Can Operations Save Journalism?

  • Wait, what?! There’s a print revolution going on? Is it possible that rethinking newspaper operations can help save journalism?

For those of us who have worked in the digital world for decades, efficient ad operations meant improving the way digital ads were managed. What has surprised me over the last 5 years is how many newspapers are rethinking how print advertising will be managed.

Newspapers have historically had a lot on their plate. Managing print display ads. Managing classified ads in several formats. Managing newspaper inserts. Managing the targeting and distribution of ads across a network of publications. Managing the pagination and layout of those systems and the associated print production across several regional plants. Now pile on digital, programmatic and social media as well as subscriber management and the landscape can be overwhelming. We see the consequences of this now, as many newspapers are indeed hamstrung by a plethora of applications.

What happens when you rely on several unique platforms to manage operations? It adds complexity, including the implementation and maintenance of several integrations. Quite often, manual re-entry of data is required. This creates a bloated staffing infrastructure, because of the need for subject matter experts to operate each system. Lastly, it adds expense, because there’s no pricing efficiency – every platform necessitates a discrete negotiation of licenses.

The print revolution I’m referring to is happening behind the scenes. If you can combine CRM, order management for print display and inserts, classified, digital advertising, programmatic, audio, and as a net result save millions of dollars – why wouldn’t you do it? In fact, this is happening across the globe among several newspaper empires because there are now software vendors who legitimately supply all these services in a single package.

What’s the big deal, you say? Why worry about this? Isn’t print in decline?

Hey boomers, get out of your coastal bubbles! There’s still a wide swarth of the country that gets its news and information from print. If operations could save enough money to keep 10 journalists on staff reporting legitimate news – that would be a contribution even an ad operations staffer could feel good about.

What’s missing? The only additional feature I would personally ask for is a filter that scans each digital news story. A filter for sources that are legitimate starting with the name of the publication and reporter. An algorithm that identifies foreign propaganda and screens it out. An algorithm that scores each story based on the use of language and inclusion of basic journalistic precepts which is applied to each news search and social media feed.

Ok, this last part is totally not ad operations but it’s my blog, my editorial comment. In the meantime, I’ll have to focus on what I can influence and control on the operations side. That seems to be going pretty well.

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