Friday, December 23, 2005

Endings and beginnings

More than two decades ago I took my first job in B2B media, working as an editor for Traffic World magazine. And I was delighted to find that the weekly magazine didn't publish between Christmas and New Year's Day.
To a guy from the newspaper world, this was quite a surprise. I had an extra week of vacation!
Even today, lots of B2B publishers close down during the holidays. Mostly this is because there are just not enough readers at this time of year to justify publishing. But there's also a sense that B2B publishing -- where the staff is often tiny and the business is often family-owed -- is just a wee bit more worker-friendly than the rest of the media world.
Nowadays I work for myself. I can take vacations whenever I please. So I'm going to keep the B2B media tradition. I won't publish this blog next week.

The other year-end tradition in publishing is to make predictions about next year. Folio magazine asked a slew of folks, including me, what 2006 would hold. You can see the predictions here.
And when you're done thinking about next year, give some thought to what was good about 2005. The deadline is near for nominations for one of the most important awards in B2B journalism. If you were fortunate enough to work with someone in 2005 worth considering for the Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity, let ABM know.
The deadline is also approaching for the Awards of Excellence. Make sure ASBPE knows about the best work that you did in 2005.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Joining the Corante Network

I got an email a few weeks ago from Hylton Jolliffe, founder of Corante. Hylton asked if I would be interested in joining Corante's network of media blogs. I took a look at the proposal, and agreed to sign on.
Thus, on the right-hand column of my site, you'll see a new graphic that points to Corante's Media Hub.
Becoming part of Corante's network means that my blog posts will be aggregated along with those of some folks that I greatly admire -- including Tim Porter and Mark Hamilton.
But joining Corante doesn't mean that I'll be making any money. I decided to pass on Corante's advertising services. In fact, part of the reason I like Corante so much is that they give their contributors the option to remain advertising-free.
At some point in the future I may rethink my position about advertising on this site. But for now, I want to leave things as they are.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, but not a regular reader of Corante, take a look at some of the other folks who blog about media.
If you're a Corante reader who is new to this blog -- welcome! This is a site about business-to-business media: a specialized world of magazines, newsletters and electronic products. We talk about many of the same things that interest the rest of the media world, albeit with a different perspective. You'll find posts and comments about the shift to online publishing and the shift to whatever happens next. I think a lot about journalism education, convergence and media ethics. I like to write about writing and report on reporting. I consider what makes an online product compelling and what makes a reporter valuable. I spend a fair amount of time discussing the rise of conversational editorial. And I continue to predict a new era of entrepreneurial journalism.
Take a look around. Read. Comment. Learn. Teach. Participate.

tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, December 19, 2005

More on virtual communities

Last week I posted something on my how my newfound fascination with virtual communities related to my longstanding fascination with communities in B2B media.
Today I've come across a review in "The Economist" of a new book on the business opportunities and cultural ramifications of virtual worlds (thanks to Fine Young Journalist, one of my new favorites in the blogosphere, for pointing me to the review.)
Take a look at the review. See if it does to you what it did to me ... trigger a purchase through Amazon.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Communities build themselves

In the past few weeks I've spent a lot of time.... a lot of time the virtual world known as Second Life. It is strange, lovely and addictive. And I'll have to make an effort not to get consumed by the place.
I heard about this online world months ago, but it didn't catch my interest then. I knew it was some sort of online gaming environment where people created "avatars" that "lived" in the virtual world. And it just seemed silly to me.
Then I read about Anshe Chung, a woman who was amassing real-world riches for her work in the virtual world (a second article that mentions her can be found here.) I'm an entrepreneur, and I'm always looking for opportunities. And I found myself wondering if there was a business opportunity for me in the virtual world. I wanted to know if a newspaper or magazine existed in Second Life, or if I should launch one.
So I logged on for a free trial.
As it turns out, there is a newspaper in Second Life. And it's a pretty good paper -- full of actual news, albeit about a fictional world.
But far more interesting to me was that the world itself -- this pretend community where people can fly, this imaginary place where people talk through written messages -- was so much fun. And after a half-dozen visits, I felt somehow that I belonged in this community of possibility and conversation.

I've been thinking a lot about community of late...and how B2B media companies can foster it. Community is, in a very real sense, the goal of publishing. Or at least it should be. We create content, share it with others, and together we consider that content's meaning. To an old-media guy, community is the trade show that his B2B magazine sponsors. To a new-media guy, it's the feedback function on his blog. But put those differences aside and note the similarity -- both of those guys are in the business of fostering connections.
And that's a tough business to be in.

On a fairly regular basis, B2B media executives ask me how they can build community.
What I tell them is that doing so is nearly impossible. What I tell them is that communities build themselves.
And I tell them to read Giant Robot.
Giant Robot is the most interesting -- and most unusual -- magazine in my mailbox every month. It's a consumer magazine about "Asian Pop Culture and Beyond." But it doesn't look, feel or read like any other magazine I know.
The young guys who started GR sensed there was a group of people that needed a place to be. In other words, they believed a community would exist as soon as it had a "place" to gather.
And the founders of the magazine were right. There was a community of young, hip people, most of them Asian and Asian American, who related to the wider culture in a way specific to them. It wasn't that this group of people had shared interests. That's commonplace. Lots of people share interests with lots of other people. What was important was that this particular group had a shared sensibility. People don't join a community in order to belong. They join because they belong.

When communities have blossomed in the B2B world, they have followed a similar pattern. The community exists -- united by emotions more than by interests --but has no central location at which to interact. Then a B2B publication creates a "space" in which conversation can occur. Web sites seem to work best for this. Trade shows are still good at this too. Print magazines seem to be very poor choices (one of the many miracles of GR is that a community made up almost entirely of kids from the Internet generation formed around a print magazine. The key to that success seems to be that the community is also linked through GR's retail outlets and the products of the magazine's advertisers. When I walk around in lower Manhattan, I can spot a Giant Robot reader. They wear their sensibility -- a hip, anime-flavored, pan-Asian and all-American, anti-Orientalism sensibility -- on their shirt sleeves. )

I've come to believe that community is most likely to occur in B2B media that serve industries where strongly held emotions are the norm. People who work in such industries do more than share interests, they share a belief system. And when people work at something that is more than a job, then they tend to think of the B2B publication they read as something more than a magazine.
Thus it's not in the least bit surprising that a vibrant online community has grown around Cygnus'
Community also seems more likely to form among people trying to enter an industry than among those already working in it. Job seekers are united by a single common sensibility -- the belief that they are in the wrong place in life.
Thus I'm not surprised that MediaBistro attracts dozens of people nearly every weeknight to its classes, seminars and social gatherings. Whereas I can't imagine that Folio or Editor and Publisher would have similar luck attracting working journalists.

