TV Spot

This video was actually created for the Abilene Business Expo in March. Darrin McBreen spent quite a bit of time putting this together, and in fact, does the voice-over for the ad. I thought his hard work deserved more than one day of attention, so here, for your viewing pleasure, is our very first e-edition TV spot.

"TV ad campaign for the Abilene Reporter News E-Edition newspaper. Created by Darrin McBreen."


Reel Men Love Newspapers

Part of the charm of running a good-old-fashioned newspaper is not just the smell of paper and ink wafting throughout the building, but also the bona-fide printing press down the hall. Yes, all you doubting Thomases, in some places in the world, they print news on paper. If you've never seen a modern press, trust me, it's awesome. It's four floors tall and the paper reels it prints on are about 1800 pounds each. It takes three hours, a roomful of reels and a skilled reelman to print our newspaper (plus a lot of other people upstairs). And that's if everything goes right.

Before Tuesday, however, I didn't know any of that.

The ARN, being the only newspaper in town, gets a lot of press. (I'll pause for the obligatory eye-roll). Teachers love to bring their classes through on tours, available year-round by appointment. Usually, our good friend and marketing manager, James, has the honor of escorting the horde of 7-year-olds around the building.

This week was different. The group that came in was on the oldish side, for field trips, at least. They were a group of Big Country high school students participating in a year-long leadership program. We were just one stop in a long day of visits to the media outlets in Abilene (all three of them). Also, James asked me to tag along and learn the tour so I can do it in the future. So, we met the kids in the lobby and off we went.

We looked at the old presses on display in the lobby, talked about the history of the paper, walked through some departments and eventually, made our way upstairs to the exciting part of the tour: printing the paper.

I've seen a tour before. Normally, we stand outside a glass wall and look inside at the machines, ooh, aah, next. Today, we ran into Ed. As I found out later, James already knew Ed, but I'd never seen him before, so I thought we just got lucky. Lucky, because Ed happens to work on the press, and he knows just about everything there is to know about printing a newspaper. Not only that, but he could let us into the famed glass-walled room. Not even James or I had been inside before. I was probably more excited than the kids were.

Anyway, Ed is a reel man rockstar. It was obvious as he wove his way through the maze of machines that he's great at what he does because he loves it. He's been in the newspaper business for years, and he told me he's afraid, not of losing his job if the presses ever stop rolling, but that when they do, the art will be lost. And it is an art.

Ed's friend, Larry, is in charge of "pasting" the rolls. Tens of thousands of newspapers won't fit on one roll, so someone has to be ready with a new roll when the old one runs out. It requires expert timing to paste the old paper to the new just as the edge of it spins off the reel, and if you miss, everything grinds to a halt. Ed says Larry's one of the best, and I believe it. He has all kinds of tricks for wrestling those giant reels onto the machines, and on top of that, he's just a nice guy.

The point is, they're both nice guys. They're passionate about what they do, and they want to share it with anybody who will stand still and listen. Yeah, they have ink all over their hands and faces and clothes. They work until 2 or 3 a.m. every night. The work they do is hot and tiring. But it's cool. And they know it.

What are we missing? Why can't everybody be fired up like that? To be fair, being a reel man is unique. Some people don't even know how to fold a newspaper anymore, much less explain how it's made. It's a novelty, for sure. But after years of the same work, I think the shine has probably worn off for Ed, just like any other job. I think the reason he loves his job is because he's invested in it, his time and patience and sweat, and he's proud of it.

So, the question is, are you proud of your work? Do you do everything to the best of your ability? Are you good at monotasking? If you're not pouring your heart and soul into everything you do, just maybe the boring job isn't the problem.

My challenge for tomorrow: try loving your job. See what happens.

(photo cred: wcm777)


FAQ #5

Q: The crosswords are so blurry I can hardly read them. Printing them out doesn't help. What's the deal?

A: Blurry puzzles can be, well, puzzling. (Just like my lame puns). Never fear, there is a quick fix. As discussed in FAQ #2, some parts of the paper look better in graphic mode. One of those parts is, you guessed it, the puzzle page.

This is today's crossword in text mode.

I can hear all you crossword-ers cringing from here. OK, here it is in graphic mode.

See the difference? And I did no resizing or adjusting of my own. With the touch of a button, you have a much clearer, much larger puzzle to print for your crossword-working pleasure.

The visual mode can be toggled between text and graphic by clicking the button in the toolbar directly above the right panel. If you need a refresher, check out FAQ #2 for more detailed pictures and instructions.

Hooray for clarity! (And, might I add, brevity.) Tune in next week for another exciting installment of Frequently Asked Questions.


