Bloggers are hurting the dead tree people…

It has been a long time since I used that phrase. But back in 1996/1997 we bantered it about quite a bit when we talked about the Internet revolution. In case you don’t know, ‘dead tree people’ refers to the people who work at newspapers. The advent of the web was supposed to have meant the end of them back then just as it is today. A quick search on Google yielded only 57 results which I find odd considering its prior prevalence as a term of less than endearment.

I was in the process of writing a post about the Ryan Blitstein’s whining piece in SFWeekly last week and the fact that the San Francisco Chronicle was working with a direct marketing firm on a new outreach campaign, when I read Mike Arrington’s piece on Lee Gomes write up in the Wall Street Journal on the tech blogs elite. I must say that this is one of the first articles I have read from someone outside the valley that really gets it in a deep way. Kudos to Lee – the Wall Street Journal certainly won’t be disappearing any time soon, and he is one of the reasons why.

When you build an organization of smart people that are empowered to understand and communicate meaning, you are bound to be successful. This no longer requires really deep pockets to fund it, nor does it require advertising budgets. All it requires are the people, their insights, the tools, the organizing principle and the effort. Wow, look at that, a new acronym – PITOPE. A lousy sounding one, but that is really all it takes…
To his point about some journalists complaining of losing choice seats at PR events etc… we should all remember this simple truth. Marketing people are trying to buy the largest influence for their money. If they know that one key blogger like a Scoble or Arrington can influence several thousand people who influence untold numbers of other people in just a few minutes time, why court someone whose influence is not easily measurable and not in real time who will be filtered by an editor and a publisher with potentially competing agendas? Hmmm, this goes much deeper than time permits at the moment. More to come, but now back to the regularly scheduled post I started before I saw the WSJ piece…

The Chronicle has hired a DM firm to do subscriber acquisition for them. Just got the call (on MON):

CSR – “You have been randomly selected for a new trial subscription of the San Francisco Chronicle that runs for Friday, Saturday and Sunday for only $19.95 per year.”

ME – “No thanks we don’t do print any more.”

CSR – “Thank you for your time.”

ME – “Goodbye”

I wanted to write about this because of the cover story I saw in this week’s SFWeekly where the writer bemoans how Craigslist is making newspapers fire people and reduce the quality of journalism because they are taking millions of dollars from newspaper’s classified revenues. The guy forgets that the SFWeekly did the same thing to the Chronicle and Examiner when it launched, and when cable advertising came in and when auto trader launched and when… just about everyone who could come up with an idea for a media product launched. It is called competition and it is seldom good for entrenched monopolies, but usually good for the people over the long term.

In the increasingly connected world in which we live, each of us only has 24 hours of attention each day, so those who can use the least of it and provide the best value for that time are the winners of our economy. Simple is hard. Do it and win.

I believe that the economy favors those organizations who can best leverage the right assets for solving a particular problem. As more and more of the economy is driven by knowledge based products, the right combination of assets is all about collective brain power. Essentially, as Paul Zane Pilzer says, [my paraphrasing] “people’s ability to get along is the single most important determiner of value.”

Craig understood simple and he is helping others to do the same with their all important causes. A population that is better educated will make a better country as long as they have an efficient way of being discovered and heard by people who are passionate about the same things.

if this means the end of the newspaper, c’est la vie. I certainly hope they wakeup from their slumber and start to innovate and kick more ass like the folks over at KRON4 have done. Not only did they launch a local blog aggregator called The Bay Area is Talking to participate in the conversation and remain relevant, but they have also launched a new Video Journalist program (brief explanation on Wikipedia) with the assistance of the modern VJ movement’s principal advocate Terry Heaton. Check out one of Terry’s posts from back on 11/12/2004 describing what he saw as the future.

“Here’s my prophecy. What will begin as a cost-cutting measure on the part of station owners will eventually lead to a transformation in video newsgathering in the U.S. The ability to edit in the field (or at one’s home) will also lead to employment changes and open the door for citizen involvement in the process.”

Things are changing all the time but it seems that several people in the newspaper business just want things to stay the same. Maybe it would be better if only those in the ivory towers could read and write – that way they could tell us what to do like the kings and churches did before Gutenberg? At least there would be more trees I suppose…

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  1. #1 by assaf - December 8th, 2005 at 00:29

    Save the trees — subscribe to feeds.

    Hmm … doesn’t sound too bad.

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