Five Thoughts on the Future of Journalism

Last night, a Twitter conversation between David Armano (SVP of Edelman Digital), Brian Morrissey (digital editor at AdWeek) and me about the disparity between mainstream media and the social web got me thinking about the future of journalism. Our conversation was sparked by a recent report conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (via this blog post).

The report itself is a good one, however, there was one point that stuck in my craw a little bit (and I think David’s as well):

While social media players espouse a different agenda than the mainstream media, blogs still heavily rely on the traditional press — and primarily just a few outlets within that — for their information. More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. And just four — the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post accounted for fully 80% of all links.While I don’t disagree at all with the concept that social media relies heavily on the same four legacy outlets for source material, this doesn’t mean that social/new media can’t or won’t survive without these traditional media outlets. 

What I will concede is that IF traditional media were to die — something I don’t think will ever happen — we would fair just fine. The biggest shift in my mind would be a need for better filters that would help us collectively sort through the wheat and chaff. This likely is some combination of human curation and a variety of technologies relying on collaborative filtering and natural language search.

With that as a backdrop, here are my five thoughts on the future of journalism.

  1. As traditional advertising dollars continue to shrink, so too will budgets that support traditional advertising. Hopefully this means that rags like the New York Post go away and that gems like NPR and the Christian Science Monitor rise to the top via user support and innovative new sponsorship opportunties.
  2. Following up on an earlier thought, as social media news sources grow and traditional ones shrink, there will be an ever increasing need for curation and technology to help us find and filter. Think with less Guy Kawasaki.
  3. Traditional outlets will do themselves a favor by keeping an eye on the likes of The Austin Statesmen (h/t to Rob Quigley for the work he’s leading there),  AdWeek’s AdFreak co-created by Mr. Morrissey and with its clever use of hashtagged content, regularly updated blogs and complementary video footage.
  4. The need for PR firms and departments to brief/pitch top podcasters, bloggers, video bloggers and micro bloggers will continue to increase. Not saying this is a real “aha” but as a the reliance on the top news bloggers as primary source of information grows bigger, so too will a need to keep these influencers in the loop.
  5. Only a few select organizations will ever be able to charge for their content irrespective of whether or not micropayments ever catch on.
I’m quite sure I’m missing a bunch of hot topics here but this should get some of the creative juices flowing. Where do you see the future of journalism headed? Join the conversation in the comments below.

Resuscitated iPhones and Blogger Ethics

I’m not vain enough to think that any of you give a crap that I have an iPhone or better yet that it was spared “brick” status thanks to it’s semi-waterproof SaFPWR case/charger when it went for a swim last weekend. Instead, I want to make this into a bigger story about what I choose to blog about and what I don’t and how I try and keep my morals and integrity in tact while doing so.

So let me start with the story of my revived iPhone to help set the stage. A few weeks ago, a friend of mine, Mike Merrill, sent me a direct message on Twitter asking me if I’d like a free SaFPWR iPhone battery case/charger. Given the fact that I am a heavy iPhone user and am constantly seeking outlets to charge my insufficient battery, I said sure. Now to give this story a little more context, I had actually purchased a smaller auxiliary batter charger before SXSW for the reason I just mentioned. What I’ve found about this charger — the Kensington Mini Battery Extender — is that it’s adequate but has several shortcomings including the way it awkwardly hangs off the end of your phone when it’s charging.

