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Posts Tagged ‘Mathew Ingram’

shafer-columnI hesitate to give more attention to a study and Politico Magazine column that comforted newspaper nostalgists, but I must: Both are BS.

“What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake?” asks the Politico headline, echoed in Jack Shafer‘s breathless lead: “What if almost the entire newspaper industry got it wrong?”

Well, the industry did get it wrong and did make a colossal mistake, but not the one that Shafer and University of Texas scholars Hsiang Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim think it made.

Summarizing Chyi’s and Tenenboim’s Reality Check research article in Journalism Practice, Shafer asks:

What if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths—the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from—instead of chasing the online chimera?

In their research, which prompted Shafer’s column, Chyi and Tenenboim wrote that in the past 20 years “US newspapers, especially national and metro dailies, became more determined than ever to complete their transition from print to online. … ‘Digital first’ has become a mantra, a trend, and a strategy leading to the future.”

Shafer, Chyi and Tenenboim correctly chronicle the weak performance of American metro newspapers in the digital marketplace. But they wrongly conclude, as Shafer wrote, that “The key to the newspaper future might reside in its past and not in smartphones, iPads and VR. ‘Digital first,’ the authors claim, has been a losing proposition for most newspapers.”

Well, I used to work for a company called Digital First Media and at a newspaper-industry think tank, and I’ve visited more than 100 newsrooms and spoken at more than 100 newspaper-industry conferences and seminars, and I can flatly say that the industry never, ever adopted anything close to a digital-first strategy. (Update: Kurt Greenbaum responded on Facebook: “You’re being too kind. Not only did they never adopt such a strategy, they actively resisted tolerance of digital technology, much less acceptance of it.”)

The colossal mistake that the newspaper industry made was responding to digital challenges and opportunities with defensive measures intended to protect newspapers, and timid experiments with posting print-first content online, rather than truly exploring and pursuing digital possibilities.

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Facebook Game Day art

Facebook greeted me with the stupid drawing and proclamation above.

I presume this is a promotion for the Facebook sports venture that Fortune’s Mathew Ingram described as a “grenade” tossed at ESPN. And Facebook continues to dominate people’s time like no other medium, so maybe this will be successful, too.

But here’s where it won’t succeed with me:

  • I already knew there was a big football game today, so this post didn’t tell me anything useful.
  • Since I already knew it was “Game Day,” the breathless proclamation was annoying.
  • If I didn’t know what the game was, it would have been even more annoying because not knowing would mean I didn’t care (and, since it didn’t use the name of the actual name, not very informative).
  • Action photographs of football interest me. But not amateurish cartoons.
  • Twitter is way better than Facebook for live two-screen enjoyment of sports and other events (until it screws that up by using an algorithm to become more like Facebook).

I use Facebook as much as I do only because so many of my friends and family are there (many more than use Twitter). But I don’t think seeing all their updates about the game will enhance my enjoyment of it. And I’m guessing if I click that link at the bottom, I’m going to see lots of crap about the “Game” from people I don’t even know or care about.

I think I’ll just watch Super Bowl 50 (that’s its name, by the way) on TV.

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I am saddened by the news that GigaOm has shut down its operations, burdened by debt.

I regard Mathew Ingram as one of the most important, insightful commentators on digital media (and not just because we often agree). I hope he continues blogging under his own banner or gets snapped up quickly by another media outlet that recognizes the importance and value of his voice.

More on Mathew shortly, but first a salute to Om Malik, the founder of GigaOm. I admired what he built and salute his entrepreneurial spirit. Like Dan Gillmor, I am sad that this venture appears to be ending. (I didn’t use the word “failed,” because Om succeeded journalistically, and because he had a nice nine-year run. When afternoon newspapers closed in the 1980s and ’90s, I didn’t say they failed. Like GigaOm, they succeeded for years. Life cycles of successful ventures may be shorter in the dynamic digital age.)

I was pleased to meet Om over breakfast last year at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy. I hope I told him how much I admired the business he built. What I remember best about the conversation is Om’s great story about how he came up with the name GigaOm for his business. I won’t retell it here, because it’s his story and I won’t do it justice (if you have a link to somewhere he’s told it publicly, let me know and I’ll link to it).

March 11 update: I didn’t originally address the business aspects of this in depth because I don’t have much expertise in the area of venture capital. But I highly recommend Danny Sullivan’s post comparing the VC approach with what he calls the “Sim City” approach of bootstrapping a company and growing slowly, which is working for thriving Third Door Media. (And, he notes, other digital media companies are thriving on VC investment.) There are multiple paths to lasting success. Back to my original post’s salute to Mathew Ingram:

I also met Mathew in person at the International Journalism Festival. He was a keynote speaker at the 2013 festival and I was a panelist. We had been digital friends for a few years and both were pleased to finally meet in person. It was in joining Mathew and his wife, Rebecca, for breakfast last year that I met Om.

