Author's note: What follows is a lightly edited version of a white paper report I gave my bosses at The Post and Courier newspaper in December 2005, describing an approach to 21st century news media and advertising that Steve Buttry (who developed his version independently in 2007) and Chuck Peters would later name C3, for Complete Community Connection. I first blog-published this text in September 2006, because I was shocked that nothing had come of it. Five years later, I'm not shocked. Things were moving rapidly in the web world in 2005, but things do not move rapidly in the news media industry.
For the record, The Post and Courier bosses who received this white paper never invited me to discuss it with them.
Readers, buyers and users
The print-newspaper business model is contradictory and more than a little confusing: We attract readers by covering news, which they pay to read. But the heart of our businesslies with sellers, for whom we deliver the attention of buyers via advertising. This is a conflict. For our brand to be valuable, readers must see it as independent of advertiser interests. To keep that reader trust, traditional newspapers have long erected “firewalls” between their news and advertising and editorial departments.
But we have a secret: Those firewalls come with built-in doors and windows. For all our talk about independence, no newspaper wants its editorial department to go around casually angering advertisers. Sure, we do it, but we don’t do it lightly. Not for long. And when we do, even for the best of reasons, we hear about it from those advertisers.