Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Another Sign of the Apocolypse

Internet advertising purported to exceed television advertising spending in the UK, according to Mashable.

OK, but how much advertising is available to spend with the BBC regulation of the medium? Don't know if that undercuts the validity of the data.

Could be like saying spending by cigarette manufacturers on NASCAR exceeds American television back when the Winston Cup was sponsored. But that was because advertising was banned on TV.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Brave New (J-School) World

Catching up on my Chronicle's while the NWACC class takes a test, I'm struck by two quotes in the Sept. 25 edition's story on the re-invigoration of J-School thru new media.

Michael Bugeja of Iowa State:
"Too often, when the technology is overemphasised in the curriculum, it gives the impression that you can do journalism sitting down in your pajamas. You can't do that."

I agree with the first half of that quote, but I've done some of my best work in pajamas; and on behalf of the great unwashed, a lot of important stuff overlooked or tut-tutted away by trained journalists has become rather significant. Let's chalk that one up, perhaps, to a well-intentioned thought that got away in the process of becoming part of an article.

Christopher Harper of Temple
"There's not a great future in working in mainstream media. The future is for smart, hard-working students to band together, create their own media and make a business out of it -- and that's what a lot of them are doing."

Some may, or may not, be wearing PJs.

Enrollment is up across the country, and I'm a little concerned about why. As one prof in the piece noted, leaving with $30K in student debt doesn't make sense for a $25K intro local reporting job.

Let me be clear, Bugeja is spot on -- when university becomes nothing more than an Adobe certification training center, well, we're toast in two ways. First, you're teaching a specific tool, not concepts. What happens when the whole thing changes again? Second -- and I've pointed this out repeatedly -- when the heart of the program is vocational -- teaching a task or skill -- it stops being a curriculum.

Finding that balance between the classic skills and adapting them to the current technology is the trick.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hey Steve Jobs

3.1 software for the iPhone -- it blows.

Watched three colleagues have the full restore; now I'm getting the full restore.

More like getting the full Monty.

I like the phone, but this constant jerking around the software components -- from the 7.x windows crash special in iTunes, the rapid patch to 8.1 and the same total rebuild to get to ready on 3.0 iPhone.

At least this time I saw it coming. Got to go, my phone just ate it again.

Thanks again.

Moving to the Present Tense

Getting into the moment is difficult when your past has been providing coverage. However the internet increasingly is a here and now medium, with a hint of the future. To that end, we're trying to adapt to more live events, more original digital and more posting created to emphasize what's "on" right now.

Good example this weekend was having what we'd call advance stories in the past going live on game day morning, or having a re-write with a focus on today. I'm finding the reflexive action of putting up the advance when it's sent out on the media list and as a "promo" for a game tomorrow or the next day leading to a frustration from website users that come to the page wanting to know what is going on today.

Simplistic as it seems, we need more of a network vibe. Maybe part of the answer in our upcoming rebuild is going to an "on the air" button that toggles on when there is either streaming or home event activity that would redirect a person to a live event or game day central.

Changing mindsets begin at the base level. Write present and active prose, you'll tend to think present and active. Nothing grinds more than one of these "the MascotHere TeamName will be hosting OpponentHere" ledes. Simply and presentize (oh, that's bad slang): "MascotHere TeamName hosts OpponentHere."

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Game Day Remote

Working our way through the first road football game in our new arrangements. Appreciate the feedback via blog and Twitter on what to do when you're not in the press box. The consensus was on SNW, the given is not being there isn't the negative it would be in the traditional media days.

That said, I can't see going full bore blog without being on the ground. We will keep our distant Twitter fans updated, and handle all the postgame posting from here at the worldwide HQ of the the Hogs.

For those scoring, 3950+ Twitter followers, 22K+ Facebook and almost 7,000 iHog downloads -- not a bad starting point.

NYT on Tebow's World

One wonders at what point will be become bored with SNW. When the titillation of coed trying to get her topless picture with Tim Tebow is such a yawn that they stop trying.

For his and the rest of college athletics stars, I hope it's soon. The New York Times recently ran an eye-opening piece (College Stars Run for Cover from Fans' Hidden Cameras) that makes you ponder the apocalypse:

While shopping recently at RadioShack, Florida quarterback Tim Tebow was approached by a woman with a seemingly innocuous request to take a picture with him. But an instant before her mother snapped the photo with a cell phone camera, the woman tried to take off her shirt.

Um, that's right, before her mother took the picture . . . .

I keep hoping, like the streaking craze, this will pass. Kind of a milder version of the movie, Murder.Com, but as long as we keep clicking in to look, they will keep trying to post more and more lurid things.

