Feb 09

PMH CEO Brian Tierney’s Leadership Lunch at the University of Pennsylvania

I was unable to attend Tierney’s Wharton Leadership Lunch at the University of Pennsylvania.   Fortunately, I am a close friend with someone who did.   This anonymous writer is well grounded in the disciplines of business, politics, economics, and the business of journalism.

These are his thoughts, presented without any of my commentary (previously).

Brian Tierney — CEO of Philadelphia Media Holdings, CEO and Publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, and CEO of The Philadelphia Daily News — visited the University of Pennsylvania today for a “Leadership Lunch” with undergraduate students. He arrived 20 minutes late, bustling and jovial, no apology. His public relations background shows; he is an optimistic, outsized media personality, all confident and energetic. He uses the pronouns “my” and “I” often, very few references to the credit due his employees or co-investors — except editor William Marimow, to whom we will return. (Perhaps, given the current state of the company, they are grateful that he takes all the credit.)

Tierney opened with a brief biography, then segued into the challenges of the Inquirer and Daily News. Continue reading →

Apr 08

Response to ‘Why Journalists Should *Not* Become Bloggers’

I saw this regarding journalist bloggers – my responses are interspersed into the author’s text.

  • Blogs bury yesterday and make last week disappear. Like the clocks in The Exorcist, blogs demonstrate reverse chronology in an unsettling way. Today’s entry is on top. Until tomorrow, when yesterday slips away. Wednesday buries Monday and pretty soon the good stuff is down in the basement somewhere. Want context? Just check out our handy tag cloud! Click around and you’ll find it. . .somewhere. Maybe.

This is a function of bad design, not of a bad media choice or writing style.   A well designed blog will display relevant content, recent content, and popular content with each story.   What’s new isn’t most important.   By that same logic, the front and back pages of the newspaper are must important, and we needn’t read anything beyond the lede, no?

  • Blogs impose no word limit. Saying “no word limit  to a journalist is like shouting “shrimp at the buffet table.  Stand aside and don’t expect to see that reporter for awhile.

This is true – words are as limitless as bandwidth – essentially free.   The reader, however, thinks and acts otherwise and rewards appropriate length content.   Much talk occurs over post length, being above the fold scroll, use of bolding, images, and blockquotes, and other narrative enablers.   Needless to say, the readership and the market for attention will reward those that get it right and punish those who get it wrong (in terms of traffic and time spent on site).

  • Blogs sustain the Cult of Text. Traditional journalists are trained to render complex behaviors and ideas into columns of words. (Most) blogs do little to invite journalists to tell stories in novel ways with new media.

Really?   Blogs don’t use audio, video, infographics, and images?   Perhaps the author isn’t reading the correct blogs.

  • Blogs reinforce the auteur theory. Bloggers often think they are curating a collection of their wisdom, which fans will stop by daily to admire. Fifteen minutes with Omniture illustrates that web users don’t behave this way. Much (if not most) blog traffic comes in through the side door, via links from other blogs or web search results. Blog traffic isn’t about who “it’s about what (and what else).

Again, really?   This blog had a readership of one- me.   Somehow, in the past few years, it’s hovered around 100 daily feed readers and 150-300 uniques.     It is fair to say that search, hit, and run users come and go, but they people who come back do so for the content, which is aggregated attention (and you could argue wisdom – of a sort).

I know the author is presenting a contrarian viewpoint.   Let’s keep things in proper perspective – this is from a source whose tag line is “a skeptic’s guide to emerging web technologies”.   The simple fact for newspaper executives is the advertising environment – advertisers are cutting back their spending drastically, with the only static source of revenue or slim gains being online advertising – hence the push for online content.

If a journalist wants to blog, I suggest that they hang their own shingle up and blog a personal interest, and not in a professional capacity.   Why would you want to be a star in someone else’s sky?   A blogging journalist becomes their own brand to manage, not a property of their employer, which is what the industry would want.

