Mutter: Get Ready for Mobile Payments

Posted on | September 8, 2014 | No Comments

By Alan D. Mut­ter
Reflec­tions of a Newsosaur
Sept. 8, 2014
Although wide-screen iPhones and curvy iWatches have gained the most atten­tion as the buzz builds around Apple’s prod­uct announce­ment on Tues­day, the biggest game changer of all may be the company’s effort to launch a mobile pay­ments system.Assuming the chat­ter is cor­rect, Apple will seek to sup­plant credit cards with a wire­less pay­ment sys­tem embed­ded in its next-gen giz­mos, thus rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing the way con­sumers pay for things – and mer­chants track their cus­tomers. It is widely reported in the press that Amer­i­can Express, Mas­ter­Card and Visa have agreed to join the Apple initiative.

If mobile pay­ments take off as Apple and its puta­tive part­ners hope, this fric­tion­less new way of trans­act­ing busi­ness will dis­in­ter­me­di­ate the media as never before, as dis­cussed in the fol­low­ing New­sosaur post from Aug. 9, 2011.

There are a cou­ple of updates to the archived post.

  • The Isis pay­ment net­work men­tioned in the orig­i­nal arti­cle, which was devel­oped by AT&T, Ver­i­zon and T-Mobile, announced last week that it is chang­ing its name to Soft­card to avoid being con­fused with the group behead­ing jour­nal­ists and ter­ror­iz­ing the Mid­dle East. Also, the planned AT&T and T-Mobile merger was aban­doned after it was blocked by fed­eral antitrust regulators.
  • The Blippy.Com ser­vice men­tioned in the orig­i­nal arti­cle has gone on to other pur­suits, but a num­ber of other social shop­ping sites are only too happy to learn about who you are and what you like.  Fur­ther, as pre­vi­ously dis­cussed here, all of the major retail­ers have apps that track you, your pur­chases and even your loca­tion in their stores.

Now, here’s the orig­i­nal post:

It’s not a mat­ter of if, but when, your ever-smarter smart phone replaces cur­rency and credit cards as the way you pay for every­thing from a latte to a load of lum­ber for the deck you have been mean­ing to build.

The arrival of mobile pay­ments will restruc­ture the way mar­keters inter­act with con­sumers, lead­ing poten­tially to epic shifts in the bal­ance of power and dol­lars from finan­cial ser­vices like Visa and Amer­i­can Express to tech­nol­ogy providers like Google and Verizon.

It also is almost cer­tain to lead to fur­ther dis­rup­tion for media com­pa­nies, unless they can fig­ure out a way to nose into the action – which already is well under way.

The mobile pay­ments rev­o­lu­tion will be enabled by a tech­nol­ogy called Near Field Com­mu­ni­ca­tions (or NFC), which adds a micro-range radio to the cel­lu­lar, wifi and Blue­tooth arrays already packed into every smart phone. (More on NFC here.)

While only a smat­ter­ing of Android devices today are equipped with NFC, there are hope­ful rumors in the ever-breathless Apple press that the next-generation iPhone will have the fea­ture when it debuts later this year.

Whether Apple takes the plunge now or later – thus lever­ag­ing the 125 mil­lion credit cards already on file at its suc­cess­ful iTunes ser­vice – the com­pany will join a fren­zied land grab includ­ing the fol­low­ing players:

  • Google Wal­let, which will be seam­lessly inte­grated with the Android oper­at­ing sys­tem that Com­Score says pow­ers more smart phones (40% of the mar­ket) than its clos­est com­peti­tor, the iPhone (27% of smart phones).
  • Isis, a col­lab­o­ra­tion among Ver­i­zon, AT&T and T-Mobile (the lat­ter of which AT&T is seek­ing reg­u­la­tory approval to acquire). These mobile providers, who utterly dom­i­nate the U.S. mar­ket, are part­nered with Dis­cover, Mas­ter­Card and Visa.
  • Visa Wal­let, a par­al­lel effort by Visa to part­ner with its net­work of mem­ber banks to cre­ate a branded pay­ments app.
  • Serve, the Amer­i­can Express equiv­a­lent of the Visa Wal­let effort, which has entered not only into part­ner­ships with Ver­i­zon and Sprint but also the fast-growing Foursquare mobile check-in platform.
  • Verisign and the other point-of-purchase equip­ment com­pa­nies who make the giz­mos used to swipe cards. Verisign has a mobile bank­ing suite that it mar­kets with a vari­ety of tech and bank­ing partners.

