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Some resources for Victoria’s MSM

Someone named Adrian (not sure if it’s the same Adrian, different email address) just …um, remarked that I haven’t yet responded to the comments thread on my No policy …no strategy, either post.

Ah yes, newspaper and MSM people get to complain about being understaffed, but we bloggers are expected to be on 24/7/365 (for free!)…? 😉

As I mentioned in yesterday’s brief post, my internet went down around 3pm. It didn’t come back till this afternoon, so my usual method of snatching a moment here and a moment there to go online, to listen in, to read, and even to write was down the tubes for nearly 24 hours. I don’t own a smart phone (mobile telephony – drool, one day, one day!), nor do I ever seem to have the luxury of taking myself off to a third place to be alone and work in peace – my first and second places are one and the same, and they get crazy. When I go out, it’s for meetings (as happened today) or to walk the dog. So, if I can’t glean a minute inbetween other minutes, it seems it doesn’t get done.

But let’s see if I can now expand into some sort of follow-up on No policy …no strategy, either.

First: I was very impressed by Bryan Capistrano’s comments, who commented initially via Twitter and then on my comments board. Among other things, he noted:

I’ve mentioned that radio stations can sometimes get into an easy habit of talking AT a listener and not TO a listener. The social media that we use has allowed us on a number of occasions to be an ear and not just a mouth (I thought of that while walking back to my car last night and kicked myself for not saying it)! If that’s not considered a strategy, I would at least consider it a good starting point.

This is of course one of the basic tenets of markets are conversations (see Cluetrain Manifesto), a kind of blueprint (now 10 years old) for what new media (and new business) is all about. I would really really encourage local media people to familiarize themselves with the Cluetrain’s theses. Of course you don’t talk AT people, you have conversations. This means you can forget about hierarchies, too.

Bryan gets this when he writes,”I’m a firm believer that the only way to learn about something is by looking at it from all sides.” I would argue that Adrian doesn’t quite get this. In his comment, he writes, “The notion that everything in daily papers is suddenly a bunch of bunk seems to be rather overstated.” That’s an unnecessarily defensive statement since neither I nor anyone else on the comments board said “everything in daily papers is …a bunch of bunk…”

After all, a cardinal rule of conversation is that you also learn to listen.

Bryan was one of the panelists, along with Dana Hutchings, who I thought would have the best overview of the managerial/ revenue questions since his station isn’t owned by some corporate overlord(s). (I think his station is independent – I could be wrong; happy to be corrected if so.) In his comment, Bryan wrote, “social media has in no way affected our medium’s revenue stream.” I wish I knew more about the radio business, but I don’t. TV and radio are two mediums I rarely pay attention to (I don’t have cable, so no TV for me; and I listen to radio once in a blue moon – say, while driving, which means for ~10 minutes at a time). But it’s obvious from Dana Hutchings’s CHEK TV saga and also clear from Bryan Capistrano’s comments that these two do have incredible potential for steering their own destiny. I also wonder if it’s a condition specific to Victoria (which still has a deep digital divide) that revenue streams have not been affected.

Bryan and Deb (not sure if I should note which organization she’s from since she didn’t provide that link in her comment) noted that my body language further into the evening spoke volumes – and yes, while I was initially intrigued by what people were saying, I grew more impatient as the panelists began to respond to questions from the audience.

If anyone was making this an “us and them” issue, it was, I’m sorry to say, the panelists themselves who grew increasingly defensive at being questioned.

This was all really bizarre since, at the very end of the evening, Sarah Petrescu in particular sketched out a fairly detailed vision for what her ideal online news world should entail – and it’s one that absolutely includes the participatory “we.”

But as long as the wall between editorial and management persists, any visions will exist in silos – and the editorial side stands to lose because, as newspapers die, their jobs will evaporate.

Janice commented:

There was an interesting discussion on CBC radio the other day about the increase in citizen-generated news (and its credibility as real news!) on the internet and in SM, often around things that MSM deems un-newsworthy like re-zoning.

This speaks to revitalizing local coverage. We are terribly under-served right now: City Hall makes important decisions that directly affect us where we live, but we don’t hear about them. Social media can be way ahead of traditional media in being able to cover this (via that mobile telephony I don’t have, or if City Hall ever gets its act together to provide wi-fi), and the only way that traditional media can catch up is by including bloggers and others who will cover these news. It’s not rocket science.

Overall, I’d say Tuesday’s meeting was a great start – props to Social Media Club Victoria and Paul Holmes for organizing the event. There should be more, there should be follow-ups.

Speaking of follow-ups, did anyone see if the MSM that attended reported on its own participation? (I get my news online, and since the internet was down, I missed whatever was on. Give me a link if it was reported, thanks.)

