This is the eighth in a series of 10 posts on what local newspapers should do to survive and thrive in the face of the economic meltdown and societal shift to the Internet.
8. Stop pretending that if the newspaper’s staff didn’t do it, the work is not good enough. Other companies routinely hire contractors to produce content according to their exacting standards or collect content produced by others and repackage it in ways that benefit the consumer. So should newspapers. As newspapers examine their organizations and what their budgets can support, they need to be committed to maintaining a core team central to the newspaper’s mission and they need to be ruthless about finding the most efficient ways to do everything else. Newspaper should shift away from the “staff” and “salary” model to a model where a core team works with independent contractors and freelancers who are rewarded based on what they sell or on the amount of traffic they drive. Right now we see organizations cutting compensation across the board. Is that the right way to motivate someone to be part of a newspaper? I don’t think so. Newspapers need to be leaner but to make this switch successfully they also need to reward even better the staff they keep. Based, of course, on their performance and impact on the success of the organization.
Here are some concrete steps:
• Evaluate every job and activity of a newspaper to determine which continue to be necessary. Determine which of those jobs or activities must be carried out by a member of the staff.
• Establish a training program and compensation model for outsiders who contribute editorial content or sell products that bring in revenue.
• Establish an “experts desk” that actively recruits people from the community knowledgeable about a whole range of topics, from cooking to health to weather to biology. Make them part of the newspaper family.
• Establish a “business building desk” that actively recruits people who might be able to help grow the newspaper’s business.
Next: Stop incremental cutting.
Previous: Flip the model on its head.