Let the bad ideas flow

With all the hyperbolic, ill-sourced and often self-serving End of Days coverage of the newspaper industry lately, we shouldn't be surprised to see any number of really bad ideas surfacing -- and I don't just mean paywalls.

I say: Let the bad ideas flow. Sometimes bad ideas spark good ones. Just don't drink the Kool-Aid.

Here's one that might smell good but bear poison: Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin's proposal to let newspapers dodge taxes by declaring themselves to be nonprofit charities.

Newspaper ownership and the fourth generation syndrome

There are still a few family-owned newspapers in America, but only a few. Most were gobbled up by corporate consolidators -- newspaper chains -- decades ago. The reason, I think, has to do as much with the dynamics of a family business as with corporate finance and the peculiarities of newspapering.

There are four cycles in the life of a family business. Often they align with generations:

Know your own business model

As I observed Friday, newsrooms are categorically blind to the underlying business realities of their own employers. This leads to needless shock and amazement when an overleveraged newspaper chain falls on hard times, a lot of pointless hand-wringing about the future of journalism, and a parade of kooky ideas about how "we" are going to "make them pay" for all the really great content that Google, et al, are "stealing."

Please stop calling print the 'core product' (explained)

I twittered an offhand remark yesterday: "Please stop calling print the core product." It was retweeted quite a bit, and I received some "please explain" queries. Here's my explanation.

If you're still thinking your core product is a newspaper, you're misleading yourself and maybe even killing your business.

Your core business is not print.

And this may dismay the online news crowd, but your core product isn't news.

What have you learned about newsroom convergence?

For an internal report, I'm interviewing various people at work in an attempt to identify what we've learned from our efforts to combine print and online staffs into unified content teams.

But I'm also interested in hearing tales from outside the company, so here are a few questions. You can reply anonymously if you want, or just send me a private email at steve(at)yelvington(dot)com.

* What are the 3 biggest mistakes made in your newsroom in the convergence process? How would you avoid them, if you could do it all over again?

We don't have a clue where this is going ... and that's OK

My friend Kevin Anderson, over on the other side of the pond, pulled back the curtain today on Open Platform, "a service that will allow partners to reuse guardian.co.uk content and data for free and weave it 'into the fabric of the internet.'"

Why didn't newspapers try charging for online content? Well, they did ....

I've heard it thousands of times: "The big mistake newspapers made was not charging for access from the beginning."

But it's not true that newspapers didn't charge for access right from the beginning.

Let's roll back the clock about 15 years. Here are some of the newspapers that were pursuing the paid-access model:

Designers: Why do Drupal themes suck?

I've been using Twitterfall to track a number of topics lately, including Drupal, and I've noticed a couple of widely held beliefs. One is that Drupal is hard to install and the other is that Drupal themes suck.

Eight barriers to local paid content

This is likely to be ignored by advocates of charging for access to local news websites, but I'm going to pass out some free advice anyway.

Before embarrassing yourself and imperiling your company's future, consider the following barriers to your great new idea.

They are not all insurmountable, but if you plow forward in ignorance, a lot of people are going to get hurt.

Averages are dead

I'm serious: Can we please stop talking about averages, medians and means? Can we please top thinking like we're living in 1955? There are no average people and no average products, blogs or newspapers. Everything is a special case. Get used to that.