Leaders are lame, Builders rule / The Builders' Manifesto

Matt Taibbi & Nick Kristof vs Tom Friedman & Maureen Dowd. Tom and MoDo are textbook examples of leaders in journalism; churning out column after column that challenge the conventional wisdom and set the agenda. Yet, that’s not nearly enough to save journalism — let alone the New York Times. Matt and Nick, in contrast, are (re)building the institution of journalism for the 21st century, by utilizing the power of the Internet to reconstruct relationships with readers, publishers, and sources.

Tons of great thinking in this new Umair Haque post. The snippet above is a mere taste — the full article explains what’s wrong with leadership today and why we need to encourage buildership to create a new and better businesses, communities and even politics.

Public media “leaders” need to give up the leadership role and take on a “buildership” role. Or find people that can do it.

Public Media's 'Dreadnought' pulling into port at KETC

Run, don’t walk, to Robert Paterson‘s blog to read his new post on the transformation in progress at KETC in St. Louis.

No one knows exactly what forms public service media companies will take in the future, and it’s likely that several successful forms will appear. But KETC looks to be the first in the nation to have commissioned the construction of a new model.

Paterson has been working with KETC since before the launch of the Facing the Mortgage Crisis project, which started at KETC and then expanded to 30 more public broadcasters across the country with the help of the CPB. He’s been lucky enough to work with CEO Jack Galmiche and crew and to see this transformation up close. The plans — physical and logical — are remarkable.

What KETC is doing is revolutionary in the public broadcasting world. While the particulars may not fit every station nationwide, the themes should. Whether or not each element in the plan is “perfect” is irrelevant — the most important thing is that they’re experimenting, all within a reformulated goal. KETC is getting passionate about public service media, and not merely public broadcasting.

Read that post. It’s insightful and exciting.

Treasure trove of mobile Internet statistics

In my recent presentation, I used lots of slides from an October presentation by a Morgan Stanley analyst on the explosive growth of mobile Internet usage — the devices, services and applications that are part of the transformation of web information and data from fixed desktop usage to always-on-in-your-pocket usage.

Since that preliminary report, Morgan Stanley has released 3 more documents in the series, all free to the public. What an amazing service from a company I’d expect to be especially guarded in handling a nicely curated and analyzed data set!

There’s a good bit of slide repetition in the set, and the printed report is largely a rehash of the slides, but each format might be useful to you in different ways.

Here’s what they offer…

  • The Mobile Internet Report Setup (PDF, 104 slides)
    This is a “condensed” version of the findings and it sets you up for looking at more detailed data.
  • The Mobile Internet Report Key Themes (PDF, 671 slides)
    This is the big kahuna — the complete set of slides that can make your head spin. Some slides are repeated quite a bit, so it’s not really 671 slides, but still… it’s a lot of info.
  • The Mobile Internet Report (PDF, 426 pages)
    This one is setup in more of a printable fashion, with a narrative up front and slides presented in a two-up fashion for many, many pages.

If you don’t have the patience to look through all this material (or even some of it), check out the six key takeaways that Morgan Stanley presents on their intro page. I don’t agree 100% with every conclusion, but it’s great thinking to consider very seriously.

Additional links from WOSU presentation

In prepping my presentation for WOSU Public Media last week, I spent a lot of time reviewing other people’s recent presentations, stories, blogs, data and so on. Really, I read stuff every day related to digital media, so tracking it all back down is kind of hard. But I wanted to make sure I gathered a list of links and other resources folks could review if they wanted to dig deeper than my presentation alone allowed. So here they are, in no particular order…

From Broadcast to Broadband: Redesigning public media for the 21st Century
Discusses how public media must change to meet the challenges of a 21st century media universe. Jake Shapiro, PRX and Ellen Goodman, Rutgers; presented at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. Note: The pie chart showing CPB expenditures is incorrect. There’s an extra $71M included in the TV programming slice that shouldn’t be there.

The Future of News
This was a conference held at MPR in St. Paul, MN in November 2009 bringing together journalism leaders and pundits from public and commercial media in all formats. Lots of video and other resources. Props to Julia Shrenkler for tons of work on this one.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Michael Rosenblum offers a critique of the folks that appeared at The Future of News, as linked above.

