Metaphors: Burger King and, sigh, the Titanic

A too-quick-to-adapt Burger King
John P. Garrett’s Newspapers and the Burger King mentality. How would you like your news?

I believe the news business has been spinning mostly in circles not because the executives are slow to adapt to new technologies as many of the new media experts gripe. On the contrary, the news business has been too quick to adapt. Let me use Burger King as an illustration.

In the late 1970’s, Burger King introduced the “Have it your way” campaign. It was a smashing success. It told customers that if they didn’t want onions they don’t have to get onions. You could actually tell the person taking your order the way you wanted your burger as if you were at home preparing it yourself.

There were limits. You couldn’t tell them you wanted a specialty bun or spear pickles. They wanted you to know they would make the burger the way you wanted but still had profitability concerns. They still wanted to make money on their Whopper.

Today in the news business, we are like Burger King without the limits.

How do you want your news? Facebook? ok, email? ok, twitter? ok, without ads? ok, iPad? ok

A Burger King down the street from a burger joint overing free burgers with unlimited options
Judy Sims, in a comment on John P. Garrett’s Newspapers and the Burger King mentality. How would you like your news?

I think the flaw in your argument is that no one is offering free hamburgers with unlimited customization down the street from Burger King. If they were, BK would have to give away free hamburgers too and then figure out how to make money from delivering a different kind of value.

That’s what newspapers need to do. In fact, I believe that it is possible for online-only news media to be profitable. But they can’t be built off the traditional media cost structures.

Passengers on the Titanic
Howard Owens, in a comment on John P. Garrett’s Newspapers and the Burger King mentality. How would you like your news?

The fallacy is that journalism is expensive to produce. Good journalism is neither hard nor expensive. True, some stories can be expensive and hard and require experience and layers of editors, but the vast, vast majority of news is neither hard nor expensive.

Journalists intent on clutching to old models, like a Titanic passenger clinking to a deck railing, love to claim that only the old model can support the kind of journalism a democracy needs.

Reality is, however, it’s just not true. Especially now.

via Steve Buttry

Metaphors: horse carriages and a really dumb quarterback

A quarterback who just doesn’t get it
Dave Winer to Jay Rosen, 33 minutes into Rebooting the News #43

It’s like in football. … When the quarterback gets the ball, the quarterback always turns back and runs a few yards back before even thinking about passing the ball. And you think, “Why is the quarterback doing that? He’s giving up yardage. I mean, he’s running the wrong way.” Well he do it to find some little bit of room so he can see whats out there. So, in the new industry, they’re never willing to do that. They’re always standing right at the scrimmage line, not budging an inch. And of course what happens — they get tackled every goddamn time and they can never throw the ball.

A misnamed  car
Andrew Spittle on Twitter, discussing how using the term “computer-assisted reporting,” instead of referring online tools, is silly.

CAR would be like calling a car an “engine assisted horse carriage”

Metaphors: More General Motors

William Durant and General Motors
Tommy Thomason’s Pew Report is good news and bad news for community journalism

William Durant didn’t like automobiles.

Durant, who was in the carriage business in the 1890s, thought cars were smelly and noisy, not to mention downright dangerous.  But he realized that automobiles, as distasteful as he thought them to be, were the wave of the future.  So he left his still-successful carriage company, one of the world’s largest, to join the new Buick company.

Ultimately, Durant went on to found General Motors.

The point?  Durant’s times were a lot like ours.  He was living at the edge of a paradigm shift-a whole new mode of transportation.  Cars did not take over from carriages immediately, but within a decade, it was obvious that they would soon rule the road.

We live in a similar age, but the paradigm that’s shifting is communication, not transportation.  One advantage that Durant had over today’s current industry-in-crisis — newspapers — is that the industrial landscape of his day was shifting more slowly.  Metro newspapers have gone from boom to bust in a decade (though many in the know have been pointing to the danger signs for metros even before the advent of the Internet).

via Steve Buttry

Metaphor: Microsoft Windows

The most dominant, but least hip, operating system
Scott Rosenberg, in Technologizer‘s “The Future of Windows
(It is actually comparing Microsoft Windows to newspapers, not the other way around, but I say it counts.)

Like the newspaper industry, Microsoft simply cannot trade in today’s significant but ultimately dwindling profits for bets on the future. That’s why you can bet the future will belong to someone else.

Metaphor: Cortes’ boats

Boats for buring Marc Andreessen, quoted by Erick Schonfeld in Andreessen’s Advice To Old Media: “Burn The Boats”

Legend has it that when Cortes landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that had brought them there to remove the possibility of doing anything other than going forward into the unknown. Marc Andreessen has the same advice for old media companies: “Burn the boats.” Yesterday, Andreessen was in New York City and we met up. We got to talking about how media companies are handling the digital disruption of the Internet when he brought up the Cortes analogy. In particular, he was talking about print media such as newspapers and magazines, and his longstanding recommendation that they should shut down their print editions and embrace the Web wholeheartedly. “You gotta burn the boats,” he told me, “you gotta commit.” His point is that if traditional media companies don’t burn their own boats, somebody else will.

via Mimi Johnson