In Defense of True Journalists

Posted on June 15, 2011. Filed under: Blogging, Communications, Media, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

First, apologies. I promised this post would follow up the last with a system for online marketing. I’ll deliver that next post. Today, however, I attended an event that got me thinking about journalists and what they’re going through in the evolution of media and have some thoughts to share.

This afternoon I attended the annual meeting of the Fairfield County Public Relations Association, a PR professional organization founded in 1958. I proudly served as its president in the mid 1990’s.

Coming out of the PR profession, I’ve spent my career interacting with journalists, offering them story ideas, articles and sometimes just the camaraderie of people who make up two parts of an equation.

As much as the rise of the Internet has changed the lives of PR people, I believe it’s changed life more for journalists. I recognize that the web lets me take my clients’ stories directly to their constituents. I can bypass the media and go direct to our audiences with useful information that they will embrace.

I blog and write a monthly column for a business journal. I share with you my experience, expertise and take on what’s going on in the online marketing world. But I’m not a journalist and don’t pretend to be.

I truly hope the definition and characteristics of true journalism stay alive. Journalists are committed to reporting the facts. They vet their sources. They report on what’s going on more than they opine. They’re trained to have a nose for what’s newsworthy. So do PR people, but journalists are charged with digging to get both sides of an issue, rather than advocating for only one side of the story.

importance of Journalists

Journalists play a key role in our democratic society

The keynote speaker for today’s meeting was Julia Hood, president of the Arthur W. Page Society, a membership organization for senior PR and corporate communications executives. Julia pointed out that PR people are supposed to advocate for our clients, despite recent crises to the contrary (i.e. Facebook/Burson-Marsteller). It’s our charge to be truthful, but not necessarily impartial. That’s the role of journalists. Nonetheless, I’ve seen fabulous reporters dumped from newsrooms as daily newspapers struggle to evolve and figure out their role. Who will take up that slack?

The incoming president of FCPRA, Marian Salzman, CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide PR, North America pointed out rightly that, although corporate America has lagged behind, hyper-local is the current focus of people and the media that reflects their interests. Hyper local media is experimenting with combining professional and citizen journalism as a way to cover the local news, taking advantage of expanded digital platforms.

That’s interesting and it’s good that they’re employing some journalists, probably not at great pay levels. But I hope we don’t lose the desire to support the kind of skeptical, truth-seeking journalists I’ve discoursed and partnered with to get great stories out, negotiated and disagreed with over newsworthiness and whether something represented a trend, cursed out under my breath when they just didn’t get something I thought was important.

Many of these incredible pros have been riffed out of newsrooms because of downsizing. I spent time with a few today. PR leaders like Bob Dilenschneider have added some of these amazing – now former – journalists to his global PR consulting team. I am intrigued about what they in conjunction with an evolving PR profession will envision together for the future.

What they provide needs an ongoing place in our culture and our political system. It’s not melodramatic to say that they are at the heart of our democracy — moreso than any politician who claims that turf for him- or herself.

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How the Worm is Turning for Newspapers

Posted on March 18, 2011. Filed under: Advertising, Content, Jazz, Marketing, Media, Newspapers | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

This post is about the continuing – and increasing pace of – the evolution of print newspapers into online entities. The musical post is not directly related. It’s a tribute to Joe Morello, the iconic drummer of the 1950s and ‘60s Dave Brubeck Quartet whose solo on Take Five is a jazz classic. We lost Joe this past week.

Joe Morello with Dave Brubeck Quartet

If there’s a thematic connection, it’s in the idea of evolution. Joe Morello helped evolve the way we think about rhythm. Listen to his killer technique on Far More Drums (in 5/4 time) from the album Time Further Out. Other personnel are Brubeck, piano, Paul Desmond, sax, Eugene Wright, bass.

Three things came to my attention this week that magnify the rapid move of newspapers away from a print platform. Two of them were widely reported.
• The L.A. times reported results of a study that show for the first time that online readership surpassed print readership by 46% to 40%.
• The New York Times announced it will erect its online subscription paywall on March 28.

