Leaving the newspaper business to jump on the World Wide Web was risky, they said. The Internet is a fad. I still love newspapers. I still love the Internet. One is a blonde. One is a brunette. They still have my heart. (And FWIW, I married the brunette.)
Fifteen years ago, as I was waiting for the elevator doors to close, a man stepped in. “First day?” he asked. “Yes, sir.” As the elevator made it’s way up, the man said, “Welcome to CNN. I’m Ted.” Yes, Mr. Turner, you are Ted. I told him my name, shook his hand and got off the elevator. A few weeks later, the same elevator, the same man walked in. “Hey, Duane.” Yes, I’d made the right decision.
The memories are bountiful, the friendships even more so. And now, 15 years later — from CNNSI.com to NASCAR.COM to NCAA.com — my last day with Turner Sports will be April 10.
Why? Trust me, it’s not because I’m tired. I’ve worked in newsrooms for 26 years; the grind is part of the gig. Like a glue pot, a pica pole, QuarkXpress, an Internet connection, the hours are a piece of the fabric. The newsroom is as Americana as apple pie and Chevy. I’ve forged my closest friendships in the newsroom. Some of my closest friends came from stories I’ve covered, people I’ve interviewed. It is, for me, personal. That one-on-one you cannot get any other way than looking someone in the eyes and … connecting.
Bottom line: It’s time – for me. It’s a business world; I’m a content guy. Those two don’t always mix, especially in the still-finding-its-way digital world. Spreadsheets and PowerPoint are not the only way to run a business, in my opinion. Analytics are great — to tell a part of the story, but not the definitive way to make a decision.
Moneyball was a great book and a good movie. The person who decided to “Moneyball” the content business should be repeatedly cup-checked by 95 mph fastballs. It hasn’t worked (and will not work) for the Oakland A’s, and it will not work in content — if that is your decision-driving analytic. Numbers are a tool, and the box should be full of them; you cannot build a house with just a hammer.
Somewhere along the way the spreadsheet pushers co-opted the content and now we’re left with the abomination that is “aggregation.” Apologies, I have more original thoughts than your RSS-scraping feed. I can think for myself, I don’t need an algorithm to tell me “read this” or “watch that” because 1.5 million other people are doing likewise. The masses have not exactly been Lewis & Clark when pointing out the best things in life.
Corporate America’s “content” has become about the numbers — the page views, the time spent on site, the SEO, the ad impressions, the pre-roll, the mid-roll, the ROI, the CPM — too often about everything except telling the story. … I believe if you tell the great story you will receive the page views, the time spent on site, the SEO, the ad impressions, the pre-roll, the mid-roll, the ROI, the CPM.
To tell those stories you need … well, a writer, a videographer, a graphics artist, a photographer, an editor – or someone (like me) who can do all those things. But one-man bands are a dying breed. You also need money, and you have to spend money to make money — not the other way around. … So remind me why there are more business people than journalists within content organizations?
And then there’s products, marketing, and social, which cannot be successful without … yep, content. I love the marketing and social side of today’s media. There are more outlets for content. There are more platforms on which to market and socialize content. … But the analytics say you have to build market presence and a social brand before you can be successful. Well, what are you marketing and socializing? Content! Cart, meet horse.
The current mind set is that scoreboards, rankings and brackets are traffic-drivers on a website. No one can argue against that, if scoreboards, rankings and brackets are all the site has! Think about it: If you owned a dealership and only sold red and black cars, red and black cars would be the primary sales-drivers. … I choose to offer variety — and content is so much more than scoreboards, rankings and brackets.
After 15 years it is time to bid adieu to the last place I thought I’d ever leave. I hit the trail with lasting friendships and one last “Look, mom, no hands!” I have no idea where the road leads, but I made the right decision. Again.
My next in-depth piece is going to be about jacks. You probably haven’t held jacks in your hand since you were a child. But I’m going to make you again want to feel that chilled steel in the palm of your hand. Doubt it? Watch me.