Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cincy | Dickey: innovation needed from local level

In a column today, Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Laura Baverman notes that the paper's vice president of new media, James Jackson, has been promoted to senior director of product development, a Gannett-wide position. He'll remain based in Cincinnati.

Baverman also describes a range of R&D efforts at the newspaper, some of which she may report on in a new blog and in her column, Innovations. Her column apparently is taking an unusual turn within GCI: she's writing about the paper from an arms-length perspective. (It's not clear whether this is an ongoing effort, however.)

"I got access to Enquirer executives," she says. "And my bosses found an independent editor from Arizona State University to review this."

One of those executives, U.S. newspaper division President Bob Dickey, told her: “We believe very firmly that innovation cannot be a Corporate mandate. We want it to come from the local level. And, sometimes, it’s personal innovation, willingness to do something different."

Related: In a video, Editor Carolyn Washburn talks about new developments at the Enquirer.


  1. Innovation cannot be a corporate mandate? We want it to come from the local level?

    Is this G A N N E T T?

    This sound like a near-total turnaround from the past 20 years!

    Maybe what Dickey's saying is that he and Craig and Martore have run out of ideas.

    Now, that could be good for G A N N E T T!

  2. The reader comments on that column were telling. Most of them said phooey on all the techno-babble, we want content. It's all about local news coverage, which readers are not getting now.

  3. Yeah, if the writer were truly independent like she says, she would have (or should have) noted the decimation of the staff producing the original content in Cincy and throughout Gannett.

  4. As I've said here before, Gannett has, for years, lost an opportunity to use its community papers as a sort of laboratory for innovation, much as politicos will sometimes note that the 50 U.S. states act as labs for new ideas that sometimes become adopted at the federal level.

    Instead, it's all top down with GCI: Put it in a can in Virginia and send it out to the provinces, whether they like it (or it makes sense) or not. It's a misguided and disastrous course for a newspaper company. Odd thing is, this is a company that issues all sorts of hoohah about diversity -- all while destroying the real diversity that is part and parcel of the community newspaper business.

    Whether Mr. Dickey's utterance represents a true change or just more corporate-speak is anybody's guess. I'm thinking the later but would be happy to be proven wrong.

  5. Wow, what a repackaging of corporate cliches. No offense to Baverman. I suspect this was a "have-to" column, just as I have to cover some of our management's pet charities and causes. I wonder who that "independent editor" at Arizona State University is, and whether he/she has any ties to the Gannett-AZ papers?
    Oh, and I sense a theme here: "Innovations" column, "innovate" section to replace the traditional business section in the Burlington Free Press.

  6. Washburn sure got that big shinny Gannett Ring in the video. There all pawns for the the big "G". Readship and circulation is a joke in the Greater Cincinnati area.

  7. Dickeys comment is funny. Does he know what type of a clown he looks like to the rank and file after all the corporate crap that has been stuffed down their throats?

    As for the article I only skim read it I didn't want to throw up in my mouth. But it reminds me of the person who thinks if they say they are cool or hot often and loud enough it must be true. No matter how not cool or not hot they actually are.

  8. The video package that went along with this story being broke, as did an unflattering shot of Wasburn that lead it (since changed) says a great deal about the Enquirer's innovation...they have a long way to go.

  9. Innovation can not be a corporate mandate, but innovation is often quashed from a corporate level.

  10. To be truly innovative Gannett first needs to learn how to openly and honestly accept feedback, something Buchanan and too many like her have repeatedly shown they can’t do...exactly why many entrepreneurs and creative types have gotten the hell out when they could.

  11. None of the commenters on the Enquirer's article finds anything innovative at all about what it's doing. No one is fooled by the use of blogs, tweets and amateur video as a substitute for the kind of in-depth news reporting that the people of Cincinnati would be happy to pay for.

