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Posts Tagged ‘Newspaper Next’

Clayton Christensen, photo linked from API

Clayton Christensen‘s diagnosis of how the newspaper industry blew its Newspaper Next opportunity is dead-on.

In an interview with the American Press Institute’s Millie Tran, Christensen discusses several new disruptive challenges and opportunities in the media. But this exchange hit home with me (I added some links):

What did you think of the industry’s reception of the ambitious Newspaper Next project that you worked on with the American Press Institute back in 2006? Today, would you prescribe different things or in different ways?

CHRISTENSEN: My sense of the Newspaper Next project is that people read it as an interesting, academic exercise but somehow, whether it was our fault or theirs, the report was consumed at the level of the brain and not the heart.

Most newspapers decided that might happen to others but it doesn’t happen to us. And on a day-to-day basis, you don’t feel it until it’s over. And now there are a lot of people who are saying oh my gosh this really is happening in many ways. The degrees of freedom that are available are far more limited now than they were. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the old Newspaper Next site on the N2 Blog, Aug. 30, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I blogged last week about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated the links. Thanks to Elaine Clisham for reminding me of my contributions to the N2 Blog.  

At a recent reception, a colleague scorned efforts by the newspaper industry in the mid-1990s to appeal to young adults.

I could join that colleague (a former newspaper editor) in criticism of many things newspapers have tried in pursuit of young readers, but he was way off in one point that he made: He said newspapers were crazy to pursue nonconsumers. Who, he asked, ever succeeded by trying to sell to nonconsumers?

“Can you imagine the automobile industry targeting people who don’t drive?” he asked.

In a social setting where I didn’t feel like arguing, I let the comment pass. But it’s a point of view that inhibits innovation.

Let’s flip that editor’s question around: What business ever grew without winning over some nonconsumers?

(more…)

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This post was published originally on the old Newspaper Next site on the N2 Blog, Aug. 13, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports.

I have updated or removed outdated links (or used links from the Internet Archive, where I found the post). I have not checked to see that the links that remain active still show the features I described. I have not bothered to provide updates on the people mentioned here, though I know some are in different jobs. Thanks to Elaine Clisham for reminding me of my contributions to the N2 Blog. This was the precursor to a more detailed database report I produced for N2.

Databases are an important tool for media companies to use in doing more jobs for our communities.

The primary job newspapers have done for generations has been to tell the news of the community, the nation and the world. News remains an important job, but as we seek to build larger audiences we need to do more jobs. Steve Gray, managing director of Newspaper Next, expresses one of those key jobs as “Help me get answers about this place.”

One of the most encouraging signs that media companies understand the expanded role they need to play is the growing use of databases to provide answers about communities.

The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Data Center provides a wide range of answers about the community: sex offenderssmoking complaintsodds of winning at Ohio River casinoscrime statisticshome prices. Databases also help you do better at your core job of telling the news. For instance, the featured database at the DataCenter now shows Northern Kentucky bridges with structural problems. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, May 31, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

The colleague’s lament is familiar:

“Our staff here has been dramatically slashed (we’re down to two news reporters on day shift). It’s quite a change for our paper, which has gained some measure of acclaim for the time, staff we devote to special projects work (which now appears to be a bygone era).

“Unfortunately, smaller staff size is the new reality. One of the things I’m preparing to pitch to upper management is a radical review of what we cover, how we cover it, etc. I know I will face resistance because, well, some people think the approach to community news coverage is a static endeavor. But honestly, with two reporters we can’t be everywhere. And if we try to be everywhere just to please people, rather than focus on what’s really needed, the entire product will suffer.

“Do you have any examples of papers facing the same situation, staff size, which adapted and prospered? Or, do you have any advice?” (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, April 20, 2007. It was one of several posts in my API days dealing with the Newspaper Next project, an API partnership with Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Visiting Bryce Canyon in 2007

I’ve done some exciting and inspiring travel in the past month.

I visited Bryce Canyon, where centuries of sedimentation followed by tectonic upheaval followed by wind and frost erosion left the earth in fascinating, massive columns of sandstone called hoodoos.

