When I started this blog over seven months ago, I focused on mindset, as I had the sense that a completely new game was beginning:
Newspaper executives from around the world are trying to implement new business models. However, it is hard to implement a new model with an old mindset. Many are trying to arrange the concepts for a new ecosystem of local information. What I hope to do here is share my thoughts, and connections, as we explore these new frontiers.
If we were changing games from football to baseball, we would not have as many issues, as both games are very well understood, with many participants, observers, coaches and commentators. However, the local media game is changing so completely that we have difficulty conceptualizing the new game. John Steinbeck understood this well:
“And now a force was in hand how much more strong, and we hadn’t had time to develop the means to think, for man has to have feelings and then words before he can come close to thought and in the past at least, that has taken a long time.”
As we work to develop this new game, or business model, within our own company, conflicts arise. Those who see the future, but can’t articulate it, are frustrated. Those who see the future and want to make it happen quickly are very frustrated by those who don’t even perceive the need for a new game. Those who don’t perceive the need for a new game are frustrated by all the commotion.
These frustrations are playing out on the broader stage, summarized very well by Craig Stoltz. The New York Observer ran a cover story highlighting the conflicts between old and new media, and Jeff Jarvis wisely noted:
We’re all trying to figure what to do about it, and we all should have different answers and experiment with those answers.
Early on, I advocated moving away from an organization designed to produce “products”:
We cannot continue to focus on products. Products are just nodes on the network, promotional flags to local intelligence, in context.
So, the game is changing from a reliable cash-generating franchise focused on broadcasting authoritative snapshots reflecting the community to an entrepreneurial “elegant organization” to:
provide platforms that enable communities to do what they want to do, share what they want to share, know what they need to know together.
And, we cannot define these communities. As an individual, my interests are not easily discerned by my geographical location or demographics. So, I am looking for a way to keep up with friends, neighbors, certain local organizations, and certain local issues, while getting the overview of key issues that an editor thinks I should know. We need an elegant organization of information to make that happen. Several commentators are giving us perspective on that. Vickey Williams, exploring the “Six Competencies of the Next Generation News Organization” notes:
They rest heavily on the skills needed to personalize products and to build and serve communities of interest. The good news: Newspapers should be uniquely equipped to do these things.
Some other recent posts that I have appreciated are Jeff Jarvis with his “scenario for news” summary, Martin Langeveld describing his “future of journalism“, Steve Outing and his exhortation to “redefine news“, and Buzz Werzer’s “Checklist for Newspaper Publishers“.
It is my strong belief that an organization such as ours, with over 500 employees, cannot expect that we can change all the mindsets and pursue a new game by simply repeating the forces and ideas driving the change in a series of seminars or links to interesting articles. We need to change the tasks, titles and organization so that we are doing new tasks, in new ways, and making the results of our efforts available immediately to our communities as we begin the larger task of organizing all this information elegantly.
More on the new tasks and jobs in the next post!
What do you think?