Tag Archives: media

Watched “Skyfall” tonight, finally. Besides being a tribute to Luddite ideology in general and a long and involved way of sending (Spoiler Alert) M off to a dramatic final retirement, I find that the series lacks the escapist spy vs spy entertainment value it once held for me. Bond girls are no longer thrilling and when Javier Bardem is the villain, well, they lose that cartoonish quality and take on a very dark and all-too-real feeling.

But one scene totally captured my attention. It was when Bond meets his new Quartermaster, or, as we have come to know him, Q.

Q, who is represented by thick-glasses-wearing, shaggy-haired geek, engages Bond in a museum while both are staring at a painting of The Fighting Temeraire.

The banter is traditional age versus youth, old versus new, it’s part of the film’s treatise on the methodology of fighting terrorism. It’s also interesting that one of the series’ youngest 007s gets one of the youngest Qs, and yet both are represented as at odds.

Yet when they part, Bond does so with a Walther PPK and a traditional radio that will allow his position to be tracked. You can’t get more simple than that. Now the Walther PPK does have a grip that recognizes only Bond’s thumb print, so as to leave a particularly lethal signature, if he so chooses, gone are the flashy cars, the cloaking devices and the exploding pens, as Q points out.

It’s funny, it’s tongue-in-cheek, and it’s actually kind of silly. But the scene stood out to me for the fact that it actually describes a position that journalism finds itself in today.

Technology has both helped an inhibited the grand old institution. And much like spies, the infrastructure is hopelessly technological and yet completely reliant on humans.

The attempts to have computers write journalistic stories, even with human help, have so far been colossal failures. And so yes, we get the message.

A human, and in particular, a human with deep and disturbing intuitions, is required to make the world continue to go round. Technology, for all its ability, cannot compete with a human with conviction or a human with purpose.

But then we’ve always known this. It’s not a mystery, which makes “Skyfall” a bit antiquated in its fight against technology. Tech, weapons, tools, exploding pens and invisible cars have always been part of the escapist fascination with these films.

Bond’s incorrigible behavior with the girls that bear his name and his penchant for martinis shaken, not stirred, Aston Martins and over-the-top bad guys are what keep me up all night during Bond week on the USA Network.

But here again we return to the geek and the spy. In the film, the geek is responsible for allowing technology to override the impenetrable system. And Bond, with nothing but brawn, brains and will, manages to pull the world right again.

“Age is no guarantee of efficiency,” Q tells Bond. “And youth is no guarantee of innovation.” Bond retorts.

Both are right, in this case. And in the end of the film, both are prophetic.

But in the world we live in today, it is best to remember the purposes for which we innovate, the reasons for technology and the truth that what we do matters.

There is no wall between technology and humans. Bond accepts his enhanced Walther PPK and uses his radio transmitter as efficiently as he would an invisible car. Neither youth nor age, technology nor human insight clearly wins out.

What to do when your Facebook Edgerank drops –

Like any good relationship, you need to have a two-way conversation, a meaningful dialogue. When I started work at a newspaper in Oregon some years ago now, There was a slogan in use. “Join the conversation.” What struck me as funny was the fact that it wasn’t actually a conversation. We pushed out the news, vetted by editors, reported by reporters and drenched in integrity. You were expected to have the conversation about the gospel we were publishing each day.

