Saving newspapers^h^h^h^h^h^h media companies: my $0.02

[Jack Lail](http://www.jacklail.com/) has a [good round up](http://www.jacklail.com/blog/archives/2008/11/newspaper-execs-this-is-not-a.html) of suggestions offered to newspaper executives at an [American Press Institute summit](http://www.americanpressinstitute.org/pages/resources/2008/11/ceo_summit_on_saving_an_indust/).

I agree with almost [every item on the list](http://www.jacklail.com/blog/archives/2008/11/newspaper-execs-this-is-not-a.html). But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some thoughts on some of the items:

* **Act like an entrepreneur; stop thinking first about why a new approach won’t work.**

It’s worth remembering that starting a new Web product is a very low risk, low cost proposition (step 1: install WordPress or blogging software of choice, step 2: create blog, step 3: watch metrics).

It feels like a lot of traditional media companies have built up layers of filters to make sure that any idea that gets approved won’t threaten what was a windfall of cash.

Now that the windfall is falling, we have to shed those overprotective instincts and live a little.

* **Create a portfolio of initiatives; recognize that some will fail and kill those quickly.**

See step 3 above. If the [page views](http://heisel.org/blog/2008/11/13/what-is-a-page-view/) aren’t there, shutter it.

* **Use downsizing as a tool when necessary to achieve a larger strategy, not simply as a cost-cutting goal.**

As much as I admire and appreciate [Southwest’s](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767901843?ie=UTF8&tag=heiselorg-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0767901843) [policy of not laying folks off](http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/01_41/b3752712.htm), I think the Newspaper industry is in a different situation.

We’re trying, I hope, to transform ourselves from newspaper companies into digital media companies. There are some skills that’ll transfer — and we should do our best to help employees with those skills make the leap. But [some folks](http://www.yelvington.com/node/444), with or without those skills, won’t fit in a digital media business.

If all we’re doing it letting go the [most expensive folks](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_Rodriguez), then that’s not a strategic layoff, it’s cost cutting.

* **Figure out how to leverage core competencies into new directions and new niches.**

My take: if you thought people bought the newspaper for just the news, you’re right. If you thought people bought the newspaper just for the comics, you’re right. If you thought people bought the paper just for the ads, you’re right.

But this is the Internet — land of fragmentation. We can’t be companies that are just about news, or just about ads, or just about comics. At least, not if we want to capture a sizable hunk of audience and revenue.

* **Be honest with employees, and get ideas from those on the front lines.**

We can’t be [19th century manufacturing enterprises](http://www.flickr.com/photos/pantufla/366438602/in/set-72157594489508934/) any more.

We have to be nimble [information companies](http://google.com). Give your folks access to all the information and treat them like adults. The results will surprise you.

* **Don’t sit and cower and weep about your problems. Inspire.**

[Amen](http://heisel.org/blog/2008/11/08/leading-not-managing/).

* **Pay attention to, and leverage, the brand.**

No porn. Otherwise everything should probably be considered fair game.

About Chris

Python developer, Agile practitioner trying desperately not to be a pointy haired boss.
This entry was posted in Business, Journalism, Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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