Newspapers When The Going Gets Tough

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.  That phrase came to mind after reading.Mathew Ingram’s article,  Newspaper staff cuts: Good news?

There are a lot of newspapers that haven’t been moving quite as quickly as they might towards an online future. To a large extent, these papers have been insulated from the need to change by a healthy cash balance, a lock on local advertising markets, a magnanimous owner, a sense of entitlement, etc. (feel free to pick more than one).  What better way to force some change than by administering a large but hopefully non-lethal shock to the system?

With the advertising-revenue wolf clearly at the door, managers at these papers have moved swiftly to shed entire categories of sub-editors, to reconfigure the desk system, to merge Web and print duties where they might not have been merged before, and so on.  Even papers with strong unions have been able to accomplish this, because the economic necessity is so obvious.

When times are easy then even weak competitors can survive.  A tough time forces management to consider how performance can be improved.  Only the strong survive in that process.  In some ways it’s the law of the jungle.  Eventually the best survive.

Donna Ladd expressed a similar sentiment in her [Editor’s Note] When the Going Gets Tough.  She had another dimension on which she felt that newspapers could improve and grow:

I strongly believe that the key to weathering the crisis, or maybe even riding it like a wave, is to think as local as possible. We must look at the world around us with abundance in our hearts—not with stinginess in our eyes. We must help others succeed, dance with the ones who really care about us, bolster our local business community in every way possible. They are the ones who are there for us, the ones who don’t have a corporation telling them to lay off people because the outlets out West aren’t doing so well.

It really points to another lesson, which is never to assume that you are doing the very best you can do.  It is always good to have measures of performance and see how you could do even better.  Complacency is a certain recipe for demise when the times are changing.

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1 thought on “Newspapers When The Going Gets Tough”

  1. A few months back, my local newspaper totally changed their layout, design, sections, everything, to make it more modern. When I first heard they were going to, I thought it’d be horrible.

    It was awesome! As a blog reader, they way they laid out the design was awesome. A lot more relevant news to what I was currently looking at, full color comics every day, and a nice font.

    I don’t know how much it will help them in the long run, but I loved it nonetheless..

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