Legacy Media Case Study: Two Interviews

By Kimberly Exford

For this case study, I was able to interview two young women, one that previously worked in radio and broadcasting, and another who currently works at public relations agency. Both women were able to give thorough details and insight into the changing media landscape within each of their media respective organizations.

Candace Ledbetter (former Promotions PR Manager for V-103, a local radio station in Atlanta, GA)

Candace held this role from 2008-2014. As such, she was responsible for overseeing all media outlets that her company used, including social media. Not only was she in charge of giving the company a “voice” throughout the city and other surrounding areas, but she would also provide platforms for others seeking to  spread the word about themselves. When I asked Candace what she felt the biggest impact or change was on this company, she immediately said social media.

Though she is a member of several social media sites in her personal life (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), her company was not so willing to join. This was a problem for Candace initially because she knew how much the Internet and social media impacted the way people received information, and it was crucial that V-103 “catch up” to everyone else that was rapidly joining these sites. For example, the social site Twitter gives users a way to quickly share their thoughts with others.

For companies, she said that “it allows them to be everywhere!”

According to a social networking study conducted by Pew Research Center, as of January 2014, 19% of all online adults use Twitter.

Another benefit is radio stations can get more personal with their listeners and bring about brand loyalty. Though this company was slow to make the change over to more digital media outlets, Candace doesn’t feel that there were any missed opportunities.

She said, “I know that we were late to the show so to speak, but we still got there in enough time and didn’t miss too much.”

Another role that Candace held was the director of operations and senior publisher for 135th Street Agency. According to their company Facebook page, “founded in 2005, the 135th Street Agency is an experiential marketing and communications company based in New York City and Atlanta that specializes in campaigns targeting Youth Consumers and Business Professionals.” Candace mentioned that her role with this agency was virtually identical to the one at the radio station.

When asked about social media’s impact on newspapers, radio, and other forms of media overall, Candace specifically mentioned newspapers, and the fact that readers sometimes used to have to spend money to get the information they desired. However, with the Internet (i.e. social media) there is no cost. A Twitter follower of a FOX news station can get the basically the same information that someone who purchases a newspaper gets, she argued.

Social media and the Internet took over from some forms of traditional media because of their convenience. Though the radio is easily available in the car and also, at times, online, someone with access to a social media site (i.e. via their phone) might be able to access this information even faster. And, they can do it from the middle of the mall while shopping or while standing in line purchasing groceries. Also, with the radio, you may have to sit through boring advertisements and commercials before getting to listen to your desired news. Though there are some ads found on the internet and social media, unlike the radio, typically you can click through them and get to what you are looking for much quicker.

Eugenia Johnson (PR Director at Garner Circle PR in Atlanta, GA)

Eugenia describes her employer as a “boutique PR firm,” one that offers media outreach and planning or marketing or special communications services for a variety of businesses. According to this article, “public relations boutiques specialize in raising the overall awareness of a brand, product or image of a company or person.”

Eugenia mentioned that though her company currently uses a variety of media outlets, the digital ones account for about 80% of their pitches. Some of the most popular digital outlets they use are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. By joining these networks, her company hopes to “build relationships and use ‘promotional stalkers’ to help gain additional information. Promotional stalkers are people whose job is to join various social media networks and develop a relationship with as many of their followers and friends on a particular site as possible. This helps to put users at ease before springing a pitch on them.

More specifically, one of her responsibilities is to look for bloggers with higher response rates and number of followers to hopefully help influence other people. Eugenia mentions a few pros to using this form of media. She can build relationships with her followers and, and she can also see what their competitors are doing. As far as opportunities are concerned, she doesn’t feel that any opportunities have been missed since her firm is very active on social media.

Final takeaways

Though each of these women work for different companies, they both provided me with the same key take-away items when I talked to them: A company must be able to adapt to the changing media environment and they have to be willing to make changes as needed to help keep up with their users.

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Readings Week 11

Easy one for this week. Just give me one thing (at least) that you found interesting or relevant from this week’s discussion and/or readings/video

As noted in syllabus, these include:

Read: Finish Briggs book

Give before you get by Brad Feld

Watch: TechStars at least one episode of The Founder’s Group

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Entrepreneurial Landscape in Memphis

by Cheryl Hayes

The entrepreneurial scene in Memphis is very bright for anyone seeking to start a business, especially for entrepreneurs in the bioscience, logistics, andmedical device fields. The market in Memphis is open to the “next big thing”. According this article, “between 2009 and early 2014, the city’s top business accelerators have helped 181 startups that created 532 jobs and attracted $50 million from investors.”

