I know that the clock is ticking, circulation is down, advertising is in a state of transition (aren’t we all?), and those in charge are urging us to act pronto.
That is why I was so intrigued by a guest on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria’s Sunday show GPS (Oct. 26). His name is Walter Mishel, and he is the author of a book titled The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self Control.
While I hope to read the book soon, I enjoyed the interview with Mr. Mishel, whom Fareed described as the ultimate guru of self control.
Mr. Mishel has spent decades conducting a study that began with 4 to 6 year olds at the Stanford University Bing Nursey School.
In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward (a marshmallow) provided immediately or two marshmallows if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes, during which the tester left the room and then returned. The study found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment and even body mass index.
In a nutshell: patience yielded good results.
The marshmallow in the newsroom
Can we in the newsroom sit and wait, like some of those 4 year olds in the Mishel study? And, if so, what are we going to expect at the end of the wait: what is the second marshmallow, or the second chocolate chip cookie going to be?
As I see it, the second marshmallow is making a considerable turn around in profits via digital platforms. It is no secret that many newspapers still rely on the printed product for their profits. Revenue continues to fall at newspapers as modest increases in circulation revenue failed to offset bigger declines in advertising.
In the good news department, the revenue decline is not as steep as a few years ago, thanks to a small uptick in reader payments from digital paywalls and increased subscription prices. However, this is NOT enough to offset the pessimism or change the ugly faces, as those of the 4 year olds while waiting for the second marshmallow in the study.
The question appears in every seminar I have attended the past 16 months: when will we begin to make money from those curated editions for phones and tablets?
Patience, I usually tell them. It takes time. We will look back two years from now and realize that it was worth waiting for the second marshmallow. We need to use the time wisely and prepare for when it does.
This is the Catch 22: how do you convince a publisher and an editor to start moving aggressively on curated digital editions—or in a good digital storytelling philosophy for that matter—when they are wondering about the immediate pay off.
Forget immediate. There is a second marshmallow in your future. You will get a ping on your iPhone when it lands.
I am honored with an invitation to teach a Master Class at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. You can either attend the class in person at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies, in St. Petersburg, Florida, or via online.
Here is how Poynter describes the event:
In this exclusive Poynter NewsU event, Mario will highlight the lessons learned from his spectacular career, while pointing out the decision points and philosophies that led him to where he is today. He will take questions on design, redesign, innovation and, of course, storytelling.
This upcoming Broadcast will be broadcast on: Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 10:30am Eastern Time