23 reasons it's great HuffPo is coming to Australia (number 17 will surprise you)

The Huffington Post is coming to Australia and that’s great news for people like me who have sat in cubicles at traditional media companies thinking ‘this whole thing just doesn’t work anymore and I want to go home now.'

Now Australia and New Zealand media companies will have a working model of a proper new media company so that we don’t have to skip to page 110 of the Digital First Content Strategy Newsroom of The Future strategy document to try and convince editors that their fears of native content are largely imaginary and that the smiley-faced external consultancy person walking around with a spreadsheet who keeps disappearing into that meeting room that’s locked all the time is more likely to cause you pain and suffering by process of redundancy than writing a blog post for Toyota about driving a four wheel drive car up a ski field. 

HuffPo (or as the ABC charmingly calls it "the liberal American online news aggregator and blog") is brazen about native advertising, blogger friendly, and happy to talk about machines curating content through behavioural targeting.  Sponsored and branded content discussions are not imaginary but actual real-life things that happen and result in advertisers paying money to media companies so that they can pay editorial teams and journalists and everyone can pay for their groceries and maybe a new pair of shoes now and again.Great. 

The media industry gets more competition, The Guardian and Buzzfeed (oh look- they’re here already) come to Australia so talented local people like First Dog on The Moon get to develop new characters like the Westboro Baptist Hate Octopus, and we don’t all have to read about climate change being imaginary, rugby union, rugby league, Aussie rules rugby, and racehorses all the time. 

Koda Wang is the HuffPo person getting all the Australian stuff ready to go and he said the second quarter of 2014 generated about as much revenue in terms of native advertising than the whole of 2013. That's called growth and growth is good because the opposite of growth is decay which results in death and killing and book titles like this one:

Professional aggregator of liberal cat video bloggists Koda Wang said,"we keep the same bar of quality for native as we do for editorial. A lot of editors that create our native content come from our newsroom - they know how to create good content. It's also important to make sure native advertising is clearly labelled. And it's got to be authentic to the brand of your advertiser and to your own brand."

My thoughts exactly. Treat your audience like they’re adults and didn't just come out the Christmas cracker yesterday and they’ll be OK with some ad-supported content. 

But what about the ‘slippery slope argument’. The slippery slope argument comes from editors and usually goes along the lines of ‘if I drive a Toyota up a ski field and write a blog post about it then next week I will have to run streaming propaganda for the war in Gaza because that’s how North Korea works. It’s a slippery slope’. 

I know that’s a big separate discussion but at the heart of it I would say perhaps it’s time for journalists and editors to also be adults and take responsibility for their decision making.  The days of kidding yourself that “I don’t work for News Corp, I work for The Daily Telegraph” are over and trying to pretend that you aren’t part of the machine like everyone else…well come on.  The challenges of the media industry impact everyone and trying to cling to some romantic notion of eighties journalism is what’s causing all the pain in suffering in today’s traditional media companies where employee satisfaction ratings sit around 22-35%.  It’s not the war in Gaza but good grief I’d be gratefully taking the keys to that Toyota and getting my branded content on. 

The Huffington Post Australia plans to launch in the first quarter of 2015 and let’s hope it’s a shining light of new media that will inspire Australia and New Zealand media companies to face the realities that yes print is lovely but no, it doesn't make money anymore so let's go drive a Toyota around a ski field so that your colleagues will have a job that they actually like going to next year and if you don't want to write crappy '23 reasons' blog posts then don't write them. 

How lack of digital disruption is killing our newsrooms

Here's the leaked New York Times Innovation report which Nieman Lab describes as 'one of the key documents of this media age'. Sadly I've seen too many of these reports and I think it's the obsession with report writing and talking about market disruption that's causing so many media companies to fail and wrecking a lot of people's careers in the process. 

Talking about disruption and doing disruption are two different things. 

