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    Russell Viers is a Transition Expert in the publishing world. Since 1997 he has helped newspapers and magazines adapt to changes in the industry. Read more...

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    Viva la Print?

    Friday, July 29th, 2011

    A few months ago I was on a train to Brussels, Belgium, leafing through the International Herald Tribune and a story caught my eye. It was a story about a newspaper that refused to have a website…they only had a print edition.

    I have heard this line too many times: “If we put our stories up on the Internet, who would buy the paper on Wednesday?” the publisher, Claude Angeli, asked. “We believe in print.”

    What made it different this time was that it was a publisher of a newspaper in Paris, France saying it.

    The newspaper, Le Canard Enchainé, is a satirical weekly that targets politicians, entertainers and the elite with great success. In a climate where France’s other papers are beginning to struggle, Angeli is succeeding. His readership is up. His subscriptions are up. Profits are up.

    “Well if he can do it, why can’t everyone else? Let’s just stop with this website experiment we’ve been doing and go back to print?” Is that what you were thinking?

    Before you buy into Claude’s thinking, there are some important questions to answer:

    • What’s the future of print?
    • How will you distribute it?
    • Will your competitors fill the online void?
    • How unique is your content?
    • Does your community REALLY want print?

    The Future of Print

    When you look at all the newspapers that are, at best, just getting thinner, it raises the question about supply and demand of newsprint and other print supplies in the future. Taking just the Detroit Free Press, which has recently become a weekly paper, as an example, how much newsprint is no longer needed to stay in business? Using numbers from last year, the paper had a weekday circulation of just under 300,000 copies and Sunday was as high as 580,000. Even though they are still printing and distributing to newsstands, the elimination of print editions to households six days of the week is a substantial decrease in the amount of newsprint being used in Detroit.

    As this trend continues among large dailies, how is this going to impact the cost of print supplies and the availability of suppliers in rural areas?

    Some questions you should be prepared to answer today are: “How much of an increase in printing cost can I sustain under my current pricing structure?” and “What would I do if my printer closed his doors?”

    I’m not trying to scare anyone. Okay, I am. I talk with so many publishers of papers who are convinced newspapers will survive in printed form forever. I don’t see it that way. The trends are showing otherwise.

    Can you rely on the post office for distribution?

    The United States Postal Service has been in the news a lot lately. It’s already begun closing branches and has 3600 more in its sights. The numbers in various articles jump around, but no matter what you read, it’s not an optimistic future for small papers that rely on the local post office to distribute the paper each week.

    I’m not a postal expert, but I would guess having to work with a post office in a different town would have some impact on price. If not, at the very least that paper would have the added expense and time of delivering it further.

    Last week there was an article in USA Today about the USPS anticipating an $8.38 billion loss this year. How are these loses going to impact the price per piece for newspaper distribution?

    Back to an earlier question: “How much on an increase on postage rates and delivery can I sustain with my current pricing structure?”

    Who will fill the online void?

    This may be my biggest concern for publishers who only want to do print editions. What impact will it have on your paper when the local Chamber of Commerce starts putting up feature stories of local businesses and events on a website they name anytowntoday.com, or whatever fits. What will happen when the school booster club starts a website with hundreds of color pictures of all the school activities, including sports, and you only have a couple of black and whites on the sports page each week.

    I would like to say that I’m spit-balling here, but it’s happening.

    And what about the various “suck” sites in your community already, like topix or americantowns.com. And then there’s Patch.com, which AOL started to compete with papers with an online edition right in their communities.

    Is your content unique enough?

    So how does the future fare for Claude in Paris? Provided he can get the paper printed and distributed in a cost-effective manner, he might continue to do well. He is the only one in his country with the staff and connections to deliver the type of investigative, satirical content his readers crave. It would be very difficult for someone to start an online version of his paper with the same content. As long as he remains unique in that niche with his print product he may do fine.

    Provided his readers continue to want print…

    Does your community really want print?

    Statistics are starting to show otherwise. Publishers are often so protective of their paid circulation and the risk of losing it to online, they don’t take a hard look at just who the paid subscribers are. An attendee at one of my seminars recently told me the average age of his subscribers was 65. That’s 65. A sixty and a five. If you look at the consuming public that the advertisers are trying to reach, they’re not in the demographic. So this paper is protecting 2000 paid seniors at the risk of a larger public that is younger, web savvy, mobile device savvy and has money to spend on what your advertisers are selling: tires, cars, furniture, groceries, etc.

    I suggest newspapers take a hard look at the community as a whole, as well as the subscribers, and really find out what they want and what they are willing to pay for. And as fast as the trends are changing, this is a question that needs to be asked often. What they wanted yesterday isn’t what they may want today.

    I’ve speculated that we won’t be printing newspapers in seven years. It’s an educated guess, but I’ll put it in writing and hope I’m wrong.

    Seven years, think about that…that’s like the day after tomorrow in dog years (or something like that).

    To make this prediction I’m looking back seven years at how things have changed. To name a few milestones and how they have changed the way we communicate.

    • Facebook launched in 2004
    • iPhone released June 2007
    • Twitter launched March 2007
    • iPad released 2010

    So now what?

    Be prepared. Put together a five year plan and take a hard, honest look at what’s happening in the media today and don’t hide behind a hope.

