Picture of the Week

Picture of the Week
Anamorphic snowman

Friday, June 15, 2007

Web is the ANSWER to print Part 1: the great discovery

I don't expect you to get it right away, but this is it right here.

I've been spending a lot of time lately analyzing the pieces of journalism, especially at work while I wait for my actual work part of the day to start. I watch how people interact and what they do. The CJ is really close to getting it but they are so stuck on their pointless, functionless traditions, they are unable to really get, get it. There is maybe one person who gets it and the rest are waiting for it to click (or to die and let the young people come in and save it).

But last night I got, got it. At least the beginning of it all.

So many people are worried the web is ready to kill and replace newspapers. And I've always said this but never realized the truth of it: Print must adapt to Web! That doesn't mean it just moves over or anything; it means a fundamental rethinking of the content both mediums produce. A completely new idea of how to approach both of them. Throw out all of your old traditional bullshit and how you THINK newspapers should be then think of what people want, what people are reading and doing and then reapply that to an 11.5x20.25" piece of paper and you'll figure it out.

In the simplest form it boils down to Web produces X content generally in the form of shorter stories, crime, events, agate, obits, etc. etc. Then print does a completely DIFFERENT content not just shoveled on, longer "more analytical" (yah right) content. The CJ writes stories for web and longer ones for print and that's wrong. That is WAY wrong, that is why Web is replacing print, they're shooting themselves in the face.

Instead, you tell stories that are taylored for Web - rich media, blah blah blah, etc. - and stuff that people want to read on screen. And you almost never shovel those same stories into the print product. Instead of "better analysis" you use the Web to show the trend through consistent coverage of X and then you blow it up in Print in the form of well packaged trend and feature writing.

You writers probably want specific examples and I don't have them because that's what you need to discover. Research and understand your audiences in the same way I understand how people perceive color and shapes and pictures. That's what will yield the answer. Write, more than anytime in your life, for your audience and not your fellow journalist or yourself.

But the simple formula where and why this works is so basic and staring us in the face wondering why we don't see it. The answer comes by looking at a bunch of things. Journalism is like millions of half blind kids feeling around for their glasses. Each kid represents an aspect of journalism down to the minimal crevice. But they're HUGE glasses and once someone finds it and can see, everyone can jump in behind him and see too.

And the formula is this:

In order to make printed newspapers more read, you must produce niche content for your audience(s) in the same way a magazine does. But you can do it for so many different audiences at once that you don't alienate anyone (sections, special pages, special sections, more pages, etc. etc.). You create niche content through different and better storytelling. The old formulaic bullshit writing doesn't work for print anymore. There needs to be a whole new way of writing (some of these newer narrative and enterprise and blog styles of writing hold the answer).

Then you augment that writing through more content-driven design and more photos - or at least less but better and bigger photos. Thus, niche storytelling takes up more space and you have the problem of "where do the other stories go?" The answer is: you take those non-niche stories (such as crime, events, money, etc.) and put those on the web and do it well with rich media that print cannot provide. But at the same time, what print provides (good design, use of color, BIG tangible photos, etc.) cannot be done on the Web either.

When you enhance the type of content in the print product through better writing, better everything that's tied together in a smartly packaged way, you have given people a reason to pick up the newspaper AND go to the Web. When you do this, the Print product becomes in demand as much as the Web. Because they are two SEPARATE products. You go to the products for different reasons. Web at work and Print at home, for example.

Our age reads more than ever but they read differently (Annie quote). They want real stories - why do you think realityTV and blogs and all this shit is so popular? They want to be intrigued! We're not intriguing them!

"There's something about holding a dirty newspaper in your hand and reading stories and looking at pictures." There is, but you need to make that dirty newspaper worth it! Make it into an ejoyable experience! READING THE NEWSPAPER MUST BE AN EXPERIENCE! GIVE IT TO THEM!

THIS is where The Nevada Sagebrush is going. THIS is why we must "JUST DO IT." There are no steps or guidelines, you just fucking pick it up and go. If you want to write a story for the web, you just write a story and put it on the web. If you want good pictures, you pick up the fucking camera and take some good pictures! If you want a narrative story, you WRITE IT AND YOU PRINT IT! We only have 32 issues to do this in.

Brian Duggan asked me where I wanted to take the Sagebrush next year and I told "I dunnno yet." Now I say, "I know exactly where I want to go and you assholes are coming with me." We are The Nevada Sagebrush, the first real niche newspaper written, photographed, videographed, Webbed, designed and produced for college students at the University of Nevada, Reno.

It's going to be epic in all true senses of the word. We are the greatest newspaper in the history of god and we're going to show everyone exactly what that means this year. And if you're not part of that, I'l'l stab you in the face with a spear.


annie said...

this gives me such a journalism high. ... love it. want to be part of it. what an amazing opportunity next year. don't fuck it up. i mean that lovingly.

jessica said...

Michael whatever-your-middle-name-is Higdon, I do believe you just inspired me.

Colin said...

I'm glad you finally got it. Welcome to my world 2.0.