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This is a post I wrote on August 19, 2007, back when I was trying to decide what I truly wanted to blog about. I’d started a blog called “Newsworthy or Not?” and later abandoned it as I found that community management was what I really wanted to focus on.

However, a recent request by a college professor to include some content from that old blog in her upcoming textbook on Public Relations led me back to it. Quite honestly, Id’ forgotten all about it.

So, I came across this post that I’m sharing here with the hopes that it might resonate with some, even today. And though it isn’t really the focus of this blog, everyone needs to find their story. It’s what makes you unique.

If you’re active across social media channels, your story is what  you share with the masses. Your story is how you engage. And caring about the stories of others is how you pay it forward.

So read on, and I hope this helps in some small way.

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You probably know by now that Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch are teaming up to create a newspaper for the ipad. Given the projected growth of the ipad, this seems like a smart business move.  And since they’re both millionaire or maybe billionaire businessmen, it is  likely to succeed.

As a journalist, I want nothing more than for people to consume news. And as one who has seen so many of my friends and co-workers lose their jobs over the last three years, I know how important it is for people to pay for the news they consume, even though that practice is pretty much extinct, at least for general-interest mainstream news.

Because of that, I find this idea very intriguing. It’s a new revenue source by which to pay the journalists doing the reporting, writing and editing with none of the expensive overhead that comes with printing presses and the like.

And with no print or web edition, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The lack of a print edition doesn’t surprise me at all,  since so many newspapers have nixed their print editions. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been web-only for over a year now, and  so has the Christian Science Monitor and both are claiming success.

But there’s something about the lack of an online edition that doesn’t sit right with me. It just seems a bit odd. And I also wonder if people will pay .99 for something they can get free online.

According to reports, Murdoch has hired 100 journalists and has top-notch editors on board. So with that being the case, maybe there will be some content that you can’t get elsewhere online.

I think there would have  to be for this to work.

But that’s how I feel today and that could change. If it does. you’ll be the first to know. This is definitely a big story I will follow very closely, because if it works, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of it.


This post was written by Rod Overton, the recently laid-off web guru who was the subject of this post about the newspaper industry.

Here are 8 things newspapers need to do RIGHT NOW to survive (I wrote these about a month ago, but have been thinking them — and pushing various aspects for a couple of years):

1.) Immediately stop entering ALL contests. Period. They send exactly the WRONG feedback loop to reporters and editors.

2.) STOP hiring people based on their clips. Integrate online cooperation — and REAL — data about their impact on the online product into the hiring process.

3.) Start really looking at analytics and studying what you are doing well and do more of that. You can now use analytics to determine this. Start doing it.

4.) Look at what other aspects of time people use the web for and consider integrating parts of those “news” or information into your site. Weather is a perfect example. It’s the second or third most popular thing people do on the Internet. Yet, this newspaper refuses to expand its weather section to try to capture that group. It would cost about $500-$800 per month to have a completely kick BUTT weather section that would compete with TV sites and, but no one wants to do it.

5.) Largely centralize the news-gathering efforts. Keep one small group to do “think pieces” or long range investigations. Everyone else needs to report in ONE silo and have everything run through about 2-3 people for decision making. Currently there are TOO MANY silos with information that never makes it to the right people who can determine if that information would be best used (and how) on the online product.

6.) Emphasize speed and jobs that people do that no one typically wants to do. For years, the general message from newspapers is that those who do the least real work are those who will not be advanced or rewarded. Change the entire reward process.

7.) Create an assignment desk to handle all work assignments and workflow and center all actions around that. At the end of the day, take what you have and then put it in the paper — and let that be that. What is in the paper is just an afterthought. I have seen this exact model work in TV for a 6 o’clock newscast at perhaps the best local TV station in the nation. Why won’t it work for newspapers?

8.) Make NEW hires. Don’t just shift people around to keep layoffs from happening. Get new blood in the door to make the changes that are NEEDED. Don’t just try to hold on to who you have now because you personally like them. They are great people, but are they really who you need to move forward?

Rod Overton can be reached at rodneyoverton (at) yahoo dot com.

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This post is more of a transcript of a conversation that started on Facebook late last night and ended with a phone call earlier today.
I asked friend and former colleague Rod Overton about his job search and whether or not anything was in the hopper. He’s been out of a job since June and I’d been seeing a lot of his comments on the blog LostRemote. My question opened the door for a really good chat.

