November 4, 2009

A one horse (read:paper) town

Posted in In the news, Media, Uncategorized at 8:12 pm by R

Phoenix, Arizona is the fifth largest city in the U.S. of A. It is now also a very large metropolitan area served by only one newspaper. As of December 31, 2009 the East Valley Tribune will cease to exist.

I’ve written here about papers closing, but not until today did I understand the impact these closures have on the cities they served.

You see, the East Valley Tribune served a significant niche of the Valley. Phoenix is Phoenix. Then there’s the East Valley. It’s a huge portion of the metro area population. It’s a huge portion of the population which is at risk for being journalistically under served.

And while this concerns me, there’s a bright side. Metro Phoenix is also home to some innovative journalists who have launched various news blogs to fill in the blanks and fill in the gaps like City Circles and the Zonie Report and of course Arizona Notebook.

Perhaps this is simply the way of things to come/it already is: hyper-local news accessible via well-written blogs courtesy of (many times) journalists and reporters given the slough off from failing publications.

And while those sites continue to grow and newspapers figure out what their future is, I guess Phoenix is just a one-horse town, so to speak anyway…



July 18, 2009

In Memoriam: The Original Anchorman

Posted in Current Events, In the news, Media at 2:20 pm by R

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite was known as “the most trusted man in America.” He delivered the news of the day with honest candor and pioneered the standard by which we judge all news anchors today.

I never had the benefit of watching Cronkite deliver the news. No, by the time I was around Dan Rather had filled his post. But the news anchors I grew up watching: Brokaw, Jennings and Rather were direct descendants of the Cronkite philosophy of news.

When a respected reporter goes on to the great newsroom in the sky their peers left here have just the most eloquent and wonderful things to say. The best in the business honor each other, because they know it takes all of their great work to keep telling great stories.

Some journalists I truly admire had touching words for Cronkite:

“Cronkite came to be the sort of personification of his era. He became kind of the media figure of his time. Very few people in history, except maybe political and military leaders, are the embodiment of their time, and Cronkite seemed to be.”  — PBS Correspondent Robert McNeil

“Walter was who I wanted to be when I grew up.” —  CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer

“Walter Cronkite was and always will be the gold standard. His objectivity, his evenhandedness, his news judgment are all great examples.” –ABC News anchor Charles Gibson

“A giant of journalistic craft.” — Dan Rather, former CBS Evening News Anchor

Cronkite’s passion for news was evident long after he left the desk. He was a bellwether for the status of news, critiquing opinion-lead news and always calling for integrity, accurate reporting and subtle compassion.

He loved his craft and respected it. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, Cronkite spoke words, which, if it’s possible, have more meaning now than ever before with the changing face of news:

“…television, the great common denominator, has lifted our common vision as never before.”

Cronkite delivered the news during some very troubled times in our nation, his news style made him trusted among viewers as he delivered the sometimes difficult news of the day including JFK’s assassination, many reports on the Vietnam War and Watergate. He also brought viewers news of the shuttle landing on the moon.

Mr. Cronkite chronicled stories that have become integral to our history. He covered triumph. He retold tragedy. He was an excellent messenger.

And THAT’s the way it is.


June 25, 2009

The most significant media day in the past two decades

Posted in In the news at 9:32 pm by R

I’m paraphrasing my husband in the headline from a report he heard on the radio today.

We know now that the King Of Pop, Michael Jackson, has passed on at the age of 50 from an apparent cardiac arrest at his house in Holmbly Hill, Calif.

The means by which this information came to light and the speed at which the media reported was unlike anything I, and I’m sure many others, have never seen.

Today, the first news I saw of MJ was on a Facebook update. I immediately went to a trusted news resource to see what was going on — had nothing up yet. (I don’t trust any entertainment news until People confirms it.)

As I searched for more information, tweets were lighting like wild fire with reports of an ambulance speeding to UCLA medical, an unconscious Jackson and words like, “grave situation.”

