PR fail: World’s dumbest news embargo

I cover technology for CNN.com and elsewhere, so I get a lot of pitch e-mails from PR folks. Some of these are very useful and well targeted. Most are rather “meh.”

…And a few are utterly stupid.

Here’s one such e-mail I received today, in its entirety. Name of the PR person, PR firm, and client are removed to protect the guilty:

I’m writing today on behalf of [LINK TO CLIENT] a leader and innovative provider of device-centric, [TECHNOLOGY] solutions. They wanted to offer you the opportunity to receive some news which is under embargo until 9 a.m. CET on Monday, Feb. 27. If you are open to receiving news under embargo and agree to this embargo time, I would be happy to provide you with the news.

Seriously: I never heard of the company, I don’t know what this might be about, and I have no way to gauge whether their news is important or interesting enough for me to check out at all — yet THEY want ME to agree to an embargo in advance, before I have any idea whether they’re potentially relevant?

Folks, you always have to prove your information or news is worth somebody’s time. Just tell me why I should care, why this is relevant to me or my work. Always. There is no point in being coy.

And no, I’m not going to click the link in your e-mail to find out more about the company. I don’t know you. This looks like spam.

So I flagged this message as spam.

Associated Press opens North Korea news bureau, they’ll fit right in!

No, really:

Associated Press opens news bureau in North Korea | World news | guardian.co.uk.

…As if the news business wasn’t already Kafkaesque. Well, AP is an appropriate choice for this. 

Having done some critical coverage of several boneheaded AP strategies in digital media over the last few years, I think they see eye to eye with NK regarding the dangers of criticism, and how to respond to it.

I’m not kidding: See the response from Paul Colford, AP’s director of media relations, to a 2010 KDMC story I wrote about the controversial AP News Registry program

Three generational gadget trends for news orgs to watch | Knight Digital Media Center

Today at the Knight Digital Media Center site, I took another look at a new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project about generational differences in tech gadget ownership and user.

See: Three generational gadget trends for news orgs to watch

The trends & implications I saw are:

  1. Picture-taking is the most popular non-voice cell activity, even more than texting! So why not do more with community-contributed pictures?
  2. Tablets are still a niche market. Right now, there are much bigger mobile fish to fry in terms of potential market size. Consider where your business interest really lie.
  3. MP3 players are especially popular with young adults, so consider doing more with podcasts and other audio content.

I discuss the details more over at my article on KDMC.

“The Daily” iPad-only newspaper: Courageous risk or wishful thinking?

UPDATE FEB. 2: Apple rejected Sony’s new e-reader app from its app store — a move that makes Murdoch’s lavish investment in The Daily look even riskier…

On Wednesday morning, News Corp. will hold a press event to unveil the first-ever iPad-only newspaper, The Daily. The little that we know about this project raises some pretty big questions, and I suspect that after the announcement most of those questions will remain. Here’s what I’d like to know:

How can this possibly be worth such a massive up-front investment?… Continue reading

Making links work for news: Mobile

As part of my research on mobile strategies for news, I subscribe to text alerts from several news organizations around the country. I do this from a cheap little Samsung Freeform candybar-style feature phone, so I can get a feel for what this experience is like for the vast majority of mobile users.

In general, this has been a pretty mixed experience…

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Mobile/social media and politics: Why news organizations should care

Recently the Pew Internet and American Life project published two reports about how Americans are using new digital communication tools to learn about, discuss, and engage in politics — particularly around the Nov. 2010 elections.

I wrote two posts for the Knight Digital Media Center at USC explaining how news organizations can use this information to create more effective ways to engage and grow the audiences for their political coverage — and why they shouldn’t wait for the next election season to do this:

How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center

My latest post to the News Leadership 3.0 blog of the Knight Digital Media Center at USC.

For nearly 15 years, the internet has been popular with the general public. So it amazes me that so many online news stories still routinely lack the kind of links that online and mobile users find helpful—and that also enhance the transparency, credibility, and shareability of news.

In a blog post this week, the Google-newsroom conspiracy theory Kevin Sablan of the Orange County Register nailed exactly how bad missing obvious links make news organizations look…

Full story: How missing links hurt online news, part 1 | Knight Digital Media Center.

It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Chicago Tribune Story Idea Survey: Good Idea, Poorly Executed

CHICAGO - DECEMBER 8:  Flags wave in the wind ...
(Image by Getty Images via Daylife)

The Chicago Tribune recently reported that it has halted a “short-lived research project in which the Chicago Tribune solicited responses from current and former subscribers to descriptions of Tribune stories before they had been published.”

The project — a collaboration between the paper’s editorial and marketing departments — was stopped because reporters raised journalistic concerns. Originally it had only surveyed selected “would-be readers” about general topics and previous Tribune coverage. But in the last two weeks, participants had begun being surveyed about their preferences on synopses of stories currently in the works.

In all, 55 reporters and editors voiced their complaint in a letter to Tribune editor Gerould Kern and managing editor Jane Hirt. The letter “expressed concern that providing story information to those outside the newsroom prior to publication seemed ‘to break the bond between reporters and editors in a fundamental way.'”

Here’s more detail about how the research was conducted: “Surveys were sent by e-mail to around 9,000 would-be readers on two occasions. About 500 responded to each, indicating which of 10 story ideas they preferred. Kern said the stories ‘tended to be news features,’ and the results never made it to him or had any impact in how stories were handled.”

I can understand the reporters’ complaint if their story ideas were shared outside the newsroom without their prior knowledge and consent. However, if that consent can be obtained, I personally think this type of research could be surprisingly useful. Especially if the people being surveyed truly represent younger people (i.e., the news organization’s future market) as well as demographics that historically have not been well served by the news organization…

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L3C: New Type of Company Might be Good Fit for Journalism

Money!
News organizations might benefit from new ways to handle money. (Image by Tracy O via Flickr)

Fundamentally, journalism is a community service. That mission, and the values associated with it, typically are what make journalists passionate about journalism — and also often wary of the business side of news (advertising, market research, etc.). And as smart as most journalists are, most of them also don’t really seem to have the mindset or skills to manage the business side of a news operation.

So why not figure out a new way to conduct the business of news? Especially, new ways to handle the money?

Last Friday, at the Journalism Innovations II conference (held at the University of San Francisco), I learned about an interesting effort to create a new kind of business structure that could provide a way to support journalism and news.

In the morning plenary, Hollie Kernan (news director of San Francisco public radio KALW-FM) mentioned that she’s been taking a close look at the Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) model proposed by Robert Lang, CEO of the Mary Elizabeth and Gordon B. Mannweiler Foundation…

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