It lives!! mediaShepherd.com is now live!

ItLivesAfter many weeks of planning and work, our website, www.mediashepherd.com, is live as of this morning. Noelle and I are very excited and eager to share all we have to offer with the world. Henceforth, this blog will be dormant and we will be blogging on the new website. (All content from this blog has been carried over to a “blog” section on the home page. Keep checking back for our observations and commentary on anything and everything publishing.)

Thanks to all those who have followed us up to this point as we achieve liftoff! Come along with us to meet experts, find vendors offering what you need and catch up on the latest news with a unique spin. Be sure to offer any and all feedback—we will be working diligently to make the site better and more responsive to the needs of publishing professionals. Send comments and questions to info@mediashepherd.com or share your thoughts on the comments section of the site.

Have You ‘Herd’? mediaShepherd Launch Date Set

Industry’s new source for information, ideas and connections will go live Sept. 23

mediaShepherd, a new B2B media company offering information and resources to help publishing industry professionals network and do their jobs better, will launch Monday, Sept. 23 at www.mediaShepherd.com. With a focus on facilitating connections among industry professionals and giving users the tools they need to make better decisions, mediaShepherd is a comprehensive resource unlike any other on the market today. The company is being launched by well-known industry veterans Noelle Skodzinski and Jim Sturdivant.

Connections. mediaShepherd’s “Ask the Expert” service connects you with publishing industry thought leaders to find the answers to challenging questions on a range of topics, from audience development and marketing to digital editions, print production, business strategy and finance, and much more. Its “Find a Mentor/Be a Mentor” platform is a go-to resource for those looking for more in-depth help. For those seeking goods and services tailored to their strategies and budgets, mediaShepherd’s vendorMatch service connects pre-screened and qualified companies with purchasers actively seeking what they offer.

Information. Industry updates, tailored to those who need strategic information, are a daily part of mediaShepherd’s website and e-newsletters. mediaShepherd steers clear of gossip, dross and the generic trend pieces you’ve read elsewhere to offer news and perspectives relevant to how you do your job—and how your job and the industry will look one, three and five years from now. Proprietary research will offer exclusive insights into data and trends important to publishers.

Services. mediaShepherd offers a range of services for publishers, including consultation, editorial direction and development, design, video, event planning and research. The founders’ combined three decades of experience in media and rich connections in the industry offer an unparalleled “brain trust” helping industry professionals achieve growth and profits.

So on Monday, be sure to hoof it on over to mediashepherd.com to check out all this valuable resource has to offer. For more information, including editorial and sales inquiries, contact info@mediashepherd.com.

How Jeff Bezos Just Might Save Newspapers

D. Eadward Tree is not impressed. The pseudonymous publishing industry pundit, known for his wit and wisdom as Chief Arborist of the Dead Tree Edition blog, is put off by comments from Amazon CEO and soon-to-be Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos regarding his philosophy for running a newspaper.

Bezos said in an interview this week that he intends to put the Post‘s readers first, and stated his skepticism for “any mission that has advertisers at its centerpiece.”

“The last time I looked, the vast majority of American newspapers’ revenue came not from readers but from another type of customer – advertisers,” Tree writes.

As a former newspaperman myself, my instinct is to agree with Tree. Advertisers pay the bills—therefore, on the business side, they’re the ones who need to be catered to (assuming that Church and State wall is strictly policed). That’s why publishers from The New York Times Co. to Atlantic Media are introducing innovative new ad strategies, such as the Times’ Ricochet project, which guarantees an advertiser’s display ad appears with linked content.

But what if Tree is wrong, and Bezos is right? At some point, we in media have to face the music—or in this case, the hard evidence at hand. Conventional wisdom states that newspapers must focus on advertisers, but in the digital era, focusing one’s business plan around advertising has proved to be a disaster. Ad revenue has plummeted, even at the most innovative of media outfits—the New York Times reported late last year that its parent company’s print and digital advertising revenues were shrinking. The only positive trend on the balance sheet was revenue growth from digital subscriptions—those pesky readers Bezos talks about.

