Archive for the ‘News’ Category

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:

ImageImageImageImage

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.

Now, we know we have made it.  Stephen Colbert revealed our new logo treatment to the world, in a way only he could. Turns out USA Today is his favorite newspaper, and he’s not a fan of change.  But in the end, he embraces change…..er….sort of, by using the logo itself to tell the story of how hard the USA Today  graphics department will be working to execute our “living” logo each day.

Image

Image 

Today we launched the “TV On The Web” section of the USA Today Life Section.  And we did so in the printed newspaper first.

Sounds a bit backwards, you say?  Actually, it’s a great example of how various forms of media can compliment each other.  In this case, print has the advantage of being an effective curator of digital content.  There is so much digital content out there that our readers and digital users appreciate our efforts to curate that content and find the best of it for them.  And print is a very effective way to display that curated list. 

By limiting our presentation to what we can fit in one section of the paper, we easily demonstrate to our readers that we have used the scarcity of space in the paper to display the best of the content we find.  On digital platforms our list could be much longer, but on paper we are forced to live within the space we have.  It’s always harder to do anything in less space, and to make the choices we have to make to choose “only the best.”  But that makes it even more valuable to the reader, who knows he or she will get a lot for the small amount of time they have to devote to see the printed list in its entirety.

Print imposed the kind of limitations that force us to work harder for the reader.  And in the end, the consumer appreciates that we put in more work to do that for them. 

It is also much easier to do something new for a print reader, because they are already looking at the page and will notice something new and different.  On a digital platform, it is harder to draw someone to anything new because they tend to go to and get the pages they know to ask for. Image

So for us at USA Today, the printed newspaper is both an editorial product and a marketing platform for the innovations we are planning across all of our platforms.   We sell that platform to other advertisers, so it should come as no surprise that we can use it effectively ourselves to prove its continuing value.

Congrats to the team for getting our new TV on the Web listings launched today, along with the fantastic coverage of Web-based video we are launching in the Life Section news columns (See today’s story on Tom Hanks and Jerry Seinfeld’s efforts to create online-only TV shows). 

TV on the Web is getting big and deserves the kind of coverage we normally give to traditional television.  How cool is it that we launch that coverage in a newspaper!

20120719-202849.jpg

Well it’s been two years and three IPads, so its a good time to step back and look at how my life as a heavy consumer of news has changed.

Much has changed.  But there is no question that I have come to use both the IPad and IPhone for a great deal of news consumption, though I still largely depend on traditional brands.  The latest IPad and IPhone have been particularly good to the news companies that embrace the tablet and mobile formats.  The speed of downloads has improved dramatically,  and the quality of video continues to improve.  And, finally, advertisers are at least trying the platforms.

Let me start with the The Daily, the first IPad native news business.  I use them more today than I did in the past.  The faster download times, the far better indexing and  briefing features and the quality of the journalism  have all made a difference, and as always, the application makes terrific use of the IPad’s true value to display beautiful photography.  It’s slickness still makes it hard for me to grasp how timely the information is — it’s almost too pretty to make you believe it’s very current — but that may just be my problem associating beautiful design with magazine journalism.  There isn’t enough video or interactive storytelling to make this a total home run yet, and too much of the video that is there  is a talking head.  I am a paid subscriber, but I don’t have the sense of urgency that I must have this product.  It think still needs some defining and exclusive content. I do love the new “Breaking News Alert” (see left) that blasted in front of the cover when the news of a foiled Al Qaeda plot was reported.

I still use the NYPost App, after it has moved into Apple’s newsstand.  It’s easy to navigate and a terrific digital manifestation of the paper’s look, feel and content, capturing much of the personality that the defines the Post.  I have subscribed and I rarely buy or see a print edition anymore.

For the several months I have been using a terrific App called “PressReader” from Newspaper Direct, which offers access to “replica” versions of hundreds of newspapers around the world in real time.  You can, for the price of a single subscription, get all the papers you want to get on the service.  Or you can buy single newspapers when you want them.  It’s a nifty App that shows the exact newspaper that is printed, but then allows you to drill down and navigate digitally by clicking on the stories you want to read.  Hard to explain, easy to use.  I have been able to keep up with the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post,  and several other publications including some British papers, on an as-needed basis.

