Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Quick read - culture change in newsrooms

From the recommended reading list, a blog post by Earl Wilkinson, head of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association, about the need for culture change in news orgs.

Strip away the predictable anti-union, the CEO-as-hero stuff (Ex: Because as easy as it is to blame CEOs and shareholders for the mess our industry is in, the dirty truth is many of them are fighting daily for change — but their companies are populated by newsrooms, pressrooms, unions, and fiefdoms that are finding new and innovative ways to stop or slow the change), and Wilkinson makes some points worth heeding:

  • Our industry’s response has been to cut people and newsprint, often without regard for priorities or the customer.
  • The top publishers refuse to collaborate on anything meaningful such as industry innovation, incubation, or experimentation.
  • When the analyst community five years ago gave publicly traded newspapers a green light to lower profit margins to heavily invest in digital, sales, marketing and research, publishers dabbled but mostly passed.
  • The old beacons to whom we have turned in the past for inspiration and guidance — Editor & Publisher, Presstime, Deutsche Bank and other fantastic analysts who covered the industry — are all dead, dying, or irrelevant.
Wilkinson acknowledges the "crap deals that hamstrung their companies with debt" (help me out there; those were done by the CEOs, not the unions, etc., right, Earl?). And he lays out a good list of things that still need to be thought about more: figure out what differentiates you; invest in research; embrace the crowd; sell market solutions, not space; be willing to fail, but quickly; etc.

To Wilkinson's credit, he has been at the forefront of trying to bridge the research of academia and the needs of the industry. That's a herculean task on both sides of the aisle.

The INMA is no one's vision of a "liberal" trade group, so when it steps up and says it's time to pay attention - it's time to pay attention.

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