Talk about disruption and everyone is a pioneer, a game-changer - we all want the new shiny one. Start to do disruption and, it’s disruptive and annoying.  A lot more like taking toys off people and telling them no, we’re not doing it that way anymore. And then people cry and argue and threaten to leave and question the authority of the toy-taker-offer. Does she know what she’s doing? Why does she get to take the toys away? I will need a report and some KPIs before you get to touch my toys. Even with the assurance that you’ll get new toys and they’ll be better, the intermediate actual disruptive change part creates uncertainty that The Future will actually be better. What if it’s not? Then nostalgia kicks in. It was better before. Remember when there were only 10 of us that worked here and how great that was. When we were younger in the old days and we would skip into work, with a song in our heart and it was all group hugs and laughter. Now the toy-taker-offer has arrived and ruined everything and is the walking personification that 1. it was better before 2. The Future won’t be better.  So the Leader hears the crys of the people and starts to lose his nerve. Maybe he made a wrong choice? (maybe The Future won’t be better?), why is there all this disruption? He retreats to plan B, the safer option, the weaker manager and the crying stops for a few months. Give the toys back to to the kids for now and slow down the change, it was too reckless and fast. And nothing changes. And that's why so many once-powerful media companies are sick and limping and have terrible company culture and weak managers. Because the people brave enough to take the toys away and actually generate real change keep getting shown the door.  That's why media companies are laying off staff and have missed The Future on so many products, because the urgency and decision making wasn't there to carry on with the first seven rounds of Digital First projects. If there's one thing we need at the moment it's strong, determined leaders who will make hard, often unpopular decisions to cut through the crying and get people through disruption. 

related: 
Times Ousts Jill Abramson as Executive Editor, Elevating Dean Baquet
What the New York Times Could Have Been

Snacking on the 'State of the News Media 2014'

I found this table interesting with all the talk at the moment about 'media snacking' and bite-sized news consumption. It shows you how important it is to focus on what you are trying to achieve with content. You might be getting good clicks off social and through to your content but it's important to also look at bounce rate and time on site metrics. The table also shows that mastheads and news brands still matter with direct traffic spending more time on site, making more visits and viewing more pages; giving you more options for monetising your news through advertising or native content or sponsored stories or content co-creation or any of the other things you want to call advertising, other than advertising. 

The Pew Research Center’s Journalism Project, in collaboration with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, looks into how news is functioning in the social media space.

Overall the report highlights that while news creation, distribution and consumption has changed with technology, the industry issues remain kind of the same. Advertising is still the main form of revenue. News brands and mastheads still matter. Local news is getting a rebirth with syndicated TV content customised through smaller stations. 

There’s a lot jammed into this report and it’s worth getting comfortable and having a good chew through it all as it's nice meaty, reliable data and analysis. 

Suggested report reading posture:

Suggested cups of coffee required: 3
Should I save this to somewhere because I might need it for a presentation or something? Yes.
Where's the link to the full report? Here. State of the news media 2014




Keep enterprise social in the green zone with proactive social media policy

Some of you may have seen conversations this week around a person who was given the boot from a marketing automation company, and, without wanting to get into that specific case  I think it’s important to be aware of the issues for organisations and create a safe playground for everyone. One way of doing this is by creating piles of Green, Orange and Red zone topics relative to the organisational opportunity and risk. 

Company social media policies were very trendy there for a while and seem to have gone off the agenda lately because everyone has calmed down a bit and realised that there are companies who do this stuff really well and if you just copy them and get everyone on the same page then the whole company isn’t going to collapse if someone says a sweary word on Twitter. There are 'oops, I’m so embarrassed I had a massive fail things' and there are blatantly flying in the face of a company-wide approach and not being considerate of other people trying to do their jobs things. Do it enough times and the other kids will start complaining which may result in your removal from the playground. 

The real opportunity here is in the Green zone. Creating a healthy and creative playground where people can express their ideas and have fun at work and not be stressed about someone narking them out to HR for uploading cat gifs at work (cat gifs are definitely Green zone).  So have a look at your company social policy and try to Green it up a bit by telling people heaps about what you want them to do online while being kind enough to talk them through the perils of the Red zone for their own good. 

So, actionable thingee number one. Find a social media policy that you like, copy, paste, modify. Cisco has a good one as does the US Department of Defense and Thomson Reuters. Good now you have a starting point and can start sorting your topics. 

Green zone topics are the ones that you actively want people talking about online. Your company being a great place to work, cool charity work your team does, industry research that supports the company. You can then pad them out even further with verticals and humans to speak proactively on Green topics. 

Orange zone topics is where you will have the most debate. The proceed with caution topics that you will kind of close one eye on but kind of want people to steer clear of if possible. For example, if you do client site Facebook checkin every time you are pitching for business and people can see who you are talking to all the time (I actually follow someone on Facebook who does this) it’s not very stealthy. 

