I twittered an offhand remark yesterday: "Please stop calling print the core product." It was retweeted quite a bit, and I received some "please explain" queries. Here's my explanation.
If you're still thinking your core product is a newspaper, you're misleading yourself and maybe even killing your business.
Your core business is not print.
And this may dismay the online news crowd, but your core product isn't news.
In fact, you need to stop thinking that advertising supports news and start thinking about how news (and other content) supports advertising.
Your core business is helping others sell their goods and services.
That's been true since the middle of the 19th century, when the industrial revolution transformed newspapers from subsidized journals aimed at the political class into commercial mass media aimed at everyone, or at least everyone who could read.
Newspaper offices became large-scale factories, churning out hundreds of thousands of copies that were sold at a pittance, sometimes even at a loss, in order to build a deliverable audience for advertisers. This was called the "penny press," and it revolutionized journalism as well as the business model that supported it.
Your core product is a commercially relevant audience, gathered through multiple print channels (daily paper, weekly free TMC, free specialty products) and now also through multiple digital channels (web site, "moms" and other specialty sites, mobile, email, and now even distributed behavioral advertising networks).
What I'm saying shouldn't be new. The original Innosight NewspaperNext report clearly advocated a "new core" concept. It was urging us to learn to think about innovating outside that core, but it seems to me that most of us don't even understand our own core business. Not if we keep identifying print as that core.