Onward: My new job at Publish2

I am extremely excited to let you know that I’m starting a new job on Monday, as Director of News Innovation at Publish2.  I’ll be working for Scott Karp, who I’ve been following since I started blogging back in 2005, and with a team of top-notch online news thinkers, evangelists, and developers.

What does a Director of News Innovation do?

I’m expecting to work with newsrooms and journalists across the media world to get them the tools they need to bring the best of the Web to their readers, and maybe even to bring the best of their readers to the wider Web.  Sound good?

Well, help me out. Let me know what you think of Publish2, how you’ve used it, and what you’d like to see in the P2 toolkit that isn’t there yet.

Here’s my favorite recent Publish2 story, about how a group of disparate news organizations in Washington state used the service as a tool for collaborative curation during floods this winter.

I can’t wait to get started.  Matter of fact, if you’re at BCNI Philly this weekend, feel free to throw your ideas about Publish2 at me in person.


To answer an obvious question, yes, I’ve left my job at GateHouse Media, effective today.

I had a great 19-month run with GateHouse, doing my best to give journalists at more than 125 newspapers the tools and training they needed to serve their communities.

Any and every success that I had there belongs to the incredible team of developers, the awesome revenue team, and the online news innovators I worked with, including Howard Owens — who hired me and has since left GateHouse to put his money where his mouth is at The Batavian — and Bill Blevins, the VP who Howard reported to, whose door was always wide open to new ideas and possibilities.  Thank you.


Onward. I’ll be spending a great deal of my time over the coming days and week wrapping my head around how Publish2 has been used so far and where it’s going.  Let me know what you think of it, here, on Twitter, or wherever you see me.  I’m easy to find.

Scobleization plus three years

Three years and two days ago, I got Scobleized.

The highlight of Robert’s informal talk was when he plugged his tablet into the projector in a packed room at the SJSU/MLK library and showed us his aggregator.

It was Bloglines at the time, not that it mattered.

I was blown away by the amount of information — and the quality — that Scoble’s 1200 or so subscriptions provided.

I had started reading a few blogs, and I was probably still using Firefox Live Bookmarks to track them.

By the end of the semester there were more than 200 feeds in my Bloglines account.

That was three years ago, at the very beginning of my New Media / blogging / future-of-newspapers adventures.

Another thing that sticks in my mind that day was Robert’s first question to a newsroom full of “reporting and editing” majors, something along the lines of “How many of you think you’ll be working for a newspaper in 5 or 10 years?”

He lost his audience when he told the roomful of undergraduates with their hands raised that they were wrong, and that they would be working for some other sort of online news organization, or as individual bloggers, but not certainly not in paper- and ink-based news.

Didn’t lose me, though.

Which newspaper will drop its print edition first?

Wired News prediction for 2007: “A major newspaper gives up printing on paper to publish exclusively online.

Howard Owens doesn’t think so: “Ain’t happening. There’s still too much revenue tied up in print and not enough online. A major newspaper — I’m taking this to mean a major metro — couldn’t support it’s current news operation with a digital-only strategy. Not now. Not yet. Not for a couple to a few years.

Lucas Grindley follows the money: “If a newspaper stops printing, about two-thirds of its operating expenses are thrown out the window. No more newsprint. No more carriers. No more circulation department, sales kiosks and all that.

Bryan Murley says college papers can do it under certain circumstances:

  • A small advertising base
  • A majority of funding from student fees
  • A small staff
  • A visionary editor
  • A forward-thinking adviser
  • A fully wired campus

Calling the Spartan Daily

Steve Greene was right when he recommended the Daily become a weekly print paper with a continuous online news site, a la the [X]Press at San Francisco State.

Cue rant: I’m not going into the painful details about how much talking-head event coverage gets into the Daily, or how certain stories (and feature photos) are repeated each and every semester (ballroom dancing, anyone?), or how much superfluous wire copy gets into print during busy points in the school year, but seriously, students are being cheated out of the experience of working in a continuous news environment because the faculty sees the print product as the end-all be-all of newspapering. Note to my peers: As reporters, you will be expected to get stories done before 5pm on occasion, and they will be posted online immediately. That’s the real world of newspapers today. It’s nice that the Daily has trained a steady string of page designers, but it could just as easily turn out an annual crop of multimedia producers. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a modernization? End rant.

How much of the same can be said of your major metro daily? Or your small-to-medium town broadsheet replete with wire copy on international events and faraway football games?