A Collection of Social Network Stats for 2009 (Jeremiah Owyang)
A frequently-updated list of social media statistics, including links, for all the major services.

The Chaos Scenario (video)
The Chaos Scenario (blog / book)
Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s “On the Media,” has written a book and built a wide-ranging presentation on how current media companies are faced with a chaotic world that’s changing the fundamental models of media economics. It’s a long video, but a good one.

Continue reading “Additional links from WOSU presentation”

Video from WOSU Presentation

Thanks to WOSU Public Media for shooting some video of my presentation last week!

It was, predictably, dark in the room so the screen was visible for the audience, so you can’t see me very well. But at least you can see how much of the presentation went. Sadly, the video recording stopped just as I was getting to the news recommendations in the presentation.

I hope to do a voiceover version of the presentation this weekend that will have super-clear audio. In the meantime, here it is…

Rosenblum Resurrected

Back in February 2007 I was blown away by Michael Rosenblum, keynote speaker at the Integrated Media Association conference in Boston. I’ve shared this video on DVD, shown it to colleagues and helped the IMA post it to their web site back then. But it’s buried at the IMA site and it deserves much more play. So I’m resurrecting it here.

I was actually running the cheap camcorder at the event, in a dimly lit hotel ballroom from about 50 feet away off to the side — so the video itself is blah. But the audio is awesome because it was professionally recorded and I was able to merge the blah video with the fantastic audio. Makes all the difference.

Blurry and dim video aside, Rosenblum’s presentation is mesmerizing. His grip on historical stories brings to life the peril that’s present for traditional TV broadcasters and TV producers, including public broadcasting companies. This is must-watch stuff if you’re in any way involved in TV or video.

Length: about 1 hour. Introduction by KQED‘s Tim Olson. Download a QuickTime copy here (113MB).


Rosenblum on Video News

Sing it brother! Rosenblum instinctively understands the next wave in both local video news production and local advertising production. While working at the stations in Anchorage, I proposed that we develop a democratized advertising platform to allow folks to write their own material, submit it online and pay for it instantly. Why aren’t we doing that today?


Brian Lehrer Live Interview from Rosenblum TV on Vimeo.

Rosenblum on TV Economics

Everyone in the PBS community knows that stations and the network screwed up when cable became a major national media distribution force. PBS should have been allowed an encouraged to develop a multi-channel national content distribution system tailored to the cable world. Too bad we missed that boat. And now, with hundreds of cable channels and millions of web outlets, video economics have jumped and it’s time we rethink our work.

Music Public Radio: Not Safe

I don’t want to go into a long explanation or diatribe at the moment, but this news about Pandora — the online music listening and discovery service — is really important for the public radio community, especially for stations that are using music as a core service.

This week saw the publication of a TechCrunch article on some new Pandora stats, including these tidbits:

  • Pandora has more than 40 million registered users as of this month
  • The service doubled in size in 2009 alone
  • They’re currently adding 600,000 new registered users per week
  • Half of all new users are on mobile devices
  • The iPhone has 10 million of the 40 million users all by itself
  • iPhone registrations for Pandora are up 400% in 2009 alone
  • By “Ando Domestic Ranker” calculations, Pandora represents 44% of all Internet radio listening hours
  • Among 18-24 year olds, Pandora gets 2X the daily visits as Hulu or ESPN

I gotta say, I don’t get public radio music stations. Even before the iPod’s introduction in 2001, I was “self programming” music for the most part, jumping around genres and artists via CDs in the car and even mix CDs of my own creation. Today I would never listen to a music radio station. I have so much music of my own it would be a virtual “waste” to listen to someone else’s stuff.

I know there are a lot of classical public stations out there, and a few jazz stations, and I suppose those could be viable just because they’re unusual — there’s no competition on the dial.  The AAA stations are interesting, too, I suppose. But with iPods, Pandora, streaming Internet stations, satellite radio and so on, this just doesn’t make sense to me, economically.

The only way music stations make sense is if they build a viable community around the shared interest. Two AAA stations that seems to understand this are KEXP and WXPN. And WOSU’s venture with their own Capital City Radio is attempting the same thing — melding a local music community to a streamed service.

