Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing

Bill Wyman wrote a wordy, erudite and brilliant two-piece article at splicetoday.com entitled Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing (and part 2). While I haven’t blamed editors and journalists in my post Business Model for News, I do agree with Bill’s assessment of their culpability.

Bill’s piece has received some play and is well worth a read to see what excess playing to Wall Street’s demands can get you.

The major take-home for me was his suggestions for the future. This part has been pretty much ignored in the discussion so I’m reproducing it here. I’ll remove it if Bill or Splice Today want, but it’s a great manifesto to build any business by.

If I were running a chain of papers, here’s what I’d do:

1)    Go hyper local; devote all resources, from reporting to front-page space, to local news. No one cares what the Pittsburgh Post-Dispatch has to say about Iraq.

2)    Redesign the websites to present users with a single coherent stream of news stories and blog entries. Create simple filters to allow them to tailor the site to their preferences.

3)    Tell the union you won’t be touching salaries, but that all work rules are being suspended, including seniority rights. Tell all reporters that they’re expected to post news if word of it reaches them in what used to be thought of as “after hours.”

4)    Get out of the mindset of “nice” coverage. Tell the reporters to find the “talker” stories in town—development battles, corrupt pols, anything with a consumer bent. Monitor web traffic to find out what people are interested in. If a particular issue jumps, flood the zone. Make each paper the center of every local debate, no matter how trivial, and make finding and creating those debates the operation’s prime job.

5)    Create chain-wide coverage of all areas where it can be done. It’s sad, but it means laying off a lot more film critics and dozens of other duplicated positions. For such positions, do this. Hire two people to cover the beat for the chain. Make them into sparring partners, arguing about each new TV show, movie, CD, traveling Broadway show, concert tour etc. Get out of the business of being promotional. Give your readers sharply argued opinions, something fun to read they can’t get anywhere else.

6)    Create local listings second to none. Create them from the users’ point of view. Don’t use abbreviations. Overwhelm users with insider information that only locals know; where to park, where to sit, when to go, etc. Get rid of all the site navigation levels no one cares about. Put the information people want front and center.

7)    Devote as much manpower as possible to creating must-read local news blogs. Tell the bloggers to work the phones and IMs, finding out about every personnel change, every office move, any tidbit. Support and cite local bloggers in the same areas. Yell at staff members if they are consistently being scooped by (unpaid) competitors.

8)    Create and maintain a wiki designed ultimately to function as an encyclopedia for the town, from neighborhoods and politicians to every retail establishment. Let it become the ultimate guide to the area. Like Wikipedia, it will inevitably contain information that is controversial. Cover the controversies with alacrity.

9)    Serve the community. Don’t publish crap. Tell folks stuff they might not want to hear. Grow a pair.

Bill Wyman is a cultural critic and author of the blog Hitsville. He can be reached at hitsville@gmail.com.

Business Model for News

Rupert Murdoch has created a stir with his intent to charge for content. Dave Earley wrote a great piece at Earley Edition explaining how it won’t save news media’s business model.

What is the core business of news media? They are not in the business of “reporting the news”. News media’s business is to aggregate an audience to deliver to advertisers. That is why celebrity tabloids sell – the perceived quality of the “product” only affects the demographics and size of the audience. But in reality the audience is the “product”, journalists and producers are the manufacturing team. The sales team are supposed to be the rain makers. But news media believes their own manufacturing-oriented PR that their business is “the news”.

If news media companies are to thrive under a pay-for-content business model they must now do two new things well for sustainable competitive advantage. Firstly they must deliver compelling content, now mixed with rights management and security that does not interfere with the reader experience. Secondly they must become expert subscription marketers – better than Time Life or Readers Digest. Because the internet is littered with the corpses of companies who believed “if you build it, they will come”. If your business depends on paid subscription you had better become outstanding at the skills to deliver subscriptions. Dave Earley said

It is worrying that users will now be made to pay for news simply because marketing departments are unable to make online advertising work.

Sadly this is typical of sales and marketing reactions in a mature market, it always looks easier to chase the next big thing rather than get great at your core business. If their marketing departments can’t sell online advertising (B2B) how are they going to develop the skill to convince people (B2C) to pay for something they’ve previously got for free? I wouldn’t take that bet.

News media is like the buggy whip manufacturers complaining their markets are shrinking because cars have replaced horse-drawn carriages. Nobody promised newspapers a perpetual license to make money. Evolve or die.  Get good at your real, core business.

Rupert, baby, deliver an audience to your customers.

