Weekend Media Threads, June 1, 2019

Despite this being a holiday week it’s been a whirlwind week for me. I ended one job, and left an industry, on Tuesday and started a new job on Thursday with a travel/paperwork day in between.

For the first time in my career I started my workday working for an organization not involved in newspaper publishing. No need to worry about web breaks and missed deliveries.


Thursday did feel a little surreal at first. Suddenly I’m working in radio and TV. How would a newspaper guy fit in?

Turns out – as deep down we all know – no one really cares where you come from. Sure people are interested, but the current destination is more important than the journey that preceded it.

Also, once I started to meet people and got to listening, I realized that no matter the legacy distribution channel, news is still news and digital media presents the same challenges. Most of us in the media industry are asking – and struggling with – the same questions. Even fewer of us have the right answers.

Some of us look internally, opting for mass consolidation, ‘efficiency’, extreme pricing actions, and the like. Mostly ignoring external data signals from audience.

I know that no media organization would admit to the above, but if you work for one of these organizations, you know it’s true. Every conversation starts with some variation of, “how do we do this without disrupting ourselves? Oh, we can’t? Okay, let’s just do it the same way we always have then.”

Fewer of us, it seems, are starting with audience and building out from there. It doesn’t mean we ignore real efficiency and revenue streams, but it is a fundamentally different way to look at our challenges, and leads to a different culture.

Discussions around whether Amazon is a monopoly and what they’ve done to circumvent competition aside, at its core, Amazon a customer-focused organization. As much as many like to hate on the company, it’s hard to break away from them.


Because they make it simple to do business with them. And they do that by addressing the customer’s pain points. They are relentless with data and test every part of the funnel from discovery to your porch (or couch in the case of OTT). They make it easy for you to do business with them, then they address internal pain points without disrupting the customer experience.

Think about it, Amazon makes changes daily, when was the last time these changes negatively impacted your experience with them? I can think of a few poor delivery experiences, but each time their customer service will do whatever it takes to make it right.

As a result over the past five years Amazon’s stock has increased over 450%. For comparison the Dow is up 48% over that same period. They’ve outpaced the index by 402 points!

Compare this to how many media companies do business.

  • They start with internal structures and legacy business systems;
  • Then they figure out what fits into their workflow;
  • Then they distribute to the platform that is easiest for them;
  • Then they wonder why the audience didn’t show up.

This isn’t brain surgery.

If media wants to survive they need to stop thinking about internal pain points and begin addressing customer pain points.

Links from this week

Speaking of audience first, Pico launched what is basically a CRM for media companies. According to this TechCrunch article, it’s “an identity layer for media — offering a way to implement paywalls, checkouts and analytics while actually knowing who your customers are.”

Did you say audience data? This article from Publishing Executive discusses how B2B Media is leading the way in first-party data, and opening up new revenue streams.

And then there is this. If you’re in media you’ve seen this by now, but it looks like Gannett is in talks with GateHouse, McClatchy and Tribune on a possible merger. This will be good for the shareholders, I just hope they start looking to audience.

As reported on Nieman Journalism Lab, After four years of handing out money for European news projects, Google is expanding its funding to North America. You can see the post from Google here.

Also from Nieman, Why local foundations are putting their money behind a rural journalism collaborative.

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