So is there anything a B2B journalist can do to help foster community?
The great lesson of the blogging phenomenon is that there is someone who feels passionately about any subject you can think of. And if that person starts a blog, there are always a few people who feel strongly enough to post comments.
Any B2B journalist can tap into that power. You don't need to start a blog, but you do need to become more bloglike. If you allow readers to speak to you and each other, then you have created a place where community might arise. If you let people speak, you may find that they will listen. And together you may find the sense of emotional connection that is the basis of community.
And let me be clear, I'm not suggesting that anyone start another talk-among-yourselves service on their Web site. I don't think a discussion group, live chat or online forum is the best way to connect your readers.
Rather, what I am urging is that you allow your readers to talk to you and each other in public about your work. I'm talking about feedback functions. I'm suggesting that allowing comments on your stories will do more to foster community than any other thing you can do.
Feedback functions are the single best way to find out if there are any readers who share your sensibility -- the strongly held emotional belief that your product is important.

tags: , , , , , conversational media, ,

Monday, December 12, 2005

Why are so many products so bad?

Sometimes I wonder what people in B2B media are thinking. Much of what we do in this industry seems to be so ... crappy.
Certainly those of us on the editorial side of the game tend to blame the folks on the business side when our products are less than compelling. We complain that we are underfunded and understaffed. But I'm coming to believe that most of our problems aren't caused by slim budgets and greedy bosses. Our problems are caused by unambitious and unskilled journalists.

Time and again I've seen this same dynamic: A B2B magazine decided to do "something" online. It chose someone from the existing staff to create and manage the new product. However, the existing staff member had never expressed any interest in online products, multimedia reporting or conversational editorial. Heck, the staff member is often just plain lousy in print too. But at least they are familiar with that medium, whereas they don't know a thing about the Web and don't care to know.
Or, even worse, they don't know anything about the Web, but think that they do.

Most distressing is that some of these folks have been running online products for years now, and yet they haven't taken the time to learn anything about the medium. Week after week they drop a print story on to a Web page. Week after week passes and they never take the time to learn how to upload a photo, record an audio file or do some search-engine optimization. They have never read the EyeTrack study. They have never read a blog.

As a result, their sites are ugly and often quite strange.
Look around.
Ask yourself, how is it possible to have an online magazine about the recording industry where the reporters don't do audio?
How is it that the Web site of a magazine that covers videography doesn't have video? Heck, why don't the news stories have photos?
Imagine that you had a pretty good content-management system that surrounded your copy with crisp graphics and white space. Would you cram your stories into unreadable, flush-left squares of multisentence paragraphs?
Want to see something sillier? In an era of conversation, links and targeted ads, imagine a Web site that wants you to pay for the right to tell your friends to read one of their articles. (NOTE: I assume this ridiculous idea came from the business side and not from editorial. But it's the sort of thing that the editorial staff should find a way to stop.)

It seems to me that people should be making more of an effort to at least master the basics. For example, here is a story from a Cygnus publication about digital photography. It has a simple and elegant look. And, most importantly, it has digital photos. I spoke at Cygnus earlier this year and I met the staff of that magazine. And they are as overworked as anyone else in B2B publishing. But they have taken the time to understand a few simple concepts: Web sites should look like Web sites. Stories about photography should have photos, etc.
Or consider what is happening at CMO. I spoke at IDG a few weeks ago and met a few folks from that product. And they too work long hours for inadequate pay. But I think their product is superb.

Look -- this is journalism. We will never have enough resources. We will never be paid enough. We will never have enough time.
But the lack of resources has never been the determining factor in what makes for fantastic reporting or beautiful storytelling. Great journalism is born of talent and ambition. And nothing can be more illuminating...or more difficult...than to look at yourself and your staff and ask if there is enough of either trait at your company.

tags: , , , , , conversational media

Friday, December 09, 2005

Battelle welcomes publishers to new era

I wish I could have been at the Magazine Publishers of America conference this week. It sounds as if a few of the speakers were interesting...even if what they had to say isn't, or at least shouldn't be, surprising.
First, John Battelle, co-founder of Wired, told attendees what they most need to hear: “Magazines don’t need to be equated with print.”
Battelle called for publishers to recognize that their most important products -- the ones that will define their futures -- are their Web sites, not their magazines.
At the same show, Jack Kliger, MPA's chairman as well as president and CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media, blasted the industry for risking the loss of readers' trust by accepting product placement in editorial copy. "Nothing will be more damaging to that trust and to our credibility than blurring the boundaries so that readers have difficulty distinguishing between editorial and commercial messages," he said. (His full remarks are published here.)

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Speaking to sources via instant messenger

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you may remember my post about using instant messaging as a reporting tool.
That post led to a mention on the Poynter site, which led to a call from Kim Hart, who was writing a story about electronic communications for the American Journalism Review.
Kim's story is now available online, and it's worth a read.
The article also quotes noted journalism blogger Amy Gahran. Take a look here for more of Amy's thoughts on this subject.
Or for information on using email as an interviewing tool, check out this piece from Folio.

tags: , , , , ,

Monday, December 05, 2005

Required reading vs. required interaction

Back when I first studied journalism a million years ago, one of my teachers announced on the first day of class that students were required to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. Getting a copy from the library would not suffice. Nor could we share a subscription. We each had to have our own copy. We had to read it cover to cover every day.
We would, of course, be tested on the material.
It only took about a week of reading that paper for me to see the value in the assignment. Much to my surprise -- for I was an obsessive consumer of news -- there was an entire part of the world that other papers had failed to teach me about: business. And the Journal served as my guidebook. More importantly, I found in the Journal a set of writing tools that would serve me well throughout my career. Chief among those was the news feature -- an easily understood template that featured an anecdotal lead and a "nut graf."

As the years passed, I took to demanding a similar commitment from any young journalist who worked for me. "If you have time to read only one thing a day," I'd say, "read the Journal. If you don't have time to read anything, learn to sleep less and read the Journal."
But not anymore.
In recent weeks I've found myself saying something like this: "If you look at only one thing a day, make sure it's BusinessWeek's site."
The simple truth is that although I continue to love the Journal, I find far more material of value to journalists in BusinessWeek.
While much of the mainstream press has learned to adopt the tools of new media, only BusinessWeek has mastered them. As others struggle with understanding what conversational editorial is, BusinessWeek has adopted it.
No one is doing a better job with blogs and feedback functions. Heck, no one is doing a better job with podcasts, slideshows and video. BusinessWeek has become the best single source for thoughtful and compelling multimedia news.
I know I'm not alone in this. "BusinessWeek is one of the few old school magazine/online "brands" that is not running from, but is embracing new forms of social and conversational media," according to Rex of Rexblog.

