What If Steve Jobs Ran Chicago Tribune and not Apple Inc.?

By: Jeff Fleming

The Chicago Tribune is probably not on Jobs’ acquisition list, but the following blueprint is how he might strategize its metamorphosis – and since new thinking is what newspapers need, what better choice than to think outside the Apple.

I imagine his first thought is “tablet,” and the first requirement he would make to his new employees is, “Buy one and get to know it; this is your future.” Jobs applies his proven marketing acumen and requires writers no longer specify a “tablet” as an “iPad” (thus no longer giving Apple continuous free advertising). He takes it further and requires his staff to rename the “tablet” with a name that would subliminally associate newspapers with tablets, such as newspad – similar to the soy industry’s strategy, which piggybacked its advertising campaign on the milk industry and launched its brand as “soy milk,” when in fact, it’s “soy juice” (soy juice and Wheaties doesn’t sound like a breakfast of champions).


Evolve and Prosper

Like a 21st century Nostradamus, Jobs predicts newspads and apps are going to put newspapers back on top. Newspads create the perfect environment to sell a well-defined product – with a front and a back page (a beginning and an end) – not an infinite web of mass information, with disruptive banner ads seducing users to click into a black hole.

Jobs has said that apps are leaving search and Web browsing in the rear-view mirror. This statement is newspapers’ portkey to survival and success; it will unlock the gateway to publishing’s future – seize the “daily.”

Jobs knows newspads are already replacing textbooks in many school districts across the country, quickly becoming Generation Z’s learning device. He realizes there are too many news sources, too many websites, too much information crowding the Internet. “Simplify” is a key word in Apple Inc.’s mission statement (which Jobs would implement at the Tribune). The tangled menagerie of news available online is anything but simple and is absolutely no place for a newspaper to make money, especially with millions of news-sucking aggregators.

Jobs diligently negotiates an alliance with a newspad manufacturer committed to developing, producing, and selling electronic reading devices and, unlike iPad, with no current or future intentions of slipping its hands into the pockets of publishers, editors, writers, photographers, and circulation directors. (Jobs would not let one rotten Apple spoil his newspaper’s financial future).


Power to the People

Enter the personalized newspaper. Designed to empower EVERY man, woman, teenager, and child of every demographic – while generating huge revenues. Stop reading if you have no intention of implementing a newspad and app in your business model – your time will be better spent writing your obituary.

For the past 304 years, newspapers have provided readers with a “news meal” and served it the way Moms served dinner in the 1950s, “like it or not, eat it.” Over time the single serving became a 12-course meal, including main section, sports, business, calendar, classifieds, real estate, fashion, travel, automotive, etc. But, in today’s world, technology enables newspapers to serve news buffet style, allowing picky subscribers to choose what they want to read – within a budget they determine, not the newspapers.


Cherry Pick Your News

Jobs simplifies user-friendly instructions to easily create a daily newspaper, personalized for the individual customer’s taste. He begins by collecting personal data upon customer sign-up, which enhances the user experience as well as adding value for advertisers. Once customer data has been collected, the reader is directed to a menu that closely matches his or her profile (a 55-year-old male will not be interested in a news menu designed for a 17-year-old female and vice versa). The key is to offer information that appeals to each segment of the market, allowing customers to choose what type of news they want. Because the news categories are offered individually, customers are charged only for the categories they select. A reader who is only interested in reading the Chicago Tribune sports section has the ability to order it a la carte and pay only 75 cents a month.

Similar to the news sections in today’s newspapers, subscribers choose from multiple categories (global news, domestic news, local news, sports, business, real estate, arts, opinion, classifieds, comics, religion, etc.) General categories also include sub menus. For example,under business, customers can narrow their choices to global markets, personal investing, retirement, futures and savings advice. Besides news topics, readers can also purchase stories from their favorite columnists or specific reporters.