I still read my old standby national newspapers:  The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today via their apps.  The Times is now part of the Apple Newsstand, but to me the application, while clean, loses too much of the look and feel of the times, and just seems less urgent and complete.   Too many stories are first presented with a headline and a couple paragraphs, with no graphic stimulation.   It’s easy to use, but has no soul and I frequently miss stories that I see in the Print Edition.  I still get the NYTimes printed paper at home on the weekends, and I much prefer it.

The Wall Street Journal app is a much better translation of the newspaper and its feel.  It also gives the reader a version of the journal that is updated to the time the reader has signed on.  It’s a great mix of a daily newspaper of record and updated news since printing. There is growing use of photos and video that shows real promise.

Finally the USA Today Ipad App is also very clean.  The good and the bad news about the USA Today app is that it is a close cousin to the look of the paper.  While it captures some of the design feature of the paper, some have become tired.   The site loses a sense of urgency and  news judgement by stacking stories with essentially the same look and feel as each other.  The larger layouts in the print version of the paper are often the most attractive devices in the newspaper, and they are not translated to this platform.  Photos dominate the visuals, and the reader gets little interactive or even passive, graphic presentation that approaches what is so great about the print paper.  The page looks the same every day.  USAToday’s IPhone app is slicker and faster to use.

Broadcast news outlets have become a large part of my news consumption through digital platforms as well.  On the financial news front,  I love Marketwatch, but hate that there isn’t a better presentation of it’s news product on the IPad.  There is a data app, which was recently updated, but while it’s clean and efficient, I hate that it is a fixed horizontal app, and when my IPad is in the upright position (I have a charger that leaves it vertically on my desk) the content is sideways and useless to me.  I have the same problem with the Wall Street Journal Live App.  So I have shifted to CNBC’s RT (Real Time) App, which is easy to use, gives me the most graphic depiction of Indexes, My Stocks, News (easy and efficient access to all news) and Videos and has the added bonus of being in Real-Time, not delayed data.  And, there are much better and more timely videos, which you would expect. This is CNBC’s first major success on digital platforms.

CNN’s IPad app is very visual (It should use more words) and allows the viewer to watch CNN live.  The ABC News, NBC News and CBS News Apps are all too visual, showing photos and a few words for every story, and linking to work they have largely done on TV.  They will, someday, discover that words are also important to the storytelling process on digital platforms.

All in all, I am spending a lot more time on my IPad, including the time spent on News sites.  My habits are changing…so are everyone else’s.  Clearly the transition is taking place.  But it still feels like we have some more changes to go and some new software and hardware to lead the way.

The rapid disintegration of News Corp (NSDQ: NWS) in London because of the News of the World scandal highlights a growing reality in the media world today: Integrity and reputation mean more to news organizations today than ever before.

Rupert Murdoch

In the old days, it was very difficult for anyone to challenge existing media franchises. It was expensive to own, or even rent, printing presses. It was extremely difficult to get a license to broadcast audio or video. Magazine publishing was extremely expensive. Great media brands took time to be built.

But in the digital world, it costs almost nothing to LOOK like a serious media player. You can build a site that looks exactly like NYTimes.com (NYSE: NYT) or HuffingtonPost in a matter of hours at little cost. Putting up content or aggregating content from reputable sources is cheap. It became harder to distinguish those companies with journalist credibility from those with other agendas.

What that meant is that the true news organizations had to rely even more heavily on the reputation of their brands to carry the day and separate them from the huge cadre of pretenders. It is now the burden and responsibility of the news media business to establish the difference between credible news organizations and everyone else with information to share.

So when we discredit ourselves the way News of The World did, it impacts the entire business, starting with companies closest to the offending party, like those in the same corporate structure. It also opens the doors to others who would fill the gap and who can get into position to do so in a matter of hours as opposed to months or years .

While you might not consider News of The World in the same category as the New York Times, there are still some journalistic standards that must be upheld across the board. Like the National Enquirer in the US, the News of The World does cover government officials and serious targets, and like the National Enquirer, if they are going to take on those serious targets, it has to adhere to the laws in place to protect subjects and media alike. The National Enquirer, for its part, has made great strides toward establishing its coverage as very serious.

