RS: At the end of the day, it’s about how well papers can serve their readers, and how well they can build an audience, both in print and online. And once they build those audiences, whether they’re able to sell advertising and subscriptions around them, with all the new products they’re developing. I know from my travels at work that a lot of the mid-size and smaller-market newspapers are doing much, much better than their brethren in bigger, major metros. So it’s hard to generalize about what the appropriate evolution will be. But at the end of the day, the question is how they can serve their communities with quality news and information, and make it accessible to those communities on all sorts of different platforms. And, in that respect, there are definitely many different formulas for success.
MG: How did the idea for the project come about?
RS: We discussed amongst ourselves, periodically, how there’s this feeding frenzy of negative news about the future of newspapers. We felt that it was all out of proportion. The reality is that certainly newspapers have challenges—and we’re not being Pollyanna-ish about them—but everyone in the media has challenges, whether it’s at Yahoo, whether it’s at CBS, whether it’s at ClearChannel, whether it’s at XM Radio, whether it’s at a big consumer magazine. Everyone needs to innovate and evolve, because we’re in the midst of a media revolution. And at the end of this, newspaper companies will be left standing, because I believe that they’ll do the right things to evolve and thrive, both in print and digitally, that those innovations will help safeguard their future. People want quality information now more than ever. That’s one foundation that newspapers are in a great position to build upon.
In terms of the project itself, this whole effort was created in the last four weeks. We pulled some staff together, and we update the content on the site every single day. And hope to build out a bigger staff for that. But this has really been done as a grassroots effort. It’s a collective of newspapers. It started with four of us in Parade’s office, on January 7. We had our first and only meeting, and then we’ve been calling each other and e-mailing each other furiously, and we just started emailing all our contacts and making phone calls. And our colleagues responded beautifully. Now we’ve got 400 of our colleagues involved.
I think people in our business realize that we’ve done a mediocre job of telling our story and communicating the viability of newspapers going forward, and there was a real hunger for this sort of effort. And that’s what we’re really excited about continuing over the days and weeks and months ahead.