(first published on Medium, Aug 21, 2020)

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August 21, 2020. Donald Trump spends so much time running for president, he has no time at actually be president. He continues to say the things that feed the hunger of those who already “like” him or are just fascinated by him. He is their president.

Joe Biden has been so good at serving in office, he frankly sucked at doing what you have to do to run for office in a crowded field, and get noticed doing it. Historically he got re-elected because he was so good at his job his constituents just kept sending him back. He barely had to run.

This time, he was having a really hard time breaking through the primary process with so many louder voices. But it was timing, and a sensational game-changing speech from Jim Clyburn that woke up the people of South Carolina to propel him to the nomination with a resounding primary vote.

Joe Biden has one last chance to make it to the show. By being the presumptive candidate, he no longer had to be the loudest candidate in the room. People were going to listen to this speech. So Thursday night he delivered the best speech of his life, and his party delivered the most powerful supporting program any party has every produced for its candidate. They produced a hit.

Amazingly, this all happened against the backdrop of a pandemic that forced the conventions of both parties away from the time-honored political rally — the single weapon in Donald Trump’s arsenal. The pressure on the Democrats and Joe Biden to match the entertainment value of a Trump romp looked nearly impossible to overcome.

But what he did — and they did — was historic. It will go down as one of the greatest political pitches in our Democracy’s history. He and his team used the medium to tell the most powerful political story I have ever seen in 50 years as a journalist and political junkie. If anything, they proved that political parties have been doing it all wrong over the past 30 or 40 years. In the past they spent their time trying to give the public a glimpse of a traditional 4-day convention where most of the action was actually behind closed doors. So it became a contest of which party could put on the most entertaining show. Even the best journalists look silly being jostled among packed in delegates waving signs.

This time, the parties had to find a way to make the message interesting. And they did it perfectly, in a way befitting a broadcast audience. Speeches were much shorter and tighter…no longer punctuated by hoots and hollers of drunk delegates dressed in funny clothes who clapped for 5 minutes out of every 10 just so they could be seen on the air. The use of regular people, speaking from home, enabled the Democrats to show how much Biden helped so many different people through his amazing hard-earned empathy and ability to listen. The usually boring, long, roll call instead brought us committed, serious people from where they lived, to show just how diverse these people really are and how different the places are that they come from.

The human stories of people who defined the candidate, were done in wonderful, powerfully told interviews and videos that made their points, well produced and much more valuable than a wave from the upper deck.

He was able to convince people, through his speech and the speeches of those before him, that it might actually be possible to bring this country back to a time when people will work together to solve problems and can even, perhaps, have some real hope. And why he was uniquely qualified to do that.

His speech was the perfect topping to 4 days of telling people the situation they are now in, and that “it didn’t have to be this way”.

Some people, usually humble and caring people, have a hard time standing out in a crowd, partly because they spend a lot more time listening to others and caring about them. Joe Biden has always been one of those people. And it’s one reason the only way he got to be Vice President was because he ran on the coattails of a great orator. But he was a great Vice President, and played a bigger role than almost all before him.

Thursday night, Joe Biden was able to be Joe Biden, and in an intimate setting, found his voice to tell everyone who he really is, and his team did an equally amazing job showing the kind of people whose lives he has made better because of who he is. They were clearly proud to testify for him.

I have spoken to many people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and plan to do so again. I have also spoken to many people who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and don’t plan to vote for him again. I have not spoken to a single person who didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016 but plans to do it this year. Many because he has actually done so little for most of them during the past for years.

But now the other reason is because they want to vote for the Joe Biden they saw this week. He will win.

WRITTEN BYLarry Kramer

Journalist, Entrepreneur, Author. Pres., USA Today; Pres. CBS Digital; Founder/Chair/CEO Marketwatch.com; Journalist WashPost. Bds: Advance, Syracuse U, HBS Pub

(first published on Medium, Aug 12, 2020)

This story on the Voice of America’s Twitter Feed confirms the worst fears of what would happen once a Trump appointee took it over. A long history of reporting the news in an unbiased way to the rest of the world, demonstrating the importance of a free press, has ended in a thud.

My Pete Hamill Story

Posted: October 21, 2020 in Uncategorized

(First published on Medium, Aug 6, 2020)

This week we lost one of the giants of journalism. Pete Hamill worked at five different New York Newspapers as a columnist and at one point was even the editor of the New York Post. Growing up around New York he was one of main reasons I fell in love with journalism at a young age in the 60s. He and the his close pal Jimmy Breslin romanticised every corner of The city. When I finally got to my first full time job as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner in 1974, the first thing I did was find a way to get Hamill to write for us. How that happened, and how the experiment ended, was a story I will never forget.

