It’s amazing what a bowl of chicken noodle soup and nine hours of sleep can do for a body. This morning is the first time in a week I feel like I’ve taken my foot off the gas at home or at work, and the orange juice is tasting good. Also good? Yesterday’s work at Rev 2.0.
The organizers, Matt Mansfield and Alan Jacobson, are gathering the produced materials for posting on the project’s site tomorrow, but you can get a pretty accurate idea of the work from the #rev2oh feed. I think people are going to like the day’s results: on the classified front, finding Craigslist simplicity but then upselling around design; with advertising, bringing out the narrative of the deal and the potential of local reputation services; with homepages, leaning more minimal to push people inside and simultaneously make the advertising more noticeable and respectable; and with mobile, charging for technology more than content. For the newspaper industry, whether it’s looking at the strategies or smaller pieces here, all the work heads to relatively unexplored directions but retains a what-can-we-do-now mentality.
As much as I think the industry should consider these concepts, I hope it grabs onto the project’s approaches even more. My three favorites:
1. How to make money to save papers is not someone else’s problem. Yesterday’s group was not especially well-known, high-ranking or biz-savvy. I was in the group because I’ve drank beer with a bunch of the people, can hang with the different angles of the conversation and repeatedly thrown crazy ideas at them. If you’re an editor above me (and there are lots of you) and wondering “what the hell,” you need to drink more beer, have more conversations and produce more crazy. But more importantly, you’re missing the point. Yesterday’s event was just one stab, with so-and-so people from such-and-such perspective. Nothing’s stopping you from bringing together good people, tossing ambitious goals on the table and sharing what happens.
2. We have to treat advertising as content, and misinterpreting what that means is a ridiculous waste of time. Ethics are ethics, and money shouldn’t affect editorial content. If you can’t assume that, you win the hand-wringing contest and lose in everything else. The industry has to move storytelling techniques, interface design, content tools, and Web fundamentals across its divisions if we’re going to chase business as aggressively and creatively as we chase readership. As one participant pointed out yesterday, even with the economy the way it is, there’s plenty of potential money out there that we’re not getting. We have to be more compelling — journalistically compelling — in seeking business. If we had started anywhere else yesterday, like a position of worry, we wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as we did. Labeling an ad as an ad is easy. Coming up with a better ad or system is critical.
3. Futurism isn’t the only way to the future. I mentioned fundamentals in the previous item, and how much they were in practice in the room yesterday shouldn’t be overlooked. The partipicants were equal parts aware, critical and seeking of newspaper workings, digital possibilities and themselves. In blind spots, they listened to understand and built from there. Futurism, like editorial responsibility, was assumed — with much to be done on the way there. Newsrooms have been awful at this kind of practice, sweating the small stuff quickly and productively, and yesterday showed big promise for expectations of leadership. If your newsroom leaders aren’t aware, critical and seeking throughout their roles, they need to change or you need to change them.
May post more thoughts when the wrap-ups appear online. Thanks so much to Matt and Alan for organizing (and pizza and drinks) and to the Medill News Service bureau for hosting. Thanks to USAT/Gannett Digital friends Mary, Carlos, Kristen, Wes, Yuri, Bill, and Kathleen for putting up with my hangover from hell. Thank you too to Advil and time.
In our deals group, glad to have met Jay Small, whose Small Initiatives e-mail newsletter I read for years after graduating, and Chris Krewson, whose Philly work I’ve read about a ton. Also glad to have contributed the deal scarcity concept, which built off Chris’ release-day approach and then received brainstorming from him and others in our group in a way that made it matter. It was great to meet plenty of other folks as well, especially those who stuck green Post-its on everybody’s heads. I’m condemned apartments. The mobile team’s wrap-up may explain.