The Lessons of Lawrence

Work for our clients took precedence over posting here during the past month, creating a backlog of issues to blog. Now that I’ve got some free time again, I’m working on that backlog.

One backlogged item involves The Newspaper of the Future, a three-page story published afront the business section of The New York Times on Sunday, June 26th. The story profiled the Lawrence Journal-World in Kansas, a newspaper company that also built its town’s CATV system 30 years ago, launched its own cable TV news operation on that ten years later, and nowadays has launched probably the most innovate set of websites by any U.S. daily newspaper.

After the Times‘ story appeared, it was discussed on the Online News listserv for online news periodical publishing executives. Despite the Times story’s length, many Online News subscribers weren’t sure what, besides delving early into multimedia, could be learned from the Lawrence Journal-World‘s example. One Online News subscriber asked:

    “Let me put it another way: It may be interesting to discuss what 85% of the dailies arguably might have done in the past. The relevant question is, whether this so-called ‘newspaper of the future’ offers any ideas or lessons on what they might profitably do now.”

Good question. I posted a reply there today, which I’m also posting here.

Many people assume that there might be some glamorous new application or service that a newspaper (or a news magazine or a news broadcaster) can implement onlikne now that will bring immediate profit and success. Unfortunately, what news organizations must do now online are much less unglamorous things and don’t bring immediate results. Does the Lawrence Journal-World provide any ideas or lessons about what newspapers must do now?)

Yes, but the answer requires us to see the forest and not just the trees.

What newspapers must do now is the same thing that they should have done then: Specifically, cease myopia and mimicry.

Most newspapers are ill with myopia. Nearsightedness. Short-term thinking. Newsrooms are concerned just with today’s or this Sunday’s stories; ad sales departments with this month’s quotas; circulation departments with the next Audit Bureau of Circulation deadline; publishers with capital investments that can be recouped within 12 to 36 months; and newspaper corporations only with the next financial quarter’s results. Relentlessly short-term thinking is pandemic in the newspaper industry.

Even newspapers

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