Newspaper Innovation In Kansas

The newspaper industry is facing challenging times. One success story is the Lawrence Journal-World in Lawrence, Kansas. I first heard about their efforts years ago:

Watchful Eyes on Kansas Media Innovations, NPR, 2005

Many media companies hoped that convergence — combining television, print and online resources — would help them survive. Instead, many companies have lost money on online journalism. In Lawrence, Kan., Dolph Simons’ Journal-World newspaper has taken ambitious news-gathering approaches to local issues.

The Newspaper of the Future, by Timothy O’Brien, New York Times

Lawrencians buying tickets for University of Kansas football games can visit the same site,, and find photographs offering sightlines from each of Memorial Stadium’s 50,000 seats. Law aficionados can find transcripts of locally significant court cases posted on the site and participate in live, online chats debating the pros or cons of some cases – sometimes with experts who are involved in the proceedings.

A related Web site,, is aimed at college readers. It allows visitors to download tunes from the Wakarusa Music Festival, find spirited reviews of local bars and restaurants and plunge into a vast trove of blogs

The steward of this online smorgasbord is Dolph C. Simons Jr., a politically conservative, 75-year-old who corresponds via a vintage Royal typewriter and red grease pencil while eschewing e-mail and personal computers. “I don’t think of us as being in the newspaper business,” said Mr. Simons, the editor and publisher of The Journal-World and the chairman of the World Company, the newspaper’s parent. “Information is our business and we’re trying to provide information, in one form or another, however the consumer wants it and wherever the consumer wants it, in the most complete and useful way possible.”

The company has continued on an path of customer focus and innovation. There work shows what can be done by understanding what need you fulfill for customers.

They understand what they offer customers (and it isn’t just paper). They understand the technology related to their business (not the technology of their past methods of working but the technology possibilities related to serving their customers). They understand the realities of the marketplace. And they have divined a strategy based on this knowledge (they have innovated). And finally, the Lawrence Journal-World has maintained a constancy of purpose.

Related: Zipcar InnovationInnovation StrategyInformation Technology and Business Process Support Deming and the New York Times24 hours in Lawrence (May 2007)Digital Edge AwardsDeath of Newsprint

Too many others (in the newspaper and other industries) are so fixated on their past business and organizational models they can’t innovate. They just trying to tweak their past practices to try and survive. As Deming said: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

There is also a significant problem with leverage in the newspaper industry. Overuse of leverage takes businesses that are profitable on an operating basis and creating companies that lose money due to high interest expenses.

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