To Lucas Allyn

May 25, 2013

Sonia, me, Lucas. May 25, 2013

I remember it like it was yesterday. Lucas sharing with me one of his many outlooks on life:

“Girls like guys who are good looking or guys with a lot of money,” he said. “And with this gut, I’m sure as hell not gonna be good looking so I better be making a s***load of money when I’m older.”

Now I could go on about the flaws in that reasoning, but that’s not what we’re here for. In fact, like many things Lucas would say, some of that is more true than we’d like to admit. What I really want to do is spend some time reflecting on a friend’s life. A friend who was engaging, charming and saw the world as he saw fit.

I lost my closest friend, Lucas Allyn, to a boating accident in Utah this past week. The medical examiner determined carbon monoxide poisoning as the cause of death.

Lucas was that friend I could trust with anything, including my life. He was even going to be my best man (if I ever were to get married). My family took him in almost a year ago when he moved out of his apartment and since then, our bond became even stronger. He became essentially, the brother I never had.

It’s never easy to be reminded of life’s frailty with the passing of someone close to you. You can go from having the whole world ahead of you to being someone people write memorials about with the snap of a finger. All aspirations gone like that.

If anyone knew Lucas, they know he was a fun-loving, charismatic guy. He was someone who made you feel important, like you meant something to him (whether you really did or not, only he knew). If you were around him, you could just feel that energy and drive he had. He had the tenacity of Mark Cuban coupled with the business mind of Charles Koch.

Hell, he’d always tell me he wanted to be a multi-millionaire by the age of 30. And after that, a billionaire.

You see, he had this plan we’d start a business together. What that business was, we had no idea, but that didn’t matter. It was the idea that drove Lucas and boy, was he an idea man. His business ideas ranged from creating one that installed peep holes in people’s front doors (Low start-up costs, he’d tell me and “You’d be surprised how many people don’t have one.”) to building high speed trains that would transport the city’s trash to a new waste management facility in the west desert (for when the current facility fills up in the next 20 to 30 years. “They’re going to have to put it somewhere,” he said). And yes, you can laugh here, just like I did the first time I heard ’em.

That brings me to trains. He loved trains. He turned into an 8-year-old boy when it came to trains. He even attended the midnight premiere of Unstoppable, the movie starring Denzel Washington about, you guessed it, runaway trains.

Lucas told me many times that when he had enough money and if none of us were married by 40, he was going to buy us a bachelor mansion with acres of property. On that property was going to be a full-fledged, real world train system — one he would drive around whenever he pleased. He would joke about this, but I know at some level, he was completely serious.

“Can’t get a DUI on my own property going around in circles,” he joked.

And that was the great thing about Lucas — he hadn’t quite grown up yet. He still had that charming naïveté a lot of us lose over the years because we get caught up in the fear of failure and “getting that degree”. Lucas wasn’t quite there yet, and that’s why we loved him. Sure, he had his share of burned bridges (probably more than most of us), but he didn’t let that faze him.

Lucas would bring up the business dream half the time we were perusing downtown Salt Lake. I was supposed to handle communications and marketing “because I can’t write worth a damn,” he’d say. Another friend was going to handle sales, brokering deals, etc. And Lucas was going to be the head honcho, the deal maker.

“You see, I’m the one that’s good at making people feel comfortable and confident in whatever their investment is,” he’d always tell me.

He was right. He was pretty darn good at that.

Whether that dream would ever to come to fruition, we’ll never know. But the beauty of it was just that, a dream — something to motivate ourselves.

No, Lucas didn’t last more than a year in college. (I’m sure we all know someone where hitting the books just wasn’t for them). And we all know who else never received college degrees … So who’s to say he couldn’t have been someone we all were talking about 10, 20 years from now?

Side note: I was in the process of helping him enroll in school again. In the end, he wanted to do whatever it took to get to the top. I’ll always remember this quote from him: “You’re never penalized for over-dressing … just like you’re never penalized for being over-educated.” Lucas liked to live a life of excess, in all senses of the word. He even had dress shirts with his full name, Lucas Marcellus Allyn, embroidered on the collar.

In talking with his mother on Sunday, I said to her, “I think he looked up to me as much as I looked up to him.” She responded with the all too true cliché, “I guess opposites do attract.”

What she was getting at (and if we’re looking to put labels on things), was that I was the “responsible” one in the friendship. Lucas, on the other hand, was the “wildcard”. He took his share of risks. He knew things I didn’t. And I knew things he didn’t. We saw the world through different eyes and that’s why we got along. Lucas was taking the non-traditional path to a career. I “played it safe”. Went to school.

There’s no right way here, it’s simply about where we would end up.

If he taught me one thing, it’s to enjoy life because it’s too short not to.

Too short, indeed.

Lucas Allyn – Oct. 9, 1990 to June 29, 2013

UPDATE: The Daily Mail posted an article Tuesday with more details of the incident.

"Please, no pictures." - Lucas Allyn

“Please, no pictures.” – Lucas Allyn

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Finding inspiration in Seattle

The first thing that stood out to me about the Seattle trip was how each media model attempts to serve a somewhat different type of audience. All the places we visited compete for similar readers and viewers, they are all located in Seattle after all. But the highlight had to have been how each place recognized the importance of building and audience, not striving for page views.

Before I get to the details of the trip, I want to highlight this idea of audience vs. traffic. It was something I discussed with the publisher and editor of the Idaho Post Register, Roger Plothow, for the legacy media assignment. Plothow guided me toward two posts he wrote that get at the importance of building an audience. If you’re interested: Audience versus traffic and his ideas behind paywalls.

