Category Archives: Television

Out of Detroit

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Motown news

When it comes to cutting edge trends, we generally say that California leads and the nation follows.

When it comes to contracting industries, maybe that accolade should go to Detroit.

This week, as automakers made their case for a $25 billion bail-out, one could not help but think that this was but a harbinger of what is going to face every other industry in the very near future.

Newspapers and now local TV are also facing the same kind of financial downturn and pressure, so it might be reasonable to look to Detroit to try and unwind the Media Mess, and therein perhaps, lies an answer or two.

In 1982, there were two newspapers in Detroit.  The Gannett owned Detroit Free Press and the Knight Ridder owned Detroit News.

One was a morning paper, the other and afternoon. One was a broadsheet, the other a tabloid.

Yet both were in trouble.

Detroit, it seemed, could only support one paper.

In those halcyon days long gone, it was thought that it was unhealthy for a city like Detroit to only have one newspaper (today, we are facing the very real prospect of no-newspaper cities).

In any event, to cut operating costs and stave off a perceived journalism disaster, the papers filed for something called a JOA, or Joint Operating Agreement. The papers would henceforth share the same printing plant, the same back office to do the books, and perhaps even the same newsroom.  Economies of scale

Such a sharing arrangement (assuming the principals didn’t inadvertently kill each other), would have been a clear violation of anti-trust laws, and so they needed clearance for the Dept of Justice.

Hence, a JOA.

Today, as newspapers move to the web and video, and TV stations do the same, they are finding themselves increasingly on each other’s turf – in terms of viewers/readers, content and advertisers.  In many cases, there simply is not enough advertiser dollars or viewer/readers to go around. Something has to go.

If we wan to preserve the diversity of opinion that multiple media outlets offer (and that is a debate for another day), perhaps what is needed her is a kind of Media JOA.

Most local TV stations start their news day by reading the local paper. That’s where they get the bulk, if not all, of their stories. When the local paper goes, the local TV news will not be far behind. Mostly because their best source of information has suddenly vanished.

What is killing local TV news (and networks, but more slowly) is its massive overhead. The enormous staffing required (or so it seems) to put the product on the air. (Not to mention building, studios, trucks, tower…)

Why not create then, a kind of media JOA.  A sharing of resources with two distinct and different outlets.

First, as newspapers begin to send their reporters out on the street with video cameras, the local news should use that video for their TV news shows.  Makes sense, no? Why repeat the same act over and over. Cut the costs and share the revenue as well as the content.

Second, share the newsroom. Run the local newscast from the newspaper’s newsroom. Looks like ‘real news’ without having to build a set. Hey, it IS real news. What do you know.

Share advertisers.  Bundle the ads for the paper and the on air play (and the web) all at the same time. One buy helps all, and by the way, you only need one ad sales staff, not two.

Getter a smaller piece of a shrinking pie than no pie at all.


The Academy – DC

Yesterday, fresh from the flight from London (and what a terrible airport Dulles is), we kicked off the DC training academy.  Forty more asipring Videojournalists started the four-day intensive course in video literacy and prepared to join the digital revolution.

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Society of Editors 08: Michael Rosenblum | Online Journalism Blog

part 2 of the speech

Second half of speech to UK Society of Editors on the future of video online.  Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for recording an posting this.

more about “Society of Editors 08: Michael Rosenb…“, posted with vodpod

From The Guardian

Speaking yesterday at the Society of Editors Conference in Bristol, England, I was interviewed by Jemima Kiss, their digital correspondent. Using a $129 ‘flip’ camera, she shot and uploaded it almost immediately. Sure beats the time and expense of using a ‘crew’.

The Guardian has been one of the more aggressive newspapers in moving into the online/video world, and doing it rather better than most.  In past posts, I have extolled online video from our old pal Gary Younge

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see what makes The Guardian so good.

Among a sea of typical conference speakers, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger stood out far ahead of the crowd.  Razor smart, funny, self-deprecating yet clever, you can see immediately that he is the kind of newspaper guy who ‘gets it’.

We’ll see if this turns into anything more than an interesting day.

Fast News

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Hit the road…

Before there was an information superhighway, there was a cement superhighway.

The analogies between the Internet and the Interstate are quite interesting.

  • Both were built by the Department of Defense. One to move missiles, the other to protect command and control
  • Both were networks
  • Both led to vast changes in the nation, both economically and demographically

The Interstate Highway System was built during the Eisenhower administration as a way of moving truck based ICBMs around the country.  But its construction also had a seminal impact on the economics and the demographics of the United States.

