Being in the hospital on an I.V. for a number of days put me in touch with the suffering of newspapers. I was down but not out. I have polycystic kidney disease (PKD) and one of my cysts had ruptured, causing severe pain and the temporary loss of kidney functioning in my right kidney. Not fun.
But while I was holed up there, I did have my iPhone and was able to keep in touch with the world via email, the web and Twitter. After nine days, severe boredom crept in and I decided I wanted to write a brief 10-step plan for newspapers to revive themselves and take out their collective I.V.‘s. But not having access to the blog publishing platform, I decided to just put the 10 steps in 10 tweets on Twitter at my feed @mediatwit.
People seemed to like them, and started to ask me where they could find them outside of my Twitter feed. I told them I would eventually post them here on MediaShift, but in the meantime, the momentum of the list took on a life of its own, and soon there was a permanent home for those tweets on QuoteURL and even on the Westside blog.
Comments also came in via Twitter, with some people rooting me on at my hospital bed and others noting that these tips could work for any local news outlet — not just newspapers. Agreed. I don’t think there’s anything in these steps you haven’t heard before. It’s just a moment of accumulated knowledge that I hope will be one more argument against the wrong-headed media mogul teeth gnashing that has led to legal threats against Google and aggregators as well as the monolithic push for pay walls.
So here they are again, with feeling…
10 Steps for Saving Newspapers
1. Do custom small print runs targeted to neighborhoods and interests. Not daily.
2. Support local writers, reporters and bloggers; help market them, sell their ads; decentralize the operation.
3. Replace circulation, printing, print production staff with tech, SEO, community managers.
4. Find out what the community wants in real face-to-face meetings, not focus groups. Then do what they want.
5. Use pro-am methods. Include community-contributed content edited and vetted by pros.
6. Smart multimedia. Don’t do it just to do it. Use the right medium to tell the right story.
7. Promiscuous revenues. From ads, niche paid content, donations, non-profit grants to directory listings.
8. Produce mapping and database projects. Employ or train hacker-journalists.
9. Meet regularly with local businesses to gauge their needs. Create online directories of local businesses.
10. Create a bottom-up organization where innovation is encouraged and rewarded at the edges. Use good ideas from anyone.
Of course, I don’t expect that it will just take 10 steps. Leave your own steps in the comments below, and I’ll add them to the list above if they make sense.
And I’m happy to report that after nine days in the hospital, I was able to leave life on an I.V. behind and am recovering nicely at home. So metro newspapers take note: There is life after near death.
Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.