WHAT THE HELL ARE THE BOSSES OF THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE THINKING? (IF THEY’RE THINKING AT ALL!)

Files under General | May 29th

Extra, extra, extra!

Fasten your seat belts.

I have amazing news for you.

This morning, I had a telephone call from a young reporter from The New York Times.

She said that they were working on a story about the new masthead of the International Herald Tribune.

“I read your comments in your blog and I would like to ask you some questions,” she said.

“Well, what do you want to know?” I said.

“Just, why do you hate the new masthead so much?”

Wait a minute, dear, I don’t have problems with mastheads …

What’s more, readers are blind to them.

But do a redesign as a consultant and you will find that the owners, the CEO, the publisher and the editors will spend 80% of their time with you discussing — the masthead!

That’s everywhere.

All the time.

What really matters to readers, and journalists, I suppose, is what goes inside the paper …

Not the neon signs outside.

And the same is happening here.

You have a paper (as all of you know, the IHT is owned by the NYT) that is in crisis.

In a big crisis.

For many years.

Losing money.

Losing readers.

Losing advertising.

Losing market share …

And what your bosses do?

Play with the masthead, killing the old logo …

Is this the solution for these dramatic problems?

Is this part of a smart editorial or business strategy for the future?

No.

Not at all.

And this is my point: the logo question is a distraction.

A silly thing.

Just cosmetics.

Pure decoration.

Like moving the chairs on a sinking Titanic.

Something irrelevant when you need to confront big challenges in a newspaper like the IHT whose time is gone because the Internet is killing all these international editions from last century.

They don’t make sense anymore…

The New York Times reporter was silent, so… I went on and on for more than 30 minutes.

Then, in a very soft voice, she said to me very nicely:

“Did you see the American flag in the old logo?”

“What American flag are you talking about?” I asked her.

“The American flag that was in the old logo … do you think that without the flag the paper will be more accepted in places that hate us today?”

WHAT????

(Now is the time for you, my dear reader, to scroll to the top of this post and see the old masthead and look at the details of the old logo, because I am 100 percent sure that you never paid any attention to, yes, the American flag!).

“Look,” I said to the reporter, “This is getting worse: I didn’t realize that there was an American flag there, so one minute, let me check …”

“Oh yes, holy shit!”

“So, you are killing the logo for this reason?”

Silence.

Well, as you can see, I said readers are blind to logos …

But we are mentally sound enough to realize that your bosses are insane.

If they think that the American flag is the problem to their circulation crisis … these guys must be fired.

On the spot.

And shame on them!

I don’t know if the story is ever going to be published.

She said that she was going to send me a message by e-mail and I have not received any more news from her …

Yes, I know. This has not been a very good day for Journalism 101.

I started this morning with a front-page fiasco around the world … then things improved when I found the Al Neuharth article about the crisis of the U.S. newspaper industry … and now before I go to sleep, I have to tell you this amazing story.

What a day!

Well tomorrow, before I leave for Sweden to speak at the World Newspaper Congress and the World Editors Forum, I am going to have lunch in New York with Jeff Jarvis.

So be ready for more depressing news about the state of our industry because Jeff is a media fighter.

A really good one!

 



IT SEEMS THAT THE U.S. NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY NEEDS A NEW BREED OF S.O.B. PUBLISHERS

Files under General | May 29th

Al Neuharth writes:

On 225th birthday, newspapers dying?

“The report of my death is an exaggeration.”

- Mark Twain to the New York Journal, 1897

The first daily newspaper in the United States was born 225 years ago this week.

The triweekly Pennsylvania Evening Post in Philadelphia became a daily on May 30, 1783.

Since then, most cities or small towns across the country have had their own daily or weekly newspaper.

Currently, 1,422 dailies and 6,253 weeklies are being published.

Sure, the slumping economy has made times a little tough for them.

But most still have profit margins well above most other businesses.

Exaggerated “obits,” a la Mark Twain’s, are being peddled mostly by newspapers themselves.

When semiannual circulation figures were released recently, newspapers headlined slight losses among eight of the top 10.

But little or no attention was given papers that are growing.

Examples:

• USA TODAY, the nation’s largest, increased to 2,284,219 daily circulation. It has shown gains every year in its 25-year history.

• The No. 2 Wall Street Journal gained to 2,069,463.

Under new owner/boss Rupert Murdoch, it’s the most improved newspaper in the country and likely to show significant sharp future increases.

• A dozen other newspapers with circulations of 50,000 or more had gains ranging from 1.21 percent to 7.61 percent, including in Baton Rouge, La.; Cincinnati; Mobile, Ala.; Munster, Ind.; San Jose, Calif.; Seattle and Trenton, N.J.

Importantly, newspaper owners and editors have embraced the Internet and now are 24/7 providers of news, information, entertainment and advertising.

The hunger for all that is greater than ever in history.

That’s why newspaper-oriented media companies have a bright future.

