Friday, December 11, 2009

Google + New York Times + Washington Post could be the final straw for textbooks and a huge new market for newspapers.

It's been a very interesting week on twitter. The big news (2me) was finding the Google/New York Times/Washington Post Collaboration called Living Stories. If you haven't yet seen it, here's the link to the ongoing story on The Politics of Global Warming

The collaboration is to test out a new software tool that will be offered for free to newspapers. I have no idea if it's going to work, but my bet is that it will. If it does, it means that the newspaper industry will move to giving context. Context is valuable and is exactly what is needed for serious readers.

The under appreciated reality is that "real readers" is a niche market. As literacy continues to grow both in the States and globally no doubt that market will increase. But for now the opportunity to monetize is the same as it has always been - by delivering content in Print for mass distribution.

I've always believed the low hanging fruit is in education. It is the only mass market where people are trained and expected to be "real readers.'

Some of today's tweets:
Cnsdr: Living Stories ( ) + @niiu_community 1to1 24 pg #newspapers delvrd overnight ( ) + QR codes.

Cnsdr:Living Stories( ) + @niiu_community ( ) + QR codes = 2010 K-12 textbooks ( )

The printing audience for this blog probably know the story of Oce enabled personalized newspapers that launched in Berlin. Most of us also are pretty aware these days of the potential power and opportunity of 2d codes.

To say some you some time, I've reproduced the last link about versioned newspapers to replace textbooks below. It was orginally posted June, 2009.

My California
My California 21 is a unique history curriculum developed specifically to meet the needs of upper elementary and middle school students.

Newspaper format: 32 chronological issues resembling small newspapers present the story of California in a student-friendly, informal style that does not intimidate or repel young readers.

Some Global or PSP or MPS should really get in touch with these people. The next natural step will be The Clickable Newspaper.

Here's why:
On Wednesday, June 10, 2009, California will be phasing out textbooks for K -12 education. Instead, the so-called Digital Textbook Initiative will supposedly replace these old books with digital e-readers. Recognizing that one size fits all textbooks books were no longer the best tool to reach modern, tech-saavy students, Schwarzenegger said:

Kids, as you all know, today are very familiar with listening to their music digitally and online and to watch TV online, to watch movies online, to be on Twitter and participate in that and on Facebook. So basically kids are feeling so comfortable today, as a
matter of fact, as comfortable with their cell phones and with their keyboards as I did when I was your age, when I was a kid, with my pencils and crayons.

So this is why I think it is so important that we move on from the textbooks. The textbooks are outdated, as far as I'm concerned and there's no reason why our schools should have our students lug around these antiquated and heavy and expensive textbooks. California is the home of Silicon Valley. We are the world leader in technology and innovation, so we can do better than that.

Schwarzenegger's announcement should not be a surprise, since every state needs to save every penny it can. And it's also clear that the Obama Administration is serious about fixing education in the United States.

But what may go unnoticed is the new opportunity that this creates for newspapers struggling to find their niche in the new digital economy.

The Education Problem
A thanks to Alan Sitomer at the English Companion Ning for the point to YouTube.

The underlying problem with our public education is that it was never designed to create learning environments. It was originally grew out of the need to train a rural population to the new requirements of an industrial economy. It is no accident that most schools are organized into discrete classes that start and stop with the bell, since showing up on time, following directions, and performing well on specific tasks are the fundamental requirements of an mass market value chain industrial economy.

The other original function of our school systems was to filter and sort. The "smart kids" were filtered toward college and careers in management and the professions. The "less smart" were filtered to move first into the ever expanding manufacturing jobs supplied by ever expanding manufacturing and later into office-based service jobs. The "unruly" were consigned to doing whatever they had to do to survive.

Now that the underlying economy has changed from mass market to masses of niche markets and the real value of the workforce is its ability to respond creatively to ever changing challenges and opportunities, this old model has become obsolete. Around the country, there are the pockets of new models emerging -- and soon they will merge to create a tipping point.

The Newspaper Opportunity
Any teacher can tell you that a student really learns when the teachable moment occurs. The problem is that seeing and then taking advantage of that "teachable moment" is very difficult. A teacher must first be able to sense when it is going to happen, but even then it's almost impossible today to take advantage of that moment. The problem with textbooks is that they say do this, then do that. There is no way to leverage the teachable moments that happen in daily life -- for example, when GM crashes or the President makes a speech in Cairo -- to fit into a school curriculum.

