The news about the newspaper business is bad. Circulation is sliding. Revenue is plummeting. Papers are closing. Layoffs abound.
For consumers, we will be their essential connection to community life—news, information, commerce, social life. Like many Internet users turn first to Google, whatever their need, we want Eastern Iowans to turn first to Gazette Communications, whatever their need. For businesses, we will be their essential connection to customers, often making the sale and collecting the money. We will become the Complete Community Connection.
Our company will provide an interactive, well-organized, easily searched, ever-growing, always updated wealth of community news, information and opportunities on multiple platforms. We need to become the connection to everything people and businesses need to know and do to live and do business in Eastern Iowa. We need to change from producing new material for one-day consumption in the print product or half-hour consumption in the broadcast product to producing new content for this growing community network of information and opportunities.
We will reach some people who never read The Gazette and watch KCRG by doing important jobs such as connecting them with people of common interests or helping them find the products and services that help them live their lives. We will serve other people in multiple ways, producing and delivering their morning paper and their evening newscast, providing text news alerts during the day and networking them in the community in a variety of ways.
We need to look at mobile opportunities and email opportunities as well as print and web. And we should watch for new opportunities as new technology presents new ways to connect. We should explore every possibility for providing people the news and information they want when they want it, whether that means email, text message, RSS feed, Twitter feed, social media, iPod, game device, GPS device or some other way of interaction. And, of course, print and broadcast will remain key platforms for some of this content for the foreseeable future.
C3 will be “my” web site, “my” email alert, “my” podcast, “my” text buddy, “my” shopping solution, “my” connection to customers, “my” solution for lots of life’s little and big jobs for individuals and businesses alike. (And yes, still, “my” newspaper.)
Revenue generation traditionally isn’t a journalist’s job, but helping develop a business model for the future of journalism is every journalist’s job today. The job cuts throughout our industry (including here) have done too much damage to journalism to cling to our long-nurtured disdain for the economic facts of life. Journalists can protect our integrity and still collaborate in developing a new business model.
Content and revenue must be planned together, so any innovation plan must address both needs. While I know big parts of the solutions here will and should come from colleagues in other departments, revenue generation must be part of the vision and I discuss it extensively throughout this blueprint.
I will cite specific examples as I explain details of this blueprint, but those examples are only a start of the model I envision for C3 to move toward results-based performance of jobs for businesses, including conducting transactions for business customers. We need to connect the business with the customer and collect the money, taking a reasonable cut for ourselves.
That's good stuff, and long overdue. I'm going to take the liberty of breaking the next excerpt into bullets—you're welcome, Steve!—for better digestion:
- Gift registries for weddings, anniversaries, graduations, babies, retirements and holidays are important opportunities.
- Obituaries offer chances to send flowers and contribute to memorial funds.
- Our products and content relating to the arts and entertainment must include opportunities to buy tickets to movies, concerts and other events online or to buy books or download songs.
- Sports sites will offer chances to buy tickets, clothing, memorabilia, etc.
- The calendar will offer registration for events and classes, ticket sales and so on.
- Dining content will include opportunities to make reservations or buy gift certificates.
- For Hawkeye sporting events, community festivals and University of Iowa events such as graduation and orientation, we will offer chances to make reservations online for lodging, meals and entertainment.
- Our iGuide business directory needs to include options for coupons, gift certificates, direct purchases, making reservations, placing orders, requesting information.
- When we use traditional ads priced by how many thousand people see them, we should seek to include options to click to download a coupon, buy a gift certificate or order a product, delivering more value for the business and a bigger pay-for-performance cut for us.
With online advertising rates low and print advertising revenue declining precipitously and local broadcast revenue also in decline, newspapers need to broaden our vision of serving business customers and move swiftly into direct sales and other business services such as lead-generation and email marketing. This may be a phased process, where we start with lead generation, coupons, inquiries and links to business web sites as we work out the technology challenges of interfacing with the inventory and ordering software of other companies or find a vendor who has already figured that out. Of course, as we work those challenges out, we will have tremendous economic opportunities in selling our solutions throughout the industry.
As you read this blueprint, don’t assume anything based on how media companies have traditionally operated or how we currently operate. That economic model is collapsing and this is a blueprint for a new way of doing business — new relationships with the community, new relationships with business customers, new relationships with business partners and competitors, new tools and technology for doing business, new structure and organization for doing business.
Don’t assume anything based on the past. We are proud of our past and cherish our heritage, but we want to honor that heritage by pursuing a future that isn’t limited by assumptions from the past.
Our industry seems to be clinging to Darwin’s theory of evolution, hoping that gradual adaptation to changing environment will be enough to help us survive. That works in biology, but in today’s disruptive business world, survival of the fittest is a matter of revolution, not evolution.
This series of blog posts is my call for revolution in media companies, starting at Gazette Communications.