Newspaper execs: This is not a fire drill

Industry execs convene to discuss crisis.

Some suggestions offered to the attendees:

  • Act like an entrepreneur; stop thinking first about why a new approach won’t work.
  • Create a portfolio of initiatives; recognize that some will fail and kill those quickly.
  • Don’t wait for every data point before taking action. “Ready, fire, aim” should be the operating principle, Shein said.
  • Use downsizing as a tool when necessary to achieve a larger strategy, not simply as a cost-cutting goal.
  • Figure out how to leverage core competencies into new directions and new niches.
  • Be honest with employees, and get ideas from those on the front lines.
  • Don’t sit and cower and weep about your problems. Inspire.
  • Collaborate with outside entities that can bring expertise or resources.
  • Pay attention to, and leverage, the brand.

These would have had a lot more impact five years ago.

19 Replies to “Newspaper execs: This is not a fire drill”

  1. I note the absence of suggestions such as “report the facts, not your opinions” and “don’t take sides on issues except in the opinion pages”.

  2. Or read Kevin Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma and realize the warning and the solution was in front of you all along.
    The amusing thing is how arrogant the newspapers were. They are deserving of a hard, brutal failure more than most industries that disregard fundamental technological and societal change. They laughed at the trivial nature of Internet communications, disparaged its “lack of editorial guidance” (as if the mass grappling of truth and falsehood on blogs was a thought unrecognizable to those who claim to have studied Milton’s Areopagitica), and skewed politically to an unhealthy Leftist monoculture.
    Death of the industry is the consequence, and it comes to one that is so deserving of the fate. Perhaps the one consolation is that they may serve as a warning to others to not repeat their failure of absolute arrogance, pride and rejection of the uncomfortable requirement of hard work and evolution.

  3. Considering how the event was invitation-only and, but for the tweets of one brave off-the-ranch CEO, completely sealed off from the outside world, this bullet pegs the Irony-Meter:
    Collaborate with outside entities that can bring expertise or resources.

  4. @redherkey
    Death of the industry may be a consequence (I hope not since it employs me), but I don’t think it’s from arrogance. I think the industry has been acting out the “Innovator’s Dilemma,” even with the knowledge of that’s what it is doing.
    Newspapers wouldn’t have invented a business model disrupter like Craigslist precisely because it would have affected (and has) the traditional business model of selling advertising.
    A sales executive is more motivated to sell an expensive print ad today than a cheap online ad because that puts more money in their pocket — today. But tomorrow …
    I have a hard time seeing how people making a choice to shop or advertise in autotrader or ebay or monster vs newspaper classifieds is the inevitable result of an unhealthy Leftist monoculture.
    Surely, there is plenty of room to criticize the content makeup of newspapers, but where the traditional model is failing is that the Internet has disaggregated the newspaper’s content. An employment ad no longer needs to come wrapped in a front page of news to reach a large enough audience to be effective.

  5. I admire the (newfound?) will to act that this crisis has inspired, but I have to say, the strategy outlined above is a recipe for disaster.
    I can’t tell you how many grandiose, expensive efforts to build audience online I’ve seen fail miserably.
    In my experience, it’s not that executives are unwilling to bankroll experiments – it’s that they’re totally clueless about which experiments should be bankrolled.
    In part this is rooted on an insular media culture that hesitates to collaborate with outsiders or other outlets in the same vertical.
    Successful new media startups don’t operate that way — they know that the secret to building a brand is a sort of promiscuity that no insular, competition-oriented MSM executive would ever approve.
    I would also note that, from my own experience as a ronin entrepreneur, the willingness of an organization to work with me on a successful new launch is inversely proportional to its size. In this way the large media organizations shrink even as a hundred tiny ones expand — even in this climate.

  6. It is satisfying to some to say that the newspapers are declining because a liberal is turning off readers. I left the industry 10 years ago — after a decade in which three of the seven major metropolitan papers in Texas had shut down. Here’s what happened:
    1. Two income families. I heard again and again, “We don’t have time to read the paper.”
    2. Consolidation in the retail industry. Every time one department store chain bought out another, the papers lost a set of ads.
    3. Fuel costs. Subscription rates are supposed to cover the cost of delivery. They haven’t risen as fast as the cost of fuel.
    4. Lost opportunities. My paper had a functioning internet server when ISPs started taking off, and made no move to market it. The publisher said, “Let’s stick to what we know.”
    IMO, the leftist political slant is a symptom of the papers’ being generally out of touch. It’s not the problem.

  7. @Christopher
    Excellent observations.
    I love this paragraph:
    “Successful new media startups don’t operate that way — they know that the secret to building a brand is a sort of promiscuity that no insular, competition-oriented MSM executive would ever approve.”
    Very true.

  8. As mentioned in the above article, all newspapers are experiencing the same problems. The KNS no longer has a loyal subscriber base because of the perception that this administration owns the editorial section of the KNS [ Jack or the KNS pilot or both,it really doesn’t matter] Our, like many other families, have canceled their subscriptions as a form of protest to these practices and encourage others to do the same and will not renew until management replaces this team they have brought to our fair city. If they wish to give away the papers at Pilot and Weigels on Friday in order to keep their [false] numbers up, then so be it.

  9. “I have a hard time seeing how people making a choice to shop or advertise in autotrader or ebay or monster vs newspaper classifieds is the inevitable result of an unhealthy Leftist monoculture.”
    From this, I deduce that you think the market failure lies with classifieds. I would invite you to observe, for single instance, the Washington Post’s publication of Eliot Spitzer’s remarks on the financial crisis and consider that the reader market for manifest absurdity is rapidly diminishing.
    I think the problem is a lot bigger than you think it is.

  10. @Billy Beck
    Most newspaper and news media Web sites I am aware of are experiencing record traffic in visitors, unique monthly visitors and page views so maybe the “reader market for manifest absurdity” is still viable?
    You may be right that the problem is a lot bigger than I think — and I think it’s pretty big.

  11. Here’s a suggestion: Stop regurgitating whatever left-wing drivel the AP and Reuters are vomiting at any given moment.

  12. When these news entities finally realize that catering to their political agendas and to their self interests, are less beneficial, than reporting to the American people honestly about the events of the world, then they may actually become a reporter of events and not political hacks.
    The American people are not dumb and its an insult to our intelligence to keep trying to feed us their personal and political bias and hide behind the term, “freedom of the press”.
    The result may show they may live to post another day if they can change their ways.
    Good luck to all and stay safe and FREE.
    jensad

  13. When these news entities finally realize that catering to their political agendas and to their self interests, are less beneficial, than reporting to the American people honestly about the events of the world, then they may actually become a reporter of events and not political hacks.
    The American people are not dumb and its an insult to our intelligence to keep trying to feed us their personal and political bias and hide behind the term, “freedom of the press”.
    The result may show they may live to post another day if they can change their ways.
    Good luck to all and stay safe and FREE.
    jensad

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