MinnPost and the Expectations Game

I don’t know the extent to which MinnPost set the expectations bar so high for itself. But however it happened, it was awfully high.

My impression was that moderate- to left-leaning news junkies in the Twin Cities were expecting Journalistic Jesus to be walking amongst them upon MinnPost’s launch. Freed of the shackles of evil corporate journalism, the MinnPosters would surely unleash a cornocopia of journalistic wonderment upon the twin towns that would make the likes of Ben Franklin, Edward R. Murrow, Hunter Thompson, David Halberstam, and Woodstein blush.

Of course that didn’t happen. Of course it couldn’t happen.

Though MinnPost is an evolving start-up still on wobbly legs, it has already proven itself to be a news source that adds considerably to the local news scene. In fact, I’d go quite a bit further and say it is a higher quality news source than the alternatives – local TV news, blogs, and the metro dailies. Their smaller staff obviously doesn’t cover as much ground as the metro dailies, and it doesn’t do breaking news at all, but the coverage of community issues is generally as good, and frequently better.

So, why are the blogs filled with uncharitable reviews of MinnPost? To be sure, much of the criticism comes from Stribophobes who wish ill of anyone who has ever set foot in 425 Portland Avenue. But the criticism goes deeper than that, and it seems mostly to be about the expectations game. That certainly was my issue. I just expected more.

The expectations game is particularly important in politics, where candidates are celebrated for coming in third place if they were expected to place fifth and pilloried for winning if they were expected to win by more. But the expectations game applies in all aspects of public relations, as MinnPost found out.

So how about a little PR hypothetical? What if MinnPost had intentionally kept expectations low, by simply starting with no fanfare whatsoever? If it had, it would have started with many fewer first day readers, members, sponsors and advertising. It would have had much less community buzz. But it also would have had lower expectations to overcome. From a PR perspective, would an unheralded launch have helped or hurt?

— Loveland

4 thoughts on “MinnPost and the Expectations Game

  1. Another factor led to much of the negativity toward MinnPost in the blog world: As it’s an online news site, many people (read: blogger types) envisioned MinnPost as ending up very blog-like.

    And as you talk about setting expectations, that’s one expectation Joel Kramer and company certainly did not set themselves. Joel consistently spoke about how these writers are not bloggers and their work will not be like blog posts.

    (I’ve lent MinnPost a hand in some promotional work around the launch, pro bono. Jiminy Cricket forced me to tell you that. Nose remains in check.)

  2. bbenidt says:

    Interesting idea, Joe, the soft launch. A dear friend, John Gaterud, and I, years ago tried to start a statewide weekly newspaper, and made the mistake of trying to start big and bold and beautiful. We couldn’t sustain the economics. Had we started small, almost like a newsletter, we might be publishing moguls today.

    One excellent thing about MinnPost.com is the links to good stories and blogs from other places. Friday’s links to Eric Black’s blog and The Minnesota Women’s Press lead to great reading. Pretty open-minded to link us to other good journalism and commentary.

    I just got a call from the Strib this morning — my subscription has lapsed and I owe them money. I’m not sure I’m going to renew. Partly because MinnPost.com now offers me a lot of info and insight about Minnesota (Friday’s story about schools in north Mpls was outstanding, and as Lisa and I now, suddenly, have a child in high school, I’m very interested in basic and alternative approaches to public education). MinnPost may give me the local stuff I need — and that’s bad news for my friends still writing at the Strib.
    (Disclosure, I’ve helped Mike help Joel.)

  3. Kenny says:

    99.9% of the Twin Cities knows nothing about MinnPost. The business model is so badly flawed that it’s likely to stay that way. I’m surprised anyone invested a nickle (except liberal foundations).

Comments are closed.