Focus on the Customer

by Roger Pynn

Libraries are chock full of books – In Search of Excellence, The One Minute Manager and Good to Great – that make it crystal clear no business succeeds without a focus on the customer. It’s nothing new. More than 20 years ago we wrote a cultural statement for our firm, Curley & Pynn, that starts with this simple rule: Focus on what keeps the client awake at night.

So why can’t the newspaper industry figure out who the customer is? Everywhere you look newspapers are morphing into Web sites and forgetting the paying reader.

I’m not suggesting newspapers abandon the Web. By bringing meaningful content there they may just elevate the culture. But trying to make their print product into web pages is an insult. The trouble is that newspapers can’t seem to figure out how to make money any more, and while only 10% of their revenue is coming from the Internet according to an article by Kevin Heisler of Search Engine Watch, they are focusing what appears to be 90% of their attention in that space.

Take my hometown paper (and former employer back in the days of hot type) the Orlando Sentinel. Every day readers are faced with section front teasers driving them to “exclusive content” in one of the paper’s many reporter-written blogs. Which makes me think, why did I buy this paper?

Maybe somewhere out there in newspaperland there’s an R&D expert trying to figure out how to integrate newspaper coin boxes and web surfing terminals where .75 cents will buy you a paper but for four bits will let you scan it online.

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