I read the Guardian newspaper on Mondays as I have a fairly long train ride to work. Yesterday, I found it quite ironic to read a big story on job cuts in the UK regional press followed a few pages later by a Jeff Jarvis column talking about the New York Times going hyperlocal – setting up a blog to cover a certain geographic area (which is already happening in parts of the UK).
Aside from this juxtaposition of old publishing world versus new publishing world, I was struck by the following comments on job cuts made by a reporter.
'We're restructuring the business, these are the products we want to produce, this is how many people we need to produce them, this is our strategy for growing the audience, this is the standard we expect, this is what our newspaper stands for,' we could accept that the cuts had a purpose," says one reporter on a southern daily paper.
"But we seem to have no strategy. They can't agree about social media. They have no idea who their audience should be or how to reach them. They ghettoise web teams. Advertising staff are chasing their tails trying to persuade companies who got their web ads for free last year that this year they're worth paying for – while at the same time having to heavily discount paper ads because of the recession. There's no joined-up thinking about how to make the web pay."
There are two points that stand out here:
1 Old world publishers neeed to work out their new business models and quickly. Where's the strategy?
2 For any media company to change and change quickly it needs to be very clear with its people where it is going, what that looks like and what this means for individuals in terms of skills, job cuts etc. And if the strategy is in a state of flux organisations need to be honest about this.
The second point has huge implications for the leadership and management capabilty within changing media organisations. The question is: are senior managers within media organisations up to the job? Do they have a strategy? Are they communicating it effectively? Are they taking people with them?