Online doesn’t compete with newspapers

I think the latest Pew study on newspaper and online news readership is worth paying some attention to, and I say that knowing full well that by the time I’m done I will wind up agreeing (again) with Nick “the Voice of Doom” Carr, and God knows I hate to do that (David Newberger has a good overview of the report here). One of the important points is in the second paragraph:

“For the most part, online news has evolved as a supplemental source that is used along with traditional news media outlets. It is valued most for headlines and convenience, not detailed, in-depth reporting.”

As Nick notes in his post: “The upshot is that online news appears to be not a replacement for traditional media but a supplement to it. The people who tend to use online sources are the same people who read newspapers and watch news shows on TV. They take a quick look at headlines online, but they continue to rely on traditional news sources for the details.”

It’s true that this might weaken the “Internet will kill newspapers” argument, but then I’m not sure anyone actually believes that, even Jeff Jarvis. The fact is that the two serve very different purposes — and those different purposes are likely to continue to widen, as news moves online and newspapers focus on analysis and local coverage (if they’re smart, that is).

Does that mean newspapers are home free? Not really. They still have to worry about getting the mix right and beefing up their online operations, because younger news readers are not moving to print. As Greg Sterling notes:

“Younger Americans are not adopting the habit of reading the newspaper in print. Just 22% of those under age 30 report reading the newspaper in print on the previous day, down from 29% a decade ago. Newspaper websites make up for much of this loss. In fact, the very youngest adults surveyed ­ those ages 18 to 24 ­ were slightly more likely to have read a newspaper this year than a decade ago, due in large part to their increasing use of online newspapers.”

Why CEOs should blog

I’m going to do something I don’t usually do, and that’s disagree with my friend and fellow meshconference.com organizer Rob Hyndman on the subject of whether CEOs should blog or not — sparked by the New York Times article on the subject. Rob says that he doesn’t see how a CEO could possibly have the time to blog, since most of them are fanatically busy, and that he “doesn’t get” claims that CEOs or political candidates should blog.

I can totally see the point that many CEOs are extremely busy trying to run their companies or put out fires of various kinds, or simply trying to understand the various forces acting on their businesses from day to day — and Mark Evans, in a comment on Rob’s post, also makes a good point when he says that CEOs have to be aware of Sarbanes-Oxley and other legislation that ties their hands when it comes to disclosure. All that said, however, I still believe that there is a place for a blogging CEO.

Obviously, not every CEO is going to be Mark Cuban, nor is every one going to be Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz or Edelman head Richard Edelman. And I don’t think anyone would expect a busy CEO, or political candidate for that matter, to blog religiously or obsessively. But I think the direct conduit that a blog — even a sporadically updated one — offers between a CEO and his customers or clients, or even his own employees, is a very valuable thing. Surely a few minutes here or there could be found by just about any CEO to try and keep that conduit alive.

VoIP over Wi-Fi and other dreams

Walking along the street, you decide to make a phone call with your cell. Pulling out your phone, it detects a wireless signal and logs on automatically, allowing you to make your call by Wi-Fi instead of using your expensive cellular service. Sounds great, doesn’t it? And hopefully, someday, that dream will come true and we’ll all be able to do just that. How close that vision might be is an open question, however.

A piece in the New York Times has gotten plenty of people excited about the prospect, given the interest expressed by companies like T-Mobile, Cisco and Earthlink. T-Mobile, for example, says it wants to let users switch seamlessly from its cell network to Wi-Fi hotspots it owns, which sounds great. But what if you want to use your phone in someone else’s hotspot — how easy will that be? Will you have to sign on and authenticate yourself every time, and/or pay your provider?

I’m as excited as the next guy about the idea of using Wi-Fi to make Skype calls instead of cellular calls — but I don’t think the carriers are going to make it as easy as I might like it to be, and I think we could wind up with a mish-mash of standards, charges and procedures. As usual, I think Om Malik has the right mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism on this one.

Paul Graham on being marginal

My thanks go out to Jason Kottke, whose remaindered links provide an almost endless source of great material for reading and thinking, for a recent link to an essay by Paul Graham, the programmer turned venture capitalist/incubator guy. Paul writes blog posts too, but he also writes thoughtful essays about all kinds of things — and the latest one stemmed from speeches he made at Usenix and another conferenceon Rails, about the benefits of being marginal when it comes to designing software or starting companies.

As Jason says, the essay is “filled with odd conclusions and unfair assumptions, but the general ideas are interesting to consider; lots of food for thought in this one for me.” Among the things that caught my eye as I read it were these great bon mots:

“I think that’s one reason big companies are so often blindsided by startups. People at big companies don’t realize the extent to which they live in an environment that is one large, ongoing test for the wrong qualities.”

“Outsiders have nothing to lose. They can do risky things, and if they fail, so what? Few will even notice. The eminent, on the other hand, are weighed down by their eminence. Eminence is like a suit: it impresses the wrong people, and it constrains the wearer.”

“The very skill of insiders can be a weakness. Once someone is good at something, they tend to spend all their time doing that. This kind of focus is very valuable… but focus has drawbacks: you don’t learn from other fields, and when a new approach arrives, you may be the last to notice.”

Great stuff. Thanks Jason — and thanks, Paul.

Can MySpace create media stars?

During all the discussion of the Long Tail that went on recently between Lee Gomes and Chris Anderson — with Nick Carr playing the part of the umpire — one of the things that got talked about was “hits” or “stars” and whether they can come from the tail or not. I was thinking of that when I read the recent Economist piece on a popular MySpace personality named Christine Dolce, who likes to go by the name ForBiddeN (if you have to ask why, then you are out of the loop and should go back to watching old Rockford Files episodes).

Ms. Dolce, who happens to be blonde and rather chesty, seems to like lots of mascara, Johnny Depp, people with piercings and a kind of S&M vibe with lots of denim and rippling muscles (not necessarily in that order), and she has created her own line of clothing called Destroyed Denim, as well as advertising a line of cologne — “the only cologne with REAL sex pheromones!” — and now she has a deal with Axe deodorant. Ms. Dolce apparently gets more than 800,000 hits a day and has been crowned the “Queen of MySpace.” Playboy pictorials are rumoured to be in the works, and she has been written about in Business 2.0 magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

Where did Ms. Dolce come from? Who knows. She’s a makeup artist who is busy creating her own brand, just like rock singer and MySpace hot property Tila Tequila, who reportedly has over a million MySpace “friends.” Are either of them any less real or any more fake than N-Sync or Dog the Bounty Hunter or anyone on just about any reality show or American Idol would-be star? Not really. But they are busy making themselves, rather than having others make them. How will MySpace handle this, Scott Karp wonders. Good question.