I visited Mainz, Germany, where in a darkened room of the Gutenberg Museum I looked at the first editions of the Bible printed with movable type and even older and more ornate Bibles crafted by hand.

I thought about the modern newspaper in both of these places where nature and man displayed these ancient treasures. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Sept. 27, 2006, after the release of the Newspaper Next report, a collaborative project between API and Clayton Christensen. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

I get really annoyed when I look for a place to plug in my laptop computer at an airport.

I look around the lounge for an electrical outlet. Often no seats are within reach of an outlet. Sometimes you could reach an outlet by stretching the cord across a busy area where people are likely to walk. The few outlets around often are occupied by travelers charging computers, cell phones and other electronic devices between flights. Sometimes the travelers are sitting on the floor, because the only outlet they could find was not near any seats. This is true even at huge hub airports that get lots of passengers waiting between connecting flights. Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare are two of the worst.

As my exasperation over these airports’ failure to modernize grows, I look around the lounge and invariably see a large bank of pay telephones. Rarely do I see any of them in use. But I see lots of passengers on cell phones.

Airports are taxpayer-supported, with hardly any competition. Airlines choose which airports they will use based on other factors than passenger convenience. Passengers don’t often pick which airports they will use. They choose by fare and destination, sometimes by frequent flier plan. And they put up with whatever airports that means. So airports don’t have to innovate or even update. I’m sure that wiring a major airport for the 21st Century (or even the late 20th) would be a massively expensive undertaking. So they don’t and passengers sit on the floor to charge our computers between flights.

At a recent state association conference, I spoke following a panel of state political party chairs. In the question-and-answer session, a publisher noted that the parties, and their candidates, don’t hesitate to ask newspapers for free publicity when they are making announcements or staging events. Why, he asked, were they spending nearly all of their advertising dollars elsewhere? (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site in my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 10, 2006, after the two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news businessBreaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I have updated or removed outdated links.

Newspaper people learn early to trust our “gut feeling.”

Your gut often proves right in covering a news story or operating a newspaper in the traditional market. Your gut, of course, is just the voice of experience.

When it comes to innovation, your gut will steer you wrong, we learned Thursday on the final day of the Newspaper Next Symposium.

“Whatever is your first answer is the wrong answer,” said Scott Anthony, managing director of Innosight, API’s partner in the Newspaper Next project to transform the newspaper industry. (more…)

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This post was published originally on the American Press Institute site on my old Training Tracks blog, Feb. 9, 2006, after the first day of a two-day Newspaper Next symposium, introducing the disruptive innovation principles of Clayton Christensen to the newspaper industry. I just blogged about Christensen’s most recent insights on the news business, Breaking News, in the Nieman Reports. I removed outdated links.

At a recent meeting of well-meaning newspaper executives, somebody suggested convening a reader panel for an upcoming conference. I suggested including some non-readers. A colleague dismissed the suggestion as a waste of time.

I wasn’t feeling particularly feisty, so I didn’t pursue the issue, but I thought the statement, and the lack of a challenge to it from other colleagues, said a lot about our business and where we are.

Wednesday I heard a lot about our business and where we could be. We could be important to those non-readers (non-users or non-consumers might be a better way to describe them).

I spent Wednesday at the Newspaper Next Symposium at the National Press Club. The symposium, which continues Thursday, presents the initial work of API’s project to develop a new business model for the newspaper industry. The project won’t be finished until later this year, but I was excited about what I heard. (more…)

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It was déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, when I saw that Clayton Christensen was offering the news business advice on dealing with disruptive innovation.

I look back with a mix of pride, gratitude and anger on my experience with Christensen’s partnership with the American Press Institute in the Newspaper Next project. We offered the newspaper business a strategy and process for changing our business model to adapt to the digital earthquake that was destroying our foundations.

If someone had embraced and fully pursued that approach, instead of merely dabbling with it, I think that company would be dramatically better off today than the rest of the news business (it would be so different that we certainly wouldn’t call it a newspaper company, even if it still produced newspapers). I could be wrong, but I’d like that company’s chances. And it could hardly be worse off than its peers are.

