Last week I spent an immense amount of time at events around the D.C. area. During the highly successful Blog Potomac event, which was held by Geoff Livington, I had the opportunity to speak with a number of people from the Washington Post. After speaking with Dan Beyers, the local business editor for the Post, I came to learn a lot about the future of the company and what they believe will be most successful.
The News Business Will Never be the Same Again
Dan Beyers emphasized how the Washington Post print edition remains to be a cash cow for the news company. While the cash continues to flow, it is clear that all of the newspapers are quickly dying and the various newspaper organizations rapidly need to develop new business models. It’s clear that the pie for news hasn’t gotten much larger, it has simply changed.
Gone are the days of the all powerful media distribution owners. Competition has become fierce and the large behemoth media companies have not been quick to adapt.
The Modern News Environment
While we say there is a 24-hour news cycle, the reality is that it has become condensed so far that it is practically non-existent. It is instantaneous. As such, by the time you get your newspaper tomorrow or hop in the car and turn on the radio, most of the news has become old. Journalists now have the challenge of becoming the most efficient content consumers in the world.
The editors take the journalists’ content and make it cleaner for all to read but ultimately we know that the content now garners only a few seconds in most readers’ lives. As such we have also witnessed an overwhelming decrease in quality of content. In comparison to the news rooms of old where writers created a few articles a week, writers are now churning out upwards of 10 articles a day.
Writers must be extremely efficient and only the premier journalists will ever have the opportunity to write thorough, investigative pieces. For the rest, premium content will exist as well written editorial pieces.
The Key is Efficiency
Inefficient media businesses will die slow deaths. It’s as simple as that. If you have efficient 5-person teams that are churning out 20-30 articles per day, you will continuously beat the big guy at least 7 times out of 10. In his presentation at Blog Potomac, Dan Beyers mentioned his daily routine which typically ends at around 5 pm.
The concept of staying up until late at night and waking up early to do it all again the next day appeared foreign. There was also no nighttime staff. While the blog community may not be producing the same quality of content, we are working twice as much and producing 5 times as much content. The efficiency learned in a one person team is rapidly expanded into larger teams which still focus on highly efficient content generation and information dissemination.
We all live in a 24-hour news world and unfortunately 9-to-5 just isn’t going to cut it anymore.
You Need a Killer Sales Team
Where’s the money in online content? We are all searching for it. Unfortunately those that believe the money is just going to come rolling in once they hit a certain traffic goal are highly misguided. The reality is that you need to be out there generating valuable relationships with brands and positioning your content as unique and highly targeted.
While much of the online content generates revenue via keyword optimization, there is still a segment of advertising which generates revenue through sales. If you can specify the demographics of your readers, you can now go out and target the advertisers. The biggest winners online have the best sales teams. Even Google has a massive sales team which caters to their largest advertisers.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that these companies easily generate all of their revenue through automated processes. Just as it has in the past, it still comes down to the salesperson.
They Are Trying to Adapt
Dan Beyers was adamant about one thing: he is trying to drive change at the Washington Post. In an organization run by old school traditionalists it is an extremely challenging goal. The real question is: can these old businesses adapt quick enough to the modern news model? The New York Times has done a great job at this but even they still have problems.
Victory Goes to the Blogs
The smaller the team, the quicker they can adapt. It’s as simple as this and the news companies are watching and waiting to snap up the fast moving, highly efficient blog teams. The longer the blogs can hold out the better and as far as I’m concerned some of the efficient blog teams could one day have enough revenue to go snap up the big companies. News has become about efficiency and the race is on to see who can develop the most efficient and most flexible model.
If you ask me who’s going to win, I’d tell you that victory will go to the blogs. While the path there may not be completely clear, the reality is that the core group of professional bloggers are focused on efficiency much more so than large media companies. Do you see any way for the newspapers to quickly adapt?