.ca reboot?

I guess we should have known what to expect when Steve Billinger herded the nerds into the Glen Gould Studio armed with a microscopic PowerPoint presentation, aiming to fix CBC.ca once and for all.

I just assumed he was going to de-Claude the place, but there could have been anything on that thing.

Now the people who seemed to be in charge are getting moved, not exactly in the direction you’d expect, and nobody is really sure what the hell is going on, who to answer to, or which way this whole thing is going. And our usually chatty friend Net Pub Eng has been uncharacteristically quiet on the matter.

Most of us are lost, so can someone who was sitting in the front row explain what’s going on?


  1. Anonymous
    Posted April 23, 2007 at 9:19 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I’m glad he’s sticking with the tried and true CBC business plan of spending $100 to make $10.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted April 23, 2007 at 7:04 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I guess he forgot what he wrote.

  3. Ouimet
    Posted April 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Steve, first off, let me welcome you to the Tea Makers and to the CBC.

    I admit you took me off guard by posting here. I believe you are the first senior manager to post here under your own name, and for that you deserve some credit.

    I moderate comments to keep out spammers, who somehow get around the word puzzle designed to block them. I also reserve the right to keep out extraordinarily abusive comments, but I haven’t exercised that right in a long time, which you can probably gather by reading other comments.

    I assure you that your reply never came through. Maybe Blogger ate it. Maybe you pressed the wrong button. Who knows? Maybe we should call IT.

    A lot of people are reading this right now. If you have the time and inclination to resend your response I promise you that I will put it online unmolested. For that matter, if you want to post something on the main page I will put it up.

    I realize you have no reason to believe or trust me, but I have no desire to censor you or anyone else, and the history of this site backs that up.

    That’s one of the reasons people are reading.

  4. Steve Billinger
    Posted April 18, 2007 at 12:21 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I responded at length in what I thought was plainer speaking given what I thought in whole were great comments.

    It wasn’t published so now you guys can ask who is controlling the dialog.

    No MBA here – RTA at Ryerson and school of hard knocks and experience.

    If you have time to post here you can ask me questions directly as some of you are starting to do.


  5. Anonymous
    Posted April 18, 2007 at 11:28 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The difference between, say, integrated marketing and integrity, is that the latter is a value but the former is a tool. You can deliver the best goshdarn news on the continent, but if nobody watches it it’s worthless, and to get people’s attention in the modern world you probably need the kind of stuff they teach in MBA courses.

    I’ve got my doubts about said the new plan for .ca, and the real test for me is going to be a) how well the impenetrable businessspeak above gets turned into concrete projects and b) how well said projects get implemented. But trying to turn the situation into an old-skool vs. new-skool pose-off is bullshit.

    Also, most of us (of all the people affected) are not journalists. Journalists would make up the (more-or-less) sharp end of one major division of the affected. Just sayin’…

  6. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 6:34 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well said, Anon. No. 7. Words mean something to us, and we distrust those who use them sloppily, vaguely or just plain incorrectly. (One may grow flowers, but one may not grow digital output.) Steve, golf claps to you for coming here to explain your ideas, but the explanation only reinforces the impression that the problem lies not with the size of your screen, but with the calibre of your ideas.

    Im inclined to think that all this jargon is just masking a lack of real vision. So far, you have failed to communicate your ideas effectively to the very people upon whom you rely to implement them.

    Most concerning, you demonstrate no understanding of the values that motivate the majority of the people who work at the CBC truth, integrity, public service. Maybe those concepts didnt come up in whatever MBA course taught you to care about integrated marketing, aligning teams, and agency account models. But they matter to us, a whole lot. Ignore them and us at your peril.

  7. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 8:44 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The screen couldn’t have been big enough, Steve!!!

  8. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 8:38 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Well, the e-mail is out, and it’s exactly what’s posted here. Another scoop for Ouimet! (But kudos to Steve for not fussing about who publishes first. If only this dialogue could have happened, say, a week before the Net Pub Eng, we might have really understood it…)

    The new version does have names attached to it – we now have NINE directors! (I wonder if they each get Rings of Power?)

  9. Anonymous
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 8:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Kudos, Mr. B., for being willing to engage with us directly on Tea Makers. Im impressed by that. Really I am.

    However …

    Though Im not an unintelligent person, I do not understand what you are saying. Please start over, in plain English, and please say something that makes me feel that you understand and believe in CBC and its goals (other than that you get paid so little to work here), and that you have a vision as to how .ca supports those worthy goals. I trust that you do. I just want to understand.

  10. Enik Sleastak
    Posted April 17, 2007 at 7:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I too found Steve’s post to be full of all-too-typical bafflegab, and even a little snide. Perhaps the room was full of people and not “nerds”, but neither was it full of inattentive children.

    I was left wondering if this was the rumored Net Pub Eng note that was allegedly killed when this news made Teamakers before it could be sent out. (Because it would look like Net Pub Eng was responding to Ouimet’s charges of eerie silence.)

    Repurposing indeed.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 9:41 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Thanks, Steve – it’s very upright of you to come right out and answer things here, in your own words and with your own name. Thank you. Your predecessor could take a lesson.

    Out of respect for that, I’d hope that this doesn’t turn into bitch session where one side hides behind anonymity, like I’m doing right now. On the other hand, most of us don’t know you well enough yet to come out and say anything to your face, if we recognized it.

    And Teamakers is the place to come for tough love, so knowing that we all want this relationship to work, here’s a little lovin’ for you on your first date.

    You seem like a smart guy with a great knowledge of the industry, but you’re new to CBC, so let me say a few things up front:

    First, most of us are journalists. We don’t trust jargon.