As I noted in my comments board yesterday, this is a huge topic – presumably this isn’t the end of it in Victoria, unless the MSM want to shut down the dialog and leave it to social / new media to sort things out. My follow-up, such as it is, is already too long, so let me wrap up with a list of what I’d call must-read resources.

My favorite post is now nearly three years old: Ryan Sholin’s 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers you need to get through your head. Must-read. Ryan posted a follow-up in 2008, 10 obvious things, one year later, which reports on how well (or not) the industry has dealt with the points he raised in 2007. Pay special attention to #5 (I heard a few rumblings from some panelists that maybe charging for content is a good idea. It’s not. Don’t go there.) And of course those who think it’s an “us v. them” issue, puh-leeze: check out #7. The next point, #8, is really great, too. Just go read the whole thing now.

Clay Shirky, the here-comes-everybody (and long-tail) guy. Read his The Collapse of Complex Business Models (which I blogged about here), and watch his superb presentation, Clay Shirky on Internet Issues Facing Newspapers (on Youtube). Shirky delivered this talk at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society in September 2009. Must-see.

Dave Winer, who writes about many things – often technology, and very often with a special focus on media. Check out his January 2010 entry, Why newspapers should host blogs, for a glimpse of innovative thinking around both content and business models.

Why should news orgs host blogs for members of their community? Because the business of news organizations is information. Gather it up, sort it, organize it, keep it current and do it again. People have a huge thirst for new information, more these days than ever and increasing all the time. It’s ridiculous that information-gathering orgs should be shrinking in a time where what they do is in such high demand. (source)

Pop in on his blog or tweets to see what he’s up to with Jay Rosen of NYU, too.

Ok, that’s it for this evening. I’m deeply embarrassed that my list has only guys on it. I know there must be women I’m forgetting/ leaving out. Maybe something for another follow-up …or comments?


  1. […] April 29: a follow-up post here (also noted in comments). Share and […]

    Pingback by » No policy …no strategy, either Yule Heibel's Post Studio © 2003-2010 — April 29, 2010 #

  2. In her previous post, No policy …no strategy, either, Yule wrote:

    “If anyone still believes that what is written in the daily paper is the truth, I feel sorry for them – I know for a fact that it isn’t.”

    It’s a very strong statement. This, to me, suggests Yule believes the daily newspaper is not printing the truth. That it is, in fact, bunk, and that those who swallow the misinformation are to be pitied. I mean, how else would one read that? Am I mistaken?

    So this led me to comment: “The notion that everything in daily papers is suddenly a bunch of bunk seems to be rather overstated.” Which is pretty mild observation. Yule, perhaps you’d care to eludicate on your original comment. Perhaps I’m missing something here. Maybe you just meant the Times Colonist.

    You also wrote: “…and bloggers don’t mind correcting themselves. Try getting a newspaper to do that.”

    What does this mean? Newspapers do run corrections. I’ve written corrections addressing my own mistakes. Can you address this point specifically? Perhaps I misunderstood you.

    Overall, the thing that bothered me about your previous post on the media panel is that it does promote an ” us against them attitude.” It certainly doesn’t seem balanced. To be frank, it seems a touch mean spirited.

    I doubt if many “mainstream” journalists discount all bloggers. At least, those who have any common sense. Why would they? And the implied notion that bloggers are the good guys (right-minded underdogs) and the conventional media are the bad guys (inept corporate flunkies) seemed a massive generalization at best, and puerile at worst. It’s like saying all cops are bad, or all politicians are bad. Yet this is what came though in your post “No policy … no strategy, either”. At the very least, that is the tone of the post.

    Once again, I’d suggest journalists, whether they be solely online or otherwise, shouldn’t be attacking one another. We’re all really trying to do the same job for goshsakes. As those philosophers in War once sang: “Why can’t we be friends?”

    Comment by adrian — April 30, 2010 #

  3. Capistrano works for the Zone, part of the Jim Pattison broadcast group.

    Comment by robert randall — April 30, 2010 #

  4. @Rob: The Zone is owned by Pattison? Does that make CHEK the only independent in town (aside from the independent independents, that is)? Interesting…
    @adrian: My words, as quoted, are more a testament to my failings as a writer, less so proof of the MSM’s successes. You have to understand that I wrote what I did with the panel discussion still ringing in my ears. At that discussion, your colleagues (in the print media in particular) suggested that 1) they (MSM) are arbiters of truth; 2) that the social media types out there were asking them (the MSM) how to pitch to them (which was not the case at all: the SM types were trying to figure out what it takes to get the MSM to listen to them as representatives of communities – plural – so that MSM and SM could have a conversation on a level playing field), so in other words, it was the MSM panelists who were setting the stage for an “us-and-them” scenario; and finally, the last straw, 3) a MSM panelist said (and I paraphrase), “Bloggers are just the rumor mill, but we report the truth.” See this tweet, too.

