John Paton’s Dec. 2 Presentation at INMA Transformation of News Summit in Cambridge, Mass.

The Journal Register Company – the Company I took over in February of this year – could be the poster child for what ails the US newspaper industry.

The company counts its products in the hundreds.

Its employees in the thousands.

Its audience in the millions.

Its revenue in the hundreds of millions.

And, it is now profitable. With better margins than an average Dow Jones listed company.

It has titles pre-dating the American Revolution and can stretch its lineage back to at least one predecessor title co-founded by Benjamin Franklin.

Another title was around to publish George Washington’s obit.

It even has one press – not in use I hasten to point out – that a local historian is researching as a possible Franklin press – again, that Ben Franklin.

And in its core mission is enshrined in our nation’s Constitution.

And none of the above will save it or other companies like it – unless it and our industry profoundly change how we do business.

At JRC we have some thoughts on how we can do that. How we can channel the necessary energy to change and lead the way to a new sustainable business model.

Let me just say upfront, that in any presentation the presenter always makes it sound like everything went smoothly and everything runs like a Swiss watch. That wasn’t and isn’t the case here.

The examples I will speak about are not ones without flaws. All of this is a work in progress.

This is also not a story of creating a better video player, news widget or Killer App.

Others have more and do better but it is a story of how you can change newspaper companies to survive the inevitable shrinking of print revenue dollars and position them to grow as news companies.

To date, ours is a story of blocking and tackling to buy the time and resources to make the more profound changes still needed.

My presentation to you today is really in three parts:

Why we have to change.
How we have changed.
And, perhaps of more interest to some, the results we have had to date.

Okay. Let’s start with the why.

If you haven’t seen this quote already or read Clay Shirky’s essay, then, brother, let me tell you, you are not paying enough attention.

Its key message is clear:

You don’t transform from broken.

You don’t tinker or tweak

You start again – anew.  And as early evidence has shown at Journal Register Company you can build a new and better house from the foundations of the old. And quite frankly how, if we can make the needed changes, we will have a sustainable competitive advantage against most start-up competitors.


What is painfully obvious to the outside world apparently is blind to many on the inside of our industry.

I don’t know why but the number of editors, publishers, ad directors and circ directors who don’t get this is still very high.

They act as if the last two decades are a phase. Well, that’s some phase.

Newspaper advertising is now at 1985 levels –before inflation adjustment. For many of you in this room that is before you even started in newspapers.

In that 25-year period the average growth was 2.7% per year.

Take out the high-low and it is still low single digit growth.

And those were the good old days.

From our industry’s advertising peak in 2005 until now it is half of what it was.

And at the avg growth rate of 2.7% it will take about another quarter of a century to get back to where it was – in 1985. But that isn’t going to happen.

Because not only is newspaper advertising shrinking,

So is mainstream advertising shrinking as a total percentage of the marketing pie.

From interactive to what Wall Street ridiculously still calls alternative media – the growth will no longer be in traditional media in the longer term.

Yes, there will a cyclical return (the industry is already experiencing it)

But not a long-term sustained return to where we or traditional media were just a few years ago.

And the results of this dramatic downturn are now well known. Some of the largest and most storied titles in the United States are either in bankruptcy, heading into it or just coming out of it.

But what has been the real game changer is NOW that More folks get their news from the Internet than Newspapers.

And that means there is now an even bigger Audience for our core product – news – than ever before.  And in the crowded marketplace that is the Web it is the deep trust the Audience has for Print that is leading us and them online.

This is particularly true in local news. Our total online audience for all our properties is now bigger than our print audience.

In short, we are already a Digital company – with small sales in the area of growth and a burdensome cost structure on the declining business – Print.

But there is hope.

And it is just where you might expect it – in our core business of news and on the backs of our reputation – The brands themselves.

The Web is a crowded place for news. Compelling journalism is key to standing out and it is the power of our brands – our reputation – that can spotlight for our audience where they should look for journalism they can trust.

Vint Cerf – called by some the Father of the Internet – and Google’s Chief Evangelist is very direct about this:

“People’s trust in journalism has always been about branding.

It is the new preference for how News is now created and consumed – The New News Ecology – where we find the core of our new business model and a new role for Print. And our new focus on where we must allocate resources.

News now breaks Digitally both in its’ origin and creation by the Audience using Social Media and spreads virally. To be in the News business now means you must run your business as Digital First.  And that means Print Last.

Print Last because that is how this new world works.

