As publishers we are meant to be leaders in the provision of information. So are there any lessons we can learn from our external information gathering and dissemination to our internal practices?
Looking back in the more than 30-plus years I have spent in this industry, one of the best moves I ever made was merging the research facility in the commercial departments with the library service in the newsroom. At the time, it was seen as controversial. Today it is essential.
Ten years ago I was running a fledgling business daily, and the editor and I agreed it made sense to have a central "knowledge hub" within the company. So one excellent manager took on the role of bringing the two functions together.
Suddenly, editorial archives from such sources as Bloomberg, Lexis Nexis, Reuters and AP, were on the same desk as Target Group Index consumer behavior data, readership data, the subscriber database and the equivalent of Yellow Pages data. Overseeing our pool of data were skilled analysts who could aggregate and decipher the information as needed.
We also sat next to the management accountants whose role was to track the company's performance. This was truly an intelligence center.
A number of benefits emerged:
- Journalists could access the database of Scotland's leading business executives in mere seconds.
- Every day, anyone whose name appeared in the paper received a call asking if he or she would like a subscription.
- The newsroom had easy access to commercial data, thus improving their own research and reporting.
- Reporters could tap into the accountants' base of knowledge, enabling writers to further polish their reports on companies' financial performance.
I suspect that many of you will be asking what value having both Target Group Index and Lexis Nexis data accessible in a single location might be. Both are tools that are equally valuable in the newsroom as they are in the advertising department. The problem is that, historically, their use is departmentally confined.
Traditionally, editorial, advertising and circulation departments worked as separate silos. Each valued its independence. In today's world, the knowledge that each department depends on is inter-relational, as is the overlap between audience, advertising revenue, and - perhaps - content revenue.
The digital world dictates that advertising is targeted to specified demographics and interest groups. The possibility of users paying for content is largely driven by its relevance. The value accelerator is driven by the geometry of content relevance and advertising targeting - based on customer knowledge.
Yet media companies remain curiously fragmented in their own information space.
So as I often ask in these columns: What would I do?
First of all, I would gather together all the people in the company who collect and analyze information for a one-day "knowledge-fest."
Some will be in editorial, some in advertising, some in circulation, some in "research" some in digital, and ... well anyone else who wants to turn up. They'll then share what they collect, and its relative benefit to everyone else.
Secondly, I would create a "knowledge hub" - an intelligence center - charged with integrating and redistributing the content from all the different sources, across the entire organization.
Third, I would use this resource as a means to support the development of new products - monitoring trends in terms of customer behavior, social issues and fashions. Simple tools are available to achieve this.
Finally, I would see this as an enterprise opportunity, integrating this knowledge to provide added value to the market, in the process creating a profit center.
Dianne Newman, who is now head of research, enterprise and library services at The Scotsman in Edinburgh, Scotland, pioneered this blended approach. She is responsible for all of the points I've just mentioned, and is the model of where our industry needs to go.
Where knowledge was once siloed, it now needs to be completely integrated - departmentally, technologically, culturally and strategically.
Tomorrow's media is about the integration between content and commerce, and we need better tools to exploit this. But in the meantime, here's a simple tool: Share knowledge, and work better together.