    I’m a print guy. My background is print. I want to be wrong. I’ve made a living teaching people how to produce a better newspaper faster…in print. I still do. But I also spend a lot of time these days helping newspapers and magazines embrace electronic media and enjoy the many benefits. For now, there is room for both.

    In this plan focus on two things:

    1. Improving the Print product
    2. Developing an electronic edition

    We must work now to make our print editions the best they can be. It’s important we show our community we are the news providers they can rely on, not the Chamber of Commerce or PTA. We can do this through better design, better photos, better ads and better writing. All of these add up to the ONLY product like it in most communities…and we need to take advantage of that.

    At the same time, we need to develop a plan to offer online editions to our readers. This allows us to get new readers who don’t read print, offer more photos and other content in color and enjoy an additional revenue stream as we sell ads on the website.

    For those who might accuse me of preaching doom and gloom I’ll conclude with “I would buy a paper today.” I still believe in community journalism. I still believe there is a future for small newspapers. I just don’t have a lot of faith, long term, in the United States Postal Service or the printing industry as it is today.

    Freebird for Free

    Saturday, June 4th, 2011

    Last night I went to see Dale Watson in concert at Knucklehead’s Saloon in Kansas City with my son Parker…fun night.

    If you’ve never been to Knucklehead’s, it’s really an experience. It’s in a part of the city where real estate is about $37 per acre, with derelict homes and buildings all around. In keeping with the Neighborhood Association’s strict code, Knucklehead’s is also on the verge of falling apart…but it’s cool…way cool. If I were to say the place isn’t anything fancy, you still might not be able to visualize how basic this place is.

    The best part is that it’s right next to an active train track at a major crossing. So if you’ve never been there before, the first time the Union Pacific comes in, whistles at full blast, you might very well need to change your underwear.

    Dale was third to come on after two GREAT acts (Zoey Muth & Her Lost Highrollers and Outlaw Jim & the Whiskey Benders) and he was cranking out request after request as people shouted out the titles of their favorite songs. I think I shouted out “From the Cradle to the Grave” ten times, to no avail, convincing me he’d forgotten the song and refused to play it (I was sitting close enough to the stage I know he heard me!)

    He’s a funny guy…great musician…and what a voice, eh?

    During his second encore, he finally must have heard me as he blasted into “Cradle” and rocked the house. The highlight of the show for me was in the closing chords of Cradle as a train came rolling through full volume. Dale looks over at the train screaming through and asks the band “what key is that?” as he tries to match the whistle with his voice. Chris, the bassist, yells out “C” as they all, as if this was planned, cut into “Folsom Prison Blues” and Dale belts out “I hear that train a-comin’…” as if possessed by the ghost of The Man in Black himself!

    Great night.

    Generally after a concert like this I’m still wanting more. In the past I might have headed out to the CD shop to pick up something or get a CD from the stand at the show.Then I would import it into my iTunes and jam on my iPod for a week or two of non-stop [insert applicable artist name here].

    But times have changed.

    I could have gone on iTunes, emusic or Amazon and bought the digitized music…at my fingertips. But instead, all morning, I’ve been listening to grooveshark.com. I could have turned on Pandora or last.fm, which allow me to listen to some Dale Watson and then others in the same genre. This morning I only want Watson…so grooveshark it is.

    I often say “if it can be digitized it will be” and this is a great example of how digital technology has changed the music industry. I’ve lived through vinyl albums, 8-track, cassette tape, even reel-to-reel, CDs, MP3s and now just free streaming music.

    The record stores don’t have to like it. They can deny this is happening and insist that “MP3s aren’t as clear as CDs.” They can get angry over the fact they can’t compete with free streaming radio. They can continue to sell CDs until they just go out of business…or they can watch the trend and find a way to adapt sooner. Adapting can mean finding new ways to compete or just find a new product line altogether.

    The point is, denial doesn’t change the trend. And it’s a fact that the consuming public is changing the way they acquire, purchase, use products and services.

    It’s the same with publishing. We can say “we’re not going to give our content away online” until we’re blue in the face…but how does that help us compete with the websites already in our community that aren’t charging? Of course they’re not as good as yours…but they’re free. And if they offer enough of what the public wants for free, why would they pay to subscribe to get what you’re offering?

    Well, it still comes down to content. Are you offering your community something they NEED and WANT that the other sites and papers aren’t? If so, how are you getting the word out that you have it?

    The newest Dale Watson album, Carrying On, isn’t available on grooveshark.com, yet. Nor is From The Cradle To The Grave. If I want to hear them I have to buy them. The free content isn’t as good as I want it right now. So now I spend money.

    As I write this article, Truckstop in LaGrange comes on grooveshark.com and the refrain is “They got a damn good cup of coffee…and a mighty, mighty good Kolache.” Some day I’ll tell you my Texas Kolache story, but for now suffice it to say I needed this song. I just hopped on iTunes and paid my .99¢.

    How are newspapers and magazines going to offer a similar service? One obvious suggestion is more and better photography. We have the cameras, the expertise and the access to get photos our competitors don’t.