    With all that in mind I was a bit bent out of shape about what Deb (in the comments board, previous post) called hubris on the part of the MSM.
    My snippy “try getting a newspaper to do that” was probably informed by my personal experience(s) with the T-C back in 2007. In addition, I know from many many other people that the paper routinely prints what may at generous best be characterized as factoids, and it doesn’t print corrections unless there’s proof of a hard-and-fast factual error: a numerical error, or calling someone an accountant at company X when they’re in fact an lawyer at company Y, or if a reviewer says A played a role when it was B – that sort of mistake gets corrected. Sometimes.

    And the implied notion that bloggers are the good guys (right-minded underdogs) and the conventional media are the bad guys (inept corporate flunkies) seemed a massive generalization at best, and puerile at worst.

    Adrian, there are many Victorians who have not forgotten the Vivian Smith-Empress Hotel-Butchart Gardens debacle at the Times-Colonist, or the Brennan Clarke-Keith Norbury-Dave Wheaton-Pontiac Dealerships debacle at Black Press (which owns Monday Magazine).
    The MSM panelists were the ones who drew the distinction between “editorial” and “management,” yet those two examples resoundingly illustrate just how illusory that separation can be. It won’t protect you.
    I’m not mean-spirited, I’m blunt.

    Comment by Yule — April 30, 2010 #

  5. Hi Yule,

    I agree with Adrian in that I felt like your previous post was a bit mean-spirited (but that might just be the sensitive writer in me.) I do, however, find this post to be really interesting and useful.

    I’m sorry you felt we were taking an ‘us against them’ approach. I’ll admit I did feel a bit defensive—being in a panel in front of a room of people is an intimidating thing, and I’m only human (plus, I’m a writer—being put on the spot and having to articulate my thoughts out loud is challenging, hence why I’m writing this). But I can honestly say that I don’t feel any of us up there see the SMC as nothing but gossip mongers feeding garbage into the ether. Like any potential source of information and story ideas and conversations, we have to filter through it and find the ideas and people we feel are interesting to our readers—which might be different than what’s of interest to your readers, or to CHEK’s viewers, or to the Zone’s listeners. Heck, I have two stories I’m working on right now that are a result of ideas and leads from people in the Twitter community. As I mentioned at the panel, I also found a wonderful concert reviewer via Twitter.

    As I said Tuesday, my approach to Monday’s social media presence is that I want to make it interesting for our readers. I try to go beyond feeding them headlines and trying to generate hits on our website and provide personality and information that our readers would find valuable. I’m not sure if you have checked out what we do on Twitter (or, to a lesser extent, Facebook).

    At the end of the day, we’re all trying out best to figure out how to navigate the social media landscape. My approach has been to make our presence there to be one that benefits our readers, because that’s my job: to provide editorial content that’s engaging and interesting to the readers of Monday. As for how to turn that around and make money, that’s for the people on the other end of the floor to figure out.

    I agree with a lot of the points these resources make about how we have to change. The reality is, I’m one person in a large company. I have no control over how our website looks. I’ve been asking for things like RSS feeds since I started here almost four years ago. All I can do is try to use the tools I have and make suggestions, but the reality is I’m the arts editor managing our social media presence off the side of my desk. I work at an alt-weekly paper owned by a company that specialises in community papers. We’ve seen a 25% staff reduction in the last year and had our freelance budget slashed. These aren’t excuses, these are realities I have to deal with every day when I come into the office.

    All I know is I’m trying my best.

    Comment by Amanda — April 30, 2010 #

  6. Fair enough.

    I’ve got a better handle on where you’re coming from now.

    Thanks for this response!

    Comment by Adrian — April 30, 2010 #

  7. Hmm, your post went up as I was working on mine, Yule.

    From your post: “that the social media types out there were asking them (the MSM) how to pitch to them (which was not the case at all: the SM types were trying to figure out what it takes to get the MSM to listen to them as representatives of communities – plural – so that MSM and SM could have a conversation on a level playing field)”

    Perhaps my use of the word ‘pitch’ highlight, to borrow your turn of phrase, my failings as a public speaker. I agree it was perhaps a poor choice. we were getting questions from people as to how to get their stories and concerns into our outlets, which is fair enough. It’s a question we get from a lot of people. I think we did address them, though, and I hope the advice we gave them as how to get our attention was useful.

    Comment by Amanda — April 30, 2010 #

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