So, if you’re a news junkie, you’ll probably continue to get everything you’ve been getting from your newspaper.

And more.

Al Neuharth, founder of USA TODAY

(Via 20lexeis)

Oh, boy, I love this guy!

I love Al.

He deserves a lot of credit now that U.S. newspapers are looking for solutions to their problems.

But, of course, what Al doesn’t say in his sharp column is a very simple fact.

USA Today and The Wall Street Journal are NOT typical U.S. newspapers.

They are the exceptions.

If USA Today were the creation of an S.O.B. (as he calls himself in his own memoirs), the WSJ is being rescued by another publisher who many will call by the same, or worse, words.

So, perhaps what we need here are more S.O.B.s and more innovators.

Like Al and “Rupert the Red.”



THE FACEBOOK REVOLUTION IN TURKEY

Files under General | May 29th

I am fascinated by Facebook.

But what’s more impressive is how big it is becoming … outside the U.S.

Let me explain.

If you go to my Facebook friends, mainly in Europe and America, and almost all media people, you won’t find one of us with more than a few dozen “friends.” Today, though, I added my friend Omer Erdem to my list and I found that he has more than 300 friends — and 90% of them are in Turkey!



WHAT TO DO ON YOUR FRONT PAGE WHEN YOU HAVE SUCH GREAT PICTURES?

Files under General | May 29th

After today’s depressing, boring and dull front pages…

A poor, but funny, U.S. President becomes a great picture subject.

Look at these hilarious pictures.

What I cannot understand is why only a few U.S. newspapers displayed them on their front pages.

And look what a difference it makes when you use them piled and buried in a typical standard-size page compared to a tabloid-size newspaper like the Rocky Mountain News’ “Hi Mom.”

What a contrast!



WHAT IF WE START THE REVOLUTION BY KILLING BORING FRONT PAGES?

Files under General | May 29th

The newspapers of the future?

The future of newspapers?

Well, let’s start the revolution, as Mao said, with one first step.

And my “revolutionary” suggestion is very easy:

No more boring front pages.

After we do that, we can do more, of course, but this is very crucial.

Many of today’s front pages around the world are just …

Boring.

Dull.

Depressing.

Garbage.

Yes, real garbage.

Who does this terrible job at these newspapers?

These front page editors or designers must be fired.

On the spot!

This is what is killing our industry.

Not the Internet.

Not Google.

Not MySpace.

Not television.

Not radio.

Us!

Our poor news judgment.

Our lack of visual journalism.

Our boring, dull and depressing front pages.

Look at these ones just from today:

Perhaps you can do this in New York …

But not in Puerto Rico…

Hillary is going to sunny Puerto Rico and they select a picture of her with a winter coat.

What the hell is this?

Who writes these creative headlines?

“Crucial vote”?

Are you kidding me?

A green cover.

Yes, green fields.

So you know, they are green.

Yes, green.

Something really new.

Yes, a very compelling way to wake up your readers.

With things.

Like fields.

But what about us?

What about people?

What about real persons?

What about emotions?

What about human-interest stories?

What about passion?

What about humor?

Anything but front pages with nothing to say!

Are you ready for more surprises?

Well, look at this tremendous front page:

More green.

With politicians!

Posing politicians.

Is this a shocking picture?

Not really.

It’s a boring one.

Who cares about them except their PR-spin people?

But, wait a minute, please, I have more, worse stuff to show to you.

Look at this!

Yes, yes, more politicians!

Happy ones.

Smiling, but not too much.

Happy to know each other.

We are so fortunate to see them … shaking hands.

What a unique picture!

A Pulitzer winner for sure.

Readers in Shanghai must be rushing right now to get a copy of this paper.

Definitely a collectors’ issue — for how bad a newspaper front page can be, my friends.

But, again, wait, wait, I have more wonders of the world.

Now from Belgium:

A front page with just words!

Words.

Words.

Words.

In the most visual, multimedia, and graphic century of human history, a newspaper book front page!

Again, readers must be really excited in Belgium.

This must be a sell-out issue …

But if you are not interested in just words, here is a paper for you:

Well, green is the color of the day.

In Belgium, too.

In a popular newspaper, the readers are offered no pictures, but instead get this dramatic, compelling, unique and outstanding graphic …

They need to enter this front page at the International Malofiej Infographics Awards … and win the worst graphic of the year.

What a shame!

Let me finish with three different front pages, all of them from the same country, and all of them also from today.

They are not exceptional, but quite good compared with all that previous garbage.

And it shows different approaches to make your paper more appealing.

First, this one that goes from the front to the back:

Second, this one from Salzburg, that promotes reader’s pictures.

A front page done with the partnership of an advertiser — and audiences, readers and advertisers, will be happy with this poster today:

And third, this simple, but elegant, interesting and well-done infographic.

So let’s hire these Austrian front page editors.

They are doing quite a bit better than the rest of us:

And now a final word.

