Memo to Paul Godfrey

Here are some thoughts, gratis, on how you might make the newspapers of the former CanWest viable again, economically and journalistically.

1. Kill the National Post. While I have long argued about the need for various media voices, in this case the gangrenous NP needs to be amputated before it infects the rest of the newspaper group. Bay Street has been advising this since 1998; maybe they know what they’re talking about.

2. Fire everyone above the title of publisher in the newspaper division. These are the same people responsible taking CanWest into bankruptcy. Keep the local management in place, since it seems to be making money locally.

3. Your business model is not convergence; that failed everywhere ten years ago. Look to the Southam model, successful for 150 years, of local newspapers run locally to respond to local demand. If they are responsive locally, and profitable locally, everyone wins.

4. Forget about “economies of scale” where ridiculous things were done in the name of efficiency like trying to centralize everything in one place; e.g. one travel desk, one foreign desk, one arts desk. The Asia-centric concerns of the BC papers are going to be radically different from the government-concerns of Ottawa.

5. You can still have national columnists, the way the old Southam had writers like Charles Lynch. If they’ve got something of interest to day, local newspapers can decide whether to include them or not.

6. Rejoin CP. OK, not much of an economic argument here, but since CP has fallen on hard times since CanWest left, the least you can do is bring back our only national wire service by coming back to it.

As I develop or hear of any other ideas which will help you, I will be sure to pass them on.

Kindest regards,

Bill.

Familiar dread at CanWest

The dread of convergence hangs over the “new” CanWest whose newspapers have been bought out by a consortium led by National Post publisher Paul Godfrey. Here’s some of the language that’s making me nervous:

“An integrated, multi-platform news and information company

Our potent brands are composed of a pan-Canadian mix of major metro newspapers, the National Post, a wealth of superb digital properties and community newspapers.

This Canadian solution has limitless potential and will prove to be most rewarding for all of our stakeholders.”

Eh? Why don’t we go the whole nine yards on cliched business/convergence bafflegab and talk about “leveraging content by launching from multiple media platforms.”

Godfrey et al plan to take this public in a few months. Who would invest in a company with a history of taking its stock from $22 a share to 22 cents a share, and bankruptcy, particularly when it espouses the same business “strategy” that blew it up in the first place?