Photo Credit: Kenard Consulting

Following my reception of my new SaFPWR charger/case, I received a nice note from Mike saying that “if I chose to blog about it, I could offer my readers a 15% discount” (more on that in a minute). I told him that I would likely blog about the charger but that I wanted to try it out for a few days first before I decided on anything. Little did I know that five days later, that very case would save me $199 for a replacement iPhone and the hassle of rebuilding my phone. The short version of the story is that because the case is also a charger (and made out of hard rubber), it plugs up the charging slot at the bottom of the phone. This combined with the fact that:

  1. I didn’t try and turn my phone on
  2. Immediately brought it to the Apple store so they could inspect/dry it out
  3. Inserted it into a bag of rice for four whole days
essentially saved my phone. You have no idea how delighted I was when I returned from my business trip to see the battery charging light come on when I plugged it in.
So now that I’ve told you this story, I’ll tell you how I’m relating it to the bigger picture of “blogger ethics.” To begin with, this is somewhat new territory for me. Even though I’ve been blogging for four plus years, it’s only been over the last 6-9 months where I’ve started to get pitched by companies and PR shops to cover their products and services. I suspect this may equal parts to do with my weekly Quick’n’Dirty podcast show (my co-host blogs at ZDNet and we’ve had some pretty kick ass guests) and the company I work for, Powered, moving squarely into the limelight post purchase of three other social media boutiques.
As someone that’s been critical of bloggers that take stuff for free, I’ve had to do a lot of soul searching now that I now have the opportunity to get the same schwag. However, where I draw the line is this… For starters, the product or service CANNOT cause any conflict with my job i.e. I wouldn’t accept free tickets or gifts from a potential vendor that I wasn’t already doing business with under any circumstance. This doesn’t mean I can’t have dinner with them or attend a ballgame to talk business but I don’t want my judgement clouded or pressure exerted because of an unspoken quid pro quo. I also never promise to write a blog post about anything I receive and if I do agree to do a post, there is a 100% chance that I may write something negative if your product or service sucks. If I am underwhelmed or net neutral on your offering, chances are I won’t write anything at all. For some examples of a few companies that have directly or indirectly invoked some blog coverage, you can check out my I See You post for details.
Getting back to my man, Mike Merrill and the free SaFPWR iPhone case/charger, I’ve gotta give them major props because not only does their product work (I’ve used it for a few weeks now and it’s not only a great solution but it also adds about 4-6 hours of life to my iPhone. What Mike and SaFPWR didn’t know is that by saving my iPhone from drowning, they’ve made me the best spokesperson they could ever imagine. And to avoid any impropriety on my front, I’m going to go out and purchase one of these cases for my wife who has a related “swimming iPhone” story of her own. Oh, and if you’d like to buy one of these phones, go to their site and use the discount code “blogger” to get 15% off. In the spirite of full transparency, I get ZERO for pimping their product or giving you a code.
Do you have a great story of a game changing product? Or maybe some thoughts on blogger ethics (feel free to call me out if you think I’m being hypocritical).

Quick’n’Dirty Episode 45: Facebook Privacy Anyone?

As we close in on putting a year of Quick’n’dirty podcasts under our belts, my co-host, Jennifer Leggio and I are always looking for ways to bring added value to our listeners/readers’ lives. We’d like to think that we continued that streak this week with social app, Mobile Roadie, Twitterer of the week, Greg Narain aka @Gregarious and special guest, Alex Plant, of NetApp. Oh yeah, we also managed to squeeze in a few minutes at the end to talk about Facebook privacy. Maybe you’ve heard that there is a little brewhaha about their latest moves?

First up was our social app of the week. I first discovered Mobile Roadie at a recent SMASH Summit in San Francisco during the social media lightning demos. You know when someone can convince you in five minutes that there is some “there” there, that the company is on the right path. In this case, the “there” was a DIY platform for the iPhone and and Android apps (iPad and more coming this summer). While I haven’t had a chance to play with the app-builder yet, they have already helped create mobile presences for several Fortune500 Companies and entertainment moguls like Taylor Swift and Ashton Kutcher. While I’m sure the resulting apps aren’t necessarily going to win any awards for innovation and style, they are a great for speed to market.

Next, we talked about our featured Twitterer of the week, Greg Narain. While I’ve known Greg for a while, I’ve only recently learned more about his social media product expertise (he’s the VP of product for Klout and co-founder at Greg is of course funny in addition to being smart but he’s also well connected and in constant search of “what’s next.” If you don’t follow him already, I’d strongly recommend that you do.

