Making newspapers relevant

I’m not going to qualify this statement by picking either print or digital formats because really, the issue of bring relevance to newspapers in the minds of younger (and even older) readers is platform-agnostic.

That being said, I’d like to make point out once again that every newspaper needs someone like Pete Vonder Haar on staff.  If you read A Perfectly Cromulent Blog on a regular basis (I recommend just subscribing) you’ll find a mix of pop-culture observations, personal anecdotes and the most blistering dissection of the day’s headlines just about anywhere on teh interwebs. Take the riffing he does on this story of a rugby player who left his two-year-old daughter in the car while attending a party at a brothel.

I hung out with a lot of rugby players in college. They were, by and large, barely domesticated apes, given to drinking near-lethal amounts of alcohol while subjecting themselves and those around them to the foulest degradations imaginable. But even so, I’m pretty sure the same guys I watched swan dive out of a third-story window into a wading pool filled with Everclear and piss would have a hard time abandoning their child in a hot car while they went to party in a fer chrissakes brothel.

Who writes like that?

While Pete’s a great example of what I’m talking about, the point is that traditional news writing, while unquestionably still valuable, is not building connections with readers in the same way that blogs and other non-traditional outlets are. That’s because those blogs are written in a voice that sounds instantly familiar to the reader.

If I were a newspaper publisher in Texas, where Pete lives, who was looking to revitalize the paper’s readership I don’t think I could hire Pete fast enough. Let him write a column, let him blog, let him define the job himself and see what shakes loose.

The thing is there are people like Pete all over the internet and all over the country.  They’re not that hard to find and can provide a valuable asset to the paper’s offerings as they look to make up online the readership they’re loosing in print.

LOTD: 9/7/07

  • Jaffe is announcing some changes at crayon, including the exiting of CC Chapman, and the agency’s refocusing on being more of a consultancy, pushing for thought leadership and vision definition for its clients. (CT)
  • AOL has made official the rumors that have been circulating and is all-but killing Netscape as a social news site, turning the Netscape brand name back into more of a traditional portal. If anyone at AOL has a clear vision about what the company is doing online, I’d like them to raise their hands. (looks around) Didn’t think so. (CT)
  • Josh Hallett has begun a series examining the upsides and downsides of individuals blogging for corporations. (CT)
  • Allison hit me with this link that contains not just the Quote of the Day but the Quote of the Year. (CT)
  • Jeremiah looks at the role of the “Career Blog,” a site not corporate in nature but more devoted to someone’s passion and which becomes an integral part of the personal branding they’re engaged in. (CT)

Hollywood, Apple don’t see eye to eye

apple_logo.jpgI’ve not commented on the decision by NBC Universal to pull their TV shows from the iTunes store here on MMM because I couldn’t quite figure out what to say. But this Variety story has me thinking and here’s the conclusion I’ve come to:

Any media company that doesn’t drop down on their knees and thank Apple for pretty much inventing the download-to-own video market is just being stupid.

Now I know there were and are other sites out there selling movie downloads but if you can name more than two friends who used one of them more than once I’d be shocked. And the idea of selling TV shows episode-by-episode I don’t think existed before Apple introduced that.

Media companies, be they movie studios or TV networks or record labels, need to be looking for any online distribution outlet they can find right now. Ticket sales are slumping, DVD sales are leveling off and all the stand-alone record stores have closed. iTunes has tremendous market penetration, is drop-dead simple to use and is compatible with the most popular portable media device on the market.

Who else doesn’t see this as the simplest math in the world?

I don’t honestly care if Apple wasn’t willing to price things like you want them priced and I defy you to find an end-user that does. We want convenience and a good selection and a reasonable price.

I always wonder why more studios weren’t signed on to iTunes. If Apple offered movie rentals at a monthly price comparable to Netflix I’d switch over in a heartbeat. It’s so much simpler to pull up an iTunes video file on my laptop than to bring the DVD, load it and then have to stop it at some point, all the while having the spinning disc chewing up battery life at a ridiculous rate.

If I were running a studio right now I’d be thrilled that I was selling 300 downloads at $10 a pop. That’s better than 10 downloads at $30 each.
But this conversation revolves around the question posed by AdAge: what’s a piece of entertainment worth? The answer to that is simple – Whatever value the customer assigns to it.

If Apple – or anyone else – is willing to give you user reach and device compatibility they should be embraced as if they were the savior of the company. That’s because they are.