    A couple of years ago I photographed the school play in the little town in Austria where I was living at the time. The project was simple, get at least one photograph of each of the hundred children in the play. I shot before the show of the kids getting on makeup and during performances, back stage and after the show. I did this for a couple of the performances just to make sure I had enough photos.

    From about 3000 photos, under difficult lighting, I ended up with about 350 (after removing duplicates, blurry, dark, closed eyes, etc.) and uploaded them to my online photo gallery. Now keep in mind that this school only had 110 students. The first month I had 47,000 hits on this gallery…the second month 54,000. I was the only photographer allowed in the theater and therefore was the “gatekeeper” for this information.

    With the stats I got from this school play, I could have easily gone out the next year and sold advertising around the photos the next year…that’s a lot of traffic. I could also have sold the photos, most likely, or put an advertisers logo in the bottom right corner of every photograph so when they downloaded it and made a print, the logo was right there “First State Bank of Anywhere.”

    At a workshop recently I asked to borrow a camera to demonstrate downloading through Bridge. One of the participants handed me her camera and said she had photos from the elementary concert the night before. I downloaded about 60 shots. They were from the stands and almost all group shots.

    I said “If I had shot this I would have taken about 1000 shots and tried to have every kid’s headshot, some two and three-group shots as well as the groups. I also would have had some shots of the audience as they watched their children sing.” That’s how I do it. I shoot from beginning to end, and work hard at it. I shot a parade in my little town last year and took 3200 shots in less than four hours. You can see the results in this online gallery.

    I’ll close with some questions…

    If you saw a photo of your child or grandchild in my online gallery from the school play or parade, would that make you download or purchase?

    If you saw a photo of your neighbor, friend from church, work, etc. or someone else you know, would you copy the link and send it to them?

    If you continued to see photos of people you know that are better quality than you could ever get yourself, would you continue to go to that website? Would you pay to gain access to that site?

    If you could monitor the traffic to your site’s photos and it was very strong, could you sell advertising to support it?

    Today I’ve spent $11 dollars on iTunes for Dale Watson tunes as well as listened to grooveshark.com for several hours.

    Twister Twitter beats traditional media!

    Thursday, May 26th, 2011

    The text message from my daughter was only one word long: “Tornadoes!!”

    I read it as I left the stage from a morning presentation at the Print & ePublishing Conference in Washington, DC. During the lunch break I headed to my hotel room.

    I immediately called her and the lines weren’t connecting…text was all I had. I asked what was going on. After a stressful text exchange I learned my boys had ridden their bikes to school, which would let out at 11:30, during a Tornado Warning for that part of Kansas City. She was sitting in front of the school in her car to pick them up since it was raining…but they weren’t there.

    She was scared.

    I was scared.

    Between texts I was trying to get a handle on the situation through traditional media. I went to kansascity.com (the website of the Kansas City Star). They had a story about tornadoes in the area, but nothing recent enough. Tornadoes move quickly and in this situation I wanted to know what was happening “Now!”

    I went to the television station websites hoping for current information…nope.

    Just then I received a broadcast text from the school informing me the teachers and students were in the Tornado Shelter at the school. I texted my daughter of the boys’ status and told her to go inside and join them. She replied “idk. I have texted them a thousand times.”

    I replied “THEY ARE IN A TORNADO SHELTER IN THE SCHOOL. GO INSIDE NOW!!” I screamed at my daughter with my thumbs.

    This is where the shift in my brain happened. This is when, for the first time in my life, I realized I could not rely on traditional media. I turned to Twitter.

    Launching twitter.com I did a search for kansas city tornado. Immediately I was seeing tweets of sightings and the neighborhoods. I learned how close these beasts were to three of my children. Every MINUTE I was getting new information. There were hundreds of reporters all over the city giving me the information I needed, while the traditional media’s stories were just getting older and more out of date.

    I’m not new to the concepts of Twitter and it’s impact on the world. I followed the peaceful revolution in Egypt, much of it reported through Twitter. I followed Tweets from Libya as reporters and citizens were risking their lives to get the word out. I thought it was fascinating how the attack on Osama Bin Laden’s compound was being reported through Tweets, even though the “reporter” didn’t know what was going on.

    What I’m writing here isn’t anything new…just the first time it got this personal and I truly felt the impact of this new media.

    A lot was going on in a short period of time…texts, following twitter, trying to find more on TV or websites. Through it all it was the texting and the Twitter that kept me up to date.

    In the end, all was fine. No harm to anyone or any property, but two lessons were learned: Social media CAN outperform what traditional media currently offers with immediate information, but it comes with a very high price tag: Nobody is filtering before it reaches the end user.

    I thought it was interesting how there was an alert that read “TURN UP YOUR TELEVISIONS AS HIGH AS POSSIBLE AND SEEK SHELTER IN YOUR BASEMENT…ETC!” As I read this I was thinking “GRAB YOUR SMART PHONE, FOLLOW TWITTER AND HEAD TO YOUR BASEMENT…ETC!”

    So why is traditional media like television in a storm still relevant? Because not everyone has smart phones, or WIFI or laptops to take with them to a shelter. Today, we still need traditional media for a percentage of the audience…but that will change.

    Aside from the above instance, yesterday traditional media failed hugely meeting my needs as a member of it’s audience.

