Think BR: How to survive the death of print
A step-by-step guide for newspaper and magazine people who haven't yet grasped that "the feel of print in your hand" is not enough to save their job, by Richard Hine.
Richard Hine: author of Russell Wiley is Out to Lunch (Photo: Amanda Filipacchi)
Before we get started, let me make one thing clear: I’m here to help. Not to argue.
I know that as a newspaper or magazine employee you’ll want to convince me that "print still has a place in people’s lives".
Maybe it does. But so does poetry. And badminton. And frankly we don’t have much time. So let’s move on.
Today I’m going to outline 10 simple steps that will show you exactly how to survive the death of print. For your own sake, I hope you pay close attention.
Step 1. Stop being so defensive
I have to point out that I’m still feeling a lot of resistance from you. I can sense you itching to tell me that nothing beats the feel of a beautiful, glossy magazine in your pudgy, damp hands.
Or the serendipity of coming across that one vitally important nugget of information you know is buried somewhere in your stack of unread papers.
Take a deep breath. Hold it. Now let it go.
Step 2. Put as many of these words as you can into a single sentence
App. Tablet. Paywall. SEO optimisation. Monetisation. Customisation. Particle acceleration. Mobile. Geo-targeted. Click-through rate.
Finish your sentence with this phrase: "but at the end of the day it’s all about the content, and that’s what’s going to set us apart."
Step 3. Find out from FourSquare or Facebook Places where your company’s "digital guru" is at this moment
Find her. Show her the sentence you just wrote. Ask her if it makes sense. Then beg her to rewrite it into something a normal human being might understand.
Step 4. Memorize your revised sentence
Use it in every meeting you attend and email you write for the next six months.
Step 5. Ignore that piece of "good news" about print
You may be tempted to trumpet some not-bad new statistic, like "newspaper ad revenues are declining slightly more slowly in the 3rd quarter". Or "In Norway, circulation in the women’s category fell only 0.7% last year." Don’t fall into that trap. Remember step 1.
Step 6. Make your boss a key ally in your success
The real world of print media is nothing like 'The Devil Wears Prada'. Unless you’re working for Anna Wintour, your real boss will be nothing like Meryl Streep or the Miranda Priestly character.
She will be sweet, charming and well-mannered, with only occasional freakouts. Ignore the freakouts.
Just remember your boss is completely terrified of being usurped by a 25-year-old with the interpersonal skills of Mark Zuckerburg. Your challenge is to convince her you’re her loyal ally, and also that you "know digital" in a non-intimidating way.
Every time Facebook decides on a new definition of "privacy" for 600 million people, make sure to volunteer to update your boss’s account settings.
Note: You will also need to explain to her exactly what hashtags are at least once a month.
Step 7. Add the words "… and social media strategist" to your job title on your CV and include them in your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles
Do this whether you’re a journalist, work in ad sales or circulation, or at the printing plant.
But do this especially if you’re a higher paid executive who’s "at risk" the next time the company decides to "rationalise the cumbersome complexity" of its recently re-organised corporate structure.
Step 8. Cultivate a mentor
Why do you need a mentor when you get on so well with your terrific boss? Because your boss will be fired within the next 6-12 months, that’s why. Seriously, are you not paying attention to what’s going on around you?
Note: Your mentor should be somebody senior who has jokingly expressed jealousy of the way your boss has set up her Facebook privacy settings.
Step 9. Get up early each morning and read a quality newspaper
This will make you better informed than any of your peers, but when they ask you how you know so much, point to your Blackberry, Android or iPad and say you get all your news while "on the go".
Reading a good newspaper will also help you identify other industries that might make sense for a smart, resourceful person like you when this whole thing goes pear-shaped.
Step 10. Focus on the big picture
That great print brand you love so much, that gives you a reason to get up in the morning, is doomed. It’s sad.
At times, you may be tempted to start drinking too much and gorging on greasy foods. Work out instead. You’ll want to look good and have a well-oxygenated brain if you plan on competing with all those whipsmart technogeeks in the world of "branded multi-platform digital content distribution".
And if that’s not your goal, working out now will help even more later. Truth is, your quirky sense of humour will only take you so far when you’re trying to find a new entry level position in whatever dynamic, growth-oriented industry you try to get into next.
And trust me, after you lose that last 15 lbs and get a new haircut, you really will look and feel so much better.
Richard Hine has worked at Adweek, Time Magazine and The Wall Street Journal in New York. His debut novel Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch has been called "a must read for anyone who frets about the death of print". It’s available now in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon.co.uk.
The first three commenters on this article will be eligible to receive a free copy.
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