If you could change the mindset of only one person at your publication, who would it be? If you could get only one person to become part of the Web culture, who would it be?
Perhaps you'd say the managing editor. Or maybe the head of ad sales. Maybe you'd vote for the CEO or the editor-in-chief or the publisher.
But here's my suggestion: Change the mindset of your recruiter.
A few months ago I sat on a panel with two recruiters from mid-sized newspaper chains. They were both lovely people. But I think it's safe to say that they didn't share my beliefs about how to recruit or what to look for in a new hire.
One of them was asked "what would make you throw out a resume?" And she replied that she wouldn't hire anyone with a resume that said "multimedia reporter." She went on to say that she was looking for "newspaper people." But then, a few minutes later, she mentioned that the reporters at her chain were now being trained to carry video cameras.
The other woman, when asked about how she looks through applications, said she doesn't look at electronic resumes and won't follow links to Web stories, multimedia packages or other online examples of work. The reason? She said she didn't have the time, and preferred to look at things on paper.
In the world of B2B, I suspect that the folks that screen resumes for us have many of these same mindset problems. And it's not their fault. It's our fault.
At big companies, much of recruiting is done by people in human resources. And those folks are often experts in the world of HR. But how many of them are aware of the changes underway in media? How many of them understand the challenges of moving to online?
At smaller companies, editorial recruiting is often done by the existing staff. But how can we expect legacy editors to understand what to look for in the next generation of journalists. In some cases, the initial screening of resumes is done by administrative personnel. But if we haven't yet been able to get many of our senior editors to understand the Web, why would we expect our admins to grasp the nature of online journalism?
But the problem that I see most often is worse -- people who don't have a clue about new media looking to hire new talent. They don't even know what Web terms and acronyms to look for in a resume.
But either way, the solution is the same. If you want to hire the right people with the right skills and the right mindset, then you must ensure that the person who does your recruiting knows online journalism.
Here are five steps to take:
1. Find out how applications are processed at your publication. Who writes the ads, screens the resumes, etc.2. Meet with that person on an informal basis. Try to gauge what they do and don't understand about new media.3. Invite them to meet with anyone on staff who has the skills you're trying to duplicate.4. Invite them to attend the places where you talk about the future -- senior leadership meetings, editorial meetings, newsroom training sessions, etc.5. Offer to help. If you know what your publication needs, ask if you can help screen resumes and interview applicants.
1. Find out how applications are processed at your publication. Who writes the ads, screens the resumes, etc.
2. Meet with that person on an informal basis. Try to gauge what they do and don't understand about new media.
3. Invite them to meet with anyone on staff who has the skills you're trying to duplicate.
4. Invite them to attend the places where you talk about the future -- senior leadership meetings, editorial meetings, newsroom training sessions, etc.
5. Offer to help. If you know what your publication needs, ask if you can help screen resumes and interview applicants.
If you're a journalist who believes, as I do, that the best way to improve your skills is to teach yourself rather than wait for the boss to invest more money in you, there are a couple of interesting announcements today.
First, check out Wired Journalists, a social-networking and information-sharing site born in the wake of Howard Owens' call for non-wired journalists to learn the skills of new media.
Wired Journalists has been in beta for a few weeks now. (I was the seventh person to join.) But now it's open to the world.
You can read Howard's announcement here. Read Ryan Sholin's take here. Check out Zac Echola's thoughts here.
I'm looking forward to seeing more folks from the world of B2B journalism on the site soon. So if you're willing to share what you know, and willing to learn more, join Wired Journalists.
Second, longtime readers of this blog know that I'm a big fan of WordPress, the content-management system popular with thousands of bloggers. I've long argued that WordPress and similar open-source systems are vastly superior to the systems used by most publishers.
Now comes news that WordPress has landed $29 million in new financing ... including an investment from the New York Times.
Check out Matthew Ingram's thoughts on the deal here. Read Wall Street Journal coverage here. For an earlier post of mine on WordPress, click here.
If you've read my blog in recent weeks, you know I've grown very worried about what 2008 will bring for b-to-b publishing. A few days ago, I wrote that it's "time for b-to-b editors and publishers to build some fighting holes"-defensive positions from where they could ride out the coming onslaught of bad economic news.I promised then that I would "post some of my thoughts on what a b-to-b fighting hole looks like." And given the news that the smartest guys on Wall Street think a recession is coming, I think today is the day for me to start discussing tactics.Let's start with a little story.A few weeks ago I had coffee with a long-time friend and journalist. We got to talking about new media. I told him about the remarkable work being done by Rob Curley's team at Loudoun Extra, and I told him that he should go straight home, log on and check it out.But my friend said that he did not have an Internet connection at his home.When my shock wore off, I asked why. And my friend, who makes pretty good money, said he didn't want to pay for Web access. "It doesn't seem worth it," he said.I was reminded of that conversation earlier today when an anonymous reader posted a comment to an earlier post of mine. That reader complained that"employers aren't doing much to train their current employees and prepare them as online journalists."