I'm not suggesting that anyone cancel their subscription to the Journal. This is particularly true for people who work in print. Because I still believe the best print product in the world every Monday through Friday is the front page feature in the Journal.
But if you want to understand what is possible in the post-print era, then you need to start each working day with a visit to BusinessWeek.

If you're a media guy who continues to struggle with the concepts of conversational editorial, you may recognize yourself in this post from Jon Fine's blog at BusinessWeek.
And if you're a journalism teacher looking for something to assign in addition to a daily dose of BusinessWeek, consider requiring your students to start a blog.

tags: , , , , ,

Friday, December 02, 2005

The death of City News, the birth of something else

I suppose we'll see lots more of this type of thing -- a venerable institution of the old media falls, and journalists of a certain generation will write grandiose obits for the lost days of the hard-bitten reporter.
And today's Chicago Tribune has the perfect example -- a pompous ode to the soon-to-be-defunct City News Service.
Look -- I remember the good, old days of City News too. I lived, worked and reported in Chicago. A good portion of my teachers and bosses over the years were graduates of City News. I've listened to long-winded men repeat the myths of the place for my entire career.

I'm not saying that there wasn't value in City News. There was. And that value was that City News was more interested in producing great reporters than it was in producing great writers. That's a worthy endeavor, and one that is pursued less often than it should be.
But I am saying that the value of City News ...or more correctly, the values of City News, are outdated.

If you've been around journalism for more than a week or so, then you've heard the mantra of City News -- "If your mother says she loves you, check it out." That's a fine sentiment for a reporter to learn. Skepticism is part of who we are.
And if you've been around journalism for more than a month or so, then you've been exposed to the cultural myth of City News -- you need to pay your dues.
But that, I'm afraid, is nonsense.

Every newsroom that I have ever worked in has at least a few senior staffers who pray at the church of City News. They were comfortable with a slow, steady climb to positions of power. They are uncomfortable with ambitious young people, suspicious of new ideas, and dismissive of new media. They adopted the persona of a curmudgeon -- often while still in their 30s -- because that's what their first managing editor was like. And they spend too much energy trying to keep things from changing too fast.
For years, that style of journalism manager was fairly harmless. Because although they could make it difficult for a talented young person to try something new, the simple truth was that the businesses wasn't changing very much at all. Old media was the only media. And the only way to prosper was to adhere to the values of old managers.

But in the past few years, these old-timers -- these devotees of City News -- have become very dangerous people to have at the top of the masthead. Because as the world has changed, as new competitors have emerged and new technologies provided both threat and opportunity, the City News faithful have grown more insular.
And in any religion, insularity leads to a misunderstanding of the teachings.
So we've found ourselves in a world where far too many publications are run by people who have been blinded, not enlightened, by the doctrines of their faith. They have moved from skeptic to curmudgeon to cynic and ultimately to crackpot.

Like I said earlier, skepticism is a fine sentiment for a young reporter to learn. But it seems to be an unwieldy weapon for people my age and older. We seem too quick to use it on others, and far to slow to use it on ourselves and our beloved institutions.
Might I suggest the following? Let's try to apply a little skepticism in those places where it is hardest. Let's ask:
Is a you-don't-know-anything-yet system the best way to train a new journalist?
Do we really still need a print product?
Have I been standing in the way of better journalism?
What if the teenagers are right, and newspapers are boring?

Then let's try a little less skepticism and a little more optimism. Let's listen to the kid who doesn't know anything. Let's consider the possibility that everything is changing for the better. Let's ask:
What if I could start my own business? or help some young reporter start one of his own?
What if something new and wonderful is coming, something that will replace print and the Web and email and everything else? What if I embraced this coming change?
What if I altered my religion? What if I no longer revered the past and feared the future? What if I believed that death was always followed by birth?

For more on rethinking journalism training, read this essay, titled "If your journalism school says it knows what's best for you, check it out. "

For more on what happens next in journalism, read this essay on Slashdot called "A recipe for newspaper survival." (Thanks to my fellow B2B blogger David Shaw for pointing me to that piece.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A slew of product launches

Is it me, or has there been an unusually large number of new B2B products announced in the past few days?
Pennwell has a new aerospace magazine for the European market.
Crain has announced its new offering for the finance community. has added three new blogs -- including one about media law, which may be of some interest to B2B journalists and publishers.
There's also a new collection of blogs coming from Corante.
And eRepublic has launched a technology magazine for Texas government workers.
Perhaps...just perhaps...these announcements are what I hope they are -- early signs of a coming boom in B2B media output. Maybe... just maybe...folks are deciding the time is right to invest a little in the future.

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The future of distribution

I've had a number of conversations in the past few weeks with a client who wants an eye-popping Web page. He doesn't want a lot of Flash -- and thank God he doesn't -- but he wants something with visual pull.
Now I'm not a designer. I'm a journalist. And my consulting services revolve around editorial issues. But online design is part of many conversations I have. And I'm getting less comfortable with those conversations, because I think design is getting less important.
In other words, I would prefer that publishers spend less time thinking about electronic design and spend more time thinking about electronic distribution.
I've written before that I think content is becoming containerless -- freed of the confines of your magazine and of your Web site -- and that trying to control the context of your material is a loser's game in an era of re-mixes and RSS feeds.
There's a fascinating piece on Matt McAlister's blog in which he talks about Dick Costolo's recent post about the future of RSS. Read them both. But pay particular attention to Matt's "strategic and operational recommendations for today's publisher." Matt suggests that journalists shoot for quality not quantity, by producing more enterprise stories and fewer pieces about the same topics everyone else covers. In other words, publishers should give up any illusions about being the sole source of news in an industry.
Matt also urges publishers and journalists begin to engage the mash-up community. And he suggests that we create our own mash-ups, just as the Washington Post has begun doing. But truth be told, I can't imagine that any B2B publishers will be able to do such things for several years. Heck, I can't convince many of the folks I work with to link outside their own Web sites! Many journalists aren't ready for the present, let alone for the future.
For more on RSS, check out Dave Newcorn's blog. He's less nervous than I, and thinks we have about five years until RSS becomes mainstream.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Why we became journalists

Just the other day I suggested that the Web browser was growing obsolete, and would likely be replaced by something akin to a Wall Street trader's workstation -- but with the addition of content-creating capabilities. In other words, something like a Bloomberg terminal.
Now my fellow B2B blogger David Shaw suggests that the way we consume content in the future may be closer to the way we -- and by "we," I actually mean people both younger and hipper than I -- create content. In other words, by using something like Microsoft's new Xbox.

And that, in a nutshell, is what I love about media today. Our industry is shifting. Everything is subject to change. And the only thing I know for sure is that the future won't look like the present.

Consider, for example, these two stories from today:
1) Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, says he'll launch a new venture within three months to alter the world of journalism by tapping into the "power of the masses."
2) Bram Cohen, inventor of BitTorrent, has signed a peace treaty with Hollywood. That opens the way for media companies to use Cohen's peer-to-peer software, which already moves roughly one-third of the traffic on the Internet, to provide video-rich files to consumers.