In a way, mobile pay­ments already have arrived.

You can flash a bar­code on a mobile phone to com­plete a pur­chase at most Starbuck’s, but it’s a far more com­pli­cated process today than it will be in the future. Now, you have to estab­lish a Starbuck’s account by hand­ing your credit card to a clerk, who loads the funds on a Starbuck’s card. Then, you have to down­load a Starbuck’s app and link it to your Starbuck’s account. Finally, you have to fuss with the phone when you make a pur­chase to gen­er­ate a bar­code that can be read at the reg­is­ter. If you run out of money, you have to slap some plas­tic on the counter to recharge your Starbuck’s card.

In the future, this rig­ma­role will be unnec­es­sary. Sit­ting on a bus or walk­ing through the park, you will be able to vir­tu­ally cre­ate and man­age accounts with indi­vid­ual mer­chants, sim­ply wav­ing your phone and con­firm­ing a trans­ac­tion when­ever you hap­pen to be in a store. More likely, you will have a generic buy­ing account that works with all mer­chants. Once estab­lished, you will be able to top it up from time to time for use at a gas pump, vend­ing machine or fur­ni­ture store. You might even be able to wire­lessly lend a friend $100.

Paper­less bank­ing almost is upon us. Chase has an app that allows you to deposit a check by merely tak­ing a pic­ture of it with your Android or iPhone.

Once the mobile pay­ments ecosys­tem fully evolves, cur­rency and plas­tic may well become relics of the past.

For con­sumers, this will pro­vide greater con­ve­nience and arguably more secu­rity than ever.

For the win­ners in the land grab, it will unlock vast new mar­kets, poten­tially shift­ing rev­enues from banks and credit card com­pa­nies to com­pa­nies like Google, Apple and the mobile carriers.

For mar­keters, the sys­tems will cap­ture a wealth of infor­ma­tion about pur­chas­ing pat­terns, includ­ing who, what, when and where peo­ple bought some­thing. Even when this data is col­lected with­out iden­ti­fy­ing indi­vid­u­als by name, the vol­ume and speci­ficity of the infor­ma­tion will enable mar­keters to sharpen their mes­sag­ing and tactics.

Going to the next level, sites like Blippy.Com encour­age con­sumers to dis­close and write reviews about their pur­chases. If such plat­forms take off, they will pro­vide mer­chants with the abil­ity to link spe­cific indi­vid­u­als with par­tic­u­lar pur­chas­ing pat­terns, enabling brands to reach con­sumers with unprece­dented precision.

At the level beyond that, it seems entirely pos­si­ble that a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of con­sumers would be will­ing to have all their pur­chases tracked in return for such incen­tives as dis­counts or frequent-shopping points that can be redeemed for cash or prod­ucts in the future. This, of course, would enable the Holy Grail of tar­get mar­ket­ing: Putting the right offer in front of the right per­son at the right time.

Although the out­look is unclear, there can be no ques­tion that mobile pay­ments will rev­o­lu­tion­ize mar­ket­ing by cre­at­ing an ocean of real-time, gran­u­lar and pre­cise con­sumer data.

This mat­ters to pub­lish­ers and broad­cast­ers, because it means that mar­keters in the future prob­a­bly will vec­tor ever more of their adver­tis­ing dol­lars into direct con­nec­tions with con­sumers, instead of mass media.

As mobile pay­ments com­bine with the power of dig­i­tal pub­lish­ing, masses of eye­balls – which hap­pens to be what tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers and broad­cast­ers sell – will dimin­ish in impor­tance in the typ­i­cal advertiser’s media mix.