I remember being asked to start a MySpace page for a newspaper I worked at. But the idea was not altruistic. My editor was simply looking for another way to push out content. Another delivery vehicle, a number generating miracle. This has always stuck me as odd. It is perhaps the one thing that turns me off about the news business in general. Turns out I was right. News, is a conversation. It’s a give and take between two or more people. It’s not a one-sided relationship. And many news agencies are learning that the hard way now that Facebook changed their Edgerank algorithm to favor better engagement over pushing links. About three weeks ago, we noticed a dip in Facebook referrals. We went from many thousands reached to just a few thousand reached with virtually no viral reach. We panicked. We went to forums and searched high and low for an answer. It seemed as if Facebook was finally forcing the revenue issue, and it looked like they were holding our hard-earned fans for ransom. If we paid Facebook some money, they would release a few more of our fans, and our precious referrals would return. But that’s not actually what happened. Vadim Lavrusik, a Facebook liaison to journalists, told us that it’s all about the kind of engagement we were doing. Links, banal headlines, self-serving content just wasn’t cutting it with Edgerank, because it wasn’t cutting it with our fans. He encouraged us to try a few different tactics for a few days. Instead of posting links with small picture embedded, we posted full pictures with links. We started targeting our stories to their impact audience. We started engaging with individual fans. We posted with our fans in mind, not with our own interests and needs at the top of the list. We posted less frequently, but we posted the best of our content. At first nothing happened. We called out Vadim on Facebook and whined a little. Then, incrementally, as you can see by the graph at the top of this page, we started to see an increase in engagement. Soon we saw more likes, more shares, more organic and eventually way more viral. These are not the only things you can do to increase engagement. We are experimenting with many other techniques right now. But these few things will improve your relationship with your audience and get back to a two-way conversation. The main issue is that most news organizations still view it as a one-way relationship. Even this setback may not help them bridge the digital divide. I hope it does though. When that Facebook crack goes away for a little while and your page views drop, it may be that come to Jesus moment many stodgy media outlets need. Then again, it may not. But I believe Darwin had a little something to say about that. Engagement is relationship, it’s a two-way conversation. I’m glad Facebook is finally holding people accountable for better engagement. If I had the controls, I’d do the same thing.

Throwing Stars and Dylan Thomas: Why the media should be relevant and relational

Every company is scrambling to come up with a strategy to deliver their goods to consumers and to interest their customers through a brand relationship. 

This includes media companies.

Some years ago I made a mistake. I posted a goodbye note to my friends after I was laid off from a small newspaper in Missoula, Montana.

Frustrated as I was at the thought of having to find a media job in a morass of confused and ultimately dying dinosaurs, I lashed out and wrote this: “Unfortunately, newspapers are helmed by old, decrepit captains who cannot see past their bifocals way down their noses reading about yesterday with all the relevance of the Hindenberg blimp disaster.”

I posted this as a Facebook note and tagged a bunch of journalists. Within 8 hours, it was posted on Jim Romenesko’s blog. Within 24 hours, it was everywhere, and I was fielding calls, emails and Facebook friend request from media and non-media alike.

Unfortunately, it cost me a possible job as the digital manager at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, though I’ll never know that for sure. I was simply told to keep looking.

My comment was ageist. I’ll not deny that. But the spirit of it was not.

Two things drive my journalism career. Relevance and relationship.

The limited audience reach at the first newspaper I ever worked for taught me to think about reaching the people I wanted to reach through the mediums they were consuming.

My friends, being young-ish, smart and digitally savvy, were consuming content from a trough so big and wide, you could park yourself in one spot and hardly ever come across the same thing twice. My newspaper, the place where my words were appearing daily, was a salt granule in the trough.

The overwhelming reason for this was our (the newspaper industry and media in general) habit of posting yesterday’s news today.

Just in case you missed it.

Two generations of people living on this planet have access to tools that give them news the second it breaks. One generation is caught in between, but they’re catching up fast. And another generation, the one that formerly consumed news from yesterday today every day at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee in hand, is passing on.

Relevance is key, because the core audience has moved off the traditional delivery platforms and away from the very style of day-old news.

Forward-looking, progressive and analytical and context-driven news created and curated by journalists is what the world is starving for. But we (the media world) keep feeding them stale bread.

The other piece, the big piece, is relationship. One-way, closed-door relationships rarely go anywhere today. The walls of influence and power that once divided media outlets from the public for the ‘good’ of the 4th Estate, now act as historic landmarks, dried-up motes, if you will, separating an increasingly paranoid and frightened media from a public ravenous for forward-looking contextualized information.

Relationship with an audience, with the general public, is second to relevance only in the sense that one must come first. Be it the chicken or the egg, relationship only matters if you have something to contribute.