Imagine the potential in just those two pieces of news -- journalism produced by both users and professionals, morphed and added to as it moves across the Internet, filled with memory-intensive multimedia and distributed at unimagined speeds via P2P software.
Everything is exciting and new and unpredictable. And only an absolute imbecile isn't absolutely thrilled.
Because isn't that why we became journalists in the first place -- so that we could have lives of excitement, lives that were less routine and predictable than those of people in other professions?

tags: , , , , ,

Monday, November 21, 2005

How will we consume/create content in the future?

Sometimes I miss my Bloomberg terminal.
Have you ever seen one those things? Have you ever worked with one?
I used to be an editor at Bloomberg. And it was an exceedingly unpleasant job in an exceedingly unpleasant place. But God how I loved the terminal.
I had two flat-panel displays on my desk that tied the limitless databases of the company to state-of-the-art analytics software. I could crunch numbers, generate charts, research companies and find sources with a few keystrokes. Stock and bond prices updated in real time, and the system could warn me when something significant was happening in an area I cared about. It was wonderful. (That's not to say that the terminal didn't have flaws. Bloomberg is an anti-Web company, the sort of place that tries to block employees from using personal email accounts. As a result, the terminal was riddled with lame, Bloomberg-built versions of things from the rest of the Web -- notably an instant-messaging system that arrived years after IM had swept the Web and a strange, VoIP-style phone that doubled as a fingerprint reader.)

I thought of the Bloomberg terminal earlier today as I read Doc Searls' piece on Geoff Moore's call for a new user interface for the Web.
In brief, Moore wants something less like a Web browser and more like a Wall Street trader's workstation. In other words, he wants a user interface that is more like a Bloomberg terminal, "with many concurrent feeds that enable traders to scan for information, detect trends, and transact, all very rapidly. Switching between states, foregrounding one without losing the context of the others in background, is the technical requirement."
It's a lovely picture. And I agree that the typical trader works with a more compelling information-delivery system than does your typical Web user.

Doc suggests that a Wall-Street-style terminal isn't exactly what we need -- it would still be too much about experiencing content and too little about producing it, too much about receiving and too little about creating. But the easiest system I ever used for creating multimedia content was the Bloomberg terminal. For Bloomberg customers, the terminal was about receiving and acting on information. But for Bloomberg journalists, the terminal was about production -- prose, audio, video and real-time graphics. When we asked the terminal to create a chart, we had the option to "share" it by publishing it with our story. And doing so was no more complicated than pressing a button. And therein may be the key to the next generation of user interfaces -- a system in which producing multimedia content requires no more than an additional keystroke or two. No extra software, no uploading, no FTP, no hassles.

For another vision of the future, check out Dave Newcorn's post on e-paper (I'm far less enthused about e-paper than Dave is. I don't think the audience wants a new way to read content as much as they want a new way to interact with it.)
And for some disconcerting news about today's delivery systems, look at this piece on how few readers open B2B email newsletters.

tags: , , , , ,

Friday, November 18, 2005

Learn to survive

For many journalists, time is running out.
Even some of the more talented people in newsrooms have become deadweight. A lack of new-media skills and an unwillingness to change work habits and writing style to fit the era of conversational editorial have turned former assets into liabilities.
Our industry is changing at a dramatic pace. But in every newsroom I know, there are still people longing for the past. They are angry. They are argumentative. And they are becoming unemployable.

Certainly I'm not alone in this belief. Take a look at what Jeffrey Klein, who runs 101communications, said in Folio magazine. "At our company, when we consider editors for promotion, we select those who live and breathe the Internet ...What I call 'legacy editors,' those who still think print is the only worthy endeavor, are quickly becoming dinosaurs, who we gladly let go to work for our competitors."
Just a few months ago, I was still urging publishers to be patient. I suggested that while all new hires should be journalists with multimedia skills, companies should offer more training in new media for existing staff.
But I don't say that anymore.
At this point, I don't think someone can work in journalism without an understanding of at least the basics of interactive, conversational storytelling. And at this point, you can't blame the boss for not teaching these things. The difficult truth is that people who can't insert a hyperlink, who won't read a blog, who don't know how to work with Photoshop and can't upload a video file just aren't worth having around anymore.

Look: if one of these "legacy" editors is in your newsroom and you would like to protect them from the inevitable layoff, then do something to help them ... and do it quickly.
One place to start is with the University of Maryland's J-learning program. It's a free program that provides entry-level training in new media. Urge your "legacy" friend to give it a try.
Or try to convince your friend to attend a continuing-education course for journalists. Community colleges offer loads of programs. Or if they live in a major city, they can attend one of the dozens of courses offered by Mediabistro. In fact, I may be at this session on multimedia reporting next month, because I like some of the work done by the teacher, Erik Olsen.

And if you're looking for something to help convince your friend that the world really has changed -- that a whole new generation is coming that wants his job -- tell him to take a look at this special report from CNET on the "millennials," the group of tech-savvy kids enamored of remixing and instant messaging.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Asking journalists about bloggers

I like to ask B2B journalists about the bloggers on their beat. It's the sort of question that gives me information that the person answering doesn't realize he's providing.
For example, I still run into folks who say things like "I don't really get blogging" and "my teenaged nephew has a blog" and "I don't read those things." And that tells me that the person giving the answer is slow to sense change and lacking in curiosity.
And people without an inquisitive nature shouldn't be journalists.

Then there are the folks who spew venom and confusion when they answer the question. They often don't know anyone who blogs about the industry they cover. But they do have a vague notion of someone who once wrote something terrible about someone on a blog. They are still very upset by this. They are also usually still very upset by talk radio. And they will link them in their answer to my question. They often launch into a tirade about the state of journalism. They take a very long time to answer my very simple question and will eventually use the word "amateurs" to describe bloggers and use the word "objectivity" to describe their own work.
What they tell me with their answers is that they are overly emotional and have difficulty with reason. In other words, they cannot be objective.
And people who aren't self-aware shouldn't be journalists.

Then there is everyone else. They give clear and concise answers to my question. They know a few folks who blog on their beats. They like some of them. They dislike others. Sometimes they are jealous of a blogger's "freedom" in writing style, use of anonymous sources, etc. Sometimes they have blogs of their own. Sometimes they post comments on the blogs on their beats. Sometimes they link to the blogs on their beat. Always they are aware of what the bloggers are doing because they try to be aware of everything on their beats.
And what these people tell me with their answers is this: We are journalists.
And I love those people.
The Wall Street Journal has a piece today on the most influential bloggers in a number of U.S. industries. Take a look. Is there anyone on the list that you should be reading but aren't? A few of my regular reads are on the list -- Curbed (because I'm a New Yorker who is looking for a new apartment) and Adrants.