The Interstate allowed for the rapid transportation of goods, but also of people. And as people and automobiles began to move with greater ease, those who could see and understand the impact of this newly inexpensive mobility also began to see new and very different business opportunities buried in the concrete.

The New York Times today carries an article about Obama and Levittown, Pa.  Levittown was entirely a product of the Interstate System.  Bill Levitt, back from his stint building fast and cheap housing for the Navy Seabees during WW2 understood that the Interstate would open vast tracts of hitherto desolate farmland to the major ciites.  Thus, in a stroke the notion of Suburbia was born.

Holiday Inns, McDonald’s, Shell Service Stations, Taco Bell – a whole world grew up to service those who began to travel the Interstate.  There is a common denominator amongst those businesses that were a byproduct of the Interstate system: cheap, simple and uniform.

Prior to the Interstate Revolution, a Grand Hotel might indeed be a Grand Hotel, but they were expensive and unique.  The Ritz, The Plaza…  Each one complex but beautiful.  After the Interstate Revolution, Holiday Inns.  Each one pretty much the same as the next, on and on and on.  Cheap, functional, utilitarian.

Prior to the Interstate Revolution, if you wanted to build a house, you did it one at a time.  It was expensive and complex, and it took a long time, but if you did it right, it lasted for generations.  Quality.  After the IR (Interstate Revolution), Bill Levitt showed us how to build houses fast, cheap, simple and in great quantities,  But, like the Holiday Inns, pretty much all the same.

Prior to the IR, you might open a restaurant. It could be grand or a cafe, but it was essentially a one-off.  After the IR we got McDonalds or Wendys or Burger King. All essentially the same and like Levittown or Holiday Inns, all utilitarian, simple, cheap and dependable.

What the Interstate was to the 1950s, the Internet is to our own era.  A vast sprawling network for moving information and products around quickly and efficiently.

And as the Interstate gave birth to a whole new way of doing business, so too has the Internet given birth (and will continue to do so) to a whole new way of doing business – and whole new businesses. What, after all, is Amazon.com but a kind of McDonaldization of the book selling business, minus the buildings,  for the web.

Now, let’s look at the long suffering New York Times.  It is, in a very real sense, the Grand Hotel of journalism. Beautiful, expensive, with ornate marble lobbies and well coiffured staff.  It’s beautiful, but essentially a family owned and run one-off.

We treat journalism today like a fine restaurant – each dish made by hand from the beginning to the end. Tasty, lovely but also expensive.

And it’s fine to have a Plaza Hotel, but it does not fit very well with the Interstate sytem.  It is the product of an earlier more refined and placid era.  Like a finely crafted home built for one person.

Perhaps as the Interstate system begat a whole new way or thinking about what a hotel might be, or a restaurant, or a house, so now the web should get us thinking about an entirely different way to build news organizations.  Instead of trying to replicate the Ritz Carlton at every exit on the New Jersey Turnpike and wondering why they are going broke, perhaps instead of plugging the old models into the new world, we should look at the distribution system first and build up based upon how that works.

That, after all, is what Levitt did.

A commodity based news and information system: fast, simple, formatted, endlessly repeatable and very inexpensive yet highly dependable. Something you can get anywhere, any time, that is fundamentally the same, that is fast.

Fast food.

Fast news.

Brussels – March 4-5th, 2009

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Come on in…

We are here in the Rosenblum Institute in Brussels to firm up the agenda for DNA2009.

We have moved the conference to the Plaza Hotel in downtown Brussels, which has a nice, old world feel to it.  Lots of marble, heavy red velvet, gold leaf and royal crests.  It’s a nice contrast to a conference devoted to the impact of the digital revolution and media

We’re spending our days narrowing down the list of speakers and the topics we want to cover.

There are lot of them, all interesting.

The problem is we only have two days for the conference.  Also, European and American perspectives are a bit different.  We’re trying to create a mix of US, UK and European interests. We’re also trying to bring in two enormous new growth areas in India and China.

We are still early enough in the process to extend invitations and craft topics.

So if you’ve got an idea for a topic, or a speaker you think would really advance the conversation (or a piece of technology that the world has got to see), let us know.

We’re targeting for 600 attendees this year, as well as awarding our €10,000 Euro prize for best VJ piece for the year.

The door is open. (And we’re still accepting admissions for the prize).

Travel Channel Academy Santa Barbara

It is hard to believe that four days have gone by so quickly.

But the results were great, and everyone learned a lot.

There are now forty new certified Travel Channel Academy Journalists, and as VP Sue Norton explained this afternoon, they will soon be producing for the Travel Channel’s website and if they’re lucky for air as well. Most Haunted, the series, is now almost entirely produced by the TJs. More series are in the works!