Print is a SLOW medium and digital is FAST.
Atoms will never beat bits.

You must change the focus and priority of what you do –

If you want to survive

And you have to allocate the resources – with the right people in charge – to get this done.

And decide what you will no longer do – our core competencies are content and sales – we should and are getting others to do everything else.

Each platform has its own advantages.

Pushing print onto digital only makes for a lousy experience.

Print makes for lousy video, etc

Each platform has an audience

Even without research you could successfully bet that the brides who would like the content from our Connecticut Bride magazine would rather get that info digitally while the mothers might favor the actual magazine

And each platform has a certain speed – Fast or Slow

And always, it comes down to the journalism.

Lousy journalism on multiple platforms is just lousy journalism in multiple ways.

Trust me when I say, I do realize that many of you listening to me now are wondering what I am going on about:

–    Of course Print is dying and Digital is growing
–    Of course there is a new News Ecology

But, of course, many in our industry still do not get it. If they did you would be seeing wholesale changes in newspaper business models. A complete overhaul of their business models but you are not.

And the reasons you are not are simple: Fear, lack of knowledge and an aging managerial cadre that is cynically calculating how much they DON’T have to change before they get across the early retirement goal line. Look at the grey heads in any newspaper and you will see what I am talking about.

And then there is the ever-defeatist Dollars to Dimes argument.

Look, if Adobe and other companies can figure out how to make a living when the market has driven them to give away for free their core products, then we can figure out how to make a living by piling the Dimes into Dollars.

If Print dollars are becoming Digital Dimes, then we better start chasing the Dimes. And we better do it cost effectively.

So, what must we do?

Be Digital First and Print Last.

Stop focusing on the Print. It is in any newspaper’s DNA. It is not like you are going to forget to put out the newspaper.

Focus on the future and the future is not Print.

Leverage the power of the Print audience to build the new platforms of choice.

And create a new business model that allocates resources solely on the new News Ecology.

You have to slay the production god and the legacy costs that go with that old model.

Two-thirds of a newspaper’s costs are infrastructure – stuff you don’t want to do – and NOT in what you do want to do such as create compelling content and effective sales.

Harness both the Cloud and the Crowd to drive down those costs.

Newspaper companies in the US have seen valuation multiples drop from 11x EBITDA to 4x – presuming you could find someone to buy one. Firms like Schibsted who have made this transformation have double digit valuation multiples. And that means they have the financial firepower to invest in the future.

You must create an investment worthy business plan that changes current valuation metrics. A plan that:

–    Stabilizes and grows Print EBITDA
–    Targets 25% of EBITDA from Digital within 3 to 4 years
–    And targets 50% of EBITDA from Digital within 5 years

At Journal Register Company we are getting out of anything that does not fall into our core competencies of Content creation and the selling of our Audience to advertisers.

Get Rid of the Bricks and Iron

Focus on core competencies

Meaning – get rid of those things that don’t add value to the business.

Reduce it or Stop it.

Outsource it or Sell it.

There are now companies who do most of this much better than any newspaper company does no matter what their head of pre-press or production says.
Because those ARE the core competencies of the outsource companies.

Moving forward our formula looks like this.

And that formula only works if we allocate resources as per the New News Ecology and we harness Crowd and Cloud to assist in information creation and drive down Legacy Media costs.

To date, and certainly this is true of Journal Register Company in the past, the industry has only focused on cost reductions.

But it is a focus that says do more of the same with less which results in the same done worse.

And it is prolonging the death of a broken business model rather than adapting to the realities of the present.

Our Digital First strategy is centered on the Cost Effective Creation of Content and Sales and Not the Legacy Modes of Production.

We can’t afford to allocate the new resources without reducing the old.

Because adding a new person or expense for every function is just putting more water into a sinking boat.

You have to multi-task.

And, again,

You have to train your people to do so.

And if they can’t learn you have to let them go and get those who can.

There is going to be a lot of blood on the floor when this process is completed.

But if done right you will have a business model that:

–    Increases the quality and quantity of original content on the platforms of the consumers’ choice
–    Expands Audience
–    Expands Revenue Opportunities
–    Lowers Costs
–    And Increases Profits

Investment and Culture change are by far our biggest challenges in the near term.

You must supply the tools.

We are overhauling the Company’s I.T. systems.
We are increasing training.
We are supplying the tools.
We bought every reporter – and now some ad salespeople as well –a Flip video cam.
They paid for themselves in about a month and we have gone from about a 100,000 video streams a month to about 2 million.

