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Matt Von Pinnon, Published October 11 2009

Von Pinnon: Change is in the air, and that’s a good thing

Bemidji, Minn.

Publishers, editors and advertising managers of Minnesota’s daily newspapers met here for two days last week to brainstorm ideas meant to better help our readers and advertisers get what they want.

This newspaper group meets every year in a different state location. Some gatherings are better than others, depending upon the meeting’s goals. This year’s meeting was especially interesting because it was framed around the following question:

“If you could put in place any idea without fear of failure, what would it be?”

Attendees brought all sorts of interesting – some might say radical – ideas to the table. All were thought-provoking, and many, I’m convinced, will be tried in one way, shape or form before long.

Without divulging too much, most ideas focused on how we can report more news in more ways, and how we can work more closely with our advertisers to solve their hurdles and measure their ads’ effectiveness.

The session started with an inspirational video that illustrated how some of the greatest ideas and inventions seemed impossible at one time.

Only when someone was courageous enough to try something without fear of failure did the old boundaries seem so easy to overcome. Think of the Wright brothers, for example.

A lot of industries, including the newspaper industry, have been slow to change because for years they didn’t need to, or certainly not as fast as in today’s world. In fact, in many ways, newspapers over time have represented values most of us would never want changed: trust, steadfastness and strong community standards.

But in recent years, especially, the newspaper industry has begun to accept and even embrace newer and innovative ways of delivering information.

So, rather than retrench and retreat, as is often the reaction when people face great change, the group of leaders meeting last week took an offensive approach.

We talked about what we could do to give our readers and advertisers more of what they seek, working closer with them to achieve those mutual goals and being more open to ideas we might not have otherwise considered.

In essence, we asked: How can we help you?

As it turns out, we have a lot to offer, and we aim to do more of it than ever.

One attendee also aptly pointed out something we in the newspaper business often fail to achieve:

We are so concerned with being transparent and honest with our customers about the problems and challenges that exist in our changing industry that we fail to tout all the great advances happening in it at the same time.

For instance: More people than ever are reading newspaper-produced content. You might never know that by hearing stories focusing only on how fewer people today are reading a printed newspaper. Really, people have more ways than ever to access the information we provide. We’re proud of that. It’s a good change.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum.

Reach him at (701) 241-5579 or mvonpinnon@forumcomm.com