Memphis offers many outlets to assist with startup ideas. One of the most influential is Start Co. Start Co. provides programs such as 48-hour launch events, hackathons,  Start Co. Lounge happy hours, social innovators workshops, startup weekends and other resources to help entrepreneurs with their  ideas, including launching, empowering, mentoring and investing.

An accelerator program operated and supported by Start Co., Seed Hatchery is a nonprofit startup assistance program that focuses on web and tech startups by offering a 90-day mentoring program. It has launched 18 companies since its inaugural cohort in 2011. Through this accelerator program, entrepreneurs are able to apply for a chance to be selected for startup funding.  Additional startup accelerator programs to assist entrepreneurs in Memphis are UpStart Memphis, a nonprofit program geared towards women entrepreneurs; Sky High, which focuses on logistics technology startups; SparkGap, which offers startups assistance in social enterprise; ZeroTo510, which assists in the area of medical device research and manufacturing.

Innovation and entrepreneurship assistance for faculty and students can be found at The University of Memphis Crews Center for Entrepreneurship.

Others of interest to startups are Innova,  a pre-seed, seed and early-stage investor; Liquid Capital, offering innovative financial solutions for businesses seeking cash and capital; Angel Capital, which brings investors and entrepreneurs together; and Emerge Memphis, which provides strategic support to startup companies, innovators and entrepreneurs in the Mid-South.

The City of Memphis offers Memphians a one-stop-shop resource called the Renaissance Business Center. It lists several central points for those interested in seeking financial resources from public and private entities.

The Small Business Administration provides government funding assistance.. Score Memphis its nonprofit resource partner, and it provides free counseling and low-cost workshops.

An array of startups were founded in Memphis. A few include:

MentorMe Inc. -a nonprofit startup founded by Brittany Fitzpatrick that is revolutionizing the way communities invest in people with SaaS platform for mentoring.

Screwpulp – an ebook marketplace that gives authors a better way to reach an audience.

Global Innovations Now, Inc. – this startup enables business owners by providing customer mobile app solutions.

Keep It 200 – a social network connecting communities around important issues in the world.

Paytopia  – an alternative payment system that offers customers a safe way to pay online.

More Memphis startups can be found here.

The entrepreneurial landscape for Memphis is booming and wide-open for new entrants. The help entrepreneurs need is available in Memphis.

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Reading Reflections Week Ten November 4

Do the readings listed in the syllabus for week 10 if you have not already, and answer the following questions by our next class November 11.

  • Based on what you’ve read here and learned in class so far, what do you think is the most promising funding model for the future of news and/or other types of media content? Be specific.
  • Share one additional thing you found useful or interesting from the readings.
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Week Nine Readings: Your Thoughts

The business plan in the appendix of the Briggs book is in a different format than the one you will eventually write, but it offers you some good things to think about in developing a media related business. What did you find most interesting or surprising about it?

How could you apply at least one of the insights into how Google operates from the Jarvis book to your startup?

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Startup Case Study: Flipboard

By Lori Schull

While it’s not exactly new anymore, I still love Flipboard, the create-your-own news-magazine app released for iPad in 2010. It was founded by a former iPhone engineer and the former CEO of Tellme, a phone-based application that Microsoft purchased for $800 million in 2007.

Flipboard does not create any content itself. Instead, it creates a personalized magazine for its users and allows them to create and share their own magazines. It was designed to recreate the usability of a print magazine on a mobile device and allow users to easily share and connect with each other through other social media outlets, including Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. Since they are not creating their own content, they have been able to focus on the usability of the app, and it shows in its beautiful design and intuitive interface. It has also made some great video tutorials, as well as blogs about its internal functioning and recruiting on its website.

This app is all about personalization and allowing people to tell the app what kinds of content they want to see. It’s the news junkie’s version of Twitter because it allows for easy access to the news you think is important, without all the white noise. My favorite thing about Flipboard is they are not setting out to solve the media’s problem by creating more content; instead, they are finding the content and putting it together in a novel way. The world does not lack for great journalism; what it lacks is a great way to aggregate that content and make it easy to find without being a slave to Google or the whims of your Facebook newsfeed. The articles on this app are usually already vetted; they are not coming from a maniac’s blog or fringe media.

The design is truly incredible. The founders started making a way to recreate beautiful magazines like “National Geographic” online without losing the art of the design. It seems to have grown from there.

The need they ended up meeting was the aggregation factor. It’s all the news you want in one place, but it also interfaces with social media to facilitate sharing and communication. It has a search function and a way for users to create their own magazine, like a Pinterest for articles.

