"It is impossible for ideas to
compete in the marketplace if no forum for
their presentation is provided or available."
Thomas Mann, 1896
The Business Forum
Newspapers Turn to
Innovation to Keep Up With The
By David J.
As a newspaper executive, what do you do when advertising revenues are tied to
declining circulations and undermined by the impact of the Internet and social
media? Well, you could crawl up in the fetal position under your desk or you
could look to innovate your way out of this dilemma.
Innovation is exactly what many major United States' newspaper organizations—organizations
such as Hearst, Gannett, McClatchy, The Washington Post and others — are doing
again. Again? Yes. How many readers are aware that
are all innovations driven by newspaper industry consortia?
The newspaper industry is about to lead another paradigm shift in consumer
advertising and promotion of products and services. I write “coming change”
because this effort, being led by ShopCo CEO,
Ben T. Smith IV, is just getting
underway. Smith and his team are still very much in the ideation phase. When we
last spoke, they did not yet have their Silicon Valley office.
There are many reasons why the newspaper industry needs to continue to engage with
are in the business of creating and supporting communities; newspapers are a
part of the fabric of our society — each newspaper is a trusted brand.
retailers have proven that there is a strong, mutually-beneficial relationship
between members of a community and their local papers. Retailers have seen that
a newspaper's ability to influence a consumer is second to none.
is a weekly event — shoppers look forward to seeing what specials retailers are
offering during the coming week.
more deals being offered by retailers than consumers can possibly be exposed to
due to space limitations in printed advertising — ShopCo can help overcome that
like to shop — they like to be exposed to new products and services and rely on
advertising to help them gain a new understanding.
shopping experiences aren't about the media — they are about connecting to viable,
media is a key driver in today's consumer marketplace — retailers need a way to
connect to consumers in a manner more consistent with social media.
Why do not
consumers merely rely on Internet search engines? The simple answer is there is
no relationship. The newspapers, retailers and consumers collectively benefit
from a nationwide, coherent solution exposing them to products, services,
promotions and deals they need to know about. The vast majority of the time,
consumers know what they are looking for — they simply need a place to look to
determine what is being promoted.
newspapers initiated the ShopCo initiative for several reasons:
retailers need a national solution — a regional solution isn't acceptable.
It is hard
to reach for a new paradigm when you are part of the current paradigm—the
newspaper industry needs new eyeballs and minds looking at how to solve this
challenge — the innovation needed simply could not be developed inside the walls
of the newspaper organizations themselves.
what will the ShopCo solution look like? It is too early to tell. The journey has
just begun. There is no timetable for launch or an articulated solution at this
point. Smith tells me, “Our goal is to ultimately provide our advertiser
partners 50 million unique visitors who are engaged in an exciting shopping
experience. We will be looking at a wide variety of new features and options on
our roadmap, but we will continue to focus on enhancing the user experience and
traffic growth as well as launching new web, mobile, social and tablet
is a holding company financed by the newspapers, Smith maintains considerable
autonomy about the nature of the solution he and his team create. Smith's
toughest challenges are building the right team, maintaining a tight focus on
consumers and advertisers, and dealing with the explosion of new opportunities.
would easy to believe that the newspaper business is stodgy, old and not very
engaged in the 21st century technology and social media trends,
nothing could be further from the truth. Get ready.
I appreciate the following people for allowing me to interview them for this
Ben T. Smith IV,
ShopCo CEO, Steve Hills, President and General Manager of Washington Post Media,
Lincoln Millstein, Senior Vice President at Hearst Newspapers, and Jack
Williams, President at Gannett Digital.
is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and held senior management positions in Product Development,
Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and
Product Management. He joined Tandem Computers in 1979 where
he was responsible for Corporate Documentation Standards for
Tandem's highly configurable and expandable computer
systems. In 1983, he designed and implemented a
Configuration Guide for Dialogic Systems instituting a
process that greatly simplified a complex, modular product
such that the field sales organization and international OEM
customers could easily define their order requirements. This
methodology satisfied the product definition needs of sales,
marketing, engineering, manufacturing, customer service and
finance. David founded his consulting practice in 1991. He
is a graduate of San Jose State University (BA) and Santa
Clara University (MBA). David is a member of the Society for
the Advancement of Consulting (SAC) and has been Board
Approved in the Area of Configurable Product & Services
Strategy and Implementation. In 2010, he was inducted in the
Million Dollar Consultant® Hall of Fame. Out of
over 1,000 consultants who have completed Alan Weiss’s
mentoring program, only 26 have been inducted into the Hall of
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