Here’s an item that was probably missed by most journalistic circles because … face it, how many of us have the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business on our RSS feeds?
Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Wall Street Journal, talks to GSB students about “How Newspapers Will Survive?” Here is a podcast. Be warned, it’s more than 30 minutes, but it’s well worth it:
Crovitz offers 5 axioms that newspapers must adopt to survive the current change in the market:
1. Consumers, not content nor distribution, rule the media industry
2. All media are new or soon will be
3. The medium is not the message and, if it is not careful, may block the message
4. Brands and content still matter
5. Software and information are more powerful together than apart.
This is a drastic departure from the current newspaper business model, in which the medium rules the industry and is the message. And while Crovitz’ assessment is on target, I continue to wonder why newspaper publishers, faced with such dramatic shifts in consumer and advertiser habits, continue to build new ideas and processes that are still tied to the paper-and-ink product.
Publishers don’t have to abandon newspapers, but they can no longer build their business around them. Consumers are no longer driven to papers, but they are still driven for news … now so more than ever. The core product of the industry needs to be content; news, information, advertising, etc. Newspapers must shift to a delivery method of getting that out to our customers.
In other words, I shouldn’t be working for a newspaper. I should be working for a news company. And my news company currently delivers news to my readers through a newspaper, web site, feed to mobile phone and niche publication. And my news company is keeping an eye out on future technologies that will make delivery of my news even more convenient and reliable for my readers.
In that core product are the values we hold most dear and are still relevant to readers. They will want my company’s news because we continue to offer great journalism, great storytelling, great photography and great multimedia. The news my company offers will be relevant to their lives and will enlighten, inform and entertain them. Brand and content will continue to matter as the industry evolves.
And, in order to be competitive and survive, newsrooms are going to need to adapt to the demands of our readers. Weeklies will need to adopt daily news cycles, dailies will need to adopt broadcast news cycles. Print and broadcast are now in competition for customers. As Crovitz points out, yesterday’s news is irrelevant to today’s consumers. It has been for years. We’ve been blind to that for too long.
Crovitz stops short of saying the industry needs to quit pining for the good old days and get it’s butt in gear to adapt to a changing marketplace. But newspapers must take that risk and let go of its past formulas in order to find success in the new world. For as Crovitz notes, in the future “all media are new or soon will be.”