I pulled up and there before my stunned eyes was a huge masthead reading

RIP: Michael Jackson Dies

I quickly visited the usual news suspects (MSNBC, CNN, BBC, New York Times, LA Times), but few reported more than an incident where Jackson was rushed to the hospital.

Within the next five minutes breaking news headlines scrolled across every screen “REPORTS: Michael Jackson Dead,” and “unconfirmed sources” filled quotes. All of those sources which I deem as credible referred back to the shocking news TMZ boldly published.

The sheer onslaught of information was as shocking as the news being delivered today. Such a strange day. We’ve lost two cultural icons – Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson. One, a rather expected death — perhaps even hoped for that she might have some peace and be set free from pain. The other so monumentally unexpected.

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Michael Jackson 1958-2009

Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009

Farrah Fawcett 1947-2009

The only other event in my lifetime that I can recall garnering so much attention and coverage is the tragic passing of Princess Diana. I was in 7th grade, spending the night at my friend Lindsey’s house and we watched CNN until the sun came up the next day. But event that momentous and awful event seems to pale in comparison to what I saw today.

Perhaps the reason why is the advent of Facebook and Twitter. People posted sentiments, memories, songs, videos, news reports, lyrics, photos, you name it, with lightening speed. I am awed by the out poring of touching reports and celebrity call ins and speed with which so many TV packages have been pulled together. ABC broadcast not one but two hour-long specials honoring the lives of Fawcett and Jackson.

But let’s face it: people like Farrah and MJ are the ones whose obituaries the Associated Press (and many other news outlets) had drafted years and years ago.

Like him or not, you can’t deny his impact on GLOBAL society. He’s not unlike the phenomena of social media, which in so many ways heralded the news of his death.

I don’t doubt whatever personality who dubbed today the most significant media day in the past two decades. In my twenty-something life I can’t recall anything like it.


May 29, 2009

Many of GM’s Issues Hinge on Branding

Posted in In the news tagged at 10:10 am by R

There’s a lot of chatter out there about whether or not GM will file for bankruptcy come Monday. Today, it seems almost certain that GM will unload (by selling or dismantling) two of it’s brands Saturn & Hummer.

An article on MSNBC this morning discusses the pending departure of these brands and points to them as two tales indicative of the larger GM fate.

I believe it all comes down to branding.


Saturn launched in the early 80’s with a mission of being nimble and a direct U.S. challenger to efficient and innovative cars coming from companies like Toyota and Honda overseas. While early adopters bought into this way of thinking, Saturn struggled to maintain its innovation an lost much of its nimble nature as it gradually wove operations in with other GM brands and Saturn’s offerings began to look more and more and more like its Chevy, Pontiac and Buick cousins.

GM really faltered on the brand promise of Saturn. If your brand is “nimble” everything about you must be genuinely flexible and malleable. If your brand is innovative, the last thing you can do is be like anyone else. In short…epic fail.

It seemed though that all was not lost. Recently Saturn has debuted several models that hearken back to those characteristics, even offering hybrid models. Alas, it seems it’s just too little too late.

Hopefully Saturn can find a buyer who can help the company find itself again. So many people have called for American car companies to be nimble and innovative in this environment that perhaps it’s a golden opportunity for the cast off GM brand.

Hummer on the other hand has an image problem.


If you conjure one image that embodies the idea of “American Excess,” what is it? Probably a Hummer. The gas-guzzling, road-hogging, I’m-bigger-than-you-so-I’m-changing-lanes-and-you’d-better-move-over SUV is loved by those who can afford to drive it, and generally loathed by those who have to share the road with it.

The military vehicle gone civil SUV inherently pours salt in the wounds of an ailing economy. With a high price point and an expensive cost of ownership (gas prices), this behemoth stands for the boom time gone by.

It might even be fair to say that there’s some resentment for this brand, even among those who bought into the “Bigger-is-better” mentality of homes and cars (and gas tanks).

It will be a enormous undertaking and require real creativity on the part of a buyer to repair the image of Hummer. Some serious changes in gas mileage will obviously be the first order of business, not simply because of new (and needed) fuel economy standards, but for the viability of the brand!

