Fast Flip

by Jason Preston on October 19, 2009

Picture 1.pngGoogle’s Fast Flip, a new slideshow-based navigation interface for recent news, is exactly what Scott Karp calls it: solving the right problem.

I wrote the other day that news brands should focus on creating a good “browse” experience, and let the search engines tackle the “search” experience. If innovation doesn’t start happening in-house soon, then it looks like it’s going to happen somewhere.

I know from the people in journalism that I see and talk to on a regular basis that technical innovation is nearly impossible in most newsrooms, primarily because news organizations still think they can get by with one or two developers.

That kind of thinking is insane. How much time would it take how many developers to toss out something like Fast Flip?

News brands need to be willing to spend — and lose — developer time like that on a regular basis for the next several years. The race to find a good news experience at the computer screen is on, and woe is he who hires no developers.

What do you get when you “get it?”

by Jason Preston on October 13, 2009

This is the year that people will “get it.”

The slow revolution in news media is turning over this year, and the old school is going to meet the new school halfway. Newsbrands are going social. Sites will link to other sites. Comments will proliferate and every reporter will be on Twitter.

The big wigs are “getting it.”

What do you get when you “get it?”

Page views.

All the engagement and all the social good will you can generate will get you nowhere unless you can fix this problematic, but currently accurate, equation:

cost of generating page views > revenue from page views

And that takes business innovation, not social innovation. We need to move beyond the page view.


Balance of power

by Jason Preston on October 9, 2009

Online, reporters all have brands that are competing, in some ways, with their employers. Wages have always depended on how much an employee is needed. If you bring more value to a company than the company brings to you, then you get paid well.

If not, then you either don’t get hired or you don’t get paid well.

Fame is a great tool to leverage more money out of a news brand, but up until recently an individual’s ability to be famous (have a brand to themselves) was limited to the exposure that the mass mediums chose to bestow on said individual.

Thus the invisible, and low paid, employee.

Enter the internet, where suddenly anyone can build a brand for themselves, and many people working for large publications actually get a leg-up into a world where their personal fame starts to eclipse the reputation of their employer.

Now what happens? The publication is at a disadvantage of their own making. If the newly famous employee decides to leave, they’ll be able to find a job or work on their own quickly, and they’ll take a certain chunk of audience with them.

It’s an encouraging story for the young journalist, isn’t it?


Search vs Browse

by Jason Preston on October 8, 2009

These are two very different modes for the news consumer. At least they are for me.

As I tweeted the other day, I think most major news brand web sites are great at “browse,” or at least better than Google News and as good as the major aggregators. Where news brands fall down is on search.

When you’re searching for a news story, isn’t it better to see results from every news source instead of just one? There’s an inherent limit in the way proprietary news sites can treat search, the same where there’s an inherent limit in the way any proprietary site can present search; searching works best when you present comprehensive results.

Better to make a truly killer browse experience, and make your site as google friendly as possible. Let them do search; you should do news.

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The Pitch: Tuesday, October 27th

by Jason Preston on October 1, 2009

RSVP for The Pitch (Oct 27th) at Eventbrite!

I’m glad to be back up and running at full capacity here at Eat Sleep Publish. There were a nightmarish few weeks following the gargantuan WordPress hacktastic disaster (which happened while I was on vacation), but in the words of every pop artist ever: “I’m back.”

What’s more, I’m announcing that The Pitch is coming back to Lucid Jazz Club just a little over a year after the first event happened in September 2008. I’m also changing the format a tiny bit: we’ll kick the discussion off with a 10-minute primer speech instead of three five-minute talks.

What’s on the docket this time around?

Will all journalists be freelancers?

When is it?

Tuesday, October 27th

How much does it cost?


I’m also going to be using eventbrite this time around, because it’s actually a lot simpler for people to RSVP than it was on Upcoming. So, you know the drill: go sign up for The Pitch, and I’ll see you there!


by Jason Preston on September 11, 2009

News is a distraction-heavy business, and it’s only becoming more so.

Is looking for things to write about a distraction or is it work? Is browsing Twitter a distraction or is it work? In order to succeed as a newsbrand, one might say that you need to successfully distract people from what they are doing long enough to read your news.

In a distraction society, how do you get anything done?

I get a lot more work done when I do two things:

  1. Dedicating myself to whatever it is I am doing, and not interrupting myself until I am done.
  2. Keeping my computer desktop very clean; I have only my hard drive and one folder on it.

How do you deal with distractions?


Lessons from vacation

by Jason Preston on September 9, 2009

I’ve been on vacation for the past week and a half, and one thing I’ve noticed is that all the news I’ve missed hasn’t really had a big effect on my life.

Kind of a sobering thought for an industry, that on a day-to-day basis, news isn’t really necessary for most people.

Subscription Ads

by Jason Preston on August 26, 2009

How hard is it for me to place a $250 ad buy on your newspaper web site?

How hard is it for me to place a recurring monthly $250 ad buy on your newspaper web site?

How do you make ad sales a scalable business? Google ads are fine, but they’re hard to control and the CPC model cheats the publisher. But your ad staff can only sell so many ads in a week.

But what if they sold a recurring ad? What if one sale was really an infinite sale? There are hundreds to thousands of local companies who would love the opportunity to make a small scale ad buy on your site, one that fits their monthly budget, and one that they can adjust on-the-fly.

Contracts are commitments. Commitments are scary.

Would paid online media mean more print subscribers?

by Jason Preston on August 21, 2009

I know, I know, I’ve heard a million reasons why Rupert Murdoch’s plan to charge for new content online is insane and will never work. But let’s assume it works.

Idiotic google-bashing aside, I think there’s a big enough market for news to accommodate both paid and unpaid media options, and I see no reason why the major newspapers can’t be the ones to move a significant portion of their content behind pay walls successfully.

(My take on pay walls & DRM, incidentally, is “make it a deterrent, not a restriction.” Success means most people follow the rules, the system will always be hackable).

But let’s assume for a minute that it works. What will happen to print subscriptions?

I get three newspapers in the morning every day (two on Sunday): the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Seattle Times. And I read far more news in print that I ever have, or probably ever will, online. Print, it turns out, is a pretty nice way to get your news.

If I had to pick between an online and a paper news subscription, I’d pick the paper subscription. Granted, I’m weird. But I don’t think I’m alone. What do you think?

Hard Work

by Jason Preston on August 17, 2009

Writing a post every day is hard work. I’ve been losing ground recently and I need to redouble my efforts, but there’s an important lesson here: reactions lag behind your efforts.

That little widget on my sidebar that counts my RSS subscribers fluctuates by about a hundred every day or so, but it keeps a pretty steady trend line. When I first started this blog my rule was one post a day every weekday, and for the vast majority of the time, I’ve kept to that rule. That’s how I built this audience.

You’re not going to go away if I don’t post tomorrow. But if I don’t post the next day. Maybe I post once next week. Or I post three times a month. You get the idea…

Consistency and hard work are under appreciated. Promise what you can achieve, and deliver it consistently. There’s something very powerful about a bundle of paper on your doorstep every day. Consistency is trustworthy.