Working in the US newspaper industry isn’t always rainbows and unicorns… I know, it’s shocking.
Over the past few years I have come to believe a few things.
- Print papers will disappear in smaller and younger cities, but will remain in the older and larger metro areas like New York and Philadelphia.
- What is commonly referred to as newspaper journalism will move online in those smaller/younger cities.
- Many newspaper sites will fail online because they will not understand how to compete effectively.
- Journalists that understand personal branding, blogging and video will be the big winners.
- An inability to connect with your audience will mean readers, connections mean evangelists.
The problem with most newspapers is they don’t love their readers. Most, stopped loving their readers a couple generations ago. But it’s not to late, although it will take a cultural change that some may be unable to achieve.
Step 1: Start loving your readers.
Show your love by listening to them, by responding to their comments and by offering to co-create with them.
Learn who you most avid users are and engage with them. If you ran a coffee shop and the same customer came in twice a day, you would get to know them, you would know just how they want their coffee. You might even give them a free coffee mug. Can you offer your best fans anything similar?
2. Understand that your world is changing – stop fighting, start adapting
The generation leaving school today has never known a world without high-speed internet access. Generation Y expects information to come to them, so they can share it, mix it, mash it and repurpose it as they see fit. How easily can your users share your content?
3. Make it easier for your users
Every person who visits your site is different, and they all want something different, sometimes, a lot different. Are you trying to give them what they want or are you handing out Men’s XL t-shirts in a one-size-fits-all strategy? I think it’s important that the front page (or lead story on a website) be what the editorial brain trust has decided is the big story. They have experience in picking out stories that should be important to the community – they know that the XL t-shirt will cover most people.
After that opening editorial salvo, I may want to read about where I can listen to jazz this Sunday or find out who won the boy’s basketball game at the high school last night. The next day, all I want is weather. By Saturday, I need the to find out if there’s a parade and what it’s route is.
There’s a good chance a local newspaper site will have some of this, but some of it will fall through the cracks. That’s okay, I have no expectation that you can cover all my interests – but someone is talking about it somewhere. Help me. Be a resource for me and I will always start at your site. Connect me to the guy who blogs about the high school basketball team for in-depth coverage of that, and how about the video blogger who covers the local music scene?
When you help me I will probably share out that information with my friends on Twitter and Facebook. My friends will probably click on the link to see what I’m doing… see the eco-system that is being built?
4. Let me help you
You can’t be everywhere at once. You don’t run in the same circles I do, but sometimes I might be someplace where “something” happens. I have an iPhone and I’m not afraid to use it! Make it easy for me to share my photos, videos and thoughts with you when I happen to be the best reporter you have – also known as, the only person there.
Last month I asked WRAL if they wanted photos of kids on Halloween. They did, they had a page on their website where I could upload photos of little trick-or-treaters. That’s not good enough, because it means more work for me. It means I have to take a photo with my phone, come home, remember to connect my phone to my laptop and extract the files, then create an account at WRAL, then upload my photos one by one. For me, that was too much work. What I wanted was an email address I could just send my photos to as I take them, or an iPhone app. Why wouldn’t WRAL set up a Flickr acct or Tumblr, Whrrl or Posterous to make it easier on me? Media companies are not used to gathering information that way. What would happen to all of the multimedia from all the smart phones if another hurricane Katrina hit? What’s the plan to let me help you?
I’ve embedded the slide show I gave to a very sparsely populated conference room at my company last week.
What advice would you share with the guys running your local newspaper?