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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

The previous two posts to this blog asked the questions, will the cloud save journalism, and is old (traditional) media dead?

I’d like to expand on this discussion by recounting the experience of a friend of mine who joined the San Francisco Chronicle a few years back to head up the “traditional” newspaper’s new online department, dubbed

At first, she describes, “everything went well.” The traditional print side of the business didn’t fully respect, nor fear, the upstart online editors and reporters, so they simply went about their business as usual.

But soon, the online part of the paper started scooping the print-version of the Chronicle on important local stories by virtue of being able to distribute the stories electronically, i.e., instantaneously. Suddenly, the stories that would have been fresh and exciting in the morning paper were old news.

And, because some of these young, hungry online reporters were willing to get out of the office and actually talk to people, they were coming up with stories on their own that were being missed by the print version.

“Soon, our daily editorial meetings were becoming very contentious,” my friend told me. Rather than working together to provide a comprehensive view of the news – immediate and top level via online and more thorough but a little later in the print version – the two sides of the organization were locked in a ferocious battle.

“The print guys still owned the bulk of the advertising dollars,” my friend said, “so we (the online team) were always playing second fiddle.”

After a couple of years of doing this tiresome dance my friend had had enough and decided to strike out on her own.

“I knew that there was a market for an online paper in San Francisco, so I decided to start one of my own,” she told me.

Using her own money, she started the fledgling online paper focused exclusively on local stories. “It was a lot easier than I thought,” she said.

She hired a few reporters and paid them by the stories they wrote. There weren’t any printing or distribution costs because she set up the entire operation in the cloud. She pays only a few dollars a day to have her entire enterprise housed on computers, as she puts it, “somewhere out there.” And the online ads she sells cover her costs and allow her to stash away a little for herself.

She went on to tell me she doesn’t have physical office space because she’s found that when people don’t have to go into the office they find their way onto the streets where the news is being made. As a result she gets better content and is now getting 700,000 unique visits to her site every month.

This is not to suggest that traditional newspapers, or magazines, are completely obsolete.

The way we look at it here at 3Point is akin to a pebble in a pond. The initial pebble, in this case the story in traditional media, often makes a small splash, but the ripples it causes, the tweets, the blog posts, and the online news stories expand out to cover a great distance.

Slowly these two forms of communication are finding a comfortable working relationship and will together serve to keep us apprised of the important events that occur around us each and every day.

That’s why, as Jim put it yesterday, “we believe in the intersection of traditional media and new media.”

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Old Media is Dead, Long Live Old Media

Old media is dead. 

Isn't it?

Well, that's what many of the new media folks are saying, so it must be true.  That old media has been completely and utterly usurped by new media -- by all things digital and by what is "social."

If you don't believe me, just take a look at a handful of marketing or PR agency web sites, or take a look at the marketing job boards.  It's new media or die, no exceptions, no excuses.  If you still don't believe me, take a look at reports such as "State of the News Media 2010" as referenced earlier this week in a blog post by my esteemed colleague Bill Bellows.  5,900 newspapers jobs were lost in 2009 alone, Bill reports.  And since 2001, 450 jobs at the local TV level were also lost -- and lost forever more than likely.

So old media just doesn't matter anymore. Please don't waste time building relationships with journalists at the Wall Street Journal or Fortune or eWeek.  THEY SIMPLY DON'T MATTER ANYMORE!   Instead, spend 100 per cent of your time building relationships with and pitching only new media channels -- because old media is dead.

Well ... maybe not so fast.

There's a pertinent and lively discussion on this topic taking place right now on LinkedIn in the "Network of PR Professionals" group, of which I am a proud card carrying member.  Most of the communications professionals who have weighed in on the question, " Are the 'old media' relevant?" -- and they hail from all over the world -- believe that old media are still relevant and still play an important role in integrated public relations. 

Reinforcing this point of view is a report released just today, "2010 Edelman Trust Barometer," which reports that next to a stock or industry analyst report, articles in business magazines are deemed to be the most credible.  Thanks to Mike Holland of Smye Holland Associates for sharing this report.  "So, 'old media' seems to be doing ok," Mike says.

Studies aside, plenty of senior PR pros from around the globe seem to agree with the "Barometer" and with Mike, who adds, "People tend to value information that they pay for. So coverage in paid-for 'old media' is still regarded as having a higher value than coverage in free 'new media.'"

A media advisor at NaoriComm International takes the point a step further.  "Ye Olde media is now going back to be more relevant than ever.  Many people are looking to the good ol' media to get in-depth coverage on a topic that would otherwise get a Tweet of 140 characters or less, missing the actual point," said Sharon Levy-Matzkin.

Yes, new media channels are turning our industry on its head and are playing an ever increasing role in the reputation of companies.  And yes, newspapers and magazines and radio and Cable TV are struggling mightily against the tsunami of new media challengers.

But to declare old media dead before its time?  Well, it's just not right, if for no other reason that coverage in  old media channels just might keep you in your job for a while longer, and that's worth much more than any number of tweets.  "No CEO will want to frame their Twitter stream or blog postings...a CEO values the validation that coverage in a newspaper or magazine provides," says Brian Kennedy of Allen and Caron.

