Welcome to MediaReset.com

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

Local media need to think bigger about the Big Data opportunity

big-data-infographic-cropped big-data-infographic-sourcesData, data, data. From every direction lately, I’m being hit with urgent reminders about the imperative for local media companies to master data.

Every day, I’m more convinced: This is the next wave of threat — or opportunity — for local media companies. That’s how disruptive innovation works — you either grab the opportunity, or you are overrun by it.

As Big Data marches down upon us, I’m reminded of Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” It tells how, on the eve of the American Revolution, patriots gave warning of the British Army’s advance by hanging lanterns in the belfry of Boston’s Old North Church:

“One if by land, two if by sea.”

I’m hanging out three lanterns. Big Data is bearing down on us right now — by land, by sea and from every other direction.

I’ve blogged about it before, focusing mainly on the opportunities in advertising and marketing. Here I wrote about being the first to offer Big Data solutions to advertisers. And here, I gave a vivid example of how this can work.

But the Big Data opportunity for local media companies is actually much bigger than that. If you ask yourself what data there are, and how they could help our business, the answers are almost overwhelming:

  • Data about our subscribers. Not just their names, addresses and phone numbers, but the huge amounts of other data — demographics, lifestyles, interests, etc. — available from Big Data sources.
  • Data about our digital audiences. Not just page views and unique visitor counts, but the vast amounts of data generated by their actions on the web, revealing interests, characteristics, purchasing paths, lifestyles and much more.
  • Data about everyone else in our markets — those who don’t subscribe to our print products and don’t use our websites. In the dawning Big Data era, you will fall out of the race unless you have the Big Data profiles of ALL the adults and households in your market and can help your customers reach the right ones for their products or services.
  • Data about the businesses and organizations in our markets. This information isn’t as new to us as the types above, but there’s a lot more of it now. With Big Data analytics and lead generation tools , we can see who are the best prospects for our advertising and marketing solutions.

Add up these categories, and there are millions, maybe billions, of valuable, actionable data points available within our markets. And millions more are being created all the time.

With that realization, a new vision of a local media company is developing in my mind. It looks like this:

We have become the leading masters of local Big Data on individuals, households and businesses and how best to reach them — unmatched by any other local competitor. We can do all of these and more:

  1. For advertising and marketing customers, we target by characteristics and/or behaviors, using targeted digital display, email, social channels, mobile and desktop. We also use our clients’ customer lists to generate look-alike prospects and market them through the channels to which they respond best. 
  2. For our sales teams, we identify best prospects through their digital behaviors and nurture them through the decision funnel until they become our customers.
  3. For the content we present, we use Big Data to understand which content resonates with our users. We produce more and more of that content, becoming more relevant and more integral to people in our communities. This is driving steep gains in traffic and engagement on our websites and apps.
  4. We use web visitor behavior data on our sites to personalize content, and to manage our content meters to induce a larger number of frequent users to subscribe.
  5. For circulation sales, we generate look-alikes of our subscribers and market these non-subscribers through the channels to which they respond best.

We have some of the necessary data for these things, but we need better analysis. And there’s much more data we need to acquire, integrate and interpret.

These are big opportunities. But I’m confident that there are many, many more.

We just don’t have enough experience with, or knowledge of, the potentials of digital data to see them yet. The more we learn, the more we will see.

Who could help us with this? Lately I’ve been looking up resumes of “data scientists” on job boards. Excerpts from a couple of resumes:

  • “I have direct work experience developing innovative and creative solutions for data extraction, transformation and loading, data staging, data analysis, and modeling complex data relationships. I strive to create actionable results through practical and creative solutions to both known and evolving problems.”
  • “Taking anything from operational data warehouse environments to unstructured data archives, I am responsible for determining and creating the data architecture plan to support ongoing analytics, reporting and modeling exercises. Familiar with the following tools: [followed by a list of more than 20 analytics, digital advertising and reporting tools, only a few of which are known to me].”

What’s forming in my mind is a picture of a data scientist position at my company, Morris Communications. We have data scattered everywhere, so we need someone who has the data skills mentioned above.

It also needs to be someone with strong entrepreneurial instincts — someone who can see which of our existing data — and what additional data — can drive better decisions and shape new business opportunities.

Some of the Big Data pings hitting me lately are coming from vendors offering to help us. Here are some quotes from various marketing emails I’ve received in just the last week or so:

  • “One of the roadblocks to delivering personalized experiences across channels is the heavy lifting it takes to centralize customer data, build profiles and targeted segments, and push them back to your customer touchpoint tools.”
  • “The concept of ‘Identity’ is having an identity crisis. While there has never been more data available for reaching customers, there is a lack of resolution, both conceptually and practically, around the industry as to what it really means.”
  • “[Our company’s] goal is to turn information in business insights to enhance production, cross-channel distribution, and value creation. [We] have helped media owners understand their audience and assist their clients to make informed media choices. Some of the media verticals are:
    • “Publishers: Digital tracking and predictive modeling, content and position analytics, subscription analytics and user benchmarking, journey and funnel analytics.”
  • From a Marketo white paper:
    • In a business of any size — especially one with an engaging web and social media presence — buyer interactions can number in the thousands, millions or even hundreds of millions. Without the right tools to automate the planning, execution and measurement, even the hardest-working marketer can be overwhelmed by the complexity.”

