Progress Report on C3 Organization

By chuckpeters | August 9, 2009
Engraving by John Byddell of Truth, "the ...
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People have asked me, often, why I don’t blog more about our progress in implementing our C3 organization.  The last post was May 10th, a quarter ago.

I try to wait until  I have something to say.  Something to say requires change.  Change requires time.  Sometimes too much time for my taste.  As the engraving here represents — time reveals all things, and truth is the daughter of time, adversely affected by hypocrisy.

The thoughts and comments of others are updated regularly, usually every week, in the right column, under what I am “paying attention to”.  After reviewing the links that have been noted there,  it is clear that the media environment has changed a great deal, and there have been many good ideas on how to proceed toward a new future.  But, the Three Gorillas noted here over a year ago still remain, blocking change in our traditional media company – organization, culture and technology.

This year, we realized that we would not be able to survive the deepest and steepest decline in our revenue in anyone’s memory, let alone attack the culture and technology issues of creating C3, without truly implementing one organization that separated content creation from product creation.  We needed to reduce our expenses.  We needed to create focused product management for our existing and contemplated products.  We needed services that could effectively support all of those products, including content creation.

As I noted in the May post, we took three operating companies focused on products and created 10 operating divisions which split content creation from product creation, and include:

  1. Content Creation and Collaboration – developing information content “without an agenda” other than strengthening communities in such a way that the elements are fluid and flexible, and that we can deliver “packages” to existing products
  2. Commercial Content – just like 1, except clearly with an agenda (buy, attend, believe) – commercial content elements that are fluid and flexible, as well as packaged messages for products
  3. Product Planning and Development – responsible for profitably reaching audiences with value added packaged products – print, broadcast and digital
  4. Sales – helping businesses and causes reach audiences
  5. Publisher – maintaining the integrity of the Opinion page of the newspaper and community development.  Works within the Product Planning and Development group (in 3 above) on the profitability of the product
  6. Digital production – the networks, websites and mobile applications – both development and production
  7. Broadcast production – transitioning our broadcast production to high definition digital production
  8. Print production and distribution – producing printed products for us and others, and getting them physically distributed
  9. Human Resources and facilities – leading us to the proper people, in the appropriate organizations and facilities
  10. Accounting – providing appropriate financial operating statistics and auditable financial statements

The ten people who agreed to lead these divisions are attacking their new responsibilities with vigor and dedication.  How is it going?

In a word, “messy” as recently noted by Becky Lutgen Gardner, who is responsible for the creation of information content without an agenda (#1 above).  While this should not have been a surprise, it is still no fun to live through the confusion and anger.    We are making progress every day, and have celebrated numerous small wins.  We are developing “service level agreements” to make roles and expectations as clear as possible.  Yet, the emotional connections we maintain to products and companies often blind us to the relevant tasks of creating a product agnostic local ecosystem of information.  Reforming these emotional connections will take time, tasking and new tools.

Even when we get over the emotional barriers, there are the very detailed issues of understanding who is taking primary responsibility for the numerous tasks that must be accomplished every day to keep our business flourishing.  Beckey Woodard Cole, who is leading our work force development efforts within the Human Resources division headed by Cathy Terukina (#9 above) created these slides to show the responsibilities for the judgments needed for individual products, while utilizing common content creation.

We have focused the organization on essential tasks and cut our expenses in line with our reduced revenues to maintain operating cash.  We have a long way to go to approach our work with the openness, transparency and engagement necessary for success.  While this reorganization was absolutely necessary for our survival, and to give us a place to stand to create the C3 local ecosystem of information, we will not make real progress unless and until we can create information in the first instance in such a way that it is fluid and flexible, and can serve multiple products and platforms.  That will take some tinkering with the technical infrastructure, another of those Three Gorillas.

Here’s hoping that the progress report on the technical infrastructure is not three months away!

What do you think?

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7 Responses to “Progress Report on C3 Organization”

  1. Media Guy Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Interesting post, Chuck.

    THIS IS SO TRUE: “Yet, the emotional connections we maintain to products and companies often blind us to the relevant tasks of creating a product agnostic local ecosystem of information.”

    The content gatherers who will be successful in this new company are the ones that can redirect their emotional attachment to their own product (the content). That’s the way to get the best content on all platforms in Eastern Iowa. Let’s face it: The platforms without good content aren’t much.

    When you are emotionally attached to something (anything really) the product is so much better.

    You don’t want people complaining about covering something “because that’s the way it has been covered and everyone else covers it.” What you want is folks to find their own unique content and being excited about molding it for all the different platforms. This is and should be fun when it’s done right.

  2. chuck.peters Says:
    August 9th, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks Media Guy. I am hoping that this “fun” activity can be structured in such a way so that individuals and their communities can be strengthened. People can get the information they want, and need, in context, where and when they want it.

  3. Media Guy Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I’m confident that it can be.

  4. Tom Altman Says:
    August 10th, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Do you think we’re ignoring the audience and just assuming they will be there like they have been with print and broadcast?

    This is a whole new world where people have choices – I wonder how many “old media” types embrace the amount of options available to the audience today?

    Does it need to be explicitly said that the audience is important to our business? Or is that something we take for granted?

    That may be my biggest fear in all of the reorganization.

  5. Media Guy Says:
    August 12th, 2009 at 10:49 pm

    I do think the audience will always be there but media companies might have to find different ways of getting and keeping the audience.

    For example: Some “older” people who have read the printed newspaper for decades tell me they don’t want to read their news online or on their cell phones. They like the feel and touch of the newspaper. So, that audience will probably be there for another 10,20, 30 years…

    Some “younger” consumers tell me that they don’t want to bother with the paper and rather read the news as it happens online, as a text message or on the mobile web. They never got used to the “feel” of the newspaper or care about it.

    I think that the audience will remain but the media needs to be aware of how to reach it through all these different platforms.

    And of course, with so many options audience members may leave one platform and switch to another. Some of that is not avoidable, but media companies should be sure that consumers don’t decide to leave all of a company’s platforms.

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