Where does this leave the tra­di­tional media companies?

Because rich data – not mass audi­ences – will be the name of the game in the future, every local media com­pany should be gath­er­ing as much data as pos­si­ble about every house­hold and indi­vid­ual in the com­mu­nity it serves.

The most imme­di­ate oppor­tu­ni­ties to do this are through newslet­ter pro­grams, con­tests, site reg­is­tra­tion and smart mobile apps. Obvi­ously, all of these tac­tics require close atten­tion to gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate pri­vacy policies.

The other thing media com­pa­nies need to do is pay close atten­tion to the evo­lu­tion of the mobile pay­ments ecosys­tem. Then, when the time is right, they need to buddy up with the likely winners.

Alan D. Mut­ter is per­haps the only CEO in Sil­i­con Val­ley who knows how to set type one let­ter at a time. Mut­ter began his career as a news­pa­per colum­nist and edi­tor at the Chicago Daily News and later rose to City Edi­tor of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1984, he became No. 2 edi­tor of the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle. He left the news­pa­per busi­ness in 1988 to join Inter­Me­dia Part­ners, a start-up that became one of the largest cable-TV com­pa­nies in the U.S. Mut­ter was the COO of Inter­Me­dia when he moved to Sil­i­con Val­ley in 1996 to join the first of the three start-up com­pa­nies he led as CEO. The com­pa­nies he headed were a pio­neer­ing Inter­net ser­vice provider and two enterprise-software com­pa­nies. Mut­ter now is a con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in cor­po­rate ini­tia­tives and new media ven­tures involv­ing jour­nal­ism and tech­nol­ogy. He ordi­nar­ily does not write about clients or sub­jects that will affect their inter­ests. In the rare event he does, this will be fully dis­closed. Mut­ter also is on the adjunct fac­ulty of the Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley. To see his entire pro­file, click here.

Help Kickstart the NYC Pizza Project

Posted on | April 16, 2014 | No Comments

Check out The New York Pizza Project on Kick­starter, and become a backer. It’s near and dear to my heart. My son Nick John­son is among the cre­ators. But it’s also a phe­nom­e­nal print doc­u­men­tary of one of New York’s most emblem­atic enter­prises: the pizza shop. The pho­tos, inter­views, even video for future projects, are all done. They just need funds now for print­ing and dis­tri­b­u­tion of a cof­fee table book. The project takes an anthro­po­log­i­cal view of the cul­ture that sur­rounds and infuses NYC pizza shops. After all, what would the city be with­out them?

Writer’s Lifeguard: Good News Bears

Posted on | April 14, 2014 | No Comments

By Jules Older, April 14, 2014

Here’s what’s going right for Life­guards today…

Shot Boom Score , a kid’s book by New Zealand broadcaster/author/publisher/cricketer Justin Brown, has made the Sto­ry­lines 2014 Notable Books List.

Jules Older

Jules Older

In Marin County, Cal­i­for­nia, Dick Jor­dan has a piece on south­east Alaska on Mar­inTV. You can see it here.

In Vermont’s fabled North­east King­dom, Jerry Johnson’s Up the Creek With­out a Sad­dle is now in eBook and iBook versions.

You call her Loser; she spells it Win­ner. From Lon­don, Gill Mar­tin reports on the ski tri­umphs of Mother England’s journalists.

Cindy Hirschfeld is now editor-in-chief of Aspen Mag­a­zine and group edi­tor for Vail Resorts’ Epic Life mag­a­zine. [This gives me par­tic­u­lar plea­sure since, back in 2010, she was feel­ing down so long, it felt like up to her. I’ve attached Writ­ers Life­guard 33 in case you missed Cindy’s story.

San Fran­cis­can Kelly Carter writes, “I’m skit­ing from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., where last night I gave a pet travel talk at National Geographic’s head­quar­ters to pro­mote my new book, The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel, Nat Geo’s first pet travel guide­book. Good Morn­ing Amer­ica recently spent two days in San Fran­cisco with me and my pooch Lucy to shoot a dog-friendly travel seg­ment that airs soon. Keep your eye out for it!”

