The Earl Blog

The Earl Blog - Global Newsmedia Industry

Why INMA will keep talking about culture change at newspapers

28 June 2011 · By Earl J. Wilkinson

Our industry's challenges are most clearly evident at the foundational, strategic, organisational levels of news companies. That is why INMA is relentlessly standing and fighting for transformational change at those levels.

In thumbing through the evaluations from the recent INMA World Congress in New York, a comment from a U.S. attendee popped off the page that I, no doubt, took far too seriously: stop talking to us about culture change if it can’t affect my position back home.

The comment has gnawed at me for a month, and I need to stop biting my tongue and put in writing what’s on my mind.

Consider the facts in the national market the world thinks is either a leading indicator or an outlier to avoid, the United States:

  • Newspaper advertising sales have declined for 18 consecutive quarters dating to 2005. Print advertising expenditures are at their lowest level since 1983.

  • Paid circulation for daily newspapers has decreased every year since 1986. Circulation as a percentage of the population has decreased every year since the 1950s.

  • Our industry’s response has been to cut people and newsprint, often without regard for priorities or the customer.

  • The top publishers refuse to collaborate on anything meaningful such as industry innovation, incubation, or experimentation.

  • When the analyst community five years ago gave publicly traded newspapers a green light to lower profit margins to heavily invest in digital, sales, marketing and research, publishers dabbled but mostly passed.

  • The old beacons to whom we have turned in the past for inspiration and guidance — Editor & Publisher, Presstime, Deutsche Bank and other fantastic analysts who covered the industry — are all dead, dying, or irrelevant.

About 15 months ago, I was on the phone with the CEO of a newspaper company who told me the quarterly numbers about to come out would show only single-digit decreases in advertising sales — projecting increases by the next quarter. More than a year later, newspapers are still shedding 7%-10% in advertising revenue each quarter off of a lower and lower base.

The reason INMA chooses to relentlessly pursue the encouragement of culture change at news companies is that our industry’s challenges remain at the foundational, strategic, organisational levels. When we look around, INMA is the only organisation still standing and fighting for transformational change in our industry.

And in moments of doubt, the funny thing is publishers whisper to us: “Keep pushing!”

Why?

Because as easy as it is to blame CEOs and shareholders for the mess our industry is in, the dirty truth is many of them are fighting daily for change — but their companies are populated by newsrooms, pressrooms, unions, and fiefdoms that are finding new and innovative ways to stop or slow the change.

There are too many people in our industry marking time to retirement, fighting the small changes that prevent us from ever considering the big changes.

I love the idea that CEOs can snap their fingers and things happen; the truth is they run big companies populated with complicated eddies that require constant finessing. Sometimes leadership can be top-down. Mostly, leadership is the clever facilitation of bottom-up.

Hamstrung by crap deals that saddled their companies with debt, more people and bigger products is not a path to success.

So what are publishers left with if they are to break these structural shifts in consumption and marketing habits?

No, wait. We shouldn’t be talking about such things. It won’t do any good. Right?

Culture change in the news industry involves a collection of practices that break from the past, some obvious and some not-so-obvious — yet all not generally practiced in our industry even today:

  • Listen to the market.
  • Prioritise expenditures to your USPs.
  • Outsource, link or cut what isn’t your USP.
  • More sales feet on the street.
  • Invest in research.
  • Digital first.
  • Focus relentlessly on your differentiators.
  • Sell market solutions, not space.
  • Dialogue, not monologue.
  • Embrace the crowd.
  • Be willing to fail, but fail fast.
  • Go on the offense for readers and advertisers.
  • Speed over perfection.
  • You can’t be all things to all people.
  • Respect the platform for its unique value.
  • Go where the growth is.
  • Be relevant.
  • Place many small bets.
  • Low-cost innovation.

If INMA can help nudge our industry 1% on any of these issues by stubbornly refusing to give up hope that transformational change is possible, then we have fulfilled our mission.

Our industry’s challenges are not across the board, they are not at the best-practice level, and they are not about honing our skills at following the pack from the format change flavour of the month to the Groupon flavour of the month.

Our industry’s challenges are at the foundational level. It will require hard work, strategic change, and persistence.

Are you in?


print article send to friend


blog comments powered by Disqus
About Earl

Earl J. Wilkinson is executive director and CEO of INMA. In his interactions with INMA members worldwide, Earl has one of the broadest views of newspapers of anyone serving our industry today. He is a trendspotter and a leading advocate for cultural change, transformation, and innovation. This blog represents his unique view of the emerging global news media industry.

Biography | INMA profile



Find Earl on the following social networks

Earl on Facebook
Earl on Twitter
Earl on LinkedIn
Earl on YouTube


Contact Earl

Click here to message Earl


Click below for “News Media Outlook 2014: Navigating the Minefield”

News Media Outlook 2014


Subscribe

RSS feed
E-newsletter


Blog archives

October 2014 ( 2 )
August 2014 ( 1 )
July 2014 ( 1 )
June 2014 ( 1 )
May 2014 ( 1 )
April 2014 ( 1 )
March 2014 ( 1 )
February 2014 ( 1 )
January 2014 ( 1 )
October 2013 ( 1 )
September 2013 ( 1 )
August 2013 ( 3 )


Join INMA Today
 
Upcoming Events
Mar
09
INMA Mobile Summit for Engagement and Profit
Austin, United States
09-10 March 2015
Mar
26
Big Data for Media Conference
London, United Kingdom
26-27 March 2015
Apr
08
INMA Augmenting Print with Digital Workshop
New Delhi, India
08 April 2015
Apr
24
INMA Ideas Day on Advertising
Paris, France
24 April 2015
May
10
INMA World Congress
New York, United States
10-12 May 2015
May
22
INMA Ideas Day on Marketing
Brussels, Belgium
22 May 2015
Jun
12

More Events

Member Profiles

  • Marcela Trejos
    Costa Rica


  • Hameed Haroon
    Pakistan


  • Yasmin Namini
    USA



  • Marcelo Rech
    Brazil


  • Elena Cristofori
    Italy


  • Gauri Dakhne
    India



©2014 INMA | Home | About | Contact | RSS | Privacy