I learned of the third thing as I worked with a client launching a new kind of medical practice who wanted to do some local print advertising here in the Fairfield County, Connecticut market. Over the past few years, Hearst Media has acquired all but one of the major dailies in the county, as well as a well-read chain of weekly community papers. I asked our sales rep for her help in putting together a three-month advertising plan in three of their community weeklies.

She proceeded to explain that for every dollar my client spent advertising online – which would include visibility on three major dailies and geo-targeting to the weeklies – and in a health and fitness-related magazine title, Hearst would match the spend 100% – dollar for dollar — in newspaper print advertising. That meant that a $10,000 budget, for example, would have a $20,000 equivalency.

It was a no-brainer for the client to cover both traditional and online bases for its original budget. And it made an enormous statement about the value being placed on print newspapers by the publisher. Even though the online advertising might be a bit pricey, we’ll know if it’s worth it when we get the traffic, page view and click-thru reports. There was no contract required so opting out is no problem.

A newspaper publisher giving away print to build online ad spends. Time was – til recently – that it was the other way around. The worm is most definitely turning!!

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My NY Times Electronic Edition: Ending a Moral Dilemma

Posted on December 31, 2010. Filed under: Content, Jazz, Media, Newspapers, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

What are you doing New Year’s Eve? While you read my last post of the year, enjoy saxophonist Houston Person and friends asking that question in their swingin’, jazzy way.

In addition to writing one last post, I decided to end 2010 by finally changing my New York Times paper subscription to the Electronic Edition – a day ahead of the Times’ new pay policy for online-only readers. I’ve been working my way to this moment gradually.Paper Boy by leslieblissphoto CC

A while back I downsized from daily to the ‘Weekender’ subscription. Most of my papers were going into the recycling bin unopened. I had lost the luxury of time to sit and read the paper leisurely over coffee and instead began grabbing the Times news headlines and my favorite features online.

Even with the weekend-only change, I still ended up tossing out most of my papers unread and decided to go to the online only subscription. Now it’s interesting to know that the Times will allow us to change our home delivery subscriptions online. But if you want to ditch paper in favor of bytes, it’s not so easy. It requires a phone call. And voice mail hell offers every option but switching to an online-only subscription.

When I finally got a ‘customer service’ rep on the line, she practically begged me not to go all-electronic but to just try a Sunday-only home delivery subscription and she would give me a special promotional price to keep receiving the print paper. I would continue to get full online access as a print subscriber for free. The promotional price and the almost desperate appeal got me to relent and, until now, I’ve been receiving the Sunday paper. Same thing. It still often goes unopened, while I read the Times daily on my computer or smart phone.

I am happy to pay for the New York Times’ content in whatever format. It’s worth it. It costs a lot of money to hire the best reporters, editors and columnists, build an online future and whatever else is required to keep high quality news coverage coming. We shouldn’t expect it for free.

As I struggled with the waste of paper that my subscription continued to represent, I also thought about the guy who delivers it daily and the fact that I’m contributing to his having a job. Same with the paper mill workers and the printing plant employees. We have to reckon with the fact that the gains of evolving technologically into the future usually mean losses for older platforms.

That said, I decided to make a statement about the importance to me of my ‘newspaper of record’ by standing up and saying, “Of course I’ll pay for this; even before I have to.” So I braved the Times’ subscription phone lines once again to switch to the Electronic Edition. Once again the rep tried to sell me on another Sunday-only promotional price to keep me getting the paper.

“Why?” I asked. “My current subscription costs me $4.90 a week and the online subscription will be $20 a month. So you’re not losing any revenue on my switch – and, in fact, The Times is gaining margin. And, while we’re talking, why can’t I make this switch to online – online?”

The answer to the latter question is that it’s to be sure that it’s really me requesting the change. Given the process I had to go through to switch – it also appears that there are two separate subscription systems for print and online readers. Not very tech-forward.

“But,” I asked further, “If the reason I have to do this on the phone is security, and you’re not losing me as a customer, nor are you losing revenue, why the big push to keep me as a print customer.”

Her answer was bemusing: “Lots of people are switching to the Electronic Edition, and we’re trying to keep the paper in circulation.”

As far as I can tell, whether its content is in digital or print format, the Times remains in circulation. In fact, digital has the potential to circulate the stories far beyond a print run. Maybe the paper needs to make a further conceptual shift that what it has of value to sell is content, regardless of the delivery system.