I have two wonderful anecdotes about my time with Pete Hamill in the mid 70’s. They go back to my first job in the business, when I went to San Francisco to work at the Examiner as a reporter and Asst to the Editor, right out of grad school (I had gone to Harvard Business School after graduating from the Newhouse School at Syracuse). I was hired directly by Randolph Hearst, then publisher and chairman of the Hearst Corp.

When I got there in 1974 one of my first friends was Will Hearst III (now chairman). We were both about 25 and he was apprenticing at his grandfather’s first newspaper and like me had a mix of entry level journalism and a taste of management training. Randy Hearst really wanted his nephew, Will, to liven up the paper and was hiring a lot of scrappy young reporters to help.

Anyway, I had this idea that we could hire my idol Pete Hamill to write for us from NYC. He was my favorite New York Post columnist who I had read growing up in NYC. Pete’s politics were very liberal and would be a great contract to the existing Hearst lineup of very conservative columnists, and I thought, quite attractive to the very liberal San Francisco audience. He had just quit the NY Post, which was owned and run by Dorothy Schiff in those days, because she wouldn’t pay him more than $300 a week.

So I suggested it to Will and he told me to call Pete and see if he would do it.

Somehow I got him on the phone and he agreed to meet with me to talk about it, because he was going to hang out with his new girlfriend on the west coast that weekend anyway. But he was going to LA so he suggested I meet him at her place in LA on Friday night.

I flew down from SF, rented a car and drove to the address Pete gave me up around Mulholland Drive.

I got there late, and it was already dark, and when I got to the house I had to drive through a gate a long way to get to this house on the hill, but I couldn’t really tell much about the house.

I got to the door and knocked. A few minutes went by and light finally came on and the door opened. Standing before me was a soaking-wet Shirley McLain, who nevertheless was quite striking, and said to me, “you must be Larry Kramer. Pete’s plane is late but he told me to make you feel at home. Come on in and have a beer.”

I turned around, looked at the night and just knew no one would ever believe me. Being outside the orbit of the NY Tabloid World those days, I had no idea who he was dating at the time.

A couple wonderful hours of conversation later. Pete showed up from the airport and we all had a big laugh. We talked about newspapers late into the night and I told him he had to meet Will and would understand how much fun it was working with him to shake up his family paper.

He took the job and started writing, from NY, a few weeks later, in the Sunday paper.

The second story is about what happened next.

All of the Hearst brass in NYC, led by Will’s dad, William Randolph Hearst II, weren’t really in the loop on hire because we were worried about what they would think about his politics.

The first column was about the Phoenix program, the US Government program to bring to the Vietnamese who had worked for the US during the war in Vietnam. Since the war had ended badly, they were no longer welcome in their home country and we were saving them from likely repercussions. The story was about how our government was paying them a lot to move to Las Vegas and they were becoming regulars on the tables at the hotels.

No one in the Hearst organization seemed threatened by that column, so the first week seemed to go well. The second column, was also ambiguous. Then a week later, I was working early Saturday morning on the city desk when the teletype behind me started clanking away with Pete’s third column, which called for the nationalization of the oil industry.

I don’t remember how many more weeks he was allowed to write for us, but it wasn’t many.

Pete had a good laugh about it, and we stayed friends for a long time, but we didn’t get to see each other again for quite a while because I didn’t get to move back to NYC for many years.

Just thinking about him makes me nostalgic for my days growing up in the New Jersey suburbs of New York. I was a huge fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and with Pete’s love affair with all things Brooklyn, he owned me. I read every word he wrote, as soon as I could. Every Saturday night I would drive to a classic New Jersey late-night diner to pick up the early edition of the NY Post so I could read his column before I went to bed.

Thanks for everything Pete. I don’t know what New York will be like without you.

WRITTEN BYLarry Kramer

Journalist, Entrepreneur, Author. Pres., USA Today; Pres. CBS Digital; Founder/Chair/CEO Marketwatch.com; Journalist WashPost. Bds: Advance, Syracuse U, HBS Pub

(from Magid Morning Facts Email)

A total of 409 scripted TV series (drama, comedy, and limited) aired on all broadcast, cable, streaming and OTT services in 2015, according to Julie Piepenkotter, executive vice president of research for FX Networks. (Excluded from the tally: reality, news, sports, made-for-television movies, specials, daytime and children’s programming.)

Even if you binge-watched one scripted season every day of the year, you wouldn’t be able to get through all the available content.

