Round One, a gathering of 50 top newspaper executives, was held back in November, with considerable fanfare and zero results. It was criticized roundly for being closed-door, for bringing in just one outside expert, and more. It announced nothing other than a decision to meet again in six months, which seemed an impossibly long time to wait. A press conference was called to discuss results, then cancelled.
So for reconvening in just three months, kudos. For shutting the doors even more tightly this time, to the point of not even mentioning the meeting on the API site, well, whatever the opposite of kudos is. All I can glean from a couple of tweets by John Newby and Chuck Peters (who gained fame for liveblogging the November event) is that today's proceedings include small group discussions, and that they're more "nuts and bolts" (I like that). And by the way, that's a 100 percent increase in the count of Twitterers among the API crowd.
Chuck asked Twitterdom: "What is the game changer." My answer, expanded from a Tweet:
- Stop the incremental cuts. Round after round of layoffs, content cuts, newshole cuts, bureau cuts, cutting out publication one day a week, Gannett's audacious furlough program—some of these may have slight merit but in the aggregate, they're just killing the industry by slow torture.
- Instead, do something really reinventive. This may actually mean more cuts, but so be it. Decide what a successful local enterprise could look like 5 or 10 years from now, and go directly to it in one or two big steps. The model I've elaborated on often in this blog is a robust (some say "kick-ass") online-first, 24/7 web site, coupled with a printed paper published just once a week on Friday, distributed all weekend—in which you seek to preserve much of the existing print advertising. See the last part of this post for details.(Hearst's gambit in Seattle may turn out to be one of these transformative steps, and they have the opportunity to take such a step in the Bay Area as well.)
- Build social networks around news and information content. Newspapers, even the New York Times, have barely dipped one toe in the social networking waters, but they need to take the plunge. What they might do is take a look at the enterprise social sites being developed by Newsgator and others and see if they can be adapted as community social networks.