SATURDAY SPECIAL: IFPA’s Chicago Confab I

Last week, Vince DiMiceli and I told publishers at the annual conference of Independent Free Papers of America, “You Need a Web Presence NOW.”

The Chicago event drew about 350 publishers, editors, sales managers and production chiefs from independent newspapers and shoppers throughout the US and Canada. A few dozen attended our Web session — and even more packed a smaller room for Mike Blinder‘s laser-targeted instruction on how to sell ads onto existing or planned Web sites.

The theme of our presentation was simple: It’s a waste of time to complain about the Web. The Web may be eating our lunch, we may not be able to replicate our print sales revenue online, the Web may reek of low-quality stuff produced by pajama-clad novices, we may wake up grumpy … whatever … but here’s the point: We have no choice but roll up our sleeves and do the best we can to exploit the Web’s opportunities. There is no turning back.

Mike Blinder exudes confidence that we can make money online, but right now that’s almost besides the point. If revenue is down and we have to tighten our operations to survive, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. Crying won’t help; fantasizing about the good old days won’t help. We’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt. Steady, everyone.

Point is, it’s an entirely new game, and we need to enter it without prejudice.

As our session’s attendees were being seated, we rolled the video titled, “Buy One Anyway,” a brief satire that’s both amusing and sad about the state of the newspaper business (it will be posted on ConeyMedia.com as the SUNDAY SPECIAL on Oct. 4).

Then we screened “Epic 2015,” a cautionary tale that’s been kicking around for several years. It’s a 15-minute video that every newspaper person should view and react to. (While some of the video’s pre-2009 history has not [yet] happened or did not happen exactly as recounted, most of the depicted technology is here right now and tomorrow’s technology — some of which we cannot predict no matter what you’ve heard — will advance the game even further.

We’ve got to think  quickly and flexibly about where we are and where we are heading.

While we’re working to invent the magic bullet, we should adopt the Newspaper Next mantra: Try it fast and cheap … and if that doesn’t work, move on to the next thing. (If you haven’t attended a Newspaper Next workshop or read any of its literature, I highly recommend it. I’ll discuss it further in a couple of weeks.)

Meanwhile, here is “Epic 2015” (which is a slightly updated version of “Epic 2014”) (running time 9 minutes):

My report on IFPA’s Chicago Confab will continue next week.

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