Gannett Integrates News Consumers into Its News Production Model

15 05 2007

Gannett Annual Report 2006

 

Changing Face of News Supply & Demand
Sometimes the most interesting reading can be found in a company annual report. In this case, you can learn allot about the future of the customer news (print, web and video) experience from the largest publisher in the US, Gannett – the information company.

Last year’s shareholder letter from CEO Craig Dubow outlined its digital strategy for engaging the audience Gannett defines as two groups: the “lean back” and the “lean forward” audience types. The former is the traditional audience publishing has built itself to serve. They do not engage…they silently consume often in one place. The latter represent the future and requires rethinking how news is designed, delivered, and consumed as their consumption demands require different content, different means of distribution and different times of consumption.

Dubow says, “Our vision is that consumers will choose (us) for their news and information needs, anytime, any where, in any form.” To achieve this “our mission is to transform Gannett to this new environment; to provide must-have news and information across all media…”

To achieve this Gannett plans to redefine its relationship to its customers. Admitting that in the past they delivered content the way they wanted customers to consume it, Gannett will turn this strategy on its ear and “put the customer first” from product development to content gathering to advertising sales.

If this sounds familiar, remember the earlier post about the MIT Sloan study. The customer comes first is a new thing.

The Gannett strategy has three parts:

  • Drive innovation through the company by harnessing the creativity and ingenuity of its employees (innovation management to create a pipeline of innovative ideas and evangelists).
    • This will be done through a unique business unit called the Center for Design & Innovation (DIG). In 2006, the “DIG” hatched over 1,000 ideas of which several have made its way into the product development pipeline.
  • Transform the old news rooms into Information Centers to gather and distribute across multiple platforms 24 hours a day to provide what customers want and advertisers need
    • In 2006, great care was taken to protect the newsroom integrity as it is adapted from the old “print driven” ways to the new “platform agnostic” means of delivery. Starting with customer needs Gannett redesigned a different process for news gathering. For instance, local news has become much more important to customers but they also want to interact with it via video, podcast, mobile and online. The Newspaper Division defined seven basic tasks: digital, public service, community conversation, local, custom content, and multimedia.
  • Find, retain and employ the best and brightest employees through a robust leadership and diversity program (This blog will cover managing intangible assets in a future post that outlines Rosabeth Kanter’s research on winning teams.)
    • At Gannett ongoing talent management programs are driven around a “diversity theme” that is not only racial or ethnic or gender based but also diversity of thought, skill and ambition.

Gannett studies found that subjectivity is the new norm. Whereas most American papers purport to be objective in their reporting, publishing a number of opposing opinions on the same topic is what the audience craves. The array of subjectivity ultimately results in objectivity. And with more voices, the paper becomes more trusted.

Not only are Gannett journalists welcoming reader commentary on their articles, conversing with them through forums, and getting out on the town with “mojos” or mobile journalists, they are also soliciting their readers for information, a process known as “crowdsourcing.”

Gannett found that by giving readers the tools, they’ll be able to contribute all types of information that journalists would not have the time or the sheer luck to uncover. For example, tips from readers breaking major stories have increased and it’s easy for them to send in original documents that can be uploaded onto a paper’s website to complement an article.

Results
Breaking news is being distributed as it happens resulting in greater spikes in page views that support advertising. Ad sales people are being trained to help them explain web statistics.

Print journalists were trained how to use other content mediums such as video and audio. There are now 320 video journalists in 62 US locations and another 120 in the United Kingdom. News video streams have jumped from 3700 to 900,000 in just over eight months across all papers.

The total number of video streams at US properties including ads and news content surpassed 6 million in January 2007 – an increase by over two million from the latter half of 2006.

USA Today became the first news organization to run its news podcasts from iTunes.

Linking advertising to the news products that come out of the Information Center has transformed how Gannett sells ads from product-based to audience-based. An example is IndyMoms.com which is designed for women in Indianapolis and a very desirable ad audience to reach.

Gannett’s goals were to be “transformative” in its innovation. We can learn much from this bold move. In fact, this is less risky than playing the hand you have.

 

 

 

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