You’ve arrived at a blog about transforming the companies that publish newspapers. And it’s a blog with an unorthodox point of view.
Here it is: News will not save you.
Why not? Because the disruption that’s pounding newspaper companies is not about people Read the rest of this entry
Last time, I blogged about a powerful principle that helps. It goes like this: “The only thing that changes people’s behavior is new information. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, until they get new information.”
New information is what convinces organizations and people of the need to change. And it’s the responsibility of leaders in an organization to share the information that convinces them change is necessary. That’s what mobilizes people.
If you haven’t read that post, you should probably do it now, because this post builds on it.
This post starts with the admission that even the most powerful new information won’t get some people to change. They will go on doing what they’re doing right now, even when they’ve seen conclusive evidence that it isn’t working.
What’s up with that?
In the same brilliant 1992 talk I mentioned last time, Morrie Shechtman provided answers that made tremendous sense.
He asserted that people and organizations run on certain values, and that when those values differ, the result is conflict that blocks progress. Those values have much to do with the way people respond to new information.
He clarified that he didn’t mean values of the usual sort, such as honesty, loyalty and integrity. He meant values centered on 1) change, 2) responsibility, and 3) impact and reward.
Everyone’s values on these three parameters lie along a spectrum, he said. If you’re at one end of the spectrum and the organization’s values are at the other end, it won’t be a happy fit for either of you.
Shechtman’s book, Working Without a Net/How To Survive and Thrive in Today’s High Risk Business World, discusses all of this in much more detail.
But for now, let’s take these values one by one:
Most people don’t like change. When things change, there’s a sense of losing control, of uncertainty, of risk.
But, Shechtman said, people respond differently to change. People at one end of the spectrum define change as bad, and they do everything they can to stall it off. And, when finally forced to make a change, they make the smallest possible change that will get them by for the present.
Businesses are the same. Most established businesses are comfortable with what they do, and when forced to change, they will make the smallest change they think can help. It’s happening every day in many newspaper companies.
Shechtman also pointed out that not making a decision to change is, in itself, a decision. People and businesses may think they are postponing a decision, but in reality they are deciding to stay on the current path. In a business that’s declining, that can be deadly.
People who live at the other end of the change spectrum may not like change any better, Shechtman said, but they view it differently. They track the available information carefully, watching to see when change becomes the smart thing to do. And when that happens, they try to make a change that’s big enough to take them as far into the future as possible.
My takeaway: Disrupted businesses and their leaders simply must view change in that latter way. Anything less is a decision to keep riding the business down.
And they need people in their organizations who share that same value about change — people who will respond to new information by making the smartest, most far-reaching changes. Those who resist change, or postpone and minimize it, can — wittingly or not — slow or even sabotage the organization’s progress.
At one end of the responsibility spectrum, people believe that things happen to them and they are powerless to do anything about it. They are victims of circumstances beyond their control.
At the other end of the responsibility spectrum, people believe that when things happen, it’s up to them to find a way forward. They take the responsibility for turning events and circumstances into opportunities to survive and thrive.
In businesses being disrupted by circumstances beyond their control — like newspapers, magazines, TV and radio in the digital age — the victim mentality is deadly. Owners, leaders and employees of disrupted businesses cannot afford to view themselves as powerless victims.
We need fighters who are determined to make success out of whatever circumstances we are given. These are the people who make wins happen. We need them at the top of the organization, throughout management and in the rank and file.
Impact vs. reward
At one end of this spectrum, Shechtman said, people believe they can’t have both impact and reward. They believe they must choose one or the other.
At the other end of the spectrum, Shechtman said, people believe they can and should be able to achieve high impact AND be well rewarded for it.
Shechtman said that’s the way it should work. But in many types of employment, it doesn’t.
For example, he said, people take teaching jobs to have impact on young people, consciously resigning themselves to making less money than they might in many other jobs.
Unfortunately, the newspaper business works similarly. If you want to have an impact on the community, you become a reporter or an editor — and you resign yourself to making less money than the people who sell advertising. People who go into advertising, on the other hand, often take pride in having a positive impact on their customers AND making good money for it.
But newspapers constantly lose their best people anyway, because the whole industry tends to underpay even its high performers. So, when they’ve maxed out what your organization can offer, they tend to move on to other industries where they can achieve both impact and reward.
If you’re a leader of any sort in a disrupted business, you might want to consider where your own values fall along these three spectra.
- Are you avoiding change or making the most of it?
