Friday, June 8, 2012

Operation Crimson Click

image Introducing “Operation Crimson Click,” an effort to motivate you to influence and improve the news you read.

By now, everyone has had time to hear and digest the news that the state of Alabama’s three largest newspapers—the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register—will cease daily publication of their print editions and move to three editions each week. Print editions will be published on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays only.

While saddening, these changes are a sign of the times. People just don’t get their news from a printed daily paper anymore. By the time a story is printed in the wee hours of the morning and delivered to your door or favorite newsstand, it’s ancient history. Many publishing companies sticking to old-school journalism and publishing norms exacerbate their plight by ignoring the wishes of consumers, telling readers what they should be reading instead of giving them what they want to read. Consumers respond by choosing other sources of news, including the rapidly growing social media networks, message boards and blogs like the one you’re reading now.

The to-be-formed Alabama Media Group, which Advance Publications bills as  “a new digitally focused company,” will expand its 24-7 news-gathering efforts. Breaking news, analysis and opinion will appear on the al.com website. Even with daily publication, not everything that appears online makes it into the print editions and you can expect even more refining once publication goes to three editions.

One key difference between digital publication and print publication is that digital feedback on what readers are interested in is immediate and measurable. Simplifying, print media publishers can only gauge reaction and customer satisfaction by the number of letters and phone calls they receive days (even weeks) after publication. Again simplifying, digital publishers can almost instantly gauge customer reaction by the number of times a story is clicked, shared and linked from other websites.

When was the last time a newspaper article went “viral?”

That’s where Operation Crimson Click can let us help writers, columnists and editors decide what to cover, what makes it into print and what goes into the bit bucket. The old-school journalism and publishing norms are taking a backseat to real-time metrics on what consumers like and want to see more of.

Operation Crimson Click is simple:

This “share bar” makes it easy to do all of the above with just a few clicks:

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There is nothing conspiratorial or sinister about Operation Crimson Click. It’s simply a market-provided way for news consumers to communicate with content providers and let them know what we expect to see in the future.

Let’s put this another way: I know that my Twitter followers, Facebook friends and RSS subscribers don’t want to be inundated with garbage. So when I blog something or post a link, it’s an item that I honestly believe is worthy of your attention and your own click-and-share. If the digital media model centers their publishing strategy on pieces that drive traffic, then only the good stuff needs to get that attention. Let the chaff be separated from the wheat honestly and organically, and let the good stuff make it to the print editions.

Understanding the potential impact of Operation Crimson Click is not rocket science, either. Alabama is a sports crazed state and the king of craziness is college football. Furthermore, survey after survey after survey shows that this is a Crimson Tide state and everyone else is just living in it.

When you represent two-thirds of a consumer market and your fanhood drives your spending, retailers take notice and stock more of what you’re buying and less of what you’re not. Shouldn’t publishers receive the same honest feedback from the marketplace?

If publishers are really willing to listen, then we should really be willing to talk.

Exit Questions: Isn’t this a lot better than organizing boycotts and making black lists of businesses that don’t kiss rings, don’t stock unsalable inventory and don’t hold back on factually accurate reporting?

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