Disruptive Innovation

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Disruptive Innovation

8 marketing services your news media company should offer local businesses

13 September 2015 · By Steve Gray

When your comfortable, well-established business model is being disrupted, one of the toughest challenges is looking beyond your old business model to visualise what you must become.

In past posts, one by one, I’ve pointed out a host of new opportunities that are emerging in local media markets. In this post, I’m going to roll them up into a single new business entity we can visualise and work to develop.

Metaphorically, you could say we used to dominate our markets with a burger-and-fries kind of business. The burger was the media channel we owned – the space in the newspaper or the air time on our television channel or radio station.

We sold the burger to almost all of our accounts. And we also tried to sell them some fries on the side – such as banner ads on our Web sites and other ancillary products and services. But really, it was all about the burger.

Today, our audiences are consuming vastly more kinds of media than ever before. They still like burgers, but they’re all over the Web consuming offerings we didn’t create and probably can’t. To reach their target audiences, the businesses in our markets need more than just our burgers and fries.

And, as I wrote in my last post, we’re living in a direct-access world now, where businesses need to ...


Why direct access is a huge disruption of local media advertising

16 August 2015 · By Steve Gray

For local news media, the most crippling disruption served up by the Internet isn’t in news – it’s in advertising.

And it’s not just other players getting the ad spending we used to get, although there’s plenty of that going on.

The more insidious advertising disruption is that local businesses need less and less advertising than they once did.


Because the digital revolution has opened an infinite number of direct channels between consumers and businesses. This is a revolution happening right before our eyes.

In the old, pre-digital days, businesses had to buy space or time in other people’s media channels to reach consumers. The media – newspapers, radio, television, magazines, yellow pages – owned the pipes that went direct to the consumer. They had the audiences; businesses didn’t.

So businesses had to pay the media to push their advertising messages through their channels.

Now audience access is no longer exclusive, and ...


How to make money on mobile (hint: it’s not banner ads)

08 July 2015 · By Steve Gray

How to make money on mobile” — sounds like a great session for a publishers’ conference, doesn’t it? It’s a big topic for local media businesses these days, as Web traffic surpasses desktop traffic for more and more newspapers, magazines, and broadcast stations.

That’s why I spent an afternoon searching the Web recently. I was looking for a speaker who could nail this topic for an upcoming conference of a major U.S. newspaper association.

After a couple of hours, I gave up.

I had no problem finding people who were opining on what publishers should do on mobile. The supply seemed unlimited. But all of them were talking about how to get their own content read or consumed (video) on mobile.

As for making money, the only idea anyone seemed to have was banner ads.

Banner ads on mobile. Yuck.

Not that we shouldn’t try to get our content consumed on mobile. We absolutely should.

And not that we shouldn’t sell banner ads on mobile. We should.

But the money to be made there is minuscule. It will definitely grow a lot in the coming years — and even then, it will still be minuscule.

OK, then, where can local media find a real revenue ...


Local retailers need e-commerce, so let’s give it to them

14 June 2015 · By Steve Gray

A recent e-mail from Internet Retailer grabbed my attention.

Its purpose was to plug the new annual Top 500 Guide – a huge directory packed with stats on who’s big in e-commerce, who’s growing market share, and who’s not.

But what caught my eye was the take on what’s new in the data.

For years, it said, previous guides had shown big-box stores getting drubbed in e-commerce sales by Web-only e-tailers.

“But,” the e-mail said, “ ... that began changing in 2013, when the chains closed the gap by growing their online sales by 16.7%, taking market share away from manufacturers and catalogers. ...

“(T)he retail chains grew their share of the e-commerce market again ...


3 reasons to have hope for the media business model: Millennials, metrics, math

20 May 2015 · By Steve Gray

Lots of people understand that the traditional business model around news is breaking down. Far fewer realise it’s not just the business part – advertising – that’s broken. It’s also news itself.

Why is this so hard to understand?

A planet full of people is going from a daily diet of a newspaper and a couple of news broadcasts to constant access to almost everything there is to know. Inevitably, this is causing people today to want and expect different things from their time spent on content than people did 20 or 50 years ago.

But what we produce as news has hardly changed.

I’ve been banging the drum for content change for 10 years now, since the beginning of the now long-dead Newspaper Next project in 2005. It has often seemed like a lonely mission. The hardest thing to change in the deeply disrupted newspaper industry has been the definition of news.

But some new developments give me a little fresh hope:

  • A paper released a few weeks ago by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center for Media ...

Why publishers need to embrace — not dismiss — content marketing

23 April 2015 · By Steve Gray

Infinite bandwidth.

For those of us in traditional media, it’s the source of our problems, and it’s also the uncharted space of our new opportunities.

