Having two sons who are digital natives who live and work in the digital and social world has helped me to bridge the gap in media worlds. As someone who now works as a consultant in helping my legacy media peers understand the transition – this cartoon helps say it all. For my sweetie on our 39th Anniversary – yousay it all for me!
Over the weekend Jeremy Peters wrote an article on The Washington Post for The New York Times. This was a great read, and documents just how difficult the transition is into the digital age of publishing is for newspapers. This is a must read for anyone following the challenging rebirth of newspapers in this new digital era.
The transition has not been easy, but the future looks relatively bright, at least for The Post, in the manner, the methods, and the resources they committed to in leading this critical process. It has not been without bumps, glitches, and lots of hurt feelings, bruised egos, and red ink.
The news business is changing and there is increasing pressure on the publishers, editors, writers, and even the advertising staff. Nearly every newspaper is facing a similar challenge. What is different at The Post is that they have had deep financial resources to help in the transition. Unfortunately, even at The Washington Post for well can run dry.
The cash cow that is helped to finance this transition is their Kaplan division. Long a financial success and a reader in the for-profit education field, they are now feeling the same financial pressures that the rest of the field has felt in the current economic downturn. The former cash cow is now just a sick puppy.
Mr. Brauchli has stated “that he refuses to be a prisoner of the past” that may sound a little arrogant to many in the newspaper field, but his actions show that he is living his feelings. In a recent social setting, Mr. Brauchli brought in many of the distinguished writers on the staff of The Post to review the transition and how they could use that to their benefit in the coverage of the 2012 elections. As the newspaper of record for Washington D.C., The Washington Post is expected to feed it’s pampered local audience of key national influentials the best coverage possible.
Washington Post staff has brought in a number of key tools and techniques to bridge the existing print world with the new digital audience. This includes locating the print reporters alongside the newer staff, which includes a large contingent of what we now call bloggers. This is not unlike what you will find at many other large metropolitan newspapers, however one unique factor is that many of these “bloggers” have had some significant success including Ezra Klein a young, California bred, blogger who has had significant success as a political wonk.
I’ve followed Ezra for the last couple of years that have taken great pride in the success since he is a hometown boy from here in Southern California. In fact he attended the same high school as both of my sons. I can’t imagine a better example of what we will be seeing in the next generation of reporters and writers at all of our newspapers.
My pride in the local boy making good aside, along with Ezra there legions of new writers who a publishing content all day long for the electronic versions of The Post. They are learning minute by minute how to provide just the right content for their audience. Metrics are viewed by Mr. Baruchli and key editors, and delivered in a continuous stream to their readers and viewers. This stream of data influences what is being covered and written about throughout the day. This is also happening at a number of other newspapers around the U.S. and the world.
What’s different at The Washington Post is that they are under incredible scrutiny since they are covering the most expensive election cycle in the world. They have resources not currently available to other chains, under even greater financial pressure. A lot is at stake here, this includes for The Post, for the American public, and for journalism. They have a chance to get it right for print journalism, digital journalism, and for the future of journalism. Lets hope that they get it right. Our future and the future of the news industry is at stake.
There are those things that are touch points to our past. This was a big week for key events that highlight how far and fast we have gone over the last several years. Growing up with a Brownie camera and Kodak film I was the model of American youth. The advertising phrase – ‘ A Kodak Moment’ was the catch phrase for time to store a happy memory that only film could do. Movies had many scenes of hapless dads and moms trying to capture their ‘Kodak moment’ while their kids were going crazy to get out of the scene. While working at Disneyland in college there were signs at various locations that encouraged people to take advantage of a Kodak Vantage Point with a sign in Kodak yellow. Kodak film was sold on Main Street and shops all over the park.
This week we got the news that Kodak, now in bankruptcy for reorganization, was going to drop most of their last links to photography. This is a sad story, and one we have seen repeated many time over in our ‘ industrial digital transition.’ Old services, products and companies are in decline as our economy, and lives, are changing in this new ‘digital’ world. Yesterday’s business leaders are tomorrows canon fodder…do they still ‘make’ canon fodder?’
The shame for Kodak is that it saw it coming and did not take the steps needed to survive. They saw the digital revolution in photography early on, and made some minor adjustments, but in the end the effort was staged to protect their lucrative film business, even when the ‘digital barbarians’ were at the gates.
What will Kodak do now? Their next phase, if they can survive the bankruptcy courts, will be to continue as a provider to online and retail photo printing services – like Costco, where I get my prints done. They will also continue in the desktop printer arena, but with heavy competition from HP, Canon and others. Selling printer paper is also a key factor, but that is a commodity business, and margins are shrinking there as well.
