Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's not how Print can fit into the Internet. It's how the Internet can fit into Print.

This morning I got into an interesting email conversation with a colleague in Australia. It started from a comment at my most recent column at
27 comments in a day or so. It's just amazing what happens when you go directly at the internet blablablabla. Some people get very excited. It's no wonder that Print has been so defensive for much too long. But enough is enough.

Anyway, I wanted to share an edited version of the email with my viewers here. I mostly added the subheads.

For visitors here, I would only add that focused intelligence is what every business leader needs. Intelligence without focus is useless. Focus without intelligence is worse than useless.
Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. It's pretty funny how much discussion you can start when you directly take on the blablabla. Imagine what might happen if "How Print can find it's place in the Internet" were changed to "How the internet can find it's place in Print. Keep posted at Tough Love, I feel a blog post coming on . . . .

I responded to your comments at the post. Even for an info junkie like me, the absence of a voice from beyond our inevitably parochial borders is such a breath of fresh air. I remember during the 1960's I had to struggle with my high school French to read LeMonde.

I'm right with you on the role of journalists. The contradiction that is now being resolved, in my not so humble opinion, is that the marriage between newspapers and journalism is turning into an affair. I think the divorce will benefit both.

During Vietnam the reporting I relied upon was done by IF Stone. He did a modest 4 page 8 1/2 by 11 (A4?) Today he would have a blog to much greater effect. The real value add was focused intelligence. It's similar to the fact that the best analysis of War in Iraq was done by a study group with no privileged information. They focused on using their experience to see the patterns in the mass of data points in books, newspapers and on the web.

The way I see it is that journalists are paid to focus, see patterns and use words and pictures to communicate what they've seen. It could be on the ground or in the newsroom or at wherever on the internet. Once breaking news is no longer the only way to aggregate an audience they will be more free to do the job they are really paid to do.

Versioned newspapers change the constraints of the press deadline.
The new thing is that the appropriate content for publishing in Print can be determined by the audience combined with the news cycle. The content no longer has to constrained by the press schedule. The press schedule can be fed by what's important to the relevant audience at that time in that space.

The news cycle focuses attention. It creates the teachable moment. For example, this swine flu thing is a perfect "teachable moment" about science, evolution, epidemics, how different governments respond, the relationship between "homeland security" and public health and many other mysteries that should be better understood.

The amazing thing about a news printernet is that it could enable taking advantage of teachable moments to help build a global understanding that is local and global. Specific - in the sense of the using just the right words and narratives for a specific time and place - and global in the sense of understanding the mysteries of life on the global scale. If one doesn't think on the global scale, the source of problems cannot be seen.

The Learning Printernet
The proceeding is a pretty good statement of how I think printernet publishing can significantly change education results at the bottom of the pyramid for high school kids. I have lots of experience with K-12 education teachers and students. Directly at Parsons, with my work with The Grow Network, in my 1998 dot com start-up,

What I think I've learned is that issue for learning is not about content or curriculum. It's about learning to focus. And having the time to practice new behavior. While everyone seems to want to stuff in more, the irony is that what you do is much less important that doing it with reflection and long term focus. Reflection and focus is a full time job for a paid journalist. That's why I'm not a journalist, just a blogger. Anyone can have insights or be funny. But only a trained dedicated professional either a journo or a comedian can do it on demand.


  1. Interesting post, lets see how the printing will continue, we have said for years that paper would disaper, but it havent happened... yet..

  2. The way I look at is that in the long run, everthing in the form we know it will disappear.

    But given that print and printers have been around 500 years. It had awesome viral growth right after it was invented. Much larger than the internet given the technology at the time. Then again viral growth when steam was attached.

    It's a little like a garden. 8 months of "nothing happens" then 3 months of awesome growth. Then a month withering away. Getting strength for the next "tipping point."

    Digital print, versioned newspapers have gone through a very long (at least 10 years) of gathering its strength and putting down roots. That's why I think it's time for viral explosive growth.

  3. Sorry for two in a row, but...
    the task at hand is to deeply understand what is so special about print that it keeps changing and thriving.

    My opinion is that it's not about advertising. It's about getting conversations to sit still long enough to be able to consider what's might be a signal and what is just more noise.

    That's what worked 500 years ago, 100 years ago, why wouldn't it work again?