You can’t left brain your way into right brain thinking

People who know me well know that I have this pocketful of little sayings (My “isms”) that I use to help define life’s seeming complexities. The title of this post is one of them, and events of the past week have brought it to mind once again.

Yesterday, the folks at Pew released their latest “State of the News Media” report, and it’s filled with ominous prose (even moreso than the same report last year, etc.) that describes a collapsing infrastructure and an industry in search of answers. “The hope that Internet advertising will someday match what print and television now bring in appears to be vanishing,” the report notes, and this is the most discouraging nugget of all. Robert MacMillan of Reuters picked up on this theme.

News outlets, particularly U.S. newspapers, were able to rely on advertising and subscriptions for years, and have staked high hopes on their online sales eventually eclipsing weaker print revenue.

That may not work out, however, said Tom Rosenstiel, the study’s supervisor and the group’s director. The amount of online advertising dollars is still rising, “but now there are growing doubts about how much of that will accrue to news,” the study said.

“The people on the countinghouse side have got to come up with a new plan,” said Rosenstiel, who used to cover the news business for the Los Angeles Times. “The audience is migrating but the advertising probably never will in sufficient amounts.”

The report questions whether the industry has the vision or the capacity to lift itself out of the quagmire and notes that public ownership likely works against it at this time in history.

And this leads me to a session I attended last week by the people at the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next program. This elaborate and intense body of work came from some of the best business minds in America, and it’s designed to provide newspapers with the tools they need to innovate.

The data was interesting, and I was right there with the guy, until he pulled out the various forms and formulas to manage change. It was a step-by-step, “one potato, two potato, three potato, four” (illustrated) guide to building new enterprises, with appropriate attention to the bottom line, of course.

You can’t left brain your way into right brain thinking.

The problems facing the news media today are enormous and require original thinking, and you just won’t get that from the Harvard Business School.

In his keynote address to the public broadcasters of the Integrated Media Association two weeks ago, the inimitable Michael Rosenblum opened with, “I gotta tell ya, you’re all fucked!” He then went on to spin his historical tales of disruptive innovations and how failure to react correctly cost governments, armies and businesses everything.

The news media doesn’t need another report or another study. It needs a vision, and that, I’m afraid, isn’t going to come — perhaps even cannot come — from within.


  1. […] Over at his PoMo blog, Terry Heaton looked at the report and had this reponse: […]

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