Fully aware it’s ironic to blog about listening - here I am, “talking” about “listening.” Still, it seems a worthy topic right now - the value of the oft-neglected art of closing your mouth and opening your ears.
Tag: Jeff Jarvis
Poor CNN. The network is trying to be everything to everyone and, as is usually the case with such efforts, pleasing no one. Ratings are in the toilet and in every corner -- from the plush offices of Vanity Fair to the hallowed halls of NYU to the ash-covered continent -- one hears the jarring thumps of unsolicited advice. It's enough to make an executive producer drink more heavily than he already does.
Last week, while Amazon was rewarding Zappos for their exceptional customer-centric culture, Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis raged against the Cablevision machine. He lamented long wait times for repairs, unrealistic service windows and aggressive, uncaring service representatives. I add to his account my own recent experiences with some of the largest U.S. corporations, not in an attempt to trump Jeff, but to showcase how pervasive the problem with customer service has become. While some bright spots certainly exist (Zappos and Twitter’s ComcastCares to name two), the consistently negative experiences reported by consumers (anecdotally through social media and quantitatively through survey results) suggest that in today’s service economy, even our largest companies are failing the consumer, and ultimately, America.
If you're trolling the web and hit upon an Examiner.com story, you might think you're reading the San Francisco Examiner. But you're not. Instead, Examiner.com is a crowd-sourced content play with the backing of billionaire investor Philip Anschutz. With over 40,000 freelancers in more than 240 neighborhoods, the Denver-based start-up aims to dominate every province of local news, bringing marketers and advertising along with it.
With so much discussion — even panic — about privacy today, I fear that we risk losing the benefits of publicness, of the connections enabled by the internet and our interconnected world. If we shift to a default of private, we lose much and I argue that we should weigh that choice when we decide what to put behind a wall — and there are too many walls being build today. But we’re not discussing the benefits of the public vs. the private. I want to spark that discussion.
Back in the day, a decade (to 50 decades) ago, we discovered media — news, information, or service — through brands: We went and bought the newspaper or magazine or turned on a channel on its schedule. That behavior and expectation was brought to the internet: Brands built sites and expected us to come to them. Now there are other spheres of discovery — new spheres that are shifting in importance, effectiveness, and share. I believe they will overlap more and more to provide better — that is, more relevant, timely, and authoritative — means of discovery. These evolving spheres also change the relationships of creators and customers and the fundamental economics of media.
There’s one thing that Rupert Murdoch, Arianna Huffington, Steve Brill, and I agreed on yesterday – and and there’s probably nothing else one can imagine this group would ever find consensus around. At the two-day Federal Trade Commission “workshop” (read: hearing) that asked how journalism will “survive” (their word) in the internet age, we all told the commissioner to kindly butt out.
At a Yale conference a week ago, Thomson Reuters CEO Tom Glocer talked about the life cycle of the value of news in his business. When a piece of financial news comes out, it is at its most valuable for a very short time, he said. I asked him later how long that is. “Milliseconds,” he replied. Milliseconds. That’s as long as a computerized trader has to take advantage of news before the market knows it, before the news is knowledge and is thus commodified and loses its unique and timely value.
Last week, I said that the future of news is entrepreneurial (not institutional). Today, a sequel: The future of business is in ecosystems (not conglomerates or industries). At the Foursquare conference last week, I was struck by the miss-by-a-mile worldviews held by the chiefs of big, old conglomerates and the entrepreneurs starting new, nimble companies. The conference is off the record, so I won’t quote anyone by name. And in truth, these are the same conversations I hear often elsewhere. Having these different tribes conveniently in the same room merely focused the contrast for me.
The future of news is entrepreneurial. There’s a lot in that statement. It says: The future of news is not institutional… The news of tomorrow has yet to be built…. The structure – the ecosystem – of news will not be dominated by a few corporations but likely will be made up of networks of many startups performing specialized functions based on the opportunities they see in the market…. Who does journalism, why and how will change…. The skills of journalists will change (to include business)…. We don’t yet know what the market will demand and support from journalism…. News will look disordered and messy…. There will be more failures than successes in the immediate future of news….
Fees from telecoms bills or internet service providers should be diverted to a fund for local news akin to the National Endowment for the Arts, according to a new study of future models for ensuring the survival of “accountability journalism” in the US. The report by Len Downie Jr, who spent 17 years as executive editor of The Washington Post, and Michael Schudson, professor of communication at the University of California, was commissioned by Columbia University. “American society must now take some collective responsibility for supporting news reporting,: the authors argued, calling for support in the form of tax breaks, philanthropic donations, university partnership and funds diverted from other areas.