That's true, I thought. But I don't care. I believe that journalists need to learn these skills themselves. As I said more than two years ago"... at this point, you can't blame the boss for not teaching these things. The difficult truth is that people who can't insert a hyperlink, who won't read a blog, who don't know how to work with Photoshop and can't upload a video file just aren't worth having around anymore."Now, as difficult times loom, I'm taking an even harder stance. I'm urging employers not to offer any training in Web journalism. There are two reasons for this. Here they are:1. You cannot train someone to be part of a culture.For someone to work on the Web, they must be part of the Web. That, after all, is what the Web means. The Web is a web. It exists as a series of connections. An online journalist isn't a journalist who works online. He's a journalist who lives online. He's part of the Web.It's a waste of time and money to teach multimedia skills and technology to someone who hasn't already become part of the Web. And there's no need to teach skills and technology to the journalists who are already part of Web culture, because the culture requires participation in skills and technology.Or, to put it another way -- I cannot teach the Web. No one can. Yet all of us who are part of the Web are learning the Web.2. When the fighting begins, the training must end.We had a good run. For the past few years, life has been pretty easy for b-to-b publishers that have embraced the Web. We have been an army that has known nothing but victory. But if I'm right, the easy times are over.We have moved too far, too fast. Our lines are overextended. Our advance has been halted. We are vulnerable.
We cannot move backward to round up the stragglers and train them to fight. It's too late to try to convince print journalists that the Web has value. It's too late to tell them that an Internet connection is worth a few dollars a month. As revenue shrinks, we can't spend money on training. We can't gather up the print folks and "prepare them as online journalists."
You can't prepare people to dig a fighting hole. You just tell them to dig. And the ones who don't dig fast enough, deep enough or well enough, die.[Some readers are sure to be thinking -- "Is he nuts? Isn't training newsroom staffs part of what he does for a living?" To which I reply, "Yes. I am nuts. And I do offer training to newsroom staffs." Odds are there's something valuable I can offer to the staff at your publication. There are certainly non-training services I can offer your company. Send an email to inquire (at) paulconley (dot) com and we can talk about it. Just don't ask me to teach another "writing for the Web" course. There's no room for Web newbies in a b-to-b fighting hole.]
Back when I was younger and even more attractive than I am today, I was a soldier. And like other soldiers, I learned a set of skills that are sometimes difficult to transfer to the civilian world. I, for example, am a pretty good fighter with a bayonet. But my clients in the B2B world seldom have the need to employ me for my skills with edged weapons.On the other hand, back in infantry training at Fort Benning, I learned to dig a fighting hole. And I think that will prove a valuable skill-at least in the metaphorical sense-in 2008.A fighting hole, sometimes called a fox hole, is exactly what it sounds like. It's a hole in the ground from which a soldier fights. But the key to a fighting hole is that it is a defensive position. It's the place where a soldier lives, fights and struggles to hold the line. Although it is possible to advance from a fighting hole, it is more of a place to resist an onslaught than to plan an attack. And I've decided that it's time for b-to-b editors and publishers to build some fighting holes.As the year draws to an end, I find myself worrying more and more about what next year will bring for our industry. As I mentioned a few days ago, "I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing."Since I wrote that piece, I've spoken to a few more b-to-b folks. And nothing I'm hearing suggests that I'm wrong to be nervous.So if I may continue this metaphor, let me say this, and let me say it my best drill sergeant voice: "Shut your damn mouths. Grab your goddamn entrenching tool and dig a goddamn hole!"When the new year begins, I'll post some of my thoughts on what a B2B fighting hole looks like. In the meantime, it's worth noting that some of the smarter folks in the industry are offering their suggestions on how to weather the coming dark times.First, David Shaw says now is NOT the time to panic or overreact.Second, Scott Karp suggests that now IS the time to go for broke in online ad sales.Third, in an article in FOLIO: magazine, 1105 Media's Neal Vitale says it's time to rethink staffing and accept that "you might find that you need more resources devoted to online content development."More here ...
I'm worried that 2008 is going to be an awful year for B2B publishing.I don't have any data to back up this fear. What I do have is a sense that something is about to go wrong.
