Weekend Media Threads, July 13, 2019

I wanted to be what when I grew up? Time to pivot Weekend Media Threads.

No matter how old I get I’m always asking myself the same question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” When I was in elementary school or younger I recall considering three options: a Catholic priest, an Air Force pilot, or a football player. Looking back at the three now and thinking of the person I’ve become, two of those are absolutely hilarious.

This could have been me.

Sometime in middle school my interests changes and I wanted to be a comic book artist. Or a comic strip writer/artist. I guess that’s kind of the same thing. In high school my love for the arts evolved beyond just comics and I wanted to be an ‘artist.’

When I began my college career, the style of artist I wanted to become was a photographer. More specifically, I wanted to be a war photographer.

I could have been so pretentious.

However, this was just prior to the digital age and everything was still being done on film. I quickly realized that having photography as a major was, let’s say, cost prohibitive. So I went down the hall to the computer lab and learned to be a graphic designer. I eventually received my bachelor’s degree in the arts with a focus on graphic design from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

Flash forward 18 years and now I’m working in digital media operations. Overseeing website builds, app development, content distribution, online advertising yield, etc. You can argue that this is adjacent to graphic design by way of user experience and interface, but in reality I haven’t been a designer – or ‘artist’ – in well over a decade.

What’s even more amazing is that in high school I would have told you that there is no way I would ever work on a computer, let alone in a field called ‘digital media.’

Gasp! I was an artist!

I was all about ‘traditional’ art forms. Computers were nothing more than a fad.

During one Christmas gathering I even argued with my aunt Peggy about it. She suggested I should consider computers as part of my career path.

The nerve of her!

I insisted I would never become victim to such technology. I would be a traditional artist forever.


Turns out she was right.

To be fair, at that point in my life I hadn’t experienced the internet. It’s not that I’m so old that the internet didn’t exist as a consumer product at the time. It’s more that in the mid-90’s the internet wasn’t available like it is today. Not to mention computers were still very expensive, and wasn’t something my family could afford.

Just check out this sweet rig you could get for $1,995. 850MB hard drive with 8MB of RAM – this will be the last computer you need!

Borrowed from the Fuzzy Notepad blog.

For comparison, this is the equivalent of buying a for $3,350 today. Here are some Alienware options you can buy today for around that price.

You might be asking, what is the point of all this in my Weekend Media Threads post? What does this have to do with media? Basically I’m trying to work out what I want my blog to be when it grows up.

I enjoy doing commentary on media, but I want it to become something more. Personally, the blogs or newsletters I enjoy most are the ones that have some kind of personal bent to them. For example, John Dick, the CEO and founder of CivicScience, sends a weekly email newsletter that generally starts with some personal story before he talks about what they are seeing via their poll data each week. It’s something I look forward to on Saturday morning.

That’s the direction I want to take this blog. In addition to being more interesting, I think it will be a cathartic experience for me. Maybe I’ll learn to let my personality and personal opinions out a bit more.

So my intention is for this post to be my pivot point. Maybe I’ll come up with a better title each week, start with something more personal, then throw in some interesting links or commentary about the week in media – depending on time.

In between my weekend posts I’m going to try and do some shorter posts during the week when I find something interesting and want to share and comment.

If you enjoy my blog, or have suggestions, please leave a comment, DM me on Twitter, connect with me on LinkedIn, or contact me however you know how and let me know. I would love to hear from folks.

This week’s links

Digiday: ‘Newsletters as puzzle pieces’: How The Economist uses email to reduce subscriber churn

‘Hard to justify investing resources’: Publishers still cautious on IGTV efforts with lack of ads

CNN: Billionaires are saving journalism. Yes, that’s right

MediaPost: The News Project Powers ‘CalMatters’ Relaunch

Weekend Media Threads May 18, 2019

A new venture for me, profitable media businesses in 2019, Rotten Tomatoes for … news?

Last week was an interesting one for me; On Monday I accepted the role of vice president of digital operations with Connecticut Public. I’m still pinching myself to be sure it’s not a dream. Just to even be considered for the role was an honor. But to now be part of the team is humbling. Connecticut Public is an outstanding organization that, above all, is mission-driven is remarkable. And I can’t wait to get started!

Profitable (Modern) Media Businesses?

I’ve been listening to a great series of podcasts from Digiday. In the four part series, they interview executives from bootstrapped media companies and discuss how they run a sustainable and **gasp** profitable media business.

In 2019.

Crazy, right?

This week’s episode is with Mobile Nations’ co-founder and COO Kevin Michaluk. What struck me most, not just in this episode but throughout the series, is how focused the executives are on their product and business plan. They are more concerned with what they are doing rather than what a hundred competitors might be doing.

