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Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

What I would do if I bought a newspaper

In response to this…

If I bought a newspaper here’s what I’d do, and I’ll use the OC Register as an example (since I kind of worked there from when I was 8 until I was 22). This applies to a local paper.

1) Take the third floor (newsroom). Move them out and cut some staff. Put them in a big warehouse type space that was computers on the outside wall, and conversation areas inside. Make this warehouse in a public space, open to the public. Put in a coffee bar, open wifi and invite the consumer to come in. Leverage the content the consumer creates in this environment so that the reader is also the (co) writer.

2) Take the second floor (customer service). Outsource most of it, use Kayako eSupport for the rest. The other half (marketing), cut half the staff and put them in the warehouse with the reporters. Give them all good wireless technology and teach them how to promote responsible sales/marketing/advertising that extends local business reach in innovative ways

3) The Plant/press/pasteup/pagination: Good bye! You are a physical product. Not needed. I want the computers though from pagination. And the printers

4) Photo department: You already use high megapixel digicams. Give them all EVDO cards, powerbooks and integration with a good photo system for online submissions.

5) 5th floor – business affairs, the Taj Mahal executive suites… take you and your mahogany desks and retire in Laguna. Op-Ed, welcome to the warehouse! Time to get responsible ideology!

6) IT – please learn some relevant technology. Please get rid of your PC’s and closed-source systems. I will however take your Sun E450′s and install Linux on them. And the HP9000′s.

7) Graphic department: We like you. Time for 72dpi instead of lpi screens. Oh, and here is a copy of Flash 8 Pro. Realtime motion blur!

8) 4th floor – Accounting, circulation, dining hall, photo studio. Take a few from accounting, keep a few circulation people who can learn SEO and web metrics. Rebuild a good cove in the warehouse for photo-shoots (and keep the kitchen for food shoots).

So there is my answer (in short form). I think the power of a newspaper is getting diminished through the overhead needed to get the information to the world. The panic around the demise of analog media has caused massive compensation through the attempt (poorly) at revenue models in the online space, which leads to sites like http://www.ocregister.com and the LATime’s failed Wiki experiment.

It’s time to take the vestiges of the old media away, leverage what a newspaper like OCR is good at and really integrate it into a community.

To respond to some questions/objections
This was a semi-serious post, somewhat a pisstake and a venting of frustrations I had having worked at OCR for a long time, and having an active part in their Internet strategy from 1995-2001. In that time, I witnessed the paper trying to do what I envision, namely “listening post” newsrooms in the community and integrating that content within the paper. It ultimately failed as the company, while on the surface trying to “integrate” still wanted to keep the barrier imposed by media difference (they have 6 Goss presses, while I do not) as a method of enforcing information hegemony upon the community.

Mostly, what I would do if I owned a newspaper is make the newspaper a tool both for and of the populace of the community it served. A newspapers role is to hold a community accountable on all levels, whethern civil or political. A newspaper should treat itself as an asset for a community, a connector and a facilitator of discourse between people as well as discourse about people.

What I propose here, while not necessarily practical (it isn’t) is a situation that positions the newspaper in a hybrid state between a virtual community and real-world community, and serves as a facilitator for movement between the two, as well as a conduit for information flow between the two. Sure, its all puppies and pony’s on the surface, but I think the ideas underlying it are sound, and the evidence out there through online media and its effect on global discourse does little to counter-argue the basic gist of what I’m saying.

A caveat of course is that I work at a record label right now, not a newspaper.

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15 Responses

  1. chris muir says:

    Most interesting, most interesting.

    When OLEDS get mass-manufactured, you’ll be able to rent a ‘scroll’ that has a clear mylar sheet that unwinds and is capable of full daylight-readable content, including full video,etc.

    The scroll’s the portal, and newspapers are the content you buy on subscription that is wi-fi’d to them.

    Maybe.

  2. Black Rim Glasses says:

    I saw ePaper do a demo of how this would change the world… by 2001… in 1998.

    Hasn’t happened yet. We shall see :)

  3. [...] So bright If he ruled the world…. Read More: newspapers Here’s what Ethan would do if he bought a newspape [...]

  4. [...] edia — Mark @ 6:43 pm

    Blogger Ethan Kaplan has an interesting post titled What I would do if I bought a newspaper, reacting to a p [...]

  5. Jon V says:

    Not practical? But, it might be if each constiuency in the news generation process did what it does best. The “public” has a nose for local news – citizen/grassroots journalism is thriving. But, truth be known, the “public” isn’t always worth reading. So, editors at local papers do continue to play a vital role moderating what is worthy of publication. What is missing is the 2-way pipe connecting the two. And, if that pipe also included a means of allocating economic value – an eBay of citizen-generated content? – you might re-consider the impracticality of your suggestions.
    (And, I, too, lived in SB once upon a time and spend many days plotting my return.)

  6. Black Rim Glasses says:

    I think it COULD be practical if enough existing methodologies were rewritten. I want to position a newspaper as the enabler behind a communities identity (which they used to be). I think people over at buzzmachine missed that economically, this product would be no different than a physical newspaper, its just acting more responsibly and not using the paper as a barrier between it and the public.

  7. My name is Viky and I live in Waco. Is there a way to get this blog feed in my email?

  8. contact lens says:

    Your site is a veritable storehouse of information. Glad I came by.

  9. [...] As blogger Ethan Kaplan of blackrimglasses notes, this statement isn’t exactly a surprise to anyone who has been following the newspaper business for awhile (Ethan posted his own manifesto of sorts, which I think has a lot of merit, last year). Still, it is worth echoing the point, if only to try and alert the media frogs to the rapidly boiling pot of water they are currently sitting in. [...]

  10. [...] – USATODAY.com: Reminder: I already posted on what I’d do You can leave a response, or trackback from your ownsite. [...]

  11. Mark Evans says:

    as much i love the the web, i just don’t see the demand for paper-based newspapers disappearing. it’s a weird cultural thing not unlike the the staying power than paper-based books have despite technology such as Sony’s e-book. After nearly 20 years as a print journalist (who recently left to join a blogging network), it’s difficult to see a time when people won’t be reading newspapers. check out a post i wrote yesterday for more.

  12. Ross Hill says:

    That was a really insightful post, thanks.

  13. [...] years ago I wrote a post about what I’d do if I bought a newspaper. A lot of it centered around streamlining, getting [...]