Crisis is an opportunity

By Adam Griffiths, Kent State University/SND

Olivier Bourgeois

Crisis is an opportunity.

That was Olivier Bourgeois’s message Friday afternoon at his session, “The Newspaper Industry and Economic Crisis.” Bourgeois, from France, is the general director of southwest Europe for WAN-IFRA, the worldwide research and service organization for the news publishing industry.

He began his presentation with a picture of a destroyed but intact car, Bourgeois’s metaphor for a modern “welcome to the world of newspapers.” While 63 percent people read a daily newspaper in Japan, only 25 percent of Americans do the same, according to statistics in his presentation. From an online perspective, the average user spends 15 minutes a day on LeMonde.fr and clicks through about 15 pages. In comparison, Facebook users spend an average of almost three hours and click through 140 pages.

Bourgeois suggested six steps for newspapers to stay afloat in the current economy. First, “follow your readers,” he said. “Provide
multiple outlets for them to follow throughout their day.” He called the Helsingin Sanomat, which is Finland’s largest mobile site, “a new media for a formerly medialess company.”

Newspapers should have a “multi-media/channel platform” approach to journalism and adapt their newsrooms to produce content easily communicable via any platform. “Optimize your workflow,” Bourgeois said. “Each section chief is responsible for print and Web. Each
journalist is able to produce content in all formats. Stages of proofreading and verification must be reduced — we should produce quality, not have to check the quality.”

WAN-IFRA has been training journalists across Europe to think more multimedia-oriented in two-day sessions focused on the nature of the Web, writing for the Web and the basics on using mobile devices and other equipment to be able to produce more individually. Bourgeois insisted newspapers must be creative — Prisma magazine found itself with less work for its talented staff, so it came up with Aeroports de Paris magazine and Plus magazine. “Both are making money,” he said.

The last step he shared was realizing quality and “nice” products will yield readers and viewers. “Have a nice newspaper, Web site, iPhone app — rethinking product, content, workflow, branding and your company will have results,” Bourgeois said.

“A lot of newspapers across the world are thinking of new ideas, and that’s the message I want to give you today.”