How the Newspaper Industry Killed Itself
Disruption only happens when you let it. A former insider on what executives were telling themselves during the heyday of print.
Business, more than any other occupation, is a continual dealing with the future; it is a continual calculation, an instinctive exercise in foresight
— Henry Robinson Luce
It’s nearly 2 o’clock on a Friday afternoon. As you pull into your spot in the parking lot, it occurs to you that your workload is a lot lighter than what the other guys at the country club are carrying. You’ve just turned 60. The years are going by quickly now but there’s still a spring in your step. You practice a couple of half-swings as you walk down the corridor, you’ll play well tomorrow if you can get your short game going. 1996 has been a great year, and based on the budgets you’ve been looking at, 1997 will be even better. The newspaper business is one hell of a business, that’s for sure.
You can hear them all assembling in your meeting room next door. You marvel at how well it’s gone this week. Too easy, really. Hold the line on headcount expense and capital spending, and hike the advertising rate. Even the last remaining union bullies down in the delivery department of the big paper in the chain of publications have been handled, and you have a non-union company at last. You’ll drop in for a chat with the chairman later, give him a sense of where the numbers are coming in. It’s always important to reinforce your position. “You’re doing one hell of a job,” he’ll say. Your face will be inscrutable. “Thanks, it’s really got nothing to do with me, we’ve got great people.”
Success and wealth imbue your life with a well-disguised self-satisfaction. You’ve come a very long way from your little hometown in the Midwest. This year you and Patty spent two weeks in Paris. She loved that. Next month you’ll join the group of top media people invited to Beijing for three days of government briefings followed by a week of sightseeing. You’re already on the board of the Newspaper Association and it’s only a matter of time before your politicking pays off and you get nominated to join the board of the Associated Press. You’ve climbed about as high as anyone can in the newspaper…