a seven-times better ROI. Beer yielded a 12-times better ROI than the Journal Register Company. And beer toasted a 41 times better ROI than an investment Gatehouse Media. The executives of those companies are losing advertising, losing circulation, and losing the financial community’s confidence. The executives can hardly make a case for being financially sober. In their cases, the ’empties’ aren’t the beer kegs.

What does it take to spotlight that these companies’ managements aren’t on the right tracks. What examples do I have to tap?

Why Mass Media Content is Dumbing Down

In the second part of my essay, Transforming American Newspapers, I mentioned several corollary effects that occur when the sheer number of Media vehicles radically increases. However, I inadvertently omitted two other corollary effects.

The primary business model of most Mass Media vehicles (newspapers, magazines, broadcast programs, etc.) is to attract sufficient numbers of consumers so that the vehicle will attract advertisers who will pay to place their advertisements either adjacent or interstitial to the content that attracts the consumers. The more consumers the vehicle attracts, the higher the rates the advertiser are willing to pay and the more money the vehicle earns.

Yet when the sheer number of Media vehicles radically increases, the median number of consumers attracted to any vehicle decreases because the total number of consumers are spread across many more vehicles (the so-called ‘fragmentation’ of audiences). That tends to reduce the median revenues of those vehicles. Mass Media vehicles try to compensate for this by (1) ‘dumbing’ the quality of their content, attempting to attract a larger audience by appealing to a lower common denominator and restore larger numbers of consumers.

That corollary effect is why so many television networks have ‘dumbed down’ (a wonderful technical term) their programs. The plethora of ‘reality’ programs are examples. Other examples are how formerly ‘quality ‘ programs or ‘quality’ networks are now purveying content of questionable quality. For instance, the Biography television program on the Arts & Entertainment Network used to broadcast biographies of Einstein, Picasso, and Michelangelo, but now broadcasts biographies of Madonna, Jim Carey, and Britney Spears. Or, for instances, how the Learning Channel used to broadcast programs about mathematics, science, and the humanities but now broadcasts programs about purchasing real estate, upgrading wardrobes, and home furnishings.

The another corollary effect that I inadvertently omitted is similar. When the sheer number of Media vehicles radically increases and the median number of consumers attracted to any vehicle decreases, (2) Mass Media vehicles become more timid, fearing further loss of consumers. No surprise.

Both of these effects are caused by the radical increase in the supply of media vehicles consumers now have. Both doom us to increasingly crass content on television and, more often than not, more timid content in all Mass Media nowadays.

Transforming American Newspapers (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Violating the Principle of Supply & Demand

If the major reason for the American daily newspaper industry’s demise were its stories contained too many dangling participles, then the industry could more easily comprehend its situation than instead hearing that the reason was it had violated the Principle of Supply & Demand.

The understanding of economics, particularly media economics, has never been its strong suit, except if the topic is how many tons of newsprint to buy, how many points a major stock market dropped, or how cut expenses to match revenues. Most newspaper publishers, editors, or journalists tends to equate economics as solely the science of government financial policy, household spending, Wall Street speculation, and petroleum pricing. They don’t understand or have forgotten that a major branch of it is the behavioral science of Microeconomics – the study of how individuals make decisions to allocate their time and activities.

The main paradigm of microeconomics is known as rational choice theory or rational action theory, which states that individuals choose the best action according to their preferences and what constraints of supply, demand, time, and access face them. In it now lays the demise of American daily newspapers as we know them.

How did the American daily newspaper industry violate the Principle of Supply & Demand by failing to adapt the industry’s core product to a radical change in consumers’ supply of news and information during the past 35 years? To understand how, both start and end at the roots of the newspaper industry.

Start in the European city of Strasbourg during 1605 when the world’s first newspaper began publication. It used a technology developed there 164 years earlier by the metalworker Johannes Gutenberg, who had invented a device for producing innumerable copies of the same text. (Please keep that concept in mind, because it’s now moldering the newspaper industry). The Supply & Demand equation for accessing daily changing information was then quite the opposite it is today: Consumers had little or no supply of daily news until the daily newspaper. So to produce newspapers, this adaption of Gutenberg’s book printing technology spread quickly worldwide.

Some modern critics of newspapers say the industry is leaden and ‘doesn’t think outside the box.’ They probably don’t realize the historical irony that underlay their criticisms. The core of Gutenberg’s technology was a box containing lead type whose impressions could print innumerable copies of the same thing. In that core is the inherent limitation that it produces the same edition for everyone. Although in the 19th Century steam and later electrical power speeded Gutenberg’s technology and the introduction of offset lithography during the middle of the 20th Century eliminated its use of lead, the analog technology used to produce today’s daily newspapers is still Gutenberg’s. Indeed, today’s analog printing technology still has the same limitation that it had in Gutenberg’s days – it produces the same edition for everyone.

That technological limitation delineated the newspaper industry’s editorial and advertising practices during the past four centuries. Because each edition had a finite number of pages and was printed by analog technology had to produce the same for everyone at once, newspaper editors had to select stories according to two criteria:

Continue reading Transforming American Newspapers (Part 2)

Transforming American Newspapers (Part 1)

Ignorance isn’t bliss to the dying. Witness the pathos of American daily newspaper companies. Most have finally begun to realize that the deterioration of their businesses isn’t cyclical but grave. Yet few, if any, understand why. Almost all grasp for the reasons.

