Not all innovation is digital


It seems most of my columns lately have centered on the dire need to innovate and break out of the traditional chains that seem to hold newspapers back.

To be truthful, I sometimes get tired of stressing this issue again and again, after so many years and columns addressing the topic of innovation and creative thinking.

Yes, it is true that many newspapers are attempting to try new things. However, most of these new experiments and initiatives are centered on the digital impact. I stress “trying new things” because most newspapers are simply copying each other and calling this innovation. The fact of the matter is most of what we are doing has already been done to a large degree by others outside the industry, and we are simply playing follow the leader.

I have to ask: What great innovations have we seen lately on the traditional print side of the aisle? When 90% of our revenue stream is still dependent upon this critical print element, it seems innovation and creativity are surely warranted in this arena, as well.

We have been told for so long (and rightfully so) that we must keep the new media far away from the sucking sound of the core. While working hard to do just that, we may have forgotten that the sucking sound of the core is also the mother ship, so to speak.

I would submit that if we devoted the same energy to the print side of the ship, we could still buy many years, if not a decade or more, to better solve the digital quandary. It is as plain as the day is long that we must devote attention, resources, and manpower to the new and exciting digital frontier. But what is also plain as day is that we are neglecting the bread and butter of the franchise with this approach.

Studies have shown in most industries, and ours is no exception, that if we can retain just 5% of the current business we would otherwise have lost, we can grow our overall bottom line by approximately 100%. How many of us could handle a bottom line 100% higher than it currently is?

We as an industry need to get to work protecting the core through innovation and creativity just as we have devoted those essential resources to the digital arena, as well. It isn’t either/or — it is both. Those who figure this out will ultimately be much better off than those bailing on print far too prematurely.

The future will be very bright for many who catch this vision, not so bright for those with one-track minds.

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