Bang, don’t whimper
“This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.”
— The Hollow Men by T.S. Eliot
Established media – publishers and journalists alike – have a choice.
They can whimper their way to irrelevance and bankruptcy by trying to incrementally transform their businesses and their approaches to audiences, tweaking and adding onto long-standing approaches that are failing.
Or, with a bang, they can create an audience-centric publishing model that replaces old ways with something new, daring and frightening, something with the potential to better serve their audiences, uplift their communities and allow them to profit in new ways in a new audience environment.
That’s what this blog is about. It will share ideas and examples of the promise of invention and the perils of transformation. It will explore. It will push. It will challenge. It will empower.
For all of the fear and gloom surrounding publishing, there is great hope and promise as well. In fact, some in the industry are taking a number of bold and bright steps and we will examine them here. This blog will explore a future than can indeed be bright.
We will share a variety of insights in addition to mine. And we will continue the conversation beyond the blog in a variety of forums.
So who am I? I’m a veteran of legacy media — editor of The Detroit News, The Courier-Journal at Louisville, The Tennessean at Nashville, Gannett News Service, and the Rockford (IL) Register Star. And I’ve collaborated on change projects as a corporate news executive at Gannett.
Looking across the industry today, there are too many whimpers and not enough bangs as audience members increasingly use technology and their own relationships to disrupt traditional media.
The stakes are high — including the ability of an informed and connected population to engage in the democratic process in a constructive way. By now you are well aware that retailers and message-makers bypass legacy publishers and broadcasters, engage audience members directly and enlist those audience members to retransmit their messages with a peer-to-peer stamp of approval. Their success lies in making their message a part of their audiences’ experience.
Trust, accuracy and singular insight remain the values that audience members most seek as they choose media and as media messages find them. And that trust, accuracy and insight are most effectively created when publishers and journalists share experiences with the audiences they are trying to serve and when they collaboratively create knowledge.
Creating an audience-centric media company is a bang. Trying to transform an existing business with a little more engagement here or a random new product there is a whimper. Why waste time adding onto something that’s broken? Trying to transform a print newspaper audience experience into a mobile phone audience experience is a sure path to failure.
This blog will look at those issues with broad brush strokes and with granular detail.
The relationship between audience members, journalists and marketeers. New jobs and structures and organizations. Mobile strategies. Approaches to make revelatory and explanatory journalism more powerful and more effective. Different ways to make money and enable communities to better themselves.
With a bang, not a whimper. Please join the conversation.
Mark Silverman is a media consultant, strategist, journalist, and trainer. He has served as the top editor of newspapers in Detroit, Louisville, Nashville, and Rockford IL, as well as Gannett News Service. He has also worked on change and innovation projects during two separate stints on the Gannett Company’s corporate news staff. While competent in many areas, he should never be allowed take still photos or video.