SNA President Nancy Lane will provide daily reports from the road while traveling with the Innovation Mission. Eighteen community media executives are taking part in this week-long study to visit with some of the most innovative media houses in North America. The group is focusing on new business models and emerging content strategies.
Thursday Morning Report:
Question of the Day – 'What if We...'
Linda Grist Cunningham,
Rockford Register Star
Prepared by Al Cupo, Vice President, Operations, Suburban Newspapers of America
Linda Grist Cunningham, Executive Editor at the Rockford Register Star in Illinois, joined the SNA Foundation's Innovation Mission in Boston by way of Skype. Linda is one of those people who are always asking the types of questions that lead to innovative solutions. More times than not, these questions start with the words 'what if we...' These three simple words have been asked over and over again as Linda and her team continue what she refers to as their 'Cyber-Fiber Integration.'
Linda provided several examples of this innovative thinking during her one-hour presentation to Mission participants. As early as 1998, she was experimenting with different types of front page formats for their web site. Today, the Register Star's web site, www.rrstar.com, features 15 to 20 top stories with a brief description of each. The reader can then make the decision to dive deeper into each article. Their web site is both clean and easy to navigate and readers have been very receptive to this format.
Another example of a 'what if' project is called 'Insight Update' and is located on the Rockford Register Star's home page. This project was developed specifically to address the ongoing need for enterprise and 'watch-dog' reporting. Insight Update provides important community information by relying on reporters' blogs and follow-up comments from subject experts in the community. Each reporter has their own Insight page complete with a headshot and their archived stories leading to a more personal connection between the reporters and their readers.
Linda acknowledges that the next five years will be challenging for most, if not all, legacy publications as the industry continues to go through the Cyber-Fiber Integration process; however, the want and need for community news will continue to be strong. This need, combined with our ability to provide exceptional news coverage in the format(s) the readers want and expect, will prove successful. Cunningham absolutely believes that ten years from now, the local publisher will be stronger and better able to serve his or her community than ever before.
Linda's final word of advice: Never stop asking – "What if we..."