Some attribute their grave condition to advertisers suddenly switching huge portions of spending from print to online – an excuse that ignores more than 30 years of declines in those newspapers’ printed editions’ circulations and readerships. Some others attribute their deterioration to not having transplanted their content into online quickly enough -an excuse that ignores not only the dozen years they’ve spent transplanting it but how their online editions are now read even less frequently and less thoroughly than their printed editions.

Most of the print newspaper experts who diagnose these companies’ condition still prescribe stale nostrums such as more consumer focus groups, subscription price incentives, more stylish typography, or shorter stories. Meanwhile, most of the experts who diagnose these companies’ Web sites prescribe balms and accessories such as giving blogs to reporters, adding video, or having the readers themselves report the stories. American daily newspaper companies have long been too financially impatient to submit themselves to anything but ostensibly quick cures and they’ve even longer been too conceptually myopic to perceive the real reasons for their declines.

I’ll declare the real reasons. There are but two and neither has anything to do with multimedia, ‘convergence’, blogs, ‘Web 2.0’, ‘citizen journalism,’ or any ancillary topics you may have heard presented at New Media conferences this millennium.

Nor is either of the real reasons advertisers’ abandonment of printed newspapers. Their abandonment is a symptom, not the reason for the decline. Contrary to myopia of many newspaper executives, advertisers aren’t newspapers’ primary customers. Although advertising revenues may be sunshine for newspaper executives, the roots of their business are readers. A newspaper with readers will attract advertisers but a newspaper without readers will not. Readers ultimately support and sustain the newspaper business.

To understand the real reasons why the American daily newspaper industry is dying, first understand why more and more Americans are no longer reading daily papers and how their abandonment of newspapers has been wrought by changes in their own media economics. Also comprehend why the epicenter of the newspaper industry’s problems in post-Industrial countries is America and exactly how grave the situation is there.

Continue reading Transforming American Newspapers (Part 1)

Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers

[My opening keynote speech at the Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers, Denver, Colorado, June 26, 2008]

Some of you here know me. Since 1993 when I began working full-time in newspaper new media, I’ve given approximately 100 speeches at conferences. I’ve given speeches at E&P, WAN, Ifra, INMA, and Seybold. But this is the speech I’ve been waiting for all those years. I may not have known it then, but I know it now.

In it, I’m going to say some heretical things. But please remember that I’m a fifth-generation newspaperman. I literally grew up in a letterpress-era newsroom, can read teletype, work a linotype, cut press plates, and run a press. I’ve sold ads. I’ve driven delivery trucks. I’ve reported, edited, and general managed a daily. I’m a professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications. If I speak what sounds like heresy or I criticize this industry, know that it is because I love the newspaper business. It’s my family and my life.

The reason why this is the speech that I’ve been working up to all my life, is it distills all I know about this business and its future. The culmination of all I know as a newsman, newspaper, and professor. We’ve a bold agenda today.

Continue reading Second Annual Global Conference on Individuated Newspapers

Leadership

If you work in the media industries and are serious, ask yourself this questions right now: ‘Where should I be working to have the most beneficial affect on my industry?’

If you aren’t working there now, why aren’t you?

Is it because of money? Are you working where you are because that job pays you more than other jobs? Well, if that job pays you just enough to care well for you (and your spouse and family, if you have those), then rest easy.

But if instead you are working where you are because your job is highly lucrative, then know I have the credentials to say to you, shame on you. I earned more than $200,000 in each of the years from 1998 until just recently. But I realized that lucrative earnings˜trying to take as much money as possible from industries that are challenged by fundamental changes in their environment˜is not leadership but exploitation of those industries and the people who work in those indiustries. You might think you are a leader but you definitely are not; you are fooling yourself. You are merely a high-level bureaucrat who is managing decline; you are an incompetent general who is trying to manage a retreat.

Oh, and if you a middle-level manager who is reading this and you think your bosses should be doing more but you are afraid of telling them so, then you as nearly culpable as they are. If you what you do as a middle manager isn’t bold enough and forward enough to nearly get you fired during this turbulent time in our industries, then you aren’t ably doing your job and you yourself aren’t showing the traits of leadership.A lieutenant or captain, no less than a general, has to put herself at risk.

I am the fifth generation of my family in the newspaper business: the son, grandson, great grandson, great-great grandson, and great-great-great grandson of men and women who worked their entire lives to make that business succeed. What they did was mainly for the public good. What right should I have to cash out when during my watch that industry is undergoing challenges that I could otherwise show it how to overcome? What right do you who work in it today, no matter your ancestory, have to cash out in that case despite thousands of your predecessors who’ve worked to make it succeed?

I’ve recently left consulting full-time after 12 years and taken a job that will probably cut my income by 75%. But the remainding 25% gives me enough to live on while I work where I can have the most beneficial affect on my industry.

What are you doing? There are people in the media industries who quite literally risk their lives every day. If all you’ve done is cut staffs and haven’t invested long-term in your industry, then you’re a bureaucrat no matter how high is your job title. It’s time to put your career and livilihood to risk. Make the long-term decisions. Make the long-term decisions. Lead from the front. That’s what real generals do.