Notes on the creation of a new media landscape

Posts Tagged ‘Media Industry

Print-Digital Migration: A Pitch to Nieman

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This Wednesday (October 14) I’ll be carrying to the Nieman Fellows at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard my message about print’s inevitable migration to digital multimedia, which still seems to many in the publishing business a quixotic notion. I find this very peculiar. After more than thirty years in magazine publishing, about a third of that time at the head of three national magazines whose balance sheets I had to know almost as well as I knew their individual personalities, I find it exceedingly difficult to understand why this migration isn’t happening faster.

Since the 1980s, with few exceptions, mass-circulation print periodicals have relied increasingly on advertising for support rather than circulation, which has become in many cases a loss leader: A rate base inflated by cheap subscriptions supported aggressive ad pricing, but circ income in many cases went negative, sometimes deeply into the red, thanks to the cost of paper, ink and distribution.

What digital migration requires are three basic changes from the print model, all of which should be delicious for editors and publishers to contemplate: 1) eliminate the cost of paper, ink and distribution; 2) charge much less for a subscription; and 3) vastly improve the editorial product through the addition of video, audio, Flash animation and infographics that move.

Please explain this to me: What’s not to like?


Written by Jim Gaines

October 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm

CondeNast And Other Short-Sighted Shutdowns

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Following the recent major announcement from CondeNast that it is shutting down four publications, including the venerable, seven-decade-old Gourmet, FishbowlNY, which is part of the family, asked for my perspective on what this means for CondeNast and the rest of the media industry.

I was obviously disappointed that yet another major media company had decided to shut down yet another prominent, well-read and influential publication without trying to fully re-imagine it for the medium that digital broadband makes possible. I have discussed before on this blog my wish for some major publisher actually to have the guts to reinvent their title for the new media world, and they will. For whatever reason, it seems no one yet sees the opportunity.

Here is what I had to say on FishbowlNY about the recent CondeNast news:

Folding Gourmet, a magazine with over six decades of a strong readership, is the ultimate proof that the management of Condé Nast is short-sighted when it comes to understanding the opportunities that exist within the digital publishing landscape. They are not alone. But this is truly a sad day for magazines. I have this to say to all print publishers: Don’t kill off another publication! A brand is a terrible thing to waste….

You can read further perspective from other media experts on the FishbowlNY piece here.

Check out this link for my memo from a media company that I’m waiting to read.

Jim Gaines
Editor-in-Chief, FLYPmedia
Twitter: @jamesrgaines

Written by Jim Gaines

October 8, 2009 at 1:15 pm

You Say You Want a Revolution?

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This is how it starts.

Last week, 15 prominent German bloggers issued an “Internet Manifesto,” which got the Web so atwitter the Manifesto’s servers went down. Within the day, the statement was back up, this time translated into 13 languages.

For the most part, the Manifesto was pretty tame, not at all inflammatory, except when compared to the counter-revolutionary (royal, you might say) statement issued a couple of months before and endorsed by most of Europe’s most prominent publishers. The so-called “Hamburg Declaration” began with an accusation of theft:

Numerous providers are using the work of authors, publishers and broadcasters without paying for it …For this reason, we advocate strongly urgent improvements in the protection of intellectual property on the Internet.

In response, the Manifesto, while upholding the sanctity of copyright, asserted the responsibility that content creators have to encourage free and robust civic discourse. Even though its 17 principles were for the most part simple statements of fact (e.g., “#1: The Internet Is Different”), the Manifesto was taken to be a kind of declaration of independence for the new world of digital media.

The media must adapt their work methods to today’s technological reality instead of ignoring or challenging it. It is their duty to develop the best possible form of journalism based on the available technology.

Consider that statement for a moment: Adapting to reality is a media company’s duty. Well, yes—a duty to shareholders if no one else, and a supremely moderate position.
So was this: People should have a say in governing themselves. We know how that story ends.

In truth, we know how this one ends as well, or should. Media companies need to start actually adapting to—and embracing—the capabilities of the Internet, instead of punting, pretending and trying to protect themselves from it.

At the same time, both media companies and digital Jacobins need to stop trying to confuse what news-aggregation sites do with peer-to-peer-sharing, a/k/a piracy, so that authors, journalists and other content creators can continue to rely on being paid for the labors of their lives’ work.

Both the royalists and the Jacobins are demagoguing the issue of Internet freedom, but why should these journalistic precincts be immune from that sort of thing? If it’s good enough for Keith Olbermann and Glenn Beck….

TIME’s story on Beck by David von Drehle this week may be more even-handed than some might wish (see the flaming tweets of NYU’s Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) on Twitter, for example), but no one could argue with Von Drehle’s statement about America in 2009:

Trust is a toxic asset, sitting valueless on the national books. Good faith is trading at pennies on the dollar.

