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Blog

Is There Life After Print?

I’m a lapsed journalist. I spent about a decade in the field earlier in my career. Edited a print publication for a short time. Mostly worked as a broadcast journalist. News writer, radio newsman, field reporter and part-time TV anchor. I loved the work. I found more lucrative pay for gathering, winnowing, and presenting information through the years. Sales. Management. Now futuring.

My love for journalism has me watching with muted dread as jobs in the field have evaporated. Newspapers are an endangered species. As is often the case their ownership has been blindsided by the challenges from unexpected quarters. Not that they were smart. In my opinion they were lulled into complacency by the heavy demand for retail advertising from a sector now facing existential threat from Amazon. The loss of talented story-tellers and their channels is disturbing.

Example: Craig Newmark. Who, you say? A nerdy programmer who went from IBM to Charles Schwab and founded something you may have heard of. Craigslist. Using a minimalist business model he decimated classified ad income at big dailies and even put a hole in revenues at what used to be called the “alt-weekly” field – those free publications in the racks in your city that feature some of the more interesting investigative stories.

The path to survival? Leverage. As I write this I’m watching “The Weekly” on Hulu. Don’t dare say “what?” The New York Times isn’t “failing.” It’s doing its best, in my opinion, to morph into a multi-channeled source of the best writing, investigation, and presentation. Already with a reputation as the gold standard of journalism, the Times has an editorial slant that isn’t everyone’s popular choice but its been consistent and ruthlessly executed. Those practices were highlighted in the mini-series “The Fourth Estate” – one of the best-executed pieces of video I’ve every seen and running at this writing on Showtime.

What can you and your organization learn from the evolution of print journalism?
  • Don’t sell your value short and too cheaply. The Times along with the Wall Street Journal resisted the temptation to go just for sheer numbers and offer your crown jewels for clicks and ad revenue. A reader must subscribe to the best journalism. The value at your personal or organizational core needs to be identified, highlighted, and used to sustain.
  • See around the corner. Blinders and arrogance failed to recognize the now-obvious erosion of revenue that upstarts like Craigslist signaled. The rise of all-encompassing Big Tech that gobbled up the Washington Post wasn’t really on the radar a decade ago. Trends, signals, forces that will affect you are there for the seeing right now if you know how and where to look.
  • Diversification is one of the most robust strategies my clients execute in these uncertain times. More channels to consumers and end users. Multiple offerings to the range of customers served. Experiments with a high potential of payoff without betting the enterprise. The same things that will take survivors of mature industries along a path to sustainability.