I criticized the American Press Institute‘s Newspaper Next project last month for wasting more than US$2 million and a year producing a “blueprint” to “transform the industry” that in reality turned out to be little more than advice that publishers should think of newspapers as things that readers ‘hire’ to perform various ‘jobs” such as telling them what’s occuring in their communities or what to do tonight.
That project was just a rehash of Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen‘s book The Innovator’s Dilemma, which shouldn’t be surprising because the API hired Christensen’s consulting firm to develop the project. Newspaper Next is a good deal for Christensen’s firm and API, which can now run seminars and workshops about their ‘solution’ to the problem of newspaper companies’ mismanaging themselves into suicide, but it isn’t really a solution.
Contrast API’s Newspaper Next project with the much more cogent Business Models for Newspaper Publishers conference that Ifra held this week in Frankfurt, Germany.
Rather than telling newspaper executives that their product is ‘hired’ by readers to perform various ‘jobs,’ the Ifra conference focused on ways newspaper publishers can estimate future changes in their industry, where the future sources of company revenue will be, and how to re-align their business strategies and corporate structures accordingly. Practical advice.
Keynoted by Prof. Peter Zellman, of the Austrian Institute for research on leisure and tourism, there were presentations about consumers’ future behavior with media, structural changes underway in the newspaper industry, utilizing online communities, expanding business beyond just reporting the news, preconditions necessary for innovation, and usages of multimedia. Though I couldn’t attend this conference due to scheduling conflicts, I followed its live moblog.
Some of those topics are touched in North American newspaper conferences, but not to the degree of frankness and detail that European conferences do. Perhaps this is because the North American newspaper industry is an oligarchy of just a handful of companies competing in just two large countries; not hundreds of companies that, most of which, don’t compete against each other in the dozens of languages and nearly 30 countries of Europe.