Gannett: When 24/7 Isn’t Enough

Gannett is making a big push to reorganize its newsrooms, by merging online and print staffs and making them 24/7. It’s also seeking to make the news platform “agnostic,” as reported by Peter Krasilovsky earlier in the week. This Editor & Publisher article also goes into some of the organizational changes.

Here’s data from Gannett corporate on the September performance of its publications. You can scrutinize the details. But, overall, the message is: print is down, online is up. As discussed many times in the past, the problem with online growth is two-fold: 1) online is much more competitive than offline and 2) newspapers don’t have the traffic or the inventory to shift lost print revenues entirely online.

There are a number of thorny strategy issues to work out. For example, do newspapers try and build out a network of new brands (i.e., verticals or secondary sites) to create greater reach or do they try and revamp their existing sites to try and concentrate audiences? Or do they proceed on parallel tracks?

Regardless, usability remains a fundamental problem at most newspaper sites (e.g., bad site search, cluttered organization/navigation, buried content). Regardless of whether community is embraced or verticals are built, basic usability questions must be addressed.

Then there’s the question of reach/traffic. Competition for local eyeballs online fragments potential newspaper audiences, certainly in the case of commercial traffic if not editorial as well. This requires syndication or distribution strategies beyond the borders of the main newspaper sites themselves.

The “converged,” 24/7 newsroom doesn’t address any of the issues immediately above.

In terms of editorial, quality is the thing I would emphasize (whether it’s formal journalism, blogging or both). As previously reported, consumers trust newspapers and traditional media more than online alternatives. That’s about quality and brand.

More frequent updating of websites, video and so on are important. But quality editorial content (including local news) is paramount and something that competitors cannot easily duplicate. Simply pumping out more content for round the clock updates or content’s sake isn’t necessarily going to achieve anything.

Back to the question of usability, eMarketer republished some TNS data from a study on e-commerce website usability. Many of the takeaways would equally apply to newspaper sites (especially the need to get rid of the infernal “front end” registration requirement):

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Related: eMarketer shows data from The Conference Board indicating that job seekers almost equally use the Internet and print newspapers in their job search. But what’s more interesting is that job seekers said the Internet produced more offers. The write-up doesn’t say exactly whether this is pure perception or more empirically documented by the job seekers. If it’s pure perception, independent of whether the Internet actually performed better, that would represent a fascinating shift.

Yellow pages has relied on a similar perception of performance for many years. By analogy, if advertiser perceptions that print YP is performing vs. the Internet shift there will then be significantly more pressure to prove value with metered calling, etc.

2 Responses to “Gannett: When 24/7 Isn’t Enough”

  1. media blog » Blog Archive » The need for speed Says:

    […] UPDATE: Greg Sterling notes that Gannett’s new “information center” initiative is fine at all, but the first order of business that newspaper sites must address is usability.  Take a look at the chart. […]

  2. Gannett’s New ‘Web First’ Local Coverage « Screenwerk Says:

    […] Community participation and inclusion of third party content can satisfy the “hyper-local imperative.” Newspapers must also focus on the usability of their sites in tandem with any reporting changes. […]

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