Friday, August 1, 2008

OnlineSpin: Nothing is Killing Anything: Musings On Digital And The Business Of News

Last week Max Kalehoff wrote "What Are The Chances?"

Richard Monihan wrote in response, "Congratulations! Kids are wonderful and do always provide a fresh outlook.

I've found experiences with my kids have helped give me interesting views on every part of the media industry IÂ've worked in, from News and Information, to Kids (where I am now).

But they also provide WONDERFUL management training.

Learning to raise kids has given me insight into aspects of managing a team that border (actually mimic) childlike behavior.

Enjoy the time with your family and all the best to you!"

Keith Walker wrote, "Great story. Congratulations.

With two under 5 myself and both parents working full-time, I can appreciate and respect anyone in a similar position, especially in regard to organization, time management, prioritization.

It's hectic, but very rewarding!

Sharing 3 birthdays is cost-efficient also. One activity (dinner, trip, etc.) to celebrate vs. three separate."

Friday, August 1, 2008
Nothing is Killing Anything: Musings On Digital And The Business Of News
By Kendall Allen

Despite the fact that my day-to-day life is so very today, I have always embodied the old and the new. Design, my cameras, musical tastes, social circles -- and probably even my hair -- reveal this. Being the oldest daughter of a newsman and an artist likely boosts this constitution, certainly when it comes to my media.

Even though I am avidly digital, my devotion is not pure-play. There are six print news and culture magazines entering my household; TV programming engaging countless hours of my head-space; radio commentary streaming my nest; an array of online feeds, forums and daily doses; various devices; music scoring my day -- and of course the thump of a daily newspaper to my doorstep. That's right.  If there were no thump, my dad the newsman might just shake me.

For as long as I can remember, given my roots and path, I have pondered the future of the news business -- and, over the past decade, the role that digital would play in determining or dissuading that future. My work with news and entertainment brands, the friends I have in these circles and my own consumption find me in that conversation all the time. And, each time these futures are debated, I flash on certain conversations and markers that illuminate.

This musing is inconclusive -- but spins on the tensions and opportunities that are worth considering as consumers, publishers, producers -- and frankly, as media obsessives.

My dad was of an era of newsmen. Guessable demographics and props aside - excepting one Royal typewriter on which I typed all my school papers yielding type in all shades of gray - there was a questing ethic that characterized.

When I was young. my dad used to talk about striving for objectivity. What he believed is not as important, nor would I try to encapsulate it here, as the fact that it seemed a sustaining tenet in conversations I overheard. To me, even as a child, this equilibrium seemed unfathomable.  Today, we have started talking about "multi-perspective journalism." I believe the media convergence we are experiencing really ignites this opportunity, one that feels like an extremely creative response to the tension of that old objectivity imperative.

I covet a magazine called The Week. All you need to know about everything that matters. The best of the U.S. and International Media. Not about objectivity, The Week is an engaging stride at balance. And now there are plays afoot to take "multi-perspective journalism" truly digital. Imagine The Week on digital steroids -- complete with robust sharing utility, high production quality video and entirely new approaches to content management. Thrilling! We won't name any names. But it's happening -- and is invigorating the digital news "situation," in my opinion.

I recall early conversations about what the newspaper companies were doing to embrace new media (eh hem) -- and that it was not a foregone conclusion that the Internet would "kill" print. San Jose Mercury News and the Merc Center were originally lauded for their progressiveness - even by the old guard. This ecosystem is now quite noisy -- with premium players and upstarts. But, it's now the norm.

Then, in some confabs, there was a purist's disdain for blogging in its earlier years -- specifically an assertion that we should all just slow down and appreciate that citizen-journalists still must rely on original reporting. This resonated. That perceived righteousness within the blogging sphere and the thought that it might be the death of beat reporting was suggested by the old school as ridiculous. Now there has been a productive meeting of these worlds over the past few years. Blogging and original reporting more often are holding hands -- and we all are benefiting.

A certain newsman now emails, shares photos, takes some online news and... records his memoirs. This is exciting stuff. And, I would wager that the place where maverick blogging happened, which has become The Blogosphere - might be worth a second look. Though I am sure the old guard would raise an eyebrow at a recent New York Times article,  " In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop."

About a week ago, my dad and a group of news executives who'd worked with a certain iconic editor in chief over the years, on tenures with various news organizations, gathered just outside Philadelphia. Some were of the same group who published Excerpted here from Editor & Publisher publication on same date. Full text:
an open letter to Knight Ridder executives in 2005, when the future of KR was looming fractured. It was signed by a roster of over 50 journalists who were looking forward. I will not analyze but simply excerpt here, for as I consider the source, it parlays its own power.

"...As did Jack Knight, we speak out of confidence in, not fear of, the future of the good business of excellent journalism.... New technology is an ally of, not a threat to, trustworthy and nimble media. Competition gives rise to innovation and efficiency, much as recent declines in print circulation have been accompanied by increased electronic readership.

Knight Ridder is not merely another public company. It is a public trust. It must balance corporate profitability with civic purpose. We oppose those who would cripple the purpose by coercing more profit. We abhor those for whom good business is insufficient and excellent journalism is irrelevant."  

As I think about the perils and opportunities, and see bright spots of growth and daring in and around news and digital - I think often about this letter and the creds and force behind it. And, perhaps channeling this buck-up sensibility, I hear my friend Stephen say, "Nothing is killing anything. Let's go."

Kendall Allen is currently advising clients and partners on digital marketing and convergence media. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, a boutique digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.

Online Spin for Friday, August 1, 2008:

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