World Association of News Publishers

"Digital first, print last"

"Digital first, print last"

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In 2009, the US-based Journal Register Company went into bankruptcy. As the company began working to emerge from its desperate financial situation, the management saw that it had to try new and different things and create a new model. “The old model was broken. You don’t tweak from broken,” says John Paton, CEO of JRC.

John Paton is CEO of the Journal Register Company.

In only about 18 months, the company managed a complete turnaround and earned US$ 41 million in profit last year.

While Mr Paton says he wants to be clear that JRC's efforts remain “a work in progress,” he offers practical advice based on what the company has learned and done during the past year and a half.

One of the things the JRC learned was to take advantage of what it knew about crowds and the fact that crowds have been steadily abandoning the print newspaper product for years. “The crowd and advertisers prefer digital,” Mr Paton says.

More US customers now get their news via the web than from newspapers, says Mr Paton, and advertisers now spend more on the web than on print.

This is why JRC introduced the motto of “digital first,” and it went further – it put the digital people in charge “of everything,” Mr Paton says.

In that year and a half, the company has doubled the number of its unique users from about 5.5 million to 11 million.

To move forward, he says, newspapers must “stop listening to the newspaper people" for this transition.

“Be digital first and print last,” Mr Paton adds. “Stop focusing on the print. The future is not print, it’s digital.”

Mr Paton offers publishers the following advice:

- Leverage print brands’ audiences to build compelling original content on platforms of the customers’ choice;

- Create a new business model - one that allows for the transition from the old eco-system to the new;

- Allocate resources based solely on the news ecology and only in areas that create value;

- Build new products and new audiences;

- Harness the new link economy;

- Do what you do best and link to the rest; and

- Focus on core competencies and stop, reduce, outsource and sell all legacy cost areas.


Brian Veseling's picture

Brian Veseling


2011-06-09 11:20

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