You cannot blame this fact on the Internet, as much of an enabler as it may be of loose talk and partisan screaming. When I was the editor of TIME, 15 years ago—when the world was still using 56k modems—Kurt Andersen did a cover story on Rush Limbaugh and Howard Stern. The cover showed them both shouting into a microphone, and the headline was “Voice of America”.

The Web did not do this to civic discourse. We did it to ourselves.
Next week: The need for a new public square

Jim Gaines
Twitter: @jamesrgaines

The Memo You Didn’t Get–Yet

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Below is a guest post I wrote for and FishbowlNY. It’s my vision of how the news would be broken by a major publisher that its entire operations – editorial, advertising, everything – would switch to a completely digital format. Let me know your thoughts below.

To: The Staff
From: Your Favorite MSM Conglomerate [leave a comment to vote]
Re: The Strongest Rumor You’ve Heard Yet
Date: September 10, 2010

Following on events in our industry with which you are familiar, we have today given notice to our printers, paper manufacturers, ink suppliers, newsstand wholesalers and subscription-fulfillment agencies, as well as the Newspaper Guild and the U.S. Postal Service, of our intent to become the first fully migrated print-to-digital publisher in America.

Once this transformation is complete, all of our brands will be multimedia titles, utilizing audio, video, animation and full-motion information graphics, brought together by a state-of-the-art platform and the most advanced design and communications software in the industry, which we have been developing off-site over the past eight months and about which you will learn more in the days and weeks ahead. Thanks to these innovations and the now virtually ubiquitous Digital Online NUmedia Tablet (DONUT®), all print publication will cease as of July 1, 2011.

Such a revolutionary step naturally raises many questions and issues, few of them easy. Although we anticipate no layoffs among either editorial or business staffs of our titles, production departments will have to master many new skills, and jobs in every department will require the adoption of new methods. Circulation departments will emphasize new analytic tools and social media techniques, for example. Ad staffs will shift their focus to rich-media and television advertising. Editorial staffs will clearly need to grow and change their current focus substantially in order to incorporate new media and software talent — videographers, animators, interactive and social media experts, programmers, integrators, etc.

The enormous savings that we will realize with digital publication will, however, cause grave dislocations among our partners in printing and distribution, and these will be as painful for them as they would be for us.

I will not dwell on the benefits of this step for the planet, except to say that this move will eliminate more than a million tons of carbon from the earth’s atmosphere each year, radically reducing the company’s carbon footprint.

We undertake this initiative not so much in the interest of employees or shareholders, but rather, for the audience that has always been our most cherished customer, the American public. We live in a new world of media, one that offers far more and richer tools of communication than paper and ink. We fail in our purpose as a company if we fail to adapt to a world in which quotes that were words on a page can come alive with the body language of experts and villains, in which music stories can sing, film reviews can play, book reviews can speak, charts can incorporate movement and audio to convey their information more assertively.

We are story-tellers, and as such we need to master all the crafts and arts that are available to us. We expect all of our brands — in newspapers, magazines, books, textbooks and not least our properties already online — to be greatly invigorated and far more useful to their audiences as a result of this digital migration.

Since opening our doors in the early years of the last century, our ultimate ambition has been to enrich with great journalism that civic conversation which is fundamental to a robust democracy. It is in pursuit of the same goal that we are taking the steps we announce today.

This memo appeared originally at Fishbowl NY

FYI: I’m tweeting about the evolution of the media industry at @jamesrgaines

Written by Jim Gaines

September 10, 2009 at 4:46 pm

A New Digital Model for Print Publishers

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In an interview with eMedia Vitals producer Sean Blanda, I talk about the editorial and financial advantages of migration from print to the online world of multimedia.
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more about "Vodpod « Support «", posted with vodpod

Written by Jim Gaines

September 10, 2009 at 2:54 pm

The Story Is Dead. Long Live the Story.

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Based on an article in the BBC’s recent report The Future of Journalism, Vin Crosbie’s blog recently published another premature obituary for our profession—a piece that is fast developing into its own genre of new-media punditry:

People very much want to know local news and information, such as which restaurants in town serve Chinese food and are open at this hour, what the score is at this moment at the local secondary school’s football game…But they want to know all of it now, not just the few topics about which a local news organization might have available staff that day to report…
The web has … erased the distinction we journalists used to make between ‘news’—what we said it was—and information, stuff, the whole of the rest of the world.

Let’s give him that. The conclusion inferred from this, which Crosbie’s blog quotes approvingly from the BBC report, bears closer examination: “Our old image of gripping them with our ‘stories’ is no more. The story is dead.”

Long-form journalists who haven’t taken the hemlock already need no comfort from me. But new-media pundits—who often sound suspiciously like old-media pundits (except, of course, for yours truly)—can always stand a good rap on the knuckles. Here’s one that I think is especially well-deserved.

