7 Steps to Save Your Local Newspaper: #7 Execute These Steps One at a Time

February 25, 2011

Throughout this series, we have been discussing steps that a local newspaper could implement systemically that will not only save it, but will allow it to embrace the changes resulting in the ability to better compete and achieve greater success.  One thing is for certain, the legacy model used for years in the newspaper industry is becoming more and more obsolete depending on how progressive your readership is.  Making the transition to a new paradigm which incorporates social and online media can be daunting, but nevertheless essential to compete in the global environment.   In the final step, we will summarize the previous six steps and discuss an effective implementation strategy.  As each organization is unique, so too will be the strategy to execute these steps.

In step one, we discussed changing your mindset and that of your entire news organization.  This is a fundamental change that must take place before you can proceed.  Not only do you need to recognize the changes that are occurring, but you must also recognize the opportunities that exist for your organization to change as well.  The good news is that this is a rapidly changing industry.  I’ve only been in the news media business for about six years now, and it is amazing how much has changed just in that short time span.  Because no one knows your organization and your readers better than you, it is incumbent on you to evaluate the pace and the degree you implement these steps.  This will largely be determined by the readers and advertisers you serve.  If they are still widely accustomed to reading a daily or weekly paper, then you may be able to ease into some of these steps.  However, if your readership is more progressive and your subscriptions are rapidly declining because they get their news from other sources, then you will probably want to execute these steps in a more expedient manner.  Above all else, you have to become comfortable in new media before you even begin to think about an execution strategy.  Once you understand what new media is all about and the impact it has on the news industry, you must make the commitment to expand beyond print.  Having said that, your readers will determine when and how you carry out this commitment.  Regardless of how quickly you integrate these steps into your mode of operation, you will eventually be forced to do so because I can guarantee you that this is no longer a print only business.  In step four, we discussed performing an organizational assessment to determine if you and your staff possess the core competencies to successfully make these changes.  Not only did we discuss providing training for your staff, but it might even be necessary to bring some people on board that are more comfortable using this new media.  If you’re like me, a grey hair, it’s never too late to learn from a purple hair.  That is to say, we could learn something from those who have been submersed in this environment from the beginning where it is second nature to them.  Please note that I am not advocating turning over the reins to them, but using a team concept that will help drive these changes throughout the organization.  Understanding the new technologies and the role they play in this industry is the primary barrier for most news organizations.  In step five, we further discussed that if you are not exactly tech savvy, you can easily enlist those who can provide assistance.  Of course, this step came with a warning to not get taken.  Forewarned is forearmed.  Please understand you can implement these modern technologies into your daily operations fairly easily and inexpensively.  One way to do this is to integrate these technologies in baby steps.  By doing so, you can more easily test what is going to work and not spend a great deal of your resources on something that is less effective.  In step six, we discussed building a new business plan.  You must define a new business model that will yield the results you are seeking.  I cannot emphasize this step enough.  If you do not have a plan, then any strategy will take you there.  Further, if you do not have a plan, how will you know when you arrived at your ultimate destination?  There is no rush to implement these changes.  Take the time to do it right.  Hopefully by now, the economy in your area is starting to pick up a bit and you will begin to see those traditional ad dollars.  I urge you to not be fooled by this or lulled into a false sense of security.

To summarize this series, I urge you to take these steps one at a time and deploy them pragmatically.  Review similar news organizations to learn from their successes and failures.  I also recommend that you suspend the urge to attend the traditional news conferences with the same people you usually do.   This may not be the best place for you to discover the radical changes necessary to compete in this changing environment.  At the end, it ultimately depends on how you define success in your business.  There is a definite opportunity to adapt and integrate these new technologies into your news organization that will not only include print, but audio, video, social, and online media to serve your local community.  Until next time.

Think outside the newsstand,

Joe

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