Here’s another kind of tri­umph. From Ver­mont, Mary Kerr writes, “I depart this Sun­day for Kabul. My friends in Kabul tell me their ela­tion over the num­bers of young and old, men and women, defy­ing the Tal­iban by vot­ing in this pres­i­den­tial elec­tion is beyond descrip­tion. Their future is bright­en­ing! I am so excited to think I will be there for a five-week period. I will be teach­ing at SOLA — School of Leadership-Afghanistan. I sus­pect I will learn more from these young Afghan women than they from me, inshallah.”

Leslie Anthony left snowy British Colum­bia for sunny San Fran­cisco to receive Canada’a pres­ti­gious North­ern Lights Award for his fea­ture writing.

Then, there’s this from new Life­guard, Sharon Spence Lieb. Bet­ter sit down before you read it…

I was thrilled when North Amer­i­can Travel Jour­nal­ists awarded me as a Final­ist in their 2014 Travel Writ­ing Com­pe­ti­tion. But it’s the story behind the award that I want to share.

After 28 bliss­ful years trav­el­ling the world with my photographer/filmmaker hus­band War­ren Lieb, he became ter­mi­nally ill. My Indi­ana Jones, who hiked to 17,000 feet in Peru, filmed wars out of fighter jets, kayaked with killer whales and dove to 100 feet with giant manta rays… became a home­bound invalid who could barely walk.

I stopped trav­el­ling, stopped writ­ing and devoted myself to his care. Then, a strange invi­ta­tion came from Can­cun Vis­i­tors Bureau; please come write about The Day of the Dead ceremony.

’No thanks,’ I said. ‘I hate death. My hus­band is dying.’

’You must come,’ they said. ‘There is some­one you must meet.

I got 24/7 nurses for War­ren and went to Can­cun. At an evening can­dlelit cer­e­mony, in an under­ground cave, I encoun­tered a shaman. Hun­dreds gath­ered for his incan­ta­tions, his bless­ings. I crawled on my knees along the wet jun­gle floor, stooped at his feet like a cry­ing child, and asked him to help me over­come my fear of death and loss.

His mes­sage gave me great com­fort. I wrote a story, about what I learned, Life And Death In Can­cun. After Warren’s death, the story was pub­lished in many outlets.

And won best story of the year from Can­cun Vis­i­tor Bureau, 2013 and then the Final­ist award from NATJA, 2014.”

And finally, from Dublin, Patrick Kin­sella pro­vides an ety­mo­log­i­cal foot­note on the New Zealand word for brag­ging. “In Ire­land, ‘skite’ is a noun, not a verb, and you go on a skite (or ‘a bit of a skite’) with friends to visit many pubs and drink much beer. A skite is the series of events at which much craic is gen­er­ally had. Though there may be later regrets.”

Good work, Life­guards. Write on.

— jules




Independent Book Publishing: Is It the Viable Future for Books?

Posted on | April 13, 2014 | No Comments

By Lee Foster

The steady advance in the prac­tice of “inde­pen­dent book pub­lish­ing,” also called self-publishing in some cir­cles, has been a remark­able and inno­v­a­tive phe­nom­e­non to watch in the last decade.Lee Foster book

Those of us who knew the via­bil­ity of “tra­di­tional book pub­lish­ing” have also observed that decline with some sad­ness. In my own case, I pub­lished a dozen books with tra­di­tional pub­lish­ers and found the expe­ri­ence gen­er­ally sat­is­fac­tory in the ear­lier, golden years.

Tra­di­tional vs inde­pen­dent pub­lish­ing is a chal­leng­ing dilemma with which many mod­ern authors now wres­tle. (I talked recently on this before the Bay Area Inde­pen­dent Pub­lish­ers Asso­ci­a­tion, and video­g­ra­pher Joel Black­well cap­tured a video record. I also talked on this sub­ject before the Bay Area Travel Writ­ers and at the San Fran­cisco Writer’s Conference.)

In 2013, I pub­lished one book inde­pen­dently and one book tra­di­tion­ally. Prob­a­bly all my future books will be inde­pen­dent. What has changed?