In the end, I doubt a brand like Hummer will ever see anywhere near the same cache as it had about five years ago. The elements that made Hummer a popular purchase simply don’t exist anymore.

Whomever buys up these brands — assuming they don’t go away altogether — will have to have a top-notch marketing staff to tap into:

  • The brand value of Saturn and make it adhere to its brand promises
  • Re-brand Hummer in a radically different way

Brand gurus, start your engines.


May 6, 2009

Online News Readers Site “Green” As Their Motivation To Drop The Paper Habit

Posted in In the news, Media at 4:03 pm by R

An MSNBC article by Tony Sclafani tackled the issue of people wanting news, but not the paper. His article reveals that people across the US are turning to free on-line versions of their local paper in lieu of the less tree-friendly paper version.

I’m definitely in the on-line category. I’ve never had a paper subscription. It’s just much easier to peruse news sources on-line — no muss, no fuss, no waste. But the article’s closing paragraph does make a good point:

…if newspapers cease publishing hard copy editions, they’ll be leaving elderly readers without a longstanding resource for news.

While news is a for-profit model in many cases, it’s also a public service. To disregard a sizable demographic of the readership would be irresponsible.

So where’s the compromise? Clearly on-line news sources will only continue to expand, but how can papers responsibly phase out their hard-copies?

There are more questions than answers about the fate of newspapers. One thing is for certain though, it’s not a question of IF newspapers will go away…it’s WHEN & HOW.


March 31, 2009

Chicago Sun-Times in the Red

Posted in Current Events, In the news, Media at 4:13 pm by R

Sun-Times Media Group, owner of the Chicago Sun-Times and 58 other papers, has filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy today. The Sun-Times plans to continue to run its holdings as usual while it restructures  and “stabilizes operations.” See the full CNN article here.

The hits really just keep on coming don’t they!

While the Sun-Times announcement is bothersome, I’m more worried about the fresh cuts announced at both the Washington Post and The New York Times this week. The overall picture is really bleak.

How about a tally, shall we?

  1. Washington Post – budget cuts
  2. New York Times — budget cuts
  3. L.A. Times — holding company in bankruptcy
  4. Chicago Times — holding company in bankruptcy
  5. Chicago Sun-Times — holding company in bankruptcy
  6. Seattle PI — Web only
  7. Christian Science Monitor — Web only
  8. Rocky Mountain News — ciao
  9. Miami Herald — reportedly for sale

That’s disheartening. That’s a lot of talented journalists jobs at risk.

What’s worse is that there’s still no contingency plan. We are still asking “where will journalism go?” The answer seems to be online, but how will this format sustain itself?

Until we have answers, we’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled. Keep tabs at Paper Cuts.


March 26, 2009

Advertisers Dumping Print for TV & Web

Posted in In the news, Measurment at 8:41 am by R

It’s not a shocking headline. We all know print is dying a slow painful death as advertisers dedicate their dollars to other mediums.

Patrick O’Grady of the Phoenix Business Journal wrote a great article based on local Phoenix research which explains why this shift is happening so rapidly.

According to a partner at SpinSix Strategic Marketing Design:

It’s not that people are buying into it [online advertising]. It’s that they can’t escape it.

The other driving factor is that there are intense analytics that accompany online advertising, which measure how long people stay on the site, what they spend, where they clicked in from. Those analitics really justify the spend. And in this day and age, that accounts for everything (pun intended).

Ultimately, this shift will impact public relations as well. I like to say that advertising and PR must lean against each other to make the other stronger. Now, there are cases where companies are just stratigically better off to choose one vehicle for their marketing, but in general it takes two to really tango.

The major impact is going to be in measurement a sector of our profession that has been so hard to quantify to begin with. As clients look for solid proof that articles are generating dollars for their companies we are going to have to come up with some stellar metrics that challenge us to deviate away from the less tangible “strategic message pull through” et al.

