Talk to most suppliers to the newspaper industry, and they will admit that they are usually thrown into a single bucket: “vendor.”

Look, they have an agenda. They have sales goals. They have a reason for meeting with you, and it’s not to exchange recipes. Yet they also have amazing institutional knowledge – often across a broad landscape. They often don’t even realise that they are, in fact, consultants selling services and information. That’s just not precisely what they were hired to do. 

This fact was brought home to me in recent weeks with a series of dinners, phone calls, and conference conversations with suppliers to the newspaper industry.
The special insight from recent weeks goes like this: Despite all of the personnel cutbacks, does anyone realise that the editorial, circulation, and advertising processes that were in place in 1969 are still in place in 2009?
Suppliers have suites of “newsmedia” solutions that will get newspapers operating like they are 21st century companies. Here are the barriers:
  • Capital budgets are tied up in print-centric mechanisms that are at the center of today’s retrenchment.
  • Few companies are looking for “solutions” because they can’t get rid of the editorial, circulation, and advertising processes. Thus, suppliers are selling “workarounds” that tell this 40-year-old process how to operate in 2009.
I understand the logic of “right-sizing” in an economic downturn. Yet the opportunity to “right-size” work processes – both people and machines – must be seized at this moment before business-as-usual returns.
Your suppliers are assets in this downturn. They offer outsourced solutions, flexibility, services, and information. They are in your building every day. Who’s talking with them?