What does an aircraft's engineering have to do with content that matters for readers? As a first-time blogger for INMA, I'd like to set the stage on the subject of “content” a bit differently than tradition might suggest.
During World War II, the British were taking an air beating at the hands of the Germans and couldn't figure out why their aircraft couldn't stand-up to the Luffwaffe. The best British engineers couldn't figure it out. Out of desperation, they commissioned a college engineering class to help them solve the puzzle.
The class asked for pictures of every aircraft that comes back showing any bullet holes and/or damage. Over a period of weeks, they accumulated thousands of pictures from which to view the damage. They then created a full-sized aircraft mock-up and proceeded to place an “X” on this mock-up where the aircraft took a bullet. Over time they had a full-sized mock-up with literally thousands of “X's” covering the entire aircraft to show the location on the aircraft that had received battle damage.
They returned to the greatest minds in Britain with their findings. At the beginning of the presentation, they made the bold statement: We have found the problem and thus the solution to your quandry. If you look at this full-scale mock-up, you will note an “X” indicates where bullet holes have pierced the skin of the aircraft, thus making your problem easy to spot. The skeptical engineers noted the “X's,” but laughingly made the statement, that shows us nothing of value. We already knew the aircraft took thousands of hits, this is a waste ot time, we are no further now than months ago in our efforts to solve this riddle.
The students simply said, you will note this six-by-four section along the top of the aircraft has no bullet holes or apparant damage. The engineers made note, but moved on focusing on the actual visable damage. The students then suggested, with bullet holes literally covering the entire aircraft other than this small section, doesn't that seem a bit odd to you? Could this possibly indicate any aircraft hit in this small location never came back? As they looked further, they found all the electronics and navigation equipment was housed underneath that small, but most vital section of the aircraft. Once an aircraft was hit in that vital section, going down was certain. By simply re-enforcing that small, but vital section, the course of the air war over Britian was changed forever.
How does this relate to newspaper and more specifically, content? I believe that oftentimes we as an industry spend all our waking hours focusing on the visual damage such as the financials and so forth, while we overlook the simple reinforcements needed to protect our franchise.
In this day and age of economic struggles, are we still pumping out the same message and content we have pumped out for decades? I certainly hope not! Isn't it pretty clear that the message we are providing along with the platform we are providing it on are telling us, loud and clear, you must change and you must change quickly in order to survive?
We must not forget the challenging economic conditions our industry is experiencing isn't unique only to our industry. Most of our readers are going through the same challenging conditions in their personal lives and must make alterations in their lives to survive as well. Has our content shifted in such a way as to help them navigate this environment as well? Are we providing information that allows them to live more frugally? How to stretch their dollars and eat for less? In general, how to navigate their bottom-line much the same way we seek to better navigate our companies' bottom-lines.
I don't mean an occassional piece on frugal living; I mean a product that devotes pages of content each and everyday telling our readers how to better survive. Are we marketing this indispensable value to the readers in such a way, you really need us to make it through the week and month financially?
No, this isn't the entire answer to the problems that keep many of us awake at night, but it is a small start that takes little money and can be done with only a little bit of forethought. It is all about connecting with our readers. Connect, and you win. Fail to connect, and you lose. Very simple!