Two events of recent days underscore for me how old-media executives are not comprehending the collaboration economy: how it adds value, how it creates efficiency, how it operates under new currencies. Add this to the other blind spots these old media powers have about the new economic reality: the imperatives of the link economy, the need and benefit of giving up control, the advantages of creating open platforms over closed systems, the value of networks, the post-scarcity economy and the art of exploiting abundance, the need to be searchable to be found, the deflation innovation brings, the value of free, the triumph of process over product…. This is what I wrote in my book about. Trying to get media to understand it is why I wrote it. Behind each of these new laws of the new age is a set of consequences that result if you don’t at least try to understand them and continue to operate under the expired rules of the industrial economy.
Ok, so I just said something nice about Best Buy and something critical about its competitor. Look on my disclosures page and you’ll see that I had a business relationship with Best Buy. A few weeks ago, because of my book, they paid for me to come speak to various groups over two days (which I quite enjoyed and which taught me a lot about retail, which I’ve been contemplating and want to write about). So is what I just said about Best Buy an ad? An endorsement? A testimonial? Or just a story and my opinion?
The Federal Trade Commission just released rules to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.) It is a monument to unintended consequence, hidden dangers, and dangerous assumptions. Mind you, I hate one of its apparent targets: Pay Per Post and its ilk, which attempt to co-opt the voice of bloggers. But I hate government regulation of speech more. And mind you, I am all in favor of transparency; I disclose to a comic fault here. I think that openness is the best fix for questions of trust and advise companies and politicians and certainly governments to become transparent by default as enlightened self-interest. But mandating this for anyone who dares speak online? Foolish.
I spent yesterday marking the dangers around Sidewiki. Today, I’ll say what I think Google should do with it: close the toolbar app, open it up to the entire conversation, and turn it purely into an API. And probably buy Technorati. I read a great deal of the discussion about Sidewiki yesterday: much of it in the comments on my blog post, much found through search in Technorati and Google News, much through trackbacks, much on Twitter, much through links on sites I read, and a tiny bit on Sidewiki itself (sorry, can’t find a URL to link to that). Some of the comments said the conversation is already fractured and my trail would seem to prove the point. That was the common word – fractured. But I’d quibble with the choice and argue that the conversation isn’t broken; that it is occurring just where it should be: in the cloud, where it is controlled by no one.
Google has an image problem – not a PR problem (that is, not with the public) but a press problem (with whining old media people). Google is trying hard – too hard, perhaps – not to argue with the guys who still buy ink by the barrel. Google is only causing them to buy fewer barrels. And newspaper people will use their last drops of ink to complain about Google’s success and try to blame it for their own failures rather than changing their own businesses. What should Google do? I think it needs to become news’ best friend.
Is journalism a charity case? It's beginning to look that way: the Bureau of Investigative Journalism will launch in the UK with a £2m donation from the Potter Foundation, while the Huffington Post has started a nonprofit investigative unit funded by $1.75m in donations. The new Texas Tribune will fund coverage of the state capitol from gifts from a local venture capitalist and friends. The New York Times has even confessed to discussing the idea of seeking funding from foundations for its reporting (though in fairness the company is looking under every possible rock for revenue). And this newspaper is supported by a trust. Will the tin cup be the sole support of journalism? I'm not ready to surrender the hope that news can be a sustainable business.
Here’s video from the Aspen Ideas Festival responding to my question about what follows the industrial age. It’s much better than my limited report on it below:
The New Business Models for News Project is now well underway at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. Here’s the blog and post explaining our work:
It soon will be - if it not already is - known as the Twitter revolution in Iran. But I’ll think of it as the API revolution. For it’s Twitter’s architecture - which enables anyone to create applications that call and feed into it - that makes it all but impervious from blocking by tyrants’ censors. Twitter is not a site or a blog at an address. You don’t have to go to it. It can come to you.
Much of the innovation we’ve seen lately hasn’t led to growth but instead to efficiency - that is, shrinkage. I’ve been mulling over Mike Mandel’s cover story in last week’s BusinessWeek, in which he tried to puncture another bubble: the belief that we’ve had a rich decade of American innovation. He argues that there’s actually an “innovation shortfall” and he uses economic stagnation to plead his case. Now I’m not economist (that’s a straight line) and so I won’t argue about the impact of other events on growth - starting with the so-called financial crisis.
At Burda’s DLD conference in Munich, talking with the Nokia Ideas Project, I first happened on the notion of advertising as failure. That is, the ideal relationship a company should have with its customer is that it produces a great product the customer loves and talks about and thus sells; there is no need for advertising there. It’s only in the case of failing at that idea that one needs to advertise.
