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You probably know by now that Steve Jobs and Rupert Murdoch are teaming up to create a newspaper for the ipad. Given the projected growth of the ipad, this seems like a smart business move.  And since they’re both millionaire or maybe billionaire businessmen, it is  likely to succeed.

As a journalist, I want nothing more than for people to consume news. And as one who has seen so many of my friends and co-workers lose their jobs over the last three years, I know how important it is for people to pay for the news they consume, even though that practice is pretty much extinct, at least for general-interest mainstream news.

Because of that, I find this idea very intriguing. It’s a new revenue source by which to pay the journalists doing the reporting, writing and editing with none of the expensive overhead that comes with printing presses and the like.

And with no print or web edition, it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. The lack of a print edition doesn’t surprise me at all,  since so many newspapers have nixed their print editions. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has been web-only for over a year now, and  so has the Christian Science Monitor and both are claiming success.

But there’s something about the lack of an online edition that doesn’t sit right with me. It just seems a bit odd. And I also wonder if people will pay .99 for something they can get free online.

According to reports, Murdoch has hired 100 journalists and has top-notch editors on board. So with that being the case, maybe there will be some content that you can’t get elsewhere online.

I think there would have  to be for this to work.

But that’s how I feel today and that could change. If it does. you’ll be the first to know. This is definitely a big story I will follow very closely, because if it works, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more of it.

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This post was written by Rod Overton, the recently laid-off web guru who was the subject of this post about the newspaper industry.

Here are 8 things newspapers need to do RIGHT NOW to survive (I wrote these about a month ago, but have been thinking them — and pushing various aspects for a couple of years):

1.) Immediately stop entering ALL contests. Period. They send exactly the WRONG feedback loop to reporters and editors.

2.) STOP hiring people based on their clips. Integrate online cooperation — and REAL — data about their impact on the online product into the hiring process.

3.) Start really looking at analytics and studying what you are doing well and do more of that. You can now use analytics to determine this. Start doing it.

4.) Look at what other aspects of time people use the web for and consider integrating parts of those “news” or information into your site. Weather is a perfect example. It’s the second or third most popular thing people do on the Internet. Yet, this newspaper refuses to expand its weather section to try to capture that group. It would cost about $500-$800 per month to have a completely kick BUTT weather section that would compete with TV sites and weather.com, but no one wants to do it.

5.) Largely centralize the news-gathering efforts. Keep one small group to do “think pieces” or long range investigations. Everyone else needs to report in ONE silo and have everything run through about 2-3 people for decision making. Currently there are TOO MANY silos with information that never makes it to the right people who can determine if that information would be best used (and how) on the online product.

6.) Emphasize speed and jobs that people do that no one typically wants to do. For years, the general message from newspapers is that those who do the least real work are those who will not be advanced or rewarded. Change the entire reward process.

7.) Create an assignment desk to handle all work assignments and workflow and center all actions around that. At the end of the day, take what you have and then put it in the paper — and let that be that. What is in the paper is just an afterthought. I have seen this exact model work in TV for a 6 o’clock newscast at perhaps the best local TV station in the nation. Why won’t it work for newspapers?

8.) Make NEW hires. Don’t just shift people around to keep layoffs from happening. Get new blood in the door to make the changes that are NEEDED. Don’t just try to hold on to who you have now because you personally like them. They are great people, but are they really who you need to move forward?

Rod Overton can be reached at rodneyoverton (at) yahoo dot com.


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This post is more of a transcript of a conversation that started on Facebook late last night and ended with a phone call earlier today.
I asked friend and former colleague Rod Overton about his job search and whether or not anything was in the hopper. He’s been out of a job since June and I’d been seeing a lot of his comments on the blog LostRemote. My question opened the door for a really good chat.

He answered with this:

“The real problem now is that media companies simply don’t want the truth or common sense. Sizzle, pizzaz and not examining what is not working (and then cutting that) is what they want (sorry for the double negative, but you get the point — they don’t want anyone to look behind the curtain or say the emperor has no clothes.)”

I then asked Rod to tell me more and indicated that I was interested in posting some of what he was writing on my blog. He was happy to oblige:

“The common thread to most of my messages on Lostremote is that during this upheaval (TRB bankruptcy, Belo bankruptcy and McClatchy at 73 cents) publishers and editors (and to an extent TV GMs) are not taking advantage of the environment to make (what is to them) serious changes.

Instead they seem to hope to skate through it as unchanged as possible not realizing that the situation itself is showing them they need to change.
A selfish case-in-point: Someone with my skills goes unhired while people with skills that are quite easy to come by are retained and — in some pathetic cases — shifted to new media roles they will ruin just as the legacy product was ruined.”

Still with me? There’s more.

I called Rod this morning and we spoke a bit more about some of this. He told me some stories about his interviewing experiences and organizations so resistant to change I thought I was sitting in 1987. I knew it was true though because one of the most profound statements he made was this:

Newspapers are stuck on a singular solution!

He says no one wants to overhaul everything and create systemic change.
What he’s referring to is initiatives like writing shorter stories, or adding more color to the front page or including more photos and a digest of what else can be found inside.

Short-sighted solutions that tackle maybe one issue that are seen as the one solution that will change things for the better.

What are your thoughts on this? Are any other organizations or industries focusing on a singular solution? And is the emperor wearing anything at all? What do you think of Rod’s rant?

Thanks Rod, for the interesting conversation. And I hope you find something soon.

*If you’d like to connect with Rod, you can find him on Facebook and LinkedIn


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