Saturday, January 12, 2008

How to save Gannett, for under $10 million

Buy an iPhone, Palm, BlackBerry or some other smartphone for each of the journalists in the company's newsrooms.

I bought an iPhone a week ago to replace the company-issued cellphone I gave up on my last day of work Thursday. For all I write about technology, I'm really not that much of a geek. But Apple's first cellphone is absolutely, totally, freakin' amazing. (Watch this video presentation on Apple's website.) And it's already transforming the way I look at work in general, and journalism in particular.

The iPhone, it turns out, is my new desktop -- and in the future, I'm taking my desktop wherever I go. For example, I've been reading newspapers on the phone's 3.5-inch (diagonal) screen. Nothing says digital revolution like putting yourself in the shoes of a 20-something who doesn't read newspapers in print, or even online -- but on a mobile device instead. I'm learning the importance of writing way-tight, and with a strong impact sentence or two by the second graph. After all, anything I write for cellphone delivery will linger on the small screen for just seconds before a potential customer reads it -- or moves on. You don't want inches and inches of copy on a cellphone screen; short, quick takes are best -- not unlike blog posts.

Now, I knew mobile delivery was key to journalism's future well before I pulled out my credit card at the Apple store in downtown San Francisco. But it's something else again to spend a week actually living on a smartphone. What would it cost Gannett to similarly put all its newsroom staffers in the shoes of its fleeing customers? Let's assume there's a combined 5,000 journalists at the 85 dailies and 23 TV stations. GCI could buy $399 iPhones, for example, and the least expensive $60 monthly service under the mandatory two-year AT&T contract for less than $10 million. That's not far from what GCI paid CEO Craig Dubow in 2006. Now I ask: Which do you think would be the best investment?

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[Image: Apple]


  1. So your trying to get a new job with AT@T? Talk about using a blog for whoring?

  2. They do buy smart phones, but not for the journalists who need them -- the reporters and photographers, just for senior editors, who never leave the office. At the Gannett Information Centre I work in I've seen them behave like kids, texting and emailing each other IN NEWS MEETINGS. Is it any wonder the company's tanking faster than a subprime lender in a trailer park.

  3. Amen to that, anonymous @ 11:25. It's gotten so bad around my paper, where every editor at AME and above has a device.

    Just this past week our editor declared a moratorium on Blackberries in editor meetings. It was like middle school all over again, he even threatened to take them away if he saw someone using one in the meeting.

  4. I can only imagine what happens during the operating committee meetings outside the publisher's office!

  5. The upper level managers on our property (those who rarely leave the building) have Blackberries. Yet, our outside salespeople don't have any company-issued smartphones. I wonder how much less filler we'd have to run if the salespeople could receive information about remaining open spaces and last-minute rate changes while they're still on the road...

  6. We can't afford both. How can we pay Sue her huge salary and bonus and pay for 1998 technology?
    Amazing people still choose to work here.

  7. While i agree with Jim, it can't go without mentioning that new front end systems are way more of a priority. Especially here in New Jersey where the majority of boxes at the three highest circulation papers are Dell OptiPlexes from like 1998.

    Here in *cough* cherry hill *cough* we just "upgraded" to Windows 2000. So many machines have no soundcards. So many machines can't view certain Web sites. So many machines suffer from a digital form of narcolepsy, poor wee critters.

    I say save the iPhones for the future. Since current technology never has been a priority for Gannett, by my calculations, 2nd gen iPhones will be selling for around $50 each in 2112.

    And that's some savings.

  8. Actually, some "mojos" around Gannett have been issued Treos as part of the new "Information Center" equipment. We've probably rolled out 15 or 20 at our metro paper. We've found that the news reporters would rather just have a laptop, but the sports reporters use the messaging on the Treos like mad, talking to sources, doing interviews, you know, actually reporting.

  9. *edit

    That was supposed to be 2012. My bad.

  10. Think about how little Gannett actually spends to put its *products* on these mobile platforms. At my paper, it's basically a jury-rigged RSS feed that gets tossed up there and it looks as bad as that sounds. I'm sure it's that way -- if that -- at many others. The lack of foresight is not surprising.

  11. i don't understand what this is all about. my paper pays for EVDO and wireless cards for anyone who can justify it -- reporters and photographers are expected to make the case for it and almost always get it. smartphones and blackberries are commonplace. quite a lot of business is done on these things

  12. Anon 11:54: I was one of those mojos. The Treos they gave us blew. They were shitty phones and weak cameras with an awful operating system. The real reason they gave us them was so we could upload stories and pictures to the web remotely. In reality they should've just given us laptops with broadband cards, as the Bergen Record has done with all 40 of its mojos.

    Also, Jim, your idea is sound but Gannett first needs to update the PCs in its actual offices and the software it uses. I mean, my god, when I left the APP in 2006 they were still using Coyote 3, an input program that is so old it's nearly DOS-based. We had computers that couldn't even access or view streaming videos. The PCs in the bureaus were so slow that we couldn't even access sites like NJ ELEC and PACER. It was a joke.


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