The Slow Death of the Newspaper Business Continues

In 1988, I entered Louisiana State University majoring in news/editorial journalism. Mid-way through my education, the Los Angeles Times was reporting that the nation’s newspaper publishers were facing “severe troubles on advertising and circulation fronts.”

Just one year later, The Morning Advocate newspaper there in Baton Rouge became simply The Advocate because the afternoon edition of The State-Times ceased publication. Several other cities with multiple newspapers or morning/evening editions also went to single-newspaper towns around that time.

Into that environment I graduated with a degree that should have pointed me to a career as a newspaper reporter, so I promptly fled to graduate school and public relations.
Newspaper Death
Flash forward twenty years and the Nielsen Wire blog was still asking “Is the Great American Newspaper Dead?” They said that “hope for a resurgence of the printed newspaper seems like a pipe dream.” And, “readership levels among younger persons would have to more than double to provide enough audience to sustain the big papers, and that would require reversing a declining trend that has been ongoing for decades.”

So it shouldn’t have really been any big surprise this week when I heard the news (through Facebook) that the New Orleans Times-Picayune was cutting back from daily to a thrice-weekly publication schedule. (although it surprised many of their employees who heard it first on Twitter, rather than from their employer).

Still I could only summon up a one-word comment as I shared the news on Twitter – “Wow.”

I don’t really have to state the obvious impact that the Internet has had on all this – the Nielsen story was on a blog, the first reports about the Times-Picayune were on a New York Times blog, and I heard about it on Facebook, while their employees heard it on Twitter.

I certainly am one to embrace things digital, but I also still like seeing the Austin American-Statesman in my driveway (or yard, usually when there’s wet grass to walk through to get it) seven days a week.

I love the speed with which I can download new books to my Kindle, but love a little bit more the fact that I’ve got a 1st edition signed copy of “Interview With The Vampire” on my bookshelf.

Maybe I’m just stuck in the middle of old and new. Raised on a diet of three newspapers in the house (one daily, two weeklies) by a teacher-turned-librarian mother, but growing up to be one of the metaverse evangelist crowd. Part of the first generation they couldn’t put a name on, and just branded with the letter X.

I see the sense it it when Jeff Jarvis says newspapers “had better have become digital companies.” The publications I primarily work with almost all have online versions, and after an interview with one of their reporters it seems strange if more than 24 hours passes without seeing the story they were writing show up in a Google alert – or on their Twitter account.

So, why do I feel a little sad?

Image via Creative Commons by Michael Scott

Hobos Didn’t Eat My Pet Duck, but The Bloggess’ Book Did Bring Back Memories

Let me start right off by saying there is no way I ever want to enter into a pissing match with Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess about who had the harder childhood.

Mine could never compete with the therapy-inducing “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel.” And for that, I’m thankful.

But, as I started reading her book Let’s Pretend This Never Happened last week, the chapter titled “My Childhood: David Copperfield Meets Guns & Ammo Magazine” did bring on my own set of flashbacks that I felt compelled to share, since, you know, it worked out for a book deal for The Bloggess and you just never know…

Early in my childhood we did get our water from a well. Not the kind Jack & Jill went to, but also not one with radon like Jenny’s family. And also, we moved up to “city water” not too many years later, so that doesn’t really count, other than just to say, I understand what “beige” water is like.

I, too, grew up with furniture dedicated to the storage of guns aka the gun cabinet. Ours was not just a free-standing cabinet, though, ours was built into the custom home my parents designed and we moved into when I was four. Not only did we have a built-in gun cabinent in the house, it was given a place of prominence in our living room – right behind the television. It did also include a bow and arrows, although my father did not use his as often as Jenny’s dad did.
Senior Banquet

I do know what it means to clean a deer, although standing in one is not something I had the misfortune to do. (read her book to find out more about that one) Luckily, the only wildlife I remember my father cleaning in our backyard was fish that were hung from the frame of an old swing set.

