How to lose a newspaper in 10 ways

She’s no journalist. How do I know? Because she’s smiling.

Is your local print publication going the way of the buffalo? Fear not, semi-loyal readers, for Ted Leonsis has devised a 10-point plan to help rescue your favorite paper. How’s he going to do it? Well Ted, care to enlighten us?

1. Get out of the newspaper business. Culturally, you can’t look and define your business as the delivery mechanism. The business is truly content and distribution across all pipes. The asset is journalists and the brand. A print-based property is just one of the many ways to distribute the digital bits.

That’s deep. To save your paper…you need to let it go. If it comes back to you then it was meant to be. If not…then well at least you hedged your bets with other mediums. It’s a fair point. The empahsis should be on publication, and not print. I’d go so far to say that the paper will eventually be supplementary material to the publication’s Web content. Eventually, of course.

Leonsis goes on to say with points 2-4 that newspapers should give it out for free (plummeting cow prices), develop partnerships (more on that later, hopefully), and syndicate for Web 2.0.

So like, seriously, when does Web 2.0 officially becomes “The Web”? How do you know if a point is outdated? If it’s 2.0 or below.

Moving on, he goes on to say newspapers, mainly the major ones, should team up and do something BIG. Perhaps, they should form some kind of alliance or something (again, more on that later. Hopefully).

Re-purpose cash flow buy acquiring Web 2.0 companies in the rich media space. Go acquire a big podcasting business. Why didn’t a newspaper company acquire Audible as an example? Go acquire a video widget syndication business. You will need rich media assets in the new world. Just having words won’t scale in the Web 2.0 environment. You must move up the value chain and get video and audio assets.

DAH! Again with the Web 2.0 nonsense! Tuning… out… Must…Oh, here we go.

8. Get rid of senior editors. Turn them into algorithmic managers. Editors are passé. What is needed is a team of people that know how to work and create blog rolls and how to get the content up high into the algorithms so that when a consumer searches the newspaper’s content it comes up high in the rankings. Knowing statistically what content gets the best click through across all media is a key deliverable. Newspapers need math majors running big swaths of the organization. There are too many English majors in key positions in love with the sound of their own voices. Math is king in the new world order and having managers that understand the big algorithms in the sky will redefine journalism for our next generation and redefine circulation into syndication.

Hm… I might be reading this wrong (major possibility, since I’m a words guy myself.), but isn’t he contradicting his first point? If you’re leveraging your content and brand, aren’t editors the ones who shape and direct that voice of a publication? The whole, uniform and “clustering” strategy used by many a tycoon is a simple numbers game.

What this boils down to is a war between numbers and words, and for the past couple of years, the numbers people have been winning because of the simple fact that it’s harder to convert words to dollars. Numbers can be converted with much more ease. Everyone seems to think that the future of journalism, newspapers, and print can be solved by some hidden algorithm. What they don’t see is what gets lost in reducing payroll, and staff, and “words” people. Journalism is a business, yes I know. But it also used to mean much more than that, and until these “numbers” guys understand that, the demise of the American newspaper will continue.

Wait! He’s not done! There are two more items on this otherwise futile list of pointless points! It’s pretty predictable. Leave it up to a “Web 2.0” guy to talk about the values of user-generated content and changing the measuring stick of success from content quality to higher numbers.

Look, what I was trying to say earlier is basically, these Web 2.0 algorithms and distribution strategies will give you a nice little boost in the near-term, but unless you have quality content that actually connects to readers, it isn’t going to last. Growth is nothing if you can’t sustain it. You’ll get exposed as watered down content, and readers will be able to tell. People aren’t dumb. I hope.


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Filed under Death of Journalism, Media

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