Advice to a new MoJo

The other day, Dan Telvock of Fredericksburg.com sent me an e-mail and told me about his potential new job — he’s may become a MoJo, or Mobile Journalist.

Cool job, if you can get it.

While not asking for advice, per se, my sense was Dan would like to know what I think about the job.

My response to that, however, would be in the form of advice.

If I were going to have a MoJo at one of our papers, this is what I would expect.

First, the area you cover is your beat. But you can’t approach this like a beat reporter. For most beat reporters, the beat is something you do during the paid hours, and afterwards, you go home and kiss the wife, pet the cat and watch TV.

But if you’re going to be a serious online journalist, you need to be passionate about what you cover.

This is taking a pixel or two from blogging.

All of the best bloggers are passionate about the topics they cover. You need to be passionate about your beat in the same way. For the MoJo, the town is the beat. You need to LOVE the town. You need to love it’s people, it’s identity, it’s good things and its bad things (and be discerning enough to recognize the differences). You need to be the foremost expert on your town — know all the history, all the people, all the things that make it the marvelous place that it is.

Second, you need a blog. You need to blog your town. Most MoJos are assigned the task of finding news updates for the home page of the newspaper.com.

That’s all well and good and part of the job, but the main task should be blogging the town. If in the process of doing that, some news item worthy of the home page comes out of it, then let an editor make that decision. The editor can pull the blog post and promote it to the home page (re-writing the post, if necessary, to be more “news style,” though, frankly, I see no reason to do that).

Of course, you’ll always have a video camera with you, but your job isn’t to be a video storyteller. Your job is to document what’s going on as you see it. You should be after the small bits of video that are interesting, amusing and occasionally newsworthy.

Sometimes, you might produce the story video, but the more time you spend shooting and editing video, the less time you’re spending with the people in your town.

You should spend a lot of time with the people in your town. You should be better known around town than the mayor or the leading business owner. EVERYBODY should know you, know who you are and what you do. If you do that well, they will clamor to give you information and maybe even show up in your blog, or you home page story, or your front page story.

You should carry plenty of business cards, all with your blog URL front and center, bigger than the newspaper name, and they shoulbe handed to every person you meet.

You need to spend more time with people than you spend driving around.

The classic image of a MoJo is a reporter sitting in his car, filing a story. Certainly, you must spend time doing that, but the less time you spend actually driving that car, the better. You need to be out and about, on foot, with people.

Your job isn’t to find scandal or hard-hitting news. Your job is to unlock the life of your town in a way that print journalism hasn’t done consistently for generations.

It’s all about people.

So that’s my advice.

Dan sent along this example of his first MoJo piece, which is a fine piece of writing, reporting and producing related video.

And it’s a fine thing to do for a MoJo.  It’s perfectly suitable. Sometimes, that’s exactly what will come out of being a great MoJo, but mostly you will be the blogger of your town.

Kindle report: Easy to use

Bob Benz is giving the Kindle a fairly positive initial review.

At breakfast this morning in the Cincinnati airport, I cruised through the Wall Street Journal while I shoveled my Southwestern Omelette into my mouth. This was much easier than juggling a paper, even a tabloid. I’d already started reading the paper on the plane on the way up. (I looked in my mailbox at 5 a.m. to see if the local paper and my print version of the Journal were there yet. No way. I’m lucky when they arrive by 7:30 … but the Kindle version of the Journal had downloaded automatically overnight.)

I’ve seen a lot of the digital hipsters pan the Kindle over flaws ranging from the way it manages digital rights to the look and feel of the thing. There’s merit to some of these complaints, but overall, I really like it and think it’s a big step forward. Wireless and ease of use make it a device that has me geeked.

Just thinking about video in the age of disruption

Here’s four reasons why newspaper can beat televison stations in online video.

  1. More feet on the street:  In large markets, newspapers can equip more reporters with video-capable cameras, and you don’t need expensive cameras to produce good online video; in small markets, TV isn’t going to cover many local stories;
  2. TV can’t cover a story without sending out a “crew,” which means they cover only stories that they’ve pre-screened as being video worthy, worthy of the time to send a crew out to a location, which means they miss a lot of good stuff that “print” reporters will naturally stumble across — quantity means more choices for online video watchers, which is a distinct and huge advantage;
  3. For newspaper reporters, there is no pre-conceived idea of perfect TV video, so any experiment goes;
  4. Newspaper reporter shooters can give sources a chance to speak for themselves, making the video more personal and more meaningful than what TV will do with the same material.