FAQ #4

Q: Why are your blog posts so long?

A: Because I like to make sure there's enough information for people to discuss, chew on or put to good use.

Obviously this wasn't an actual question, but I've been hassled about it a couple of times, so I thought I'd rush to my own rescue. Unfortunately, the hasslers are right. Brevity is not my strong suit. I'd rather err on the side of information overload. At least you'll have learned something by the end of it, even if you don't get everything, right?

It doesn't work like that. The amount of material that people take in every day from various sources is too large to digest slowly. Skimming=survival in the world of amassed media. Plus, according to a 2007 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, "there is a general decline in reading among teenage and adult Americans," including college graduates.

NPR's editorial director for digital media, Dick Meyer, describes it as a "literary death spiral." (read the full article here)

"There is an aversion to long chunks of sentences," he says. "The less we read books, the less we read journalism; the less we read journalism, the less we read books. Reading skills atrophy or, worse, were never properly acquired to their fullest. The dire problem is that long chunks of sentences are still the best way humans have to express complex thoughts, intricate observations, fleeting emotions — the whole range of what we are."

A sad state of affairs it may be, but it also happens to be "the way it is." And maybe it's not all bad. People who can eliminate excessive verbiage and cut right to the heart of the matter should be applauded, right? I'm just saying there might be a happy medium.

30 seconds might be long enough for a commercial, but it'd make a pretty lousy novel, don't you think?

(picture courtesy of merriam-webster.com and my "Print Screen" button)


A Guy, a Cup and a Coffee Shop

I'm a passionate person. I like to talk about things I'm fired up about. I get really excited when I can convince other people to get fired up, too. But, there's a problem.

I don't know how to sell. It's not because I'm shy or spent too much time playing video games. I have a firm handshake, I speak up and I look people in the eye. I just don't know how to initiate conversation about my product.

It shouldn't be that hard, should it? We "sell" things all the time, just through our recommendations to others. That should carry over to business, right? I mean, that's what word-of-mouth marketing is all about. If I like the product I'm selling, why can't I be the one to get the ball rolling?

Andy Sernovitz, the word-of-mouth marketing guru, had an excellent "Andy's Answers" post about the three characteristics of a great word of mouth topic. The topic must be emotional, portable and repeatable. While I think the e-edition experience ties in to all of those, my opinion isn't the one that counts. So, how can I transfer that? And why doesn't a coffee shop demo do the trick?

First of all, there's a huge lack of trust, especially with something as impersonal as handing out coupons. People coming into the coffee shop don't know me from Kim Nussbaum. All they know is I'm standing in between them and their morning cup o' joe. And of course I'm going to say I like it. That's my job. Even if they can tell I love it, they still know I'm trying to sell it. It changes the tone of the conversation. I mean, how do you sell something without sounding like you're selling it?

They also don't know the product. Most everyone is familiar with the Reporter-News, even if they've never turned a page, but e-editions are still not widely available, especially not ones attached to smaller newspapers. Since I wasn't giving away a million dollars or trips to the moon, it wasn't worth stopping to ask a lot of questions.

Don't worry. I sound like I'm spreading doom and gloom, but I promise this story has a happy ending. After several disappointing demos at competing coffee shops and a very early Tuesday morning, I finally met him. James from Java City--this wasn't quite a Taylor the Latte Boy situation, but almost. He was great. He knew the name of every person that walked in the door and their order--apparently only regulars brave the early morning hours. Anyway, they're on good terms. So, when he tells them they should come check out what I'm doing (plus lets them know they'll get a 20% discount on their next cup of coffee if they do), they're a lot more likely to come talk to me. They trust him because he's formed a (gasp, there's that word) relationship with them.

Java City, at least the one in Abilene, seems to understand the value of forming relationships. Unlike Starbucks, which I'd visited the Friday before, Java City patrons weren't gasping for air as they rushed in and out the door. Most of them took a seat. James behind the counter took the time to introduce himself, hear exactly what it was I was doing there, and give me a free cup of coffee. And the manager decided that a 20% discount for customers that talked to me was worth getting Java City on the newspaper calendar for 3 days before the event. Don't get me wrong, I think Starbucks has decent coffee and a great marketing team. I'm not ragging on them. It's just comfort v. chic, Starbucks being the latter, of course. But honestly, (talking about word of mouth), I'll be inclined to head to Java City now, because of one experience.

I want the e-edition to be something people talk about. I want to give them the same warm, fuzzy feeling I got at Java City. I don't want to scare anyone off or annoy them. But, I know you have to see a product before you buy it. How do I walk that line between respect and attraction?

Maybe a coffee shop on the moon...