Anniversaries: Berlingske celebrates with tunnel vision, Dagbladet with old news
So it's goodbye to the last newspaper company in Fleet Street

Fighting institutional inertia

David Cohn has an interesting post which rhymes with my post on why change in the newsroom is so hard. Among other things, he says:

"The fate of newspapers isn't the fault of any individual editor, reporter, publisher, etc. They are all acting within the confines of institutions. Newspapers are industrial age institutions with inertia that could pummel an elephant. To use an analogy: They operate like the military. It might not be so strict that reporters have to salute their superiors - but there is a chain of command, an expected means of behavior and decisions must go through the proper channels. As a result - newspapers turn like battleships and even implementing one line of code can take upwards of six months."

This also gels with what I wrote on media and disruptive technology and especially the part about The Entrenched Player's Dillema (a post in which I was really just playing around with ideas, but found it a very useful thought experiment which I will return to from a different angle soon).

Another of my favourite explanations of why the media industry sometimes is slow to catch on is this one, which I've taken from Paal Leveraas (unfortunately I don't have a direct link to the post I found it it):

"We stand in the stream of events, while busy chasing deadlines the world changes and we are too busy to notice the change."


1. Happy New Year! Sorry to greet you so late, but I was on your side of the world, in Rome (where it was wet and cold for quite a bit of time).

2. Hope you feel better soon - the flu is nasty stuff. Keeping fingers crossed that your health improves steadily fast.

3. Read Cohn's post. I want to hear more specifics.

One of the axioms a political scientist works with is that bureaucracies have the incentive, first and foremost, to keep themselves going. I want to hear about specifics that show a bureaucracy within a news organization is following some weird principle or incentive structure that works against getting the news accurate and fast, reader engagement, publicity, etc., not just the consequences of the bureaucracy ("it takes 6 months to implement what should take 5 minutes blah blah").

Part of me suspects this has less to do with bureaucracy and more to do with how journalists are trained and how they think. It's just a suspicion, that's all. I make no claims to having knowledge.


Another way I've phrased it: I love skepticism in my reporting. In fact - skepticism in reporting is great.

But because we treasure skepticism in our editorial - we end up skeptical in business matters.

When it comes to playing online - newspapers are skeptical when what they need to be is proactive.

Make sense?

Name a web 2.0 startup from the last 5 years: Digg, Flickr, Vimeo, etc ....

Now ask yourself - why weren't any of them started by a single newspaper company????

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