Does Transformation Really Take 19 Years?

How We're Changing the Newspaper Industry

How We’re Changing the Newspaper Industry

by Shannon Kinney

I’ve been fortunate enough to be working on the online side of the media industry since 1996, leading transformation. An energetic and enthusiastic change agent working within hundreds of newspapers throughout North America, speaking at conferences, in thousands of businesses. Pushing the rock up the hill, dragging the horse to water, and every other cliche that you can think of. The fact that it is now 19 years later, and my industry is still calling leveraging the internet (and now mobile) “transformation” is not lost on me. In fact, I’m deeply grateful for whatever it is in my DNA that still allows me to be an optimist about the future of the media industry.

Show, Don’t Tell

Throughout 2007 and 2008, I spoke at a series of industry conferences throughout North America about the importance of utilizing the then fairly new tools Twitter and Facebook, how they would dramatically impact news delivery, consumer shopping habits, and the marketing budgets of small businesses. At one particular conference in 2008 I looked out into the crowd and realized that no one in the room of more than 300 media executives were going to do a thing about what I was saying. I dug deep into my consultant handbook and thought that maybe a case study with actual data illustrating how small businesses were making marketing decisions would help drive action. I came back to Maine, and started talking with small businesses, and working with them on their online marketing strategies. And, within four months, my case study blew up into a good little business. Startup #1, Dream Local Digital, was born. We’ve been working with media companies to assist them in offering agency services and conducting sales training, met with more than 25,000 SMBs in workshops, and are making a difference for six years, but it’s not enough.

Why?

Whatever it Takes

No matter how forward thinking our partners and my peers are, no matter how many media companies say they’re ready for change and committed to digital, when it comes down to it, most of them aren’t selling. And I am not using a generalization lightly, none of them are selling enough. At Dream Local, I’ve realized that while I’m still an optimist, I need to be a realist. In 2014, I realized we needed to change our model for supporting partners. We had excellent tools, training, and team members to empower our partners and serve their advertisers, but they needed more, much more. In 2015, we have embarked upon a new journey that goes beyond empowerment and focuses on leading and managing execution at the partner level as well as the SMB level. That’s right, we’re doing it for them. We have marketing teams doing the marketing, we have sales team members selling, and we are doubling down our commitment to growing our partner’s businesses for them if that’s what it takes.

Research-based Transformation Efforts

Which leads me to today’s announcement. The Bangor Daily News has recognized that to truly transform its company and build a future business they needed to create a separate division based on Clark Gilbert’s insightful research that he has proven true in his work at Deseret Digital Media. They have boldly created a new Transformation B company, BDN Maine, and Dream Local Digital will be leading culture development, sales efforts of the entire product line (not just Dream Local products), their online and mobile product development and more with a talented, small, scrappy team of dedicated people. Startup #2 is born. Through this work not only will we be transforming their company, we will be writing the blueprint for our partners, and hopefully an industry. Because while I’m still an optimist, I’m impatient. I can’t wait another 19 years for transformation. I’m rolling up my sleeves, and we’re going to get it done. Let’s do this, #honeybadger style.

Thought-provoking related links by Nancy Lane, President, Local Media Association:

Why is transformation so tough for media companies?

Transformation the Deseret Way


Learn more about how we help newspapers make the shift to digital and drive new online revenue.

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