New, data-driven business models are developing all around us. Our companies are sitting on sizable repositories of data, and we could quickly gain more by deploying the right strategies. And outside our companies, there are massive repositories of data about local people and businesses that we could integrate into profitable new initiatives.

So I’m hanging out three lanterns, folks. Big Data is pouring into and out of our markets. Let’s mobilize and develop the killer data-driven strategies we need to maximize the opportunity.

10 years later: Seven disruption lessons from Newspaper Next

In the fall of 2006, as the Internet was devastating the newspaper industry in earnest, the American Press Institute unveiled a new program to push back against the disruption.

We called the project Newspaper Next, and its first report was called Blueprint for Transformation.

Ten years later, what did it accomplish? And what should we still remember from that body of work? Read the rest of this entry

Lead generation: Reframing the future of advertising

In the last several weeks, my whole concept of advertising and marketing has been reframed, and I’m still sorting out what it means. But I know this: It has given me a clearer understanding of the path local media companies must take in sales.


The Rosetta Stone was the key in unlocking several ancient languages

Now I’m going to try to work the same kind of reframing on you.

Reframing is what happens when some new fact, or a new interpretation of old facts, reveals a subject in a very different light. It’s often a breakthrough that clarifies your priorities and shows you new ways to overcome your challenges.

And in advertising and marketing, we have more than our share of challenges. Print and broadcast media have been struggling for years to assimilate a bewildering array of new tactics.

The list includes buzz terms like SEM, SEO, targeting, retargeting, social media, video, reputation management, email, native advertising, content marketing, Big Data, programmatic advertising and more. And new ones show up all the time.

Read the rest of this entry

Global disruption: The information lowlands are rising fast

This time, let’s go up 100,000 feet for a look across the globe. As the media industry in the developed world struggles, billions of humans elsewhere are moving from information scarcity to full access to the world’s knowledge.

Topographical globe.crop

A topographical world map. (Copyright 2000 Seajester)

Some time ago, thinking about this strange dichotomy, I tried to come up with a visual metaphor to reflect what’s happening.

I was picturing the globe and its many nations and peoples, and thinking about their drastically unequal access to information. And I was thinking about the rapid and Read the rest of this entry

Thought experiments can put us ahead of the media disruption curve

Let’s try some thought experiments, in the best tradition of Albert Einstein.

The hypothesis we’ll explore is this: That the large, lucrative revenue stream that newspaper companies have enjoyed from major/national advertisers will decline to something approaching zero.

Our thought experiments will examine what we should do about that. Read the rest of this entry

Rethinking the mission and purpose of local reporting

How do you define the mission and purpose of local reporting?

Cover the news? Hold institutions accountable? Maintain a well-informed citizenry? Hold up a mirror to the community? “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable?”

Search around the Web for statements of journalism’s purpose and you’ll find all of the above, and more like them.

And there’s a lot of anxiety these days about the present and future of this mission. With local advertising and circulation revenues spiraling steadily downward, and with newsrooms shrinking along a parallel line, two things are evident. Whatever the mission of local reporting is:

  1. A lot less of it is happening now.
  2. Even less will be happening in the future.

In many places in this business, the central question these days is: How can we drive revenue from new sources, so we can keep supporting the functions of journalism that are critical to a free society?

To an extent, I buy that. But there’s also something seriously misguided about it. Read the rest of this entry

See Big Data and glimpse the future of advertising

I’ve been getting a series of demos from Big Data providers as we at Morris Publishing Group work to figure out how we will offer Big Data services to local advertisers.

Just lately, we’ve been getting down into the details. For me, this brought a profound leap in comprehension.

It was like staring  into a crystal ball and seeing a monumental event that’s about to change your life. Read the rest of this entry

Take a disruption lesson from Procter & Gamble

PGPhaseLogoWhat could disrupted legacy media companies possibly have in common with Procter & Gamble — the huge and perennially successful consumer goods manufacturer?

One thing we have in common is that we both need to recognize and plan for the continuous loss of revenue from declining products.

We don’t think of P&G as needing to cope with fading products as an endemic part of its business. But 10 years ago, when I was leading the Newspaper Next project for the American Press Institute, I learned that part of their success lies in the careful planning they do to offset those declines.

We in the media business can take an important lesson from P&G’s approach. Read the rest of this entry

How legacy media reps can — and must — sell more digital

How can we sell more digital? In traditional media, that question has been pounding us for years.

It’s in our heads, in our meetings, in our training, in our budgeting. Few of us are growing our digital revenues at rates anywhere near the growth rate of digital spending.

And one of the toughest challenges has been getting our core sales reps to present digital advertising and marketing solutions effectively to their existing customers.

Read the rest of this entry

Four keys to leadership in times of change

When your organization needs large-scale change (and what disrupted media organization doesn’t?), how do you get it done?

Leader heading the team. Lead by example concept.Terabytes have been written about the strategies and tactics that legacy media organizations need. I’ve written my share, too, here at MediaReset.com. But I’ve seen precious little written about how to lead and manage effective change to carry out these strategies.

Read the rest of this entry