Or maybe this isn’t about newspapers beating television, but why newspapers should be confident about video, because in the age of disruption, newspapers can approach video with a mindset that the natural competitors won’t see as a threat, and we’ve got to press our advantages where we can get them.

Any television people who read this post and don’t get the point — you’re just proving my point.

We don’t need to invent it, we just need to make it work

There is a great deal of consternation in some circles that the newspaper industry has failed to innovate, and by innovate they mean — didn’t invent Google first, didn’t invent Ebay first, didn’t invent MySpace first.

There have been multiple failures by the newspaper industry in the R&D realm, but the problem hasn’t been the lack of big, break-through ideas (even if one of us thought of “page rank” first, could we really have built Google?). Our problem has been one more of lack of imagination about available technology than inventing whole new products. I mean, as far back as at least 1997, it made sense for newspapers to add community to their news sites, but nobody did it.

As others have pointed out, newspapers didn’t invent printing presses, SLR cameras, computer pagination or wire transmission, but we sure figured out how to put those tools to good use.

We don’t need the next big idea. We need to put available ideas to better use.

Consider how well the US companies have done in building businesses around technologies invented elsewhere:

  • HTML (the Web) in Europe
  • MP3 in Europe
  • Linux in Europe
  • PHP in Europe
  • Python in Europe
  • MySQL in Europe

In other words, a good portion of what drives the web was not invented here, but these technologies sure have been great for the US economy.

Why can’t newspaper companies learn from the likes of Facebook, Google, Craigslist, Ebay, as well as what lots of smart people are doing with HTML, PHP, Python and MySQL? We don’t need to invent it. We just need to make it better to meet our core mission: serving our communities (both of interest and of geography).

This post inspired by this TechCrunch post.

You don’t need big budgets or big ideas to be an innovator

Steve Yelvington alerted me to this speech by Tim McGuire. My comment on Steve’s blog, “McGuire obviously hasn’t read The Myths of Innovation.”

Even before I read Scott Berkun‘s great book, I was bothered by the common assertion that newspapers had failed in the internet arms race because we didn’t invent a Google or a Yahoo!

Sure newspapers have not invested in R&D sufficiently, nor have newspapers made a rich enough commitment to building online businesses, but to chastise newspapers for not inventing Google seems like a bit much. Google began with one great idea (search rank), and the odds of any one great idea evolving into a great business are nearly zero.

The notion also sells short a whole lot of smart people in the industry who have been working for years to find the right answer.

McGuire:

Innovation is big, bold and a little nuts. Starting an online website and putting video on it is not innovation. Kicking the stuffing out of old boundaries, now that’s innovation.

If McGuire had read Berkun, he couldn’t make that statement. As Berkun stresses in his book — there’s never been a big, “kicking the stuffing out of the boundaries” innovation in the history of the world. All innovation is incremental and builds on and synthesizing previous advancements and ideas. The light bulb depended on filaments and advances in manufacturing (not to mention work in the same field that Edison borrowed from). The Wright Brothers get a lot of credit for the first manned flight, but there was a good deal of research and experimentation Orville and Wilbur could draw on.

Innovation is not safe. Innovation calls for risk. Look at the innovators of the last several years. Google, eBay, Auto Trader del.icio.us, Pay-Pal, Craigslist, Monster and thousand of others. Those innovators did not introduce incremental change, their changes were giant leaps forward.

Certainly, you must be willing to risk failure in order to build new business opportunities, but none of the examples McGuire cites were big leaps forward. How hard was it to figure out you could put classifieds online? Or that online auctions might be worth trying? Google didn’t invent the search engine, nor did Google invent pay-per-click, auction-based advertising. They just did it better. All of these changes were incremental, not giant leaps forward. They just seem that way in retrospect because they were such huge successes that they make it easy to forget their predecessors and contemporary competitors.

Look at that list again. Any body missing? You don’t see a newspaper on it. Newspapers have shown themselves incapable of innovation for a couple of reasons: they are risk averse and want to keep the business they have even if it’s not going to grow or perhaps wither away; When revenues were pouring in, the industry decided to take 30 percent profits rather than invest in research and development. I have said before “ the paltry amount of dollars spent on genuine innovation and risk may turn out to be the greatest scandal when the decline of newspapers is chronicled by historians.�

Certainly, as I noted above, you’ll get no argument from me that newspapers have failed to spend enough on R&D, but as I discuss below, I think part of the problem may stem from the kind of thinking McGuire perpetuates in his speech.