Folks, let's keep it in perspective. Even if they are the head personalities of multi-million dollar athletic programs, and the focus of the hopes and dreams of the YourMascotNameHere Nation, they are nominally amateurs, college students and somebody's son/daughter/significant other.

Well, maybe not Tebow.

Tebow said that he could not go on a date because pictures would be on the Internet in 10 minutes.

That's a sad commentary on the fan base in general. Give these kids some space. You had it when you were in school.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Film Validates

Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reinvigorates the old chestnut of a picture being worth a thousand words as he discusses the recent episode of takedown journalism practiced against a standing American institution.

His two word catch phrase about the relationship between writing and imaging: film validates.

The editorial is quality, drawing on his own experience during the civil rights movement of how no matter the articles, it was the disturbing photographs during the Little Rock Nine and other events like Bull Conner's televised police riot.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Original Pay Wall

With more media outlets considering the return of subscription models for on-line content, I am reminded of this very simple picture.

The door of the newsbox is the original pay wall. You paid your quarter, you got your content. At no time was the news "free" from the traditional newspaper, even with advertising support.

PR Gesture at Best

There are two proposals before the NCAA regarding collegiate press guides, one from the SEC to remove the media guide from the permissible items; one from the Pac-10 to eliminate media guides.

One of the proposals is workable; one of them is fantasy.

Guess which is which?

There is a place for paper in everyone's media strategy, and anyone who thinks that paper will go away simply has not been reading the studies. Paper consumption continues to rise, and the creation of "e-media" guides will not stop that.

Colleges that have dropped their media guides unilaterally have that right. They chose their strategy. What they should not have is the ability to compel others to follow their path.

At almost every school in Division I, printing costs are less than one percent of the overall athletic budget. That number isn't thrown out when the tens of thousands in "savings" are touted.

These are a pair of good articles through the NCAA to cover the various points in the debate, but let me add a few here.

Media relations isn't going to see its time saved by not putting out media guides. Who in the world do you think is going to have to keep up that old print-based file AND the on-line edition? Twice the work for a while. The perpetual media guide also brings its own tremendous difficulties.

The costs for quality new media are sometimes an order of magnitude greater than print. They are a time sink. They can be a money pit. And good luck coming up with effective limits in this area as the genie is well out of the bottle.

Carbon footprint? Costed out those servers, computers, etc?

How exactly does one "ban" media guides? If we decide to create printed almanacs to keep up with our critical records, will that somehow be illegal? What about the growing market for the athletic department annual report? What is a media guide, and what is an annual or yearbook created for fans?

Do we really want to cede the specialty printing market to third parties? If the Pac-10 rule passes, many institutions -- this one included -- stands to lose. Right now, we have a paid circulation of 10,350 for a football guide, thanks to the Razorback Foundation gift system. Many other schools pay for a large portion of their total printing budget through the sale of only football guides.

If we support the SEC proposal -- removing the media guide from the permissible list for recruits -- the whole canard of the recruiting media guide ends. But schools can continue to produce the printed materials either their fan base desires (and pays for) or their media needs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Why I Love Solitaire

As a child, I sat at the the kitchen table with my grandmother while she passed the time with solitaire. She taught me to play her two versions of the game, one she called "Christmas tree" and her unusual version of the regular game.

To this day, there is no portable device I've owned that I didn't find a way to acquire the game. On the airplane, standing in lines, when there is a spare moment -- pop out the solitaire.

I was thinking yesterday why I had such a enjoyment for a game that is ultimately stacked against you. I realized it is the perfect game for media relations people. Why? You know that nine times out of 10 you cannot win the game. The goal is to do the best you can with the cards you've been dealt.

This is why I really love the game. It is a perfect exercise in making the best of what is presented.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Not Just College Athletes

Following up on Sunday's local Twitter event, we share with the group this from Sports Info Business and the unfortunate series comments by Washington Redskins rookie linebacker Robert Henderson. Henderson is winding up the fans with some direct to followers comments regarding the motivation of "half hearted Skins fans."

Sports Info Business hits the mark with the catch line "Twitter=Microphone." Nothing in the media training for NFL teams would lead even a rookie to think the kind of comments Henderson had would be OK to a reporter's recording device.

The difference as we've tried to emphasis in social media -- you are your own editor, and there is no one you can blame for misquoting. I think that "Twitter=Microphone" line has perfect pitch.

Read more at the Sports Info Business blog.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Thanks for the Kind Comments

Via our sports marketing prof Steve Dittmore here at UA, this post from Ultimate Sports Insider, which is Michael Cross, the executive associate AD at Princeton.

