Last week, I had the honor of speaking at a National Press Club event held at the Ford Museum.  The topic is one I know all too well – how the business and craft of journalism is changing and what are/can we do to position ourselves to not just survive, but thrive.  The Club has been doing this across the country.

Nice For A Thursday Night

Nice For A Thursday Night

I was joined as panelists by Meegan Holland, editor of the Grand Rapids Press’ section of MLive.com, which is a collection of Booth newspaper websites based across Michigan, and Paul Schutt, whose company has founded a number of websites that cover development and growth issues, including our local Rapid Growth Media.

Moderator was Gil Klein from the Press Club.  It was appropriate we had the meeting at the Museum of the President who had one of the best relationships with the press in the modern era.

This, of course, happened in a week where the Ann Arbor News announced it’s becoming AnnArbor.com in July (with a small print presence), other Booth papers had major cutbacks and Gannett (my company) announced more furloughs.  So what are we doing to change?

  • Schutt said his websites adopted the funding model used by National Public Radio and focus on a specific niche – development and growth news.
  • While the Grand Rapids Press has committed to publishing 7 days a week, they are also committing more resources toward building their website, including a recent redesign and soon, better tools to track what’s working.
  • I discussed how my station, WZZM 13, has been creating new mobile, web platforms as well as actively going after new friends and customers using Twitter and Facebook.  This is all part of our effort to put content where people already are, on their terms, working to make them current and future customers.

The audience asked us a variety of questions about where we thought the business was going. We had people from 14 to 74 in the crowd. Some are worried what will happen to getting the community word out without a newspaper.  Paul Schutt brought up something I had not thought of before: when you read a newspaper, you often stumble on another story you knew nothing about.  While there are websites and tools designed to replicate that, the web is best at a focused, targeted search for exactly what you want.

We answered several crowd questions the same way: the web is creating new opportunities to present content and many more ways to find it, as opposed to the traditional few sources for news.  Part of the challenge we all face is understanding what’s where and making sure our customers know the opportunity to find what they’re looking for will continue to expand.

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