Monday, November 26, 2007

A FEW DAYS AS A MEDIA CIVILIAN, HULU.COM, TRACE ADKINS AND DURAN DURAN

A FEW DAYS AS A MEDIA CIVILIAN, HULU.COM, TRACE ADKINS & DURAN DURAN

We had an Artist Confidential Double header in New York. Used the Legacy Studios on 38th street instead of the typical Jazz at Lincoln Center which we are associated with. "JLC" was all booked up with Holiday activities, so off to West 38th street it was. Great facility over there. Extremely accommodating, comfortable, and the room is fantastic visually and sonically. First night was Trace Adkins. A nice guy...tall and Country. Kinda reminded me of a modern day John Wayne. He has great stories. Hell, he was once shot in the chest by an irate wife and survived. His POV is pretty right leaning. He's almost a Country Ted Nugent without the psycho thing. I think Trace is very much the voice of the Red State, and he presents his case with surprising clarity and logic. Would make a good commentator in some markets. I really liked him and his fans. His fans are unbelievable "nice". Like many Country artists, he was happy to stay an hour and meet and talk to EVERY fan. Unreal. Try that most genres--ain't gonna happen. I'm not a huge fan of his sort of music, but the show delighted the fans, and that's all that matters.

The next night was Duran Duran. I couldn't fly myself so had to take the Delta Shuttle which actually left on time. the weather was awful and the Duran show started at 9pm, that means I'd miss the last shuttle and have to spend the night which I couldn't do as it was my last day before a short trip to Naples Florida. The show actually started around 11 and ended at 1am! Feedback was that the guys were amazing, as reported by the tired throngs of mangers, label people and XMers in attendance. Not to mention some love letters from their fans in attendance. I've been working on Duran Duran for Artist Confidential since 2003...I guess it didn't hurt that Michelle over at 20 on 20 has been incredibly supportive of the band too. It's that "16-20" factor in action. The music that moves you during those formative years, sticks with you. The fans were the first generation and they don't grow out of artists that moved them. In the Rock n Roll stock market, hold onto Duran Duran stock for long term benefits.

Jayme Karp our Artist Confidential goto coordinator phoned her Mom when she found that we were taking Delta instead of my plane as her Mom suspects that I will fly and endanger her daughter in any weather conditions. I earned points from the Karp's for having the sense to go commercial on an icy night.

Lou Brutus hosted both of these shows as regular George Taylor Morris was out that week. Lou, our all star utility man, took a break from programming the Led Zeppelin Channel to take the reigns. He was great as he seamlessly maneuvered from a Deep South to a UK presentation.

So, it was then off to Naples Florida. First time in the area for while, at least since putting on the local AOR many years ago. The flight down was awesome as we had an approach over the beach and lined up for final approach about ten miles off the coast. Not every flight there are dolphins between you and the runway. Checked out the local stations. Really can’t handle FM. They all sound exactly alike with some minor exceptions on the play lists. The voices...the attitude...the...everything. So I ended up on AM. Could pick up WQAM the first station I worked for out of Miami. I got sentimental as that station, so many years ago, was SO in sync with what was happening. It manufactured excitement in every break. The sadness came in listening to the soul less FMs today. Utilities...nothing more. While it's a different era today, there is NO imagination left on those stations. Instead of dwelling in sadness, I’m just happy to contribute what I can to XM where we have the opportunity to make a difference. Plus I can listen to our highly successful 60s station to recapture that sprit that has vanished. Our 60s on Six IS SOOOOO much better than an oldies station today which is simply more crap 21st Century FM radio...that happens to be playing old songs. So--back to AM. It was at least "interesting". Musically I used my I-pod as I deliberately didn't bring XM...The goal was to spend a few days recharging and attempting to live as a normal non media civilian....and if I had XM, I'd be making notes. Didn't matter though...I was making notes anyways. Went out and bought 12 newspapers, watched every channel on the cable and tried to listen to local radio, and used the opportunity to try to come up with some thinking as I was this temporary civilian away from the office and on a very low email week. CNBC had an interesting show on the history of video games. Five year life cycles and a target that moves at light speed. Old media can learn a few tricks from these guys, though their demographic is so narrowly defined that they don't have to worry about mass appeal age wise. A nice luxury.