“The unprecedented increase in the number of scripted series has reached a new milestone in 2015 with a record 409, nearly doubling the total in just the past six years,” said Piepenkotter in a statement. “This was the third consecutive year that scripted series count has grown across each distribution platform — broadcast, basic and pay cable, streaming — led by significant gains in basic cable and digital services. This statistic is staggering and almost unimaginable from where they were a decade ago.”

The number represents a 9 percent increase over 2014, which had 376 scripted series, and a staggering 94 percent jump since 2009 (211). During that six-year period, the number of scripted series on basic cable has jumped 174 percent from 66 to 181.
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Broadcasting & Cable

Best Book Ever

Posted: December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

Satire is a time-honored tradition here in the US of A.  But it’s rare when we get a chance to commit it using only the words of the target.   This hysterical book starts by making you laugh and ends by leaving you terrified. 51vgo+0nNLL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_

Author Carol Pogash, a frequent New York Times Contributor,  has captured the terrifying essence of Mr. Trump with a series of incredible comments that have captured the attention of a significant number of people who would like to see his entertaining road show roll its proverbial RV right in to the White House driveway and park.

Carol Pogash is a serious journalist who wanted to get out front of the Trump Tsunami by merely pointing out what the candidate has said, over and over again.  He is clearly not being muzzled — yet.   When the Republican party decides what they don’t want to stand for ….they will face a difficult task in trying to control the man who said all this.

 

Beginning today, Sunday, October 6, 2013, USA Today has begun to publish a new edition called USA Today Local Edition.  It’s published in a partnership with the local papers who belong to our parent company, Gannett Corp.  We are piloting this project in four cities for the next several months.  It involves USA Today publishing an edition within our local papers, in which we supply our coverage of national and foreign news, life, money and sports.  At the same time our local papers are significantly increasing coverage of their local markets.  We are thrilled they are hosting us as part of their report.  

Together we are presenting an unbeatable package of USA Today’s unique coverage of national and international news and each of our partner paper’s fantastic local reports, which has been increased at the same time.  

For USA Today it’s a unique way to grow our audience thru daily exposure to the millions of people who read our local papers every day and will now have access to our coverage as well.  

For the local papers, there is a significant boost in coverage of local news, entertainment and sports, and the full support of USA Today’s team to bring the right mix of national and international content for their local readership.  As of tomorrow we will have launched the pilot program in four of our local papers:  The Indianapolis Star, The Appleton (WI) Post-Crescent, the Fort Myers (FL)  News Press and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Here are four different pages from our first day in the Indianapolis Star:

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I really loved it when Rupert Murdoch launched The Daily two years ago. I thought he picked some great executives like Jesse Angelo and Greg Clayman to build and run it, and I thought they did a great job as a news organization. But they made a single huge mistake.

They built a news operation for a platform, not for a readership.

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

The Daily on the day they announced they would be folding

While no one can deny that the IPad almost immediately impressed everyone as a news consumption device, there was absolutely no reason to believe that it would become the only way people would want their news. While every media business was trying to figure out how to best use the tablet as another distribution device, no one was seriously considering moving to a tablet-only service.

That’s because it was clear that this device going to be an answer, not THE answer. We are still early in this latest reinvention of storytelling. The digital platforms will clearly change habits both because they have eliminated much of the time it takes to deliver news and they provide a medium that allows the storyteller to employ virtually every format, from words to pictures, to video, to interactivity.

The news industry is learning that newsrooms of the future will no longer be built around the medium they are in (newspapers, tv, radio) but rather around the subject they are covering (New York, Financial News, Sports, Politics). These newsrooms will need the revenue from multiple channels to support themselves, and will therefore need to leverage the value of their knowledge across distribution systems.

The Daily waited much too long into it’s brief life to build distribution outside of the Tablet. The lesson for future entrepreneurs is not that the Tablet can’t supports a news business, it’s that it can’t solely support a news business and shouldn’t have to.

Even readers who loved getting their news on the tablet were not likely to have it with them at all times, or likely to prefer it at all times. And even though The Daily’s presentation on the Tablet got better and better as time went by, and was never less than impressive and even beautiful, there were just times that their readers would rather learn of breaking story on their phone because it was more convenient, or see a news video on a computer or TV screen when they were in front of one, or perhaps even read a story in a newspaper if they were sitting on a beach or hear it in a car while driving on the way home.

Serving an audience in today’s information age means you have to accept that the audience will want timely information on the best possible platform at any given time and place. The same consumer driving a car home or sitting in front of their computer at work will probably prefer a different form of communication than someone sitting on a train with their IPad on a try in front of them.

So while The Daily was perhaps the most successful demonstration of how news could be delivered over a tablet, it was, by design, totally irrelevant on every other platform. Telling everyone they HAD to view them on a Tablet was no different than a newspaper or TV news operation refusing to put its content on the web.