In the past few weeks I've spoken with a number of B2B editors, sales people and publishers. And each of them also seems to be worried. Certainly there is a widespread and justified concern that our print products will continue to face challenges. And certainly more of them will fold in 2008. But that is old news, and not particularly interesting. As my friend Rex said, "every year is a magazine shake-out year."
So what's different now?
It seems to me that the rise of online has led to unreasonable expectations. The lust of investors, the demands for growth, the need to justify ourselves to the people who control the purse strings are pushing us into a new era of preposterousness. Everywhere I go I meet people with revenue targets that seem delusional.
There's probably not another person in B2B publishing who has championed Web journalism more than I. But my love of new media is born of my love of all media. Online storytelling excites me. Just like other forms of storytelling do. The fact that new media has also made money pleases me, but it's not why I love it. Cash flow doesn't stir my soul.
But cash flow does stir many a soul in publishing. And in some cases, it warps them.
Here's what I see happening, and why I'm worried about 2008:
1. Amid a credit crunch and suggestions of recession, online advertising is likely to contract. But no one in B2B seems to be revising their online growth numbers downward. Rather, the growth numbers I'm hearing are higher than in 2007.2. When pressure for revenue growth builds, many
folks in B2B behave badly.3. The most exciting thing about new media has been the growth of new media. Every established publisher faced more online competitors in 2007 than in 2006. I expect that will continue.4. The business model currently in fashion in B2B publishing isn't built to withstand a slowdown in online advertising. Nearly everyone is leveraged to the hilt. Nearly everyone has already cut everything that can be cut.5. I don't believe that B2B is prepared for whatever the next big thing may be.
I'm not suggesting that it's time to panic. I am suggesting it's time to look long and hard at what we are capable of doing. How much can we reasonably expect to grow? How realistic is it to expect the online advertising market to continue to expand? How can we survive a downturn and meet the debt payments? What can we reasonably expect from 2008?
(For more on this subject, check out what my friend Paul says about B2B in Asia. I think he's a little worried too.)
"Listen, the Web is the most exciting part of a modern journalism enterprise for ambitious writers and editors. If they haven't figured it out by now, to hell with them."
Those are the words of Jon Friedman in a column published this week on MarketWatch. You can read the rest of his comments, born of a frustrating experience at the American Magazine Conference, by clicking here.
Now it's worth noting for the thousandth time that I am not one of those people who believe print is dead. Rather, I believe that some of print is dead. Some of it isn't dead yet. And some of it will live forever.
I, unlike Friedman, don't expect to read the obituary of the magazine industry any time soon. However, I do believeâ€”stronglyâ€”that the careers of a great numbers of great journalists are dead. The refusal to accept the changes in journalism has turned many of the people I know in this industry from assets into liabilities. These peopleâ€”many of them friends of mineâ€”are the whining editors and publishers that Friedman says "still view the Web as more of a curse than a blessing." And although it is sad, and although it is a loss to the profession, it's time to let these folks go.
Friedman is right: writers and editors that haven't figured out that Web is now the most important part of what we do aren't worth worrying about any longer.
On the other hand, I'm not ready to give up on journalism students ... at least not yet.
As I've said before, the next generation is woefully unprepared to work in today's media. But I have faith that smart teachers can undo the damage inflicted by the journalism dinosaurs that roam the halls of academia.
And even if this entire generation of college students turns out to have been ruined by print-centric, elderly people, there are indications that today's high school students may turn out just fine.
More here ...
I'm in a good mood.
Just a day after I noted that Ziff Davis' PC Magazine had broken its word and once again violated industry ethics by using ads-within-edit, a reader of this blog sent me some good news.
American Business Media has changed the rules for its Neal Awards. Henceforth:
"Web sites submitted (for consideration for Best Web site) should not hyperlink editorial content to advertising or other paid material. (You can read all the rules in this PDF document.)
I'll take some credit for this change. Longtime readers of this blog will remember that I complained earlier this year when eWeek was nominated for a Neal Award even though the magazine's Web site violated ABM's ethics policy. Check out this earlier post in which ABM's Sara Sheadel responded and said the organization would likely change its rules.
Selling links inside editorial copy is wrong. It's offensive, misleading and disgusting. It belittles the work that thousands of B2B journalist do every day of their careers. It cheapens a Web site and damages the reputation of all of us in B2B publishing.
ASBPE has ruled on this issue. And now ABM has made its stance clear as well. ASME, however, remains silent.
And that is just pathetic.
Read more here ...