Tribune Co. Chief Innovation Officer Salivates Over Obama Victory

The Chief Innovation Officer of the Tribune Company, Lee Abrams, is salivating all over himself in excitement over the ways that corporation's newspapers could capitalize on Barack Obama's election. If you think Abrams couldn't top himself with his idea of boosting the circulation of the Los Angeles Times by repainting its news vans with different colors, he gives it a good try this time mixed with his usual unintentional humor. Here are some of Abrams' psychedelically tinged thoughts on Obama and newspapers as relayed by Bob Norman's The Daily Pulp (emphasis mine):

November 10, 2008
THINK PIECE: THE OBAMA WAKE UP CALL

The demand for last Wednesday's post election papers is obviously enormous. If there's ever an indicator that newspapers are timeless, this is it. The wake up call last week (like $200 copies on eBay) spurred a lot of thinking and action across the Tribune Nation. Now, as the march to the inauguration begins is when we can:

a) Capitalize on it
Or
b) Let other media steal it from us.

Some thoughts--

*Compartmentalize so it's in a reliable place
*Logo or iconize so it's not just a series of stories
*Give coverage some visual CHARACTER & Style

...so it gets noticed. Historically, TV kills newspapers in NOTICABILITY because it's while its BETTER CONTENT in print, it's usually not packaged very well and doesn't get the traction it deserves. A little of what CNN and FOX do ala "Historic Election 2008" with big logo, intro music and always at a reliable time are components we can all do better...or hopefully BEST ... or we'll be handing it over to other media...and that would be tragic. I was mildly impressed with CNN last week and how they are going to report in a compartmentalized and noticeable way "Obama's accountability" on 6 key issues throughout his term. This is SO us...BUT we need to...OWN it. THIS IS OUR STRENTH! Another thing I saw on CNN was: "What the Newspapers of the World looked like the morning after". Hey--Isn't that what WE are supposed to do? AND--since WE have the headlines from every election, shouldn't WE be printing those. PLEASE...PLEASE, don't "send people to the web" for these. PRINT THEM. Flaunt them. They are ours. As wonderful as the web is, there's something inherently special about a printed page that IS history. To offer only an electronic version is to minimalize the very essence of what we are.

And it is SO you to provide us with lots of UNINTENTIONAL HUMOR! PLEASE...PLEASE don't stop although I hate to be the killjoy who points out that it is a bit late to do "morning after" stories from the Newspapers of the World. How about "week after" stories?

The point is that this is all a wake-up call. NOW is the time to get inventive and AFDI instead of "assuming" we'll own the Obama story,, because it's very clear that the TV News channels are NOT assuming and are pulling out the stops to own this.

It's all packaging? No--it's the content--but we already do that well...it's the packaging of it that is dated and being handed to TV...along with penalizing readers by simply sending them to the web for things that SHOULD BE in print.

Then...circulation angles. Can we let this simply glide past us?
Is there an angle here to maximize the Obama historical fix that seems so hot by:

Marketing Three Month subscriptions with the hook being something along the lines: "Experience the march to inauguration".

Using this hot button to aggressively extend the post election day historical value of what we provide

Treat the next three months as a historical/collectible opportunity that papers provide best.

Instead of a ton of papers being sold this week and Inauguration day, build his election into a marketable newspaper event....where there's something new in the paper EVERY day surrounding his historic election?

Three thoughts:

Stand by! Chief Innovation Officer thinking! This could be dangerous or, more likely, highly laughable:

*Could hook moderate and non readers via exposure to our new look

*Help us OWN the thing

*Force subscriptions via "I CAN'T MISS A MOMENT OF THE NEXT FEW MONTHS"

Yeah, somebody who rarely or never reads newspapers is going to take out a subscription because he "CAN'T MISS A MOMENT OF THE NEXT FEW MONTHS" while completely overlooking that TV and the Web is already getting oversaturated on Obamamania. But who am I to stop Abrams when he's on another comedy roll?

If "everyone" wants last Wednesday's paper...why not the next three months...to fully capture the history being made?
This is our great strength...and a good time to pull out the competitive stops. Some thoughts bouncing around:

Reading yesterday's spectacular Sunday Chicago Tribune, I can't help thinking there's a rare window of opportunity to continue to capitalize on what is happening. The first African American President who is a home town guy at a time of global crisis.

1. I think this is a golden opportunity to execute "5 day" features to drive Mon-Friday readership. Two topics that come to mind that are the story behind the story. This is MORE than an interesting election-plus it's inevitable that we'll reach the "enough already" factor among non Obama worshippers, so I think it's important to look at the entire big picture of what is happening;

Fasten your seatbelts! The laughs are about to hit hard and fast:

*AFRICAN AMERICAN PIONEERS-
Monday Jackie Robinson, and Minnie Minoso here in Chicago
Tuesday Ray Charles (or a Black artist(s) that broke the color barriers and reached mainstream America

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday etc...

...A celebration of contribution that ties into what is happening right now.

Saturday: RUTHENIAN AMERICAN PIONEERS-Unfortunately I ran out of names after Tom Selleck and Sandra Dee.

*CLASSIC ELECTIONS-
Monday JFK vs. Nixon
Tuesday FDR during the depression
Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, etc...

Saturday: Pauly Shore film reviews

...Compelling elections are in our DNA. There is inspirational, educational and commercial value in REMINDING readers of our past, celebrating it...but presenting it in a modern way....and with the "2x4" for noticability. Not against other newspapers, but against ALL competitive media.

Think about it--

I am, I am, but already I have a headache.

These two topics are compelling, backed with amazing historic Tribune coverage, timely, activates the archives, and something that ONLY we can do. LEAD with print, and deepen with web and TV.

This idea is all about DRIVING HOME and RE-CLAIMING our historical ownership of events of today's Obama magnitude.

...and the idea is to create a five day experience to start people thinking about a 7 day Tribune...start to condition people to a Tribune that has "must read" ingredients EVERY day.

And this is somehow going to turn people from being oversaturated by Obama coverage on the Web to paying to be oversaturated with the same coverage in the newspapers?

Two other things I loved today in the Chicago paper;

*Countdown to the Presidency. Creates motion. "72 days".

*An article on preserving newspapers. Nice! That's swagger. Damn right you want to preserve these!!!!

I guess the above is an example of pulling out COMPETITIVE stops to OWN something BEYOND the outstanding way we're already doing it---
Stellar Packaging AND stellar content? It's the only way to win.

May I preserve your semi-coherent rantings, Lee? They are so much more entertaining than yet more Obama coverage. The ironic thing here is that the Tribune Company's Los Angeles Times was sitting on one of the hottest stories of the election, the Rashid Khalidi video,  and chose not to release it to the detriment of its circulation. But, hey, maybe repainting those LAT news vans will turn things around for that newspaper!

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.