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Good content, bad conduct

If you're going to create a digital edition -- and as I've said before, the only reason to do so is "so that a print product can be sent to people who otherwise wouldn't get it in a timely fashion" -- check out the work of GIE Media.
The B2B publisher is launching a digital edition of Lawn & Landscape Magazine, even though, as the press release says in immodest fashion, L&L already "offers you a fantastic Web site, dynamic interactive message boards, an online Dealer Search feature and numerous other Web tools."
In other words, GIE is offering a digital edition in addition to its Web site, not instead of a Web site.
It's also worth noting that GIE's Web offerings really are pretty close to "fantastic." This is a company that understands the nature of conversational editorial. Heck, even the press release has a feedback function!
That's not to say that I'm completely thrilled with GIE. And here's why. The announcement of the digital edition is, as I said earlier, a press release. It's a well-written press release. It's informative, sort of fun and gets its point across well. But it is a press release.
And it offends me when a publisher runs its own press releases as editorial content. Giving editorial space to someone in marketing -- whether it's someone from your company or from some other company -- is a violation of our ethics standards. And pretending that these ethical standards don't apply to our own ads and our own marketing material is a mistake.
I mean seriously, if the world of journalism has a belief system it can be summed up in these two sentences:
Only the laziest reporter runs a press release without editing it.
Only an unethical company runs ads in the space reserved for editorial content.
I've written before about what I see as GIE's lapses in this area. And people from GIE have responded by phone and email. Some of them have agreed with me. One did not.
GIE isn't the only B2B publisher to engage in such behavior. I've lost track of the number of times I've seen promos for publisher-sponsored trade shows dropped in the middle of news pages.
In response to such practices, I have suggested that ASBPE, which is in the process of revamping its ethics guidelines, clearly state that in-house marketing material is an advertisement, and must be clearly delineated as such per the ad vs. edit guidelines.

tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, November 14, 2005

Diverse newsrooms for a global economy

In the past few months I've met with around 300 journalists from a few dozen B2B magazines at around a half dozen publishers in several different cities.
And this is what I've seen:
White people.
Lots of them.
On occasion I've seen some Asian faces...perhaps as much as 1 or 2 percent of the editorial staff at some companies. I think I've met one editor with a South Asian name. I've run into two or three folks from the former Soviet Union (although they too were white.) I've met a few folks with Spanish-sounding last names. I don't think I've met anyone with a background from the Middle East other than some Israelis.
And, believe it or not, I've only seen two black people.
Now for the record, I'm a white guy. I am, in fact, a member of the most common demographic in publishing --I'm a middle-aged white guy.
So when someone like me winds up consistently shocked by the lack of diversity in B2B newsrooms, then we can probably assume that the situation is pretty severe.
Look -- I don't care what your politics are. And you shouldn't care about mine. Diversity should be your goal for business reasons as much as for political or ethical reasons. I've said before that given our increasingly global economy, business-to-business publishers need to hire journalists who speak languages other than English. I've suggested that ambitious journalists may want to expand their language skills. But even putting language skills aside, B2B publishers should be aiming for a more diverse workforce. Because -- and trust me on this -- it has become positively creepy to visit your newsrooms.
When I look out on a sea of all-white faces, the question that comes to mind is this:
What racist imbecile is doing the hiring here?
Now of course I realize that question is unfair. And of course I realize that there are thousands of factors other than racism that can create a monochromatic newsroom.
But that is the question that pops into my head.
And I would suggest that you should begin to wonder how often that same question enters the head of your customers, sources and advertisers.
Today's Wall Street Journal has a very interesting piece on the "business imperative" of diversity.
And if you're in New York this week, check out the Magazine Publishers of America's discussion of the multicultural audience.

tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Shifting from print to online

Over at the Poynter Institute, Steve Outing has a post about a journalist at the New York Times making the move from print reporter to multimedia reporter. Steve warns other print reporters that similar changes are "in their (near) future."
That's exactly the message I've been trying to get across to folks in B2B journalism in posts such as this one. (But read through the comments section to get a feel for how frustrated I am in this fight.)
If you're looking for further proof that our jobs are becoming less about print and more about multimedia, then check out the latest news from Reed Business. The giant of business-to-business publishing has named Tad Smith as its new chief executive officer.
Smith, who will now oversee more than 100 B2B titles, is the former head of Internet operations at Reed. And his "top priority" in his new job is growth ... "especially in the electronic realm.”
Note: Although Smith is clearly an online advocate, I'm not very impressed with much of what he's done online. Smith's most recent gig at Reed involved overseeing the publications of the media division. That means he's the guy who ran Variety. And as much as I love what Variety has done with blogs, I find that site a cluttered mess. Furthermore, the site seems to freeze and crash more than any other site I visit. The media division also includes Multichannel News and Broadcasting and Cable. I like the look of those sites, but they are essentially print products dropped onto a Web page. Links are nearly nonexistent. There's no conversation and very little graphic material. (Multichannel News has a particular feature that annoys me -- a "feedback" function that doesn't let readers post a comment, but instead sends an email to some unnamed person.) The media group also includes Video Business, a site that does seem to understand online content. It has a few flaws, but it's generally a good Web-based product. In particular, I'm pleased by the comment function that runs with the columns.

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Public-relations departments don't need us now

I've written before about how public-relations executives have adopted the tools of citizen journalism, turning themselves into publishers and bypassing the press to speak directly with customers.
It's a development that journalists should be worried about. One role we journalists play in the marketplace is as a filter for public relations. But now p.r. pros are learning new, more sophisticated ways to get their message across, build brand trust and keep us out of the equation.
This development should also embarrass journalists. Here's why:
Our world has changed. The media has been altered forever by blogging software and the other tools of citizen journalism. Our readers have found their own voices. Yet many "professional" journalists have reacted with disdain to the rise of the "amateurs."
Many public-relations executives, on the other hand, have done a good job of adapting to the rise of conversational media. They follow developments in the blogosphere. They engage in public discussions with their customers.
And many p.r. pros have started blogs of their own like this and this, taking their message directly to the audience they want to reach.
So it's worth noting that the godfather of the public-relations blogs is closing this week after a year of operation. That's exactly how it was planned. General Motors' launched its smallblock engine blog a year ago to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the small-block engine. And in the past 12 months, GM product managers and mid-level executives have turned the site into a must-see destination for car enthusiasts, engineers and others.
Take a look at the blog. Take a look at what Kevin Dugan at Strategic Public Relations says about GM's efforts.
Then ask yourself if it's time you got over yourself and stopped looking down your nose at p.r. pros, bloggers and the rest of the media world.

