Reinvention or Obsolescence

Wayne Curtis, group publisher, GA/FL/TX

Reinvention or obsolescence – a quandary media executives face every day. To put it another way, reinvent or die a slow painful death. The choice appears to be quite clear, so why do we find it so difficult? Is it the voice of the remaining loyal print subscribers, many of whom are members of the leadership teams our brands serve? Or the resistance from dedicated, well-respected and long-tenured employees responsible for years of the brand’s success? Or is it the manifold challenges and risks that accompany reinvention? Seriously, does it really matter when you’re facing future obsolescence? Why not take a different view of rethinking and reinventing our business – be Bold – be Fast – add Rigor and Focus – Get’re Done! That’s exactly the formula adopted to rethink and reinvent the 31-year-old Texas Lawyer weekly newspaper.

When establishing a “customer focus” approach, it’s obligatory that reinvention align with customer needs in terms of the type of content produced and the content distribution channel. That said, it’s hard to ignore significant double-digit YOY growth in the digital consumption of content. It’s even harder to ignore the editorial resource requirement to produce a weekly edition and the opportunity to reallocate that bandwidth to produce more insightful content. An honest assessment of the current model would clearly expose that we needed to become more aligned with the needs of the audience we serve.

Our digital-first mission was a sort of “Jekyll and Hyde” attitude as content was being produced and distributed daily through digital channels and then appeared in print the following week. So, we identified a model that would broaden our coverage of the Texas legal market and increase the volume of content produced while delivering more in-depth reporting and analysis and add additional value for our customers. And, at the same time satisfy the print appetite of our loyal subscribers with a high-quality, glossy monthly magazine – a material win-win.

But what about those long-tenured employees who find comfort in holding on to the past, surely they would dig in and resist the change, right? Wrong. Many questions, yes – Resistance, absolutely not. The announcement was initially met with cautious optimism and as more questions were answered the caution was replaced with excitement and refreshing smiles from all functional areas. A most welcome outcome indeed and certainly a lesson takeaway; don’t underestimate the employee awareness of becoming obsolete or their willingness to climb aboard, take ownership and drive a successful outcome. That’s exactly what the Texas Lawyer team did with so many colleagues across ALM. What a great team effort!

Still prefer to stay the course and ride off into the obsolescence sunset? Pick up a copy of the Texas Lawyer’s inaugural April issue and see for yourself why there’s renewed excitement and a proud team wearing big Texas smiles.

Wayne Curtis