Journalism — It’s All About Content

Thanks to one of my web trolling buddies (Thanks Scott), I had the chance to see John Oliver’s 20-minute rant about journalism in a recent HBO “Last Week Tonight.”  Love or hate Oliver’s style (I find it interesting), there’s a lot of meat in this video.  I also found the “AdAge” editor’s approach to the story interesting – there was just as much focus on the last 90 seconds of “fluff” as there was to the heart of Oliver’s argument of the changing world of “journalism.”

Politics Are Local

OK, the fat lady is singing and the parties are over — so to speak.  We now have two candidates running for president which create heartburn for many “centrist” like myself.  For all the hate Hillary gets, I could have “accepted” her as president until the Democratic Party’s Platform made a big shift to the left.  In my opinion the Trumpster is totally unacceptable as an individual who has the chops to lead this country – and don’t give me that cr*p that he’s a business guy and understands how to lead.  Mr. Trump is a wealthy entrepreneur and they don’t do well in organizations.  Trust me.  Plus, his economic ravings concern me as much as the Democrat’s Platform.

So, what does that leave us?  Your local elected leaders.

There are 535 individuals (100 senators; 435 congressman) who ARE the folks who create laws – not the president.  They’re the folks we need to be electing — and more importantly – making sure they hear our opinions.  And don’t fall for that “they’re bought and paid for” by special interest groups (on both sides).  Yes, they’re being lobbied on a regular basis – but it’s the voters who keep our representatives employed.  So, it behooves us to make sure we have the right kind of folks representing us – not just folks who are listening to a vocal minority.

I have been fortunate over the years to be in the “belly of the beast” (Washington D.C.) working on behalf of the printing industry, and it’s a messy business. Yet, when it gets all set and done, it’s about that representative getting re-elected. So, if you don’t like the choices for president, make sure that your congressman or senator (and their staff, who really get the job done) hear your concerns and more importantly remind them that you’re a voter.  So, come November, let them her your voice!

 

Really?

This morning (Tuesday, July 12, 2016) Bloomberg reported that Xerox is in talks to acquire R.R. Donnelley.  Really??? Xerox has always had a hate/love relationship with many in the commercial and quick print industry.  Some  print providers saw Xerox as a direct competitor in managing “in-house” document centers which would move business out of the commercial space, and others did not like the fact that Xerox was selling equipment to both the commercial/print-for-pay firms while also selling to corporate end-users.  Many print providers saw, and continue to see, Xerox as a valued supplier.  Yet, this announcement may indicate that Xerox has decided to cross the Rubicon and position itself as a print provider rather than a manufacturer of equipment.  I’m perplexed by this announcement and will be curious to see how this all plays out.

All Lives Matter

This past week has clearly shown that we are dealing with biases in our society that are deeply rooted and cannot be ignored. Yet, when we state (by actions or words) that one part of society is more important than an another, we set ourselves up for failure – as we’ve just seen in a city that I consider home.

There’s a naiveté on the part of many activists that their actions – although well-meant – can set things right. Too often there are un-intended consequences which create a hothouse for the dis-enfranchised or bigots (of ALL colors). On the other side, there’s a feeling that lawlessness needs to be answered with aggressive tactics.

I for one, would like to see the powers that be representing both the “establishment” and the “disenfranchised” to walk in each other’s shoes, not just mouth platitudes.  There are real reasons why a minority might feel the way they do about the police, or why a police officer feels that no one appreciates the work they do – and the threats they deal with on a daily basis.

I’ve experienced both sides personally, as well as through the eyes of friends and family.  When one realizes that there are two sides to each story – and remains open to the idea that their perceptions could be incorrect – then we have the opportunity to improve our social well-being.  If one just wants to have a quick fix through legislation, or anarchy, the path becomes impossible.

The discussions we are presently having across the US and are hearing on a daily basis cannot be discounted.  It’s a dialogue of inclusion which has been slowly moving forward through my lifetime and needs to be continued, because ALL lives matter.

FedEx Is A Player

If anyone needs a reminder of the role print still plays, just take a look at FedEx/Office’s recently announced purchase –  1,800 Canon imagePRESS C700 color devices along with 1,400 HP DesignJet T3500 wide format printers. Although FedEx is not seen as a “commercial” printer by many in the industry, and their sales don’t show up in Department of Commerce data for the printing industry, they are a significant player.

As a company press release stated, “Our customers rely on us to provide the tools and technology they need to be successful and differentiate themselves from their competitors,” says Kim Dixon, executive VP and COO, FedEx Office. “The early feedback from our customers has been fantastic. They are thrilled with the vibrancy and quality of their color prints and large-format documents.”

Although this information may not portend well for many of the smaller firms in our industry, it reminds us that print is still an important channel of communications and there continues to be business opportunities.

Does Bernie Have It Right?

Over the years, I have become more and more cynical about our financial system – not that it’s a bad one, but one that tends to be too self-serving.  The Boys of Wall Street have a win-win game they play.  If you’re in the banking/investment industry, too often there is no downside.  Markets go up – you make money.  Markets go down – you still make money.  Try that in business – small business.  It doesn’t work that way.  Thus, the folks on the Street become insulated from the real world of people and basic economics, and I for one feel that’s not good for us.  If you want to look at a similar situation, look no further to the Fantasyland on The Potomac (Washington D.C.).  Too insular. And too much in control of our destinies.

