Now that I'm on the outside of the news business, I've had more time on my hands and more time has meant more of an opportunity to explore everything from Twitter and Facebook to iGoogle and the Web sites of numerous news outlets. (Not that I wasn't already doing that when I was at the Rocky Mountain News. But not to the extent I am now.)
The experience has made me realize something I should have done when I was an editor/publisher. I should have gone cold turkey on the print edition of my own and other newspapers for two weeks or a month and determined what life was like for those who were living solely in a digital world.
I say that because somehow the print paper always remains front and center - after all, it still provides most of the revenue - for most newspaper executives and there's only so much time in the day. I use the term executives because I think it's important that all the top leadership of a local newspaper do this, not just the editor or publisher.
If they would try this, I think newspaper executives would quickly see flaws in their offerings and would also more clearly understand the flood tide that is running. I'm not writing to criticize specifically what papers are doing online. Only to say that my experience being outside a newspaper tells me that other executives while they still have a chance might want to experience the world without their newspaper. I believe it would hasten their sense of urgency. I'm not talking about a sense of urgency about revenue. We know that's there in most buildings in this economic downturn. But is it there to the same degree in understanding audience and what's available to people today? Is it there in making sure their offerings stack up?
They could consider this exercise a competitive analysis if they must. But whatever they call it, weaning themselves from the paper for a brief period could be a big help.