But if you’re just a broadcaster and you don’t do anything more to galvanize a real community around what you collectively love, I don’t see much of a future for you.

Pandora’s two primary failings, I would say, are community and technology.  This is where pubcasters that want to do music can get a leg up. Pandora’s technology failing is that you have to have a live Internet connection for it to work. Of course, live Internet access is pretty darn widespread these days, so that’s not a complete deal-breaker. And there’s more Internet in more places every day, so this failing is rapidly dissipating. I can already listen to Pandora in my car over a 3G wireless stream. And Pandora is bringing their service to cars directly very soon. Still, it’s not as cheap or ubiquitous as over-the-air radio.

The other failing Pandora has is the community aspect. Yes, there are sharing and friend-discovery systems in Pandora, especially on the full-blown web site, but it’s not the same thing as what a local station could achieve. There’s no geographic unity to Pandora’s “community,” so meeting in person is not really an option. If there’s anything a geographically-bound broadcaster has over Pandora, it’s the option to build a community with real depth and face-to-face participation and sharing.

So for those of you doing public radio classical, jazz, AAA formats or whatever, make sure you’re building a community with direct interaction, sharing, authentic hosting and the smartest damn genre curation on the planet. All that may or may not be enough to be economically viable in the long run, but it’s your best chance if music is your stock in trade.

Hat Tip to Todd Mundt for the Pandora article find.

Presentation: The Future is Public Service Media

UPDATE: In the comments, Tom White from the CPB noted that the math for TV production and operations noted in the presentation — stating that 84% of CPB’s annual appropriation goes to TV — is incorrect. In fact, for both FY2009 and FY2010 it’s about 67% of the total, not 84%. I based my 84% figure on the presentation slides offered by Jake Shapiro and Ellen Goodman in their November 3 talk. The figures in their presentation — on slide 15/32 — miscalculated CPB’s allocations by more than $70,000,000. I apologize for the error and will attempt to update my slides soon. In the mean time, keep in mind that 84% figure is wrong.

Last week I gave a presentation at WOSU Public Media in Columbus, Ohio, sharing with them some of the trends in media generally, talking about the economic pressures of a changing media landscape and sharing some ideas of how the station might change to meet the needs of the community in ways that transcend mere broadcasting.

WOSU was kind enough to gather a great group of people from across the company, plus one visitor from ThinkTV in Dayton and one from WYSO in Yellow Springs. (I’m not listing names here because I didn’t get permission to mention anyone specifically.) I’m hopeful some of the elements in the presentation were at least thought-provoking. One person told me afterward that he came away with three new ideas. Awesome!

I’m posting a ton of presentation links here so anyone can view and download the materials as desired. As I mentioned to a former colleague of mine, the materials are free for the taking, remixing and so forth under a Creative Commons license.

If WOSU posts a YouTube video of the live presentation itself, I’ll embed it here later. And I may just do another version of the presentation in voice-over style anyway.

I’ll start off with the embeddable SlideShare presentation, then include more links below.


Presentation Downloads

The Future is Public Service Media – Keynote (Mac) format (242MB zip)
This is the complete presentation in its native format, including all embedded videos, graphics, transitions and so on. Playback requires iWork ’09 on a Mac.

The Future is Public Service Media – QuickTime format (638MB mov)
Complete presentation in a clickable “movie” format (click to advance, click links to get to the web) that includes the complete video files inside the presentation. Playable on any Mac or any PC with QuickTime installed.

The Future is Public Service Media – JPEG images (8MB zip)
This is all the slides from the presentation as individual JPEG images.

The Future is Public Service Media – PDF (6MB PDF)
This is all the slides from the presentation in a single PDF document, readable on all computers with Adobe Reader or another PDF application.

Innovator's Dilemma in 2 minutes flat

It’s no secret I’m a Mike Masnick and TechDirt fan. He’s my second-favorite economics thinker (Umair Haque is #1), but it’s a close race. His writing on media economics, intellectual property, technology and other topics are on my must-read list every day.

Recently he started doing short videos, sponsored by UPS, to illustrate many of the themes discussed on TechDirt, especially themes related to economics and innovation. I posted his excellent Economics of Abundance video in October.