Do I sound like one of Bernie’s followers?  Nope, his solutions aren’t the right ones – but he definitely brings up issues which should concern all of us.  Is there a simple solution?  NO, and that’s where the electorate (on the Trump and Sanders side) don’t get it. I hope that people can look at this complex web we have weaved over decades of regulatory and societal changes and realize that a “quick” fix, if possible, would be disastrous.   Any changes that will come from this next election will be slow to occur – and as much as I don’t like what I see from any of the candidates, I’m looking forward to slow. Let’s hear it for the turtles!

Right Hook

OK, now that the suspensions were handed out, it’s time to weigh into the Odor/Batista “incident.”  As much as I don’t believe the right hook (as good as it was) was probably the “answer” to the Joey Bats issue for the Rangers, it reminds us how much emotions make up what many consider a boring game.

The whole incident was reminiscent of some of the “old-school” baseball that I grew up watching.  You crowded the plate – and you got a 90 mph missile at your head.  Slides into second base which precluded the “incident” were the norm – they didn’t end up in fines and suspensions.  With today’s “investments” in players and the dollars involved with careers, MLB is much more concerned about safety than in the past.

Yet, we can’t forget that as in the past, many players play for the love and excitement of the game.  This is where I give Roogie (Odor) a pass.  He’s an excitable, passionate, young man – and that’s all right by me.  He has talent and if he’s able to steer that passion in the right way, he could very well be a real gem for the Rangers.  He has a pretty good mentor sitting at third base (Beltre), who could be very good for him. So, I give him a pass on this “incident,” and look forward to the next time the Rangers play Toronto (playoffs?).  It could be interesting.

 

The World Of Economics and Politics

Do you notice all the promises that the presidential campaigns have been throwing around?  Bernie with stating how easily we can afford to pay for everyone’s college.  Trump with his making trade better by bashing other countries; and Clinton with her comments saying that we need a universal health plan.  I’m not going to get in a discussion of the merits of any of those issues – I don’t have the time or temperament at this time.  BUT, what I do find of interest, and have for many years, is what an OpEd piece in this morning’s Wall Street Journal touched upon.

“The Weekend Interview” was with Russ Roberts the host of “EconTalk” a weekly podcast.  Roberts is an economist by trade; so he’s no empty talking head.  For anyone who has studied economics, you know that there’s as much black art as there is science.  Yet, over the years, an entire priesthood (cult?) has been created by politicians to show their promises are backed by experts.  And if you don’t like the answer – get a new oracle!

My concern, and has been one for years, is that people take a sound bite from their media of preference and it becomes dogma.  To quote the OpEd, “All the incentives push us [economists] toward overconfidence and ignore humility  — to ignore the buts and the what-ifs and the caveats.  You want to be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal?  Of course you do.  So you make a bold claim.  Being a skeptic gets you on page A9.”

As Roberts opined in the article, economists are people who have bias and often that will influence how they approach an issue – and why we have so many contrary opinions.  He feels that economists should be more humble – and I don’ have an argument with that statement. I’ll take it a step further. Those of us who feel strongly about our side of the political argument should be the same way.  Be humble. Listen to the other side. Study the FACTS – not just one person’s or side’s opinion.  If we truly want to continue being a great nation, our electorate needs to be well-informed.  And if we really don’t know the answer to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin – say so.

Scattershooting

Anyone who grew up in North Texas, or like many of us who migrated in the ’70s or ’80s, got a chance to read one of the best sports journalist in the U.S. — Blackie Sherrod. Blackie left us for the big pressroom in the sky this past week, but his writing and pointed wit will be forever remembered in this day of 160 character texts and 140 letter tweets.

When I first moved to Texas, I wasn’t too sure about Sherrod and his style.  Not that I didn’t care for it — but I was coming from Los Angeles,and there was a superb, nay outstanding, sportswriter showing his ability to craft words and wit which was similar in style to Blackie’s.  It was the late, great Jim Murray, who was honored with a Pulitzer in 1990.  So, my standards had been set pretty high.

Yet, as I read Sherrod over the years, I learned to appreciate his writing and his commentary about sports and the world.  He was a great one, and in this world of over-grown personalities, I hope to see future sports journalists who can craft a sentence and make a point like Blackie.  I’m looking forward to it.

IoT

Don’t you love acronyms?  Well, this is one that has been around for a while. I was at a recent American Marketing Association meeting on the topic of Internet of Things, and the speaker was from Microsoft. Although he was a bit challenged with technical difficulties and his presentation was a bit weak, the attendance of nearly 100 said a lot for the interest from the DFW marketing community.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects—devices, vehicles, buildings and other items—embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity that enables these objects to collect and exchange data.  For some it’s a very scary thought which makes Orwell’s “1984” pale in comparison, or makes Tom Cruise’s “Minority Report” a glimpse of the near future rather than fantasy.  It’s reality for firms like Microsoft and Adobe who are creating and implementing strategies to help marketers to gather this information and create new ways to market directly to clients.  Needless to say many of these methods don’t involve print – which is Chicken Little speaking.  Yet, there are opportunities for many.

The ability to manage the data and understand the various channels of advertising/promotion is unique in today’s world. Marketing folks see the value of 1:1 marketing – especially in a mobile environment — but are challenged in using the right tools – and right mix. Print providers which are presently handling extensive variable data projects have the technical knowledge of parsing and formatting data to create a message, but are struggling to find ways to say that they’re more than a print provider.  Over the next few years (some say 3-5), the use of Big Data will grow logarithmically, and the firms which understand how to manage the data to create messages (regardless of media channel) have tremendous opportunities.  It’s just a matter of finding a way to become more than “just” a print provider.