And, of course, we’re such a copycat industry that other companies would have followed that company and they would be better off as well. Instead, the newspaper industry copied each other in acting timidly and protectively.

We published the first N2 report in September 2006. That year newspaper ad revenues would decline by 1.7 percent from 2005′s peak level of $47 billionmillion. In my lifetime, newspapers’ print ad revenues had fallen in only seven years, according to Newspaper Association of America data. Only two of those declines were more than 3 percent, none larger than 9 percent. On the other hand, 10 times during my life, we saw double-digit growth in ad revenues.

The newspaper business was used to the gravy train and it wasn’t ready to change. (more…)

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I won’t be blogging for a few more days about Clayton Christensen‘s Nieman Reports piece Breaking News, but I want to acknowledge it and encourage reading it. (I’ve been too busy to dig into it, but plan to do so this weekend.)

Mark Potts, one of the smartest voices about digital journalism, calls it “maybe the most insightful, important article on the future of the news business since Clay Shirky’s legendary ‘Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable‘.” (I blogged about the Shirky piece when it was published in 2009.)

When I was at the American Press Institute from 2005-8, we partnered with Christensen on the Newspaper Next project. I came to respect his insights about business and disruptive innovation greatly. I wish the newspaper business had followed the Newspaper Next recommendations more aggressively. I encourage people in the business to read Christensen’s latest piece (co-authored by David Skok and James Allworth). And I’ll have more to say on it soon.

Update. I have now blogged some thoughts on Christensen’s Breaking News.

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I recently reposted blog posts on linking and confidential sources from my Training Tracks blog at the American Press Institute, since those are no longer available at API’s website. That prompted me to repost more from the Training Tracks, just to have the archive available. I will select those that are most relevant to repost first. This advice, sadly, still applies today. I have not checked the links to see whether they remain active, but I think I should leave them in either way. This was originally published May 31, 2007:

The colleague’s lament is familiar:

“Our staff here has been dramatically slashed (we’re down to two news reporters on day shift). It’s quite a change for our paper, which has gained some measure of acclaim for the time, staff we devote to special projects work (which now appears to be a bygone era).

“Unfortunately, smaller staff size is the new reality. One of the things I’m preparing to pitch to upper management is a radical review of what we cover, how we cover it, etc. I know I will face resistance because, well, some people think the approach to community news coverage is a static endeavor. But honestly, with two reporters we can’t be everywhere. And if we try to be everywhere just to please people, rather than focus on what’s really needed, the entire product will suffer.

“Do you have any examples of papers facing the same situation, staff size, which adapted and prospered? Or, do you have any advice?”

Prospering doesn’t describe what is happening in the newspaper business. And adapting may not be enough. That sounds like making a change here and a tweak there. Newspapers have to transform in order to have a chance at prosperity. (more…)

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Thanks to Justin Ellis of Nieman Lab for a thoughtful two-part analysis of Newspaper Next. He went into much more detail, with greater detachment, than I did in my look back five years later at N2.

What I would like to see now is an analysis of the innovative projects inspired by Newspaper Next.

In the first part of Ellis’ N2 analysis, he addressed whether N2 succeeded in transforming newspapers:

So did Newspaper Next succeed in its mission to reshape the industry? Not exactly.

We’re still in the thick of uncertain times in the news business, but invention has crept into certain corners. Newspaper companies are experimenting with apps, testing new platforms, and publishing niche products (online and in print) to reach audiences outside the daily newspaper. That’s all straight out of the Newspaper Next playbook — but it’s doubtful newspaper execs would have sat by idly if a report five years ago hadn’t told them to try to develop new products. Publishers, editors, executives, and other journalists involved in Newspaper Next say the project deserves credit for encouraging experimentation inside newspapers. But with all its reach and ambition, the project was stifled by economic factors, including the industry’s near extinction-level event in 2008 that saw massive losses in jobs and revenue. As much as Newspaper Next set out to give news companies the tools to transform, survival may have been a bigger and better motivator.

In the second part of Ellis’ analysis, he followed up on the seven demonstration projects covered in the first Newspaper Next report. The direct lasting results were not impressive: (more…)

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