Gannett & Tribune team up to launch MetroMix LLC

I first saw this come over PRNewswire, than read about it on AP and others.

At first glance, I brushed it aside because, frankly, it’s not all that exciting to me that MetroMix is expanding. But after hearing a fellow student here at Medill make a comment on how excited she would be at the prospect of working for the Chicago Tribune, I thought I’d get on my new media soapbox.

This deal epitomizes what doesn’t excite me about traditional media companies. Expanding their MetroMix brand to deliver a national advertising network targeted at young, affluent urbanites? Not exactly a revolutionary self-examination of what the Tribune is, and is not, doing well, in my opinion.

Now, I’m not saying the joint Tribune/Gannett venture won’t be commercially successful. Obviously those who orchestrated the deal believe so. And I’ll readily admit, it’s a great resource for finding events in Chicago (where I live). But it still has so many old media hangups. Such as…

Submitting a listing

Below is a screen shot of the “submit a listing” button, neatly tucked away well below the fold, so to speak, on the lower left sidebar.

Metromix Submit a Listing

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of community participation.

If you do find, navigate to, or stumble upon the “submit a listing” button, you get the screen below:

Metromix Submit a Listing

This screen comes complete with the following disclaimers:

  • Metromix only accepts e-mail and online form submissions; no mail or fax submissions will be accepted
  • We are not able to confirm receipt of submissions, due to the amount of mail we receive.
  • We cannot guarantee the inclusion of any event in our listings.

Wow, they are really inviting the community to participate.

(In full disclosure, I’ve never submitted an event or a venue to MetroMix, so I can’t speak to how well they respond).

Although there are reasons (and valid ones) that such disclaimers exist, the fact remains that MetroMix failes to capitalize on an inherent capability of the medium: its decentralization.

Traditional media companies don’t do well with that.

Okay, I’m finished.

The One Second Film parks outside Harpo Studios

If you haven’t heard of the “One Second Film,” I recommend checking it out.

The film consists of 24 frames (1 second) of 12 different pieces of art, created by hundreds of artists.

To become a “producer,” you donate $1 to the group. (All of the proceeds are then given to charity).

And it’s being hyped as the largest collaborative art project ever. (Almost 10,000 producers in more than 50 countries).

The core group of organizers have trekked all the way to Chicago and parked outside Harpo to see if they can’t get Oprah to sign on. I wish them the best.

Here’s the Intro:

What I think is interesting… is the degree to which collaboration pervades the essence of their movement, right down to the the marketing and promotion of the event. It appears completely decentralized. And, with the exception of the 1 second film and the artwork, everything is licensed under the Creative Commons License.

I’d like to get down there to Harpo and check it out.

Northwestern’s News at Seven has avatars report the news

Update: Chicago Public Radio piece on “News at Seven.”

Northwestern University’s Infolab, which is part of the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, runs an interesting project called “News at Seven.”

In the “News at Seven” broadcast, avatars, not people, report the news. (It’s already gotten considerable press, but will launch a new beta version tomorrow, Monday, October 29th.)

Here’s a preview. (And more old newscasts can be found here or you can read the project blog).

Given my disdain for the broadcast medium, you can imagine the implications I draw from a nifty computer program that can generate video of avatars spitting out news stories. (Note to my broadcast buddies, I didn’t say I disdained the people or the reporting, just the medium).

That said, the avatars, in their present inception, do seem a poor substitute for real people.

Broadcasters, do you feel your job security is threatened?

Facebook and “maintained social capital” – a study at Michigan State University

Read about an interesting study on Facebook conducted at MSU (thanks to Alec Saunders).

Facebook logoThe group attempted to establish a correlation between different forms of social capital and heavy Facebook usage. To put it simply, social capital is the benefits we gain from being connected. (For an exhaustive study of social capital, read “Bowling Alone” by Putnam). In it Putnam establishes bridging social capital and bonding social capital. Bridging social capital represents the our relationships with acquaintances, whereas bonding social capital describes the close relationships we have with friends and family. The study, however, introduced a new form of social capital: “maintained social capital.”

Maintained Social Capital

Maintained social capital refers to those relationships, and the benefits we derive from them, that we maintain despite having shifted geography, interests or workplaces. In the case of Facebook, they may be the relationships we forged in high school with people who went off to different colleges. The authors of the study write:

Social networks change over time as relationships are formed or abandoned. Particularly significant changes in social networks may affect one’s social capital, as when a person moves from the geographic location in which their network was formed and thus loses access to those social resources.

What makes Facebook, other social networking sites, and the Internet in general so interesting when it comes to social capital, to put it plainly, is its uncanny ability to help people keep in touch. The authors of the study quantified those relationships using survey questions such as, “If I needed to, I could ask a high school acquaintance to do a small favor for me,” or “I’d be able to stay with a high school acquaintance if traveling to a different city.”

Social networking sites solidify our past relationships, and have huge benefits for personal and professional gain. Taken the above example, if you’re traveling to a city where you don’t know anyone, how easy it is to peruse your network of friends on Facebook or MySpace to see if an old friend or acquaintance got a new job there? Perhaps you wouldn’t feel comfortable crashing on their couch, but you might drop them a line to see if they are free for dinner one night.

