Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Is print dead?

Print is unquestionably on a different path of life. What it "was" it will never be again. What it will become is at the heart of what it became. What will fill its void is within the peripheral of most & is the very soul of what drives our creation.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Henry Ford really was a smart guy

He likely didn't consider it much at the time, but it's really quite amazing how much impact one man can have generations later - not that Henry is the first one, but I'm not writing an essay on historical influencers here lol.

However, one of Henry's quotes that is truly a favourite of mine is "If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse!"  Makes me smile every time.

This goes hand in hand with a more recent statement by Mark Zuckerberg that was along the lines of "Meeting the needs of tomorrow rather than the demands of today."  I wonder if young Mark will be revered as much as Henry more than half a century after his passing?  I digress.

So with such smart and obviously successful people making such simple yet profound statements, why is it that mentors, teachers and leaders of so-called-progress still push the concept of "survey your customers" to the degree that they do?  I don't mean to devalue the importance of research, it most definitely has its place and something I spend hours upon hours doing.  But it is not always the be-all and end-all of the answers to forward movement and progress - in fact, it can be downright stifling.  At least in the way that most people tackle it.  It's like businesses who try to track their advertising by asking a customer "how did you hear about us" - most of the time their answer simply can't be trusted (as confirmed by advertising guru Roy Williams).

To truly lead in progress you absolutely must do so much more than ask people what they want or what they think they want. As Arlene Dickinson says in her book Persuasion, not only do you have to "listen" but you have to also hear the subtext of what they're not saying.  Which is exactly what we're doing in the development of our media revolution.

Our consumers currently know what they like and don't like in the products they have access to, but it's virtually impossible for most of them to even begin to fathom what our product will do for them and their lives when there is nothing tangible for them to compare it to.  But we can say with confidence that it's a whole lot more than a "faster horse"!

The state of journalism

As I mentioned, I follow a fair number of newspaper people and journalists - I'd love to follow more, but wow the ones I do follow certainly provide ample material to keep me reading for hours!

I find it very interesting how there are so many common threads with professional journalists, regardless of which part of the world they're from. Here's some of what I've gleaned in my reading travels, in a general sense:

1) they feel under paid
2) they're frustrated at their work being pirated across the Internet
3) they're unhappy with the number of amateur writers gaining momentum through blogging
4) they're uncertain about what the future holds for them

And is it any wonder with comments like "As career journalists we have entered a new era where what we know and what we traditionally do has finally found its value in the marketplace and that value is about zero." being made by leaders like John Paton.  However, let's not jump to taking it out of context, as John also goes on to say "This has been one of the most gut-wrenching struggles for me to deal with because clearly journalism is not without value but, for sure, how it is largely practiced in print today – particularly “he said last night journalism” – nearly is valueless."

John is absolutely correct - to a point.  But there really is much more to it and while the whole concept of "Digital First" sounds great it will only truly be great if it's done properly.  So far, it's not being done properly.

I'm really not kidding, there is a massively better way to handle the print to digital transition.  A way that will have journalists jumping for joy at the income levels they will be capable of earning.  A way that will have consumers saying "finally I can begin to rely on my trusted newsrooms again".  Better still, a way that will completely reverse the plummeting bottom lines of newsrooms everywhere.

When you're ready, let me know.  In the meantime, I'm continuing to flesh out specific details, formalize business plans, draft operation strategies... all the fun stuff that goes into something great!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The frustration newsrooms must feel

Having spent most of the weekend working away on various websites I can't help but ponder the extreme frustration so many newsrooms must feel.  But let me start at the beginning.

I'm a bit different in the newspaper industry - always have been the black sheep and was featured as an Insurgent in a New Hampshire paper (of all places) in our early days, but that's another story.  To keep this on the shorter end of my epistles, the black sheep trait that I'm speaking of here specifically is that I was a born techie meddler far before I considered entering the newpaper realm.  But in my region, I was way before my times (by about 15 years) - so evenutally I conformed (which took me 8 years). I learned to focus on print and push my digital love affair to the back burner (rather ironic now in light of the state of things).

As time went by, like most independent, small publishers without a parent company to fall back on, I found myself buried under the stack of day-to-day operations. This resulted in pushing me farther and farther from my digital dreams, to the point that now, in the face of radical changes in the print industry I find myself working insanely late hours and most weekends in an attempt to revive my digital drive.

As a techie meddler I know enough about the digital world to be dangerous and lack enough hands-on skill to be frustrated.  I know what I need to do and what I want to do, but not how to do it all myself. As the Publisher of a small, bi-weekly community newspaper I also lack the resources to hire the people to do it for me. So - I learn and I make progress, albeit slowly.  But after several hours I start to ponder many of the newspaper people that I have met in my travels and I can't help but to empathize with them and what they're going through.

Why? Because opposite to me (for the most part), newspaper people, first and foremost, have a love affair with news, journalism, the flow of a newsroom... they are not often born techies and I've seen first hand the frustration that goes along with a non-techie being forced into the digital world.  It's really not pleasant.  If you can't relate to this, perhaps try to think of a parallel situation - a child that hates school, or a particular task that you always dread having to do but know that you absolutely must do it.  Think about how that task makes you feel or how being around that child makes you feel?  Think about the quality (or lack of) of what is getting done under pressures of force. Or perhaps consider the overwhelming anxiety that flows through a person who finds out that they can no longer work a job that they've done for 40 years and there is nothing else that they know how to do.