tags: , , , ,

When print fades

This is not a good week for news about print news.
Newspaper circulation continues to fall -- dropping another 2.6%, according to the latest figures.
MediaLife magazine is predicting that one of the three major newsweeklies will soon fail.
A giant of the daily newspaper industry -- Knight-Ridder -- is facing pressure from shareholders who want to exit the business.
And, of course, the culprit cited again and again in these tales of woe is the Internet.
I should be more sympathetic. Dozens of people I care about deeply work in print. But as I've written before, I'm having a hard time being nice anymore. I hear too much whining these days. Sure, the Internet was a confusing place a few years ago. I remember in the early 90s when all of this was new and I was a bureau chief at Knight Ridder. When I talked about online back then, everyone was confused. Hell, I was confused, and I was the one trying to convince my bosses to move some of our products to the Internet.
But this is 2005. And how the hell can anyone still be confused?
If you're a reporter or editor who bemoans the loss of the past and resents the future, here's what you need to know:
-- your publication can't survive in print alone, and nor can you.
-- your publication is becoming a multimedia operation, and you best become a multimedia operator.
-- you can not transplant much of what you believe is good about your work in print (story structure, writing style, story length) to an online environment. Having worked in print does not make you an expert in online.
-- the people you work with and for are growing less patient with you, your lack of new media skills, your glamorized vision of print, your lack of enthusiasm for new products and new storytelling techniques, your stubborn personality and your delusional belief in the value of your outdated skills.
For more on journalism's problems and how to fix them, check out this post on a blog by Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News.

tags: , , , ,

Sunday, November 06, 2005

When online content is really offline content

I'm back at home after spending a few days talking about the future of online journalism with the folks at IDG. I had a wonderful time, met some interesting people and got to hear some of the more talented folks in publishing share where they think our industry is heading.
I gave lectures at IDG's offices in Massachusetts and in San Francisco -- jabbering on about the things that interest me for about four hours at a time.
At no point did I mention digital editions of magazines. Nor did anyone ask me about them.
And I suppose that is predictable. I don't much like digital magazines. Nor, in fact, have I ever met anyone who did. Digital editions are often what publishers do when they can't figure out what to do online. And I can't see how these things would play much of a role in journalism's future.
So I shouldn't be surprised by the negative attention given to the digital editions of Folio's tradeshow daily last week. Prescott Shibles, the smartest guy who ever worked for me, blasted the product on his blog. My fellow B2B bloggers David Shaw and Sue Pelletier agreed with Prescott.
Prescott argues that digital editions are kind of a pain to read online. Lord knows I agree. You can go blind trying to view these things on a computer screen.
And I agree that a publisher has to be crazy to use a digital edition as a substitute for a true Web product.
But I don't think that's what Folio was doing. Folio didn't produce the edition instead of a Web product. Folio opted not to produce a Web product. Folio decided instead to create a print product -- a traditional, tradeshow daily paper. It made the product available at the show. And it also sent it out via email to people like me who couldn't attend the show. And that's the only reason anyone should have a digital edition -- so that a print product can be sent to people who otherwise wouldn't get it in a timely fashion.
I mean sure, these things are sort of goofy. And sure, they don't work as well on the screen as a product created for the Web. But that's missing the point. It's soft of like complaining about a "print this" button on a Web page. Of course the printed version is less compelling than the Web version. But sometimes people have to print the thing anyway.
Prescott also argued that blogs may be better suited than print products for capturing the mood of the tradeshow floor. And that makes sense. Blogging software allows for real-time reporting -- and that, for example, gives reporters the opportunity to tell readers what is happening during a keynote speech. More importantly, blogs are conversational -- users help to create the content by posting comments, etc. And at tradeshows in particular, the converstation often is the news.
Prescott points to the work that Primedia Business did at the Supercomm tradeshow as an example of how blogs and other Web-based products can produce compelling online content.
But when I look at what the Primedia staff produced from the floor show, I'm just as disappointed as I am when I read Folio's digital edition.
The Supercomm blog doesn't have a feedback function. The stories don't have external links. Nothing seems to be written in real time. In other words, Primedia has a blog that ignores the blogging culture and has Web-based products that aren't taking advantage of the Web. (The absence of feedback functions and external links is a recurring shortcoming of blogs produced by Primedia. Look here or here or here.)
So what's the lesson?
Putting a print product on a computer screen doesn't make it an online product. Thinking like a print reporter while working online is a mistake. The end result is every bit as silly as a newspaper reporter hosting a TV newscast by sitting in front of a camera and typing.
Journalists need to change -- not just their software, not just their delivery systems, but the very nature of their work.
This is what I told the journalists at IDG last week: You don't need to launch a blog (although you may want to.) But you need to be more bloglike in everything you do. Learn to link. Accept that people interact with content, not just read it. Add a feedback function to your stories. Accept that journalism has become less of a lecture and more of a conversation. Learn multimedia. Accept that you are no longer just a writer, but are becoming a producer.
(DISCLOSURE: I do some consulting at Primedia Business these days, although not on the products mentioned above. Also, Folio magazine has launched a channel about digital magazines. I was interviewed for the section by one of the editors. My comments about RSS appear in this article. My comments about digital magazines weren't used.)

tags: , , , , , conversational media

Friday, October 28, 2005

Offline and on the speaking circut

I'm heading out of town for nearly a week, off to speak to journalists from IDG.
I'll be in Massachusetts for awhile, then flying to San Francisco.
The whole thing is putting me in a very good mood. I love to travel and I love to talk. And I love these things even more when I'm getting paid to do them.
I don't expect to do much blogging until I return to New York...although that could change.
In the meantime, if you're so very twisted that you can't wait a week, check out the ASBPE newsletter. There's an interview with me in the latest edition.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Learning the basics of conversational editorial

A portion of my life these days involves trying to explain blogging and the world of conversational media to B2B journalists. And these journalists are divided into three distinct camps.
First, there are the bright and ambitious. Some of them have started blogs of their own. All of them are aware of the blogosphere and are participating by posting comments on other blogs. All of them have at least a passing understanding of the fundamental shifts in media.

The second group -- much larger than the first -- consists of people who don't understand a thing about conversational editorial, but think that they do. These folks tend to think only in stereotypes and to demonstrate shockingly low levels of curiosity. They don't read blogs. They often don't think anyone should read blogs. And they like to defend their ignorance with the sort of flawed logic that can give you a headache: "I practice reporting -- I do research, conduct interviews and collect facts. Bloggers don't do these things. I know this even though I have never researched, conducted interviews or collected facts about blogging."
When a publisher convinces someone from this group to create a blog, you'll get the lamest product imaginable. It will be "irreverent." It will likely use words such as "curmudgeon" or "rant" in the title. It won't be conversational. There won't be a feedback function. It won't have external links. All you'll get is a poorly written column that appears in reverse chronological order.

