Audience Roundtable

Are You Playing the Audience Game to Win?

Hanging on to the past can hinder you in the race to gain audience


When we look at our news publishing business model, we must look in the mirror and ask ourselves, are we playing to win, or are we simply playing not to lose? This answer to this pertinent question has huge ramifications on our future business based on an honest response. Are we constantly trying new things? Are we consistently modifying our approach to our local community and addressing their needs? On the other hand, are we continuing downthe same path that we have used for decades? Are we still pushing obsolete products and services?

Obsolete products and services reminds me of a newspaper office I walked into recently that couldn’t scan a document. They still relied upon an old, barely working fax machine. That may be a far-fetched example, but it does exist, and I suspect in far too many locations. I’m reminded of how slowly our industry responded to the onset of the Internet in the ‘90s. It wasn’t just our industry. Many well-known and influential companies were slow to react as well. Here are a few comments from very influential people.

The famous and usually wrong economist Paul Krugman said regarding the Internet. “It will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine.”

The famous U.S. Astronomer Clifford Stoll said back in 1995, “Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make the government more democratic. Baloney.”

The co-inventor of the Ethernet, Robert Metcalf, chimed in when he said, “I predict the Internet will soon go spectacularly supernova and in 1996 catastrophically collapse.”

The point being, we can all miss a new product or service. Anyone can be late to the technology party. But despite that, there is no excuse to only play defense at this critical time in our industry’s history. Playing only defense at this time means one thing – you are destined to be roadkill on the media information highway.

How does this tie into the audience, one might ask? Very simple, while it is our responsibility to provide the information to our local community, it is also our responsibility to assure we do so in such a way that reaches most of our community if possible. To adequately fulfill this mission, we must be innovative, adaptive, and constantly seek ways to help our community, advertisers, and readers.

The news publishing industry has been under siege for a couple of decades by new and cutting-edge technology. Many industry leaders have risen to the call and tackled this assault head- on. Unfortunately, many others have ignored the handwriting on the wall and hoped, as did the three authors of the quotes above, that everything would return to normal, and all would be well. If you haven’t embraced the future, don’t delay; race forward, adjusting your sails to the direction of the changing wind, and you will not just survive but thrive in the coming years.

John Newby is the founder of the 360 Media Alliance. He also authors the weekly column, “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” which focuses on bringing local media and communities closer together through common synergies and causes to grow revenue. He can be reached at

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