UT Online Journalism Symposium

Attending the UT Online Journalism Symposium today. They have a power-packed event, with editors from major publications like NY Times, Wall Street Journal, San Antonio Express News, Dallas Morning News, and many more. This event has grown over the past nine years from a small workshop with a few attending to a major spring destination. Over 280 people registered, and there are panels with both pros and academics. Students from UT are blogging the event and the whole thing is on live stream. Several of my TX State students are here. I’ve seen Tina, Taylor, Lindsay, Mary and Matt, and I look forward to a fun and enriching day.

The opening session featured Jim Maroney, Publisher and CEO of Dallas Morning News. His session on Newspapers in the Time of Cholera dealt with the transformations that newspapers are forced to go through to survive in the digital age. He stated that the business he is in is now the news and information business, as opposed to the newspaper business. He spoke of cultural and attitudinal changes necessary moving forward. Then, he basically listed strategies that I felt were only applicable to the print strategy of the paper, not really focused on any digital strategies. Here are the short term actions:

  • Manage lower margins
  • Get rid of unprofitable circulation
  • Monetize surplus capacity
  • Model elasticity for home delivery and single sales, which means increasing price in some circumstances. (Really? People are going to pay more for home delivery when they can go online for free?–news is a perfect business model to try out these “free” strategies – get others to pay (advertisers, premium users) so that everyone can enjoy else does not have to pay)
  • Lower ad rates to increase volume, thus increasing revenue
  • Provide context, perspective
  • Focus on the local

What about resources, how will they engage users? What is their strategy for community journalism or user-generated content? How are they going to be social?

Longer term – build a culture that supports change (how?) and focus on the super local and niches (long tail), reorganize to support these niches.

A pretty lively discussion centered around the strategy of focusing on local. Dr. Paula Poindexter from UT articulated that it is still important for local papers to provide perspective on national, international news. Personally, I think there is a more efficient way to cover these things, utilize resources that are best at covering them, and still provide perspective.

The next panel was on the Hybrid Newsroom, how NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, and international organizations El Tiempo and Daily Telegraph are reorganizing to handle digital. They talked about video strategies, newsroom processes, deadlines. They are all doing different things. The Wall Street Journal person Almar Latour mentioned the need to act like a VC (venture capitalist), take risks, try new things. But, personally, I feel that the culture needs to be prepared to reward people for taking risks and they must be willing to accept failure, maybe lots of it. Everything will not be successful, but the learning will be invaluable.


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