Each of us have, at one time or another, followed a link to another link to another link. In that process, we were able to find just the appropriate story and data for us, at that time. What is interesting to me now may not be interesting to me an hour from now. That's the power of the web.

The problem for a teacher is that, for their students to learn what they need to learn, that journey needs an active mentor. Software designed interfaces are okay, but much less effective than a human who can both sense and quickly respond to needs that are felt but not yet articulated.

While undirected searching can very effective in the hands of person who already has a context in their brains, it is too unpredictable to be the primary method of educating a student who has yet to develop that same context that we take for granted. Given that different students have different learning styles, a complete reliance on computers is the same "one size fits all" approach that created the problem in the first place.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger instead seems to moving in the direction of e-readers and web access. That is a good thing. But the reality is that the web as a medium has the advantage of speed and the very serious disadvantage of making it inconvenient to do "compare and contrast." The additional problem is that e-readers are going to have be managed and will break and students will lose them.

From the educational point of view, the fact is that print is the most convenient medium for compare and contrast. The essence of logical thinking is to compare and contrast before coming to a personal judgment. The more a student practices that activity, the more robust the logical thinking function in their brain.

It's not that hard to implement
The world of newspapers is designed for speed and relevance. Producing a print product on deadline is a natural and necessary skill for any newspaper organization. The skill sets are already well defined and in place. If the editorial decisions were made on the basis of educational standards instead of the "breaking news,"

Journalists are experts at crafting just the right words, pictures and videos to communicate stories. Teachers and textbook editors and writers are not. To be clear, it's not because they don't have the talent. It's because they don't have the practice.

Teachers are experts at knowing their students. They understand just the right words and actions to allow a student to learn. As they practice their mentoring skills, instead of their class management skills, they will become increasingly more proficient at it.

In a world where newspapers take up the mantle for education, the optimal teacher/newspaper experience might be something like this:

1) The teacher goes to a website that catalogs a library of newspaper stories based on the curriculum of each grade. They could be stored in a wiki and new stories added as they were requested by a teacher.

2) The teacher selects just the right series of stories for her class for the next week. Different classes could use learn from stories coming from different sections of the paper. Science classes would learn from stories from the science and technology beat, while English classes could benefit from great feature stories on items of community interest.

If it's good for the parents, it will be good for the kids. Maybe parents and kids could actually talk about the same thing after dinner or driving to the supermarket. The benefits to a math class might be less intuitive, but consider how much math high school kids could learn by reading business stories. Plus the stats from either baseball or wall street are completely compelling to many kids, opening up a whole slew of teachable moments.

3) The newspaper publisher delivers 200, 500, or 1000 copies of a 24 page newspaper to the school for next week's unit. This was not practical before the invention of digitally printed newspapers. But it is cost effective today.

The Business Model or Where's the Money?
The same place the money always came from -- advertising. But for delivery into the schools, the advertising is strictly limited to organizations involved in public health, safety and citizenship. Government organizations and foundations spend significant amounts of money both getting their message out and fund raising. It is a ready market that wants to change the behavior of exactly this audience.

Once California has eliminated textbooks from K -12, there is little doubt that the textbook business as it has developed over the last 40 years is done. The vacuum created could be just what a newspaper needs to get to the next stage of its development.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

If Google, the New York Times and the Washington Post can play nicely together, what might that mean for Oce/Canon, Screen and HP

On Tuesday, the NYTimes ran an article about Living Stories. A snippet below:
Google Unveils News-by-Topic Service

Google on Tuesday introduced a new approach to presenting news online by topic, developed with The New York Times and The Washington Post, and said that if the experiment succeeded, it would be made available to all publishers.
For the last half year, an emerging notion in the world of journalism is to focus on ongoing stories instead of "breaking news." This collaboration between Google, the New York Times and the Washington Post is the most elegant implementation of that idea I've seen so far.

To see what I'm talking about you really have to take the click to a sample of the reporting of continuing saga of education reform in Washington DC.

What could this mean for Oce, Screen, HP and any other global who enables digital newspaper production.