But there’s also plenty of examples from the newspaper industry of experimentation and innovation. There’s SFGates (and I would argue VenturaCountyStar.com gets some credit (selfishly) for Top Jobs; and in Ventura, we were the first newspaper in the US to try event auctions; there was all of the work of Rob Curley, and of course Yelvington himself didn’t win last’s years NAA Innovator award for merely pontificating on his blog — he’s done real work at Morris, one of the most innovative newspaper companies on the planet (Spotted was a great incremental innovation). There’s also, of course, the Bakersfield Californian and Scripp’s YourHub project (I’m not a big fan, but it was a substantial risk for Fran Wills and her team in Denver). If this paragraph weren’t already so long, I’d go on.

Just because none of these ideas were as impactful as Google or Ebay doesn’t mean they don’t fit the criteria of innovation.

One last comment about innovation. It ain’t coming from anybody in this room. The chances of one of us here at the Scottsdale Chaparral going out of here an inventing a Google or even a viable innovation for newspapers is the same chance as all of us flying out of here on brooms. –None. So where is that innovation going to come from? Young people who, if we are smart, work for us. We don’t get the digital age and they do. And, that’s why its stupid, yes stupid for you to try to make every decision in your shop and act as if all wisdom resides in your office. It does not. If you want to foster true innovation in your organization involve your staff. Show them you trust them and build an environment which allows them to innovate.

Here’s the rub, and why I think McGuire’s assertions are dangerous: If you believe you can’t innovate, you won’t. And if you believe that innovation takes big blow-out expenses, you will never innovate.

Google was started on two computers in a garage. Craigslist was started by one guy sending out a few e-mails to friends. Yahoo! had the same humble beginnings.

All of these ideas began with an insight on how something might be done better, not with big budgets, bright-light epiphanies, or an understanding how available tools and previous advancements could be used to create a new opportunity.

As soon as you think you can’t do something, you are already defeated.

Any member of McGuire’s audience — and any one of you reading this — can be an innovator. It’s self-defeating to think otherwise.

If you think you need more than a good incremental idea and nothing more than sufficient resources to pull it off, you will never innovate, and I think it’s that fundamental misunderstanding of innovation that has encouraged publishers not to invest enough in R&D. If you think it will take a million dollars to come up with a good idea (that might fail anyway), why commitment even 100K to R&D? Again, I think McGuire perpetuates a false notion of innovation that can hold back the industry.

If you’re waiting for the publisher to hand you a million dollar check, or for that big break-through thought, you’ll never be an innovator. But if you get busy thinking about what problems need to be solved and what available resources you can use to solve those problems, then you have a chance to make a great contribution to our industry.

That’s all innovation is.

Most ideas fail, some are merely modest successes, but once in a while, lightening strikes. It would be wonderful to have that one big, major break-through idea that makes billions for newspapers, but I wouldn’t count on that happening. In the meantime, lots and lots of modest successes can serve us very well.

PressTime column on video published this month

It looks like the latest edition of PressTime is hitting industry inboxes this week. (It hasn’t appeared online yet. I assume it will eventually appear here.)

If you’re visiting howardowens.com because of my “BackTalk” piece on disruptive video strategy, here’s some related links:

Bob Cauthorn and CityTools

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Bob Cauthorn speak twice. Both times, I learned stuff.

The first time was in 2002 or 2003 at USC and Cauthorn convinced me to think about online advertising from the small business owner perspective, which remains quite different from how most advertising sales managers think about advertising.

The second time was this past Saturday in Phoenix and Cauthorn had me looking at some industry trends in a different light — not pretty, but not without hope. What he shared has already become a part of my standard strategy presentation.

Robert Niles has an interesting Q&A with Bob. Most of it is about his new CityTools platform.

It’s an interesting concept, and I like the general thrust of creating new syndication channels, but even though he first demo’d it for me several months ago, I still don’t grok it. I think I’m still not sure it will get critical mass to be really useful, though his growing emphasis on looking outside the newspaper business for early adapters makes sense.

Bob is especially geeked out about the new multilingual aspect of CityTools. That could be a competitive advantage, but I’m still wondering if multilingual people really want to get news in all the languages they speak, especially if some of those translations are automatic (see corrective message from Bob Cauthorn below).

There’s no doubt Bob is smarter than me, so whatever I’m missing about this must be my own fault. It certainly doesn’t help that I speak only one language. I certainly want to keep an eye on his experiment and see if it really does lead to something.