How many broadsheets will be willing to start the process of change by re-aligning as tabloid-size papers with less cable news and Internet overlap of content?

We’ll see more announcements of this sort of thing in 2007.  I wish that college newspapers would lead adoption instead of following five years behind trends, but that might still be a pretty hefty wish.

Good luck to all daily print publications this year — they’re going to need it.

I am employed


It’s not the job I’ve been talking about for a month, for those of you that have been subject to my ramblings, but it’s the same sort of work, much closer to home. I’ll say more after I get settled in, but I’m pretty excited about it so far.

Note to J-School students: Knowing how both the Internet and the Newsroom work will definitely get you hired at a news organization. Seriously.

Reinvent one thing at a time

I’ve had an exciting week.

Talking to profs and students at the AEJMC convention really lit the proverbial fire under my ass, and I’ve been able to get started on a database (Okay, so it’s just a spreadsheet at the moment.) that will be the kernel of my thesis data.

Meanwhile, I put together a pair of stories at my internship, and things are going well there.

The whole time, this post by Bryan Murley at Reinventing College Media keeps popping up in my mind:

“But in the midst of these moments of panic, I re-learned something that would serve us all as we plot our courses into the future of news: If you can just do one thing … do one thing, and do it well.”

He’s talking about how to reinvent your student newspaper, one element at a time, but the same holds true for a 300,000 circulation metropolitan daily, or an aspiring online journalist.

Or me.

So with so much out there that I want to learn and do and practice — Flash, CSS, PHP, Django, podcasting, video editing, maps mashups, hyperlocal community site management, etc. — I’ve decided to stop trying to figure it all out at once and concentrate on one thing at a time.

For now, that thing is Web design.

So I’m practicing. I’ve got a complete redesign (and a re-branding of sorts) in the works here. Here’s a taste:

And when that’s done, I’m going to try my hand at putting together a healthy little blog template for one of my employers, hoping to weasel my way into the online department there. 😉

And of course, none of this will get my full attention until I hand in my thesis proposal on August 30th.

What’s the one thing you want to learn, do, or reinvent this fall?

That Master of Science degree I’m working on looks pretty good right about now

Lots of uplifting statistics in the latest Grady College/University of Georgia survey of j-school graduates, but my favorite is the part about how much grad students are making out of the gate:

“Master’s degree recipients in 2005 reported a median salary of $37,000, up from $33,000 in 2004. The 2005 figure was the highest reported going back to 1989 and up by more than $1,000 even in inflation adjusted terms from 2004.”

The full report is here [PDF], and here’s the list of past reports.

Career paths of glory

(Just thinking out loud here…)

There’s the multimedia producer version, where I keep learning Flash and web design until I can get myself a job putting together interactive graphics and training others to do it. Extra points here for my video editing skills and general understanding of visual style. Those four years of film school gotta be good for something, eh?

There’s the community editor position, which doesn’t seem to exist in many places, wherein it’s my job to bootstrap the newspaper’s online connections to local bloggers and community members, launch hyperlocal sites comprised mostly of stories written by The People Formerly Known As The Audience, and manage them. This means learning some more web design and coding to modify some existing open source software, but the hard part is getting the community (and the editors) to see your newspaper as a place for participation.

One job I’m pretty sure I could handle today if I had to is more of a project: Design a template for a newspaper’s blogs, get all the disparate blogs created by different departments together on the online front page, create an aggregated page where readers can find links to all the blogs, recent posts, recent comments, and maybe later, blogs from outside the newspaper.

Once that exists, then it’s time to evangelize within the newspaper, get more reporters and editors to blog, create a standard workflow and outline a few elements of a blogging policy. I’m seriously considering a run at this, because it involves a bunch of knowledge I already have, plus more PHP and web design, which I want to keep learning anyway.

I’m also pretty decent at talking people into blogging, which is a plus. The only downside I can see is the possible path-crossing with my thesis, although that’s probably a good thing. On second thought, that’s definitely a good thing.

Way out in right field, there’s the “additional schooling required” career paths: Law School or a Ph.D. in communications. The former results in Ryan-the-First-Amendment-lawyer, and the second results in there being two Dr. Sholins in the house, which I find amusing. Oh, and I’d teach. Both of those are more like 15-years-down-the-line possible tracks, though. Not right now.

Of course, the Billings Gazette is looking for an online editor. Damn, that’s tempting. Do they have winter in Montana? Crap. Maybe they need an online editor in Tulum

Your comments are welcome on the topic of What Should I Do With My Life For The Next Few Years?