Stop listening to Newspaper people.

We have had nearly 15 years to figure out the Web and as an industry we newspaper people are no good at it. No good at it at all.

Want to get good at it?

Then stop listening to the Newspaper people and start listening to the rest of the world.

And, I would point out, as we have done at JRC – put the Digital people in charge – of everything.

Find new voices and let them push you around.

We have established an Advisory Board to do just that.

Jarvis, Rosen, Bell and Morgan push us hard on our thinking and we are the better for it.

Our Community Media Labs in each of our 18 dailies have helped turn our Audience, who became our competitors, into our colleagues. And the communities we serve are the better for that.

If you are going to channel change – and particularly change as profoundly needed in our industry – you are going to have to reward those who taking the journey with you – The Employees.

At JRC we have instituted a Profit Sharing Plan.

If the Company Wins, the Employees Win. We all Win.

If you are going to channel change you need to tell people where you are going and why.

You can’t over communicate and nobody does it well.

As CEO, I blog to my employees and the public. I ask for their help and they oblige.

I also regularly email my 3,106 employees and they me.

And the most common complaint is – lack of communication.

You just have to keep working at it knowing that it, like the website or the newspaper, is a job that is never done.

And in a world where the Competition and the Audience know so much more than we do – we have to Experiment.

While we encourage all of our employees to do that, we actually pay some of them to do just that – experiment.

We call it our ideaLab.

The ideaLab is a select employee group – we asked them to apply online via my blog (and they did in the hundreds) – who are paid to experiment.

We supply them the tools (Droids, Smartphones, iPhones, iPads, Netbooks, etc); the time (25% off with pay) plus some extra pay as an incentive.

There are no rules.

They have come up with Customer Relationship Management Tools; Ad Tracking and Publishing systems all using free web-based tools.

Others have developed training programs for fellow employees to help them navigate this transformation.

Others are concentrating on journalism itself.

One group in PA, are trying to meet a challenge set by Jay Rosen on his blog PressThink. Jay challenged news organizations to consider the “100% solution”. That means you cover everything that happens on a particular subject in a particular area.

Our guys are trying to do that with high school sports.

Using the crowd, Twitter, Smartphones plus Google Docs to manage it all, they are attempting to create real-time game coverage of high school sports via Twitter. That’s every game in real time.

You can’t do this alone.

The new eco system for news is too big

And no one has the resources anymore to cover it

You have to partner

If you don’t –

In your communities you will be out of the loop and out of business

Jeff Jarvis – the author of What Would Google Do, and the blog

–    and now a member of Journal Register Company’s Advisory Board

… Coined the term the New Link Economy

And has said it best:

“Do what you do best and link to rest.

At JRC we have established ever greater relationships with bloggers through our community media labs. And while the focus is content we are also working on expanding our sales relationships by increasing audience and revenue opportunities. And partnering with Growthspur to monetize those opportunities for us and the bloggers.

No partnership works if it is one-sided.

If you want to harness the power of bloggers then you have to help them make a living.

This is citizen Skip Harrison of Trenton New Jersey and who has an all-abiding interest in the New Jersey educational system

He is part of the Community Media Lab at our paper The Trentonian

We are training interested citizens to be journalists

None of this is a substitute for journalism

It is only part of that eco-system that is out there and you have to link to it if you want to be part of the conversation in your communities.

Our commitment to culture change, harnessing both Cloud and Crowd and to experimenting with new ways of doing things is best represented by the
The Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project

On July 4th We Declared Our Independence

We will no longer be dependent upon out-of-date thinking

And we will no longer be dependent on costly systems that are outdated before they are even successfully installed.

On July 4th

Across all of our 18 dailies, we:

–    Assigned
–    Reported
–    Edited
–    Produced: Web & Print Products

Using Only Free Web-Based Tools

We are changing our culture at JRC.

With lousy I.T, and tools this project is happening.

We have built sales support systems using an iPhone and free Google tools.

We have successfully printed pages on a press using only free web tools.

The next time some rep comes to your shop brandishing a $20M system – tell the price just went down. Way down.

Our Capital Expenditures have been reduced by half. Half.

But more importantly –

We have harnessed the power of our employees

And are starting to create a culture where they are empowered to experiment

We share all of the information and tools publicly.

Go the Ben Franklin site and you will even find a link to our Ben Franklin In A Box kit.

Click on it –

And try your own experiment.