UPDATE:Â Bob sends along this correction … I apologize for the false assumption:

… just to be clear, stories are posted in their native languages as written by humans (often media sources in the case of shared news– think multilingual digg).

We DO use machine translation for some one word prompts while prototyping, but the we go back and have humans refine the prompts too. NO stories are machine translated. And because we go back over the prompts eventually everything is human translated.

Random thought about innovation

Innovation is not about doing the next great thing. It is about doing the next thing.

Sometimes the next thing will be the next great thing, but more likely it will lead to another thing, and that next thing might be the next great thing. Or it may lead to nowhere.

Failure is always an option.

Innovation is in the doing and trying, not in the dreaming and waiting.

The days of seeming stability are long gone

You all know your business is changing.

You know all about lost readers and lost revenue.

You know that if you don’t do something differently, you’re business isn’t likely to survive.

But let’s say that something different turns out to be the right thing. You don’t make any major mistakes on your way to transforming your business. You survive. Whew!

Now what?

I suspect that many journalists and media executives expect that some day all of this disruptive change will stop, and they can take a collective sigh and start basking in some well deserved profits and stability.

I say, think again.

Change is now our permanent state. Change has probably been a permanent state for at least 100, if not 200 years, it’s just that change happened slow enough that we could walk rather than run to keep up. The difference is that now we need to sprint.

I’ve written about these thoughts before, but the question is important, and came to mind again while reading the latest post from John Hagel.

A more specific question might be: what are the institutional architectures required to operate in a world where there is no equilibrium? Early conventional wisdom suggest that these architectures should focus on agility and flexibility, but that misses the real opportunity – balancing agility with the persistence and stability required to build and deepen long-term trust based relationships. Being able to discern what needs to change and what needs to remain stable may be the greatest challenge of all.

My big question is, can newspaper companies become adaptive enough to adjust to a media world that has not even the semblance of equilibrium?

I’m not giving up hope, but creating a culture that embraces change rather than fights it isn’t just the responsibility of media executives. It’s up to all of us who believe in the value of the news business.

What would a change organization look like?

First, it is a learning organization. It employees smart, motivated people who never stop acquiring new skills and knowledge and shun getting bogged down in trying to become specialists.

Second, it spends as much time trying to anticipate what is coming next as it does serving today’s needs. There is no time to get comfortable with today’s world.

Third, it is an organization that isn’t afraid of failure. When you’re spending a good deal of time anticipating what’s coming, you’re going to have to try many ideas that will simply be wrong. You are going to guess wrong about change far more often than you guess right. Aiming for perfection is fatal for an organization that needs to change rapidly and constantly.

Fourth, measuring success won’t be a matter of dollars and sense only. I think Hagel is right on this point: We need to develop metrics that help us gauge our ability to drive business decisions via leading indicators (audience engagement, say) than lagging indicators (revenue). The need for profits will never wane, but the best way to ensure growing revenue is to know think of the audience first.

UPDATE: I thought of a fifth attribute of a malleable news organization that was too obvious — Don’t fear change. An organization that is going to stay current must be willing to say, “Sure, that’s how we used to do it, but now we need to try it this way.” There can be no turf wars or “what is in it for me?” thinking.

Gaining insights from the little things

Through this video, I learned about The Myth of Innovation, by Scott Berkun, so I bought the book.

The first chapter is about the myth of the epiphany. It’s a subject covered in the video, and I’m only half way through the chapter, but the theme started me thinking about epiphanies I’ve had over the years. I’m going to share them because I think they both show the importance of epiphanies and how none are all that big, but might also demonstrate how small insights can lead to important business model changes.

