Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What He Said

Robert Picard, the most sane man in the universe of journalistic whatiffiness.

"Communicating regularly is hard work. It takes skill; it takes a voice; it takes having something to say; it takes time. Making money from it is even harder....

"Although large numbers of people are trying the new technologies, they are reacting to them in different ways. Some find them highly useful and satisfying; some find them worthless and disappointing; some find them a worthy pastime; others find them a waste of time. What this means is that—like all technologies—they are more important to some people than to others. Consequently, managers need to be realistic in assessing their potential, the extent to which they are being used by the public, and the extent to which they provide opportunities that media companies should pursue.

"Because those promoting the technologies are self interested, uptake figures are easy to come by. Finding out who has tried the technologies, but decided they were undesirable is harder. However, research is showing some interesting results in that regard. We now know that 60 percent of the people who try Twitter stop using it within a month, that only about 5% of blogs are regularly updated, that more than 200 million blogs have been abandoned, and that about 37 million web domain names are deleted every year....

"From the business standpoint one has to be realistic when evaluating the opportunities presented. Media executives need to ask hard questions: Do all media companies need to provide content across every available platform regardless of the cost and effort? Are all types of news and information appropriately carried on all platforms? In what ways is branding and marketing for the company actually served by these engagements? How are these monetized? What are the returns on the investments? What are the risks of not engaging these technologies?"

Boldface mine. And while you're on his blog, read on to the subsequent item on executive bonuses, which, since it mentions my newspaper, I won't comment on except to quote this:

"Most newspapers, however, are surviving the downturn and will be serving their communities for many years."

I remember reading about the late Berkeley Gazette in California. Ingersoll came into its management in the 1980s and was appalled, and it took a lot to shock Ingersoll. I remember a reference to it this way: They went to the circulation manager's desk and opened the drawer and found it filled with start-delivery requests that had never been fulfilled. People wanted to subscribe to the paper, but that would have meant more work for him. So he just ignored them. This was consistent with its overall management. Ingersoll tried to salvage the paper, but it was too far gone.

The next time someone says "a newspaper shouldn't be run like a business" -- no, it should. To quote a former managing editor about my paper's business operations under its previous ownership: First-rate newspaper, third-rate company. (And now, of course, the Zellots are down to fifth-rate.) Honestly, journalists should demand to work for good business people. But that would require our paying attention to things we would rather ignore.

1 comment:

Gerri Berendzen said...

Having at one time worked for Ingersoll, I might question any reference to that company and good business in the same sentence. But I catch your drift.