And share the results.

The new tools are also helping improve our journalism.

In Torrington, CT at our daily, the Register Citizen, our young publisher there, Matt DeRienzo deputized his entire community to Fact Check all of his products online and in print.

By putting a Fact Check box online he issued an invitation to every reader, source and community member to hold them accountable and engage in correcting, improving or expanding the story.

Matt’s innovative approach to our Digital First model has created an online audience 6.5x greater than his print audience and he has taken what was a money-losing operation into a profitable one. He has outsourced all non-core activities and is concentrating on creating content and driving sales.

Matt is also doing what all good business people do – he has his division acting the way it wants to be.

It wants to be Digital First. And it is.

It wants to harness the Crowd. And it is.

It wants to deepen the connection to the Community and it is about to.

This morning I am pleased to announce to you that later this month the Register Citizen will move out of its 110-year-old fortress and launch a bold new experiment in including the community.

The Register Citizen’s new offices will be without walls and invite the community in.

It will feature a newsroom café with free public wifi, a community media lab, a community journalism school and the Register Citizen will open up its archives of 120 years of local history to the community.

Matt and his team are literally bringing the Outside In.

So, how are we doing after 10 months of this new strategy?

Journalism is also a business and P&L’s are our report cards. If we want to good, we first have to do well.

As of Q3, year to date, the Journal Register Company is handily outpacing the industry as compared to figures provided by the Newspaper Association of America.

JRC’s ad performance has been 3 times better than the industry.

Its’ Classified ad performance is 6 times better than the industry. Auto and Employment ads are ahead of last year.

Its’ Retail ad performance is 2 times better than the industry.

And more than 1/3rd of all properties are ahead of last year.


Digital Ad growth is 2 times better than the industry.

More importantly the Company’s digital revenue has grown from negligible to 11% of ad revenue in November – in less than a year.

With each passing day, that revenue is also less tied to the Print buys. More than 60% of digital revenue this month is NOT tied to Print Sales.

The Company will write about 1,000 digital ad orders this month and has expanded its revenue streams from about 13 basic revenue streams to about 60.

And all of that with less costs.

We are chasing the dimes. Cost effectively.

The Company’s expenses are down and its profits are up.

Our Company which was bankrupt in 2009 is projected to have a profit margin of 15% this year – more in the divisions – and projecting a higher margin and more profits next year.

Digital Revenue and our Digital First strategy are the key reasons for the improvements.

Perhaps a better marker of our success – certainly for the long-term health of the company – is that we now have a revitalized company whose employees are focused on the future.

Now the real challenge is upon us.

Newspapers and other Legacy Media companies are figuring out new and sustainable business models. They are becoming more nimble and they are harnessing their current economic might to fund their future using those new business plans.

Not all will make it but many, if not most, will.

The real challenge now, if you care about journalism, is to deeply understand the new mediums as well as we understand the old.

Just about everything we are doing at JRC – and just about what every newspaper or legacy media company is doing – is focused on getting ON the Web.

Very little is being done to position legacy media companies to be OF the Web.

We are still limited, on the newspaper side, of thinking of the Web as a pipe and confusing it with the Internet.

Clearly, this is so much more than a distribution platform.

We are still learning how to deal with a medium that is more than uni-directional and thrives on collaboration more than it does on competition.

I for one look forward to the learning.

I am proud to say that the Journal Register Company is now a company that is trying to learn. Trying hard and getting some things right.

This is a change powered by its employees

Again, no Killer Apps or best of breed anything.

Just a disciplined approach.

It isn’t without flaws and it isn’t unaffected by the economy but it is a better built foundation from which to grow.

Thank You.

82 thoughts on “John Paton’s Dec. 2 Presentation at INMA Transformation of News Summit in Cambridge, Mass.

  1. Pingback: Bringing the Outside In | NewspaperTurnaround.Com

  2. I was just at a social media conference yesterday where someone said “I’m too old for all of this.” She was only a few years older than me (I’m 49.)

    We had just heard some inspiring presentations about Web-based work from some mostly younger professionals, but a few were quite solidly middle-aged and quite Web-savvy.

    I thought to myself, “Then lady, get the hell out of the way, because the rest of us are excited, motivated and eager to embrace a powerful, worldwide, 24/7 communications channel. Move aside if you no longer care to fulfill the demands of your profession.”

