Here are my 5 top tips for struggling newspapers in 2010.
Stop trying to do everything. Have a clear idea of what you are, what you are for and where you are going. Focus on just one thing and aim to do it extraordinarily well. Keep debt to a minimum and avoid acquisitions. Trust is vital. So too is editing in the sense of helping people navigate a world containing too much information. Build a brand people can believe in.
2. Editorial strategy
Remove all mention of celebrity culture. Focus instead on real people. Celebrate the ordinary. Write articles about people that aren’t famous, powerful or rich. Write about ordinary people doing wonderful things that make the reader feel different, feel better or feel human. Also write about ideas. Avoid plugging things. Move away from anything that contains the word ‘lifestyle’. Become more visual. Use more photography and cartoons to tell stories.
If the people won’t come to the paper take the paper to the people. Develop proprietary channels, especially innovative channels involving trains, buses, coffee shops, sandwich bars, hotels, shopping centres, pubs and vending.
If you are intent on using digital channels make the online paper free but build in a cost for personalisation and functionality. With hard copies use price to build loyalty.
5. The internet
This is not your central issue. Focus instead on content. Embrace the internet but do not become obsessed with it. Do not try to compete with online head on. You have already lost the online war in terms of news moving online and to mobile devices. Shift your focus away from reporting breaking ‘news’ towards reflective analysis and commentary. If you are seeking to reduce costs consider moving editions online during the week but keep things on paper at weekends.