Bob Hill, vice president of the Small Newspaper Group in Cleveland, Tenn., and a heckuva nice guy, made a salient observation last fall during Northwestern’s Readership Leadership Program. We were discussing how to find the next viable business model for newspapers, and Bob noted that newspaper folk seem to have a “herd mentality.” Not surprisingly, such blind movement can get us into trouble.
People want a magic bullet that will fix things with minimal discomfort. Snort! What makes this time period so invigorating for newspapers is that we’re being pushed outside our comfort zones. It’s cliched, but … change or die.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s experiment is generating its share of admirers. AJC (www.ajc.com) is doing some brave things — with a massive reorganization of its newsroom and how staffers “pitch” content for publication — and some smart things, like impressive audience research and audience strategy. Check out the smart, funny and humanizing video the staff made about their reorg: http://www.ajc.com/news/mplayer/m/31637
More than one colleague here has talked about going to Atlanta and checking it out for themselves. So is this kind of reorg the answer? There is no magic bullet, folks. Is it part of the solution? Maybe, after it evolves and morphs and climbs out its version of primordial sludge.
Still more interesting is the Palm Beach Post (http://www.palmbeachpost.com/), which is putting its own spin on the AJC experiment and scaling it down for a smaller paper (smaller compared with AJC). Yoni Greenbaum, Editor on the Verge blogger, has an excellent and concise breakdown of the changes: http://www.yonigreenbaum.com/index.php/20080213/palm-beach-looks-to-the-future/#more-141
It’s just two steps on this journey, but isn’t it fun to be along for the ride?