On the one hand, the Internet is exciting because it’s fast; dynamic. On the other hand, however, it’s also much more stable; permanent.

Interesting stuff…

Christian Century opens up site to independent bloggers

A big move for an old magazine
An editor over at U.S. Catholic, where I worked this past summer, informed me that the Christian Century, a Christian magazine with more than one hundred years of history opened up its site to independent bloggers. (Founded in 1884, it was renamed the Christian Century in anticipation of the 20th century!)

Christian Century logoFirst off, I wanted to point it out and give kudos to the staff over at Christian Century for making the move.

Secondly, apparently the way it all started was one writer, Real Live Preacher, taking it upon himself to come up with the idea and recruit all bloggers to make it happen. This fact illustrates an important facet of opening up your site, or your platform as a more traditional or mainstream news and information site. The mantra, “if you build it, they will come” just doesn’t work.

There needs to be someone, whether it is a writer on staff or a community outreach coordinator or advocate, reaching out to bloggers to convince them to contribute. They can write anywhere. You have to convince them it is better to do so on your site.

Or you may have to do more…
This past spring I worked with a dozen other graduate students in the spring on the Medill Media Management project. In the course of our research into hyperlocal community news sites, we spoke with some editors at the Rocky Mountain News. When they launched YourHub, a community news site reliant heavily on user generated content, they stressed the importance of soliciting content from the community. Actively. One editor told us that if you have to go door to door and explain to people what a blog is and how it works, then that’s what it takes.

Now not all of us have the resources of the Rocky Mountain News, but to be in conversation with the community (or audience, or readership, or viewership, or whatever), you need to truly be in conversation with the community.

Medill School of Journalism trains journo-bloggers

I’ve read a couple of articles recently describing blogs as the next prime internet real estate that main stream media companies are gobbling up.

Media companies, in other words, are buying up audiences. This is one way they can compete in the new Web 2.0 arena.

Black Medill LogoHere at Medill, Rich Gordon, who directs New Media studies, has revamped the New Media Storytelling class. Whas was once a crash course in HTML, CSS, Photoshop, Dreamweaver and even a bit of Flash, now involves identifying an audience, setting up a WordPress blog, installing Google analytics and posting daily. They are embracing, it seems, the importance for young journalists to build their own audiences and establish their own brands.

Does anyone else know of other J-schools embarking down the same road?

Here’s a link to the class blog and below are a few of my favorites from the course, which (in full disclosure) I am not enrolled. It appears the class site, as well as the individual student’s blogs, are just getting underway. But definitely interesting.

The Sidewalk – a blog on urban development by Ki Mae Huessner.

Sprockets & Cogs – a “tech-ish” blog by Amy Lee.

My Fare Chicago – a food blog by Kelsey Blackwell (which I’ve always thought was a great idea. You’ve got three posts idea easy, and that’s before snacking!)

Newspaper Association of American report on video in the newsroom

So I’m conducting research for the NAA on the present usage of videos on American newspaper’s Web sites.

I’ll be keeping my eye out for stories, posts, studies and reports on the phenomenon.

One personal anecdote/prediction before I embark:

Born and raised a lover of print, I’ve always held a particularly disdain for the “cold” medium of broadcast. I want to be in control of my media consumption, not a passive recipient of it. In thinking of newspapers creating video for the Web, I lament that newspapers haven’t gotten there sooner. It’s the one online arena where they’ve got nothing to lose!

Big Broadcast and Television are beginning to figure out online video. As newspapers migrate more into that space as well, I just hope they didn’t miss the opportunity to beat broadcast to the punch.

Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago – recap

As I posted earlier, I spoke today at the Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago on the expectations of young journalists, along with David Nelson, Kelly Mahoney and Jon Rubin. I’ll post more later, but for those young journalists, here’s a list of the pressing concerns on the minds of your future employers (necessarily paraphrased):

If you were editor-in-chief of newspaper with 50,000 circulation and 50 reporters, and you had one year to turn the paper around in a new media landscape, how would you do so from an organizational standpoint? Would you train your reporters? Would you hire new ones?

What is your dream job?

Do you believe that younger readers react differently to advertising as compared with an older generation?

In term of getting to know your audience, how would you go about that if you were writing for a small newspaper in a rural, homogenous, geographically dispersed community?

From small, community newspapers that struggle with high turnover, what characteristics would influence us to stick with smaller papers rather than move on?

What role should journalists play in the shaping of the end product?

Inland Press Association 122nd Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois October 21-23

To young or aspiring journalists: I’ll be speaking at the Inland Press Association’s meeting on the future of the newsroom with fellow Medill graduate Kelly Mahoney and Medill professor David Nelson.

The question

What do young journalists expect in the newsroom of the future? I’ll be providing my insight to editors and publishers on what young journalists expect of their future employers and work environments, but I’d love to get input from other writers. So, to turn the question your way…

What do you expect in the newsroom of the future?

(Anyone familiar with Gannett’s “data gathering centers” or any other newsrooms doing interesting things in mobile journalism, citizen journalism, social media and multimedia please share).