March 2, 2010

Saving Your Job by Doing Something New...

My brother is in the newspaper business. That's right, the business that is slowly losing readership and paid subscribers because of the rise of the internet and free online news sources. He's seen the closure of newspapers across the country, the many layoffs that have happened in the industry, and understands that this is not a great time to be in the business... Or is it?

By trade he is a writer and page designer - two positions that are being cut quite often as the newspaper business shifts online. But while those are his main roles, he's also carved out a nice niche where he is a blogger about the business of sports, and is the host of their newly created podcast detailing their biggest stories of the week.

In other words, he is not being hamstrung by the title that he has, but rather is utilizing his skills to build himself a role as the landscape of print shifts online. He has been able to understand that the newspaper business is about content, and while the content might not be delivered in print for much longer, it is still valuable in some form.

I guess the whole point of this post is that even in associations, some things that we currently do might not continue to work the same way they have in the past. As staffers and executives, we need to think ahead as to how the landscape might shift, and then as individuals figure out how we can have a hand in making the shift seamless to ensure long-term job security.


Shannon Otto said...

Great post, Bruce. I'm a journalist by training and many of my friends work for newspapers. One of them is a page designer by title, but she's also the unofficial Tweeter and fill-in sports editor, as well as the occasional travel editor. She's used her other skills to make her indispensable to the organization, even though she works in a difficult industry right now.

Association execs can definitely do something similar. Although the industry isn't as dire as the newspaper business, the landscape of communication is still changing, which will affect associations

Bruce Hammond said...

Thanks a lot for your response, Shannon! I appreciate you reading the blog and sharing your insights!

Ellen said...

Bruce -- I've always kept what I've called an "Open in an Emergency" envelope where I stuffed items related to every kind of job I might be interested in pursuing someday -- audio books, executive book summaries, things like that. Fortunately, I've never had to open it. So I'm all about options and agree completely with your post.

I would add, though, that this is a real opportunity for the newspaper business, especially papers in small markets. I'm not talking about online options.

My husband and I now travel full-time in our RV -- two of hundreds of thousands who live this lifestyle. And I can tell you that a good local newspaper is hard to find and great online coverage is worse.

When we arrive in a new locale, we like to learn about it from the newspaper. Television reception can be lousy and internet connections intermittent if we can get connected at all. So the local newspaper is our link to what's happening -- weekend events, movies, sales, shopping. The TV guide is invaluable (assuming we get a choice of channels).

Plus the local paper gives us an idea of which neighborhoods we should avoid (based on crime reports).

I've contended for a long time that newspapers started slitting their own throats when they amalgamated and started repeating the same news we could find in other places.

Just as the "buy local" movement is taking hold in groceries, "report local" could take hold in newspapers.

Kids could have newspapers clippings from the paper about their junior high play and high school sports teams again. Imagine!

It won't save all the newspapers, but it would put many back in the position of providing the community -- and its visitors -- a much appreciated service.