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?