Shit Hitting Fan for Local Media

Newspaper Web

The shit is really starting to hit the fan for local media. This time, with more shit and a more powerful fan.

Newspaper, Radio & TV managers are in a heightened state of panic due to their lack of digital revenue success. Pink slips are flying, private equity is taking over, and being a digital knuckle-dragger will get you a one way ticket to Shitsville.

For the past 10 years, these hard working managers followed the digital revenue ramblings of newsroom geeks, web masters, tenured college professors and research analysts. They hoped that these anointed thought leaders would eventually lead them to a sustainable, online business models. Nope. Sorry.

Why is local media still stuck in a mountain of manure? It’s not because local journalism is no longer important, or that the big, bad inter-webs killed the golden goose. Rather, it’s because we forgot to set up our digital operations as a profit-first business with financially motivated execs at the wheel. Instead, we’re running web as a non-profit, print-subsidized journalism project. Need some recent proof of how clueless our media leaders are? Read the latest Pew Study on Culture Wars Inside of Newspaper, that suggests a digital disconnect inside many publications. To that we say: no shit Sherlock. Need even more “no shit’ revelations? Enjoy this 10 year too late report by the Knight Digital Media Center.

I tackled these issues at the America East Conference : For Publishers Only; Run Digital as a Profit-First Business.

While all of this un-needed digital research & discussion continues, local business owners are quietly spending more on services like Google, Reach Local, Yellow Book 360 and Facebook. Ever hear these local competitors being discussed by your media  manager or VP Digital? Yeah. We didn’t think so.

Too bad sales reps don’t ask clients about ad spends. That could be incredibly valuable intel. Some consultants believe that local sellers are un-qualified to ask clients this simple question: “where do you spend your marketing  budget….and what digital marketing stuff are you thinking about buying?”

We also understand why hard working, local media managers read the online business model blogs, attend cool conferences and buy volumes of local market data. It looks like they’re ‘keeping up’. They patiently listen to agenda-driven advice from NPR’s Bob Garfield, Clear Channel’s Bob Pittman and JRC’s John Paton. But have ya noticed? This ‘advice’ is not working. That’s why there’s panic in the air as more poop hits the windmill.

A few of us stopped drinking the old-school consultant kool-aid a few years ago, while many more of us are finally getting suspicious. Of course, there are those that would prefer to keep their heads firmly planted you know where….God bless ’em, we wish them well at Burger King.

We understand why media managers drag their feet with digital;

  • Even while in decline, print cash flow is still attractive
  • Retirement and cashing out is on the horizon, so why bother
  • Embarrassed to admit their lack of digital savvy
  • Push off responsibility to VP Digital (blame web failure on them)
  • Selling more print is in their comfort zone.
  • Comp packages are designed to reward print sales
  • Easy to hide web failure from corporate by juggling numbers & setting low budgets
  • Easy to hire outside sales consultants to blitz local biz..& quickly hit web numbers

Topics I will cover during my session at America East in Hershey:

    • How private equity firms are depressing your newspaper’s valuation
    • How to reduce costs of overall operations via digital
    • Determine if person in charge of digital, is qualified to reach profitability
    • Staffing best practices; why separate digital teams are recipe for disaster
    • How CPM & 3rd party sales efforts are harmful to your business
    • Best practices of online inventory & digital yield management


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