The story is not dead, it’s just suffering. The reason is that publishers, journalists and other story tellers have been slow to adapt to a digital world with lots of newfangled pens and pencils, including audio, video, full-motion infographics, Flash animation, various forms of interactivity—and, of course, words, the better the better.

Some of us have confused the availability of new tools with the need for a new theory of knowledge. To be sure, our moment is revolutionary, and the media disruption we are experiencing now will have revolutionary outcomes. But the story in this revolution is like the axe in the transition from stone to bronze: We still used axes. The edge just got a lot sharper.

Forty-five years ago, in Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan described the digital revolution before us now with preternatural precision: “We have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned. Rapidly we approach the final phase of the extensions of man—the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society, much as we have already extended our senses and our nerves by the various media.”

In this revolution, we are ill-served by reducing the ambition of even purely local news to “which restaurants in town serve Chinese food” or high-school football scores. If that is digital deliverance, save me from it.

Right now, digital story-telling is a pathless land. I work for one of the places venturing forth into this undiscovered country, and at least so far, it’s very lonely out here. But it won’t be for long.

Knowledge and information can and will be virtually ubiquitous, wikied and individually curated, to our great common benefit, but so too will stories continue to be reported and told. At some point in the not distant future, stories with sharper, digital edges will inform conversation in a transformed version of the public square—a place busier than the old one, no doubt, and substantially messier, but one that serves the ultimate democratic goal of consensus in a way that a clamor of bits and bytes of purely utilitarian information never could.

In his New York Tribune editorial of 1865, Horace Greeley famously advised: “Go West, young man, and grow up with your country.”

If Greeley were around today, I think this is what he would tell publishers, journalists and other story-tellers of all ages:

Go digital, and grow up with your fellow citizens.

Jim Gaines
Twitter: @jamesrgaines

This is a conversation. What do you think—about the future of the story and story-telling? Take a look at FLYP—what do you like, and not? What do you see elsewhere on the Web or in the world that suggests good story-telling? Or do you agree that the future of digital publishing is in purveying pure information?

Written by Jim Gaines

August 31, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Losing the Me in Multimedia

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There has been a lot of loose talk lately from certain “legacy”—a/k/a old—media outlets about how bloggers and online aggregators are “stealing” their content. Some of it is just eyeball envy, and some seems to be jealousy of a deeper sort—a sense of waning cool, a lack of buzz supply.

Certain virtues just don’t come naturally to people in our line of work, and the greatest of these is charity.

That’s going to have to change. For journalists of all ages, making the transition from old to new media means crossing a theoretically impossible leopard with the improbable old dog, changing spots and learning new tricks. In plain English, we have to learn not just new skills but new virtues as well.

Number one is humility. Without it, as a profession, we will still be shouting from the mountaintop, and there has been quite enough of that. Even more painfully, we have to get over our great big individual selves. I know this from experience: It hurts not being “somebody” anymore.

When I was the editor of Time, I got to interview Castro, Mandela, Rafsanjani—the Dalai Lama! A few weeks ago, the assistant to somebody nobody ever heard of yelled at me for calling back to ask about an interview. She didn’t even bother calling later to say no.

Back in the day, I could order up a story anywhere in the world, just by calling my assistant and saying something like, “Get me Istanbul.” Now, I’m lucky if I have time to call out for a sandwich at lunchtime. There is no assistant, not to mention anyone who would answer to the name “Istanbul”.

When I first got to FLYP the person who started it, Alan Stoga—a very smart guy, but somebody who had never even been a journalist, for god’s sake—told me my sentences were too long. My first thought, of course, was, “Who was HE to be editing ME!” But I looked again, and it was true. Finely wrought doesn’t work online. Plain speaking does. Whoever thought that would be the wave of the future!

As good and resourceful as I think I am, I’ve had to get used to the fact that there is a lot I just don’t know. I don’t know how to shoot video, not to mention how to edit, export or integrate it. I can’t animate an information graphic, or design a simple popup, slider or second-floor.

At FLYP now I’m called the editor-in-chief, but in story meetings, I’m one of a team, which includes an animator-in-chief, a videographer-in-chief, a designer-in-chief, a researcher-in-chief, a programmer/integrator-in-chief and a reporter-in-chief.

The best meeting we have is after we publish, when we all get to play user-in-chief. This purpose of this meeting is to ruthlessly criticize each other (the aforementioned founder-in-chief is especially good at this) for having screwed up the experience of a story for the most important team member of all, the you-in-chief.

And I’ve never enjoyed a job more, nor felt more intimately engaged with the reason I got into journalism in the first place, which was to tell stories.

The second critical virtue is brevity, but I’m out of space. Blogs are supposed to be 500 words max, I’m told, and I’m already over that.

This reminds me of Humility, Subpart A: The thing to be afraid of isn’t failure. It’s regret for failing to try something new.

Jim Gaines
Editor-in-Chief, FLYP

Written by Jim Gaines

August 5, 2009 at 3:04 pm