Signs of the (NY) Times

Stories of the Gray Lady’s demise are, probably, highly exaggerated. That’s because the New York Times is investing heavily in R&D of products that may be — get this — 5-10 years out. Most newspapers are concentrating on short-term revenue initiatives that will help stop the bleeding now. But the Times is taking a longer view, and they’re right on the money. The work they’re doing now will help them more quickly and smoothly transform the newspaper into a full-fledged digital product.

Among the efforts: Automatically resizing and reformatting data to fit the device you’re using; a “smart” system that would keep track of what information users are consuming across multiple devices; and a system in which content is delivered to your TV and automatically resized depending on how far you are from the set.

(Read the full piece at: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10193349-93.html?tag=mncol)

You might look at these projects and think, this is something a technology company might produce. And that’s exactly the point. Technology companies look at innovative, new and unique ways to build products that potentially have multiple applications — and customers. Newspaper companies, if they have developers, lock them into building products that might be good for their purposes only. There’s no chance to license the work. No chance to do work for others. No chance to broaden the work for purposes outside the narrow sliver of what we do.

If we think more like a technology company, we can build innovative products for the future and  resell our expertise now. For example, we don’t really need vendors to build IPhone apps — we can do that fairly easily. We don’t need to wait for vendors to provide the kinds of products that NYT is working on; we can do those ourselves.

And, while we’re taking the long view, we should resell our expertise in our own communities, creating a new revenue stream that can help support the longer view. Take a look at a project of the MainStreet Media Group,  isoars.com. This small company has built a business that will build web sites for local company while offering them valuable ad space in paper and online. It’s an interesting way to marry all they have to offer.

There’s no reason we can’t consult with local business on search engine optimization, website design, and mobile phone applications. We have the expertise in house, and in many cases, have the best talent in town

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