Open Letter to a Newspaper Editor


Gimme a second…

On Monday, I gave a speech to the Society of Editors in the UK.

At the end of the speech, we opened the floor to questions, and I was asked by Doug Melloy, the editor of the Rotherham Advertiser if he should put video on his website.

It’s a small paper in Yorkshire, England.

The problem with Q&A is that you don’t have time to really think about the right answer at that moment.

Now I do.

So yes, Doug, you should have video on your website. But you should do much more.

We are at a moment of revolution in the world of media.  There is going to be a pressing demand for video content of all kinds, as well as online information.  You have, in your newsroom, almost all the tools to become the Digital Hub for Yorkshire, (or at least a part of it).  By all means, put video on your website. You have photographs. Video is no different.

But I think you can do much more, once you have made your staff video literate.

You can turn your paper into a machine to produce video and digital content for your community, no matter what the platform.

For example, ITN is in the process of contracting its regional news coverage. It is far too expensive for them. But it isn’t for you. You are already there, covering the regional and local news.  You can solve ITN’s problem, and yours at the same time.  Deliver the video news to them, as well as to your paper.  In fact, you could plant ITN’s regional TV news in your own newsroom, allowing them to close down their studios.  There is an appetite for what you do.

Your paper is filled with news about cars, auto shows, classic cars. You know your readers.

A decade ago, Craigslist began to steal classified advertising from newspapers, undercutting their main source of revenue. It wasn’t Craig Newmark’s fault. Newspapers should have been there first. They weren’t. Now, as video comes to the web, there is an opportunity to seize back this lucrative piece of revenue. You do it.  You make your paper (online) heavy on auto news (you already are doing this in print) and start a video/cars section.  Take the video from UGC (user generated content), and also rent out the services of your in house VJs to make videos for prospective advertisers as well. Charge for the service.

Do the same for social events.  Video weddings and put the videos online.  And charge for the service.

Do the same for real estate advertising.  Charge for the service.

Do the same for entertainment venues. Charge for the service.

Singles? I don’t see why not.

Local Tesco’s having a sale? Video can drive in the customers.  My friend Doug McCormick, who founded both Lifetime and iVillage tells me that people read the paper as much for the ads as for the news (sales at stores, what’s in the cinema). Grab the video high ground here before someone else does.  Charge for the service.

In short, make your paper into the video information and public discussion node for your community.

And do it before someone else does it to you.

And make a profit out of the enterprise.

Because you can do it better, right now, than anyone else.

That, at least, is what I should have said.

Sorry Doug.

6 responses to “Open Letter to a Newspaper Editor

  1. mike,

    i love it when you talk revenue !



  2. Great stuff Michael and thanks again for your talk at the Society of Editors conference….inspirational, as always. Cheers, Simon

  3. good news for NYC – the London based Daily Mail is going to start printing a daily edition in the big apple come January. Demand created by their mega-successful website (world’s fastest growing news dot com) –

    If you can keep the east-coast dailies distracted for another year or so – millions more Americans will take up your fave rag.

  4. That IS good news.
    I have been buying the hard copies of the Daily Mail every morning for the past year at my news shop on 54th and 6th ave. $3.50 a pop!
    This should cut the price to something reasonable.

    I heard Paul Dacre give a lecture last week. He’s the Exec Editor. Brilliant, ballsy, in your face but smart. Just like the paper. I see where it comes from.

  5. yes – in Andrew Marr’s excellent history of British media “My Trade” the DM is credited with saving Brit newspapers from the certain death they seemed to facing 100 odd years ago. Saving it with strategies and style imported from the US – no less.

    Many interesting parallels between the early days of newspapers/popular press and the current state of the net.

  6. Hi just saw you on TV …retired from Industry saw you on TV this Sunday…. My wife and I fell in love with your interview. I teach at Rutgers Business School……. 68 yr old teaching process analysis and Green initiatives like LEED…. Hey I got a Mac maybe the new Canon XH a1s … who knows a middle of the road conservative video blog
    keep up the good work regards Bert

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