Print wise, other than visiting the local newsstand, the hotel delivered a USA Today, WSJ, New York Times and the local paper. Four examples of good definition. USA Today being Americas greatest hits...breezy, scannable and vibrant. WSJ was medium paced, dead on the money for their psychographic target and scannable "real news" without fear of being bogged down by this weeks' celebrity scandal. New York Times was "heavy" and intellectual. The local paper was lightweight, foreign (couldn’t relate to the local stories---there’s not that much going on in Naples in light of today’s Global community) and old. Most local newspapers seem to be locked into an old school format, and their format is a combination of ingredients as if grasping at straws, whereas USA, WSJ and the NY Times have a very clear mission and format. Newspapers remind me of AM radio in 1975. A handful will figure it out and remain giants--and even grow, others will fade away or simply become obsolete via the emerging technologies...and that's already happening. The ones that figure it out will be timeless. With all of the talk about Satellite, FM, Internet radio and MP3, there are a few AM stations...in 2007 that kick the hell out of all of those new media. Newspapers biggest obstacles are self inflicted: Denial, a dated culture, inflexibility, fear, holding old values sacred, a club where outsiders are unwelcome, cumbersome internal structure based on 1957, worshiping the journalism school (good grammar is good--but can you imagine if the pioneers of modern radio demanded a broadcast journalism degree? Top 40 would have never existed as the schools tend to preach history and correctness more than innovation and imagination), obstinate....Still--like an AM station that continues to dominate, there’s no reason a newspaper can't dominate. It just ain't going to be Ward and June sending rover out to fetch the Daily Bugle from the front porch, Dad reading the sports while Junior reads the funnies and Mom looks for recipes. Though I think some papers still view it that way.

Then there are the local TV stations...no comment, they all look exactly the same in EVERY market. I am now convinced that most local anchor people are manufactured at a plant somewhere in Pasadena....next to the facility that cranks out news intros and slogans...And that the look, feel and smell of local stations is mandated by some secret content law.

One thing that really impressed new was HULU.COM. It's the new site that's a joint venture between NBC Universal and News Corp Fox. It's kind of a "professional" You tube. I signed up as a beta tester. While You Tube is infinitely entertaining as I find everything from Radio Controlled 747's landing in parking lots to ...anything. There's a DIY quality about it, whereas Hulu is slick, easy to navigate, very high quality and clean. The content ranges from the Blues Brothers movie to old episodes of Jack Webb's Dragnet (classic...so bad they are genius) to the latest Simpson’s and Kitchen Nightmare episodes. While its ad supported, the ads are infrequent and VERY short--don’t really notice them. Unlike the grainy homemade You Tube video, you go to full screen on Hulu and its pretty crisp with good sound. The content isn't very deep yet, but I'm sure it will be as they add shows and open it up to the public. Early on though, the whole experience was a good one. It's run by a guy from Amazon. Kinda like the name too...

It's good to be a civilian for a few days...

3 Comments:

At 1:33 PM, Blogger Tim said...

who programs the boneyard? they suck. you need to get some of the people who were with Z-rock. oh wait they are about to play Zebra again, more than they were played when they might have been popular. Also tell them Danzig has other songs than "Mother"

 
At 4:29 PM, OpenID cpetersia said...

Lee -

Welcome to the Tribune. I am particularly interested in your comment:

Most local newspapers seem to be locked into an old school format, and their format is a combination of ingredients as if grasping at straws, whereas USA, WSJ and the NY Times have a very clear mission and format. Newspapers remind me of AM radio in 1975. A handful will figure it out and remain giants--and even grow, others will fade away or simply become obsolete via the emerging technologies...and that's already happening. The ones that figure it out will be timeless.

We are trying to change that here at Gazette Communications, and have blogged about it at http://cpetersia.wordpress.com/

I thought you might be interested in some of the posts, and particularly the links to Wedia, as you begin you innovation at The Tribune.

All the best.

Chuck

 
At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Laura said...

Hello Lee-
Been following your role as "innovator" here at the Trib. As a former print journalist, food and wine critic, moved into broadcast TV then 2 years ago into Web TV, I see enormous potential for the Trib companies. The Media convergence is coming on quick....

I see the various papers you mention in this blog and I sincerely think the Chicago Trib needs to take a few lessons from others, both in print and new media. I made the transition just at the cusp of Web 2.0 and clearly NYTimes, using the Brightcove platform for video, and WSJ, were peeking into the future long before most print pubs. And they're generating new media revenue, as well.

My issue today at the Trib is -- why not bring in innovators (like me) to usher in change quickly and efficiently? Last time I talked about a position in the Food/Wine section of the Trib, the conservatives were so put-off with my Independent Weekly newspaper background that they wouldn't talk to me in second rounds. Too radical (!).

Since then, I know that the initiative to put a digi-cam in the hands of every reporter is NOT the answer for the Chicago Tribune. Bring in some local people, with local experience/ties, professional filming/TV experience, Web-compress/encoding skills and let's turn this puppy around. We can build a HULU - type model for the Trib that can take the bull by the horn with some immediacy.

I'd like to help usher my local Award-winning but revenue losing newspaper into Web 2.0 and sounds like you and Zell would too.

Best Regards,
LLS

 

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