As U.S. falters, paper can prosper by refocusing on local economy

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My sketch sees Times Free Press staffers under a deadening bubble, where all their professional lives are directed to two main products (paper, website). I propose that their servitude under employment not exclude other writing, that they be given liberty to be productive on their own websites as collaborators or clients of the company.

By David Tulis

Widening the platform turns old relationships and perceptions on their heads. No longer would staff writers work for the paper, but the paper works for them.

If the Times Free Press is a media platform and not just a newspaper, it realizes that its audience cares not for it as a company or a physical product.Daily, subscribers and Web reader enter the worlds of narrative, adventure, news and personality created by writers and photographers. The fruit of creative labor sells the paper and brings Web visitors. If the TFP broadens its platform, the company comes most profitably to a realization about the value of its staff’s work. The company sees itself as an enabler, a service provider for the writers and photographers. It doesn’t hire them, they hire it.

The writers are the stars, it is the mechanism. Columnists such as Mark Kennedy or Clint Cooper are the reader’s friend, the company a utility. The business provides the reporter equipment, electricity, Internet connections, phone service, desks, clerks. It already is a utility. The open media model self-consciously seeks to apply the utility principle to the company’s relationship with the staff. The paper is all about making staff members look good, and promoting their gifts as it increases its usefulness to them.

Part II of this piece is just ahead. I will explain where my theories of “saving the local paper” come from and how they might work.

My $199 website idea

Prosperity awaits, perhaps, if the Times Free Press broadens its concept of news and media to let news employees run their own news and opinion sites as paying clients of the company.

Widening the platform turns old relationships and perceptions on their heads. No longer would staff writers work for the paper, but the paper works for them.

If the Times Free Press is a media platform and not just a newspaper, it realizes that its audience cares not for it as a company or a physical product.

Daily, subscribers and Web reader enter the worlds of narrative, adventure, news and personality created by writers and photographers. The fruit of creative labor sells the paper and brings Web visitors. If the TFP broadens its platform, the company comes most profitably to a realization about the value of its staff’s work. The company sees itself as an enabler, a service provider for the writers and photographers. It doesn’t hire them, they hire it.

The writers are the stars, it is the mechanism. Columnists such as Mark Kennedy or Clint Cooper are the reader’s friend, the company a utility. The business provides the reporter equipment, electricity, Internet connections, phone service, desks, clerks. It already is a utility. The open media model self-consciously seeks to apply the utility principle to the company’s relationship with the staff. The paper is all about making staff members look good, and promoting their gifts as it increases its usefulness to them.

Part II of this piece is just ahead. I will explain where my theories of “saving the local paper” come from and how they might work.

From newspaper to community media platform

The second part of the plan is to provide dozens of new outlets at which small fry advertisers might appear. The question is: Whose platforms? Whose websites?I suggest that the Times Free Press evolve from a newspaper to a media platform that makes use of outside writers who run websites as well as reporters who are employed on the newspaper staff. This scheme I call the phalanx or open media scheme.Its primary strength is that it honors an important free market concept to benefit the Times Free Press and its readers. If it gives the company’s greatest assets — its staff of writers and news gatherers — liberty and financial incentives, they will excel in their callings, be far more productive and pull the business along to greater profitability.

As it stands, the TFP newsroom is a constricted publishing platform. News staffers (who work solely through the master-servant relationship of employment) write for the newspaper and its main website. They are constrained by newsprint limits and the 40-hour workweek. Draconian newsroom ethics rules against outside literary or journalistic work cramp their style, isolate them in a silo. Partly because of these ethics rules, their careers are marked by tedium, limits, routine and a monotony of literary form. Yes, they are professionally challenged in their callings in the newsroom, but they are not personally or viscerally interested, let me assert.

Broadening its concept of its platform, the company could support the writers’ many interests, greatly improve morale and create revenue streams for these individuals and for itself. The open platform scheme breathes liberty into company operations and could make working for the Times Free Press a delight. Reporters and editors are invited to pursue their writing passions on ad revenue-generating privately owned platforms. (Blogger gets 95% of ad revenue.) Other key constituencies also would be gratified by this change of paradigm. Advertisers would have many new options on geocentric websites or subject-oriented websites with low-cost bid-based contract-free systems. Readers have new ways to interact with our writers. Investors are happy because the company is generating more money.

Turning relationship upside down

Widening the platform turns old relationships and perceptions on their heads. No longer would staff writers work for the paper, but the paper works for them.If the Times Free Press is a media platform and not just a newspaper, it realizes that its audience cares not for it as a company or a physical product.

Daily, subscribers and Web reader enter the worlds of narrative, adventure, news and personality created by writers and photographers. The fruit of creative labor sells the paper and brings Web visitors. If the TFP broadens its platform, the company comes most profitably to a realization about the value of its staff’s work. The company sees itself as an enabler, a service provider for the writers and photographers. It doesn’t hire them, they hire it.

The writers are the stars, it is the mechanism. Columnists such as Mark Kennedy or Clint Cooper are the reader’s friend, the company a utility. The business provides the reporter equipment, electricity, Internet connections, phone service, desks, clerks. It already is a utility. The open media model self-consciously seeks to apply the utility principle to the company’s relationship with the staff. The paper is all about making staff members look good, and promoting their gifts as it increases its usefulness to them.

Part II of this piece is just ahead. I will explain where my theories of “saving the local paper” come from and how they might work.

 ➤ How free market concept of ‘open platform’ could revitalize our paper

➤ How TFP can win friends, boost small shops, put cash cow on winning side