The Three P's

Burst of energy after a long week heading up to the first Fayetteville football game, but this one came to me in the customary place -- the shower -- this morning.

Our jobs are radically changing, but I see the new roles emerging for the college sports publicity expert falling into three areas:

Promotion -- Protection -- Preservation

Uh, where's the publicity? It's a mind-set that I'm afraid is trapping the current best of practice in the old "SID" world. Going out and seeking publicity, frankly, isn't that hard. Working the phones, writing a few press releases -- that's very 20th century now.

I'm favoring promotion. Creating the publicity release remains a staple, but one has to be ready to promote the story within your own media vehicles, get it to your traditional media followers, cross index and link it within social media settings.

The publicity message may be written, but it's likely encompassing of two or more media formats -- visual still, visual motion, audio, streaming, data form.

Last night, I had management of the two Twitter feeds and a live blog. At the same time, I needed to be ready to finish our "AP" style game story, create and link to it our statistical reports and presentations (the data), coordinate with our video folks for the postgame capture of the coach's press conference, link it with the replays of the game in audio and video, PLUS send out links to participatory media sites, email some of this material to legacy media groups.

Today I needed to make sure we were moving forward with our youth initiative by getting in coloring entries and pushing out the new ones, check with my graphic art student about the next wallpapers for this week's game.

All of this in pursuit of promoting our football team. A long way from writing the game story and faxing a box score.

What about protect? Here's the traditional public relations director part of our jobs that we have not done as aggressive a job in promoting the skill set associated with a trained media director. It is the obvious -- protecting the integrity of the brand you work with, having crisis plans ready and being willing to use them, having a sense of the public by using metrics to gather meta data but also an ability to sort that for the relevant anecdotal evidence.

This is one reason why I created the panel at this past summer's CoSIDA Convention with Lou Marciani from National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security. The SIDs were on the outside of the Incident Command looking in, and I hope there are some other members of our profession who will volunteer to staff up a CoSIDA committee on this very important part of our jobs.

To that end -- how many of you are involved right now in your institutions' H1N1 business continuation plans, FEMA or campus mandate emergency plans?

The last P could be the longest lasting because if we don't Preserve the records, the images, the data, the recordings of our institution's activities; we will wake up one day in the future and discover that the legacy of a great event or moment has literally disappeared.

Everything we do is some mix of these 3 Ps -- usually it's in the order above, but get into crisis mode and promotion can take a fast back seat to protection and preservation.

As usual, the board is open for comments.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Those Who Want the Policies

We've had more than a few people in the business seeking copies of our social networking policies. There are three parts -- a SNW policy for student-athletes, a SNW policy for staff and coaches and a confidential and proprietary information (CPI) policy that applies to all.

Send emails to my university account and we'll send them back to you.

Guilt by Twitter

Followers of the blog know that impact of social networking on athletes is a main subject, and I am sure many of you were waiting for comment regarding our own situation here at Arkansas.

Obviously, the coaches and department had to run their course, and those that have kept up in the media know we have not commented on names specifically. I'll honor that here, and say that when it is your school involved, you may not be as free to comment as when it is another.

Here's the extent of what I'm comfortable with today -- we had an athlete make an unfortunate comment on a social networking website. I have not spoken with him directly, but I believe that given what happened, he would just as soon take it back.

Regrettably, on Twitter, that's not possible.

Going back to 2004's presentation, I have preached (and that's an accurate verb choice) that once posted, always available. All that got in the way of recovering previous posts, memos, emails, photos stored on-line, etc., was the amount of forensic skill required.

Since it is a very text message oriented interface, the recovery skill needed to get old Tweets is zero. Three or four websites will do it for you.

For my fellow college media relations professionals, I cannot stress to you enough the need to get that message across to your student-athletes, your coaches, your administrators, your spokespersons. Think not twice, but thrice, before Tweeting. You really can't take it back.

This is not to say that it was not appropriate to remove an offensive or mistaken Tweet (I've done that when I've gotten a score or fact wrong). Just know that anyone can get it, and now you've got two questions to answer -- why did you Tweet that, and all the circumstances around why you removed it.

That's a technical point. What I wanted to implore you to also make sure your student-athletes understand is this cautionary tale from Arkansas. One young man who made a comment was not by all accounts involved in the event he commented upon. But because he did, virtually everyone falsely accused him of participation. He is now guilty by Tweet.