    Are we willing to pay the price? As I was reading the Tweets about the storm, there was one that popped up and read something like “Massive destruction in the storm’s path all across Kansas City” or something to that effect. It didn’t sound right. It didn’t fit. All of the other Tweets were mentioning where and what, but nothing quite as apocalyptic as this Tweet made it out to be. I had to filter it. Throw it away. Recognize it was just a bored Tweeter trying to, we’ll just say, play a prank.

    Can everyone do this? Remember the old story of War of the Worlds read by Orson Wells and supposedly there were people who believed it and starting packing up. It was radio. It was a book. But it was Orson Wells, and he really can spin a good yarn, but aside from that it was something that people couldn’t filter truth from fiction.

    Apply this logic to social media and you see how dangerous it can be.

    A good friend of mine, Kris Coppieters, was telling the story last night about how in Christ Church, New Zealand, after the recent earthquake, local police were verifying Tweets. According to him, police were following the Tweets and would act on the information. If it was true, they would reply with “verified.”

    Think about this for a second. The role of the media in the past has been to gather, filter and deliver the news…all the news that’s fit to print, anyway. How dramatically has that changed in some instances, like I’m describing here. The citizens are reporting the “news” and the police are filtering it. Wow! Exciting in this example, could be very scary in others.

    For two years I’ve been asking newspapers “who is going to reinvent the newspaper business?” The challenge is to us, as an industry, to reinvent ourselves. At least yesterday, however, the newspaper industry was reinvented by a social media tool.

    QUESTION: Do you have a personal example of where Social Media has served you in ways Traditional Media can’t? What was it and can you give an example of where you had to filter through the message and authenticate instead of trusting verbatim?

    Apple is tracking ME?!? Should I be worried or flattered?

    Friday, April 22nd, 2011

    I read an article yesterday, which led me to read more articles yesterday, about the tracking device inside the iPhones and iPads. I think the most informative one is here on WebProNews.

    According to the articles, the new OS4 software creates a file which tracks where you’ve been and then syncs it to your computer as in unencrypted file that anyone can get to.

    Really? I gotta try this.

    There is a free app named “iPhone Tracker” which you can quickly download and install on your Mac. Upon launch, the app finds this file and creates a map of the globe and shows where you’ve been.

    I could see right away that it only tracks cell traffic, not WIFI, as none of my international stops in the last three months were showing.

    As you can see, all that’s showing is a bunch of travel in the Midwest United States…so I zoomed in.

    I found it interesting how it wasn’t showing locations where I know I have been and know I used the 3G function on my iPad.

    In the last three weeks I’ve spoken in Saratoga Springs, NY at the New York Press Association Convention and in Norfolk, VA for the Virginia Press Association Convention. Neither are showing as spots where I’ve been, although you can see my trip from Nashville to Bowling Green, KY with multiple dots along the way between them.

    If I zoom in on the Midwest, where I live a lot of the time, you’ll see a lot of traffic between Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Kansas City. But along the way are dots in cities I’ve never been and no dots in cities where I know I’ve spent a few days. Lamar, MO, for example, doesn’t have a dot anywhere near it, yet I was there for two days in the past three weeks.

    It’s obvious that the tracking device only picks the tower nearest, but I would think there would be other towers along the way to show a real path…towers closer to the route than what it does.

    Look at Joplin, MO, for example. I NEVER stop in Joplin, MO (we’ll save those stories for another time). Yet if you look at the map of Joplin, it would appear I’ve been there a lot…and all over town.

    When I go through Joplin I always stay on I-44 East to US-71N. You can see my only route in red. And yet look at all the dots which would imply I’ve been elsewhere…and notice they are very much on a grid pattern. But further north, in Carthage, nothing…and there’s nothing on the map until Kansas City.

    So what does this mean? I don’t know, I just had fun playing with it.

    But it does make you think a bit, I hope. What DOES this mean? Is Apple using it to pick new locations for stores based on iPhone and iPad usage? If so, you have to chalk it up as one brilliant tool for market research by a company. Can you imagine tracking devices in Nike Shoes to see where there is a huge clientele that doesn’t have a local store to serve them? What about…well…any product that has stores in major cities and is wanting to branch out. Tracking devices in GAP clothes, Oakley Sunglasses, etc? Brilliant. I don’t know that it’s legal, but it does sound like a marketer’s dream.

    Forget marketing for a second…what about just the idea of easily being tracked? Okay, there’s the obvious question “what if I bought my kids iPhones…could I use this to get a general idea of where they’ve been?” Yes…a general idea, based on my personal maps. “Could I track employees, spouses…uh…anyone?” Yes, if they have these devices and you have access to the computer they are syncing to (which is required by Apple for the devices to work) and have the rights to load the software.

    So with this thought, my kids could come home, sync their iPhones and go to sleep…then I could spy. Or check on my employees at lunch break.

    I’m a little uncomfortable with this.

    What about law enforcement and other entities that might want to “spy” or “check up” on us.

    I was chatting with a friend about this an she said “What if you were in a town discussing a secret business deal with the only company in that area and there was a crime committed somewhere in that town and because of this information you became a suspect? Now you’re on the front page of the paper as a suspect, and even though you’re innocent, your business deal becomes public.”