The third group, growing smaller every day, is completely unaware of what has happened in the past few years. They don't know what a blog is. They are still upset that the company started a Web site and they don't believe they should have to write for it. They have never heard of Jeff Jarvis, let alone Adrian Holovaty. They are print reporters, and they never miss an opportunity to tell you that. They are often quite delusional about their writing ability and their influence in the industries they cover. And each and every day they grow less valuable to the companies that employ them.

If you have people on your team from Group 1, you should celebrate.
If you have people on staff from Group 3, cut them loose.
But if your reporters and editors are stuck in Group 2, there is still hope.
Start by showing them this pdf file from a presentation by Amy Gahran to a group of science journalists. Then send them this post from Amy's blog and tell them to listen to the audio file.
After that, if you haven't noticed a new open-mindedness among these reporters, a new willingness to engage readers, then put them into Group 3 and start asking other people to take over their responsibilities.

tags: , , , , , conversational media

Monday, October 24, 2005

News from the micro beats

A few years ago I worked with a guy who had a thing for Altoids. He loved Altoids. He decorated his desk with the little metal boxes the mints are sold in, and he covered his cubicle walls with Altoids advertisements.
He didn't get any money for it. He just really, really enjoyed Altoids. And his personal brand was tied to the Altoids brand. Even folks at the office who had never spoken to him knew him. He was the Altoids guy.
That level of obsessive interest in a company is cherished by branding folks. They know the power of one-to-one style marketing. And they know that folks like the Altoids guy are important to their success.
But people with that sort of passion have also become important in B2B journalism -- producing and analyzing news about their obsessions.
Today's New York Times has an interesting article about bloggers who specialize in news about a single company.
I've written about this phenomenon before both here and here, and suggested that this particular form of standalone journalist poses a threat to traditional B2B publishers and an opportunity for entrepreneurial reporters.
It's time to ask yourself, if you're in this game for the money, how can you compete against someone who is in it for love?

tags: , , , , , , ,

Friday, October 21, 2005

Starting a blog with or without your company

Sometimes your boss is a knucklehead.
And perhaps that's what's going on with the editor mentioned in this post on Businessweek's blogspotting. The editor says his team wants to start a blog ... but the publisher will only back it if the blog supports itself with advertising.
Now just think about that for a second, and put yourself in that publisher's shoes.
Imagine your staff came to you and said they wanted to do more work and create a new product. Imagine they said there was no cost.
Can you imagine saying no? Can you imagine telling them to "sell" the thing first?
Look -- I run into this stuff fairly often. And it's these same publishers -- fearful of change and quick to crush an initiative -- who complain the loudest that their editorial staff isn't ambitious.
And I'm coming to believe that the best move is to just ignore such publishers.
The media word is changing. Someone is going to be left behind. And perhaps it should be your boss.
If you're an editor with a good idea and an entrepreneurial personality, then you don't need your publisher anymore. Heck -- that's the great lesson of citizen journalism. Anyone can be a publisher now. And if you have a few bucks saved, or if you're young and/or brave enough to risk the loss of stability, then you don't need anyone's approval to create a product.
Launch the product. You already have the editorial skills.
Monetize it. Here's a guide. (Or don't monetize it. Just do it for the potential it has for your career. Do it to prove that you're right. Do it because you can.)
You can do it on the side and still collect a paycheck. If you don't get caught first, tell your publisher what you've done after you've succeeded.
Or just quit now, and call the knucklehead in a few months and tell him he can buy your business.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Transparency in the B2B media business model

A few months ago I wrote about Education Week's plan to revamp its business model.
I'm glad to hear that things are going well, and I'm even happier to see that Education Week is being transparent about its progress.
Check out this piece on API's site in which a producer from the Education Week site fills us in on some of the details.
I'm sure that many folks on the business side of publishing find such disclosures inappropriate -- even when the news is good.
But I expect to see more of this sort of thing.
The citizen-journalism movement is forcing editorial to be more transparent about how it does its job. And that new spirit of openness is spreading to marketing, advertising and beyond the media world.
Don't believe me? Look at this story about a guy who has the courage to blog about the failure of his business.

tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The new ASME guidelines

As discussed yesterday, ASME has released its new set of editorial guidelines.
I've taken a quick look through them, and I like what I see.
Among the notable items are:
-- Clear rules on the inappropriateness of running ads on the cover of a magazine: "The front cover and spine are editorial space. Companies and products should appear on covers only in an editorial context and not in a way that suggests advertisement. (This includes use of cover “stickers.”)
-- Clear rules banning product placement and product guides: "Advertisers should not pay to place their products in editorial pages nor should they demand placement in return for advertising. Editorial pages may display and credit products and tell readers where to buy them, as long as those pages are solely under editorial control."
Thanks to everyone at ASME for their work on this!
Folio magazine has posted a pdf of the guidelines. Learn them. Live by them.

tags: , , , , ,

Winning awards, searching for bloggers

The American Society of Magazine Editors has announced what it says are the 40 best magazine covers of the past 40 years. The Annie Liebovitz photo of a naked John Lennon wrapped around Yoko Ono -- taken just hours before his death -- won the top prize.
But it's No. 7 on the list -- the "If you don't buy this magazine, we'll kill this dog" cover from National Lampoon in 1973 -- that is my personal favorite. That issue swept the halls of my high school like nothing I had ever seen. Within minutes we had all seen it. And within hours we had all adopted the poses of world-weary cynics and intellectual humorists.
Check out the winners here, and read about the awards here.
As I perused the winning covers today, I found myself wondering -- why haven't I come across any blogs by magazine designers or art directors? Does anyone know of such a site? Lord knows there's a lot of great stuff being written about online design. But is anyone from the magazine world participating in the blogging discussion? If not, maybe one of the nominees for the Ozzie Awards could be convinced to start a blog.
For a look at what such a site could be, take a look at, a blog about newspaper design (thanks to Cyberjournalist for pointing me to the site.) Mark Friesen, a designer at The Oregonian, has created the exact sort of blog that I love -- a passionate and informative product aimed at a small niche. I'd love to see something similar for the magazine world -- ideally by someone who knows both print and online design for our industry.
Or how about a blog about magazine circulation? Is there anyone out there writing about inserts and opt-in lists and such?
If you know of such blogs -- or of others that may be of interest to the world of B2B media -- let me know.
Or, if you're considering starting one, drop me a line. I'll do all that I can to encourage you to join us in the blogosphere.

