El fracaso es el mejor maestro, ahí parecen estar todos de acuerdo y nadie mejor para constatarlo que John Temple, ex-director, editor y presidente del consejo del Rocky Mountain News, quien ha dado una conferencia donde desgrana las causas que llevaron a que un periódico, fundado en 1859, ganador de 4 premios Pulitzer y líder para la prensa mundial, cerrará irremediablemente.
Ningún periodista debería perderse su charla, donde con una actitud muy honesta, Temple repasa las decisiones que tomaron y los errores que cometieron. El principal: seguir definiéndose como una compañía de periódicos y no una organización de información. Aquí he hecho un resumen de esas diez lecciones, aunque no debería ser excusa para que os perdáis el texto completo de la conferencia, que también está en formato texto, disponible en el propio site de John Temple.
1/ Being a “great newspaper” isn’t enough in the Internet era. You have to know what business you’re in. We thought we were in the newspaper business. Working on the Web, you need to think of now and forever. At a newspaper, people largely think about tomorrow. Thinking about tomorrow isn’t enough anymore. Consumers today want services when, where and how they want them, and they want to be able to participate, not just receive.
2/ Know your competition. If we had spent more time trying to build the depth of our connection with the community using online tools from the very start, perhaps the outcome for the Rocky would have been different.
3/ You have to have a strategy and you have to be committed to pursuing it. We perceived the Web site as a newspaper online, as a complement to the paper, not as its own thing. That’s not a strategy.
4/ You must know your goal. On the print side, we had a clear objective. But our online objective kept changing. Of course this is partially understandable, because what was possible in the online world was also changing rapidly.
5/ Keep new ventures free from the rules of the old. Over the years, the company had agreed to conditions it might not have liked but could accept because revenues of the newspaper made them possible. The problem was they would strangle a startup.
6/ People running a new business need to be free to do what’s best for that business, regardless of the potential impact on the old. (…) Why couldn’t newspapers have invented something like Yelp? Probably because editors would have gone ballistic over reader reviews with misspelled words and would have felt uneasy with reader contributions being given priority.
7/ If you want to compete in a medium, you have to understand it. The newspaper industry didn’t understand the web in the beginning. That’s understandable. But it’s not clear that the newspaper industry understands it today. That’s partly because you need to get the right people into an organization, people who can see and seize new opportunities.
8/ Measure, measure, measure. While newspaper companies had experts managing circulation accounts to make sure they met the requirements of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, they were less committed to an intense focus on web data
9/ Invest in R&D. Ask yourself: Without R&D, how are local news companies going to get out on the edge and develop new offerings? Now that newspaper companies are filling the bankruptcy courts, they’re scrambling to find ways to survive on the Web. But their efforts seem mostly about making money off their current offerings. You don’t see them developing Yelp, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. I think they still could develop successful new services. But it would require something they haven’t historically done, research and development. The Rocky looked to other newspapers and news sites to assess how it was doing. We should have been looking more closely at pure-play Web operations.
10/ Know your customers. If newspapers would spend more time trying to understand their customers instead of focused on their own internal issues – such as which newspaper department should get credit for Web revenue – they’re more likely to be successful.
Lessons from the Rocky Mountain News – Presentation at the UC Berkeley Media Technology Summit at Googleplex in Silicon Valley from John Temple on Vimeo.