As a result, each organization has perfected the ability to avoid the pitfalls of short-terms wins at the cost of audience or company culture. Instead they place long-term bets that sustain culture, and grow audience and revenue. Even when the rest of the industry is sprinting towards the next great savior, these executives stay true to their business plan, and all have come out on top.

Rotten Tomatoes for News? Sure?

As reported on TechCrunch, a new startup, Credder, has created a Rotten Tomatoes style rating system and website for news outlets. The site is currently locked, you need an invitation to get in, which is included in the TechCrunch article. Everything seems simple enough, and is straight-forward, but I’m going to take a wait-and-see attitude.

Anyone familiar with Rotten Tomatoes and the on-goings of pop culture knows what happens when a determined group decides they don’t like the current iteration of something. The property gets review-bombed. Tanking the score, which has a lasting effect in the world of entertainment.

Just read this story from TechCrunch about the review-bombing that took place prior to Captain Marvel even being released in theaters. And what was Rotten Tomatoes big fix? Don’t let users comment before a movie is actually in theaters. Which doesn’t actually fix the problem, it just pushes it down the road.

I get what the creators of Credder are trying to do, and it’s something that is needed. But is now the right time to give this kind of governance given the current political climate?

The TechCrunch article warns that the site could gain traction, attracting trolls that review-bomb institutions such as the New York Times. Which we all know will happen. However, I would argue that it would be worse if the site doesn’t gain broad traction, but instead attracts an engaged niche audience of trolls with no counter-audience to correct the curve.

If that happens, then reputable media sites could get negative scores while trash sites get average or positive scores with no counterbalance.

Suddenly those that want their bias confirmed have a site doing just that.

Weekend Roundup

Here is a round up of interesting stories from the week

Media Threads May 11(ish), 2019

It’s been an interesting few weeks for me personally – not in a bad way – so I haven’t had time to put together fully flushed out versions of my blog. However, I still wanted to share a few stories I found interesting from the week.

First up is a podcast from Digiday with Morning Brew‘s co-founder and COO Austin Rief. Morning Brew is a digital startup email newsletter (that’s a lot of buzzwords) focusing on business. More importantly, it’s a digital startup that is not reliant on venture funding, something that was a rarity not long ago, but now that funding is drying up should become the norm.

What struck me is the amazing focus the company seems to have:

“The biggest upside is focus. Not getting distracted by say, Facebook video. We couldn’t even think about it. The downside could have been choosing the wrong lane. We could have gone with Facebook video. We chose email. But even within the area of focus, we haven’t been able to scale as quickly as we wanted to. The problem with focus is we’ve not been able to test new things. Just now as we’ve gotten bigger and started generating more revenue can we start thinking about a three-year strategy, a five-year plan or hiring more senior people in sales or other parts of the business.”

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Another piece from Digiday is on Google’s plans to curtail third-party tracking and what it could mean for publishers. The move, which was confirmed during Google’s I/O event, is good from a user perspective. I for one can’t wait for my dashboard.

The move is not at all surprising. Google continues to lag behind in privacy when compared to other companies in the browser game such as Apple and Mozilla. Although Google has a reason to move slow given it’s core business is online advertising which is largely driven by third-party data.

CNBC has a deeper dive into the announcement from earlier this week here.

Finally, I found this piece from Harvard Business Review thought-provoking. In the column, titled Why Every Company Needs to Think Like an Entertainment Company, the authors argue that businesses should move making things and providing services to one defined by entertainment and stimulation in order to capture and retain audiences.

Doing so won’t be easy, but according the the authors argue businesses need to:

  • Have the best material
  • Get people talking
  • Know your audience
  • Mind your language

It’s hard to argue with any of these points, all of which apply to publishers, but I would put them in a different order. The best publishers

  1. Know their audience well enough to
  2. Know their audience’s language
  3. In order to create the best material
  4. Which gets people talking

Am I oversimplifying this? Yes, absolutely. But nothing on that list is anything most publishers do well, let alone in concert with one another.

You can read the full post here.

From DIGIDAY: YouTube’s brand-safety woes give publishers a boost in selling video ads directly

This is good for two reasons. First, it will help publishers by cutting out the middleman. Second, if YouTube starts to see a dip in ad revenue it will be forced to address its content issues.

To avoid future brand-safety embarrassments, agencies are increasingly looking to buy directly from premium-quality content owners on YouTube. “We are seeing a huge increase in demand from agencies in our own YouTube inventory bought directly at meaningful CPMs,”