While my father was not a taxidermist like Jenny’s, he did do his part to keep them in business. In that same living room/main family room of the house with the gun cabinet, the walls were adorned with (from left to right in the picture here taken before my Senior Banquet) deer, javelina, antelope and bass. (not pictured – a turkey, too) I never really thought it unusual until friends visited from college. Didn’t everyone have stuffed animal heads on their wall? Oh, and did you catch that I called it Senior Banquet, not Prom? That’s because proms have dancing and we couldn’t have dancing. Seriously. I lived Footloose.

I, too, went to gather the chicken eggs once and found a snake. Well, no. That’s not really true. It turned out just to be an old biddy that wasn’t too happy I was sticking my hand up over my head into a box I couldn’t see in and into her business. Because I’d been warned enough that snakes could possibly be in the coop at my grandmother’s house in Arkansas, my childhood mind equated the squawk of the hen to the hiss of a snake and eggs went flying as I ran screaming into the house. My brothers must not have been around or I’m sure I’d still be hearing about it from them (along with the periodic torment I still receive over a Scooby Doo-induced nightmare).

And finally, hobos didn’t eat my pet duck, but I did eat the cow that I bottle-fed as a calf. I know that sounds harsh (and The Bloggess’ PETA friends will probably now come find me), but he had it coming. Oh sure, they start out all cute and sweet and you feel sorry for the poor little orphaned baby. Then, before you know it, the yearling is nearly as tall as you, weighs much more and thinks that butting you upside the barn wall is fun play. When you try to run away, the game becomes chase and when you look back to see how close he is on your heels you turn around just in time to see nothing but green as your face slams into the side of a John Deere combine. As you roll under the barbed wire fence to safety and notice the blood dripping from your nose, a steak dinner starts sounding pretty good.

I’m still reading the book, and laughing out loud, so there’s no telling what else might pop up that I feel compelled to share. Since the book I finished just prior to this one was “Fat is the New 30,” you’re forewarned that my Deep South roots may just start showing more than they have on this blog before.

What about you? Have any down-home stories to top these?

Klout Matchups Add Human Element to Scores

As a life-long multitask-er, it’s not unusual that this morning I was web surfing while listening to the latest episode of the For Immediate Release (FIR) podcast.

As Shel and Neville discussed the latest round of Klout media coverage initiated by a recent Wired article mentioning a digital marketing executive being passed over for a job due to his low Klout score, I popped over to the Klout website to check my own.

As a consultant and speaker, Shel felt “you can’t ignore it” because people thinking to hire him might be looking at it; while Neville took the stance that “if it means I’ll miss out on something, well then, so be it.”

I’m probably somewhere between. If I were looking to hire someone to work in or speak about social media, I admit that I would likely check their score. A low score might elicit much the same reaction I had when someone recently came across my radar with a Twitter bio that said they’d been “at the forefront of social media” for the past decade, but apparently just joined Twitter one month earlier. Scoff.

But I would probably dig deeper – not so deep to cross a line that, as Ryan “SoMeDellLawyer” Garcia, says “isn’t very smart” – but, I wouldn’t make a unilateral hiring decision based on it. In the case of the 10-year newbie I scoffed at, perhaps this was simply a new account and they had others previously. And, I probably wouldn’t want to work for someone who did pass me over for a peer simply because they had a higher score than me.

That all said, tools like Klout, PeerIndex, Kred, Appinions and others can serve as a starting point for identifying influencers or new hires. And it looks like they are continuing to try to improve themselves.
Klout Matchup
The latest move I see toward that is what I discovered surfing during FIR this morning – Klout Matchups. While the ability to give “+K” to people who influence you has been available on Klout for a while now adding some human element to the equation, these new “matchups” take it a step further.

The gamification element and boxing match feel brings a bit more fun to it, which is perhaps why it caught my eye more than a previous incarnation of this that some users were seeing back in January.

I think “Geek, blogger, thinker & Engagement Consultant” Lee Stacey said it well on a recent @barryfurby post when he commented on the concept of social scoring:

“I think it’s impossible to do without human intervention and human intervention by way of giving +K or Kred is heavily biased towards the platforms on which it is best propagated and therefore doesn’t really work either.”

No, it’s not a total solution. The game can still be gamed, certainly, but at least it shows an attempt to move beyond the almighty algorithm for score determination.

Do you think it’s enough to gain some goodwill for Klout?