Big media and the need for content sharing

When I was still a wet nosed reporter (which was only in 2003 mind you), I would have told you that you were insane if you were claiming that traditional media would die out before I did. Then again, this was before iPods had video and WiFi capabilities, before Facebook and Twitter and before Google News.

Fast forward a few years and it’s a whole new ballgame. Newspapers are cutting staffs, magazines are calling it a day and headlines are being broken by Twitter users and bloggers far faster than the traditional media and it’s so-called 24-hour newscycle. The rise of the blogosphere, social networking and changing consumer attitudes have turned content production on its head. And if newspapers and magazines don’t make adjustments, pool their resources and begin listening as much as their shouting, the death rattle will be coming sooner than later.

Content sharing isn’t a new idea by any means. I grew up in Detroit, and remember when the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press published a single joint weekend edition between 1998 and May of 2006. Prior to that, the News and Freep entered into a Joint Operating Agreement on the business operations side of the shops to cut cost as part of the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970. They are one of the few sets of papers in joint operating agreements that ever shared content.

But the current economic atmosphere, rising newsprint costs and increases in online readership are forcing papers to look at these sharing partnerships yet again.

Last December, The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun announced that they would enter a content-sharing arrangement, and just two weeks ago, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram announced plans share sports coverage.

I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we’ll continue to see this trend in newspaper publishing. The question we need to start answering is, when will this begin occurring in the magazine, tabloid or even digital industries?

I think the overwhelming answer is probably sooner than later.

As this PR Week media analysis points out, magazines like AdWeek, BrandWeek and MediaWeek (all Nielsen Media titles), began sharing content in October of 2008. The company points out in the news release that less than 2% of subscribers for the publications, which cover overlapping industries, receive all three titles.

Still, the unfortunate reality is that magazines need to begin examining sharing content with rival publishers, as some of the aforementioned newspapers have done. But there is a particular challenge in that experiment because newspaper content sharing (usually) has the advantage of regional play, or, as we see in the Star-Telegram/Morning News arrangement, the advantage of only sharing sections. Magazines are much more topic-focused, making cannibalizing of issues a given. And where do you make the call on which writers to keep, what sort of voice to carry forward?

Unfortunately, as the PR Week article points out, it’s a “murky” proposition, but one that I believe will be absolutely necessary for the survival of even the most storied titles in the annuls of media history. What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you ever see major media magazines or blogs sharing their content? Could Newsweek and Time one day share stories? I’m curious as to your thoughts.

Photo by : Sanja Gjenero

7 Random Things About Me

Unless you haven’t been reading any blogs at all, you’ve probably already seen the “7 things” social media meme. I’m happy to report that I’ve been tagged by the lovelyLeah McChesney, who I met at the Novi Tweetup earlier this week. Leah was tagged by Lori Laurent Smith who was tagged by Marta Strickland, who was tagged by Stacy Lukas, who was tagged by Ken Burbary who was tagged by Shannon Paul. So, to keep it all going, here’s 7 random things about me:

1. I play several different instruments and sing. I’ve been in four different bands and have recorded an album with one of them. Sometimes I still play solo. Music has always been a huge part of my life.

2. I’m a fluent German speaker

3. I’m a yogi. Even though I no longer practice in a studio, I still meditate regularly and attempt to practice when I can.

4. I’ve been shocked by a tazer. When I was a reporter at The Monroe Evening News I volunteered to be shocked when the Flat Rock Police Department bought them and began training.

5. I can recite every line from the film Caddyshack, start to finish.

6. Sometime I still get a little teary-eyed when I look at pictures of my wife and I on our wedding day. She’s my best friend, my partner and crime and the funniest person I’ve ever met.

7. I’m deathly afraid of bats. I know this a ridiculous thing to be afraid of, but I’m still afraid of them. I’ve starred down bears, wolves and other wildlife, no problems.

So, in spirit of the meme, I’ll pass it along to: (and to be honest, I can only find four of my regular people who I read that haven’t done this yet)

Sheena Harrison
Dr. William J. Ward (a.k.a. Dr4ward)
Brandon Chesnutt
David Murray

Can’t wait to read what you all have to say.

The Four Simple Rules:

* Link your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
* Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
* Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
* Let them know they’ve been tagged

Is 2009 the year of the Conversation Officer?

Back in October, Joe Jaffe (@jaffeejuice) wrote a case study for the US Postal Service’s Deliver Magazine. In the study he discusses a trend he sees coming by 2012 – the development of the “Chief Conversation Officer.”

Jaffe says the Chief Conversation Officer will replace the traditional Chief Marketing Officer, serving as the true conduit between corporation and consumer. These new executives will essentially bring all customer conversations under one roof. They’ll be able to bridge the gap between public relations and consumer outreach, creating true integration and conversation about the brand.

I believe that that time is coming much sooner than 2012 for some companies as some have already started to adopt some of the roles of the Chief Conversation Officer.

Take the Michigan based Biggby Coffee as a great example of a company already putting this into practice. The company’s CEO Robert Fish (@BiggbyBob), is an active Twitter user, blogger and advocate for his brand.

I know what you’re thinking. Every CEO is a brand advocate. But not every CEO takes the time to engage with consumers, bring their consumers into product focus groups and do his or her own PR. What Bob Fish does well is have actual conversations with the people who consume his coffee. He’s friendly, honest and above all, engaging.

He’s also very open to rewarding those who are considering his brand. Fish entices fringe adopters by encouraging them to get in discussions with others who drink Biggby Coffee, without alienating those who are already true Biggby believers. This fantastic fan base is a true army of brand loyalists who act as evangelists for the brand. And in today’s challenging business climate, when loyalty is a fleeting thing, Biggby is committed to conversations with its consumers. Biggby isn’t just monitoring what its customers are saying effective response and responsiveness. As Jaffe writes in his book, and as Biggby has put into practice, “every customer complaint, compliment, question or concern deserves and mandates our time, our effort, our investment.”

In 2009, as more companies take the plunge into social media, I’m sure we’ll see more brands start to take these sorts of steps. We can only hope they don’t use these tools as another means to simply shout their message. It’s not another tool for companies to use, it’s about conversations. What other companies do you know of that are already using Chief Conversation Officers? Comments appreciated.

Photo by: Nara Vieira da Silva Osga