    If you want fodder for some deep discussion tonight over dinner with friends, bring this up. And if you have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch with 3G download the app and check it out for yourself.

    At the very least, I don’t think this can be ignored. Thanks to Senator Al Franken for sending the letter to Apple requesting more information and let’s hope we get some real answers to this. Also thanks to Senator Al Franken for Stuart Smalley.

    Let’s start this discussion right here. What does your map show and what do you think about all this? Is it a real concern or just hype that will pass tomorrow?

    What’s the Paper Worth

    Friday, March 13th, 2009

    I was in London for a week and decided to take the opportunity to do a very unscientific study into the value of a newspaper.

    London is the perfect setting for this because there are so many papers to choose from including tabloids, broadsheets, conservative, splashy, free and paid.

    So the goal of the study was simple: is a newspaper that costs 50p: A) better than a free paper and B) better enough to be worth 50p.

    My study did not take into account fluctuation in currency exchange, but keep in mind that not long ago that 50p was worth $1USD. As I type this it’s worth 70.2¢ USD. So I’m sure statisticians would add a curve or something important onto the results…I didn’t.

    So my study began on The Tube (Underground) by picking up the free papers and reading them along my way. The two free papers in the study were The Metro, where you pick them up off a stand, and thelondonpaper, which is handed to you by people wearing purple hats as you pass on the street.

    While riding along the rails, I was able to consume both papers in entirety (two different times, one paper each). They are both full of fluff that may mildly amuse and interest. Now I’m not a news snob. I personally don’t like reading politics, economics, etc., but living in such times, I think it’s important to have at least a conversational knowledge of both. Instead, from both papers I found out how the credit crunch is making us fatter, Ray Parker, Jr. is afraid of the dark and Britney Spears did something stupid…again.

    Of the two, I’ll give The Metro credit for have much more content and trying harder to be more than Entertainment Tonight in print. The issues I picked up had a wide range of stories, although not in-depth, and gave a lot of information in a tight package.

    Now to part two of the study, paying for a paper.

    Keep in mind I’m really too lazy to be much of a scientist, so my study only went as far as what was convenient for me. Therefore, I only studied papers I could pick up in the course of my normal walk…on the street.

    The two paid papers in the study were The Evening Standard and The Independent. Both are tabloid sized, just like the free papers reviewed, but obviously a little more traditional in design and content.

    As I read The Evening Standard, it really struck me how much better the writing was. Not just in style, but also depth. I also found the editorials to be very balanced, informed and enjoyable to read. In the end, when I turned over the last page, I found it to be a good read and well worth my money, whether $1 or 70.2¢.

    I grabbed The Independent on my last afternoon in London. I have to admit that the only reason I picked it up over a different title is that I was on Whitechapel Street trying to see where Jack the Ripper did his dirty deeds and I figured the guy selling the newspaper on the corner would know. As I wandered over to his stand, I fumbled about for my 50p, handed it over and asked “which way to find the area of the Whitechapel Murders.”

    He handed me the paper and pointed across the corner, explaining that most of the murders were over there, but one was back the other way. “Head that way and turn left….”

    With The Independent under my arm, my first priority was wandering around until I could say, for sure, I had been where Saucy Jack had been. After a couple of hours of aimless meandering, I headed back to Liverpool St. Station to catch the train to the airport. It was only then that I sat down at a Costa Coffee and opened the paper.

    What a great read…really. There were so many stories that interested me that I actually brought the paper home. Now you may think this is a triviality…it’s not. I was flying Ryanair home, and if you know anything about this airline, you’ll know they are considering charging a Pound to use the onboard bathrooms. Really. These are the people that charge you 1€ for the ticket, then make it up on luggage and overweight carry-ons. I knew I was at risk of paying a lot more than 50p for this paper when all was said and done.

    Luckily, no extra charges were incurred, I successfully brought the paper home and finished reading it this morning. There were a few well-written stories about Police Constable Stephen Carroll who was murdered in Ireland by IRA wannabes. There were stories about hard topics as well as human-interest stories like the computer software company that has released software that allows you to recreate the exact sound of The Beatles while recording at Abbey Road Studios. As the story goes, this company painstakingly recorded the exact instruments they used, and recreated the technology of the day so you can create music the same way the Fab Four did. Cool.

    I enjoyed it so much that if I lived in London, this would have to be a regular pick-up for me…The Independent every day.

    In the end, I don’t think my study has enough heft to be a published work…merely a short blog article. But the results are clear:

    A) The papers that charged were better papers, in content, quality of writing, originality and design than the free ones.

    B) The papers that charged were well worth the 50p paid and I would do it again.

    So as you seek out news in your community, remember that quality journalism comes with a price tag. It costs money to have investigative reporters uncovering Watergate and finding Chandra Levy’s killer. It costs money for good writing and good photographs.

    In conclusion I ask a question of all publishers who might read this article: Is every issue of your newspaper worth 50p (or your local equivelant)?

    I’m sorry, what did you say?

    Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

    I was in Nizhny Novgorod awhile back speaking at an event for Adobe and I was joking with my good buddy Roman Menyakin about the instructions in the elevator and how they just didn’t translate as I’m sure they had intended.

    We exchange a few stories of things we had seen and heard over the years, like the Russian friend of his who would say “this is sh** of bull” all the time.