What does the Kodak transition mean for us? I guess we have great role model for change – or at least what happens when you fail to adapt or change. Strong brands with years of earned equity in their brand can flame out just as easily as the next brand. Twinkies and Ding Dongs are still trying to find a new home since their founding baker has faltered.
Kodak shows us that the allure of circling the wagons and protecting the flanks because of high margins for existing core businesses will not work in this new world. Being both ‘digital and flat’ will be the keys to new high margins. Kodak saw the light coming down the tunnel and didn’t think it was a train. Everyone should be alert for their own ‘trains’ being aimed at them now.
My own experience in marketing and advertising has been in the publishing field – newspapers and shoppers, and in the direct marketing – mail. Think I don’t know the numbers and schedules of all the trains coming down the track – I do now.
My clients, mostly those with strong roots in the pre-digital world, are learning and alert to the transition. However, the force is strong with those who want to protect what they have built up, and that causes many to falter and lose sight of the pending changes. Now is the time for reinvention, for all of us. No more ‘Kodak moments’ will be coming, at least for Kodak in coming months.
All is right with Texas, and all is thusly right with the World. As a former Texan, circa 1980-1983 I am a living testament to the uniqueness of Texas, actually really it’s the Texans who are so ‘unique.’ I now enjoy having Son#1 living in Austin, the unique heart of Texas, with his native Texan wife and native Texan daughter. I loved living in Texas, back then, and they love Texas of the 21st Century. The last few months have been trying times for Texans as they cheered and mourned the fates of two favorite sons – Rick Perry and Lance Armstrong. Now there is resolution for both.
Rick Perry is back in Texas, some are happy, and some are sad. Texans love to cheer on favorite sons, but Rick didn’t come home with a victory, and Texans hate to lose. Texas papers are reporting the polls are showing that Perry’s favorability ratings have fallen in the state. They interpret this to mean that many Texans are not happy to have Rick back in the state after his run for the Presidency. His poor showing on the stump reflects poorly on them they think. Ouch!
Lance Armstrong is back in Texas, in fact he never left. Not only is Lance a great cyclist, perhaps the greatest of all times based on his Tour de France record, but he is a great businessman. Lance built an entertainment empire out of Austin, one that would be the envy of any rock impresario. It helped to build Austin into a center of the earth for entertainment of all ilks with the SXSW each spring. I’ve never been, but my son is there every year, and now each year he is a contributor in the digital field
Texas in a unique place with its own culture, actually cultures, since there is no single culture to embrace all Texans, except for Pride, and in Texas that is spelled with a capital ‘P’. They love to win, and love it when they get to bring home the glory. In the case of Perry and Armstrong, both favorite sons with unique stories, Texans regaled in their successes, and held fast to them when both got into ‘trouble.’
The Texas miracle is built on two factors – lots of cash, and a tight network of ‘good old boys.’ It was many of these good old boys who bank rolled the Perry run for President. Texans don’t like to lose, that is in every area including both money and face. Rick came up ‘short’ in both areas.
The money was bad enough for the donors; they can make it back, but losing ‘face’ with Rick’s poor performance in the debates and on the stump. Not only did Rick come back to Texas diminished from his performance, he came back to a deflated Texas, where many are now questioning the ‘Texas Miracle’ he was touting on the stump. That was embarrassing to all Texans, and Rick may find it hard to mount any future campaigns. His network is still strong, and full of cash, but they are likely looking to the future with other names in mind.
One more opportunity for Lance came this week with the Susan B. Komen flap over cutting off funds to Planned Parenthood. Stepping in to help offset the cut in funds were Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York and Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong Fund who matched funds lost from the Komen actions. Nothing like a lot of great publicity announced almost simultaneously with the announcement that there would be no further legal actions planned against Lance for the doping/steroid allegations. Wow, what more can a man do to get his reputation back.
Texas, like California, has a very unique culture. They love their favorite sons, but sometimes when those sons go astray there is a price to pay. For both Rick Perry and Lance Armstrong, going ‘astray’ has had consequences on their reputation. The press has been all over the both of them. It appears that Lance has weathered the storm, and is back on top in Texas. His reputation is being restored, or at least it has been expunged from the official records. He will recover.
Rick Perry embarrassed Texans with his poor performance, his reputation is now down. It remains to be seen if it will recover. Time will tell, time will tell. For Lance, all is good, and all is forgiven. Perhaps Lance should consider a run for the Governor for the next term. I know a few Texans who would vote for him now.