local media insider

View from MediaXchange: Only the schizophrenic will survive


"When someone like me tells you how to run your business you should tell them to go to hell. But let me finish."

That was Rishad Tobaccowala, the the visionary Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Vivak, speaking at the opening session of MediaXchange, a Newspaper Association of America (NAA) conference.

In general, Tobaccowala predicts the print part of print will continue to decline by 4 to 6% per year, but that newspaper companies are big and strong enough to preserve their role as chief community connector.

One interesting idea he had is that people using Google to search for a car, for example, are "self-marketing" and that newspapers need to get into self-marketing business. But after the buzz died down, I realized that he was probably just talking cleverly about search.

He isn't buying the "trusted-source" theory that newspaper-style journalism will grow in importance because it is perceived as more credible, however, noting that he usually knows two or three people on the Twitter threads he follows and that "all of them are honest."

Here are his top ten takeaways:

1. Be very careful to build schizophrenic model.

"In the future, only the schizophrenic will survive. You need to run your current legacy business, create a digital business and run them simultanously, with different chains reporting up, different sets of metrics and speed."

2. Embrace technology. "Technology is the new magic. Make sure you do the following five things or check out of the industry: a. use an rsss reader, b. get a Twitter account, c. join Facebook, d. look at Four Square e. make sure you know some young people." Since pretty much everyone is doing four of these, let's all go look at Four Square.

3. Church and state are too separate; embrace the blur.

4. Speed does not kill, slowness does. "Your competitors live with in a environments of continual iteration, continuous learning, continual mistakes and new iterations." This is one reason for separating digital initiatives from print cultures that move more slowly and are tasked with preserving dollars.

5. Make a massive outreach effort towards young people, and them into the industry in management positions.

6. Think about curating, combining and convenience as the new role for newspaper in creating civic and retail communities.

7. Have a platform strategy. "If you can think it, you can build it or find it."

8. Have a device strategy. "More and more of your market will take place on devices."

9. Celebrate your software people, don't keep them hidden. "They are your future, even though they may be strange, ask them to help solve the business issues."

10. Review your organizational design. "If you tell me the incentive structure of groups in your company, will tell you their behavior."

tobaccowala, naa


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