Rather than gushing my admiration of Mathew at length here, I want to show by links to some of his posts that have caught my attention through the years (and some of mine that have cited his work). Mathew would approve of a tribute in links, I’m sure, because one of my dozens of links to him was in my 2012 post about linking that linked to his post about whether linking is just polite or a core value of journalism. (It’s a core value; we haven’t won that fight yet, but we will.) (more…)

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I offer mostly curation, rather than fresh commentary, on the New York Times’ move from a daily page-one meeting to a daily meeting focused on digital platforms:

Poynter’s Ben Mullin explains the change, including Executive Editor Dean Baquet’s memo to the Times staff.

Mathew Ingram of GigaOm has a thoughtful commentary on the change, including how overdue it is.

I blogged about newsroom meetings last year when Margaret Sullivan reported the first steps toward a digital focus in the morning meeting.

I blogged some advice on leading newsroom meetings in 2013.

Changing newsroom meetings is hard. As I noted yesterday, I was not successful in changing meetings as thoroughly as I wanted when I was editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

I don’t say this to criticize Baquet or the Times, just to note how deeply entrenched meetings are in a newsroom culture and how hard it is to change them: The Times Innovation report, recommending a digital focus to the meetings, was completed last March. The change is now being implemented 11 months later. Of course, many other changes recommended in the report have already being implemented.

I’m not banging on the Times for taking 11 months to change its morning meeting, just saying this is a big and difficult change. I wish Baquet and the Times well in executing this change and in using it to continue culture change in the newsroom.

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sullydish

Andrew Sullivan’s note telling readers he plans to stop blogging.

Occasionally I wonder whether I blog too much and consider whether I should stop, cut back or change directions.

I identified with some of the things that Andrew Sullivan said when announced this week that he will stop blogging. Even as a sideline venture, as my blog has always been, a blog keeps whispering “feed me” in your ear. You read or hear things and start thinking about blogging about them, even if you only actually blog about a small minority of them. If you care about a blog, it becomes demanding or time-consuming. If becomes a big part of your life, and sometimes you need to make changes in your life.

Sullivan wrote:

I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged.

He posted that on Wednesday. I feel like a slacker for waiting till Saturday to blog about it. So many people have already weighed in:

Sullivan’s reasons for deciding to stop blogging are deeply personal, related to his health and feelings about how he wants to spend his time and about feeding the beast that a blog can become (he started charging for The Dish two years ago, which no doubt raises the pressure for feeding the beast; my blog is free).

Each blogger’s situation is different by many factors: what you have to say; your relationship with the people who respond to your blog; how unique or important you think a particular post may be; how frequently you want or need to blog; whether you blog for pay, passion or both; whether and how the blog is advancing your career; other things going on with your life, such as jobs, health and family.

I have kept blogging through several career and personal turns because I always felt like I had something to say and I have enjoyed my relationships with people in the blog comments, on social media and in person who appreciate my blog (including many who disagree on some points). And the blog has advanced my career and raised my profile within journalism. (more…)

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Since I’ve made a big deal lately about why editors and newsrooms need to use Twitter, maybe this is a good time to criticize Twitter. It might bolster my position that I don’t see Twitter use as a “rule for entry” for any journalism priesthood.

Twitter can be annoying as hell. But so is dealing with sources trying to spin you. Good journalists deal with the necessary annoyances. My frustration with Twitter today deals with embed codes, and if you share my complaint, I will offer a partial solution (if you scroll down or stick with me).

As important as I think Twitter is to journalism today, I am repeatedly disappointed with its service to users and the quality of its products. My most-read post ever criticized Twitter’s ceiling of 2,000 accounts you can follow, unless almost as many accounts follow you. Every month thousands of Twitter users find that post by Googling in search of a solution for this frustrating limit (the post got 119 hits yesterday). But Twitter refuses to change the limit or provide an easy way for people who hit the limit to prove their legitimacy and keep following more accounts. Other posts expressing disappointment in other aspects of Twitter and the company’s performance are listed at the end of this post.

Today’s complaint is about features of Twitter embeds that don’t work. When I attended Twitter’s reception/spiel at their San Francisco headquarters during the 2012 Online News Association, Twitter had recently changed rules for use of its API and was encouraging embedding when using tweets in all digital media. Twitter’s Erica Anderson put it this way:

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baquet twitterDean Baquet isn’t active on Twitter, but he’s great clickbait. And he’s getting a lot of attention on Twitter today. I hope he’s lurking, as one of his staff assures me:


Last Thursday I blogged that editors who want to lead innovation undercut their efforts if they aren’t active on Twitter. I mentioned Baquet, executive editor of the New York Times, and used the screenshot above (now getting its third run here). So, as I normally do when I criticize someone, I invited response from Baquet. I tweeted at him (not likely to get a response, given the topic of the blog).
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I also emailed him using the clunky contact form at the Times site. I have no faith in such forms (or in the likelihood that people will respond), so I also asked a friend who works at the times for his email address and emailed him directly. Late yesterday, Baquet responded to my email. This won’t be one of my blogs full of lessons, but here’s one: Email people politely and they often respond. In a later email after I posted his response, Baquet said he responded because “you were fair and persistent.” That combination always serves a journalist well.

Mathew Ingram, who blogged about Baquet, the Times and Twitter before I did, noted that he didn’t get a response: (more…)

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