Ten years ago, the “must have” competencies for successfully operating a newspaper were quite different than they are today. While some of those competencies remain, a prioritised list would look quite different for today’s news media company.

Who would argue that owning a printing press or possessing printing expertise would not be near the top of a short list of key competencies for newspapers back in 2004? Yet today there are a number of news media companies that no longer print their own newspapers – or print anything for that matter.

In a world where change seems to be one of the few things that can be counted upon, there remain several key competencies that are critical to the future financial success of news media companies.

Database capabilities

If newspapers would have heeded the calls of “database prophets” back in the 1990s, there is a good chance today’s news media companies might look quite different.

Knowing who your customers are is critical for any business, especially one that delivers a physical product to customers every day or week. Knowing who your customers are would likely make it easier to identify those who are not your customers as well as those who are your best prospects.

Successful news media companies recognise the importance of possessing database competencies in today’s world. They understand it is more about establishing standards and a sustainable process than finding the holy grail of software that delivers mythical results at the touch of a button.

The ongoing challenge is finding a way to bring together information from de-centralised business systems and a revolving door of other data collection points into a single integrated database that accurately reflects customers and prospects in the market.

The companies that have invested time, talent, and resources to develop database competencies find themselves in an enviable position today.

Commerce capabilities

Selling something used to be as simple as opening the cash register drawer. Today it requires news media organisations to set up “cash registers” wherever consumers and businesses spend money — which, by the way, is everywhere.

It is sad testimony when the small independent start-up business down the street has more robust commerce capabilities than the 100-plus-year-old local media company.

News media companies have focused their resources on making sure their content was accessible across all platforms. But what a different world it might be if they had made a similar effort to ensure consumers and businesses could transact business with them across those same platforms.

It seems illogical that a child can take credit and debit card transactions at their neighbourhood Kool-Aid stand while the local multi-million dollar media company struggles to establish cross-platform commerce capabilities.

The companies that have acquired cross-platform commerce capabilities have a healthier balance sheet today compared to those that are still struggling to find new cash registers.

Marketing capabilities

It should come as no surprise that the Content Marketing Institute believes “content is the present – and future – of marketing.”

It also should come as no surprise to news media company owners – or any business owner for that matter – that without money in the cash register, nothing else matters. Successful news media companies understand there is no such thing as “traditional” marketing or “new” marketing; there is just marketing.

Yes, the tools and channels continue to evolve and proliferate, but there is no substitute for marketing competency when it comes to ensuring the future financial success of news media organisation.

News media companies that view marketing as a cost are likely not measuring the return on their marketing efforts. News media companies that view marketing as an investment – and measure the return on that investment every day – are in the best position to achieve ongoing financial success.

There are certainly other key competencies required for success today, but these three – database, commerce, and marketing – play a critical role when it comes to the financial success of news media organisations.