When I posted Tribune Co. honcho Lee Abrams' memo (or "Think Piece," as he calls it) on the Sun-Sentinel redesign, I didn't know that Abrams had written more on the subject. A lot more.
This morning, a source sent the rest of Abrams' memo and in it he makes several more points, not only about the Sentinel but print jour nalism in general. He says that the Sentinel redesign will "NOT" be template for the entire Trib company, but adds that it's just the start of change for the Sentinel, a "plunge."
On the national front, Abrams not only sees the new Chicago edition of the Huffington Post as a threat, but thinks it has done a "great job ... the story selection, the categories, the scannability are all great."
On the international front, he looks at Germany, where newspapers continue to thrive. He says he suspects their "embrace of competition" is what has kept them strong. "Unlike so many U.S. papers, Bild was never part of a quasi-monopoly that allowed complacency," he writes.
Okay, here's the rest of the Abrams' memo (I've embedded a video he references; warning: it's a bit obnoxious and not that funny):
This is of course NOT a "template" for all Tribune papers. It IS a template for an attitude of progress. And a tribute to a confident, realistic and focused approach. They've spent a great deal of time tying to capture the vibe of their region. They are trying to be nothing more than an outstanding newspaper, for South Florida in 2008. Few papers do that...just go to newseum.org. Most U.S. papers look pretty similar, but cities have distinctions that can't be captured by Newspaper 101 tradition....or by the lack of a marketing/journalism/design/sales balance in the building.
For the Sun Sentinel, this is just a beginning. A plunge. Now comes the hard part. Continually evolving and improving, but from the 2008 re-invent starting point, not the 50+ year old starting point.
They have begun to address the new, hyper competitive era we're in...And I think they've taken a gigantic first step.
In the process of this re-invent, there were enormous challenges. I recall a few months ago, the core team had a great blueprint. Then we had a much larger meeting to reality check this. Everybody agreed it was a great look, but the question was: Can we deliver this on a daily basis? Can we deliver quality? The answers were yes...but with a significant amount of re-thinking. Another comment that came out was "Is this paper too conservative (culturally) to do this? Everyone raised their hand to the affirmative. Talk about a reality check. From that point on, the conservative, we can't change culture changed.
Another positive was that the redesign wasn't an elite newsroom group to the exclusion of others. It was a wide range of people from journalists to ad sales to online to tv. Anyone with a positive attitude and ideas was welcome to the table. Well, that's not totally true as the meetings would have had hundreds of people, but you get the idea.
It's an exciting time in South Florida.
Now, here's how NOT to re-invent. The creative people down at the LA Times sent me this must watch video:
There's new competition in Chicago. The Huffington Post/Chicago launched... check it out: www.huffingtonpost.com/chicago
I think this is significant, because:
*It's the new generation of competition that we need to be aware of...and COMPETE with.
*Even though we are in the position of strength, we need to understand and compete.
*I think they do a great job for day one. Personally, the story selection, the categories, the scannability are all great. Check their Crime page.
We really need to close the gap between these pretty exciting sites and traditional print look, design and feel.
I'm not being alarmist, but realistic about COMPETING on today's playing field.
From the TV side: Steve Charlier is in house. (Along with Sean Compton, there's some NEW thinking for certain) A whiz news re-inventor. Watch for some potent changes on that front. And there's a lot of re-thinking going on at TV. Just hired Alice Cooper to do some Halloween program hosting. Portland is using Vivid Images, a CD design firm out of New Haven to do some logo work (A FRESH NON TV APPROACH)!...and more stations using Larry Fast of SYNERGY MUSIC (ANOTHER FRESH NON TV APPROACH). These guys know of no playbook, and come up with some stunning audio and visual ideas that scare the traditional TV folks, but delight the viewer. Email me if you need information on them.
Newspaper inferiority complex or just not making the call? ---I was in a market that had a music festival...a big one. But they didn't get any face time with the mega stars or interesting ones at least. Reason: Promoter wouldn't facilitate. Hey! We are BIG...call the bands MANAGER, and you can get anything you want. Not the label (they "own" the plastic)...not the promoter (they "own" the venue"). The manager. They can make it happen. Email me if you need help. There is huge potential to gain access to the artists and stars beyond the current reach.
From an article about a successful German newspaper (Yes--I know we aren't in Germany):
I suspect the real reason German papers still thrive is their embrace of competition. Unlike so many U.S. papers, Bild was never part of a quasi-monopoly that allowed complacency. It's telling that Bild doesn't deliver -it depends on newsstand sales. "Bild has to prove itself at the kiosk every day," says Deputy Editor-in-Chief Michael Paustian.
...It's a tough time here in the USA...but there is no reason we won't prevail and create a renaissance for our newspapers and TV stations. A lot of it is simply attitude....and focus, and "Intelligent---but UN CONVENTIONAL".