Josh Young writes a fascinating and nicely written essay about the shape of news and competition around it in the Google (read: internet) age, but I think it badly needs a clear lede summarizing his point to prove his point. So I’ll summarize: He’s saying that Google is causing news to be reshaped so it can be found, now that it has been unbundled from the products we used to have no choice but to buy: our newspapers. He says that news is an “experience good” we can’t really know until we taste it. He says we need a new experience of news and it ain’t Google. I will argue, though, that this very post, the one you are reading now, is the antidote to what he sees, for I experienced his essay and I recommend it to you without Google while also giving you the search-engine-and-browsing-friendly summary - a reason to read - that we now expect before investing in content online. And there’s my point.
The Observer’s John Koblin reports that the NY Times is considering putting a meter on usage of its site and charging once you’ve read too much. Incredible. They’ve spent the last 15 years trying to get people to stay longer and read more on their site and now they’re going to penalize their best customers?
As our social lives, business, and government become more transparent via the Internet, there are benefits for anyone who wants to create and connect.
For the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY a key model we want to build is hyperlocal. There are, of course, many views of hyperlocal and it will involve many different kinds of players, from sole bloggers to news organizations. The way I’d like to attack this is to try to create one or two optimal models for sustaining coverage in a towns, or collection of small towns, or neighborhoods in a city - the size of critical mass of the ideal minimarket is itself a key question.
Condé Nast folds Portfolio even as it starts Wired in print in the U.K. So which are we to take as the harbinger for the future of magazines?
Every day, with everything they do, the key question for journalists and news organizations in these tight - that is, more efficient - times must be: Are you adding value? And if you’re not, why are you doing whatever you’re doing? Sitting in a hotel room, cruising by CNN the other day, I caught a behind-the-scenes segment that wanted to show us just how cool it is to be a reporter dashing from story to story. It did the opposite for me. I was disturbed at the waste.
For a long time now, I’ve been pushing hard the idea of journalist-as-curator. Every priesthood, it seems, is having a fit over loss of its centralized control: How dare people pick what they like without history degrees or share what they know without journalism degrees! The nerve!
In the New Business Models for News Project at CUNY, we will be fleshing out three kinds of business models to start: hyperlocal from the local perspective; a news ecosystem that comes after a metro paper; and paid content. We will be joined by business analysts who’ll be making the models. But to make them work, we need much information and many perspectives.
First, a constructive proposal: News organizations need to band together — not to cut off their content, along with theirs noses, or to collude in antitrust cabals — but simply to set a new metadata standard identifying original reporting. If every news story carried a switch identifying original reporting, then aggregators like GoogleNews and Daylife (where I’m a partner) could give precedence to and link to that journalism at its source, helping support that reporting in the link economy.
The emerging war we’re seeing now is over change. I’m not talking about the post-9/11 resurgence of debate over Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations - though that’s certainly a front in this war. Instead, I’m talking about the clash over change within civilizations, the attempt by some to forestall its inevitability, and their attacks on those who enable, predict, and embrace change as if any of those actions cause change. It’s actually rather fatuous to set up a dispute between those who want and don’t want change, those who think change is good or bad. Change is inexorable. The question is not what you think about it but what you do about it.
In just a little over 10 years, Google has built a business that is impossible not to admire. In fact, its success begs the question -- what would Google do (WWGD)? Media pundit and thinker Jeff Jarvis tackles this question head on with a new book by the same title. In "What Would Google Do?," Jarvis breaks down Google's practices into 12 distinct rules and then applies them to aging industries like media and advertising.
The last time Paul Farhi and I disagreed, it was about who’s to blame for the fall of newspapers (he found journalists blameless; I didn’t). We disagree about the same topic again. This time, he’s arguing - in an incredibly long American Journalism Review piece - that it’s the Associated Press’ fault for selling content to portals. I’m going to suggest that you compare his analysis to that of Joey Baker, who writes a heavy metal rendition of Clay Shirky’s already-legendary essay on the economics of news.
The AP reports that Huffington Post is going to announce tomorrow the creation of a $1.75 million fund with various donors to pay for investigative reporting. First target: the economy. This, I’ve long held, is where foundation and public support will enter into the new ecosystem of journalism: not by taking over newspapers but by funding investigations and other slices of a new journalistic pie.
On Peter Day’s always-informative business show on the BBC, Cisco’s John Chambers said earlier this month that a downturn is a chance to go into new lines of business. Buying the maker of the consumer hit video camera Flip is certainly is that. I think it could be genius. It’s about new ways to communicate easily, new networks. The Flip has many surprising uses.
At CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism we just told the students that they no longer need to commit to a media track - print, broadcast, or interactive. We believe this is the next step in convergence. All media become one.