Each visit really deserves its own blog post, but that would get too repetitive. So below are short reflections from each stop.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Yes, I think it was pretty clear seeing those empty office spaces was a menacing sight to any of us about to enter the journalism world. The paper cut down its staff by more than 100 after all. Having such a small staff also affected their news coverage. We saw this in how they frequently talked about how popular slideshows were on their site. They had slideshows of everything from celebrities to cats in Seattle. But what journalistic purpose does this serve?

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

If it serves anything, I think it’s more entertainment based. It’s a way to drive people to their site but not so great at growing an audience. Now the PI does still have reporters that go out and cover Seattle news. The fact is, they just don’t have the ability to cover as much of it anymore so they have to make tough calls on what to cover and what not to cover. (I can imagine this can be tough at times) The PI has had to switch how they try to reach their audience having moved over to online only. This shows in their type of coverage, yet they still do serve a certain type of reader. Even if it is one that likes browsing slideshows.

Tom Fucoloro

Fucoloro’s meeting was a stark contrast to what we went to next, The Seattle Times. This was one guy running two successful blogs. One guy! The content on these websites is very focused. One covers the news for just one neighborhood in Seattle, Capitol Hill, another simply covers biking in Seattle. So how are these blogs maintained? It’s a great example of developing a niche audience. There were enough people that wanted to read about these two subjects, that they can maintain themselves.

Blogger Tom Fucoloro

Blogger Tom Fucoloro

Idealistically, and Fucoloro hinted at this, a blog like Capitol Hill Seattle would hopefully be sustained by the community at one point. People can already post on the website themselves, but Fucoloro runs most of the news content and reporting, all while riding his bike. I liked seeing how this can be done. The key is finding something that people want to read about, whether they know it yet or not, and really honing in on that subject. It showed me that something this small can be done, and while you’re still young and have more freedom, it’s worth it to look into trying.

Seattle Times

Now the Seattle Times so different than the places we had been before, I didn’t know what to think at first. It was a full-scale newsroom with a large staff and hundreds of full desks. The first question I wanted to find out was how does a big paper like this still appear somewhat healthy? What immediately came across was the staff’s pride in being a family owned paper. I think this is a large reason due to their ability to still be in business. It has allowed them to experiment a little more liberally with new technology and innovations with the new journalism model.

Seattle Times

Seattle Times

The Times still prints their newspaper. Something I don’t see happening down the road. But what was refreshing to see was the fact they have people constantly analyzing the market. These people are trying to see what prices their readers will respond to. How many people are still reading print and who are those people and how many are only digital. This is work that needs to be done all around by newspapers. If they want to be ahead of the curve moving forward, they need to be able to predict what’s next. Unlike what happened across the industry with the rise of the internet. The Seattle Times showed me they are doing this and might even be ready to thrive in the future of news.

GeekWire

GeekWire was probably my favorite visit. This is because they were a true success, maybe even poster child, of entrepreneurial journalism. It started out as two former PI reporters. They knew there was an audience out there that read their tech articles. The two also knew they were being underserved while constrained by a newspaper’s guidelines. So they created their own website. One dedicated to solely tech news.

What I liked most was their loyal following they developed and the site’s alternative funding model. The events they host throughout the year help sustain the business and at the same time develop a strong GeekWire community. The staggered levels of membership was another interesting idea. It certainly wouldn’t fly at any traditional media outlet. But it’s a great idea. If readers want more perks and want to pay more for those perks offered by GeekWire, then there should be no reason they can’t.

Todd Bishop has a closer relationship with the business side of GeekWire than he would at a normal paper. But he’s shown that this can be OK. There doesn’t have to be a complete separation. Bishop said he would like to completely hand it over to someone eventually, but so far has shown it doesn’t effect his ability to do good journalism at the same time. We can learn all the reporting skills possible, but I’ve always thought we should be taught how to make money from those skills at the same time.

MSN and Amazon

The visit to Microsoft and the meeting with the Amazon employee immediately felt like typical corporate culture. Now this isn’t a bad thing, except for the fact that meetings are the popular form of communication in corporate life. But what I got from MSN News was the idea that they are actively trying to understand how people view their news. What they want to read and how they’re getting to their website. These are all important factors into understanding your audience. Something very important for a big company like Microsoft.

Both MSN News and Amazon know their customers/readers very well. They know how to respond to their demands and give them things they don’t know they want. It’s kind of scary to think they can tell us what we want, but it’s true. The aspect of MSN News that took me some time to wrap my head around was the Rumors section. At first I didn’t like it because it felt like it was a way for them to perpetuate untrue rumors and didn’t serve much of a purpose. But their thinking was that they were actively looking into these rumors so why not share with the reader what they are finding out to be true and false. It creates a level of transparency and is apparently something quite popular with MSN News’ audience.

While all of these places try to serve a certain audience, I learned that they understand the importance to creating an audience. They all go about it in different ways and attract different readers, but within each outlet, they’ve learned their audience’s wants and responded to them effectively.

Birthday Wishes

Easter 1995

This post is dedicated to one of the most influential and important people in my life, my dad, George. (Or Jorge, since I´m writing this down in Uruguay.)

Today he turns 73. Yes, that is up there in years, some think he could be my Grandpa. But here is what matters and what I want him to know on this day. The role of a father doesn´t have an age limit.

A Dad´s role involves a loving, caring and inspiring relationship between father and son. And Dad, you have done an exceptional 21 year job. There is sometimes nothing I enjoy more than sitting around all day on autumn Saturdays watching our college football together. You taught me to be the honest and responsible man I am today and wouldn´t trade it for anything.

Thank you for being you Dad!

Feliz Cumpleaños!