Catch It

After a couple of hours of storytelling and reminiscing about how much fun we’ve had over the past 3 years, my colleague at Gannett said my opportunity at Digital First Media was different because I wasn’t running from something, I was chasing after it.

I’d like to think so myself. Now it is time to catch it.



Many at the conference talked about the way we tend to use new media first to replicate the products produced by old media -- so early TV consisted of visible radio shows, for example. With this in mind, our electronic Post should be thought of not as a newspaper on a screen, but (perhaps) as a computer game converted to a serious purpose. In other words, it should be a computer product.
~ Robert G. Kaiser

Referenced in A Vision for the Future of Newspapers—20 Years Ago



It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.




At the Core, You’ll Find Content

A good friend and I caught up over a glass of red wine and delicious hot tapas including grilled lamb and eggplant parmesan at Panache one evening this week. It was one of the first truly cold evenings in the Washington area this year. We decided it was best to stay inside…full of warm spirits.

As every good journalist knows, after every good meal and fine spirits you’re certain to find thought-provoking conversation about the future. It was our discussion about mobile and new product development that left me thinking, “Seriously? Are we doing this again?!”

My inbox already knows what I’m about to say. It has been overindulging a fondness for emails about location-based services, apps, gaming, real-time news, hyper relevancy and the father of them all – mobile advertising. It’s here. We’re again facing a game-changing moment in platform innovation and how people receive information. And we’re again facing newsroom restructuring to reflect this change.

Some newsrooms are already reacting. USA TODAY announced its plan earlier this year. In its plan, content verticals and platform editing hubs were erected.

Structure and workflow are certainly key to success but at the core of our business is content. We are an information-gathering business. If we’re not changing at the core, are we really changing?

Steve Buttry (@stevebuttry) offers this advice on mobile-first strategy:

  • Executives emphasize mobile priority
  • Journalists focus on mobile news & information delivery & presentation
  • Tech staff focuses on mobile apps
  • Designers focus on mobile design
  • Sales staff meets business customers’ mobile needs

In 2009, Buttry highlighted focal points for news gatherers in a mobile-first newsroom: metadata (the story behind the story), location, tagging, crowdsourcing, email, and SMS. These demands reemphasize the need for collaboration and integration in the newsroom. If every news gatherer isn’t focused on the end result being mobile, it’ll be very easy to ignore the need to tag, provide metadata and think about dynamic stories told through crowdsourcing and real engagement.

Sound familiar?

For years, digital evangelists have stressed the importance of tagging, metadata and crowdsourcing. If newsrooms really want to play in the mobile sandbox, they will need to evolve at the core. Non-traditional mobile news gatherers are already crawling into bed with our businesses.

Foursquare is building its own database of local businesses, deals and reviews by location by giving individuals tools easy to use and accessible anytime. Before Foursquare came to the scene, craigslist successfully built a database of real estate and jobs. Both databases, by the way, are free.

In 2011, newsrooms will continue to be faced with the challenge of sustaining legacy operations and investing in evolving technologies. The mobile and online staff shakedown will be watched closely. Will online journalists be old school in 2012 or will we finally change at the core?

Inspiration for this post:

Magda Abu-Fadil’s review of “Trends in Newsrooms 2010;”

Rick Edmond’s review of the most recent USA TODAY restructuring;

Steve Buttry’s presentation on leading a mobile first newsroom;

Steve Buttry’s 2009 thoughts on what a mobile-first strategy is;




Where Art Thou Newsroom Ecosystem?

Most journalists are familiar with the Jeff Jarvis one-sheet.

To his credit, the linked economy does appear to be silencing the portal pages of the world, unless there is another underlying force. Young journalists need to learn how to join this ecosystem before they are kicked out the doors of Amazing University Hall and onto the front steps of the We Didn’t Learn About that In College Club.

The journalist toolbox must now extend beyond the gathering of facts and distribution of information. Journalists must also know what platform makes sense for that particular piece of information – print, web or mobile; what vehicle to distribute it with – text, photos or video; and how to reach the intended audience – syndication, portability, partnerships, social media, SEO and SEM.

The above addresses newsroom situations we encounter daily, which often result in duplication and inefficiencies in storytelling. What it doesn’t address is the other challenge journalists are struggling with as resources are cut and high-priority is placed on cross-training journalists on writing, videography and photography.

What is “good enough” when it comes to photo and video? Are journalists expected to understand the concept, the art, and the techniques, as well as, be able to execute at any moment in time? Is it “good enough” know when to hand the keys over to the designated driver?

