Dealing with the elephant: Cutting ties to the legacy albatross

[Some time ago, I wrote a series of posts that attempted to address some of the revenue-related issues facing traditional news organizations and suggested some possible solutions to making incremental (and larger) changes that might help them stay profitable. For no good reason, I’m going to carry on the ill-advised, barely meaningful elephant metaphor (or is it a metaphor piggybacking on a cliché?) every now and then when I write something about the changing business models for news production and consumption.]

Zac Echola has posted an essay (it’s really longer and far more in-depth than the average blog post, although that’s par for Zac’s eloquent course) called “Cutting the cords, bridging the gap.”  It’s mostly about making serious changes to your news business to keep up, increase online revenue, and (crucial part here) decrease what I’d call your legacy expenses.  As in, print.  As in, outdated systems and vendors that aren’t geared toward

Here’s a long clip from early in the essay:

“Media companies must sever the bindings that drag business in the long run. Market fluidity, the key to the successes of the few that weather the coming storm, will only come through agility and unyielding focus on the future. Mammals didn’t inherit the Earth because the dinosaurs died. The dinosaurs’ extinction was a product of an outside force that lead to a more hospitable environment for mammals. Yes the majority of revenue comes from the ‘core’ print product, the ‘core’ broadcast product. But we aren’t in the ‘newspaper’ business. We aren’t in the ‘broadcast’ business. We are, by definition through ownership of web domains, in the information business. We’re in the advertising business. The medium is just that—a medium for passing information and advertising, connecting audience in search of information to business in search of audience. The Web is best suited to show measurable results to advertisers looking for ways to not spend advertising during a recession.”

Now, that’s the hook.  Zac goes on to explain — in far more detail than I have, with a lot of knowledge of precisely the sort of legacy systems, vendors, and thinking that forces the hands of news organizations and their corporate parents — some of the particular advertising-related problems facing the news business online and suggests a number of good solutions.

The hitch, because there always is one, is that doing the job right often requires doing it yourself.  At the scale of one newspaper that can logically pay a developer instead of three vendors, great, no problem. Done. But at the scale of a consolidated newspaper or broadcast company, perhaps it is more difficult to rationalize that change, depending greatly on the resources available, and the scale of the company.

Read Zac’s post and add your comments there, especially if you’re someone in a position to make changes like this in your organization.

Depressing bonus link: Alan Mutter details the financial problems of a newspaper company, answering common questions about stock prices, bankruptcy, and debt.  See also: Steve Yelvington calls it an “ownership crisis.”

Inspiring bonus link: Mark Glaser’s recent MediaShift post rounds up alternative and innovative business models for news.