In terms of integrated public relations campaigns, old media can and should co-exist with the plethora of opportunities provided by new media.  I believe the facts and the opinions and experiences of PR practitioners bear this out.

At 3Point, we believe in the intersection of traditional media and new media. Maybe that's why so many tweets include references to traditional media articles.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Will the Cloud Save Journalism?

Do you ever struggle with defining the line between content and news?
I could justify the blurring border easily if I look only through my commercial lenses. But that seems self defeating, because the question ultimately brings into play the foundation of democracy:  What happens to the press' role as the Fourth Estate when the news media experiences the kind of rapid decline we've witnessed over the past decade?  
The emerging void in journalism should worry all of us. The Project for Excellence in Journalism's recent annual "State of the News Media 2010" report, indicated 5,900 newspaper jobs were lost in 2009 (in addition to a similar number in 2008). The overall impact is a 33% reduction in newsroom employment at newspapers since 2001.  In the same time, there have been 450 jobs lost at local TV news operations.  We've seen major dailies shutter their doors and major news magazines like Newseek placed on the auction block.  We've seen this offset with an incredible number of bloggers -- only a handful of whom are legitimate journalists.  But can a disaggregated array of bloggers -- many of whom represent corporate interests rather than independent, objective journalists -- serve as the new Fourth State?  And if not, what is THEIR role? 

Not surprisingly to regular readers of this blog, we believe the cloud will serve a valuable function in rebuilding the Fourth Estate, enabling the high costs of printing, publishing and physical distribution to be contained while restructuring advertising models. We see an interesting new vision that integrates journalism and neojournalism in projects like Newsflash from Future News: What Will Journalism Look Like?published last year by the design experts at IDEO.  We see exciting possibilities for media in new technologies like HP's MagCloud, and we see user friendly delivery systems emerging with the new generation of eReaders like Apple's iPad and Amazon's Kindle. Technologies and ideas like these involve audiences, diversify content, expand ideas, accelerate the creation and delivery of information into a continuous two-way stream and provide us with relatively familiar formats for accessing information with the touch of an icon regardless of where we are in the world.  

But journalism doesn't exist without journalists. The question that worries us most is whether news media can shed the crushing costs of traditional brick and mortar publishing overhead and embrace these new models fast enough to begin reinvesting in their depleted editorial staffs?  

Image reprinted from Newsflash from Future News: What Will Journalism Look Like? © 2009, IDEO 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Cloud Apps Come Up Short In Support Of Globally Ambitious Small Business

As a small business, 3Point Communications has embraced the cloud-based applications and has enjoyed many benefits such as lower costs and easy, anywhere, anytime access. Many lists of excellent tools, of which many are subscription-based or pay as you go, for small business are readily available, including this list from Refocusing Technology that covers applications that help with communications and administrative functions for small business.

With lower barriers to entry and enablement by cloud applications, Going Global is a dream of many small businesses. Business can reach customers where ever in the world they happen live and work. Laurel Delaney, CEO of, recently penned an article which contains some solid ideas on how to expand business abroad. Tools like Skype and Gmail make it easy to stay connected with customers and partners, and there are many applications for sharing information and collaborating, such as Google Docs.

However, cloud-based applications fall short in supporting small businesses that seek to actually establish operations abroad. Selling products via the internet to customers internationally is one thing, but the complexities of establishing a base outside the U.S. requires a level of sophistication that apparently many vendors have yet to solve.

3Point Communications is on a path to expand internationally itself this year, and we have hoped to leverage cloud applications to help run our business, achieving cost savings and the flexibility that SaaS applications afford. Structurally we are geographically diverse, with associates spread across the country, collaborating daily via various cloud apps. And, as our teams are increasingly multinational, we need internet-based applications to enable easy input and access for team members wherever they happen to be.

Unfortunately, as we move to create a presence in both Europe and Asia, we have encountered limitations to some of the applications we use. Time tracking and accounting software are two areas where significant improvements could be made. For example, QuickbooksOnline, which we have successfully and happily used to manage the company's finances, does not accommodate multiple currencies.

In our business, we need to track time priced at local hourly rates in local currencies and consolidated into single currencies to invoice clients. Currently QuickbooksOnline is unable to accommodate this.

Some same limitations are found with time tracking software such as Freshbooks which states on its website “Every customer should look like a Fortune 500 company, based on the image sent by invoices, bills, or other accounting communications, no matter what size the company is.”
This is not quite so, as in the case of the small business who wishes to send a consolidated invoice covering activities in multiple countries, for multiple currencies, Freshbooks is not able to comply as Freshbooks can only support one currency at a time. So, all employees regardless of location would need to use a mutual currency or each employee would need to manually convert the hourly rates from local currency to the rate billed to the client. An unnecessary loss of time.

This may sound picky and certainly not all business would require the same level of capability, and I am assuming that most vendors are focusing on products for the domestic market. However, there are companies like 3Point out there that have ambitions beyond the borders of the U.S.

We will continue to audit applications that we can utilize with our business and will pass along our thoughts through this blog. Please provide us comments to this post and any leads to great small business applications.