Newspaper companies create content, not newspapers

Here’s another tidbit I took away from an interesting conversation at the Inland Press Association: to survive (and thrive) in a new media landscape, newspapers must undergo a shift in thinking. They must conceive of themselves as creators of content, not producers of newspapers.

During our question and answer session, I repeatedly emphasized the importance for newspapers to use the Web as a platform rather than a medium; a place upon which to empower communities with tools to build, share and interact with the news.

In thinking of the Web as a platform, however, newspapers must first realize that their job is not to produce a physical product, but to create content.

The connection between those two points is so important because it affects newspapers in a very fundamental way, right down to the content management system they use to produce their end product.

The gentleman who brought this to my attention pointed out that many newspapers are (tragically) focusing on how to most quickly and efficiently repurpose their individual newspaper articles for the Web site. They’ve got it backwards. They ought to be focusing on the news first, then the newspaper.

Just a thought…

Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago – recap

As I posted earlier, I spoke today at the Inland Press Association annual meeting in Chicago on the expectations of young journalists, along with David Nelson, Kelly Mahoney and Jon Rubin. I’ll post more later, but for those young journalists, here’s a list of the pressing concerns on the minds of your future employers (necessarily paraphrased):

If you were editor-in-chief of newspaper with 50,000 circulation and 50 reporters, and you had one year to turn the paper around in a new media landscape, how would you do so from an organizational standpoint? Would you train your reporters? Would you hire new ones?

What is your dream job?

Do you believe that younger readers react differently to advertising as compared with an older generation?

In term of getting to know your audience, how would you go about that if you were writing for a small newspaper in a rural, homogenous, geographically dispersed community?

From small, community newspapers that struggle with high turnover, what characteristics would influence us to stick with smaller papers rather than move on?

What role should journalists play in the shaping of the end product?

Are wire services impractical investments for newspapers?

Here’s a headline from an article from the International Herlad Tribune that appeared in the Boston Globe today:

“Merkel aloof as public questions troop presence in Afghanistan” (I think it was originally “Merkel aloof as public wavers on Afghanistan” when I saw it in print, but they must have tweaked it for the Web.)

I majored in German in college, so when I saw the headline while reading the Globe this morning, I recognized the German chancellor’s name and dove right in. Then I asked myself, “Is Angela Merkel a household name to the average reader of the Boston Globe?” (Note: I’m not asking if her name “should be,” I’m simply asking if she is). I plan on polling a few of the people I’m staying with out here in Boston, a group of students getting their master’s of education at Boston College, and see what they say. But I think not.

And that brings me to the question.

Are wire services simply impractical for the paper version of the newspaper?

The article in question was wire copy from the International Herald Tribune. It’s a good piece of news, and actually quite interesting if you follow German politics and foreign policy. But I don’t think it serves the average citizen of Boston much, if at all. For one thing, it’s word for word the same article the IHT ran. Now, I’m not saying that is remarkable. Far from it, it has become standard for a paper to plug its pages with wire copy to fill its paper, without having the time or resources to position it locally by making an extra phone call.

And I’m not saying the news is unimportant. If anything, I think it is incumbent on the United States and its citizens to analyze the foreign policy of our European neighbors.

But – and here’s the thing – is it relevant to the reader?

I’d say no.

From the reader’s point of view, no where in the article am I told why this is important to me. The story hasn’t even been localized to the United States, let alone the Boston area. For those who herald the future of newspapers as excelling at local coverage, this ain’t it.

Anyone else have a different take on this? Anyone from the Globe want to weigh in on the editorial decision to run it without additional reporting? Or are the foreign policy issues of Germany that important to the Boston area?

Inland Press Association 122nd Annual Meeting, Chicago, Illinois October 21-23

To young or aspiring journalists: I’ll be speaking at the Inland Press Association’s meeting on the future of the newsroom with fellow Medill graduate Kelly Mahoney and Medill professor David Nelson.

The question

What do young journalists expect in the newsroom of the future? I’ll be providing my insight to editors and publishers on what young journalists expect of their future employers and work environments, but I’d love to get input from other writers. So, to turn the question your way…

What do you expect in the newsroom of the future?

(Anyone familiar with Gannett’s “data gathering centers” or any other newsrooms doing interesting things in mobile journalism, citizen journalism, social media and multimedia please share).