Jay Smith, president of Cox Newspapers, which publishes the Atlanta Journal & Constitution and 16 other dailies, is retiring.
Smith’s successor, Sandy Schwartz, is publisher of AutoTrader – one of those used car ad-only newspapers you notie on your way out of the supermarket, or after you’ve paid for your Slurpee at Seven-11.
Die-hard journalists who think those ads should properly be placed next to news scoff at the moral outrage of such publications. If ads can survive without content, then, good lord, who will pay for journalism? And why?
AutoTrader itself seems bizarly quaint, and doomed, in a craigslist world. No?
Good luck Cox.
Writes John Sugg, a senior editor of alt weekly publisher – and Cox Atlanta competitor – Creative Loafing:
Smith has presided over the dramatic circulation declines and editorial deterioration in Atlanta and most other Cox cities. The internal statement obtained by CL calls those accomplishments “distinguished service.”
Gary Reynolds, author of the Presentation Zen blog and book, gives a presentation about giving presentations at Google.
What happened to Britannica after Microsoft and Wikipedia killed it?
I have no idea – but naturally they’ve got a blog. This week the Britannica blog features a bunch of guest posts about the future of newspapers.
Jeff Jarvis and Terry Heaton quibbled with the process – a series of essays posted over the course of a week. Why, I don’t know, but I took their bait and quibbled further.
Here’s what I wrote via comments:
Jeff, Terry, fair points, but geez, lighten up. Britannica (wow – now it’s a blog!) is attempting to curate a conversation and experience, and I think that’s a reasonable and worthy goal. I’m more bored and troubled by the topic than the execution. How long can “the end is nigh” conversation go on? Apparently: forever.
Packaging and dumping, err, publishing, a bunch of content all at once is also 20th Century, also known as a book, or a magazine, or a newspaper, or an encyclopedia. Curation here seems to be about process – recruiting and guiding the key participants, which seems to me has some value that’s also old school, and packaging the experience. What’s wrong with a series? What’s wrong with time as a factor of the experience? You want every episode of your favorite TV shows posted and distributed simultaneously? Or Terry, do you feel manipulated by drama crap when you have to tune in next week to Lost or Ugly Betty or Friday Night Lights?
I don’t have time read all of this at once. I guess it would be more productive for me to have someone else, like one of you, read everything, then summarize and link to the best bits.
Sure, this may be a modest attempt at curation. Maybe publishing everything at once would have generated a faster and bigger reaction and allowed more cross-references and links in the analysis. Maybe it also would have produced a massive and intimidating tome that few would have the time or inclination to read.
See, now you’ve got me blathering on about the process – instead of reading the essays themselves. Now I’ve got to lighten up!
Jeff Jarvis is working on a book called “What Would Google Do.” It’s a theme and idea he’s mentioned a number of times over the years in his blog, with a handy-dandy acronym: WWGD.
I have to admit, the tongue-in-cheek play on the more serious “What Would Jesus Do” irks me. Google is a splendid example of a new role for media companies – they connect people to each other. In Google’s terms, they index the world. Dale and I say Google “remediates” the world – reconnects people to each other through information. The humans create the knowledge and actions that follow – but Google is there to expedite the process as much as possible. In that sense, yes, I think WWGD is right on.
But in other ways, I don’t think Google is the ultimate test of a digital business or a perfect example of how digital businesses should function. WWGD may be a good exercise to reveal practices that others should avoid, like WWMSD (what would Microsoft do).
For instance, Google has taken a limp and amoral position on censorship, falling back on a passive “Do No Evil” outlook, which is a far cry from “Do Good.” That may suffice for technology companies, but I don’t think it suffices for any company that wants to claim moral authority or social values that support freedom of expression and human rights. It may be that such values are less profitable or more troublesome for global, borderless business models – in which case I’d say social entrepreneurs may need to fill the voids created and made more gaping by Google. How about WWGND – what would Google NOT do? They would not investigate governments, or publish the findings. They would not publicly challenge or disavow the behavior of autocratic governments with whom they maintain business relationships. They would not pay for the creation or production of any kind of information, other than press releases, user and develper guides and other internal, self-serving content. Instead, Google depends on, expects and requires others to pay for and create the information – the content – which Google then indexes. That’s fine – they provide a valuable service. But they don’t provide all the services we need fulfilled in a digital culture and they don’t reveal how those other services should be fulfilled. WWGD is instructive, but incomplete.
WWGND may be just as instructive to define niches for companies or nonprofits that place their social values at least on an equal footing with their business values, rather than passively and limply beneath them.
Anyhow, moving on … Jeff has a nice set of quick quotes here about why offering online services for free is becoming not simply a gimmick but a necessity in a digital world.