Congrats to all.  Next stop, DC.

The BBC, Hyperlocal News and VJs

The following comes to me from Alan Morrison in New Zealand – a very loyal correspondent.

In 2005 we built 5 hyperlocal news nodes for the BBC in and around Birmingham, England as a test pilot. Each node was manned by 5 VJs, and that was all.  The pilot worked quite well. So well in fact that we imported the model to the US, where we have successfully run the model here for almost two years.

Now, the BBC wants to expand the model nationally.  Both local newspapers and local TV stations are up in arms. The vastly reduced cost compounded with the greatly expanded coverage threatens to undermine their whole way of doing business. Good. It should.

I don’t normally do this, but I am reprinting Roy Greenslade’s blog in its entirety.

Roy Greenslade is something of a legend in British journalism. He was the former editor of The Daily Mirror as well as the managing editor of The Sunday Times.


At the beginning of the week I carried two postings – here and here – about the extension of the BBC’s “hyperlocal” websites. (You’ll see in a moment why I have apostrophised hyperlocal).

In response to my second posting on Tuesday, a commenter (Shuttleboy) annihilated my argument. Firstly, and crucially, he pointed out that it is wrong to regard the BBC’s proposal to increase staffing and coverage at its localised websites as hyperlocal.

He is right. Let’s nail this one. The BBC has 57 localised websites in the UK, attracting 4m unique users a week. For localised, read regionalised because they cover huge areas with populations averaging about 1m apiece. They typically cover counties or large cities. (If the proposals are agreed there will be three more sites, splitting up some of the over-large areas).

At a push, I suppose we could call these hyper-regional or ultra-regional sites. Those terms may sound like a joke but the failure to find an adequate description for these websites is one reason why they have been improperly described as both hyperlocal and ultra-local. (Clearly, we need to end this argument over semantics).

Anyway, in practice, it means that the BBC’s websites cover areas in which there are several, sometimes many, regional dailies and/or local weekly papers. When newspaper publishers talk of hyperlocal in their own industry they generally mean small-scale publications covering areas within their own circulation areas. So they know what the term really means.

At present, the BBC websites each have staffs of four people. The proposal is to increase staffing by five per site over a five-year period. These new employees will be video journalists (VJs) whose task, rather obviously, will be to increase the video content.

The BBC believes that the expense of these expanded websites, an extra £23m by 2013 or £350,000 per site, is justified because the corporation is fulfilling its public service remit. It is offering the people living in the nations and regions a news service that does not currently exist. (Anyway, it’s not new money being spent, simply a reallocation of resources because of savings made in the division).

One of the counter arguments advanced by regional paper publishers is that increasing video content will threaten the possible emergence of competing ultra-local television services and/or duplicate digital services already provided by local media companies. But ultra-local TV is virtually non-existent and few, if any, publishers have plans to introduce it.

As for video content on local paper websites, it has got better – much better in some cases – but it is patchy and one cannot be certain that the existence of the BBC’s regionalised video content will kill off all local video initiatives.

I agree it’s a moot point. One can well understand that at this time of increasing financial desperation for regional publishers, any encroachment on to their territory is unwelcome. At a time when they need to invest in innovation they are finding it difficult to maintain a commitment to multi-platform journalism.

Shuttleboy’s third complaint about my posting was my contention that the BBC relies (and will rely yet more) on filling its websites by plundering the content of newspaper websites. Evidently, there is no evidence to suggest that this happens (or will happen). I think this is an easy one to prove one way or the other. Where is the evidence?

On a wider point, which appears to have exercised the National Union of Journalists, is it right to oppose any investment in local journalism? Should we stand back and watch papers down-size and yet deny the rights of an alternative news-provider to step into the vacuum?

In fairness, the BBC is not competing for advertising. Nor, strictly speaking, is it competing directly for audiences, given that its website footprints are so different from those of the newspapers.

Doubtless, the public value tests being carried out by the BBC Trust will cast some light on this (though its chairman, Sir Michael Lyons, may regret having spoken out about the state of the regional press prior to announcing the trust’s response to the BBC’s proposals). As one insider told me, it has given him less room for manoeuvre.

That specific matter aside, the larger problem is the one about the increasingly fractious relationship between commerce and public service, between a profit-seeking press and a public service broadcaster. Working together could prove mutually beneficial. There has to be a way to overcome this long-running dispute to both side’s advantage

Posted by Roy Greenslade Friday October 31 2008 13.11 GMT

TCA West Coast

Briefly….

Jeff Jarvis gave us each 5 minutes to explain our businesses.

5 minutes??!!

OK.

Talk fast….