!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: 21st Century Journalism XXXVII: Newspaper Next

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

21st Century Journalism XXXVII: Newspaper Next

The American Press Institute, a training organization for journalists founded at Columbia University in 1946, has in recent years been giving focused attention to investigating what sort of viable future newspapers can create for themselves.

API's Newspaper Next initiative, launched in 2006, "provides the industry with new business models, non-traditional ways to see opportunities that produce sustainable growth, and ways to reshape organizations for consistent innovation."

The Newspaper Next project team worked with Innosight, headed by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, to develop a recommended approach to innovation for newspapers. The "job to be done" is one of the central concepts of the Innosight approach. The thinking is that
... customers don't buy products, they hire them to get important jobs done. Understanding the jobs that customers care about but can't adequately get done with existing products can point to new paths for growth. ... One challenge for the newspaper industry is that many of the information-related jobs that people used to hire newspapers to get done are now done better by emerging competitors.
Newspaper Next developed three one-page interview forms that newspapers can use to identify the "jobs" they can profitably do for their customers — consumers and businesses.

The questions suggested for consumers — readers and prospective readers — are:
  • What are some things (for example, related to local information) that you have most trouble trying to do at the moment?

  • Why and when do you typically seek to do this?

  • Where did you look for help? Describe the process you followed.

  • What frustrated you most?

  • Describe a perfect solution. What will it do?

  • What are the emotions that the perfect solution would make you feel ("emotional hiring criteria")?
The suggested questions for businesses — currently served by newspapers mostly through advertising — are:
  • How do you make money?

  • What are the things about running your business that keep you up at night?

  • What are some things ("jobs") that you are having problems getting done?

  • Under what circumstances do you usually try to do these things?

  • What do you currently use to help you?

  • What other options have you considered? Why did you use or reject these?

  • How would you describe the perfect solution?

  • What are the most important characteristics of this solution?
There is also a questionnaire for employees with these suggested questions:
  • What are some things that customers have asked us to do in the past that we could not do?

  • What types of customers typically ask us for this?

  • Why couldn't we deliver what they wanted?

  • What alternatives did they use instead?

  • How well did these alternatives meet their needs?

  • What would the perfect solution for them look like?

  • What would be the most important characteristics ("hiring criteria") of this solution?
Newspaper Next preaches what they call their "gospel":
Innovation requires structure and resources. Companies hoping to transition from the old, monolithic newspaper business model to a diverse and growing portfolio of products need to create clear innovation processes and allocate resources to support promising projects.
Though not all industries will necessarily be best off if their companies focus their innovation efforts on developing "a diverse and growing portfolio of products," the Innosight approach to innovation, and specifically the sorts of questions suggested for customers and employees, can provide a model for how to get headed down a productive path toward long-term growth.


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