In these two new videos he explains the much-discussed “innovator’s dilemma” and the difference between innovation and invention. The first is a little more relevant to public broadcasting folks, but the second makes some excellent illustrations as well.

Explaining The Innovator’s Dilemma


Highlights for Public Broadcasters:

  • Legacy leaders either don’t recognize innovation when it appears, or easily dismiss innovations as “not good enough” for the market
  • New technologies advance faster than expected, catching legacy folks off-guard; the new technology also serves market needs more efficiently and serves demand sooner than predicted
  • Understand what market you’re really in: Are you a radio station or do you provide a benefit to your community? Are you a TV broadcaster, or does your service target a specific market need, regardless of the technology?
  • If you don’t improve the benefits you provide to the market, someone else will
  • Internal struggles between legacy and new are expected — the hard part is managing the struggle as the new takes hold and then takes over
  • Out-innovating yourself beats being out-innovated by someone else

Apple is the best example out there today of a company that out-innovates itself. They do it with breathtaking speed and ruthless pursuit of excellence, no matter what happens to their legacy products. Prime example: the original iPod was introduced in November 2001. In less than 6 years they went through roughly 5 succeeding generations of iPods, killing off the older models every year (including the much-loved iPod mini), despite total market dominance.

Then Apple  introduced a whole new category of device –the iPhone — cannibalizing their entire iPod line, a line that’s existed for merely of 8 years. They out-innovated themselves faster than any competitor — even the mighty Microsoft — could respond  in kind. Despite spending millions on development, the Zune media player remains an also-ran in the market; it’s a punchline, not a product.

A “normal” company would look at the market, see no viable competitors (in their eyes) and just keep doing the same thing, making money, until they “needed” to respond to some outside threat. But old eyes can’t even see new threats. “Have you seen the crap on YouTube? That’s no threat to us.” Are you sure about that? Because YouTube isn’t trying to compete on public broadcasting’s turf, but it’s taking contact hours away from you anyway (and they’re moving into commercial video distribution, too).

Public broadcasting, if it is to become public service media, is going to have to give up kneeling before its sacred cows to move forward. It’s not about TV or radio. It’s not even about “news” or “music” per se. We have to figure out (or just plain decide) what market we are serving and what benefits we want to offer the market. Then we can agnostically turn to the tools available today and use them to provide those benefits.

For the record, the “innovator’s dilemma” is discussed in exhaustive detail in the seminal Clayton Christensen book that coined the phrase.

The Difference Between Innovation And Invention


Highlights for Public Broadcasters:

  • Invention is the idea, Innovation is matching the idea to the market
  • Yes, it’s your job to match idea to market; it’s an active exploration, not a passive waiting for good things to happen because we’re good people
  • Even if your product isn’t great at first, you listen to the market, improve the product, listen again, improve again — it’s called iteration
  • “It’s not build a product and be done, but keep iterating, improving and innovating.”

When I talk to public broadcasters about new media, I almost always get complaints about the push they feel to do new things or to do old things in new ways. “We’re being asked to do more with less.” They always want to know “who’s doing this already?” What they’re really asking for is either “permission” to take risks (a permission I can’t offer) or iron-clad proof that if they make a change, everyone will still be employed, budgets will stay on track and really, nothing will fundamentally change.

This is insanity. (You know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.)

Today we need invention,  innovation and iteration.

  • We need invention to create new ideas for serving our markets with benefits those markets need (e.g. information for voters, education for children, community for music lovers, etc.). What about some new ideas for news services (which I plan to present at WOSU late this week)?
  • We need an innovative spirit to take our ideas into the community and see whether we’ve met the needs. Present. Ask. Listen. When we find we haven’t met the needs quite right, we acknowledge it and change. This is in marked contrast to “broadcast it and they will come.”
  • We need a passion for iteration. Look back at the days following the 1967 Public Broadcasting Act: there was a burst of experimentation and then years of iteratively making a better and better product. Remember: it took 25 years for NPR to reach the zenith of its power, matching its service to market demands. If you don’t like iteration, you won’t like the future.

The upshot? We need new DNA, a genetic makeup that embraces the world as it is, not as it was.

And I gotta tell ya… the new world, a world that’s constantly changing, is a lot more fun than the old one.