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7 traps newspapers should avoid in the recovery

24 May 2010 · By Kylie Davis

The seven traps newspapers should avoid in the recovery.

This is just a quickie blog as my blogging and social networking mentor, Laurel Papworth, says you can always tell a newspaper journalist from a born blogger because we journos always tend to write laborious, thoughtful and considered pieces, just as we would in print.

Cyberspace, however, is much looser and fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants, so I thought I'd give the off-the-cuff style a whirl.

Saw a great piece in the Australian business magazine BRW recently that looks at traps to avoid in the recovery.

While the advice on how to avoid those traps was Aussie-specific, I loved the headlines and thought they offered a great list of things newspaper companies should be thinking about now as we start to claw our way forward again.

So, with thanks to Leo D'Angelo Fisher who compiled the original list, the seven traps newspapers should avoid in the recovery are:

1. Growth is more important than cash flow: Pretty self-explanatory, but the message being, “no, growth is not more important than cash flow.” Lashing out on new apps is only OK if there's enough classified revenue to justify the business development.

2. I survived the global financial crisis (GFC), so it's business as usual: Particularly pertinent to newspaper companies. We've undergone major step change as well as the GFC, so life is never going to go back to “normal” again.

3. Throw away the business plan, growth will take care of itself: Never ever before have newspaper companies so desperately needed good solid business plans that include a strong dose of (properly costed) business development — and shared them with (all) their staff.

4. Profit margins can fall as long as the business is growing: Wow, haven't newspapers proved this over the past 15 years with our digital growth? Interesting in light of the lessons we have learned from the switch from print advertising and profit margins to digital advertising and profit margins. Anyone got an answer on how to turn it around, post a comment immediately!

5. Now that the worst is behind us, staff will forgive and forget: Read this and laughed my head off — in a sad and ironic way, of course. While we might be able to encourage forgiveness, the rounds of redundancies carry deep scars, and heavy workloads both for the staff left behind and the managers trying to enthuse them. A move away from the hard-school of HR to softer approaches is essential, as is moving away from hierarchies and embracing matrix structures so project work is able to be done quickly.

6. Misguided optimism: It is possible, and scary, that the downturn has run its course. It is even scarier — and sillier — to think that technical changes have run their course, or that we can wait to get our brains around them.

7. Banks will ease their clamp on credit: So highly leveraged newspaper companies are going to continue to struggle.

Got any other lessons newspaper companies should learn from what we've just been through? Post a comment.



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About this blog

Kylie Davis is the head of real estate solutions, Australia and New Zealand, at CoreLogic, the world’s largest provider of property data. She was previously the network editor of real estate at News Corp Australia, managing editor of business development at Fairfax, and founder of The Village Voice group of newspapers. Follow her @kyliecdavis.


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