A lot of their money seems to come from private investors. To date, they have raised more than $60 million from private investors. Recently it did start allowing video advertising.

Most of their marketing strategy seems to be aimed at the technology media. Flipboard was named Apple’s 2010 iPad app of the year, and it has been featured on a wide variety of media outlets, including the BBC, Mashable, USA Today and The Verge.

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Legacy Media Case Study: The Tennessean

By Lori Shull

As the bottom began to fall out from the print journalism world thanks to the internet in the 1990s, Gannett was one of the early adopters of change. It adopted what it called News 2000, an initiative to focus on community interest stories, watchdog journalism and diversity. At the time, it seems that more than one journalism expert hated the idea. It was formula and numbers-based, and editors had to report data to executives who then gave the papers scores and orders to change what they were doing if deemed necessary. Despite the protests, others came around and eventually agreed that the company had it right. Since then, Gannett and other news organizations have tried to do essentially the same thing—reinvigorate the business model by refocusing on community initiatives—again and again.

In 2003, Gannett launched the Real Life, Real News initiative, which again focused on community conversation and added an emphasis on breaking news, rather than operating the newsroom exclusively for print deadlines.

Three years later, Gannett launched Information Centers, which seem to have been intended to destroy the traditional news desks—metro, sports, state, city and so on—in favor of more nebulous terms like community conversation, digital, local, data and multimedia to name a few. The goals were to publish more user-generated content, expand local coverage and continue developing into a 24/7 news organization instead of saving breaking news for print deadlines. Every three years, it seems that the corporation tried to reinvent itself using the same ideas but wrapping them up in a different name.

Since News 2000 launched, the company appears to have floundered, along with many other newspapers. It is well-known for its highly paid executives, several of whom earn more than $2 million a year, and frequent lay-offs.

This year is no different, with the corporation recently announcing that it was divesting the print side of its holdings into a separate company from its broadcast and digital side. The end result is that the most profitable pieces of the company, including its recent purchase of the nearly three-quarters of Cars.com it did not already own for $1.8 billion, will no longer have to bail out their less-profitable print counterparts. Gannett is not the first media corporation to do this. Like the others, the company tried to explain that everyone would win because the print side of the company would be debt-free and be able to purchase other newspapers that previously were unavailable to it because of federal regulations.

At the same time, they announced that every newspaper would have to cut 15 percent to help the new company remain profitable and keep shareholders happy in spite of industry expectations that revenues would continue to decline. Many editors would lose their jobs, though some newspapers said they would be able to add back some of the reporter positions that had been lost in previous cuts.

Though the latest announcement heralding the rise of the “newsroom of the future” has overtones of messages from years before, this one seems to be the biggest change yet.

“I haven’t felt like there’s been one as vigorous and broad as this one. This one seems to be more serious than the ones in the past,” said Michael Cass, the Tennessean’s metro reporter and 15-year veteran of its newsroom. “I would guess they feel it’s time to really attack the revenue problems we have, to finally get on top of that and create a product that people are going to feel compelled to read all the time.”

The Nashville Tennessean, which has occasionally served as a testing ground for some of the corporation’s initiatives, is one of Gannett’s largest papers. Earlier this year, it was one of about 35 test sites for daily national content additions from USA Today, which are now corporation-wide. The effort was devised mostly as a way to boost USA Today’s circulation numbers and make it more attractive to advertisers, but it was also probably a smart way to get national coverage into smaller papers operating without the staff to cover national issues and, perhaps, to cut down on the cost of subscriptions to the Associated Press or other wire services.

Despite the use of more national stories from the parent company, reporters at the Tennessean are by no means doing less reporting. Where Cass used to be able to focus on writing five or six solid stories every week, he estimates that he now writes between eight and 12. When I talked to him in the early afternoon, he had already written one web story and was in the middle of a second, a brief follow-up of a piece of political news from the day before. He was writing the second knowing that it would not make the paper; not everything that appears online appears in print and the focus of the newsroom has definitively shifted from the paper product to keeping the website and mobile fresh to try to compel people to read and check back in daily.

Cass was quick to say that the company is not going after “click bait,” but that it is very focused on giving readers what they will be interested in. Learning what readers want, Cass said, is a process.

“Sometimes we get it wrong and we’re learning,” he said. “There are certain kinds of government stories that I think are interesting and that people should be interested in, that we’re discovering they won’t read. I hope that doesn’t mean that we’ll stop covering them entirely, but we may do them differently.”

He did say that he has never been told by an editor not to write a story that he believes is important because the management thought it would not be interesting enough to the readership.

