Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Category Archives: News

Why The Athletic is the Only News Paywall Worth Paying For

How many times have you seen a post on Facebook or Twitter that links to a news outlet? For this example, let’s say the news outlet is the Wall Street Journal. You’re intrigued. You click on the link and you start to read the article. You get one paragraph in and then BOOM – you’re presented with a call to action to log in or signup for an account.

If you’re like most people, at this point you click the back button. Paywalls are incredibly ineffective but are still widely implemented. The general belief from studies is that:

For most print media firms, the net effect of a paywall on digital sales is negative, as digital subscription revenue is offset by a significant decrease in digital advertising revenue due to reduced website visits.

In addition to paywalls, media outlets are becoming an echo chamber for your political ideology. The chasm between “red” and “blue” news outlets has grown and with it, the distrust from readers. This Pew study outlines it really well:

As an N of 1, I can tell you that I’m less invested than ever before in reading and consuming news. The hyper-partisan tone means I need to read at least two versions of the same story to feel informed enough to have a point of view. Additionally, I’m less and less entertained. I think this comes from the lack of quality in the people who are writing these stories.

Ok – The Athletic. Why should you pay $10 a month or $60 a year for their content? Here’s 5 reasons why – but, to be clear, you have to be interested in sports. The Athletic is a sports news publisher. So, if you’re looking for information about The Bachelor, changes to laws, or election coverage, look elsewhere.

  1. There is no “blue” or “red” slant. Well, unless, you’re talking about Manchester City vs. Manchester United. The content you get is factual, leverages data, and presented without bias. Even the “beat” writers for a team aren’t partisan. Sam Lee, who drafts most of the content for Manchester City, isn’t even a Manchester City fan!
  2. The best writers and reporters work for and produce content for The Athletic. For baseball you have Peter Gammons, Jayson Stark, and Ken Rosenthal. You’ll get David Aldridge and John Hollinger for basketball. The afore mentioned Sam Lee, in addition to Michael Kay and Sam Stejskal. The list goes on an on. If you will – imagine only reading books from the best authors or watching movies from the best directors; sounds great, right?
  3. They don’t focus on “breaking news.” Yes, they cover news of the day and trending topics. But, you won’t see 2 paragraph “stories” announcing a trade. They have made a clear decision to emphasize quality over quantity.
  4. The Athletic is fully customizable and cross-platform. You pick the sports, the leagues, the teams, and yes, the writers. A custom feed is built for you based on those choices. Desktop, mobile, tablet, app – it doesn’t matter. You get a great reading experience regardless of how you choose to read.
  5. While I’ve emphasized the writing, The Athletic offers far more than just articles and stories. There are podcasts, videos, and chat rooms/discussion rooms. Again, many of these are specific to YOUR interests. I can listed to a Manchester City podcast, and watch videos specific to the University of North Carolina.

Let me be clear, The Athletic is not paying me for this. But, their approach to content is simply worth talking about. The one thing I haven’t mentioned at all to this point, but is yet another reason to spend $60 a year for a subscription – there are NO ads. None. No pre-rolls. No interstitials. Nothing stopping you or interrupting you from consuming the content you’re interested in.

Nothing is perfect, not even The Athletic. There’s one feature I feel like they should add – a section called From the Fans. Here’s how it would work:

  1. Let fans submit pieces for consideration
  2. Eventually have a small group of consistent fan contributors and…
  3. …A consistent pool of new perspectives
  4. They could narrow the scope and focus of submissions to being Season Previews, Game/Match Reviews, Mid-Year Perspective, End of Season Feelings, etc.

But, if that’s the opportunity for improvement, it gives you an idea of how good The Athletic is. They’re setting the stage for how a modern news website can succeed and succeed with a paywall.

Are You Reaching Your Potential?

I openly admit that there was a great sense of irony in learning of Steve Jobs’ passing on an iPhone.  Of all the products Steve brought to the market, the iPhone, may be the most iconic.  Sure, the iPod was revolutionary, AppleTV was redefining and the iPad was transformational.  But, a stroll down the street shows you the profound impact that the iPhone has had on the world.

