27 March 2011

A New Day at The New York Times

24 hours and counting.
On Monday afternoon at 2pm EST, The New York Times website will institute a paywall. They explained it all in a recent "Letter to Readers." They will start requiring readers to pay for their product. And journalists everywhere will breathe quietly, listening to hear the response.
For about ten years now, The New York Times and a lot of other news outlets that used to make a living by selling subscription service have been giving their work away for free. They tried to attract site traffic and utilize it. They tried to get by putting up advertisements. They've done small ads on the side. They've done huge pop-ups that scroll down to fill the page. They've put up video commercials before multi-media presentations. Somewhere in here, the bottom fell out of the classified section. It was killed by craigslist.org.
The paper also had huge cut-backs. They let a lot of incredibly talented people go. They hired writers and reporters who professionally were at what should have still been the learning part of their careers instead of being hard-headed scrappers at the peak of their careers. I give those newbies a lot of credit. The quality didn't drop off as consistently as say, The Washington Post, which is an embarrassing shadow of what it used to be. But the losses are noted. And they were emblematic of a situation in newsrooms everywhere. Some newspapers didn't survive.
So March 28 begins a new era. When you think about whether to begin paying for your news, keep in mind that you paid for it until a few years ago. Your parents paid for it. And in this case, you get what you pay for.
I remember about 18 months ago, saying to a news executive "What I don't get is... since it's obvious the newspapers and Associated Press can't make it without charging, why don't they put up the paywall and stop giving it away for free?"
He said, "It's too late, Marti. They've already jumped off the cliff." (Sidenote: non-creative thinkers excel in management except when creative solutions and strategies are needed. Exception: journalism.)
At the time, I shook my head and said "Just because you jump off the cliff doesn't mean you can't go to the hospital."
Congratulations NYTimes.com. I'll come to your blood drive.

18 March 2011

Best Gift... Ever

I just got what is possibly the best give one person can give another: a second chance.
Think about it. It's sometimes hard to get a first chance. To get a second? Really? Boggles the mind in today's culture, doesn't it?
I can't really explain much more about the chance I was given. It's a matter of discretion to the giver. I'm not embarrassed that I needed a second chance. (Probably ought to be, but I've been in media too long. I have little shame left.) To be honest, I was absolutely stunned at what I was given. I'm getting a second chance from someone who is a relative stranger. I'm stunned by the kindness and, considering that I'm hoping to form an ongoing professional relationship with this person, it speaks loads to me about how desirable involvement with such a person would be in my life.
I've always thought the best gifts were homemade, but sometimes, they can leave you speechless.

12 March 2011

Where Will You Find What's Next?

"The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind; the answer is blowing in the wind."

Ever tried to catch that wind? Ha! Now you're getting it!

A friend emailed earlier this week and asked if we could talk on the phone and toss some ideas around. When she called, she said she had seen a news item on a network's evening newscast. The newscast was discussing a dearth of a specific type of products that she and her husband produced. She immediately saw an opportunity for their company and wanted to brainstorm with me how she and her husband could answer that need.

This is one of my friends whose intelligence, beauty (inside and out) and charm have never been doubted. By anyone. Ever. So it's always flattering that she wants my ideas. This time, she asked what my experience with that group was? Had I been in their stores lately? I said being a Washingtonian, I tried to avoid such places at all costs, but it turned out that wasn't really what she wanted. She just needed a little "goosing" to get to the meat of the matter. I said if it was me, I would start at the top and go straight at it: "Google" the person in the news report. Find some company contact information. Call the main office (of the huge national group) and ask for the person and talk to them.

She said "Just like that?" Absolutely.

Here's the good part. The next day, she emailed back to say, "Ok, I've got the number for the person. I'm going to get up and try to contact them tomorrow."

And the day after that, her email said, "I called the person and you know, we hit it off. I'm going to put together a proposal and send it to her."

No one in the history of this woman's universe has ever failed to "hit it off" with her, so why wouldn't she succeed? No reason at all. Except that right now, some of us are too tired, worn down, scared, exhausted, freaked out, lazy, distracted, over-stimulated, over-indulged and all out done over to try.
As a people, we're watching the stock market, Charlie Sheen, earthquakes in Japan, the Chinese economy and the unrest in the Mideast a little too closely. It wears on a soul, doesn't it? (Listen, if that much mental terrorizing doesn't wear on you, then you don't understand the import of events at hand.) But it's time to put them aside. Particularly Sheen. Put him FAR aside.
The good news is, putting in a little elbow grease and one thin dime's worth of technological effort (although maybe she has free nationwide long distance?) can pay dividends. My friend may have found a whole new market for her husband's products. They would never have found that if she hadn't caught a glimpse of something as she walked through the living room picking up her kids' toys. There wouldn't be a chance if she hadn't motivated herself into finding that contact information and making those calls.

