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Its Actually an Old-Paper

Ken Doctor's analysis of the recently announced Sam Zell plans for the Tribune is spot on. Up until now I was impressed by Zell's turn this place upside down mentality. It's exactly the kick-in-the-pants that an entrenched organization (like newspapers) need to turn things around.

But turning a place upside down only works if you there's a plan for once you have it there. As Ken points out, in this instance, there doesn't seem to be one.

What is surprising is that in publicly announcing cutbacks, Randy Michaels, Zell's radio guy-turned-Tribune czar, is focusing on, of all things, PRINT.

Take his notion of how to make the papers more readable and sell more of them.

Michaels saying the papers will become more USA Today-like, with:

"a new look and feel in each market, emphasizing what people are telling us they want in the research: charts, graphs, maps, lists."

Wow. Great solution for 1992 perhaps, 10 years after USA Today turned the newspaper world, Pleasantville-like, from black and white to color. The problem with that is that USA Today is essentially flat last several years in circulation, and it's got a national base and multiplicity of hotel/travel programs to keep the numbers up.

Ken's whole analysis is worth the read. Anyway, I just started chuckling that this is the second instance in which a company I know had a chance to pick one of two words for its business and managed to pick the wrong one. Tribune is a newspaper company - emphasis on the word "new." I mean, that's the crux of the business, right? Tell me what's new? Its the timeliness of the content that makes the paper interesting, not the format delivered (the "paper" part).

In today's world, any paper that is delivered just once a day is going to be old by definition. Call newspaper the latest oxymoron, right next to jumbo shrimp. Old-paper is more appropriate. Any plan to fill an old-paper with a bunch of crappy charts and graphs is not going to change this face. Even the crappy charts will be dated by the time it reaches me on a paper.

Online however, is what is interesting. And, Tribune does have a successful presence there as well. Turning more resources there seems to make more sense than trying to revitalize the old-paper. Well, that and fixing the ad model too. (Couldn't help myself). In any event, looks like out of the choices new and paper, Tribune picked the wrong word.


If your curious, the other instance I thought of where a company picked the wrong word was when Ask Jeeves ditched the name "Jeeves" and re-branded themselves ask.com. In my mind, the "Jeeves" part was the only interesting part of their name. Ask was and is plain vanilla and hard to brand around. I'm not saying Jeeves is a great search engine name either (it's not), but it was the better of the two choices. Even today, a couple of years later, when referring to the company, I still call them Jeeves. Beats saying Ask.com.


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