2013 will bring tighter resources, higher expectations


Perspective is defined as a “visible scene,” the “state of one’s ideas,” and the “facts known to one.” Perspective is inherently good, just as sight is better than blindness.

But the power of perspective is also inherently flawed by what we cannot see, the facts we don’t know, and the natural barriers to changing the “state of one’s ideas.”

When I look at the newsmedia industry, I see an industry undergoing significant change in pursuit of audience, revenue, and profitability.

Most newsmedia companies are no longer in denial about losing control of the distribution of their content. And a growing number have recognised — after ad revenue declined 50% over the past six years in the United Statse — that they need to leverage their established brands and core competencies across a broader range of services to generate new revenue. (See my March 16, 2011 INMA blog post, “Leveraging core newspaper assets: credibility, brand equity, and reach.”)

From a distance, the newsmedia industry appears to have been ripped open from the ankle to the throat.

A closer view reveals that parts of the business are pursuing future audience and revenue while other parts are grinding away to make the core business — still the source of 90% of revenue and profit — even more efficient. Their efforts include increasing subscription rates, installing paywalls, outsourcing distribution, reducing staff, and other cost-cutting measures.

Those tasked with selling print ads and home delivery newspaper subscriptions more efficiently and effectively have had little choice but to adapt to the new normal: tighter resources with higher expectations.

As they look around their workplace, they not only notice four in 10 of their co-workers are no longer there, they’ve likely assumed their duties, as well. Tasked with doing more with less, their perspective has been narrowed to doing a thousand little things better in order to deliver one big cost-savings number.

Those tasked with finding and delivering future audience and revenue also have had little choice but to adapt to the new normal. Their perspective has been stretched to the horizon and back. They know their time on the “audience and revenue” stage is limited, which in turn drives their desire for immediate and meaningful results.

As you can imagine, the perspective of those pursuing future audience, revenue, and profitability is quite different than those left with the job of “bringing costs in line with declining revenue.”

Yet the success of both groups is critical to the future of the newsmedia industry. And the success of both groups — those building the future and those managing the present — ultimately depends on the perspective of their company’s leadership.

As we plan for 2013 and beyond, now is either the best time to lead a newsmedia company or the worst time — depending on your perspective. Those tasked with leading have little choice but to adopt a broad perspective when considering the future and a narrow perspective when managing the core business.

Despite what they cannot see, the facts they don’t know, and the barriers to change, we do know that resources will be tight and expectations will be high.

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