As the months and years unfold, it is becoming very clear that future business success belongs to the nimble and quick in lieu of the traditional, slow, and legacy-driven.
Many businesses throughout United States seem to have hit their economic bottom, and some are even showing healthy bounce-backs. However, those successes have in large part managed to elude the newspaper industry as it continues to remain somewhat challenged on several levels.
Certainly the scale varies. Larger markets have taken on the “Dead Man Walking” mantra, while mid-markets have fared slightly better and many smaller markets have managed to maintain their bottom lines through these challenging economic times.
Regardless of market size, the loud and obnoxious knocks on the door are growing more prevalent. Better put, the loud knocks might be the sound of caskets being lowered into the graves.
Newspapers are fighting economic trends that have been well established and documented for more than a decade. Many newspaper markets of all sizes can add up the death notices carried in their pages over the past 10 years, and they will find this number will somewhat mirror their circulation losses during this same time period.
In past generations, that wasn’t quite as big a deal as younger potential readers actually did replace aging readers, like clockwork. Those days are gone forever with younger readers obtaining their information through other means or forms of media. The pipeline is now nearly empty, though, and the pressure will continue to mount. In fact it may well begin accelerating, if we can even imagine acceleration of declining circulation.
That being the case, newspapers must prepare strategically for the inevitable continued loss of circulation as boomers continue to increase in age. That begs the question: What do we do to properly prepare for the future, which is fast approaching?
First, let me start with what not to do. While our expense model is a problem, we can’t start with the cut-and-slash mentality that will only lead to a less viable product and leave us with few resources with which to fight the fight.
Next, we must not only understand trends, but build our house to adapt to those trends. In other words, start moving as quickly as possible towards new technology while we are riding the shrinking wave of the old technology.
What can we do? This blog is referred to as the “Value of Content” blog. What is the value of our content? And is the price we pay for that content too steep a price to continue paying in a new business model? Taking that to the next level, will additional valued content help generate additional revenue? One can make the argument that new, enhanced, and desirable content can help turn this around even as traditional revenue streams remained challenged.
How can newspaper companies create 20%, 30% or even 50% more sought-after content with current resources? We can start by understanding the cost of our current content and then comparing this to our peers or, more importantly, our competitors. Once we understand the cost difference, we can then move in a direction that equalises that cost, which will then allow the industry to become more aggressive in obtaining new revenue streams derived from the content equation.
Patch, Huffington Post and others are succeeding by providing content for far less then the legacy-driven operations their competitors continue to utilise. The legacy-baced newspaper competitors continue to insist that the public wants the quality they produce despite the high cost to produce it. That is most likely true of the legacy readers, but a failing notion. But bear in mind, overall quality may well be measured much differently by younger readers who consider platforms and ease of obtaining the information as very large part of the overall quality equation.
Put another way, to future readers, the platform has become nearly as important as the content that resides on that platform. To think otherwise may well be the last mistake your newspaper has to endure!