But, this isn’t a post about Steve’s legacy.  It’s not a post about how much I’ve grown to rely on and love his products.  No, this is a post about three quotes…two from Steve and one from Jay Fanelli on twitter last night.

Courtesy of Steve Jobs

Your time is limited, don’t waste it living someone else’s life

Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.

Courtesy of Jay Fanelli 

Every CEO of every company on the planet should pay attention to this right now and ask themselves, “why won’t this happen when I die?”

As I wrote nearly a year ago, Time Is The Most Valuable Currency we have.  It’s a currency that becomes more valuable over time…or if you will…as we have less time left.  And, despite it’s value, it’s a currency you can’t trade and it’s completely finite.  In any given day, you only get about 2 hours of time for yourself…or perhaps we let life dictate that all we get is 2 hours.

If you trace through the annals of history for Steve Jobs quotes, you’ll find several dedicated to the concept of time and making good use of the time we’re given.  Steve, more than anyone had to realize how finite time was over that past few years.  He exhausted every option, with money being no object, to receive a liver transplant in 2009.  Some viewed his ability to leverage his wealth to garner a transplant faster than those with lesser financial means as a problem with the healthcare system.  For a person, who seemed to understand how fleeting and finite life is, one would have to wonder, why was he fighting the inevitable.

I don’t think it was ego.  Quite the opposite actually.  I tend to think Steve wanted to leave knowing he had maximized his gift…that he had reached his potential…that his work was done.  It’s a maddening thing to know what your potential is, but realize you might now be able to reach it.

Time is fleeting.  You get what you get.  You have little to no control over how much time you get.  But, you do have complete control over what you do with the time you do get.  You can’t point a finger at anyone, other than yourself, for not maximizing your time.

We can all only hope to maximize our full potential like Steve.  iMagine a world in which we all strove to reach our potential and were bothered by falling short…even if it was only falling short by an inch?

For me, that’s what I take away from Steve Jobs.  There’s no sense in living if what you’re doing isn’t making you happy. And happiness has a funny way of helping you reach your potential.

September 11th – Nearly 10 Years Later

On the morning of September 11, 2011 I boarded a Southwest flight from Midway airport with my great friend and colleague Reed Roussel. We were both headed to Ft. Knox Kentucky for a full day worth of meetings with our United States Army client. When we landed in Kentucky, the first plane had already met its fate by flying directly into the twin towers.

We were oblivious to everything that had transpired as we hopped into our Enterprise rental car and started the 45 minute trek to Ft. Knox. During the ride over, little did we know, plane #2 had also crashed. This was 2001 and cell phones weren’t exactly in high use. The behavior of having it practically glued to your hand just didn’t exist. I did notice a call from my wife and Reed noticed a call from his mom, but we ignored them both. They were well aware of the tragedy and were trying to reach us to make sure we were both OK.

When we arrived at the post, there was something off. The vibe was all wrong. An hour into our visit (55 minutes of which were spent waiting for the client) we finally learned from our client that 2 planes had flown into the twin towers and it was to our advantage that we leave the post immediately. Why? Because, in about 10 minutes the post would be on lock down and all non-military personnel would be placed “under suspicion.” To be honest, we were still confused about the situation, but we had no desire to be locked up on the post.

Reed and I hopped in the car, called the airline, learned all flights were canceled, then called Enterprise and explained we would not be returning the car to the airport. Instead, we would be driving to Chicago and returning it there. We started the journey from Ft. Knox to Chicago. The roads were strangely empty. Keep in mind, at this point, while the rest of the country was transfixed to the television coverage, we hadn’t seen anything. With no smartphones, our only real option was the radio. The irony, was, the only radio station that was coming through was the one carrying Howard Stern. For the next 2 hours we listened to Howard Stern. He was our connection to the outside world and was the one who brought us up to speed on what had happened. It wasn’t till we stopped for lunch, that we saw our first visual. We were awe struck. Stunned. It’s hard to put into words the emotions running thorough me. I’m a born and raised New Yorker; this hit hard.