From the Atlantic Monthly
it could turn this page into a key learning tool, highlighting the aspects of the debate ( on Healthcare, Afghanistan, education reform )
Consider the power that could be put in the hands of a teacher. By combining the technology that Niiu has launched in Berlin. here. using Oce/Canon printing machines the right story could be delivered at the right time to the right people in the right form - Print.

There is little doubt that the American education is now going through it's greatest reorganization in at least 50 years. The problems of high school dropouts, science and technology and citizenship are coming back to the foreground.

Any method that gets American kids closer to these goals has lots of money available for demonstration projects. Given the new players in K - 12 education, most especially the massive growth of Charter Schools encouraged by the new rules for stimulus money, the path to sales and innovation have never been more accessible.

The particular business models will be different in different places. To me the simplest is versioned newspapers carrying stories on science supported by advertisement from government and NGOs.

I can't see why this doesn't pass the "Why wouldn't I do that" test. Somebody might want to make a call to WaPo, the New York Times, the Guardian or Pearson.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Konica Minolta Receives InfoWorld 100 Awards. I didn't see XRX, HP or Rico on the list

I keep thinking that Konica is going to take a nibble at Kodak. Only time will tell. Anyway, I really like "from the desktop to the Print shop."

Konica Minolta Receives InfoWorld 100 Award:

"Dec 09, 2009 ( via COMTEX) -- Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc. (Konica Minolta a leading provider of advanced imaging and networking technologies for the desktop to the print shop, today announced that it was recognized with an IDG InfoWorld 100 award for its innovative CRM initiative, as one of the top 100 IT projects of 2009 For the second year in a row, Konica Minolta was recognized in InfoWorld's highest honor."

If only HP would spin off the Indigo piece, I could bet on them.

The thing is I hate the computer business. Too much volume, too much competition. Low margins. The print business on the other hand . . .

PSPs switch to HP Indigo based on reliability - Printing Industry News from WhatTheyThink:

"Print service providers (PSPs) from across the United States chose HP solutions such as the HP Indigo 7000 Digital Press and the HP Indigo press 5500 instead of renewing leases on digital presses from other manufacturers. Joining the group of PSPs switching to HP entirely were firms that continue to have some competitive solutions but have added HP Indigo presses to produce their highest-quality digital print products."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Google enters QR code game. Time to evangelize less,implement more.

Enough data points have gathered in the last couple of weeks to support the idea that QR and other 2d codes will go mainstream in early 2010. The latest news was posting at the Google Blog, yesterday..

Explore a whole new way to window shop, with Google and your mobile phone

12/07/2009 06:00:00 AM
What if you could decide where to shop, eat or hang out, with a little help from local Google users?

It might take you a while to ask them all, so to make it easier we've launched a new effort to send window decals to over 100,000 local businesses in the U.S. that have been the most sought out and researched on and Google Maps.

We're calling these businesses the "Favorite Places on Google" and you'll now start to find them in over 9,000 towns and cities, in all 50 states. You can also explore a sample of the Favorite Places in 20 of the largest U.S. cities at

Each window decal has a unique bar code, known as a QR code that you can scan with any of hundreds of mobile devices — including iPhone, Android-powered phones, BlackBerry and more — to take you directly to that business's Place Page on your mobile phone. With your mobile phone and these new decals, you can easily go up to a storefront and immediately find reviews, get a coupon if the business is offering one or star a business as a place you want to remember for the future. Soon, you'll be able to leave a review on the mobile page as well, just like on your desktop.

It's been clear for a while that Google's next move was the fight to be the OS of the mobile web. While Apple was first out of the gate with the iPhone, the Droid is now coming to market. Unlike Apple, Google is making it's operating system available on a full range of hand sets.

Whatever the outcome, it's clear that the world is now moving to the stage of hand held computers that take the internet into the real world. Once computing enters the real world, the unique values of print as an interface become apparent. Check out the links in the tweets below, if you want to see what I'm trying to say.
Print products are interfaces to online information - Columbia Journalism Review and In Brazil vid

Pitney Bowes Sets up a Research Center in Connecticut

Most of the globals have set up demonstration centers. But the following caught my eye. It's so simple. Try it before you buy it.

Pitney Bowes Launches Dynamic Customer Innovation Center for Print Production Solutions
"Shortly, customers will run their own multimedia and transpromo applications and report metrics on test runs to demonstrate return on investment in new technologies.