Broaden Your Market

The combinations and choices are almost endless. Prebundled news packages with set prices would also be offered. News packages geared to kids, teens or seniors as well as packages geared for the general population. Jobs offers teens news about subjects they are interested in, written by their peers – with graphics that appeal to their voguish youth. Customers could order audio options (another revenue stream) and have their newspapers read to them on their morning commute – no more excuses about not having enough time to ‘read’ the newspaper.


Promote Trust, Deliver Value

Jobs placed marketing on the top of his priority list, emphasizing two major advertising arteries – branding the newspaper and fiercely promoting newspads. After all, the more newspads being used, the more apps sold. Jobs builds his brand by opening newspaper cafés in local shopping centers, with comfortable, “kewl” places to hang, that serve coffee while serving news – with bright, enthusiastic employees helping customers compose personalized “newspapers,” answering questions and swiping credit cards.

Jobs punctuates the accomplishments and achievements of his newspaper and emphasizes its important role in a free society – once again, branding newspapers the “trusted news source” produced by professionally trained journalists, written with accuracy, accountability and balance – promoting VALUE. He purposely exposes online aggregators, biased bloggers and bogus websites and kicks them squarely in their dangling participles, labeling them news imposters. People don’t want news written by self-appointed, opinionated, intelligent morons who type with the speed of a court reporter, but don’t understand the meaning of objectivity and whose definition of research and investigation is solely influenced by Google-induced promiscuity.

Kiss the Web Goodbye

Since his newspaper understands that newspads and apps are the foundation for revenue and growth, Jobs punched his Internet time card for the last time and said sayonara to uploading news. Without the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers supplying news for the Web, news aggregators shrivel up, allowing publications to protect their content and monetize news as a daily app – leaving the Internet to shine with its real strengths: social networking and shopping.

Revved-Up Revenue Engine

With its global reach, the Chicago Tribune discovers revenue treasures never thought possible.

Jobs’ sales staff will return to the days when they understood what they were selling and had a well-defined, bona fide product to sell – newspad apps allow this to become reality. Businesses such as Impact Engine, a San Diego-based advertising technology company, will also play a major role increasing newspapers’ revenue streams, offering huge palettes of ad templates from videos to expandable ad formats and everything inbetween. These companies also offer instant ad metrics, analytics and real-time updates – a suite of services and products that are simple to implement and maintain.

Point Your Advertisers to Their Exact Targets

Also key to the newspad’s success is ad-serving software, enabling publishers to deliver more ads from multiple advertisers, while prioritizing ads from high-value ad campaigns. Frequency control, geographic locations, key words and user data will allow newspapers to deliver local news about Chicago to Chicagoan expatriates living in Beijing, but with advertisements hyperlocal to Beijing. Sales and circulation are both winners – circulation can expand worldwide and distribute local news to “non-local” subscribers – and sales opens new markets in cities and countries across the globe.

Personalized, daily papers allow subscribers to order multiple newspapers – while staying within personal budgets. A Chicago resident’s primary news source might be the Chicago Tribune, but originally from Greenfield, Iowa, the Chicago resident may want to read about his hometown high school sports – an easy task when he creates a personalized Greenfield Times edition, only ordering and paying for the local sports section.

Bonus Bucks

Bonus regional supplements appealing to each demographic group would be strategically offered throughout the year – Chicago prep football preview, local summer getaways, spring bridal guide, baby boomers’ retirement bible, 50 beauty tips every Illinois teenage girl must know. Supplements would be offered as single-copy sales and charged for only cents on the dollar. Compelling topics coupled with detailed subscriber profile metrics will allow newspapers to deliver highly targeted content, to all the right people – cha-ching.

Looking Ahead

Newspapers’ bane the first 10 years of this century has been new technology and their own unwillingness to accept change. New technology has lifted its revenue curse and developed products that create a utopian environment for newspapers. The question is whether newspapers are finally ready to kick ass and take back their role as democracy’s guardian angel.

If Steve Jobs ran the Chicago Tribune instead of Apple Inc., Chicago would be leading the country in newspad sales and newspaper app subscriptions.

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