As senior editor for INMA, I’ve hijacked Earl’s blog for the day. Everyone who knows Earl knows the man can talk. In this nine-minute interview by Toronto-based VP Digital, he does just that, sharing his thoughts on iPads (how they did — and did not — change the industry), the transitional newsroom (we’re looking for more oxygen, not more content), business models (think memberships not just paywalls), and corporate culture (which trumps everything else).
What we also know about Earl is that he doesn’t like to toot his own horn. So I’m doing it for him.
Earl is a worldwide leader in our industry. So sit back and enjoy nine minutes of perspective we all need to hear. Below are the interview highlights:
On the transition to digital from a newsroom perspective:
“The No. 1 thing to look for in terms of changing newsrooms is the fact that there is not one deadline. There are 1,440 minutes in a day and those are your 1,440 deadlines. So how do we build newsrooms and news organisations around those ideas? I would make the argument that as we transition our culture to multi-media, that more and more it’s going to be less about quality journalism ... [and more about] how to inject oxygen into the journalism that we produce.
“Look for the oxygen to build up the journalism, not more journalism.”
On the iPad:
“The iPad forced a couple of cultural issues. It forced news executives to choose. I can’t begin to tell you how big a deal that’s going to be in a couple of years. Right now, if you ask the average newsroom, ‘What is your geographic area?’ ‘Everywhere.’ ‘How many beats would you have if you could have as much money as you [wanted]?’ ‘Everything.’ In the printed newspaper, you would just print more pages. The iPad forced companies to say, ‘Here are the top five things we’re really good at, and now maybe let’s create ... some verticals for that.’ That is the biggest short-term contributor.”
“People keep looking for the single answer to paid content. And I would make the argument that it’s a little like doctors and patients. It’s humans and it’s doctors, but the patients are all different. I think there’s a series of checklists.
“No. 1, if you have assets like e-commerce, ticketing, and the like, paywalls make no sense. You want as many eyeballs with credit cards looking at those assets as possible. You’ve got key publishers in Australia, in Europe, and even in North America that have those.
“Most companies, on the other hand, are beginning to say, ‘Look, we’ve got to put a price tag on what we produce and at least create perceived value. We would love to generate great revenue like the Financial Times or The New York Times, but perceived value is the key.’
“I don’t believe that a paywall by itself is much of an answer. I do believe that bundled print, Web, iPad, and smartphone subscriptions — maybe even twist those into memberships — make a lot more sense. You put the paywall in that context, I love it.”
“About 13 months ago, I was on one of these world-wind tours ... and I happen to be in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America. I talked to publishers who had never talked to one another before. Oddly enough, they all sort of came to the same conclusion ... that here we are on the precipice of truly integrating media, taking advantage of multi-media, and we’ve got the wrong people to deal with this at almost every level. They said, ‘My God, we’ve been talking about this for a decade and now then it’s here.’ And to hear these same conclusions with publishers who had never talked with one another just blew me away.
“I’ve come to the conclusion ... that culture trumps strategy 100% of the time. If you don’t solve the issues of 1,440 minutes versus one print deadline, if you don’t solve the issues of brand marketing instead of product marketing, if you don’t find that single metric that rallies the entire company ... practically speaking, we are not competitive with the digital world that is emerging.”
That should give you some food for thought on a Friday.
Earl and I look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles at the 2012 World Congress!