Everyday the headlines about news outlets seem drearier and drearier. Yes, this economy is rough, but many newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations have and will continue to be phased out, not because of the economic climate but because of their refusal to conform to new media standards. So in a time when all the big wigs are rethinking their strategies, here are my top five survival tactics that I think will be critical to the reinvention of the news media.
1. Go to where the audiences are: Sorry Wall Street Journal, but you missed the point when trying to advise your reporters on how to engage in social media. We will advise our clients to consider how they want their staff to participate in social media, but the WSJ policies inhibit instead of encourage participation. Coming from the negative perspective of “what’s the worst that can happen online,” WSJ leadership is missing out on an incredible opportunity that other outlets, like the New York Times Co., are taking advantage of.
2. Involve news consumers in news reporting: This week, Newsweek joined the likes of CNN and integrated its news reporting on Facebook in a major way this year. The magazine aired a live interview with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner through its Facebook page on Monday. Fans had the opportunity to submit questions and comments through Facebook, playing a primary role in the Newsweek interview. In a similar setup just this month, Arianna Huffington interviewed billionaire Sir Richard Branson on the maiden flight of his Virgin America for Digg.com. Huffington chose the most popular of the more than 1,500 reader questions submitted on the Digg Dialogg page. This not only made for a more interesting and unconventional interview (even for the outrageous Branson) but visitors on Digg had an actual stake in the interview, making its outcome more compelling to them.
3. Create a niche product: I’m always bragging about our local paper in Wilmington, N.C. Not only do they belong to the great New York Times Co., but they are so out in front of adapting to the changing media landscape, that I wonder if they’re not even ahead of their parent. The Star-News has created the new website MyReporter.com, where if you have a question about “life in coastal North Carolina,” you can ask it and have the local paper’s team of reporters find the answer for you. It’s a natural fit, right? Reporters spend all day researching and know how to find answers in ways the general public don’t. While the jury’s still out on the site’s moneymaking potential, it looks promising. “Site Sponsors” can also answer reader question that relate to their line of business, offering a unique opportunity for online exposure.
4. Become less reliant on ad sales: If there was ever a time we ever needed a new strategy for traditional ad sales, that time is now. Decreasing ad sales may responsible for the biggest hit media outlets have taken over the past year. Signs don’t point to a swift or simple resolution. But let’s think outside the box. There’s a reason Entertainment Weekly’s website content has grown richer and its page numbers have dwindled. Offer advertisers opportunities to grow, interact and engage with readers and viewers and that is a sound start.
5. Open up: This seems to be a major problem for TV networks and movie studios alike. Naturally, no one in their right mind thinks it’s OK for an unfinished $200 million super hero movie to leak on the Internet. However, if there is a funny clip or sketch on a cable or network program, the aggregation of that on the Internet will help you in the end, not hurt you. NBC and Fox got smart and along with other networks, signed agreements with Hulu.com so they can get some monetary value from their viral videos.
Photo by: j2taranto