The evolution of media is a fascinating topic to me. It would be great to hear more from someone at The Times about what its online transition strategy involves. In my effort to go paperless, I felt somewhat manipulated and I’d really like to know why the Times thinks that’s necessary.

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Survey Results: Media Seek More Outside Video Content for Online Viewing

Posted on March 14, 2010. Filed under: Content, Inbound Marketing, Jazz, Newspapers, Public Relations Marketing, Social Media, Uncategorized, Video | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

After a weekend of horrific rain and high winds here in the NY metro, I decided to blog to Antonio Carlos Jobim’s lilting Waters of March – sung by Jobim himself and the legendary Elis Regina. Hit play and enjoy — or subscribe by RSS and listen at your leisure.

Last week I had the opportunity to hang out with and hear a presentation by video producer and video blogger Doug Simon of D S Simon Productions Inc and vlogviews.com. He was launching his 2010 Web Influencers Survey, a second annual poll of the use of outside video content by influential media online.

Doug surveyed nearly 300 media sites – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, online only and blogs. The results should get everyone who wants to earn media coverage scrambling for their Flip or other digital video cam – or calling on a trusted professional video production studio.

With his permission, here are a few highlights and a couple of tips.

  • Newspapers and TV showed the highest rate of increase in use of online video content 76% and 96% respectively – up from 53% and 79% the previous year.
  • Though no TV stations said that they use scripted video pieces, 33% said they use embed codes. An embed code is an HTML code that allows you to post a video on a website or blog as easily as posting a photo. Ironically, if a TV outlet uses your video embed code, they are, indeed, posting a scripted piece in its entirety!
  • If you get your video content on a media site, the reach doesn’t stop there. All of the media surveyed share their online video content in varying percentages – from 13% to 47%.

Doug’s top tip for producing and sharing video content with media?

  • Be informative and produce your video in an authentic style. Think news item – not infomercial. No hard sell!! You must be fully transparent to meet FTC guidelines.
  • Another important tip…As with all web content, make sure that your video is social media ready so that it can be easily shared and tracked.

A few months ago, I wrote here about the Exaflood – a huge increase in online video. Doug’s study most definitely supports the information in that post. To get more results from the 2010 Web Influencers Survey and to learn much more about how to use online video visit Doug Simon at www.vlogviews.com. Thanks to Doug for sharing this great information and his expertise.

BTW…Although Waters of March sounds like it keeps repeating the same musical phrase, except for the refrain, each phrase is slightly different – like water cascading over rocks in a streambed. The sheet music goes on for pages!

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In a New York State of Web

Posted on October 13, 2009. Filed under: Public Relations Marketing, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Wow! Here’s the tune that started my life-long love affair with Mark Murphy – best male jazz singer alive today in my humble you know… Me in the kitchen of our 60’s split level in suburban Philly. The stereo hand-built by my father is in the rec room below –  visible over a wrought iron balcony.

All of a sudden, WDAS-FM Phila – the town that suffers from something of a NY City inferiority complex – plays a song that perks up my ears: Sunday in New York (the album, Bridging a Gap). Mark Murphy, a Rochester, New York native is on gravelly, hip vocals, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mike Brecker on tenor sax, Pat Rebillot, piano & organ, Sam Brown, guitar, Ron Carter, bass, Jimmy Madison, drums & percussion.

 I’m obviously on a ‘firsts’ kick – being new to my blog. But as I listen now to the lyrics, there’s something there that speaks truth about the world of the Web…

 “You can spend time, without spendin’ a dime, watchin’ people watch people go past. (lada-lada-lada) Later you pause, and in one of the stores… there’s that face next to yours in the glass!”

So like the Web!!!! Remind you of Twitter? Lots for free. And lots of opportunities to connect with just what – or who — you need! That may not last forever as businesses try to monetize…

 But there’s another optimistic message in the song that we can all use these days:

“Take your troubles out for a walk, yeah! They’re gonna burst, they’re gonna burst like bubbles in the fun of a Sunday in New York.”

I know I’m feeling better now! I’m in the New York metro zone, having fun on the Web, and listening to Mark again. Oh, happy day!!

Relax – make like Sunday afternoon – and enjoy the rest of the tune! See you soon!

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