    So when you say that we’re a service centre that provides product development services which deliver on our business functions and manage prototyping using an agency model that maximizes our opportunities by using project learnings to grow digital output… we want to throw ourselves from the atrium.

    A service centre is where you get your car fixed.

    I showed your text to my husband, and he said, “That’s how I wrote university essays when I didn’t really understand the subject.” He’s right – and when I try to use this language in my writing for CBC, my editor calls bullshit and sends it back for a rewrite.

    Talk like this – presentations like that – make us not trust you. We can wean you of this bad habit, if you’ll let us. Read this. Avoid these words. Maybe download Bullfighter for your MS Word. But leave the corpspeak to Dick and Jane. You can do better.

    We are, after all, communicators. So tell us your vision, and tell us how we can achieve it. Or – imagine! – ask us.

    Who are we, anyhow? You’re already calling us DP&BD, and I bet 75% of .ca doesn’t even know what that means. I know it means Digital Programming and Business Development, and I think it means we’re just part of a bigger picture, which is a Good Thing.

    But how big a part? The org chart made “the web” and “journalism” look like a rather small sliver. I hope that’s not the case, because over the past decade or so, we’ve built up an incredible web service. Most of your employees work on it – and to be honest, so far it sounds like CBC.ca has been trivialized, relegated to the bad old days of repurposing, with expert staff shunted to the backbench as hewers of wood and drawers of water.

    I really hope that’s not true, but I can’t tell because the summit meeting and this precis didn’t make it clear. We’re more confused than ever.

    We want you to succeed, honest. We want US to succeed. But we need clarity.

    Even Claude came in with a couple of clear messages:

    Fix the basics. Be #1.

    If I read this correctly, here are your messages:

    Get our stuff on more devices. Support radio and TV. Integrate. Make money.

    Like I said, show us your vision. Tell us how you picture the site a year from now. Come up with a slogan. Write it down somewhere. We’ll support it.

    The revolution is just a T-shirt away.

  12. Steve Billinger
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 11:18 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Dear Ouimet,

    You’re right – although the Powerpoint was not microscopic, the screen sure was! Apologies to all for last minute technical glitch due to change in location. By the way I saw only people there not nerds, and they weren’t herded – walked in kind of orderly on their own.

    We are making a number of changes to structure to accommodate the department’s increased business and product development responsibilities.

    As I outlined at the time.

    Were transitioning our department from a mixed editorial and service area to a focused service centre providing creative, business and product development services to key content areas, such as Radio, Sports, Entertainment, Factual, Documentaries and News.

    Weve created teams that align people with the rest of the CBC structure a move that will allow us to work more effectively within DP&BD, and with the colleagues well liaise with across the organization. Were also better able to deliver on our business functions, from rights and media value assessment to deal analysis and negotiation.

    We’re creating an integrated marketing and media sales group and a dedicated business analysis and strategic planning function. This will improve our ability both to provide in-depth digital programming product and business analysis and to generate revenue.

    Were introducing a creative team to manage prototyping in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax, and to help drive development of new products or services for the CBC.

    Weve adopted an agency account model that will use account directors to provide key product and business development expertise to each of our key content areas. For example, the account director for CBC Sports will use his or her in-depth understanding of CBC Sports priorities to develop a complete strategy for maximizing our opportunities to showcase programming (in addition to journalistic reporting) on a variety of digital platforms.

    Finally, weve consolidated the CBC News editorial team, focusing on the CBC News brand and providing the expertise required to further, as part of the MyCBC Vancouver project learnings, an all-platform news strategy and capability.

    As a result, we’re been growing digital output recently with Alpine streaming, Aquatics, and a new NHL Play Off Pre and Post Game show. Thanks to all for efforts during the transition.

    “Ignoring the rest of the corp…” was not good enough – only Billy Bragg has the Great Leap Forward.

    As always I’m not anonymous but at steve_billinger@cbc.ca and 416 205-7182 for any suggestions to make things better.

    Steve Billinger
    ED – DP&BD – CBC

  13. Anonymous
    Posted April 16, 2007 at 7:13 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Out in the real world, a .com casualty would be someone who came back from lunch to find their keycard deactivated and their personal belongings in a box at the front door. Perspective is a horrible horrible thing.

  14. Anonymous
    Posted April 14, 2007 at 9:27 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I asked a manager to clarify what it was all about and I didn’t get much of an answer either.

    Who knows, changing technology, changing infrastructure at .ca, all one can do it sit down and do your job the best you can under the circumstances.

    It’s a little disappointing. I see more loyalty, better communication in the other media lines.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 8:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Lord knows what that summit meeting was all about. I think the powerpoint said that the website is now one of about 15 divisions, nestled in importance between Country Canada and the guy who sells ads for the GO train. It’s just another delivery mechanism. Not the Great Leap Forward we were looking for… not that Claude’s hits-crazy model of ignoring the rest of the corp was much of a Cultural Revolution, but at least we could read the screen.

  16. Anonymous
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 1:46 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    And iraq is less chaotic right now!

    .ca feels like a casualty zone right now, and things definitely getting worse, not better

    hard to know when the next bomb will drop here, and whether it’ll be friendly fire!

  17. Anonymous
    Posted April 13, 2007 at 5:55 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I was sitting in the front row & could not see a bloody thing. Bush’s exit plan for Iraq is clearer

  18. Anonymous
    Posted April 12, 2007 at 7:07 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    We’re too busy to comment. Nobody’s got time to do anything other than march toward the next deadline. But how many will survive?

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