Dec 07

Rewarding Bad Behavior [Philadelphia Inquirer]

This post was prompted by Tom Ferrick’s whining and Mark Bowden’s attempt at outrageousness.   I’m not going to bother parsing their statements (Ferrick’s on Casinos aren’t bad for Philadelphia’s waterfront followed by the usual journalists’ waaaaahumbulance cries that he gets hatemail, and Bowden’s Waterboarding isn’t torture and it’s A-OK with him if it works) in current and recent columns.

Brian Tierney, in a Philly Mag interview called Press Lords 2.0 laid out his vision for Philly.com, one where it became a MySpace with User Generated Content (UCG) including those wacky Mentos-and-Coke videos, along with online content created by those in his employ in the analog properties (ie. the papers).  

After we finish our cafeteria sandwiches, he stands up. He steps to the big white flip pad ” “my famous flip pad” ” and starts pitching his vision for Philadelphia Media Holdings, which he doesn’t describe as a newspaper company but as “a brand of local news and content.” With a fat red marker, he scribbles a rectangle representing the Philly.com homepage. He calls it “a shopping mall” of content. To attract more shoppers, Tierney wants a localized version of MySpace; to create more content, Tierney wants journalists to use digital cameras and blogs. “I’m not going to force anybody to do it,” he says, although he hopes journalists will want “to play the game up on the balls of their feet and be excited about it and be relevant.” Explaining what he means by “relevant,” Tierney mentions that when the Mel Gibson DUI story broke last summer, both Philly newspapers covered it on inside pages, “but Philly.com should have had that as a bigger thing than just a line, because everybody went to Drudge” ” the right-wing gossip site ” “or CNN.” The website could use its own journalists who only do Mel-type stories, or who shoot their own “silly and fun” videos, like the one where the guy puts the Mentos candy in the Diet Coke and creates a soda volcano. “I love the smile of our own reporters doing those sorts of things, you know what I mean?”

One could say that this is a somewhat lower goal than that of speaking-truth-to-power or civic responsibility that I have come to expect (and lament, of late) in journalistic endeavors.

Tierney’s Online Experiment also seems to employ to strategies that are prevalent online as well – that of link baiting and attention whoring. One could argue that these are contrarian arguments, possibly hoping to widen the debate.   I suspect not.

Why else would one gather Rick Santorum (former GOP-Senator), Jonathan Last (a consistent conservative columnist), and Michael Smerconish (conservative talking head and veteran of the Bush-the-elder’s administration), all GOPers and place them prominently in the Currents section?   Is this an example of being fair and balancedâ„¢ in print, affirmative action for bad ideas, or maybe something else?

Simply put, Tierney knows any news (or links or posts, in this case) is good news.   The economics of the blogosphere don’t much care whether you agree or disagree with the content to which you link .   The value of one’s internet property is determined by the traffic it receives and how much that traffic is worth.   Should one of those high value liberal-progressive bloggers such as Atrios, or others in the local sphere, comment and start a blogstorm on some content, it would deliver spike in traffic, which in turn helps Philly.com out.

There are a couple of people I know and love who work for the Inquirer and or the Daily News.   But I just can’t justify the reward bad behavior (after this post, that is).  

Oct 07

Five for Friday Favorites: Automobiles

This is the first in a series of mostly-biweekly posts where I take one of my favorite subject areas, give you a little background, and then recommend 5 of my favorite resources and blogs.

I'm a car guy.  I don't like sports, so it's the only approved manly thing I got.

I've long-since given up on the dead-tree versions of the various automobile enthusiast magazines, and frankly, their websites.  Bare in mind, I probably subscribed to Car and Driver, Motor Trend, Automobile, and Road & Track since I was 15 (until a few years ago).  The publishers time their online content ensuring its availability ONLY after the print editions have been in circulation.  The adherence to embargos and their questionable objectivity eventually encouraged me to disregard them all together.  In addition to the blogs (some of which are corporate network-affiliated), I would often visit one of the automobile-centered forums, where you would most likely find the real enthusiasts – those who have the most love (or hate) for a manufacturer, brand, or model.

  1. Autoblog
  2. Jalopnik
  3. The Winding Road
  4. Motivemag
  5. Worldcar Fans