    Anyway, a week or so later we were in Kiev together and he was in a restaurant with a great sign that, again, was poorly translated. He shot a picture of it with his cell phone and emailed it to me. It read “For the things left without a supervision, administration of responsibility does not carry.” I took the liberty of adding the comma and correctly spelling one for the words to make it more clear.

    So as I travel, I like to read the way things are translated and, sometimes, I get a nice little chuckle out of it.

    Once in Peru I was eating at a restaurant that offered “Pig Sandwich” on the menu and in Switzerland an inn offered “Plate of Dry Meat.”

    My wife’s good friend from Peru tells the embarrassing story of how, when she was VERY pregnant, she traveled to the US on business. She was lost in the airport and needed help so she approached the most official looking man she could and, in her best English said, she was “looking for an intercourse.” Confused, the man corrected her saying that’s probably not what she meant to say and she demanded “Yes, I need an intercourse RIGHT NOW!” The nice man figured out what she REALLY needed was the concourse.

    While in Nice, France with another friend of mine the conversation turned to these bad translations. He told me he “collects” them and has an entire list of them that he has seen with his own eyes over the years.

    So I share them with you now, with a thanks to Jim Petrucci.

    In a Bucharest hotel lobby: The lift is being fixed for the next day.  During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

    In a Leipzig elevator: Do not enter the lift backwards and only when lit up.

    In a Belgrade hotel elevator: to move the cabin, push button for wishing floor.  If the cabin should enter more persons, each one should press a number for wishing floor.  Driving is then going alphabetically by national order.

    In a Paris hotel elevator: please leave your values at the front desk.

    In a hotel in Athens: visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 daily.

    On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

    In a Hong Kong supermarket: for your convenience we recommend corteous, efficient self service.

    Detour sign in Kyushi, Japan: stop:  drive sideways

    In a Swiss mountain inn: special today no ice cream.

    In a Copenhagen airline ticket office: we take your bags and send them in all directions.

    At a Budapest zoo: please do not feed the animals.  If you have any suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.

    Two signs in a Majorcan shop entrance: (1) English well talking. (2) Here speeching American.

    In a Bangkok dry cleaner’s: drop your trousers here for best results.

    Outside a Paris dress shop: Dresses for street walking

    Outside a Hong Kong dress shop: ladies have fits upstairs.

    In a Rome laundry: ladies, leave your clothes here and spend the afternoon having a good time.

    In a Tokyo bar: special cocktail for the ladies with nuts.

    In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

    In the office of a roman doctor: specialist in women and other diseases.

    Extracts from translations into English found in European travel brochures

    the bus to the hotel runs along the lake shore; soon you will feel the pleasure in passing water.

    You will know you are getting near the hotel, because you will go around the bend.

    The manager will await you in the entrance hall.  He always tries to have intercourse with all new guests.

    This is a family hotel, so children are very welcome.  Of course we are always pleased to accept adultery.

    Highly skilled nurses are available in the evening to put down your children.

    Guests are invited to conjugate in the bar and expose themselves to others.

    But please note that ladies are not allowed to have babies in the bar.

    We organize social games, so no guest is left alone to play with himself.

    At dinner our quartet will circulate from table to table and fiddle with you.

    Every room has excellent facilities for your private parts.

    In winter every room is in heat.

    Each room has a balcony offering views of outstanding obscenity.

    You will not be disturbed by traffic noise, since the road between the hotel and the lake is used only by pederasts.

    Your bed has been made in accordance with local tradition.  If you have any other ideas please ring for the chambermaid.  Please take advantage of her; she will be very pleased to squash your shirts, blouses and underwear.  If asked, she will also squeeze your trousers.

    When you leave us at the end of your holiday, you will have no hope.  You will struggle to forget it.

    Travel Tips from Europe

    Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

    As I look out the window of my hotel here in St. Petersburg, Russia, I see kids playing, trying to make snowballs out of the one centimeter deep powder that has fallen this morning. This could be anywhere, were it not for the clearly Russian letters on the signs.
    Sometimes as I travel I marvel at how alike humans so often are, as if our behavior is because we are the same species, not because of race, country or creed. Take graffiti, for example…looks the same wherever I go.
    But…
    I share with you now a couple of things one should keep in mind when traveling to Eastern Europe, as I have recently learned.

    Don’t assume the Russian babushka will be as excited about you taking photos of her building as you are.

    I discovered this helpful tip this morning as I wandered the neighborhood around my hotel taking photos. As I neared her building, she began yelling at me in Russian, or so I would assume, and wanted me to get the hell away from her building with my camera.
    Since I don’t speak Russian, there wasn’t a lot I could say to her to smooth the situation over, except “nyet problem.”
    To which she replied, very sternly “nyet problem DA!!”

    Just to show I wasn’t about to be pushed around, I snapped this photo defiantly, then went on my way.

    While in Ukraine, don’t stick your arm between closing elevator doors just because you want to help the guy running to catch it.

    As an American I have this inherent faith in elevators, airplanes and amusement park rides…it’s just part of our social make-up.

    Yesterday, while entering an elevator in Kiev, I saw a guy running towards me carrying his briefcase, obviously anxious to catch it, knowing that if he missed it he could possibly wait a bit before the next opportunity. Because of my natural reflex, I stuck my arm between the doors just before they closed.

