Monthly Archives: October 2011

The $100.00 mistake: Why the Star Tribune is WAY overvaluing its content and audience

The Star Tribune wants you to fork over $100.00 per year to read its content digitally.

The Star Tribune has long been a one-man show when it comes to dominating the eyeballs with online news consumption here in Minnesota. But I think the state’s largest newspaper really, really overestimated the value of its content by announcing this week that non print subscribers like me will have to pay $1.99 per week to read its content on our iPad or iPhone. (If you already get the printed newspaper more than 2 days a week, you get this service for free.)

Considering that a TON of the Star Tribune’s online content is syndicated from the Associated Press and other outlets and can be found elsewhere for free, that means what I’m really paying for is the Star Tribune’s unique/original content.

Newspaper content has basically been free to view online since the Internet began. So it’s a massive jump to expect users to pay $100 or more a year to consume content that’s been free for decades. (Note to the Star Tribune: People like Free. We get used to Free.)

And with all due respect to the talented folks at the paper, I don’t find their news coverage/columns/Op-Eds so astounding, unique and amazing that I should have to pay for it directly. It would be one thing if the Strib wanted to offer the $1.99 price for App users who want an “ad free” experience, but I don’t think that’s the case. The Strib will still make a killing integrating online advertising into its Mobile apps – as they should.

The reason the Star Tribune has all the eyeballs, which in turn draws all the advertising revenue, is that for decades they’ve had the state’s best-run, best-looking and most reliable online news site. For free.

If another newspaper like the Pioneer Press or even a local TV or radio station (MPR?) can make a serious push to revamp its online web site/mobile apps and push out enough syndicated content to go with its original content/voices, the Star Tribune will be in serious trouble.

Personally, I’ll be spending a lot more time on the Pioneer Press site and mobile apps. I’ll also be using the direct AP apps and other news sources such as Google Reader that get me the stories I want for free.

Nobody asked me, but I think that in 2011 the way a newspaper stays relevant and important is NOT by syndicating tons of free content and combining that with typical meat and potatoes reporting and stories. Rather, I think the newspaper needs to get hyper – hyper local, hyper aggressive/investigative, hyper opinionated – in order to stand out with readers.

The main reason I read the Pioneer Press is for Tom Powers and Charley Walters’ columns. I already know all the sports stories/game stories/roundups by the time they appear in the ink newspaper delivered to my front door. What I want from my newspaper is the type of content/voice/writing that I can’t get just anywhere.

I like some of the Star Tribune’s columnists for this very reason. But it’s not enough to get me to pay $100 a year.

What do you think? Will the Star Tribune’s upcharge be a huge success? Or will it send readers scattering across cyberspace in search of cheaper or free content?

Video: TV Producers, Talk Radio Hosts and PR pros share their story pitching secrets

Longtime TV Producer Gregg Litman, Talk Radio Host/Author Kim Ketola, PR pro Jon Austin and Attorney/Lawyer/Political Savant Dave Bateson all joined me this week for a great Google+ Video Hangout to talk about the best story pitches we’ve ever given/received, what the “Occupy” movement needs to succeed long-term from a PR/JOUR perspective and more! Check out the conversation below, and join us every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Central time for great conversation and networking!

Beautiful Outlaw by John Eldredge – Chapter 15: Wow.

If you will simply read the gospels without bias, you cannot come to any other conclusion but that religion is the enemy.

(NOTE: This is part of an ongoing, “real-time” review I’m doing on the book. My thoughts on other chapters are here.)

The best way I can describe Chapter 15 of Beautiful Outlaw: Experiencing the Playful, Disruptive, Extravagant Personality of Jesus is that it feels like a modern version of Jesus clearing the temple.

In short, this chapter is a beautiful beat down of all the religious silliness human beings have attached to simply knowing and loving Jesus Christ.

John Eldredge attacks what he calls this “religious fog” head on, and points out that it is actually “the source of most of the debris keeping people from Jesus.”

He starts with an important distinction: “There is Christianity, and then there is Christian culture. They are not the same.” Think about that for a few seconds.

And what really resonates with me is when Eldredge discusses the crazies out there who portend to speak on behalf of Jesus and all Christians (I’m thinking especially here of politicians or certain TV preachers): “A wing nut talking about Jesus does far more damage than fifty atheists.”

I also love this as a litmus test for any church you are currently attending: “If you can’t take your church culture and language and drop it in the middle of a bar or a bus, and have it make winsome sense to the people there, then it’s not from Jesus. Because that is exactly what he would do. That’s what made him the real deal.”

If you grew up in a religious system or school (as I did), what Eldredge speaks of in this chapter will ring very true.

He outlines in beautiful detail some of the ways the religious fog continues to operate inside our churches and schools today:

  • False reverence replaces loving Jesus
  • Knowing about God substitutes for knowing God
  • Power displays are confused for intimacy with Jesus
  • Religious activity is confused with commitment to Christ
  • Christian service substitutes for friendship with Jesus
  • The holiness of God is taught by making him “unknowable” or unapproachable
  • Holiness is substituted with rule-keeping
  • A trivial morality prevails
  • The system operates on the fear of man
  • There is safety in distance (from God)

This chapter is so rich, so full of truth, and so sure to make our modern-day Pharisees mad, that I cannot put into words how beautiful it is. And so long overdue. I’m grateful for the courage of men like John Eldredge to stand up, tell the truth and clear the temple!

Must-see TV: This is what 75 years of newsroom experience/insight/advice sounds like!