At Amazon, Bezos has proven a master of building customer loyalty and brand affection. People trust Amazon and its pledge to make things right for consumers in the face of problems. As newspapers increasingly turn to digital subscriptions to make up for lost ad revenue, this is exactly what is needed to build and maintain loyalty. Smart digital tools, customization, product bundling, a variety of purchase options (by the article, by the day, by the month, etc.)—these are kind of things Bezos knows about, and the kind of thing that could save newspapers.

Relying on advertisers sure aint it. For newspapers, focusing on advertisers is a dead end. It’s not that ads will not continue to be important, but it just might be a better strategy to build the readership first, and then sell ads to that coveted base of paying readers. I don’t know if this is what Bezos has in mind, but I do know the newspaper industry is in desperate need of a new plan. It may be time to ditch the conventional wisdom.

Pile-On the Editors: A Tale From the Trenches

pylon2bIn my days in the trenches as a managing editor, first in newspapers and then in magazines, I occasionally (usually after a long meeting introducing a new task for us word wranglers couched as an “opportunity”) would consider starting an anonymous blog called “The Editor Pile-On.” The home page would feature an orange highway pylon—maybe placed on an office chair sporting a hat, on its side covered in memos, or squashed on the pavement with tire treads—meant to symbolize the ever-increasing responsibilities of the editor amid ever-shrinking manpower and resources.

I worked for a paper in Northern New Jersey in the early aughts which, not too many years previous, had an editor and two reporters on its masthead, all working exclusively for that publication. By the time I arrived, there was one full-time reporter, and I was expected to put out three papers, as well as (unlike in the old days) take care of proofreading, calendar listings, layout, most aspects of production, and some reporting. In recent years, editors have taken on even more duties: social media, html, photo editing, marketing, webinars, events, etc. While needless fat has surely been culled along the way, an editor’s job today often feels like a constant balancing act between quality, quantity, quantity, quantity, more quantity, brevity… and sanity.

On the other hand, the new media landscape has created myriad new opportunities for editors. Down in the trenches, they gain the skills needed to carry them through changes and adjust to this industry’s evolution in a way that their hidebound forebears could not have imagined. Skills in social media, marketing and content management are no longer nice-to-haves, they are essential. The editor’s job, it can be argued, is more critical than ever, and the skills gained can carry individuals through a long career in publishing or other fields.

Where do you stand on this issue? As an editor, do you feel put-upon, on the fast track, or something in between? Take our editor’s survey and let us know. It only takes a couple of minutes. We’ll publish the results on this blog and our website, which launches in just a few weeks, along with helpful ideas and insights.

Editors! Make your voice heard! Take our survey here.

What We Can Learn From the GQ Social Media ‘War’

Yesterday, Fashionista.com reported “One Direction Fans Wage Twitter War Against GQ Magazine.”

The quick story: Fans of the band One Direction didn’t like how GQ promoted the fact that the band members would be on GQ covers, so they bashed (and threatened) GQ on Twitter. GQ took the bashing with a good sense of humor (its responses made me and likely many others laugh), but the somewhat surreal Twitter “war” brings up a serious question about how best to handle sensitive (even seemingly irrational) social media situations.

The ever-so-slightly more in-depth story: 

According to the article:
Yesterday, British GQ announced that each member of One Direction would score his own cover of the September issue. You would think their fans would be excited to see their idols looking like scruffed-up #menswear hotties–but you would be wrong. You see, fans took offense to the quotes used to tease the feature story. So they did what any irrational teen-based fandom would do: They took to Twitter to hurl threats–lots of inanimate objects ‘up the butthole’–at the magazine.”

Fans mistakingly targeted the U.S. GQ magazine first, but then refocused their bashing efforts on the British version.

As cited on Fashionista, GQ’s social media manager Nate Erickson, was attacked personally, with Tweets such as: “@NATELY You should run for your f*!#ing life cause you messed with the wrong people. Please f*!# off and take your magazine with you.” (The f-bombs were omitted here—but not in the Tweets, just to clarify.)