One of the main criteria I have for Orange is: is there someone employed to manage this communication as part of their role? If there is, then general employees shouldn’t be touching it, they should be referring it to the person whose job it is. For example, Investor Relations in most companies is managed by a client side Communications manager or an agency. Employees should refer these conversations to the Communications manager. Other Orange topics might be general moans about your fellow employees, how dirty the company kitchen is, politics, details of your date last night and subsequent night time activities (ahem) and general trolling of competitors. Orange may also include who you get to talk to. For example, one, pre-social media one I used to get a lot was journalists going into supermarkets and trying to get store staff to comment on union issues as a representative of the company. It’s a lot harder to figure out this flow of information online but again, educate people for their own protection so their comments don’t end up embedded on a news site. 

Red zone topics are the bring in the lawyers ones. Some people really don’t like having this conversation and don’t actually believe that an employee should get thrown overboard for things said on social but I do. I very much do because I’ve been looking at data off social media monitors for about six years now and by golly I’ve seen some interesting things. One example was a retail store employee on Bebo giving instructions on how to steal iPhones from their shop including the location of the key to the glass case. Live blogging call centre conversations (lol but very privacy fail from your local bank), blabbing about people coming in for job interviews. Confidential company research findings and financial results, intellectual property including mock ups and storyboards, that sort of thing. 

Once you have some agreement on the piles it’s important to make it super clear to everyone that the safe playground idea is actually for their own protection and stops annoying busy bodies who sit at home at night going through your accounts from being massive kill joys and ruining social for everyone. Yes, I have been on multiple sides of this debate. 

Now you have this outline, the policy is managed by going big on the Green zone and using this as part of marketing and other communication activities. However, if someone keeps hitting on the Orange and annoying everyone then you have to dial things up and make the Orange a Red. Without knowing the details of the (cough, Oracle) case I mentioned earlier, I would imagine this is what has happened but remember the reason people are talking about it, is because it's the exception so gear you policy for the cool, Green zone of wonderful cats, clever employees and engaged customers. 

Journalism:The New Dark Side

 

Journalists.

 

God you’re all weird.

 

In Grey Lynn. With your technology allergies (urgh an iPhone—eeew don’t touch it, you might catch “capitalism”). Trying to be cultured and whinging on about the ‘dark side’ till you lose your job at an evil global media company, (Fairfax ain’t no home-based cottage industry sweetheart), and turn up in my inbox grizzling for a job and claiming to be a Yoda at corporate communications. Yes I'm the corporate sellout. 

 

It seems the new sniffy offence to be caused to the superior breed of press release regurgitating beings is me having a blog. Me! A blog! Can you believe it?!

 

“What do you [airquotes] BLOG about?”

 

“Who reads your [airquotes] BLOG?

 

[sniff sniff.. drink more free wine].

 

It seems that my failure to have written the “Thanks a Bunch!” column for the Franklin County News disqualifies me from such endeavours.

 

Upon pointing out to the Grey Lynn journotards that perhaps they should try it because you get a chance to say words like 'arsehat' and oh, it may even help you to build a profile as a journalist and get more work opportunities so you can buy some more art deco crap for when you move to Point Chev as part of the great seven-year journalist migration—they looked confused (“you know like Jeremy Clarkson, own column etc” …blink.. blink.. confused).

 

It was the same confused look that I got from a TVNZ superior media-being when I said that I watched Maori Television (“You watch what? Do you work for them?”..blink.. blink.. confused).

 

 

Perhaps with all the ‘culture’ and organic free-range soy duckfat Westmere butchery troughing and pretending to live in a quaint European village you don’t have time to put your head up and care about stuff like the total imminent destruction of your industry and a little thing called “media fragmentation” . And if the iPhone is the root of all evil, then TiVo is his cousin and you certainly don’t want to think about what that may mean to you (“golly Kathryn Wilson makes some nice shoes…oooo yes she does!”). Much better to save the environment and stay in the dark and talk about shoes.

 

 

So while you journotards continue to write gripping stories like this in our national print media:

 

"Dozens of residents in Auckland's Grey Lynn had murky water running out of their taps last night".

 

 

(Oh God no! Was the Smeg front loader alright?)

 

I will continue to blog, about nothing, to myself.

 

If that’s OK with you?