Something did come out of the API summit. Do you see it?

By now we all know that on Thursday 50 CEO-level executives met in a room in Reston, Va., to figure out ways to respond to the crisis within the media industry by talking about new business models. It was billed as a closed-door, invitation only meeting. You can read thoughts on that which I tend to agree with here, here, here, here, here and here.

Thankfully, and I am not just being a fan boy because he runs the company, Gazette Communications CEO Chuck Peters, who was invited to the emergency summit, live blogged the event with his thoughts and created a conversation for media types like myself that turned out better than the one happening inside that room.

[Comment From Michele McLellan]
Wrong question, I think on CEO’s speaking freely (esp if they are just hearing a lecture…) Real question is whether opening the discussion would better inform possible solutions….

Chuck Peters: I totally agree, which is why I am live blogging. I am getting much more out of this because of your input.

Chuck Peters: One of the biggest problems CEOs have is getting straight feedback from all levels in the organization, and understanding who really buys into the new direction. Twitter and Live blogging is helping me greatly!

Mark Potts, who participated in the live blog, offers his initial critique. Peters put together some quick thoughts as well.

Tim Windsor wonders why more people in the media industry didn’t link to the live blog or aren’t linking to the replay.

What kind of coverage can you expect to get when 50 newspaper CEOs gather in one place to discuss the future of desperately struggling industry? Apparently, once you get past one brave soul with laptop and an EVDO card and some media-bloggers outside of the mainstream media, not much. What’s wrong with the U.S. newspaper industry? In this case, a stunning lack of curiosity, it would seem.

I know that many dismiss the conversation that occurred form the live blog as nothing but noise. I’ve had phone calls and conversations that say just that. I think you are dead wrong.

I agree that the wrong people to foster real change in our industry were in that room. Change in our industry is going to come in the form of each of us changing our behaviors and thinking and acting much differently.

But look at the example Peters set yesterday in that environment. If nothing else it was a change in behavior and a new way of dealing with a very important situation with the potential to influence others. How many of you are going to send an email or have a conversation with your CEO and ask them why they didn’t live blog the summit or interact with it? Luckily, I don’t have to have the conversation.

I think certain people are dismissing the conversation because they feel they are beyond it or above it. That kind of thinking is hurting our industry as much as the people who don’t yet get where we need to be.

Blueprint for a new media web site

This is kind of unrelated to what he has been talking about lately, but I wanted to grab it and share. Ryan Sholin has a good blueprint put together for media web sites that we all can follow very easily, and more importantly, he’s dead on.

Here’s the list of five things. Let me know what you think.

  1. Abandon (your current CMS) and rebuild the site in Drupal with proper commenting, registration, user profiles, blogs for all users.  
  2. Take blog posts and podcasts out of the little ghetto-ized boxes on the homepage and feature them as you would feature any other piece of content.
  3. Make your multimedia players as big and bold and featured as the Las Vegas Sun. The work your staff is doing demands and deserves it.
  4. Recruit local bloggers from neighborhoods around San Jose to lead local social networks – if you built the site with Drupal, this wouldn’t be complicated. They can moderate, manage, and cheerlead as necessary. Give the readers/users a sense of ownership of their neighborhood coverage.
  5. Don’t feature national/world news on the homepage unless it happens in San Jose, with few exceptions.

Is your news organization taking the web seriously?

It seems every other day I have to stop and ask myself this question: Am I focusing on the right things? I had another one of those this morning reading a post by Mark Potts.

Potts points to a post by Douglas McLennan about why newspapers need to take the web more seriously.

Potts says this post is a must read “for newspaper publishers and executives attending the NAA convention this week.”

I agree. The point is made very clear. It is hard to beleive that newspapers are taking the web serious, McLennan’s says, when the organizations are so “under-invested” to play in the web world.

McLennan makes his points very clearly:

  • Most digital operations are seriously under-staffed and under-resourced. They don’t employ even the basic traffic-building strategies that independents are using with great success.
  • Newspapers have declined to innovate as eBay, Craigslist,, Google and myriad ad networks have sprouted, thrived and stolen away customers.
  • Digg, Reddit, Newsvine and others are experimenting with community selection of news, while newspapers pay little more than lip service to reader involvement.
  • Hundreds of small web operations have sprung up to compete with traditional newspapers, while news organizations remain mired in old conventions.
  • Social networking has changed the way young people interact, yet newspapers have failed to meaningfully take the plunge.
  • The back end digital news production structure at most newspapers is a mess.
  • Many papers still bizarrely consider their online and paper versions separate operations.
  • High-paid editors who ought to be spending their time on content spend their days snarled up in uploading jpegs and other technical mazes.
  • Reporters and editors are pressed to add digital duties – blogs, podcasts etc – as add-ons to their “regular” jobs instead of incorporating the digital world as essential tools that should make their ability to gather and tell stories and interact with their communities easier. This shouldn’t add to the work load (but always seems to). Instead, these things ought to make reporting easier.
  • Most web operations are seriously understaffed and technically deficient, making what should be even basic tasks difficult to impossible.

The biggest complaint I get about a blog post like this and others is that it seems to be too negative and does not offer any real solutions.

I’ll post my solutions to some of these points tomorrow, but in the mean time, what are your answers to some of these points?