A blog on issues affecting Australia's newsagents, media and small business generally.

How Old Media Can Survive In a New World

A group of media experts have written an excellent report published at The Wall Street Journal Online. How Old Media Can Survive In a New World is a well researched piece about the challenges “traditional media” is facing in the rapidly changing mobile digital world.

There’s no question: Traditional media businesses are struggling.

Newspaper publishers, book publishers, movie studios, music companies, ad agencies, television networks — they’re all trying to figure out how they fit into a new-media world. Their old way of doing business isn’t as profitable as it used to be, but they haven’t found a new way that’s as profitable, either.

Add to that list any other business involved in the news and information supply chain – such as Australia’s 4,600 independently owned newsagencies, the channel created in the 1800s specifically to distribute newspapers and magazines and now in need of finding relevance for itself in the changing world.

Each expert writes on a specific traditional media category: books, newspapers, music, movies and the like. They were asked to consider what they think old-media companies should do to survive.

The newspaper expert, Brian Steinberg, advocates better quality journalism and a customisable news product.

Let readers customize their own newspaper. “The newspaper of the future is going to be a coalition of niche products,” says S.W. “Sammy” Papert III, chairman and CEO of Belden Associates, a Dallas newspaper-industry consultant. That means, for instance, that newspapers should offer online readers — who are used to hunting for narrowly focused information that interests them — an opportunity to create a specialized newspaper according to their areas of interest. So, for example, newspapers might allow their readers to click a few buttons and see all of a paper’s coverage about local politics, excluding everything else. Or readers might opt for a page devoted to sports or cultural news.

Reporting on the challenges is one thing. We’re over that now with even traditional media outlets reporting the impact of technology on the production of news and information. While some continue to wallow in reporting doom and gloom, smart people are turning their attention to what the future might be. This is where small businesses in the news and information supply chain need to focus attention. What’s their future? What do they have to do to ensure their future? The WSJ report does well to focus our attention on moving forward.

Planning for the future begins with understanding the current situation. Hence the need to read reports such as this one at wsj.com.

Australia’s newsagents can build a bright future regardless of what happens to sales of the core products of newspapers, magazines and lottery product – the three categories more likely to be impacted by technology advances. The future could include:

  • Becoming a local centre for content download – part of a national network.
  • Creating content exclusive to our retail channel of 4,600 stores.
  • Embracing citizen journalism and connecting with the local community in a deeper way. We’re experimenting with this in our own newsagency.
  • Selling more of the devices of access to the digital mobile world.
  • Becoming the local service hub – the centre of all things local: products, services, knowledge.
  • Becoming a more traditional service centre.
  • Creating new content businesses – maybe competing with traditional media.
  • Embracing technologies such as print on demand which enables the printing of professional book product quickly without carrying stock.

    It comes down to relevance and to be relevant you have to listen to the voice of the customer. Many independent retailers have done this already in competing with national chain stores. Newsagents can compete by becoming more business like and assuming more control over the operation of their businesses.

    To start, read the Wall Street Journal article.

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