I just wanted to be funny … but, I’m sorry, this is a very serious issue:

We are failing daily to engage, connect and involve readers and advertisers — our CLIENTS! — with our front pages.

And our daily front pages are our best marketing tool.

And it’s not just a design question.

Sometimes they are very bad because they don’t have real news or real stories to tell us.

That’s the problem.

The solution?

Hard news.

Amazing stories.

Great pictures.

Smart graphics.

Good headlines.

Journalism.

Just journalism, my dear.

Journalism.

Period.

That has been and always will be the real revolution.

The future of newspapers.

And the newspapers of the future.

Let’s not be confused.



FRESH COFFEE, FRESH NEWS

Files under General | May 28th

More Flickr pictures from a worldwide morning tradition.

Coffee & news.

Fresh and warm.

If you cannot live without your daily coffee …

You will not be able to live without your daily newspaper.



COFFEE AND NEWSPAPERS

Files under General | May 28th

The saga continues with more images from Flickr about coffee and newspapers.

A fantastic and warm relationship with no boundary.

From California to Norway.

From Germany to England.

Please send me your own pictures of this daily ritual.




AND NOW, ROB CURLEY AND THE GOOD NEWS FROM LAS VEGAS …

Files under General | May 27th

Rob Curley is a very nice guy.

I met him just once.

Last year, both of us were speakers at the same Canadian Newspaper Publishers conference.

After his terrific presentation, I invited him to run a “Day with Rob Curley” in our periodic Harvard one-day seminars for our best clients.

Unfortunately, his crazy job prevented any assurance about any specific date too much in advance, and the one-day seminar idea didn’t work even though he was willing to do it.

So today when I read the news of his departure from The Washington Post, I was very sad.

Here we have another online news pioneer leaving a first-class newspaper company at the time that the elephants need a lot of of Rob Curleys.

Minutes after I posted my “bad news” comment, I got a nice message from Rob wanting to talk.

And he called very soon to tell me the full story.

As I said to him, I am not interested in the inside politics of the Post, but in a more global and disturbing trend: why so many Rob Curleys are leaving big newspapers and going … to new “pure digital media projects” (like Mario Tascon from Prisacom, Gumersindo Lafuente from El Mundo or Juan Varela from ADN in Spain in the last few months).

The good news here is that Rob is not leaving the newspaper industry, and he has two interesting remarks:

First, at a small newspaper, you don’t have too many layers of bureaucracy and things are done and implemented on the spot.

He likes this.

He was raised in this culture and he expects this way of life in Las Vegas.

Second, if you do great things at a big paper, other papers will say: “Yes, it’s great but we don’t have the resources, talent and visionaries that the big guys have.”

So, going to the Las Vegas Sun, Rob told me, is going to be great because no one will have any excuse not to do it.

If the Las Vegas Sun can do it, anybody can do it …

Well, I said to Rob, if the Las Vegas Sun is a rich family-owned company that has just hired some of the most talented new media people in the country, then it is not the standard local U.S. newspaper company owned by the big publicly-traded newspaper chains that are killing print and online newsrooms.

And this is, again, the good news.

A local newspaper like the Las Vegas Sun can become the new mecca for the next generation of online news conquistadores.

When I told him that three years ago we presented his Kansas case in our INNOVATIONS IN NEWSPAPERS Global Report, Rob said: “Look, Juan, come to Las Vegas and in a few months you will be able to report about the most innovative online news operation in the country.”

And for this reason Rob is heading for the Far West.

So, good luck and God speed!


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BAD NEWS: ROB CURLEY AND HIS TEAM LEAVE THE WASHINGTON POST AND HEAD TO … THE LAS VEGAS SUN!

Files under General | May 27th

Rob Curley and his team are leaving The Washington Post.

Not good news.

Something must be wrong here.

You cannot be hired by the Post, be presented as the visionary guy that is going to lead us to the multimedia future and now … leave for the Las Vegas Sun.

Yes, the Las Vegas Sun!

So, I see two problems here:

First: The Washington Post, if they aren’t able to follow the directions and the speed of change requested by visionaries like Rob, the vice president for product development at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive.

Second: Rob Curley, if he has not been able to move the mono-media elephant.

Rob, for sure, has done a great job with projects like LoudounExtra and perhaps he wants a more local, local, local newspaper even though The Washington Post is quite local, local, local, too.

LoudounExtra is a Washington Post-created hyperlocal, hyper-interactive site for Loudoun County, Va., one of the fastest-growing and wealthiest counties in the U.S.

He also promoted the fantastic OnBeing project.

Read his very polite explanation for the move here.

The real explanation will surface very soon, though.

I will tell you more in a few hours.

Right now: bad news.



COFFEE AND NEWSPAPERS

Files under General | May 27th

Coffee and newspapers in Milwaukee, Wisc., USA, and Clifden, Ireland.

(Pictures by lindseyalyce and Fabio Merlin)