He answered with this:

“The real problem now is that media companies simply don’t want the truth or common sense. Sizzle, pizzaz and not examining what is not working (and then cutting that) is what they want (sorry for the double negative, but you get the point — they don’t want anyone to look behind the curtain or say the emperor has no clothes.)”

I then asked Rod to tell me more and indicated that I was interested in posting some of what he was writing on my blog. He was happy to oblige:

“The common thread to most of my messages on Lostremote is that during this upheaval (TRB bankruptcy, Belo bankruptcy and McClatchy at 73 cents) publishers and editors (and to an extent TV GMs) are not taking advantage of the environment to make (what is to them) serious changes.

Instead they seem to hope to skate through it as unchanged as possible not realizing that the situation itself is showing them they need to change.
A selfish case-in-point: Someone with my skills goes unhired while people with skills that are quite easy to come by are retained and — in some pathetic cases — shifted to new media roles they will ruin just as the legacy product was ruined.”

Still with me? There’s more.

I called Rod this morning and we spoke a bit more about some of this. He told me some stories about his interviewing experiences and organizations so resistant to change I thought I was sitting in 1987. I knew it was true though because one of the most profound statements he made was this:

Newspapers are stuck on a singular solution!

He says no one wants to overhaul everything and create systemic change.
What he’s referring to is initiatives like writing shorter stories, or adding more color to the front page or including more photos and a digest of what else can be found inside.

Short-sighted solutions that tackle maybe one issue that are seen as the one solution that will change things for the better.

What are your thoughts on this? Are any other organizations or industries focusing on a singular solution? And is the emperor wearing anything at all? What do you think of Rod’s rant?

Thanks Rod, for the interesting conversation. And I hope you find something soon.

*If you’d like to connect with Rod, you can find him on Facebook and LinkedIn

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Just yesterday, I posted a blog indicating that nonprofits need to decrease their dependency on traditional media organizations and utilize social media as a mean to promote and increase awareness about their organizations.

Well, it isn’t just nonprofits that need to do this. Anyone who is still depending solely on the news media, particularly print to tell their stories, here’s a list to digest, as posted by Mark Potts.

I’ll share five of the 25 here.

  1. Newark Star-Ledger — 316,280 -10.40%
  2. Chicago Sun-Times — 313,176 -3.94%
  3. Cleveland Plain Dealer — 305,529 -8.58%
  4. Philadelphia Inquirer — 300,674 -11.06%
  5. Detroit Free Press — 298,243 – 6.84%

The common belief is that these numbers will only continue to deteriorate. Need any more convincing?

Again, here’s the full list.

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Some alarming news out of Maui this week.

Alarming to me that is.

Anyone who has read this blog on a regular basis or some of the comments I post on various journalism, and social media focused blogs, knows that I am an advocate of user-generated content, particularly allowing comments on news stories.

So, when I learned about the Maui News killing comments all because of, (get this) ABUSE I saw it as a huge loss and felt extremely disappointed. I still am, and it’s days later.

Of course there’s abuse!!! This is the internet, and we all know that the cloak of anonymity can bring out the worst in people. It’s all laid out in detail in this story.

But abuse can be managed. This is not that difficult. The answer as I’ve said time and time again, is to hire moderators. This can be done and done well, without stifling the conversation. Moderation is not the end of the world. It can be the beginning of a new world where a news site can actually have civil discourse generated by users, connected to their content.

Set guidelines, but be fair. Don’t give up altogether.

Suggesting that internet users opt for sending in letters to the editor as opposed to leaving a real-time comment is pretty, well…old media.

Engage your community. Give them a voice.

But set limits. Make “civil discourse” the goal and define what that means. If you weed out the crap while being fair and consistent, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Just don’t give up.
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After taking MAJOR HEAT from bloggers and other news organizations, for twittering the funeral of a 3-year-old (myself included) the Rocky Mountain News has decided to cease and desist, at least for now. Editors had apparently planned to have a reporter twitter a second funeral, but a staffer spoke up and the decision was reversed, according to this article.

I firmly believe that there are innumerable ways to engage users and as a community manager, I am game for trying almost anything.

But as I said before, not everything is meant to be twittered.

I am all about breaking new ground with social media and finding new ways to embrace the concept. I’ve been known to sing it from the mountain tops, particularly when it comes to traditional news media.

I feel that news organizations need to find new ways to reach their readers/viewers/users and prove their worth in the space. Many are doing it and that excites me. I am cheering them on and watching everyone I can. I’m proud to be part of an organization that’s doing it and leading the charge.

