Disruptive Innovation

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Disruptive Innovation

What local content will really drive audience engagement?

17 April 2016 · By Steve Gray

How do you define the mission and purpose of local reporting?

Cover the news? Hold institutions accountable? Maintain a well-informed citizenry? Hold up a mirror to the community? “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?

Search around the Web for statements of journalism’s purpose and you’ll find all of the above, and more like them.

And there’s a lot of anxiety these days about the present and future of this mission. With local advertising and circulation revenues spiraling steadily downward, and with newsrooms shrinking along a parallel line, two things are evident.

Local readers want solutions to their everyday problems.

Whatever the mission of local reporting ...


The future of local advertising will be built on Big Data

22 March 2016 · By Steve Gray

At Morris Publishing Group, we are working to figure out how we will offer Big Data services to local advertisers, so I’ve been getting a series of demonstrations from Big Data providers.

Just lately, we’ve been getting down into the details. For me, this brought a profound leap in comprehension.

It was like staring into a crystal ball and seeing a monumental event thats about to change your life.

The detail provided by Big Data offers ample opportunities for media companies working with advertisers.

If you follow this blog, you know I was already sold on the power and potential of Big Data in local markets. Recently I wrote a post that exhorted local media companies to be the first to “Take Big Data to Main Street.”

In that post, I made the case for Big Data as well as I could, and Im not going to repeat it here. Rather, this time, I want to try to convey the immense and far-reaching impact that the Big Data revolution will ...


What Procter & Gamble can teach media companies about revenue disruption

21 February 2016 · By Steve Gray

What could disrupted legacy media companies possibly have in common with Procter & Gamble (P&G) — the huge and perennially successful consumer goods manufacturer?

One thing we have in common is that we both need to recognise and plan for the continuous loss of revenue from declining products.

We don’t think of P&G as needing to cope with fading products as an endemic part of its business. But 10 years ago, when I was leading the Newspaper Next project for the American Press Institute, I learned that part of its success lies in the careful planning it does to offset those declines.

We in the media business can take an important lesson from P&G’s approach.

Procter & Gamble constantly needs to innovate to stay relevant and profitable.

In late 2005, API engaged Innosight, the disruption and innovation consulting firm co-founded by Harvard Business School professor and disruption expert Clayton Christensen. The assignment: to work with us for a year to develop ...


How legacy media reps can bring in more digital revenue

27 January 2016 · By Steve Gray

How can we sell more digital? In traditional media, that question has been hounding us for years.

It’s in our heads, in our meetings, in our training, in our budgeting. Few of us are growing our digital revenues at rates anywhere near the growth rate of digital spending.

And one of the toughest challenges has been getting our core sales reprentatives to present digital advertising and marketing solutions effectively to their existing customers.

For most of us, whether we’re in print or broadcast, it’s discouraging to look closely at how few of our core customers are buying digital from us. And, if they’re buying, it’s sad to see how weak the digital add-ons often are.

En route to a Morris Publishing Group digital sales summit a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany on this point.

I was thinking about print ads, which, frankly, I don’t do very often. More specifically, though, I was thinking about how consumer behaviour has changed these days, in those moments when people encounter a product they may want to buy or a business they may want to patronise.

They go online – often via their smartphones – to learn more. I do it all the time, and I'm sure you do, too.

Then – wham! – it hit me ...


4 tips for leading news media companies in times of change

06 January 2016 · By Steve Gray

When your organisation needs large-scale change (and what disrupted media organisation doesn’t?), how do you get it done?

Terabytes have been written about the strategies and tactics legacy media organisations need. I’ve written my share, too, at MediaReset.com. But I’ve seen precious little written about how to lead and manage effective change in carrying out these strategies.

That’s a strange oversight, because most great strategies are doomed to fail if they aren’t combined with excellent approaches in dealing with people. As in the human body, change in an organisation will attract internal antibodies intent on neutralizing, co-opting, or marginalising the intended outcomes.

The fact is, life-saving changes in a disrupted organisation can only be accomplished through an effective mix of people skills and good strategies. Good strategies are almost always doomed to indifferent outcomes or outright failure if they aren’t nurtured through effective leadership tactics.

In my 40 years of managing, I’ve come to believe in a set of key approaches for mobilising people around necessary change and getting things done. I’ll share some of them here.

At this point, I no longer remember which of these I discovered on my own and which were borrowed or adapted from others. But for me, these are related models that form a ...


Yes, local news media companies can make money from digital ad targeting

29 November 2015 · By Steve Gray

For several years, local media companies have been in a nasty predicament.

We’ve worked hard for years to build sizable, high-quality local audiences on our Web sites. And we’ve worked hard to sell banner advertising on those sites.

But we haven’t been able to sell what savvy digital advertisers now want and expect: highly targeted impressions on our sites reaching only the individuals with the highest propensity to buy their products or services.

We’ve been left behind.

All we’ve been able to sell are run-of-site banners seen by all visitors, or banners on certain pages or sections, or in-market impressions. These are clumsy and inadequate substitutes for the hyper-targeting that smart advertisers want today.

In digital marketing, the big buzz around Big Data is about the ability to compare each reader’s characteristics against an advertiser’s specs, and – if there’s a match – fire an ad into place in microseconds.

Everyone who uses the Web experiences this constantly. More and more, the digital ads you see are based on the sites you have visited, the content you’ve seen, and the searches you’ve done, matched up with your offline characteristics that Big Data companies have managed to ...


It’s time for news media companies to take Big Data to Main Street

03 November 2015 · By Steve Gray

What if your local media company had a product that could make local businesses say, “Wow! Can you really do that?”

That’s the Holy Grail of media sales – a solution that meets an urgent need for customers in a way they have never before thought possible.

I saw that kind of solution a couple of weeks ago. I promise you – it will be big.

Best of all, it’s within our grasp as local media companies, and nobody else seems to be taking it to the streets in our markets yet.

It won’t be long before someone does. We need to be the first.

What’s this exciting solution? It’s taking Big Data to Main Street.

That is, it’s helping local businesses use Big Data to hyper-target their most likely potential customers.

Big Data has been much discussed in the media business for several years.

As used by marketers, the term refers to the incredibly detailed data now available about individual consumers and households, compiled from ...


A 20-year story of employee newspaper ownership comes to an end

07 October 2015 · By Steve Gray

Photo from outside the front of the Monroe Publishing Company's offices

Twenty years ago, my family had a problem.

We were the sole and devoted owners of a successful stand-alone daily newspaper in Monroe, Michigan. But our principle shareholders – my father and his brother and sister – were advancing in years and had no solution in place to transfer ownership to my generation.

It seemed we had two options. We could keep going until one of the three died, which would force a distressed sale. Or we could move immediately toward sale, but take our time in finding a buyer who would continue our tradition of good journalism and service to the community.

Months passed without a decision. Then, almost by chance ...


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 ...


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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