Home' Local Media Today : November 2010 Contents November 2010 | SUBURBAN PUBLISHER | 5
Continued from page 1 | Paton
OVER ARCHING THEME
When Paton announced this venture for
the first time publicly at the SNA conference,
it was part of a bigger discussion he had with
his industry peers on that brilliantly sunny
Wednesday in late September. His keynote
was all about his company’s new start,
away from traditional, legacy processes
to a new set of fundamentals that he says
are essential to survival.
“My company had been a poster child for
what ails the industry,” Paton told the crowd
as he acknowledged that indeed many titles
have long standing historical significance
in their communities and remain profit-
able despite the turbulent economy and
shifting habits. “Yet none of this will save
(the industry) unless we profoundly change
how we do business.”
He said that the notion of simply print-
ing a newspaper and then shoveling that
content on to the web demonstrates a
lack of understanding of functionality and
of how audiences assemble themselves
now. Mainstream media is shrinking in
favor of interactive and alternative forms
and that the real game changer is a simple
fact – more people are now getting their
news from the Internet than from print.
Of course Paton recognizes where that
news originates but could not have been
clearer about his mission to adopt a Digital
First business model that will enable his
company to capitalize on the new news
ecology and protocol.
PUT THE DIGITAL PEOPLE IN CHARGE
“Engagement is happening online, not
in print,” said Paton, who advocates that
newspapers quickly embrace and incorpo-
rate this fact into their audience building
strategies. He termed his own as ‘Survival
of the Fastest’ as he described the new
protocol of reporting news which begins
with SMS alerts and puts print, a.k.a. “slow
news”, in the fourth position behind ‘on the
web’ and in social media conduits.
He said that the collective newspaper
industry has been trying to transform the
business model for more than a decade
and, for the most part, the outcome is not
working. It’s time to make radical change
now says Paton.
“I have tried many approaches and the
digital people in charge. If we’re going to
change, we have to change our focus.”
He also stressed the importance of invest-
ing in the tools and processes that can better
enable the Digital First strategy. For example,
one of the first decisions he made as the
new CEO earlier this year was to equip every
reporter at every JRC newspaper with a Flip
camera that enabled them to record video.
He said that investment easily paid for itself
in short order with the additional revenue
generated by advertising pre-rolls.
“Invest in anything that facilitates doing
more with less at a higher rate of qual-
ity,” said Paton. His list of examples of
this includes training, content platforms,
content and audience partnerships and
pre-press platforms. He reminded that
there are a host of vendors who do most
things better than we do.
“The work of these vendors is their core
competency,” said Paton, who advocates
partnering and taking advantage of these
Another element of JRC’s new way of
doing business is literally bringing the out-
side in. In addition to the aforementioned
new Philadelphia initiative, JRC is also
working with SeeClickFix and Growthspur.
And, Paton initiated a high profile advisory
board that includes Jeff Jarvis, Jay Rosen
and Betsy Morgan.
MORE FROM PATON
Paton’s PowerPoint presentation is
viewable on SNA’s website. Access it at
www.suburban-news.org under the
Stirring the Pot
“I watched the Clark Gilbert one hour
video yesterday and that’s all I have been
thinking about for 22 hours. We have been
working so hard to make incremental change
and it is not going to be enough. He both
scared the crap out of me and has kicked
me in the butt to do more.” – From an email
sent to me by an SNA member.
A few weeks ago SNA sent out an email
encouraging our members to watch the
Clark Gilbert video from the keynote address
at the recent Borrell Mobile Conference.
Since then, feedback has been pouring
in and most share the sentiments of the
member noted above.
I was fortunate to be in the audience
and listen to the presentation live. It blew
most of us away and created plenty of buzz
during the remainder of the conference. If
you have not listened to it be sure to find the
link on the SNA web site at www.suburban-
For those that might not remember,
Clark was with Harvard business school
and implemented the NewspaperNext
project for API. He thinks that many in the
newspaper industry still don’t get it. He now
runs Deseret Media (newspaper, TV, radio
and digital offerings). He has a huge digital
staff and recently implemented massive
layoffs on the print side.
Gilbert believes that separate digital divi-
sions are a must. This means separate staff,
separate offices, separate P&L, etc.
He points to the Borrell scatter grams
(first started in 2004) as overwhelming
evidence that this works. In the scatter
grams, top performers show up in the “green
zone”. According to Gilbert, 100 percent
of them that show up in the green zone
have separate digital divisions and yet most
newspapers insist on an integrated staff.
This reminded me of John Paton’s keynote
at the SNA Conference in Philadelphia. At
Journal Register Company, top executives all
come from the digital side. Paton states “the
print folks have been in charge of the digital
transition for many years; it doesn’t work.”
A few weeks ago, the Philadelphia Inquirer
demoted the editor because he didn’t have
a strong enough digital background. We
are starting to see more and more of this
in the industry.
Deseret Digital Media has 5 million
monthly unique visitors and KSL.com will
finish 2010 with 60 percent YOY growth.
They are enjoying record revenue every
month this year. They are the largest news-
paper web site in Utah (goal is to be a top
10 newspaper website in the U.S. by 2015).
They are 40 percent bigger than the Salt
Lake Tribune. And they have established
an impressive advisory board from all over
the U.S. including Harvard faculty. The
head of their digital department has never
worked in the newspaper industry (worked
at ancestry.com and myfamily.com). He
only thinks about the web.
Their mobile strategy is aggressive as you
would expect. KSL mobile is now number
four in Utah behind KSL.com, deseretnews.
com and saltlaketribune.com. They recently
acquired Frogzog.com for mobile coupons.
With this technology, customers can change
their offers on the fly (he thinks this is vitally
important to put the power in the hands of
advertisers via self-serve models). Deals are
turning out to be lucrative for them (they
launched a group deals platform in July). He
is opposed to partnerships with Groupon
or other national sites as he believes that
they are using your brand to develop local
Deseret Digital Media has 24 telesales
people in the digital division – they are going
gangbusters selling the deals products. They
also have a self serve team (converts them
after telesales makes the initial sale). All
deals are approved in advance. He has 75
sales people on his digital team. This does
not include 20 newspaper/TV reps that also
sell a lot of online/deals/etc. (Members of
the digital team support traditional reps).
Gilbert reminded us of one of the
key-takeaways from the NewspaperNext
research: “Disruptive innovators always
offer a quicker, cheaper and better solu-
tion”; Gilbert believes that mobile coupons/
deals are prime to be the next big disruptive
innovator. Community media companies
have a golden opportunity to own this space.
Gilbert has his doubts as to whether they
will or not and in fact, predicts that only 1
out of 10 traditional media companies will
The Clark Gilbert presentation certainly
stirred the pot as did the John Paton keynote
in Philly. Gordon Borrell went so far as to say
that a print or broadcast rep that blows away
their budget on the traditional side should
be fired if they consistently don’t make their
digital goals. One thing is for sure: it takes
courage to be a disruptive innovator.
We welcome your comments on
the Clark Gilbert video on our face-
book page at www.facebook.com/
Links Archive October 2010 December 2010 Navigation Previous Page Next Page