Steve Outing’s Goodbye Column at E&P

We recently shot some footage of the last days of Editor & Publisher, the venerable chronicler of, well, chroniclers. The newspaper about newspapers (yes, I get a kick out of repition) was launched in 1884. It was bought by Nielsen Business Media in 1999, and shut down by those very same owners in December.

Anyway, E&P’s Steve Outing had a pretty insightful column last week discussing what newspaper companies could have done right in the internet age.

Here’s the first step:

1. In 1994-95, newspaper executives recognize that the Web is something with the potential to rock their world, and increase R&D budgets significantly in order to plan for and begin building new businesses based on fast-developing new technology. Knight Ridder (now defunct) does not shut down its pioneering Information Design Laboratory (1992-95) in Boulder, Colorado, and transitions into a corporation that goes on to build successful Internet businesses that complement its core newspaper publishing business.

He then goes to discuss what can be done now that, you know, we’ve all come to realize that the internet is not a trend. Here’s his conception of which newspaper companies will survive the still-ongoing digital transition:

9. Some newspaper companies survive the journey across the chasm between the old print-centric model and a new digital model. These are most likely the companies whose board of directors install new leadership not chained to the success of past business models. Among the survivors, we’re more likely to see repeats of National Public Radio’s digital transition, where a new CEO (Vivian Schiller) was hired because of her digital experience, mindset and vision, even though she had less of that for radio.

I’ll try to have some more thoughts on this – and maybe an exploration of the Information Design Laboratory, an idea that intrigues me – in a later post.

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