    I could feel them slam against my wrist, deciding whether to take my arm up the the ninth floor, or not. There was enough pressure on my arm that I must admit, I was a bit worried…and relieved when I heard the clang of the doors changing motion and open, leaving me with the ability to type this article with both hands.

    The man thanked me for risking my limb for him and then told me how lucky I was. I explained that it’s just habit for me at which point he gave me some very good advice: “Always remember where you are.”

    While demonstrating software to a group of women in England, don’t assume their meaning of “period” is the same as yours.

    While presenting in Winchester, showing how to use InDesign, I was explaining how to use a nifty little shortcut to enlarge text while holding down the shift key and “your period.”

    There was a look of confusion all around. They call the period a “full stop”, I was told and quickly informed that “the only period in England is what a women gets once a month.”

    I stand corrected…end of story…full stop.

    InDesign CS4 won’t do WHAT anymore?

    Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

    I was showing the publishing power of InDesign at a newspaper in Warsaw a couple of weeks ago and I starting showing one of my favorites: how to build pages faster by adding cutlines to the description field of a photo’s metadata in Bridge then pulling it out in InDesign and pasting it under the photo. All of a sudden it didn’t work. I wasn’t sure if it was a bug or I was having a small stroke right there in front of everyone.

    All was going as planned. I clicked on a photo in Bridge and selected the Metadata pane to enter information into the Description field. I typed like the wind and everything was going fine. I placed the photo in InDesign CS4 and was telling the audience how you can access this information from the Info Panel Menu and proceeded to demonstrate.

    There it was, right in front of everyone as I had promised…the Description field with the cutline I had just typed moments before. This is where things starting falling apart. I told them you can select the contents and copy it, then paste it onto the…uh…you can select the…uh…hmmmmm.

    Well I didn’t really feel like trouble-shooting the problem in front of everyone so I told them there was also a script that would automatically pull that info out and place it under the photo.

    Back in my hotel, I started trying to figure out what I had done wrong. Keep in mind I’ve done this literally a thousand times since Adobe added the Info Panel back in version, like, version CS1 or something. But on this day I had a small malfunction.

    As I was banging away on it, I realized it wasn’t me or my computer…InDesign CS4 just wouldn’t allow you to have access to the fields anymore. You can see them…you can read them…but you can’t select and copy them.

    So I emailed my good buddy Michael Ninnes who is in the know on these things, since he is the product manager. I just wanted me see if there was something I was missing…a preference or a shortcut key or something. He informed me that, in fact, during the re-architecture of that part of InDesign it was inadvertently changed (broken).

    He has also assured me this has already been fixed for any future releases, say, if there’s a CS5, for example.

    That’s good to know, but what about today?

    In CS4 Adobe gave us some scripts in the Scripts Panel that are pretty handy. One of them addresses this very problem and is actually better workflow than the copy/paste thing we’ve done, so ultimately, this is not going to be a problem.

    Go to File> Automation> Scripts and you’ll see two folders listed there, Application and User. Expand Application and you’ll see Samples…expand that and then expand the JavaScript folder (I’m worn out).

    Toward the bottom is two scripts we can use: LabelGraphicMenu.jsx and LabelGraphics.jsx.

    If you select a photo or photos on your InDesign page then double-click on LabelGraphics.jsx, you will get a menu that gives you the choice of a few of the XMP metadata fields to choose (I recommend just sticking with the description field) and you can apply a Paragraph Style to it and InDesign will automatically stick it, formatted, under your photo for you.

    You can even have it put the text on a specific layer if you build your document with graphics on one layer and text on another.

    Cool.

    The LabelGraphicMenu.jsx ultimately does the same thing as the LabelGraphics.jsx except it puts a menu item at the bottom of your contextual menu in InDesign so you can right-click on a graphic and select this option instead of going to the Scripts Panel each time. Keep in mind that this menu item will only be available until the next time you restart InDesign and then you’ll have to use the script again to reapply this functionality.

    So in the end, our workflow is unchanged: Photographers take photos, download photos, add cutline (caption) information into the description field of the Metadata in Bridge, Paginator places photo, Paginator uses script to add captions automatically under all the photos on a page at one time.

    Simple.

    Quark 8: First Impression

    Friday, September 12th, 2008

    Well I give Quark credit for finally admitting the software they’ve been peddling for the past decade was garbage. They may not have used those words, but the new behavior of Quark, which is more like InDesign now, says it all.

    As a Quark survivor, in full remission, I can tell you that my first launch of Quark 8 raised the question: “Will I be sucked back into this dark world in which I used to live to create my documents.” Well the answer is “no” but I can say that as an InDesign user, it’s easier to use Quark now than ever before.

    From the beginning, on of my favorite things about InDesign was the liberation from Quark’s text box/picture box structure. As a user, I was forced to create a box before I could put anything on a page. And worse, I had to decide in advance whether it was going to be a Text Box or Picture Box.

    No more. Now you can place text or pictures directly on the page and Quark creates the box for you. Just go to File> Import and choose what goes on the page. Better.

    Notice I didn’t say “Just like InDesign does….”