Twitter Updates for 2009-08-14

  • RT @mktbot From 10 Aug $CXN:ASX ConnXion Limited is $CXN:ASX ConnXion Ventures Limited http://is.gd/2gBot #
  • RT @mktbot From 12 Aug $ETC:ASX Entertainment Media #
  • RT @mktbot From 12 Aug $ETC:ASX Entertainment Media & Telecoms Corp.Ltd is $NBS:ASX Nexbis Limited http://is.gd/2gB5m #
  • RT @mktbot As of 14 Aug $GLI:ASX GoldLink IncomePlus Limited is now $BIV:ASX Blue Capital Limited http://is.gd/2gAeb #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $ACX $AGS $AVJ $AVO $BAR $BAU $BEL $BIV $BPT $BSR $CAB $CDI http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $CER $CGM $CKK $CNP $CNX $CRE $CUE $CWN $CXU $DCG $DDT $DEG http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $DGO $DIO $DLS $DMX $EMG $FNT $FUN $GCG $GCR $GMG $GPG $GRT http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $GXY $HAW $HAZ $ICN $IDG $IEF $IGR $LEI $LKO $LLC $LLP $LML http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $MAE $MAH $MAP $MCP $MCR $MEO $MMA $MOC $MPA $MSR $MTU $NEM http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $ODG $ORG $OTI $PDM $PMP $PRV $PTN $PXS $RAU $RHD $RHM $ROG http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies price sensitive announcements 14Aug $SEG $STU $SYM $TCQ $TGX $VBA $WCN $WHN $WOT http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $ABM $ACK $ACZ $ADA $AGO $AGX $AHC $AIB $AIO $AIQ $ALF $ALK $ALR $AMP $AMU http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $AMX $ANZ $AOD $AQP $ARO $ARU $ASP $ATJ $AUP $AUZ $AVG $AVJ $AVO $AXY $BBG http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $BBI $BCS $BIV $BKN $BLP $BMN $BPH $BPT $BUL $BWN $CAM $CBA $CDI $CDM $CEY http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $CHN $CLO $CSJ $CSR $CSU $CSW $CTW $CUE $CXM $CYA $DBS $DCG $DIO $DLS $DUE http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $ECE $EHL $EMA $EMR $EON $ERC $ESG $ESN $EVE $FAC $FAS $FAT $FMG $FND $FPH http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $FUN $GIP $GMG $GMI $GRT $GUD $HAP $HAW $HAZ $HDN $HHV $HHY $HJB $HLS $HRL http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $HSN $HZN $IBC $IDG $IFL $IMA $IMD $IMU $INE $JVG $KAT $KIL $KNH $LBY $LEP http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $LLC $LLP $LML $LUM $MAK $MAP $MBL $MBN $MCK $MCL $MCP $MCW $MGO $MIF $MLE http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $MMR $MMS $MMX $MPJ $MPS $MQG $MRI $MSO $MTH $MWG $MXQ $NEU $NGE $NHC $NSP http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $NVT $OLH $OMI $ONC $ORC $ORN $PBA $PBB $PHG $PMH $PMP $PRG $PRV $PTN $PTR http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $PXS $QBE $QGM $QMN $QPN $RHD $RMS $ROG $ROY $SAK $SBS $SFY $SHX $SLF $SLV http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $SNB $SPI $SRE $SSS $STE $STO $STW $STX $SUL $SYG $SYL $SYM $SYS $TEN $TES http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $TGG $TLS $TOD $TON $TOV $TRS $TSF $TWD $TXN $TYS $UBS $UNX $UOS $URL $VBP http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $VIL $VMT $VTP $VXR $WAA $WAM $WAS $WBC $WDC $WHC $WHF $WHN $WIL $WME $WOT http://bit.ly/6LMUV #
  • ASX-listed Companies announcements 14Aug $XEN http://bit.ly/6LMUV #

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Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions for Fast Growth Firms

I’m working on a “How To” series on Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions for Fast Growth Firms. It covers the tools, skills and processes needed by firms pursuing acquisitions as a tempting path to growth. This is an audio presentation accompanied by detailed notes, checklists and templates.

Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions for Fast Growth Firms, Series 1 – Buy Side, Capturing Value Beyond Price

Highlights from Series 1: Buy Side

  • The M&A Process from the buy side
  • The Wealth Esteem M&A Checklist Methodology
  • Special types of M&A deals
    • the true “merger”
    • “Bolt-on” acquisitions
    • Vertical and horizontal integration
    • Diversification
  • M&A target identification and deal flow
  • Managing the M&A Project
  • Key roles and members of the M&A team
  • Valuing the business
  • M&A Negotiation
  • Earnouts
  • Financing the deal
  • M&A Due Diligence
    • Finance
    • Legal
    • Intellectual Property
    • Human Resources, learning & development
    • Marketing
    • Sales
    • Manufacturing and operations
    • R&D and innovation
    • Logistics and distribution
  • Integrating the Acquisition – the forgotten part of the Deal
    • the whole is greater than the sum of the parts
    • mitigating risk
    • integration planning
    • measuring integration success
    • practical integration improvement
  • Good to great: Post-Acquisition Review

Coming soon: Strategic Mergers and Acquisitions for Fast Growth Firms, Series 2 – Sell Side, Your Exit Strategy.

