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01/13/2010

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Judy,
You're absolutely right and your conclusions are very similar to those I made - being a strategist for a large, primarily newspaper-based media group in Russia, I have enough "objects of surveilliance", our newsrooms, editorial boards etc.
Just few days ago wrote an article on typical editor's failures of today (although it's in Russian, I found that google translate makes it at least understandable - http://www.slon.ru/blogs/gatov/post/235377/). Not exactly using Your formulas, I try to push collegues to change.
Once agian - with great respect.
Vasily Gatov
Media3 Russia

Judy:

I think your criticisms are best aimed at newspaper management and not the worker bees.

I haven't worked at a newspaper in some time, but back in the day (say the early 1990s), we were quite willing to be informed about the business side. Was management eager and willing to inform us? Hardly.

If you pushed hard enough, you could do some interesting mildly things as a reporter (if you were willing to absorb the cost), but that was in spite of management. Some of the people I saw put in charge of new media development had no feel for the job -- to put it mildly.

I've not seen a Canadian media company that builds innovation into the job the way Google does. You'll have to ask very senior media executives why they believe in stultification.

In terms of corruption, I have seen publishers squash stories that were clearly newsworthy but happened to involve a sleazy used-car dealer (as one example) or affected other business dealings.

But for now, let's just stick to incompetence.

I couldn't agree more on classified ads. The online classifieds of your old employer, the Toronto Star, are a disaster when compared to Craigslist -- and I say that with a clear-eyed view to the many flaws of Craigslist. It would seem to me that if you're charging for a product, you should be clearly better than your free competitor, especially if that product is of strategic importance to your business. However, that sentiment could not have been clear to everyone.

Yes, there's been a lot of stupid product development (again, talk to management). But I've also seen products developed at the behest of advertising that still didn't sell, and I've seen ad people balk at trying to sell new products because they would have to get off their butts and cultivate new customers.

In the second part of your post, that's an area outside my area of expertise.

However, I would generally agree with your observations.

In fairness, however, precious few saw the potential of search advertising in the way that Google did.

I suspect that for a host of reasons, it would have been exceedingly difficult for newspaper companies to develop the will to carry out such a strategic shift. Unfortunately, they're paying for it now -- and so is the journalism they produce.

But again, those sorts of decisions were being made far above the heads of the worker bees of the newspapers.

Hey Bill - good comments, but I think this IS Judy's point. And since when does the management dictate everything.

I'm sure the management I work for would be very disappointed if I took everything they said as THE only way and never pushed back if I disagreed.

Great post.

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