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  4. John, you really nailed it on a number of levels. As a digital veteran of newspapers who left the industry in March, I have been a witness to this “phase” thinking and the cold calculations of “how little change will show movement but won’t actually accomplish anything.” I’ve charted similar courses on digital sales and digital-first thinking, and it’s interesting – and painful – to watch how such thinking triggers the organism’s antibodies.

    Kudos to you for your leadership, your willingness to learn and your transparency. It’s especially interesting that your presentation comes a day after’s management announced it would no longer sell into its blog network. Truly two sides of a coin.

  5. Well, to the first half of Mr. Paton’s address I say this: ‘Duh. If you’re still saying what has been obvious for many years now to most thinking journalists and/or journalism pedagogues, then I agree there are too many people who still don’t get it.
    Its the second part of Mr. Paton’s address, however, that perhaps sheds some light on the first. After all, it cannot be all sheer ignorance or aged-based resistance fueling the reluctance of industry insiders to embrace the change.
    No, it more likely has to do with what is reflected in slide 12 of Mr. Paton’s business plan. You’ll notice the ‘before’ and ‘after’ graphics focus primarily on labour, i.e., the people who do the job of journalism. A lot could be written, has been written, about the inequities between owners and workers, but that is for another discussion.
    In the present instance, I think a good deal of resistance may be in the nexus between efficiency/profits and labour costs slide 12 illustrates.
    If the two key components of a healthy prosperous business model are content and sales, they shouldn’t you be paying a lot more attention to the people who produce the content?
    One the biggest complaints from journalists working digitally is that most can’t make a decent living at it. Certainly there are great profits to be made by owners, but unless and until digital journalists are paid wages comparable to what they made in the ‘traditional’ era, the industry will be plagued by what Mr. Paton called lousy journalism, if for no other reason than those who can will likely take their talents elsewhere where perhaps they can earn a decent wage.



  6. Well, to the first half of Mr. Paton’s address I say this: ‘Duh. If you’re still saying what has been obvious for many years now to most thinking journalists and/or journalism pedagogues, then I agree there are too many people who still don’t get it.
    Its the second part of Mr. Paton’s address, however, that perhaps sheds some light on the first. After all, it cannot be all sheer ignorance or aged-based resistance fueling the reluctance of industry insiders to embrace the change.
    No, it more likely has to do with what is reflected in slide 12 of Mr. Paton’s business plan. You’ll notice the ‘before’ and ‘after’ graphics focus primarily on labour, i.e., the people who do the job of journalism. A lot could be written, has been written, about the inequities between owners and workers, but that is for another discussion.
    In the present instance, I think a good deal of resistance may be in the nexus between efficiency/profits and labour costs slide 12 illustrates.
    If the two key components of a healthy prosperous business model are content and sales, then shouldn’t you be paying a lot more attention to the people who produce the content?
    One the biggest complaints from journalists working digitally is that most can’t make a decent living at it. Certainly there are great profits to be made by owners, but unless and until digital journalists are paid wages comparable to what they made in the ‘traditional’ era, the industry will be plagued by what Mr. Paton called lousy journalism, if for no other reason than those who can will likely take their talents elsewhere where perhaps they can earn a decent wage.



  7. The problem with this is assuming that brands mean something on the Web. They don’t. It’s a fickle audience. Huffington Post didn’t exist ten years ago, and it probably won’t ten years from now. People visit shortened links without even knowing where they’re going. They don’t care what the sources are.

    And how can you be so sure about the online entities providing your “free” software? As each of them goes away and is replaced by someone else, how much time will be lost dealing with that? Infrastructure exists for a reason: it’s structure. Anything built online is built on nothing, and blows in the wind.

    • Brands absolutely count on the Web. In fact, they are even more important than in the the physical world because there is such an abundance of choice. Are you saying that the Amazon brand has no value? Or even Huffington Post?

      To your point about infrastructure, yes, it’s needed, but that doesn’t mean the company has to own it. The whole point of the cloud concept is to put infrastructure in the hands of professionals who can manage it optimally and reduce costs for everyone. I drink milk but I don’t own a cow. There’s a need for a milk infrastructure out there, but I’m glad it’s someone else’s responsibility.

  8. Great speech, and impressive results in just 10 months. It’s refreshing to finally find a Publishing exec who acknowledges that the future is digital AND allocates resources accordingly. I’d love to see a magazine publisher with the same sense of urgency.

  9. Rock on, Jon Paton! Y’all are doing such great things, and are inspiration for traditional news organizations that are really trying to modernize.

