Newspaper Next – Blueprint for transformation

I just finished reading through “Blueprint for transformation” (Local copy) , the American Press Institutes Final Report on its’ Newspaper Next project. Touting itself as:

“The American Press Institute’s groundbreaking research into the new business models for the newspaper industry: New ways to see opportunities, produce sustainable growth and reshape organizations for consistent innovation”

it sets high expectations that in short, it does not fulfill, at least for all audiences.
Being a typical report aimed at “decision makers” and “senior executives” it tries to get its message through by repetition of its arguments. The arguments itself are neither new nor surprising if you have an acquaintance with “that online business”.

Nevertheless, if you happen to work in the media industry, i recommend to read through the report (just to know what is inside) and then pass it on to the senior management of your company. It may help you to justify the natural processes you already have set up and to get the support of the senior management and official approval.

I don’t even try to summarize the nearly 100 pages, just some comments:

  • The real value of the report for me were the figures. I especially liked the “How ready for innovation are newspaper companies” on page 16 and the “Innovation process do’s and don’ts” figures on page 57.
  • I was wondering through the whole report why the report only promotes colloboration between newspapers in the area of advertising and not in reader oriented platforms. This puzzle was finally solved in the last section, revealing that this bias was more or less the result of a questionnaire answered by senior executives of newspaper companies.

IMHO you first have to build the ad places before you can sell the ads. The aspect that every web based solution, especially if it based on communities, social networking (insert your web2.0 buzzword bingo favorites here), is inherently multi-local, and the costs of setting it up for another local market are somewhat marginal is neglected.

I guess that the reason for that is that, although regional newspapers have almost always a local monopoly (at least in germany) there are fears of strengthening the competition.

A solution to this dilemma may be that the national news agencies as the “traditional” providers of shared infrastructure step in as a trusted third party.

  • Interestingly, the team members of the seven newspaper next demonstration projects described in section 4 did not include any member with a technical background (At least by looking at their job titles). This is in contrast to the typical staffing of startup companies. A technical background helps to scout new technologies and come up with new and fresh ideas how to use them in a newspaper context. It als helps to distinguish the “invest a little” from the “invest a lot” ideas.