Thursday, April 21, 2011

Morning Brief: Condé Nast to 'hand back control to the magazine staff; 'Digital Distribution' website launched

Yesterday Adweek, you remember them, ran a post that talks about changes at Condé Nast including the decision to return much of the day-to-day control of the magazine websites back to the actual staffs, as opposed to a centralized entity – in this case Condé Nast Digital.
The story doesn't provide much background, but then again, when you are publishing your website stories in 20 point type (slight exaggeration) there isn't much room left on the page for perspective.

What was left out of the story is the background involving the decision by Condé Nast to use the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite instead of creating native apps. The decision was the sign that one political faction had won, another had lost. It shouldn't be a surprise which side lost: the centralized digital teams always have lots of enemies in the publishers, editors and sales folk who feel that outsiders are managing their brands. And while I have tremendous sympathy for the "digital" people, more often than not the complaints of the grunts (I use this term lovingly) have merit.

My own experience has often been that those who are put in charge of digital rarely know much about the publishing products they are supposedly there to support, and too often, especially at smaller media firms, know next to nothing about digital, as well. (I could tell you horror stories . . .)

But if you think I am coming out hard against "digital teams" then you are wrong. Someone has to be able to introduce new technology, new platforms, and needs to lead the way. How long would it have taken Condé Nast to create its first tablet edition had the impetus to create these apps had to come from the publishers?

It is an old question in publishing: create digital teams or have digital in the control of the print teams? (The answer depends on the print teams, doesn't it?)

A new digital media website has been born: Digital Distribution. Created by Portugese graphic designer and publishing veteran Pedro Monteiro, the site will, of course, look at digital publishing – but no doubt from a more design perspective than other websites including TNM. Monteiro's day job is design coordinator for Impresa Publishing, as well as consultant for Innovation Media Consulting Group.

Oh, look at that, and Digital Distribution has an interview with me on its front page.

What exactly are we going to do with websites that lie in order to drive traffic? The media community doesn't see any problems with the practice. Heck, some of the "great minds" of the industry have made a career out of stealing other people's work and repackaging them into newsletters for years. But what about the practice of intentionally lying in order to draw in readers?

I'm referring, of course, to those stories that often talk about companies like Apple or Google, make a wild claim knowing that readers who hate the company will be drawn in to applaud while others will click through in order to refute the lie.

The BBC has posted an obituary for Tim Hetherington, the photographer and journalist killed yesterday in Libya. Chris Hondros of Getty Images was also killed in the same incident.

Hetherington and American author Sebastian Junger together created the film Restrepo, a film about an outpost in Afghanistan called a film from "the valley of death".