    We are one of those. At The World Company (,, Lawrence Journal-World, etc.) in Lawrence, KS, we are in the enviable position of already understanding how to be OF the web. We’ve proven that with how we’ve grown LJWorld and KUSports over the last few years, with an amazing tech team (Django was invented here…really) that knows the web better than anyone in the organization and has helped educate the journalists.

    Our traffic….12.5 million page views and 700,000 to 750,000 uniques….is the size of big metro dailies, organizations that are 10 times larger than we are. Our reach is well beyond Lawrence: KUSports is a national site; LJWorld is a regional and state site.

    We’ve taken the next step with developing Ellington Communities, the social journalism CMS to which our community has a type of access that most other news organizations haven’t embraced yet, but is common in other parts of the web.

    Our first site using that platform is WellCommons, which has between 16,000 and 18,000 uniques and 40,000 – 44,000 page views. It’s a good start, and as we’ve learned in putting it out for our community to use these last eight months, we have tweaks to make and much more to do to achieve our goal of (health-focused) 25,000 uniques and 200,000 page views/month. And we’re working on that.

    We’ve made great progress over the last year in modernizing the ad department to take advantage of our humongous digital traffic.

    I love how you’ve empowered your journalists, and have brought in an advisory group of people who are digital natives. It’s something we’d like to emulate.

    Keep up the great work. It does more than change your organization; it inspires others.

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  11. I read this this 7:30 this morning on my iPad while working out at the gym and shared the link, which I got from a colleague’s Facebook page, with all of my staff and fellow journalists. This presentation is exciting, refreshing, energizing and makes me want to work harder. I am pumped up — and it’s not because of the endorphins from my workout — it’s from thinking about all of possibilities and fun we’re having and will continue to have transforming this industry with the help of the communities we serve.

  12. Pingback: For Newspapers, the Future Is Now: Digital Must Be First | Obsessed By

  13. I was skeptical about the presentation although it was an excellent one. I have seen great improvement in the company as a whole since the beginning of my employment starting with new equipment that I have been lobbying for for years. That in it’s self has put me on board the digital train. Now if we can really get someone to listen on the ideas some of us have that would be great as well. Only together can we right this ship.

  14. The naysayers can grumble all they want: the digital train has left the station. I for one am happy to be on board. Bank on it — JRC will be noted years from now as the company that took the lead in the news business transformation. It has changed all we do and for the better. We are a better company for it — one can’t argue with the results. More good ideas than ever, innovations, etc. Smart people are getting the chance to show their talents. Who could ask for more? Keep it rolling folks. I read everything I see passed around. It’s awesome…

  15. Pingback: For Newspapers, the Future Is Now | Yang in USA

  16. So many company execs would have come out contorted and patting themselves on the back for a job well done.
    You, on the other hand, recognize that while progress has been made, there’s still much work and much learning left to do.
    JRC stands at the forefront of change in the journalism landscape. While the slide presentation hits some of the highlights, it barely scrapes the surface of innovation happening around the company.
    Congratulations, Mr. Patton, to you and JRC for having the intestinal fortitude to go where others will not…and succeeding.

  17. Pingback: Saving newspapers: This guy’s onto something | Farr-flung ink.

  18. Wow. Mr. Patton, my hat is off to you. I used to work for a Journal Register Company newspaper, three of them in fact (was shuffled around a bit), and never did I think I would read something like this from a JRC exec. There is no doubt that digital is first and print is, well print. This is exciting talk and it makes me nostalgic for JRC. Best wishes to my former company and all of its amazing employees. How great must it be on the edge of the next wave of newspapers!