In light of this, here’s a list of a few solutions I feel we need to establish:

  • Ability to tell how many people get to an article on line (measured by: 1 day, 1 week, 1 month, 6 months)
  • Ability to measure click thrus from articles to client sites
  • Standardized value for “Web-only” broadcast stories
  • Archived values

These are just a few of the things I think about when it comes to seeing an article or story run on line.

If you’ve got any other ideas of measurement  problems we need solutions for or resources I’ve been missing….please PLEASE share!


March 23, 2009

Rising Commodity: Good News

Posted in In the news at 5:03 pm by R

I’ve been saying it since October when all was doom and gloom in the media: PEOPLE WANT GOOD NEWS. It turns out, I was actually right!

Daniel Stone of Newsweek wrote a wonderful Web piece about “The Growing Hunger for Positive News.”

Turns out no good news is bad news, and so is all good news. You can neither immerse yourself in the negative nor avoid the negative completely to be balanced. Just like a good diet, negative and positive news is best served in moderation.

Ode Magazine is based on positive news. Not sappy puppies and babies news, legitimately positive NEWS.

Here’s a smattering of their headlines as an example:

It’s a great example of how positive news works…see, no sap, just silver lining.

It seems that finally editors and reporters from a variety of outlets  are ready to embrace the good. It’s not all rainbows and roses out there, but there are interesting and positive things happening.

How to make the most of this precious commodity:

  1. Be fair and balanced: positivity for the sake of positivity isn’t newsworth. Positivity that has an impact is newsworthy. Tell client stories with meaning and results, not just the warm fuzzies.
  2. Be a sign of the times: There are trends out there independent of “these economic times” (I hate hearing and using that phrase!). Position your positive pitch with relation to other topics receiving attention.
  3. Be a Nay-sayer: If you have a client who likes to make strong statements, issue something that directly counteracts a negative piece of news and back it up with support for the positive contrary.
  4. Start Local, Go Global: With the rise of good news, expect to see a lot of Main Street America stories surfacing on national news — Daniel notes this in his piece as well. Be a home town hero. There are a MILLION opportunities to be a leader, lend a hand and  stand for virtues. But, please don’t be a hero simply for the sake of being a hero. MEAN IT.

Daniel Stone…thank you for your positive ways.


March 16, 2009

Seattle Post-Intelligencer Goes On-Line Only

Posted in In the news, Media at 2:09 pm by R

The Seattle Post Intelligencer is going digital.

The 146 year old PI will transition its news offering to an on-line only format effective 3/18/2009. The Seattle PI will publish it’s last paper edition on St. Patrick’s Day.

Printing costs and diminished ad revenues are likely the culprit in this decision. Hearst –the owner of the Seattle PI —  has several other papers up on the block including the Tucson Citizen, which is set to close on Saturday unless a buyer should surface.

Look for more major news outlets to follow suite in taking their product on-line.


January 26, 2009

A Call to Responsibility

Posted in In the news at 8:58 pm by R

The other night over dinner, my mother-in-law made an excellent point with respect to the call to responsibility that President Barack Obama made in his inauguration speech.

Here’s what she said:

I hope the media does it’s part in helping to turn the country around. Reporting the news is one thing, but excessive negativity in coverage is another.

A brilliant point I think.

There’s a palpable connection between the media and the level of confidence in our country. I’ve heard frightening reports from journalists that they are under strict directives to stick to the bad news, tell stories of failure, smear frightening unemployment numbers on the front page, capture pictures riddled with uncertainty and fear.

And what good does that do? ‘Cause it sure ain’t sellin’ papers! And it sure ain’t helping the economy.

All that being said, it wouldn’t be responsible simply to tell cheerful, happy stories either. But there’s a balance to be struck. Now-a-days it IS newsworthy to be successful in business. In a climate like this…uh, hell yeah!

You have to report the good along with the bad. I think that’s something our new president would want to see. He would want people to know that progress is being made, but there’s still room to improve, more progress to be made.

I think that’s the responsibility my mother-in-law was talking about, seeing positivity, even among all the negative. Because it is there. Good PR people just have to bring it to journalists attention 🙂


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