10 Questions that Media Companies Should Know the Answer To

As media companies like the New York Times Co. continue to post dreary results and circulation numbers continue to decline rapidly across the industry – It got me thinking of some questions that these companies (and other media companies) need have an answers for -a few years ago already. I tend to think like Dan Scheinman (VP at Cisco), in that “Every company is a media company,” so the answers to these questions aren’t only for moguls like Rupert Murdoch to consider.  

#10) Should we blog?

Yes. According to the latest Technorati "State of the Blogosphere" report, 95 of the top 100 newspapers now have reporter blogs. In the month of August alone, 77 million unique visitors from the US visited a blog. If your media company isn't blogging yet, the train is about to leave the station (for good). Blogging not only provides media companies with the opportunity to take part in the 1,440-minute news cycle; it also provides a real-time feedback channel for readers/listeners/viewers. Journalists can now increase engagement with their readers after a story has already been printed or it has run online.

#9) Should we consider ending print publication?

Yes, every media company should consider it, although it doesn't make sense for every publication to make the complete shift - just yet. Yes, the Christian Science Monitor did it last week, which is an acknowledgment of how costly daily print production has become. Publications must weigh the impact the red numbers from print are having on their overall operation before making the full shift. That said, those like Scoble are declaring that they will never buy a physical newspaper again. But in his piece, he also notes that media companies have other opportunities outside of print & online (i.e. mobile feeds and applications). While they try to save their print business, media companies should be trying all alternatives in mobile, online and video - to see if they are viable enough to ditch print all-together.

#8) Should we break our big story online or in print?

Yes, unless you are the Philadelphia Inquirer, this shouldn't even be a conversation. In fairness, I should note that the New York Times debated breaking the Spitzer scandal in print or online before finally breaking the story online. This shouldn't be a debate anymore. Breaking news stories must be broken in real-time online.

#7) Should we be on Twitter?

Yes. This is easy as well. While Twitter may not have the big numbers yet, it has the engagement. It also provides return on limited investment. One person can manage a Twitter account for a media company and create engagement with existing content while also pointing followers to new content.

#6) Should we focus more on video?

Yup. We live in a viral video world. Generation Y is visual and they have entrenched the video with mainstream audiences. This report, which was issued by Cisco and Compete last week, illustrates how users have tuned into online video during the 08 campaign season. Video is the key to re-engaging the audience and increasing engagement.

#5) Should we create an online social community?

Embrace the idea, but think before you implement a new social community. Consumers are inundated by the number of social networks. We're utilizing one for our conversation here and the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek all implemented new social networks within the last couple months. Make sure your social community features bring something new to the table. If it doesn't, stick with creating a community / group on Facebook.

#4) Should we partner with other news gathering services?

Newspapers in Florida, Ohio and Maine have combined news gathering services with staff constraints, amid the economic downturn. TIME Inc. is utilizing talent to write across its portfolio of magazines. With staff constraints industry-wide, is there any other answer than "yes"?

#3) Should we use bookmarking features?

Yes! A one-time limited investment with fairly unlimited return. Bookmarking is editorial marketing at its finest. Features like Digg, StumbleUpon and Buzz allow media companies to engage prospective readers who don't usually frequent their publication with stories that may be of interest to them.

#2) Should ad sales focus move further online?

The Financial Times recently reported that online ad sales will surpass print ad sales by 2011. In order to compete with online competition like MySpace, Facebook, etc, media corporations and newspapers must turn their attention (nearly full time) to online ad sales. Yes it's not growing as fast, but the competition is growing and is aggressive as ever.

#1) Should we cut editorial staff?

A question that can only be answered by looking at the green and (more likely) red in the books. However, the affect of the editorial cuts must be weighed with the affect the cuts have on editorial integrity. Trustworthiness and editorial integrity are some of the few things major media companies have going for them. Cuts, could limit their one core advantage.

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