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  20. In theory this is all great, but the transition at the property levels is far from great. While most people are willing and want to adapt at our property, the old equipment and lack of training make nearly impossible. The only training that I have seen any information about was during Ben Franklin and specific to those tools (GhostScript, Open Office, etc.). Some employees at my paper have been hear for decades, so while the rest of the world was learning how to use email and surf the web they were working for a company that only wanted the task at hand to be done, so business office employees and salespeople that didn’t have computers at home were left in the dark on email, internet and Microsoft Office. Of course local management does their best to train people on simple computer tasks, but they are not I.T. professionals. While digital first is encouraged in our building, often times the technology is not there, things get dropped from ads and don’t appear online or appear in the wrong spots. Locally we haven’t been trained on Ominiture or APT so it is often times hard to determine which ads are scheduled to continue to run from month to month or how may page views particular pages are getting (sometimes the naming is ambigous or seems duplicated). I am grateful for the Ben Franklin Project teaching us about Open Office because we were finally able to install email on several of the machines in the building that don’t have office so that the employees could open attachments. Communication has greatly improved as there was none before, although the email everyone@jrc does not reach everyone (we work around that by sharing links – although some computers cannot go online). Another major hurdle is that since the online is not local to any particular site nobody is really sure who to contact when there is a problem or something needs to be changed, some people get bombarded with questions even when they have nothing to do with something because at least they respond to email. I cannot speak for the weekly papers, but I think that the biggest problem that I’ve seen at the daily papers is that in addition to the new digital iniatives, we do still need to put out a print product everynight. In many cases we are doing this with less people then we had last year (even though you say revenue is up yoy), since almost nothing is integrated with the corresponing web platforms most things have to be keyed in 2x, once for print and again for online, this takes time. Many employees stay late on a daily basis to make sure that we are meeting our mission of being digital first.

    I know that the Advisory Board is a powerful think tank, and assume that most had some sort of day to day newspaper experience in the past, but to someone who is at a daily paper day in and day out, it appears to me that a lot of the thought coming from corporate right now is purley academic and has no place in the real world (at least not yet). It seems to me that corporate (upper level), is out of touch with what the employees actually think (not what AD’s and Publishers are telling them) and should maybe have some more onsite visits.

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  23. I have few comments to make based on what I read here.
    This all sounds good in theory but…. Please keep these points in mind for the future!
    (1) The ad revenue for newspaper being online there are grocery stores that will not online/downloaded coupons at all. If you take awy the inserts of the coupons in the Sunday newspaper many people will be upset especailly in this economy where a lot people do not have jobs and loosing the unemployments benefits.

    (2) Power outages like in if remember correctly in 2002 when New Yorki was without power for almost 1 day and California Power grid is old and not very good and we start to electric units to power cars which tax the electric grid even more who to say the power grid will be down for days!
    Just a thought to remember!

    (3) The fact checking reporting is based on facts been that way since the beginning of reporting in Ben Franklin time… who will be the fact checkers there go more fact checkers based on blogs and articles online there thousand upon thousand of articles and blogging online.

    (4)What about miss informatio or people or organizations that want revenge on person lcoally or across the states (how will this checked or prevented?) will they be banned from writing for a particular blog or newspaper online… what copy infringment of articles… what steps are being included for that and plagerism? Many people still do not understand what plagerism is about and what it looks like… how will this prevented from happening…. one bad article can take down a whole company or profits may slip look at Tiger Woods how much he lost in endoresments… thinks think about for the future

    (5) There is a lot talk about the Goverment stepping in on online business of websites and writing and sellling on line they want a fee or charge us for what website we log into etc… that will cut into profit margins if this takes place…. what I mean just like cable on TV , Comcast, Direct Tv, Dish network … if goverment bundles… Google, Yahoo.. MNS wans to charge a person $29.99 to access these above and beyond the current internet subscription we need to access the internet how will this affect advertising on line…. say Googel, MSN and 10 other websites you accesss per example golfing website, political website… and newspaper website like Daily Local would cost 35.99 per month
    remember the internet is free right now you can to any website and not be charge except the internet connection you like dial up, dsl or cable etc… things to think about you may need to adjust for this.

    Thanks for reading and have a great day!
    I really do hope for the best for Journal Register Company and I agree with comments above from “Irathernotsay” too.
    There is alot more that needs to be done for the employees that are working for this company from the mail room all the way up!
    Sincerley Anoymous

  24. I need to make a correction on my first point which I did not explain to well! The grocery coupons people download from websites some grocery stores will not accept them and will only accept manufacture coupons form advertisments in Sunday newspapers. There is grocery store near Philadelphia area will they will not accept these coupons because people were making copies off the copier and trying to use them. If other retail companies start banning these coupons who say others will not follow.
    Many retails and clothing stores make money off these coupons because it gets them in store. How will newspapers fix the countefit coupons people are trying to use… one way Maybe) is when people download each coupon should a differnt code on them whetther they download the same coupon 2 or 4 times each coupon should have it own unique number that way and watermark or like how the dollar bill is made with it own unique system….
    I hope this clears up first point in the previous reply.

