Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Newspapers Can Compete Through Collaboration

It is not often that a PR person looks at a local newspaper and thinks, "they are really thinking over there."

All kidding aside, I am officially impressed at some plans by the local newspapers in my region. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Dallas Morning News recently announced an effort to share editorial content in an effort to better serve their markets. (Photo credit: DillonH)

From the Star-Telegram:
With newspapers facing challenges from changes in the industry brought on by the Internet and a rapid decline in the economy, editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and The Dallas Morning News have begun discussing ways to collaborate in some targeted areas of newsgathering.
The internal and external language the two papers chose to explain this shift is also important to note.  Phrases like, "common-sense ways we can save money through cooperation," and "collaboration is made possible because of the mutual respect," and "[o]ur challenges are with the other media, not each other," tell me the two newsrooms are being reflective and perhaps moving away from some very old competitive habits.

A shift needed to happen in order for both newspapers to continue to be an influential voice in their respective markets moving forward. I have been following the layoffs at both papers through some journalist friends. I agree that the layoffs should matter to our communities and I get that they were corporate cost-saving decisions. I have been wondering and reading about what newspapers could do to adapt to the new landscape and build something new for the community.

A Suggestion

The decision to explore a collaborative editorial effort is an excellent first step. But what could be next?

I have at least one simple suggestion for the Star-Telegram: Quit hiding your online stories behind seemingly random expiration dates and placing them in a paid archive. This frustration can best be summed up by one of my Twitter friends through this frustrating tweet, "ST: How do you expect to grow online marketshare when you take down articles after a week? I can't link to you!!"

Why does this matter? If you expire good content and move it across a toll bridge, people will get frustrated with the toll-collector and be less likely to want to keep using that content. I am hesitant to link to anything on the Star-Telegram even if the story is great, because I know eventually it vanishes. The new media feeds on good content. That content must be accessible. It can be monetized so figure it out.

Back to Collaboration 
(no more archive rant)
By combining efforts through specific collaboration, the two newspapers should find themselves more agile and of more use to their communities. It will be interesting to see in what forms this strategy takes. I look forward to seeing what's next.