    Here's a reader comment that sums it all up:

    The Enquirer is very innovative at delivering inadequate journalism across a wide array of "platforms." Maybe that makes a few advertisers happy. Maybe. But this emphasis on "tech" is a classic tail-wagging-the-dog situation. While you "go digital," how many editors, reporters and photographers have been slashed in the past five years? 20 percent? 30 percent? 40 percent? Please stop pretending that your product is "innovative" when you fail to invest in talent. I haven't heard a single regular reader of the Enquirer -- online or print -- actually say or agree that the paper is better than it used to be. Everybody sees with their own eyes how much has been lost. The Enquirer has been disconnected from the community for quite some time.

  12. Talk about irony! After ruthlessly consolidating all things local, jettisoning en masse thousands of the livelihoods of creative, highly reviewed, performance-oriented local people, now they want to have "local." Pretty ballsy. Or disgusting. One of the two.

  13. Here's another reader comment that is spot-on. Turns out the readers are onto you, Gannett.

    The greatest innovation of The Enquirer and it's parent Gannett is to move the editing and production of the newspaper to Louisville and the printing to Columbus to save money. All that will be left in Cincinnati will be a handful of low-paid reporters and a few news editors. Diminished news coverage is more focused on spot news and boosterism. As local advertisers drift away due to high prices and poor results, the paper will increasingly rely on national ad campaigns for revenue - further hurting the relevancy of the paper for local readers. Yes, the news business is difficult right now, but the cost of supporting Gannett's bloated bureaucracy is forcing the paper to create of the illusion of offering more through innovation and technology - such as dining tips and chicken deals. The real purpose of a responsible press - being a watchdog and informing the community - won't be done with tweets and online chats and "targeted ads".

  14. Well, Dickey speaks the truth. Some of the best innovation the company has ever seen came from a local market.

    No one even remembers how successful the Moms franchise was until corporate "fixed" it. That said, though, there are hundreds of great ideas that start out in the local markets, turn out successful, then get canned by corporate anyway. I have personally submitted about a half-dozen ideas I had already implemented locally (some of which gained tens of thousands of dollars in revenue) only to be told "don't do that."

    It wasn't because it wasn't a good idea, or that there were ethical problems with it, it was simply because it wasn't invented in corporate. Several of the ideas were shot down, plug pulled, then six months later a half-baked version of the same idea comes out from corporate.

  15. 12:51PM & 5:43PM, exactly why no even tries to come up with new ideas at local sites. We've been told no one too many times.

  16. Hopefully James will actually be allowed to develop some of his ideas. He's got some great ones!

  17. “We believe very firmly that innovation cannot be a Corporate mandate. We want it to come from the local level." In other words, we're clueless so fix it yourselves. And from now on- It's all your faults!


  18. Publisher's perspective:
    1. Need ability to sign and negotiate vendor contracts for mobile and like ventures on our own.
    2. Need ability to retain, hire talent with salary incentives based on creative success without second guessing or labor-intensive review.
    3. Need to give current staff rewards for daily efforts that will give them incentive and vision for possibilities of the future.
    4. Gannett needs to provide overall sense of hope for journalism and core (now seemingly old fashion) business values beyond just selling advertising. Our brand stands for something.
    5. Need marketing power behind ideas without having to beg,
    6. Technology purchases and investments need to be ongoing -- and we need freedom to decide what to do and when. Don't need P.O.s and such reviewed anymore.
    7. Offer real autonomy that you preach we have, but rarely seems that way.
    8. If I come anywhere near making my number, leave me alone and bother the folks who are way off.
    9. Let me make the decisions.
    10. Get rid of the red tape and let me fly.
    11. Everything is a template. Don't judge me on following the model. Let me take the model as inspiration, but not gospel.
    Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

  19. The Gannett business model is too old to compete in today's digital marketplace, where the money is being made in entirely different ways than plain-Jane advertising. Can you imagine Gannett as a local Y Combinator incubating start-ups -- funding and advising and owning innovative digital companies? I can't either, and there's the rub.

  20. Waiting for permission to innovate, Sir.
    Also waiting for that iPad app and iPhone app...

  21. 9:42 Sounds like MyBoss. Good points. Pure logic. Plain English. Hope they go along because it's the way of saving the papers. If they don't agree, they are just trying to pocket the profits and let the newspapers die. See how circular this is getting?
    p.s. But why Houma golf clubs? Didn't improve your score, did it?


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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