  • When I first joined the online world, I signed up for SPJ-L, then moderated by Jack Lail. Jack constantly struggled to keep the list on target. From that experience, I learned how important it was to manage virtual communities and guide members toward mutual respect and staying on topic for the sake of a healthy community. But the main thing I learned, as I did from Steve Outing‘s Online-News, is how powerful a community could be that is organized around a passionately shared interest.
  • When I created RV-Talk for AGI (essentially the seeds of my later business, RVClub.com), I learned that shared passion wasn’t limited to a certain net-friendly demographic. The average age of RVClub.com in 1997 was 55. I learned it was more about people with a shared interest than it was technology.
  • When I became serious about blogging in 2002, it seemed obvious early on that what made us all smarter wasn’t the Big-J news story, but the conversation that went on around the story — all of the smart, informed, experienced people who could extend the story with their expertise. From there, it wasn’t big leap to buy into Dan Gillmor’s “journalism as a conversation.”
  • When Hollywood came to Ventura to shoot Swordfish, we decided to buy a bunch of disposable cameras (digital cameras were still rarely owned) and hand them out to movie fans. The resulting slide shows were quite popular. I realized then that something that would later become known as UGC had a place in journalism. This realization would be confirmed again after the advent of digital cameras when there was a large fire in Ventura County, a flood in Ventura County and our use of Buzznet for photo sharing.
  • One day in early 2004, right after I became director of the Star’s web site, I was running various web site traffic reports. I noticed that there were two big spikes and a couple of small, but noticeably more pronounced, dips in traffic. The spikes were two big local stories, and the dips coincided with the dates of large national stories (one was the invasion of Iraq, which we covered heavily on the web, including using blogs). It was then that I realized that local newspaper web sites had no brand for national news. When the big stories hit, people go to CNN or NYT or WaPo, but not 100K newspaper sites, even local people. From that lesson, I devised the strategy of pushing down generic AP stories and promoting regular updates of local news. At the time, it was pretty much an unheard of strategy for the average newspaper.com.
  • Also in 2004, we introduced comments on stories on VCS.com. At the time, no newspaper sites I knew of had comments on stories — though it had been tried before. In an effort to “just get it done,” I supplied an online editor with some JavaScript from HaloScan and we launched comments. Within a few days, we had some great comments on stories about the mother of a murder suspect and a tiger prowling Simi Valley. The comments extended the story and helped make us all better informed. This truly was “journalism as a conversation.” This was the real power of participation. Of course, we would also soon discover the dark side of an open commenting system (racial idiots spewing hate, for example), but that reminded me of the value of community controls, which helped create the system now in place on Bakersfield.com (the primary reason I moved to Bakersfield was to launch a true community site welded to a newspaper site).
  • Discovering Clayton Christensen and his ideas behind disruption and innovation greatly influenced much of my approach to just try things, get things launched, don’t wait around for the perfect moment to do the perfect thing. This was a radical change of attitude for me, and one that took me a year to really embrace.
  • Two books read closely together welled up into an epiphany about how people use the web. First was The Search by John Battelle, and the second was Don’t Make Me Think, by Steve Krug. Everything I’ve been involved with related to newspaper.com design since has been informed by the ideas of the “intention-driven web” and keeping navigation simple and obvious.
  • The first-time that I saw the Numa Numa Dance, and knew that millions of people had already watched it, I realized that broadband penetration was sufficient to make video an important strategic consideration. It seems quint now, doesn’t it?
  • The first time I watched a video from an online producer for a newspaper (Anthony Placencia, for VCS.com), and I sat there thinking, “this is no good because it’s not like TV,” and then the gentle, slowly set up moment of a boat’s keel touching the water, and really giving the story its gentle climatic moment, I realized, “web video SHOULD NOT be like TV.” The video was far more powerful than anything I could imagine a TV producer putting together.
  • When we started rolling out video in the VCS newsroom and reporters became more engaged in the web site than they had been before, I realized video was the gateway drug for journalists that we needed to care about keeping our web site updated. Everybody loves video and the idea of producing video themselves, because we all grew up with it.
  • When Jack Lail first shared with me Random This and the power of the Sony Cybershot, I realized that video need not be overly produced to be highly effective.
  • After I arrived in Bakersfield and started supplying those same Sony Cybershots to reporters and the feedback from the news room was, “these are great because they’re not bulky like camcorders” I saw the path toward getting reporters involved in video.

Everything else I’ve done in the past 24 months or so have really been epilogue. They’ve been about coalescing and refining these insights.

Maybe Mr. Berkun wouldn’t consider those moments epiphanies, but they were all moments in my career that shape my strategic thinking today.

Here’s a suggestion for other media bloggers: Post your own string of epiphanies and how they’ve shaped your current media thinking.

Google on Innovation, the video

Here’s the best thing you can do with the next 51 minutes of your life. The video below is Google CIO Douglas Merrill on Innovation at Google. If you are thinking about search, as I am, the beginning provides some nice food for thought. If you’re interested in business strategy and innovation, as I am, the entire video is worthwhile.

And if you’re not interested in these things, you should be — just about every person who reads this blog is involved in the online news game at some level, and we all have a responsibility to care about business strategy and innovation, whether you’re a first-year reporter, a classified ad rep, or a top executive.

There is lots of goodness here. Here’s a couple of things I noted:

Merrill on the need for fast loading pages: “We can loose 15 percent of our traffic just by slowing down 200 milliseconds. … We’ve done a lot of work to answer any question in the world in 400 milliseconds”

Put that in your usability pipe and smoke it. Maybe you’ll figure out how to kill about 1,000 links on your home page.