With bandwidth rising toward infinity and costs falling to near zero, it’s enabling all sorts of new content models to eat our lunch. “Free” digital bandwidth has enabled all of our disrupters, from early ones like Craigslist and Facebook to newer ones like BuzzFeed, Instagram, and SnapChat. And more will keep coming.

A disrupter that’s rising fast right now is content marketing.

That’s a broad and somewhat nebulous term, but let’s define it this way: It’s the practice of developing and distributing engaging content on behalf of a brand or a business. The object is to catch and hold a target consumer’s attention, hoping to convert him or her to a user of the brand or business.

It’s important to catch the difference here. “Advertising,” in the pre-digital era, had exactly the same purpose as “content marketing,” but it was confined to ...


Millennials, news, and the Borneo effect

17 March 2015 · By Steve Gray

It’s the Year of the Millennials, according to Pew. In 2015, those ages 18 to 34 will surpass Baby Boomers in the United States to become the largest living generation.

And a major new report by the Media Insight Project, just released at the NAA mediaXchange, sheds a lot of new light on their consumption of news.

The report (pdf, html) emphasises the bright side, stressing the finding that most Millennials do value news and consume it regularly. But the most worrisome finding for newspaper companies is that they rarely go to traditional news providers to get it. We are far back in the loop, when we’re in it at all.

Beyond that key point, the most important things to grasp in this report are ...


Why we need to change the audience game

23 February 2015 · By Steve Gray

Media folks, can we all agree on this statement? We’re in the audience business.

If you disagree, we need to talk, and we’ll do that in a minute.

But first, here’s the nut graf:

As an audience business, we’re overdue for a drastic rethink of what we do. Too often, we’re still doing 20th-century audience thinking amid the starkly different realities of the 21st century. We’re getting pounded on the audience front, and we have to figure out what audience strategies will work in this new environment.

Now let’s see if we can all get on the same page regarding the importance of audience:

  • If you’re thinking we’re in the news business, you’re right. We love the news, and we’re proud of what it does for people. But the business reason for doing news is to have an audience. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.

  • If you’re thinking we’re in the sales business, you’re right. But what we sell is access to our audiences. Without an audience, we don’t have a business.

Audience is the starting point and the centerpiece of our local media businesses. That’s because ...


Local media need to join the fight for retail in-store traffic

25 January 2015 · By Steve Gray

In the local media business, whatever hurts retailers hurts us, too. They’re feeling a big hurt right now, and we need to help them fight back.

That big hurt is a steady and continuous decline in store traffic. This means loss of sales, and that leads nowhere good for them – or for local media.

Allison Schiff described the problem last week on AdExchanger.com, reporting on a talk that Lee Peterson, executive vice president of brand strategy and design at WD Partners, gave at a big retailer show in New York.

Here are some highlights:

  • In-store visits have fallen at least 5% every month for the past 30 months.

  • Holiday foot traffic was down 8.5%in 2014, but overall holiday sales were up ...

3 values crucial to your disrupted business

04 January 2015 · By Steve Gray

When your business is undergoing major disruption and must change direction, how do you get people on board? How do you win hearts and minds to the new strategies needed to survive and thrive?

Last time, I blogged about a powerful principle that helps. It goes like this: “The only thing that changes people’s behaviour is new information. They will go on doing what they're doing right now, until they get new information.”

New information is what convinces organisations and people of the need to change. And it’s the responsibility of leaders in an organisation to share the information that convinces them change is necessary. That’s what mobilises people.

If you haven’t read that post, you should probably do it now, because this post builds on it.

This post starts with the admission that even the most powerful new information won’t get some people to change. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, even when they’ve seen conclusive evidence that it isn’t working.

What’s up with that?

In the same brilliant 1992 talk I mentioned last time, Morrie Shechtman provided answers that made tremendous sense.

He asserted that people and organisations run on certain values, and that when those values differ, the result is conflict that blocks progress. Those values have much to do with ...


About this blog

I’m Steve Gray, and I blog about disruption in the media – why it’s happening and what to do about it. As the world’s information pipe expands to infinity, my goal is to help the news media industry see the new opportunities we can create in our markets. I led the American Press Institute (API) Newspaper Next project from 2005 to 2009, teaching thousands of media executives to create new business models. Since then I’ve worked on innovation projects with the newspaper, magazine and book divisions of Morris Communications in Augusta, Georgia, USA, where I am currently the vice president of strategy and innovation.

Contact Steve

Click here to message Steve

The basics of media disruption

Part I: The Mass Media era: a 150-year bubble

Part II: The end of the Mass Media Era

Part III: What about news?


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