Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
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Daily Archives: October 9, 2007
Quote of the week from Jack Lail:
One of the most consistent complaints through the years about newspapers has been they’re too hard to do business with and newspapers artfully managed to reproduce that experience online.
I’ve never thought of this blog as having a name.Â It’s just my blog.
When I added “media blog” to the tagline, that was meant as a description and a little SEO experience (to see if I could get any kind of audience from people looking for “media blogs” — that hasn’t really worked out).Â But lots of people refer to this blog as the “media blog,” as if that’s its title.
That’s not the title.
If there is any title, it’s howardowens.com.
So I’ve changed to the the tagline.
The tagline also reflects the evolution of this blog. When I started in 2002, my blog was intended just to be a personal journal. I’ve written a lot about things that interest me.
In 2005 or so, I decided I needed to focus on something, so I chose “media,” with the idea that I would write about newspapers, TV, radio, music — all things media that interested me.
But because what I know best is online newspapers, and because those seem to be the posts regular readers seem to care the most about, I’ve pretty much become narrowly focused on that topic.
My old “about” page, which was about all my eclectic interests, to reflect a time when this blog was mostly about me and my interests, has been seeming really stale asÂ this blog as evolved into more of a professional blog, and less about what songs I’m listening to or which books I’m reading (unless they’re work related).Â So I’ve updated the about page to reflect my professional biography.
This is also smart usability, I think — I find lots of people click on the about link rather than the LinkedIn link to find out who I am.Â I imagine them scratching their head — who is this idiot with all of these divergent interests who is telling us how to run online newspapers when he seems to have no professional qualifications at all>Â Maybe now, the bio will explain a little better that I’m not just “some blogger” ranting about the clueless MSM. Continue reading
Interesting stuff from Vin Crosbie (when does Vin ever write something that isn’t interesting and insightful?) on paid content:
People would be willing to pay a subscription fee for a service that delivers news to them online; but not for a service that doesn’t exactly meet their needs and interests, that sends exactly the same package of news to everyone. Paid content isn’t dead; just payment for the traditional ‘one-to-many’ package of content is.
While it isn’t necessarily wise to base business decisions on individual experience, I can’t imagine ever paying for a customized news service. I can’t keep up with all the free content I should keep up with now. That said, I wouldn’t want a service that whittled it down for me, cause I think I’ve whittled it down for myself as much as can be done intelligently.
But maybe more general news consumers would in fact appreciate such a service.
Can an existing media company provide it?
And read what Vin says about a major weakness of newspapers as a general interest product in the age of niche interests — hint, just duplicating it online is a bad strategy (like I said before). Continue reading
Let’s see, your industry is dying.
All the trends are pointing against your survival.
And your response: We shouldn’t change. We should keep doing what we’re doing.
Or, your profession calls on you to keep an open mind and consider evidence over personal feelings.
So when somebody suggests maybe you should approach your job differently, your response: You retreat into a protective shell, say I’m not going to change and anybody who suggests otherwise doesn’t know squat.
Or, maybe your industry isn’t dying, just going through massive change, and maybe a little natural retraction, but the change still requires re-evaluation every aspect of your industry, and maybe if you can respond with some good ideas and innovation, you actually have a chance to grow business, create new revenue, protect and/or create jobs — it’s all good and all positive, but the best response you can muster is “there’s no need to do things differently to fit the new opportunities.” And you cling to that hunker-down-and-try-to-hang-on response even as your friends are losing their jobs.
Or, you’ve spent all of your career being an expert in doing what you do, so good for you.
Meanwhile the world around you has been changing, and you’ve been too buried in your work to even notice or care. Other people have made it their life and career passion to track and understand these changes. When they come forward with suggestions about how to IMPROVE what you do, you’re response is to duck and cover. The last thing you want to do is change, no matter how much evidence mounts that change is vital to your professions survival.
Here’s the thing: I’ll listen to anybody who comes forward with new ideas. But if you’re only response to suggestions for change is “I’m not going to change,” you’re not going to get anywhere with me. I respond better to people with positive attitudes than to people with negative attitudes.
I’m by nature a pretty conservative person. I don’t believe in change for the sake of change. But if you don’t believe change is necessary NOW, then you’ve had your head in your shell for the past decade.
I’m tired of newsroom turtles who would rather obstruct progress than contribute to it.
More of the same is not a constructive answer.
This little rant brought to you courtesy of the newsroom turtles who responded to this post and this post. You guys aren’t impressing me with your intransigent response to change. I haven’t yet heard an intelligent argument from the newsroom turtles on why we should settle for hunky-dory thinking.
And this post from Jack Lail is worth reading, too.
I’m not giving up. And I’m not going to stop fighting for better ways to do things.
It’s adapt or die, and I’m not ready to see good journalism get killed off. If the newsroom turtles don’t want to change, that’s a shame, but we can’t just give up without a fight. The value of journalism to society is just too important.
UPDATE: More evidence from Lucas Grindley of newsrooms getting in the way of change and progress. Lucas intelligently suggests that disruptive initiatives be taken out of the newsroom, but this concerns me on two fronts. First, we need our newsrooms to be part of the solution, because they are smart people with good values. Second, the content we produce is so important to building community. To me, we need to figure out a way to make it work, not reflectively work outside our strongest structure.
Also, check out the second comment on this Yelvington post from a veteran newsman who gets it — gets that he doesn’t know all there is to know about online, and is willing to listen to others for suggestions. My only contention — it isn’t about age. Look at the gray hair on that Yelvington mug shot. Steve is one of the smartest innovators in the business, inside or outside of newspapers. It isn’t about age. I’ve conversed with many twentysomething reporters who have hard turtle shells. It isn’t about age. It’s about getting that online is different from print.
UPDATE II:Â Another thought:Â How can you spot a newsroom turtle? They characterize calls for posting stories online fast and frequent as something than less than quality journalism.Â The reality is, nobody who has ever called for more frequent updates has ever suggested that posted stories be anything less than well vetted.Â Newsroom turtles fear change, and anything that may lead to change is derided on the smallest of pretenses. Continue reading