Today, I picked my newspaper up off the lawn and brought it in to my house to read with my coffee. I didn’t have to take my daughter to school because of President’s Day, so I came back inside my house.
From all indications, this ritual is on the road to extinction. Many reports predict that all newspapers will transform to on-line versions where readers can see the content on a PC, mobile device, tablet, cell phone, or other electronic piece. Indeed, some newspapers have already gone that route, in the midst of many others folding.
Many of you may not be old enough to remember the milkman. When I was little, competing dairies would deliver two bottles of milk, ice cream, butter, and other goods directly to your door. Only one service still does that today, Schwann’s, and it has added many other food items and ready-to-eat meals in order to be profitable. If we don’t intervene, the delivery of daily print newspapers will go the way of the milkman.
This does not have to be the case! I am reminded in the now-classic work by Jim Collins, Good-to-Great, where he discusses the Hedgehog Concept. Of the three components, one is ”understanding the denominator that drives your economic engine.” Or in other words, what is it that keeps your lights turned on?
For newspapers, this is not subscriptions. The number of subscribers to daily and weekend newspapers continues to dwindle nationwide. If the denominator were subscribers, print newspapers would be history.
Clearly, the economic factor is advertising. As long as companies are willing to advertise in print editions of papers, we will still have them produced and delivered.
If you love your paper delivered to your door, if you like picking it up off the lawn and taking it with you when you leave in the morning, the key is not to encourage your friends and co-workers to subscribe. Rather, it is to frequent the advertisers who invest in the paper with your business, and further, to let them know that the ad they placed in the paper influenced your buying decision. You can say at Macy’s, “I want to see the dress you advertised in the paper on Sunday,” which reinforces that is how you got there.
The simplest way to reinforce print advertising is to use the coupons that businesses pay for to print, giving you discounts or tw0-for-one purchases. If customers don’t use them, advertisers will stop paying for the newspapers to print them. And, when advertisers stop paying for printing, that will turn out the lights for papers.
Think about that. Do you really want a world where there are no print newspapers? Where everyone stares at a cell phone or tablet on the bus? Where you can’t sneak a peek at a headline and make a mental note to find more about it later? Where you eat cereal with your spoon in one hand and your stylus in the other? Where you have to send a link to a friend instead of clipping an article with a handwritte note and mailing it? Really – do you also appreciate receiving e-Cards?
Not me. I’ve got my coupons from Saturday’s and Sunday’s paper. I’m ready to turn them in this week. I want to support print editions.
The good news is that there are plenty of households that still subscribe to physical newspapers. Many homes on my street, including me, have more than one paper thrown and waiting for them each day. I also take the print edition of the Wall Street Journal. We are not starting from a base of zero.
If enough people want to keep papers printed, we can do that. It is just a decision that enough of us need to make and want to do.
How about you? Let’s talk about it really soon!
Perhaps you have already enjoyed the video of the noon hour concert at Macy*s in Philadelphia.
Here is another at a food court. My friend, John Barrentine, is one of Santa’s favorite elves and shared it with me.
This is indeed the season to be jolly…and grateful for what we do have.
Peter Drucker liked to challenge his consulting clients: “Don’t tell me you had a wonderful meeting with me. “Tell me what you’re going to do on Monday that’s different.”
The Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, which I run, hosted a CEO Forum last October with about 30 participants from the business world, social sector, and academic community. And from the beginning, we were determined to make sure that the event reflected Drucker’s steadfast desire to turn ideas into action….Did any of the participants actually make good on Lafley’s repeated reminders to follow Drucker’s do-something-on-Monday dictum?
The short answer: Absolutely. While we didn’t attempt to conduct a scientific survey, my colleagues and I were thrilled to discover that all four of those we contacted — Costco CEO Jim Sinegal, Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren, Teach for America CEO Wendy Kopp, and P&G’s CEO Jim Lafley had, in fact, gone out and done something different because of what they’d heard at the forum.
Lafley, for instance, was inspired by the discussion in Claremont to review P&G’s capital spending and product commercialization plans to ensure that the company was investing appropriately in its mid- and long-term growth. In addition, he committed to monthly talent reviews to make certain that P&G is developing the leaders it needs for the future.
Meanwhile, Sinegal drew on the forum’s exploration of corporate values to think through a pay raise for the bulk of his company’s frontline workers. “Because of the downturn, our employees are having a tough time,” he says. “They deserve a pay increase. Even though it would be painful as a retail business at this moment to approve one, the unfair thing would be not to give them an increase.”
As Sinegal explains it, most of the conversation he had on the matter with Costco’s executive committee revolved around the size of the boost. “At one point, a person in the meeting stopped and said, ‘That says something about our culture right there. All our attention is not on the question of whether to approve an increase, but on how big it should be.’”
Kopp, for her part, also zeroed in on culture. Inspired by a McKinsey & Co. program described at the forum by the firm’s former managing director, Rajat Gupta, Teach for America has now embarked on a formal effort to convert its core values into practice among a new generation of managers. Says Kopp: “We are engaging our whole organization in reflecting on what about our current values is most crucial to succeeding in our long-term plan; what the unintended consequences of our values might be; and what other core principles might be missing that might be important.”
As for Lundgren, he came out of the forum focused more than ever on Macy’s customers. “I need to shift my time and attention to really put a significant amount of my energy and words and visibility behind becoming the ‘chief customer officer’ of the company,” he says. “Whatever we’ve done in providing customer service has been adequate, but not differentiating. We need customer service to be our differentiator.” In recent weeks, Lundgren has visited Macy’s stores in more than two dozen cities to spread this new customer-is-king gospel.
So, how about you? What’s the best idea that you ever took away from a conference or symposium that you actually acted upon? What’s your Monday moment?
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Rick Wartzman (Rick.Wartzman@cgu.edu) is the executive director of the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University. He writes “The Drucker Difference” column for BusinessWeek online.