There has been plenty of follow-up coverage on this issue in our regional media, but the fact remains that with some who may have dropped the story after it first broke may still think this individual was involved; not simply a commentator.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wondering Out Loud

Last night, I posed a pair of thoughts to my Twitter feed regarding "tweet-iqutte" on news. Is it considered permissible to remotely report via a feed?

This follows on some Jay Rosen items in which the noted NYU scholar appears to support the idea that there's no such thing as journalism in the real-time medium; that it is source material which lacks the analysis to be labeled as reportage.

I got several quick responses to the questions -- should you tweet something if you're not there and should you re-tweet texts you received from events -- and those have led me into another direction from my original line of thinking. (And, I sincerely thank those guys for the feedback.)

Pure Age of Cronkite Journalism (yeah, old time hockey; Eddie Shore!) would say its not permissible to sit back at the newsroom and listen to the game on the radio and write a game story; particularly with an on-site byline. Certainly, the professional leagues remain committed to the concept ( . . . the descriptions of this telecast may not be used without the expressed written consent . . . ).

Fast-forward to the participatory media of today, which appears to urinate on Eddie Shore to keep a cliche rolling. Fans gather together on message boards to interact on what they are seeing. Our sports management prof at the UA, Steve Ditmore, makes a good point about Twitter -- its a gathering for a conversation.

On to part two question, which is that I cannot be at road soccer and home volleyball at the same time. Yet our feed provides updates from both, thanks to staff members who are texting the info back. Does that make an athletic department's official feed a kind of AP for its teams, the central clearinghouse for updates?

Next weekend, I obviously won't be in Tuscaloosa, and it doesn't seem appropriate to do a live blog off the television for our football game. Or is it? Am I stuck back with Reggie Dunlap trying to recreate a golden age of information that has passed?

An inquiring mind wants to know.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

But Explain the Apples

Jay Rosen earlier in the week repeated a nifty little meme he picked up about Twitter: calling it journalism is like calling the Farmer's Market a restaurant.

On first pass, I found that interesting. A point well made -- don't confuse the finished product of well-reasoned, carefully assembled high-end journalism with the rapid fire individual info bombs of the medium.

Then with a couple of days worth of reflection -- the very thing Rosen was saying there should be more of in this info world -- I believe I'll call Bill Smith.

What about the apples? Sometimes, the food you get at the Downtown Fayetteville Farmer's Market is perfect without any adornment.

There is place for real-time reporting -- occasionally it is all you need. Doing it well, keeping the story moving, providing context as an event unfolds; this is genuine journalism work.

Do you remember who Herb Morrison was? I'll admit to googling his name to make the point.

Let's turn it around. Do you remember "oh the humanity"?

So wasn't Herb a journalist performing real-time reporting for all time?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Obviously, Busy

A quick note -- as many of you may have read, we're having a SNW event right here at Arkansas.

I'll ask your patience until this is resolved.

In the meantime, I'll repeat an important piece of advice I have given in many a presentation -- in our digital world on-line; once posted, always available somewhere.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Interesting Perspective on Reality

Buried deep inside G. Anthony Gorry's essay on Empathy in the Virtual World in The Chronicle of Higher Ed was a pair of interesting passages.

"Digital technology has fostered a radical egalitarianism that has displace the authorities that were traditionally empowered to cultivate and guide our feelings for one another. It has made Muses of us all."

At first blush, Gorry stands in fear of Robespierre and the storming of society's Bastille. His piece at the same time laments the dissolving of hierarchy, bordering on a fear of the masses. It berates "a flood of fragments, which can inform us of much but can teach us little."

That bit is just titillation for kicker:

"Will false identities free us to conceal our intentions, to pursue our own selfish interests more aggressively? It would be deeply distressing if digital technology, which offers so many opportunities for liberation, liberated some of our worst inclinations and behaviors from existing social restraints."

Without saying it, Gorry helps support my longstanding position that screen names feed the worst in behaviors; we say and do things we might never do without the purported mast of anonymity. We inevitably regret those things when that mask is torn away, and identities revealed.

It is a far better world in which we allow each other to have opinions, including strong ones, rather than the skulking about in the shadows of pseudonym, rumor and innuendo.

Regrettably, our society is more inclined to support that type of behavior than respect an honest disagreement; to enable sniping over the duel.

Gorry closes with another meme that I could not pass up:

"We may have to jettison old habits of thought and avoid a debilitating yearning for the past. As McLuhan argued, we cannot drive into the future looking in the rear view mirror. But we can remember the road we have traveled. Our traditions embody much from our past that is important to our society, and we should find them anchros in the digital flood."

