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Innovation in the Newspaper Business – 1 February 7, 2009

Posted by David Dirks in Increasing Your Profitability, Innovation: Not Just for the Big Dogz, Recession: How to Beat It!, Sales Strategy/Tactics.
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David DirksFor quite some time now, I’ve been watching and musing over the struggle that the newspaper publishing business is going through.  Craigslist has usurped the leading role  of providing classified advertising that the newspaper once held.  They’ve done that by providing free classified ads that actually work.  They are geographically specific and apparently people read them…online that is.

Is online the answer?  Well, I’m not so sure about that in the sense that newsprint websites haven’t solved the revenue and profitability issues…at least not yet.  I was talking to a friend of mine recently who was on the mark when he said: newspapers had a huge window of opportunity to get into the web business years ago but they by and large left it behind.  It was a big window of opportunity that has since been taken over by blogs and other free portals to news like CNN, CNBC, and the like with their online websites.

What’s left?  Well, I think the win in publishing is this: don’t look for a big hit to bring revenues and profitability home.  Everybody seems bent in the industry to find the holy grail that will revitalize the publishing business model.  I have news for you: there is no such thing as a ‘big hit’ here.  The victory in the newspaper business I believe will come from incremental successes.  The victory will be many pieces of the revenue puzzle all coming together to create a healthier publishing model for the newspaper business.

What incremental pieces?  Already in play is the newspaper website that is tightly integrated with the print version and produces some level of revenues.  The cost to publish online should in fact be quite minimal compared to the infrastructure necessary to print a paper.  Selling advertising on both platforms has been well underway for a while now.  Not enough to rebuild the business model but important nonetheless.

What else can you sell if you’re in the newspaper business?  Try this one on for size: CONTENT.  Newspapers produce a ton of content daily, weekly, etc.  The current business model is publish today and forget tomorrow. 

There is always some excellent journalism that gets forgotten and never reused in any purposeful way as soon as the next edition hits the newstands.

Purposefully repackaging selected content is another way to create increment revenues and profits.  You already paid for journalists to create the copy that drives the content.  Why not get additional mileage from it?

How?  How about creating and selling special hard and softcover editions of specialized topics?  What editions?  How about “The HS Sports Year in Review 2008”?  Or “The Year in Review 2009 for (name your town/city here)”?  You could probably find many other specialized areas of interest that could be repackaged and sold in another format.  People like to see and hear about themselves, their local sports team,  in the newspaper?  What kid or parent wouldn’t want to buy the the “The Hudson Valley Sports Review 2008?” as a momento or gift?  With print-on-demand technology today, you don’t even need to keep a large inventory of these specialized editions.

I like the local sports repackaging.  You have basically 365 days of sports content and surely you can find enough great stories to fill a book.

You could also produce other digital products.  Many newspapers today use video to record special events and newsworthy items.  That content is repurposed mostly for the newspaper website.  But who says you can’t produce a ‘year in review’ dvd?  Same concept as the book only this time your adding live footage of sports and news events of the year…couple with some great photography.  What a great way to repackage video footage and digital photographs?  I’ll bet you could create a great ‘year in review’ just based on photography alone!

Yes, it’s the ‘Time-Life” version of repackaging great content to sell another day!

Repurpose your content.  Newspapers are great researching and writing it.  Let’s not waste the work of the excellent journalists who toil to create it.  Repackage and repurpose everything!

What do you think?  Am I crazy?  Let me know your thoughts!

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