    Nope, it’s a ways away from being like InDesign. First off, you’ll notice Quark doesn’t offer the loaded cursor, which means that when you import text into XPress it just fits the page or column pargin…boom. Now I have to resize it. If I import a photo, it fits the page width. Yep…and I have to resize it, too. I much prefer InDesign’s approach which give me the loaded cursor and I have the option to click on a page, click over a frame or drag a frame the size I want my soon-to-be-placed photo.

    And another thing Quark trails InDesign on is the multi-place functionality. Yep, being able to select multiple items, even mixed format like a couple of text files, a few jpegs and a psd, allows me to build an entire page very quickly.

    Nope…Quark doesn’t have it.

    Another improvement in QX8 is that you don’t have to have your cursor in the text box to place text. That ALWAYS annoyed me. I’ve got a text box selected with my item tool, hit Cmmd. + E to Get Text and it barks at me. “C’mon” I used to scream at my screen. “Put the text in the box, already!”

    Now in the Ocho, you can select a text frame with the item tool, select File> Import (or your favorite shortcut) and boom…you can place your text in there.

    So even though XPress 8 has a long way to go to catch up with InDesign, I’ll accept Quark’s apology and be glad they are making strides to fix the product…although not enough for me to go back.

    Quark 8: Install Log Entry 1

    Monday, September 8th, 2008

    Okay, here I am loading yet another version of Quark XPress I may never use except for testing and evaluation. But I’m keeping an open mind.
    Here’s my plan: If Quark is saying this is new and exciting and the best software they’ve ever released, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. I’ll install it and give it a fair shot.
    My main objective here, of course, is to compare it’s functionality to that of InDesign and Creative Suite.
    Like so many users, I bailed from Quark a long time ago. I think I did it earlier than most — I converted the day InDesign was released in 1999.
    The question isn’t just “is this good software” when evaluating Quark…the question has to be “is this software good enough for me to switch back to Quark?”
    If you have yet to convert to InDesign and Creative Suite, maybe you have to ask yourself a different question: “Am I better upgrading to Quark 8 or converting to Creative Suite?”
    So we’ll see.
    In this article, I want to share my experience so far…and so far I’ve almost installed the software. We’ll talk about functionality in future articles.
    My phone experience with Quark customer service was delightful. Bobbie spoke English, knew all the answers to every question and took my order as I would expect. I ordered the Quark 8 upgrade and gave her my credit card information which is: 422…wait…maybe this isn’t a good idea. Just trust that I gave her my credit card information.
    The software arrived as promised and I eagerly opened the package. I must say, I like the new look of Quark, but then I’m partial to greens. It IS exciting and new and I think it looks good. Right off the bat it says “this is not your father’s Quark.”
    I was disappointed there wasn’t a manual this time. When I ordered Quark 7, I got a rather heavy box and was pleasantly surprised by a one inch thick manual in there, ready to answer my every question.
    What’s funny about it, though, is that I never opened it. Nope. Just like 90 percent of software buyers out there, the sight of it was a great relief, like a safety net under my dangerous work, there just in case.
    But I never looked at it.
    I guess, then, I have no reason to be disappointed that Quark 8 ships with a PDF of the manual I won’t read on the disk instead of a printed version — saves trees, shipping costs and shelf space, I guess.
    Now here is where it gets tricky. I purchased the software while in the U.S. this summer and didn’t want to carry anything more than what I absolutely need back, so I opened the box and exhumed only what I needed to take with me, which was a card with a disk attached and a sticker on the back. On the front of the card it read “See back of card for information required at installation.”
    Okay, that’s pretty clear…let me turn it over…it reads US68…wait…maybe this isn’t a good idea. Just trust that there is a long number on the back.
    After several attempts as entering various numbers, I decide to go to the Quark website, quark.com, and see if I need to download a NEW validation code. I only wonder because when I installed Quark 7, I was able to use old serial numbers and it worked fine. Times change.
    Keep in mind that we’re not talking about small numbers here. We’re talking about 47 digit codes that are straight from the CIA code book. I did the math: if every human on earth (based on an estimated world population of six billion) owned 492,534,069,091,280,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 copies of Quark, they would finally use all the combinations.
    Except, and this is too much math for my brain, add the combination of a unique serial number that goes with the with validation code and you can have even more computers.
    Wow…Quark is really planning on selling LOTS of copies…good for them.
    Back to my install…
    So I enter the number on the back of my card, which is all I’m going to need for installation, so they say, and I enter my arm’s length validation code and it begins the install…good.
    Now I’m cookin’.
    I watch it do its thing while I think of other things to do. When its done, it asks me to Activate it. No worries, let’s activate using the internet, which is the recommended method.
    No luck. I’m rejected. My serial number is no good.
    What does this mean? There is only one number in my possession. How can it be wrong. I check it again and, yes, I entered it correctly. What am I missing?
    Let’s go through it again: I entered the number on the card on the website and it gave me a validation code, I entered the number on the card and the validation code and it installed…but it won’t activate because I have the wrong serial number. Shouldn’t it have told me that when I entered it on the site instead of giving me a validation code?
    I think Bobbie misses me and just wants a reason for me to call her back. I hope my wife doesn’t find out.
    I am now running the software for 30 days in demo mode until I can get this resolved.