Under­stand­ing Tra­di­tional Book Publishing

Before tra­di­tional book pub­lish­ing is dis­missed as an option, it is impor­tant to under­stand what it was, how it func­tioned, and why it once worked well.

Read more here.

Writer’s Lifeguard: Did He Make It?

Posted on | March 10, 2014 | No Comments

By Jules Older, March 10, 2014

A lit­tle over a year ago, in a Writ­ers Life­guard titled Prepa­ra­tion H, I wrote: My goal, my aim, my early res­o­lu­tion for 2013 is to start

Jules Older

Jules Older

mak­ing money again. Check back with me in a year, and I’ll let you know how that worked out.

It’s now next year. So, your ques­tion is, Did he make it?

And my answer is… No, first, let me tell you how I spent the year. I spent it try­ing might­ily to make that res­o­lu­tion work. I sub­mit­ted more, hus­tled more, started blog­ging for dol­lars, and when faced with the choice of doing some­thing for free (as I’m doing now) or for money, I pushed myself to open the door marked CASH.

So, after all that, Did he make it?

He did not. My already pathetic income dropped. Sig­nif­i­cantly dropped. What lies below pathetic? Wretched? Piti­ful? Tragic? By what­ever name, that’s what I earned from writ­ing last year.

Am I embar­rassed by this? Oh, yes. Some­where between embar­rassed and humiliated.

Am I giv­ing up my quest to earn a decent buck from my work? Oh, no. I’m dou­bling down. This year’s res­o­lu­tion is the same as last’s — start mak­ing money again.

Am I opti­mistic? I’m a born opti­mistic fool, so, despite abun­dant evi­dence to the con­trary, yes. I’ll report back again in early 2015.

That’s me. How’s by you? Let us know, and if you don’t want me to share the info with the other Life­guards, just mark it PRIVATE. It shall remain so.

Hope yer well and thriv­ing. As, money aside, is your old friend

— jules

Jules Older (amaz­ingly, no actual rela­tion to Susan Older) is a free­lance travel writer, the author of children’s books, a speaker, a broad­caster, a con­sul­tant and, with Effin Older, the cre­ator of the iPhone/iPad apps: San Fran­cisco Restau­rants, Auck­land (New Zealand) Insider and Kick­ass Gram­mar. Learn more about Jules and Effin here.

Seattle Job: Washington News Council Director

Posted on | March 3, 2014 | No Comments

Wash­ing­ton News Council

Appli­ca­tions are now being accepted for the posi­tion of Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Wash­ing­ton News Coun­cil in Seat­tle, Wash­ing­ton. Dead­line: March 15, 2014. Email cover let­ter (not to exceed 750 words) and resume to or mail to WNC, P.O. Box 3672, Seat­tle WA 98124. Call 206.262.9793 with any questions.

“New exec­u­tive direc­tor sought for last U.S. news coun­cil; only gutsy need apply” — San­dra Oshiro, Poyn­ter

“Wash­ing­ton News Coun­cil head John Hamer to retire” — Patti Payne, Puget Sound Busi­ness Journal




The WNC is an inde­pen­dent forum for media ethics founded in 1998. It is the last such orga­ni­za­tion of its kind in the United States, although dozens of press coun­cils exist all over the world. (SEE AIPCE.NET) The WNC’s stated mis­sion is: “To help main­tain pub­lic trust and con­fi­dence in the news media by pro­mot­ing fair­ness, accu­racy and bal­ance and by cre­at­ing a forum where the pub­lic and the news media can engage each other in exam­in­ing stan­dards of jour­nal­is­tic ethics and accountability.”

The WNC’s found­ing Exec­u­tive Direc­tor and now Board Pres­i­dent, John Hamer, has announced that he will retire on April 15, 2014 (his 68th birth­day). He may remain as Pres­i­dent Emer­i­tus at the dis­cre­tion of the WNC Board on a advisory/consulting basis, but the new Exec­u­tive Direc­tor will report directly to the Board.