ADDENDUM 10/21/05:
Yesterday, I received two emails from readers noting that the link I had provided to the photos of the covers was broken.
At first I thought I had made an error. But when I checked my work, I realized that ASME had removed the page with the photos from its site.
I sent an email to ASME asking for an explanation.
What I got back was an email with links to two other sites that have the photos. One of those pages is hosted by a company called Doceus, which sells Web site "solutions" software for trade associations.
The other page is hosted by the Desert Sun newspaper.
No explanation was given for what happened to the ASME page. Nor was there an apology. Heck, there wasn't even a simple greeting in the email. No "hi," no "hello" no "Dear Sir," no nothing. I was disappointed by the entire experience, because I expect a better sense of public relations from a media association.
So I have no idea what ASME was thinking ... because ASME apparently didn't think it was worth telling me what it was thinking.
At any rate, I have changed the link in the original post so that it now points to the Doceus site.

tags: , , , ,

Monday, October 17, 2005

More on ethics guidelines

Later today, the American Society of Magazine Editors will release an update of its ethics guidelines. I'm looking forward to it, because I expect ASME will state its opposition to calls from some advertisers for looser rules on product placement.
The American Society of Business Publication Editors is also revamping its guidelines. That group was kind enough to ask for my input. And just this morning I got around to sending my suggestions.
I'm a big fan of ethics guidelines...because I've seen far too much unethical activity in B2B publishing. I've seen shocking behavior by publishers and I've seen shocking behavior by trade associations. And I think ethics guidelines are a powerful tool in the fight against the dark side.
Not everyone agrees. Rex is more cynical about the usefulness of guidelines. And he urges that trade associations "call for transparency and accountability in revealing all relationships between marketers and media, rather than playing Church Lady and issuing "commandments" to define specific sins."
I've written before about some of the issues that I'm hoping ASBPE will address, and I too have suggested that the answer to our problems may be transparency.
And in keeping with that call for transparency, here are a few of the less traditional suggestions that I made to ASBPE:
1) In-house ads -- B2B publishers tend to cut corners for themselves that they might not cut for others. In particular, B2B media companies treat their own ads -- for trade shows, new products, etc. -- as news, not as advertisements.
I'd urge ASBPE to clearly state that in-house marketing material is an advertisement, and must be clearly delineated as such per the ad vs. edit guidelines.
2) Anonymous sources -- Even more so than the mainstream press, B2B writers tend to overuse anonymous sources. I would urge ASBPE to adopt the following:
The use of anonymous sources should be rare and must be justified.
Reporters should clear each and every use of an anonymous source with a senior editor. A reporter should have a compelling reason for granting anonymity -- the source would be at risk of job loss if his/her name was published, there is no other way to obtain the information, etc.
When anonymity is given, a reporter will make every effort possible to provide as much information about the anonymous source as is possible. In other words, referring to someone as "an anonymous source inside the investment bank" is better than "an anonymous source." And "according to two executives in the marketing department who wished to remain anonymous" is superior to "according to sources in the marketing department who wished to remain anonymous." It is unethical to misstate the number of sources in a story. "An anonymous source inside the company" can never be referred to as "sources."
3) Transparency -- Reporters should make every effort to make the process of journalism transparent to readers. All attempts should be made not to mislead readers. When possible, reporters should provide links to source material. When not possible, reporters should clearly explain the source of the material. For example, the phrase "'the company is doing great,' Jones said" implies that the reporter has spoken with Jones. That's fine, if it's true. Otherwise, use a phrase such as "'the company is doing great,' Jones said in a press release" or "'the company is doing great,' Jones said in a written statement."

tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Go East, young man

If I were young again and just starting out in journalism, I'd learn an Asian language. Heck, I'm not young anymore, and I've been in this business for a long time, but I recently decided to learn some Vietnamese. (PERSONAL DISCLOSURE: The love of my life was born in Vietnam, and although she's been a Brooklyn girl since she was a baby, she still speaks Vietnamese with her family. So my decision to learn that language has more to do with my heart than with my career.)
But regardless of who you love, you could do a lot worse than to learn a new language from the developing world -- for that's where the opportunity is in B2B journalism.
Check out the latest news from Reed Business, which is launching a new publication about the pharmaceutical industry in Asia.
Reed has made similar moves before, and it isn't the only publisher to sense that there is growth in the East. Look at what I've written about before here and here.
If you want to hear more about international opportunities in the trade press, try to attend this upcoming session at ASBPE's New England chapter. And follow developments at the blogs of my friends Paul and Hugo.

tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Vance buys Doane, expands into ag radio

I guess I got this one wrong.
I've been predicting for awhile now that Vance Publishing, where I was once a senior writer, would be sold to fellow Kansas City-based B2B publisher Ascend Media. But now comes word that Vance has acquired Doane Agricultural Services of St. Louis. The purchase doesn't mean that Vance won't be sold, but it sure doesn't make it more likely.
The Doane deal is an interesting one for Vance -- expanding the company's offerings from B2B publications into commodities analysis and advice. In addition, Vance picks up a radio program in the deal -- AgriTalk, a daily program broadcast through 74 affiliate stations.
I wish my friends at Vance well. Agriculture may be the most competitive space in today's B2B media world. I'm a fan of the changes at and I love such non-traditional publishers as agwired. And I've said before that agriculture seems particularly well-suited to coverage by standalone journalists (take a look at just such a site by Matt Mullen, a regular contributor to this blog.)
The Doane deal may prove to be a first step in exactly the sort of expansion beyond traditional publishing that Vance needs in this new environment. Most importantly, the deal gives Vance its first true multimedia holding -- pushing it into the big leagues of ag journalism alongside Farm Journal and DTN.

tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Brace for change; protect yourself by changing

I've been laid off a few times in my career. It's an unpleasant feeling.
At its core, a layoff tells you two things.
First, your bosses have screwed up. What was once a successful business (or at least an optimistic business plan) has turned sour. Profit has turned to loss. Opportunities have been missed. Investments have been squandered. And the people at the top are the ones who are responsible.
But second, and far more important, getting laid off means that you have screwed up too.
If your boss was a fool, you should have seen it a long time ago and began looking for another job. If the company was being mismanaged into the ground, you should have quit and gone with a smarter bunch of people.
Or, as I see time and time again, if the industry itself was changing, than you needed to change even faster.
The Los Angeles Times has a piece today about the growing number of layoffs in the newspaper industry. And I read it with what I found to be a surprising lack of sympathy. The article is filled with phrases such as "collective funk," "dispirited" and "falling morale." But the article doesn't even mention what has caused the "problems" in the print industry -- a remarkable and fascinating shift in which new forms of storytelling have emerged and where the audience has become part of the news-gathering process. The news business has become a conversation -- and that may be the most exciting thing that has ever happened to us. But the L.A. Times piece has nothing to contribute to this conversation other than whining and self pity.
If you want to work in editorial, then you're going to have to accept that change is here. Learn to be one of those journalists that your publisher needs to help navigate the new world. If you haven't mastered multimedia skills, do so. If you're not participating in the conversation about conversational media, do so.
If you're not interested in changing, then get ready for that pink slip.

tags: , , , , , conversational media