The Tennessean has redesigned its website and looks like every other Gannett publication. It has also expanded its multimedia coverage, with a section for video. Not only is there video that would be considered “news,” but also there is footage of interviews with various officials and sports content. The sports video seems to dominate, perhaps because it is football season.

The Tennessean has had a few misses in its efforts to meet the changing media climate, and not all of them are to due with its parent corporation cutting its newsroom staff. Several years ago, it attempted to launch what it called Brainstorm Nashville, which was yet another way to connect with the community and crowdsource coverage. It was developed in partnership with Middle Tennessee State University and was intended to cover a different large issue every month, beginning with childhood obesity. I can find no evidence that Brainstorm Nashville ever got out of beta or indeed covered a second issue. It’s URL, brainstormnashville.com, is for sale.

In 2009, management told reporters to get on Twitter and many had already been active on Facebook. Since then, no new social networks have been mandated by the management, though some reporters, including Cass, are beginning to dabble in Reddit.

“I saw some of my co-workers getting results using Reddit,” he said. “Twitter has become a huge part of my work and i like it a lot. I enjoy the way it can share stories but also create conversation.”

In keeping with the recent announcement that all newsrooms had to cut staff by 15 percent, an initiative called Picasso, the Tennessean decided to make all of its 89 staff members reapply for 76 positions. Several of the position descriptions have been standardized across Gannett and illustrate that reporters can no longer simply report the news.

The biggest challenge that the Tennessean, and all Gannett papers, faces is keeping its shareholders happy and the organization’s profits up.

“What a family paper doesn’t have to worry about is reporting to its shareholders every quarter,” Cass said. “It’s not always ideal, but it comes with the territory.”

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Case Study: Embrace Disruption Public Relations

By Shelby Jo Fenter

Cory Stewart, founder of Embrace Disruption Public Relations in Toronto, says he never possessed the patience to finish his college degree.  After speaking with him, it is obvious that what he lacked in patience he undoubtedly made up for in his passion for communication. Stewart founded Embrace Disruption Public Relations in 2012 and thrives on the notion to “innovate or die.”

Stewart stresses that he has never sought to disrupt public relations, but he strongly believes that it is foolish to ignore something that is obviously happening, whether you like it or not.  With journalism constantly changing and vast improvements in technology, disruption of public relations is not an idea to run from.

This awareness of disruption has made Embrace Disruption Public Relations successful.  The firm has worked with talent from all parts of Canada and the United States including The Starlight Children’s Foundation of Canada, The Canadian Lesbian And Gay Archives, H&M, Pants Off For Prostate Cancer, Torstar Digital, and Coleman Lemieux Compagnie.

When asked about strategic ways Stewart has used disruption to generate revenue, he describes Embrace Disruption’s celebrated “Twitter parties.” The party host reveals the hashtag prior to the event and Twitter users utilize the hashtag to closely engage with the brand.  Q&As about the company are held as well as prize giveaways.  For example, Embrace Disruption recently hosted a Twitter party for Newegg, an electronics company out of Canada.   The results speak for themselves.  Stats included 62,358 new followers, 4677 total tweets and 2.5 million impressions. Not to mention, the “Twarty” was only two hours long.  Stewart terms this as “priceless brand management.”  He believes this kind of social engagement not only produces massive brand exposure, but also allows for and acknowledges feedback.

Embrace Disruption strives to dig deeper than traditional public relations firms.  Stewart believes that most firms just aim to reach maximum impressions.  Embrace Disruption focuses on reaching maximum impressions with people who truly care.

From their long repertoire of services, including social media management and media kit production, their campaigns are personalized to heighten brand awareness in the current media landscape.

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Week Seven Reading Questions

1. Do you think the idea you pitched was “sticky” as described in Briggs Chapter 5? Why or why not? Be as specific as you can.

2. Describe one other thing from the chapter you found interesting or relevant.

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Reminders from class October 7

Next week is fall break, woo hoo!

For our next class, you must be prepared, as a group, to tell us:
1) What you learned from your first foray into customer discovery (each group member must talk to a MINIMUM of five people). Remember to use the four hypotheses as a guide, especially the first two for now. (See handout). Summarize key themes or especially interesting findings.
2). Why is your problem painful? BE SPECIFIC. Back this up with as much research you can find from as many different sources you can find. Google is good, but try to go beyond that to find as much as you can.
3. Deciding on a name – sounds like you already have names, but might want to think a little bit more about that and brainstorm a bit.
I will post reading questions soon.
Be sure you are staying organized. Remember, you will use all of this information later on in crafting your pitch, so don’t lose any of your research!
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