PLEASE NOTE: The WNC is at a turn­ing point after 15 years of solid and suc­cess­ful oper­a­tions. Finan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity is a chal­lenge. The new Exec­u­tive Direc­tor will need to raise suf­fi­cient funds to sus­tain the Council’s work — includ­ing his/her salary. He/she will have the oppor­tu­nity to “rein­vent” the WNC and take it in new direc­tions, and/or main­tain some cur­rent pro­grams and activ­i­ties. He/she may need to recruit new Board mem­bers, sev­eral of whom are retir­ing as their terms end. He/she may also need to hire a new part-time exec­u­tive assis­tant, as the cur­rent per­son in that posi­tion has a full-time teach­ing com­mit­ment at least through June 2014. He/she may need to work from home, depend­ing on whether funds are ade­quate to pay cur­rent rent of office above Pyra­mid Ale­house near Safeco Field (free park­ing; beer down­stairs; base­ball across street).


“Reinvent/reboot” WNC to be rel­e­vant and effec­tive in new dig­i­tal media age. Work with Board of Direc­tors to review/redefine/revitalize mis­sion and goals.


Take respon­si­bil­ity for fund-raising and devel­op­ing resources to sup­port WNC.
Pre­pare annual bud­get in part­ner­ship with Board Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee.
Sub­mit reg­u­lar finan­cial state­ments to Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee and full Board.


Lead review of WNC’s cur­rent mis­sion, goals, pro­grams and activ­i­ties.
Reeval­u­ate exist­ing Board struc­ture and imple­ment any needed changes.
Sug­gest new direc­tions and activ­i­ties to ful­fill mis­sion as appropriate.


Over­see effec­tive admin­is­tra­tion of WNC office and activ­i­ties.
Hire and man­age staff, con­sul­tants and interns as appro­pri­ate.
Hold quar­terly Board meet­ings and monthly Exec Comm meetings.


Degree in jour­nal­ism, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, man­age­ment or related field.
Expe­ri­ence deal­ing with news media and work­ing jour­nal­ists.
Strong exper­tise in fund-raising and non­profit devel­op­ment.
Solid finan­cial over­sight and budget-management skills.
Orga­ni­za­tional abil­i­ties includ­ing strate­gic plan­ning and tac­tics.
Man­age­ment abil­i­ties to over­see staff/interns/consultants.
Expe­ri­ence work­ing with non­profit Board of Direc­tors mem­bers.
Trans­par­ent and high-integrity lead­er­ship stan­dards and prac­tices.
Strong writ­ten, ver­bal, and dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills.


1. Work with Board of Direc­tors to update and ful­fill WNC’s mis­sion.
2. Raise suf­fi­cient funds to keep WNC sus­tain­able, includ­ing own salary.
3. Over­see day-to-day oper­a­tions of orga­ni­za­tion, staff, and vol­un­teers.
4. Serve as pri­mary spokesper­son to news media and gen­eral pub­lic.
5. Help change com­plaint hear­ings into online dig­i­tal review process.
6. Decide on future of “TAO of Jour­nal­ism” Pledge & Seal project.
7. Deter­mine evo­lu­tion of Online Media Guide (OMG) project.
8. Decide whether to con­tinue award­ing annual WNC schol­ar­ships.
9. Deter­mine whether to con­tinue Media Ethics break­fast series.
10. Pro­vide cre­ative lead­er­ship in 24/7 online dig­i­tal media world.

Patch’s Biggest Blunder: Ignoring Cities

Posted on | January 3, 2014 | No Comments

Posted on 12.26.2013

Guest post by Mer­rill Brown, direc­tor of the school of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and media at Mont­clair State

Merrill Brown

Mer­rill Brown

Uni­ver­sity. A mem­ber of the found­ing team of Court TV and the found­ing Edi­tor in Chief of, Brown advises dig­i­tal media start-ups and is a Ven­ture Part­ner at DFJ Frontier. 

