I just got out of the "Outside-the-Box: Nontraditional Approaches to Transforming Newspapers" panel and for those of you not following me on Twitter, the name didn't fit the majority of panel. The team from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution demonstrated just how far off the mark the newspaper industry is by presenting their recent reorganization as a case study of "out of the box" change. In the truth lives the irony.
The big change at the AJC was a overhaul of the newsroom that involved eliminating tons of departments and creating 4 major divisions that made them more nimble both online and in print. This structural change and focus on cross function "project managers" created both a reduction of cost and better value for their product. That sounds pretty conventional to me.
By contrast Michael Maness, VP of Design and Innovation for Gannett Publishing looked like he was in a different league from the other people on stage with him. He talked altering page design, property types, content creation, and audience communications and building a structure, what he called the "information center" around the mission of transforming papers from their print-centric past. His team launched the CincyMoms social network along side changes to enquirer.com which I mentioned in my last blog post. Lets hope for the news industry sake that "out of the box" coming up looks more like Michael's vision than not. I don't think the news industry can survive being late to the dance for the next generation of technology represented by Web 2.0.