Newspapers were among the first businesses to feel the full disruptive force of digital. But they aren’t unique. Best to to watch their struggle, and learn from them, whatever line of work you’re in.
Adam Tinworth’s analysis over at Journalism.co.uk of how print publishing businesses is, then, interesting both for what it says about that sector, but also because you can broadly apply it to most other industries:
Broadly speaking, I think we can place pretty much all traditional print businesses making the move into online publishing into one of three categories: Additive, Replicative or Transformative[....]
Additive [...] They are still doing what they used to do – publishing a print product that is much as it’s always been – but also creating a digital product that contains additional material. [...]
[Replicative] You’re not doing anything substantially different from what you were doing before, but are instead just publishing it in more channels.
[Transformative] Surviving at this level requires a massive rethink of the organisational structure of the whole operation.
“Digital transformation” programmes are too often not transformative. There’s a proclamation by a board – everyone cheers for a bit, does some training, and then gets back to business as usual and hopes for the best. As Adam goes on to say:
Hitting the transformative stage means letting go of the idea that we’re an organisation that exists to publishing a newspaper/magazine/website and focusing on the idea that we exist to produce journalistic content for a particular audience.
Substitute the middle bit and this is the same crisis of strategy and culture that almost every company being challenged by digital is facing. The answer for all of them begins with a customer-first approach, I believe. Beginning is really, really hard though – and it may be the easiest part of the process.