As the man­age­ment and own­er­ship of the hyper­local media ven­ture Patch endure con­tor­tions about the AOL company’s future, there’s an enor­mous amount of pun­ditryForbes con­clud­ing that Patch’s fail­ures are both about its model and about the impos­si­ble nature of suc­ceed­ing in pro­vid­ing dig­i­tal news and infor­ma­tion to local com­mu­ni­ties. Some of it is wise, but most every­one is miss­ing a crit­i­cal point.

That dig­i­tal local media has yet to scale and cre­ate a defin­i­tive new model is about investor appre­hen­sion about all things local, about entre­pre­neur­ial lim­i­ta­tions, and about the fact that too many local media star­tups have to date been under­in­vest­ing in build­ing local adver­tis­ing capa­bil­i­ties. In some ways it’s about one core issue: local media and hyper­local star­tups are miss­ing the audi­ences and rev­enue oppor­tu­ni­ties around serv­ing the entirety of large met­ro­pol­i­tan areas.

Read more of Mer­rill Brown’s Forbes post here.

7 Tumultuous Years for Tribune Newspaper

Posted on | October 8, 2013 | No Comments

Reflec­tions of a Newsosaur


By Alan D. Mutter

Mon­day, Oct. 07, 2013

A direc­tive to cut up to $100 mil­lion in spend­ing at the Tri­bune Co. news­pa­pers is but the lat­est chal­lenge to a group of iconic titles that have been twist­ing in the wind for seven of the most tumul­tuous years ever expe­ri­enced by the pub­lish­ing industry.

The bud­get cuts in store for the Chicago Tri­bune, the Los Ange­les Times and six other dailies pub­lished by the com­pany add to the uncer­tainty, anx­i­ety and inde­ci­sion that have dis­tracted staffers at the pub­li­ca­tions since a series of con­vul­sive – and incon­clu­sive – changes in own­er­ship and man­age­ment com­menced way back in 2006. Sadly, as dis­cussed in a moment, there is still no end in sight.

The tim­ing of the ongo­ing cluster-kerfuffle could not be worse, because the man­agers and employ­ees of the news­pa­pers ought to be spend­ing their days devel­op­ing new prod­ucts, acquir­ing new audi­ences and build­ing new rev­enue streams to meet the abun­dant chal­lenges of the dig­i­tal era.

Instead, they are won­der­ing who will own the com­pany, who will be in charge, what they will be asked to do and what might hap­pen next. Not the least of their con­cerns is whether they will have jobs in the next week, next month or next year. More on this in a moment. First, the background:

The seven-year ordeal for the Tri­bune news­pa­pers began in Sep­tem­ber, 2006, when the pub­licly held com­pany kicked off the process of putting itself up for sale as share­hold­ers feuded over its ebbing stock price.

The year­long hunt for a buyer ended when real estate mogul Sam Zell acquired the com­pany in Decem­ber, 2007, with $13 bil­lion in debt and only $315 mil­lion…. read more here.


Alan D. Mut­ter is per­haps the only CEO in Sil­i­con Val­ley who knows how to set type one let­ter at a time. Mut­ter began his career as a news­pa­per colum­nist and edi­tor at the Chicago Daily News and later rose to City Edi­tor of the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1984, he became No. 2 edi­tor of the San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle. He left the news­pa­per busi­ness in 1988 to join Inter­Me­dia Part­ners, a start-up that became one of the largest cable-TV com­pa­nies in the U.S. Mut­ter was the COO of Inter­Me­dia when he moved to Sil­i­con Val­ley in 1996 to join the first of the three start-up com­pa­nies he led as CEO. The com­pa­nies he headed were a pio­neer­ing Inter­net ser­vice provider and two enterprise-software com­pa­nies. Mut­ter now is a con­sul­tant spe­cial­iz­ing in cor­po­rate ini­tia­tives and new media ven­tures involv­ing jour­nal­ism and tech­nol­ogy. He ordi­nar­ily does not write about clients or sub­jects that will affect their inter­ests. In the rare event he does, this will be fully dis­closed. Mut­ter also is on the adjunct fac­ulty of the Grad­u­ate School of Jour­nal­ism at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berkeley.

