You Push The Button

What happened?

There is a lesson for newspapers here.

Kodak once meant photography. You didn’t even have to ask. The red K in the yellow field was recognized and respected worldwide. Say Kodak and you said photography. Founded by George Eastman in 1892, the company pretty much invented the concept of commercial, professional and accessible amateur photography. “You press the button, we do the rest” was their motto.

But Kodak got into trouble.

They got into trouble because they forgot what business they were in.

Kodak was in the business of allowing people to go out, capture images and then get them for keeps.

That was it.

Kodak, however, began to believe that they were in the film business, instead of the ‘let people take pictures’ business. It was a big mistake. Because when digital cameras first came out, Kodak was such a powerhouse, that they could have owned the business. Instead, they pretty much ignored it. They were about film.

It was a mistake.

They ceded leadership in digital photography to the Japanese. They never got it back.

And today, even though Kodak is the largest film manufacturer in the world, the company is a mere shadow of what it once was, and it is hardly the world leader in photography it once was.

What does this have to do with newspapers?

Newspapers are in the business of going out into the community, gathering and processing news and information and putting it in people’s hands. That’s what their reporters and newsrooms do best.

The mechanism for the delivery of that information and news, the way it is processed, the way it is wrapped, the way it gets there is secondary.

Their power is not in the presses, but in their people.

And as the Internet takes them into every household (and every cell phone) in the world, it is critical that they don’t lose focus on their core business. You can’t stuff a piece of newsprint into a laptop or a cell phone, but you can jam tons of information, updated by the minute, there. And lots of that can be in video as well as text.

At The Newark Star Ledger we’re in the process of empowering the journalists, both print and still, with the remarkable power of video and laptop edits – digital journalism, and all that implies. The results so far are extremely encouraging. We’re not talking about 19 year olds with camcorders and Youtube here. We’re talking about working, experienced professional journalists with decades of experience morphing their considerable skills into a powerful new medium.

When it comes to acquiring up to date information about New Jersey in the near future, if we do this right….The Star Ledger will be able to say, ‘you push the button’, (on your laptop, cellphone or perhaps even TV), ‘we do the rest’.


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