If you missed this week’s Google+ hangout, below is a chance to hear from some of the most experienced Public Relations and Journalism experts I’ve ever met on everything from people using Social Media to “report on the reporters” to the chilling impact advertising can have on how a station/newspaper covers controversial stories and more! This group – which included talk radio hosts, investigative reporters and former TV news directors – has a combined 75 years(!) of newsroom experience. I for one was amazed at how fast the 30 minute chat flew by thanks to the great insights and spirited discussion we shared.

Want to join us? We’ll be doing this every Tuesday at 10:30 AM Central time. Join us!

3 ways proper lighting can improve your next video

With more and more PR pros needing to know how to shoot and edit their own video, thought I’d share a tutorial I found helpful regarding how to do proper lighting when filming someone. Enjoy!

The most important Google+ tip I’ve found (so far!)

A huge Google+ tip I learned from Chris Brogan is this – in your “About” area, under the “Employment” section, put a clever (and short) one-line description of who you are and what you’re all about as your “Current” job/position. The reason being is that when people hover over your name on G+, this line is what pops up! Typically it’s either (A) not filled out or (B) just says who your current employer is and doesn’t really explain who you are and what you offer to the G+ community. Update this and watch your Google+ community and influence expand exponentially! (Screen shot is attached – see my top line, where it says “Present” employment?)

Here’s what it will look like once you make the change and people hover over your name:

A 2011 Reminder: The Deaf Hear. The Blind See. The Lame Walk.

This video (via Mashable) of a deaf woman hearing her voice for the first time makes me think of what people’s reactions must have been like when Jesus healed them – the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. What a sight to behold, and what joy it must have brought Jesus to see their reactions! Not to mention those who witnessed the healing. Makes you understand why people mobbed him everywhere he went!

I love it when moments like this remind me of God’s goodness and of Jesus’ generous desire to heal us (physically, spiritually and emotionally). Helps me remember who the real Jesus is!

Here’s the video:

The details on this woman’s story, from Mashable:

Sloan Churman was born deaf. For 29 years, she has relied on reading lips and, to a very limited extent, hearing aids.

Two months ago, she received Envoy Medical’s Esteem Implant, which utilizes ear drum vibrations to bring hearing back to its users. The reaction, captured by her husband on video, is nothing short of extraordinary. Her pure joy is contagious.

Here’s what she said on her YouTube page: “I had an implant put in 8 weeks ago called The Esteem Implant by Envoy Medical. I was born deaf and have worn hearing aids from the age of 2, but hearing aids only help so much. I have gotten by this long in life by reading lips. This was taken as they were activating the implant.”

17 years, 6 inches, 1 deer and the whisper of death – or, appreciating God’s patience

Our 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser was renamed the "Deer Slayer."

I almost died when I was 17 years old.

I still remember the Black Crowes cassette tape (“Shake Your Money Maker”) playing inside my parents’ 1987 Oldsmobile station wagon as a friend and I sped along at 75 miles an hour on the Interstate near St. Joseph, Minnesota.

It was late summer and we were headed to a friend’s cabin for a party. We were driving at night in a remote area, and I came flying down a hill as music blasted out the car’s speakers and blackness enveloped us.

I can still see the deer in my mind’s eye. One second the road was clear. The next, a huge brown beast was right in front of us, staring me straight in the face.

My friend and I both screamed an expletive. The driver-side window shattered and blew in on us. The front windshield spiderwebbed and cracked, but did not cave in. The car fishtailed down the road and ended up being almost completely totaled.

The mechanic who looked at the car afterward told my father that if the deer we hit had landed six more inches to the right, it would have come through the windshield and killed us both. A few more inches to the left, and it would have come through the driver side window and killed me. (I still remember pulling the snapped-off antlers from underneath the driver’s window.) Also, its body had just missed rupturing the car’s gas tank. There was a massive dent on the outside of the car right by the gas cap.

Life can end in an instant.

At the time, I was a 17-year-old kid who wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ. In fact, it would be another 10 years before I came into a relationship with him.

What if that deer had been another six inches to one side or the other?

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

A sunrise photo you need to see!

Found this amazing photo of a sunrise via Google+. A nice way to start the day and a great reminder of what an artist God is!

What every business/brand ought to know about Social Media in 2011

Do you really understand just how powerful consumers are in 2011?

Best-selling PR and Marketing author/blogger David Meerman Scott recently penned a post that called out some serious marketing hypocrisy by a famous Washington, D.C., hotel.

What I want to focus on is how this post should remind all of us:

  1. How much more power you and I have today as consumers.
  2. Why businesses/brands cannot afford to ignore engaging with us – in real-time – using Social Media.

Think about this:

  • In 1981, David could have shared his negative experience with some friends over dinner.
  • In 2001, he could have sent out a group e-mail to some friends and supporters.
  • In 2011, he Blogs/Tweets/Google+/Facebooks/YouTubes and potentially reaches millions of people around the world (at least some of whom might be contemplating where to stay on their upcoming trip to Washington, D.C.) in real-time. David’s post lives on forever, and (depending on how often it is shared online) could end up near the top of the Google Search rankings for this hotel.

Even though David’s complaint is more about marketing hypocrisy than poor customer service, the point is the same: Brands and companies have NO CHOICE but to monitor and engage with consumers using Social Media in real-time.

To ignore or delay your response to a post like David’s puts the long-term financial well-being of your product or service at risk.

There are new rules in play. Small town rules. Ignore them at your own risk!


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