Newsroom challenges in the Digital First era

I’ve written a lot about the challenges within newsrooms in regards to embracing the digital era.

Most stemmed from first hand frustrations which is always part of being an agent of change within a company.

I was interested to see that Shazna Nessa, during a Knight Mozilla News Learning Lab lecture, felt the same. Shazna is Director of Interactive at the Associated Press in New York. Since AP has no conflicting print product, and the transfer of information over wires for that organization goes back to the telegraph, I was surprised to hear of her frustrations.

Or maybe not.

Change is hard in any organization, digital or not. Imagine the resistance that occurred at Microsoft when someone suggested that they give a web based text editor away for free, despite that fact that Word was still a healthy part of their revenue. It’s not just newsrooms that are confronted with these issues.

Jeff Jarvis brought the subject up as well, pointing out John Paton‘s “Digital First” approach at the Journal Register Company and making it clear that this wasn’t purely about getting a print article on the web before it hit the presses.

No, it’s about doing what is right for the web first, and making all other parts of the business an afterthought. That includes parts of the business that are currently bringing in more revenue than the web.

If it sounds like you are putting yourself out of business, you are. If you don’t put yourself out of business, someone else will.

In the chat room during Jeff’s lecture, I mentioned the conflict of interest that goes with the fact that print revenue pays most Publisher’s salaries. It’s not clear that those salaries are part of a digital only model.

And Jeff pointed out another thing I’ve known for a while and that’s the  fact that Newspaper companies think in terms of quarters, not years. That’s fine for a mature industry but not okay for a startup.

Imagine a startup like Twitter cutting off user adoption by trying to monetize this quarter. In fact, that’s exactly why I think MySpace went under. And it coincided with a buyout from a company with a newspaper mentality, News Corp.

It takes  a lot of balls to think like a startup, especially when existing salaries are riding on success or failure. It’s much safer to decline gradually. Less painful.

Well, that’s not for me. Pull the band-aid off fast and lets breath some air into the news business.

That’s where success lies.

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