Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to Save Newspapers Part II

In August of 2013 I wrote a blog on how to save newspapers (http://gwrresearch.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-save-newspapers.html) . This blog described the differences between print and digital editions of a newspaper and their websites. The article focused on creating a symbiotic relationship between the newspaper and the website.

I see that newspapers are trying to create a business model that relies on inputs from electronic and print components but I don’t see much symbiosis.  Most of newspaper efforts still seem to be driven by the old model and its strengths. 

News stories are printed in the paper and digital editions with reference to those stories being repeated in a different format and different timing on the website.  I saw, in one newspaper, a large photo (half page) of an event with a caption telling the readers they could learn more about the event on the newspaper’s website.

Now there is a synergistic effort gone bad. The folks getting the newspaper don’t get the story and those on the website are reading what should have been in the newspaper. Newspapers strength is built on great journalism  and great photojournalism. These are its strengths. The Internet strength is built on immediacy and audio-video capabilities. The strengths of both platforms were wasted with this effort.

When I was in the newspaper business there was this desire to also own television stations so its audio-visual capabilities could enhance coverage and create new revenue streams.   Why is it then, that newspapers now have access to a medium to exploit audio-visual capabilities and fail to use them? In the example above why not have a great photo (smaller) and a good story with a reference to a video of the event on the website? This is synergy – using the strength of both to create something better than either can do alone.

It is symbiotic when each thrives because the other exists.  If newspaper editions used their print model for advertising pricing and an electronic model for website pricing perhaps there would be a creation of revenue rather than an internal battle between the website and print sales staffs to move diminishing newspaper revenues to one platform or the other.

Suppose that a newspaper website had exclusive rights to live-stream events (yes this means programming expenses) that would be covered in print and digital editions. The digital editions could have a link to the web site.

Suppose the print and digital editions used static ads and the web site used dynamic audio-visual ads (just like television).

I know that newspaper websites use audio-visual capabilities and the newspaper digital editions link to their websites. What is missing is a concerted strategy to make both the website and the newspaper editions successful. Based on what I have seen this is due to separate management teams for each platform. Advertising sales tries to bundle (which usually results in inaccurately valuing the strength of each platform) or discount ad buys based on the number of platforms being used. Content managers work on creating value for each platform, which, in turn, disallows a collaborative approach to building a synergistic, symbiotic strategy.

This outcome underscores the newspaper industry’s inability to understand that the Internet was not and is not a disruptive innovation that requires two separate organizations. The Internet is a sustaining innovation that allows industry leaders to better serve their best customers.  A sustaining innovation requires one organization focused on an overarching strategy to create value for customers, the company and any collaborators.

So here it is, if you want to save newspapers have one mission – to provide information and entertainment to as large an audience as possible. This mission should have the vision of:
1)   Using multiple media platforms to create value for audiences of all sizes,
2)   Create content that has value to audiences and advertisers,
3)   Manage content to appear on the platform that provides the best outcome,
4)   Create partnerships with entertainment and information groups to provide unique experiences for readers and advertisers.
5)   And so on.


Now setting objectives should be somewhat easier and it should be apparent that all platforms have to be engaged in strategy, tactics and execution discussions. If all platforms are not engaged in the same strategy, newspaper organizations will not be successful.

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