Those still putting digital advertising ahead of paid digital subscriptions are in danger of extinction. The smartest ones will continue to manage down the print business so as to optimize the profitability it can contribute until it is no longer profitable. Hastening its decline would be a mistake.
I was thinking about brand identity and brand loyalty the other day apropos of absolutely nothing but the ongoing demand to make the newspaper something other than a paper full of news. Make a series of micr0-sites! Publish directly to Facebook! Pivot to video! Pivot to longform! Put everything online! Put nothing online! Spin around in circles until you’re dizzy and hold your breath until you’re blue, but make damn sure you’re on top of the latest trends at all times so that people have no idea who you are or what you stand for!
The problem with our current Media Business Model Conversation is not that nobody knows the answer. Ten years ago nobody knew the answer and that was okay. Now the problem is that everybody knows the answer and everybody’s wrong if their answer involves pivoting to anything other than journalism.
Corporations can only dream of the kind of brand loyalty news organizations have pissed away over the past 15 years as they chased quarterly returns and cut to achieve them. Rebuilding that takes investment in journalism but more than that, it takes time. These organizations have been in communities for decades, in some cases centuries, so we have to think in those terms for our investment.
We’ve had 15 years of experimentation with various stupid “trends” invented by a class of consultants making salaries the likes of which journalists could only dream, and they’ve gotten nowhere. They haven’t even made the quarterly returns better.
We should put a couple hundred years into doing journalism. That got us somewhere.