Yesterday the UK’s Guardian newspaper announced plans to restructure its operation to become a digital-first news operation. CEO Andrew Miller said that given the digital challenges faced by the Guardian and newspapers in general “doing nothing was not an option”.
Right or wrong?
The Guardian apparently has enough money to last out “three to five years”. Which means it has some fairly long rope to play with and it’ll be some time before the naysayers will be able to remind us that they were right.
I’m in the camp that believes this is a bold, promising move by a paper which is not only still expanding its print circulation but is also now eyeing out the US market. Yes the Guardian is burning through money at the moment, and the burn will probably continue for a couple more years yet. But standing still in the current newspaper market could just as well mean going backwards.
Now is “not the time for incrementalism”, argues Gigaom’s Matthew Ingram. At the heart of Ingram’s case is this: “Most mainstream media entities are not designed for experimentation, and in many cases the way they function hasn’t changed noticeably in decades”. But experimentation is exactly what the industry needs right now if it wants to survive the next ten years.
The point is that big decisions need to be made. And made now.
The Guardian’s digital-first strategy may not be the whole solution but it’s probably a lot closer to one than the most other publishers have right now.
The only thing clear at this time is that it is time for publishers to take their heads out of the sand and innovate, a point made by Laurice Taitz: “Stop dishing out that formulaic treatment that utterly devalues your relationship with those who you expect to pay for what you’re putting out.”
Being bold in this environment doesn’t have to mean wholesale digital migration. But it is about being as relevant and valuable to readers possible, a point entertainingly made by the FT‘s Tyler Brûlé. “It never fails to surprise me how many businesses get so lost in the push to extend their reach and diversify that they lose focus and relevance in the eyes of consumers.”
But equally, it is a time to fight.
“If ever there was a moment for makers of paper, blenders of ink, stitchers of linen and owners of forests to mount a surprise attack, it’s now,” says Brûlé.
And that’s the point. Publishers need to stop worrying and start fighting. Doing nothing is not an option.
These are just a few hastily put together thoughts so feel free to disagree, point out the obvious failings 😉