Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Sky was NOT and is NOT Falling

GM's problems are not the end of the Auto. AIG's problems are not the end of Insurance. Citicorp's problems are not the end of Finance. Newspaper company problems are not the end of either Print or Newspapers.

It might be the end of commercial models based on value chains instead of facilitated user networks. That's a big problem for the people and companies with legacy commercial models that have to change for a new environment.

But that's not my problem. I have enough of my own problems to solve.

read at INMA
- No Iceberg: Separating Truth from Fiction About Newspapers In This Recession:"The death of the newspaper is one of the great exaggerations of today's economic downturn.

It is a myth being perpetuated by people, companies, and the trade press that serve them that are in seeming cardiac arrest -- many of whom have amassed debt beyond their means, possess business models vulnerable to today's environment, and are unused to competitive profit margins.

No matter how unbiased or agnostic we try to be, we are all creatures of what we read and what surrounds us.

Being based in the United States, I am surrounded by extraordinary negativity. Not just talk about advertising declines, classified migration to the internet, and circulation woes. The talk in the States is about the death of newspapers, the death of the traditional print business model, and the death of companies that own today's newspapers.

Recently, I decided to reach out to INMA members worldwide to understand the precise colour and tenor of this downturn.

Is the extreme negativity justified?

This brief report for INMA members is a summary of my findings. It is a narrative, based on the confidential discussions with senior executives in Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America. . . .

. . .

I've heard that one of the Tribune Company's leading newspapers may have made a US$100 million profit in an otherwise horrible 2008 due to cost containment and targeting its opportunities. But put that in the context of the US$13 billion debt the Tribune Company has amassed and must service!

You can throw off impressive profits, but the way newspaper companies structured their debt to acquire other newspapers assumed they could lift 20 percent margins to 30 percent and more. Little thought was given to the idea that margins could drop from 20 percent to 10 percent or less.

That is turning into a Shakespearean miscalculation.

Just when you thought it couldn't get more complicated

My recent post was about the most recent discussion at Harvard's NiemanJournalismLab. At 8:03 last night, Rudolph posted
Martin: Hearst is inventing the future, and one better than the one you describe
To which I said,
Wow! Thanks for the point. I just got my first Kindle. Short story is that in three days, it’s completely changed my intense reading habit.

If the next stage of the discussion is framed as how does Paper fit in with the Hearst device it should be a very productive conversation. If it creates another buzz about the end of this or the replacement of that, it will just keep going round and round.

Here’s an opener for Print and News-on-epaper.

News-on-Paper is the best search platform for viewers and scanners. The stability and large field of vision is best for pattern recognition. It’s the best way to notice new information or anomalies.

News-on-ePaper may turn out to be the best way to read if you know what you want to read.

The opportunity for news-on-Paper is that readers are a niche market while viewers and scanners are a mass market.
Here's the headline and lede from Rudolph's link:
Hearst to launch a wireless e-reader
The publisher plans to introduce a large-format device this year based on electronic-ink technology.
NEW YORK (Fortune) -- Against a backdrop of plummeting ad revenue for newspapers and magazines, and rising costs for paper and delivery, Hearst Corp., is getting set to launch an electronic reader that it hopes can do for periodicals what Amazon's Kindle is doing for books.

According to industry insiders, Hearst, which publishes magazines ranging from Cosmopolitan to Esquire and newspapers including the financially imperiled San Francisco Chronicle, has developed a wireless e-reader with a large-format screen suited to the reading and advertising requirements of newspapers and magazines. The device and underlying technology, which other publishers will be allowed to adapt, is likely to debut this year. more

Friday, February 27, 2009

Revealed: Why K - 12 Textbooks are going to TIP. And the new opportunity for newspapers.

You can get the argument in Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation WIll Change the Way the World Learns by Clayton Christensen (Author), Curtis W. Johnson (Author), Michael B. Horn. You can buy the hardcover at Amazon for $21.75 or the Kindle version for $18.12.
"As products and their markets mature, technology grows more sophisticated, as do customers. They begin to understand their unique needs and to insist on customized product. Technological maturity makes customization possible. Product and service arhitecture become more modular in this enivronment." Disrupting Class:
All the pieces for mass customization of Print product are now in place. Textbooks evolved in a world where customization was not possible. The textbook and education businesses are "value chain" commerce. The emerging model is "facilitated user network" commerce. "Value chain" and "facilitated user network" are from Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the World Learns.

Textbooks, embedded in value chain commerce start with the content. Content is produced by experts, approved by experts, mass produced and sold as "one-size- fits -as many as possible." Textbooklets embedded in facilitated user network commerce starts with the learner. The content lives in the Cloud, on websites, wiki's, blogs and other forms. Publishing happens when someone decides that form of the content is most appropriate for that learner at that time.

Many newspapers have experienced talented people to marshal facts, find the stories most relevant and tell those stories using just the right combination of words and pictures. Newspapers are built to accomplish those tasks, day after day, on deadline.

In the classroom, teachable moments occur and disappear in real time. The hard part of the teacher's job is to create an environment in which it is possible to predict when teachable moments will occur. The function of textbooklets is to help the teacher create those moments and have the material in place to make the most of them.