That said, I was a bit miffed when I read about a news organization twittering the funeral of a 3-year-old.

Twitter a hurricane? YES.

Twitter a court case? YES! Ron Sylvester of The Witchita Eagle and does a heck of job with that.

But a funeral of a 3-year-old who was killed at an ice cream store?

Seems a bit insensitive to me. Others clearly agree.

Michael Roberts: “After all, Twittering a child’s funeral is a mission more doomed than Jimmy Carter’s attempt to rescue those hostages from Iran back in the day. The results are self-satirizing in the most morbid, inappropriate way possible.”

Cara Degette: “Whatever their rationale, it’s unconceivable. Utterly, and unforgivingly, unconceivable.”

On this one, I would have to agree. What are your thoughts?

You can view all updates here, on the Rocky Mountain News’ website.

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I am going to use this space to share a comment I posted on a South Florida blog I frequent, called The Daily Pulp.
It essentially characterizes my thoughts on the resistance to change in the newspaper industry, which I do know something about having worked at a newspaper as part of a department charged with introducing new ideas and incorporating multimedia and news partnerships into the daily culture. We asked reporters and editors to step outside of their comfort zones on a daily basis. That was part of the job.
On the day I made my initial comment, my former paper had just launched a redesign that was not very popular throughout the comments area, and I chose not to bash them and simply offer mild praise for the fact that they tried something new.
My comment prompted a response from someone within the organization, which The Pulp’s author, Bob Norman liked so much, he posted as a single blog with that comment being the focus.
There are some good ideas there. Really good ideas. But the author is so frustrated with the politics of the news organization and the industry as a whole, he or she may never share them, and I think that’s too bad.

Here’s my comment:

Those are awesome ideas. I’m lucky that I now work for a place where we really try new things. Things that are out of the box, and things that might not work, but then again they might. And that’s enough. But that is not the newspaper culture. Should it be? Yes, but it isn’t. That is why I chose not to criticize the redesign that day and simply offer up mild praise for trying something new. You’re right, there have been lots of ideas tossed around the SS for years that could have been implemented. Heck, I worked for the man who brought many of those to pass and anyone can tell you that we pushed and pushed the multimedia wagon with some success but there was a lot of resistance. What’s important here is the resistance was tolerated. It was an option. It should not have been an option. For too long, innovation has been optional. Now it’s required and that takes a different mindset.
Have you all followed the big whoop about the Philadelphia Inquirer’s decision to hold all enterprise, investigative and trend pieces for the paper only? The backlash they’ve received in the blogosphere is crazy. But a few have spoken up and said, “Hey, at least they’re trying a new model.” I was one of those people who thought it was totally backwards initially and blasted them for it. Part of me still has my doubts because on the surface it is. BUT–they are trying to have exclusive content in the paper and they are going to publish simultaneously so that readers can expect something different in the paper, that hasn’t already been out for a full day. So, again I say: At least they’re trying something. My suggestion to you is to see if you can get someone to listen to those ideas. Speak their language. Put it in a memo, draw up a proposal. If you really care and want to be part of the change you have to keep trying. It’s better than doing nothing. And when you quit and move on to greener can say: “At least I tried.”

So, I say you have to share those ideas. Tell someone. Even if you think they’ll be shot down, it’s worth a shot. Change will never, ever come about it if the people with the best ideas remain silent.

There is a great deal of talk about user-submitted comments on news stories taking place all over the blogosphere. Some say nix them, like that Gawker piece that annoyed me to no end. Others say don’t. Some say they are of immense value, and I tend to agree.

People want to share their thoughts and engage with others. That’s what this social media thing is about right? So how can you actively promote social media, and the benefits of starting a dialog, or consider yourself any kind of “community servant” and discount user-comments? Think about it.
It just doesn’t make sense.

I’ve seen some of the most intricate, thought-provoking comments on news stories. I’ve seen exchanges between the community that command attention and that would easily stand alone as an individual blog.
On the flip side, I’ve also seen some of the most unbelievably crude comments riddled with so much hate that it made my skin crawl.
So the answer is this. If you value comments, as you should…KEEP THEM.
But clean them up.
This is an area that newspapers or any news organization can easily get a handle on.
Hire moderators. Elevate the conversation and show the community that you want to provide an outlet and positive experience.
Maybe it’s me, but this really isn’t rocket science. It’s simply innovation.

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This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here represent my own and not those of my employer. Feel free to challenge me, disagree with me, or tell me I’m completely nuts in the comments section of each blog entry.


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