Abrams on Tribune: "You Can FEEL the Fear"

[REMINDER: PBS Frontline show on Bernie Madoff and his lieutenants, Frank Avellino and Michael Bienes, is on tonight at 9 10 p.m., including an interview with Bienes, the Fort Lauderdale "philanthropist" and backer of the Broward County Library, Holy Cross Hospital, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other local institutions.]

The Tribune's Lee Abrams came out with another think piece. I'm just chronicling these things for posterity at this point. Also, he again manages to assault decency in this one (and no, it's not when he says that poker is "the new Bridge"). 

At the beginning of the piece, he talks about two types of innovation (economic/operational and content) and writes, "BOTH ARE LIFE-THREATENINGLY IMPORTANT."

Yikes. You mean we will die if we don't totally change our ways, Lee?

Might be right. But then he makes another one of those lists of things that make a company "average" rather than great, saying that the "point" is to "evaluate if these traits are in YOUR building." One of the traits: "Uptight/Paranoid."

"You know the drill," Abrams writes. "You can FEEL the fear."

No shit, people are afraid and that's hurting the company? You think it's because corporate executives are telling employees that if they don't change the company's economic structure and its content, their lives will end? Or maybe because everyone is waiting for yet another round of layoffs next week that will cut the newsroom down to half the size it was at its peak? Might that play a role? Once again, I say goddamn.

The thing is after the jump.


INNOVATION HAS TWO COMPONENTS: Economic/Operations...AND content creativity. we're making a lot of economic and operational moves...and good ones, but those need to be balanced with content/presentation innovation. I was at one newspaper recently and they were SO (rightfully) focused on reorganizing that content innovation took a back seat--Time for content. Balancing Operational innovation WITH content innovation, BOTH ARE LIFE THREATENINGLY IMPORTANT.


Please watch this short promo for the CINAMERICA series on WGN-America. Note:

*No V/O. The pictures & dialogue tell the story

*A logo at the end that is CUSTOMIZED for the spot vs. a single generic logo

*No TELLING you "Dont forget...Be sure to watch..." cliches

*A Theme (it'll be backed with commentary from Bill Mack--a legendary old school All Night Truckers Friend type DJ who'll tell short first hand stories about hangin out with Jerry Lee.

I think this is a good example of a new direction.



If you haven't seen some of the T-Mobile events, please take a look. While they're clearly expensive and complex to organize, they are an example of 21st Century advertising---the NEW world we're in that makes a lot of traditional advertising/events/marketing/graphics etc... often look plain dated, overly corporate and old school.


Here are a few print ideas from last fall that I noticed have a little "Oh yeah...that" going on:

*PHOTOJOURNALISM: Two options. One is to keep running lots of pictures and hope people like them....the other is to aggressively take a stand on our outstanding photojournalism and build it into a trademark. 24 Hours in Photos (sponsored) is one angle, but the bigger one is the swagger and commitment to which we publicize, educate and stand behind our commitment to photography as a powerful component in our story telling.

THREE DAY OUTLOOK: Conditioning people to use us as a forward looking vehicle. We WILL have_________on Tues, Weds, Thurs, etc...

Think Weather forecasts...but for news and information. It's about pointing forward and creating a "we will be there" attitude.

WEEKLY FEATURES: You have everyone on Sunday. Good. Give them a hook to drive readership THROUGH the week. Could be;

Restaurant Week. A different aspect of regional dining covered EVERY day

Sex & Relationships. Same sex marriage (maybe a point/counterpoint approach) on Monday, Over 40 dating on Tuesday, Sin in the city on Weds, etc....

S-p-r-e-a-d coverage of a compelling topic into a packaged five day special vs... the traditional one day treatment. Think "mini series".

HEADLINES FROM THE PAPERS OF THE WORLD: A celebration of the importance of newspapers. Global opinion as it's happening in Teheran, Cairo, Moscow, Tokyo, etc...what "they" really think about us...and worked affairs. Another dimension in coverage.

I-THINK: A weekly editorial from students.

SATURDAY FUNNIES: A page of the weeks' best editorial cartoons. An illiterate person could look at these and gain a clear perspective. Fun stuff...and a political art form that newspapers traditionally "own"--this helps ownership.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: I think we're kind of throwing this away. Suggest a higher profile to neutralize perception that we're biased. Plus, can be very interesting if we map results by region, compare month by month etc...In other words, a forum for the city to speak out. America is opinion poll crazed...join the fun...but in a higher profile way. Gotta get to the point where a TV station says "According to the ____ poll today..." And of course, the web can deliver tremendous detail on each poll.

POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Weekly? High profile. Obama is a Marxist vs... Obama is our savior. Two columnists battle it out. Talk about balance!

SCAM PATROL: It's HOT. I think we need to jump on these identity theft and internet fraud scams. It's 21st Century watchdog type stuff.

Occasional reporting is ok, but a dedicated "Scam Alert" where we find 'em and expose 'em can be another "trademark" that resonates with people.