The big issue of search: Deliver the right results. It’s not enough just to have a big database. If the results don’t match exactly what the user wants and they’re not delivered in the way the user wants, you’ve failed. “Search is still not solved.”

Merrill then went on at some length about transformational innovation and incremental innovation. My thought is newspapers have been caught up in trying to push transformational innovation ever sense Innovator’s Dilemma came out, and that’s what the API’s Newspaper Next project was all about, but incremental innovation is important, too, and we don’t spend enough time thinking and talking about that.

On the other hand, things like getting more news online faster, which has proven to be a big traffic driver for many sites in the past couple of years, is really just an incremental innovation.

“Innovation based on what users need is likely to create economic value, so whatever you do, start innovating with the user. And obviously what you should do is ask users what they want, right Mr. Ford? Yeah, right. Won’t work. ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse.'”

“Users don’t know what they want, but they might know what problems they have.”

Merrill then goes into a lengthy discussion of news and what users want … it’s not all happy news for traditional media companies, but this section of the talk did remind me of something I did at the Ventura County Star that transformed the way I look at local news sites, and I followed an approach, I think Merrill would appreciate.

In my mind, based on the Merrill model, I listened to the users. I looked at about two years of user stats and noticed something interesting. When we had a big local story, such as a flood or a fire, where we put breaking news on the site and followed the story closely and solicited user content, we had huge spikes in visitors. That’s no big surprise, necessarily, but what was most interesting, was that when there was a big national or international story, even when we covered it with great gusto, such as the invasion of Iraq, our site traffic took a dive.

That told me, our local news site wasn’t a brand to users for nation/world coverage. For nation and world, they thought of the CNNs and the NYTs first, and us hardly at all.

From that I learned, regular updates of local news is what our users want. It’s something I still believe today, especially since so many local sites are now finding success with that model.

Merrill used the example of an earthquake in California. When it happened, Google graphed a quick spike in traffic — people googling “earthquakes,” and the site they were hitting was the first link, the link to the USGS site (highlight for those who don’t quite get the import of this result — it wasn’t a traditional news site).

Merrill: “Why is this interesting? This is interesting because fundamentally the news sites are in this spike, too. The news sites don’t have data yet. They’re still trying to figure out. They’re scrambling reporters, trying to understand what’s going on, whereas a lot of the people those news sites want to reach, people who care about what just happened, already know. So the democratization of information is in some sense working against traditional news creation, because a lot of the people you want to talk to about news know the answer already. The people you are talking to are the people who weren’t that interested in the first place.”

You might need to re-read that statement. It’s fundamental to understanding how the news game has changed — our best customers often know more than we do before we even get a chance to tell them what we know.

Merrill: “If you’re a content creator, that graph makes you think hard about ‘what is my value in this ecosystem?'”

The last 10 minutes should be required for any executive looking to create a culture of innovation. It should make a few executives in our industry squirm a bit. The news industry hasn’t done a great job of allowing people to make mistakes or hiring for diverse ideas. A lot of people lament our industry’s ability to “innovate,” but it isn’t necessarily the lack of big innovations that has hurt the most (there is no reason to believe that we really needed to create Google, or MySpace, or YouTube first) — we haven’t been willing to fail fast and innovate incrementally. If we had, we would be much further along today.

Key points in a disruptive newspaper video strategy

I’m putting some polish on my strategy presentation and felt I needed to explain disruption a little better, especially in regards to newspaper video.

Here is my brief definition of disruption: “The basic idea of disruption is to start at the low end, fulfilling a job to be done, with a product that is just ‘good enough.'”
Here are my key points for a disruptive video strategy:

  • Jobs to be done
    • Provide readers with additional visual information about stories
    • Give them more visual news-related options than TV
    • Communicate in a direct, personal voice, not like TV
  • Start at the low end
    • Point-and-shoot cameras
    • Inexpensive or installed (free) video editing software
    • Short, quick-to-produce videos
  • Be good enough
    • Rely on current news room staff, who know news and story telling
    • Provide starter training, improving as we go
    • Don’t get bogged down in trying to be like TV

One of the statements I’m incorporating into my spiel (again, the focus is on crafting a disruptive newspaper video strategy) is that any newspaper video that takes more than an hour to produce isn’t worth the ROI. Quantity is the key goal. The only quality goal is to be “good enough.”