The same goes for all of us: we never know what we can do unless we try. A lot of time can be wasted wringing hands and worrying the what-if's or we can get started, go forward and find out.
There is nothing as satisfying as putting a hand up in the air and asking a question that gets the ball rolling. I would know. I ask a lot of questions. As Martha Stewart would say, "It's a Good Thing."
By the same token, there's nothing as powerfully seducing as getting a positive response. In general, emotionally healthy people want to say yes. They long to hear about a great idea, incredible new product (iPad 2? You don't say!) or a new way of doing things. But they can't hear about it if we sit on our hands.
The worst thing that can happen is someone says "No." But even then, that's information. Something is learned. Sometimes information that helps tweak the idea-product-way of doing something into another thing even better.
Which opens the door to The Best Thing; when they say yes and a whole new horizon opens up.
But until you ask, the answer and you, my friend, are just blowing in the wind.

10 March 2011

"Gee, Thanks!" (But definitely NO THANKS!)

I was talking with a friend this week about his chances of getting re-employed after being sort of unceremoniously dumped from a high profile position a few months back. He told me, "At my age, some friends are telling me that it's time to find something else do to do."
I realize the helpful intentions of someone like that, but they aren't really a friend, are they? "Helpful folks" like that are the ones that are leading smaller lives because they didn't dig in and fight for what they wanted in their own lives. They "settled" for something less and now are busily preaching the gospel of piddly lives. I can't tell you how many times I've heard similar helpful wanna-be advisers and had to simply keep my head together long enough to move past them. No one else knows what's going on in your life, your business, your head and your world.
This particular friend is very high profile (I'm always so darned flattered to be a friend of is because it's fun to hang out and listen to his mind click) and capable of many more productive years. If he "settles for less" now, what does say about the mindset of Americans? Should all of us be settling for less? And what will that mean for our country, our future, our economy, our expectations and our way of life?

I suggested that he thank those friends for their thoughtful considerations and then quietly shut the door in their sweet faces. Then go to the back room of the house (since they might linger outside listening and talking amongst themselves... since they clearly have nothing better to do all day) and shout loudly, "IT'S NOT OVER UNTIL I SAY IT'S OVER."
Feel free to do this yourself. On a regular basis.

There's no shame in being "a too little busy" dealing with a crisis to listen to well-intentioned but unasked for advice from friends. And anyone who runs down your aspirations and motivations isn't really helping, are they?
Feel free to say this to yourself. Starting now.

08 March 2011

Getting Started

The most difficult part of any project is getting started. It can often seem like you're taking on the world, like a boulder the size of a house is before you, like there's a meatball the size of your head waiting on the dinner plate in front of you with only a fork beside it.
But the reality is somewhat different. You have to step out of your house (and your comfort zone) to get started. The boulder may be a useful piece of the puzzle. And meatballs are often fork-tender, so what's the point of a knife.
Change is good. Starting something new is easy because you don't have to worry about repeating yourself. There is no "rut" to get out of because you haven't been that way before and, if you're fortunate, you won't go this way again.
So put on the new shoes, get a few blisters but get on your way. Otherwise, you'd just sitting around in the muck waiting for someone to come by and dust you off.

07 March 2011

Now I Lay Me Down to (Not) Sleep...

As I was laying in bed last night, not sleeping once again, I came up with a new game for myself. You're all about to be gamed. Thank you, as ever, for providing my entertainment. I actually hope you'll enjoy this one, too.
I've putzed along with this blog for the last 7-8 months because I've been busy in website development. But I've missed it a lot.
In saying that, I'm not saying I'm missing the previous discussions about media, politics, news events and such. They were interesting at the time, but then faded. Much as I think they do in general. But I do miss People providing my daily candy.
I used to joke to my coworkers that I didn't "need them. I can do news with or without cameras, video, audiences or ratings. I can blast away all on my own."
Those who know me will attest this is true.
The truth is, I greatly prefer to have People as my daily candy, but I can also generate the daily sweetness all on my onliest. And I'm going to start.
So I'm going to try a daily run of positive writing. I've always suggested that people need to be allowed to try a range of things, good and bad, and work out their bugs while working. Therefore, I'm not going to worry about length, quality (well, that's not true. I think bloggers who aren't polite enough to use a spellcheck are the worst kind of lazy, don't you?) or photographs.
I'll try but some of these posts won't lend themselves to pictures.

I generally think we get enough scary stuff about the economy, world situation, refugees streaming out of countries that we know we'll never get them to return to in their lifetimes so they'll start demanding stuff in other people's countries to be provided by all other countries, poverty, hunger, famine, dirt, Charle Sheen rants, insect infestations, disease, obvious examples of mental illness masquerading as "winning," poor sportsmanship and gumball shortages elsewhere.
But for me? I need an exercise in finding something positive daily.
Please feel free to come along for the ride, if you wish. I think I'll sleep a lot better.