WWGD with newspapers?

I LOVE this post by Amber Smith adapting the precepts of What Would Google Do? to newspapers.

As long as our industry evolves from newsPAPER to news ORGANIZATION, we’ll survive. And when you think about it, that should be easier for us to do than, say, turn “Dunkin’ Donuts” into a place for great coffee. If Jon Luther can position DD for the future, surely a bunch of passionate journalists can save our profession.

(Well, see the post below about coffee.)

Smith then proceeds to riff on the old and new ways of thinking in news organizations. A few snippets:

Old way of thinking: The newspaper was a product.
New way: News organizations provide a service.

Old way of thinking: Readers became known as “the audience” in the early days of the Internet, describing a one-way relationship wherein readers sat still to observe a performance.
New way: Readers/users are participatory.

Old way of thinking: Newspapers attempted to be all things to all people, serving a mass geographic audience.
New way: News organizations strive to serve a mass of niche communities that already exist, (some geographic, but most based on interests.)

Old way of thinking: Newspapers marketed themselves to a population.
New way: News organizations converse, engage and collaborate with the communities they serve; the population markets the news organization among itself.

Old way of thinking: Newspapers operated in a climate of “scarcity;” news space became tighter when ad sales diminished or the price of newsprint increased.
New way- News organizations have an abundance of space on line. . . .

Old way of thinking: Newspapers that embarked on the Web sought a place to distribute their content.
New way: News organizations see the internet as a 3-D space of reciprocal links. “Every link and every click is a connection, and with every connection, a network is born or grows stronger.” (p. 28) . . .

Old way of thinking: Editors were in charge, choosing which stories to provide to the readers/audience, based on what the editors thought the readers/audience wanted and needed to know.
New way: Readers are in charge. They read what they want, when they want.

Old way of thinking: Newspapers served each reader the same plate of information.
New way: Readers fill their plates with the things they like.

Old way of thinking: Editors decided which beats would be covered.|
New way: “Beats” are based on niche communities that already exist. . . .

Old way of thinking: Newspapers were hesitant to even mention competitors in the newspaper.
New way: News organizations do what they do best and link to the rest, as Jarvis says, and yes, that means even if the link leads to the competition.

Old way of thinking: Soon after the “nut graph” newspaper stories contained a paragraph(s) of background information.
New way: Articles on Web sites link to anything that’s relevant – background information, transcripts that back up interviews, photographs. “On line, content without links is the tree that falls in the forest that nobody hears.” (p. 124)

I could keep quoting and quoting but instead, I’ll urge you to go read her list in full and add your own.

Smith does this in a guest post in Gina Chen’s blog and Gina herself, a few days earlier, also adapted WWGD? to papers with advice on adding value and listening to readers.

We’re fighting for our lives here as an industry. We can’t afford to do anything that doesn’t add value, and figuring out what adds value must be tied to the reader. . .

We forget that we’re a service industry: We’re in the business of helping readers make sense of their world, not of selling them news. And like any business, if we aren’t responsive to our customers, we’ll die.

Another great post.

Somewhat related: See Jackie Hai on applying the precepts of the link economy to journalism schools.