Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Journalism That Matters - The DC Conference, Day One

Without taking you through "The Business Side of Journalism 101", I'll tell you what you probably already know: From a business standpoint, the profession of journalism is in trouble. I'm in Washington DC right now, attending this year's Media Giraffe Conference which has as its theme "Journalism That Matters". This conference is designed to get the assembled journalists, professors of journalism, bloggers, editors, and other journalism-focused people (roughly 175 or us) to develop a business model for the newsroom of the 21st century.

It probably won't surprise you that a lot of people are talking about alternative funding structures, including the co-operative business model.

What I've contributed to this dialog is the idea of changing this industry's "product line" rather than its funding structure. I am convinced that the journalism profession is suffering from a severe lack of innovation. For example, when was the last time The New York Times added a new section to its paper? I think it was the "Home" section, and that was a long time ago.

Looking at your product line to see what else you might give your customers is basic business strategy. But when was the last time someone did something really innovative in the world of journalism?? (Other than Arianna, of course, when she started The Huffington Post.)

Well, I've been thinking about American journalism's product line for some time. And here's what I told the assembled group last night: I said they should following the advice of "Blue Ocean Strategy", one of the leading business book of today, and use the power of innovation to give their customers something those customers aren't asking for because they don't know they can have it. The "headline" I suggested might be written to describe the launch of this innovative product line is "Journalists Decide To Tell The Entire Story of Humanity. While still reporting on the bad things we need to eliminate, the good things we need to learn how to do will be covered too."

This is a kind of Zen concept for me. If you only report on the Yin part of life but leave out the Yang, you are reporting on only half of what constitutes reality. "All the news that's fit to print"? Not really. Try "All the news about the part of reality we choose to cover that's fit to print." That's what we're really getting. But we don't have to. And based on how the end of Day One of this conference went, we won't for too much longer.

I was approached at the end of today's session by someone who said one of tomorrow's break out sessions should be all about planning to launch a new journalistic venture based on the Blue Ocean principles. So, that's what we'll be doing!

Stay tuned for my report about Day Two. Tomorrow should be a very interesting day!

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