Out of order and all (Alex had a little telephony trouble), our featured guest was Alex Plant, head of social media for B2B tech giant, NetApp. During the show, Jennifer and I dug down on how social media was different in a B2B2B environment. We also peppered him a little bit on using social for customer service and even had a little fun with him asking him why (at the time) he had the Twitter n00b badge up for his avatar picture (for those that don’t know what this is, it’s when someone leaves the default image of the Twitter bird up for their Twitter profile pic). Fortunately, Alex was a good sport and fielded our questions fearlessly and elegantly.

Last but not least, Jennifer and I spent a few minutes on the latest hot topic du jour namely, Facebook and privacy. While we didn’t have as much time as we would have liked to do this topic justice, we did cover off on some of the overarching points of what we think Facebook is trying to do and what it really means for businesses and consumers alike.

As always, you can find archives of our show here. You can also read re-caps of the podcasts on Jennifer’s ZDNet blog or my Stroutmeister blog.

A Tale of Two CMO’s: A Sudden Turn of Events (Part III)

Continuing on the blog series that I started a few weeks back titled, A Tale of Two CMO’s: A Study in Contrasts, the focus of this week’s installation was supposed to be on creating product “desire.” However, we’ve had a little bit of a turn of events as we find that our old school CMO, James Hossenpfeifer, has been asked by the board of directors at his company to step down at the end of the year. While the official word from James and the company is that this was a mutual decision, I’m going to direct most of today’s questions toward James and ask him to give us a little inside perspective on this turn of events.


James, this news of you stepping as CMO at the end of the year came as a little bit of a surprise. Can you give us a little more insight beyond what was in the initial press release?

James: Ha ha, well, you know that they say that the average tenure of a CMO is only 23 months. Given my run of 14 years, I’d say that I’ve done okay. With that said, I know I’m not “off the record” on your blog but I will share just a little bit more insight as to how this all went down. The bottom line is that the times are a changing. And while my leadership in the marketing world has helped us grow our company into what it is today, my CEO and our board has been pushing harder for our collective style of leadership to change. Between some of the work that John Chambers has accomplished as CEO at CISCO and what A.G. Lafley had done at P&G;, the feeling was that our company should be more focused on open leadership and a flattening of the organization. There has also been a tremendous push to focus more on customer service and social media. Apparently, one of our board members read a book by your colleague, Joseph Jaffe, called Flip the Funnel and it’s got him all hot and bothered about the potential of using social media to better communicate and collaborate with customers. While I don’t disagree with this philosophy or direction, I am also in touch enough with my skills and capabilities to know that I was not the guy to lead us down this path. After a lot of discussion with my CEO and our board of directors, we decided that I would help us look for my successor during this transition.
Tessa: James, I guess I’m not sure whether or not to console you or congratulate you. While I applaud you for being self-aware enough to realize that you weren’t the right fit as the future CMO of your company, it’s sad to see someone with your skill set and knowledge base step down. This may sound a bit patronizing given how much more experience you have than me but I know a lot of people so let me know if you’d like some help finding your next opportunity.

What will you look for in your replacement?