Sydney Roller Derby League

If you can't place nice, play roler derby
If you can't place nice, play roller derby

One of the world’s fastest-growing sports is making a comeback in the university gyms and school halls of inner-city Sydney. All-girl, flat-track roller derby revival is a punk, post-feminist, grrl power, contact sport with an emphasis on skill and safety. The competitors names reflect their on-track personalities like Miss Biff, Trippy Longstockings, Aprilla the Hun, Punky Chewster, and Surly Valentine.

I’ll be taking my daughters to watch the second bout of the new Sydney League (there are only 3 bouts in the inaugural league).

Bout 2: 28 JuneStarts 12.30pm, Doors open 12noon
Tickets from Sydney Roller Derby League
Tickets about $10.00/$5.00 concession
Sydney Boys’ High Stadium
Cleveland Street, Moore Park
NSW Australia

Wanna come? The bout will last an hour.

Like Tank Girl on roller skates with edge.

The Sydney Roller Derby League is bringing the wicked world of all-girl flat-track roller derby to Sydney and looking forward to taking on the globe – on the track and off!

What is roller derby?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roller_derby

Sydney Roller Derby League
http://www.sydneyrollerderby.com/

Photos from the SRDL
http://www.sydneyrollerderby.com/mod/slideshow/view.php?id=153

Telstra and the National Broadband Network

IF you believe mainstream media, Sol Trujillo is the most unpopular man in Australia and Telstra is the most unpopular company [full disclosure: I am the beneficiary of a Telstra shareholding]. I don’t think I’ve ever forgiven Telstra for its monopolistic behaviour back when it was Telecom and I didn’t have a choice of carriers.

When Telstra was booted out of the National Broadband Network tender process for submitting a non-compliant tender, pundits were eagerly predicting Telstra’s demise or other “dark and awful consequences”. Telstra had submitted a tender that suited their business model, aspirations and view of the future. They signaled the only way they’d consider lining up for the $4.7 Billion AUD the government was offering. I congratulate them for having the balls to stick to their guns.

Today the Federal Government announced none of the remaining tenders were “value for money” and instead would form a new company to build a fibre to the home network to 90% of Australians. Much ink will be spilled in the future on this deviation from the tender outcomes requested, namely 98% fibre to the node.

Here’s my quick take home analysis:

  1. Submitting a tender of this size and complexity is a very expensive exercise.
  2. No tenderer was awarded a contract despite complying with the guidelines.
  3. Telstra spent a little money outlining the conditions they would accept.
  4. Who looks smart now?

This seems like a brilliant use of game theory by Telstra. Sol and his team have been called arrogant and out-of-touch, I think they protected their shareholders interests well.

Just because a deal is on the table doesn’t mean it’s always wisest to take it.

Culture of Secrecy

How can companies still think what they do is top secret. Note I’m not talking about intelligence, research or military organizations here. I mean general competitive businesses in a competitive marketplace.

How many of the projects we’ve been sworn to keep secret really needed or benefited from that? How many top secret projects failed to launch? Again I’m not talking about early gestation with limited resources, there’s a time and place for keeping something under wraps until it’s time – however even then most people keep it too secret for too long.

Enthusiasm is the hardest attribute to sustain in any endeavor.

I’ve found many companies with a Culture of Secrecy are really staffed by people avoiding scrutiny or responsibility. If they don’t say what they are going to achieve, they can’t be held accountable when they miss.

Everybody misses from time to time. Me included. Looking at what went wrong often more valuable than succeeding by a fluke.

Fear is the other great cause of the secrecy cult. Every manager worthy of the title has had an employee leave to work for a competitor. Weak managers of weak businesses respond by limiting the flow of ideas and information to the team that drives the business. They hope a defection cannot harm them again, without reviewing  if that harm was more than a bruised ego. This is overprotective thinking. When you fell over as a baby while learning to walk, you tried again until you mastered it. If a business is only as good as its secrets it has no better competitive advantage in the marketplace. Are there low barriers to entry for competitors?

Find your competitive advantange. That may be worth keeping close to the chest, but I doubt it. Your success flows from knowing what you do better than anyone else – what others cannot take from you.

Think of great global brands and great businesses like Coca-Cola, American Express, IBM, Toyota, McDonald’s. While some part of their operations are necessarily private they don’t have a culture of secrecy. Where do you want your company to be in 20 years?

For another perspective check out what Robin wrote a while ago at Snarkmarket on iPhone, Secrecy and Excellence