Digital media start-ups have understood the need for relationship, but many have misunderstood relevance. Some have understood relevance but not relationship.

To their ultimate demise.

There still is the trough, the giant world of options that is the Internet. An it is a problem.

But in a world of bland and purposeless media options, a few granules of relevant and relational salt may just spark interest, as well-flavored food does, and spread word-of-mouth around a community, a town, a city and a country.

Just as relevance comes with a number of intricate issues to work out in terms actualizing. So does relationship.

Those buzzword throwing stars are full of such hypotheses. User-generated content, crowd sourcing, iReporting and a dozen other olive-branch participation strategies.

Meanwhile, media companies keep the walls intact and label everything accordingly, ignoring an information-hungry public getting more and more used to finding contextualized information in their Facebook feeds – from their friends. 

I think Dylan Thomas said it best: “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Throwing Stars and Dylan Thomas: Why the media should be relevant and relational

Every company is scrambling to come up with a strategy to deliver their goods to consumers and to interest their customers through a brand relationship. 

This includes media companies.

Some years ago I made a mistake. I posted a goodbye note to my friends after I was laid off from a small newspaper in Missoula, Montana.

Frustrated as I was at the thought of having to find a media job in a morass of confused and ultimately dying dinosaurs, I lashed out and wrote this: “Unfortunately, newspapers are helmed by old, decrepit captains who cannot see past their bifocals way down their noses reading about yesterday with all the relevance of the Hindenberg blimp disaster.”

I posted this as a Facebook note and tagged a bunch of journalists. Within 8 hours, it was posted on Jim Romenesko’s blog. Within 24 hours, it was everywhere, and I was fielding calls, emails and Facebook friend request from media and non-media alike.

Unfortunately, it cost me a possible job as the digital manager at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, though I’ll never know that for sure. I was simply told to keep looking.

My comment was ageist. I’ll not deny that. But the spirit of it was not.

Two things drive my journalism career. Relevance and relationship.

The limited audience reach at the first newspaper I ever worked for taught me to think about reaching the people I wanted to reach through the mediums they were consuming.

My friends, being young-ish, smart and digitally savvy, were consuming content from a trough so big and wide, you could park yourself in one spot and hardly ever come across the same thing twice. My newspaper, the place where my words were appearing daily, was a salt granule in the trough.

The overwhelming reason for this was our (the newspaper industry and media in general) habit of posting yesterday’s news today.

Just in case you missed it.

Two generations of people living on this planet have access to tools that give them news the second it breaks. One generation is caught in between, but they’re catching up fast. And another generation, the one that formerly consumed news from yesterday today every day at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee in hand, is passing on.

Relevance is key, because the core audience has moved off the traditional delivery platforms and away from the very style of day-old news.

Forward-looking, progressive and analytical and context-driven news created and curated by journalists is what the world is starving for. But we (the media world) keep feeding them stale bread.

The other piece, the big piece, is relationship. One-way, closed-door relationships rarely go anywhere today. The walls of influence and power that once divided media outlets from the public for the ‘good’ of the 4th Estate, now act as historic landmarks, dried-up motes, if you will, separating an increasingly paranoid and frightened media from a public ravenous for forward-looking contextualized information.

Relationship with an audience, with the general public, is second to relevance only in the sense that one must come first. Be it the chicken or the egg, relationship only matters if you have something to contribute.

Digital media start-ups have understood the need for relationship, but many have misunderstood relevance. Some have understood relevance but not relationship.

To their ultimate demise.

There still is the trough, the giant world of options that is the Internet. An it is a problem.

But in a world of bland and purposeless media options, a few granules of relevant and relational salt may just spark interest, as well-flavored food does, and spread word-of-mouth around a community, a town, a city and a country.

Just as relevance comes with a number of intricate issues to work out in terms actualizing. So does relationship.

Those buzzword throwing stars are full of such hypotheses. User-generated content, crowd sourcing, iReporting and a dozen other olive-branch participation strategies.

Meanwhile, media companies keep the walls intact and label everything accordingly, ignoring an information-hungry public getting more and more used to finding contextualized information in their Facebook feeds – from their friends. 

