Monthly Archives: April 2008

A few reasons I don’t do print news (or book clubs)

I was briefly brainstorming with a friend and colleague today over business model ideas for our publishing clients. Our company supports magazines with back-end solutions – it’s a volume business. More is better.

But the reality is, today there is less and less print business. There’s less subscribers. We’re all scratching our heads.

I don’t have an answer for saving the print publication industry. Clearly, nobody does immediately.

But I can start to tell you why I don’t subscribe to any print magazines or newspapers, despite being a complete news junkie.

1.) I find print media inconvenient and inefficient

I never understood the claim – ‘People like print because you can feel it.’

Huh? I think people getting their johnnies off from physically handling their news source is vastly overrated.

Glossy magazines are handy only when leisurely reading. Waiting rooms and toilets come to mind.

And newspapers – actually handling a newspaper is an acquired skill. They’re big, unbound messes. Taking one apart generally results in a crumpled, unmanageable paper pile.

Reality is, most of the time I’m consuming news, not casually enjoying it.

2.) I heart links

Where are the links? I’m spoiled and find print media too narrow when I can’t quickly jump to another source or find more information. I’m talking links to video, to Wikipedia and blogs like mine.

3.) Give me headlines, I’ll decide if I want more

Magazines have tables of contents (TOC’s, for jargon). That’s all I initially need. I read my Des Moines Register news today through an RSS feed. Through it, all I see is headlines (about 100 over the course of a day) and the first 15 words or so. I probably click through to read about five stories a day. It’s perfect.

4.) Nothing is more current than online news

Short of being a witness, nothing is quicker than digital news. Old news is an oxymoron.

5.) Online news is free

Whether you agree with it or not, online news is 99% free, thanks to advertising. I’m not sure this is a sustainable business model or not. Part of the problem is that we still haven’t figured out how to advertise effectively online yet. Brian Clark at Copyblogger had an insightful post on this issue recently.

Either way, today, online news is free. Print news costs me money.

So what can we do? It’s not that I’m anti-print. I mean, I read books constantly. But then again, I don’t join book clubs.

Is it the on-demand nature of the Web that has changed our habits? People constantly speak of the media shift from one-to-many to many-to-many. We don’t wait on the news anymore. There isn’t much need for categorizing and organizing beyond Google and various breaking news feeds – which has traditionally been a major component of print news. People make careers of laying out news pages and deciding what should be seen in what order.

Online, we do that ourselves.

Not sure what to make of this. Like many in the media world, I’m still pondering it. Still talking about it. Still wondering what the industry will look like in a year, five years, 30 years.

But I can tell you this: I don’t subscribe to newspapers. I don’t subscribe to magazines. I don’t do book clubs.



Filed under Journalism

Signal v. Noise

Today, Seth, the ever-inspiring marketing guru posted lamenting about what he considers a world with ever-increasing noise in the form of spam, junk blogs and information void of any ingenuity.

I say cheer up. For those dedicated to digging and exploring and innovating – this is as good as time as any. The more noise there is, the more value is placed on genuine work. We are getting better every day at tuning out the boring, the similar and the irrelevant.

It has never been more dangerous to be average.

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School is cool: Drake J-School Jr. NAC highlights

I wasn’t sure what to expect from today, but my immediate reaction is that the best part of sitting on an alumni council is the opportunity to sit in a room of people passionate about two things:

1.) The university

2.) The industry

For me, that’s a rare thing. There were some really bright people in attendance and they represented all ends of the media spectrum.

I’m in between Relays events, so there isn’t a whole lot of time to delve too deeply into the conversations, but a quick rundown of my highlights:

  • Alumni are frequently looking for talent, and there are talented students frequently looking for opportunities. A disconnect is occurring because there is no simple way to communicate between the two. Advertising Professionals of Des Moines uses this forum, how about a
  • It’s getting hard to find students interested in pursuing a career in news. So much so that the idea of tossing out the news major altogether has surfaced. That idea didn’t go far, but it’s interesting. Will MTV’s upcoming series The Paper be the Watergate of this generation? Umm… doubt it.
  • Emerging media is key. Well, duh.
  • There’s new initiatives to encourage students to take a more diverse array of media courses. There’s more cooperation and it’s leading to students having a broader base of experience.
  • Who said you had to earn your degree in 3-credit chunks at a time? The J-School staff is considering breaking away from this and breaking up classes into smaller, more diverse learning experiences. That’s genius.
  • The most challenging thing about the media industry is that it’s changing at an increasing rate. That results in a lot of alumni who would like to join in the learning process with the undergrads.