James: If you don’t mind, I’d like to respond to Tessa’s comment first. Tessa, thank you for the kind words and in this case, you can congratulate me. After many years of working too many hours and getting on too many planes, I think I’m going to take some time off and spend it with my wife in our second home. My company has taken good care of me so I don’t have to go back to work but I may think about writing a book or perhaps doing some consulting down the road. Who knows, I may even think about starting one of those blogs to share my experiences with some of the less experienced marketers out there. I know I can’t teach them much about new media but I can talk about some of the fundamentals of marketing that many digital marketers may have missed as they cut their teeth during the dot com days.
Getting back to your question, Aaron, I think my replacement will end up looking a lot like Tessa. I probably shouldn’t say that out loud because that will ruin any chance of me recruiting her but her new approach to marketing is exactly what our board is looking for. What I like about Tessa is that she hasn’t thrown the baby out with the bath water in her approach to generating awareness and purchase and intent for her company. She’s done a fantastic job in balancing traditional marketing tactics like direct marketing and advertising with some of the newer social techniques. By the way, I was really looking forward to what she was going to say about creating product desire in today’s installment. I guess my news pushed that off for at least another week or so.
Tessa: James, I am humbled that you think so highly of my approach to marketing. At the risk of turning this post into a gush fest, I’ll leave my response to that. I would, however, like to comment on something you said earlier. It’s funny that you mentioned the book Flip th
e Funnel as I just received a copy of it in the mail about a month or two ago. It’s sitting on my desk at work and I keep promising myself that I will read it on my next business trip. Aaron, I think it was someone from your office that sent it to me, wasn’t it? Hopefully I’ll check that one off the list soon.
Could you give us a little more detail on your answer to that last question?

James: Sorry, I guess I got distracted. In terms of what I’m looking for in my replacement, I have five high level criteria in mind:
1) 15-20 years of brand marketing experience at a B2C company
2) impeccable communications skills — this is probably the most important item
3) a track record of creating successful marketing programs for a midsize to large company
4) an advanced understanding of how digital and social media work and can be applied to generate awareness, intent, desire and action aka purchase.
5) ideally, this person has experience working at a company that is extremely customer focused (like a Southwest Airlines).
Tessa: James, you might talk to Charlene Li from the Altimeter Group. She’s written a second book titled, Open Leadership and I know she has met with a ton of CMOs and CEOs to talk about this very topic. You might also work with Aaron to get some time scheduled with Joe Jaffe. I hear the two of them are doing a series of private dinners with senior level marketers where Joe talks a little bit some of the theses from the book.
There have been several CMO changes just in the last few weeks with Jeff Hayzlett stepping down from Kodak, Joel Ewanick leaving Nissan to join GM among others?

James: Ironically, I think Jeff Hayzlett is leaving Kodak for the opposite reason that I’m stepping down. I know he’s done some amazing things at Kodak over his last four years and you want to talk about a guy that gets digital and social. In fact, thanks for the reminder because I may have to give Mr. Hayzlett a call to see if he has any interest in my job. Although I’ve heard he’s pretty darn busy with his new book so not sure if he’s really looking for his next gig yet. But back to your question, I mentioned earlier that CMOs are one of the shortest tenured C-level positions in the business. To that end, now more than ever we are facing unusual challenges like budgets that got reduced anywhere between 10-20% in last years’ downturn but with little to no reduction in our marketing outcomes. As CMOs, we are also being pushed to figure out alternatives to traditional marketing tactics as ad effectiveness continues to erode and the popularity of places like Facebook and Twitter continue to grow.
Tessa: Just to second what James is saying, it is a tough time to be a CMO. Not that I’m complaining because I love my job. For me, what seems to have helped me adapt to this ever changing world of marketing is to expand the network of people/companies that influence me. That doesn’t mean I try and read more or attend more events but rather that I look for ideas outside of some of the traditional marketing publications and conferences. In fact, I’m thinking about skipping this years DMA Conference and instead attending Blog World Expo. I know that sounds like a crazy idea but there are so many smart people including more and more brand representatives that show up for
these types of conferences. I know you’re next question will be how the hell I know about Blog World Expo? Twitter of course.
Well, there we have it. While we didn’t learn how James or Tessa generate product desire through new or traditional marketing means, we did find out a little more about what’s required from the CMO of the future. Next week, I’ll try and get our two CMOs back on track and perhaps wrap up the series with a combined focus on desire AND action. In the meantime, keep those questions coming. [Dwight, sorry I couldn’t get to your question/comment from last week’s post about brand driving sales. One way or another, we’ll make sure to pin these two down].