Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Future & Change Study: SA newspaper executives highlight employee motivation as the industry's greatest challenge

A survey of senior South African newspaper executives found that employee motivation was the single most significant challenge facing the industry – and that organisations needed to improve competencies across all levels in order to meet future challenges effectively.

Other findings from the exploratory study, which I conducted amongst 12 executives in October and November 2008, include:

Greatest competition to come from other print products. Free newspapers were expected the greatest competitor to traditional newspapers in the next five years, followed by content on mobile phones and online news sites compiled by the large search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Scope for significant cost reductions. The majority of respondents believed that newspapers did not operate as efficiently as they could and that significant costs reductions could be achieved without reducing quality. All the respondents to that question felt there was some room for cutting costs with the vast majority – 8 of 9 respondents - saying that there was potential to cut costs by more than 6% and a third saying that operational costs could be cut between 20-30% with little impact.

Companies will need to diversify their revenue streams. All respondents to this question agreed that newspapers will need to consider earning revenues from non-traditional sources, with 8 of 9 executives saying newspaper companies will need to look elsewhere for up to a third of their revenues.

Loss of experienced staff and out-dated technology have hurt companies.
When asked to reflect on the changes that had occurred in the last 3-5 years and what newsroom loss has hurt the most, the respondents highlighted two concerns:
Technology - not having the appropriate knowledge to keep up. “Not being up-to-date with the internet”
Qualified staff – losing experienced staff to bigger publications with new staff not being up to scratch. “Loss of quality journalists, level of new trainees is shocking” “Experienced middle management” “Experience”

Work is needed to prepare for the challenges ahead. All respondents felt companies were ready for the challenges ahead: 8 of the 9 respondents felt that companies were no more than 50% prepared. Respondents felt there was a great need for developing middle-management , particularly in the editorial and advertising departments with 8 of 9 respondents saying work in this area was very or extremely important.

What is the single most important change that has to be implemented in your newspaper over the next year? Responses to this question varied greatly, but could be considered to fit into two broad themes: developing staff and systems to implement multimedia news operations, and developing management that can effectively streamline operations for greater efficiency.

Additional highlights from the report are available in this short report.

The study is now being expanded globally in collaboration with Martha Stone of the World Assocation of Newspapers-IFRA and Erik Wilberg of the Norwegian School of Management.

Senior editorial and commercial executives from newspaper companies have been invited to participate and, as a way of thanking them for completing the 20-question survey, the researchers are undertaking to send them the final 2009 World Newspaper Future & Change Study report.

The results of the survey will also be analysed for a Shaping the Future of the Newspaper project report for the WAN-IFRA, to be published in December 2009.
  • If you'd like to participate, please click HERE to take survey, which should take no more than 20 minutes to complete. [If you are not the correct person to answer the survey, please forward it to the appropriate person in your company.] And, of course, if you have any comments or questions, don’t hesitate to contact me at: FPNel @ uclan . ac . uk

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