In this edition:
Welcome back to the newsletter. It's been a bit quiet on Baekdal Plus this month, and it is not really because of one specific thing. Instead, I have been dealing with a few smaller things that just kept on eating away my time and interrupting my flow.
So, in this edition of the newsletter, we are going to talk a bit about the concept of time, specifically in terms of having a media workflow.
But, before we do that, let me introduce you to my latest Plus report.
At the beginning of 2019, I made the prediction that this year would be filled with discussions about bundles, Netflix/Spotify for News, or similar concepts, because now that everyone has started doing subscriptions, it's pretty clear that it is impossible for people to actually pick everything.
I wrote about the problem with the Spotify for News model back in 2017 in, "Forget Spotify for News. Let's Fix the Real Problem", and have since posted several tweet threads (e.g. here) trying to explain the problem.
I have also covered why we are missing the point when we worry about how many people will pay for news, because, as I wrote: "Everyone Will Subscribe to Media in the Future. No, Really!"
But does this mean that publishers should not think about outside channels? What about Apple News or similar concepts?
Well, that's complicated.
We all know that it will be impossible for any publisher to capture their full potential with just one channel, so the trick today is to design your marketplaces in very specific ways.
In my latest 34-page Plus report titled, "The Challenge with Having Multiple Publishing Markets for the Same Publication", I take a deep dive into this problem, to help you get a better idea about how to look at this.
Now, let's get back to talking about time.
One of the big trends we are seeing among digital natives is how they are trying to minimize the 'task overhead' of anything they do. The reason for this is because, today, we have to manage and create so many different forms of media all the time.
For instance, as a publisher today, you can't just post a few articles. That's not going to work. You also have to do a newsletter, you might need to do a podcast, and then also do some videos. And then on top of this, you need to promote and be social around it, to communicate with your audience, and even think about how to make this fit into the service and the moment you provide to your readers.
So, the overhead of having to work as a publisher is suddenly massive, because we end up spending more time not creating and just switching between all of these different types of jobs.
For really big publishers, this might not be an issue, because you have so many people that you are still dividing tasks up into individual roles, but for smaller publishers, this overhead is terrible.
At best, the only thing you lose is a bit of time, but at worst, you lose your motivation and focus ... which then leads to problems with stress and burnout.
So, a very big trend we are seeing is how digital natives are taking extra steps to completely remove any overhead in what they do, so that they can just basically flip a switch and go.
Here is a wonderful graph that illustrates this extremely well. I just love it:
This illustrates the mindset of an engineer or a developer tasked with doing a repetitive task. After a very short time they get annoyed, then spend quite a lot of time to automate it, which to outsiders seems like a big waste. But, at the end of it, the engineer wins because now they never have to do this task ever again.
As publishers and journalists, we need to start thinking about how we work in the same way. The process of publishing has historically always been a very manual process, but we don't have the time or energy for this anymore.
Ultimately, you want to create an environment where you can just focus on the journalism itself (regardless of format), and then all the 'management' stuff just happens automatically.
Take newsletters. How quickly can you post a newsletter? How many steps does that involve?
Well, if you are using a system like Mailchimp, you will be familiar with how many steps you need to send a newsletter. First you need to create a campaign, then you have to choose the list you want to send it to, then you have to pick your email template, then you have to manually put everything together, then you have to preview it, and click on a bunch of extra buttons before it actually gets sent.
Don't get me wrong. Mailchimp is a very powerful and flexible system. It makes it easy to 'manage' your newsletters. But what if you could just press a single button?
Well, that's what I have made here on this site:
When I want to send out a newsletter, all I need to do is to press this button next to the article. In my CMS, I have this:
This means that I have zero overhead. I can just focus 100% on writing.
It might not seem like that big of a deal, but it's things like this that make it so much more enjoyable to do this work.
It's the same when you want to do a podcast or a video. The worst thing you can do is to have a lot of steps that you have to do every time you want to record it.
For instance, you don't want to spend time setting up the microphones, the cameras, or the lighting every single time. Because that is going to distract you at the very moment when you have the most energy ... it interrupts your flow.
So, what you want to do instead is to create a dedicated space where all of these things are set up already, so that the next time you want to create a video or do a podcast, you can just ... do it.
And this doesn't just apply to recording the video, it also applies to the editing afterwards. Editing involves a lot of steps that could be automated. For instance, in Adobe Audition you can 'effect chains' that you can apply to any recording to automate most of the sound engineering.
And it is well worth spending that extra time and money setting this up. Yes, it can sometimes be expensive. For instance, it might mean that for your podcast, you will have to buy a dedicated microphone and preamp just for that. But that cost is more than earned back by not having your flow interrupted every time you want to record something.
And, as I said in the beginning, I'm seeing this trend with many of the YouTube creators that I follow, because, since most of them are often just one person doing everything, having all this overhead is exactly what leads to burnout. So, they are very aggressively trying to have everything set up with just a single click.
I will end this with two rather extreme examples. These are not cheap examples, but it shows what kind of lengths some of the more successful YouTubers go to for this.
First we have the setup used at Unbox Therapy, and here is a behind the scenes view on that. They call it the 'ultimate frictionless video studio'.
Personally, I very much like his initial setup, and especially the 'one button turns everything on', but I'm not a fan of his new 'studio space', which just looks too much like an old TV studio, which makes it seem very impersonal.
The second example is from Fstoppers. After moving into a new house, they decided to create a dedicated YouTube 'studio space' as well, and this video shows how they have put that together.
So, both of these examples are a bit extreme, and I'm not saying that you should do this. But what I am saying is that having a frictionless workflow is absolutely essential, especially in today's world of media. And both publishers and individual journalists/creators should put a lot more effort into getting rid of any overhead in their workflows.
It's not just about the time you save. It's far more about how you focus and keep up your motivation and energy.
Before we end this podcast, I want to mention one more thing. Over the past several days, I have seen many people in the media industry express admiration for Pinterest after they decided to stop giving exposure to anti-vaxxers by simply blocking anything related to vaccinations on Pinterest.
But before you start to ask why Google and Facebook aren't 'just' doing this as well, consider what I wrote this Twitter thread.
Don't get me wrong, we all want to stop these anti-vaxxers from causing more harm to both themselves, their kids, and even more so the rest of us. But you can't just solve this by blocking all mentions of a simple word, doing that would cause so many other problems ... including making it harder for people who want to be vaccinated.
What happens to the future of news if everything just becomes an opinion?
The more we use automated tools, the more important it becomes to also create 'originals'
Young people will cancel and come back later... if you let them
Founder, media analyst, author, and publisher. Follow on Twitter
"Thomas Baekdal is one of Scandinavia's most sought-after experts in the digitization of media companies. He has made himself known for his analysis of how digitization has changed the way we consume media."
Swedish business magazine, Resumé