What I found interesting was GQs’ (both the British and the U.S. editions) response to the Twitter war, or Twar, as I like to call it. As Fashionista explained, “GQ is taking these threats VERY seriously.” (I smelled sarcasm immediately.) It then quoted one of Erickson’s Tweets: “We’re working actively to identify the suspects, and we’ve got two of our best detectives on the case,” linking to this photo of Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in detective gear.”

Fashionista also reported that “British GQ also has posted a list of some of their scariest tweets received.”

The U.S. and British magazines even Tweeted back and forth making light of the situation, joking that their magazines were both horrible and that’s “what makes them beautiful.”

I admit I laughed. I am one of the first to appreciate humor and sarcasm, and to wish people would get a life instead of lashing out over what seems flat-out ridiculous. Many, many people seem to jump at the chance to just be angry and attack someone. Anyone. Anything. And threats involving shoving a doll up someone’s “bumhole”? Really? Really? (Yes, I meant to write that twice.)

Personally, I would like to say, “Good for you,” to the GQ staff, and “thank you for making me laugh.”

But, professionally, it brought up an important question for media brands. When, if ever, is it appropriate to make fun of and even insult a fan base or potential fan base? Is minimizing the voices of and poking fun at critics, even harsh and threatening ones, a good idea?

Fashionista’s Tyler McCall, who wrote the article, thinks GQ handled the Twar well: “All social media hate aside: We suspect most of these #Directioners (like, uh, me) will still be buying all five covers. Social media: GQ Magazine is doing it right.”

And again, while I’d “like to agree, I wonder: Is it a good idea to prod an angry bear—a sizable group of bears, nonetheless—in a day and age where readers are not exactly easy to come by? Or in any day and age? Is this a case of any publicity is good publicity?

Internationally known social media and marketing guru Sundeep Kapur applauds the use of humor. “I like the way the ‘wrong’ GQ magazine handled the interaction,” he says.

And, while in this case, humor may risk making some enemies among the One Direction fandom, Kapur stresses that it can be an effective tactic for use in social media. “A few lessons for brands,” he says. “First, make your social media profile easily available on all your sites and messages. Next, make sure you monitor the conversation so you can respond. Third, think about leveraging some of your key fans into the conversation to speak on your behalf. Fourth, leverage the following and interaction from the other side. Fifth, maintain calm—and, yes, humor and charm goes a long way in making friends.”

What do you think?

Old vs. New Media: An Outdated Argument?

FioreLaptopA friend sent me a funny video: Mark Fiore’s “Old vs. New” is a debate between a crusty old newspaper and a too-perky laptop over what best constitutes news gathering in the age of Twitter. Newspaper stresses its historic role in uncovering and combating corruption; Laptop, the wired world’s flexibility and freedom of information access.

“I know how to monetize, and collect micro-payments,” Laptop says.

“I need macro-payments!!” Newspaper cries. “I’m laying off good journalists here!”

“And have been for years while trying to satisfy corporate’s hunger for double-digit profits,” Laptop retorts. Touché.

It’s true that newspapers’ former monopoly on the news made them bloated cash cows just waiting for technology to knock them off their slippery perch. It’s also true that this very same monopoly allowed them to shine a light on abuses of power—public or private, local, state or national—far more effectively than any digital publication can today. While the Texas Tribune does great work, it is necessarily niche in a way that the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, in its heyday, was not. Plus, as a 501(c)3, the Tribune does not enjoy the resources of traditional newspapers. It’s hoping it can just break even.

As I’ve written before, one answer for traditional media is to stop looking down on micro-payments. As the music industry learned the hard way, if you want people to pay, you need to make it easy for them. This means offering paid daily access on NYTimes.com, not just expensive digital subscriptions. It means selling articles, e-books and archives, and figuring out how to capitalize on print in creative new ways.

As Newspaper and Laptop reveal at the end of the video, both often find themselves running a little low on cash. The failure of any one digital news site to corner the market on anything is traditional media’s great opportunity. Unlike the old days, one business behemoth has not been replaced by another; the playing field is even, and, as terms like “traditional” and “new” begin to lose their meaning, the spoils will go to any player who can master the multiplatform marketplace.