In an ever-changing media landscape, leaders of news organizations old and new must take an honest look at their businesses and craft a strategy for the future.
Media consultant Alan Mutter notes that no single strategy will work for all news organizations, and that the plans you make today may need to be adjusted tomorrow. "The marketplace is kinetic," he wrote in Editor & Publisher and on his Reflections of a Newsosaur blog. "The solutions that work successfully today almost certainly will be overtaken in the not-too-distant future by new technological and competitive disruptions that we cannot imagine today."
To start formulating a digital strategy for your news org, Mutter suggests the following:
Acknowledge that more change is coming
“Accept that your business will be affected by three enormous forces that you can neither escape nor control,” Mutter writes. “Changes in technology, changes in consumer expectations and changes in the ways companies spend their marketing dollars. A good strategic plan will bend those forces to your advantage.”
“Before you can think about articulating a plan, take a realistic look at the internal strengths and weaknesses of your legacy business, as well as the external opportunities and threats that exist (or are likely to emerge) in the marketplace around you,” Mutter wrote. This process "seldom fails to produce an abundance of appealing, appalling and ambiguous choices.”
Be willing to self-destruct
“As you sift through the strategic possibilities, seriously consider ideas that could cannibalize your existing business, because they may, in the fullness of time, turn out to be better than the business you are in,” Mutter wrote. He notes that an American newspaper declined in 1995 to invest in a startup that planned to help people find jobs online. Why? The paper didn’t want to compete with its own classified job ads in print. The paper's unwillingness to part with its print ads and look to the future was a big mistake. Print newspaper advertising in the U.S. dried up, while the startup that the paper turned down became the enormously successful job-hunting site Monster.com.
For more of Mutter's advice on formulating a digital strategy, read his post, "What's your digital strategy? First, get a grip."