Versioned Print newspapers - textbooklets, instead of text books - could be delivered directly to classrooms. Edited from the point of view of the classroom teacher. It is a customized replay of My Weekly Reader , but for High School students and on steroids.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Revealed: The internet is lame. Print is cool. Newspapers and start ups can grow by replacing Texbooks with Textbooklets. The short story.

As Print Correspondent for, I get a chance to get on a little bigger soapbox every two weeks or so. Today's post is called Read for Free, Pay for Print or Stuff. Over there, I am a guest in someone else's house. It was not appropriate to use the headline as above.

But it is what I really believe. The web is Telephone + TV + Search + a big filing cabinet + the best way to buy and sell stuff every invented. Print is a 500 year old evolved search platfom in physical space. The web serves a niche market. Print serves a mass market. Print + a highlighter is the most interactive, most efficient tool for learning how to think on the planet.

Some excepts and out takes from my column follow:

"It's the Print, Stupid!"
In all the noise about the web, newspapers have overlooked their defensible advantage. They have a surplus of social capital in the form of the intelligence and machinery that allow them to print and distribute better, faster, cheaper than anyone else. . . .

For startups, the commercial printers can supply the same functionality. Just build in the costs of distribute and print into the business model.

For newspaper companies the answer to "How to make money, now" is . . .
Local advertising for both print and web platforms for local business is a constantly renewing addressable market. As demonstrated by Google's success in bringing millions of new advertisers into the marketplace, it just needs the right price and an easy way to make the buy and the sell.

For newspaper companies and start ups looking for a growth path . . .
. . . serve the interests of journalism. For journalism to work, it means a constantly growing market of readers, not viewers nor scanners. The best place to find them is when they are in school.

. . . the explosive growth opportunity for journalism, and maybe some newspaper companies, is to serve readers who live in the world of K-12 education . . . by replacing textbooks with textbooklets.

The Textbooklet Use Case from the teacher point of view
A teacher in a high school history class is starting a unit on World War II. it will take 4 weeks.Wk 1 - the background. Wk 2 - the outbreak of war. Wk 3 - the course of war. Wk 4- the outcome.

He goes to a website, chooses the appropriate "textbooklet" from an online library of hundreds available - a 24 page tabloid print or a 12 page 8/12 by 11 or a 4 page 10 by 14 product. Each Friday 120 copies of the next week's subjects are delivered. Each of his students gets a copy to scan, search and view over the weekend. Those who are absent can scan, search and view on the web.

Starting Monday, the class will work together to read and think about the words on the background of World War II. For the inevitable, "I lost it. I forgot it. You never gave me a copy" a supply of textbooklets are on hand for the Monday morning class. Every student has a highlighter. The discussion ensues.

The Textbooklet Use Case from the newspaper point of view
A three person team--an educator, an editor and a writer create the content for the textbooklet.

The Textbooklet Use Case from the start up point of view
Three recently excessed, but very talented and experienced people get together in the local Starbucks. An educator, and editor and a writer. At the table is a commercial newspaper printer and/or a digital printer.

The rest is the same
The educator makes clear to the editor the standards in place for 9th grade high school. The editor chooses legacy copy from the newspaper's morgue and perhaps an ongoing related story. In the case of the start up either a community website, blogs or wikipedia, after the deal is made. Just do the same deal that wikipedia has already done in Germany.

The educator collaborates with the editor to get it right. The writer creates a 300-500 word summary and some captions and call outs to surround the original source material. The educator, editor and writer look over the final before it's approved to go. The commercial printer figures out printing and delivery.

The real problem with textbooks in the service of learning
It is not that they are too heavy or too expensive. It is that they are too slow. . . . Newspapers, and start up teams, are built for speed. . . .

Teachable Moments
As every teacher knows it is impossible to predict when the "teachable moment" will occur. They will also tell you that it can disappear as quickly as it appeared. Textbooks are too slow to catch those teachable moments. Textbooklets move at the speed of distribute and print.
. . .
In addition to the stable revenue that might come from textbooklets, the focus on helping high school kids to learn will put the incentives to keeping figuring out how to do harder job of helping everyone to learn. It's also a way to do well, by doing good.

If your newspaper is too busy right now to get involved, help the start up teams.
There are lots of very experienced talented people inventing new ways to earn a living. There are lots of commercial printers inventing new ways to get more work.

While they get it together, you can keep selling ads in Print and web to keep the ship afloat, until textbooklets scale.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Or Maybe this is the Next Big Thing?

ProPublica and NYT seek $1M to put everyone’s documents online @ Nieman Journalism Lab
"Two of the biggest names in journalism have applied to this year’s Knight News Challenge: The pioneering investigative-reporting non-profit ProPublica and The New York Times are seeking $1 million from the Knight Foundation to launch an online repository of primary-source documents. The project could lead to greater information sharing among news organizations and their audience. As they put it in their grant application:

Documents are the foundation of investigative journalism, but today’s newsroom is a throwaway culture. Too often, reporters gather reams of information, do their stories, then chuck rich source documents into a dusty corner, never again to see the light of day.

The project, which is called DocumentCloud, would let news organizations upload their materials for public consumption and analysis. (”Readers will also be able to quickly search, annotate and bookmark documents — and for the first time link directly to specific pages or passages.”)"