Newspaper benchmarking for cost efficiency, new newspaper organisation concepts, newspaper market exploration, digital transformation of newspapers and new business strategies for newspapers are the major trends according to leading newspaper consultant firm Schickler.
You have identified five major trends in newspaper consulting projects. Can you describe these trends?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): The newspaper industry is still in the middle of a major industry transformation caused by a fundamental change in media consumption and advertising patterns. This change has been predicted for a long time. Eventually, the newspaper publishers react very consequently. We see a mind shift from reacting to proacting. The newspaper industry has its future in the own hand.
What is the first trend?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): Benchmarking for cost efficiency is the first trend. Newspaper publishers are ambitious to create a high performance organisation in the traditional core business. Schickler has built the biggest and most comprehensive benchmark database for newspaper publishing organisations. We can tell if a newspaper publishing organisation is among the best in the world and where fields for improvement are located. This newspaper benchmarking is highly demanded.
What can publishers do when their organisation already is at benchmark level?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): If you are a single newspaper, it is the end of the flag pole. If you are a group of newspapers, you should think of new organisational concepts. The second trend are what we call „plug & play organisations“. The idea is simple. All processes with no direct customer impact are standardized and organized at the lowest possible cost. This includes outsourcing and offshoring. Know how and innovation are gathered in competence circles around the newspaper group. They develop new products, big data methods or innovative sales concepts. The publishing organisation on-site focusses on product and sales. In the end, we combine three DNAs: Efficiency in an industrialized process factory, innovation in competence circles and marketing in the publishing organisation on-site.
Markets are transforming. But is there any chance to get more out of it?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): Good question. This is trend number three. In many markets, newspaper sales organisations have acted very traditional compared to other industries. This includes advertising and subscription sales. Schickler has learned from other industries and adapted the learnings to the newspaper publishing industry. Good examples are big data applications that decrease the cost of winning new subscriptions and are able to predict cancelations.
The fourth trend is digital transformation. Many newspaper publishers struggle on that way. What are key success factors for a digital transformation of a newspaper publisher?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): First of all we need to combine the print and the online world. Separated worlds have been a good way to promote innovation. But nowadays, the separation of online and print is outdated. Newspaper publishers should build crossmedia organisations throughout the value chain. That includes editorial department, sales and advertising. There should be a deep understanding of the digital world in every employee in these departments. And there should be digital experts to reinforce the innovation path. The management should invest to acompany the staff in the digital world. But it should be clear that there is no way back. There is no place for employees who do not see their future in the digital world.
Digital revenues are still a lot smaller than print revenues. What do you recommend to close that gap?
Lafrenz (newspaper consultant): Newspaper publishers need to think in three horizons. The first horizon is to be more efficient and productive in the core business. The second horizon ist to digitize the core business and build adjacent business models. The third horizon is to create or buy completely new business models that will fill the gap in the future. These can be service oriented business models as newspaper publishers run big service operations. Or digital business models as newspaper publishers. As markets develop fast, every newspaper publisher should act in the three horizons simultaneously. A very high profitability out of horizon one is key to invest in horizon two and three.