The final big thing is a J-School alumni event in September or October. A date isn’t established yet and it’s tentatively planned to go down at Principal Park. Plans are a little muddy at the moment, but the main goal seems to get everyone back and to establish a more vibrant community of Drake media alumni. Once that’s established, then we can worry about spamming each other with solicitations.

If you’re a Drake alum and would like to help with the event, there’s opportunities to do so.

And a final shout-out to two of the members – Tanner Stransky and Gina Olszowski. They’ve both recently become authors. Gina’s Now Coming to a Town Near You is the product of her passion for the effects of urban sprawl and Tanner’s Find Your Inner Ugly Betty is a unique look at 25 career lessons for young professionals based on the teachings of shows like The Office and Grey’s Anatomy.

Inspiring stuff.

Let me know your thoughts or if I missed something. But for now, I’m off to celebrate Relays over a whole bunch of beers.



Filed under Journalism

Advertising is a tax

Quote of the day:

“Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable.”

Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad

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Filed under Branding

Be a gamer

We don’t stop to think about it much – but it is incredibly refreshing when people actually do what they said they would do.

And I’m not even talking about big projects and cumbersome plans. That’s a completely separate issue.

Rather, I’m talking about returning phone calls on time. I’m talking about showing up at 7 a.m. on Saturday when you volunteered to clean up a park. I’m talking about doing your part of that group assignment by deadline.

It’s tiny promises that we make to ourselves and to others. They’re just so damn easy to break – so easy that it becomes habitual.

And through the simplicity of being late, being slow and being forgetful is born a whole category of amazing people and organizations who reject these notions, who consistently fight the good fight on behalf of their commitment to follow through.

Toyota built a brand on reliability. People buy Toyota’s not because they look particularly attractive and not because they’re fast or fun to drive – they buy Toyota’s because when you turn the key, they start.

Domino’s gives you 30 minutes. Legally they can’t guarantee this – but they’ve returned their brand to the promise of a delivered pizza as fast as they can.

In baseball, “gamer” is a term for a player who rarely misses a game and performs reliably. It’s considered one of the highest forms of praise associated with sport.

It takes a long, long time and a lot of kept promises to be considered reliable. It’s a constant struggle, but the best organizations, the best employees and the best friends are the gamers.


Filed under Branding, Life

A whole site on ideas

Check out Springwise, my latest discovery on the Web. These folks search the world for exciting and promising new business ventures, ideas and concepts.

Recent headlines include wine samples in the form of trial tubes, a vending machine that dispenses sneakers and playground equipment that generates electricity.

Hat tip to Mark True at REL for sharing.

Know of any similar sites?

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Sales tips we can all use

I’m reading Jill Konrath’s Selling to Big Companies. Jill is the woman behind the blog of the same name and has offered sales consulting to the likes of 3M, IBM and GE – so she knows her stuff.

Here’s some tips that I’ve gleaned so far that everyone can benefit from:

1.) Focus.

When Jill first started consulting, she offered companies advice on just about anything they needed, operating in just about any industry. Doing that required grueling amounts of research and dedication for ‘one-off’ applications – information and experience she may have used only once.

After she wised up and focused on new product launches her business boomed, she deepened her expertise and was able to take what she learned and further apply it to future opportunities.

Remind you of some other smart advice?

2.) To go big, it helps to start small.

When trying to get into big organizations, it’s wise to start small.

GE, for example, is a big organization, but it’s comprised of a whole bunch of smaller divisions. By getting in and helping with a smaller piece, you stand a much better chance of getting a larger chunk of the pie.

3.) A good value proposition is everything.

A value proposition answers two questions: How can you help my business? and What difference do you make?

This, Konrath says, is the key to getting the attention of any decision maker. This is a good time to offer tangible benefits you bring. Numbers, statistics, befores-and-afters – no matter how intangible you consider what you do is, there is always a way to show real results.

Hopefully this helps you the next time you’re job-interviewing, selling, marketing, copywriting – all that fun stuff.

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Filed under Sales