If I worked in the newspaper business

If I worked in the newspaper business

Media | Judette Coward-Puglisi

March 19, 2009

Conventional levels and perspectives on innovation will get you nowhere. To be remarkable, kick-butt, profit-driven remarkable, means that you can no longer engage in predictable, incremental innovation.  Instead, you  must get on the treadmill in the pursuit of  never ending, infinite innovation, creating more and more value for  your stakeholders both inside and outside your organisation. 

Perhaps that requires laser-like attention on your customers or  offering something more stylish or more attractive, or developing a better product, in the end it’s all  about survival (at one point, it used to be about winning.)

Innovation=Infinite. Innovation = Sustainability. That’s why all the talk in blogsphere and on twitter about the demise of traditional  media eally refers to the industry’s slow responses to our  internet-on-steroids world. The truth is if you grew up in the 80s then you probably don’t know of a world without the Web and it means that  the way you get your news would be decidedly different. 

There are 6 million blogs tracked by  on-line services and they are packed  with opinions and news on everything. TweetNews developed by Yahoo was built to  break news of any major happening in any part of the word long before the   networks’ cameras and reporters gets there. And Google News remains an important service for many corporations  trying to monitor articles and news about their own company, competitors or topics of interest. All this has spelt a death march for media as we know it. Web 1.0 was so yesterday.  Today, Web 2.0  demands that traditional media formulates not just a competitive strategy  but  a sensational one, which  entails playing an entirely different game on an entirely different field.

In broadcast media, CNN,  knew exactly the new rules that needed to be learned.  Last week at a session at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus CNN producer, Sam Feist, explained how the  news gathering operation is staffed with a mix of traditional, general assignment reporters and all-platform journalists who blog,create  podcasts, use and share video and utilise new technologies along with traditional journalism skills to gather news. The change is also systemic. CNN’s inauguration experiment with facebook took media and social interactivity to a whole experience.  CNN did not have to innovate. They could have held onto to their monopoly position and grow complacent. They chose not to.

Feist says traditional media can survive and in fact thrive when they embrace the ways of new media (transparency, interactivity, immediacy, participation) and marry it with the best practices of old media (fairness, accuracy). If I worked in the newspaper business I’d pay close attention to this. I’d take a careful look at my business  model and ask: Who are my existing users? What are the big issues/interests in our area? (e.g. local industries, popular activities, events, attractions, personalities, etc.) What services would fill a need there? How does my paper promote interactivity? What do my readers write or search for? What should I do to make my content easier to orgaise and search for?  How can our reporters be retrained?

Navigating an uncertain path to the future is never  easy. It will require unconventional perspectives on how to innovate but look at the alternative the newspapers face: huge debt, high costs, declining subscription rates, plummeting ad base,  and you’ll realise that there is no other way. 



11 thoughts on “If I worked in the newspaper business

  1. All the media scenarios today are apocalyptic. Doomsday is always looming. T&T remains stuck in some kind of in-betweenity. Print still rules, while Internet/online availability remains relatively marginal.

  2. But doomsday has come to newspapers in the US. In some cities, newspapers have disappeared, larger newspapers are suffering. Look at the Christian Science Monitor, which is now completely digital. Print still rules here, but the attitude of advertisers are changing to suit those in the US. I think newspapers have to embrace the possibilities of the internet now and not wait for a serious and credible threat, which is gonna come eventually.

  3. Media are only as useful as the market they reach. In Trinidad, an amazing percentage of our society do not have regular, high speed or reliable for that matter, access to the internet. Therefore, the only way to get to them is via print, radio, tv, etc. Until that changes in any real sense for the majority of the population, print will rule.

  4. Uncritical technological determinism is the reigning tendency. But the perspective is still short-term.
    It was once the conventional wisdom that radio could not survive TV; at another time, that newsprint would give way to all-enabling electronic tablets such as you could handily take for reading on the toilet throne.
    The T&T media remain 20th-… Read Morecentury companies, holding on helplessly into the 21st.
    As for the allegedly 2020 government, no plan has emerged to make high-speed Internet a technological civil right of the population, as much as the cellphone has become.
    Meanwhile, we await the spirit lash likely to descend upon us with the rest of The Recession.

  5. Those electronic tablets are called Kindle..and haven’t reach T&T as yet. But Print costts are making newspapers look at other options. I don’t think we will ever do away with print completely… but if I were in newsapers..I would look for a way to get suscribers by phone…

  6. Tabitha of course you’re right.

    Poor internet penetration is a factor. You know we spend so much time facebooking each other and communicating in this way that we forget that for many in T&T, the Web and owning a computer is an anomaly.

    Here is a statistic that’s backs it up. In a recent benchmarking survey by the National Information and Communication Technology (NICT) roughly 9% of the population (T&T population is 1.3 million) or around 120,000 persons are considered "regular internet users". … Read More

    Maybe that would signal the great future of newspapers in T&T but I don’t think so.

    The signs are clear. Have you looked at the papers recently, I mean the size. They are noticeably slimmer, advertising dollars are being pulled away as marketers go for a more targeted way to spend their dwindling dollars. There seems to be a eager audience to engage with on line news and if even if this is within the middle class alone then so be it. Make them a prototype.

  7. I agree with you Judette. Once Internet penetration improves, more people would be logging on. However, we need more serious blogs and news sites that the public respects and have confidence in. I don’t think print will die but it’s gonna have a lot of competition for the ad dollar.

  8. A conversation between two journalists:

    Old Media:
    “Stupid politician, they think we have the time to show up and cover them cutting a ribbon on some new building. Where’s the news? I told his PR person that we are not going to be there.
    … Read More
    New Media:
    “No way. I asked the Minister’s PR to write about the building why it’s important to the community. I’ll post it on our public blog. Hey, we can get members of the community to comment too. I’ll let readers know by making a quick mention when I tease our online page in tomorrow’s paper. That way when they comment we can see if there is a real story in there. A source tells me that they are questions about safety. If there’s a story, I go on location and tweet."

  9. Good analog reasons account for the fall in print advertising, from what was a high hard to replicate.
    Digicel vs bmobile; PNM govt vs everybody: those "drivers" were never "sustainable", but almost everybody banked on them.

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