Nov 12, 2007

Lifting the fog

These are tough times for newsrooms. Cuts, consolidation and convergence have made off with vital personnel and have crushed spirits. The way ahead is difficult, the road obscured by chatter, jargon and uncertainty.

Thankfully, clarity is at hand. Click here to find the confidence to go on. It is a new blog about shortcuts to the future, and with a pithy name like "Imagining the Future of Newspapers," you know it's going to be inspiring.

Indeed, read through and you will come across inspiring lines like this: Newspapers need to be more aggressive in embracing change. As one writer eloquently phrased it: "Business is decelerating faster than our efforts to transform the organization. Newspapers must stem declines and ramp up pace of change."

The very definition of eloquence! And it has clarity in spades. Embrace change and stem the decline, right? A simple, straightforward plan of attack. Now get to it!

Here's more: Success will be driven by our ability to create bolder, more differentiated content (including a laser focus on local) delivered over multiple media formats for specific audience segments. (And, subsequently, better connecting advertisers with the audience they desire.)

Now, that may sound a lot like, "Do something other than news and you'll sell more advertising," but that's too cynical a take. One simply cannot argue with the fact that differentiated content delivered over multiple formats is the best way to target specific audience segments.

Ethics (i.e., the old way of thinking) are bound to get in the way. Another writer has some clear-headed advice on how to get around them (start up the BBQ!): Look around, find your sacred cows and slaughter them, because if you don’t, someone else will – and your company with them.

Now that the sacred cows have been slaughtered, the act of imagining the future becomes much easier to do. Pulitzer-prize winning former business editor Jan Schaffer takes it from there: News organizations need to construct the hub that will enable ordinary people with passions and expertise to commit acts of news and information.

Splendid. But what exactly is news now that we've slaughtered our sacred definitions? Schaffer has our answer: Heading into the future, news becomes less of a concrete deliverable – a story or package of stories occupying some form of real estate online or on the printed page – and it becomes more of an ongoing process of imparting and learning about information. The process of involvement in the news, whether it’s an interactive consumption or a proactive creation, becomes as important as the output.

Chew on that proactively and we'll discuss the output shortly.

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