Bold steps from MediaNews Group

MediaNews Group, one of the nation’s largest newspaper companies, has taken some very positive steps in an effort to reinvent itself, and we need to talk about them. CEO Dean Singleton and president Jody Lodovic sent a memo to staff on Friday outlining the changes. Romenesko has published it.

…we face three daunting challenges that needed to be addressed. First, we continue to do an injustice to our print subscribers and create perceptions that our content has no value by putting all of our print content online for free…Second, our interactive revenue growth has slowed because it has been too closely tied to our print classified business, which has suffered with the advent of Craigslist and other free online classified opportunities. Finally, we are not significantly extending the reach of our audience, as our online products too closely resemble the newspaper, and thus fail to meaningfully reach the next generation of readers.

These are the three challenges of all newspapers, of course, but the plan on what to do about them is what makes this memo unique. It spells out a three-pronged approach:

We will begin to move away from putting all of our newspaper content online for free. Instead, we will explore a variety of premium offerings that apply real value to our print content. We are not trying to invent new premium products, but instead tell our existing print readers that what they are buying has real value, and to our online audience (who don’t buy the print edition), that if you want access to all online content, you are going to have to register, and/or pay…

We will begin differentiating our sites from the newspaper and focus on strategies designed to reach younger audiences and extend our reach. The websites… will become a different product. This new site…will be a regional news site that is actively managed to present breaking news…

We will build a new local utility site… which is an ecosystem of local information, resources, user content, shopping guides, and marketplaces.

All three are excellent ideas, and a lot of people are going to be watching to see what happens. The devil’s in the details, of course, so we’ll see what happens. As I prepare for my presentation Saturday, I’m increasingly convinced that the second prong is the way to go for all local media. It’s what the audience wants, and it differentiates between the legacy platform and that which is new. In that sense, it’s not just another dragging of the brand online.

And I continue to believe that we can use the Web to drive audience to legacy platforms, although it’s tougher for print than broadcast, because afternoon papers are a thing of the past. Perhaps someone will bring a new late afternoon/early evening print finished product to the table, like a yellow sheet or something similar.

On the third prong, a lot of media companies are experimenting with this, but I believe the infrastructure that needs exploring is the Local Web itself, not any fancy portal therein.

Kudos to MediaNews Group. The copycatting is about to begin.

Comments

  1. Terry, check out what they’re working on in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Caution, it’s a long read.

    http://stevebuttry.wordpress.com/2009/04/27/a-blueprint-for-the-complete-community-connection/

    For a shorter review of their plan, see this:

    http://recoveringjournalist.typepad.com/recovering_journalist/2009/04/inventing-the-future-in-iowa.html

  2. Mel, I’ve read all of Buttry’s plans, and they’re very aggressive. My only issue is that you don’t need to own the content, only the ad infrastructure, but I’m impressed with what’s being planned.

  3. when will these folks realize that content is NOT king?

    content is the expense part of the business.

    as terry so rightly points out above (and in the “tmz” post below), the one who can build out the ad infrastructure (one that can determine where THE USER is v. where the content is) will be able to “rule” the fallen kings’ kingdoms.

    lately, i’ve taken to using inforumdotcom as my whipping boy- a property in fargo. they tout 10,000,000 pageviews for april right on your arrival (it was nearly twice that in march when the town was under water). but much of the ad space and $$$ are a freakin waste for the advertisers and user as 1.) i can’t imagine, in a town the size of fargo, they would ever serve 10,000,000 to locals. 2.) i went there on several days when the waters were raging (i was sitting dry and comfortable in various cities around detroit) and not one advertiser local to ME “could” even reach me there.

    terry refers to copycats… just wait. the fallen kings will look like jesters falling all over themselves when someone makes this investment and they are left trying to catch up.

    geo/context targeting is the way to go, but “the industry” is currently chasing the elusive (foolish) concept of behavioral.

    .

  4. >> My only issue is that you don’t need to own the content, only the ad infrastructure

    Do you mean the infrastructure for the local and/or regional websites owned by a given media company? Or are we talking a greater scope of infrastructure to be able to support ads across a group of sites owned by different media companies?

    ie – I can buy an ad through “local media company A (LMC A)”, then have it run on sites owned by “LMC B”, “LMC C”, and “LMC D” without having to sign up with some national ad broker/network … which would probably be an issue for SMB’s.

  5. Mel, everybody is a media company these days. Walmart runs ads. American Airlines runs ads. Anybody with a website can run ads. Like Google, we need to encourage growth and development of the Local Web and then put ads on everything. That’s what I mean when I say own the ad infrastructure. If you build a sufficiently rich ad network, you’ll one day then call on LMCs B-D, and they’ll carry your ads as well.

  6. That sounds fair enough. There will be a need for a robust set of geo services that are available for use by these various sites.

Speak Your Mind

*