10 years ago, I learned about 9/11 via the radio. I learned about operation Desert Storm via television. When Sadam Hussein was captured, I learned about it via the web. Last night, I learned about death of Osama Bin Laden via text message first, then Twitter. The text message I received instructed me to check out Twitter, not turn on the TV. After reading the news, I found a TV and saw the president’s speech. As I watched his delivery, I couldn’t help but think about how we’ve evolved as a society…how our sharing has changed…how our means for connection have evolved. We operate in a real time and always on demand society. I think this was the first real moment where that wasn’t just rhetoric, for me, but a truly shared experience.

Twitter Has Gone Mainstream

Yesterday, April 17, 2009 will mark the day twitter went mainstream. Oprah dedicated an entire segment of her show to twitter. As part of the show she proclaimed Ashton Kutcher the king of twitter for beating CNN for the right to be the first member of twitter with 1,000,000 followers.

Folks, the levy has broken and twitter is no longer a cool, niche, and quaint community of bleeding edge participants. Get ready to see your mom following you on twitter. Scary. I know.

In full disclosure, I’m not a fan of Oprah. However, her segment on twitter was brilliant. These two videos do a great job of helping anyone and everyone understand the birth of twitter, why it exists, and how to use it.

The key quotes from the videos are twitter “democratizes media” and “in some ways this is kind of a commentary on the state of media – because I believe that we’re at a place now with social media where one person’s voice can be as powerful as an entire news network, an entire media network.”  Pretty powerful.  I expect those quotes to be over used in presentations from agencies and marketers to their clients.

So What Does This Mean

  1. We’re going to see a shift from push to pull. No longer is it going to be the agencies and bleeding edge trying to get clients and brand managers to embrace twitter. They’re going to start asking about it. So you better be on twitter. If you aren’t; you’re not going to have any credibility.
  2. The noise to signal ratio is going to skyrocket. The number of new people joining twitter will be enormous. As these new people try to “figure out” twitter, existing long time users will see the quality of tweets decrease.
  3. We’re going to need metrics…real metrics. As I’ve stated hundreds of times before if you just evaluate a tweeter based on the number of followers, Britney Spears with a whopping 119 updates would be #3. Those 119 updates have come over the last 7 months. That amounts to roughly 4 tweets a week. Qualitatively, the tweets are useless making the numbers even more polarizing.
  4. Now, more than ever, we need a method for evaluating the quality of a tweeter. I’ve long pushed for some type of thumbs up/thumbs down approach that’s similar to Pandora. If millions of new people to twitter simply follow the people with the most followers (it makes sense to take that approach) they’re going to be disappointed with twitter and never see the full value. We all lose if that happens.
  5. Long time twitter veterans and power users (aka us geeks) will start flocking to other sites like Tumblr and FriendFeed. Why? Because you lose the cool factor when you’re at the same bar as everyone else.  This is a critical point because it’s not about twitter or Facebook or Tumblr.  It’s about ALL of these things.  You don’t need a twitter strategy or a Facebook campaign – you NEED a social media strategy.

The next few months are going to be interesting.  One thing is certain – if you are in the PR, marketing, interactive, web, or technology space you need to be on twitter, if only to understand what the hell everyone is talking about.  I suggest you join now, it takes less than 2 minutes.

People Who Drive With Dogs On Their Lap

In many states talking with your cel-phone (non hands free) and texting while driving is illegal. Personally, I have no problem with this, but I think it should be extended to eating while driving. Eating while driving is much more dangerous than talking on the phone while driving.

Ok, that said, the thing that has annoyed me for years are the people who drive while letting their dogs site on their lap. Talk about dangerous, that’s really dangerous. Plus, when you let people like Jessica Simpson (who can’t walk and talk at the same time) drive while a dog is on her lap you could end up with some serious carnage.


Jessica Simpson
Jessica Simpson

I was really surprised to see The Governator veto a bill in California that would have made driving with pets on your lap illegal.  He already passed laws that prohibit texting and talking on the phone while driving.  WTF?

Facebook Has A New Home Page

Facebook has slowly been making updates to their site over the past few months. Previously, the most dramatic change was switching to a brand new design template.

Today, they introduced a new home page. The new home page utilizes a new image on the left hand side of the page that shows how Facebook enables you to connect with people across the world. It’s a simple visual, but gets the point across quickly. I like it. On the right hand side of the page are the registration fields for new users. In essence, they’ve split the meat of the page into two sections, but both of those sections work together. The left hand image simply shows what Facebook does and the left hand form fields are there for people to take action. Lastly, header now contains a set of login form fields with a checkbox to keep you logged in.


