Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Burris Blog has moved...

If you're looking for posts since January 15, 2006, go here. I packed up my various blogs and moved them to a site that allows me to place all three in a single menu.

Sorry for any inconvenience. Now click the link and come over to the other side...

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Newspapers - part 2

Rick Hall's comments to my earlier post were right: years, decades from now we'll still want to hold much of what we read in our hands. (Thanks, Rick.) The NY Times, the Journal, maybe the Post ... these aren't local papers, and I believe there will always be a place for them, as there will for magazines.

But back to local papers...

I came across this from an interview in TIME with Dave Barry:

TIME: Newspapers have changed since you started [writing a column more than thirty years ago].
BARRY: They're less edgy.... When we had more space, more money and less obsession with losing readers, editors were quicker to print what they thought was funny just because they thought it was funny. Now they're more likely to wonder, Is it really funny? Will it annoy people? Maybe we should show a focus group.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Local newspapers

"The boss walks into your office and shuts the door. Sits down. Looks you solemnly in the eye. 'We're buying a bunch of newspapers from Knight Ridder,' he says. Tilts back in his chair. 'We know there's something to be done with them, but we don't know what. Your new job is to figure that out. Which functions can go, which stay, what must be expanded, where the new revenue is. We - well, you - will remake the local newspaper for this century.'"

Thus opens Jon Fine's January 9, 2005, "MediaCentric" column in BusinessWeek.

I read Fine's column, "The Daily Paper of Tomorrow," one day after sitting in a presentation by Bernie Mann, owner and publisher of Our State magazine. Bernie made a strong case about his magazine's phenomenal circulation gains, and he couldn't resist (rightfully, I think) comparing it to daily newspapers in North Carolina, which are, of course, losing circulation almost every day.

Back to Fine's column. It seems virtually everything a local or regional newspaper does, he says - with the exception of local news - is done better by someone

Classifieds? Craigslist is free.

Sports? Since TV is moving more games into primetime, many of the big games finish too late to be covered in the morning papers. Might as well check ESPN or CNN, online or on-air.

Local advertising? Google and Yahoo! target better and produce measurable results.

The (Greensboro) News & Record for the last year has carried on a noble experiment in local blogging, wondering if the paper of tomorrow isn't more a citizens' broadsheet. One of the best things I've read on this topic is Lex Alexander's manifesto, posted just over a year ago.

Oddly enough, as down as I am on newspapers' future, I'd love the job described in Fine's opening paragraph. If only I thought someone would care what I think...

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Memories of My Melancholy Whores

The last of my holiday reading was Gabriel Garcia Marquez' latest little book, the beautiful "Memories of My Melancholy Whores."

In translation (by Edith Grossman) it's beautiful to read (I wish I could appreciate the loving language of Marquez' original), a feast for the senses. It's the story of an old man's 90th birthday and the year that follows.

Here are four passages I marked:
"In plain language, I am the end of a line, without merit or brilliance, who would have nothing to leave his descendants if not for the events I am prepared to recount, to the best of my ability, in these memories of my great love." (7)

"In my fifth decade I had begun to imagine what old age was like when I noticed the first lapses of memory. I would turn the house upside down looking for my glasses until I discovered that I had them on, or I'd wear them into the shower, or I'd put on my reading glasses over the ones I used for distance." (9)

"It occurred to me that among the charms of old age are the provocations our young female friends permit themselves because they think we are out of commission." (45)

"The decade of my fifties had been decisive because I became aware that almost everybody was younger than I. The decade of my sixties was the most intense because of the suspicion that I no longer had the time to make mistakes. My seventies were frightening because of a certain possibility that the decade might be my last. Still, when I woke alive on the first morning of my nineties in the happy bed of Delgadina, I was transfixed by the agreeable idea that life was not something that passes by like Heraclitus' ever-changing river but a unique opportunity to turn over the grill and keep broiling on the other side for another ninety years." (109)

Do yourself a favor. Pick up a copy of this book and revel in the joys that can come with growing old.

What will give your brand a kick in the pants?

Somewhere in my holiday reading I came across a phrase that stuck with me for its simplicity and its power. It sums up better than almost anything else what it is that I do, what my company does when we're doing what we do best.

We look for "ideas that motivate the work."

Now, if I'd said "ideas that motivate the brand," that would be powerful, and it's tempting to go there. "Ideas that motivate the brand" is, perhaps, another way of talking about brand identity or positioning. But I believe we go further than that. BURRIS has always been at its best when we implement our innovations, when we execute the ideas we come up with with in good, strong marketing communications.

So when we look for the "ideas that motivate the work," we are thinking ahead in terms of execution. Not just dreaming stuff up, but extending the idea to its motivating conclusions.

Ideas will give a brand a kick in the pants, but what moves a brand in the right direction is putting the power of an idea into the work itself.

"Ideas that motivate the work." I like it.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Welcome, New Year!

Good morning.

A new day, a new week, a new month, a new year.

I don't want to belabor it, but, geez, I'm ready for 2006. I've made two resolutions (which I'll keep to myself, thank you), and I'm anxious to live up to them.

What do you want, what do you need from 2006?

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"The Beatles," by Bob Spitz

This is the book I thought I would one day write. For probably two decades I've been quietly amassing information and opinions that would one day allow me to write about The Beatles as more than a band, as a timeless musical entity, still influential not only for their songs and their albums but for their lives as well. Now it's been written, and for the most part, to paraphrase, I know I should be glad. Ooooo.

"The Beatles" is as serious a biography as one you might read about a major historical figure, full of references, footnotes and all that. Better, however, it provides insight into the lives of the four Beatles, their families and friends, and also their songs, how they came about, their musical and lyrical values and more.

In short, it's a big book of Beatles information, for the most part chronilogically told, with reviews and biographical narrative. And, fortunately, it's neither dogmatic nor pedantic about the sixties and the band's cultural influence on an era. (There are plenty of other places to go for that.)

I won't attempt a review of the book here. For the most part, "The Beatles" is a biography of the band, and Bob Spitz is knowledgeable and thorough ... and a fan. It ends when Paul finally says, "That's it. I'm gone" and cuts off his communication with both his mates and their manager, Allen Klein. It's comprehensive in almost every way, especially good on "Sgt. Pepper," if a little light on "Abbey Road." I recommend it to anyone who sings along with "Can't Buy Me Love" or "Drive My Car," and is surprised by how good "I Should Have Known Better" or "No Reply" is, not having heard it in, maybe, years.

And to anyone who believes Yoko does, indeed, suck.

The book makes me want to go back to "A Hard Day's Night," the Richard Lester movie, see parts (but not all) of "Anthology" again, even watch for another rerun of Ed Sullivan. Maybe now I'll give up jotting notes on scraps of paper and shoving them in notebooks. But I won't give up the music.

Read an excerpt here.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!

It's time for me to put away the keyboard and concentrate on a few other things for a couple of days.

During the holidays, I like to relax, leave the car parked, the phone unanswered, the email in the inbox - you get the idea. There'll be DVD's in the player, mp3's blasting from the computer, books to read, magazines to catch up on.... Shrimp with garlic and lemon, a few brewskis, champagne and a good Chianti. It all sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

I hope all of you, dear readers, have a wonderful holiday and look forward - as I do - to a happy new year. Thanks for dropping by.