Saturday, March 14, 2009

The New Opportunity for Print is the PRinternet: Ground>Cloud>Print

I've been on a soapbox recently about the "PRinternet" and business news. The argument is that business journalism is very broken. We all know what misinformation is spread by the business press. In the last couple of weeks, Kodak has been the primary victim, but it is an ongoing expensive problem for every large organization.

In case you missed it, the issue is going mainstream. It started when John Stewart went after Cramer. Then it was continued in the New York Times. Last night, March 13, there was a 15 minute segment on PBS with very serious people from the Journalism schools discussing the failures of the business press.
Update from Meet the Press Sunday March 15: The business press and the now the role of "Journalism" in the run up to the war in Iraq gets 5 or 10 minutes is now even more mainstream. The window for bypassing the press with a PRinternet solution is now open.
One strand of the discussion is about "exposing" business. The much more important thread, most clearly articulated by Stewart, is about the media using hype to increase the eyeball count with no regard for the effect that hype was having on real people. This dovetails with the growing realization in the marketing world that the game is no longer about "eyeballs."

The financial implosion of the over leveraged organizations of the newspaper industry is focusing a much larger discussion about the nature of news (information) delivery in our advanced industrial society. Since they are having such a hard time getting anything to work a moment of innovation might be at hand.

Over there it's about Kodak. Over here it's about the PRinternet.
Yesterday, my regular "Print Correspondent" column appeared at PBS.Media Shift. In that venue I'm talking to internet focused journalism people. They are still trapped by "Print is Dead" story so what I'm saying here would not make any sense over there. Over there, I pointed to
The Newspaper Association of America reports that the Chicago Tribune's uses Kodak's Microzone Publishing Solution to create 35 websites and eight weekly newspapers catering to diverse, hyper-local neighborhoods in suburban Chicago. The full run of the eight weeklies is 100,000. In the language of "versioned print," that means eight versions, 12,500 each.
And that the real problem is fixing the ad sales process.
As journalism is going through fundamental changes, the system for selling print ads is mired in the past. For print ads to activate the presently under-served large market of small business, it means ad sales people will need to be accessible to small and micro-business people for a quick conversation to do the deal. Few small and micro-businesses have the time to focus to buy on the Internet.
It's about the new value that can be created by the "PRinternet"
PRinternet is a term I'm using to capture one vision of Distribute and Print. It's related to "Ground > Cloud > Print." Consider the value created if the PRinternet existed. It could print and deliver more than 700,000,000 "News-on- Print Product" - versioned for micro communities - with a minimal carbon footprint in a couple of days. (Note that "700,000,000" is a stand in for a gezillion. You'll find the thinking behind the "math" in a previous post.)

The micro communities might include a "market segment", or a school building or a hospital or a local political party. For me, this passes the all important "how cool would that be" test.

Getting from here to there
The most plausible path is that this will be driven by the needs of the newspaper industry and/or the political campaigns of 2010. The other possibility is that will be driven from corporate communication departments working with their Public Relations firms.

From now until then -when there is real evidence of demand pull - the opportunity is to do as many low risk proof-of-concept projects as possible. The speed and repetition can be sustained if they bring new work into our PSP's and be a laboratory for business development. "If there is no path to scale, don't do it."

In education, I know that Oce and Xerox have a long history of doing publishing projects for students. I would not be surprised to find that others have done the same. In addition to doing the Good Work, every one of these publishing projects can be framed in getting the systems in place for resilient local networks that can be plugged into growing nodes of the PRinternet.

In the News business, as I point out in my column, hyperlocal news is going mainstream.
The New York Times is going into the hyper-local news business, as reported by Zachary Seward at the NiemanJournalismLab. It is just one example of hyper-local -- also called community journalism, beat reporting, or representative journalism -- in action. Other instances include Kennesee State university Professor Leonard Witt's Representative Journalism in Georgia and community news site It's not clear how successful the Times' move to start hyper-local blogs will be, since, as long as a strategy is web only, it's going to be hard to get to sustainability.
The Hard Part is Changing the 20th Century Business Culture
In a value chain business environment, secrecy and "proprietary" IP is a competitive advantage.
Now that input-transform- output has moved much closer to the ground, large value chain organizations are being pushed into becoming facilitators of user networks. But the closed culture of value chains is exactly the opposite of the open culture of user networks.

No one organization can control a network. The internet has made that completely clear. AOL, the undsiputed leader at the start tried to apply that thinking. It failed not because of the Time Warner purchase. It fails and continues to struggle, because their abiding pride that they could be the 'Portal" to the Internet. Portal strategy does not work in a user network economy.

Learn from the Internet
Open source. Modular functionalities. Growth happens from the ground up, not from the top down. Explosive growth happens when people on the ground have the choice to use the best tool for the job they want to do today.

The newspapers took a long time to change their culture. They are paying dealing for the time it took. But that is now changing.

The interesting new functionalities include a group of "competitors" in Ohio, who are now freely exchanging their stories and trying to get out of their commitments to the AP. In Iowa, a private held local media company, has reorganized their operation so that the general editor is "a conductor of the information orchestra." The print piece is not yet mainstream, but that is the opportunity for the industry. Reuters meanwhile has released Calais, and the most recent developments built on top of it, were reported today at Nieman Journalism Lab.

Free advice
Consider the "PRinternet" not only as the silly buzzword it might be. Look past the word to the reality it is tryng to capture. I'm seeing a very large, under served, addressable market and eplosive growth opportunities for Print going forward at least for a decade.

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