Tuesday, February 03, 2009


A new “blogging” newspaper has a lot of traditional journalists and news industry folks riled up – and for good reason. It stands to challenge the entire concept of what constitutes a newspaper. Or even – dare I suggest it – news itself!

If you haven’t heard about it yet, there’s a new print publication called “THE PRINTED BLOG.” It launched in Chicago and San Francisco a few weeks ago as, for now, a weekly roundup of stories and columns harvested from the Internet and printed for your browsing pleasure on paper.

Yes, someone is actually distributing WEB content in newspaper format. That’s so daringly against-the-grain it's news in and of itself.

As a proud contributor to the inaugural issue of THE PRINTED BLOG, I feel obliged to clear the air a bit in regard to what some might consider the generous use of the term “newspaper” in describing a publication like this one. And I’d like to start by asking a simple question.

What IS news?

It is likely safe to say that most people think of news as the information they read in the newspaper, or the stories they hear about on the nightly, ahem, news.

But just because you put syrup on something, doesn’t make it pancakes. I’m not entirely sure what I mean by that, either – but it has a nice ring to it. Bear with me for a moment, I’m blogging here.

News isn’t news because it’s on the nightly news or printed in a newspaper. News is the CONTENT – the information that is, in essence, “new” to you. And news can arrive in many forms.

News can be delivered by a friend over the phone, as in: “Did you hear the good news? Jack IS the father!”

News can come by way of a stranger in person:“Bad news, man. We ran out of the strawberry frosted ten minutes ago.”

News can be silent. No news is good news, as they say. Especially in places like the Middle East where news is too often accompanied by a body count.

And if you happen to hear about something twice, well, that’s OLD news.

Print newspapers and the nightly news shows are merely VEHICLES for delivering information, but over decades have become synonymous with “news.” What we’ve seen in recent years is a steady decline in readership and ratings thanks to the immediate and constant availability of information online. It’s simply an easier, faster way to access information you want.

You don’t have to wait for your morning paper or the news at 11 to find out what’s going on in the world. You have only to click and browse, at your convenience, any of myriad “news” resources. And that’s been bad news for the print newspaper industry in particular.

Still, traditional newspaper publications are far from obsolete. I, for one, still pay to have the Chicago Tribune delivered to my front doorstep each morning. I use it to browse car ads when I’m in the market, find local sales, read the amusing opinions of outspoken sports columnists, clip coupons, fill out crossword puzzles and sudoku grids, skim headlines for items of interest, and admire the photography.

I also use the newspaper to soak up slush from my winter boots, pack glassware for safer transport, cover my tabletop for messy projects like gutting pumpkins, and to commemorate special dates in history, such as the election of our nation’s first African-American president.

For me – and millions of other subscribers – the newspaper experience isn’t about getting news. It’s about the paper itself. It’s about the collection of rituals that make subscribing still worth it. It's about the act of holding and opening and folding over pages.

For my news fix, I have a dozen or so favorite websites bookmarked for up-to-the-minute updates on the world. By the time I pull the morning paper out of its plastic sheath, I’m usually well briefed on the day’s happenings.

When Founder of THE PRINTED BLOG, Josh Karp, first told me he was creating the “Newspaper for the next hundred years,” I winced. Blogs are hardly newsworthy, at least in the way we think about news. Too many blogs are jumbled, grammatically challenged ramblings of people channeling their energies in unproductive ways. But not all blogs. Some blogs are insightful, entertaining, intriguing, enlightening, and informational.

Perhaps most importantly, the content is NEW. It's fresh. It's unlike anything else the MSM is promoting these days. I just saw the same story on the midday news that I heard in the car on the way to work, the same story I read online earlier this morning that will be covered in the paper I'll open when I get home tonight. Ho hum.

News is everywhere, and it's largely the SAME. THE PRINTED BLOG may not be considered news by traditional standards, but it sure is new. And if it's new...well, that's news to me.

Karp is probably the last person to call the content for his publication “news.” He refers to it, simply, as content. Because he sees the newspaper for what it truly is, and that’s whatever people choose to do with it. The medium, you see, is the message.

This observation is not beside the point, because the publication's model calls for an unprecedented level of reader engagement in the not-so-distant future: self-selection of content by community, facilitated online, and replicated all over the country for a custom publication unlike any other.

It may not deliver what many would consider news, but THE PRINTED BLOG is definitely a newspaper. It delivers the experience of physical interaction with information, much of which will be “new” to the reader.

Will it follow AP style and aspire to uphold traditional journalistic standards? Not likely. This is, after all, the first print publication dedicated to capturing the essence of the wild, wild, web. In case you haven’t noticed, standards are a little different online. Not lower, necessarily. Just different. I’m not a huge fan of the abandonment of punctuation, but then many consider Joyce’s syntax-challenged “Ulysses” a thought-provoking work of art. Like THE PRINTED BLOG, it is what people say it is.

I have just one final note for journalism's old guard. Look closely at the word “journalism” and you’ll find it starts with a peculiar word – Journal. Defined, a Journal is quite simply “a diary: a daily written record of (usually personal) experiences and observations.”

Sure sounds like a blog to me.

I do understand the misnomer of “newspaper” may not work for some, but the term is much broader than the delivery of presumed-objective content subjectively deemed important by editorial organizations with established beliefs and opinions about the world. In fact, I might submit that THE PRINTED BLOG is closer to the soul of true journalism than anything broadcast on the Fox News Channel. That's in my humble opinion, of course. Or, I should say, in the parlance of our age, imho.

This newspaper is about giving people what they want.

Choices. Flexibility. Relevance. Entertainment. Information. A vehicle for self-expression.

It's also a snapshot of the zeitgeist.

The way I see it, if the content is interesting and relevant, the paper easy to carry and share, and I can gut a pumpkin on it, count me in.

Monday, February 02, 2009


On the heels of advertising's biggest day (Super Bowl Sunday!), I wanted to share a little insight regarding the process.

Our clients do not make it easy, as illustrated in this classic clip. Sometimes a bad ad isn't the advertiser's fault. Most of the time, in fact, bad advertising is a function of how the client relationship works. They're cutting the checks, after all.

This clip is billed as a parody, but it's "spot on." Captures the aggravating nuances of an industry on the border of art and science.




In case you missed any of the action last night, here's a link to the Super Bowl ads.

It's thorough, and they're graded. I tend to agree with the assessments here. Overall, a rebound for the advertising industry compared to recent years. There were a number of real winners. My favorites were Bud Light's man flying out of the office window, the Teleflora flowers spot, Cars.com's well crafted story, and Doritos' crystal ball.

As for the game, I am still in shock that the NFL would allow that game to expire without reviewing that final turnover, which was clearly an incomplete pass. But that missed call was the punctuation mark on an overall poorly officiated game. One Steelers drive was buoyed by three personal foul calls, two of which fall into the "this game couldn't possibly be fixed, could it?" category.

No, I don't believe in conspiracies like that. But then, how can the replay booth not take a look at a critical, pivotal final turnover with just :15 left in the game?