Honestly, this is not a lifestyle I would wish on my worst enemy.  The frustrating thing for me, is that I know there is a better way, I have the solution... but as it turns out, patience is not exactly one of my strengths ;)

The business model I referred to in my previous post addresses this exact situation (among many others).  For the sanity of the newsrooms, I sure wish I could make it all happen at a much faster rate to help you guys out.  But fear not, I'm nothing if not tenacious and I will find a way.

I am looking for board members, advisors and investors to help lead this media revolution - so keep that in mind as you ponder through your day.  If you'd like to chat, let me know!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

An Entrepreneurial Dilemma

You're part of an industry that's been struggling and declining on a global scale from every possible angle.  The leaders in the industry have been trying to solve the dilemma through trial and error processes but unfortunately have achieved little more than bandaids and false hopes - despite their valiant and dedicated efforts.

You're a small fish in the industry, but you've been investing a huge amount of time researching, planning and most importantly "listening".  The result ends up being the conception of a solution to this global scale problem - a solution unlike anything else that anyone else has managed to develop.  A panoptic solution that would be the catalyst of a global revolution in your industry.  A solution that provides conservative revenue projections into the billions per year in the early stages.  A solution that would end up being a "Facebook" success to your industry.

The "gurus" of entrepreneurs and start-ups insist that in order to gain any momentum or attention with such a concept you must launch a working model, even a mini version, on a public scale to prove viability.

But here's the thing... protection of Intellectual Property in this regard is near impossible. So a small fish, without the resources for a massive global launch, manages to go live with a mini-version that proves to be a viable concept. It gets the attention of the big fish - but there is nothing stopping them from simply adopting and expanding on the concept without any consultation or compensation back to the founding entrepreneur who developed the concept.

So what's a small fish to do?
**All comments, suggestions and advice gratefully accepted on this one**

Sure it might be a noble idea to simply hand over an industry salvation solution to the people with the resources.  But let's face it, money talks and I've got a family to feed.

I am the above referenced small fish and yes, I've conceptualized an extraordinary solution to the problems print media has been facing for the last decade. 

A solution for:
  • the challenges newsrooms have been facing in their transition from print to digital, in their content being pirated across the Internet and in finding the viable revenue model;
  • the frustration journalists have been facing in the devaluation of their trade (and simply not getting paid a fair wage, or even at all, for the hardwork they put into their reporting);
  • the hopelessness that businesses have been facing as their advertising efforts produce less and less results during this chaotic approach to marketing in a new era;
  • the future needs, wants and desires of the consumers - though they themselves aren't likely aware of what those needs, wants and desires are just yet, but it's coming - putting us one step ahead and "building for the needs of tomorrow rather than the demands of today"
There is nothing particularly 'magical' about my solution - it's relatively simple (in concept) and extremely logical, which is why it is nearly impossible to argue against the viability of it - even when there is a lack of viability 'proof'.  Of course there will be nay-sayers who will try, there always is - but it's pretty tough to hold a compelling argument against logics, common sense and black & white bottom line projections once you know all the facts.

I follow a fair number of media people through Twitter and they're all pretty much saying the same things.  So which ones of the power and money people are going to pay attention to what I'm saying here?  I'm not a fly-by-nighter or someone full of hot air.  My solution has been sufficiently developed in concept that it could enter the production phase immediately.  It could feasibly launch version 1 within 12 months on a global scale with the right partners grouped together.

What's stopping me? A lack of resources... ie: connections, money and people.

Unlike Facebook, I can't build a mini-version of this, under the radar and build it up into something that will catch someone's attention to approach me on it and then transform the print media industry - there are just too many people specifically looking for something like this to run with. It would be swiped, modified and duplicated before I could barely get it off the ground. 

So for this project to launch and to have the global impact it's capable of having, I need to recruite the partners capable of bringing it to life.  Being a Canadian, I would first and foremost love to see it be a team of Canadian founders that bring this to market - but at the end of the day, it simply needs to get to market by whatever means necessary.

If you agree with any of the following:
  • that the print industry is suffering
  • that the "solutions" to date have been little more than bandaids and false hopes
  • that journalists are under valued and under utilized
  • that the general quality of journalism is declining (for various reasons when looking at the "whole") or at very least being diluted by less than professional writers
  • that digital advertising has not been consistently delivering the results to the businesses that they had hoped for or needed (ie: noticable increase in sales)
  • that businesses have been treading the marketing waters and succumbing to media hopping in the hopes of finding something that works
  • that many consumers are becoming more and more disconnected from "news"  - especially at local levels
If you are in a position to be a founding partner in a global project that will be the catalyst of a media revolution;

If you have the connections to investors looking for a world changer with an enormous return;

Then let's talk.

I'd sure appreciate you sharing this to see what kind of thoughts just might be out there.