A whole new kind of journalism: a dissenting view

Posted on | September 20, 2013 | No Comments

By Thomas Kent, deputy man­ag­ing edi­tor and stan­dards edi­tor, Asso­ci­ated Press

Pub­lished Sept. 20, 2013 on The Huff­in­g­ton Post Media Blog

In jour­nal­ism con­fer­ences and blogs, the last-leg school has been gain­ing cur­rency in the past few months. Its pro­po­nents argue that the basic trans­mis­sion of infor­ma­tion has become a cheap com­mod­ity — “any­one with a cell phone and a Twit­ter account can do it.” This infor­ma­tion, they say, is seen by every­one — long before jour­nal­is­tic gate­keep­ers can try to con­trol it. The bot­tom line: If there’s any­thing left for jour­nal­ists to do, it’s to attempt to add value by ana­lyz­ing and retelling what every­one has seen already.

These are quite dra­matic claims, and highly ques­tion­able. Trends so far offer lit­tle basis to expect a change in the fun­da­men­tals of the jour­nal­is­tic profession.

One asser­tion under­ly­ing much of the last-legs think­ing is that today’s jour­nal­ists, mul­ti­skilled as they may be, risk becom­ing obso­lete. In their por­trayal of the “net­worked jour­nal­ism” of the future in the Inter­na­tional Jour­nal of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Bregtje van der Haak, Michael Parks and Manuel Castells say that unless jour­nal­ists take on much more spe­cial­ized new roles, they face los­ing ground “to the robots capa­ble of per­form­ing rou­tine data gath­er­ing, and to the cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists who con­stantly retrieve infor­ma­tion in real-life sit­u­a­tions around them.”

Yet robots and cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists have been with us for some time. News com­pa­nies rou­tinely use automa­tion to han­dle data and some­times even to write basic sto­ries. No one under­es­ti­mates the ubiq­uity of cit­i­zen jour­nal­ists; as the size of news­rooms declines, jour­nal­ists are ben­e­fit­ing increas­ingly from cit­i­zen contributions.

Read more here.

Writer’s Digest Conference Sept. 27–29 in LA

Posted on | September 17, 2013 | No Comments

Press Release, Sept. 16, 2013

One of the cen­ter­piece events of every Writer’s Digest Con­fer­ence is the Agent & Edi­tor Pitch Slam. It allows atten­dees to meet withWriter's Digest Conference .2 plenty of pub­lish­ing pros and pitch their work. It’s a fan­tas­tic way to meet agents and edi­tors who are seek­ing new clients now. Plus, I will be on site Fri­day evening to per­son­ally explain the ins and outs of a suc­cess­ful pitch. Using what you learn from my Fri­day “Pitch Per­fect” ses­sion, you can rewrite your pitch and come into Saturday’s slam pre­pared and ready.

But I know noth­ing suc­ceeds like suc­cess — so let me tell you about our pitch slam suc­cess sto­ries from the past. Writer Beth Buelow attended our con­fer­ence in Los Ange­les last year, and signed with agent Annie Bomke. And then there’s agent Thao Le, who also attended and signed a writer. And that’s to say noth­ing of the fact that sev­eral writ­ers each year sign with agents at our east coast (NYC) con­fer­ence, or that at least four writ­ers signed with agents fol­low­ing our 2008 event in Los Angeles.

Bot­tom line: Writer’s Digest’s Agent & Edi­tor Pitch Slam works. Con­nec­tions are hap­pen­ing. This year, we have at least 20 agents and edi­tors to pitch. Join us at our event, Sep­tem­ber 27–29, in Los Ange­les, and be our next suc­cess story. I hope to see you there.

Best regards,

Chuck Sam­buchino,
Learn more about me and all Writer’s Digest Con­fer­ence West speak­ers here.

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        Is there life – or work – after news­pa­pers? A lot of us are in the process of find­ing out. Because it’s gen­er­ally a some­what lonely endeavor, it struck me, in Jan­u­ary 2010, that it might be com­fort­ing – and pos­si­bly very pro­duc­tive – to go through it together.

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