- Are you taking full responsibility to make the best of what’s happening around you?
- Are you expecting and trying to achieve both impact and reward?
If you’re where you need to be on these values, then consider your people. Are their values where they need to be?
In all likelihood, some of them are not. And you may realize that your efforts to change your department or organization are suffering because of people whose values regarding change, responsibility or impact/reward aren’t in synch with what’s needed.
Can you help them bring their values into alignment with the organization’s needs? Certainly you can try. But it isn’t easy, since these values are deeply seated.
And merely getting compliance isn’t enough. Just think how wonderful it would be to work with a whole team of people who take full and enthusiastic responsibility for making needful change happen.
When you think about it that way, you realize you can’t afford to wait too long for reluctant people to come on board. Remember — not making a decision IS a decision.
- Figuring out how the business has to change.
- Changing behaviors in the organization to get the new things done.
As most people in the newspaper industry can testify, both of these are difficult and relentless. There’s no “one and done” in a disruption as massive as the digital revolution.
And, unfortunately, success at No. 1 is no guarantee of success at No. 2.
Over last three years, I’ve blogged frequently about No. 1. This time let’s look at No. 2. Read the rest of this entry
What does the local media company of the future look like?
At this point, the answer is pretty clear. There will be two kinds of media companies:
- Those that continue to focus on their traditional media channels — newspaper, broadcast television channel, radio station(s) — and therefore shrink along with the advertising spending on those media.
- Those that morph into local media houses that can connect any advertiser with any audience, through platforms, technologies and channels they own or don’t, to win dollars that are moving into digital advertising and marketing.
Let’s look beyond the waves of media disruption we’re experiencing these days. Let’s try to imagine the end state, when media disruption gets done.
Wait … will it ever get done? Yes, I think so — at the time when virtually everyone on the planet, during every waking moment, has instant access at will to virtually the entire body of human knowledge. (Maybe in sleeping moments, too.) Read the rest of this entry
If you’re old enough to remember Saturday Night Live in its glory days, maybe you remember the hilarious sketches set in the Scotch Tape store at the old mall.
The bit was centered on, and got its laughs from, a ridiculously narrow business model centered on a single product, sold in a retail location that was no longer the cool place to be. (I’d love to link to a clip here, but I couldn’t find one. NBC must be closely guarding its copyright.)
Those sketches came to mind this week as I was trying to think of a metaphor for the newspaper business and its relentless concentration on news. News continues to be our industry’s central purpose and the heart of its business model for attracting audiences.
I laughed out loud when it occurred to me that we might be well on the way to becoming the Scotch Tape store, or “Scotch Boutique,” as they called it. But the idea is as painful as it is funny. Read the rest of this entry
“I want my ad to go right here,” Jerry Coolman said. He pointed at the middle two columns at the top of the newspaper page — right in the middle of an article. He wanted his ad for lawn tractors to hit readers smack between the eyes.
“Jerry, we can’t do that,” I said. “That’s the reader’s space — we can’t plunk an ad down in the middle of it.”
That was 1983. Now, twenty years later, it turns out we can plunk an ad down in the reader’s space. It’s being done more and more, and it’s being called by a new name: “native advertising.” Read the rest of this entry
About five years ago, on a weekend, Derek May — then publisher of the St. Augustine (FL) Record — was doing what many publishers were doing at the time: Trying to figure out the steep decline in advertising revenue he was seeing in his unit’s financials.
What was the main cause of the decline? The recession was the driver, of course, but was it mainly hitting certain categories of advertising? Certain types of advertisers? Big advertisers? Small advertisers? Read the rest of this entry
To someone who only has a hammer, everything looks like a nail. In the newspaper industry, the hammer we have is news. And right now, the new nail is mobile.
With mobile usage exploding, our industry is determined to pound that nail with news as hard and fast as we can. It looks like a must-do, a matter of survival, and — we hope — a new opportunity to reach people, sell advertising and make money. But mobile is not the nail we think it is. Read the rest of this entry
Say the word “recruitment” and most newspaper executives groan. Over the last seven or eight years, our revenue in this space has shrunk to a fraction of its former size, and it’s still slipping.
At Morris Publishing Group, we’ve been looking hard at this vertical for several months. We’ve been trying to figure out two things: How can we do better at what’s left of our existing business, and how can we create new wins in this space?
We’re beginning to see path ahead, so it’s a good time to share some of what we’ve learned. Read the rest of this entry