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Friday, March 02, 2007

Business Week on Gannett approach to Web

Tennessean senior editor Deborah Fisher used many of Gannett's current buzzwords--such as microzones, pro-am and user-generated content--in her presentation to PRSA Nashville on Tuesday. It should be noted that others are taking note of Gannett's approach to using the Web to adapt and sustain its core newspaper business. Business Week writer Jon Fine had the following to say this week about the company's innovations:

[T]he newspaper chain with the most interesting and coherent approach to rethinking journalism and news-gathering is not the New York Times Co. or the Washington Post Co. ...

By May 1 Gannett will have rolled out to all its papers initiatives enabling readers to interact with each other and assist its journalists. (These approaches also will be launched at Gannett's TV stations.) To describe these efforts, Michael Maness, vice-president of strategic planning and one of the strategy's architects, is eschewing such clumsy industry terms as "user-generated content," opting instead for the more euphonious "pro-am" (as in, professional-amateur) to underscore the blend of reader contributions and traditional reporting. If this succeeds—and early indicators are good—an unlikely company will lead the industry down an unfamiliar but promising path. "What I like about it is that it's not just about saving money, it's about saving journalism," says a reliably revved-up Jeff Jarvis, proprietor of media blog

Some of what Gannett stresses is the kind of Web 101 that local newspapers should have been doing all along. It will ramp up news-breaking efforts on the Web and rethink the product to deliver whatever to whomever on whichever platforms they desire—a phrase so hideously clichéd that most media observers can recite it robotically. Where things get really interesting, and where Gannett leapfrogs others' efforts, is in its pro-am blend. "The pros do the heavy lifting and build the framework and structure," says Maness. "And the audience can come in and fill in" around it.
The whole article is worth a read. If you make it over there, don't miss the comments, where most readers don't share Fine's optimistic take on Gannett's decision. Here's a sampling:
Nickname: drew216
Review: Our small group of newspapers has been accepting and encouraging "citizen journalism" since mid last year. I guess I am surprised that Gannett took so long to figure this out! Citizen Journalism is low cost cpm that is a fantastic opportunity for all newspapers, large and small. We are now able to re-capture the lost franchise of breaking news and leverage it even further. We can create a greater sense of community in our individual markets by involving our readers. Their "content" makes our products/stories more compelling for our customers! I am surprised by the comments by people who simply do not see this huge opportunity. Time to descend from your ivory tower!
Date reviewed: Feb 28, 2007 9:25 PM

Nickname: GannettInsider
Review: Gannett's new initiative, the Information Center, is all about creating more bureaucracy to feed the beast, or the reading audience. They don't care what the quality of journalism is, hell, they don't even hire reporters as they leave, but they're hunting for someone to fill silly-sounding new positions such as the Data Desk Editor and Community Conversations Editor. It's just more of the same with Gannett.
Date reviewed: Feb 20, 2007 1:48 AM

Review: What you don't know about Gannett's plan: Reporters will be selling news subscriptions and answering delivery complaints while "covering" their communities. That reporters are handing out business cards that solicit reader-submitted photos of dogs and quilts and such to post as "news." That public officials and untrained bloggers are being allowed to post unedited "news" items as daily Web updates. That real reporters' jobs are being cut in favor of Webbies who post this drivel. Ask Fort Myers all about it -- it was all discussed in a company-wide conference call last fall, and is being practiced as we speak. If that's civic journalism, we're all in trouble.
Date reviewed: Feb 19, 2007 7:54 PM

Nickname: posted
Review: Someone has had a sip of the Kool-aid. Gannett does nothing that does not mean the reduction of FTEs (can't even refer to them as people as what is left of their conscience might have a problem with what they do to people's lives.) This time the genius is to supplant paid journalists with unpaid readers. Perhaps the next initiative will be to have businesses sell their ads to themselves or readers deliver their own papers.
Date reviewed: Feb 19, 2007 12:47 PM
Hat tip to Mike P. for pointing me to this article. Thanks, Mike.


newscoma said...

I feel like I've been over here all week reading all of this.
The newspaper I run is looking at a complete change.
I'm trying to learn as much as I can and sometimes the task is daunting.
Things are changing so fast and unfortunately, I think the transition will be harder for smaller papers due to a sort of "Good Old Boy" attitude and a bit of being in denial and also just being plain naive.
Larger print media entities have seen the "light" if you will due to ad/classified revenues have dried up to a degree.
Thanks for all of this.
Sometimes I just wish I could go into landscaping, unfortunately plants do live in my care.

Rob Robinson said...

I'm really glad to hear that these posts have been useful, Newscoma.

I can't speak to your specific publication, but I have noticed from time to time that some smaller community newspapers have struggled to shift to the Web or even resisted it entirely. Maybe that can work in a small community where everyone generally knows each other and looks for news in small quantities. I don't know.

The ad and revenue considerations have to make the transition tricky, especially for a smaller paper.

I hope you find workable solutions for the transition as you look to tackle the Web. Don't go out and buy that commercial lawn mower just yet! :)

newscoma said...

No commercial lawnmower I promise.
But I have to say the updates have been groovy.
I really think small papers will benefit more effectively, but they don't have the ad revenue base and there in lies the problem because it's like reading Latin.
Try explaining it to a publisher who says "newsprint will never die".
It has been helpful. Thank you.