Sunday, September 18, 2005

"Learn to handle rejection. It's easy to handle success" Seth Godin

The gentleman I first came to know and respect in the eighties when he was part of the Stanford Entrepreneurial Roundtable, The Skeibo Press and Spinnaker Software is not just an author any longer, he has also become a self-proclaimed "Agent of Change." I speak of Seth Godin who, it seems to me, may also be on yet another path, one of becoming an agent provocateur. To be fair, it's really too early to tell. Godin is speaking at the NAB Radio Show this week and we'll see if, during his talk, he mentions and offers support of his recent writing that "radio is officially dead, especially when wireless internet access comes to your car" (page 15, Who's There?). Why would Godin make a paid appearance presenting to what I must guess he considers to be the dead or soon to be dead? A case of schadenfreude? Certainly not. Is it wrong to take money from those you have publicly diagnosed as critically ill without offering the sick some assistance, advice, or at least disclosing to the dying that while certain of your diagnosis you are not now prepared to offer an effective plan of treatment? Hard to say without all the facts. Is his mission to now save an industry, the very one he proclaimed "officially dead" earlier this very month? Does he come to inspire and provoke into action the first tribe of wireless? Will the hiring of Godin to keynote turn out to be a stroke of genius or will we be asking "Was Mel not available?" Stay tuned.

Tom Evslin is in the process of writing a book by way of something he is calling a blook (sic), a book he will serialize on a blog. The story begins as CEO Larry Lazard is found dead of a gunshot wound. Tom has also created a faux corporate website related to his dot com story and is encouraging participation via a dedicated wiki. Very cool. Bravo Tom! As someone who worked in the crazed, sometimes plainly goofy, pre-ipo dotcom world I applaud Tom's endeavor and look forward to a good read. You may read the first chapter here. Thanks to Fred Wilson for the tip and background here.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

"It is the great triumph of genius to make the common appear novel" Goethe

Had a great time in Chicago earlier this week. Enjoyed lunch with my friend, the always amazing Kurt Hanson. While Bob Hamilton was certainly the first broadcast media person to do business online, Kurt, if not the first, clearly was one of the first internet radio evangelists. Kurt introduced me to Rockit Bar & Grill, I highly recommend the Tuna Tartar and the outrageous Rockit Burger (Kobe beef, foie gras, sweet and sour onions served with truffle fries).

The prophet from Philly, Jimmy Cramer, tells it like it is...this time it's about those dead tree guys...

Every time I think that my business is challenging, I think of what the newspapers face. The newspaper game, for the last decade, has been one of cost cuts and mergers. There's been no growth in the business.
Now, with regulatory authorities frowning on any further mergers, with the cost cuts already in place to the point where you might just as well run Associated Press copy throughout if you make more job eliminations and with newsprint and delivery costs through the roof, a bleaker situation looks, alas, even more bleak than I thought.

They seem incapable of being anything other than public services, and even there, they are falling down on the job.

Sure, they have cash flow. But who can monetize it? To me, they are just declining assets, call options with some dividend money thrown in. With no one available to take them out. Or, with boards that actually don't want to be taken over...Read JC's writing, Newspapers, Writing's on the Wall, here

Jeff Jarvis, having read JC's writing, offers this take..

Break free of the shackles of your medium, that’s what I say. Recast your relationship with the public to enable more to gather and share news. Stop trying to own content or distribution and get back in the business of building trust. And stop taking baby steps. The baby steps are killing you. Read more of what Jeff has to say including his perspective on why Times-Picayune and deserve a Pulitzer (but may not get one)

Agree with Jeff. The TP/Nola gang have earned a Pulitzer and for many of the same reasons the WWL network initiative rightly deserves a Peabody, a Crystal and a Marconi. Moreover, "baby steps" are killing broadcast media. As poor as most newspaper sites are the majority of broadcast sites are far worst, badly in need of attention and investment. The poorest of the lot, by any measure, are the majority of radio sites. Streaming audio does not a website make.

During our leadership seminar this week I provided a one page handout for discussion. This writing was originally a full page ad run in the Wall Street Journal by United Technologies. I am always asked to provide copies and place it here for all to enjoy/share.

Make Something Happen

You come out
of a meeting
and someone asks,
"What happened?"
And you answer,
You sit in a
legislative gallery
and someone sits
down beside you
and asks,
"What's happening?"
And you say,
Maybe that
meeting room and
that gallery
should have had
the same sign
hanging on their
walls that--
so the story goes--
a college football
coach pasted in
his teams' lockers:
"Cause something
to happen."
He believed that
if you didn't make
something happen
with a good block,
your runner would go
nowhere--and if
you didn't tackle,
the other team would
run all over you.
He sure caused something
to happen. He won more
college games than
any other coach.
Bear Bryant.

Rick Moody writing in The Atlantic Monthly (Fiction Issue 2005 - Writers and Mentors)provides a list of questions "that are a commonplace of the contemporary fiction workshop"

1) Does the story begin effectively?

2) Does the story end effectively?

3) Does the story have a conflict?

4) Does the story move from beginning to end?

Rick then goes on to suggest " the extent that a student comes to expect these questions, or to the extent that he or she writes in expectation of them, the likely product will be stories (or poems or essays) that reduce the chances of innovation..."

He then offers his own set of's a sample...

1) Has the writer attempted to eliminate all adverbs?

3) What's wrong with using a few more semicolons?

4) Does this story contain any sentences that you want to remember to your grave?

