Surfing, Puppies, Iraq and Editorial...Oh My!

Posted on February 16, 2008 by Tony Uphoff

First off a brief shout out to the Surfline.com crew, CEO Jonno Wells, Kevin and Robin, who invited me to go surfing Saturday at a private island 50 miles off the coast of Newport beach California. We saw grey whales, dolphins, seals, birds of all sorts and incredible waves. Great time. Especially appreciated that the crew didn't tell me the comment from the one local surfer we met until we were back in the boat. "Yea I rarely see other people surf here. Maybe it's the sharks".

There has been a ton of buzz generated by the new owner of Tribune Company, Sam Zell's , comments on editorial given during a news room meeting at The Orlando Sentinel. In the last week people have described Zell's comments to me as refreshing, insightful, bold and necessary. I have also had them described as inane, clueless, out of touch and uninformed. From my perspective they are all accurate

Editorial departments have a mandate to serve their audiences. They are not disconnected from the business however. The web makes transparent the impact that editorial has on audiences. We don't have to wonder if there is a reaction to the content we are putting out. We have immediate metrics that let us know. This "listening" to the audience is something that can be transfered from online to print and back again. It takes strong editorial leadership however that isn't afraid to challenge the status quo. Many print editorial operations have been woefully out of touch with their audiences for years. Subscription trends, occasional letters to the editor or quarterly reader research provide limited if any actionable data for content teams. The web has changed all of that. The web has ignited a transfer of advertising revenue from print as well as exposing the lack of connection that many print editorial operations have with their audiences.

The answer? Print editorial operations must be combined with online. Clearly content must be tailored for the platform but the days of having two, separate editorial operations, one print, one online, both generating content for a single brand, are over.

Last thought. Sam Zell made his fortune in real estate development. The media business is littered with the ashes of smart, wealthy people who made fortunes in other industries, only to see them become small fortunes in the media business. Zell may be brilliant. I fear he really doesn't understand what he has gotten himself into however. Only time will tell. I hope someone keeps video taping his "F Bomb" outbursts though. He certainly won't be boring.,

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