I think Dylan Thomas said it best: “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”

Here’s Why Journalism really is the Best Job Ever

No disrespect to Jeff Bercovici, but his article, “Forget That Survey. Here’s Why Journalism Is the Best Job Ever” made me throw up a little in my mouth.

Being a newspaper, magazine or television reporter IS worse than being a waiter or waitress and just a wee bit better than being an oil rig worker.

And don’t you forget it.

The last thing we want is journalism being so cool only the elite can get in or so ironic that only hipsters want in.

Journalism is hard, low-paying work made for those of us with just enough personality disorder to ask questions no one else would dare. With little to no personal life to take us away from it and without regard to the proverbial ladder climbing of traditional workforce.

Bercovici’s list starts with:

You’re always learning

I learned everything I would learn about journalism in the first 10 days as a cub reporter. That’s about all the time they’ll let you make the mistakes you cannot afford to make as a journalist.

It’s truly a sink or swim career, and if you swim, it’s 90 percent instinct, 5 percent skepticism and 5 percent alcohol by volume that keeps you afloat.

Continuing education? Yes. But the best journalists I’ve worked with know it, and they’re just looking for a few more inches or 30 seconds more to prove it.

You get paid to read a lot

I worked with a reporter who used to come in and pour himself a big cup of coffee and read through our newspaper. The rest of us were combing through blogs, Twitter and Facebook for leads, sources and to make sure there were no tagged pictures of us from the night before. Of course you get paid to read a lot. You read 10 times more than you write. You read so much your eyes bleed.

You get paid to meet interesting people

Perhaps the understatement of the article. If you consider city managers who embezzle money and sexually harass staffers interesting, well then daily journalism is just chock full of interesting characters. Yes, there are the occasional celebrities playing the county fair circuit, but a county commissioner with an ax to grind is far more interesting than a washed up country star who is about to squeeze out an extra 15 minutes on a reality show. 

You get to meet celebrities

See above.

Maybe you get to enjoy a little celebrity

It takes a hell of an ego to do the stuff that journalists do every day. My favorites keep their awards (like toy soldiers) on their desk. Like notches on the bed post, 97, 98, 99, 02, 04, 05, best writing, best feature, best story, best photo, Pulitzer, Murrow. Lets just say journalists are not likely to inherit the earth.

All that “stress?” It’s called excitement

Actually, it’s stress. Pure, unadulterated, sweat-stained stress. It’s trying to maintain a semblance of the coverage before layoffs decimated newsrooms over the last 5 years. It’s stress from trying to keep up with every vertical invented to create the illusion of new revenue. It’s stress from two cultures sharing the same space, virtually at odds and ultimately trying to achieve the same purpose while working to destroy one another. What’s the definition of insanity again?

Journalists Get Around

Conferences in Puerto Rico and Austin? It beats conferences in Portland and Seattle or pretty much anywhere in the Midwest, but seriously, who among us didn’t get into journalism for that international assignment, the war reporting, the travel writing? The reality is quite the opposite, but the opportunities are not all gone the way of the buffalo. I once spent a week in Yellowstone National Park in winter to write about the impact of snow machines on the park. I paid my own way, shot all my own photos and wrote three stories for the paper I worked for. It was totally worth it. A young reporter I currently work with just went to Afghanistan for a week to cover Alaskan troops stationed there. The days of blank-check travel are over. But a reporter who refuses to accept the limitations will find much shoe leather and plenty of road miles if not air mileage.

And then there’s the matter of self expression

If the appeal of journalism is getting to use the word “I” today, then we’re in some real trouble. Bercovici says, “Have I convinced you that journalism is the only real career choice for curious, restless semi-narcissists like me?” That’s pretty much anyone on Facebook these days. In this UGC world of iReports, journalism is an open door for the innovators, the thinkers, the relentlessly curious, the willingly overworked, the consciously objective, the ego-worthy writers and broadcasters willing to face the eggs and tomatoes of an altogether uncaring audience, who, like a child, does not know what’s good for it were it not for us.