Arbiters of our future

An effort I’m involved with at E.W. Scripps to have editors and online directors redefine the company’s strategies and to hire 40 paid interns across the company to help free us a bit from the day-to-day demands so we will have the time to take a penetrating look at what the company’s newspapers need to do to grow a future, and then do it, is getting some attention, perhaps, did I detect, praise.

Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst and author of “Newsonomics: Twelve New Trends That Will Shape the News You Get,” wrote about it today, saying:

For newspaper companies, it’s time to re-start the engines. One big question is how. One somewhat new answer is coming, in differing flavors, from companies like Scripps, Journal Register and Hearst. Each is newly trying to involve its staffs in charting new directions for the news companies. … Scripps’ effort, being formally announced tomorrow, is the most ambitious in scope.

I like the energy of the Scripps effort and what appears to be happening at Journal Register. Cultural change is a prerequisite for companies truly aiming to make a transition to operations that at least think digital first.


Bringing in a raft of new talent — and hoping to keep some of it after the internships are over — is a good step, almost Patch-like, in harnessing the passion of younger journalists, unhindered by the past, and ready to grab the digital future.

As Doctor observes, the challenge for those of us involved is to make this effort at transformation, culture change and retooling (pick a buzzword) work where so many previous mornings of today is the first day of the rest of your life haven’t. It’s tough, mentally sweaty work in the greasy nuts and bolts. It’s a calendar of conference calls, deadlines, and report outs. It’s difficult consensus building in an uncertain environment where everyone points in a different direction when you say which way?

There’s a difference between talking and doing; between opining and executing; between white papers and quantifiable results.

Wish us luck; we’re about the latter!

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Text is just for context

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Image via CrunchBase

In the text-centric world of media, Gawker Media brash boy Nick Denton lobs another grenade:

People don’t really want to read text,” Denton said. “They want videos, they want images, bigger, more lavish.” In other words, consumers are looking for online media products that more closely resemble TV and magazines.

Gawker Founder: The Future of Online Media Is Video

I love the prototype designs that have circulated of the new Gawker property layouts that are dominated by huge photos.

Interestingly, Denton is not talking about producing a great deal of video content, but just using it.

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Random evolution: We split the gene pool

After 1,665 entries over more than five years, I’ve decided to split this blog in two, with this one renamed to reflect the domain name, jacklail.com, and a new Random Mumblings blog at www.randommumblings.com.

This will remain my professional presence and Random Mumblings will be a bit more … random.

What’s up with this?

There’s no single answer, but not more than a handful.

I’ve powered this site with MovableType since the beginning and have been very happy with it, even when WordPress became the new darling. I’ve used WordPress a bit and while it’s a serviceable platform, I didn’t see much advantage in moving. While the developer community moved to WordPress, MovableType keep adding just enough features, like the Activity Stream and OpenID support to name two, to more than meet my modest blogging needs.

The sale of Six Apart to VideoEgg announced last week, however, makes me wonder about the future of its blogging platforms; they don’t seem to central to the new company’s mission. The new company is called SAY Media and seems focused around developing advertising solutions. MovableType development will continue to be based in Japan. I wish them well and I’ll continue to use MovableType Pro on this site for the foreseeable future.

But I also wanted to seriously experiment with at least one of the upstarts. I’ve had a Posterous account for awhile, but hadn’t used it. I gave a quick size-up of Posterous and Tumblr. Users of both are passionate about them, each has its pluses and minus, but Posterous feels at this early stage to more of what I’m looking for: Dead easy, minimal in fuss and muss, and strong technology underpinnings. I’m sure Tumblr fans will say, yeah, but. So be it. For now, it’s Posterous for a platform.

Creating the site in Posterous, including selecting and customizing a theme, registering a domain name (why didn’t I think of registering the name of my blog years ago?), setting an “A record” to map the domain to my Posterous blog, getting Google Analytics turned on, and hooking into my Facebook account took maybe a couple hours. Yeah, I could fiddle with the CSS for hours on end, Yeah, I could. I doubt I will.

I’m creating yet another blog as many continue to say “blogging is dead.” Blogging is dead as a particular, perhaps peculiarly quirky, platform for daily personal commentary with reverse chronological posts that allow for comments. Most content management systems or social media sites have those and more. And “blogging” platforms have gone pro from Huffington Post and Gawker Media to the corporate PR department.

Of course, outlets for personal expression are increasing: Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and others.

What’s not dead or dying is the need to create a personal brand and to have a home base for one’s digital life. This site will remain that for me. I think it’s always good career advice to get your “name dot com” if it’s available. LinkedIn and Facebook have roles as well.

What’s not dead or dying is the desire of people to share things, to have an opinion, to see something that makes us smile (and hopefully laugh). The new Random Mumblings will be that for me in addition to Twitter and Facebook and flickr and delicious and Foursquare and … Yeah, it’s complicated.

We’ll see how it plays out. The unchanging law of the digital world is that everything changes or evolves. This splitting of the gene pool is the next evolution for me.

Thoughts on how blogging and social media and digital life are evolving? Post ’em in the comments.

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Biggest news stories in each of the last eight years

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Image via CrunchBase

Would these eight be on your list of the biggest stories of the year for each of the last eight years? These are the stories that Google News says were the biggest stories in its eight years of existence based on the number of articles indexed.

From the Google News blog:

The 2008 election of President Obama takes the cake as the biggest news story since Google News was born.

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A camel, a Lohan and a Curley

Tom Curley, president and CEO of the Associated Press, talks about news on the Web and the four types of news at the APME NewsTrain at the John Seigenthaler Center on the campus of Vanderbilt University in Nashville on Sept. 23, 2010.

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