Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Salon.com's loss can be a gain for its ex-employees

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This one comes from the Scooby-do "ruh?" files, er, Valleywag.com. John Cook explains that San Francisco based news website Salon.com is laying off six people to become more of a "true website."

Salon CEO Richard Gingras told Gawker they released three editors, one writer, one photo editor, and one producer. After some digging, Valleywag's Cook produced this list:

Jeanne Carstensen, managing editor
Kevin Berger, features editor
Katharine Mieszkowski, senior writer
Joy Press, culture editor
Caitlin Shamberg, multimedia editor
Julie Coburn, photo editor

My recommendation is that all of them start their own blogs and video channels, and then get their own sponsors or sign up as a You Tube Partner, as I have been. My prediction for news in new media is that more and more it will become personality-driven. That is we'll follow people and news about or by people far more than brands, unless the brand happens to be a person.

Do we have this already? Yes. It's in - drum roll please - the entertainment industry. We follow bands and singers less than record labels. It's as if record labels are a dime-a-dozen and performers move from one to the other or start their own. That's where news is headed.


I think it's a function of how people use the web: to look for information about other people. We like to learn what other people have to say or what they did; it's no surprise that the largest internet traffic draws are people and what they do. Now, very soon, that something's going to be reporting, blogging, or vlogging about the news.

In the wake of this development websites like Salon will die a slow death. Sites like The Huffington Post will survive and thrive because they get that people want to read what, for example, Alec Baldwin thinks about Michael Vick.

Is this a bad development? No. It's more honest. By that, I mean it's more attune to where our culture is going. I really don't like the idea that we had to rely on a few brands to deliver the news. It opens a lot of questions in hindsight, like what other news did we miss because an editor considered it not newsworthy?

The Drudge Report hit the Internet big time after reporting on a story Newsweek buried: the affair between then-President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. Now, we know who Matt Drudge is and Newsweek's a shadow of its former circulation self.

With this Drudge the man has become Drudge the brand as much as Rush Limbaugh has on radio. Yes, they're both conservative, but they set the standard for the future of news. And since nature abhors a vacuum, liberal personalities will grow to take on Drudge and Limbaugh on the Internet and radio. Indeed, we already have Andrew Sullivan and his blog, as one example, and Taylor Marsh as another. News by pundit. It's only a matter of time before we have more names that become brands, moving from place to place online or being in many places at once.

Buckle up.

President Obama on BlogTalkRadio Wednesday

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For the first time, a sitting American president will speak on an internet social network audio program.  According to Politicalcarnival Blog, President Obama will be on a speical show called "40 Minutes For Health Reform" on BlogTalkRadio.com this Wednesday August 19th at 5 PM to talk about reforming the nations health care system.  The President will join clergy and "people of faith" in a national campaign they've established to promote health care reform (of some kind).  The website FaithforHealth.org reports:

Over the next 40 days, people of faith are leading a national campaign for health care reform. While members of Congress are in their home districts, we’ll be holding hundreds of prayer vigils and in-district events. We’ll sign petitions, write our representatives, organize a nationwide conference call for people of faith, and air a national TV ad –all to say the faith community supports health care reform.
With his participation in this BlogTalkRadio show, Obama officially becomes the nations first "Socially Networked President", using Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to distribute his message.  The Obama Administration has correctly reasoned that since a growing number of people around the World get their news from muliple media sources, it's better to have him appear in blogs and on web-based news sites, social networks, and now audio internet broadcasts like BlogTalkRadio.

BlogTalkRadio goes into the mainstream

Obama has overnight thrust BlogTalkRadio into the mainstream. Right now, it draws about 4.5 million listeners, but really could double that mark and probably will grow to that point after Wednesday's show.  It's really a neat system where anyone can establish their own call-in program; all they need is a computer and a cell phone - account creation and show construction is free because BlogTalkRadio is ad supported.  (I have one called "Zennie62" and my good friend and NFL Draft partner Bill Chachkes has an incredible show called "Football Reporters" that airs Thursday nights at 6 PM PST - 9 PM EST. Bill's show averages over 10,000 listeners per broadcast.) 

I'm excited to see how Obama's decision to go on BlogTalkRadio impacts its growth over the next year.  It's a really great system that one can use with YouTube and USTREAM to broadcast a multi-media show as I did here:

Oh, and unless you think Obama doesn't have his own show account on BlogTalkRadio, think again!  It's here.

Oh. About those protestors..

If I were you, I wouldn't be concerned with the prospect of crazy, right-wing extremists flooding the Obama show with irate calls just as they have polluted selected health care town hall meetings with nearly all forms of bad behavior. The BlogTalkRadio system is such that the show producer can allow up to five callers and can select or even predetermine who gets to talk. In the case of Bill's football show, he sends an email to each one of us to call at a certain time; he's knows our numbers, which pop up on the show control board page, so he can just click on our numbers to talk.

Robert Novak RIP: he helped kids grow

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I know you're scratching your head over that title because you know of the now-late Chicago Sun-Times Columnist as a conservative and pugilist, and SF Chronicle Editor-at-Large has a great blog post on Novak's missed call on Salvadoran death squads, but "helped kids grow?"


I discovered this for myself one day about two years ago when I was looking to write a blog attacking Novak, who died of a cancerous brain tumor today. In searching around I stumbled on a photograph featuring a group of African American kids and adults holding what looked like a plaque and an elderly Caucasian man dressed like...Robert Novak. This photo:

I fell out of my chair.

See, Novak has a well-cultivated and well-deserved reputation as a muckraking "Prince of Darkness" all the way down to the black three-piece suits he wore on television. I saw Novak as the kind of conservative one loves to hate, but I never thought of him as racist, just cold blooded, especially in the way he outed Valerie Plame. But that photo, and this one:

..changed my view of him - Novak has a heart - and then more so when I learned that these picts were from Youth Leadership Foundation (YLF) events, and that Novak was more than just a visitor, he was on the board of directors. Moreover, Novak contributed not a small amount of money to YLF. At their 2005 awards gathering he contributed $50,000.

Now, even if that may not have been all his own money - some board members get credit for causing others to donate - the effort required to raise $50,000 for any non-profit organization is considerable. Plus, the contribution was just for that event; Novak has been involved with YLF almost since its creation in 1997.

What does YLF do? It's based in Washington DC and has the charge of helping young people from DC's poorest neighborhoods between 8 and 15 years old who are "just passing" and need some attention and guidance to help them make the extra effort in school and in life to reach their potential.

Novak was as involved in YLF as he was in giving Washington politicians a headache. Today, you'll read a lot of blogs and columns about Novak, almost all of them referring to his work as a columnist. Well, that's not all there was to Novak. The "Prince of Darkness" as it turned out, was his stage name. It's not surprise that donations in Novak's name are to be directed to YLF, because in reality Robert Novak was a community leader who cared about kids and their growth into the leaders of tomorrow.