Steve Buttry, editor of The Gazette and the GazetteOnline, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (Here’s info about Buttry on the UM J-school site. This is one of many presentations at UM J-school centennial this week. But I’m adding this late…it occurred on Thursday, Sept. 11) “How many people are using Newspaper Next?” he asked. One or two raised their hands. “How many people have heard about Newspaper Next?” he asked. Just a few hands went up in an auditorium in which almost every seat is filled. Buttry says: “We gotta do a better job getting the word out about Newspaper Next.” [ReJurno: Ya think? Isn’t this billed as the newspaper industry’s big push to save newspapers, to embrace disruptive technology?]1`
Buttry said that newspapers used to be the place for the entire community. They served the community’s needs. But newspapers are not the best vehicle anymore. So, the American Press Institute developed Newspaper Next, which includes the concept of looking at a community’s megajobs, that is, the jobs that people and businesses need to do in community. Buttry says that newspapers should ask: What are the jobs our products are doing for business and consumers? And he repeated what many are this week, and have been for the last few years: We’re no longer newspaper companies. Instead of defining ourselves by our technology, we need to ask what is it we do for this community? We need to become the local information and connection utility. Great journalism alone can’t sell a newspaper.
Newspaper Next’s solution: Find a new business model. Buttry reviewed Newspaper Next 2.0’s report and approach. He also mentioned that a new report about databases — he prefers calling them answerbases [ReJurno: Not bad!] — will be out soon — perhaps as soon as next week.
The Newspaper Next 2.0 report provides 24 case studies of products. And case studies on how change culture of organization. Products. I really hate thinking about journalism as a product. It seems that API is missing the forest for the trees. But perhaps that’s what it’s supposed to do: save those newspapers…but at the cost of journalism?
Buttry offered some nuggets, however. 209Vibe in Stockton, CA and Cox Ohio Publishing’s Swocol (South West Ohio Colleges…four of them). [ReJurno: Those two sites are on to something. Why can’t news organizations do that for other interest communities?] He also mentioned sites started by news organizations that try to engage the local citizenry in providing content, including Mycape.com, Chicago Tribune’s TribLocal, and Monroe Publishing Co.’s MonroeTalks.com [ReJurno…these are a start, but still segregating community from jurnos.] And he also pointed out companies that have provided a place to feature local businesses and services, including Cox Enterprises’ Kudzu.com (whose competitor is Angie’s List), Bakersfield.com’s Inside Guide, and World Company’s Marketplace.
Newspaper Next sure has some good ideas. And I’m looking forward to the “answerbases” report. However, they’re all about products. I can’t help but think if news organizations had just put as much emphasis on understanding the Web medium, educated their journalists and let them experiment, there might not be so many layoffs and so many newspapers dying.