Reminds me of some earlier posts on the future of journalism teaching (on creative destruction | Jay Rosen weighs in | John Dvorak's take | the iMedia concept at WKU) -- honor the past, but stride confidently into the future.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Considering Future Initiatives

First week of football season consumes a lot of time, and it refocuses one's attention on the immediacy of tasks at hand. One of those tasks is building out staff to meet the growing needs of new media at our school -- and thinking about what that means globally.

Of the major athletic conferences, the Big 10 and the SEC currently have the most elaborate and far-reaching rights and networking arrangements. Both limit what the institution can do, some things directly and some things by sheer efficiency.

Taking a nod from our colleagues at Big 10 websites, I can foresee more original digital content needed for SEC members with the debut this past weekend of the SEC Digital Network. For several years, a staple of most websites was football game replays. The new SEC system can mount the replay faster and more efficiently than we can hope to achieve. This isn't to say we won't continue to have that replay, but it shows us that our production efforts are better spent in other areas.

Speaking of, we are looking for a few good interns to begin to learn the process of new media production and have advertised as such on campus. Just as in the past where interested students would come by the SID office, now we look for those same motivated individuals to become part of production units doing switching and graphics. I've got a few in hand to sort, and thankfully its an open week.

Monday, September 07, 2009


I've got one word for you, son.



Call it the plastics of the 21st century. As work begins for the next generation of official website here at Arkansas, what I'm most struck by in looking at ourselves and peers is the inability to get what you want, when you want it.

Every coach, every fan, every administrator has their own point of view, dare I say agenda. No one's website is working unless the sport, the athlete, the story of their interest isn't front and center whenever they come to the site.

This is an impossibility to achieve in the two-dimensional Flatland of the HTML/CSS based world. Even difficult in the layered new interfaces using Air.

So I'm starting to turn my attention back to something basic -- as in improved search. What if on the front page, the most important, most prominent part of the website was the search bar -- thus putting the end user one, perhaps two, steps away from what they want at any time?

Crazy in college athletics? Maybe. But what is the primary part of the most used interfaces for our target groups -- recruits and fans? Facebook, iTunes, Google, even Bing. And what's at the heart of all of them -- search.

More thoughts later.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Today's Update on the Merger

More details on the end of the media world as we know it in the Northwest Arkansas.

The Morning News' story || Northwest Arkansas Times || Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

The perspectives are very similar, but there seems to be quite a bit of subtext as one would suspect.

Fond Memories of North Little Rock

Strolling through the lobby space of the now Wyndham in North Little Rock, I remember what's now a quarter century ago when this was the Hilton. A young senior journalism student and his fiancee made their way to the regional Sigma Delta Chi/Society of Professional Journalists convention. Picking up a pair of first place awards -- one for photography, one for sports column writing -- and thinking the gig as the sports editor of the twice-a-week Ouachita Citizen could last forever.

I don't remember the column, but I still have the picture. It was of a white student manager at one of our hometown high schools, reaching out his hand to console an inconsolable black football player sitting on the bench. Monroe had been desegregated not quite a half a generation in the high schools when that picture was taken, and it had special emotional meaning. Here was a young kid, maybe 10 years old, who clearly idolized the player and hurt for him in the way we do when our heroes have come up short; a scene that could not have taken place a decade earlier.

That picture is journalism at its best, and a reason why I still take time to write this blog on the changes in the field. It's also why I've gone to bat to help create a program that might inspire and instruct the next senior, who can head to the SPJ (no longer any SDX) to take that award home, maybe in new media rather than newspaper.

We'll see how that works out. Change is difficult.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

And So the War Ends

First it was Little Rock, then it was Northwest Arkansas, but this morning it appears that the final battle of the great, decades long newspaper war in our state has come to an end.

Earlier today, postings of the decisions to approach the Justice Department to clear what essentially is a semi-hostile takeover. It reminds me of the last time such happened -- it was the Northwest Arkansas Times that was to be purchased by then still Springdale News, but intervention in a suiter and a lawsuit from Benton County Daily Record (if memory serves) put that one off.

This time, expect no white knight to ride to the rescue. Typical of our part of the world, however, as we mourn the passing of one of our competing newspapers. More than a few other towns pine for the loss of their only paper -- alas Ann Arbor.

Our Newspaper Market Just Got Interesting

Breaking news locally, the two major newspaper groups announced after staff meetings this morning a plan to create a single regional entity.

Where this could impact the university is a overall reduction of reporters assigned to "state" beats like the Razorbacks.

As they say, developing . . .

Stephens version || Wehco version

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

We All Make Mestakes

Funny when it isn't you, and all of us in the business can sympathize: Dept of Ed media alert to schoochilren.