“At CUNY we teach every student to do audio, video, blogging, live-blogging, use Twitter,” Jarvis said in The Washington Post opinion piece.

This statement seems to suggest every journalist should know how to drive every vehicle. I have to wonder what impact this is having on the training of the journalists. How is this changing the way journalism programs are structured? Is it watering down the experience, instead of illuminating the strength of each individual?

The answers to these questions are still being debated at a higher-level. However, in the meantime, if there is an ecosystem, a videographer should feel comfortable relying on the nutrients of others in the newsroom and in the community to provide context to a visual piece. The reverse is also true.

As universities iterate on the programs, and attempt to predict the future, I hope they will keep this in mind so we can focus on the fact gathering, which is the ultimate job.




How Yammer Can Work For You

Jodi Gersh and Brian Butts

For a company that “believes the power of the Internet lies not in the technology, but in it its strategic use,” The Bivings Group isn’t giving much thought to how Yammer can help support its internal communications.

In a post today, The Bivings Group (TBG) calls Yammer pointless and a little sketchy. My company is coincidentally giving Yammer a spin right now so this peaked my interest. Today I experienced the first “ahha” moment.

As mentioned in today’s post by TBG, Yammer’s functionality is very similar to Twitter. The key differences are its secret handshake entry and its ability to create public or private groups once you’ve gained access to your Yammer circle.

To access my company’s network, you must have a company email account, however, once you’re in, you are free to create a profile, create groups, upload files and annoy your coworkers. Our network includes 85 newspapers and 23 broadcast stations plus numerous other technology groups that are often working towards the same goal but often way too busy to respond to email and often not in the same building – or state!

The “Ahha” Moment
Jodi Gersh and Brian Butts

A network like Yammer assists in innovation when you have tweeple-like conversation amongst like-minded individuals working towards a common goal. Just as with Twitter, people feed off of each other and iterate in real time.

Each day, my coworkers that drank the Yammer Kool-Aid, update their “status” on Yammer and let the company know what they are working on at that moment. Today, a developer in Cincinnati was discussing a new RSS string he was hoping to experiment with in the coming days. This peaked the interest of someone on the network from Des Moines. From there, the ideas started flowing.

No email. No voicemail. No meetings about meetings. Only ideas and innovation.

The main takeaway – as with any social network – is that you must be connecting two communities that wouldn’t otherwise be able to rally around a topic or project in such a seamless fashion. This sort of community might not make sense for The Bivings Group because they are a smaller company, but I wouldn’t write it off forever. There’s something genius about only allowing your coworkers 140 characters to explain an idea.




Water in the Wilderness

Recently, while sitting at Barnes and Noble, reading one of my favorite books, I found myself in a marathon reading session.

If it wasn’t for the author promoting his Reagan novel to the right of me or the laughing kids dancing in the playground in eyes reach of the window in front of me, I probably would have been able to read the chapter about surviving the wilderness one time. However, due to the distractions I found myself reading this chapter over and over again.

Two days later, I found myself in the wilderness.

After a day of shopping and toasting on the sand, I put my Avias on and entered the trail near the Dogwood Pavilion. Unfamiliar with the  trail, this pavilion became my only point of reference.

After running a mile or two (I neither had a pedometer and the trail was not marked with mileage stakes), I found myself close to a path that lead to a pavilion. It seemed as if I was running in a circle for the greater part of the run, so I was feeling confident that I found my way back home. If I ran the loop again, I’d call it a day.

However, I found myself at another pavilion and my jeep was nowhere to be found.

When I reentered the forest and continued along the trail, the pavement disappeared and the folage again shaded my escape route from the wilderness. The next window from the forest was at the entrance of the park, where the path crossed over the pavement and you were directed to enter on the other side. Now I knew for certain this was a loop – it was just a much longer trail than I had anticipated.

At this point I was feeling pretty good with half of the wooded area behind me. I had to push forward. Twenty minutes passed, then it started to get dark.

At this point I had two options, turn around and follow the trail back through the wilderness the way I came in or continue to push forward. Because I did not want to sleep in the wilderness, I turned around and went back the familiar route.

I’ll regret this decision until I make it back to that park. Never look back someone once said to me. For a brief second, I ignored this piece of advice and decided I’d rather make it out than sleep in the wilderness. What I didnt know was that the other side was only a couple of paces away. If I would have kept pushing forward, the wilderness would have been behind me.