Making mistakes doesn’t have to destroy your credibility, as long as you live up to the mistakes and move quickly to get beyond them by reestablishing your credibility day after day. We have to earn it back, but we are fortunate, in the news business, to be given the opportunity to do so quickly because we are always working on new stories and breaking news.

Looking back at many of the biggest mistakes made in the industry one can see that the businesses that survived them moved quickly by owning up to the mistake and putting in place procedures to prevent what happened from happening again.

In the media, as in politics and government, the real problems tend to surface with the coverup, not the original crime.

Janet Cooke

In the celebrated 1988 Janet Cooke case – where a young Washington Post (NYSE: WPO) reporter won the Pulitzer Prize for a series of stories centered on an 8-year-old drug user in the District of Columbia, only to have to surrender the prize after it was disclosed that the stories and subjects were largely fabricated – the paper’s editor, Ben Bradlee, apologized publicly for himself and the institution, assumed blame and published, in the Post, the results of a huge internal investigation. Some management changes were made in the Metro Department, where the story came from, and the paper moved forward and ultimately survived.

Ben Bradlee

In 2003 the New York Times went through a brutal plagerism scandal involving another young reporter named Jayson Blair. The resulting internal investigation, which the Times also published, led to the resignation of Times editor Howell Raines and his managing editor Gerald Boyd. Again, the publication weathered the storm by working hard to reestablish its credibility early and often.

But in this case, News Corp.‘s initial response to the charges was to try to isolate the problem on one person and take no institutional blame. The public and the government were assured over and over again that after considerable internal investigation the problem was isolated and over. In two words, they said “Trust us,” but did nothing else to earn that trust.

Thus began the coverup. Like many of the most famous coverups—Watergate comes immediately to mind—the ultimate downfall of the participants came because they lied about the original offense rather than taking responsibility, seeking to identify the underlying factors that allowed the problem to occur, and trying to fix them and move on.

In media, we today have precious else besides our credibility to set us apart from anyone with a bullhorn or a website. If we lose that credibility, we have no separation from the rest of the world and their messaging.

In a world of consolidation, with many media brands now falling under one corporate umbrella, the problem is further complicated for two reasons:

1) People who know that two media companies are owned by the same company will assume practices at both are the same under one corporate culture and
2) Pressure can be brought against media conglomerates on multiple fronts. In the case of The Washington Post during the Pentagon Papers, for example, the government threatened to pull the Post Company’s TV station licenses. So being a media conglomerate, while generally making the company a stronger player because of its broader financial base, also makes it more vulnerable to attack on multiple fronts from a powerful government that regulates media. Today, that scenario played out when News Corp. pulled its planned acquisition of BSkyB (NYSE: BSY) because of widespread government reaction to the News of The World scandal.

To sum it up, reputation and brand equity are rapidly becoming the primary assets of any media business. So when we damage them, we damage the entire industry, starting with those companies closest to the offender. The News of The World Scandal does damage others in the News Corp. family, like Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and even my former company, MarketWatch. Trust is something that has always been hard to earn, but has become even harder to come by in recent years.

These news organizations can only protect their reputation by redoubling their efforts to do great journalism and to be overly transparent in their techniques and procedures, going out of their way to describe their motivations and their standards in pursuit of stories. There is no other way to convince a growingly skeptical audience.

Without doing that, they are each just another screaming voice in the crowd.
(First Published on PaidContent.org)

I need to start this post with a disclosure: I’ve just joined the board of a very cool company. With that said, I believe this company, Appinions, is advancing the concept of identifying true influencers by measuring their impact in both social media AND traditional media. Most of the new companies in this space are targeting social media and using the subject’s reach over Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn users as the basis of measuring their influence. But Appinions is using a much more sophisticated system that also monitors traditional print and broadcast media for mentions and uses some interesting software developed at Cornell to create a much more realistic profile of the impact an individual really has throughout the entire media ecosystem. In the end, since traditional media has certainly not gone away, this presents a more accurate portrait of the true influence of an individual.
Here is a short video that does a better job of explaining how it works. But I can assure you it’s an interesting story.