5) Would Samuel Beckett like this story? Would Gertrude Stein? Would Virginia Woolf?

6) How would this writer put paint on a canvas?

7) Is this writer just using his or her eyes, or has he or she tried to use the other senses - for example, the all-important literary sense of audition?

9) Does this story like music?

11) Can this story save any lives?

Real progress, in my experience, begins with the courage to ask the right questions. Folks in media would be wise to take a hint from Rick Moody's exceptional essay and begin to ask a fresh set of questions.

Had fun catching up with Tim Fox today. Tim's good work disabuses any reasonable person of the notion that the oldies radio format is dead. The oldies format is certainly not dead; Tim's station, KIOA, is very, very successful. Tim is a bright guy and a good broadcaster - lucky Saga. Tim made a strong point in our conversation today saying to be successful a radio station "must have a soul." Of course, he's right. Forget that stationality and all the brand stuff - give me some of that post-graduate level "soul" any day. Tim's comments today reminded me of the word Steve Wynn likes to use "wonderment"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"Discovery consists of seeing what everyone else has seen and thinking what nobody has thought" Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi

Great article in the latest CJR, a must read by Steve Twomey.

American readers want more voice, more connection to where they live. So why has the great metro columnist gone missing?

"Too many are lazy," says Dave Lieber, an investigative columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telgram and the chairman of this year's annual meeting of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Lieber has a litany of complaints about his peers: "They refuse to, as Breslin says, climb stairs. Don't engage in new journalism storytelling techniques. Refuse to be innovative, take risks and fail, which is important. Don't want to get people angry, which is very important. Want to play it safe. Quote their friends. Write feature stories that pretend to be columns. Forget why they got in the business in the first place. Make stupid jokes."

So many columnists sound so alike. Tim J McGuire...says "One of the things you find when you read a lot of metro there's not a lot of difference between Hoboken and Timbuktu."

"...a newspaper needs a sizzling metro columnist more than it ever did in any Golden Age."

Bravo Steve! Excellent points. Read the entire piece here

I agree with Steve...we are not talking about op-ed here but the real deal, the local writer that is hardwired into the community. The stuff that rises to the quality of a Royko, Breslin, or Hamill.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

" If the fans don't wanna come out to the ballpark, no one can stop 'em" Yogi

A group is trying to set up a low-power radio station in the Astrodome to broadcast emergency and other information (lost children, etc). Told they needed to provide radios - they came up with access to 10,000 radios. Told they could not use electric at the dome - they came up with their own battery power. Still not on the air, seems the FEMA honchos will not allow the broadcasting. Can't imagine what is really going on. Read all about it here and here

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

" Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm" Winston Churchill

Neal Shapiro is leaving NBC. A good man, Neal first became famous as the former ABC wunderkind Andy Lack hired to fix their magazine franchise. As EP of Dateline NBC ("Nice job, everybody") Neal changed the rules and won the mag game for NBC. Expect big things from this gentleman. The company line is here

Leave it to John Rook. JR, again, points out the obvious which is always the hardest to see (or hear) - Rollye James is a star. RJ gets picked up at KRLD in Dallas - nice move TB - congrats Rollye and, as usual, thank you JR for the news.

I have enjoyed many a discussion with the gifted Ms James. I first came to know this talented person a great many semesters ago - I was a music director - she was writing an amazing, ground-breaking, newsletter for singer Charlie Rich.

Leslie Moonves is featured in the New York Times Magazine "Giving Them What They Want" check it out here. Les is a master of the entertainment genre, the father of both E.R and Friends which he sold to NBC prior to his arrival at CBS. His single downfall has been non-entertainment. The long failing morning show and ongoing third place evening news need attention they are not now getting. Les works out of the best possible place for an entertainment guy - LA - the missing piece at CBS continues to be a strong leader for non-entertainment. My sense is Les is one hire away from again creating a legendary network. Good luck Les, swing for the fences, fix news next, hire a great leader to lead that charge.

" Nobody in the game of football should be called a genius. A genius is somebody like Norman Einstein" Joe Theismann

Hard to find but a few working in electronic media that one would call a genius this morning. The media coverage of the gulf disaster was poor to average at best.

Slate's Jack Shafer gets it right with his "News You Can Lose - What I hate about cable TV journalism"

hate it when the news networks pair music with montages of newsworthy footage

hate the use of undated footage, especially when it's two or three days old, that runs as "video wallpaper" as the anchors talk about looting, the breached levee, death, destruction, or what have you

hate the conspicuous lack of maps illustrating where the camera and reporters are in New Orleans, Biloxi, Baton Rouge, Mobile, or elsewhere

hate the fundamental dishonesty of 24/7 coverage

hate the opportunism of Fox News Channel's Geraldo Rivera, who grandstanded at the Convention Center on the Friday night Hannity & Colmes show with babies he borrowed from trapped New Orleanian mothers

hate the completely un-newsworthy "Fox News Alert" Chyrons that routinely run on the bottom of the Fox News Channel screen

hate the absence of context and continuity

hate the lack of input from knowledgeable outsiders

hate the absence of self-criticism

Read all of Jack's comments here and here and here

Kudos to Clear Channel and Entercom for the above average coverage by their ad hoc network, United Radio of New Orleans. Listened to some damn good radio coverage via WWL's stream. Check out The Big 870 and listen to the network broadcast here

Jeff Jarvis has created a thoughtful, albeit dense, post regarding next steps. Read it here