Posts Tagged ‘TBD’

You kinda love Harold Hill when you watch “The Music Man,” even though you know he’s a hustler. But the “think system” only works on stage or screen with an audience of adoring and forgiving parents. However charming he was, Hill was still a hustler. And the think system doesn’t work in the news business. You have to be able to play or you’re in trouble with a capital T.

Orange County Register logoAaron Kushner was a hustler* who blew into Orange County, California in 2012, as though it were River City, Iowa, and he had some band instruments — er, newspapers — to sell. I kinda rooted for him, but I also kinda knew the Orange County Register and Freedom Communications had trouble in their future.

When Kushner bought the Orange County Register and announced a bold, expensive print-first initiative, I thought it would probably crash and burn quickly, but I wanted it to succeed. (more…)

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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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The Bloomington Pantagraph's first "Scoop," a Waco "90" biplane, pictured in 1929. Reprinted with permission of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

The Bloomington Pantagraph’s first “Scoop,” a Waco “90” biplane, pictured in 1929. Reprinted with permission of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

In the way that one idea leads to another which leads to another, this post is a flight of fancy. We start with an old family story about the ride my Uncle Pleas took 85 years ago on a plane called Scoop, then to some other stories I found from a bygone era when newspapers could afford their own pilots and planes, then to some flying stories from my career.

My mother, Harriet Buttry, was a tireless archivist of family writings before Alzheimer’s took over her mind. A shelf in her home displayed books by authors in the family, and notebooks collected magazine articles and other writings, including too many of my newspaper stories, columns and blog posts.

After helping Mom with a recent move, my brother Dan thinned the collection a bit and sent me some boxes of family writings. Most were my old newspaper stories. I was surprised how faithful I had been sending clippings to Mom, but not at all surprised how faithful she was at filing them away. But Dan sent me more than just my own work. The collection included The Great Depression: True Stories of Trials and Triumphscompiled by the McLean County Home and Community Education Association in Illinois in 2006.

That book had three family connections: My cousin Mary Lou Lawson was one of the editors, and a story toward the back of the book was written by my uncle, Pleasant J. Buttry (we called him Uncle Pleas and he also went by Pat). His sister (Mary Lou’s mother and my aunt) Minda was a key character. Here’s Uncle Pleas’s story: (more…)

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Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen

Jay Rosen may have overstated when he told journalists to quit their jobs if they can’t understand their organization’s business model. But Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan way overstated in telling journalists not to listen to Rosen.

I highly recommend reading both pieces. Rosen’s post is full of good advice for understanding the path your business is taking and contributing to making progress along the path. Nolan’s post is fascinating, the kind of scornful dismissal of Rosen’s visionary digital thinking that I normally expect from those clinging to legacy media, not one of the digital upstarts that the troglodytes are so scornful of.

Jay made 15 points that I recommend reading. I’m going to address seven points, somewhat repeating and overlapping with his:

  1. Journalists should absolutely try to understand your organization’s business: how you deliver value and how the company plans to make money from that value.
  2. Business models change, sometimes with little warning, sometimes for the better and sometimes not. You won’t always be informed immediately of the changes.
  3. Colleagues need to understand and believe in the value you provide.
  4. We can protect our integrity and still discuss and understand the business.
  5. Learn the language; you always have.
  6. Leaders are critical to the success of a changing organization.
  7. Business model issues are worth changing jobs over, but I recommend trying to change the organization before quitting it (and finding another job first, too).

I’ll elaborate shortly, but first I’ll defend Rosen against Nolan’s anti-intellectualist insult. Noting the New York University professor’s brief career at the Buffalo Courier-Express before joining academia, Nolan said Rosen “makes money by producing proclamations about journalism rather than by producing actual journalism.” (more…)

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Homicide WatchBusinesses don’t last forever.

I come from the newspaper business, where I worked for papers that boasted of roots in the 19th Century and visited a Digital First newsroom that traced its lineage to Benjamin Franklin.

In that context, you might think of Homicide Watch DC as a failure when founders Laura and Chris Amico announced its closing last week:

I think of Homicide Watch as a success story and will continue to cite it in classes and workshops where I discuss media entrepreneurship.

Here are some ways Homicide Watch succeeded: (more…)

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I was traveling and leading workshops this week for the anti-climactic final end of TBD. I didn’t have time to weigh in then, except on Twitter, after my former TBD colleague Jenny Rogers broke the news:

I don’t have a lot to add, but I’ve blogged a lot about TBD here, so I should note the denouement. TBD made our mark in part through effective aggregation of Washington local news, so I’ll note its passing with some aggregation on its brief history. It won’t be complete, but I invite you to add some more links in the comments. Where I aggregate content from TBD, I should note that I don’t know how long it will remain available. Archived content appears to be online, though the home page and some searches redirect to wjla.com.

Before we get to the actual demise, I have to share a link and screenshot from the coverage of our launch: I don’t believe any elaboration is needed here.

As for coverage of the actual death, it was pretty muted, perhaps appropriately for an operation whose life and death throes were perhaps overcovered. Here are the best accounts I saw of the final demise (normally that phrase would be redundant, but TBD’s demise was drawn-out enough that I consider it appropriate):

Erik Wemple’s No more TBD.com (Erik was TBD’s editor and now blogs about media for the Washington Post: (more…)

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Two years ago, I was working with Jim Brady, right, Mandy Jenkins, left, and Julie Westfall to launch TBD. Now we’re still trying to change the news business at Digital First Media. We’re together this week at the Thunderdome newsroom.

Two years ago today, an incredibly talented crew of journalists launched TBD. We had a lot of hype and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t last long. TBD now exists in URL only, its concept abandoned, its talent scattered, its name linked to history’s most famed sinking ship. But I have yet to talk to a colleague who doesn’t remember the experience fondly.

I blogged on the first anniversary of our launch last year about some lessons from the TBD. I’m not going to observe the anniversary every year, but I think two years after the launch it’s worth noting where the #TBDiaspora ended up and how we’re doing. The day Jim Brady left TBD in early November 2010, less than three months after launch, he said he hoped we’d “get the band back together” someday. Well, we have a quartet of the old band playing for Digital First Media: Jim, Mandy Jenkins, Julie Westfall and me. I’ve updated us plenty, but I wanted to check in with the rest of my colleagues. (more…)

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