Breakfast With Roger: “Me, Mine, Us, Them”

For me, this is a first. Blogging an event at which I not only moderated, but in which my company, Teeming Media, partnered (with the irrepressible Bill Sobel of NY:MIEG). But enough about me, and Bill. Our guest, the speaker, was the equally irrepressible Roger Black, who has managed to not only design some of the preeminent magazines, newspapers and other media properties of the 20th century, but also bring his knowledge and expertise further into the digital realm and relaunch himself as an eminence in the 21st. He’s redone, the popular Houston Chronicle website, and a bunch of other properties.

This morning, he revealed another venture which will be a U.S. version of the popular Mexican digital magazine Indigo. There are prototypes here, though Roger says it’s not done, and it will be named something other than “Indigo” for its north of the border version. He talked a bit about why this is Flash, and not a digital magazine technology like NextBook or Zinio, and I'd boil it down to greater functionality for a wider audience than those proprietary and more closed systems.

In a wide ranging discussion with a wonderfully combative audience trying to take Roger (and me) to task for the idea that there even needs to be such a thing as a “magazine” on the Web (even though we didn't really say that) or anything approaching traditional literacy (even though I'm not sure we really said that), Roger talked of the editor Ramon Alberto Garza whom he quoted, when asked what should be the sections of a general interest newspaper or magazine site as answering: “Me, Mine, Us, Them.” And that, said Roger, is the pinnacle of what the Web is about -- concentric circles moving outward from the individual. That phrase in a way sums up the essense of Facebook, or MySpace, or DIGG, PageFlakes, or maybe even YouTube. And those sections are more appealing, as Roger pointed out, than the constructs we're used to in the more designed media such as U.S., World, Business, Technology, Health and so on.

Later, at the AlwaysOn conference, which I ran to after the Roger Black breakfast, Jeff Jarvis blogged about “lazy advertisers who don’t want to converse with us.” Conversation -- not content, according to Jeff -- is what the Web is about, about “connections and relationships” which would, if I think about it for a sec, be me and mine connecting with us, and then them. An my friend and mentor Ed Fields, a finance consultant and expert lecturer, pointed out another reason the Web works for him that's related: “When I read a newspaper I’m letting somebody I never met decide what’s important for me. That’s not true on the Internet.” He was adding to a comment by Fred Seibert, also at the breakfast, who pointed out that his daily front page didn’t rely on any one writer, or any universe created by a magazine editor or any other editor, for that matter. It was, rather, created by him, aggregating and hunting and assembling what he wanted to read from the sources he wanted, and, he said, was every bit as immersive for him as a glossy mag is for any fan of that genre.


Anonymous said...

Thanks! But Ramon Alberto Garza, didn't actually say that about a web site. He was talking, well before the notion of Web 2.0, about the sections of an ideal newspaper. Instead of "World, Nation, Local, Sports", he wanted to call them, "Mi, Mía, Nosotros, Ellos."

Anyway, thanks for setting this up, Dorian. It was a great conversation!

Dorian Benkoil said...

welcome, and great thanks to you! post is amended to reflect your change

Unknown said...

Good stuff, Dorian.

The Indigo stuff is definitely cool, but even some "traditional" publishers are creating non-traditional layouts in a magazine-like format. Check out for a sample.

Anonymous said...

The American version of Indigo which Roger Black referred to is up and running in a much more mature version. FLYP is still in beta and there is still a lot more development to take place, check out an issue:

FLYP issue 15"

NB- I work at FLYP!