20121026-014550.jpgThis is a page of the world series guide that was handed out during game 3, the day after Pablo Sandoval hit three home runs in a world series game. It seemed like a fun fact to include, especially since on three others had done it, including Babe Ruth, and it had been years since the last one. Go figure that the night before, the record is broken and the magazine is wrong.

Image  —  Posted: October 26, 2012 in Content

We believe in print advertising. We also believe in digital advertising and we particularly love multi-platform advertising campaigns. But we believe print advertising is being particularly neglected right now because of all the attention being placed on digital and social platforms.

Win $1 million worth of advertising with a Creative idea for and execution of an ad campaign.

Agencies have forgotten how powerful print ads can be, and how impossible they are to replicate on digital platforms. Discovery is still a very big advantage of print advertising and one that we fear is being lost in the digital stampede. There are, we believe, moments when print advertising may be the best alternative to sell a product or build a brand.

And we want to help prove it! So today we are offering $1 million worth of full color print advertising in USA Today to an ad agency or client who steps up with the most engaging and creative use of print to sell their product, service or brand.

Think of it. Beautiful, full color, full-page ads running in the nation’s newspaper. A million dollars worth of them to the most creative advertising storyteller we can find.

So pick up a copy of USA Today and check out the full-page ad on the competition today, or read our brand new Media columnist Michael Wolff’s column about what advertising has to do to regain its footing. Or, click on the photo with this post and get more details. Then, get out your crayons and get to it!

Today we launched the new USAToday.com.
Thank’s to the magnificent and tireless work of an army of engineers, designers, programmers, product managers, editors, etc., under the direction of Gannett Digital president David Payne, we are taking a huge step into the future, not without risk, by creating what we believe is a major step for our viewers and advertisers.
The new USAToday.com is a dramatic change for both.

For our readers and viewers it represents a significant step toward visual storytelling, but one that respects the fact that no two readers are alike, especially during times of significant technological change. We give you several options on how to view news, information, entertainment and advertising but all involve significant curation by our editorial staff, the heart and soul of the value we bring to this storytelling process. This creation is truly a collaborative work between dedicated technologists and equally dedicated journalists.

We give the reader the ability to use visuals or words in varying degrees in their consumption process. And we will do it in varying degrees. If the reader wants, for example, he or she can view each story by starting with a photograph or a video. They can even use a device we call “Cover Mode” (see the little book-like design at the top of the page) that allows them to see each story via a full-page photograph, the most dramatic use of still photography in the storytelling process we have ever seen on the Internet.

We give you the ability to view by our definition of importance or by anyone’s definition of timeliness. By merely scrolling over a visual reference to a story they can also see more text to put that story in context. And by viewing our “Right Now” column along the right side of the page, you will see relevant social media reactions to the ongoing story in real-time.
Our horizontal navigation, inspired by the growing and already massive use of tablets, allows the reader to “peruse” the sections or the stories on the site by turning pages, re-imagining the “discovery” process we so love in the print media. It allows you to be surprised by content you didn’t know existed, but to do so at your own speed, depending upon your time and inclination.

Cover View: A new way to peruse stories through their most dramatic images

The horizontal “page-turning” experience also allows our advertisers to reclaim the full-page ad they so dearly want and need. We allow those advertisers the chance to use the entire palate in whatever way they want to grab your attention, all the time giving you the same ability you had in print to turn the page. But watch out, you are going to see some wonderful ads that use dramatic visual tools from interactivity to video to draw you in.

Advertising in general has also changed in a big way on this site. Gone are the many small units that appears in different places on the page, frequently below the “fold” or unavailable until you scrolled down. We listened to our readers and our advertisers, and we have reacted by giving both a better experience. We have limited the advertisers to fewer but much more dramatic positions, giving them the same chance we are giving ourselves of telling their stories better and reaching more people with increasingly dramatic tools.

This is truly a major step into the new world of digital storytelling, one that empowers them, as storytellers with their own story to tell, to use every tool available: video, audio, text, photography, interactivity and more to tell his or her story. This is a step in the reinvention of storytelling, it’s also a step in the reinvention of how news will be created and consumed. We’re extremely excited to be part of that process.

Much more to come. Watch over the next few weeks as we roll out our new tablet and mobile apps, and if you haven’t recently, take a look at our print newspaper, too. It has also begun to embrace the strengths of a print product in today’s media mix and you will be surprised. And we are making it easier on all platforms for you to contact us. In the spirit of this new era of communications, please send us your comments, ideas and suggestion.