The American Press Institute's Newspaper Next project has been a resolute, prescriptive, helpful addition to the information the industry has long craved to help steer its course. Now one of its architects is suggesting newspapers need to help fasten businesses to customers through a strong improvement in local search capabilities online, serving effectively as brokers for such services as AdWords and Facebook.
This is not a large digression from the existing role of providing the advertising environment to find the select customer base. But it suggests newspapers need to bring forward better search engines to capitalize on an opening on the local markets and need to think about being connectors in new ways.
I want to spend a few days absorbing the American Press Institute's second instalment of its fascinating Newspaper Next project, released today. The first version was one of the most groundbreaking looks at how disruptive innovation can propel newspapers --- or more precisely, news organizations --- into new and sustaining markets.
Its particular recommendation was that newspapers need to perform tasks for non-readers (a mothers' Web site, for instance) and I'm interested in seeing that thread continued in the second report.
The institute's own release on the report cites these highlights:
"The idea that newspapers must broaden their vision to become local information and connection utilities, with products and services to touch every consumer and serve every business in a market;
The concept of the whole market, a universe of consumers and businesses that reaches well beyond readers and advertisers, and that newspaper companies should be striving to reach and touch;
Mega-jobs -- important "jobs to be done" that a wide cross-section of any market will want and need, and therefore the first that newspaper companies should seek to address."
It explores several case studies of organizations doing some of all of these things and, for a news manager, this report is pretty well required reading in this age of transformation.
Much more on this later, and if anyone wants to weigh in, start the thread.
I am employed by a newspaper and that naturally biases me about the medium's durability.
I have worked in other media (see bio next door) and that naturally opens me to see things a little differently than either those who have only been inside a paper or those who have only been outside one. I don't think the arrival of one medium ever irreparably harms another; everything adapts and evolves.
Everyone understands newspapers are in the throes of their largest changes since photography or coloured ink arrived. The issue isn't whether, but how, they will change in the time to come.
Len Kubas is one of North America's leading newspaper consultants. His latest report, Navigating Newspapers to a Brighter Future, isn't especially rosy about what is ahead. It's tough sledding. But he's not predicting doom and gloom, providing companies pick up their games.
Kubas assesses several problems, principal among them a focus on "performance measures" (read: high markups for high profits) that are being overtaken by new market forces (Wal-Mart's approach of lower margins and higher sales volumes).
And his prescription is a tall order: free papers, compact papers, modular ads, more colour, "lite" papers and a raft of niche publications. Most important of all: a digital-first culture.
"The major challenge for companies or industries wanting to reinvent their business models in the face of disruptive change is that in order to move forward, most will have to abandon any hope of retreating to what worked so well before," he writes.
But overall, Kubas is every bit as optimistic as other key industry reports in recent times, such as the Newspaper Next project from the American Press Institute.
In the end, he doesn't see diminution as inevitable, but he sees diversification as inescapable.