    Also if you cut the size of the newspaper down from the traditional size remember older people do not have good eye site even when viewing online this may hinder people from buying the newspaper. I was just wondering if there is not another source of material newspaper companies can use to put out the newspaper cheaper and better! Jewerly store can make sythetic gemstones why cannot the newspaper company come up a cheaper paper product that does not use trees?
    Again future ideas! to think about!
    Thanks for reading and have a great day!
    Sincerely anoymous

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  26. NASA announced yesterday that by thinking totally outside of the box, they have discovered forms of life we never would have known existed, using our narrow minds of the past. Knowing what we now know will allow us to look for life in a totally different way, and in places never before imagined. John Paton and his team at JRC have basically done the same thing with the newspaper industry. They have found life where it was previously thought impossible. The future changed yesterday.

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  31. We just began a course on social media this fall in our journalism department – interdisciplinary to give them a rudimentary knowledge about social media and how to evaluate its use in any business or organization. As the instructor, I learned right along with them and they provided valuable tips for enhancing and modifying the course for the future. The students who took this class have an advantage in knowing how search engines really work, as we spent quite a bit of time on that. How do you get your material noticed after you create it, whether it’s for online or print, really is important. If you don’t understand that, you won’t make it either. Just changing the delivery of content helps, but there is far more. I’m sure the Google connection will help at Journal Register Co.

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  34. Mr. Paton I mean no disrespect in my response to follow. I think you’re light years ahead with your ideas, I know you wish good things for the company, and I know good things will come… but I’m worried. As we bask in recent good news, trade high-fives, and look to the future I see some epidermis showing. Throughout the years many of the rank and file have stayed, done their jobs, followed their career paths, and put out terrific products. Because of that they have afforded this company the luxury to still be relevant, to be here today, and to be fortunate enough to even be in a position to have a brand to evolve with. No reasonable person could possibly fault the company for doing what must be done in order to remain successful and profitable. However, on the other side of all the digital products and new business models are real people. Regardless of how you go about it there will be some folks who through no fault of their own won’t be needed. Your presentation does not mince words in this regard. They will be inevitable casualties of a well meaning process that pretty much has to happen, but it’s a process they didn’t start and can’t hope to get out of the way of. For them this is not exactly the outcome they have worked so hard for.

    Despite all odds these people have done what was asked of them and then some. Often it was with meager dysfunctional tools and often it was done serving at the whim of all manner of thank-less tyrants, buffoons, and ne’er-do-wells. People have routinely worked past 5:00, taken work home, and worked weekends for years. If you look hard enough you’ll see they are still doing this today. As you begin to think outside the new box, change the processes, follow new paths, grow, and succeed… think well of these good people. Historically they have been handed knives and sent into gunfights. There was no choice given. There was no input sought. They have survived the climate changes this far and now some will ride the cloud with you… if they are asked. Some will not and these people will find their lives turned upside down into the worst economy in years.

    Mr. Paton, I ask that you challenge yourself and this new process a step further. Look to succeed in one more way. Amidst the positive and much needed change, adopt an even higher corporate ethic and grow a kinder corporate soul. Look behind the cloud and below the key executive level and offer all of your people a helping hand… not just a pat on their grey heads as they depart. If you must let anyone go then offer them vigorous support, outplacement services, and a more generous severance than is currently planned. Simply stated, put some dignity and respect back into what for most will be a truly painful and humiliating process. Leave the bottom line out of the calculations and make fairness the prologue to these people’s breaking news stories.

  35. John,
    One thing that is lacking in all of this is feedback. Every once in a while, it would be good from the corporate level to let people know they are doing a good job.
    As we slowly transform (some are more rocks than others), people never know if what they are doing is right, wrong, can be done better or shouldn’t be done at all.

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  44. Incredible presentation. I’m a Linux geek and I love your absolute open agenda. I believe that you have hammered out a template usable by all the news industry. I believe John Paton is a true pioneer – in the spirit of Ben Franklin. In the future people will say that John led the way.

  45. BTW, aside from your great content, the WAY you posted this, with your text following each slide, is so much better than that awkward NetShare. Well done on presentation as well as content.

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  65. The passing of Steve Jobs, paladin of “digital-first,” highlights the “Bringing the Outside In” strategy in which the combo Apple-Store-and-Starbucks effect puts relaxed consumers in the midst of the products. Maybe that creates a “we are part of this…but can use some help” affect for local news operations that is palpable in Apple stores.

    The replacement paradigm of digital-first also has other applications where the consumers/public has asserted itself. In health it will be wellbeing-first, although getting there is as ornery as the passage the news business is making.

    This is a great presentation.

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