New Facebook Home Page
New Facebook Home Page



The design is minimal, simple, and effective.

Facebook Profiles And Narcissism

This is amazingly timely.  According to a new study, there is a link between the number of “friends” you have on Facebook and how narcissistic you are. Specifically, the study states, “the researchers found that the number of Facebook friends and wallposts that individuals have on their profile pages correlates with narcissism. Narcissists are also more likely to choose glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile photos, she said, while others are more likely to use snapshots.”

So why is this timely, you might ask?  Well, just yesterday I wrote about the need to focus on quality instead of quantity when it comes to things like Facebook. I’m totally on to something 🙂

Top 10 List For The Agency Of The Future

First a shout-out to Brandie for finding this great write up from Sapient about what marketers want out of their agencies in the future.  Brandie always offers up raw, honest, and opinionated feedback.  Her commentary on the article is fantastic and worth a read, especially if you are on the agency side.

According to the article, Sapient, “…recently sponsored a national online digital marketing and interactive advertising survey to gain insight into what marketers want from their advertising and marketing agencies in the next 12 months. The survey polled more than 200 chief marketing officers (CMOs) and senior marketing professionals, all of whom are either directly or indirectly responsible for managing digital marketing budget allocation across multiple channels.”

Personally, I would have preferred it if they spoke with junior marketers as well. Remember it’s the junior marketers that are on the cutting edge of technology. That said, the write up is very telling of how agencies can position themselves for future success.

There were 4 items on the list that really stuck out to me:

  • Greater knowledge of the digital space – This isn’t a surprise, but it’s 100% fundamental. If you aren’t on top of the digital space you’re losing the battle before even going to war. Get the right people in place to make sure your overall digital knowledge pool is deep and wide. Understand the basics, but also know what’s on the horizon.
  • Agency executives using the technology they are recommending – AMEN. Don’t tell a client to be on Facebook if you aren’t on Facebook. I don’t care if you think twitter is stupid (which I did for a while), you need to be on it. You need to understand it and why it could work for something. It’s all about credibility. How can you recommend X when you aren’t even doing X. For example, every agency should have a blog or participate in one. How can you be a PR agency talking about blogger relations when you don’t have a blog that’s engaging your clients? These are all questions clients will ask or are thinking.
  • Chief Digital Officers make agencies more appealing – This really surprised me. I continue to hear the need for integration. When you integrate “traditional” and “digital” departments, philosophies, etc. one of things that becomes less important is the seemingly figurehead role of Chief Digital Officer? Chiefs sit on top of divisions. Divisions by nature are segmented and separate from other divisions. Thus, having a Chief Digital Officer works against integration, doesn’t it? Seriously, this is a real question. Does it? I can understand the need to have a face for digital at the agency. But, I’d argue having 10 people who are really savvy and no CDO is better than 1 CDO and 2 people who are savvy. That’s just the economics of the situation.
  • Ability to measure success – Another non-shocker, but again this is fundamental. Everyone wants to measure everything. The web is the most measurable thing in the world. I get it. But, let me temper that by saying, while you can measure everything you should only focus on and report on the things that are actionable. I can measure the number of people coming to my site from Brazil. If I’m not going to do anything with that data, the metric is a waste of effort. Please, agencies and client, agree on what you’ll measure, how you’ll measure it, how often you’ll report, and what you’ll do to course correct.

This was a lot of fun. Thanks again to Brandie for finding the Sapient article and sharing it on her blog. As always, let’s hear what you have to say.

Microsoft Surface

I’ve been a big fan of Microsoft’s Surface technology platform for a while now.  Unfortunately, there have been very few real world examples to point to.  I came across this demonstration earlier today.

BMW will be using it in their dealerships as a way to feature cars for customers. This is a great example of how companies can start thinking about uses for Surface. The iPhone and Apple have done a great job of conditioning consumers to use, understand, and want touch screen driven devices. With so many people using touch-screen driven tools there really isn’t a learning curve anymore, which opens up the possibilities. So, what would you do with Microsoft Surface?