Newspapers Need to Re-Think Survival -Really; by Ken Gigliotti March 2017
It is a sad day on the west coast as Postmedia lays off 50 people including 29 journalists and the east coast is faring no better with the Chronicle Herald on strike for over a year. Other papers are in the same boat as contracts expire.
In a global sense heritage news is in the cross hairs of a globalized harmonization of information. Thinking local is a mistake. Vancouver and British Columbia as well as the East coast are the most interesting places in the world. They should be writing to the world.
It is not just the decline of newspapers and local news ,it is also democracy at the same time. Capitalism is consuming itself in a race to the bottom, and the bottom is near. You won't read that in a newspaper.
No one is coming to help a business owned by billionaires and millionaires. Workers, managers and ownership need to create the condition for survival. Cost cutting has been going on since 1988 when the angle of decent was forming.
If we just look at the newspaper business as a product then the product can be improved . If we see it as more than that, then we have to fight for what it stands for. Either way doing nothing but fallowing technological trends leaves us lagging , standing in the same spot. Pushing a repeating cycle of content is making the product irrelevant.
The demographics of the “deplorables” are being pushed to take more risk in thinking. Internet scavenging serves the new order. Herds are moving away from information networks that wear blinders to their issues. Mainstream news has many blind spots that are being exploited by other riskier media.
Desperation is driving politics and it should be driving the newspaper business.
Newspapers gave up too soon on “comments.” Our customers were trying to tell us something and we took the easy way out. The first experience with new ideas often needs rethinking and reworking to a final acceptable result. Our business did not like being talked back to.
It seems journalism has defaulted to “racism,” as in going the same well too many times. The failure to dig deeper into the origins of ignorance and historic falsehoods that lay beneath the mainstream are failures of journalism. These are failures of smart people to hear ,see and comprehend.
EXAMPLE :The rash of so called hate crimes in the last few months in Canada and the USA have yielded personal motives and mental health issues rather than religious/political hate that media logic jumped to without any basis in fact. Hate was wrongly substituted for vandalism.
The numbers don't lie. When “the deal” that closed newspapers across Canada in 1980 and laid off so many people the last paragraphs of the stories read like the bottom lines of this one. The Winnipeg Tribune, Ottawa Journal and a host of other small papers , Postmedia has lost too much money ($325million in the last full year, $263million in the year before) and it is not going to stop. The Times Colonist merger was a product of the 1980 closings as Thomson and Southam closed or merged papers across Canada.
A correction is going on, live to fight another day.
EXAMPLE: In the biography of (Bill) Parcells a Football Life , the author gives the best and examples description of “confrontational coaching.” Bill Parcells was a coach that specialized in turning around under performing teams, losing teams that acquired good players through the draft but the history of losing became a culture of loosing.
His simple statement to his players was “that they are, what their record said they are.” He turned teams with a “loosing culture” into teams that got to the playoffs, , contended or won in divisional play and Super Bowl Champions. He “never discounted stupidity as being a factor, because it's always in there somewhere.” in losing cultures. He was also a cover story for Forbes Magazine for increasing the value of teams he coached for .
There are too many players in the media market place and the average person is losing there foothold on solid economic ground. It is not just newspapers at stake , and stakes are high as the pressure is being turned up on voters to establish 4 year ruling regimes.
This like the French Revolution and the American Revolution and vast migrations of people from Ireland ,Scotland and the rest of the world to the United States and Canada during the 1700's and 1800's till today. These were not just migrations and armed revolts but the collapse of ways of life with the decline of feudalism and the rise of capitalism. Global change from past to future for the “deplorables.” They made us great from the bottom ,up.
The digital revolution like the others from earlier times has created portals into our open and free society. Our open societies are being taken advantage of. Business is being hacked, personal information monitored, medical information volunteered, and special interest groups pay for play ,democracy itself is being short circuited. Weak journalism is a confounding factor and it is not a coincidence. Our culture has made us the enemy to ourselves and others , but we can change. We are seeing bottom up change with top down influence.Newspapers play a roll in the decline. It is what it looks like.
Read, Blow It All Up Billionaires by Vicky Ward ,Huffington Post. A billionaire “housewife” bankrolled a custom news service and used sophisticated math science to change the largest democracy in the world. Too much information has been volunteered and analytic has become sophisticated in ways that should make people in free societies very afraid. ( Ward called instigator a “house wife”on a recent Charlie Rose episode 3-17 2017)
The newspaper business is still chasing quarters. Actual quarters not the ones on calender.
Lets face it .Some chains are not built to last.
Journalism is waiting to be saved when it needs to save itself.
Unions and managers can figure out a solution , we are smart people but historic automated responses are not going to work. Unions can guarantee cost certainty and companies can guarantee production. These are not opposing forces.
But there is no trust.
Ownership has to become partners with workers to find think-till-it-hurts solutions. The newspaper business is a product that comes from the imaginations of its workers , everyday a blank page.
Think-till-hurts thinking is fueling digital engineering, internet growth. Tradition plays no roll. It has no tradition, it moves from every direction ,it pulls from every culture, it is free thinking.
OTHER THOUGHTS: Think personal instead of local , think user instead of reader, re-think comments, abandon correctness. Seek an eyes wide open re-think like the ones that created the Dallas Cowboys (the first NFL team to use a computerized Draft , see The Cowboys Indian, the programmer was from India, they scouted small black colleges ( at a time (1960's)when the city of Dallas was considered one of the most racist cities in the US, they turned the cheer leading squad into an international brand ) ,Aggressive re-think saved General Motors.
The Apple company fired Steve Jobs the company he helped found then came back to the “pirate “mentality” emphasizing product development over marketing. Newspapers can change into a completely new product.
All bold moves , not incremental thinking.
New England Patriots QB Tom Brady , won his record 5th Super Bowl helped his own cause by restructuring a 4 year $75million contract. By renegotiating to a five year deal he reduced the teams salary cap hit. The cap space helped the team become more successful, therefore helping to keep him healthy. (being able to have better protection and working longer). Many sports teams over pay their stars to the detriment of the overall team. This shorten the star players own longevity, strains payroll and reduces championships. The Patriots also play “money ball”,trade more players, get veterans to work for less to be on Super Bowl contender/winners.
Institutional approaches may not be in order, the world is evolving faster than we think.On CBC's Saturday morning business segment ,BlueCat co-founder Michael Hyatt said in the next 7 years , a lot sooner that most think , the next major challenge will be job losses due to automation and artificial intelligence. More innovation from the digital economy.
Truck and taxi drivers , office workers , any medium/low skill , medium to high pay jobs will be next to be lost on an epic scale. The new innovation item in the Canadian budget will help contribute to the job loss and three year write off as a business expense. The worker is under attack, job creation will be a challenge because business is try to get rid of WORKERS and the hidden expenses of WORKERS.
There are arguments on both sides. What team would you like to play for? Truth is messy. Journalists play in the rarefied air of exceptional-ism, being smart and practical is a hallmark. Save yourself and save the business and wait for a better days are the options. I am sure this issue is on the minds of many people as contracts coming up for negotiation. Opinion by Ken Gigliotti March 2017