Let’s hear from the newspaper CEOs

By Steve Outing

I’ve been writing columns and articles and doing research about the Internet and news media for a long time. A few columns over the years have been particularly well received; some landed with a dull thud; some attracted their share of criticism. Like many of my fellow industry pundits who opine about digital media trends, I’ve been called everything from an insightful expert to an idiot by journalism’s practitioners and leaders.

Is this your CEO?

I don’t always find it easy to judge my own work, but I thought my last column for Editor & Publisher Online, “My ‘Crisis’ Advice to Newspaper Company CEOs: 11 Points to Ponder,” was decent. That self-analysis has been backed up by a steady stream of personal e-mails as well as blog posts commenting on the column. Lots of folks are telling me that the crisis plan for newspapers that I presented was a pretty good one, and covers much of what troubled publishers need to do in order to survive this double-whammy of economic meltdown and secular media transition. I’ve had numerous news professionals, executives, and academics tell me that they’ve forwarded the column to their newsroom management teams and journalism students.

Of course, the 11 central ideas I presented aren’t all mine; many have been espoused by other smart and visionary media experts over the years. Names like Jeff Jarvis, Mark Potts, Rob Curley, Vin Crosbie, Amy Gahran, Mindy McAdams, Jay Rosen, and many more have given newspaper executives lots of great guidance. Much of our advice comes down to one central theme: Digital is without one iota of doubt the future, so even though print revenues still far outweigh digital, the print side of newspapers must be removed from the central organizational position. Build and innovate for the future, don’t prop up the past. Only when you execute that step can other necessary steps be taken.

So if I’ve succeeded in nicely organizing some of the best advice for newspapers to get through this crisis period, I wonder why I’m hearing so little from newspaper companies’ CEOs? Now that things in the newspaper industry have gotten so awful (e.g., the latest), why aren’t CEOs joining the great and insightful conversations and discussions that are swirling on the social networks where media folks hang out? (My guess: Most of them don’t participate in social networks, and thus can’t really understand the modern digital media environment.)

Of the 50 newspaper executives who attended API’s “Crisis Summit” recently, the only one I’ve found openly discussing the elephant in the newsroom is Chuck Peters of Gazette Communications.

So WTF? Why aren’t newspaper CEOs talking and writing more? Are they in their corporate bunkers trying to figure out what’s next? Planning their retirements?

Newspaper CEOs: How about mixing it up online with the rest of the pundits, professors, journalists, consultants, experts, and interested parties who are sharing their passion and ideas for saving the newspaper industry?

Especially following the non-communication that came out of the API CEOs Crisis Summit, it feels to me as though the thoughtful solutions and innovative ideas that are emerging as the industry crisis gets close to critical aren’t getting us anywhere. Are newspaper CEOs even listening? Do only they have the ideas to save the industry? (Yeah, right.)

If you CEOs need help or advice or ideas, reach out to the names above, or me (I do some consulting); reach into the collective intelligence that interacts on social networks.

(Hey, if I’m wrong about this and there are some online conversations going on where those newspaper CEOs actually are engaging with those who want to save their businesses, let me know.)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!