Level Set

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It has been over a month since the employee meetings, and we are learning much every day.  As Mike Coleman, our Director of Technology likes to say: BLUF – Bottom Line Up Front – I am more convinced every day that we are on the right path, but we certainly don’t have the operational details of the transition all worked out, and we need lots of help to build the new local information system of the future.

That future is built on a network of information that is mobile (fluid and flexible), social, and location based.  From that network we can create better packaged products (web, print and broadcast) and with mobile and desktop applications we can let users define the information they would like to have.

However, the ability to fund that future depends on our existing packaged products.  The production cycles of those products are so demanding that we have created a flywheel that is difficult to turn, let alone imagine blowing up and recreating.  Dan Conover recently chided the media industry, and the funders and explorers of new approaches, for an “Imagination Gap“.  He expresses his frustration in many ways, but BLUF, I think he is trying to get more people to focus on his “Informatics Scenario“.  Dan has responded to Jeff Jarvis at length, with a summary for those without the patience for length, and has included links to a review of his thought and a listing of why the industry is so challenged.

Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen have been expounding on the ideas supporting the Informatics Scenario for some time, and Jeff even posted on data driven information after responding to the Information Gap critique with a call for another vision.  Jay Rosen’s talk at the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism succinctly reviews the tensions between our flywheel past and our atomized future.

Steve Buttry, our C3 Innovation Coach, must have had lots of time in Moscow, as he took Jeff Jarvis’s challenge to expound on a different vision for the future, mobile centric.

My initial reaction was:

Steve –

How much time in the airport did you have? This is so long it needs a table of contents and an index!

As you have stated before, you tend to focus on the what, and I focus on the how. Any company attempting to make this transition needs to focus on both, congruently.

With this “storm of the last 30 years” currently upon us, I might have more time today for a more comprehensive response.

For now, here are my first thoughts:

1. I think you and Jeff Jarvis are answering different questions. You seem to be focused on a user-centric sustainable system for the next 20 years, and as Jeff reminds us, he was focused on what happens tomorrow if a major daily stops production – how is the community informed?

2. To get anywhere close to the functionality you describe, we need to create content in the first instance in a very different way – atomized and heavily tagged. There are so many technical, cultural, emotional, work process and business issues in just this aspect that it is beyond the scope of any one company. A coalition of the willing needs to form to pursue the various aspects and share best practices.

3. For the user, we need multiple user-defined applications, mobile and desktop (think Twitter apps) that allow the user to obtain the content they want in the new mobile, social, location based information world.

4. For the business, we need a system whereby the creators of the information content, the creators of the commercial content, the application developers and promoters and the system administrators can all get paid their fair proportion of the revenue, automatically, driven off the tags. The revenue comes from very targeted promotional messages and transactions, easy for the users to experience and act on.

5. If #2 is not beyond the scope of one company, 3 and 4 clearly are.

I believe Dan Conover’s frustration with our industry’s “lack of imagination” stems from the fact that not enough people are even talking about the same “what”, so we cannot get to sharing the “how”.

Judy Sims makes it personal, in her comparison to the grieving process http://simsblog.typepad.com/simsblog/2009/11/pity-the-poor-publisher.html

Once we get past the grieving, we need to start fresh

What do you think?

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6 thoughts on “Level Set”

  1. Yes, lots of time in airports and airplanes (and hotels, awaking even earlier than usual, thanks to jet lag). I got feedback that people preferred reading C3 as one take rather than several, so I tried that here (though this was much shorter than C3). I thought detail was demanded because of the focus on the how in this piece.

    1. I’m not thinking 20 years here. The world is moving mobile now and media companies need to hustle on this.

    2-4. No doubt we need to help and learn from each other (but not wait for someone else to figure it out).

    Love the Sims piece.

    Looking forward to reading your your snow-enforced more comprehensive response and to discussing this when I’m back on Iowa soil (or snow).

    1. Thanks Steve. When I said 20 years, I meant that it would last that long, not take that long to get there. I think we need to be moving very quickly. We will be learning to actually create atomized structured tagged content in the next 30-60 days. We are constantly, and daily, exploring applications to monetize that content.

      Travel safely. We have much to discuss when you are back in this time zone!

  2. Chuck,

    The comment above is the same reply I posted at my blog. I’ll add one more here: I view mobile-first as BLUF all the way. Someone is going to make money helping businesses in the community develop mobile apps & sell products/services from cell phones. Great BLUF opportunity.

  3. What would be ideal, Jarvis said, is if there was a way to connect that piece to a source of background material that is constantly updated — and of course there is: it’s called linking to Wikipedia, an extension of Jarvis’s “do what you do best and link to the rest” mantra. But not everyone does that; some outlets such as the New York Times prefer to link to their own database of “topic pages” instead, perhaps in part because those backgrounders are engineered to do well in search, and in general seem to prefer to link internally if at all.

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