29 September 2009

Four Steps to the New News Organization

Local newspapers are in the best position to form the profitable "New News Organization" envisioned by Jeff Jarvis and his colleagues, Judy Sims, former vice president of digital media for the Toronto Star Media Group, writes for PaidContent.org.

Jarvis envisions a local news ecosystem that includes blogs, niche sites, non-profits -- plus a profitable news organization, capable of curating, aggregating audiences and producing original reporting.

Local newspapers are best positioned to do this because of their relationships with local advertisers, Sims suggests. "For small businesses, advertising is, was and always will be about return on investment. If the cash register doesn’t ring, the model won’t work. And metro newspapers know, understand and are trusted by local advertisers more than anyone else in their markets," she says.

Sims offers "four easy steps" for local newspapers seeking to become the New News Organization:

* Step 1: Create a separate organization. Put an online product person in charge of a small (at first) team that includes an online advertising sales person, an editor and a web developer -- and put them "in an office someplace far, far away from the print organization." This team, she writes, "will discover that the best business/editorial/advertising model is considerably different from what the print folks would come up with. And, it will very likely cannibalize the core business." Sims admits this is a "doozy" of a first step, but she feels it is necessary.

* Step 2: Build verticals. Local advertisers want audience and context. Sims urges an analysis of market data to identify categories with the greatest potential advertising revenue, such as homes, health, parenting and entertainment. "Use everything at your disposal to make these sites the ultimate online destinations in their subject-area for the residents of your city," she urges. They should combine news, resources links, data, business and event listings, and input from users, as well as advertising and shopping information.

* Step 3: Curate the ecosystem. Engage local bloggers and encourage experts to start new blogs to fill any gaps. For instance, ask an OB/GYN to write for the parenting site or an interior decorator for your homes site; in general, "make it easy for the passionate to be heard." In addition, Sims urges, news organizations should create widgets and other apps that allow other sites to publish their content. "The news media of the future is about distribution, not destination," she writes.

* Step 4: Create a Glam.com-style advertising network, using the ecosystem described above. Link extensively: Push traffic from the verticals to the blogs, and the blogs to the main news site, and the main news site to the verticals. And create packages around commercial content.

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