POKER: The new Bridge. Maybe ride this wave a little more aggressively. I fear Poker coverage gets lost.

RELIGIOUS HOLIDAYS: Hanukkah...Easter...etc...Let's go over-the top. Religion is another hot button.

STYLE & SUBSTANCE. We may be the first papers to TRULY blend the two----We gotta condition people to what we're doing as the tendency is to perceive us as all style or all substance (and no style). That's why I like "photojournalism"--It's NOT a bunch of pictures because we want to reach kids...it's a component in modern story telling. We need to not just stick to our guns on this...but SELL it to our readers and potential readers What we're doing IS the future.

TESTIMONIALS: Yes! Let our fans tell our story. They're out there...let's mobilize them instead of only making amends with the "I've been a reader for 60 years" crowd. PRO ACTIVE with our fans.

NEWSPAPER CONFIDENCE: The Obama wake up call underlined the newspapers relevance. Celebrate print. The web is wonderful...but so is print.

TRICKLE DOWN: Gotta get the "vision" implanted in everyone's DNA from top to bottom. Not easy....but the janitors should know our 'mission' as well as the editors.

LABELS & LOGOS: TV kills us with packaging, though often over-packaged. We need to kill back. Tastefully, but with a 2x4. An example is that Question of the Day thing...I really think we can make that bigger than life...a real pulse of Chicagoland...right now, I think it's kind of a throwaway. But--just using that as an example of how we can use visuals and wording "The center point for the pulse of Chicago opinion" kind of approach. Worded with integrity and punch.


Here's a check list of sure ways to guarantee an average perception on the streets. The point here is to evaluate if these traits are in YOUR building:

SUCCESSFUL...BUT VULNERABLE; On autopilot in many respects. I suppose American car companies are the obvious example, but so are many other successful institutions.Maybe it's arrogance, ,maybe it's the visionary being long gone and the accountants running the place, or maybe it's just unwarranted swagger.

LOW CUSTOMER SERVICE: Again, on autopilot. I love when I get a response from an inquiry "Dear Mr.. Lee Abrams"

RESEARCHING THE WRONG THINGS: Paralysis by analysis. Gotta understand the customers of course and research is a critical component, but sometimes the research is part of a "paralysis by analysis" way of creating...along with fear, too many committees and lack of liberating the people who have new ideas.

LIES: "The best...the most...the biggest..." Marketing slogans? No...lies. Maybe effective in a simpler time, but people, regardless of IQ, are VERY media savvy and sensitive to BS these days.

FORMALLY TRAINED: Formal training is good BUT it can lead to inflexibility.

UPTIGHT/PARANOID: You know the drill. You can FEEL the fear.

USERS NOT FANS: Pontiac USED to have FANS. I guess they forgot about that aspect.

POLITICS: Secrets...blocking instead of enabling smart people because of pecking order or chemistry...ivory towers...

MENTAL UNIFORMITY: Where A certain style of thinking or behavior shortens your career

BIG MARKET FEVER: Taking big market experience too seriously. Often, the most innovation happens in smaller markets...an even by less experienced people. Big market doesn't necessarily mean better...it just means bigger.

GENERIC: Thinking that because of historical success as a generic product, that it'll still work today.

...Eliminating nagative culture (aka average) traits is a forward step in seperating ourselves from most media companies that are hastening their irrelevancy via a culture that generates "average" thinking.

USER GENERATED CONTENT: There's no stronger promotion for USG on the web that to use it on the core product.

CARTOONS: In time of trouble...always nice to see an intelligent cartoon. In Allentown the Saturday funnies. In Orlando, on Monday


I want to make TV like this. I sometimes feel like I am the only one who feels this way. http://www.bbc.co.uk/switch/videos/57c0694.shtml

TV QUESTION: Why does most 'news music' have those "dadadadadadadadad" teletype sounds? Even electronically reproduced, they are STILL a teletype. If it's supposed to encourage immediacy...I think it's a little tired.

GRAND RAPIDS: Watch out for Fox 17, our Grand Rapids station. MAJOR AFDI. They are on a roll.

*I was there a few months ago and we went through a "to do list"--I'll be damned. She did it! They have an audio logo, a soundtrack, a modern version of Fox graphically, etc.. I'm not saying every suggestion was good--but they executed on the important (and didn't on the lousy) ones

*They are 50% "there" but I have full confidence they'll get there SOON.

* The GM Patty Kolb is clearly IN CONTROL but she enables talent.

*We are working on REALLY localizing (vs.. cliché TV localizing). She is ON BOARD. In fact, she's on board with everything presented.

* They have good instincts for balancing credible and 2009 "real"

*Multi dimensional. Seems to grasp ALL areas pretty well--promotion, content, localization, etc

CHICAGO NOW: Fantastic new site from Tribune Chicago: http://multimedia.tribune.com/CN/ChicagoNow.html



"There are three types of people; those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see."

--- Leonardo da Vinci