Clark Gilbert, president and CEO of Deseret Digital Media and Deseret News, doesn’t consider himself a futurist. What he does do is pay attention worthy ideas, which in the case of newspapers, is developing digital strategies in order to maximize revenue and have more cost-effective editorial output.
During his session at the INK+BEYOND conference at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto, Gilbert spoke of a few of the biggest ideas that would make all newspapers successful – if only they were all implemented.
One of the biggest failings of newspapers today, he says, is the lack of differentiated content. That is to say, newspapers feel compelled to cover a smorgasbord of topics and events, even if the coverage is not their specialty and is not relevant to their demographic.
When translated over to the digital sphere, newspapers must ask themselves, "What can we do best?” Because on the web, “if you aren’t the best at what you do, you’re a click away from something better," says Gilbert.
Newspapers can cut down on costs by focusing on providing coverage that they excel at and setting the “extras” aside. Editorial content should answer questions the audience cares about and can’t easily get from anywhere else.
Once the quality of editorial output is up to par, the next step is to then create purely digital content so that a newspaper’s digital channels never become just another medium for print articles to be published on.
Gilbert also emphasized the need to restructure sales teams by stressing that, "Digital buyers need digital sellers." Although traditional print revenue, or "legacy" revenue, may still make up a significant part of total revenue, it cannot compare to the speed of growth of digital sales. Newspapers may need to start thinking about dedicated digital sellers – ones who are knowledgeable about what digital buyers want. Not only do small businesses get new channels to advertise through, Gilbert explains, but a new dedicated team would be infinitely more successful than asking existing sales representatives to attempt to sell digital on top of what they already sell in print.
The importance of a digital presence is even more apparent when looking at the example of marketplace or e-commerce companies, where groups like Groupon and The Yellow Pages are attracting the most traffic and attention. Such companies know what users want, and in this day and age, it is a digital environment catered specifically to them.
Even for Gilbert, "the people who I have working on the clock right now, they come to work for Deseret Digital Media. They did not come to work for Deseret News." Even if newspapers try to cling to tradition, the public continues to move ahead. In fact, he added, if the job had been for Deseret News, those same employees might not have come.