Ambitious local news plan shows commitment to innovation

Steve Buttry posted the complete – and I mean complete – details of Gazette Communications’ plan to revolutionize its business yesterday. It’s worth a glance if you care about the evolution of local news and worth a full read if you’re responsible for running a local news business. (Sorry, but suing Google is not part of the plan.)

In the interest of full disclosure, Gazette is a partner of Serra Media, the company I co-founded last year, so I’m not an objective bystander. I’m very much cheering for them. That said, there are several things that make this plan worth taking a look at, but the most striking to me is the ambition. (Mark Potts has a good overview and analysis of the tactical points.)

In an era of layoffs and budget-cutting, the temptation to go into “bunker mode” and try to ride out the storm is strong. But it could also be fatal. The ability to make quick decisions and move on many fronts is what will allow those local media companies to make the transformation into the digital age. The others will be left behind.

The Gazette has the audacity to believe it can launch new projects at the same time it overhauls its model away from one-day consumption. They don’t have time to worry about the culture; they’re too busy creating a new one on the fly.

It’s ambitious – and risky. Both are elements in the equation of most successful start-up businesses, which is exactly how the Gazette is operating. (Given the uncertainty for most local news companies today, more should follow suit.)

I’ve spent the past few months presenting the idea of Newsgarden as a product/service that can be licensed by news companies. I’m impressed by the organizations who act quickly; the Gazette is one of a handful that have made a decision the same day as the demo.

It speaks to their ability to be productive in testing new ideas during these uncertain times.

It shows they are committed to moving forward.

I heard one entrepreneur say recently that success in business comes down to productivity. Whomever can conceive, test and launch the most ideas wins because it’s very difficult to come up with the perfect product on your first try.

So even if other news organizations don’t take a page (or five) from the Gazette plan, I hope they take a sense of the ambition and apply it to their own operation.

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